The BJP’s clear attempts to extend to Deendayal Upadhyaya the kind of iconic status that Mahatma Gandhi enjoys in India are in line with the Jana Sangh ideologue’s espousal of a Hindu state where the minorities would have a place only if they shed their own religious identities. By A.G. NOORANI
Such brazen abuse of the government’s machinery and funds to commemorate the birth of a politician who belonged to the present ruling party is patently unconstitutional. The Supreme Court has strongly disapproved of the practice of Chief Ministers projecting their own image while advertising the “achievements” of their governments. It can be struck down by the Supreme Court on a writ petition filed by concerned secularists, intellectuals and non-governmental organisations (NGOs).
What is more revealing is the BJP’s explicit rejection of Gandhi in preference for Upadhyaya; the Modi government’s endorsement of his rabidly communal ideology; the projection of that ideology by the state for the next whole year to influence voters in crucial Assembly elections in Punjab and Uttar Pradesh, and most menacingly of all, to recast the nation’s ethos on the lines of Upadhyaya’s thinking and reject decisively the secular Gandhi-Nehru ethos on which the country’s Constitution is based and which it has always known all these years.
Narendra Modi lost no time in revealing his plans in Kozhikode itself on the very next day, September 25. Addressing the BJP’s National Council, he said: “Fifty years ago Pandit Upadhyaya said ‘do not reward/appease [puraskrit] Muslims; do not shun [tiraskrit] them but purify [parishkar]” (The Telegraph, September 26). “Senior RSS ideologue” Rakesh Sinha did not improve matters by saying that by “parishkar” Modi meant that Muslims “have to critically examine and accept pre-Islamic cultural and intellectual legacy of India” (The Indian Express, September 27). The cat of Hindutva is out of the BJP’s soiled bag. Modi kept his homage to Upadhyaya securely locked inside his 56” chest. His belated homage has a purpose. He waits to use Upadhyaya’s ideology to recast the polity anew.
Viciously communal agenda
Upadhyaya was viciously communal. He hated and distrusted Muslims and demanded a 10-mile wide corridor along the border with Pakistan from which they would be expelled. He wanted to annul the Partition; believed in the caste system; opposed the proposal for a Punjabi Suba and denounced Jawaharlal Nehru and the Congress with frenzied abandon.
The French scholar Christophe Jaffrelot, author of the definitive work The Hindu Nationalist Movement in India (1996), ripped apart the pretences in an article entitled “Hindutva’s ‘purification’ drive” (The Indian Express, October 13). He wrote: “The notion of ‘purification’ is clearly associated with Hinduism’s caste system, evident from the shuddhi rituals that Swami Dayanand, who founded the Arya Samaj in 1875 and was the architect of Hindu revivalism, adapted to initiate the reconversion of Dalits who had become Muslims or Christians in Punjab. The Arya Samaj played on the craze for Sanskritisation that prevailed among some known as ‘untouchables’ in the late 19th century. By passing them the sacred thread, the Arya Samajists tried to defuse centrifugal social forces and invited them to pay allegiance to savarnas’ values. For Dayananda, the varna vyavastha was a model of social cohesion to which each caste could adhere, including the ‘untouchables’, after they underwent shuddhi.
“Upadhyaya shared similar beliefs. The organic unity of the varna vyavastha is one of the key ideas of his philosophy of ‘integral humanism’, referred to as the cornerstone of their ideology by Sangh Parivar leaders. In 1965, he wrote: ‘In our concept of four castes, they are analogous to the different limbs of Virat-Purusha, the primeval man whose sacrifice, according to the Rig Veda, gave birth to society in the form of the varna vyavastha.’ For him, the varna vyavastha was endowed with the organic unity that could sustain the nation-making process.
“The resilience of such categories explains why Hindu nationalist ideologues tried to apply techniques of ‘purification’, not only to Dalits but also to those who converted to other religions.” V.D. Savarkar’s Hindutva held the same view. So did Deendayal Upadhyaya. This doctrine of purification lay at the root of the shuddhi movement and lies at the root of ghar wapsi today.
