COMMUNALISM Changed Environment, Changed Agenda

During the colonial rule there arose a gulf between different communities because of differential rates of modernisation, competitive capitalism and exploitation of classes,

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KHAN YASIR

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During the colonial rule there arose a gulf between different communities because of differential rates of modernisation, competitive capitalism and exploitation of classes, which coincided with communal groups. Soon these communities started considering themselves separate nations. The dawn of independence opened the door of further accentuation of primordial identity building and the tendency to fragment. Given the peculiar Indian conditions in dealing with the formidable problems of nation building, India required a new model of society. Not one contaminated with the discriminations based on caste, class, language, sex, or creed. Challenge of modernisation and prosperity of the nation was astronomical. Callous poverty and unemployment were there to haunt the government. The Indian leadership however failed in accomplishing these tasks. Thus in a situation of poverty, illiteracy, and lack of awareness the caste, language, religion and region became handy tools of political mobilisation for both individuals and political parties. In this background the communal question in India has become a complex one. It has developed ethnic, regional, linguistic, religious, and power dimensions. It needs, therefore, to be understood in a much wider perspective.
Prakash Chandra Upadhyay observes, “Communal politicians have successfully used the economics of inequality, uneven development and under development to reinforce their stronghold over society. The traditionalists have been equally successful in exploiting the reaction against the impact of modernity on the cultural life of the people – such as struggles for women’s liberation and lower caste dignity, and attempts by the younger generation to flout the patriarchal values inherent in the pattern of class, caste and religious domination – and to translate this reaction into a support for communal politics and platforms.”
It is conspicuous that the political scene after independence is largely dominated by Hindu communalism which is far more monstrousin comparison to its ‘Muslim’ counterpart as Nehru did observe unequivocally, “Muslim communal groups behaved with greater dignity than … the Hindu Mahasabha.” (S. Gopal ‘Nehru and minorities’ EPW special issue, November 1988)
Savarkar and members of the Hindu Mahasabha were extremely critical of Gandhi’s leadership. They accused him of appeasing the Muslims to preserve a unity that did not exist in their opinion (Savarkar endorsed the two-nation theory). Some Hindu nationalists also blamed Gandhi for conceding Pakistan to the Muslim League via appeasement. And they were further inflamed when Gandhi conducted a fast-unto-death for the Indian government to give Rs. 55 crores that were due to the Pakistan government, but were being held back because of the Indo-Pakistan War of 1947.
After the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi by Nathuram Godse, there were reports that RSS members celebrated this act by distributing sweets at several places. The shamelessness of Godse, who declared, “I shot Gandhi, I showered him with bullets. I have no regrets. I believe it was right thing to do,” was and is worth condemning. The Sangh Parivar was plunged into distress by Jawaharlal Nehru, as the RSS was the prime accused in organising the murder of Gandhiji through its ex-member Godse. Along with the conspirators and the assassin, Nathuram Godse, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar was also arrested. The court however acquitted Savarkar on lack of evidence. The Hindu Mahasabha, of which Savarkar had been president and Godse a member, lost membership and popularity. The effects of public outrage had a permanent effect on the Hindu Mahasabha, which is now a defunct Hindutva party.
Now let us pause and have a bird’s-eye view of the Hindutva agenda. The dominant discourse of Hindutva is to re-establish the past glory, unity and integrity of Hinduism. The point here is however that the Hinduism understood and practised by these so-called defenders of Hindutva is not that of the religiosity of the common masses. To put it differently, the Hindutva force is an attempt to enforce the upper caste hegemony and monopoly to continue to control the various basic resources of life and to maintain their dominance in general and Brahmanical caste structure in particular. It is once again an attempt to arrest the assertions that are erupting unabated from the exploited, oppressed and marginalised castes and communities. In social terms, it is a systematic move to throttle the uprisings that are emerging at the present space and time of Indian society especially from Dalits, the tribals, the most backward castes and the women of these sections. They are waking up from their slumber imposed upon them by the upper caste and class of Indian state and society and are demanding their legitimate place and role in the society.
It is also conspicuous that the scheme behind the emergence of Hindutva force is to present the socio-economic ideology of status quo maintenance of the present unequal social, political and economic order under the garb of religious ideology especially in religious symbols and slogans. Thus, as G. Alosyius argues, Hindutva communalism and communal nationalism is spreading newer areas. Though it started initially as anti-Muslim movement, today it is communal not only vis-à-vis other communities but equally so vis-à-vis the large masses of lower castes within the Hindu fold. It is therefore more appropriately termed as upper caste Brahmanical nationalism.
Romila Thapar in her analysis of the Hindutva force argues that, “the new Hinduism which is being currently propagated by the sanghs, parishads and samajs is an attempt to restructure the indigenous religion as a monolithic uniform religion, rather paralleling some of the features of the Semitic religions. This seems to be a fundamental departure from the essentials of what may be called the indigenous ‘Hindu’ religion. Its form is not only in many ways alien to the earlier culture of India but equally disturbing is the uniformity which it seeks to impose on the variety of ‘Hindu’ religions”.
