RSS ideologue and BJP national general secretary Ram Madhav, in a piece titled “Coming full circle at 70” in the Indian Express on Independence Day(15 Aug 2017), argued that for the first time in 70 years, India’s rulers are in tune with the “core ideology” of India’s people. His piece argued that “Jawaharlal Nehru represented the colonisers’ view, while Gandhi became the voice of native wisdom” and emphasis on “village life in India” and that the Modi Government finally reflects Gandhi’s views rather than Nehru’s. The piece claimed that “The crucial formative years after independence were thus dominated by a western liberal discourse that had very little Indian content,” and that “for the first time in 70 years, the idea with a reference point in India’s genius has become the dominant idea under Prime Minister Modi. Just as Nehru never shied away from exhibiting his fascination for western ideas, Modi is ever ready to wear quintessential Indian ideas on his sleeve.” The piece concluded “The liberal unease is palpable. Their plight is best described by Edward Luce in his book through a less-used Greek word demophobia — fear of the mob. The mob, humble people of the country, are behind Modi. They are finally at ease with a government that looks and sounds familiar. They are enjoying it.”
Ram Madhav’s use of the word “mob” is quite deliberate: he implies that it is only liberals with western ideas who have any unease about mob lynchings of Muslims, Dalits and women; India’s majority is as if “enjoying it.” He is implying that Constitutional values that defend the rights and cultures of diverse minorities and dissenting voices are “alien” and “western”, while the muscular majoritarianism of Modi or Yogi Adityanath reflect the “genius of India.”
Let us ask ourselves: suppose we assume that the majority of Indians believe in caste discrimination, in dowry extraction, in the suppression of women’s autonomy, in communal prejudice, would that mean that caste discrimination, suppression of women and communal prejudice are “nationalist” and struggles against these are alien and anti-national? That is precisely what Ram Madhav is implying.
Ambedkar’s outlook can be contrasted to that of Ram Madhav’s – i.e the Sangh’s. Recognising the contradiction between the promise of political equality (one person one vote and one vote one value), and the grim reality of socio-economic inequality, recognizing that the majority of Indians are not naturally democratic in their sensibilities and values, Ambedkar stressed the need to nurture Constitutional morality rather than celebrate mob morality as “Indianness.”
Today, there is an attempt to impose RSS ideology – as articulated by Ram Madhav – on our campuses. To denigrate campuses like JNU or HCU or Jadavpur, the Sangh, ABVP, and BJP regularly claim that these campuses are “anti-Indian” – because these campuses challenge caste, gender, and class violence and discrimination. Women of these campuses are branded “prostitutes” by BJP leaders because they demand and assert freedom. While “caste” is equated with nationalism by Ram Madhav, anti-caste activists like Rohith Vemula are branded “anti-national” and hounded to death.
In our country and on our campuses, we need to expose and resist the Sangh ideology and its attempts to dress up its regressive communalism, casteism, and patriarchy as ‘Indianness’ and ‘nationalism.’
RSS Wanted Manusmriti to Be India’s Constitution
The RSS mouthpiece Organizer in an editorial (‘The Constitution’) on November 30, 1949, complained:
“The worst about the new constitution of Bharat is that there is nothing Bhartiya about it…in our constitution, there is no mention of the unique constitutional development in ancient Bharat. Manu’s Laws were written long before Lycurgus of Sparta or Solon of Persia. To this day his laws as enunciated in the Manusmriti excite the admiration of the world and elicit spontaneous obedience and conformity. But to our constitutional pundits that means nothing.”
Remember, Ambedkar burned the Manusmriti publicly as a symbol of caste and gender oppression, because it prescribed that:
- A girl, a young woman, or even an old woman should not do anything independently, even in (her own) house. In childhood, a woman should be under her father’s control, in youth under her husband’s, and when her husband is dead, under her sons; a woman must never be independent.’ (Chapter 5:147-148).
- Any women violating duty and code of conduct towards her husband, is disgraced and becomes a patient of leprosy. After death, she enters womb of Jackal. (Chapter 5:164).
- The Lord assigned only one activity to a servant (Shudra), serving these (other) castes without resentment.” (Chapter 1: 91).