Jaffrelot makes an important point which few care to notice: “None of the Sufi saints—who established Islam in India—ever went to Mecca or Medina. Instead, they engaged in intense spiritual conversation with yogis, often establishing their abodes next to sacred Hindu sites. Their tombs became pilgrimage centres. Sultans and the great Mughals—Aurangzeb included—did not go to Mecca and Medina either.… Instead, they went to the dargahs of Mu’in al-Din Chishti in Ajmer, Nizamuddin Auliya in Delhi, or to still other places.…
“The crowds at the dargahs show that while ideologues may be attracted by Saudi Arabia, popular Islam continues to be turned towards local sacred sites: ‘Purification’ through ‘nationalisation’ is redundant in the case of Indian Muslims, who always looked at the land of their saints as their holy land.”
The 16th All India Session of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, in Patna in December 1969, passed a resolution on the “internal situation” which endorsed the cry of “Indianisation” popularised by its president, Balraj Madhok. It was a euphemism for “Hinduisation” of Muslims. Modi’s idea of their “purification” is in the same vein. Madhok referred to “this process of Indianisation or Hinduisation of Muslims”. Madhok’s book, Indian Nationalism, published in 1969, was on this theme: “There is no sense in making a fetish of the word Hindu. Instead of forcing it on those who do not like it today, it should be popularised as a synonym of “Bharatiya” in writing and speaking. But that can be possible only when the enthusiasts of this world themselves grasp the broad national content of this and stop talking of Hindu religion and Hindu community which lowers it to the position of Islam or Christianity. Christians and Muslims living in India are also Hindus. If India and Indian culture command their first foremost allegiance, they all form part of Hindu Rashtra or the Indian Nation.
“This consciousness is today lacking in most Muslims and some Christians of India. The most urgent problem of Indian nationalism today, therefore is to Indianise or Hinduise such people, and to develop in them national consciousness which may transcend their group consciousness as members of different religious communities.”
He added, “They must adopt Indian names just as the Indonesian or Chinese Muslims have Indonesian or Chinese names. In short, they must adopt the Indian attitude—the national attitude—towards their religion, which must cease to colour their loyalties towards the mainsprings of Indian nationalism. All talk of separate Muslim or Christian or for that matter of Sikh or Jain culture must stop.” In the 1990s, L.K. Advani picked up the refrain and openly espoused Savarkar’s Hindutva.
Stranglehold of RSS
There is, however, another and little-known aspect to the Upadhyaya cult. He was RSS chief M.S. Golwalkar’s hand-picked tool to keep the Jana Sangh firmly under the RSS’ control when that political front of the RSS was set up in 1951. He took great pains to endear himself to Golwalkar.
Those in India and in the United States who fondly imagined that the BJP would emerge as a secular conservative party, freed from the clutches of the RSS, were deluding themselves. L.K. Advani was the third party president who was shown the door by the RSS. Its control did not weaken over time. It became tighter. A pracharak is now Prime Minister.
Upadhyaya helped hugely in the laying of the foundations of this set-up. Born in 1916, he joined the RSS in 1937, edited its organ Panchajanya in 1947 and went underground after Gandhi’s assassination. On October 21, 1951, the Jana Sangh was formed. He was made its general secretary at its first annual session at Kanpur in December 1952. Jaffrelot writes: “At the same time [mid-1960s] the RSS had tightened its hold over the Jana Sangh. In 1967, Upadhyaya had taken over the presidency of the Jana Sangh from Madhok” (The Hindu Nationalist Movement in India, page 235).
Now for his gift of the purification doctrine to Modi. Upadhyaya wrote in an article entitled “Akhand Bharat” (Undivided India): “No sensible man will say that six crores of Muslims should be eradicated or thrown out of India, but then they will have to identify themselves completely with Indian life. If the consciousness of oneness is possible in the geographically partitioned India, the identification of the rest of the region [read: Pakistan] will be achieved in no time. If the country has been divided because of the lack of feeling of unity, the restoration of that feeling will make it united again. This is what we must strive for. In order to make the Muslims proper Indians, we will have to change our policy of the last half a century. The Congress made its efforts for Hindu-Muslim unity on a wrong basis. Instead of emphasising sharing the experience of real unity of nation and culture which had gone on ceaselessly from time immemorial, the Congress followed the suicidal policy of fuelling separation. It tried to bring a number of diverse people artificially together through political bargaining. Such efforts can never succeed. Nationalism and anti-nationalism can never coexist in harmony.”
