Come the 15th of August, India will observe her sixty sixth anniversary of political independence.
Within some three years of that event in 1947, the most remarkable achievement of the leadership of those times was to give to the new nation-state a secular-liberal Constitution (although the term “secular” was actually incorporated into the text only some three decades or so after) that sought to marry principles of the Enlightenment and western democratic histories and practices thereafter with the socialist orientations issuing from the equally world-historical Russian Revolution of 1917.
This must continue to be viewed a fairly monumental attainment, due in large measure to the unswerving convictions and interminable ideological struggles of Nehru, Ambedkar, and a clutch of Socialist thinkers who succeeded in getting the better of powerful contending interests that had resolutely meant to make of the new nation a Hindu theocracy, a village republic informed by traditional practices, or a hegemonic left-wing dictatorship born of programmatic violence.
At the centre of that achievement was the granting of universal adult franchise and the rights of non-discriminatory citizenship, both of which revolutionary (revolutionary in the context of a country that was steeped in notions of privilege and endorsed inequalities of status deriving from “time-honoured” social and religious practices) provisions were hotly contested in the debates surrounding the making of the Constitution.
As we speak, it is pretty much the case that whereas the last two projects—the village republics idea and violent left-wing extremism– have since lapsed out of history, although they have their dedicated adherents who continue to give battle to the Liberal state either through force of arms or by elevating customs, however gruesome in their many operations, to the level of some eternal entitlement, the forces of theocracy are alive and well, albeit often dangerously desperate in their failures and fresh resolves.
Even to this day, for example, ideologues and institutions of right-wing majoritarian “nationalism” in India seek to marry a Hitlerite political totalitarianism with Nazi cultural monohromatism through fair means or foul. “If you take Mein Kampf and you remove the word Jew and put in the word Muslim, this is what I believe in,” says one Hindutva leader. A sentiment and a political philosophy that of course found its first copious expression in the the pages of A Bunch of Thoughts by Golwalker, the RSS chief at the time in 1938. The gentleman was hugely impressed by the fact that Hitler had “raised race pride” to such a pinnacle, offering a practice that he thought Indians should learn from. Savarkar, the pioneering ideologue of Hindutva had, of course, stipulated as early as 1923 that Hindus and Muslims were infact two separate nations, and that the national endeavour must be to “Hinduise Bharat and militarise Hindudom.”
In our own “globalised” day, a Harvard-associated don aligned staunchly with RSS Hindutva ideology, one who often graces the electronic channels, makes no bones day in and day out of saying how Indian Muslims must accept that they are actually Hindus, and that their legacy is a Hindu legacy. Only then, in his so honest-to-god opinion may Muslims in India expect to be treated as equal citizens. Once again a footnote to Golwalker that.
But back-track a bit and the full enunciation of why such views are held by Hindutva ideologues is available.
In a Communist Party of India Publication (1983) the author, H.K.Vyas was to dig out some nuggets from Hindu Vishwa, journal of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP). If you ever wondered why this organization calls itself a worldwide Hindu outfit, here is the reason: Vyas found the following pronouncements in his researches into the journal:
that “Jerusalem is nothing but Yedu Shalyam, which means the shrine of the Lord of the Yadus. i.e. Krishna.” Thus, “Let everyone know that the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem and the nearby Al Aqsa, though currently being misused as mosques, are ancient temples of the Hindu deity, Krishna;”
that “St Paul’s Cathedral in London was originally Gopal Mandir; the Notre Dame church in Paris was actually the temple of Devi Bhagvati, Parvati, alias Durga: Paris itself was actually the Hindu city of Parmeshwariam; the Kaaba at Mecca was originally a gigantic Vishnu temple.” And, to wrap up that globalised vision, “In pre-Christian times all people everywhere in the entire world were Hindus.” And, most of all, do not ask why all that may be taken for fact.
However your riposte to that might be that before all times all people everywhere in the entire world—before they were Buddhists or Hindus, or Christians,or Muslims, or Jews, or Zorashtrians, or Animists were, in fact, monkeys, it may not wash, because who knows about what beliefs monkeys held ? After all, they did have a stellar role in the vanquishing of the evil empire of Ravana, the Dravidian King of Lanka.
As the Republic comes closer to the general elections of 2014, the RSS, for the first time in its history since 1925 out in the open, marshalling the Narendra Modi-led BJP’s political campaign, no longer masquerading as a “cultural” organization merely, it is the sort of macro-historical text cited above that seeks now firmly to elicit the allegiance of the polity. That project led, most especially, by the new, hedonistic urban elites born of the policies of neo-liberalism of the last two decades or so, with their influential vanguards ensconced among the endowed expatriates in the western world, particularly America, steeped in money and religious observance. It must remain a wonder how those who have chosen to leave India and make money abroad wish to persuade us that their anxiety about us is of paramount purity, and must be made a driving force to policy-making in India. Remarkably, these American Indians simultaneously trash Sonia Gandhi—a woman who chose to leave the country of her birth and become more an Indian than most—as a foreigner bent upon ruining the country by directing the moneys and exertions of the government towards altruistic welfarism, when everyone knows that the good of the nation lies in a further fattening of the already very fat.
Sixty six years after Independence, the secular masses of India as much as its secular leaderships are already being called upon to relive that ancient curse of sectarianism bordering on fascism, and to ensure that India’s secular-Constitutional democracy, informed by an inspiring embrace of pluralist humanism and a wide spectrum of citizens’ rights across caste, class, creed, gender, ethnicity, linguistic affiliation is preserved and protected from this new concerted onslaught aimed at overturning the character both of the state and of the Constitution that legitimizes it.
To that end, every Indian who believes that only the rational is the right must strain in the coming months to do his or her bit towards ensuring that the amazing legacy of Independence which still holds us together as a secular and democratic people and state is not disfigured by or lost to the Hitlerite moment that India is now sought to be subjected to.