Pranab Mukherjee’s speech at RSS headquarters: The right, the secular and the victory
Both the invite and the speech of India’s ex president Mr. Mukherjee, at the RSS headquarters have sent the country on fire. Almost reminding theists and atheist claiming God’s and nature’s miracle respectively to the mesmerizing nature scenes on TV, both the right and the rest (secular) claim that India’s ex-president’s speech was on their side. But then, strangely, both converged on the ‘Indian ethos’.
Sadly, however, leaving grammar aside, the ex-president did make some factual errors in his speech. Although the ‘rest’ cherished the ‘bashing of the RSS men by the ex-president at their own turf; leaving aside his praise for what RSS stands for, the praise for their side i.e. secular India and the Aryan Dravidian divide were actually mistakes. If that were true, then the ‘rest’ would get nothing but the right wingers would have a field day.
What were the mistakes?
The Aryan Dravidian divide:
Irked by the accusation of them being the outsiders ruling over Indians, the divide and rule expert, British, invented the Aryan Invasion of India theory to imply that even North Indians, as Aryans, were outsiders who displaced Dravidians to the south and ruled over India. As scientific as chasing Biblical creation story for the Harappa archaeological site’s date, that theory was the mainstay of Indian thought till no evidence of violence was found at the site – to substantiate it. Thus, when it was too much to sustain, it was changed to the stubbornly sticking Aryan Immigration Theory. So much so that when real science of genetic study came to identify similar North and South Indian genes, that theory did not collapse like a pack of cards as it should, but stubbornly survived.
While the DMK cherished the divide to get and maintain power, Indian liberals were not less in the power game. Evidence seeking academics disregarded the find. They instead stubbornly continued the theory in the academia and retained the power. Amidst that Indian thought, the ex president’s view wouldn’t be any different. The Aryan Dravidian divide would be natural to him.
With the French and the American revolutions being done partly against the organised and power retaining churches by the less religious or nonreligious revolutionaries, and there being several competing power hungry churches, the states like France and the US decided their states to have nothing to do with the church. The states called themselves secular and they disregarded the contribution of the churches in the national struggle and the polity.
Indian revolution on the other hand, used religions to the till: both in the fight against the British, and that against the Hindus by Mr. Jinnah and his followers for a separate Pakistan. Astonishingly, the man to be the father of the nation, Gandhi, even supported the religious Khilafat Movement! In addition to the emotion of cow protection at the background, while India was seen as Bharat Mata, and hailed accordingly, slogans chanted and fought for her dignity; Gandhi himself was seen as a Hindu Mahatma.
After independence, Hindustan (India) was created for the Hindus and Pakistan for the Muslims. ‘Rest’ could live as minority in either country. Enforcing that, Lord Ram’s picture was enshrined in the first page of the constitution. But then, when Nehru, the loved chacha and a pundit, yet a socialist and the ‘last English ruler of India’, got a chance to be India’s first PM through unclean emotions rather than the democratic provincial voting, he did not want to leave. To this end, like him naughtily bestowing Bharat Ratna on himself, he opted for the addition of minority votes to retain his premiership – in addition to socialism – and disregarded Hindus. Secularism, thus, took birth in the Indian mind.
But then, unlike her western cousin, Indian secularism is not only strange and contradictory, but has a dark side to it. It didn’t come out of the needed referendum or even a full quorum of parliament, but was brought in the parliament in the darkest time of Indian democracy- the emergency. Yes this so called national ethos of India was inserted into the constitution during the emergency imposed by Mrs Indira Gandhi, when most MPs were in jail! It is that shallow.
Curiously however, despite that de jure status, India’s de facto workings are still Hindu. This is because, to the detriment of the feelings of the Christians and the Muslims, officially it still uses Namaskar; and lighting of lamp is done before official ceremonies. In addition, leaving aside Pakistan to name its missiles in the name of Muslim killers of Hindus – to add to a Hindu India – it still invokes the names of ancient Hindu personalities for its achievements like rockets and the rest. But then again, almost suggesting covertly done job is never perfectly done, a closer look at the constitution will reveal that even that de jure status is Hindu. For example, beef and pork in the British guns incited its 1st war of independence. But, disregarding Muslim sentiments and even ‘respect of all religions’ – as is very much trumpeted – its constitution still seeks ban on cow slaughter not on pig. Its direction to preserve Hindu culture doesn’t show respect to Islam. And, preservation of Christianity is left to the Pope alone – who appoints all Bishops in India.
However, irrespective of the above, the Indian intellectuals are still zapped by the buzz word ‘secular’. This speaker could not remain aloof, and in addition not quite being an Acharya the slogan, ‘Hinduism is a personal faith’ would grip him too.
The fact is that Hinduism is neither personal- as the Indian’ academics believe, nor a ‘way of life’, as the ‘scarcely Hindu’ Indian Supreme Court wrongly suggests. With Rajdharma (duty of a ruler) under a guru being well prescribed in the religion, like in Islam, politics is, in fact, inherent to Hinduism. In addition, despite the gross twisting of secularism in India to wrongly mean ‘respect of all religions’ – which itself incidentally comes out of Hindu coffers – secularism isn’t Hindu at all – however hard it is twisted!
Although Muslims and Christian cheer secularism for mundane gains, cheering absence of divine in the state simply amounts to promoting atheism in society. It, thus, becomes a sin in those faiths too. In addition, with India still being de facto Hindu, the Semitic faiths haven’t gained much either. Incidentally, tracing similar history, secularism wasn’t good for Pakistan either; for it was an anticlimax to the built up of Muslim emotions, and Jinnah died a sad disrespectful death very early!
