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Mainstream, VOL LIII No 43 New Delhi October 17, 2015

Continuity and Change within the Sangh Parivar

Monday 19 October 2015

by Irfan Engineer

Our PM Narendra Modi travels across the globe soliciting global capital to India and announces various deals making India a very attractive destination for multinational capital to earn its dream profits. PM recently met the CEOs of various companies in the US for Digital India. Spectacular events were staged and attractive announcements were made. The CEOs—whether of Indian origin or nationals of other countries— are accountable only to their share-holders for the profits they earn. If they find India an attractive destination for business, it is only for cheap labour, land, natural and other resources, including financial resources availed from the Indian taxpayers. The deals are announced, but the terms are seldom available for the scrutiny of experts. At least not immediately to spoil the headlines of the following day.

It is amazing how rapidly the RSS, BJP and the Sangh Parivar have abandoned their swadeshi campaign which advocated policies opposing foreign investments and consumption of foreign goods. Organisations affiliated to the Sangh Parivar came on a platform in November 1991 and named it the Swadeshi Jagran Manch (SJM) to oppose the liberalisation-privatisation-globalisation (LPG) policies of the Congress. The SJM still exists in all probability but we seldom hear about it. The SJM in the 1990s was carrying on the campaign on economic policies consistent with the Bharatiya Jan Sangh (BJS) days.

The December 31, 1952 resolution of the BJS’ All India General Council held in Kanpur reads: “It is a matter of regret that after the attainment of Independence the attention of the people has moved away from the Swadeshi Movement and use of foreign clothes, cosmetics, and other articles is on the increase. The Government has not taken any steps to check this harmful tendency. On the contrary, the import of unnecessary foreign articles is increasing without check. Hence this Session directs the All India General Council and Central Working Committee to again attract the people’s attention towards Swadeshi for the health of the economy and to give it a prominent place among constructive activities.” (Bharatiya Jan Sangh, 1973, p. 5) Swadeshi was defined by the resolution as reconstruction of the self-sufficient economy and love for the ‘country’s own goods’. (p. 7)

The Resolution No. 58.03, passed on April 5, 1958 in the Ambala Session of the BJS, called for prioritising agricultural production and focusing on irrigation, improved seeds and ceiling on land holdings. The resolution also called for reduction of imports. (pp. 128-29)

The resolution No. 61.05, passed in Lucknow on January 1, 1961, called for reconsidering the policy regarding foreign loans and foreign capital. (p. 20) In Resolution No. 61.17 the AIGC, held in Varanasi on November 12, 1961, suggested that the Third Plan objectives by “Small-scale mechanised units should be made the basis of all industrialisation”. (p. 23)

On June 4, 1968 the Central Working Committee, held in Guwahati on the approach to the Fourth Plan, resolved that the Plan should be mainly based ‘on our own resources’ and this needed to be made the fundamental feature of ‘our development effort’ and that we should evolve an indigenous technology of ‘our own’. (p. 29)

In the early 1990s, as the LPG policies were being pushed, the BJP and Sangh Parivar opposed globalisation. They would attack KFC outlets and proclaim that such consumer outlets were against ‘Indian culture’. The Sangh Parivar graduated from the demand of no foreign goods and technology, unless crucial, and developing indigenous technology to welcoming foreign technology but not foreign culture. L.K. Advani famously said—‘We want computer chips, not potato chips.’

During Atal Behari Vajpayee’s premiership, liberal policies were pursued first under the Finance Minister, Yashwant Sinha (October 13, 1999 to July 1, 2002), followed by Jaswant Singh (July 1, 2002 to May 22, 2004). However, the SJM was entrusted with the task to educate the people about the virtues of Swadeshi. Under the Premiership of Modi aggressive wooing of foreign capital is consigning the Swadeshi campaign to its funeral pyre.

If the economic policies of the Hindu nationalists have changed drastically, it is not for job creation or any such noble cause. Job creation was how their economic policies were sought to be marketed to the youth and the unemployed then, as now. Swadeshi, demanding taxation policies to discourage import and facilitate export and encouragement to small scale mechanised units, was to serve the interests of the ‘national’ industrialists who hadn’t the financial muscle and technological base to compete with the multinationals.

More and more Indians are entering the billionaire club—nearing 100 now—and seven companies incorporated in India have entered the Fortune Global 500 list of the world’s biggest corporations. They could enter the Fortune Global 500 list by exploiting the natural resources of the country for a song which include its mineral wealth, natural gas, spectrum and other common resources and cheap labour of millions of Indians. These richest corporations are now interested in acquisition of foreign brands and tying up with international capital. The rise of the Indian millionaires has been impressive with the number of rich Indians increasing by 27 per cent in the last year from 196,000 to 250,000. (Chadha, 2015) It is the interest of this class that the Hindu nationalists seek to serve and make them richer by investing the taxpayers’ money in mega events, creating conducive atmosphere, laying the red carpet for them without necessarily creating jobs. While agriculture is being neglected and farmers continue to commit suicide.

Ideological U-turns of Sangh Parivar

There are many other policy U-turns taken by the BJP—one stand when in Opposition and diametrically opposite when in government. For example, on the nuclear deal with the US, land acquisition bill etc. The Sangh Parivar has revised its ideological position on other issues too.

While revising their ideological positions on economic issues, the core beliefs that constitute the Hindu nationalist ideology have remained intact. These core beliefs can be identified as: 1) Authoritarian structure — both within the Sangh Parivar and for the country; 2) Imposition of select cultural traditions—patriarchal, hierarchical and elitist—terming them as Hindu nationalist—to the exclusion of egalitarian Indian traditions and culture; and to strengthen the former two core beliefs, 3) Stigmatising minorities

Authoritarian Structure

The Hindu nationalist ideology invests heavily on emotionally building certain symbols. The followers are then expected to submit themselves unquestioningly to that symbol of virtue. Once a human mind can be made to accord the highest veneration to a symbol, s/he can be made to accept the most authoritarian structure on the pretext of such structure being necessary to protect the venerated symbol. Bhagwa Dhwaj—saffron flag—is one such symbol of Hindu Rashtra. What the Bhagwa Dhwaj stands for would be explicated by the head of the RSS—the Sarsanghchalak. The RSS also follows ek chalak anuvartita principle — follow one leader. The leader is not elected through any democratic process. (Roy, 1989, p. 57) The Bhagwa Dhwaj symbolises the corporate Hindu nation which is venerated as a living God. (Andersen and Damle, 1987, p. 76) In his book, Bunch of Thoughts, RSS ideologue M.S. Golwalkar employs various terms to describe the living God — Jagan Mata,Adishakti, Dharmabhumi, Devabhumi, Mokshabhumi, etc. The venerated nation has a sacred geography that almost encompasses South Asia and the nation is said to possess a soul, referred to as chiti. Chiti is supposed to be above political institutions and human-made laws. (Andersen and Damle, 1987, p. 77)

All the affiliated organisations are expected to follow all the directives of the Sarsanghachalak. The RSS organises a series of training which their cadres have to undertake. During the training the discourses touch the heart of the cadres and train their minds for submission to the living God and the chiti of the nation and train them to accept directives of the Sarsanghachalak.

However, in spite of the training, some followers are bound to rebel. Balraj Madhok, co-founder and later, President of the BJS, who was expelled, described his expulsion as another sign of a “fascist attitude” within the BJS and the party being developed into a front of the RSS. (Andersen and Damle, 1987, p. 187) L. K. Advani too alleged that the RSS was micromanaging the BJP after he resigned from all posts in the BJP in June 2013. He was however persuaded by the Sarsangha-chalak, Mohan Bhagwat, to withdraw his resignation. (PTI, 2013)

The Hindu nationalists always found democracy a problematic idea. As Golwalkar (1939, p. 56) writes, “...we have almost completely lost sight of our true Hindu Nationhood, in our wild goose chase after the phantasm of founding a ‘really’ democratic ‘State’ in the country.” Intelligence Bureau Chief T.V. Rajeswar claimed that the then RSS Chief, Balasaheb Deoras, had supported the Emergency declared by Indira Gandhi and they tried to establish contact with her. (PTI, 2015) (Express News Service, 2015)

Construction or Common Traditions

The ideologues of Hindu nationalism defined the Hindu nation on the basis of a common culture, history and language. The concept of nation itself was a Western concept. The Hindu tradition is that of vasudhaiva kutumbakam (the whole universe is one family). However, in contra-distinction to the Congress defining the nation on the inclusive principle of equality of all geographical inhabitants of the territory, the Hindu nationalist ideologues wanted to define nationalism on the basis of exclusion of what they termed as followers of “foreign” religion and culture.

