BJP’s call to rewrite Constitution has ominous tones for Indian democracy

The current regime seems bent on a blatant effort to distort the history of the country, surprisingly, without any historicity. The latest indicator is the call to rewrite the Constitution. Implicit in this call is the BJP government’s bid to make people remember only what V D Savarkar wrote in his monograph as early as in 1923, “...The whole of India is for Hindus by virtue of the fact that they alone, and not Muslims or Christians, considered its territory sacred.” He wrote further, “All Hindus claim to have in their veins the blood of the mighty race incorporated with and descended from the Vedic fathers, the Sindhus.” Summing it up, he wrote, “We [Hindus] are one because we are a nation, a race and own a common Sanskriti (culture).” He never mentioned our most beautiful cultural heritage of unity in multiplicity.

The concept of separate Hindu nationality emerged for the first time in the monograph which tended to replace the anger against the injustices committed by the British colonialists with negativity against the Muslim community with the same intensity. In a way, therefore, it was offering a handle to British authorities to follow its divisive policy. It was the emphasis on the concept of Hindutva that added to its exclusivity and all others, especially Muslims, remained the ‘others’ against whom the negativity was to be directed. To Savarkar, the term Hindutva represented the politically conscious Hinduism that sought to organise Hindus as a nationality. India’s Muslims and Christians did not constitute a part of this vision of the nation. The book did not only define what he considered Hindu nationalism, it also echoed his call for actions against Muslims because he specified that “a conflict of life and death” began “after Mohammad of Gazni crossed the Indus”. The text therefore tended to place Hindus against Muslims. Savarkar was released from prison in 1924. Soon after, in 1925, Rashtriya Swayam Sewak Sangh (RSS) was born to carry forth his vision. All its five founder members, which included K B Hedgewar, B S Moonje, L V Paranjpe, B B Tholkar and Ganesh Savarkar, were loyal towards Savarkar.

RSS did not have a constitution, nor did it openly define its aims and objects. Yet, it was widely perceived as an organisation meant to establish a ‘Hindu Rashtra’. RSS as an organisation used Hindu religious identity to attract youth and train them against “internal enemies”, that was precisely Muslims. Despite the efforts, the organisation was not able to take off in the first few years. It was only after Munje, the patron of Hedgewar, met Mussolini and visited his training centres that he could inspire new ideas and new vigour into RSS. The meeting took place in Italy in 1931, when fascism was well established in that country. The agenda of pushing the minorities, in particular Muslims, off the edge started getting implemented in a real sense only after Munje came back from Italy with his new ideas.