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Mainstream, VOL LIV No 23 New Delhi May 28, 2016

Nationalism and Patriotism

Sunday 29 May 2016

by Sadhan Mukherjee

If you shout “Bharat Mata ki Jai”, you are a patriot. If you don’t for some reason, you are not only not a patriot but anti-national as well. That is the latest funda of varied Hindutva fanatics among whom are those occupying key positions in both the governments at the Centre and elsewhere including the BJP party hierarchy. An era of ‘nationalism-test’ has begun.

Hitler used nationalism to evoke patriotism in Germans and bolster his Nazi party. The current war-cry of the Hindutva fanatics led by the RSS are modelled almost on similar infamous slogans of the Nazi party, like “Wir sind Deutsher” (We are German), “Deutschland uber alles” (Germany above all), “ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Fuehrer” (one people, one government, one leader). These slogans find reflection in the RSS. Hitler had his bugbear in Jews, the RSS has in Muslims and other “aggressors” who came and settled down here.

RSS chief (sarsanghchalak) M.S. Golwalkar, in his Bunch of Thoughts (p. 435), denounced the Constitution of India for giving equal rights to all, and copied the Nazi slogan in his “one country, one state, one legislature, one executive” demand.

The Hindutva protagonists, more so the Hindi zealots, have been active in India for many years. In 1965 they tried to impose Hindi on non-Hindi- speaking States leading to virtually a revolt in Tamil Nadu. The Union Government was then forced to retract and declare that the use of Hindi would be voluntary. Both Hindi and English remained official languages and Hindi also did not become the national language. Incidentally, there are roughly 1635 mother tongues and 122 languages in India.

 The renewed assertion of Hindi and Hindutva today is no doubt due to the RSS-guided BJP’s ascension to power, leading our country towards a Hindutva hegemony negating our democracy.

The RSS was formed in 1925 by K.B. Hedgewar after the Nazi party was set up in Germany in 1923. He was the man who coined the word Hindutva in 1923 in his pamphlet ‘Essentials of Hindutva’. RSS guru M.S. Golwalkar, who took over the RSS after Hedgewar, had great regard for the Nazi party’s anti-Semitism. In his book, We, or Our Nationhood Defined, he admires Germany in the following words: “Germany has also shown how well-nigh impossible it is for races and cultures, having differences going to the roots, to be assimilated into one united whole, a good lesson for us in Hindustan to learn and profit by.”

Hitler in his book Mein Kampf (My Struggle) denounced democracy saying: “One truth which must be borne in mind is that the majority can never replace the man. The majority represents not only ignorance but also cowardice. And just as a hundred blockheads do not equal one man of wisdom, so a hundred poltroons are incapable of any political line of action that requires moral strength and fortitude.”

The RSS too does not believe in democracy. This was enunciated by Golwalkar in his Bunch of Thoughts where he asserts: “The concept of democracy as being ‘by the people’ and ‘of the people’, meaning that all are equal shares in the political administration, is to a very large extent only a myth in practice.” In a speech in November 1947, while protesting against the Constituent Assembly, he asserted: “Adult franchise was nothing more than granting right to ‘cats and dogs’.” The current trend in governance confirms this view being practised.

To go back to the issue of the Bharat Mata ki Jai slogan: it is a fact that not all Indians believe in idols which “Bharat Mata” essentially is. Islam does not believe in idol worship and so also several other faiths. Above all, no one likes to be dictated. President Pranab Mukherjee has stressed that “pluralism and tolerance” are the “hallmark of our civilisation” and India’s diversity is a “fact” which cannot be turned into “fiction” because of the “whims and caprices of a few individuals”. (The Indian Express, April 10, 2016)

Both Bharat Mata ki Jai and Vande Mataram are slogans that originated during our freedom struggle and these were supplemented at different stages by other slogans like Jai Hind, Mera Bharat Mahan and so on. The RSS did not have any particular role in formulating these slogans but it now wants to misappropriate these slogans. Bhagat Singh went to the gallows shouting the slogan Inquilab Zindabad (long live the revolution), coined by Hasrat Mohani, and that slogan became more popular than Bharat Mata ki Jai. Was that slogan less patriotic than Bharat Mata ki Jai? Or was Bhagat Singh not a patriot?

