By an instructive coincidence, Rahul Gandhi’s Bold Bharat Jodo Yatra saw him visit the Vivekananda Rock Memorial in Kanyakumari at the start of his five-month mass contact march to Kashmir covering 3,500 km. This writer wholeheartedly supports the yatra because India needs a revitalized Congress, and Rahul is a very misunderstood leader with a kind heart. We do not know if his colleagues informed him of the history of this memorial. If they had, he would have understood why a large number of Hindus admire the RSS for its patriotism and therefore reject the relentless and outright condemnation of his party as a fascist organization. He would also have learned that on several occasions in the past, the Congress and the RSS have collaborated in the national interest.
Swami Vivekananda (1863-1902) was a towering spiritual leader who awakened national consciousness among Indians after the British crushed the 1857 War of Independence. Few have paid him a more glowing tribute than Jawaharlal Nehru, who writes in The Discovery of India: “Rooted in the past and proud of Indian heritage, Vivekananda was yet modern in his approach to life’s problems. [He had] dynamic and fiery energy to drive India forward.
Vivekananda visited Kanyakumari before his historic trip to America to participate in the first World Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1893. For three days and three nights from December 25 to 27, 1892, he meditated on the rock, at the confluence of three seas, and discovered his life’s mission – to spread Hinduism’s message of oneness of humanity and to help eliminate the spiritual and material suffering of enslaved Indians. After his triumphant return from the west, Vivekananda gave a bugle call for “Bharat Jodo” at a public reception in Madras in 1897. Let all other vain gods fade from our minds. The first God we should worship is our countrymen, instead of being jealous of each other and fighting each other. After 50 years, India became free.
The magnificent memorial where Rahul prayed on September 7 was the brainchild of Eknath Ranade, a widely respected RSS pracharak. To build it, he launched his own variation of a “Bharat Jodo” campaign in 1963, the centenary year of Swamiji’s birth, raising one-rupee donations from nearly a million ordinary people across the country. India. He also mobilized the signatures of 323 deputies, mostly from Congress, to support his project. President VV Giri inaugurated it on September 2, 1970. Prime Minister Indira Gandhi not only donated Rs 15 lakh but also visited the memorial, warmly welcomed by none other than Ranade himself. Veteran BJP leader LK Advani, who worked closely with Ranade on this project as RSS Swayamsevak, wrote in his memoirs: “The way this great monument, a tribute to one of the greatest saints of modern India was built is truly an inspiration. saga.”
This brief history of the Vivekananda Memorial in Kanyakumari is instructive as it has two lessons for Rahul and his colleagues, if they are to learn them. Firstly, the RSS pracharaks and swayamsevaks have done enormously more work in honoring and popularizing the cultural and spiritual sources of India’s unity and revival than the Congress leaders. The latter have mostly praised the contributions and sacrifices of the Nehru family, which, although commendable, are insufficient to inspire the current generation of Indians. Second, and this is related to the first lesson, many contemporary Congress leaders deny or are extremely reluctant to acknowledge that inclusive Hindu spiritualism and culture is the main basis of India’s unity.
The second point requires some clarification. Congress leaders rightly claim that secularism, understood as equal respect for all faiths, is the true guarantor of India’s unity. It is indeed the soul of India. However, they are reluctant to assert that Hinduism of the type proposed by Vivekananda and Mahatma Gandhi is the soul of Indian secularism. There was a time when Congress recognized this truth. On January 16, 1999, the Congress Working Committee (CWC), the highest decision-making body of the party, unanimously adopted a resolution declaring that “Hinduism is the most effective guarantor of secularism in India”. However, he never reiterated this view thereafter, nor supported legitimate Hindu concerns with this conviction, for fear of losing Muslim votes. Moreover, for the same reason, he never ideologically countered the anti-secular, supremacist and separatist interpretation of Islam by a section of Muslims, which literally led to “Bharat Todo” in 1947. As a result, Hindus in large numbers turned to the Sangh’s flawed and majority idea of Hindu Rashtra, and began to question the Congress idea of a plural India. This, along with other factors that have atrophied Congress, is the main reason for the phenomenal rise of the RSS-backed BJP.
Rahul is simply wasting his admirable reservoir of energy by making the RSS the main target of his ideological attack. He should understand that Hinduism is bigger and tougher than the RSS, which in turn will outlive Narendra Modi, Amit Shah, Yogi Adityanath and Himanta Biswa Sarma. If Congress and other non-BJP parties win back the hearts and minds of Hindus with a non-community narrative of nationalism and development, which is possible if they simultaneously urge the Muslim community to become more reformist, inclusive and forward-looking, current threats to social cohesion and tolerant discourse can be overcome.
In fact, the real threat facing India is not its unity, but its democratic structure, fundamental constitutional values and the integrity of its institutions, due to the worrying slide towards autocratic one-man rule. man. The main constitutional victim is the preambular ideal of equality. Indian society has never been so iniquitous as it is now. All of these developments have caused considerable unease even in sections of the RSS and BJP, which can become allies in the mission to save democracy. After all, Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Advani, who were both part of the Sangh Parivar, had played leading roles in restoring democracy in 1977 after the draconian state of emergency.
Therefore, Congress should shed its arrogance and mental rigidity, do some honest introspection, and also publicly acknowledge its past mistakes. He should engage in constructive dialogue with various ideologies and stakeholders, including the RSS, as Mahatma Gandhi did during the freedom struggle. India belongs to everyone, and no one can make it a Congress-mukt, an RSS-mukt or a Muslim-mukt. All must rectify their shortcomings and work together for a true “Bharat Jodo” – to close the gaps in our democracy, our development, our justice system and our national brotherhood.
The writer was an aide to former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee