Completing the nation-building process – Gautam Sen

Narendra Modi & Amit Shah

Dr Gautam SenIndia is almost the only nation in the world with a raucous chorus that opposes all manifestations of national unity. – Dr Gautam Sen

The unruly demonstrations across India over the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) obscure the profound historic changes unfolding in India. The contemporary socio-political tsunami unleashed by Narendra Modi and Amit Shah is Ashokan in scale and guarantee them immortality if they follow through and implementation of their policies succeed. In the historical context of disunity, it was the catastrophic warring between the Rashtrakutas of the South and the once mighty empire of the troubled Gurjara-Pratiharas that opened India’s doors to a thousand years of unimaginably destructive and cruel enslavement. The prolonged desolation was to be followed by the racist British marauders in the 18th century. They are still being defended by “coolie” Indian academics in a tradition of self-hatred that ingrained itself during colonial rule. But something massive is now afoot, the meaning of which will become truly clear in historical retrospect.

It was the Mahatma that decreed that India should not acquire the standard accoutrements of nationhood that violated his bizarre eschewal of physical survival necessary to ratify his timeless sainthood, in the tradition of Jesus Christ. His chosen prime minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru, did not altogether abandon this underlying moral imperative, though circumstances severely circumscribed its realisation and it finally perished in the icy Himalayan wastes in 1962. The unavoidable task of building the nation, begun majestically by the incomparable Sardar Patel, with pragmatism, iron will and sagacity, had faltered after his death in 1950. In subsequent decades, the efforts to create a nation out of long extant internal fissures and suicidal rivalries were stifled by the struggle to retain political power at the centre, while the periphery’s sense of belonging to one nation ebbed away.

Into this political vacuum, multiple external predators, other governments and their insidious evangelist assets, never completely dormant, quickly intensified operations, suborning and coordinating with local political allies, in a phenomenon with ancient roots in the civilisation of the Hindus. In the struggle to gain and retain regional power, political parties in India were more than willing to sup with the devil, including foreign ones. The most shocking revelation has been the apparent collusion of national parties with the Pakistani ISI in facilitating the July 2005 Delhi and the 26/11 terrorist assaults on Mumbai. Broadly speaking, foreign powers have routinely provided political support to disgruntled local political movements, from Maoism to regionalism through state agencies and concoction of intellectual legitimacy, using arm’s length intelligence agents in major Western universities. A majority of Western scholars, engaged with their own national intelligence and foreign policy agencies, sustain narratives, first evolved during colonial rule, of oppressive Hindu hierarchies and allege racial divisions that apparently enjoin erasure at all cost. They have recently become quite blatant because ongoing unprecedented changes in India under the Modi government are unsettling them. A highly reliable witness reported that one leading Oxford academic went so far as to suggest that Prime Minister Narendra Modi organised the killings of 40 Indian soldiers to justify Balakot for electoral purposes.

The Left has never been comfortable with the idea of the nation as an institution because they have a quasi-religious obsession with the idea of a borderless world. This is an aspiration also shared in the Islamic notion of the Ummah, though only exclusively under the exacting rigours of the Shariah, a counterpart to communist universalism as the sole ideological rubric of proletarian world dictatorship. Of course, neither communist nor Muslim nations ever managed to practise this unlikely political phantasmagoria, since both have unfailingly been organised, historically, as sectarian individual polities, often in bitter conflict with each other. Joseph Stalin himself, still the undisputed hero of the ludicrous Indian Left, unceremoniously eliminated internationalist Trotskyite dissent. During World War II, Trotsky was improbably advocating that the working classes of Germany and the Soviet Union unite, at the very moment the Nazis were engaged in trying to liquidate the Slavic people in entirety. Now the world is witnessing the terrifying spectacle of Chinese nationalism, only rivalled by the aspirations of world empire in the past millennia of the Mongols and Islam.

The need for nation-building to survive in a hostile and predatory world was recognised by the great poet, Rabindranath Tagore, in an astute essay admired by the political philosopher, Isaiah Berlin. Tagore’s eloquent analysis regretted some dimensions of nationalism, but he deemed it unavoidable. But approval of nationalist mobilisation has long been the staple of Western political thought and historical study. The political cohesion of the group was enumerated as an imperative even by the great Arab thinker, Ibn Khaldun, though the societal bases he identified for it are less relevant to the contemporary world. India is almost the only nation in the world, even including the modern Scandinavians hell-bent on self-liquidation, with a raucous chorus that opposes all manifestations of national unity. From Thomas Hobbes, who insisted freedom is only possible when order prevails under overriding authority to contemporary historians, all identify analogous bases for nation-building. Even when they seem uneasy, like Linda Colley, about the full meaning and impact of nation building, she recognised that Great Britain was created through warfare and religious fervour. Indian academics, who cannot really be described as thinkers at all since their oeuvre is mostly imitative, wax eloquent on the artificiality of the nation. All the accusations of “invented traditions” are smugly aimed at India, without taking on board how nations, which provide their handsome current salaries, were established in exactly the way exposed critically by theorists Benedict Anderson, Terence Ranger and Eric Hobsbawm, etc.!

Narendra Modi

The unfinished business of nation-building being attempted by India was always guaranteed to be difficult since new perceptions and sensibilities have to be implanted and become the default norm. It will unavoidably challenge extant fissured self-identification and imperil them, nothing more assured to unsettle and provoke unrest. Once India was rescued from accelerated break-up as a polity and an economy, which was being jubilantly charted by the erstwhile Congress government, Narendra Modi’s dispensation has pursued a number of weighty aspirations essential for building the nation. These embraced some of the goals abandoned following the passing of the inestimable Sardar Patel. The first was the erosion of the dominance of caste equations in Indian political life, though the efforts still remain tentative in impact, demonstrated twice in national elections that elevated instead the benefits of good governance as a political mobiliser. This political programme of Narendra Modi has already been an enormous and historic accomplishment, though not fully acknowledged. The second objective is the building of a strong, competitive domestic economy, with a significant manufacturing base and capable of supplying a major share of defence procurement. The latter goals have suffered some recent short-term setbacks, but remain essential and the incumbent government appears seriously committed to them.

The third goal of defining the nation’s borders was another policy that has been promulgated by the abrogation of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, an essential task that no political dispensation had even imagined possible, leave alone attempted. Its political costs are not yet fully known, but its historic achievement cannot be denied. The NRC and CAA legislation also perform an essential task of nation-building by defining India’s borders and ascertaining who has the legal right to reside within it. The protests and hand-wringing over them only unambiguously identifies the reality of a small but vocal minority in India, some of it highly privileged, perfectly tranquil about inflicting incalculable damage to the Indian nation for short-term political gain. And evidence is emerging of foreign involvement to destabilise India through terrorist assets within India. The arguments being proffered against the NRC and the CAA are so absurd as to beggar belief. They have been answered with unequivocal and devastating pointedness by the former Additional Solicitor General of India, the extraordinarily nuanced Harish Salve. In summary, economic migrants, fleeing material distress in neighbouring countries cannot be considered victims of religious persecution, but an exception is being granted to minorities suffering genuinely from it. To be morally in accord with international standards, India will continue to entitle everyone to be considered for political asylum.

As for antediluvian liberal ideologues, including the UN Secretary General, and various inane commercial media outlets currently berating India, like the BBC, New Yorker and the supercilious Washington Post [and New York Times], thought itself unable to resist China’s overweening demands to conform, they only reveal their perilously inadequate grasp of history and reality. It is best they crawled back into their respective pits in silence. – Sunday Guardian Live, 28 December 2019

Dr Gautam Sen taught international political economy for more than two decades at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

India Flag


 

RSS indifferent to its media image – Koenraad Elst

RSS Leaders

Koenraad ElstThe portrayal of RSS and “Hindu Nationalism” in Western media has changed a little over the last couple of decades but the credit for the same does not go to the RSS itself, which remains indifferent to such challenges as before. – Dr Koenraad Elst

On Friday 3 November, the Flemish broadcaster VRT Canvas, in its programme Terzake (“To the point”), presented a Dutch documentary from the series De Westerlingen (“The Westerners”), in which young Dutchmen meet youngsters in countries across the world to explore the differences in culture. In the past, the impression was that all cultural differences were on the way out because the non-Westerners were simply Westernising. Now, it has become clear that some differences are here to stay, and that even in non-Muslim countries, there is a tough resistance against too much Westernisation.

