Disowning Golwalkar's We
1. Golwalkar's centenary
The year of our Lord 2006 is Golwalkar year. To celebrate the 100th birth anniversary of "Guruji" Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar, the second sarsanghchalak ("chief guide of the association") of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh ("National Volunteer Association"), his organization and its network of affiliates have arranged for a great many commemoration events. Or they insert a Golwalkar element into other events.
Thus, on 7-10 February 2006 in Jaipur, RSS activist Yashwant Pathak convened an international conference of elders of all ancient (non-Abrahamic) traditions. The conference was devoted to the impeccable theme of "Spirituality beyond Religion", and in itself, this was a perfectly respectable initiative. I have met Mr. Pathak several times and I can't think of anything bad to say about him. For the priests and medicine men of isolated pockets of resistance against christianization or islamization somewhere in Africa or America, it must be quite a boost of faith in the future to see this kind of international gathering under the auspices of the most successful resister, Hindu Dharma. Precisely because this was such a good initiative, it is a great pity that the conference brochures prominently featured Golwalkar's photograph.
First of all, Golwalkar had little to do with the non-Abrahamic religions outside India. To my knowledge (but I haven't read his newly published complete works yet), he never wrote about them, never drew them into his vision of interreligious relations, never took an initiative to build bridges with them. His focus was purely on India and Hinduism; nothing wrong with that, but it's not the right résumé for earning a place as the figurehead of an interreligious conference. In case the idea was to give a face to the role of Hinduism as host to and champion of the world's religions, it would have been better to draw attention to one of the many sages from Hindu history, and specifically to one who was actually involved in interreligious relations. Maybe Agastya, who took the Vedic tradition to an as yet non-Vedic South India? Or Vivekananda, who did something similar in 1893 when he spoke at the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago? Or Ram Swarup (1920-1998), who went out of his way to re-evaluate so-called Pagan religions and break the spell of Christian and Islamic superiority claims? If the RSS is serious about its boast of being a selfless servant to Hindu society, it was wrong to push itself and its own leader into focus rather than Hindu Dharma and its representatives.
Secondly, the participants to this conference had not asked to get associated with this historical character they had never heard of. In particular, they didn't know that Golwalkar, for reasons to be discussed below, nowadays mostly figures in the media as exhibit number one for the allegation that Hindu nationalism is a "fascist" movement. So either the Elders' event would fail to draw attention, in which case no harm would be done but not much progress made either; or it would attract media coverage and condemn the participants to being depicted henceforth as collaborators of a neo-fascist international. Upon returning home, they would be asked by their friends: "Hey, what has gotten into you? I just read on the internet that the conference you went to was in fact a fascist conference." It's a bad host who treats his unsuspecting guests to such an outcome.
Most non-Sangh Hindu activists avoid any reference to Golwalkar because he has become an embarrassment (and because he is unnecessary in motivating them to serving Hindu society). It could be argued, though, that this shunning of Golwalkar is unfair to him. As we shall see, he is denounced as a fascist on the basis of two passages in a single booklet written at the start of his career. By such criteria, most famous people who are quoted as authorities on moral and political matters could be crucified on a handful of less felicitous lines in their complete works. However, this unfair treatment happens to be prevalent and is partly the result of the poor defence Golwalkar's followers have given him in the opinion-making domain. Public figures and social movements have to live in the real world and take the sheer facts of the power equation in the public sphere into account. As long as Golwalkar has not been disentangled from this identification with the worst handful of lines in his repertoire, it is most unwise and self-destructive to be seen glorifying him.
2. An embarrassing booklet
The main reason for Golwalkar's tainted reputation is found in two paragraphs in a booklet he wrote two years before becoming the RSS leader. He was 32 when he put the finishing touch to We, Our Nationhood Defined, in the first week of November 1938. If that seems old enough for him to have made up his mind and write out a matured formulation of his nationalist vision, he had until then worked as a biologist and a renunciate so that the book was actually his first venture into political thought.
