Challenges to the Secular-Democratic Polity of India: Past and Present

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The RSS, since its inception in 1925, ideologically hated anything which symbolized the united struggle of the Indian people for a secular-democratic India both before and after Independence.

If united India was undone by the Muslim League’s sectarian philosophy of the Two-nation theory in 1947, presently, a secular–democratic India may well be undone by the RSS’ belief in the same Two-nation theory and by its insistence on a Hindu Rashtra or nation

PROF SHAMSUL ISLAM | Clarion India

THE secular-democratic polity of India has been besieged with challenges ever since its birth on 15 August 1947. It was born as an independent nation in the midst of unprecedented communal violence, mayhem and destruction of life and property. The communal polarisation had ravaged the subcontinent even before the birth of an independent nation.

The independence of India after many centuries of repressive colonial rule should have been an occasion of great jubilation. Unfortunately, the partition of the country following the Two-nation theory propagated by the Muslim League turned the birth of a secular-democratic India into a dreadful nightmare. Interestingly, this was done in the name of nationalism. However, the people of India, despite the creation of Pakistan on the eastern and western sides of the country on the basis of religion, had a significant reason to celebrate Independence as India chose to be a non-theocratic state and declared its commitment to a secular-democratic polity.

Undeniably, there were serious theoretical as well as practical weaknesses in this claim; nevertheless, it was a brave, historic and revolutionary commitment. In a situation where the Muslim League, under the leadership of Mohammed Ali Jinnah, had succeeded in dismembering India ruled by the British, thus legitimizing the thesis that each religious community constituted a separate nation too, the commitment to a secular India was indeed praiseworthy.

The partition of a united India was the tragic culmination of a long and ferocious struggle between organizations like the Indian National Congress (hereafter referred to as Congress) and the Muslim League, with the British rulers playing the game of favouring Two-nation theory. The choice of a non-theocratic state by the Congress leadership immediately after Independence was not the result of appeasement of religious minority groups, but rather a continuation of the anti-colonial legacy of the Congress which stood for a secular-democratic India.

Congress’s “inclusionary nationalism” challenged the Muslim League’s “exclusionary communalism” believing that nations were not constituted merely out of religious identities. The predominantly Hindu leadership of the Congress, rising above emotional and communal feelings, arrived at a consensus that a theocratic state would be inherently antithetical to democracy and could not guarantee the stability and progress of a nation. There were hard facts available in abundance to prove the veracity of the Congress’ thesis, or that of those who opposed the Two-nation theory.

For example, despite the creation of Pakistan in the name of Islam, a majority of Muslims chose to remain in India on the eve of partition. Thus, India became the country with the second largest Muslim population in the world after Indonesia, a reality that has not changed even today. On the other hand, Nepal ruled by a Hindu King with a population of more than 90% Hindus remained a separate nation. No one claimed that since the populations of both Nepal and India were predominantly Hindus, they should have formed one nation.

It is true that the Muslim League’s juggernaut was successful in achieving its objective of dividing India on communal lines but it is also true that all Muslims did not subscribe to its philosophy. There were popular Muslim leaders like Allah Baksh, having a large following among common Muslims all over India, who vocally opposed the Two-nation theory and challenged the very basis of Muslim communal politics.

Allah Baksh took the lead in organising lower and backward caste Muslims on one platform named as Azad Muslims’ Conference (Independent Muslims’ Conference) to counter the Muslim League’s Two-nation theory. It held its session in Delhi from 27–30 April 1940 with around 1,400 delegates from almost all parts of India attending it. The then British press, which was mainly pro-Muslim League, had to admit that it was the most representative gathering of Indian Muslims.

Allah Baksh who organized Muslims of India at the grass-root level for an effective and massive opposition to the designs of Muslim League in pre-partition days was not an unknown person. He rose to be the Premier (those days chief minister was known by this designation) of Sind during the eventful days of the Quit India Movement of 1942 as head of the Ittehad Party (Unity Party), which did not allow the Muslim League to have any foothold in the Muslim majority province of Sind.