The RSS’ Guru Golwalkar declared in Delhi that one can be a secularist only when he is a staunch Hindu. (Delhi, February, 22 1970) Hasrat Mohani was a Muslim but was he less patriotic? Are we now to learn a special meaning of nationalism and patriotism from people who never fought for India’s freedom and lionised British rule? Didn’t this RSS guru propound in his Bunch of Thoughts: “Anti-Britishism was equated with patriotism and nationalism. This reactionary view has had disastrous effects on the entire course of the freedom movement, its leaders and the common people.”

He declared in his treatise We, or Our Nationhood Defined: “Those only are nationalist patriots who with aspiration to glorify the Hindu race and Hindu nation next to their heart are prompted into activity and strive to achieve the goal. All others, posing to be patriots and wilfully indulging in a course of action detrimental to the Hindu nation, are traitors and enemies to the nation’s cause or to take a more charitable view, if unintentionally and unwillingly led to such a course, mere simpletons, misguided, ignorant fools.” (page 32)

So to be a patriot, you must be a staunch Hindu! Has the RSS or its modern-day followers given up that thinking? Not at all! RSS ideologue and chief pracharak M.G. Vaidya, in an article in The Indian Express (March 24, 2016),elaborates the modern-day RSS’ thoughts under the title “One nation, one culture”.

He theorises about what constitutes a nation, and agrees that a state may include many nations and then he fumbles. He argues that “Our India that is Bharat, that is Hindustan”, was “one nation from time immemorial but contained many States”. He does not admit that there were many nationalities or many nations. He cites Alexander’s invasion in 4th century BC when there was the “Nanda Empire and many Republics” that constituted India. He deliberately includes many “Republics” as the Nanda Empire was limited to Northern India in its spread. How was India then one nation at that time? In any case, Indian history did not start with the Nanda Empire!

Moreover, from ancient times, Matsya Nyaya (big fish eating small fish) or big States eating up smaller ones, was in vogue and only during the Maurya Empire did ancient India more or less become one state entity. But even the Mauryan Empire did not extend to the Chola kingdom in the South and to North-Eastern India. If India extended from Iran to Singapore, and included all branches of the Himalayas going down to Ceylon, as per the RSS theory (Bunch of Thoughts p. 83), how did the RSS ideologue discover ancient India as one nation? Who ruled this great India? Certainly not the Hindus!

It is an accepted fact that a nation comprises a group of people who have common cultural background and who share a common language, heritage, and religion besides some other characteristics. But a state is a political entity; it normally has a government that is sovereign and independent. A nation-state is a voluntary association of nations and nationalities. States like India, the USA, the UK, etc., are its examples, having a federal structure. There is no difference between a state and a country which also has a geographical dimension and place.

Problems like de-merger in a nation-state emerge when one nation tries to dominate or practises discrimination over other constituents. That may lead to the break-up of a nation-state, as recently happened in Yugoslavia. Conflicts also germinate for such divisions due to various reasons as between Palestine and Israel. But North and South Korea, for example, consist of the same people but they are two artificially created states. The Kurds are in four states—Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey. There are many similar examples. Political history, ambition and geography obviously do not always go together.

Vaidya has tried to suggest that these people (the Hindus) “are known, world over, by the name of Hindu. Therefore, this is a Hindu nation.” His strange logic is further buttressed by claiming: “It has nothing to do with whether you are a theist or atheist, whether you are an idol-worshipper or against idol-worship, whether you believe in the Vedas or some other sacred book.” In short, he means that all who are in India are Hindus! That’s exactly is the key aim of the RSS. One may recall its attempt at ghar wapsi, conversion to Hindus from other faiths, or the cow protection slogan, and now Bharat Mata ki Jai.

