Thursday, March 17, 2016

Differentiating between the Hindu Right-of-Centre and the Extreme Hindu Right (co-authored with Suvankur Sukul)

Taking into consideration the recent events that have made polemical politics the norm, it is worthwhile to look at Mani Shankar Aiyar’s letter to Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the former Prime Minister of India. In the letter, there is an unequivocal condemnation of the street-level jingoism being hurled from several quarters on the question of nationalism. Firstly, a fact has to be admitted. History, as long as we see it as real events, does not allow for the gap between commitment and ideology to exist. It is perhaps for this reason that the political discourse has always relied on ‘action’ as an ethical paradigm. But confusingly, this commitment to action has also made some people to violently reject views and opinions that contradict their own. This trend has reached a new low in the last few days where it is becoming impossible to distinguish goons from politicians. People always expect the academics to be rational and not engage in mud-throwing, but sadly both from the Right and the Left, the contribution to the battle has only been polarization.  

Many in the left are not for a full-fledged armed uprising against the Indian state to impose the dictatorship of a party killing the accountability that democracy entails, as the Naxals seek. Likewise not everybody or for that matter every organization in the Hindu right wants to make India a theocratic state.

The biased way in which the leftists conflate the loony fringe elements with the entire corpus of people in the right wing is saddening and dangerous too. The academia is a space which has seen a leftist hegemony for a long time now. But is the RSS only a violent organization hell bent on transforming India into a theocratic state? Many academicians would have us believe so. The RSS, on the other hand, is also a social work organization that genuinely does work at the “grass-root level”. This work is often done in areas where the Muslims are in majority and hence the idea that the RSS is only spreading hate across the country is not true, as you can read about here. In fact the RSS also has a Muslim arm (Rashtravadi Muslim Morcha) that regularly works for Muslims and even non-Muslims for that matter, and has started organising iftar parties from this year onwards. The RSS has adopted children of Kashmiri Muslims killed by militants. I personally know of RSS members helping students from the northeast, irrespective of religion, feel at home in university campuses in other parts of India, through an NGO 'My Home India'. The general attitude towards the Sangh Parivar has resulted in depriving a certain section of the intellectual spectrum a reasonable opportunity of being heard, whether by the force of law or by creating the impression by means of propaganda that their views must necessarily be trashed, and the pseudo-secular brigade has actually achieved its objectives to quite an extent. The understanding in the liberal Left group in India is that RSS and the entire Sangh Parivar is regressive and communal. The Sangh has its moderate thinkers and all of its views are not particularly regressive. 

The will not to recognize the gradations within the right wing has left no space for ideas to prosper. In the leftist imagination, ‘the liberal right wing’ or the ‘moderate right wing’ does not exist at all. It is true that many of the actions of the ABVP do not leave much space for sympathy (though one can’t write off their good work), it is perhaps not correct to give the Right Wing in India any historical or even theoretical legitimacy and credibility; but so have some members of the Congress, not only in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots but others as well. The VHP, an organization that affiliates itself to the Sangh, has been involved in gruesome violence against innocent Muslims and Christians as also acts of moral policing, especially its youth wing, the Bajrang Dal. But the Sangh per se, has been held ‘not guilty’ time and again by various commissions. The Sangh comprises people cutting across generations who meet at shakhas, discuss socio-political issues concerning the country and carry out physical exercises. The RSS has committed Muslim and Christian members, who see no problem in taking pride in India’s Vedic heritage, acknowledging their Hindu ancestry or singing Vande Mataram, nor do they have an issue with a uniform civil code or a cow slaughter ban. While we may not support their stand on all issues, they have a right to articulate their views. Opposing special schemes for the minorities doesn’t necessarily entail antipathy to the minorities.  

To come to India, it is the common rhetoric today to see the right wing as the violent, immature and the dangerous “other” of the Left. Historically, however the personalities and their identities have been much complex, and nuanced. The lack of serious engagement with the right wing leads the likes of Arundhati Roy to state that “Babu Bajrangi's predecessors had been hard at work since the 1920s, dripping poison into India's bloodstream, undermining that idea of India even before it was born.”, obviously referring to the RSS/VHP. Only a serious unbiased reading of the texts would bring the truth to light, which is not to say that the BJP or RSS have to be praised unequivocally, but to critique them factually. Golwalkar, in an interview in 1971, also stated that the meaning of “Indianisation” does not tantamount to making all people Hindus. It means an “inner” realization that we all belong to this land. He also says in the same breath that the need of the hour is “[e]ducation on a mass-scale, giving the right understanding of religion, not the non-religious education that is being imparted nowadays by our politicians, but good, religious education. Give people true knowledge of Islam. Give people true knowledge of Hinduism.” Golwalkar goes on to say-