Initially, Hindutva started as a liberal force working for the betterment of the Hindu community. Hence, we see that the first session of Hindu Mahasabha in 1925 was attended by many prominent Congressmen of the time including the Ali brothers and Abul Kalam Azad. In his presidential address, Madan Mohan Malviya refuted the accusation of Mahasabha being communal. He said, “It’s not communal nor anti-Congress; it would be a shame if any Hindu (as a Hindu) opposed the national congress.” But unfortunately it eventually turned out to be a communal party. Initially, the Mahasabha was dominated by Lajpat Rai and M.M. Malviya. Later, during 1930s, there emerged an extremist leadership under the direction of V.D. Savarkar. In his notes that were later compiled into a treatise Hindutva, Savarkar gave the concept of nationality based on Hindus and not on all the people of diverse faiths inhabiting India. Abandoning all the social, secular and ethical values, he shamelessly argued, “A Hindu (Indian) means a person who regards this land of Bharat Varsha, from the Indus to the seas as his father-land as well as his holy land that is the cradle land of his religion.” He rejected the idea of secular state and in 1928 even urged his co-religionists to boycott the Congress.
It is also a fact that Savarkar formulated two nations theory long before Jinnah. In his presidential address to the Hindu Mahasabha in 1937, he said that India cannot be assumed today to be a Unitarian and homogenous nation but on the contrary, two nations in the main, the Hindus and the Muslims in India.
Since the Hindu Mahasabha became a political party, another Hindu paramilitary organisation appeared on the scene in 1925 – the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), founded by Hedgewar at Nagpur. His successor M.R. Golwalkar adopted the same line as that of Savarkar regarding minorities. He unequivocally stated in his infamous book, We or Our Nationhood Define, “The non Hindu people in Hindustan must either adopt the Hindu culture and language, must learn to respect and hold in reverence Hindu religion and must entertain no ideas but those of glorification of Hindu race and culture or may stay in the country wholly subordinated to the Hindu nation claiming nothing, deserving no privileges, far less any preferential treatment, not even citizens rights.” By 1940, one lakh trained and ‘highly disciplined’ cadre was on RSS roll. With this power, Golwalkar set off to assimilate the minorities within the Indian nation. RSS attacked both Congress and Muslims. Golwalkar criticised the nationalists for ‘hugging up enemies (read Muslims), and jeopardising the very existence of Hindus.’ Golwalkar writes in his Bunch of Thoughts that the “hostile elements within the country pose a far greater menace to national security than aggressors from outside.” He identifies three major “Internal Threats: I: The Muslims; II: The Christians; III: The Communists.” A long chapter impugns the patriotism of these groups, speaking darkly of their “future aggressive designs on our country.” (See. Guru of Hate, Rama Chandra Guha).
Ram Puniyani has provided with a brief outline of ‘active’ role that the organisation has played to liberate the “motherland” about which it is so loquacious about, “The RSS kept aloof from the freedom struggle but was very visible in all the activities around communal riots. It was nowhere to be seen when the country was seriously engaged in anti-British struggles like the civil disobedience movement, or the quit India movement, the activities of INA trials, and the Bombay naval mutiny. It never confronted British, and was not a target of British wartime repression.”
Thus in the partition of India the Hindu communalism played a far greater role than its Muslim version. Even before Jinnah the idea of two nations was floated by Hindu communalists, as Bhai Parmanada in his The Story of My Life ‘reveals’, “Basically India is not one country but two nations.”
This was the background of Hindu communalism before the country’s independence, which must prove helpful in analysing its repercussions in the aftermath of independence. Prakash Louis in his book entitled The Emerging Hindutva Force : The Ascent of Hindu Nationalism talks about the hidden agenda of the Sangh Parivar, ‘one nation, one culture, one people and one leader’ has become the dominant and fundamental slogan of the Sangh Parivar…. this slogan is the hidden agenda of the Hindutva force. The Sangh Parivar’s slogan ‘one nation, one culture, one people and one leader’ is just similar to the Nazi slogan ‘ein volk, ein reich, ein fuherer’ that is (one people, one state, one leader). The disastrous effects of the Nazi slogan are still fresh in the minds of people. The incriminating notion of one state, one race provided the motivation to Nazis to indulge in one of the most inhuman kinds of destruction. The Nazi forces utilised the inflation, unemployment, unrest and insecurity that was widespread in the country and mobilised the unemployed youth and the affected population. The same is true to the RSS. It has also exploited the resentment of the masses for its sinister designs. It also shrewdly concocts such issues as will hype the communal psyche of the people and prove beneficial for it, however venomous fruit it bears for the nation.
How poisonous the communal policy is for the nation could be well estimated from the opinions the communal leaders held regarding the Constitution of India. Swami Muktananda Saraswati read out his paper in one of the VHP’s sangh samiti on October 13 and 14, 1992 that, “bhartiya ekta, aKhandta, bhaichara aevam sampradaayik satbhavna ko mitane wala, bharat mein bhukmari, berozgaari, bhrashtachar aevam adharma ko bachane wala kaun? Bhartiya Sanvidhan”. In simple parlance, they wanted to say that the whole Constitution is against the Indians.The May 10, 1992 issue of Organiser,the mouthpiece of Sangh, says, “Constitution must be re-written; to wipe out the discrimination against Hindus and to convert India into the motherland of Hindus”.