Sudheendra Kulkarni, ex-assistant of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, in his article (“Reach out for Bharat Jodo”, IE, September 12) while hosting the Yatra, criticizes the yatra for not being based on Hindu spiritualism. According to him, Hindu spiritualism is the basis of the unity of India. He also praises RSS for popularizing the same.
He insists that Swami Vivekanand’s main understanding for ‘Bharat Jodo’ was spiritualism and his mainstay was Hinduism. Kulkarni forgets that Vivekanand’s pillar of India was: “India has an Islamic body and a Vedantic mind”. That mother India was based on “diversity of religions” was inherent in its formulation. Vivekanand’s central passion to end the caste system and eradicate poverty (his concept of Daridranayan) is missing from Kulkarni’s narrative.
Kulkarni totally misses the point when he says that the RSS pracharaks and Swayamsevaks have done tremendous work to honor and popularize the cultural and spiritual sources of India’s unity and revival than the Congress leaders. We need to introspect what are the cultural and spiritual sources of India. RSS insisted that Islam and Christianity are foreign religions. This contrasts with what Gandhi, the greatest incarnation of Indian spiritualism, had to say. Gandhi’s understanding of the foundations of India’s heritage and culture is described in this quote: “In India, for which I have worked all my life, every man enjoys equal status, regardless of his religion. The State is bound to be entirely secular”, and, “religion is not the criterion of nationality but is a personal affair between man and God”, and “religion is a personal affair of each individual , it should not be confused with politics or national affairs” (Harijan August 31, 1947), and “Apart from Christianity and Judaism, Hinduism and its offshoots, Islam and Zoroastrianism are living religions” (from India) (Complete Works of Gandhi, Volume XLVI p. 27-28.
The RSS vision of India is totally exclusive at all levels unlike the visions of Vivekananda and Gandhi, the narratives that the majority of Indians support. As for the Indian renaissance, it paralleled the freedom movement and from Jotirao Phule, Savitribai Phule to Ambedkar, the process of social reform was ushered in. Gandhi’s Yatras of 1933 against inviolability were the major component of this process of Indian revival. During this crucial period of Indian renaissance; RSS and its workers sang the praises of the “golden past” when Manusmriti was the law, and it is precisely for this reason that they have long opposed the Indian constitution.
Kulkarni’s point is conceded that the Congress made many mistakes in following the path of the Indian Constitution and secular values that emerged during the freedom movement. To say again that he ignored the interests of the Hindus is a travesty of the truth. Industrialization, irrigation, promotion of educational and research institutions have been the core on which people of all communities including Hindus have progressed. What Kulkarni seems to imply by “ignoring the interests of Hindus” is probably related to the fact that the Congress does not address the issue of the temple of Ram or the sacred cow or the jihad of love, which are presented as central concerns of Hindus by the RSS and its fellow travelers. These are the questions that fracture the “brotherhood” that has been so painstakingly constructed by the freedom movement.
Our Constitution, the representative document written by people of all faiths was the best expression of the secular policies that developed here. He did not isolate spiritualism from religion x or y as being the basis of India’s secularism.
Kulkarni accuses Congress of failing to oppose Muslims’ anti-secular, supremacist and separatist interpretation of Islam for ballot-banking politics. It’s one way here. As a section of Muslims presented the separatist version of Islam, the Hindu Mahasabha-RSS also presented the separatist version of Hinduism. The Muslim league presented a separatist version of Islam-Pakistan in the same way that the Hindu Mahasabha-RSS also presented a separatist version of Hinduism as a Hindu nation, Hindu Rashtra.
We have to recognize that the separatist version of Islam, the Muslim League, was not supported by the majority of Muslims, because the separatist version of Hinduism was not accepted by the majority of Hindus. It will be worth it for people like Kulkarni to go through the work of Allah Baksh Sumro’s “All India Muslim Azad Conference” and the “All India Momin Conference”, who opposed the application for partition and in Pakistan. These sections actually represented the majority of Muslims. The national movement was also supported by the majority of Hindus, who did not support the concept of a Hindu nation.
Within the Congress itself, stalwarts like Maulana Azad, Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan and a horde of top Muslim leaders opposed the Muslim League policy and the demand for partition. Incidentally, the role of Britain’s “divide and rule policy” in Operation Bharat Todo (Partition of India) was the central factor in the country’s painful partition. Gandhi and Maulana Azad stood up to oppose Hindu separatism (we are a Hindu nation) from Hindu Mahasabha, RSS and, Muslim separatism from Muslim league.
Kulkarni is on point when he says we face the threat of an “autocratic one-man government”. He must be reminded that whenever sectarian nationalism, that which is promoted by the RSS; takes over, autocracy follows.
Regarding reforms among Muslims; again Kulkarni scores a point. As Hindus are expected to adopt the Hindu Code Bill in its original form, other communities are also expected to follow suit. In situations where minorities are the main victims of violence and discrimination, reform becomes difficult. Either way, we need to think about how to promote reforms among Muslims in the context of cases where rapists and murderers of Muslims (Bilkis Bano) are garlanded and treated with sweets!
Merely talking about Hindu spiritualism, Kulkarni’s key to Indian secularism, will not promote brotherhood. On the other hand, “unity in diversity”, the foundation of the Indian freedom movement so beautifully presented by Nehru, “Ganga Jamuna Tahjeeb” (culture) is what will unite us, the teachings of Kabir and Nizamuddin Auliya will bind us firmly and how Gandhi and Maulana Azad must guide our attempts for Bharat Jodo!