This time around, we were taken to India where a Dutch youngster called Nicolaas was meeting young Hindu Nationalists. According to the announcement on the TV station’s website: “In India extremist associations acquire ever more influence. Nicolaas Veul meets activist young Hindu Nationalists in the holy city of Allahabad. He goes around with Divya, Ritesh and Vikrant. They fight for a Hindu India, and against influences from outside.”

Hindu-baiting: Not what it was

At the outset, in the car on the way to an event of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangha (National Volunteer Corps, RSS), he was quickly briefed by an Indian Secularist about the Hindu Nationalists. These were said to be “increasingly powerful”, to be issuing for use in schools “textbooks rewritten in a pro-Hindu sense”, and to be “openly linked with the Nazis”.

This was a nice summary of the power equation in the reporting on India worldwide and in all the different segments of the media: all press correspondents in and “experts” on India look at Indian society and especially the communal conflict through the glasses that a handful of Secularists have put on their noses, reproducing the latter’s anti-Hindu bias and disinformation. For the average viewer, every topic in the ensuing meetings came under the cloud of these initial “revelations”, even though nothing in the RSS performance, effectively filmed, confirmed or illustrated any of them.

Since the 1980s, I have never heard the term “Hindu Nationalists” without the addition that they are “emerging” or “increasingly powerful”. They should have been all-powerful by now. The only (partial) exception was the few years after the 2009 elections when the BJP had been defeated even worse than in 2004, so that supporters of the socialist-casteist parties, including partisan experts like Christophe Jaffrelot, concluded that Hindu Nationalism was on the way out. However, instead of building on the existing power equation to push Hindutva deeper into oblivion, the Secularist Congress wasted its chance because it got too wrapped up in driving corruption to unprecedented levels, too much for the electorate to stomach. Once the next electoral campaign got underway, even the Secularists soon conceded that a BJP victory was becoming inevitable.

However, contrary to what the observers all think or say, the present BJP government under Narendra Modi, while numerically strong, is ideologically extremely weak. It is not in any way Hinduising or “saffronising” the polity or the education system. It is continuing the Congressite-Leftist anti-Hindu policies mandated by the Constitution, or at best looking the other way but not changing the Constitution to put a definitive stop to such policies. Thus, subsidised schools can be Christian or Muslim, but not Hindu: in the latter case, either they get taken over by the state and secularised, or at best, they have to do without subsidies. Temples are nationalised and their income channelled to non-Hindu purposes, a treatment against which the law protects churches and mosques. And this is no less the case in BJP-ruled states, where the Government could have chosen not to avail of the opportunities given to it by the Constitution.

Nowhere in this documentary would you pick up any hint to the main communal reality in India: the anti-majority discrimination. It is admittedly hard to explain to outsiders, and therefore easy to conceal or deny, but Hindus are indeed second-class citizens in their native country. I am aware that right now, many non-Indian readers will refuse to believe me, but it is really like that. Anywhere is the world you can download the text of the Indian Constitution, so please verify for yourself, starting with Article 25-30.

So, what did you get to see? Many people in the city were on the streets converging on an open ground where a meeting of a local RSS unit (shakha, branch) with physical and ideological training was about to take place. They were wearing (or in the case of newcomers, buying) the RSS outfit with white shirt and black cap and brown trousers. It was the new uniform, for till recently the brown trousers would have been khaki shorts, even more colonial-style. Their military style was highlighted, though everyone could see for himself that all the “weapons training” they did was with sticks, rather harmless in the age of the Kalashnikov. Naturally, there was no hint that an endless series of murders of RSS men has been committed by Kerala Communists, Khalistanis in Panjab, and others. The RSS youngsters also did not bring it up, or if they did, that part was not shown. The persistent suggestion was that they were the perpetrators of violence, not its victims, though no such violence was actually shown.

When interviewing these RSS activists, Nicolaas repeatedly remarked that this or that guy was actually impeccably friendly and quite nice. Not at all how we would picture the fascists announced initially by the Secularist. Then what was wrong with them?

St Valentine’s Day

The real topic of this documentary series was the culture clash and the native resistance against Westernization. And indeed, these young people refused to absorb the flood of Westernizing influences. One example of a pernicious influence was Valentine’s Day, taken straight from the existing Western commercial pop culture. More ideologized people denounce it also as a “Christian” holiday. Valentine was a Roman Catholic priest who performed tabooed weddings, and when martyred and sainted, the Church gave him a day in the Saints’ Calendar, 14 February, coinciding with the pre-Christian fertility feast presided over by the goddess Juno Februata (“clean, purifying”) of 13-15 February. It took a thousand years, to the age of the troubadours and courtly love, before he graduated to patron-saint of romanticism.

As such, commerce catapulted him to the fore, and made the saint’s day into an occasion pious Christians would frown upon: the feast of sentimentalism and getting carried away with infatuation. Since the late 18th century, there is a whole literature, and later movies, about youngsters following their hearts and overcoming the resistance of their unfeeling narrow-minded parents. This is now re-enacted in India, where commerce and the Secularist-promoted fondness of all things Western is spreading the highly artificial celebration of Valentine’s Day. This has become the symbol of Western decadence, in which the pursuit of emotional kicks takes precedence over long-term institution building, marriage, and the resulting children’s well-being. Nicolaas’s Indian interlocutor wants to spare his country the breakdown of family life that has come to characterise the modern West.

But in the documentary, in the interview with the RSS activist, we only see a humourless spoil-sport’s jaundiced rant against a day of innocent fun. The Dutch lad just doesn’t see that there is another side to it, and that the Hindu critique of Valentine has its legitimacy. This RSS fellow was voicing a very positive viewpoint, one in favour of the precious fabric of traditional social values, of the time-tested mos maiorum (ancestral custom), which is being undermined by modernist influences symbolised by Valentine’s Day. Possibly it is not good enough to overrule modernisation, but that remains to be seen, and the traditionalist view deserves a proper hearing.

In the streets, the Dutch newcomer to India saw Westernisation all over the place. Western fashion, neon lights, shopping malls, Kentucky Fried Chicken, young couples kissing in public. Even an RSS spokesman admitted he sometimes goes to the McDonald’s. So, the final impression that the viewers will take home is that, in India at least, Westernisation is unstoppable. It is not uncontested, true, but the nativists, though not convincingly put down as “fascists” anymore, are not very competent and are at any rate unable to stop it.

Communication

But then, come to think of it, the RSS fellow didn’t have the required communication skills to overturn an anti-Hindu bias instilled in the Western public for decades. And by “anti-Hindu”, I do not mean the kind of grim animus seen in the Missionaries or the Secularists, but a background conditioning: Nicolaas has no quarrel with the Hindus as such, and he is probably not even aware of his implicit anti-Hindu bias, but like most Westerners with an interest in India, he has innocently absorbed the partisan view of India fostered by the really hostile people.

It is unrealistic to expect this one fleeting television conversation to change a bias built up over decades. Still, the RSS spokesman could have defended his position better. On the other hand, his peaceful and civilised but weak argumentation was a logical illustration of a deliberate policy pursued since the 1920s. It was in line with the old RSS’s boy-scout mentality of disdain for all communication (“do well and don’t look back”). Founder K. B. Hedgewar, who had started out as a member of a revolutionary wing of the Freedom Movement, with secretive and purely oral communication to avoid discovery by the police, installed in his new organisation a hostility to any concern for outside approval, and to the media and their narrative. A consequence today is that RSS spokesmen are gravely lacking in communication skills. On average, they have a far better case than their clumsy performance in interviews and TV debates would suggest.

Twice the RSS refused a media presence. I was somewhat surprised to see this. In the early nineties, when I went around to RSS/BJP centres to interview Hindu Nationalist leaders, there was still plenty of distrust for outsiders, and communication was largely excluded. I knew then that I was exceptionally privileged to be allowed access, as a result of my lone pro-Hindu conclusions in my book on the Ayodhya temple/mosque conflict. But then private TV stations conquered India, gaining entry in the remotest villages, and finally the internet made communication unavoidable, even for the RSS. I had thought that this seclusion had by now become a thing of the past, but the RSS appears to have retained some of it.