There is no common language that all Indians speak and there is diversity of culture and traditions that Indians follow on the basis of their caste, region, religious beliefs, sub-sects, ethnicity and traditions. Savarkar and Golwalkar had a slightly different approach in the construction of a common religio-cultural language — the former emphasising blood-ties and common bloodline, while the latter defining it in terms of common religion, language, culture and race. Aryans were superior to the cultureless mere bipeds — the Mlechhas according to Golwalkar. (Roy, 1989, p. 61) Golwalkar calls upon non-Hindus to adopt Hindu culture and cease to be “foreigners”, think of nothing else but the glory of the Hindu nation, else, be treated as non-citizens and claim no rights. Muslims are seen as treacherous, enslaving and destructive. (Roy, 1989, p. 58 and 61) The ideologues of Hindu nationalists tried to instil common bonds not on the basis common religion or culture or language, but on the basis of the feeling of superiority and constructed a feeling of victimhood and hatred against the “foreign culture, religion and race”.

The “common” religion, culture and language of the Hindus was selected and constructed on the basis of texts and traditions followed by the victorious Aryans—Vedas and Upanishads and the Advait Vedanta philosophy compiled by the Shankaracharya after Buddhism was nearly banished from Bharatvarsha. Golwalkar (1939, p. 48) states: “Buddhistic influence—a misunders-tanding of the teachings of the Great Master—had the baneful effect of effacing from the minds of the masses their tenacious adherence to their faith.” Hindu nationalists ignored the egalitarian traditions of Hindu saints like Tukaram, Ravidas, Kabir, Mirabai, Sikhism, Buddhism, Jainism, charvaka philosophy, siddha and nath panthas and many other rational religio-philosophical traditions. In search of a common religion and culture, the Hindu nationalist ideologues selected those traditions, texts, which divided the society into hierarchies and justified the caste system on the basis of purity and pollution, on the basis of superiority and inferiority. The egalitarian traditions were inclusive and based on only one principle—love and rational approach. Religious traditions that do not discourage rational thoughts and do not help in creating regimented minds also do not help in the construction of a homogenous cultural society, wherein the authoritarian political state becomes acceptable. The authoritarian state is necessary to manage growing inequality with brute authority as we are witnessing in present times—rapid growth in the number of millionaires as well as the poor plunging deeper into poverty and growing hunger.

Hindu nationalists do not abhor the caste system. Savarkar (1922) writes: “All that the caste system has done is to regulate its noble blood on lines believed—and on the whole rightly believed—by our saintly and patriotic law-givers and kings to contribute most to fertilise and enrich all that was barren and poor, without famishing and debasing all that was flourishing and nobly endowed.” The Integral Humanism doctrine propounded by Deendayal Upadhyay justifies the caste system to be a good social organisation. Balraj Madhok, the then President of the BJS, too justified the caste system on the ground that different organs and limbs of the human body perform different tasks but together they constitute one human body. Likewise, different castes performed different functions and all together were one integral society. (Roy, 1989, p. 66)

Stigmatising the Minorities

In the Hindu nationalist ideologies, the minorities were represented as foreigners and seen as a threat to the Hindu Rashtra. Construction of minorities as a national threat was with the objective of instilling a feeling of commonality. Minorities continue to be victims of this construction, notwithstanding the composite culture that they share with the people of India. The RSS does not accept the culture of minorities. (Noorani, 2000)

Minorities must accept the culture of the majority—which, according to them, is homogenous and monolithic, shorn of all its diversity. The RSS has no criteria to determine which of the diverse cultures of majority would be acceptable as “national culture”. “Hindu” culture is to be accepted, adopted and embraced as the national culture, whereas the cultural contribution of Muslims and Islam is considered alien. Muslims must give up their claims on Babri Masjid and eating of beef. (Pathak, 2015)

Muslims must accept, adopt and embrace national (read: Hindu) culture, race and ancestry. The RSS-affiliated organisations strike a strident posture against the minorities stigmatising them as anti-nationals who would not be allowed inside the garba (Hindu devotional dance) pandals; stigmatise consensual marriages between a Muslim man and a Hindu woman as an evil design of the community to abduct a fertile Hindu woman and convert her — calling it ‘Love Jihad’; when a Muslim is sold a residential bungalow in a ‘Hindu’ locality in Ahmedabad, the VHP President thunders how this could be allowed and orders his cadres to see that the bungalow reverts back to a Hindu; converts minorities to the majority community calling it ghar wapsi.

It is in this light that the recent statements of the Minister for Culture and Tourism must be seen—calling upon people to purge Western influences from Indian culture. The Minister was not courting controversy as was felt by a section of the media—he was stating the hard-core belief of the Hindu nationalists having the political objective of infusing conservatism, polarising communities along Hindu nationalist notions and creating space for the authoritarian, illiberal state. How much financial liberalism the Sangh Parivar can ever subscribe to? Because in the final analysis political illiberalism is the core of its ideology.

The author is the Director, Centre for the Study of Society and Secularism, Mumbai.