His speech in Pune in 1965 bears quotation in extenso. He asked: “How can independence and foreign rule co-exist? These two things are contradictory. Shivaji Maharaj established a sovereign swarajya and his ambition was to free the whole Bharat on the strength of that swarajya and by following the same policies and methods. The way we freed Hyderabad and Goa is the way we have to free Pakistan standing on our land; this is our duty and our right. We must not tolerate any foreign power standing on our land. To free Pakistan and amalgamate it with Bharat is no aggression as we have every right to take what is and has always been ours.
“Some talk of such an attempt as an aggression. But the fact is that the very existence of Pakistan is an aggression on independent Bharat. Some argue that Muslims are our brothers and should not be called foreigners. Arguing the same way, why is Aurangzeb, who lived and utilised the wealth here, regarded a foreign ruler? Are not Moghal kings to be treated as foreigners? If not, Shivaji, who fought against Moghal power, must be regarded a traitor to this country. If Akbar is our man, Rana Pratap, who fought with him, will no more be a patriot. If Rana Pratap, Chhatrapati Shivaji, Chhatrasal, Durgavati are patriots, then those against whom they fought must be regarded as foreigners. Akbar may have been great but he was not ours. We speak of having become free after a thousand years of slavery. This simply means that during Akbar’s reign we were in bondage. [This is just what Modi said in his first speech in the Lok Sabha in 2014.]
“In 1947, Pakistan was created. About this it can be said that of our motherland, which was foreign-dominated from the Moghal times, one part became free but another part was enslaved again. The government of this enslaved part is not being run in the spirit of independent Bharat. Muslims claimed a separate identity and nationhood and demanded a separate state. Muslims came here sword in hand, and so it must not be forgotten that the war with Muslims is not religious but political.
“Our quarrel is not with Mohammed, nor with Mullas and Maulavis. Our quarrel is with the way Muslims behave, coupling political ambition with religious zeal. This is why this war is not religious but political. Chhatrapati Shivaji was fully aware of this and hence he did not pull down mosques but fought with Aurangzeb. Our war today is also for political independence and because Muslims do not join the main stream of Bharatiya nationalism.”
Upadhyaya explained: “There is only one way to defeat Muslim bigotry, and it is to politically defeat them. That is the real solution of the Muslim problem. So long as they are not politically defeated, the rot will continue to grow. Only such a defeat will make them have second thoughts and the process of Hindu-Muslim cooperation will begin. It is a general rule that defeat makes men introspective. So far as Hindus are concerned, their tradition is that of accommodation of any sect. Our policy should be aggressive on the national plane, tolerant on the religious plane and accommodative on the social plane.” In 1965 Upadhyaya demanded a 10-mile belt along the border with Pakistan which would be cleared of Muslims as persons of doubtful loyalty. The Times of India’s editorial of May 20, 1963, was scathing. “Implicit in Mr. Upadhyaya’s suggestion is the charge that Indian Muslims are security risks in situations where there is a conflict between India and Pakistan on any question. He really has no right to cast aspersions on the patriotism of Indian Muslims. Some 50 million Indians profess the Islamic faith and if their patriotism cannot be trusted in a period of crisis, the creation of a ten-mile wide ‘Muslim-Free Zone’ on the Indian side of the Indo-Pakistan border is unlikely to be a great help.”
To Upadhyaya and, indeed, to the Jana Sangh, Muslims of India and Pakistan together constituted one single political problem. He expounded this theme in Pune in 1965 in these terms. “There need not be any doubt as to whether this political problem should be solved or not. It will have to be solved and there is only one way in which it can be solved. It can’t be solved unless and until Muslims are politically defeated. It is only after such a defeat that it will be possible to assimilate the Muslims. It was this basic ignorance of the Hindu-Muslim problem that led to the appeasement methods or hollow appeals. It is not a surprise that they failed. The inferiority complex in the Hindus that has resulted from these wrong policies will also disappear with the defeat of the secessionists. The national sense of achievement will find free scope. Defeat often makes a person prone to self-analysis. When Muslims make a candid self-analysis, they will awake to the truth that their traditions are Indian traditions, they have common ancestors and Bharat Mata is their Motherland.”