The result is that RSS spokesmen, while not at all the “fascists” of Secularist mythology, come across as village bumpkins. In this case, an interviewed RSS man suffered from a lack of serious historical knowledge, or of a chauvinist type of gullibility. He explained that India has invented plastic surgery and, as proven by the Ramayana, the air plane. This story has two related drawbacks: as far as evidence can tell, it is not true; and it is bad publicity, for while it may make a handful of gullible folk admire Hindu culture, it turns Hinduism into a superstitious laughing-stock for many more. When the Dutchman brought up homosexuality, the RSS man said: “That doesn’t exist in our country.” Just like it didn’t exist in the Soviet Union (“a symptom of bourgeois decadence”) nor in Africa according to Robert Mugabe (“they may be gay in America, but they will be sad people in Zimbabwe”). Again, even those Westerners who condemn odd sexual behaviour will laugh at these clumsy attempts to make it stop at your country’s border. This way the RSS tendency is particularly weak in the prime precondition for communication, viz. seeing things also through the eyes of your interlocutor.

Grim

Today, the image of Hinduism is less grim than when Hindu Nationalism realistically coveted power or for the first time came to power in the 1990s. One reason is reality: all the grim doomsday predictions about the Hindu Nationalists “throwing all Muslims into the Indian Ocean” and “turning the clock back regarding Dalit emancipation”, failed to come true. Recently, Narendra Modi has conducted a very successful foreign policy, and the Western powers can only dream of the economic growth figures India takes for granted. Less importantly but tellingly, the Hindu parents are making progress in the California textbook affair, where some negative portrayals of Hindu culture will be amended, contrasting with the total defeat inflicted on the Hindus in 2006. The anti-Hindu lobby in American academe, largely consisting of NRIs and Indologists, has lost considerable steam.

(The same impression could be had from Sona Datta‘s documentary about Hindu art and temple architecture, broadcast a few days later. Over-all quite informative as well as full of awe for Hindu brilliance, it nonetheless started out with familiar Secularist lies about pluralist Moghuls who “built their magnificent mosques next to Hindu temples” and presided over a peaceful and tolerant empire “when Europe was ravaged by wars of religion”. But unlike in the recent past, this propaganda was not that obtrusive.) – Pragyata, 15 November 2017

» Dr Koenraad Elst is a Belgium author, historian and Orientalist.

Valentine's Day Protest

What about Hindu nationalism? – Koenraad Elst

BJP Election Billboard Mumbai

Dr Koenraad Elst“Nationalism” has gotten absolutized at the expense of Dharma, and now serves the Sangh and especially the BJP as a conduit towards secular nationalism, dropping any Hindu concerns altogether. – Dr Koenraad Elst

Down with “nationalism”

For once, the secularists have it right. The nationalism by which the Hindutva crowd swears, is a Western invention. Feelings for your home country are universal, and natives of India will need no prodding nor any foreign or native ideology to defend their country when necessary. Nationalism is just there, as a gut feeling, not in need of any promotion or defence. But as an ideology, it is the creation of the modern West, hardened in the fires of World War I. Of the secularists, we already knew that they always ape the West (or what they assume to be Western), but for champions of native civilization, it is worth noticing.

Long before I learned about India, I already knew that national provenance is not very useful as an explanation of anything in politics. I remember the TV news report ca. 1970 of a public speech by Canadian PM Pierre Trudeau. Suddenly he was interrupted by a bearded young man loudly scolding him. Trudeau singled him out for an improvised reply: “You have been swayed by those bogus progressist ideas from the US, from Chicago and Los Angeles. Get Canadian, man!” Similarly, the Flemish politician Eric Van Rompuy (younger brother of the later EU President, Herman Van Rompuy) criticized Leftist-inspired innovations as “counter to the Flemish national soul”. As if there can be anything Canadian or non-Canadian, anything Flemish or non-Flemish, about ideas.

Nationalism in a changing world

In the 1920s, because of the Freedom Struggle, loyalty to some form of Indian nationalism was the obvious choice for self-respecting people in India. And because of the British presence and influence on the curriculum, European ideological influence was larger than life. Just at that time, after World War I, nationalism was at its peak. When theorizing the national struggle, Hindu activists had little choice but to take inspiration from European thinkers like Giuseppe Mazzini, mastermind of Italian reunification and translated by Vinayak Damodar Savarkar.

The construction of Hindu concerns in terms of “Hindu nationalism” (effective meaning of “Hindutva”, a term launched by Savarkar) was understandable. So, it is not our aim to berate freedom fighters like Hindutva author Savarkar, Hindu Mahasabha co-founder Swami Shraddhananda or RSS founder Keshav Baliram Hedgewar.

However, they could have looked to Hindu history to see that one of the central concerns of all nationalists was completely lacking there: homogenization. India was the champion of diversity. States were rarely linguistically homogenous and rulers didn’t care to make them so. Loyalty was less to one’s state (which could easily change) but to a more lasting and more intimate identity: one’s caste. As B. R. Ambedkar’s grandson, Prakash Ambedkar, said: “Every caste a nation.” States had only limited power and were hardly present in the lives of their citizens. By contrast, modern nation-states sought to involve its citizens in the state project, e.g. by conscription, and to insinuate itself in their lives, see e.g. Otto von Bismarck’s creation of social security to cement Germany’s newfound unity.

If the Hindutva stalwarts per se wanted to look to “civilized” Europe, they could have taken inspiration from a number of multinational empires there. In Savarkar’s student days in London, the Russian and Austro-Hungarian empires still flourished and were characterized by a state religion (Orthodoxy c.q. Roman Catholicism), just as Hindutva stalwarts had in mind, whereas ethnic nationalism favoured secularism, e.g. German unification deliberately downplayed the Catholic/Lutheran dichotomy. Another example of how nationalism and religiosity are naturally antagonistic, was provided by Turkey: while Atatürk abolished the Ottoman empire’s religious bias, his secular-nationalist republic created the Turkish-Kurdish conflict. The old empires had a dominant language (Russian c.q. German), but along with a certain unequal tolerance to minority religions, they also left room for minority languages and made no attempt to impose a single language. This could be contrasted with the then purest example of nationalism, the French Third Republic (1871-1940) where the minority languages, still spoken by half the French population in the 19th century, were being destroyed and the state “religion” of secularism was aggressively promoted.

True, with World War I, the aforementioned empires disappeared, but another example even closer at hand survived: the United Kingdom. Few people realize how the specific status of each part of the UK differed: the Isle of Man, the Channel Islands, Wales etc., all had and still have a different relation with the British Crown. The Welsh and Gaelic languages were not supported by the state, but there was no active campaign to weed them out either. In spite of a rising level of tolerance, there was a state religion and all traditional customs and institutions were upheld. All while struggling for their sovereignty, perhaps Hindus could have learned something from their colonizers? (For starters, they could have realized that Britain was named after Brigid, the fire-clad goddess whose name is related to Bhrgu, the Vedic seer who introduced the fire sacrifice.)

Back to reality. The Hindutva pioneers opted for the then-prestigious model of the nation-state and tried to cram Hindu political aspirations into it. Rightly or wrongly, this is what happened, so let us start from there. The normal course for a political doctrine is to take in feedback from evolving reality, and to improve with the times. A speech by a Marxist leader today will sound very different from one by his predecessor a century ago. But in the case of Hindutva, the reverse development took place. It froze in its tracks.

This way, important international developments passed without registering on the RSS radar. Nationalism lost its lustre and even became a term of abuse. First there was the circumstance that the German and Japanese imperialists of World War II had sworn by stalwart nationalism (many of the Resistance fighters too, e.g. Charles de Gaulle, but that has been forgotten), whereas their Soviet enemies called themselves internationalists. This way, nationalism came to connote both evil and defeat. Secondly, the more recent wave of globalization turned nationalism into a nostalgic past-oriented attitude, something for village bumpkins who had missed the latest train of progress.

Yet, the Sangh Parivar remained blind to these developments and kept on swearing by interbellum nationalism. It continued to take inspiration from its first leaders, Hedgewar and his successor Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar. If you don’t know their voices and you listen to a tape-recorded speech by Hedgewar and one from his current successor Mohan Bhagwat nine decades later, you wouldn’t know who is who: the thoughts they express are interchangeable. That does not reflect on Hedgewar, who was a child of his time and contributed the best he could to the Hindu cause. But it reflects quite negatively on the course the Sangh Parivar has taken since then.