Pakistan celebrated the 5,000th birth anniversary of Panini who was born in that part which is now called Pakistan. If Pakistanis can claim Panini as one of their great forefathers, why should not our local Hindu Muslim —I call them ‘Hindu Muslims’— say that Panini, Vyasa, Valmiki, Ram, Krishn are all their great ancestors? There are so many people in the Hindu Dharma who do not believe in the Divine Incarnation of Rama and Krishna. But they believe that they are great personalities, worthy of emulation. So what does it matter if Muslims do not believe that God incarnated Himself? Why should they not consider such personalities as their national heroes?” 

In his book 'A Bunch of Thoughts' (1966), Golwalkar has made the following statements (interestingly, even a scholar like Ramachandra Guha I admire very much has papered over these excerpts while writing a critique of this book)-

“The Muslims, Christians and Jews etc., have perfect upasana swatantrya, freedom of worship so long as they do not seek to destroy or undermine the faith and symbolism of the national society.”

“We find so many Hindu faces all over there, proud of their Hindu heritage, even though many of them are now Muslims by religion.”

“As a matter of fact, even such Muslims and Christians who are really well-meaning and patriotic at heart and are not ridden by old dreams of their empires, do accept that this has been Hindu land for thousands of years and its national ethos is the Hindu ethos. They are also aware that this national ethos in no way militates against their individual religions. But unfortunately, such persons are very few and are also not vocal.”

“(Muslims should be) prepared to own the Hindu culture as their own. They could have their own way of upasana but should consider the Hindu heritage and history as their own.”

“(T)he Normans entered England as aggressors. The local people stood up against them to defend their freedom. But later, both of them merged together and faced all future aggressions as one united people. And they have continued to live a unified life even to this day.”

 “We are not so mean as to say that with a mere change in the method of worship, an individual ceases to be a son of the soil. We have no objection to God being called by any name whatever. We, in the Sangh, are Hindus to the core. That is why we have respect for all faiths and religious beliefs. He cannot be a Hindu at all who is intolerant of other faiths.”

“So, all that is expected of our Muslim and Christan co-citizens is the shedding of the notions of their being 'religious minorities' as also their foreign mental complexion and merging themselves in the common national stream of this soil. As far as the national tradition of this land is concerned, it never considers that with a change in the method of worship, an individual ceases to be the son of the soil and should be treated as an alien. Here, in this land, there can be no objection to God being called by any name whatever. Ingrained in this soil is love and respect for all faiths and religious beliefs. He cannot be a son of this soil at all who is intolerant of other faiths.”

“The national identity requires that the whole of national society including minorities should share in the best values of the past. They should appreciate national dharma – the code of ethical principles and ways of life enshrined in the best usage. In cultural history, they should all give their mind and hearts whole-heartedly to an appreciation of the best types of Rama and Krishna may be appreciated by non-Hindus as secular examples while the Hindus will see them as full spiritual exemplars (avatars).”

“The use of the word dharma does not preclude the inclusion of different sects and religious fellowships who may use different words for the same meanings – like the Muslim and Christian. The substance of the thought and procedure value is non-sectarian and human in the plainest sense.”

When leftists assert that Hindus must appreciate the syncretic fibre of India acknowledging Muslim cultural contributions, is it very surprising that Golwalkar expects the same of Muslims? And yes, terminologies like 'Hindu' apart, it is the pre-Islamic, Vedic culture that is common across India from Kashmir to Kerala and Gujarat to Arunachal Pradesh, and acknowledging this doesn't amount to antipathy to the religious minorities. Take, for instance, David Cameron’s opening statement in an article written by him-

