An expose of Golwalkar’s fascistic ideology and the Saffron Brigade’s practice. By SITARAM YECHURY
This article was first published in the Frontline issue dated March 12, 1993, and is reproduced here.
CONSIDERABLE controversy has been generated, once again, around M.S. Golwalkar’s book We or Our Nationhood defined (Bharat Publications, 1939, Re.1). The controversy centres on the embarrassment of the Saffron Brigade, which finds its real mission of establishing a Hindu Rashtra being exposed in all its fascistic glory by this book. Thus, puncturing its efforts to mislead the Indian people by posing as adherents of democracy becomes important.
Various advocates of the Saffron Brigade, in various tones, assert that it was not Golwalkar who actually wrote this book; that it was not republished after 1942, and so on. Interestingly, however, not one of them makes any substantiative point by retracting any position that Golwalkar has taken.
For the benefit of those who say that this book was not written by Golwalkar but was merely a translation of the Marathi work Rashtra Meemansa by Babarao G.D. Savarkar, brother of V.D. Savarkar (as claimed by a senior official of the RSS-run Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Research Centre, New Delhi, in Jansatta, January 7, 1993), here is a quote from the preface written by Golwalkar on March 22, 1939, to the first edition of the book:
“In compiling this work, I have received help from numerous quarters, too many to mention. I thank them all heartily; but I cannot help separately naming one and expressing my gratefulness to him—Deshbhakta G.D. Savarkar. His work Rashtra Meemansa in Marathi has been one of my chief sources of inspiration and help.
“The manuscript of this book was ready as early as the first week of November 1938, but its appearance earlier, however desirable, was not possible due to many difficulties.” (Golwalkar, 1939, page 4).
The authorship thus being beyond dispute, we can say quite certainly that the book was neither barred from republication nor withdrawn after 1942 (on the basis of such a claim by the same RSS official in Jansatta, the editor of Navbharat Times went to the unethical extent of appending a comment to one of my articles that RSS claims that it has withdrawn this book!). We have in our possession the fourth edition of the book published in 1947 (Golwalkar, 1947). Though it must be noted that in certain places offensive language has been modified (for example, “idiots” is replaced by “misguided”), the content remains the same. Such modification, however, was considered so marginal that the author does not mention it in his preface; neither is it discernible unless closely scrutinised. An important omission from the latter edition was the foreword to the book by one “Lok Nayak” M.S. Aney.
The reasons are not far to see. Aney says: “I also desire to add that the strong and impassioned language used by the author towards those who do not subscribe to his theory of nationalism is also not in keeping with the dignity with which the scientific study of a complex problem like the Nationalism deserves to be pursued. It pains me to make these observations in this foreword” (Golwalkar, 1939, page xviii).
Such views could not have been allowed to be propagated at a time when the RSS was reaping most of the benefit of the growing communal tensions and strife preceding Partition. The inflammatory propaganda value of the book could not be undermined.
The disinformation that they are now spreading is to conceal their ideological foundations, as Golwalkar’s book continues to be the clearest expression of the real nature of the Saffron Brigade’s mission today.
We can do no better than quote a very sympathetic account of the RSS, J.A. Curran’s Militant Hinduism in Indian Politics—A Study of the RSS: “The genuine ideology of the Sangh is based upon principles formulated by its founder, Dr Hedgewar. These principles have been consolidated and amplified by the present leader in a small book called WE or OUR NATIONHOOD DEFINED, written in 1939. ‘WE’ can be described as the RSS ‘Bible’. It is the basic primer in the indoctrination of Sangh volunteers. Although this book was written twelve years ago, in a national context different from the contemporary one, the principles contained in it are still considered entirely applicable by the Sangh membership” (Curran, 1979, page 39. Emphasis as in the original).
The importance of this book for the RSS must be seen also in relation to Golwalkar’s role in its history. Golwalkar assumed the reins as the RSS chief in 1940. Two years prior to that, in 1938, he was appointed RSS general secretary by Hedgewar. Incidentally, the RSS Sarsanghchalak (chief) is always nominated by the outgoing one. He continues in his post till death. So much for their “democratic” credentials!
Golwalkar served in this capacity till 1973. His role, particularly in the first phase, from 1940 to 1954, has been summed up thus: “It (Golwalkar’s leadership) remains a historical source today for the RSS and its ‘family’, called upon to suit specific times and audiences (particularly, during riots). It is also exceptionally helpful for our understanding of precisely what the triumph of Hindutva will mean for our country” (Basu, Datta, Sarkar, Sarkar and Sen, 1993, page 25).
Golwalkar’s abiding influence has been in providing the Saffron Brigade with an ideological formation, not merely in terms of ideas and principles but also in establishing an organisational structure to achieve the aim of a fascistic Hindu Rashtra.