It sounded like good news when the papers announced that the RSS has officially rejected Golwalkar's book We as "neither representing the views of the grown Guruji nor of the RSS" (thus quoted in "RSS officially disowns Golwalkar's book", Times of India, 9 March 2006). Yes, immature it certainly was, being obviously derivative and lapsing into intemperate language here and there, at least in its original 1939 edition. Personally, I too wouldn't want to be identified forever with what I wrote at that age. The second edition was somewhat cleansed of these excesses of language and went through three printings, the last one published in 1947.
But Golwalkar's individual immaturity was representative of the immaturity so typical of the colonial condition. Original thinkers were few and far between in 1930s India, which looked up to the West and copied its models, often in a half-digested version. Jawaharlal Nehru was a parrot of Cambridge socialism, while Subhash Bose dreamed of a synthesis of communism and fascism. Even the independent-minded Hindu nationalist Sri Aurobindo Ghose was more indebted to Western ideas than he would admit, vide e.g. his evolutionistic reformulation of yogic ideals. So, it is no surprise that in thinking through Hindu nationhood, Golwalkar sought inspiration from the modern "democratic states" (1939:16, 1947:21) of the West without adding much personal input nor any input from his native Hindu tradition.
By and large, there is nothing shameful about Golwalkar's first grappling with political thought. It was actually more sophisticated than what is usually taken to be the RSS party-line. Thus, while the RSS is accused of following the "leader principle" (drawn more from the ancient Hindu veneration for the guru than from the contemporaneous fascist model), the young Golwalkar expressed no criticism of the principle of democracy, though he could easily have gotten away with that. Questioning or plainly rejecting democracy in favour of the seemingly more successful fascist and Bolshevik models was very voguish in the 1930s. By contrast, Golwalkar took the democratic model for granted. The choice of political system was simply not his concern as long as the polity was an expression of the Hindu nation. But how to define and cultivate Hindu nationhood? That was the topic of the book, and it led the author to consider the experience of established nation-states in the West.
3. Disturbing quotes
For decades and until recently, the single most-quoted Hindutva statement was the following one from Golwalkar's We: "The non-Hindu peoples in Hindusthan must either adopt the Hindu culture and language (*) they must not only give up their attitude of intolerance and ungratefulness towards this land and its age-long traditions but must also cultivate the positive attitude of love and devotion instead - in one word, must cease to be foreigners, or may stay in the country, wholly subordinated to the Hindu nation, claiming nothing, deserving no privileges, far less any preferential treatment, not even citizen's rights." (1939:47-48, 1947:55-56)
The Marxists who usually do the quoting, pretend (and given their permanent state of hysteria when dealing with Hindu nationalism, possibly also believe) that this is a warrant for genocide, a "holocaust of the minorities". Yet the text is quite explicit: far from wanting to kill or expel Muslims and Christians, Golwalkar even agrees to let them "stay in the country" and live safely in his Hindu Rashtra, only without citizen's rights. I don't find that acceptable, and I assume the RSS has now sent the message that it rejects this option too, but it is at any rate totally different from genocide or ethnic cleansing.
Instead, what he proposed for the non-Hindus is exactly the condition of "dhimmitude" that Islamic states in peacetime have always imposed on the non-Muslims. Even today, Saudi Arabia goes considerably farther in practising discrimination against the minorities than Golwalkar did in preaching it, e.g. it doesn't allow any form of non-Muslim worship on its territory whereas Guruji did not propose to forbid Christian and Islamic cultic practice. Dhimmitude, an imposed third-class status for minorities, is bad enough, but those who denounce it in Golwalkar's model would have more credibility if they also denounced it in the Islamic states, where it is not somebody's private little idea on the yellowed pages of a juvenile exercise in political thought, but actual practice.
