India and Nepal

Replicating the wishful follies of the eighteenth century Bourbon monarch, Louis XVI,  King Gyanendra Shah of Nepal  has finally been denuded of all his powers.  It hardly matters now what royal robes  he wears; the emperor will henceforth be effectively without clothes.  This being 2006 rather than 1793, he might just save his head.

All that has been accomplished by a revolutionary upsurge spearheaded by Nepalese youth.  Undeterred by either the ‘royal Nepalese army’, the subterfuges of ‘mainstream’ Nepalese polticians,  or the not so incipient royalist sympathies of the Indian and American establishments, the Nepalese people may have laid the groundwork for a Republic.

Having brought about a relatively peaceful overthrow of feudal despotism in their own country—in sharp contrast rather to the exertions of elite sections of Indian youth who are now engaged in counter-revolutionary activity to shore up privileges that accrue to them as a consequence of birth and economic status—their achievement may, infact, bear far-reaching beneficial consequence for India’s State and Polity as well.

One of the declarations made by the new Nepalese government is that Nepal will no longer be a Hindu theocratic State  but a ‘secular’ one.  This causes an enormous problem for the Hindu Right (led by the RSS) in India whose project ever since its establishment in 1925 has been to transform India into a  Hindu Rashtra, even as it has also been their oxymoronic boast that India’s preponderant Hindu majority ipso facto renders it a secular nation. The declaration in Nepal, however, clearly implies that the Nepalese State has not been a ‘secular’ State thus far, regardless of its preponderant Hindu population.  A statement made by the senior BJP (the political/electoral front of the RSS) leader, V.K.Malhotra   (The Hindu, May 20) regretting the Nepalese declaration is based  on the assumption that ‘Hindu’ and ‘Secular’ are interchangeable concepts.  Never mind that the anti-minority pogrom of 2002 in Gujarat under Narendra Modi busted this pretence sky-high.

Recorded ideological facts, however, belie this boast.  Long before Jinnah the founder of Pakistan, stipulated that Hindus and Muslims constituted separate ‘nations,’and asked for a separate muslim State (1940), it was the Hindutva ideologue, Savarkar, who had expressed this theory first(1923). He laid the hypothesis that only those who were both born in India ( pitra bhumi) and bore allegiance to forms of religion ‘indigenous’ to India ( punya bhumi) could be considered ‘Indian.’ Muslims and Christians were thus excluded from ‘Indianness’, since their chief places of worship lay outside the territory of India. Following upon that, Golwalkar, the then RSS  chief (or Sarsangchalak) in a pernicious book,  We, Our Nationhood(1939),  which unabashedly lauded the Nazis for having elevated ‘race pride’ to unprecedented heights, warned India’s religious minorities in no uncertain terms that unless they learnt to subjugate themselves wholly and without demur to dominant Hindu culture, and venerated Hindu gods, all their rights, including those of citizenship, would be denied them in the stipulated Hindu Rashtra (Hindu theocratic State).

In fact, just recently, another deeply embarrassing chapter has been added to the Goeblesian history of the RSS/BJP: In a volume (RSS Aur Bharti Jana Sangh Ki Sthapna Ka Itihaas—RSS and the History of the Establishment of the Jana Sangh), one of several commissioned by the Hindu Right to commemorate the silver jubilee of the existence of the BJP, the authors (both RSS insiders), Makhan Lal and J.K.Mathur, have forthrightly inscribed the truth that the RSS and the Jana Sangh—the predecessor of the BJP—were created to ‘counter the muslims.’Having in recent years charged India’s secular historians of ‘distorting’ Indian history, the RSS now claims its own history has been distorted by its own historians! Never mind that they spoke the plain truth.

Ever since India’s Independence in 1947, thus, the Hindu Right in India, led by the RSS, has refused allegiance to either the secular Indian Constitution or the national flag, the Tricolour.  This despite the fact that such allegiance was enjoined upon them by the post-Independence government led by Nehru as quid pro quo to the release of their leaders from incarceration which had resulted from suspicion of their involvement in the conspiracy to murder Gandhi in 1948.

When the eastern wing of Pakistan seceded in 1971 to establish an independent Bangladesh, despite a shared religious affiliation, the world had resonant proof that a  common religion alone could not be a viable basis for State-formation.  Much as the RSS then applauded Pakistan’s break-up, the larger lesson was lost on it.  It thus continued to view Nepal, a Hindu theocratic State, as an object of its own dreams, and the King as a veritable avatar of the Hindu god, Vishnu.  The new development in Nepal has thus driven a stake not just through the Nepalese theocratic monarchy but of the RSS as well, just at it has lent force to all those in India who have maintained that only a secular and pluralist India can be a modern and viable India.
Furthermore, one of the chief accusations of the RSS against India’s Congress Party (which had led the struggle for independence from colonial rule), has been that it has always engaged in pampering India’s religious minorities, chiefly the muslims.  The RSS calls this the Congress’s ‘minorityism.’ With news coming now from the new Nepal that provisions will be enshrined there as well for protective and enabling laws in the interests of Nepalese ethnic and religious minorities, the RSS has lost another one of its major propaganda mechanisms against India’s secular parties.

All in all, the Nepalese events bear a resonance that stretches way beyond life in Nepal.  Indeed, these lessons need not be restricted only to the RSS in India; they seem of equal relevance to large parts of the world where Islamic ideologues seek to deny secular, democratic forms of Statehood, and perhaps also to the new crop of born-again Evangelists in America whose vision of Statehood in recent years has not, after all, been too different from that of those whom they seek to defeat.

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