“Nationalism is Hinduism”

In one sense, the word “nationalism” is defensible from a Hindu viewpoint. For the overseeable past, Hinduism has been native to India, whereas Christianity and Islam are irrevocably of foreign origin, with their founding histories and sacred places located outside India. Other factors remaining the same, Hindus will always identify with India in a way that Christians and Muslims cannot.

On this reality, V. D. Savarkar based his definition of Hindu as “one who has India as both his Fatherland and his Holyland”. Applying this insight, M. S. Golwalkar came up with his oft-quoted suggestion that, if India was to be a Hindu state, Christians and Muslims could only stay there as guests, not as citizens. This deduction followed logically from the premise that India would be a state of the Hindus.

Golwalkar’s rhetoric was notoriously clumsy, but the point to retain is that he made a distinction between Hindus, howsoever broadly defined, and non-Hindus. Whether or not that distinction should have any juridical consequences, fact is that Hindus and non-Hindus were deemed different in respect of nationhood. That was a non-secular vision. In a secular state, religion wouldn’t matter, but Golwalkar opted for a state in which religion would determine citizenship.

A comparison with Israel comes to mind, where any Jew worldwide can claim citizenship. Some non-Jews are citizens because they already lived there before the creation of the Zionist state or because they are spouses of Jewish immigrants, but as a class they cannot claim citizenship. And indeed, both Savarkar and Golwalkar did invoke Zionism as an inspiring example.

To sum up, nationalism can be loaded differently from the religiously neutral meaning given to it by the Nehruvians. For now we should make abstraction of the anti-Hindu discriminations instituted by Jawaharlal Nehru and his partisans, and merely take them at their word when they dishonestly pontificate that in India, secularism means religious neutrality. That neutrality, at any rate, is not what Savarkar and Golwalkar had in mind.

Partition

As the decades went by, the Hindutva movement kept calling itself “nationalist”. In the 1940s, the emphasis came to lie on the unity and territorial integrity of India, against the Partition project designed by the MA Jinnah’s Muslim League. Advocates of the Partition were also called nationalists: “Muslim separatists”, in Congress parlance, but they saw themselves as “Muslim nationalists”. One man’s separatism is another man’s nationalism, and these men argued that the Indian Muslims had every attribute of a nation. They gave in somewhat to the then-fashionable trends of democracy (hence the importance of numbers, so that rule by 24% Muslims would not be legitimate) and nationalism. In this case, modern nationhood thinking could be made to continue seamlessly where Muslim theology had spoken of umma and recent Muslim (particularly Ottoman) history had thrown up millat, meaning “religious community”, as an equivalent of “nation”.

Lined up against them within the Muslim community were the so-called “nationalist Muslims”, meaning that minority among Muslims who rejected Partition because they wanted to gobble up the whole of India, not just a part of it. They were not impressed with the nationalist idea that the world should be divided in sovereign territorial units belonging to nations. At most these could be administrative units within the really sovereign unit, the caliphate, intended to comprise the whole world. Nor were they impressed with the modern fad of democracy. As Pakistan’s spiritual father Mohammed Iqbal said: “Democracy is a system in which heads are counted but not weighed.” So, like in the Middle Ages, Muslims should just emulate Mohammed and grab power any which way. Later, Muslim power could always see to it that Muslims become the majority. Since Gandhi and Nehru had always been called nationalists, Muslims who sided with them against Partition in order to keep their option of all-India conquest open, were also called nationalists, though what they really hoped for, was a reunification of the Muslims in a new caliphate where they would lord it over the unbelievers.

Do keep in mind that both parties had the same goal: Islamic world conquest. The wrongly called “nationalist Muslims” went straight for it, largely because the modern world was unfamiliar to them, while the separatists made temporary concessions to the new circumstances and first wanted to consolidate Muslim power in Pakistan. Initially they were even willing to settle for Dr. B. R. Ambedkar’s proposal to exchange populations, so that no Muslim would stay behind in remainder-India. They couldn’t believe their luck when on this score, India’s hands were tied by Gandhi and Nehru, so that while the Paki Hindus had to flee, the Indian Muslims could stay where they were, thus forming a fifth column for the next phase of Islamic expansion.

Integral Hinduism

Forty years later, ca. 1965, Deendayal Upadhyaya adopted the promising term “Integral Humanism“, in Hindi Ekatmata Manavavad or Ekatma Manavadarshan. This seemed to transcend the division of mankind in box-type nations. Moreover, unlike nationalism, it did not seem to have been borrowed from the West, in spite of appearances. In the 1930s, the French Catholic political thinker Jacques Maritain had launched the notion of “humanisme intégral”, the ideological core of what was to become the dominant post-war movement of Christian Democracy. But it is unlikely that that is where Upadhyaya had the term from: at that time, there was still a large barrier between the French and Indian public spheres, and the term had been used cursorily by Indian writers as well, being a rather evident concept.

Let us nonetheless note the parallel: in 1930s’ France, there was a militantly secular regime, the Third Republic, and an advancing threat of Communism, exactly like in 1960s’ India. Both were effectively atheist but called themselves “humanist”, which had the effective meaning of “non-theist”. Against these two arms of atheism, the core counter-insight from the religiously committed side was that “a humanism which denies man’s religious dimension, is not an integral humanism”. Materialism amputates the natural religious dimension from man, and this has to be restored.

So, in name, “integral humanism” had a touch of genius. It sounds so innocent and positive, something that nobody can object to. That is why, in spite of being the official ideology of RSS and BJP, in which every member is trained, it is never mentioned in textbooks by “experts” on Hindutva. Out of an unscholarly political activism, these “experts” prefer to push more negatively-sounding terms, of which “Hindu nationalist” is still the kindest. It is unthinkable to read a textbook on the Labour Party without coming across the word “socialism”, yet so noxious is the intellectual climate in both India and India-watching, that it is entirely the done thing to write expert introductions on the RSS-BJP without mentioning its actual ideology.

Alas, once Upadhyaya went beyond the basics, he relapsed into talk that can only be explained as nationalistic. The central concept in his system is chiti, the “national soul”. This notion had been dear to Johann Herder, the Romantic theorist of nationalism ca. 1780. Last winter in Pune and Mumbai, the heartland of Hindu nationalism, during Upadhyaya’s centenary, I noticed that this rather simplistic ideology went through a revival, with some convivial symposiums but few new ideas. It was again around this nationalist notion of chiti that the main churning took place.

The concept of a “national soul” could make sense as a purely descriptive attempt at encapsulating the statistical tendency of a “nation” towards a certain mentality. But even as a statistical average, it is susceptible to serious evolution.

One example. The ancient Romans were known for their organizing power, and this is what allowed them to defeat the fearless but less organized Gauls and Germans. But then Arminius, a German mercenary in the Roman army, learnt about these organizing skills, returned to his country, organized a German army, and defeated the Romans. It was the first time the Germans got associated with organizing skills, a great tradition of theirs ever since. By contrast, after holding out as great organizers for several more centuries, the Italians became proverbially chaotic, great artists but lousy strategists or politicians. The “national soul” is an entity subject to change. They know all about cuisine and amore, but you wouldn’t entrust any organizational task to them.

While not very precise as a descriptive term, chiti is even worse as a normative concept. The stereotype of “the drunken Irish” may have a grain of truth in it, but for Irish nationalists, it is hardly a value worth defending. I don’t know what the Hindu/Indian national soul is (the first European travellers in Asia, not colonialists yet, had stereotypes of “the violent Muslims”, “the indolent Buddhists”, “the perverse Chinese”, and yes, “the deceitful Hindus”), but I imagine it may also have some less desirable traits, not really worth upholding. In Upadhyaya’s day, Communism was a major concern, but it was not wrong because it failed to accord with the Indian chiti—it did not accord with the Russian or Chinese chiti either. Any serious critique of Communism or other challenging ideologies can perfectly be made without reference to the “National Soul”.

Here again, chiti serves as a secular-sounding escape route from a religious category. That, after all, was part of Upadhyaya’s agenda. Alright, his term “Integral Humanism” was bright, and the best possible secular-sounding approximation to a perfect translation of the Hindu term Dharma. What Upadhyaya was really getting at, was that Indians have a mentality in common that oozes out from Hinduism. The “idea of India” that secularists like Shashi Tharoor or Ramachandra Guha like to preach about, is but a secular nod to the unmentionable term Hinduism. However, rather than being proud of his Hinduism as the source of integral-humanist values, Upadhyaya, like most Sanghi ideologues ever since, was in the business of downplaying and hiding this Hinduism behind secular terms. His “integral humanism” ended up as the equivalent of the secularists’ “idea of India”. He pioneered what was to become “BJP secularism”.

