India's PM successfully cultivated the lessons of Savarkar and Golwalkar, the forefathers of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)— the far-right organization— into the minds of people in India.
India—the world's ‘largest democracy,’ adopted several measures to curb the coronavirus outbreak. In March, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, out of the blue, announced a complete lockdown asking Indians to follow "Laxman Rekha"—a boundary line drawn by mythical figure Laxman, Lord Ram's brother in the "Hindu" epic Ramayana to save Ram's wife Sita from getting kidnapped; if she did not cross that line, none could enter and take her away.
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Of the many problems that the story has such as—"only a man" could protect a woman and that "outsiders are the enemy," the PM's use of a mythical figure for asking people to remain in their houses has certainly been hazardous towards a scientific society.
Forget "scientific" of "scientific society," days before the lockdown, Modi asked Indians to clap and clang utensils outside their homes to thank those working on the frontlines to curb the virus. Almost everyone started clanging utensils and shouted: "Go corona go." Thousands of WhatsApp fake messages did rounds saying that the timing of clanging utensils proposed by Modi would generate a huge sound wave to kill the virus.
On April 5, Sunday, as the clock hit 9 p.m. Indians turned off lights, lit candles and earthen lamps (dia) in acquiescence to Modi's call "to fight the darkness spread by the coronavirus." Again WhatsApp fake messages said light will increase the atmospheric temperature that eventually would kill the virus.
It may appear that his "lockdown and lighting dia for nine minutes" announcement was to make people aware of the virus' deadliness, but Mr. Modi did not even spare this tumultuous time to impose what the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had appointed him for— to make Hindutva, a national consciousness.
He successfully cultivated the lessons of Savarkar and Golwalker, the forefathers of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) into the minds of people of India, which otherwise, has been home to a populace, full of diversity, which is being dented each day to impose Hindu Rashtra in India.
From my uneducated Muslim neighbors living in a ghetto to the so-called well-read Vice-chancellor of India's prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), everyone succumbed to the "generous" pressure of the party in power. In fact, the former president of the Indian Medical Association (IMA), Mr. K K Agarwal said in a tweet— burning candles collectively is based on the principles of "collective consciousness."
"Consciousness" is a strong word. It means—the state of being able to use your senses to understand what is happening. Read a sentence for example—A new consciousness about the consequences of the Prime Minister's announcements is necessary. Further, take an analogy—When a dog barks, we run. If we do not, we are doomed. Now, we are at a crossroads where the country seems unwilling to use its senses, no matter who barks at it.
In Bunch of Thoughts authored by Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar, the word—consciousness has been used 46 times. He based his entire argument on consciousness or the lack of it and connected it with the word— national. "Our view of the relation between individual and society has been … born out of the consciousness of a single Reality," he wrote.
If anyone is not insane or unconscious, one could see through the trickery and ask—How can "Reality" be single? For the RSS, it actually is. It believes in the superiority of the Brahmins— the dominant caste in the Caste system, that it (RSS) adheres to. When the name for the organization was being thought, some suggested that it must be Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh and not Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (National Volunteer Corps). But, it obnoxiously thought that this nation (Rashtra) Hindostan (India) belonged to the Hindus.
In that context, the Rashtra became allegory to the dominant caste Hindus. This is when the term Hindu got impregnated with Rashtra for the first time and conceived a lexicon for the ruling dispensation. Narendra Modi, before becoming the Prime Minister of India, unequivocally said that he was a Hindu and a nationalist.
Now, in his video message, when he asked Indians to light dia, he was only summarising Golwalkar's book. The former RSS chief wrote, "...lit up the dismal darkness surrounding all-round, inspire(d) confidence in frustrated hearts, breathe(d) life into the near-dead and he(o) aloft the living vision of success and inspiration." These were also the exact words that passed through the PM's mouth. In fact, he covertly copied and converted Golwalkar's text to best suit his speech.
To "imbibe Indianness" in students from Northeast India residing in Pune, Golwalkar advised his followers to accommodate them not in a "western-styled" room, but in a house where dia was lit in morning and evening. This could potentially lead one to initial evidence of racism in the RSS.
