Daya Varma


Rashtriya Swyamsewak Sangh (RSS), which spearheads the Hindutva offensive has continued to grow since its inception in 1926. Its  empire  comprises of the political party BJP), the goon squad Bajarang Dal, the religious protagonist and the trade union BMS) among others. BJP and its allies rule in Gujarat, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Uttarakhand, Bihar and Punjab, threaten to form the next central government. Several factors have favored the growth of RSS. The onus of defeating the Hindutva challenge  lies with CPI, CPM and Congress and therefore what relations they have with each other is crucial.


Rashtriya Swyamsewak Sangh (RSS) is the ideological, political and organizational center of Hindutva. It is the only organization in India that has steadily increased its strength since its inception in 1926. Although RSS never became a formidable force till 1947, when the independence movement dominated the scene, it has continued to grow since then. This cannot be said about any other organization in India.  Even when RSS was banned following the assassination of Gandhi, its strength did not decline nor did it face any organizational crisis. Over the years it built many fronts and organs of propaganda and none of these folded. 


The empire of RSS comprises of its political wing, the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), the goon squad Bajarang Dal, mainly comprising of OBCs (other backward castes), the ideological protagonist Vishwa Hindu Parishad VHP), primarily of castes traditionally in trade and civil service, plus many other affiliates. The trade union of RSS, Bhartiya Mazdoor Sabha (BMS), was started in late 1950’s – that is, decades after the trade unions organized by the Indian National Congress (INC) and the Communist Party of India (CPI). Now the BMS is the largest and the fastest growing trade Union overtaking the combined strength of the trade unions of CPI (AITUC) and CPM (CITU).  Bal Thakre’s fascist Shiv Sena adds strength to RSS.  RSS publications are done professionally and are displayed everywhere including at railway stalls. In contrast to communist organizations, RSS, its affiliates and semi-independent Hindutvabadis are never at each others’ throats. 


RSS was started in 1926 by one Dr. Hedgewar, probably with one or two other persons of meager intelligence in Nagpur. This is about the same time as CPI was founded by several dozen and by the very best of India.  Now RSS and its political wing BJP control on their own or in alliance with other reactionary political parties the states of Gujarat, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Uttarakhand, Bihar and Punjab, and may again take over the central power in Delhi in 2009 or sooner.


RSS controls thousands of school all across the country, far outnumbering any kind of madarsas in any country. Except for a brief period of ban following Gandhi’s assassination, RSS has never been punished for its crimes even big ones like the demolition of Babri mosque, the Mumbai riots and the Gujarat genocide. Indeed it has benefited from them.  VHP spreads its venom not only in India but practically every other country of the world where Indians have settled. The Hindu Student Council is present in many American educational institutions and many front organizations mobilize millions of dollars to support fascist Hindutva organizations within India. In contrast only nominal democratic organizations of Indians exist abroad.


Brazen violation of constitutional norms by Hindutva outfit like the demolition of the Babri Mosque or the organized massacre of Muslims in Gujarat does not lead to a confrontation between democratic and fascist forces. Rather it is met only by criticism. For example, the demolition of Babri Mosque was not treated as an onward march of fascism and beginning of the end of India but rather as a dispute that could be settled by arbitration and courts.  When the Gujarat pogrom started, there was no organization that could send its volunteers to defend Muslims. We were content with fact-finding missions to count the dead and damaged. The same happened during the Church burning “festival” that the RSS outfits organized during the 2007 Christmas in Orissa.


It is a frightening scenario but unfortunately true.  How a two man organization did became the largest political formation in India while others have disintegrated or become weaker?  While RSS has been condemned by all secular, democratic and left formations, the secret behind its dominance has not been fully assessed. Worse still the gravity of the danger of RSS to India’s polity has not received the attention it deserves.


In my opinion, four important factors have played a central role in the recent emergence of Hindutva as the major menace in India. One of these factors is the running thread and the other three have come to its advantage as a result of developments in India and internationally.


