Narendra Modi&’s recent remark on him being a Hindu nationalist lays bare the RSS’ agenda of making India&’s national identity synonymous with Hindu identity. Modi and the RSS brand of politics refuse to see the interconnection between the past and the present, writes sk sadar nayeem
In an interview to Reuters — the first since he was named BJP&’s chief campaigner for the 2014 elections — Narendra Modi said two things. One, he did not feel guilty for his alleged role in the anti-Muslim pogrom in 2002 in Gujarat – in this context, he said ‘if a puppy comes under the wheel of a car in which you are sitting behind, it will be painful’; two, he said ‘I am a Hindu nationalist’.
Although his canine reference was in bad taste and reflected his mindset, his second remark – ‘I am a Hindu nationalist’ – is more dangerous in the context of conditions that shape India&’s unified and democratic consciousness. Modi&’s remark was well-thought out; since a long time, following the exit of Atal Behari Vajpayee from the political scene, the RSS has been trying to take control of BJP politics by weaving together elements along the Hindutva-Ramrajya-Ramjanambhoomi axis. The Sangh does not want the BJP to go down the road tread by Vajpayee and later Advani, which worked to dilute the party&’s Hindutva image. The BJP national executive at Goa endorsed the need to revert to Hindutva. Thus, Modi&’s ‘I am a Hindu nationalist’ remark satisfied the RSS which wants the BJP to make national identity synonymous with Hindu
Narendra Modi&’s emissary to Uttar Pradesh, Amit Shah, has already made it clear that if the BJP comes to power in the state, a Ram Mandir would be built on the ruins of Babri Masjid. The Sangh Parivar is now preparing the ground to uphold the RSS’ idea of a nation state and Narendra Modi is the suitable boy who has taken to the task of ‘correcting the distortions in BJP&’s politics’.
Since the RSS has always believed that communalism defines politics, Modi&’s comments come as no surprise. The Sangh had opposed Mahatma Gandhi for his alleged surrender to Muslims and his treatment of Muslims as equal citizens in this ‘Hindu land’. RSS leader Hedgewar&’s biographer C P Bhishikar writes, ‘Doctorji (Hedgewar) thought deeply over a long period on the question of national identity…why should there be any confusion about nationhood in Hindustan?…Why have strange expressions like nationalist Mussalman and nationalist Christian come into currency?’
That ‘confusion’ cleared when another founder leader of RSS, Guru Golwalkar, wrote, ‘In this country Hindus alone are nation’. But in the contempt and hatred for Gandhi, the RSS leaders overlooked the fact that at the same time, Md Ali Jinnah – in pursuit of his dream of dividing the country to create Pakistan — was also trying to establish that Hindus constituted a separate nation.
When the Indian national movement fought for the values of democracy and civil liberty, there were attempts to socialise the leaders of communal parties like Hindu Mahasabha, RSS and Muslim League, who believed in anti-democratic ideology. These parties functioned more or less under the tutelage of contemporary ‘leaders’ of the period – the Hindu Mahasabha, RSS and Muslim League adopted V D Savarkar, M S Golwalkar and Md Ali Jinnah as their permanent presidents or heads
Even after independence, the RSS did not abandon its virulent campaign against Muslims, who remained in India along with Congress and nationalist leaders, and poured venom on them. Mahatma Gandhi and other Congress nationalists were denounced as virtual traitors to and enemies of Hindus by the RSS and finally, Mahatma Gandhi had to pay the price of ‘treachery’ on 30 January, 1948.
Narendra Modi&’s disingenuous statement not only demonstrates his as well as the RSS’ political intention, it is also a deadly new threat to India&’s national unity. Behind Modi&’s statement lies the RSS agenda of complete polarisation of Hindus and Muslims as well as other communities for electoral gains.
Undoubtedly, this tactic was highly successful in Gujarat, where Modi won three Assembly elections. Gujarat is the richest state in the country; it has the maximum population of those belonging to the middle class, many of whom are insecure self-employed small bourgeoisie. There are also significant numbers of Adivasis, Dalits and OBCs in Gujarat, besides upper caste Hindus.
During the Gujarat pogrom in 2002, the Sangh Parivar cleverly used their multi sourced and differentially complex insecurities to get them to come together as the Hindutva force, in order to use them against the Muslims. Muslims were projected as enemy number one and therefore, their extermination was upheld as a simple solution for all kinds of problems facing
However, other parts of the country do not resemble Gujarat; the RSS cannot offer a communal plank to people as a substitute for class struggle, since Muslims do not occupy any positions of class dominance. It is, therefore, not possible to find real solutions to the problems facing the country by reverting to Hindutva.
The BJP is once again indulging in false comfort, absurd hope and idle romanticism. Adherence to ideology is beneficial, but if the ideology rests on perception of a glorious past and a stereotyped enemy, without having any link with the changing realities of the present, it cannot increase the share of votes of any political party. The saffron brigade, in its search for a lever to gain power again, has ignored the interconnection between the past and present.
BJP&’s sectarian politics had albeit found many takers among the influential middle class during the Ayodhya movement, but it has been rejected by the vast majority of Hindus. In the then general election, BJP had managed to secure just about 20 per cent of the total votes polled.
Further, Modi&’s ‘Hindu Nationalist’ remark is an oxymoron. Ideology of nationalism in India cannot be dependent on any religion. In India, not only Muslims but even Sikhs and Brahmos refuse to call themselves Hindus. This is why it is not possible to confine all Indians within the boundaries of a Hindu nationality.
India being a multi-religion, multi caste and multi-cultural country, cannot afford to restore the primacy of any one religion, caste, culture or historical tradition. It is the synthesis of different religions, castes and cultures that makes India unique. So an aspiring prime minister like Narendra Modi should think over calling himself an Indian nationalist, not a Hindu Nationalist.
The writer is on the staff of Dainik Statesman.