Battle against post-truth – SITARAM YECHURY

What is happening today is a vile attack on the very concept of Indian nationhood that subsumes a wide range of diversity with the intention to replace it with the rabidly intolerant and fascistic Hindu rashtra. By SITARAM YECHURY

The conscience of modern Indian Republic was shattered when the more-than-four-centuries-old Babri Masjid was demolished by the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS)-inspired “kar sevaks” on December 6, 1992. This demolition was preceded by a “rath yatra”, led by the then Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president L.K. Advani, which left behind a trail of communal violence, death, mayhem and bloodshed.

My generation, which was born post-Independence and for whom the bloody partition of the Indian subcontinent was part of history, was numbed by this turn of events. This communal offensive had been gaining momentum for over a decade by then. It was clear that the Babri Masjid demolition was not a “one off” event. It came in the wake of the Ram Janmabhoomi movement, which has a long history predating Independence. That this was part of a larger ideological project of the RSS became clear upon a reading of the RSS Guruji’s 1939 booklet We or Our Nationhood defined.

Frontline had then invited me to present a detailed analysis of Golwalkar’s ideas as set out in this publication and to examine the links with the then current communal offensive. This was published in Frontline on March 12, 1993. Subsequently, Frontline published this tract as a booklet with an introduction to it by its then Editor, N. Ram.

Nearly quarter of a century has passed since then. The Ram Janmabhoomi movement and the demolition of the Babri Masjid led to the first ever Central government headed by the BJP, the political arm of the RSS, in the country in 1998 (apart from its short-lived 13-day government in 1996). Subsequently, the process of communal polarisation continued to sharpen, rising to a crescendo in the 2002 communal pogrom in Gujarat; it had given the BJP its State government in Gujarat, which it continues to hold on to even today.

Subsequently, the BJP returned to hold the Central government in 2014 with an absolute majority of its own. This unleashed a newer and more ferocious process of communal polarisation as can currently be seen in the private armies of gau rakshaks and moral policing squads that target innocent people, particularly Dalits and Muslims. Such “mobocracy” could not have been widely prevalent and growing but for the active patronage, encouragement and support it receives from the RSS, backed by the strength of BJP governments.

What is happening today is a vile attack on the very concept of Indian nationhood that subsumes an unprecedented range of diversity—religious, linguistic, cultural, ethnic, regional, etc. This pan-Indian consciousness is best captured in the concept of the “Idea of India” (for an elaboration of this, see the full text of the Chintha Raveendran Memorial Lecture delivered on July 4, 2015, and published in Frontline,August 5, 2015).

The unity and integrity of India can only be consolidated by strengthening the bonds of commonality that run through this diversity. Any attempt to impose a uniformity, like what the RSS/BJP are seeking to do today, will only lead to a severe social implosion that can threaten the very existence of our Republic.

That such a serious assault could be mounted is a matter that requires a deeper analysis. This effort would necessarily have to go back to the nearly century-long epic struggle of the Indian people for freedom from British colonialism.

Battle of visions

The emergence of the conception of the “Idea of India’ was a product of the Indian people’s struggle. It arose from a continuous battle between three visions that emerged during the course of India’s struggle for freedom in the 1920s over the conception of the character of independent India. The mainstream Congress vision had articulated that independent India should be a secular democratic Republic. The Left, while agreeing with this objective, went further to envision that the political freedom of the country must be extended to achieve the socio-economic freedom of every individual, which is possible only under socialism.

Antagonistic to both these was the third vision, which argued that the character of independent India should be determined by the religious affiliations of its people. This vision had twin expressions—the Muslim League championing an “Islamic State” and the RSS championing a “Hindu Rashtra”. The former succeeded in the unfortunate partition of the country, admirably engineered, aided and abetted by the British colonial rulers, with all its consequences that continue to arouse tensions to date. The latter, having failed to achieve its objective at the time of Independence, continued with its efforts to transform modern India into its project of a rabidly intolerant fascistic “Hindu Rashtra”. In a sense, the ideological battles and the political conflicts in contemporary India are a continuation of the battle between these three visions.