This is demonstrated sharply in the period following the withdrawal of the ban imposed on the RSS after the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi. (The ban was in effect from February 4, 1948, to July 12, 1949.) The RSS, eager to negotiate the withdrawal of the ban, adopted a course of deceitful compromises. Curran notes: “Golwalkar’s announcement soon after legality had been restored, that he had given “no agreement or assurances” to the government, was an ineffectual attempt to maintain ‘face’. The provisions for elections within the organisation and the promise to denounce communalism and to maintain a tolerant attitude towards other communities were quite contrary to past Sangh practice and obviously had been accepted because of government insistence. However, these provisions have not been observed; in practice, the Sangh membership has consistently ignored them” (Curran, 1979, pages 31-32. Emphasis as in the original). Forced by the government, the RSS adopted a constitution (which till date is not available for public scrutiny). Article 3 states: “The aims and objects of the Sangh are to weld together the diverse groups within the Hindu Samaj and to revitalise and rejuvenate the same on the basis of its Dharma and Sanskriti, that it may achieve an all-sided development of the Bharatavarsha” (quoted by Curran, 1979, page 35). But Curran himself adds: “The Constitution gives no hint of a militant and intolerant advocacy of a Hindu state. There is a basic difference between the formal profession of aims embodied in the constitution and actual plans of the Sangh. The Sangh abjures secrecy of ends and means, but the incompatibility of the tolerant Hindu philosophy of the constitution and the fanatically pro-Hindu and anti-non-Hindu aims instilled in the membership is clear. The proclaimed philosophy is a pale and often deceptive reflection of the real objectives of the Sangh. …Too open an expression of Sangh ideals would undoubtedly result in repression of RSS activities. The Sangh leaders are too shrewd to risk an open struggle with the government while the odds heavily favour the latter” (Curran, 1979, pages 35-36. Emphasis as in the original).
It is in line with this that Golwalkar in September 1949 publicly voiced in Lucknow the RSS criticism of the Indian Constitution which he termed as “UnBharat”. There is a similarity indeed here with the present leaders of the VHP who describe it as “UnHindu”.
Apart from such tactical manoeuvres, Golwalkar undertook certain organisational initiatives. Following the agreement with the government on the withdrawal of the ban, Golwalkar went on to establish the now infamous Sangh Parivar. The strategy was clear. The RSS would in the public eye confine itself to “cultural activity” while its affiliates would branch out into the various sections spreading the message of “Hindu Rashtra”. These seemingly independent tentacles were welded together by the RSS. This organisational network is today there for all to see.
Golwalkar’s important initiative, however, comes in the attempt to organise the Hindu religious leaders in mid-1964 “to discuss ways in which various Hindu sects and tendencies could sink their many differences, work together and establish contacts with Hindus residing abroad. Thus was laid the foundations of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, and an RSS pracharak, Shivram Shankar Apte, became its first general secretary. The subsequent career of the VHP, today the most formidable of the RSS affiliates, demands a separate study” (Basu, Datta, Sarkar, Sarkar, Sen, page 50).
Another organisational measure taken by him was to utilise this organisational structure of the “family” to create a political front which would be always under the leadership and control of the RSS. In 1951, he sent cadres to help Syama Prasad Mookherjee to start the Bharatiya Jan Sangh, whose later incarnate is today’s BJP. Among those who were sent were Deen Dayal Upadhyay, Atal Behari Vajpayee, L.K. Advani and S.S. Bhandari. (This fact is mentioned in Basu, Datta, Sarkar, Sarkar, Sen, 1993, page 48). It is precisely for this reason that when Advani was arrested after the December 6, 1992, events, it was S.S. Bhandari who was BJP’s chief spokesman.
Thus, Golwalkar’s role in evolving the present ideological foundations for the Saffron Brigade cannot be underplayed. The entire organisational structure was to establish a political goal, and this was unambiguously articulated in the book We or Our Nationhood defined. Hence, the abiding importance of this book for the Saffron Brigade. A proper understanding of the contents of this book and the intentions of the Saffron Brigade is necessary for all patriots who do not wish to see India slide into the morass of darkness and medieval theocracy.
Golwalkar begins his entire exercise by seeking to understand the word “Swaraj”. He begins by questioning what is “Swa”, meaning “We”. In the prologue to the book, he says: “We stand for national regeneration and not for the haphazard bundle of political rights—the state. What we want is Swaraj; and we must be definite what this ‘Swa’ means. ‘Our kingdom’—who are we?” (Golwalkar, 1939, page 3). The entire book is an elaboration of the thesis that “we” means the Hindus and hence Swaraj means the Hindu Raj or Hindu Rashtra.
The basic purpose of the book was to establish that India was always a Hindu nation and continues to be one. By India here Golwalkar means the “lands from sea to sea”. In fact, the map on the cover of the book gives the outline of his geographic limitations of India which expands from Afghanistan to Burma and includes Sri Lanka.
Golwalkar attempts to achieve this purpose through an ingenious distortion of both history and science. First, the entire diversity of culture, traditions, language and customs of the peoples who inhabited India over centuries is sought to be straitjacketed into a monolithic “Hinduism”. Secondly, an external enemy is created (that is, “external” to Hindus), the hate against whom is used to whip up “Hindu” consolidation.
