“I firmly believe that uniformity is a pointer to the downfall of nations. I am in favour of preservation of diverse ways of life. At the same time, we should pay attention to ensure that these diversities nurture the unity of the nation.” — Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar
Recent comments by the Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha condoning the attack on churches in Agra make it difficult to believe the above words were spoken by former Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief MS Golwakar to the Organiser on 23 August 1972.
Impervious to any damage its statement could cause to the secular fabric of India, the Hindu Mahasabha this week stated that attacking churches is not illegal. Going a step further to substantiate its point, the right-wing outfit said it would protect and even award Hindu youths who attack churches and marry Muslim girls.
In this ‘us’ versus ‘them’ debate, it seems the Hindu fundamentalist group is brazenly overlooking what their own stalwarts have said on the issue of diversity.
Golwakar succeeded the founder of RSS, the revered doctor Keshav Baliram Hedgewar, in 1940 and continued to head the organisation until 1973. Rumour has it that former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee used to sit on the ground in Golwakar’s presence as a mark of respect. In Bunch of Thoughts, the former RSS chief wrote, “There are some for whom the term ‘Hindu’ is of use only to serve political objectives. Because a Congressman or a Socialist or some ‘X’ thinks in terms of ‘composite culture’, they stand up and say that they want a ‘pure’ Hindu culture.”
It is clear that Golwakar wouldn’t have agreed with the current crop of sadhus labelling other communities as haramzade. Asking Hindu women to have more children so as to ‘outdo’ the allegedly growing numbers of Muslims is another war cry that he would have detested. Though Golwalkar, whom Prime Minister Narendra Modi calls one of his inspirations, was convinced about the superiority of the Hindus, he always underlined the need for religious tolerance. “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,” Golwalkar wrote.
Swami Vivekananda, attributed with unifying Hinduism and bringing it recognition abroad, was also an advocate of religious harmony. Addressing the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago on 27 September 1893, he said, “Do I wish that the Christian would become Hindu? God forbid. Do I wish that the Hindu or Buddhist would become Christian? God forbid…The Christian is not to become a Hindu or a Buddhist, nor a Hindu or a Buddhist to become a Christian. But each must assimilate the spirit of the others and yet preserve his individuality and grow according to his own law of growth.”
Not only does Vivekananda’s speech stress on the need for people from different religions to live in harmony, it also dismisses the very grounds for ghar wapsi — a Sangh Parivar campaign that is being carried out in different parts of the country.
Even Golwalkar, who rooted for bringing back into the Hindu fold those he believed had “wandered away from the Hindu way of life”, insisted that conversion should be based on persuasion rather than force.
“We shall rejoice and offer our love and respect when all those our brethren who have been wandering for so many centuries outside our house come back to our fold. There is no compulsion here. This is only a call and request to them to understand things properly and come back and identify themselves with their ancestral Hindu way of life in dress, customs, performing marriage ceremonies and funeral rites and such other things.” (Bunch of Thoughts)
Swami Vivekananda’s guru Sri Ramakrishna also propagated that God is one, and is known by different names in different religions and sects. The sage, revered by many as an avatar, taught his disciples to respect everyone irrespective of their caste, creed or race. Commenting on his mentor, Vivekananda wrote, “To proclaim and make clear the fundamental unity underlying all religions was the mission of my Master. Other teachers have taught special religion, which bear their names; but this great teacher of the nineteenth century made no claim for himself. He left every religion undisturbed because he had realised that, in reality, they are all part and parcel of the one eternal religion.”
From the diverse sampling of writings, it is evident that the revered personalities of the Hindutva pantheon had starkly different views from what the right-wing outfits in India are projecting today. Perhaps it is time for some serious introspection. Perhaps it is time for some ‘reason-wapsi’.