When the Indian freedom movement rejected the RSS vision and established a secular democratic Republic, even after Partition, Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated, which led to the RSS being banned by the government of independent India. Sardar Patel issued the orders as India’s Deputy Prime Minister and first Home Minister. The country, unfortunately, thought that since the RSS was seeking the withdrawal of the ban for which it had promised to stay away from politics and confine itself as a “cultural organisation”, the threat of its fascistic “Hindu Rashtra” had receded. That this has not happened is now abundantly clear.

The term “Hindutva” was coined by Vinayak Damodar Savarkar in a small booklet published in 1923 by that very name. Here, he defines Hindutva as a political project, which has very little to do with the religious practice of Hinduism. In order to achieve this political project, he advanced the slogan “Hinduise all politics and militarise Hindudom”. It was Savarkar who, in his presidential address to the Hindu Mahasabha in December 1939, first put forward the thesis that in India there exist two nations—a Hindu and a Muslim. This was two full years before Muhammad Ali Jinnah advanced his two-nation theory in 1941.

Among the many facts that the RSS seeks to suppress are the mercy petitions given by V.D. Savarkar to the British seeking his release from the cellular jail in the Andamans. In his petition on November 14, 1913, he assures the British: “Now no man having the good of India and humanity at heart will blindly step on the thorny paths which in the excited and hopeless situation of India in 1906-1907 beguiled us from the path of peace and progress. Therefore if the Government in their manifold beneficence and mercy, release me I for one cannot but be the staunchest advocate of constitutional progress and loyalty to the English government which is the foremost condition of that progress” (R.C. Majumdar, Penal Settlement inAndamans, pages 211-213. A facsimile of another such letter was published in Frontline, April 7, 1995, page 94).

Seeking his release, he declared his “loyalty to the English government”. This came at a time when the British were mercilessly following their infamous “divide and rule” policy. They perfected this, post-1857, learning from the experience of our First War of Independence. The British came to the conclusion that if they were to permit ever again the unity of the various religious and linguistic, ethnic and other identities in India in a struggle against their rule, they had no chance of survival. A contemporary British chronicler, Thomas Lowe, in central India during the rebellion of 1857-59, wrote in 1860: “The infanticide Rajput, the bigoted Brahmin, the fanatic Mussalman, had joined together in the cause; cow-killer and the cow-worshipper, the pig-hater and the pig-eater…” had revolted together.

Inspired by Savarkar’s Hindutva, which dovetails the British strategy of “divide and rule’, and his slogan of militarisation, Dr B.S. Moonje, mentor to RSS founder Dr K.B. Hedgewar, travelled to Italy to meet the fascist dictator, Benito Mussolini. The meeting took place on March 19, 1931. His personal diary notes of March 20 reveal his fascination and admiration of the manner in which Italian fascism was training its youth (read storm-troopers) militarily. Upon his return to India, Moonje established the Central Hindu Military Education Society at Nashik in 1935, the precursor to the Bhonsala Military School established in 1937. Investigations had put this on the terror radar, following the attacks in Malegaon, Ajmer and Hyderabad.

The RSS forever denies any links with such people when they are caught or when their terror activities are exposed. For instance, the RSS always claimed that Nathuram Godse was not with the RSS when he shot Mahatma Gandhi, a claim strongly contested by Nathuram’s brother. Here is what Nathuram’s brother Gopal Godse had to say in a media interview: “All the brothers were in the RSS. Nathuram, Dattatreya, myself and Govind. You can say we grew up in the RSS rather than in our home. It was like a family to us. Nathuram had become a baudhik karyavah (intellectual worker) in the RSS. He has said in his statement that he left the RSS. He said it because Golwalkar and the RSS were in a lot of trouble after the murder of Gandhi. But he did not leave the RSS” (Frontline, January 28, 1994). The point, here, is not the technicality of somebody being a current member. The point is the venomous ideological indoctrination that the RSS and its affiliates undertake, which nurtures and promotes such violent militancy.

