In a recent article, Rajiv Lall reproduced an almost nine decade-old Hindutva vision of India as “The New Right” (The Indian Express, January 18). Honestly speaking, this should have been titled “The Hindu Right” as he repeated almost all those features which RSS spokespersons or cadres loaned to the BJP have been churning out zealously, about their kind of “Hindusthan” in the recent past.
The first feature he discusses is a distrust of democracy. According to Lall, since in Indian democracy, “the vast majority of voters live in poverty, it is especially difficult to make a politically compelling case for economic policies that favour growth over equality”. This is akin to demanding an elitist democracy, where only the educated and the “haves” run things, disregarding equality guaranteed by the democratic, secular Constitution of India. According to Lall, “growth” and “equality” are antithetical to each other; if Indian voters prefer equality over billionaires, that is bad democracy.
The second is the need for “strong leaders”. Lall admits India’s democratic institutions “have been weakening” but for this, he finds fault with there being no “strong leaders to fix them”. The reality is that India’s democratic institutions have lost relevance due to “strong leaders” like Indira Gandhi in the past and a current “strong leader”, PM Modi. This is corroborated by many strictures which the highest court has passed in just the last two years. There is a general consensus that all government powers are concentrated in the PMO, surpassing even the times of Indira Gandhi. Top BJP brass as well as media are witness to the fact that Modi is becoming India and vice-versa.
In fact, this was the vision of RSS’s guru Golwalkar, under whose tutelage Modi was groomed into a political leader. Outlining the nature of the future Indian polity, Golwalkar, as early as 1940, declared that India should be governed under “one leader and one ideology”.
The third characteristic of Lall’s “The New Right” echoes the same old beliefs of the RSS and its fraternity on India. According to him, “the time has come for us to move beyond the tired narratives of syncretism and Mandalism”. Just on the eve of Independence, the RSS’s English organ Organiser in an editorial (“Whither”, August 14, 1947), decrying an all-inclusive, syncretic India, declared, “in Hindusthan, only the Hindus form the nation and the national structure must be built on that safe and sound foundation. The nation itself must be built up of Hindus, on Hindu traditions, culture, ideas and aspirations”.
The dislike for “Mandalism” and the demand for “reservations based on economic status” is also in conformity with a Hindutva ethos. According to the RSS, casteism is synonymous with Hinduism and Hindu nationalism. As a corollary, it demands the promulgation of the Manusmriti text. Unfortunately, the flag-bearers of anti-Mandal politics fail to note that reservation is essential because we live an enormously unequal society with skewed resources and incomes. One solution is the right to work for all, but defenders of “Hindu mythology and historiography”, due to their love for a market economy, will not support that.
Lastly, it is shocking that Lall’s “Indic-Hindu civilisational heritage” has no place for Islam and Christianity. But that is also in conformity with the RSS vision of India. According to this, India is a fatherland and a holy land for Hindus only and followers of “foreign religions”, like Muslims and Christians, need to be cleansed. Interestingly, thinkers like Swami Vivekananda, Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. B.R. Ambedkar are frequently presented as philosophical mentors of the Hindu Right. But Swami Vivekananda had declared that, “if ever any religion approached this equality in an appreciable manner it is Islam and Islam alone”. He concluded that India could be invincible only with “Vedanta brain and Islam body”. Mahatma Gandhi was killed because he did not subscribe to the Hindutva vision. And Dr. Ambedkar unequivocally declared, “If Hindu Raj does become a fact, it will, no doubt, be the greatest calamity for this country.”
The writer taught political science at the University of Delhi