For the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the years 2023 and 2024 are important not because these are major election years but because these are followed by the RSS completing a hundred years in 2025. They would like to celebrate this with a sense of victory and accomplishment. In 1925, when the RSS was founded by an ex-Congressman named Keshav Baliram Hedgewar, it was not even noticed by top echelons of power in India. It started like any other organisation but it had the appetite and immense patience to wait — indefinitely — in the wilderness. Ultimately, its patience paid off, and now when it is set to complete 100 years in 2025, it has a very powerful Government at the centre. It has successfully replaced the grand old party, the Congress, in terms of hegemonic idea and also in governance. And there is only a remote possibility that the Congress could regain its old glory soon. It is in this context that two disruptive statements emanating from the RSS family should alarm those who believe in a democratic India.
Mohan Bhagwat is no ordinary man. He is the chief of the RSS family and technically within the family hierarchy he occupies a higher status than Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Within the RSS family, Mr Bhagwat is the leader and others including Mr Modi have to follow him in letter and spirit. Though dynamics have changed in the last few years and it might appear that Mr Bhagwat does not command the same power as RSS chiefs did in the past, his words still carry a lot of weight and he should not be taken lightly. So when he says that India has been at war for the last 1000 years and in war ‘aggression’ is inevitable, then it should be understood that Mr Bhagwat is not only justifying the current disturbing and destabilising socio-political trends but also hinting that this will continue and may lead to more disruptive features. This should seriously worry all those who espouse and dream of a harmonious and democratic india, those who take a lot of pride in its diversity.
Along with Mr Bhagwat, Vice President Jagdeep Dhankhar has also raised a disturbing issue when he said that the basic structure of the Constitution verdict by the Supreme Court in the Kesavananda Bharati case set a bad precedent, which does not augur well for democratic society. The Indian Constitution is a dynamic document. The writers, while drafting the Constitution, envisioned it as a living organism, not a dead document. That is why it has empowered Parliament with amendment rights and created a judiciary not only to be independent of the executive and legislature but also entrusted it with the power to interpret the Constitution as its guardian, whose primary job is not only to protect the basic rights of the citizen from any encroachment from the executive and the legislature but also to keep it democratic. The doctrine of the basic structure evolved against the predatory instinct of the state, which, during Indira Gandhi’s time, was hellbent on undermining representative democracy; it was brought about as a check on majoritarian Governments becoming dictators. It restricts the Government to from fundamentally altering the basic nature of the Constitution.
The Indian Constitution makers envisaged a harmonious and multicultural society in which every religious community is free to pursue its religious practices without any fear or favour. It provides a framework in which conflicts between the communities are resolved in a peaceful and democratic manner. It does not allow the majority community to subjugate the minority community under any pretext. It promises to protect the civil and religious rights of the minority communities. When Mr Bhagwat talks about a thousand years’ war, then he clearly identifies Muslims as an enemy with which Hindus are at war; and war by nature is violent and ruthless. It is a vanquishing exercise which ultimately leads to annihilation of one of the warring actors. He should therefore explain if he is hinting at the defeat and annihilation of the Muslims.
If one researches RSS ideological documents then one reaches the conclusion that Mr Bhagwat is not saying anything new. The second RSS chief, M S Golwalkar, wrote a long time ago that Muslims are one of the three enemies of the country along with Christians and Communists. He has also written that Hindus have been at war with Muslims for more than a thousand years. Mr Golwalkar writes in ‘We or Our Nationhood Defined’, “Surely, Hindu nation is not conquered. It is fighting on. Ever since that evil day, when Muslims first landed in Hindustan, right upto the present moment the Hindu nation has been gallantly fighting on to shake off the despoilers. It is the fortune of the war, the tide turns now to this side, now to that, but the war goes on and has not been decided yet.” Mr Golwalkar was confident that the tide of history has turned and now Hindus will not lose this war. He writes, “Nor is there any fear of its being decided to our detriment. The Race Spirit has been awakened. The lion was not dead, only sleeping. He is rousing himself up again and the world has to see the might of the regenerated Hindu nation strike down the enemy’s hosts with its mighty arm.”
Mr Modi after becoming the prime minister said ‘Sabka Sath; Sabka Vikas’ and many of my liberal friends were deceived into believing that the RSS had moderated its views about Muslims. This was further reinforced when Mohan Bhagwat in Vigyan Bhawan in 2018 said, “Hindutva is incomplete without Muslims”. Even very recently, he reiterated, when he said, “Why should Shivling be searched for in every mosque?” He was also seen meeting with a top Muslim leader, Arshad Madni. It was also propagated that a section of the Muslims have started voting for the BJP. And this was happening when Muslims were allegedly being persecuted by the so-called Hindutvavadis in the form of mob lynching, their houses being bulldozed on minor pretexts, not being allowed to pray on Government-sanctioned lands, calls being given for their economic boycott, the hijab being made a huge issue, demand for banning halal meat, Muslims non-vegetarians kiosks and dhabas being removed in Gujarat, people like Yati Narsinghanand calling for Muslims’ genocide, and Government agencies implementing rule of law against Muslims in an allegedly partisan manner. If one talks to Muslims then one gets a sense that they feel that they are being treated as the ‘Other’ and no longer feel equal to Hindus as citizen.
It appears that Mr Modi and Mr Bhagwat were both busy creating a smokescreen, behind which the ‘Mighty Arm’ as expressed in Mr Golwalkar’s writings was at work. Mr Bhagwat has now openly justified the violent behaviour of his foot soldiers and discriminatory acts of the Government. It seems that the RSS has realised that as its centenary year is approaching, it is better to expose the full might of its ideology. Maybe the RSS has reached the conclusion that, as Mr Bhagwat admits in his interview, there is wider acceptance of the RSS ideology and there is no point in shooting from the shadows. And in this pursuit every arm of the Government has to play a decisive role.
It is no coincidence that the Vice President has given clear hints that the BJP-dominated Parliament should have supremacy, and judiciary should not pose any hinderance to the RSS cause. The attack on the basic structure is an attack on the basic ethos of the Constitution. Let’s not live under any illusion. The fact is that the RSS did not accept the Constitution when it was created. Then Mr Golwalkar had said, “While framing constitution our Self and Hinduness were forgotten. Due to the absence of this unifying spirit, a Constitution has been made which will bring about disintegration … we will have to accept a unitary form of Government of one country, one nation, and one state … with one legislature and one cabinet for the whole country.”
In last few years has the country not moved in that direction? The year 2025 is very important in this respect.
The writer is Editor, SatyaHindi.com, and author of Hindu Rashtra. He tweets at @ashutosh83B