In his article, ‘Coming full circle at 70’ (IE, August 15), RSS and BJP leader Ram Madhav argues that for the first time after Independence, India’s rulers are “rooted in India’s genius,” because “high constitutional positions” are all held today by individuals subscribing to “the same ideological fraternity” of “the Conservative Right” that according to Madhav, represents India’s “core”, as it does America’s.
Madhav implies that Nehru’s ideology was alien and represented the “coloniser’s view” while Gandhi’s was Indian. Madhav seems to conveniently forget that Gandhi’s killer too was of the same “ideological fraternity” to which Kovind, Naidu, and Modi belong. There is a wealth of documentary evidence to show those of the RSS’ “ideological fraternity” collaborated with the colonisers and were inspired by Italian and German fascism. Savarkar promised to be the “the staunchest advocate of loyalty” to the colonial government (letter dated November 24, 1913). Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, as a minister in Bengal, helped the British combat the Quit India Movement (Mookerjee, Leaves from a Diary, OUP, 1993). Golwalkar (We or Our Nationhood Defined, 1939) described Germany’s purge of Jews as “race pride… a good lesson for us in Hindusthan to learn and profit by.”
Debates between Nehru, Gandhi, Bhagat Singh, and Ambedkar deserve serious reflection; but the fact remains that they were all part of the anti-colonial resistance, abhorred the “Hindu Raj” project, and upheld ideals of diversity and dignity for the weak and vulnerable. The Sangh and its ideological brothers, on the other hand, had only the “Hindu Rashtra” inspired by fascism for its ideal.
Madhav’s claim that India’s current rulers reflect Gandhi’s prioritisation of villages is mocked by the BJP governments’ ongoing plan to drown out the land of 40,000 village families waging a Gandhian satyagraha against the Sardar Sarovar Dam. It is interesting that Madhav lists caste — that Ambedkar branded as “anti-national” and sought to annihilate — as part of the corpus of “the genius of India”. Madhav is celebrating social hierarchies as “Indian” and deriding constitutional values as “western liberal discourse”. The RSS organ, Organiser (in an editorial on November 30, 1949) had in a similar vein complained that the Indian Constitution was inspired by the West and did not reflect the native genius of the Manusmriti.
Madhav’s use of the word “mob” implies that only the alien, deracinated “western” elites are offended by the spate of lynch mob violence; ordinary Indians are “enjoying it”. The Supreme Court’s historic ruling on the right to privacy also affirms that attacks on constitutional liberties of the minorities — including those of diet and faith — cannot be justified by claims that the mob/majority is “enjoying it”.
It is worth recalling Ambedkar’s candid words here: “Constitutional morality is not a natural sentiment… We must realise that our people have yet to learn it. Democracy in India is only a top dressing on an Indian soil which is essentially undemocratic.” Far from celebrating the undemocratic “Indian soil” as “genius of India”, Ambedkar called upon Indians to transform the soil itself with democratic nutrients that could nurture the sapling of democracy.
In 70 years, India’s rulers have not made any serious effort to transform that soil. It is movements and struggles of India’s people — movements of workers, peasants, Dalits, feminists, socialists, the Left; movements for civil liberties and environmental justice — that have done so, confronting and facing repression by governments ruled by the Congress and other parties in the process. Rulers have — in vain — branded those movements (the feminist movement for instance) as “alien” and “western”: But the movements thrived with the confidence that they represent the striving of Indians to be the best version of themselves.
Fascism always boasted of endorsement and even adoration from “the mob”, always claimed itself to be organic and its enemies, alien. But the fact is that the fascist mob — while it may draw on illiberal tendencies and traditions — is not born but bred by conscious political effort and craft. And “humble” people who become members of the fascist mob do realise their colossal crime later: Nazism, once equated with German nationalism, is now reviled and loathed not only in Germany but the world over.