Vaidya deftly uses the explanatory note under Article 25 in the Constitution of India which says “reference to Hindus shall be construed as including a reference to persons professing the Sikh, Jaina or Buddhist religion”. He wants to use this expression to include Muslims and Christians as well. This is like arguing that ‘all women are men’ since the legal adage in common law holds that “man includes a woman”.

The problem, however, is actually in the terminology itself. The term Hindu cannot be found in what is known as Hindu scriptures. Anyone can call himself a Hindu as it has no guidelines of a religion. It is a way of life (Sardar K.M. Panikkar). The Supreme Court of India, in a landmark judgment in 1995, has also held that Hinduism is a way of life, a view reaffirmed in a 2005 Supreme Court judgment as well. The Indian Constitution does not define it.

Hinduism probably developed as a synthesis of various Indian cultures and traditions. The term most likely was brought into India by Islam meaning “Indian Pagan”. Some others hold that it was a derivative of Sindhu (meaning a large body of water, in Sanskrit, referring to the Sindhu River), in Persian “S” is expressed as “H” and that made it as Hinduto or Hindu. The Greeks borrowed the expression and made it Indos and the people around the river as Indoi which in English became Indus, India and Indian. In South-East Asia, Indians were mostly known by the Persian terms while Arabs called India al-Hind. This is an etymological explanation.

A scientific explanation from the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad has cut at the very root of the established view that Hindus are descendants of the Aryans. German philosopher Max Mueller proposed in mid-19th century about an Indo-Aryan migration from Central Asia some 3500 years ago, and this view has been assiduously held on. According to Max Mueller, this migration was responsible for the Indo-European language and caste system in India.

That Aryan link has now been challenged. An article by Dinesh Sharma (Mail Today, December 10, 2015) points out that a new study by Indian geneticists says that the origin of genetic diversity found in South Asia is older than 3500 years. So where is the Aryan ancestry of all Hindus? Besides, there existed in India the Indus Valley (3200-1300 BCE, some say even 5000 BCE) and Harappan civilisations (2600-1900 BCE). They predate the so-called Vedic period.

Instead of legal, historical and political hair-splitting on the RSS concept of One Hindu Nation, let us see what is happening on the ground today in India. On March 16, this year AIMIM MLA Waris Pathan was suspended from the Maharashtra Assembly for refusing to utter Bharat Mata ki Jai. AIMIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi voiced a similar opinion in Parliament. It seems that Waris Pathan was ready to say Jai Hind but not Bharat Mata ki Jai. The point is that Jai Hind refers to the nation but Bharat Mata is personification of the country as a goddess and a mother.

According to a blog by Sadan Jha, Indian Express, March 18, 2016, the slogan, ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ is often interchangeably raised with Vande Mata-ram and shares a common history too. Though it is extremely difficult to pin-point when this slogan first came into existence, the genealogy of the figure of Bharat Mata has been traced to a satirical piece titled Unabimsa Purana (‘The Nineteenth Purana’) by Bhudeb Mukhopadhyay, first published anonymously in 1866, long before the RSS was born.

Bharat Mata is identified in that text as Adi-Bharati, the widow of Arya Swami, the embodiment of all that is essentially ‘Aryan’. The image of the dispossessed motherland is also found in Kiran Chandra Bandyopadhyay’s play, Bharat Mata, first performed in 1873.

The landmark intervention in the history of this icon through Bandemataram was Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay’s Anandamath. Jha also pointed out that it was sung in the Calcutta session of the Indian National Congress in 1896 by Rabindranath Tagore.

It seems that the Hindutva fanatics are now adopting various slogans of yore and utilising them to serve their propaganda objectives. But they are forgetting that this country is not the fiefdom of the Hindus; they do not have any hegemony over this country. What makes us one nation and one country is the coalition of many faiths, many nationalities, many languages, many cultures and, above all, a common fight for freedom from British rule that welded us into a nation.

