These days, the words ‘Hindu’ and ‘Nationalism’ have generated a lot of discussion and debate. The confusion created about Hindutva and Hindu Nationality, is primarily because of the imposition of Western parameters, without acknowledging and appreciating the inherent Bharatiya context
By Dr Manmohan Vaidya
The concept of ‘Nation’ emerged in Europe only after the 15th century. The history of ‘Nations’ there in the West was inevitably linked to State power that was used for expansion and colonial persecutions, leading to wars. The term ‘Nationalism’ originated in this context. The suffix ‘ism’ to it, connotes belief in only one set of ideals, its imposition and propagation with the help of power. The ideologies of Communism, Socialism, Fascism, Nazism, etc. also signify the same thing. Resultantly, ‘nationalism’ in present day Europe, has carries a negative baggage of Hitler & Mussolini. ‘We (the Western Nations) have inflicted persecutions, invasions in the name of nationalism, therefore, you (Hindus) also must have done the same’, is their imposed argument. For this purpose, they have employed the best intellectual skills and strategies and Aryan Invasion Theory is just one of the weapons in their huge arsenal. Coinage of terms ‘Hinduism’ and ‘Hindutvavadi’ is part of the same exercise. There is nothing called ‘Hindutvavad’ in Bharat. Here, we are a Hindu society, practicing Hindutva (Hinduness, not Hinduism). The term ‘Rashtravad’ was coined in Bharatiya languages as an Anglicised translation of the term ‘Nationalism’.
In Bharatiya context, the term ‘Rashtra’ has a Vedic origin. While Western nationalism revolves around State power, Bharatiya concept of Rashtra is rooted in the Geo-cultural values of life. There is no idea or even the remotest attempt for imposition or persecution in this. Therefore, the term ‘Rashtravad’ or Nationalism is irrelevant in Bharatiya context. In fact, here one finds Rashtra (Nation) and Rashtriyata (Nationhood). Thus, the most appropriate term to use, would be ‘Bharat ki Rashtriyata’.
The Spiritual Edifice of Rashtra
As per Hindu thought, ‘Rashtra’ means people. It does not mean just the headcount of individuals living on a particular land but their mindset, attitude towards life, relationship with nature and the universe, approach towards history and tradition etc. In short, all things that form and impact the entire society.
All the people living on this great land of Bharat, from the Himalayas to the Indian Ocean, despite having diverse languages, castes, deities, ways of worship, food habits, costumes, etc, have the same approach towards life, ideals, nature, society and entire humanity. For thousands of years this approach has been cultivated and practiced as a culture that binds the society together. This bonding makes it a ‘Rashtra’. The main reason for inherent unity expressed in diversity forms the spirituality-based integral and holistic worldview that is the hallmark of Bharat and Bharatiyta.
Due to this spiritual churning, the same spirit lies in everything that is manifested in diverse forms, to all Bharatiyas. Ishavasyam Idam Sarvam, which means everything animate or inanimate that is within the universe is the manifestation of the same Spirit (Chaitanya). Seeing inherent unity in apparent diversity forms the core of our belief system. Therefore, diversity does not mean ‘difference’ for us. This ‘unity expressed in terms of diversity’ cannot be elucidated by the Western concept of ‘plurality’. Plurality essentially believes in differences that somehow have to be made to coexist with each other while as per Bharatiya thinking harmony and unity amidst diversity, is Dharma or way of life. Thus, the fundamental disconnect between the Western and Bharatiya thought is that while the former strives for ‘all are one’, the later organically believes in ‘all is one’. The practical manifestation of this thought is the manner in which Bharat deals with things, people, processes or ideologies that is different from its own. Bharat does not regard differences as hostility. She does not regard the ‘other’ as enemy. That is why without the use of force or violence, she peacefully accommodates all with respect and provides space for their existence and growth, thereby forming one great all-inclusive Rashtra that is greater than the sum total of its parts. This noble virtue of acceptance and accommodation is at the heart of Bharatiya philosophy and way of life and has made Bharat what it is – unique, unparalleled and all-encompassing. The obvious corollary of this core spiritual thinking is that there can be many ways to reach God and all are equal and true. Precisely on the basis of this, Swami Vivekananda could firmly assert in the Chicago World Parliament, “We believe not only in universal toleration, but we accept all religions as true. I am proud to belong to a nation which has sheltered the persecuted and the refugees of all religions and all nations of the earth.”
Another important aspect of this integral thinking is the belief that human existence consists of body, mind, intellect and soul. Human soul (atma) is an expression of the Supreme Soul (Chaitanya), that is expressed in the form of an individual. Realising the full potential of the human spirit enables one to be one with the Supreme Spirit, which is nothing but Mukti or Moksha, the ultimate goal of life. To realise this potential, various paths were shown by seers and sages at different points of time. One can choose any of them or even devise his/her own way. These ways are nothing but religions. Hence, there is a religious democracy in Bharat, where everyone has the freedom to choose his or her own religion. Hindus believe: “Every soul is potentially divine. The goal is to manifest the divinity within, by controlling internal and external. Do it either by work, worship, psychic control or meditation. Either of these, or more, or all and be free.”
Individual, Societal, Nature and Universe are the four different levels of consciousness and there is no conflict between them. On the contrary, there is coordination and confluence among them. Ensuring the balance between them is ‘Dharma’. Thus, Dharma is a comprehensive concept and not a synonym of the concept of ‘Religion’. The protection and conservation of Dharma simply means maintaining the balance between individual, societal, environmental and universal. This cannot be contrary or against any religion. Believing and living with these eternal principles of Dharma, makes one a ‘Hindu’.
The Hindu Worldview
As explained earlier, despite all kinds of apparent diversity, a common worldview of the entire society was developed by Bharat and the world recognises that spiritual and integral unique character of our Rashtra. Whether one likes it or not, this worldview is known as ‘Hindu’. That is the unique national identity of our society. Therefore, the title of the book on this worldview by Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan is ‘Hindu View of Life’.
What Gurudev Rabindranath Thakur writes in his seminal book ‘Swadeshi Samaj’, is important in this regard. He says, “To feel unity in diversity, to establish unity amongst variety-This is the underlying Dharma of Bharat. Bharat does not regret difference as hostility, she does not regard other as an enemy. That is why without sacrifice or destruction, she wants to accommodate everybody within one great system. That is why she accepts all ways and sees the greatness of each in its own sphere.”
He further adds, “Because of this virtue in Bharat we shall not be frightened considering any society as our opponent. Each fresh conflict will enable us to expand ourselves. The Hindu, the Buddhist, the Muslim and the Christian will find a meeting point. That meeting point will not be non-Hindu, but very specifically Hindu. However foreign may be her body parts, her life and spirit will be Bharat’s.”
Therefore, Hindutva, means an integral and holistic worldview based on spirituality. It is the distinguishing feature of the entire Hindu society. The entire world has experienced it and many visitors and distinguished scholars to Bharat have recorded it. That is why ‘Hindu’ is an adjective used for this society that is Rashtra. And ‘Hindu Rashtra’ is a natural corollary of this and an undisputable and eternal truth. This Rashtra has existed from times immemorial and not an artificial entity or creation.
Politics of Confusion
In the political discourse, intellectuals, especially from the Socialist-Communist background, have deliberately created confusion about the term Hindu Rashtra. They give the impression of Hindu Rashtra being a ‘Theocratic State’ in the making, where people practicing a particular religion would have special rights and other sects would be discriminated. The idea of discrimination itself is alien to Bharat. No ruler in Bharat ever thought of discriminating on the basis of religion. At least the history of Bharat, till the arrival of Moghuls, clearly bears a testimony to that.
The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) that epitomises this idea of Hindu Rashtra, has been targeted on false grounds and out of context citations of Second Sarsanghachalak of the RSS, Sri Guruji Golwalkar. While doing so, his landmark interview to Saifuddin Jilanee in 1971, where he says, “According to our ways of religious belief and philosophy, a Muslim is as good as a Hindu”, is quoted without mentioning the following lines of Guruji, “It is not the Hindu alone who will reach the ultimate God. Everyone has the right to follow his path according to his own persuasion. That is our attitude,” is deliberately neglected.
Even today, there are many followers of Islam and Christianity attending RSS Shakhas. They are neither treated specially nor differentially. As Hindus do not believe in conversion, they are not even asked to follow one of the Hindu sects. Without practising their chosen religion and way of worship, they continue to work as Swayamsevaks. In 1998, there was a mega-camp of Vidarbha region. Around 30 thousand Swayamsevaks were residing in the camp for three days. As it was the month of Holy Ramzan, it was noticed that some Swayamse there was a provision for breaking the fast called Iftaar in the evening for the Muslims among Swayamsevaks participating in the camp.
Another sinister campaign is being run to equate Hindutva with casteism, citing them as Manuvadis, people who want to recreate the system on the principles laid down in Manu Smriti. Unfortunately, it is true that caste-based discrimination and untouchability have percolated in the entire society as an evil since some centuries, irrespective of religion. But, no office bearer of RSS has ever defended the caste-based discrimination or spoken in favour of its sustenance. Infact, with the proactive efforts of Sri Guruji, religious leaders of all sects passed a resolution in 1969 at Udupi stating, “Untouchability has no sanction of Dharma and there is no Dharmic basis to the same”. The statement of the third Sarsanghachalak of RSS, Balasaheb Deoras, “If untouchability is not a sin, then there is no sin in the world. The inhuman practice of untouchability should go lock, stock and barrel”, resonates RSS’s resolve to work fervently to end caste system and its forms and ugly manifestations.