“LAST week I held my fourth annual Easter reception in Downing Street. Not for the first time, my comments about my faith and the importance of Christianity in our country were widely reported.
Some people feel that in this ever more secular age we shouldn’t talk about these things. I completely disagree. I believe we should be more confident about our status as a Christian country, more ambitious about expanding the role of faith-based organisations, and, frankly, more evangelical about a faith that compels us to get out there and make a difference to people’s lives.”
Now, writer Sakrant Sanu makes an interesting observation (his reference to the press is to the international press):
“(L)et us imagine that Prime Minister Modi made the statement:
‘I believe we should be more confident about our status as a Hindu rashtra, more ambitious about expanding the role of Hindu organisations, and, frankly, more evangelical about spreading Hinduism to make a difference to people’s lives.’
All hell would break loose in India if Modi were to say this. However, this is just a restatement of Prime Minister Cameron’s statement about Christianity and Britain. But for some reason, Prime Minister Modi apparently has to be tagged as a ‘Hindu nationalist’ in every press report while Cameron is not tagged as a ‘Christian nationalist’.”
[I do, however, understand that Modi has a record of a horrendous anti-Muslim carnage that occurred in Gujarat in 2002 when he was chief minister, in which he is believed by many to be complicit (and no, contrary to what many of his fans have been shouting from their rooftops, he hasn’t been acquitted by the Supreme Court, leave alone been tried by it yet), which Cameron does not, but when a BJP politician from Goa called India a Hindu nation, the BJP immediately came under attack from all leading English language media houses, including Times Now, in spite of a Christian politician from the Goa unit of the BJP agreeing with that contention and even identifying himself as Hindu in terms of cultural values, and while I welcome the criticism by the Indian media too, I am just pointing to how religion is not so controversially believed to shape national identities according to not-so-fringe elements in even those countries where one may not normally imagine it to be the case.]
Equally, however much we may be, and in my opinion, should be, against the idea of the state having a defined religious character, a democracy does have room for those who believe in religious ideals as a way of moulding statecraft in a democratic fashion, especially if it sees religion not as an exclusive badge of birth-based identity but an ideological framework, just as parties calling themselves Marxist or ‘samajwadi’ see Marxism or ‘samajwad’ (though even parties representing specific sections of the society are allowed to exist in India, such as the DMK, MNS or MIM, though I think that seeking to represent specific groupings is in itself problematic, for isn’t an MNS candidate meant to represent the non-Marathis in his constituency too?). Interestingly, again, in Europe, there are several political parties with ‘Christian’ in their names and are part of an international conglomeration called the Christian Democratic International, such as the Christian Democratic Union led by Angela Merkel, currently in power in Germany. As BJP-critic Saubhik Chakrabarti has stated-
“Christian Democrats evolved as sensible, socially liberal political actors in much of continental Europe. No one accuses them of religious extremism or theocratic fantasies.”
Quoting further from Golwalkar's book written in 1966-

“(W)e should allow fresh breeze to come in from all ideologies prevalent in several countries, sift them and assimilate whatever is beneficial to us. But to do that, is it necessary that we should demolish the walls of our house and bring down the roofs upon our heads? On the contrary, would it not be wise to keep our house intact and just open the windows and doors to let in the outside breeze?"
“(T)here are some who imagine that the concept of Hindu Nation is a challenge to the very existence of the Muslim and the Christian co-citizens and they will be thrown out and exterminated. Nothing could be more absurd or detrimental to our national sentiment. It is insult to our great and all-embracing cultural heritage. Do we not know, for example, that even in the latest powerful expression of Hindu resurgence under Shivaji, one of his army officers was a Ranadulla Khan? Later on, on the battlefield of Panipat in 1761, in that life-and-death struggle for the rising Hindu Swaraj, the key position of the Artillery Chief was held by one Ibrahim Gardi. With such historical evidence and national traditions for the past thousands of years staring in our eyes, how strange that some persons still say that the non-Hindus live in peril if the Hindu Nation comes into its own!”

“The Muslims enjoyed perfect freedom and equality in the powerful Hindu empire under the Vijaynagar Kings or in the Punjab under Sikh heroes. The latest Hindu Power, which rose under the great Shivaji, too, did not discriminate against Muslims on the score of religion. To cite a few instances, the naval chief of Charapati Shivaji, Darya Sarang, was a Muslim, and two of his main lieutenants were Ibrahim Khan and Daulat Khan. At the time of the grim encounter with Afzal Khan, out of the ten trusted bodyguards who accompanied Shivaji, three were Muslims. Again, the 18-year old lad who accompanies Shivaji to Agra and who played a key role in the thrilling escape of Shivaji from the grip of Aurangzeb was Madari Mehtar, a Muslim. Countless instances are there of Shivaji gifting land and annual grant to masjids and dargas. He even made arrangements for the offering of worship according to Islam to the tomb of Afzal Khan on Pratapgad. Even the most fanatic Muslim chroniclers of those times have noted with admiration that Shivaji treated with utmost respect their Koran, masjids and dargas, their holy men and their womenfolk.