The ethos of our uniqueness was wonderfully expressed by Rabindranath Tagore who, in his poem “Bharattirtha”, pointed out that here in India the Aryans, non-Aryans, Dravidians, Chinese, Scythians, Huns, Pathans and Mughals merged into one body. The RSS and Hindutva fanatics obviously do not believe in this multiplicity. Tagore would have been termed by them as anti-national had he been alive today.

Vice-President Hamid Ansari has made a very good plea by calling upon the Supreme Court “to clarify the contours within which the principles of secularism and composite culture should operate”. He pointed out that India has a “population of 1.3 billion comprising over 4635 communities” of which 78 per cent “are not only linguistic and cultural but social categories” and religious minorities “constitute 19.4 per cent of the total”. He added that our “democratic polity and state structure were put in place in full awareness of this plurality”. He added: “There was no suggestion to erase identities and homogenise them.”

There is another aspect to the RSS’ kulturkampf (cultural struggle) which was first waged in modern history by German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck to subject the Roman Catholic Church under state control. The attacks of mosques and churches here bear testimony to that idea. The recent emphasis in the Union Budget of the BJP-led government on the rural population is also not fortuitous nor does it show any special love of the BJP for them. Fascist thought used peasantry for its own ends. Barrington Moore Jr writes, in his Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy, that the German Nazis “succeeded most in their appeal to the peasant whose holding was relatively small and unprofitable for the particular area in which it existed”.

The peasantry and the landless in India are also the largest entity as compared to other social sectors. With the support garnered from the rural sector and the big capitalists who contributed handsomely to the Nazi coffers, Hitler advanced to the level he did. Add to that the other Nazi slogans like Reine Race (Pure Race) and Herrenvolk (Master race), etc., using which the Nazis were able to win the masses and their support. The weakness of the Left and Social Democrats, and the division among the working people to fight this emerging menace comprised a massive political failure in Germany to prevent the sweep of Nazism.

The same Nazi methodology is now being followed in India by the Hindutva fanatics. There are several other similar situations obtaining here as in Germany. The weakness of the Left, social democrats and others in India is also failing in the task of preventing these forces from growing due to bickering among them.

The Hindutva fanatics are helping the process of dissension and distrust as an instrument of division. More and more people of this country will now be compelled to assert their own statehood as distinct entities. The latest is the Marathwada demand for a separate Statehood from Maharashtra. Vidarbha raised it earlier. No wonder, RSS ideologue M.G. Vaidya supports this demand. He in fact wants Maharashtra to be split into four parts. (The Times of India, March 24, 2016) Where is then their One Bharat concept? Wait, the RSS has an answer to that as well. Smaller States mean less powerful States that can oppose the BJP.

We have already had the Telangana and Andhra division in 2014. That was an offshoot of merging the Tamil and Telegu-speaking areas as one entity under Andhra Pradesh. We have now 29 States and seven Union Territories. A little flashback into India’s political history may be useful here.

British India consisted of eight provinces at the turn of the 20th century that were administered either by a Governor or a Lieutenant-Governor. These were Burma, Bengal, Madras, Bombay, United Provinces, Central Provinces and Berar, Punjab and Assam. During the partition of Bengal (1905-1912), a new Lieutenant-Governor’s province of Eastern Bengal and Assam existed. In 1912, the partition was partially reversed, with the eastern and western halves of Bengal re-united and the province of Assam re-established; a new Lieutenant-Governor’s province of Bihar and Orissa was also created. In addition, there were a few minor provinces that were administered by a Chief Commissioner.

At the time of independence in 1947, British India had 17 provinces: Ajmer-Merwara, Anda-man and Nicobar Islands, Assam, Baluchistan, Bengal, Bihar, Bombay, Central Provinces and Berar, Coorg, Delhi, Madras, North-West Frontier, Orissa, Panth-Piploda, Punjab, Sindh and United Provinces.