Ideologue for Jana Sangh
Even while Syama Prasad Mookherjee was alive, Upadhyaya had become very important to the Jana Sangh. In May 1952, he explained these principles to be followed by the Jana Sangh. “Undivided Bharat is not a Utopian idea, but a carefully thought-out ideal. Some people consider partition of India a settled fact. This view is totally wrong; the view is only an indication of a lack of intense love for the motherland. These people have forgotten history and have never properly understood its implications. The country was divided into many parts during Muslim domination but our Hindu leaders never accepted that as a settled fact and continued to fight against it.
“The second principle of Jana Sangh is that there is only one nation in this country. There is no minority in this nation. The human body has one nose and two eyes, but on that account we do not talk of the eyes as the majority and the nose as minority. The reason is simple; both the eyes and the nose are organic components of the same body.
“The third principle is that there exists only one culture here. There are no separate cultures here for Muslims and Christians. Culture is not related to mode of worship or sect; it is related to the country. Kabir, Jayasi and Rasakhan should serve as models for Muslims. Today their centre of loyalty is outside Bharat. The Muslims must completely change their sentiment and view.”
He emerged as the Jana Sangh’s theoretician and ideologue. The brilliant Danish scholar Thomas Blom Hansen records: “Deendayal Upadhyaya was a full-time organiser of the RSS commissioned to work as an organiser in the Hindu nationalist party Bharatiya Jana Sangh from its inception in 1951. He developed a set of concepts that, under the name of ‘Integral Humanism’, was adopted by the Jana Sangh in 1965 as its official doctrine. Integral humanism did not depart much from Golwalkar’s organicist thought but supplemented it by appropriating significant elements of the Gandhian discourse and articulated these in a version of Hindu nationalism that aimed at erasing the communal image of the Jana Sangh in favour of a softer, spiritual, non-aggressive image stressing social equality, ‘Indianisation’ and social harmony. This creation of a new discourse suited specifically to the legitimate problematics and dominant discourses of the political field of the 1960s and 1970s in India also reflected an attempt to adjust the party and the larger Hindu nationalist movement to a new high profile on the right fringe of the political mainstream, with a considerable following in the urban middle classes in north India after the 1967 general elections. One of the most significant changes in relation to Golwalkar’s writings was the use of the term ‘Bharatiya’, which Richard Fox has aptly translated ‘Hindian’, a mixture of ‘Hindu’ and ‘Indian’” (The Saffron Wave: Democracy and Hindu Nationalism in Modern India, Oxford University Press, pages 84-85).
Pralay Kanungo, a Delhi academic, noted: “Deendayal Upadhyaya supplements Golwalkar’s cultural nationalism with his theory of integral humanism (Ekatma Manavavad). This new theory adds some sophistication to the RSS concept of Hindu Rashtra and enriches its ideological underpinnings” (RSS’ Tryst with Politics; Manohar, page 118). The Jana Sangh adopted “Integral Humanism” as its “guiding ideology” in 1965. It was also adopted by the BJP in 1980.
The vaporous prose testifies to lack of serious reading and thinking. Sample this: “Socialism and free economy both give birth to dictatorship,” Upadhyaya said from an RSS platform. And this: “The solution of the world’s problems lies in Hinduism and not in socialism.”
Besides socialism, secularism was another concept he hated; as did the Jana Sangh; so does the BJP. In an RSS meeting in Aligarh, Upadhyaya said: “By declaring Bharat as a secular nation, the soul of Bharat has been attacked. A secular state is full of woes [sic]. Although Ravana’s dharmaless state of Lanka had plenty of gold, it had no Rama Rajya (state) in it.”
