Mainstream, VOL LIII No 28 New Delhi July 4, 2015
The Akhand Hindu Rashtra: Micro World Macro Nationalism
Monday 6 July 2015
by Navneet Sharma, Pradeep Nair and HarikrishNan B.
“Ye, who by race, by blood, by culture, by nationality possess almost all the essentials of Hindutva and had been forcibly snatched out of our ancestral home by the hand of violence—ye, have only to render wholehearted love to our common mother and recognise her not only as Fatherland (Pitrabhu) but even as a Holyland (Punyabhu): and ye would be most welcome to the Hindu fold.”
— From Essentials of Hindutva by Savarkar)
The above text-tract for a cultural organisation reflects the enormity of the task of building a Akhand Hindu Rashtra and it’s near impossibility, communal overtones and fervour for religious nationalism. The above tract concludes for ‘Varanasi Medini’ (The whole earth as Benares). This call for Varanasi is not for the composite culture which had Ustad Bismillah Khan or Nazir Banarasi who offered namaz doing ‘Vazoo’ by the holy Gangajal but as a Hindu epicentre. The call is for ‘wholehearted’ love for Pitrabhu (Fatherland) and Punyabhu (Holyland). Love for anything and everything is welcome unless it survives and germinates from the ‘hate’ for the other. In this article, we wish to appreciate the schisms which are created by the religious nationalism into the possible existence and idea of Universal Brotherhood. We will also be appreciating how the idea of the Akhand Hindu Rashtra is a political move of Hindutva-consolidating Hindu Rashtra (nation-state), Jati (race!) and Sanskriti (culture), an attempt for communal divisive politics which not only hinders ethnic nationalism but is also in contrast to Universal Brotherhood aka Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam—which is inevitable, given the rise in the speed of circulation of information and humans making a melange of universal citizens rather than religious warriors for the glory of their Pitrabhu or Punyabhu.
The idea of an Akhand Hindu Rashtra is not about a country or a nation of Hindus but the Hindu nation-state. This state would not be secular but religious state like any other Islamic or Christian or Jewish state. This religious state is guided by the values and ethos of a particular religion. The state’s actions and decisions are guided and influenced by religion. The Akhand Hindu Rashtra would be a state to be ruled by the benevolent majoritarian Hindus. Though, imaging and imagining a Hindu Rashtra has umpteen inherent contradictions and paradoxes like who is a Hindu—the one who is a sanatani, or the one identified by Vinayak Damodar Savarkar or the one found by the British in their census of India? What will or which text would replace the Constitution of India—Vedas, the Gita, Manusmriti, Sathyarth Prakash or the tract by Savarkar? The question of demography will be equally pertinent because if we include all the imagined territories in mapping the Akhand Hindu Rashtra, Hindus would become minority and would lose the legitimacy to rule being the majority.
The idea of a single nation on religious lines and from a convenient part of the geographical history indeed has its own cultural and social hierarchical norms directly adopted from the ideological basis. Like other typical ingredients of a socially constructed system of cultural hegemony, legitimacy of a single language/form of language as superior is an inevitable part of the idea of the Akhand Hindu Rashtra. Obviously, the choice goes to Sanskrit, the divine language which, like its counterparts in other hierarchical societies as the church and the Islamic clergy where Latin and Arabic, their puritan forms, has been a way of restricting knowledge, status and thus power to a particular portion of the society. Time and again, the Hindutva machine has compromised, even like its radical counterparts in the Left spectrum of political ideologies in India, its ideological stances under the pressures of electoral politics of the parliamentary system of Indian democracy. Just like it has tried wooing the desperate upper spectrum of the Dalits, mainly OBCs and SCs for their electoral benefit in the recent past, it had to put down the puritanical idea of making Sanskrit the national language in the Akhand Hindu Rashtra. So they have settled for a popular alternative—the diluted down version—Hindi. The ideology which is hell-bent on making Sanskrit the most omnipotent language, came blatantly out when the incumbent HRD Minister tried pushing out foreign languages from the school curriculum in a hurry, giving forced choice for the students to learn the ropes of the language. After all, just like the cow protection exponents who believe that just drinking cow milk/urine keep crime rates low, Sanskrit exponents believe that the language will teach the learners culture and values. The idea of Hindi as the national language, aka the language of the ideal nation is very evident from the debates that have taken place around imple-menting Hindi as the national language in the country.