Allah Baksh and his Party were not part of Congress but when British Prime Minister Winston Churchill made a derogatory reference to the Indian Freedom Struggle and Quit India Movement in a speech in the British Parliament, Allah Baksh renounced in protest all titles conferred by the British Government. The British administration could not digest this dissent and the then Governor Sir Hugh Dow removed Allah Baksh from office on 10 October 1942. This great sacrifice of a Muslim leader for the freedom of a united India remains unknown even today.

When British Prime Minister Winston Churchill made a derogatory reference to the Indian Freedom Struggle and Quit India Movement in a speech in the British Parliament, Allah Baksh renounced in protest all titles conferred by the British Government.

There were many other Indian Muslim individuals and organizations too, which put up a significant mass-based challenge against the Muslim League. For instance, Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind, a powerful organization of Islamic scholars which enjoyed great grass root support from common Muslims including clergy, was in the forefront of anti Two- nation theory movement. Jamiat’s leading light Husain Ahmed Madni never wavered from the view that the “inhabitants of India, regardless of their religion, are one Indian nation”

Allah Baksh presented historical facts in his address to counter the communal postulations of the Muslim League and challenged its leadership to respond. While decrying the concept of Two-nation theory, he stated that it was based on, “a false understanding that India is inhabited by two nations, Hindu and Muslim. It is much more to the point to say that all Indian Mussalmans [sic] are proud to be Indian Nationals and they are equally proud that their spiritual level and creedal realm is Islam.

As Indian nationals—Muslims, Hindus and others—inhabit the land and share every inch of the motherland and all its material and cultural treasures alike according to the measure of their just and fair rights and requirements as the proud sons of the soil… it is a vicious fallacy for Hindus, Muslims and other inhabitants of India to arrogate to themselves and exclusively proprietary rights over either the whole or any particular part of India. The country as an indivisible whole and as one federated and composite unit belongs to all the inhabitants of the country alike, and is as much the inalienable and imprescriptible heritage of the Indian Muslims as of other Indians. Not segregated or isolated regions, but the whole of India is the Homeland of all the Indian Muslims and no Hindu or Muslim or any other has the right to deprive them of one inch of this Homeland.”

Significant resolution

The Delhi Azad Muslims’ Conference also passed a significant resolution declaring that “India would have geographical and political boundaries of an indivisible whole land and, as such, was the common whole land of all the citizens irrespective of race or religion”. The Conference further resolved that the Pakistan scheme was “impracticable and harmful to the country’s interest generally, and of Muslims in particular.” The Conference called upon Muslims of India “to own equal responsibilities with other Indians for striving and making sacrifices to achieve the country’s independence.”

The subsequent developments in the Indian Sub-continent proved the opponents of Two-nation theory right. We have already observed that despite the partition of India on communal lines, the majority of Muslims chose to remain in India, thus proving the hollowness of the Muslim League claim that Indian Muslims longed for a separate homeland. Moreover, the secession of East Pakistan in 1971 from West Pakistan dealt a further blow to the Two-nation theory as propagated by the Muslim League.

The birth of Bangladesh proved that religion provided no guarantee of keeping a people united. The creation of Bangladesh also raised serious doubts about the whole concept of nationalism, a theme of the present study. However, the crucial reality should not be overlooked that it was not only the Muslim League which believed in the Two-nation theory. There had been a highly vocal and aggressive section amongst Hindus, long before the Independence of the country, which believed that India was primordially a Hindu nation and only Hindus could be the natural inhabitants of this holy land. The RSS and Hindu Mahasabha were two such prominent organizations. The Hindutva ideologue Vinayak Damodar Savarkar like Mohammed Ali Jinnah’s Muslim League and other Muslim communalists believed in the Two-nation theory.

