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Mainstream, VOL LVI No 16 New Delhi April 7, 2018

RSS’ interpretation of ‘ahimsa-himsa’ and ‘dharma-adharma’

Saturday 7 April 2018, by Anil Rajimwale

In the RSS lexicon, the interpretation of the dualities of ahimsa/himsa and dharma/adharma acquires a meaning, which is arbitrary and subjective, leading inevitably to a militarised view of dutiful religion and of a society of uniform individuals. It creates its own make-believe history to gain strength for its superficial concepts, extremely poor in content. The body of interpretation only creates grounds for a single-meaning discourse, which fashions an unquestioning mass of individuals and allows only the system of meanings approved by the RSS and its ideology.

First of all, it would be interesting to have a look at the RSS explanation of ahimsa and dharma in the context of the RSS version of Hindu and Hindutva.

‘No word like ‘Hindu’ during Shri Ram’s time’(!)—Bhagwat

The RSS chief, Mohan Bhagwat, said the following in an interview given to the ‘Organiser’ (March 25, 2018): “There was no word called ‘Hindu’ at the time of Maryada Purushottam Shri Ram but he is still the icon of Hindutva.†These are the words of the topmost leader of the RSS. Had they came from a ‘secular’ source, they would have been labelled anti-Hindu and even anti-national! Marxist historians like Prof D.N. Jha have precisely been saying this for long, that is, the word ‘Hindu’ is of a recent origin and is not to be found in the ancient texts like the Vedas etc.

 If there was no ‘Hindu’ word at the time of Rama, then why all this hullabaloo around it?! It was not considered important enough by Rama himself, then when did it emerge and how? The RSS’ arbitrariness is apparent here. Lord Rama did not know what was ‘Hindu’, yet he was following Hindutva! According to the interpretation and imposition of the RSS?

Anyway, that is another scholarly controversy and at present we are not going into it. Mohan Bhagwat and the RSS have not explained as to when and how the word and its meanings arose. Nowhere do they explain it.

If there was no word like ‘Hindu’, then why are they creating so many problems around it?

In another astounding claim, Bhagwat says that, “On the other hand, Shri Krishna in a way broke all the norms of propriety of conduct but still he was following Hindutva.†(!) Mind the words: Shri Krishna broke all the norms of propriety, yet he was practising Hindutva!!

So, there are two (or more?!) standards of behaviour or principles or whatever, of ‘Hindutva’. One may follow the opposite behavioural patterns, including ‘breaking all norms’, and yet remain a Hindu. The RSS keeps the door open for posing as the protagonist of ahimsa as a Hindutva characteristic, and at the same time being a ‘kattar Hindu’, a firm Hindu, by advocating ‘himsa’ at its own convenience, as it has clarified in its texts.

Yet, what is ‘Hindutva’? This is not clarified anywhere. To follow Hindutva is to follow what? The interpretation by other ‘Hindu’ leaders like Savarkar widely differs from that of the RSS, but the latter has made it clear that it is not ready to accept his version. One is at a loss to pinpoint the chief factors of being a ‘Hindu’ and of following ‘Hindutva’. It is all confusion, and the confusion is created by none other than Mohan Bhagwat.

Gandhiji was also a Hindu and so also is the Ramkrishna Mission, and many others, but they never forced the concept on others. They never discarded or cut out other religions from the Indian society. They stood for Hindu-Muslim unity and communal harmony, which did not contradict their interpretation of Hinduism.

Bhagwatji says that the ‘ahimsak’ (non-violent) Hindu has the right to resort to ‘himsa’ if attacked. Very well. The question then poses itself as to why Gandhiji, a staunch Hindu, was assassinated by a person, Godse, claiming to be a Hindu? Was Gandhiji armed or was he going to attack him or what? Why did Godse resort to violence and kill the Mahatma? Was the murderer following the principle of ‘Hindutva’ in this act even while feeling no remorse? Is this the RSS’ interpretation of Hindutva and Hindu? The RSS is silent on this question.

The RSS is yet to condemn the assassination of Gandhiji, the leader of the Tricolour-led freedom movement and a staunch follower of Shri Ram and Ram-Rajya. His was the first political murder in independent India, and by a Hindu chauvinist. We are waiting for the RSS’ response till today.

Gandhiji has been dragged into the controversy on dharma and ahimsa. It is a bit weird, because he has been used to support the RSS’ contentions. The RSS chief says that Gandhiji ‘also’ ‘talked about consistent search for truth’. What is the truth? Which and whose truth? The RSS has to explain, particularly when talking about Gandhiji.