In the last decade, another quote from We has become the most popular Hindutva reference, being presented as somehow encapsulating the essence and the genesis history of the Sangh Parivar: "German race pride has now become the topic of the day. To keep up the purity of the Race and its culture, Germany shocked the world by her purging the country of the semitic Races - the Jews. Race pride at its highest has been manifested here. Germany has also shown how well-nigh impossible it is for Races and cultures, having differences going to the root, to be assimilated into one united whole, a good lesson for us in Hindusthan to learn and profit by." (1939:35, 1947:43) Though the RSS spokesmen don't specify this, it is obviously this paragraph that prompted them to dissociate themselves from Golwalkat's We.
4. The meaning of the "race pride" quote
What does the controversial "race pride" quote mean? Let us first of all look at what is not here. These days, when the word "Nazi" is uttered (in this case not by Golwalkar but by his detractors), reason is switched off and hysteria takes over, so that people think they have seen or heard things which aren't there in reality.
Conspicuous by its absence in Golwalkar's allegedly pro-Nazi statement, is the term Nazi or the name Adolf Hitler. Before the outbreak of World War 2 in September 1939, it was perfectly acceptable in India, both among Hindus and Muslims, to praise Hitler and National-Socialism. Let us not forget that in the preceding years even the British leaders Lloyd George and Winston Churchill had spoken favourably of Hitler and his magic formula for reviving Germany after the humiliation of Versailles, something which Golwalkar refrained from doing, if only narrowly. And that even the later leftist icons Salvador Allende and Fidel Castro were youthful admirers of the Führer and of his Italian colleague Benito Mussolini. As late as Christmas Eve of 1940, Mahatma Gandhi wrote a letter to Hitler assuring the latter that he (Hitler) certainly wasn't as bad as his enemies painted him.
But Golwalkar did not want to draw attention to the existing regime in Germany as some kind of model to be emulated. On the contrary, elsewhere in the same book, he contrasts the militaristic barbarity displayed by the contemporaneous Germans with the Hindu "spiritual giants" who "stalk the world in serene majesty" and serve as the homegrown role models for modern India (1939:32, 1947:39-40). He concludes the booklet with the un-Nazi vision of "one glorious splendrous Hindu Nation benignly shedding peace and plenty over the world" (1939:67, 1947:76). He also supports the Czech position against Germany on the disputed Sudetenland and deplores the Czechs' failure to assimilate the Sudeten Germans (1939:38, 49; 1947:46, 57), clearly favouring the typical homogenization policy of nation-states pioneered by the French Revolutionaries in non-French parts of France. He holds the Czechs' failure to assimilate their minorities up as a warning to the Hindus. What he focuses on is the incompatibility of two nations forced to co-exist within one state, any two nations, and that is the "lesson for us in Hindusthan to learn and profit by".
Many examples of ethnic conflict within multi-ethnic states could be given, but the example then in the eye of the world was Germany, where the Nuremberg laws of 1935 had defined the Jews as a separate nation. German-Jewish intermarriage got prohibited, a move actually welcomed by the orthodox in the Jewish community, who frowned upon the ongoing cultural and biological assimilation of the Jews into German society. The participation of Jews in a number of prestigious professions was either ended or reduced to their percentage of the total population (a leftist move otherwise applauded as "affirmative action" in favour of an "underrepresented" group, i.c. the Gentile Germans), and Jewish emigration was encouraged and facilitated.
But surely this meant that Golwalkar supported the German hatred for "the Semitic races, the Jews"? Not at all. In his survey of nations whose experience and nationalism are to "serve as a good lesson for us in Hindusthan to profit by", the very first one is the Jewish nation (1939:19, 30; 1947:25, 37). This was and is standard fare in Hindutva writings, starting with Vinayak Damodar Savarkar's trail-blazing book Hindutva (1923), which speaks out in favour of the Zionist project. Hindu nationalists have always looked up to the mettle of the Jews, who managed to maintain their identity for two thousand years under adverse circumstances, and who even managed to revive Hebrew as their mother tongue and national first language, where Hindus aren't even able to promote Sanskrit to the status of national link language or pan-Indian second language. Hindu nationalist parties have always advocated diplomatic recognition of Israel when Congress (until 1992) and the Communist parties opposed it.