The Hindutva ideologue Vinayak Damodar Savarkar like Mohammed Ali Jinnah’s Muslim League and other Muslim communalists believed in the Two-nation theory.

While delivering presidential address to 19th HM session at Ahmedabd in 1937, Savarkar unequivocally declared: “As it is, there are two antagonistic nations living side by side in India, several infantile politicians commit the serious mistake in supposing that India is already welded into a harmonious nation, or that it could be welded thus for the mere wish to do so. These were well meaning but unthinking friends take their dreams for realities. That is why they are impatient of communal tangles and attribute them to communal organizations. But the solid fact is that the so-called communal questions are but a legacy handed down to us by centuries of cultural, religious and national antagonism between the Hindus and Moslems…Let us bravely face unpleasant facts as they are. India can not be assumed today to be a unitarian and homogenous nation, but on the contrary there are two nations in the main: the Hindus and the Moslems, in India.”

Aggressive communal campaigns of RSS

The same was true of the RSS. It undertook intensive and aggressive communal campaigns to declare India as a Hindu Rashtra or nation as a natural outcome of the partition of India. This was quite visible when the RSS launched its English mouthpiece, Organizer, on the eve of the Independence of India from Delhi. The perusal of its first few issues leaves no confusion about the intentions of the RSS. The maiden issue, dated 3 July 1947 carried a banner headline which read ‘Glorious Hindu Rashtra’.

Evidently borrowing from the Muslim League’s defence of the Two-nation theory, the editorial condemned those who believed that “Muslims were equal partners in this land of the Hindus, Hindusthan, and propagated the theory that Hindus and Muslims combined could only make a nation”. The third issue of the Organizer (17 July 1947) demanded, through an editorial titled ‘National Flag’, that the saffron flag be made the national flag of independent India. Another editorial titled ‘Hindusthan’ (31 July 1947) demanded that India be named after Hindus. Importantly, its issue on the very eve of Independence, dated 14 August, 1947, rejected the whole concept of a composite nation (under the editorial title ‘Whither’):

“Let us no longer allow ourselves to be influenced by false notions of nationhood. Much of the mental confusion and the present and future troubles can be removed by the ready recognition of the simple fact that in Hindusthan only the Hindus form the nation and the national structure must be built on that safe and sound foundation…the nation itself must be built up of Hindus, on Hindu traditions, culture, ideas and aspirations.”

The same issue carried a long piece, ‘Mystery behind the Bhagwa Dhawaj’, which while demanding hoisting of saffron flag at the ramparts of Red Fort in Delhi openly denigrated the choice of the Tricolour as the National Flag.

“The people who have come to power by the kick of fate may give in our hands the Tricolour but it never be respected and owned by Hindus. The word three is in itself an evil, and a flag having three colours will certainly produce a very bad psychological effect and is injurious to a country.”

This made it clear that despite the national political leadership’s resolve in favour of a democratic–secular India, “there were powerful forces among Hindus which were not only opposed to the ideology of secularism, but were even interested in using the opportunity provided by the Independence to revive their traditional Hindu culture”.  The brutal killing of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi on 30 January 1948 by Nathuram Godse, who was closely associated both with the Hindu Mahasabha and the RSS, and widespread violence against Indian Muslims in the aftermath of Partition were clear indications that Hindu communalists had a considerable following.

But as a result of the united anti-colonial legacy of the Freedom Struggle as well as secular leaders such as Jawaharlal Nehru, the RSS remained a fringe organization. The dominant view amongst the ruling elite of the Congress including Vallabhbhai Patel (also known as Sardar Patel), the first Home Minister of India, revolved around the fact that the RSS was the antithesis of the principles for which a secular-democratic India stood. It was Sardar’s ministry which imposed first ban on the RSS on 4 February 1948 holding it also responsible for Gandhi’s murder. These were the anti-national activities of the RSS due to which the organization was banned on February 4, 1948. The government communiqué banning the RSS was self-explanatory:

“In their resolution of February 2, 1948 the Government of India declared their determination to root out the forces of hate and violence that are at work in our country and imperil the freedom of the Nation and darken her fair name. In pursuance of this policy the Government of India have decided to declare unlawful the RSS.”