It’s not all bad for the Hindus, though. Supported by the reduction of minorities and ex Muslims in Bangladesh and Pakistan, the killings and forceful expulsion of Kashmiri Pundits and making them refugees in their own country, and the Christian North East offering heathen look at the rest and even seeking separation from Hindu India the Hindus at least got ‘India is secular because of Hinduism’.
India, thus is not secular in its practice.
But then, does it have secular ethos as the grand old sire of the Congress Party with huge experience (He was regarded as the savior and the only thinker in the party) said in a few words, or did the believing Hindu, knowingly or unknowingly actually speak like an RSS man – in so many words.
For a start, neither Emperor Ashoka, whom he quotes, who sent Buddhist missionaries and who’s Chakra is in India’s flag secular, nor the Indian states of the 6th and 7th century that the Chinese travelers wrote so eloquently about were so. In fact, both Indians and India have always been religious and the ‘Hindu Taliban’ asserted by the fear mongering intellectuals today seems to have the logic of an Extra Terrestrial. The assimilation of people of other faiths in Indian history that he seems to be so proud of, wasn’t brought about by the Semites.
Also, instead of India – the British given secular sounding name, or even that given by the Moghuls – Hindustan – he uses, Bharata – a word with distinct Hindu connotation. Named after the glories of a cherished global Hindu emperor, who performed many Vedic sacrifices in the banks of its holy rivers Saraswati (now dried up), Ganges and the Yamuna, it is distinctly Hindu. His ‘Bharatiya’ includes sacrifice as an ethos of India that epitomizes the great sacrifice made by another Hindu emperor Bhagiratha to bring the Ganges down from its celestial realm – for the welfare of the people. It also includes not only the sacrifices to the country made by its Lord Rama, but aspires for a ‘Ram Rajya’ – an ideal rule that saw happiness and prosperity of all citizens (surve vhawantu sukhinah) – irrespective of race or creed.
His speech was certainly in English – possibly for a wider audience. But, his quotations were not in that language, which is today’s elite and academic language loved by secularists and used by its think tank and the courts, but in Sanskrit – a language that is vilified by them as brahminical, exploitative and dead. He was not even quoting the sayings of the Western philosophers, as is routinely done in India. With Indians having to go to the West to learn about their own country, they don’t have much choice anyway.
Likewise, far from the established contribution to democracy made by Greece, UK and the USA, almost reminding the RSS strongman PM Modi’s assertion on Ganesh’s head transplant, he quotes Chanakya to say democracy arose in India much earlier than in the three.
Yes, demanding pluralism for national ethos he opposed a single religion at the helm. However, countries are formed by and for majority, who offer the ethos and not the minority who are instead given equal rights. Thus, while negating him, the USA unashamedly asserts a white Anglo-Protestant ethos, India does so with Hinduism.
However, in contrast to the propagated and feared ‘Hindu Taliban’ said above, while this has seen a Hindu king building the first mosque outside Arabia for Muslims, it has made Israeli Knesset pass a resolution thanking India for being the only country in the world, where Jews were not persecuted. The ethos that let these happen, however, did not come out of multiple invasions and assimilation over centuries, as the man says. Its ethos was ingrained in its scriptures a long time back.
Hence, while even atheism (Charvaka) as one of the six system of thoughts takes its ethos to the tip of pluralism rather than just toleration as Swami Vivekananda aptly broached, wrapping pluralism in love its concept of ‘vasudhaiba kutumbakam – world is a family – takes it towards the ideal of humanity. In addition, unlike in democracy in which 49% grudgingly live under the tyranny of 51% majority, it’s Lord Ram’s sacrifice to quash a family’s discontent offers the ideal practice of ‘sarve vawantu sukhinah’ (let all be blissful).
Nonetheless, diversity could go wrong, when taken too far; and it did. It was Adi Sankaracharya, whom some consider as the real father of the nation as opposed to Gandhi, who had to tour extensively and unite India by using his unparalleled knowledge.
But then, finishing off secularism and pluralism, he suddenly seemed to do a volte-face with a, ‘bharat mata ki jai’ – hail Mother India. This core slogan of the RSS and an irrational statement to the rest, in no way resembles the fatherland of the communists and mother Mary of the Christians. It is, in fact, a great shirk (sin) for the devout Muslim too – who vociferously opposes it.
From the above, it is, therefore, clear that the secular party’s leader suddenly sounded more like a communal and a Sanghi. Yes the US minorities are never helped with a similar question, but should not the 4th pillar’s favorite and persistent question to the ethos asserting RSS, ‘ … what about the Muslims & Christians’ be directed towards the grand old sire?
The occasion itself was rather unusual. While the liberal secularist’s centre, JNU that claims to cherish free speech enjoys the right to talk about breaking India but frowns on the nationalist views, Mr Bhagawat, the chief of the rigid, intolerant anti-Muslim etc. accused RSS apprises all of RSS’s tradition of inviting people of different views – including communists – to its functions, in order to learn more. Almost correcting the ex president – a victim of the British divide of Aryans and Dravidians – he even quoted scientific research to claim that all Indians share the same ancestry. In fact, it is that scientific truth the hated RSS wants the minorities to air.
All in all, in this round at least, the ones on the right seem to have won. Let’s see what the present day Congress Party chief Rahul Gandhi does to the RSS invite to a similar pedestal.