Monday, December 4, 2023

On Devanura’s ‘RSS: The Long and Short of it’

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Devanura pins down the ideology that has remained constant in the long history of RSS and calls for action on the part of those who want to save secular India. The booklet lays bare the vile nature of RSS amidst the propaganda of the far right to establish its credentials in the freedom struggle and sworn commitment to the constitution of India. Devanura in his adolescence was swayed by the RSS’s rhetoric of ‘all Hindus being equal’ and misapprehended it as a Casteless organisation. Under the belly, he soon discovered caste prejudice, anti-Minority sentiments, displeasure at inter-caste alliances and double-speak on the constitutional ethos.

The ideas informing its ideology are derived from the redundant Hindu scriptures that argue for a nation based on a strict four-fold division of Hindu society, admitting minorities without allowing any privileges or freedoms to propagate and practice their culture. In essence, precisely put, the RSS seeks the erasure of vibrant differences and imposition of ‘homogenised singularities’. We concede with Davanura that ‘no sensible Brahmin even can accept this devilish view of the past that the RSS presents.’ 

Diversity a Poisonous Seed

Quoting the ideologues of the RSS, Golwalker and Savarkar, Devanura unpacks their stance on the cultural and religious diversity of India. They considered diversity as a ‘poisonous seed’. The vast diversity and plurality that India hoped to value by adopting a federal structure of the state has been under attack by the RSS. The nature of this siege reveals a certain homogenising and hegemonizing impulse of their ideology. Golwalker envisioned an India where the federal structure would be dismantled to pave way for ‘one country, one state, one legislature, one executive…’.  Their inspiration harks back to Nazism and Hitler. The ideas related to pride and purity of race were unashamedly borrowed from Fascism in Europe. The Hindu Mahasabha and the public figures that are respected among the RSS workers maintained a connection with the fascists in Europe. The project that culminated in the holocaust and the mass exodus of Jews should have been detested. Albeit, for the RSS the ideological thrust behind it becomes worthy of emulation. The concerted attempts of the RSS post-independence to forge a communal state eschewing diversity and imposing singularities attest to the continuation of ‘Nazism’. Savarkar thought Nazism was ‘[a] congenial tonics their[Indians] health demanded.’ By the writ of this ideology, not everyone living within the national territories becomes an equal fellow citizen; it constructs a national race whose rights are prioritised over the minorities. In the purview of RSS’s ideology, only two possibilities exist for the minorities: ‘either to merge themselves in the national race and adopt its culture, or to live at its mercy as long as the national race may allow them to do so and to quit the country at the sweet will of the national race.’ 

RSS has been rightly called a master disguiser. Despite holding Golwalker at the pinnacle of its ideological articulation, in recent times the RSS either purged his texts of their anti-constitutional and communal venom or deployed convoluted language to repack the same deplorable views. 

Whose Hindu Rashtra?

Devanura detects a thread that runs in RSS’s working over the years to the present climactic times—Hindu Rashtra. From the pre-independence to the post-liberalisation era, the RSS has been rallying behind the long-cherished desire of seeing India become a Hindu Rashtra. According to Devanura, the ‘Hindu Rashtra’ would be a nation with strong foundations in the law of Manu, exonerated by the RSS ideologues.

The view however was critically examined by Aakar Patel in Our Hindu Rashtra. He dismisses the possibility of such a nation. And postulates that even the ruling BJP cannot move away from the present constitutional structure, therefore, ‘Hindu Rashtra’ stands for a nation not based on Manu’s laws, but a nation formed by exclusions and eliminations. Given the nature of the modern Indian state, it will be impossible to follow the dharmic injunctions of caste in overlooking the functioning of the state. Patel defines Hindu Rashtra as the‘ exclusion and persecution of India’s minorities, particularly Muslims.’ Devanura doesn’t reflect on the possibility or impossibility of Hindu Rashtra.

He intends the booklet as a warning even to the marginalised sections within the Hindu society to be wary of the RSS and its ‘Hindu Rashtra’. It stresses the need to fight the fascist powers by reclaiming the democratic space established under the aegis of our constitution. But Patel, unlike Devanura, is reluctant to place complete faith in the constitution; he argues, the plurality was merely paid lip service and India had already become a Majoritarian state(before the rise of Modi) by privileging Hindutva and restricting the rights of its minorities. Nevertheless, both agree on the necessity and possibility of fighting back. 

Devanura’s home state, Karnataka, has emerged as a new laboratory for Hindutva politics, and so far, it is the only state in South India to fall for the divisive and communal politics of the BJP. The state has witnessed alarming incidents of communal hatred; Love Jihad, Calls for Ban on Hijab, Ban on Azaan and Ban on Halal meat neatly folded into familiar Hindutva operations. The urgency of the booklet cannot be missed, Devanura sums up the thought behind it: Thieves have entered the village. What do we do? How do we stop them? Before anything else is done, the entire locality must become wide alert.

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