Even later on, on the battlefield of Panipat in 1761, in the crucial struggle for the survival of Swaraj, the key position of the Artillery Chief on the side of the Hindus was held by Ibrahim Gardi, who ultimately fell fighting on the battleground.”
“It may be inconceivable, but is nevertheless a hard fact, that during the 1957 elections, a Muslim was elected from Ambala constituency in Punjab, where he was the only Muslim voter and all others were Hindus who, hardly a decade ago, had suffered unspeakable atrocities at the hands of the Muslims.”

”Even today, it is on the strength of this national tradition that a Muslim can and does adorn the highest position of Presidentship, become the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and hold important portfolios in the central Cabinet and Internal and External Services. The contrast with the neighbouring theocratic State of Pakistan is so glaring as to need no elaboration.

But unfortunately secularism in India has, in practice, meant anti-Hinduism for people at the helm of affairs. When the late Dr. Zakir Husain specially went to Kerala to inaugurate a mosque, nobody objected. But when Dr. Giri went to Tirupati after his election as Rashtrapati, it was dubbed communal. The world must be laughing at us.”

“In this regard it would be useful for the Muslims here to emulate the example of their coreligionists in countries like Iran, Turkey etc. When Islam spread from Arabia to those neighbouring countries, the local people there adopted the Islamic creed but retained their culture and language and way of life. In Indonesia, a predominantly Muslim country, the children begin their learning with lessons about Rama and Sita. It is only here that the local Muslims disowned their ancestors, their languages, customs and all such elements of national heritage. And it is this oblivion of their ancestry that has led to the partition of the country.”

“In this connection, it would be beneficial for our Muslim friends here to take a lesson from their co-religionists in Iran, Turkey and Indonesia. Though Persia became Islamic, (…) (t)hey did not take to the Arabic way of life; they stuck to their own. They have been sticking to the memory of their great forefathers. Even now a Persian will remember his forefathers, will speak of Rustom with great respect and honour. Rustom was not a Muslim. Kamal Pasha 'the Maker of Modern Turkey' restored the age-old national pattern of life and limited the role of Islam to personal worship of God. The example of Indonesia is extremely revealing. Majority of the Indonesians profess Islam. However, Saraswati and Ganesh are the presiding deities of their learning and knowledge. Children start their ABC in education with pictorial Ramayana. One of our countrymen was amazed to see this when he had gone there. He asked a leading Indonesian, ‘How is it, though you are Muslims, you teach Ramayana to your children?’ The Indonesian replied with pride, ‘Because. Sri Ramachandra is our national hero par excellence. We very much desire that our children should emulate his lofty ideal. No doubt we belong to the Islamic faith. But that does not mean that we should give up our precious national heritage and values of life.’ What an excellent lesson for our Muslim friends here! There the names too are hundred per cent Hindu. Their previous President was Sukarna. His son, Kartikeya. The present President is Suhrida (distorted as Suharto in English) meaning 'a true friend'. Women too bear the proud names of Sita, Savitri, Damayanti etc. Garuda, the mount of Vishnu, adorns the name of their airways. Their constitution begins with the declaration ‘Dharmo Rakshti Rakshitah’. This is the real and abiding cornerstone of national harmony and integration, subscribing to common national ideals irrespective of personal religious creeds. And it is this concept as applied to our country, that we call Hindu Rashtra, the only rational, practical and right concept.”

This is what Golwalkar has to say about on Mahatma Gandhi, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, Pandit Nehru and Savarkar’s Hindu Mahasabha in his book-

“Once when the Muslims went on a rampage and attacked the Hindus in Ahmedabad, the Hindus began fleeing from their hearths and homes. Gandhiji castigated them saying, ‘Why are you behaving like cowards? You take my name and repeat the word ahimsa parrot-like and run for your life under that shelter. My non-violence is not of the cowards, it is of the brave. Instead of running away in such a cowardly fashion it would be far better for you to fight, to kill or get killed’.”

“Ayub Khan is, in fact, tyrannising over his own coreligionists, especially in NWFP, Baluchistan and East Bengal, and has reduced them to second-class citizens. The people of NWFP and their leader Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan have always been with Bharat. They were forced to join Pakistan much against their will. The Bengali Muslims in East Bengal, groaning under the heels of Punjabi Muslims who dominate the entire State machinery in Pakistan, are already in revolt.”

“Once Pandit Nehru had remarked at Jabalpur that there was no reason why we should not be able to absorb the Muslims even as we had assimialated in historical times the Hunas and the Shakas. Indisputably, this is the correct and the only way of integrating our national life.”