Ayodhya

During the Ayodhya controversy around 1990, the RSS-BJP professed loyalty to the “Indian hero” Rama and indignation about the “foreign invader” Babar. In reality, his geographical provenance had nothing to do with demolition of temples. The Greeks, Scythians, Kushanas and Huns had been foreign too, as were the British, yet they had not been in the business of temple-destruction. By contrast, Malik Kafur had been a native but as much of a temple-destroyer as Babar, after he had converted to Islam. So in reality, there had been a religious conflict between Hinduism and Islam, the religions of the “Hindu hero” Rama and the “Muslim invader” Babar, but Sangh Parivar escapists had tried to clothe it in nationalist language of “Indian” vs. “foreign”.

When Mohammed and Ali entered the Pagan pilgrimage site, the Ka’ba in Mecca, they were not foreign invaders. They were of the same gene pool, skin colour, language, food habits, literary tastes, and anything else that may define a nation, as the people from whom they were about to rob the temple. And then they broke the idols, just as the Muslim invaders did in Ayodhya and everywhere else in India—as well as in West and Central Asia and in the Mediterranean.

Conceptualizing Islamic iconoclasm in terms of “national” vs. “foreign” is completely mistaken. In the case of the contemporary Sangh Parivar, it has moreover become a wilful mistake, an act of escapism. It thinks it can escape the label of “religious fanaticism” and earn the hoped-for pat on the shoulder from the secularists by swearing it is not Hindu. It now claims to be wedded to secular “nationalism”, not realizing that this term also invites contempt, at least in the West and therefore also among the Westernized intelligentsia.

However, its continued loyalty to “nationalism” could be dismissed as only a publicity mistake. It seems to me that its ever more pronounced shame about its historical sobriquet “Hindu” is more serious. Though once calling themselves “Hindu nationalists”, and still called that by all media, they are now only nationalists, and they repeat this over and over again to secularist interviewers, thinking this will earn them their approval. “Nationalism” has gotten absolutized at the expense of Dharma, and now serves the Sangh and esp. the BJP as a conduit towards secular nationalism, dropping any Hindu concerns altogether.

BJP secularism

We are currently witnessing the incumbency of “BJP secularism”. This non-ideology was already taking shape with the Nehru imitator A. B. Vajpayee’s increasing dominance in the later Jana Sangh and early BJP. It became evident in the Ayodhya events, which the BJP leadership eagerly distanced itself from after reaping the rewards in the 1991 elections. When Hindu activists defied the BJP leadership to demolish the disputed structure on 6 December 1992, BJP leader L. K. Advani called it “the blackest day in my life”, though in the larger scheme of things, this act greatly expedited a solution to the controversy, thus saving thousands of lives.

The Vajpayee government of 1998-2004 did strictly nothing about the list of Hindu priorities, not even the version laid down in the 40-point Hindu Agenda of another Sangh branch, the VHP. The late Pramod Mahajan realized (possibly purely as matter of electoral calculus) the untenability of the contrast between BJP programme and BJP performance: he wanted the BJP to raise certain of these demands. It they were to be vetoed by the allies, or defeated in the Lok Sabha, then they would form excellent stakes in the election debates; and if they were to pass, the BJP could take them as trophies to the campaign. But Vajpayee was adamant about going to the voters with a purely economic programme, and though India’s growth figures were then at its peak, he got soundly defeated.

The current BJP government is repeating this performance. The Supreme Court judgment against triple talaq (divorce through instant repudiation of a wife) was used as a fig-leaf somehow proving that the BJP was slowly inching towards the abolition of the separate Islamic family law system and towards a Common Civil Code, an old election promise. In reality, the case had been brought by a few Muslim women. That the BJP happened to be in power was merely a coincidence. The private bill proposing to abolish anti-Hindu discrimination in education is just that: private, emanating only from BJP MP Maheish Girri, not from party or government. Like Jawaharlal Nehru, like erstwhile RSS theorist Nana Deshmukh, like all the NGOs meddling in Indian affairs, like every capitalist or socialist materialist, the BJP swears exclusively by “development” (vikaas).

Not that it will ever receive the much hoped-for pat on the shoulder from the secularists. In their circles, the done thing is still to throw texts from the 1960s or 1920s full of Hindu rhetoric at the supposedly Hindu party, as if these could tell you what the party is about today. So long as this pat on the shoulder is an unreachable goal beckoning in the distance, the RSS-BJP will sacrifice anything including its professed ideology to get it. For in its universe, the secularists still lay down the norms that it tries to live up to.

Misconstruction

Time and again I get to see how the nationalist paradigm distorts issues. Thus, the missionary challenge is no longer a matter of Western intrusion into India. Most missionaries are now Indian, and even the Evangelical sects teleguided from America will make sure to send a native to any inter-faith meeting or TV debate. Missionaries are not CIA agents plotting against India, they have their own agenda since centuries before the CIA or the colonial entreprise even existed, and their target is not some nation or state, it is all Pagan religions, in India principally Hinduism.

Two examples from my own experience. A Hindu who used to like me, turned his back on me after I uttered my scepticism of a certain guru called Gurunath who claimed that the enigmatic character Babaji described by Lahiri Mahasaya and Swami Yogananda as a Himalaya-based yogi of indeterminate age, is the same character as Gorakhnath who lived a thousand years ago. He found that I was unimpressed by his assurance that this Gurunath is “enlightened”. I happen to have met a big handful of people deemed “enlightened”, and I have concluded that their yogic power and knowledge, in itself superior to our humdrum lives, does not magically confer on them a superior knowledge of worldly matters. At that mundane level, their knowledge and opinions are no different from those of any other man from the same background and circumstances. Therefore, if he wants to make eccentric claims such as of a man living for millennia, then he has the same burden of proof on him as any ordinary man. After that, my Hindu friend cut off the debate and decided that I was insufferably attached to a “Western” prejudice. As if numerous Hindus don’t have a similar healthy scepticism of paranormal claims; and as if conversely, there aren’t equally gullible Westerners in great number.

In another discussion, Hindus were arguing that Partition was the doing not of the poor hapless Muslims, but of the British, who had it in for the Hindus, so much so that they even committed “genocide” on them. Well, “genocide” implies murderous intention, and Hindus only flatter themselves if they attribute this to the British, who merely wanted to make money and thus instituted economic policies with an enormous collateral damage, but didn’t care one way or the other whether the natives lived or starved. When the Muslim League launched the Partition project, the Brits initially rejected it and only came around when Muslim violence had made it seem inevitable and the beginning Cold War made them see its benefits. Moreover, while no Hindu says it openly, it is so obvious to any observer that they only want to play hero against the long-departed Brits because they have interiorized the fear that they might offend the Muslims, with whom they still have to deal. What S. R. Goel called “the business of blaming the British” is a trick of misdirection, popular among stage magicians, which only a buffoon would believe.

Anyway, during the discussion, I used the Indian word “tamasic” rather than the English equivalent “deluded” and “slothful”. Immediately, one of them flared up and warned all the Indians present that I was equating “Indian” with “tamasic”. And then all through a number of altercations, he went on with this line of deluded discourse. Political delusions are as common among Westerners as among Indians, and appeasement of Islam has become just as big in Europe as in India when the Muslim percentage became similar. Conversely, people who are sceptical of the faux-heroic attitude against long-dead colonialism as a cover for cowardly Muslim appeasement exist as much in India, starting with the late S. R. Goel, an impeccable patriot.

Falling back on the nationalist paradigm makes Hindus misunderstand issues. It is of course far easier to separate people by skin colour than by ideology, very appealing to the lazy, tamasic mind. But it is sure to make you mistake enemies for friends, and friends for enemies. If you think you can afford that on a battlefield, suit yourselves.

Conclusion

When you are on a battlefield, not because you choose to but because your enemies impose this confrontation on you, it is a matter of life and death to be supremely realistic. You simply cannot afford to misconstrue the reasons and stakes for the battle, nor the nature and motives of your enemies. It is but rare that the ideological stakes coincide with national ones, as they did in the Indo-Pak confrontation during the Bangladesh war.

