Thursday, Jun 20, 2024 | Last Update : 09:07 PM IST

  Opinion   Columnists  28 May 2024  Aakar Patel | What lies behind the ideology of the BJP and RSS: An insider’s look

Aakar Patel | What lies behind the ideology of the BJP and RSS: An insider’s look

Aakar Patel is a senior journalist and columnist
Published : May 28, 2024, 12:44 am IST
Updated : May 28, 2024, 12:44 am IST

Understanding Hindutva: Devanura Mahadeva's intellectual critique of RSS ideology

 In "RSS: The Long and Short of It," Mahadeva delves into the primary texts of Hindutva to uncover the underlying principles and potential impact on Indian society. (Image: Twitter)

The Bharatiya Janata Party is India’s largest political force but its ideology is not properly understood. Some aspects of it — the opposition to dynasty, the promise of economic development — are clear, even though these may not be adhered to by the party fully. The largest component of the ideology, what is called Hindutva, or Hindu nationalism, is quite vague. What does it mean and what is it intended to achieve?

Devanura Mahadeva, a famous Karnataka writer, explores this with his work on the parent body of the BJP. In the book RSS: The Long and Short of It, Mahadeva attempts to understand what the RSS is and what it wants through the simple device of reading Hindutva’s primary texts. These are V.D. Savarkar’s works and M.S. Golwalkar’s Bunch of Thoughts. The writer describes his motivation to do this through a parable. A sorcerer who spread turmoil was invincible because his life was stored in a parrot in a distant cave. He thus remained untouched by action against his own person. The only way to get at him was to go after this life-soul, in that hidden parrot. Mahadeva thus goes on this quest to see what lies behind Hindutva.

In his encounter with Golwalkar, he finds the RSS head worshipped caste and asked that the rest of us worship it. In Bunch of Thoughts, Golwalkar says the Hindu people are his god and this god manifests itself through caste. Meaning the organisation of Hindu society in the way Manu described it (Brahmin head, Kshatriya arms, Vaishya thighs and Shudra feet) is the entity that is worthy of worship. In 1960, Golwalkar said caste could be used for cross-breeding superior humans, like it was done in animals. This was done by Hindus earlier, through upper caste men fathering the first child of a woman married to someone else. It may interest readers to know that Europe in the feudal period may have had something similar called “droit du seigneur” (right of the lord), allowing feudal lords to have sexual relations with subordinate women on the wedding nights of the women. That this was straight exploitation of the weak and not some noble thing does not appear to have occurred to Golwalkar.

If such things are not pushed forth by the RSS cadre or the BJP, it is not because these statements have been withdrawn but because they are likely confident that few people will do what the author has done and actually read the primary texts. It would be interesting to see a television debate today on whether or not the caste system should be worshipped and ossified as the RSS wants it to be.

Mahadeva makes a number of original observations. He says the RSS has defanged the religions that sprang out of India but rejected the caste that he wants worshipped. “The RSS tries to pull out the teeth and nails of Jaina, Bouddha, Sikh, Lingayat and other dharmas that were born in India and rejected the Chaturvarna order”. By merely saying that these are Hindu faiths, it is sought to subsume them. There is no resistance to this internally, he writes, because the RSS in fact does not encourage thinking. Of the title Bunch of Thoughts itself, he says there is not much thinking in the work, only a series of “random, dangerous beliefs and that too from a bygone age”. Thinking is discouraged in the RSS through the insistence on order over diversity. The RSS “tames” its volunteers, Mahadeva writes, and quotes Golwalkar as saying that they must “do what is told… if told to play kabaddi, play kabaddi, told to hold a meeting, then hold a meeting… their discretion is not required”.

Among the things this cadre is taught is that the Constitution is flawed. The very idea of states is offensive to them, because there can be only one Bharat Mata, and the existence of a Karnataka, Gujarat or Bengal is wrong. The stress for homogeneity over diversity shows, the author writes, in such things as nomenclature. The RSS and the BJP refer to Adivasis as “vanvasis” (forest dwellers), this eroding their indigenous identity.

Mahadeva calls Hindutva a “cow-faced tiger”, an entity that is eating at Indian society from within. The Prime Minister, he says, is popular but is only an “utsava murti”, a replica of an idol that is led out at a procession. “The real deity sits in Nagpur, inside the RSS shrine.” The only qualifications required of the “utsava murti” are the ability to put up a show and mesmerise people. Mahadeva asks: “Don’t we see all of this today?”

What does he offer as a solution? He gives the example of a village that is overrun by thieves.

“First, the entire town wakes up. At night youth take turns patrolling and keeping watch in mohallas. Women carry chilli powder with them. This is the kind of awakening and vigil we all need. Because these thieves can come in different guises; they may come for temple maintenance, for instance. Fake news can be spread. Hymn singing can be organised. The only way out is to first uncover the plot. This requires us to be vigilant. Further, at least now, the sane voices which are a scattered few need to speak up about right and wrong. Words like love, tolerance, justice need to be heard from within our society.”

The intellectual content of books is sometimes judged by how long they are. Mahadeva himself refers to his work as a “booklet”. Let this description not mislead the potential reader. This is a first-rate work and the most important intellectual attack on the times we are going through, and for that reason has also become the most popular.


Tags: rss ideology, hindutva, bharatiya janata party (bjp)