This, incidentally, explains the sudden popularity of this Golwalkar quote in anti-Hindutva writings. The main exploiters of this quote, the Indian Marxists, have seen their intellectual power centre expand from India to North America. In the US media and academe, they have cornered the same power position that they have enjoyed in India for decades, and they largely control the information flow from India to the American public including the professional India-watchers in academe and the government. From there, they exercise a lot of influence on public political discourse back in India. However, to secure their position in the US, they have to deal with the powerful Jewish influence there.
The Jews are not stupid and they know that in the Indian ideological spectrum, it has always been the Hindu nationalists who supported the Zionist project while the leftists opposed it. Just as it was always Hindus who let Jews live in peace in their own country, while Hinduism's Christian, Muslim and Communist enemies have a rather darker track record in this regard. Indeed, some US Zionist groups co-operate with Hindu nationalists, teaching them the ways of modern communication and lobbying. So, in order to gain the upper hand over the Hindus in winning over Jewish opinion, the Marxists have to divert attention from today's Middle East politics to other issues in order to paint their opponents as somehow even more anti-Jewish than themselves, or at least tainted by association with an even more anti-Jewish movement, viz. National-Socialism. Hence their hyperfocus on this seemingly pro-Nazi quote of Golwalkar's.
Very often, the Marxists even add their own explicitation to this quote: "Here, Golwalkar is applauding the genocide of six million Jews." That, of course, is a lie. Those who put forth this claim are either ignorant of history or shamelessly speculate on their readers' ignorance. The "purge" to which Golwalkar referred, was the progressive exclusion of the Jews from public life and the policy of promoting their emigration. The Holocaust only took place in 1941-44 under specific and largely unforeseen war circumstances. In 1938 and until 1940, Nazi policy was still one of Jewish emigration. That's not so nice either, but given their history, the Jews know better than most people that migration is a preferable alternative to persecution and death. In 1938, Hitler's mortal victims were still counted in hundreds, Stalin's in millions (which didn't prevent Jawaharlal Nehru from visiting the Soviet Union, guzzling down all the propaganda fed to him on a guided tour, and praising it for the rest of his days). In that light, if anything is shocking in Golwalkar's book, it is his innocent and highly uninformed inclusion of the Soviet Union in his list of examples of nation-building.
Conspicuous by its absence is most of all the entire Nazi policy vis-à-vis the Jews as a possible model for the Hindu treatment of the Muslims. Not just extermination but even expulsion doesn't figure in Golwalkar's plans. On the contrary, whereas Hitler first of all wanted to dissimilate the largely assimilated Jewish minority, Golwalkar favoured the assimilation of the Indian Muslims into the "Hindu nation" from which their ancestors had been estranged by conversion.
5. Withdrawing the book
As we have shown, the alleged Nazi sympathies revealed by the book's most controversial quote are a matter of eager over-interpretation. Their true proportions are in fact quite limited. All the same, it remained an unwise thing to write or say. In that sense, it is good news that the RSS has at last dared to forswear its ingrained childlike veneration for its Guruji and to state that he had been wrong. Unfortunately, even this move is still tainted by the RSS culture of not facing difficult ideological questions head-on.
According to the Times of India's Akshaya Mukul (9 March 2006), "We is considered the basic charter of Sangh". Whether this is yet another Marxist lie or just an instance of the stark ignorance of the present generations of journalists, I don't know, but the claim is at any rate untrue. For becoming the founding text of the Sangh, We appeared in print 14 years too late, as the RSS was founded in 1925. (Likewise, contrary to recent propaganda, B.S. Moonje's study tour of European military organisations and his favourable impression of the Italian paramilitary youth squads came too late to shape the RSS organization, which had fixed the rules for its uniforms, training schemes etc. in the preceding years.) And more importantly for us today, the book hasn't played any such role since at least 1948, when the remaining stock of its fourth print was confiscated during the crackdown on all Hindutva forces after the murder of Mahatma Gandhi. The book was never reprinted after that, so that over 99% of all Sangh activists now alive have never even seen a copy.
