Saturday, February 23, 2008

The Roots of Hindu nationalism

An unbroken streak of more than 1000 years The origin of Hindu nationalism is quite debatable. However, the earliest reference to Hindu nationalism comes from the epic Vishnu Purana. The Sanskrit verses state that the the land south of the Himalayas and extending up to the sea is Hindustan or which is the homeland of the Hindus.
The passions of Hindu nationalism were whipped up only after the Islamic invasion. In this regard, Raja Dahir was perhaps the first Hind nationalist. Dahir – the last Sindhi Hindu King -- who fought to his last breath while defending Sindh against the Muslims had remarked before the war that he would be honoured if victorious and history would remember him forever if he were to be martyred for the sake of his motherland. Raja Dahir died in the battle.
When Dahir's severed head was presented to Hajjaj, a courtier sang: "we have conquered Sindh after enormous trouble.... Betrayed is Dahir by Mohammed Bin Qasim's masterly strategy. Rejoice, the evil doers are disgraced. Their wealth has been brought away . . . They are now solitary and brittle as eggs and their women, fair and fragrant as musk-deer, are now asleep in our harems'.'
Similarly, there were a constant flow of Hindu nationalists in the form of Kings, Chieftains, Ministers, Sages and Saints who put in their best efforts to keep afloat the spirit of Hindu nationalism. Others who can be classified under this category are Prithiviraj, Rana Pratap, Krishnadevaraya, Guru Gobind Singh and Shivaji.
After the British entry, Hindu nationalism took on a new dimension. This category of Hindu nationalists were English educated and were in a position to understand both the sides of the coin. Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Dayananda Saraswati, Swami Vivekananda and Aurobindo were all for modernization and removal of superstitions while retaining the best of Hindu tradition. Later moderate Congress leaders like Lokamanya Bala Gangadhar Tilak, Lala Lajpat Roy and Bipin Chandra Paul also had streaks of aggressive hindu nationalism in them and their part in the spread of the ideology cannot be ignored by any standards.
However, exclusive Hindu nationalism was born only after the establishment of Hindu Mahasabha in 1915 and the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh in the year 1925. Savarkar and Moonje, who founded Hindu Mahasabha, were convinced that the Congress policy of appeasement was disastrous. They were of the view that the only way the Hindu society could survive was through politicization and militarization of Hindu society. Their vision was on the dot as the docile Hindus had to contend with Muslim bullying and domineering British rulers. In fact, when Savarkar encouraged Hindu youths to enroll in the British army so that they could receive military training, he was jeered as a "recruiting agent" by the eminent leftists of his time. Even the Hindu Mahasabha did not serve Hindu society to itsfullest extent as it only had a nominal support in the Hindu society.
The Hedgewar vision was quite different from Savarkar. Dr. Hedgewar’s diagnosis of the Hindu society was as follows: The Hindu society has everything – talents and resources. However what it lacks is an organizer and organization. It is due to the lack of organization that the Hindu society is diseased. The Sangh – that he founded in 1925 – was supposed to be the panacea for Hindu society’s ills. However, he made it clear that Sangh is not an organization in the Hindu society. It is the organization of Hindu society. Today, the Sangh has spawned into a multifarious organization with its tentacles all across the world.

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