A nationalism that’s anti-national

The recent outreach by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) at Vigyan Bhavan in Delhi seems to have succeeded in its principal objective: an image makeover for a niche audience. Thanks to an obsequious media and a commentariat ever willing to suspend disbelief, the event has yielded the soft, liberal gloss the RSS needed and desired. Sadly, the critics limited themselves to questions that the RSS anticipated, indeed wanted: Does the RSS exercise influence on this government? Is the RSS anti-Muslim? It is time we asked a harder and deeper question: Is the RSS anti-national? Theory and practice On the face of it, this is an odd question. Nationalism, Indian-ness and Hindutva are very much the calling card of the RSS. This is not put on. I have known the RSS from inside and outside. Having met hundreds of swayamsevaks and many pracharaks, I know that an average RSS volunteer carries this nationalist self-image. I can also attest that just like the communists or old-time socialists, an average RSS worker tends to be more honest and idealist than a run-of-the-mill political leader. I am aware that on more than one occasion, the RSS has done exemplary rescue and relief work during national disasters. If anything, its critics accuse it of being ultra-nationalist. Thus, to question its nationalist credentials might appear outrageous. Yet this question needs to be debated in all seriousness and all fairness. Given the salience of the RSS in our national public life today, this is a pressing question. We worry, rightly so, about the impact of Islamic fundamentalist groups and Maoist insurgents on our nation. We debate, as we should, the challenge posed by separatism in Kashmir and Nagaland to our nationhood. But we no longer debate with any seriousness the challenge posed by the RSS and its associates to the project of nation-building the Indian nation. The question is about the theory and practice of the RSS as an organisation and its relation to the Indian nation, its past, present and future. The nation and the past Let’s begin with some indisputable facts about its past. Right from its inception in 1925, the RSS was not in any way active during the national movement. In fact, its associates such as the Hindu Mahasabha actively opposed the national movement. It is also a well-documented fact that V.D. Savarkar, whose ideology inspired the RSS’s founders and who remains its icon, was released from Cellular Jail in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands after he wrote four mercy petitions to the Viceroy pledging loyalty to the British empire. After his release, he lived off a stipend from the British government and obeyed faithfully the conditions it had imposed on him. Syama Prasad Mookerjee, another Hindu Mahasabha leader, actively collaborated with the British during the Quit India movement while the RSS kept aloof from this biggest anti-colonial uprising. The two-nation theory was propagated by Hindu nationalists, much before the Muslim League. And it is no secret that Nathuram Godse was once an RSS member and was very much a part of its extended family when he murdered Mahatma Gandhi. Bluntly put, the RSS made zero, if not negative, contribution to the national struggle. But that is not sufficient to dub it anti-national today.

Source : https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-opinion/a-nationalism-thats-anti-national/article25043134.ece

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