Golwalkar here relied heavily on the experience of Hitlerite fascism. Georgi Dimitrov, the indomitable anti-fascist who led the struggle of the international working class, had said: “Fascism acts in the interests of extreme imperialists but presents itself to the masses in the guise of a ill-treated nation and appeals to outraged ‘national’ sentiments.” To present the RSS as such a champion, it was necessary to create a false consciousness that the Hindus have been and are deprived while, at the same time, generate hate against the Muslims (taking the cue from Hitler’s rabid anti-Semitism) to the effect that they are responsible for this. This was the precise purpose of the book.
The present-day activities and propaganda of the Saffron Brigade is based precisely on these two points that Golwalkar provided as the ideological input. To achieve this, it has perfected the Goebbelsian technique of telling big enough lies, frequently enough to make them appear as the truth.
It is necessary to note, at this stage, that the external enemy was not identified by the RSS as the British, against whom the Indian people were then in struggle. The hate against the Muslim community was sought to be spread much deeper than against the British by the RSS precisely because the Indian people could not be united for their “Hindu Rashtra” against the British, since their anti-British feelings found expression in the growing strength of the united freedom movement. It is for this precise reason that the RSS never nailed down the British as its enemy. For that matter, it virtually boycotted and at times opposed the freedom struggle. Even sympathetic accounts of the RSS (The Brotherhood in Saffron by Walter K. Andersen and Shridhar D. Damle, 1987, amongst others) detail the virtual absence of the RSS in the freedom movement and the consequent concessions it gained from the British. Even Nanaji Deshmukh raises the question: “Why did the RSS not take part in the liberation struggle as an organisation?” (Deshmukh, 1979, page 29). This urge to establish a “Hindu Rashtra” drove the RSS to be a virtual ally of the British. The freedom struggle and the Congress were regarded as a diversion from their objective. The animosity grew particularly after the AICC announced that free India would be a secular, democratic republic (at the Karachi Congress, 1931). This was seen, and correctly, as the very antithesis of the RSS conception of a Hindu Rashtra.
Mahatma Gandhi, the tallest of devout and practising Hindus, was assassinated because he along with the majority of Indian people embraced secular democracy—rejecting the RSS ideology.
Golwalkar, however, had to establish certain points in order to validate his thesis. First, it was necessary to establish that Hindus and Hindus alone were the original inhabitants of India. This Golwalkar does by the simple recourse to assertion. He states: “We—Hindus—have been in undisputed and undisturbed possession of this land for over 8 or even 10 thousand years before the land was invaded by any foreign race” and therefore, this land, “came to be known as Hindusthan, the land of the Hindus” (Golwalkar, 1939, page 6). There is a deliberate total silence on the entire wealth of investigations of ancient Indian history, including the possibility of the name Hindusthan originating from people outside India who described this land as the land of the Indus river.
Having asserted this, he proceeds to “prove” that Hindus did not come here from anywhere else. This is absolutely central to Golwalkar’s political project since, if this cannot be proved, then logically the Hindus would be as much of a “foreign race” as anybody else who came to this land.
A remarkably perfidious exercise is employed to prove this point. All through this book Golwalkar uses the terms “Hindu” and “Aryan race” synonymously. He thus sets out to show that the Aryans did not migrate to India from anywhere but originated here. All historical evidence to the contrary is dismissed as the “shady testimony of Western scholars” (Golwalkar, 1939, page 6). The RSS guru, however, had to contend with Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak’s theory of the Arctic origin of the Vedas. However, Golwalkar, accepting Tilak’s thesis, comes up with the incredible assertion that the Arctic zone was originally that part of the world which is today called Bihar and Orissa, “…that then it moved north-east and then by a sometimes westerly, sometimes northward movement, it came to its present position. If this be so, did we leave the Arctic Zone and come to Hindusthan or were we all along here and the Arctic Zone left us and moved away northwards in its zigzag march? We do not hesitate in affirming that had this fact been discovered during the life-time of Lok. Tilak, he would unhesitatingly have propounded the proposition that ‘The Arctic Home of the Vedas’ was verily in Hindusthan itself and that it was not the Hindus who migrated to that land but the Arctic Zone which emigrated and left the Hindus in Hindusthan” (Golwalkar, 1939, page 8).
Lunatic logic indeed! Granting the benefit of doubt, that Golwalkar was unaware of the advances in geological sciences and plate-tectonics (which today fairly accurately allows man to map the movement of various land masses over centuries), we ask the simple question: Even by the logic of his own argument, if the Arctic zone moved away from Bihar-Orissa, how could it leave behind the people who were inhabiting that land mass? When the land mass moves, it moves along with everything on it. People cannot be left hanging in a vacuum only to drop down when and where Golwalkar wishes! Such perfidy is employed to “establish” that the Aryans originated in India and did not immigrate from anywhere else. This is central to the political aim of establishing a fascistic Hindu Rashtra.
In order to achieve an internal consistency for such an incredible theory, Golwalkar had to resort to a gross distortion of history. Presenting the “glory of Hindu civilisation” till the time of the Mahabharata he says that later, “we have another gap of many centuries, which the accredited history has not been able to fill. But we can surmise that the nation lived its usual life without any serious occurrence. Then came Buddha and the great Emperors of the Gupta Dynasty, Asoka, Harshavardhan, Vikramaditya, Pulakeshi, and others of whose rule of peace, power and plenty, we obtain incontrovertible evidence. The invasion of the ‘world-conqueror’ Alexander was a mere scratch. In fact he cannot be said to have invaded the country at all, so hasty was his retreat” (Golwalkar, 1939, page 9).
Totally ignoring—in fact rejecting—the recorded history of this period which was available to Golwalkar’s generation, he straitjackets these centuries into a static time-frame whose only denominator is “Hindu kings”. Even amongst the kings he names, why was it that the same Pulakeshin II stopped the southward march of Harshavardhana and defeated him on the banks of the river Narmada? Both were great Hindu kings according to Golwalkar and members of the same nationhood! His exercise defies not only history but also the laws of social development. Why do kings fight against one another, why do empires rise and fall? Why did the slave system give way to the feudal agrarian order? Or how and why did the British succeed in subjugating “Hindu kings” through superior arms? Why did the great Hindu nation not produce such firepower? All such questions are irrelevant to Golwalkar’s exercise.
In a similar vein, revolts against the oppressive Hindu rituals and caste order are ignored. Buddhism is described merely as a variant of Hinduism. In fact, all other religions (especially Sikhism and Jainism) which originated in India are sought to be appropriated into the Hindu monolith.
Indian history for over eight hundred years is depicted as a single thread of a long war by the “Hindu nation as a whole” against the invading Muslims. Golwalkar, however, says that the Hindu nation, which was finally emerging victorious, was subjugated by a new foe—the British. The First War of Independence against the British in 1857 is depicted as “the last great nation-wide attempt to end the long war” (Golwalkar, 1939, page 11) by the Hindu nation. “The attempt failed but even in their defeat a whole galaxy of noble Hindu patriots stands out—glorious objects of the Nation’s worship” (Golwalkar, 1939, page 11).
Golwalkar conveniently forgets that the symbol of this revolt against the British, even by the heroic and devout Hindu queen, Rani Laxmi Bhai of Jhansi, was the Mughal monarch, Bahadur Shah Zafar! Was this the war of ‘Hindus’ against Muslim invaders or that of Indians for their freedom? Such facts of history, however, are irrelevant for Golwalkar. Further, Golwalkar adduces five characteristics (or “unities”) which, according to him, define the nation. “Geographical (Country), Racial (Race), Religious (Religion), Cultural (Culture) and Linguistic (Language)” (Golwalkar, 1939, page 33). The entire exercise that follows is to establish that the Hindus in India possessed all these characteristics and hence have always been a nation.
But the task, even for Golwalkar, is not easy. Of all, “the knotty point is Religion and to a certain extent language” (Golwalkar, 1939, page 33). Race for Golwalkar is “… by far the most important ingredient of a Nation” (Golwalkar, 1939, page 21). It is for this reason that he always uses the terms Hindu and Aryan synonymously. Historical evidence, of course, is irrelevant.
According to his entire body of argument, the Indus Valley civilisation would be an indigenous Aryan civilisation. In which case, why did it disintegrate? What were the internal causes? If this civilisation was overrun from outside, who were these people? After coming into this land, did these people continue to live here or did they go back? And if evidence points to the fact that they continued to live here, what was the race that emerged as a result of this admixture? All these questions are as inconvenient for Golwalkar as historical evidence is inconvenient for the Saffron Brigade today. Such questions are countered by the formidable assertion of “matters of faith”. Noted historian Romila Thapar, for example, says, “The linguistic evidence of Vedic Sanskrit supports the coming into India of an Indo-European language from Iran but does not support the notion that India was the homeland of the Aryan-speaking people” (Seminar 400, December 1992; also see Seminar 364, December 1989).
Golwalkar dismisses all such historical evidence in a footnote: “But obsessed with the idea, that Aryans came to Hindusthan from somewhere near the Caspian Sea or the Arctic region or some such place, and invaded this land in bands of marauders, that later they settled down first in the Punjab and gradually spread eastward along the Gunga, forming kingdoms at various places, at Ayodhya among them, the Historian feels it an anachronism, that the kingdom of Ayodhya in the Ramayan should be older than the more western Pandava Empire at Hastinapur. And he, with pedantic ignorance, teaches us that the story of the Mahabharat is the older. Unfortunately such misconceptions are stuffed into the brains of our young ones through textbooks appointed by various universities in the country. It is high time that we studied, understood and wrote our history ourselves and discarded such designed or undesigned distortions” (Golwalkar, 1939, pages 5-6).
