As a child, I was a regular at the local Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh [RSS] shakha in our neighbourhood. I was a proud Swayam Sevak soaking in the experience of being an imaginary soldier preparing to sacrifice my life in the service of my motherland like the great freedom fighters Bagha Jatin, Khudiram Bose, Baji Rout, Uddham Singh, Chandrasekhar Azad and Bhagat Singh. Reading about their heroic actions, hearing about the atrocities committed on my motherland over centuries by foreign invaders, discussing how Bharatmata was always betrayed by Jaichands would make my blood boil. The stories and patriotic songs practised daily would fill my young mind with great nationalist spirit. Then the daily exercise routines, games and the periodic camps etc. would instil in me the false notion of gaining physical strength to be used against imaginary enemies when the opportunity presented itself. The shakha would always have two portraits – one of the founder of RSS Dr K B Hedgewar and the second of Sarsanghchalak Sri M S Golwalkar. There would be on occasions a bigger portrait of Bharatmata that showed a map of India that included Afganistan, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh and Burma. That was the Akhand Bharat of ancient time – the ultimate destiny of our country – or so we were told, which we happily accepted without question. Without being overtly communal, our lessons would focus subtly on the fact that Hindu civilization has long suffered because it has been physically and militarily weak; it has never been united because of its internal divisions of caste and creed. The lessons would repeat how RSS’s role was to address these fundamental flaws in our society to help our country achieve its destiny of being Biswa Guru.
As far as I remember, the idea of a Hindu Rashtra was never discussed in the shakha. It is possible that such things would be injected into the discussion only when one graduated to senior ranks. Neither did I learn anything about hatred towards other communities except through very subtle emphasis on Islamic invaders and the atrocities committed by the Mughal rulers etc. The fact that there were no girls or Muslims in our Shakha didn’t strike me as odd since concepts like gender justice or communal harmony had not entered my consciousness. Now that we are on the verge of our country becoming a Hindu Rashtra, in fact by some accounts we are already a de facto Hindu Rashtra, it strikes me that there are significant inconsistencies in the goals of the RSS and Sangh Parivar.
With the recent debate around CAA – NPR – NCR, I wonder why BJP was making such a hue and cry about illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. After all, they are fellow citizens of the Akhand Bharat, an ideal the RSS has been preaching for decades. Like China does over Taiwan, Hong Kong, Tibet and even Arunanchal Pradesh and God knows what else, India should declare our ancient civilizational rights of Akhand Bharat and just make us a world power like China and wait for the opportune moment. Were that to be the case, CAA would be redundant. Even if we are successful in identifying all the illegal immigrants who are in the country, where would we send them? I doubt these unfortunate non-citizens who couldn’t prove their antecedents of being born in India will be able to prove their birth in Bangladesh or in some other country for that matter. Like demonetization, GST and repeal of article 370, the government seems to be keen on launching a scheme without thinking through how it would implement it. As a result, we have a situation where non-Muslims who were left out in the NRC process in Assam are now having to hand in a sworn affidavit to prove that they were born in Bangladesh. This is to enable them to qualify for citizenship under CAA whereas they had earlier submitted affidavits swearing that they were born in India! Either way, they will be liable to prosecution for perjury.
The biggest question, however, lies in the contradiction between the goal of Hindu Rashtra and Akhand Bharat. Assuming that BJP and Sangh Parivar achieve Hindu Rashtra by changing the constitution, would they then be ever able to achieve Akhand Bharat? Will an Islamic Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Buddhist Sri Lanka and Burma agree to come together with India? I doubt even our little brother, Nepal – that used to be the only Hindu Rashtra in the world which has now become officially secular and becoming closer to China, would want to be part of Akhand Bharat.
In this context and in the current crisis stemming from the Covid19 pandemic, these tendencies of the Hindutva brigade has metamorphosed into a tirade of hatred towards the minority community. The unfortunate case of Tabligh Jamat and subsequent developments have diverted attention from fighting the virus while taking care of the most vulnerable section of society. Today the joke goes that the Coronavirus was born in China and grew up in Italy but got its religion in India. With a catastrophic economic challenge looming following on from an already shaky GDP growth, the last thing India needs is communal enmity and disunity in the society. The communal virus must be fought with as much vigour as the coronavirus.
The author is an academician currently visiting Hong Kong University of Science and Technology as a Research Scholar. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org