When the victorious rulers eulogized their victory and wrote their history of conquests, they painted their enemies in morbid colours. The conquered were described as cannibals, demons, beastly, and their murders were celebrated as festivals. Today, if we so much as question such celebrations of “murders”, we are instantly branded as anti-national. Their sentiments are hurt. But sentiments of the other group are also being offended. What about their feelings? Indeed, those in power acknowledge their own sentiments but what about the sentiments of those who are not in power? Does it make any sense? Let’s take the example of the Holi festival. Is it wrong to say that this festival celebrates the memory of a woman being burnt alive? The only change that has come about is that those who flashed lathis (sticks) earlier wield sugarcane sticks now. After all, Holika was a woman (a human being), who is burnt alive year after year, albeit symbolically. Hiranyakashyap was thrown before a hungry tiger. Anything can be concocted as a story. This story tells us that Hiranyakashyap was opposed to the Vedas and Yagyas. He followed a different culture and his world view was at variance with that of the Brahmins. According to the Rig Veda, the Aryans requested Indra, “O Lord, please kill these people. They don’t perform yagyas. They follow an alien culture and they aren’t like us. Destroy them and protect our culture.”
These festivals were celebrated earlier too but they were not being politicized to the extent they have been by the RSS today. Actor Kamal Haasan said that Hindu terrorism has become a reality. He is not wrong in observing that earlier, Hindu rightists would battle their opponents intellectually through debates, but nowadays they employ violent methods. Today, the Hindu rightists can’t raise fingers at other terrorist groups because extremist views are visible within their own fold. He has mentioned politicization of Ganesh Chaturthi in Tamil Nadu, where muscle power is being flaunted. Actually, this politicization of festivals is stoking violence. Today, Hindutva is propagating its beliefs by ridiculing the beliefs of others; it is glorifying its violent culture that masquerades as Indian culture, and imposing the culture on others. This is the cause of all the frictions. Kamal Haasan’s comments offended Hindu sentiments, and a case has been filed against him.
One more poser: Why are Christians and Muslims enemies of Hindutva? Why did the Hindu Mahasabha and RSS turn them into enemies? Why is the RSS using Dalit-OBCs to vent its hostility towards them? Why is it hell-bent on turning them against the Muslims? Why on earth should Dalit-OBCs be hostile to the Muslims? And, why should Hindus harbour animosity towards Muslims? Why should those other than the RSS treat them as enemies? If the Muslims regard the RSS as their enemy, let them. But why does the RSS use Dalit-OBCs and Adivasis in its fight against the Muslims? Why is it shooting their gun from the shoulders of Dalit-OBCs to kill Muslims and Christians? If it wants to get them killed let the Sanghi Brahmins do it. Let them become criminals. Why is it turning Dalit-OBCs into criminals?
Are the Muslims and Christians enemies of RSS because both of them conquered India and ruled for hundreds of years? No, absolutely not. If this were the reason, then RSS would have realized that the varna system was its weakness and launched a movement to end the system that brought about the enslavement of India at the hands of the Muslims and the Christians. But RSS does not discuss this weakness. Confronted with the fact that the varna system was responsible for enslavement of the nation, RSS not only negates the theory but also goes on to claim that the varna system is the best system in the Universe. The so-called Hindu reformers, including Swami Dayanand, also agree with the claim. Dayanand harboured greater hostility towards Christians and the Muslims than even the RSS. For him, even saints opposing the varna system like Kabir, Ravidas and Nanak were condemnable. For that matter, even Swami Vivekanand was no exception. It seems RSS has assimilated part of its animosity towards Muslims and Christians from Swami Dayanand.
The Muslim and Christian invasions of India are not the reason for RSS’s hatred because other foreigners had invaded India too. The reason for their animosity runs deeper. It cannot forgive them because the Muslim and Christian rulers dealt a body blow to the varna system. I use the term “body blow” because the varna system was not destroyed. Even today, the varna system has not been destroyed; it only stands eroded. It has remained so since the Muslim rule. To the RSS, this situation is akin to a festering wound.
How did the Muslim and Christian rules upset the varna system? They didn’t launch a social movement. The only thing they did was to make education accessible to public. In other words, education, which was the Brahmin’s privilege, was no longer their exclusive domain. It was a revolutionary development in India’s history. Those who were deprived of education for centuries could now read and write. This transformation led to the questioning of the brahmanical hegemony. If the Muslim and Christian rulers had not opened up education to the public, was it possible to have personalities like Kabir and Raidas during the Muslim rule and Dr Ambedkar during the English rule? To cover their weakness, the Brahmins declared that Kabir and Raidas were illiterates and failing to convince the populace, concocted stories claiming that they were actually Brahmins in the previous birth. When even these stories didn’t do the trick, they began saying both were disciples of Ramanand, the Brahmin. Brahmanism is attempting to dispose of Dr Ambedkar along similar lines. Behind all these machinations it is the varna system in which the Brahmin is the rightful leader in the domain of knowledge while the non-Brahmans are mere followers.
Therefore, enslavement of India is not the cause of RSS’s hatred against Muslims and the Christians. Rather, the cause was the dismantling of the varna system by throwing open the doors of education to everyone, and ending the differentiation between the ruler and the subject. This was no minor development. It led to an upheaval. Those, whom the Brahmans treated as sub-humans, regained their self-respect; those castes that were kept in an endless coma sprang to life. When they awoke, they came out of the Hindu fold, and to gain respect and freedom, they converted to Islam and Christianity. They converts were not in the thousands but hundreds of thousands. They got rid of caste discrimination and by educating themselves paved the way for a brighter future for the following generations. In this context, Madan Dixit has written a fine novel, Mori Ka Int, in which he explains how a large number of Brahmins also converted to Islam and Christianity with a view to thwart advancement of the Dalits by creating caste-like discrimination within these religions. And they did succeed in creating inequality within these religions. Nevertheless, these religions provided a path for liberation, which was not possible in Hindu religion at all.