The inspiration for the BJP State governments to change the syllabi and curricula in accordance with such an understanding originates in this source. However untenable this theory may be, on this basis Golwalkar asserts the overall supremacy of religion in social life. This has little to do with religiosity. This has to be established to achieve the political objective Golwalkar sets out for the RSS. He dismisses the modern concept of a secularism where religion is separated from both politics and state and treated as an individual question. Treating secularism as virtual blasphemy, he argues: “There is a general tendency to affirm that Religion is an individual question and should have no place in public and political life. This tendency is based upon a misconception of Religion, and has its origin in those, who have, as a people, no religion worth the name” (Golwalkar, 1939, page 23).
Since no other religion is worth its name except Hinduism, he asserts: “Such Religion—and nothing else deserves that name—cannot be ignored in individual or public life. It must have a place in proportion to its vast importance in politics as well… Indeed politics itself becomes, in the case of such a Religion, a small factor to be considered and followed solely as one of the commands of Religion and in accord with such commands” (Golwalkar, 1939, page 24).
He thus negates the historical experience—different nations having the same state religion, or secular nations having no state religion and the existence of multinational states—and the scientific validity of the fact that religion has nowhere and at no time cemented national unity. The fact that Islamic Bangladesh separated from Muslim Pakistan as a result of the national struggle of the Bangladeshi people despite a common religion is, of course, uncomfortable for such a standpoint to consider. But it is necessary for Golwalkar to assert the overall supremacy of religion for his political project.
Golwalkar’s ingenious perfidy is, however, in relation to language. The multitude of languages that exists in our country, each with its own history, culture and tradition, and the fact that nationalities have emerged on this basis and continue to coexist is dismissed with contempt. “It appears as if the Linguistic unity is wanting, and there are not one but many ‘Nations’, separated from each other by linguistic differences. But in fact that is not so. There is but one language, Sanskrit, of which these many ‘languages’ are mere offshoots, the children of the mother language. Sanskrit, the dialect of the Gods, is common to all from the Himalayas to the ocean in the South, from East to West and all the modern sister languages are through it so much inter-related as to be practically one. It needs but little labour to acquire a going acquaintance with any tongue. And even among the modern languages Hindi is the most commonly understood and used as a medium of expression between persons of different provinces” (Golwalkar, 1939, page 43).
Such incredible logic, however, is only applicable to India. Many a European nation uses a common language, or their languages have been the off-shoots of a single Indo-European mother. They exist because of different languages and accompanying cultures and traditions as different nations and nationalities today. This is, however, irrelevant for Golwalkar, as the purpose of his exercise, divorced from scientific analysis and historical experience, is to straitjacket Indian diversity into a monolithic unity for political purposes.
It is precisely on the basis of this understanding that the Saffron Brigade all along opposed and continues to oppose today the linguistic reorganisation of States. It is, of course, of no concern to them that at least Tamil and Kashmiri have their origin in a non-Sanskrit group of languages. Or for that matter Sanskrit itself was a branch of Indo-European languages which evolved and developed in this part of the world. The Saffron Brigade’s opposition to Urdu, a language that completely and thoroughly evolved only in India, and its efforts to impose Hindi, are also to be traced to this source. Its current slogan, “Hind, Hindi, Hindusthan”, portends what its political project holds for the future of crores of non-Hindi speaking people of India.
Golwalkar finds himself in complete isolation from both the Western concept of a nation and that of the concept found in the Indian scriptures. He himself says: “For the Rashtra concept to be complete it should be composed of ‘Desh’ country, ‘Jati’ race or ‘Janpad’ people” (Golwalkar, 1939, page 52). But in order to reconcile his theory, he conveniently twists this understanding to assert that though “no mention is found of the three components Religion, Culture and Language” (in the ancient Indian scriptures), “the concept of ‘Janpad’ explicitly includes these” (Golwalkar, 1939, page 52).
Having thus “established” that the Hindus were always and continue to remain a nation on the basis of an unscientific and ahistorical analysis, Golwalkar proceeds to assert the intolerant, theocratic content of such a Hindu nation.
“…The conclusion is unquestionably forced upon us that… in Hindusthan exists and must needs exist the ancient Hindu nation and nought else but the Hindu Nation. All those not belonging to the national, i.e., Hindu Race, Religion, Culture and Language naturally fall out of the pale of real ‘National’ life.
“We repeat: in Hindusthan, the land of the Hindus, lives and should live the Hindu Nation—satisfying all the five essential requirements of the scientific nation concept of the modern world. Consequently only those movements are truly ‘National’ as aim at re-building, re-vitalising and emancipating from its present stupor, the Hindu Nation. Those only are nationalist patriots, who, with the aspiration to glorify the Hindu race and nation next to their heart, are prompted into activity and strive to achieve that goal. All others are either traitors and enemies to the National cause, or, to take a charitable view, idiots.” (Golwalkar, 1939, pages 43-44). He continues: “…We must bear in mind that so far as ‘nation’ is concerned, all those who fall outside the five-fold limits of that idea can have no place in the national life, unless they abandon their differences, adopt the religion, culture and language of the Nation and completely merge themselves in the National Race. So long, however, as they maintain their racial, religious and cultural differences, they cannot but be only foreigners” (Golwalkar, 1939, page 45).