Another interesting paradox would be whether this ‘Hindu’Rashtra would be Vaishnav or Shaiva. Shiva as the supreme Brahman would not be in consonance with the ideology of political Hindutva as Shiv in mythology is more akin to a postmodern and subaltern deity and is also ‘dravidian’ and ‘aghari’. The political Hindutva would need suave Vishnu or Ram for furthering the ideology of religious resoluteness. The conflict of interest over the lordship will be more acute amongst Shiv Sainiks and Shree Ram Sainiks. Similarly, the plight of women in this Hindu state will be more precarious as they would have to be selective about their role as either Veerangana (Durgavahini is the name of the RSS’ women wing) or Veerdhatri (women giving birth to brave men—Jeejabai Shivaji). The role model for them at the most can be Sadhvi Prajna Thakur rather than Kalpana Chawla. The grand vision that every Hindu woman should produce (!) ten children (males only!) to fight infidels would keep women shuffling between the kitchen and bedroom. Only then they will fit into the appropriation of the role of the ideal Hindu women. Looking at the idea of the Akhand Hindu Rashtra as a paradox, its corner-pieces themselves point to its idiosyncratic way of being impossible. The idea of Hindi/Sanskrit as the language of the divine nation makes it more exclusive, not inclusive. However, Sanskrit as far as popular implemen-tation is concerned, is a tough nut to crack. So did come the benefits of Hindi. Hindi and its dialects are spread across an area, which is traditionally, friendly to the religious Hindu ideologies.
Brahminism, which is the corner-stone of the ideological pool of Hindutva, has always relied upon this idea of exclusivity, to preserve the hierarchy and resulting power structure. Obviously, a single language made superior against the ‘other’ languages makes its users exclusive when compared to the haramzadons. The way language has been time and again used as a political weapon by the Right-wing forces easily shows the conflict between the ideas of being exclusive by being pure—be it in the food one eats, the occupation one is engaged in or the language and its form being used—with the reality of amassing political power in an electoral democracy. The Jana Sangh, at first and in its ideological Puritanism, believed that Hindi is the most befitting candidate for the national language. However, finding the idea difficult to reap electoral benefits, since it alienated the large masses from the non-cow belt area of the country, who speak Dravidian and non-Hindi dialects, they have diluted their stance for electoral benefits. Since numbers are paramount in the democratic system, the idea of Akahand Bharat and its idea of legitimate language again exclude a larger part of what is now geographi-cally identified as India.
Again, the other factor which makes the idea a mere paradox is the globalised structure and the proliferation of digital communication technologies, both of which have caught the imagination of the incumbent Prime Minister— from clicking selfies to tweeting it out to bringing in foreign capital for his Make in India campaign. Both the factors—more porous boundaries, more international trade obligations, more open trade relations along with the idea of the world shrinking into a global village with the help of communi-cation technologies which have made physical distance a negligible hurdle as far as information and resource exchanges are concerned—are making the idea of a monolithic nation based on religious lines very unrealistic and too romantic.
However, a great exception to this way of looking at things is the Islamic State (IS), which is now trying to carve out a new nation on religious lines, from existing countries. The ideas and approaches are the same, only the names change. And the very impossibility of the IS, if at all, establishing and maintaining the so-called divine nation, is just like the idea of the Akhand Hindu Rashtra. In contrast, the Christian nationalists believe in a revisionist history, which holds that the founders were devout Christians who never intended to create a secular republic—separation of the church and state. The goal of the Christian nationalist politics is the restoration of the imagined Christian nation. The ideology says that Christians have an obligation, a mandate, a commission, a holy responsibility to reclaim the land for Jesus Christ—to have dominion in civil structures, just as in every other aspect of life and godliness.
The Christian nationalism thus refers to a set of ideas in which belief in the development and superiority of one’s national group is combined with, or underwritten by, Christian theology and practice. Whereas the essence of Zionism, or Jewish nationalism, is that Jews everywhere—regardless of where they live, regardless of their religious outlook, and regardless of their citizenship—are members of the Jewish ‘people’ or ‘nation’, to whom all Jews owe a primary loyalty and allegiance. That’s why; the majority of Jews in all over the world, and especially in the United States today, identifies with and supports Israel, and is affiliated with Zionist groups and organisations. Every significant Jewish group or association in the United States and across the globe and every prominent Jewish American political or community leader supports Israel and Zionism and insists that Israel is and must be a Jewish nationalist state, with a privileged status for its Jewish population, including immigration laws that discriminate against non-Jews. The Zionist thinkers were asked to rewrite ‘Jewish history’, to reinterpret Jewish meaning and subjects, so as to render these consistent with the national meta-narrative of an identity and to generate a political conflation between territory and identity (whether ethnic, national, linguistic, etc.).