 “Pt. Nehru (…) said that it is necessary to assimilate Muslims and Christians into Hindu society in the same manner as invaders like Shakas and Hunas were assimilated in the past. In that speech, Pt. Nehru has given the right direction for achieving national unity and for unifying the various creeds of worship and instilling in them a common point of devotion. However, the present attempts are such as to discredit the Hindus and, through the appeasement policy, to make the non-Hindus more aggressive in their already existing aggressive designs. In this way, the heritage and the tradition of Hindus are being insulted, making them imbecile and incapable of defending themselves. This perverted policy is equivalent to not only discarding the correct direction given by Pt. Nehru but even negating it. It is essential that this perversion is set right, and a policy of upholding the honoured place of Hindus, who have been sticking to the path of unflinching national loyalty all along, and integrating others with them in tune with those norms, be followed.”

“During the freedom struggle, Pandit Nehru had once undertaken in his home province a big campaign of 'Muslim mass contact' to win them over to our side.” (emphasis mine)

“Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru has written a forward to a Hindi book, Samskriti ke Char Adhyay, wherein he has given expression to his innermost feelings of intense love for the Hindu Culture - which he calls Bharatiya Culture - and intense desire to see it once again in all its pristine powers of assimilation.”

“(The) Hindu Mahasabha represented the Hindu counterpart of the rabidly communal, anti-national Muslim League.”

Ironically, JNU student Kanhaia, in his speech, wrongly mentioned Golwalkar and not Hindu Mahasabha leader Moonje as having met Mussolini. Godse had left the RSS when he murdered Mahatma Gandhi. The views of the father of India's White Revolution, Verghese Kurien, a beef-eating Christian, on Golwalkar are a must-read, and can be seen here, Communist leader Ashok Mitra's here and Khushwant Singh's here.

Golwalkar’s views had evolved over time from highly intolerant to relatively tolerant (the reverse happened for Iqbal), and the RSS has disassociated itself from some of his earlier works. It is also worthwhile to note that the RSS and Hindu Mahasabha were also not united on the question of opposing the Congress during the freedom movement, as you can read about in this article, and the RSS did support the freedom struggle, and even sheltered bitter ideological opponents who had gone underground like Aruna Asaf Ali. A left-leaning ideologue like Ram Manohar Lohia had even joined hands with Jan Sangh ideologue Deen Dayal Upadhyaya on the point of hoping for an Indo-Pak confederation some day, and Lohia is hailed by the BJP even today.

There are also these allegations that the RSS is casteist, sexist and Hindi-chauvinistic. However, the RSS has long run campaigns against untouchability, and recently, RSS member Tarun Vijay was beaten up for trying to enter a Hindu temple in Uttarakhand with Dalits. The RSS recently supported women's right to entry in the Shani temple, and while Golwalkar encouraged women's education and also said that modernity shouldn't mean Westernisation in the context of his views on opposing wearing revealing clothes, he has been misquoted by leftists to say that modernity in itself should be rejected as a whole, though he referred to certain brands of Western culture in his opinion being passed off as modernity. And while the RSS seeks to promote Hindi as a nationwide lingua franca as did Mahatma Gandhi, RSS members like Tarun Vijay have extolled ancient Tamil poetry as a part of the Indian heritage, for which Dravidian parties have praised Vijay.

Minorities other than Muslims and Christians, like Sikhs, Buddhists, Zoroastrians and Jews, have never been the subject of criticism or violence by most Hindu rightist groups. In fact, Buddhism and Sikhism are seen by most Hindu rightists as offshoots of Hinduism, with Sikhs especially loved by them, owing to their (the Sikhs’) historically having fought Muslim emperors, including emperors specifically intolerant to Hindus. In fact, when some members and supporters of the Congress party, a supposedly secular party, engaged in rioting against Sikhs, owing to the fact that some Sikhs were involved in a theofascist and secessionist insurgency, which even entailed killing the then prime minister of India, Indira Gandhi, who was from the Congress party, some RSS members even protected Sikhs from the rioters. This fact was acknowledged and appreciated by the highly renowned late Sikh journalist Khushwant Singh, who was otherwise extremely critical of the Hindu right. To quote him (it may be noted that Vajpayee was a senior leader of the BJP, a supposedly Hindu rightist party, and the RSS is a Hindu rightist organization)-

“It was the Congress leaders who instigated mobs in 1984 and got more than 3000 people killed. I must give due credit to the RSS and the BJP for showing courage and protecting helpless Sikhs during those difficult days. No less a person than Atal Bihari Vajpayee himself intervened at a couple of places to help poor taxi drivers.” 

