Perhaps, the time has come for mainstream Gush Media to stop pretending that the Hindutva project unleashed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah with the Citizenship Amendment Act is running smoothly and efficiently? To the duo’s horror, the explosion of spontaneous public protests against the law in the Northeast has spread to other parts of the country, from Delhi to Bangalore, Kolkata to Kozhikode, from Jamia Millia Islamia to Aligarh Muslim University. The protests are refusing to die down despite brutal clampdowns by police and paramilitary forces.
Now with several chief ministers pledging not to implement the citizenship law in their states, from Punjab to Madhya Pradesh to Kerala, such defiance has sent a forbidding message to Modi and Shah that the country is not a stereotypical binary of Hindus versus Muslims or other minority communities, and that the Gujarat model of “Us versus Them” cannot work everywhere.
The citizenship law is being seen, particularly in Assam, as an attempt to fix the problem created by the National Register of Citizens, published earlier this year. The NRC, in its zeal to find undocumented migrants from Bangladesh – presumed to be largely Muslim – excluded lakhs of Hindus for want of legacy papers. The law offers Indian citizenship to members of persecuted minorities from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan who have entered India before December 31, 2014, but only as long as they aren’t Muslim. Now Shah has announced that the NRC would be applied countrywide. So, if both a Muslim and a non-Muslim are excluded from the register, the non-Muslim could still obtain citizenship under the new law whereas the Muslim would be rendered stateless.
Given that it grants citizenship on the basis of religion, the law has been roundly denounced as discriminatory and unconstitutional.
However, belying Modi and Shah’s apparent calculation, the discourse over the law instantly moved from being communal (Hindu versus Muslims) to being an ethnic battle (Assamese, Manipuris, Nagas, etc versus Bangladeshi and Bengali Hindus and Muslims), foregrounding the old anxiety of ethnic Assamese and tribal people in the Northeast that they have been swamped by “outsiders”, Hindu and Muslim, from Bangladesh and Bengal.
Hindutva nationalism has been trumped by ethnic allegiance, and none other than Shah has to take the blame.
But even as Modi and Shah roll out the Hindutva project, despite these bumps on the road, where does the inspiration for their Hindu Rashtra come from? What is the definition and requirements to become a citizen of this new nation? What will the Hindutva constitution include in its preamble?
To get a sense of the new nation the Sangh Parivar, the ideological family of Modi and Shah, has envisioned for India’s citizens, one need look no further than the writings of MS Golwalkar.
Golwalkar, who almost single-handedly built the hydra-headed Sangh Parivar to spread the message of Hindu Rashtra, took over as chief of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh in 1940 and remained in the post until his death in 1973. He initiated the setting up of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Bharatiya Jan Sangh, which later became the BJP, among other RSS affiliates, to achieve the political goals of his “cultural organisation”.
Indeed, Golwalkar’s We or Our Nationhood Defined, published in 1939, when he was the RSS general secretary, is regarded as the foundational text of the Sangh’s brand of Hindutva nationalism. Sangh leaders today demur that they are inspired by “Guruji” Golwalkar’s writings, but they draw their ideology of Hindu supremacism and cultural nationalism from racial, geographical, cultural, and linguistic identities as propounded in this book.
We or Our Nationhood Defined defines Hindu nationalism and identity, Hindustan and the place of minorities in it. It’s perhaps Golwalkar’s fantasy of race pride that the RSS is embarrassed by today. Golwalkar writes, “German race pride has now become the topic of the day. To keep up the purity of the Race and its culture, Germany shocked the world by her purging the country of the Semitic Races – the Jews. Race pride at its highest has been manifested here. Germany has also shown how well-nigh impossible it is for Races and cultures, having differences going to the root, to be assimilated into one united whole, a good lesson for us in Hindusthan to learn and profit by.”
He then seeks to establish through pseudoscience and his own conclusions that Aryans are the original inhabitants of Hindustan, and therefore, the indigenous race. He goes on to say: “Hindusthan, the land of the Hindus, their home country, hereditary territory, a definite geographical unity, delimited naturally by the sublime Himalayas on the North and the limitless ocean on the other three sides, an ideal piece of land, deserving in every respect to be called a Country…Living in this Country since prehistoric times is the ancient Race – the Hindu Race, united together by common traditions, by memories of common, glory and disaster…a common culture, a common mother language, common customs, common aspirations. This great Hindu Race professes its illustrious Hindu Religion, the only Religion in the world worthy of being so denominated.”
It follows then, Golwalkar argues, that the rest are outsiders. The Hindu “race evolved a culture, which despite the degenerating contact with the debased ‘civilizations’ of the Mussalmans and the Europeans, for the last ten centuries, is still the noblest in the world”.
Golwalkar’s defines minorities thus: “Citizens who differ from the majority of the population in Race, Religion and Language…as every Nation has necessarily its own National Race, Religion and Language (culture needs no special mention for with the mention of the three Race, Religion and Language, culture also is implicitly there.) To discuss the problem of minorities is, though very useful for a proper understanding of our problem today…that for such a foreign race to claim preferential treatment at the hands of the Nation, it should not be an upstart, a new, voluntary settlement, and it should not be below 20% of the total population of the state.”
To add emphasis on Hindu nationalism and patriotism, Golwalkar writes: “All those not belonging to the national, that is Hindu Race, Religion, Culture and Language, naturally fall out of the pale of real ‘National’ life. We repeat; in Hindusthan, the land of the Hindus, lives and should live the Hindu Nation – satisfying all the five essential requirements of the scientific nation concept of the modern world…Those only are nationalist patriots, who, with the aspiration to glorify the Hindu race and Nation next to their heart, are prompted into activity and strive to achieve that goal. All others are either traitors and enemies to the National cause, or, to take a charitable view, idiots.” To Muslims and other religious minorities, Golwalkar offers a choice: become a true Hindu nationalist or perish as a “foreigner’. He writes: “All those who fall outside the five-fold limits of that idea, can have no place in the national life, unless they abandon their differences, adopt the religion, culture and language of the Nation and completely merge themselves in the National Race. So long, however, as they maintain their racial, religious and cultural differences, they cannot but be only foreigners, who may be either friendly or inimical to the Nation.”
As for citizenship rights for the minorities that have “chosen to live in this country”, he declares, “The foreign races in Hindusthan must either adopt the Hindu culture and language, must learn to respect and hold in reverence Hindu religion, must entertain no idea but those of the glorification of the Hindu race and culture…and must lose their separate existence to merge in the Hindu race, or may stay in the country, wholly subordinated to the Hindu Nation, claiming nothing, deserving no privileges, far less any preferential treatment – not even citizen’s rights.”
In conclusion, Golwalkar’s Hindutva treatise implores Hindus to “reawaken the race spirit and re-rouse our national consciousness, and victory is in our grasp”.
As he writes, “The undying voices of our sages call; let us gird up our loins and follow them.”