And further: “There are only two courses open to the foreign elements, either to merge themselves in the national race and adopt its culture, or to live at its mercy so long as the national race may allow them to do so and to quit the country at the sweet will of the national race…. From this standpoint, sanctioned by the experience of shrewd old nations, the foreign races in Hindusthan must either adopt the Hindu culture and language, must learn to respect and hold in reverence Hindu religion, must entertain no idea but those of the glorification of the Hindu race and culture, i.e., of the Hindu nation and must lose their separate existence to merge in the Hindu race, or may stay in the country, wholly subordinated to the Hindu Nation, claiming nothing, deserving no privileges, far less any preferential treatment—not even citizen’s rights. There is, at least should be, no other course for them to adopt. We are an old nation; let us deal, as old nations ought to and do deal, with the foreign races, who have chosen to live in our country” (Golwalkar, 1939, pages 47-48).
And how should such “old nations” deal? The adulation of fascist Germany could not have been more naked. “The ancient Race spirit, which prompted the Germanic tribes to over-run the whole of Europe, has re-risen in modern Germany, with the result that the Nation perforce follows aspirations, predetermined by the traditions left by its depredatory ancestors. Even so with us: our Race spirit has once again roused itself as is evidenced by the race of spiritual giants we have produced, and who today stalk the world in serene majesty” (Golwalkar, 1939, page 32).
Further: “To keep up the purity of the Race and its culture, Germany shocked the world by her purging the country of the Semitic Races—the Jews. Race pride at its highest has been manifested here. Germany has also shown how wellnigh impossible it is for Races and cultures, having differences going to the root, to be assimilated into one united whole, a good lesson for us in Hindusthan to learn and profit by” (Golwalkar, 1939, page 35).
Hitler, thus, emerges as the “Guruji’s Guru”. This, in fact, exposes the diabolic nature of the RSS’ political project. It has no compunction in borrowing a thoroughly modern and Western concept of fascism, but making it appear in the garb of upholding Hindu religion and all that is ancient. All other Western concepts and civilisational advances are condemned as “alien”, except for fascism!
A glaring inconsistency, however, does not seem to bother Golwalkar. If, according to him, the Hindus were Aryans, who then were these Aryans that Hitler was championing? If those were also Aryans, then did they migrate from India to Germany or vice versa? According to his theory, both India and Germany should be part of a single nation!
The whole exercise, thus, provides the ideological basis for a fascistic Hindu Rashtra which continues to be the kernel of the present-day Saffron Brigade’s mission.
Two other important aspects of the book must be discussed. The first relates to the question of minorities. Castigating the minority treaties laid down by the League of Nations, Golwalkar says: “Our modern solution of the minorities problem is far more dangerous. It confers untold rights not only on those who by their number and years of residence (we doubt it) may be considered according to the League as minorities, but also on all else, howsoever few or recent in their settlement—rights and privileges far in excess of the minimum advocated by the League. The natural consequences are even now felt and Hindu National life runs the risk of being shattered. Let us take heed and be prepared” (Golwalkar, 1939, pages 49- 50. Emphasis added).
Seen together with the earlier-noted intolerance against the minorities, this understanding maps out the vision of purges that may well put to shame Nazi fascism—if the Saffron Brigade succeeds in establishing its concept of a Hindu Rashtra.
The second aspect refers to its conception of the social order in its Hindu Rashtra. Golwalkar acclaims Manu as the “first and greatest law giver of the world” who “lay down in his code, directing all the peoples of the world to go to Hindusthan to learn their duties at the holy feet of ‘eldest born’ Brahmins of this land” (Golwalkar, 1939, pages 55-56).
Now what does the Manusmriti say? “(Consumption of) liquor, slaying women, Shudras, Vaishyas, or Kshatriyas (i.e. all except Brahmin men) are all minor offences” (Manusmriti, XI; 67). “A Brahmin may take possession of the goods of a Shudra with perfect peace of mind, for, since nothing at all should belong to the Shudra as his own, he is one whose property can be taken away by his master” (VIII; 417). “As woman cannot utter the Vedic mantras, she is as untruth is” (IX; 18). “Indeed, an accumulation of wealth should not be made by a Shudra even if he is able to do so, for the sight of mere possession of wealth by a Shudra injures the Brahmins” (X; 129). “The wealth of the Shudra shall be dogs and donkeys. The dress of the Shudra shall be the garments of the dead, their food they shall eat from broken dishes, black iron shall be their ornaments and they must always wander from place to place” (X; 52).
It is not as though such love for the Manusmriti was confined only to this book by Golwalkar. Much later, in his Bunch of Thoughts, he said: “Brahmin is the head, King the hands, Vaishya the thighs and Shudra the feet. This means that the people who have thus, four-fold arrangement, i.e. the Hindu people, is our God” (Golwalkar, 1966, page 25).