Upon the partition of British India into the Dominion of India and Dominion of Pakistan, 11 provinces (Ajmer-Merwara-Kekri, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Bihar, Bombay, Central Provinces and Berar, Coorg, Delhi, Madras, Panth-Piploda, Orissa, and the United Provinces) joined India, three provinces (Baluchistan, North-West Frontier and Sindh) joined Pakistan, and three (Punjab, Bengal and Assam) were partitioned between India and Pakistan. The struggle for independence in Baluchistan continues even now.

In 1947 after independence which divided British India, its people were left with a peculiar admixture of provinces into which most of the 562 princely states were assimilated between India and Pakistan. Bhutan and Hyderabad opted for independence but Hyderabad after a police action was taken over by the Indian Union. There remained what the Constitution of India declared as Union of States comprising nine Part A States, eight Part B States, 10 Part C and one part D State — Andaman and Nicobar islands.

In 1950, after the Indian Constitution was adopted, the provinces in India were replaced by redrawn States and Union Territories. Pakistan, however, retained its five provinces, one of which, East Bengal, was renamed East Pakistan in 1956 and it became an independent nation of Bangladesh in 1971. In 1975 Sikkim joined the Indian Union.

The 1956 States Reorganisation integrated India into 14 States and six Union Territories. A solution was sought through reorganising the States on the basis of language. This was not an ideal solution as later events showed. Himachal Pradesh, Manipur and Tripura became separate States. Delhi got a State Assembly with restricted rights. All this had to be done due to popular agitation.

It is absurd to claim, as the RSS does, that from time immemorial India was one Hindu nation. Do they now want an inter-ethnic conflict to burst out in this country to shatter whatever national unity we have? These details are recounted here to show that the RSS’ game of One Hindu India cannot succeed, and if forced will lead to inevitable conflict and bloodshed.

After unleashing these agents of national disruption, the RSS is now trying to retract at least theoretically. RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat, having demanded “No reservation” and “Compulsory Bharat Mata ki Jai” on March 6, has declared on March 28 that Bharat Mata ki Jai should resound in the world but: “We don’t want to force anyone...it is not to be imposed.” Is it a change of policy or only a tactical retreat in view of the State Assembly elections?

The Hindutva fanatics are worried. The Citizen on March 31 quotes a site “Struggle for Hindu Existence” that carries an article after the RSS chief’s second statement expressing deep dismay over the decision, and maintaining that Owaisi and his likes must be very happy men today. Referring to media reports about Bhagwat’s seemingly more conciliatory statement, the article notes: “If this report is true with a video footage of Bharatiya Kishan Sangha’s press statement, this shift is highly derogatory to RSS ideology and obviously detrimental to the morale of crores of Swayamsevaks (volunteers) who fight for the dignity of ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ in India.”

The Citizen assigns three reasons for this volte face. One, the BJP’s Maharashtra ally, the Shiv Sena, has asked if the BJP would ask PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti to chant Bharat Mata ki Jai; two, “the target” for the polarisation through this ‘mandatory’ recitation was intended to be the JNU, HCU students and the Muslims. However, these groups barely responded to this debate, with the students ignoring it altogether and the Muslims—except for Asaduddin Owaisi—also dismissing the issue as meaningless; and third, most importantly, other groups that had clearly not been intended as targets entered the fray with passion. The Sikhs, the Dalits in particular reacted sharply against the move to make the slogan mandatory and criticised the government for this. In fact leaders from within these groups came out with alternative slogans as well. Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) President Simranjit Singh Mann asserted: “Sikhs don’t worship women in any form. Hence, they can’t chant this slogan.” He further added: “According to the BJP, one who doesn’t say ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ is not a patriot and can be tried for sedition...Sikhs should say “Waheguru ji ka Khalsa, Waheguru ji ki Fateh.” Punjab is going to the elections soon. Dalit scholars and organisations also questioned and criticised the government on this with one scholar, Kancha Ilaiah, suggesting “Bheem Bhoomi ki Jai” as an alternative.

So Quo Vadis?

The author, a former journalist, is currently engaged in education management through distance education.

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