In the blame game of who spread the virus, China was first to be named. Some men spat on a Delhi University lecturer from Northeast for apparently she looked "Chinese." It is not rocket science to know which "Indianness" suggested people spit on anyone?
It cannot be unthought of, and coincidental that the PM asked Indians to light dia to fight COVID-19. The only difference this time is that modern equipment accompanied dia. This is how modern Hindutva looks like. Golwalkar's "national-consciousness" has been restricted only to the Brahmins and taking "Indianness" as the base, he called Muslims and Christian "alien," "foe" and someone who belonged to the "hostile camp."
Before the lockdown was announced, several religions had their functions with state chiefs attending them. A news editor was summoned for writing exactly that. In fact, when many countries were restricting gatherings, Modi welcomed Trump with over a lakh people in Ahmedabad stadium. But as Golwalkar called Muslims "foes," blame for spreading the virus was shifted to the Tablighi Jamaat, a self-identified Muslim group.
Once the focus shifted, Muslims were subjected to all kinds of suspicion. They were called Corona Terrorists. Fake news was circulated which said that members of Tablighi Jamaat molested nurses in the hospital (later, the news were denied) so that the narrative—Muslims are not "Indians" is established. Following that, the members of the RSS started checking the identity cards of the passers-by.
Not only in this speech but in almost every speech he delivered, the PM used the RSS's glasses to look at India. Many newspapers and TV channels openly called for genocide of Muslims by projecting them as "bad apples in the basket."
Getting rid of the “bad apples" was already in motion. It only intensified with two Muslims being beaten up and mosque attacked in Bagalkot, Karnataka, a southern state of India, a Muslim being attacked in the outskirts of country's capital, another man hanging himself after being taunted as "COVID-suspect"— a term that criminalizes a patient likely to have infected by the coronavirus. In Rajasthan, a pregnant Muslim woman was denied treatment leading to the death of her child.
That child was probably not a "bad apple in the basket."
PM's so-called positive messages destroyed the lives of so many Muslims that one could imagine the future of Muslims in India if and when he uses a negative one. In his speech at Ramlila Maidan, New Delhi, Narendra Modi—(also) the former Chief Minister of Gujarat said that those rioting can be "identified with their clothes". The Delhi police followed the PM's instructions, identified a man by Kurta and Pajama (attire commonly used by Muslims) in India and detained him for peacefully protesting against the amended Citizenship Act.
Even this statement, heavily criticized by the media, can be traced back to a Bunch of Thoughts, in which Golwalkar derived valor in male soldier's dress and weakness in women's attire. It would not be wrong to say that the RSS's "single Reality" carried connotations of "supremacy of only male Brahmin."
Not many questioned this subtle patriarchy of the RSS.
Revered as "Guruji" (Teacher), Golwalkar's writings reflected his deep-rooted disdain towards "non-brahmins" and the oppressed caste. He denounced the Buddhists and called them "degenerated" for uprooting the "national-tradition."
National-tradition —or what it be best called as the culture that Brahmins followed, to which Buddha himself was strongly opposed to and vehemently repudiated its first tenet, which said that the Vedas cannot be questioned—led to arresting of many journalists, rights activists, professors and students' leaders for simply questioning the government-run by India's far-right party.
Earlier, India supported its oppressed castes populace with minuscule affirmative action or reservation. The dominant caste objected and said, it should have been economy-based reservations and not caste-based. Golwalkar’s Bunch of Thoughts categorically mentioned that it would "be proper that privileges should be based on the economic conditions of the people to ease out matters and the heart-burning among others (Brahmins) and that the so-called Harijans (Dalits) alone are enjoying privileges will also be removed."
"Whatever caste the poor belong to, I belong to that caste," said Modi and attempted to scuttle even the minuscule benefit that a Dalit could receive from the state. By saying so, he undermined the existence of violence against the oppressed castes. The onus of easing heart-burning of Brahmins does not rest on the shoulders of the non-Brahmins and the Dalits.
In a Nagpur-based non-brahmins' conference, Muslims and Christian also spoke. Golwalkar was "surprised" to see them on the dias. He asked the organizers who replied, 'Well, they (the Muslims and Christians) are also non-Brahmins'. Golwalkar got furious and came down heavily on the lack of consciousness or inability of lower castes to "recognize themselves as Hindus, a single society.