- If a man of the lower castes makes love with a woman of the higher caste, he should be given corporal punishment (Chapter 8:366)
- If a man of one birth (a Shudra) hurls abuse at one of the twice born, his tongue should be cut out…if he is so proud as to instruct priests about their duty, the king should have hot oil poured into his mouth and ears. (Chapter 8: 270-272)
Today, reflecting the Manusmriti ideology, Yogi Adityanath the BJP’s UP CM, also writes that women should be denied freedom. The RSS and its outfits like ABVP prescribe dress codes for women, attack women choosing their own life-partners. The RSS and its ideologues regularly describe caste hierarchy as “Indian culture” and attack Dalits for asserting otherwise.
Below, we reproduce a powerful take-down of Ram Madhav’s argument by Kavita Krishnan (former JNUSU Joint Secretary and AISA National President, now Politburo member of the CPI(ML)), which appeared in today’s Indian Express (dated 29 August 2017).
Getting India Wrong
In his article “Coming full circle at 70”, RSS and BJP leader Ram Madhav argues that for the first time after independence, India’s rulers are “rooted in India’s genius,” because “high constitutional positions” are all held today by individuals subscribing to “the same ideological fraternity” of “the Conservative Right” that according to Madhav, represents India’s “core”, as it does America’s.
Madhav implies that Nehru’s ideology was alien and represented the “coloniser’s view” while Gandhi’s was Indian. Madhav seems to conveniently forget that Gandhi’s killer too was of the same “ideological fraternity” to which Kovind, Naidu, and Modi belong. There is a wealth of documentary evidence to show those of the RSS’ “ideological fraternity” collaborated with the colonizers and were inspired by Italian and German fascism. Savarkar promised to be the “the staunchest advocate of loyalty” to the colonial Government (letter dated November 24, 1913). Shyama Prasad Mukherjee as a Minister in Bengal helped the British combat the Quit India Movement (Mookerjee, Leaves from a Diary, OUP, 1993, pp 175-190). Golwalkar (We or Our Nationhood Defined, 1939, p. 35) described Germany’s purge of Jews as “race pride…a good lesson for us in Hindusthan to learn and profit by.”
Debates between Nehru, Gandhi, Bhagat Singh, and Ambedkar deserve serious reflection; but the fact remains that they were all part of anti-colonial resistance, abhorred the “Hindu Raj” project, and upheld ideals of diversity and dignity for the weak and vulnerable. The Sangh and its ideological brothers, on the other hand, had only the “Hindu Rashtra” inspired by Fascism for its ideal.
Madhav’s claim that India’s current rulers reflect Gandhi’s prioritization of villages is mocked by the BJP Governments’ ongoing plan to drown out the land of 40000 village families waging a Gandhian satyagraha against the Sardar Sarovar Dam.
It is interesting here that Madhav lists caste – that Ambedkar branded as “anti-national” and sought to annihilate – as part of the corpus of “the genius of India.” Madhav is celebrating social hierarchies as “Indian”, and deriding Constitutional values as “western liberal discourse.” The RSS organ, Organiser (in an editorial on November 30, 1949) had, in a similar vein complained that India’s Constitution was inspired by the West and did not reflect the native genius of the Manusmriti.
Madhav’s use of the word “mob” implies that only the alien, deracinated “western” elites are offended by the spate of lynch mob violence; ordinary Indians are “enjoying it”. The Supreme Court’s historic ruling on right to privacy also affirms that attacks on Constitutional liberties of the minorities – including those of diet and faith – cannot be justified by claims that the mob/majority is “enjoying it.”
It is worth recalling Ambedkar’s candid words here: “Constitutional morality is not a natural sentiment… We must realise that our people have yet to learn it. Democracy in India is only a top dressing on an Indian soil which is essentially undemocratic.” Far from celebrating the undemocratic “Indian soil” as “genius of India”, Ambedkar called upon Indians to transform the soil itself with democratic nutrients that could nurture the sapling of democracy.
In 70 years, India’s rulers have not made any serious effort to transform that soil. It is movements and struggles of India’s people –movements of workers, peasants, Dalits, feminists, socialists, the Left; movements for civil liberties and environmental justice – that have done so, confronting and facing repression by Governments ruled by the Congress and other parties in the process. Rulers have – in vain – branded those movements (the feminist movement for instance) as ‘alien’ and ‘western’: but the movements lived and thrived with the confidence that they represent the striving of Indians to be the best version of themselves.
Fascism always boasted of endorsement and even adoration from “the mob”, always claimed itself to be organic and its enemies, alien. But the fact is that the fascist mob – while it may draw on illiberal tendencies and traditions – is not born but bred by conscious political effort and craft. And “humble” people who become members of the fascist mob do realize their colossal crime later: Nazism, once equated with German nationalism, is now reviled and loathed not only in Germany but the world over.