First, the running thread in the growth of Hindutva is its organizational structure and the method of participatory recruitment of its cadre. RSS is the key organization. Whether it be the affable Atal Bihari  Vajpayee (“the main who brought the BJP, respectability, honor and power”, according to CPI’s New Age of Feb 3, 2008) or the controversial Narendra Modi with Rajnath Singh and Advani in between, they are all products of RSS and remain under its control. RSS copied the method of organizing partly from Gandhi and partly from the Communist Party. What it copied from Gandhi is to ensure that all its cadres do something no matter how irrelevant and ritualistic on a daily basis. Attendance in Sakhas by all its members every morning and an established hierarchy produce a gang of dedicated cadres. The daily ritual of Gandhi’s charkhas has been replaced by Sakhas and the establishment of other rituals including Guru Dakshina (monetary donation in the name of the head of the organization) has proved to be an effective means of organizing both by Gandhi and RSS leadership. Even RSS-controlled trade unions indulge in some ritualistic practice such as Kathas at homes of different workers such that all workers belonging to RSS-controlled Trade Union (BMS) become a rallying force during elections, which cannot be said of the trade unions controlled by the Communist Party of India (CPI) and CPI (Marxist). RSS learnt the art of building fronts from communists.


The second point favoring growth of Hindutva is the ability of RSS to successfully merge the concept of Hinduism with Indian nationalism. Despite great diversity in the concept of Hinduism (see the article “Hindu Majority and Muslim Minority by Yoignder Sikand below) and despite its non-monotheistic character (can be turned into an asset), RSS has been able to project that Hinduism is native to India while Christianity and Islam are foreign; so the concept that all Indians who are not Christians, Muslims and Jews are Hindus (Sikhs for them is just a variation of Hinduism like Arya Samaj) can be made to appear valid. The identification of Hinduism with Indian nationalism is a rewarding concept since the latter is promoted by all political formations under one pretext or another including anti-imperialism. Advani’s opposition to the Indo-US nuclear deal while lauding friendship with the US is a case in point. During the independence movement, Gandhi was able to galvanize Indian nationalism as the common aspiration of all Indians. No alternative secular attempt that signifies the unity of all Indians as a necessary precondition for the uplift of India is visible now.


A third factor, which favors Hindutva and which is beyond the control of democratic forces of India is the universal rise of religious fundamentalism facilitated by globalization. There is virulent Islamic, Christian and Jewish fundamentalism, so why not Hindutva?


The fourth important factor favoring Hindutva is the ability of RSS to establish appropriate fronts for all sections of India’s ‘Hindus’ including Adivasis, Dalits and women. In this hierarchical formation, BJP is of course the most significant because it is the organ of capturing political power. RSS gave rise to each of its affiliates at an appropriate juncture of history and therefore never had the necessity of folding one or another.  Another factor favoring the growth of Hindutva is the establishment of Ekal Vidyalayas (elementary schools) in rural areas where the state has shamefully neglected its responsibility of providing primary education. These schools may not teach much but they do inculcate Hindutva ideology in their students especially in tribal areas where such consciousness was not present earlier. The Ghar Wapasi (homecoming) program under which Adivasis are “converted” or re-converted” into Hindus and given some sort of caste identity along with a smattering of “approved” gods in contrast to their earlier practices is another factor.


Given this grim scenario, the task needed to combat this virulent ideology is not easy but both necessary and urgent. It will be presumptuous for me to outline such a program. I do, however, think that first and foremost it requires recognition by democratic forces that Hindutva challenge is the foremost issue facing India because Hinduization of India will do irreparable damage to India for years to come, not the least of which would be physical elimination of all those who are eager for radical transformation of the country and in rush to usher socialism.  Naturally the onus of this initiative lies with the CPI, CPM and Congress.


It is interesting that after the recent BJP victory in Gujarat elections, the one blamed the most was Sonia Gandhi, not only by irrelevant journalists but by the General Secretary of CPM as well. Criticism apart, the anger against Sonia Gandhi is a tacit admission that only Congress could have defeated BJP. And it is not only Gujarat but everywhere else with the exception West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura, only Congress can be an alternative to BJP. If so, what can be the approach of CPM and CPI? The recent Congresses of the two communist parties have called for the oft-repeated “third alternative” of genuine secular forces. But what are these genuine secular forces in concrete? Aside the CPM and CPI, the only other political formations that have never so far compromised with Hindutva are other left parties, a bunch of left intellectuals, Laloo Yadav and, to some extent, Congress. The principal agenda of the other left parties besides CPI/CPM and “independent” left intellectuals is not Hindutva but something else – less attainable but more fancy. So, in concrete, the only secular formation that does see Hindutva as a threat, if not for reasons of principle, then for political space, is Congress. What attitude to take towards the Congress, should therefore be central to the political program of the CPM and CPI. One can hope that CPM and CPI would stop wasting their time and energy responding to irrelevant parties and individuals to the left of them and take up the task facing India, namely the Hindutva challenge. If Soviet Union could build an alliance with the US and Britain to deal with Hitler’s fascists and if Mao Zedong had to compromise with Kuomintang, what is so unprincipled about allying with Congress to defeat BJP?

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