Hindutva is against women and considers them an ‘inferior gender’, is another misinformation campaign that is being run. There is a resolution of the Akhil Bharaitya Pratinidhi Sabha, the highest decision making body of the RSS, that states that ‘except the natural differentiation, there should not be any discrimination against women and they should get equal opportunity to participate in the decision making process as well as each and every aspect of social and national life’. Thus this misogynist image of RSS is another malafide creation of vested interests and does not hold ground in letter or spirit.
The proponents of Hindutva are not ‘liberal’, they do not allow open deliberations and they are against the freedom of expression, is another favourite allegation of the so-called Left-liberals. Historical evidence proves that the amount of freedom of thought and expression that existed in the Hindu thinking, is simply unimaginable and unparallel in the entire world. To enumerate this Bhagini Nivedita says, “If Bruno would have been in Bharat, he would not have been burnt alive”. The same is true about Galileo. Dr. Abhay Bang’s story is a classic and contemporary example in this regard. Dr. Bang, who has unexceptionally served the tribals through his medical practice, was about to attend an RSS programme as the chief guest. As the so-called liberal and progressive groups of Maharashtra used to consider him of their camp, they severely criticised his decision to be a part of the RSS programme. Many socialist publications avenged a personal attack against him. Dr Bang was of the opinion that even on the RSS platform he is going to present his views with conviction, then why so much of hue and cry was being made about it, but they were relentless. Dr Bang attended the Sangh programme and aired his views with firm conviction. He also sent the same to one of the progressive weeklies Sadhana of ‘Progressive-Liberals’. But Sadhana never published it, showing the freedom of expression given by the self- proclaimed crusaders of freedom of expression.
In Kerala, many RSS Swayamsevaks are killed by the cadres of Communist Party of India (Marxist). Infact, most of the Swayamsevaks who are the victims of this barbaric political violence of CPI(M) are former cadres of the same party. There is a consistent inflow of such Communists towards Sangh just because of disillusionment with the rhetoric of freedom in the Communist Party. During my travel in Kerala, I happened to meet a person called P Keshavan Nair. He was one of the Communist leaders. He was thrown out of the party for writing an article on ‘Science in Vedas’. He has written a book, Beyond Red, sharing his own experiences about the ideology and functioning of the CPM. He writes, “This book is an attempt, a long-needed one in Indian context, where Marxists have been able to suppress all honest analysis of their theory with fundamental zeal, to look for theoretical grounds for the failure of communism and its attendant cruelties. Like many totalitarian traditions, both religious and political, the only freedom communism gives others is the freedom to praise it”.
The people who believe in one text and consider everything outside that text as absolutely fallacious, give lectures on freedom of expression. Ironically, after practicing the policy of eliminating the people who do not believe in their ideology do not even have the right to life, sermonise others on tolerance. In the process, their favourite soft target is Hindus and Hindutva, as it respects all ways and considers all kinds of thoughts as an expression of truth.
The Hindu thinking is essentially spiritual and does not take material aspects into consideration, is another malicious campaign against Hindutva. It is true that realising the Godliness within us by regulating the worldly desires, is the ultimate objective of life in all Bharatiya sects and therefore, instead of eulogising materialism, sacrifice and controlled consumption are considered as revered values in life. That does not mean material progress has no place in Hindu thinking. One of the definitions of Dharma, the cardinal guiding principle of life, is, Yato Abhyudaya Nishreayas Siddhi Sa Dharmah. It means material prosperity and Moksha have equal weightage. Therefore, the adherence and practice of the Four Purusharthas—Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha, have due importance in Hindu thinking. All this is to be acquired by individuals and society with hard-work and rigour; it is not the responsibility of the State. The State is supposed to be just a facilitator and protector of the institutions instrumental in all such efforts. The idea of ‘nation’ in the West is linked to geography and State is an integral part of it. In Bharatiya context, Rashtra is linked to the sovereignty of its people.
The realisation and expression of all facets of eternal and all-inclusive Hindu values at individual, familial, professional and other levels of social life, is the prime objective of Hindutva. We as a part of this eternal Rashtra, cherishing and nurturing these values in personal life and being part of the efforts that promotes and protects them in social life, should be the proud bearers of the key parameters of ‘Being Hindu’.
(The writer is Akhil Bharatiya Prachar Pramukh of RSS and the article is translation of original article in Marathi titled Bharatachi Rashtriyata)