A Hindu yoga master whom I know once made the effort of disabusing some European yoga aspirants from their fascination with India: “India is not that important, India will disappear one day.” India is not absolute, not sanatana, “eternal”. India is relatively important as the cradle of yoga, and secondarily as the cradle of many other cultural riches. But what is important is its culture, Sanatana Dharma. If a party of Hindu travellers get stuck on an uninhabitated island without the means to escape from there, they can still set up their Ram Rajya in this new territory. Maybe they won’t have coconuts and marigolds there to reproduce their rituals, but to those circumstances too they can adapt their Sanatana Dharma.

Finally, let me state that nationalism, not as a pompous ideology but as an intimate feeling, as what a better word calls patriotism, is just natural. Certain ideologies try to estrange you from it, but Hindu Dharma accepts and nurtures it. Every penny spent on RSS propaganda for nationalism is a penny wasted. Every effort to rewrite textbooks in a nationalist sense, is an effort misdirected. A feeling for your motherland is simply normal and doesn’t need any propaganda. For the Vedic seers, the Motherland was only the Saraswati basin in Haryana, king Bharat never heard of the subcontinent named after him, but for today’s Indians, that subcontinent is a lived reality. It is that expanse to which they are attached, and that we should uphold.

In the modern age, when the state is far more important than in the past, the Indian republic is a necessity to defend Hindu civilization. In that sense, it is only right to be an Indian patriot. But that national feeling goes without saying.

» Dr Koenraad Elst is an author, historian, political analyst and orientalist. 

India

Is there a need to rewrite Indian history? – Anil Athale

Gunga Din

Col Dr Anil AthaleHistory is not merely a chronicle of past events; it forms the psyche of a nation. … If in the 70th year of Independence we are stirring to break the mindset of being the Gunga Din of Rudyard Kipling’s poem, it is something to applaud. – Col Dr Anil Athale

There has been hullabaloo over the change/obliteration of certain historic events and personalities from history textbooks in Rajasthan, Gujarat and Maharashtra, all BJP-ruled states. While our “learned” netas burst into histrionics to prove their itihaas, some historians say the reality of India is that we don’t know about our own history because we are such “colonised” people.

A lively debate has begun in the media on the issue of changes made in the history textbooks of schools in Rajasthan and now in Maharashtra. Not having studied Rajput history or the battle of Haldighati, which is now being claimed as a victory for Rana Pratap and not Akbar, I will refrain from commenting on the issue. But applying pure military logic, if Akbar had won such a great or comprehensive victory, how did Rana Pratap survive and subsequently establish his own kingdom at Udaipur?

It must be noted that none of Akbar’s adversaries who lost a battle against him survived to tell the tale. But as mentioned earlier, the whole episode needs further research.

It is a well-known fact that history is written by the victors. Since large parts of Rajasthan and North India remained under Mughal sway, this “bias” in the narration of events is easily understood. If one is now looking at the facts afresh, there is nothing to get hot under the collar about.

The reality of India is that we don’t know about our own history because we are such colonised people. Even today, we are unable to break away from a colonised mindset. We lack a sense of history, and with that we lose stature in the world.

As to the tweaking of history, since most of the time it was the Congress that was in power, it had the maximum opportunity. As far as ancient or colonial history is concerned, it was more an act of omission rather than commission. Indian historians have been one of the laziest intellectuals with very little new research. Post-Independence governments continued to teach colonial-era history with a heavy pro-British bias. Partly, this was due to the fact that most Indians of that generation, including the freedom fighters, were in awe of the British.

The post-Independence history of the 1962 India-China war has been doctored to absolve Nehru of all blame and instead made Krishna Menon the fall guy.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been in power for a very short time and has not had the opportunity to tailor history to suit itself. The BJP has concentrated mainly on correcting the pro-British and pro-Muslim bias of history.

On the heels of correctives applied in Rajasthan textbooks, comes news of similar exercise in Maharashtra. Objections have been raised about downsizing Akbar and Mughal rulers. The “usual suspects” have raised the spectre of “saffronisation” of history. The counter-argument to this is was Akbar relevant to the region that comprises Maharashtra? And the honest answer to that is no. The Mughals ruled in Delhi and were confined to the North Indian plains. Other than an unsuccessful attempt to annex the Ahmednagar sultanate, at that time led by Chand Bibi, the Mughals and Akbar had little role in the politics or social life of contemporary Maharashtra. It was only during the time of Akbar’s grandson Aurangzeb that Mughal rule came to Maharashtra.

The recent controversies ought to have raised the fundamental distortion of Indian historiography—the pronounced North Indian bias. Maharashtra formed part of the Chalukya empire for a very long time. It then came under the sway of the great Vijaynagar empire. Yet, our history teaching cursorily dismisses these important periods. It is obsessed with the happenings in Delhi and its surroundings.

Since the British were the last rulers of India, the pro-British bias is even more pronounced. For example, Warren Hastings essentially ruled the Bengal region. But he is portrayed as the Governor General of India! It should be mentioned here that during that time, Mahadji Shinde, the Maratha ruler of Gwalior, had more territory under his control. Yet, in the history books, written mostly by the British, Warren Hastings commands a whole chapter with Mahadji Shinde only getting a passing reference.

The neglect of the Cholas and Pallavas and the sidelining of their commendable maritime empire in the all India narrative is scandalous to say the least. The thoroughly colonised mindset of Bengal has forgotten about its South East Asian links altogether. Stone plaques in the Pallava script are found in faraway Samarinda, capital of Central Kalimanthan (old Borneo). And it is only now that Lachit Borphukan, who defeated the Mughal armies in the battle of Saraighat in 1671, has come into the national consciousness.

The Mughals and British colonial rulers did not just stop at the imposition of their narrative, they also destroyed many monuments that could remind Indians of her past. The British conquered Pune in 1818. At that time there was a seven-storey high palace inside the awe-inspiring Shaniwarwada fort, easily the tallest building in India at that time. On February 27, 1828, a great “mysterious” fire started inside the palace complex. The conflagration raged for seven days. Only the heavy granite ramparts, strong teak gateways and deep foundations and ruins of the buildings within the fort survived that mysterious fire. Result, when in a recent movie on Bajirao, the filmmakers showed a magnificent palace, many even in Maharashtra termed it fiction.

Colonised Indian minds have been repeatedly taught: ours is history, yours is mythology. If in the 70th year of Independence we are stirring to break the mindset of being the Gunga Din of Rudyard Kipling’s poem, it is something to applaud.

History is not merely a chronicle of past events; it forms the psyche of a nation. History of having achieved great things in the past, together, fosters nationalism and enthuses the present generations to achieve great things. It is time we break the shackles of “Inglistani elite” (Mahatma Gandhi in his essay Hind Swaraj) and discover our true past.

Postscript

  • July 2017: The Rajasthan Education Board decides not to mention Jawaharlal Nehru in the new social science textbooks of Class VIII.
  • Rajasthan education minister Vasudev Devnani claims Maharana Pratap defeated Mughal emperor Akbar in the battle of Haldighati in 1576, and not the other way round.
  • A chapter on the national movement omits names of Nehru, Sarojini Naidu and Madan Mohan Malviya. Also, no mention of Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination by Nathuram Godse.
  • July 2017: The Maharashtra Education Board reduces Mughal reign to just three lines and decides to focus more on Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj in history textbooks of Class VII and IX.
  • May 2016: Gujarat State Board of School Textbooks introduces a chapter on ‘economic thought’ in the Economic Higher Secondary textbooks which includes Deendayal Upadhyay, Chanakya and Mahatma Gandhi as the main economic thinkers.
  • January 2009: The Class X Social Science textbook of Chhattisgarh Board of Secondary Education incorporates the Salwa Judum in a chapter on social security from Naxalism. – Deccan Chronicle, 14 August 2017

» Col Dr Anil Athale (retd) is the former head of history division, Ministry of Defence. He has written a book about 18th and 19th century India. He is based in Pune.

Indian soldiers on the China border

See also

Nationalism isn’t a dirty word – R. Hariharan

Independence Day in UP

Col. R. HariharanYou cannot confine nationalism to ideologies. To me, nationalism is beyond politics. It’s related to my identity, culture and traditions. – Col. R. Hariharan

I was astounded to see the caption in a recent TV debate: “Stone pelters versus Nationalists.” It is shocking to see, after decades of efforts to establish law and order in Kashmir, made with the blood and sweat of security forces and policemen, stone-pelters conditioning the national discourse on Jammu and Kashmir.