The communiqué went on to disclose that the ban on the RSS was imposed because, “undesirable and even dangerous activities have been carried on by members of the Sangh. It has been found that in several parts of the country individual members of the RSS have indulged in acts of violence involving arson, robbery, dacoity, and murder and have collected illicit arms and ammunition. They have been found circulating leaflets exhorting people to resort to terrorist methods, to collect firearms, to create disaffection against the government and suborn the police and the military.”

In another letter written to Golwalkar, dated 11 September 1948, Sardar Patel stated: “Organising the Hindus and helping them is one thing but going in for revenge for its sufferings on innocent and helpless men, women and children is quite another thing […] Apart from this, their opposition to the Congress, that too of such virulence, disregarding all considerations of personality, decency or decorum, created a kind of unrest among the people. All their speeches were full of communal poison. It was not necessary to spread poison in order to enthuse the Hindus and organize for their protection.

As a final result of the poison, the country had to suffer the sacrifice of the invaluable life of Gandhiji. Even an iota of the sympathy of the Government, or of the people, no more remained for the RSS. In fact opposition grew. Opposition turned more severe, when the RSS men expressed joy and distributed sweets after Gandhiji’s death. Under these conditions it became inevitable for the Government to take action against the RSS…”

The RSS, since its inception in 1925, ideologically hated anything which symbolized the united struggle of the Indian people for a secular-democratic India both before and after Independence. Few may know the reality that immediately after the Constituent Assembly of India finally passed the Constitution on 26 November 1949, the RSS demanded that it should be replaced by the Codes of Manu which had earlier been described by Vinayak Damodar Savarkar as the scripture “most worshipable after Vedas”.

It is well known that the Codes of Manu openly denigrate lower castes and women and are antithetical to democracy and justice. M.S. Golwalkar, the second Sarsanghchalak of the RSS, throughout his term as the RSS supremo, demanded the establishment of a Hindu state in India. To this end, he condemned the Constitution of India and demanded the replacement of the Tricolour with the saffron flag.

Against Democracy

The RSS contrary to the principles of democracy has been constantly demanding India to be ruled under a totalitarian regime. Golwalkar while delivering a speech before the 1350 top level cadres of the RSS in 1940 declared, “RSS inspired by one flag, one leader and one ideology is lighting the flame of Hindutva in each and every corner of this great land.”

This slogan of one flag, one leader and one ideology has directly been borrowed from the programmes of Nazi and Fascist parties of Europe.

Against Federalism

The RSS is also dead against federal structure of the constitution, again a ‘Basic’ feature of the India polity. This is clear from the following communication of Golwalkar which he sent to the first session of the National Integration Council in 1961. It read, “Today’s federal form of government not only gives birth but also nourishes the feelings of separatism, in a way refuses to recognize the fact of one nation and destroys it. It must be completely uprooted, constitution purified and unitary form of government be established.”

It was this hatred for federalism that the RSS opposed the formation of Maharashtra with all its might. Golwalkar who always pretended to be non-political person often presided over anti-Maharashtra formation conferences. While presiding over one such conference at Bombay in 1954, he demanded, “India should have Central Rule and from administrative point of view states should be administered territories.”

These have not been some stray ideas of the RSS ideologue on Indian Federalism. The Bible of the RSS, Bunch of Thoughts (a collection of writings/interviews of Golwalkar), has an exclusive chapter titled, ‘Wanted a unitary state.’ While presenting his remedy to the federal set-up of India he writes, “The most important and effective step will be to bury deep for good all talk of a federal structure of our country’s Constitution, to sweep away the existence of all ‘autonomous’ or semi-autonomous ‘states’ within the one state viz., Bharat and proclaim ‘One Country, One State, One Legislature, One Executive’ with no trace of fragmentational, regional, sectarian, linguistic or other types of pride being given a scope for playing havoc with our integrated harmony. Let the Constitution be re-examined and redrafted, so as to establish this Unitary form of Government and thus effectively disprove the mischievous propaganda indulged in by the British and so unwittingly imbibed by the present leaders, about our being just a juxtaposition of so many distinct ‘ethnic groups’ or ‘nationalities’ happening to live side by side and grouped together by the accident of geographical contiguity and one uniform supreme foreign domination.”

