Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s chief Mohan Bhagwat is a master of repetition. He has affirmed on numerous occasions that India ‘was’ a Hindu Rashtra. Most recently, in February, while delivering a formal lecture in Nagpur at the invitation of Lokmat Times, he asserted, “Hindu Rashtra banane ki baat nahi hai, kyunki woh hai” (there is no need to work for a Hindu Rashtra because it exists already). Every time, what he says, is tweaked a little bit from what was said on the previous occasion.
Last week, he went one better and declared Akhand Bharat shall be “reality soon.” As in the case of Hindu Rashtra, this is not the first time Bhagwat asserted that an expanded and monolithic India was one of the Sangh Parivar’s objectives.
What constitutes Akhand Bharat?
In fact, one of the lesser known divas or days that the RSS and organisations affiliated to it observe, is the Akhand Bharat Sankalp Diwas on August 14. The practice began after Independence and has been observed year after year unfailingly – it was marked even last year across the country by the local units of swayamsevaks.
In February last year, Bhagwat made a mention of specific countries while stating that there is a need for Akhand Bharat, and “it would suit better for countries like Pakistan which got separated from India…We consider countries like Pakistan and Afghanistan as ours. Once they are with us, it does not matter what they practise or what they eat. It is not colonialism. India believes in Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam (the world is one family).”
To buttress the RSS case for Akhand Bharat, Bhagwat asked why Pakistan and ‘Gandhar’ (he referred to Afghanistan by that name) were not at peace with one another and internally too, and then provided the answer: “Because they separated from the energy of life (India). We are open to treat them as our own as they were before.”
In his speech last week in Hardwar, Bhagwat went beyond what he has stated so far by providing a categorical time frame. Akhand Bharat, he said would become a reality “within 20-25 years and may be even earlier with some effort”. People who inhabit the Sangh ecosystem heard what was actually meant although the precise words were not used.
In numerous interventions, Bhagwat has detailed that countries that are part of the imagination of Akhand Bharat – Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and (yes this is true) Tibet – will not be brought under a single constitution.
However, they shall have a single defence force and a common president. In this chaotic and untenable idea of a ‘new’ nation, Bhagwat says, India ‘that is Bharat’ will become so dominant – on basis of religious identities, culturally, economically, and trade-wise, that there will be a constant flow of citizens within this monolith, with India as the epicentre, besides closer ties and constant interactions, between institutions, state and others, and individuals.
Bhagwat’s latest assertion was, however, made in ‘reactive mode’ and not of his own volition. Akhil Bharatiya Akhara Parishad president Swami Ravindra Puri who also heads the important Mahanirvani Akhara, was first off the blocks on this subject at the gathering of Hindu clergy in Hardwar.
The seer, however, based his claim that Akhand Bharat can be realised on “astrological predictions”. In contrast, Bhagwat exuded confidence of the goal being just a few years away due to the current state of politics and discourse in the country.
He in fact, halved the seer’s ‘waiting’ time from 20-25 years by saying that it is possible if efforts to realise Akhand Bharat that are already underway, were to be redoubled by people.
Perils of the vision
Bhagwat’s forecast was the headline news because the bulk of media repeats these assertions without understanding what objectives like Akhand Bharat would entail. There is need to examine the reasons behind the RSS chief’s confidence that the project is up and running and the goal is within grasp. Furthermore, what efforts have to be doubled up to ensure that Akhand Bharat becomes reality within a decade and a few years more?
This can be comprehended by taking note of Bhagwat’s other assertions in the same speech. For instance, in an obvious threat to those who do not agree with the views of the RSS, he almost threatened that India will talk non-violence, but also carry a stick to use it whenever required.
He said that India remains committed to non-violence, but would not hesitate in using the rod whenever required because the world understands power. Worryingly, Bhagwat did not indicate anywhere in his speech situations when using force or violence, according to him, would be justifiable.
The RSS chief limited himself to declaring, “we will walk with a stick. And that stick will be a heavy one…We have no ill-will, no enmity with anyone. The world only understands power. We should have strength, and it should be visible.”
Further ahead, Bhagwat declared Sanatan Dharma as being the synonym of Hindu Rashtra (that he has declared as already being a reality). “Those who want to stop it will be either removed or finished, but India will not stop,” he said. “Now a vehicle is on the move which has an accelerator but no brakes. No one should come in between. If you want to, come and sit with us or stay at the station.”
Growing ‘Hindu’ assertion
In his speech at Haridwar, Bhagwat expressed satisfaction as “jo chal raha hai” (what is going on or the flow of events). If one surveys what is underway in the country that is being appreciated by Bhagwat, it would not generate confidence among people who want peace and tranquillity, growth and development in the country.
Instead of going back to the past, a quick listing of what is ‘going on’ is worrying. The Hindu Right wing campaigns have been targeted against Friday prayers in public by Muslims, the BJP portraying Muslims and criminals as the same during the recently concluded assembly elections, the polarising ‘80-20 per cent’ campaign besides the aggressive meat bans during Navratras followed by muscle flexing processions on the occasions of Ram Navami and Hanuman Jayanti, previously little celebrated festivals.
Given all this, Bhagwat’s statement that after ‘merger’ – or whatever would be required from other nations – the RSS would not be bothered about culinary choices, is possibly among the most deceitful statements made by the RSS brass.
Not just in the inter-community field, but even in the civic area, the RSS is imposing its priorities and view of what is ‘correct’ as against the ‘incorrect, what is ‘patriotic’ and what constitutes ‘treason’.
The RSS general secretary, Dattatreya Hosabale declared the other day that student organisations were within their rights to be against the establishment (it is a different matter that the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad in BJP-ruled states speaks the language of the government), but no students body has the right to raise voices of division and speak about the country’s culture with disgust.
It has to be noted that what constitutes ‘divisive’ action for the RSS may not be so for its adversaries. Likewise, India is a land of multiple cultures, there is no ‘single’ culture that is also religion. The latter, however, is the doctrine followed by the RSS. Leaders of the RSS, by making such statements, are undermining the democratic quotient of the political discourse and questioning the right to dissent.
This argument is also reflected in the cause that the Sangh Parivar, from Prime Minister Narendra Modi to President Ramnath Kovind has championed: duties of citizens are more important than rights.
All that is being constantly said by Bhagwat, Hosabale and their ilk from the RSS is often echoed by various affiliates and BJP leaders. What was a whisper has now become a chorus and every utterance may be a repeat of what was stated in the past. But the vehemence has increased and is a matter of increased worry.
(The writer is a NCR-based author and journalist. His latest book is The Demolition and the Verdict: Ayodhya and the Project to Reconfigure India. His other books include The RSS: Icons of the Indian Right and Narendra Modi: The Man, The Times. He tweets at @NilanjanUdwin)
(The Federal seeks to present views and opinions from all sides of the spectrum. The information, ideas or opinions in the articles are of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Federal)