It hurts me to find Modiphobes using the word ‘nationalism,’ as though it is a dirty word, the source of all mischief. Because, I am a nationalist and I am not ashamed to say it loudly. Before self-styled neo-liberals jump to troll me, I say I am not going to allow anyone to typecast me as an admirer of Hindutva or gau rakshaks because I call myself a nationalist.

Equally, I am not prepared to allow the hijacking of nationalism by saffron, yellow or red or any other colour, because ‘nationalism’ is non-negotiable. To me you cannot confine nationalism to ideologies. To me, nationalism is beyond politics. It’s related to my identity, culture and traditions.

In this context, remember the words of a smuggler we engaged to ferry our source across Barak River into East Pakistan, on the eve of 1971 war.

When we asked him how much we should pay, he said: “Babu, I am a convicted smuggler. But I am not doing this for money. Remember, smugglers can be patriots because nationalism is in our blood. There is no price for it.”

To men in uniform it comes with the colour of their uniform and they are ready to pay the price with their lives. This is why my blood boils when I see people, sitting in cosy, air-conditioned comfort of TV studios, passing value judgement on a Major who adopted the expedience of using one of the stone-pelters as a human shield, to extricate polling officers and policemen from a mob trying to lynch them.

If Akshay Kumar in uniform had done it in a Bollywood movie the same critics would have applauded him.

But not in real life, when stone-pelters are exercising their “right to lynch” polling officers. Because they feel, nationalism is a sentiment, like any other. To me and millions of other countrymen who had worn the uniform, it is beyond sentiment. It is difficult to digest glib comments made by people, who do not bother to understand either the life and death situation the hapless Major faced or the nuances of operational leadership.

Improvisation is its watchword and goal orientation is the focus of operational leadership. Unless this is understood, it is difficult to grasp the plight of military men face, day in and day out, in fighting insurgents.

We should leave it to the army to decide the correctness of a military action. Army looks critically at every military action, to correct its methods and improve upon them. It swiftly punishes the guilty or the incompetent. And it does all this silently.

Military operations can be topics of parlour debates. But let us not attach labels like stone-pelters versus nationalists. I will not be surprised if some of the stone-pelters later on become netas. If that is the accepted national norm, so be it; but please leave the armed forces out of it. Leave to the army to deal​ with the aftermath of the ‘human shield’ action.

Don’t equate the Major’s conduct with stone-pelters. He was trying to save lives, while the lynch mob was baying for blood.

Indian army has the unviable record of fighting insurgents for over six decades, perhaps unparalleled in the annals of military history. It has sacrificed thousands of men in these operations. It is perhaps the biggest learning organization, which continuously hones its skills.

Let us not teach the army how to fight insurgents without​ getting rid of the way we reduce everything to ‘tu tu, mei mei‘ arguments fixated on our ideologies.

Even after 25 years of my retirement from the army, when I see an army man brought in a coffin wrapped in tricolor, it brings a lump in my throat, because he died to keep me and all others alive.

Once again I say I am a nationalist, like two million men in uniform, who do the thankless job of saving scores of lives, including the stone-pelters and armchair critics.

For the good of the country, have faith in the security forces and allow them to do the job. Let us not trivialise them.

Otherwise, withdraw the forces from Jammu and Kashmir. If you have the courage of conviction to face the mob trying to lynch you, then hold a political discourse. I am yet to see a single political party trying to evolve a national consensus on Jammu and Kashmir, because that is the way we do politics in this country—whipping the fall guys.

Please don’t do it with the armed forces, because when you are the fall guy, they may not be there to save you. – Hariharan’s Intelligence Blog, April 2017

» Col. R. Hariharan, a retired Military Intelligence specialist on South Asia, has rich experience in terrorism and insurgency operations.

Jihadis stomping a security man in Srinagar 2016

Kashmiri Stone Pelter

Confessions of a ‘Hindu Nationalist’ – Balbir Punj

Hindu Nationalism

Balbir Punj‘Hindu Nationalists’ are victims of demonisation, a standard strategy the Left-Liberals resort to eliminate their ideological opponents, nay enemies. They have attained expertise at vilification, perfected by decades of global experience. Economical with the truth, they use white lies and half-truths to squash class enemies. – Balbir Punj

My detractors often call me and several others of my ilk a ‘Hindu Nationalist’. The ‘Left-Liberal’ pack uses this term to run down those who do not share its narrative and have an alternate view on history, economics, contemporary developments or various other issues. Of late, the phrase has increasingly assumed pejorative connotations in select intellectual circles.

But who are these ‘Left-Liberals’ to label the likes of me? To begin with, these two words—Left and Liberal—are not synonyms. The term Left-Liberal is an oxymoron. The Left ideology has no liberal content, either in theory or practice.

The communist regimes, wherever they have been in power, at home (Kerala and West Bengal) or abroad (Soviet Union, China, Cambodia, North Korea, etc.) have left behind a bloody trail. Dissidents and suspects in Left regimes either disappear without a trace or land up in concentration camps.

The ‘Hindu Nationalists’ are victims of demonisation, a standard strategy the Left-Liberals resort to eliminate their ideological opponents, nay enemies. They have attained expertise at vilification, perfected by decades of global experience. Economical with the truth, they use white lies and half-truths to squash class enemies.

Who claims to be the biggest flag-bearer of ‘secularism’ in India? Undoubtedly the Left-Liberal pack. Its ingenuity in twisting facts, distorting history and its perfidy on the unsuspecting society is unmatched. The Left had conspired with the departing British and the virulently communal Muslim League to vivisect India and create a theocratic Pakistan.

The new country has been wedded to a rabid religious dispensation under which non-Muslims continue to be second-class citizens. No wonder, the share of Hindus and Sikhs in present day Pakistan is less than one per cent, a huge drop from 24 per cent at the time of Partition. The bulk of non-Muslims have either been forced to convert to Islam or have fled the Islamic Republic to save their lives and honour.

Clearly, the hands of the Left are tainted with the blood of millions of innocents, the unsuspecting victims of the bloody Partition. Terror modules funded and trained by Pakistan continue to claim numerous Indian lives.

The Left is not even apologetic about it. Instead, after dividing the country on religious lines, it has the gall to pontificate on secular values and certify who is ‘secular’ and ‘communal’ in the Indian context. This obvious contradiction leads to bizarre situations every second day.

Seeking an end to triple talaq to ensure gender equality is ‘communal’ and so is the demand for reconstruction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya. But when a section of Kashmiri Muslims wave Pakistani/ISIS flags, scream slogans demanding azaadi and pelt the Indian Army with stones while it is combating terrorists, they (Kashmiri Muslims) are said to be exercising their ‘democratic right to protest’.

The demolition of scores of temples (some of them hundreds of years old) in the Valley during 1985–90 hardly gets a line in print. Numerous killings of Kashmiri Pandits at the hands of terrorists motivated by Islamic frenzy was just a statistic. Not even one terrorist has been brought to book on this account till date. Forced eviction of the entire community and decimation of their timeless culture is a non-event in the Left-Liberal narrative. Raising such issues invites derision and derogatory labels at the hands of the Left-Liberal pack. – The New Indian Express, 27 May 2017

» Balbir Punj is a former Rajya Sabha member and Delhi-based commentator on social and political issues. Email: punjbalbir@gmail.com

Communist Party

Communist Holocaust

The Ambedkar they don’t want you to know about – Aravindan Neelakandan

Dr. B.R. Ambedkar

Aravindan NeelakandanMaybe Baba Saheb’s ideas were first ignored and then misrepresented precisely because the intelligentsia knew that those ideas would not fit into the “left-liberal” narrative. Being a prolific scholar and a patriot, Dr Ambedkar recorded his observations on a myriad of topics, events, problems and debates of his times. Here are seven aspects of those which the Old Media and the leftist academic cartel do not want Indians to know about.

1. Dr Ambedkar considered the mahavakyas of Upanishads the spiritual basis of democracy

In his famous speech to the Jat-Pat-Todak Mandal, Dr Ambedkar made the suggestion that Hindus need not look anywhere outside their scriptures to build a society based on the principles of liberty, fraternity and equality. They could look into the Upanishads for those values, he said.