All this followed inexorably from his outlook, which he revealed in one of his articles: “If we aspire for unity, we must really understand Bharatiya Nationalism, which is Hindu Nationalism, and Bharatiya Culture is Hindu culture.” Non-Hindus had no place in his Bharat unless they were purified and became Hindus. This is what “cultural nationalism” means. The Constitution had to be changed radically. In Upadhyaya’s view, “it runs counter to the unity and indivisibility of Bharat. There is no recognition of the idea of Bharat Mata, our sacred mother land, as enshrined in the hearts of our people. According to the first para of the Constitution, India, that is Bharat, will be a federation of States, i.e. Bihar Mata, Banga Mata, Punjab Mata, Kannada Mata, Tamil Mata, all put together make Bharat Mata. This is ridiculous. We have thought of the provinces as limbs of Bharat Mata and not as individual mothers. Therefore our Constitution should be unitary instead of federal. [The] Jana Sangh believes that Bharatiya culture like Bharatvarsh is one and indivisible. Any talk of composite culture, therefore, is not only untrue but also dangerous, for it tends to weaken national unity and encourages fissiparous tendencies” (Jana Sangh’s Principles and Policies, January 25, 1965, page 16). The Jana Sangh “opposed a Punjabi Suba as strongly as ever” (Craig Baxter, The Jana Sangh, a definitive work; page 253).
Upadhyaya was the arch exponent of Akhand Bharat. In an article in Organiser (August 24, 1953), he wrote: “Akhand Bharat is not only the expression of the geographical unity of the country but also indicates the Bharatiya view of life, which manifests unity in diversity. Hence Akhand Bharat is not some political slogan with us, accepted because of its popularity under special conditions but the very basis of our ideology.”
The Jana Sangh passed a resolution on August 17, 1965, to declare: “As long as Partition exists, there will be no peace between Bharat and Pakistan. It is because of our submission to goondaism of Pakistan and our policy of appeasement that the rift between the two has widened. Many Muslims of Bharat have emotional affinity for Pakistan. Twofold efforts shall have to be made to change this situation. Firstly, a policy of ‘tit for tat’ should be adopted in our relations with Pakistan. The day Pakistan realises that its dream of conquering the whole of Bharat cannot be fulfilled, it would be forced to be introspective and would realise its mistake in dividing Bharat. But for this the policy of ‘tit for tat’ shall have to be adopted. Secondly, there should never be any bargaining with Muslims of Bharat with a view to appeasing them. All their rights are protected in the non-communal State of Bharat. But, while not tolerating the pro-Pakistan tendencies of Muslims, every effort shall have to be made to change their outlook and make it Bharatiya” (Bharatiya Jana Sangh-Ghoshna Va Prastaav, pages 75-76). Pakistan and the Muslims of India had to be dealt with together.
In March 1964, the Jana Sangh Central Working Committee resolved in Delhi: “The Partition should be annulled and Pakistan must be liberated. That must be the nation’s ultimate goal.” The reasons for this are clarified in a resolution of Jana Sangh representatives’ meeting in Delhi, immediately following the massive morcha in protest against the Kutch Pact. It says: “So long as Pakistan exists, Bharat-Pak[istan] peace attempts will be an exercise in futility. To yield to Pakistan’s pressures only fuels its mounting arrogance. Pakistan’s aspirations against Bharat are on the increase. A large group of Muslims in Hindustan is emotionally one with Pakistan and these two strengthen each other. Two remedies are suggested: Pakistan’s dreams of Moghal Empire must be smashed. And there should be no political bargaining whatsoever with Muslims in Bharat.” The resolution explained the fruits of this policy. “The people and rulers of Pakistan will then be compelled to introspect and they will perceive the folly of Partition.” Muslims of India were to be treated as hostages to bring Pakistan to heel.
A man with such an outlook was perfectly qualified to serve as the RSS’ tool to keep the Jana Sangh under control. Long before he resigned from Nehru’s Cabinet in April 1950, Syama Prasad Mookerjee was in parleys with Golwalkar and his men. Upadhyaya was then the chief of the RSS’ Uttar Pradesh wing (Baxter, page 68). Golwalkar revealed the talks in an article in Organiser (June 25, 1956). “I chose some of my colleagues, staunch and tried workers, who could selflessly and unflinchingly shoulder the burden of founding the new party.” Upadhyaya was chief among them.