Here, I have an example of a sweeper named Hazari. It is a story of pre-independent India. Hazari belonged to a sweeper caste from Bilari town in Moradabad district. His entire family did the job of cleaning. When he was a young man, Hazari got a job as a cook in the house of an English officer. Imagine, even today, in the 21st century, a Hindu does not accept food cooked by a Dalit, while then an English family was eating food prepared by a sweeper. In essence, this is religion. After Independence, the English officer took him to England. There, he converted to Christianity, married an English woman and became an English gentleman. Today, in the third or fourth generation after him nobody may even be aware that they belong to the sweeper community. But in India the caste label remains even if someone becomes the President of India. That Hazari wrote an autobiography. Dalit author Dr Dharamvir discovered it accidentally during the course of his research in a library in England. Sheoraj Singh Bechain published a brief report about this discovery in the literary magazine Hans.
Another reason for RSS’s animosity towards Muslims and Christians is religious conversion, which has spoilt the Hindutva game plan. The mission of conversion of the Dalit castes has dried up the roots of Hindutva and, in order to revive these roots, RSS has adopted an aggressive stand against the Muslims and the Christians on conversion.
Besides becoming aggressive, Hindu politics has also turned fascist. It is crushing every form of dissent. In Chhattisgarh, it is suppressing the dissent of the Adivasis, and in Uttar Pradesh, it is crushing the protests of the Dalits. Does a chief minister have the Constitutional right to maintain a private army? No. But in the name of nationalism, Yogi’s Hindu Yuva Vahini is taking on those opposing Hindutva. Does anyone in the police have the audacity to take action against it? This Vahini may go around torching houses of Dalits, thrash Muslims, and even kill them. Nobody can raise their voice, because it is a matter of nationalism. Whosoever speaks against this brand of nationalism is a traitor and will be dealt with accordingly. Like Chandrashekhar Ravan, the Bhim Army founder, he will be sent to jail under the National Security Act. This brand of nationalism supports Hindu Yuva Vahini, not Bhim Army. If any other army protests, its leader will be tortured so much that he will think twice before raising his voice against the Hindu terror.
Another brand of nationalism is in play on the pretext of protecting the cow. Overnight, cow brigades have mushroomed and are always on the lookout for a Dalit or a Muslim herding a cow so that he can be nabbed. Once caught, he has no chance of survival. Nationalists will assert that he was a cow slaughterer. The religious prescription that “violence committed by a Hindu is no violence” will certainly protect him. Due to these so-called nationalists, in Meerut, an injured, dying cow could not be transported to the Indian Veterinary Research Institute (IVRL), Bareilly, for treatment, despite the veterinary doctor’s prescription for immediate treatment. But due to the fear of cow vigilantes no truck driver was willing to transport the cow. The cow’s owner, Jyoti Singh, tweeted 114 concerned officers, BJP leaders, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Chief Minister Adityanath and district magistrate, but to no avail.
Is this nationalism or fascism? Sadly, today, this issue is being turned into the mainstream discourse of democracy. A eulogy of the Gita is nationalist discourse, questioning the Gita is anti-national. The RSS is involved in bringing everybody into this mainstream. Its leaders declare in their speeches that Muslims, Christians, Dalits and Adivasis have to be brought into the mainstream. Simply put, all of them have to accept the hegemony of Hinduism. It is fine if they give in. Some have already done that though their personal interest may have been the motive. But the brute power of the State is there to bring around those who aren’t willing to fall in line. They will coerce all the dissenters into joining the mainstream. But they themselves will not join the mainstream. The mainstream discourse is not about the Gita, or Ram or the cow, but it lies in democracy, the Constitution and humanism. However, the RSS brand of nationalism does not recognize these issues as important. For the RSS, the words such as humanism, equality and social justice spell danger. These words scare them like a man who has been bitten by dog and is mortally afraid of water. They are also scared of these words because they have never been subjected to any kind of exploitation – social, economic or religious. They are the elite socially, economically, and in the religious sphere as well. In other words, they possess unbridled social power, unlimited economic power and religious hegemony. Now they have political power, too. They thus have never been subjected to exploitation; they only have the experience of exploiting others. They know no injustice at all but they know how to perpetrate injustice. They have not been the victims of oppression; they oppress others. They don’t want revolution at all. They get terribly upset with the word “revolution”, as if somebody has poured molten lead into their ears.
How to deal with this brand of nationalism? This is a matter of worry also because the class that is being exploited the most is also the one that is bewitched by the nationalism of the RSS. He is not worried by issues such as his children are not getting proper education, or proper treatment is not available in hospitals, or he is unable to build a house for himself, or he has lost his job and is still unemployed, or inflation rate is increasing, or medicines have become costlier. Nonetheless, he is delighted that the temple would be constructed; a huge idol of Ram would be erected in Ayodhya. He is also elated that cow slaughter is banned. He is gloating over Modi and Yogi having shown the Muslims their place. But, in the process, he has lost his ability to reason whether he has gained by all these developments, whether he has benefited from this model of growth. This is the biggest achievement of RSS.
Translation: Parmanand Baiga; copy-editing: Anil
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