German nationalism, developed before World War II, was viewed by people as based on ‘mythical nationalist beliefs’ and was a major motivation for people to join and believe the Nazi ideology. The ideology deliberately blamed the Jewish population living in Germany for the economic disparity and this further was developed as a blatant prohibited discrimination of the Jewish people in Germany. The Nazi Party, under the leadership of Adolf Hitler, alleged that the Jewish citizens in Germany were anti-nationals as they had not supported Germans in World War I and it was time to develop Germany as a state of hegemonic power free from Jewish citizens who were threatening national security. During the Nazi epoch, between 1933 and 1945, the Nazis had developed a fascistic racial doctrine of nationalism which used the state to protect what he (Hitler) saw as a pure German Volksgemeinschaft (the community arising from the Volk) from being polluted by those viewed as not belonging to the Volk, resulting in the violent exclusion of any non-Germanic ethno-cultural group within the Nazi realm. A similar ideology was followed by the Right-wing Hindu organisation by pursuing exclusionary policies to keep the Hindu nation ethnically ‘pure’.
In Iran, the Iranian national identity was portrayed as ‘free and dignified’ that never gives-in to imperialism. The Islamic nationalists utilise Islam as a national marker by ethnosising Islam. They shroud their respective ethnic customs in a religious Islamic garb. The ethnic factor plays a significant role in the inter-pretation of Islamic Sharia and the execution of its politics. These nationalists are ethno-religious groups that labour for the cause of their national interests. These groups believe that religion may be used as a political tool to achieve national political objectives. For this, different aspects of religion are utilised politically to legitimise their national goals and ethnic character. These national religious groups are bound by an ethnically accommodating religion and were identified by their ethnic identity, which significantly influences their interpretation of religion as demonstrated by the Islamic regime in Iran. Another important concern is that over the past thousand years, Iranian nationalism has promoted hostility with Arabs. During the last century, Iranian nationalism further antagonised Arabs with efforts to remove Arabism from Iranian culture and language. In the same way, the Right-wing Government in India is also using Hindu nationalism to bolster Hindu unity vis-à-vis foreign invaders by taking initiatives to re-write Indian history by removing Mughalism and Christianism from the Hindu-sthanian culture and language.
Hindustan versus Hindusthan
The idea of India or Hindustan is cosmopolitan, multicultural, multi-ethnic and multi-religious. The idea, like the present federal structure, has evolved through the history. The history and historicity of the idea of India, like any history of a nation in making, gets enriched and influenced by its shifting and evolving demography. Hindustan, or more preferably Hindostan, underlines the dynamic nature of cosmopo-litanism in making whereas the ideology of religious nationalism—Hindu-sthan—disparages the idea of history and history in the making. The history from the vantage point of Hindu-sthan suggests that religion is more important than its own followers and that the right of citizenship of a modern democratic welfare state is least desirable. The mutual engagements of civilisations are seen as an attack or an attempt of win over each other only. This type of historiography is nationalistic to the core but the challenge by subaltern and postmodern history—writings from below—emphasises that people are more important than incarnate kings and religions.
In political discourse, kings and kingdoms fight whereas in socio-historical discourse people converge—the former view the coming of Muslims to India as invasion and describe it as the Babri, Tughlaqui or Taimuri loot of India whereas from the latter viewpoint, it’s a source for the genesis of Urdu, Sufism, dialects and multi-cultural lifestyle. The former perceives Tajmahal as a temple Tejo-Mahalay [a Shiva temple—P. N. Oak] whereas the latter perceives it as the symbol of eternal love and confluence of Hindu and Islamic architecture. The Hindu-sthan protagonists perceive Kabir and Rahim as aberrations whereas Hindostan celebrates Amir Khusrao and Nanak. In Hindu-sthan paan, ghazal, quawalis are infringements upon the Hindu life whereas Hindostan relishes the reading of ‘man tarpat hari darshan ko aaj’ by Shakeel Badayuni, Naushad and Mohammed Rafi. The ethos of Hindustan evolves and sustains itself upon the basis of shared sacrifices and shared heritage. [sanjhi shahadat sanjhi virasat].
The fight against colonialism and imperialism had people from all religions—Bhagat Singh, Ram Prasad and Ashfaque Ullah Khan. But it was the genesis of religious nationalism which led to the rise of the Hindu Mahasabha and Muslim League. India already has a charred history of riots and genocides; the ideology of Hindu-sthan will only aggravate the situation. The country already has seen enough mayhem in Ayodhya and Godhra, Khalistan, Bodoland and Tamil Eelam.
What could bridge the gaps and discriminations on the basis of religion, language, caste, colour and sex—can be only a cosmopolitan, multi-India idea. The nationalism based on religion and majoritarianism would only create more gaps and conflicts. It could be only the idea of Hindostan/Hindustan of Iqbal which may help us realise the idea of being a nation stretched from Kandahar to Kamrup whereas the idea and ideology of evolving a Hindu-sthan would further alienate the minorities, Dalits, women and secular Hindus from the idea of India and being Hindustani.
The Politics of Making of a Hindu Nation-state
In the age of globalisation and the emergence of unprecedented socio-political and economic interdependency, nationalism is remaining as one of the most powerful ideological inventions of humanity. There is a vibrant debate regarding the origins of nationalism. The modernists claim that nationalism is a new socio-political phenomenon that appeared only in response to modernity and industrial revolution. Whereas, the primordialists argue that the origin of nationalism goes far beyond the age of modernity, and it can be traced back to time immemorial. Arguably, despite the disagreement on the origins, there is a consensus that nationalism is a powerful force for creation of collective identity and instrumental for the establishment and consolidation of nation-states. Presently, in India also the Right-wing organisations believe that the history of Mughals, Turks and British is not the real Indian historiography. The history should propagate that India is the most ancient country in the world. When civilisation had not developed in many countries, India’s rishi-munis brought the light of culture and civilisation to them. The linguistic identity of the Indians needs to be traced from North America and the most superior human race—the Aryans—originated in India and later on migrated to Europe and Germany. This re-interpretation of Indian history is also a national meta-narrative of a Hindu identity and is now used as a political weapon to lure vote-banks.
It is not that the RSS and its fundamentalist leaders are not aware of the anomalies and impossibilities of the making of a Hindu nation-state. It is a gimmick to consolidate the Hindu vote-bank by whiplashing the sentiment of Hindi, Hindu and Hindustan. This is projected as an anti-thesis and creates paradigmatic others (Muslims in this case). The same organisation and its governments blow its own trumpet when it comes to FDI and that too in the retail sector; there it gently sweeps aside another ‘Hindu’-swadeshi idea. It promotes ‘make in India’ rather than ‘make-in-India’. The idea and ideology of the Akhand Hindu Rashtra are perpetuated to create divides instead of integrating multiple Indias. The supremacy of the ‘Hindu’ is created with the help of hegemonic dominance of the people of central India. Any other Hindu from a different language and region is a lesser Hindu, akin to Dalits who are not considered as Hindu enough. An interesting query with the RSS would be that given the idea of a sacrosanct temple, would any Dalit or Muslim be appointed as the chief priest of ‘Ma Bharati’ or ‘Bharat Mata Mandir’? The RSS-ian ideology of the Akhand Hindu Rashtra is not to moot ethnic nationalism but religious nationalism. The Akhand Hindu Rashtra would not be an inclusive state but would be a state which will be more pro-religion rather than pro-people and their country. This nation-state would be another Taliban with a saffron robe. In this micro-world where every human endeavour is been controlled and guided by liberal economic policy and the idea of religious nationalism or the utopia of macro/pan—nationalism only provides buffer to the rapid growth of capitalism.
This is not to evolve Ramrajya but Ram’s Rajya where the distribution of resources would be on the basis of caste, colour, sex, creed and language with the laws of the land encoded and enshrined by Manu as feudalism provides the best subterfuge to crony capitalism aka bajrangi Modinomics.
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Navneet Sharma, Ph.D, is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Teacher Education, School of Education, Central University of Himachal Pradesh.
Pradeep Nair, Ph.D, is an Associate Professor and Dean, School of Journalism, Mass Communication and New Media, Central University of Himachal Pradesh.
Harikrishnan B. is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Journalism and Creative Writing, Central University of Himachal Pradesh.