It is this understanding that prompted the RSS to oppose the amendments to the “Hindu Code Bill” after Independence, and it is this understanding that today propels the Saffron Brigade affiliates to reassert the Manusmriti. Witness the aggression at the recently held “Dharam Sansad” and the castigating of the present Indian Constitution as “non-Hindu”.
In this context, the significance of upper caste Maharashtra Brahmins being the leaders of the RSS till date must be noted. “The centrality of Maharashtra in the formation of the ideology and organisation of Hindutva in the mid-1920s might appear rather surprising, as Muslims here were a small minority and hardly a threat, and there had been no major riots in this region during the early 1920s. But Maharashtra had witnessed a powerful anti-Brahmin movement of backward castes from the 1870s onwards, when Jyotiba Phule had founded his Satyashodhak Samaj. By the 1920s, the Dalits, too, had started organising themselves under Ambedkar. Hindutva in 1925 as in 1990-91, was an upper caste bid to restore a slipping hegemony…” (Basu, Dutta, Sarkar, Sarkar,Sen, 1993, pages 10-11).
The vision of a social order under the Hindu Rashtra is thus one which legitimises both the inhuman caste oppression and the denial of elementary rights to women. Under such a dispensation, criminal practices such as Sati may not only be legitimised but may well be glorified.
This vision outlined by Golwalkar continues to form the basis for the Saffron Brigade to establish its vision of a Hindu Rashtra. If it today claims not to have republished this book in the 1950s, it has little to do with repudiating this vision. If this was so at all, then it was due more to the defeat of fascism in the Second World War and the liberation of millions from its oppressive yoke. With the Golwalkar-formulated ideal having been smashed, the Saffron Brigade could not propagate it in India. Domestically, following the assassination of Gandhiji, its offensive remarks about the Congress could not have been much of a comfort.
But the essential understanding outlined in the book, as noted earlier, continues to be the inspiration for the Saffron Brigade today. The dual objective is: attempt to straitjacket the internal diversity amongst the “Hindus” under a single domination, and generate hate against a community outside of the Hindus—the Muslims. (For an exposure of the falsehood on the basis of which the Saffron Brigade spreads this hatred, see Pseudo Hinduism Exposed: “Saffron Brigade’s Myths and Reality”, a CPI(M) publication, January 1993).
As a digression, it would be interesting to note that even the symbol around which they seek the internal unification of the Hindu people—Ram and Ramayana—has a very rich diversity. I recollect from my childhood the untenable characters in the Ramayana, the kings south of the Vindhyas like Vali, Sugreeva and Jambavanta who are depicted as animals and not humans. Was this not a reflection of the attempt of Aryan domination over the Dravidians?
Or take the legend around the festival of Onam celebrated in Kerala: The people of Kerala celebrate the annual return of their favourite King Maha Bali, who is described in the Aryan version as the king of Asuras (demons) who had to be killed by Vishnu in the form of Vamanavatara.
A hero for one set of Hindus is the villain for the other! (The Saffron Brigade, however, may say that these kings were different. Like the “sants” who when man landed on the moon screamed that this moon was different from the one referred to in the scriptures.)
Or, for that matter, take the entire interpretation of Ravanayana which describes the epic as the story of Ravana, who having earned the ultimate boon of not being killed by any living creature, gets fed up with mortal life and engineers that God comes down in the form of Rama, to be killed by his hands to achieve moksha. Vijaya Dashmi day, instead of marking the triumph of good over evil, could well mark the moksha of Ravana! (Refer Paula Richman, 1992).
In fact, the Kamba Ramayana in Tamil is found as a version authored by one Kampan in Thailand adorning the galleries of the royal palace in Bangkok. A rich story of epic proportions, which as Kampan says “it spreads, ceaselessly various, one and many at once,” is today being straitjacketed for the political purposes of establishing a fascistic Hindu Rashtra.
To return to Golwalkar. In the epilogue to his book he says, “All past civilisations ‘had their day, abode a day or two and passed away,’ because they had nothing to fulfil. We, however, live on, despite far greater calamities, and ever emerge triumphant masters of the world. We have no reason to lose hope. ‘Act first… a stage so gloamed with woe, We all but sicken at the shifting scenes. And yet be patient, our Play Wright ‘will’ show, in some fifth Act what this wild drama means. Let us be patient.” (Golwalkar (sic), 1939, page 65).
The “wild drama” is unfolding its fascistic proportions. Georgi Dimitrov (in his Address to the Seventh Congress of the Communist International, 1935) says that fascism, “while acting in the interests of the most reactionary circles of imperialism, intercepts the disappointed masses who deserted the old bourgeois government with its irreconcilable attitude to the old bourgeois parties”. Note today the vehemence with which the Saffron Brigade has mounted its attack on the very fundamental pillars of secularism and democracy that define the polity of independent India. Note also the vehemence with which it today places the entire blame for the wanton destruction of the Babri Masjid at the doorstep of the present government policies and not as an act committed by the Saffron Brigade in flagrant violation of the existing Constitution and the law of the land.
