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February 26, 1998


Varsha Bhosle

The man who knew too much

Today, 26 February, is the barsi of Swatantrya-veer Savarkar, the exceptionally brave and star-crossed man who coined the term "Hindutva." It is a fitting day to muse over that concept, in view of Sonia Gandhi's claim that the country would disintegrate if Hindutva was voted to power, and, the dismissal of CM Kalyan Singh by Romesh Bhandari. Whatever the cynical aspects of the Loktantrik Congress Party's actions may have been, the excuse is that support was withdrawn because Kalyan Singh embarked on a communal agenda...

All "secular" parties supported Bhandari's action -- even as constitutional expert Subhash Kashyap said, "The move is directed towards halting the BJP's march to power. This could even lead to bloodshed on the streets... The only constitutional method of finding a solution in this case is testing the strength on the floor of the House."

But, Bhandari even ignored a fax from the President, which warned that no decision on dismissal should be taken on poll eve. In fact, the Governor played the partisan politician and asked Mulayam and Mayawati to secure letters from all non-BJP parties, and, even before the dismissal, asked LCP's Jagdambika Pal to assume the oath of office. Noted jurist Nani Palkhivala asserts, "By doing what he has done, Romesh Bhandari has proved that he is not fit to be a governor."

Then, Atal Bihari Vajpayee embarked on an indefinite fast. I winced, for I've no faith in Gandhian blackmail. Fortunately, the judiciary proved its mettle and reinstated Kalyan Singh...

I'm sick to the gills of hearing what an evil Hindutva is. Many think that it was Savarkar's reaction to his supposed loathing of Islam. Nothing of the sort: It was simply an academic exercise -- conducted during his 12 years of hard labour in the Andaman penal colony -- to define the undefinable state of being a Hindu. Since political prisoners weren't allowed paper and pen, chapters were scratched with a pebble on the walls, which departing compatriots learnt by rote and delivered to the Nagpur-based publisher in stages. Since Savarkar was still incarcerated when the booklet was printed in 1923, it was accredited to 'A Maratha.' It was later that the Hindu Mahasabha adopted Hindutva as its guiding force... About the Mahasabha, you'll hear from me post-elections.

Few know that the ideology that's declaimed by secularists as Nazism, had stalwarts like Lala Lajpatrai, Madan Mohan Malaviya and the man who once presided over the INC, Vijayaraghavacharya, as its followers. The story of how Hindutva was turned into an ominous ideology would be a direct indictment of the Fabian Jawaharlal Nehru (who confessed to Professor Galbraith, "I am the last Englishman to rule India") and the pinkos who thereafter controlled the Indian press. But let's leave that tale, too, for another day.

Yeh Hindutva kya cheez hai? For instance, everybody "knows" I'm a fundie who advocates murder in the name of Hinduism. But do you also know that I'm an agnostic who never visits a temple except to admire its architecture? That I think the dogmatic VHP is a bag of nuts? And yet, what's it that so firmly attaches me to L K Advani or Govindacharya or Bal Thackeray -- who are all devout Hindus of the rudraaksha type?

It's a dilemma that Hindus have always faced: The absence of unity and uniform dogmas and doctrines that exists in the community and which makes it resilient, also prevents it from grasping the full import of the national aspect implied in the question "Who is a Hindu?" This was the inexplicable that Veer Savarkar sought to explore and define. Incidentally, Savarkar was a beef-eater. For he was, above all else, a rationalist -- a true Hindu -- and eons ahead of contemporary Hindutvawadis.

Hindutva defies attempts at analysis -- which is why Sangh Parivaris are often at a loss to explain the concept which they describe as "cultural nationalism." Veer Savarkar wrote, 'Prophets and poets, lawyers and law-givers, heroes and historians, have thought, lived, fought and died just to have it spelled thus. For indeed, is it not the resultant of countless actions -- now conflicting, now co-mingling, now co-operating -- of our whole race? Hindutva is not a word but a history. Not only the spiritual or religious history of our people as at times it is mistaken to be by being confounded with other cognate terms like "Hinduism," but a history in full. Hinduism is only a derivative, a fraction, a part of Hindutva.'

How much of a Hindu extremist was Veer Savarkar? Oh, an absolute Dracula! Eg, he says, 'There is throughout the world but a single race -- the human race, kept alive by one common blood, the human blood. All other talk is at best provisional and only relatively true. Nature is constantly trying to overthrow the artificial barriers you raise between race and race. Sexual attraction has proved more powerful than the commands of all the prophets put together.' Sorry, you pointy-headed intellectuals who can't even park your bikes straight -- Savarkar got there way before you.

Secularists insist that Hindus do not need Hindutva to survive; that we absorb and so overcome external attacks. That's where I part company. After the centuries of Islamic rule and Macaulite propaganda, it has become necessary to make Hindus aware of a common bond in order to fight the fissiparous tendencies among us. Hindus developed such a morbid fear of militancy that they even conceded the Muslim League's demand for Pakistan. That was when Savarkar led the movement for the vivisection of Pakistan itself: Lord Mountbatten saw the justice in the demand and forced Jinnah to part with the Hindu majority parts... Or it would've been, Goodbye West Bengal and farewell East Punjab...