Not much notice was taken of an organization so deeply antithetical to a secular democratic India because it posed no serious or immediate threat to the Indian polity. But in late 1960s, with the curtain drawing on the Nehruvian era and the gradual disappearance of the united anti-colonial legacy of the Freedom Struggle, a tailor-made situation developed for the RSS to come into the mainstream. The RSS’ attempts for respectability were facilitated by the fact that Congress, which had been ruling thus far upholding secular ethos, with an eroding mass base, had started flirting with communalism and often resorted to playing the Hindu card. This provided an aura of legitimacy to the RSS and its Hindu separatist ideology and it braced itself to fill the vacuum.

Gradually, with the help of its innumerable subsidiaries, especially its political arm Bhartiya Jan Sangh (1951–1980) and later Bhartiya Janata Party (hereafter referred to as BJP), the RSS changed from a fringe organization to the rulers of India by 1998. Once the RSS cadres, working under the banner of BJP, had smelled power, there was no shying away from the original agenda of the RSS.

The 55-page BJP manifesto for the 1998 General Elections openly committed itself to the concept of one nation, one people and one culture and stressed that Hindutva would be the principle to guide the nation. Kushabhau Thakre, after taking over president ship of the BJP in 1998, admitted that Hindutva would continue to constitute the basis of the party’s thinking. This affirmation confirmed the apprehensions that despite the BJP’s public commitment to a secular–democratic India there was “a different agenda beneath the surface […] its world view continued to be based on the perception that ‘India is one nation, one people and one culture’. This clearly is confirmation that the BJP remains rooted as deeply as ever in its doctrine of Hindutva which is inimical to the pluralist, multi-religious and multi-ethnic character of the Indian civil society.”

Soon after the BJP came to power in 1998, with leading RSS cadres like Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Lal Krishna Advani as Prime Minister and Home Minister respectively, the old RSS demand for complete overhaul of the Constitution of India was raised. Advani called for the presidential form of government to be introduced, in keeping with the RSS’ views in favour of centralized government and doing away with many of the rights provided to minorities. Eventually, despite strong opposition, the Vajpayee government appointed a panel to review the Constitution in early 2000. The RSS organs joined aggressively in this concerted campaign to denigrate the Constitution.

Moreover, for the first time in the history of the Parliament of India, the Prime Minister and the Home Minister, while participating in a debate openly eulogized the RSS, extolled the organization and claimed pride in their association with the RSS. The Prime Minister described the RSS as a good organization which “teaches discipline and inspires [its members] to engage themselves in nation-building.’

The Home Minister went to the extent of comparing the advisory role (of the RSS) in the BJP affairs with that of Mahatma Gandhi’s role in the Congress government during the early days of Independence. He asked the question, ‘Wasn’t Gandhiji consulted by Pandit Nehru and Sardar Patel”, to justify the BJP government’s linkages and dependence on RSS. As part of a process to legitimize the RSS philosophy of the Hindu nation, there were attempts to create an image of a national hero for Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, who propounded the theory of Hindutva. Advani, while renaming the Port Blair airport after V. D. Savarkar on 4 May 2002, echoed the RSS view and declared that “Hindutva propounded by Savarkar was an all encompassing ideology with its roots in the country’s heritage”.