He asked different castes to unite when it comes to Muslims and Christians. B R Ambedkar, the finest scholar, an economist that India has ever produced caught this trickery long back. He wrote that "a caste has no feeling that it is affiliated to other castes, except when there is a Hindu-Muslim riot." Many of the anti-Muslim riots served Modi well to paint countries' Muslims as seditious or not worthy of being Indians, precisely what Golwalkar notoriously suggested in his book.
Just around the formation of the RSS in 1925, the antagonism between Hindus and Muslims got widespread. Till 1940, for about 20 years, as BR Ambedkar puts in Pakistan and Partition of India, "Civil war between the Hindus and the Muslims in India was interrupted by brief intervals of armed peace."
Golwalkar was so "nationalist" that he hated internationalism too. He insinuated that how would a soldier kill his counterpart across the border if he is blinded by internationalism. Does this not suggest that the RSS is the harbinger of warmongers masquerading as nationalists? After the Feb.14, 2019, attack on Indian military men in Indian occupied Kashmir, the Indians ran—towards jingoism, bloodlust and sanguinary warfare against Pakistan. Modi changed the consciousness of Indians so starkly that now and then one could see violence on the streets.
Till today, amidst coronavirus, and after abrogating article 370 from Kashmir, killings of Kashmiris by the Indian armed forces have not stopped. India and Pakistan fight, a Kashmiri is killed. On April 1, the Indian government changed the domicile status for Jammu and Kashmir, which would allow Indians who lived in J&K for 15 years to become permanent residents of Jammu and Kashmir. This old dream of the RSS to change the demography of the valley could also be found in Golwalkar's book. Many Kashmiris including Syed Ali Geelani called the move a replica of settler colonialism of Israel in Palestine which India wants to follow in Kashmir.
For Golwalkar, world unity was "ludicrous". Now, at a time when a virus is affecting millions worldwide and teams of doctors visit different countries to help them fight COVID-19, Narendra Modi did not provide PPEs to the Indian doctors and ultimately had to ask China's help for the masks. However, no mask could hide his intentional failure towards public health.
A child died because the hospital refused to give him an ambulance. The famous BRD Medical College where oxygen supply to children suffering from Japanese Encephalitis was stopped leading to deaths of around 100 of them. In all this, the jailing of Muslims continued. A doctor who on his own, tried to save children's lives has been kept behind bars. Just because his name is Kafeel Khan and he is a Muslim.
The organization (RSS) Narendra Modi represents did not ever like China and for two reasons. First, it has been Buddhist and second, communist. In communism too, the word consciousness is used, but quite in contrast with how Golwalkar used it. It is called "class-consciousness". Communists have used terms to represent the solidarity that exists in the working class, which would ultimately seize the means of production to put an end to their oppression and exploitation by the factory and farm owners.
Millions of workers first had to face internal migration to the cities around the "opening of the markets" during the early 90s. Now, they were forced to travel hundreds of kilometers on foot for a reverse internal migration, hungry and without access to money. Not all are quite lucky to get a "Laxman Rekha" or home to remain safe. Narendra Modi's deep-rooted oblivion to the workers' predicaments had been derived from Golwalkar's Brahmanism which first held knowledge for centuries and now hoarded 58 million tonnes of food.
When the ruling class generates obstacles for workers to seize the means of production, the concept is called keeping them in "false-consciousness". If anything is "ludicrous" at all, it is the arguments by the former RSS head and his book Bunch of Thoughts, for it is filled with hatred and stops workers from using their senses. Modi— a Hindu-hearted Samrat (Emperor) made people starve on their way home and propagated ideas of Hindu Rashtra, that too, in such a health-crisis time. Savarkar and Golwalkar, the RSS's forefathers must be proud of him.
Ambedkar said in Pakistan and Partition of India, "Hindu Raj must be prevented at any cost." Once again, many in India are on the verge of repeating what Ambedkar told MK Gandhi.
"Gandhiji, I have no homeland."
Amir Malik is a freelance journalist based in India.