 It is no use lining up the great names of history like Gandhiji, Swami Vivekananda, Subhash Chandra Bose (?!) and so on in support of the ‘Hindutva’ theory. The RSS is unable even to develop a ‘theory of Hindutva’ because it simply does not understand the Indian psyche and society. It keeps talking of a ‘Hindu’ society, not an Indian one in all its multiplicity. All the above-mentioned names used their theory to unite the multicultural Indian society and people, while the RSS seeks to divide, segregate and exclude people, who do not fit its uniform project.

Here is a sample: “Whether to fight or not is not Hindutva; to live and to die for truth and non-violence is Hindutva.†Is the actual act of killing in a communal riot Hindutva or not in the RSS’ version or is it a ‘personal’ act? The RSS’ arguments stealthily create grounds to justify the acts of violence against minorities including those among the Hindus.

And here it is, the justification coming straight from the Organiser: “Unfortunate mob lynching over cow slaughter, communal rioting, and arming of certain Hindus has always been accentuated by those who misrepresent Hindu Dharma as an Abrahmic faith and thus paint it in dark colours...However, we need to understand the essential Dharmic coupling with the processes of Ahimsa or Himsa which provides a context to these actions to be interpreted.†(Organiser, March 18, 2018)

The RSS says that the ‘context’ of these violent acts should be understood first, and that they have been blown ‘out of proportion’. Among all the talk of Hindutva, dharma, ahimsa and himsa etc., it is the HIMSA (violence) which the RSS has chosen to justify as the ultimate ‘Hindu’ act! Indeed, it is the RSS which provides an ‘Abrahmic’ interpretation of Hinduism by eliminating all the differences and variety in it. Where have all the arguments about external and internal, individual and society, dharma and adharma gone? This is a militarist interpretation of Hindutva, more suited to the RSS’ depiction of Ravana than Rama!

What is ‘Dharma’?

While dealing with Indian history, the RSS lines up behind the feudal lords and feudal kings of all kinds, who committed the worst atrocities and acts of oppression on the common people. Are exploiting and killing ordinary artisans and peasants ‘dharma’? And whose dharma? Are killings in one’s own families, father, brothers and so on dharma? Are they justified to gain ‘Dharma Rajya’? What tall talks! Obviously all this is the dharma of the feudal order, of the feudal class and its sections. All this is beyond the RSS. Why the wars, why the destruction, why invading the territory and empire of the neighbouring kings? Which concept of ‘nation’ and ‘country’ apply here? They do not apply at all. For which dharma? It is not the question of good or bad king, or of Hindu or Muslim or Christian king. It is the question of a certain economic and political relation that the kings represented.

The feudal order was based upon heavy exploitation of the common peasants and artisans and others. The history of society is not the history of kings, emperors and badshahas but first and foremost of the labouring people. It is the people who contributed arms and armies to the kings, produced food, clothing, pottery, materials for society. Kings waged wars to grab the wealth belonging to the neighbouring areas and empires. That is the law of the feudal order. Not only did the Hindu and Muslim kings fight each other, using religion to cover it up, but Hindu kings fought among themselves and so also the Muslim kings and the Christian and other kings for the sake of their empires. It is not religion that determined history, it is the feudal economic class that formed history. This essence of history is sought to be covered up by the Rightwing reactionary obscurantist forces today.

King Ashoka attacked and destroyed Kalinga and took lakhs of common prisoners who were driven all the way to Magadh. Nobody talks of these common prisoners. Let the RSS apply their theory of dharma and ahimsa here. He was a Hindu king, later becoming Buddhist, did many good things and yet killed common people and his own brothers. The same happened in the case of the Maratha, Rajput, Mughal and every other royal dynasty. This was due to their feudal nature. Following this or that religion did not prevent these kings from looting and destroying other’s places of worship, carting away gold and other valuables and ornaments. The temples, lands and dwellings of the common people were never returned.

So the dharma and its interpretation for a king is different from the dharma of the ‘praja’: peasants, artisans, shop-keepers, labourers, etc. This is clear from a reading of Indian history.

‘Dharma’ is ultimately driven by the economic and social interests.

 The crisis in the RSS thought-system is due to its interpretation of Hindutva at the cost of Indian nationalismand unity.

The author is a Marxist ideologue.

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