The glorification of the prophet of Hindutva did not stop with mere words; on 26 February 2003, a statue of Savarkar was unveiled at the Indian Parliament, while most of the opposition parties boycotted the function. Savarkar thus came to share the eminence accorded to Gandhi and other prominent leaders of the Freedom Movement in the Central Hall of Parliament. Despite these attempts to glorify Savarkar, the facts of Savarkar’s life and philosophy could not be so easily erased.

Like Jinnah, Savarkar was a leader who believed in the Two-nation theory, and fought for an exclusive Hindu nation and state with Muslims and Christians having no space. Furthermore, he opposed the National Movement against colonial rule and played a prominent role in the killing of Gandhi. According to Sardar Patel, “It was a fanatical wing of Hindu Mahasabha directly under Savarkar that [hatched] the conspiracy and saw it through”.

Questioning patriotism of Muslims/Christians

It seemed that the RSS, which claimed to be merely a cultural organization attempting to rejuvenate Hindus, was setting the national agenda of a nation which was constitutionally committed to a secular-democratic polity. There seemed to be no stopping for the RSS. On the eve of the 75th anniversary of the establishment of the RSS, K.S. Sudarshan, the Sarsanghchalak of the organization, while addressing RSS cadres in Nagpur, called upon Muslims and Christians to prove their patriotism to India. This was not the only time that the RSS doubted the loyalties of these minorities.

In a resolution passed on the concluding day of its Bangalore session (7 March 2002), the RSS warned Muslims, “Let the Muslims understand that their real safety lies in the goodwill of the majority.” This statement of ‘goodwill’ from the RSS came in the aftermath of the February–March 2002 pogrom against Muslims in Gujarat, generally believed to have been organized by RSS cadres. How Muslims and other minorities could earn this ‘goodwill’ was made clear by prominent English daily in its editorial. The paper described a situation wherein “daughters were gang–raped in front of their fathers and then had their heads bashed in. Their fathers were doused with petrol and set on fire. Their property was looted. Their businesses were destroyed. And the police stood by and did nothing.”

A week before India’s fifty-sixth Independence Day in 2003, a small news item appeared in a few newspapers disclosing that Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the then Prime Minister of India, offered gurudakshina (teacher’s dues) to his guru, the RSS dhwaj (saffron flag)

Interestingly, the demand that Muslims and Christians prove their loyalty to the country was coming from an organization which, as revealed in this work, refused to join the anti-British Freedom Struggle, and did not even have faith in the secular-democratic constitutional setup of India. It was hypocritical that the RSS demanded complete loyalty to the symbols of Indian patriotism like the Tricolour and the Constitution from minorities whereas the RSS by its own convictions was committed to the replacement of these national symbols by Hindu symbols of its own imagination.

The RSS always remained committed to the establishment of a Hindu nation in India as is clear from a perusal of the Pratigya (Oath) and the Prarthana (Prayer), allegiance to which is mandatory for each member. Importantly, both demand an unwavering commitment towards the establishment of a Hindu nation from each member of the RSS. Interestingly, despite deep commitment to the formation of a Hindu nation in India, the RSS leading cadres like Atal Bihari Vajpayee, L. K. Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi held the reigns of a democratic-secular India between 1998 and 2004. Riding two horses at the same time created complications, but the RSS cared little about these. To cite one example, a week before India’s fifty-sixth Independence Day in 2003, a small news item appeared in a few newspapers disclosing that Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the then Prime Minister of India, offered gurudakshina (teacher’s dues) to his guru, the RSS dhwaj (saffron flag).

According to the reports, he, along with Deputy Prime Minister L. K. Advani, HRD Minister Murli Manohar Joshi and several of his senior Cabinet colleagues, went to the house of minister of state for railways Bandaru Dattatareya to make this

offering in a specially held RSS shakha. Before making this offering, he performed the Dhwaj pranam by saluting the saffron flag of the RSS.  This offering was, in fact, a pledge to the building of a Hindu Rashtra. According to the organizational primer of the RSS, Shakha Darshika, only formal members of the RSS are allowed to make this offering and they must recite the following pararthana (prayer) which seeks godly blessings for converting India into a Hindu State:

“Affectionate Motherland, I eternally bow to you/O Land of Hindus, you have reared me in comfort/O Sacred Land, the Great Creator of Good, may this body of mine be dedicated to you/I again and again bow before You/O God Almighty, we the integral part of the Hindu Rashtra salute you in reverence/For Your cause have we girded up our loins/Give us Your Blessings for its accomplishment.”