As for the Jews and Zoroastrians, they had historically come to India fleeing persecution at Christian and Muslim hands respectively, and were granted asylum by Hindu rulers in India, and these communities in India do not resort to identity-based violence against Hindus, nor do they usually proselytize anyone to their faith, and so, these communities are projected by most Hindu rightists as being the model religious minority communities in India (that their faiths were not introduced to India by foreign invaders, as Islam and Christianity were to a great extent, also matters a lot in the Hindu rightist psyche), whose example Muslims and Christians should emulate, and highlighting this also brings to focus the tolerance of the asylum-giving Hindus back in history and the intolerance of those Muslims and Christians engaging in religious persecution, which is in line with the agenda of the Hindu rightists, whose intolerance (varying in degree, and all Hindu rightists do not condone or support sweeping negative generalizations, vandalism and riots, and many of them, even extreme ones, ironically have close inter-personal relations with Muslim and Christian individuals), stems primarily from chauvinism about the supposedly not-so-reciprocated Hindu tolerance, rather than Muslims and Christians supposedly being doomed in hell for following another faith, an idea completely alien to Hindu theology. By and large, even extreme Hindu rightists do not engage in unprovoked violence against Muslims or Christians.

Also, the Hindu rightists, while romanticizing India’s “Hindu past”, do not have any clear agenda of putting in place any ancient or medieval legal framework, for Hinduism, given its pluralistic character with no single, objective truth (something many Hindu rightists take pride in, and emphasize that as a reason for India’s sustenance of democracy), does not offer any divinely ordained legal framework, and the Hindu right prides itself in having fought for democratic values when a state of emergency had been declared in India in the 1970s in an authoritarian fashion. There have been several law codes (as distinct from scriptures) among the Hindus in ancient and medieval India, though the Manusmriti, one ancient law code that emphasizes caste discrimination, was somehow given exaggerated importance by the British, and that text has been denounced even by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), which advocates Hindu unity, as you can see here.

Also, Hindu rightists are usually not averse to any kind of scientific research (though they also make claims of science in the scriptures of their faith, as many Christian and Muslim rightists do, as has been discussed here) and are more open-minded on issues like homosexuality (as you can see here), given the ambivalent stance of the Hindu scriptures on this point.

The RSS points out that global pan-Muslim tendencies and yearning for Islamic theocracy (which, in practice, amounts to denying non-Muslims and women equal rights to varying degrees, wherever we may look across the globe) out of certain very popular interpretations of Islam are problematic, and Muslim extremism has a history even in medieval times. As has been pointed out in this article-

“The games played by Leftist historians are fascinating. They will dismiss the violent accounts in the works of medieval Muslim historians as propaganda that should not be taken seriously. Such ‘texts’ are not apparently authentic sources. At the same time, they will give extraordinary publicity to obscure ‘texts’ that suggest Brahmin-Buddhist or Jain-Shaiva or Shaiva-Vaishnava rivalry with the intent of making the politically correct point that all violence is similar.”

Ambedkar's not-very-charitable views on Islam and Muslim societies or his opposition to Article 370 of the constitution are papered over by the left-leaning intellectuals, while emphasising his critiques of Hinduism and Hindus.

It is difficult then to ascertain things right away. It is difficult then to term Walter Benjamin to be an “atheist-Communist” when he engages with Jewish philosophy in such a profound manner. It is difficult to ascertain whether Ernst Bloch is a “pure communist” when he talks about the “theology” of the left. Even he drew flak from the more stern critics of capitalism, who accused him of his “romantic anti-capitalism” that, according to them potentially mutated into an apology for capitalism itself! (The examples of Benjamin and Bloch were given because they too were fighting Fascism as we are fighting proto-gascist forces who indeed do exist in the Hindu right). So much so that admirers of Bloch’s philosophy have delinked his statements about the Moscow trials from his work, although that hardly means that he is above criticism for his role in justifying Stalin’s show trials. The point, therefore, is not to be virulent but to understand the opponent first, be it on the right or the left of the political spectrum.

To come to India again, the proclivity of the left with regard to the right-wing is banal. Vinayak Damodar Savarkar was a member of the Hindu Mahasabha and not the RSS. That there were constant rifts between the two organizations has been made clear by Rakesh Sinha in this article. So the question of the “RSS and their ilk” does not arise except for occasions when the radical left suitably seeks to justify its own polemical politics. The political actors are distorting history, on both sides.

(Updated in May 2018)

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