Sardar Patel’s RSS ban order speaks of the “cult of violence sponsored and inspired by the activities of the Sangh”. This continues to claim the lives of innocent victims as can be seen in the current onslaught of gau rakshak samitis. All this is part of a larger jigzaw puzzle, which aims to metamorphose the secular democratic Republic of modern India into the RSS project of a rabidly intolerant fascistic “Hindu Rashtra’. This is the real challenge today.

The Aryan myth

Akin to the proverbial last straw that broke the camel’s back, some recent findings based on scientific investigations on the genetic data suggest that there was, indeed, an Aryan migration into India around 3,500 to 4,000 years ago and that genetic evidence has shown that even today, at least 17.5 per cent of Indian males carry the specific Y-DNA, R1a Haplogroup. It is further shown that the R1a lineage in India mostly belongs to three subclades of the R1a+Z93, and these are only about 4,000 to 4,500 years old. This scientific study, whose conclusions appeared in The Hindu (“How genetics is settling the Aryan migration debate”, June 16, 2017), shatters the foundations of both Savarkar and Golwalkar whose essential basis for Hindutva and the Hindu Rashtra was centred around a claim that Aryans originated in India. Both concluded that Aryans are Hindus, and, Hindus alone, are the original inhabitants of these lands and all others are foreigners. Savarkar had, indeed, argued that non-Hindus living in India may consider India to be their pithrubhoomi/mathrubhoomi, even their karmabhoomi (place of work and occupation) but India is not their punyabhoomi (holy land). And, therefore, they are foreigners. But with the latest scientific study suggesting that Aryans themselves came into India from somewhere near the Caspian Sea in Central Asia/Europe, the foundations of the RSS project crumble.

Hindutva, therefore, as Savarkar had said, is a pure and simple political project sans any scientific and historical veracity. It is this politics that is today seeking to destroy the foundations of India’s secular democratic republican values and bring in its place a rabidly intolerant fascistic Hindu Rashtra.

Post-truth

This fascistic RSS ideological project is unfolding in the pervasive atmosphere of “post-truth”. The Oxford Dictionary has declared this term as its 2016 “Word of the Year” and defines it as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief”.

Emotional appeals and the building up of a personality cult continuously bombard us today with propaganda that India is prospering in a hitherto unknown manner and the only obstacle for creating an Indian ElDorado are Muslims, Christians and Communists. This is buttressed by the intense campaigns for communal polarisation and murderous attacks against Dalits and Muslims by the private armies of gau rakshaks and the moral police.

Speaking at the Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad on June 29, on the centenary of its founding, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that Gandhiji would have found it unacceptable that humans are killed in the name of protecting the cow. True, Gandhiji would have found this not merely unacceptable but abhorrent. But how does our Prime Minister and this government find it? Till date, there has been no outright condemnation either by the government or by the RSS/BJP. Neither has the BJP government at the Centre nor the BJP State governments initiated any action to implement the law of the land and book the culprits who are out on a murderous rampage across the country. These private armies, reminiscent of the “black” and the “brown shirts” of Hitler and Mussolini, are denying Indian people the fundamental right to life and liberty guaranteed by the Constitution. Yet, there is no deterrent action of implementing the existing laws and apprehending these criminals by the BJP governments, both at the Centre and in the States.

In a sense, post-truth is not something that was unknown in past human history. Hitler’s Propaganda Minister, Goebbels, advanced his famous dictum: “Tell a big enough lie, frequently enough; it becomes the truth.” This was the essence of the Nazi fascist propaganda machine and remains the backbone of the current Hindutva propaganda machine of the RSS.

Post-truth aims at creating a make-believe world in which people are forced to live and battle on issues based on emotional appeals totally divorced from the miseries of their day-to-day existence.

The battle against post-truth must be conducted by restoring to centre stage agenda, the day-to-day issues of people’s livelihood and the realities of the class struggles today.

To strengthen this battle, to create this counter political narrative, it is necessary to revisit the chilling articulation of the RSS fascistic project made by Golwalkar in his 1939 tract.

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