Oath of  ‘swayamsevaks’

It is to be remembered here that only officially recognized members known as swayamsevaks are allowed to join such a shakha. And for being a member of the RSS, it is mandatory to take the following pratigya (oath): “Before the all powerful God and my ancestors, I most solemnly take this oath, that I become a member of the RSS in order to achieve all round greatness of Bharatvarsha by fostering the growth of my sacred Hindu religion, Hindu society, and Hindu culture. I shall perform the work of the Sangh honestly, disinterestedly, with my heart and soul, and I shall adhere to this goal all my life. Bharat Mata Ki Jai.”

This special shakha concluded with a salutation to the saffron flag of the RSS which symbolizes the creation of a Hindu State. Now, if the Prime Minister’s offering of gurudakshina was an expression of his commitment to this ideology of the RSS, then his salutation to the Tricolour, the symbol of a Democratic–Secular India, from the ramparts of Red Fort a week later on 15 August was nothing more than a farce. The doubletalk on the part of the RSS was the result of a desire to be part of the ruling elite in a predominantly secular-democratic environment. And this poses the most serious challenge to the democratic and secular constitutional set up of India today.

The RSS proved to be a seasoned opportunist when despite keeping aloof from the anti-colonial struggle, claiming to adhere to a concept of Hindu Rashtra which did not subscribe to anti-British nationalism, it tried to camouflage its communal and sectarian theory of nationalism in order to gain power after independence. This opportunism has procured rich dividends to them. At a time when the modern Indian nation was coming into being, they were absent from the struggle for its creation, yet fifty years on, they managed to be in a position of power. Once it found itself in the avenues of power through the Bhartiya Janata Party, it quickly jettisoned any talk of secular democracy and reverted back to its original Savarkarite and Golwalkarite ideology of Hindu nationalism.

It was clear by the beginning of 2000 that the RSS was confident of its designs to take over India. Sudarshan, the day after taking over the reigns of the RSS from Rajendra Singh, declared that ‘the biggest Hindu organization (RSS) was poised for a quantum leap in the coming phase […] Hindutva would dawn upon the world as the supreme philosophy and way of life.’ He exhorted the cadres not to lose balance and sight to the goal sensing the triumph of Hindutva. He prophesized that “the coming age belongs to Hindutva and, amidst polarisation of pro-Hindutva and anti-Hindutva forces, the former would triumph”.

However, the results of 2004 General Elections proved Sudarshan wrong to a great extent. The Hindutva brigade lost power at the national level as Indian electorate, consisting mainly of Hindus, rejected its anti-poor and anti-minority politics. Despite this significant development, the danger to India’s secular–democratic political framework should not be understated. The situation is fraught with danger because the RSS leadership works from behind the scenes and is not answerable to anyone through the normal democratic processes.

Thus, in a situation parallel to that of 1947, India’s secular–democratic polity is faced with a grave threat to its existence. If united India was undone by the Muslim League’s sectarian philosophy of the Two-nation theory in 1947, presently, a secular–democratic India may well be undone by the RSS’ belief in the same Two-nation theory and by its insistence on a Hindu Rashtra or nation. The danger posed by the RSS should be seen as more serious as unlike the Muslim League, which openly stated its communal agenda, the RSS has been trying covertly to force a secular-democratic India into a Hindu India of the Hindutva brand.

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(Shamsul Islam is a retired Professor of University of Delhi. The views are personal and Clarion India does not necessarily share or subscribe to them. The article first appeared in academia.edu)

 

 

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