A quarter of his booklet Hindutva: Who is a Hindu? is assigned to proving how the term 'Hindustan' stems from the Vedic 'Sapta Sindhu' which finds mention in the Avesta of the ancient Persians as 'Hapta Hindu.' He proves with faultless logic and tons of references from Vedic, Puranic, Persian, Arab and Chinese sources that 'the land which is to the north of the sea and to the south of the Himalaya mountains is named Bhaarat, inhabited by the descendants of Bharat called Bhaaratis' (Vishnu Puran).

Another part is devoted to the features of a pacifist Buddhism and its detrimental effect on Hindus: 'As long as the whole world was red in tooth and claw and the national and racial distinction so strong as to make men brutal, India must not lose the strength born of national and racial cohesion... No; the only safe-guards in future were valour and strength that could only be born of a national self-consciousness.' In other words, a VIRILE Hindutva.

And even as he writes about Hinduism absorbing the values of a degenerating Buddhism, he makes a statement that the LCP/BSP- absorbing BJP would do well to digest: 'Everything that is common in us with our enemies, weakens our power of opposing them... The necessity of creating a bitter sense of wrong and invoking a power of undying resistance, especially in India that had, under the opiates of Universalism and non-violence, lost the faculty even of resisting sin, crime and aggression, could best be accomplished by cutting off even the semblance of a common worship.' Savarkar refers to the Church; today, he could well have said "a shared power."

Century after century, India kept up the fight against foreigners morally and militarily. Savarkar says, 'The day of Panipat rose, the Hindus lost the battle, but won the war. The triumphant Hindu banner that our Marathas had carried to Atak was taken up by our Sikhs and carried across the Indus to Kabul... This one word Hindutva ran like a vital spinal cord through our whole body politic and made the Nayars of Malabar weep over the sufferings of the Brahmins of Kashmir.' This, written in the 1920s...

When I read the flames thrown by today's Khalistanis in Usenet, I remember the couplet written by Guru Gobind Singh and quoted by Savarkar: Sakal jagat mein Khalsa Panth gaaje / Jage dharm Hindu sakal bhand bhaaje (May the Khalsa Panth flourish everywhere, so that long live Hinduism and falsehood vanish). What a travesty the Nehrus have made of our society...

But what captures my imagination is Savarkar's insight into secularists. He says about the resistance to Hindutva, 'This objection is in some cases backed up by a secret fear that if the epithet be honoured and owned, then all those who do so would be looked upon as believers in the dogmas and religious practices that go by the name "Hinduism". This fear, though it is not admitted openly, that a Hindu is, necessarily and by the very fact that he is a Hindu, a believer in the so-called Hinduism, makes many a man determined not to get convinced.' Or, oh-beat-me-for- I'm-a-Hindu...

He fathomed the Muslim, too: 'The majority of Indian Mohammedans may, if free from the prejudices born of ignorance, come to love our land as their fatherland, as the patriotic and noble-minded amongst them have always been doing. The story of their conversions, forcible in millions of cases, is too recent to make them forget, even if they like to do so, that they inherit Hindu blood in their veins... Many a Mohammedan community in Kashmir and other parts of India, as well as the Christians in South India, observe our caste rules...'

And there's optimism, too: 'It may be that at some future time, the word Hindu may come to indicate a citizen of Hindusthan and nothing else; that day can only rise when all cultural and religious bigotry has disbanded its forces pledged to aggressive egoism, and religions cease to be "isms" and become merely the common fund of eternal principles that lie at the root of all that on which the Human State majestically and firmly rests.' But try convincing the Khilafat-walas to grasp this, or the pinko that the founder of Hindutva wrote this...

However, Savarkar's no wimp: "As long as every other "ism" has not disowned its special dogmas, whichever tend into dangerous war cries, no cultural or national unit can afford to loosen the bonds, especially those of a common name and a common banner, that are the mighty sources of organic cohesion and strength." *That* is the raison d'etre of today's Hindutva.

But are Hindus really a race? Savarkar retorts, 'Are the English a race? Is there anything as English blood, the German blood or the Chinese blood in this world? Do they, who have been freely infusing foreign blood into their race by contracting marriages with other peoples, possess a common blood? If they do, Hindus also emphatically do so. For the very castes, which you owing to your colossal failure to understand and view in the right perspective, have barred the common flow of blood into our race.'

But I myself have said that Hindus are not a Nation! Savarkar pooh-poohs me: 'The story of the civilisation of a nation is the story of its thoughts, its actions and its achievements... The fall of Prithviraj is bewailed in Bengal; the martyred sons of Gobind Singh, in Maharashtra. An Aryasamajist in the extreme north feels that Harihar of the south fought for him, and a Sanatanist in the extreme south feels that Guru Tegh Bahadur died for him. We had kings in common. We had kingdoms in common. We had triumphs and disasters in common.

'What about the War of Roses amongst the English? What of the internecine struggle of state against state, sect against sect, class against class, each invoking foreign help against his own countrymen in Italy, in Germany, in France, in America? Are they still a people, a nation, and do they possess a common history? If they do, the Hindus do. If the Hindus do not possess a common history, then none in the world does.'

Yes, there is a Hindu Nation. Alien Sonia or not, mullah Mulayam or not, the battle for the UCC must continue. This article is nothing but the words of Savarkar, Savarkar, Savarkar... For I believe in nothing if not him, him, him...

Varsha Bhosle

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