Syed Khalique Ahmed
NEW DELHI—What is the definition of the Hindu Rashtra? The phrase Hindu Rashtra has been repeatedly used by the leaders and workers of the Sangh Parivar, or the organizations affiliated with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), to convert India into a Hindu Rashtra. The oft-repeated phrase has created fear in the minds of minorities, particularly Muslims, because there is a general belief that the Hindu Rashtra replacing the Indian Republic run with a secular Constitution will deprive the minorities of their religious freedom and other rights available to all Indian citizens as of now.
However, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat, in his annual Dussehra speech in Nagpur on October 5, has defined the concept of Hindu Rashtra and tried to allay the fear of the minorities from “the organized Hindus” to which he has tried to equate with Hindu Rashtra. His assertions are significant because of his position as head of the RSS family, of which BJP, the present ruling party, is an offshoot.
Stating that “the concept of Hindu Rashtra is being taken seriously” because many people agreed with the concept, he said there were also some people who were opposed to it because of the word “Hindu” in it, and they preferred other words in place of it.
However, he said that he had no issue with that. But, he stressed that the RSS would continue to emphasize the word Hindu for clarity of the concept.
Pointing out that all diversity in the country has been accepted and respected since ancient times irrespective of differences in geography, language, religion, lifestyle, and diversities in social and political systems, he clarified that “no one needs to forego anything” other than “narrow-mindedness, fundamentalism, aggression, and ego” in the Hindu Rashtra. However, he did not explain what narrow-mindedness, fundamentalism, and aggression is.
Devotion to Bharat is compulsory for every Indian: Bhagwat
But, he made it clear that there were three things or “pillars” that are compulsory for everybody to practice – “Devotion to Bharat,” “shining ideals of our ancestors” and “the great Sanskriti of our country”. To this, Bhagwat called “our selfhood and Rashtra Dharma(duty towards the nation).” But he has not explained the meaning of devotion to Bharat. Does it mean the reverence or worship of Bharat, a geographical area, which will be antagonistic to the concept of Islamic monotheism in which none is worthy of worship or devotion except the Almighty Allah? However, patriotism or loyalty toward the nation is an altogether different thing. Bhagwat has also not named who our ancestors are. Does he include the religious, spiritual, and political leaders of the minorities as well? Are Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti of Ajmer and Nizamuddin Aulia of Delhi included among “our ancestors”? And what does he mean by the great “Sanskriti of our country”, or the culture of India because culture is not independent of religion? Culture is always derived from religion. Sometimes culture and religion overlap so much that culture often becomes religion, and religion becomes culture. Since Islam is a monotheistic religion and hence, the culture that evolved from it is different from the culture derived from Hinduism, a polytheistic religion. Does he mean to impose the ancient Indian culture or the Hindu culture with polytheistic beliefs on Muslims and other non-Hindu minorities? Bhagwat needs to clarify because he has described the three practices or pillars identical to “Rashtra Dharma,” or “duty towards the nation”.
But the biggest question is: Will India be run by the Constitution or the worldview of the RSS? The answer to this question is essential because Bhagwat has nowhere mentioned the Constitution’s supremacy in running the country’s affairs. Moreover, who is Bhagwat to decide the duties of the citizens towards the nation? Will the minorities and others in India live as per the dictates of the RSS and its chief or the provisions of the Constitution?
What does Bhagwat mean by the term Hindu Rashtra?
Stating that “the virtuous forces (read Hindus) need to have organized strength of their own”, Bhagwat said that “this work is Hindu Sangathan work because the abovementioned thought is called as the thought of Hindu nation.” In the same vein, he says that “therefore, without opposing anybody, Sangh organizes the Hindu society for protecting the Hindu Dharma, Sanskriti, Samaj, and an all-round development of the Hindu Rashtra.” But what does Bhagwat mean by Hindu nation or Hindu Rashtra? Are there other Rashtra also within India? Can Hindu Rashtra or Hindu nation be equivalent to India or Bharat mentioned in the Constitution? Does his reference to India, that is, Bharat, as a Hindu Rashtra not amount to an affront to the Constitution of India and the Indian nationhood? Are Hindus, as a religious community, the only people living in India that he refers to India as Hindu Rashtra? Are there no people of other religious denominations residing in India? A Hindu is considered a person whose religion is Hinduism. So, how can he refer to the entire Indian population with different religious beliefs as Hindu? Though at another place, he has referred to India as Bharat. Why this obsession with Hindu Rashtra when India or Bharat is a multi-religious and multi-cultural nation? Why does he not call India as Bharat Rashtra? Why is he obsessed with Hindu Rashtra? In his previous speeches, Bhagwat said that all those living in India are Hindus because of their common ancestry, as people of non-Hindu faiths are converts from the local Hindu population. When he accepts that there are people of non-Hindu faiths also, why should he describe the country as a “Hindu nation” because doing so amounts to subjugating other religions and cultures?
Why does Bhagwat avoid using the phrase Indian Muslims or Bharatiya Muslims?
Why does Bhagwat not refer to Muslims as Indian Muslims or Bharatiya Muslims? Why is he allergic to the phrase Indian Muslims or Bharatiya Muslims? Similarly, he can also refer to Hindus as Indian or Bharatiya Hindus because Hindus are not confined to the geographical boundaries of India only. There are Hindus living in large numbers in Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Fiji, and Mauritius. Besides India, Nepal and Mauritius are also Hindu-majority countries. There are Hindus spread all over Europe, America, and Canada. They have settled in Africa also.
Bhagwat refers to Muslims as “so-called” minorities
In his speech, he also mentioned the phrase “so-called minorities.” This means there are no minority communities in India, and everyone belongs to the Hindu community only. Should it be construed that people of other faiths are part of the majority Hindu community, or will they be assimilated into the majority community in due course of time? This would be the only logical conclusion because he has repeatedly been saying that everybody in India is Hindu. It is for Bhagwat to clarify to remove misunderstanding from the minds of the minority communities because using phrases like “so-called minorities” may have severe consequences as it comes from the mouth of someone holding the position of a patron for the party in power. Is it the reason why the BJP government at the Centre is planning to scrap the Ministry of Minority Affairs?
He says that minorities don’t need to fear the Sangh or the “organized Hindus.” “This has not happened in the past, nor will it happen in the future,” he assures. “This is neither the nature of Sangh nor the Hindus,” he claims. But the experience of the minorities has been totally different from his tall claims.
Referring to the recent meeting of some “elite” Muslims with him and other Sangh Parivar leaders, he said that Sangh would continue the Muslim outreach programme. He referred to the “elite Muslims” as “gentlemen” from the “so-called Minority community”.