Further, Dimitrov notes: “Fascism puts the people at the mercy of the most corrupt and venal elements but comes before them with the demand for an honest and incorruptible government speculating on the profound disillusionment of the masses… fascism adapts its demagogy to the peculiarities of each country, and the mass of petty bourgeois and even a section of the workers, reduced to despair by want, unemployment and insecurity of their existence fall victim to the social and chauvinist demagogy of fascism.”
It is precisely this feature of fascism that defines the demagogy and campaigns of the Saffron Brigade today. Utilising the discontent arising out of the bourgeois-landlord class policies, they are attempting to divert this, not into channels that will reverse the conditions of impoverishment that continue to grow but divert this discontent into religious communal channels to advance their objectives. By placing before the people the construction of the Ram Janmabhoomi temple as the only agenda, the Saffron Brigade, in fact, is strengthening the very edifice of exploitation that is heaping miseries on our people. In conjunction with the open attempt to seek imperialist patronage for its purpose, this spells doom for the Indian people.
The Saffron Brigade today has clearly revealed that the actual conditions of the people and the alleviation of their miseries are not its concern. That more Indians than the entire population of the U.S. live below an abysmally low poverty line is of no concern to it. That children in our country, outstripping in millions the entire population of many a country, are forced to earn a livelihood is of no concern to it. That more Indians die every year from malnutrition than the entire population of Australia is of no concern to it. Can such a diversion of the people’s discontent for their political ambitions be allowed? In the name of Ram, the Saffron Brigade today seeks to consign crores of Indians to conditions of growing impoverishment. Golwalkar and the Saffron Brigade would, however, say, “ … it is not these that are our bane, but the dormancy of National feeling…” (Golwalkar, 1939, page 62).
The agenda that the Saffron Brigade is posing before the country and the methods that it uses to achieve its objective are nothing but an expression of an Indian variant of fascistic rule. Both in terms of the form of state and in terms of its economic and social policies, the BJP has exposed itself as the most reactionary section of the ruling classes. The present attempt by the Saffron Brigade is not merely one of establishing a medieval theocratic “Hindu Rashtra” but one of negating the very basis of democracy and secularism.
The Saffron Brigade’s agenda has to be defeated today in order to safeguard modern India. Unless India is saved, it cannot be changed for the better. Two years after this book was published, the Jamaat-e-Islami was founded. On August 26, 1941, under the leadership of Maulana Abul Ala Maududi, the founding conference was held in Pathankot. Maududi is to the Jamaat what Golwalkar is to the RSS. The similarity of their political project and roles is indeed remarkable. Just as Hitler was a hero for Golwalkar, so was he for Maududi. Just as Golwalkar rejected everything modern in human civilisation—liberty, equality, fraternity, secularism, democracy and parliamentary institutions—as “alien concepts”, so did Maududi and the philosophy of Muslim fundamentalism.
Maududi, in a speech at Pathankot in May 1947, when Partition was imminent, urged Indians to organise their state and society on the basis of Hindu scriptures and laws, as they would organise Pakistan based on the laws laid down by “Allah”. He said: “If a Hindu government based on Hindu law came to India and the law of Manu became the law of land as a result of which Muslims were treated untouchables and were not given any share in the government, they did not even get the citizenship rights, I would have no objection” (Quoted in Nizami, 1975, p. 11).
Hindu communalism and Muslim fundamentalism feed on each other. In the process, both spread communal poison deeper, threatening the very fabric of our country’s unity and integrity. Both act against the interests of the majority of people they claim to represent. India today is a secular democracy because a majority of Hindus and Muslims rejected this politics. It is this axis of Hitler-Golwalkar-Maududi that has to be politically defeated to preserve India today. All patriots who have not sold their conscience to the enemies of the nation have to rise as one man to meet this fascistic challenge.
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Basu, Tapan; Datta, Pradip; Sarkar, Sumit; Sarkar, Tanika; Sen, Sambuddha; Khaki Shorts: Saffron Flags, Tracts For The Times/I, Orient Longman, New Delhi, 1993.
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Deshmukh, Nana, R.S.S.: Victim of Slander, Vision Books, New Delhi, 1979.
Golwalkar, M.S., We or Our Nationhood defined, Bharat Publications: I, 1939, with a foreword by Loknayak M.S. Aney, Re. 1.
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Richman, Paula (ed)., Many Ramayanas: The Diversity of a Narrative Tradition in South Asia, Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 1992.
Thapar, Romila, “The Perennial Ayrans,” Seminar, no. 400, December 1992.
Yechury, Sitaram., Pseudo Hinduism Exposed: “Saffron Brigade’s Myths and Reality”, a CPI(M) Publication, New Delhi, 1993.
August 7, 2017 at 9:56 pm
The article is totally relevant in the present situation.