Golwalkar revealed that S.P. Mookerjee “stated that our concept of Hindu Nation was acceptable to him. Stating that our Constitution had failed to clearly define Indian Nationalism, Dr Mookerjee also said, ‘The goal to restore to the Hindu Nation its supreme glory is not inconsistent even with the modern concept of democracy. So long as the people belonging to the non-Hindu sects do not indulge in anti-national activities by acquiring power, do not conspire to push the nation back in its progress on the path to glory, a guarantee of providing them all the civic rights and equal status in political, religious and cultural field is implied in the concept of the Hindu Nation.’ Mookerjee expressed his readiness to make an explicit mention of this guarantee in the policy draft of the new party.
“In this way, after we came to an agreement, I selected a few dedicated and reliable workers. I gave to Dr Mookerjee such workers who would discharge the responsibility of setting up the new party with selfless and steadfast dedication and who were capable of laying strong foundation of and giving a practical shape to a popular all India political party.”
Jaffrelot correctly sums up the consequences of this Faustian pact: “To sum up, the RSS had entered the political arena in response to political events and to pressure from ‘activist’ swayamsewaks, but with certain guarantees; in fact the movement gave itself the means to control the policy line of the Jana Sangh. When the ‘politicians’ among its founders sought to vary that line in any way or emancipate themselves from its control, the RSS would not hesitate to take power itself within the party.”
After leaving the Janata Party in 1980, the honest course before the Jana Sangh’s leaders was to revive their party. But it had incurred odium. They stole the name of the party they had left, added Bharatiya before it, and espoused the same ideology as the Jana Sangh’s. “When did we leave the Jana Sangh?” Atal Bihari Vajpayee, its first president, had asked.
In 2016, Narendra Modi & co. have nailed their colours to the mast by extolling Deendayal Upadhyaya. Nothing has changed. His silence on the outrages against Muslims, Christians and Dalits betrays his outlook. The New York Times’ correspondent Jeremy M. Peters explained the phenomenon of “Hindu nationalist” support for a man like Donald Trump: “It may be pure coincidence that some of Mr Trump’s words channel the nationalistic and, some argue, anti-Muslim sentiments that Mr Modi stoked as he rose to power. But it is certainly not coincidental that many of Mr Trump’s biggest Hindu supporters are also some of Mr Modi’s most ardent backers.
“Manu Bhagavan, who teaches South Asian history at Hunter College, said the Hindu nationalist movement in India and its devotees in the U.S. shared a belief that what was once pure and virtuous about Indian life has been tainted. ‘They locate this in a grand Hindu past,’ he said. ‘If you go before Muslims entered India, before all these foreigners came in and messed things up…’” (The Hindu, October 16.) The Sangh Parivar has a huge fight with history. It tries to fight ancient and imagined wrongs. This is a radically different world view from the one that the Indian nation holds and has held all these years. Hence, Balashankar’s rejection of Gandhi and preference for Upadhyaya. That man was no shrinking violet. In 1961 Deendayal Upadhyaya said: “With all respect for Gandhiji, let us cease to call him ‘Father of the Nation’. If we understand the old basis of nationalism, then it would be clear that it is nothing but Hinduism.” His heir, L.K. Advani, agreed. On October 17, 1989, The Times of India editorially noted: “Mr Advani, while holding forth on ‘Bharat Mata’, goes so far as to deny that Mahatma Gandhi was the Father of the Nation.”
The BJP swiftly discarded the initial credo “Gandhian socialism” and adopted Upadhyaya’s “Integral Humanism” as recommended by the 47-page report of a working group. Asked if it meant a return to the Jana Sangh, Vajpayee retorted “When did we get away from Jana Sangh?”
Narendra Modi’s speech at Kozhikode on September 25 threatening to “purify” Muslims shows him and the BJP in their true colours. He did not indicate the means by which the process of purification would be executed. On the basis of what happened in the past, Muslims have reason to be worried.