Later in his scathing attack on Hinduism in the book Riddles of Hinduism, he not only revisited the idea but elaborated on it. He took the three mahavakyas—Sarvam Khalvidam Brahma, Aham Brahmasmi, and Tatvamasi—and named their combined purport. He wrote:

To support democracy because we are all children of God is a very weak foundation for democracy to rest on. That is why democracy is so shaky wherever it made to rest on such a foundation. But to recognize and realize that you and I are parts of the same cosmic principle leaves room for no other theory of associated life except democracy. It does not merely preach democracy. It makes democracy an obligation of one and all.

2. Dr Ambedkar considered the Hindu Civil Code the first step towards a Uniform Civil Code

The same Dr Ambedkar who rejected outright the inhuman and outdated aspects of smrithi traditions also demonstrated that the same tradition, with all its diversity, could be distilled to create a Hindu law that had prominent space for social democracy and gender justice.

He saw the Hindu Code Bill (HCB) as instrumental in moulding Hindu society into a unitary one based on the principles of liberty and equality. In a lecture delivered on 11 January 1950, he declared:

The present bill is progressive. This is an effort to try to have one civil law for all the citizens under the constitution of India. The law is based on the religious scriptures of the Hindus.

While for Nehru the HCB was perhaps a political device to obfuscate between the Hindu traditionalists and Hindu nationalists, thus making himself the champion of liberal democracy within the Congress, for Dr Ambedkar the HCB was a tool for creating a strong and healthy Hindu society which could become the basis for the modern Indian state.

3. Dr Ambedkar was against giving Indus water to Pakistan without Pakistan acknowledging Indian farmers’ first rights over the river

British economist Henry Vincent Hodson occupied many key positions in the colonial government as the Director of the Empire Division of the Ministry of Information and Constitutional Advisor to the Viceroy. In his book The Great Divide: Britain-India-Pakistan (1969), he gives a detailed account of how Dr Ambedkar refused Pakistan the Indus water and how Mountbatten intervened on behalf of Pakistan:

At a meeting of ministerial representatives from India and Pakistan on 3rd May (1948), Dr Ambedkar, for India, insisted that no water could be supplied until Pakistan accepted India’s legal claim that all the water belonged to East Punjab, who had the right to do with it as they wished. The chief Pakistan representative, Mr Gulam Mohammed, came to see Lord Mountbatten after the meeting had broken down on this point. The Governor General immediately phoned Pandit Nehru and expressed his disgust that miserable peasants and refugees were being made to suffer when the matter was still under negotiation. Pandit Nehru agreed and undertook to get the conference going again and break the deadlock.

4. Dr Ambedkar wanted Sanskrit to be the national language of India

As it is now well known, Dr Ambedkar wanted Sanskrit to be the national language of India. The Sunday Hindustan Standard dated 11 September 1949, reported that Baba Saheb, as law minister, wanted Sanskrit to be the official language of the Union. In the Executive Committee of the All India Scheduled Caste Federation, Dr Ambedkar reiterated the same.

Later, when the creation of linguistic states became a burning issue, Dr Ambedkar was in favour of the creation of such states. While he recognised that there was an inherent danger in the creation of linguistic states, he believed that it was a danger “a wise and firm statesman could avert”.

Towards that end, Dr Ambedkar made the following strong recommendation:

The only way I can think of meeting the danger is to provide in the Constitution that the regional language shall not be the official language of the State. The official language of the State shall be Hindi and until India becomes fit for this purpose English. … Since Indians wish to unite and develop a common culture it is the bounden duty of all Indians to own up Hindi as their language. Any Indian who does not accept this proposal as part and parcel of a linguistic State has no right to be an Indian. He … cannot be an Indian in the real sense of the word except in a geographical sense.

This recommendation goes beyond recommending Hindi as the official language. It also recognises the need to develop India as a culturally united nation-state. It also rejects the territorial conceptualisation of nationhood and advocates strong cultural nationalism as the basis for nationhood “in the real sense”.

5. Dr Ambedkar wanted an Indian army free of the preponderances of elements hostile to India

In his mercilessly objective analysis of the demographic nature of the pre-Partition Indian Army, Dr Ambedkar showed how the Indian Army in the north-western region of India was having a very high proportion of Islamists. He exposed as false the British reasoning that it was because the North-Western province Muslims were martial races while most of the Hindus were not. He stated that it was actually the rebellion of “1857 which was the real cause of the preponderance in the Indian Army of the men of the North-West” and not the so-called martial and non-martial classes theory, which termed “a purely arbitrary and artificial distinction”.

Pointing out the gross inequalities and inherent insecurities against the Hindus in the pre-Partition Indian Army, Dr Ambedkar wrote about the need for “getting rid of the Muslim preponderance in the Indian Army”.

The bulk of this amount of Rs. 52 crores which is spent on the Army … is contributed by the Hindu Provinces and is spent on an Army which for the most part consists of non-Hindus! How many Hindus are aware of this tragedy? How many know at whose cost this tragedy is being enacted? Today the Hindus are not responsible for it because they cannot prevent it. The question is whether they will allow this tragedy to continue.

While Dr Ambedkar’s statement about the complete exchange of populations between India and Pakistan as part of the Partition formula is well-known, his views of keeping Indian institutions like the army free of the preponderance of elements hostile to Indian national life is not well-known.

6. Dr Ambedkar viewed with suspicion the missionary support for the movement of Dalit causes

In his preface to Prof Lakshmi Narasu’s book, the Essentials of Buddhism, he pointed out that the missionary support for social reforms was not because of any real concern but only as a means for proselytisation. He wrote:

That was the era when Christian Missionaries were not only countenancing the social reform movement but viewed it with high favour as marking a half-way house between orthodox Hinduism and conversion to Christianity. It did not take long for them to change their views and look upon such progressive movements as constituting a real hindrance to proselytization.

It is interesting to note that the Collected Works of Dr. Ambedkar (Vol. 17) also includes a letter written to Dr Ambedkar by Babu Jagivan Ram, another tall leader of the Scheduled Communities. This letter was from the files of the British CID of Bihar province and is part of a Special Officer’s report, dated 9 March 1937.

Addressing Baba Saheb as “my dear Doctor Saheb”, Babu Jagajivan Ram cautioned against one Mr Baldeo Prasad Jaiswal of Allahabad. “No person of Bihar is with him. He has his office located in a Catholic Church here and everything is being manoeuvred by missionaries”, wrote Babu Jagajivan Ram and went on to point out that “he will not be able to have a gathering of more than one hundred Depressed Classes”. “He can, of course, invite thousands of Muhammamidans and Christians as he did at Lucknow. I take strong objection of this method. We should have genuine Depressed Classes conferences”, so the letter concludes.

The letter shows that both the leaders were averse in principle to the missionary meddling in the movements of Scheduled Communities. That the letter ended in the files of the British CID also shows an interest or involvement of the colonial government against them.

7. Dr Ambedkar wanted the Indian state to run an Indian Priest Service for Hinduism

In his work, Annihilation of Caste, Dr Ambedkar wanted the state to create a body of Hindu priests in the line of civil services. Priesthood would cease to be hereditary” because of this, he believed. According to him, every Hindu must be eligible for being a priest. The examination for Hindu priesthood, he believed, should be “prescribed by the State”. “No ceremony performed by a priest who does not hold a sanad shall be deemed to be valid in law, and it should be made penal [=punishable] for a person who has no sanad to officiate as a priest.”

Further he stated that “the number of priests should be limited by law according to the requirements of the State, as is done in the case of the I.C.S.”

Though at the outset it definitely looks like and most probably is unjustifiable to have state control over religious matters, this also effectively makes the state the patron of Hinduism. If the Indian state is to establish a corruption-free, Hindu Priest Service body, which constantly updates and adapts itself to the changing situations, then nothing can be more desirable to political Hindus than such a body of Hindu priests.

Interestingly, this dream of Dr Ambedkar may be realised through a most practical scheme of the Madhya Pradesh government. – Swarajya, 14 April 2017

» Aravindan Neelakandan is an author, economist and psychologist. He is a post-socialist thinker of cultural evolutionism and Indian ethnogenesis. He is known for the book Breaking India, which he co-authored with Rajiv Malhotra.

Ambedkar Quote