So, in practice, the RSS has already disowned the book more than fifty years ago. Doing so now is thus not "a major ideological shift", as the Times of India claims. The only shift is from an implicit disowning to an explicit disowning, which is a historic event only because it breaks the long-standing RSS taboo on criticizing the leadership. But the ideological decision of rejecting We has been taken long ago. Indeed, it was Golwalkar himself who vetoed any further reprints of We. The late K.R. Malkani and other RSS elders told me that Guruji had mused about the book's "immaturity".
However, none of those veterans ever told me that Golwalkar had "revealed that the book carried not his own views but was an abridged version of [Hindutva author V.D. Savarkar's brother] G.D. Savarkar's Rashtra Mimansa", as is now reportedly claimed by pro-RSS Delhi University lecturer Rakesh Sinha, author of Shri Guruji and Indian Muslims (Suruchi Prakashan, Delhi 2006). It may be true that Golwalkar said this, but what exactly would it mean? Some general ideas of Hindu nationalism were in the air, especially among Maharashtrian Brahmins like the Savarkar and Golwalkar families, and you find these in both books. Even so, whatever Golwalkar took from G.D. Savarkar into his booklet, "this maiden attempt of mine" (1939:3), he had made his own. He merely thanked Savarkar whose book "has been one of my chief sources of inspiration and help", and referred the reader to that book for "a more exhaustive study of the subject" (1939:4). Clearly the contents of the two books were not identical. It is not like as if Golwalkar wasn't responsible for those ideas he happened to share with or even borrow from Savarkar.
It is painful to note the typical RSS clumsiness in this futile exercise in keeping Golwalkar out of the firing line. While trying to relieve him from responsibility for his own booklet, they don't hesitate to accuse him of plagiarism. After all, in the book itself, neither he nor M.S. Aney in his foreword ever acknowledged that "the book carried not his own views". Of course the book expressed Golwalkar's own convictions. All writers owe a part of their ideas to the influence of others, but they digest those influences and distil from them the convictions that become their own. No matter where Golwalkar got his ideas, he took responsibility for them by writing them down and publishing them under his own name.
The attempt to distance Golwalkar from the contents of We by attributing the latter to another Hindutva writer are revelatory for the RSS state of mind regarding this embarrassing heritage. They want to salvage Guruji as an icon without attaching any implications to his writings. Rather than confronting the problem posed, the RSS leadership has always preferred to ignore it. For over fifty years, they did this by imposing on themselves and esp. on their younger rank and file an ignorance of the book's very existence. Last year, they oversaw the publication of Golwalkar's complete works in twelve volumes (including his private letters, transcripts of conversations etc.), but excluded from this collection the text of We, his single most cited work Now they are formally disowning the book without taking a second look at its contents.
That is just not the right way to deal with a problematic heritage. The RSS leaders' reaction betrays a helpless fear in front of the Marxist media campaign hyperfocusing on their icon's embarrassing juvenile statements. They seem not to trust their own ability to come to terms with the exact significance of those statements nor with the mundane fact of their hero's fallibility.
Ironically, the RSS leadership's inability to come to a balanced evaluation of Golwalkar's thought is largely the result of Golwalkar's own impact on his movement. The RSS originated in the context of the communal tension resulting from Mahatma Gandhi's tragicomical involvement in the pan-Islamist Khilafat movement of 1920-22, culminating in the anti-Hindu pogrom known as the Moplah rebellion. Its uniform was originally that of the Indian National Congress volunteers acting as security guards in Congress conferences. Its secretive style of functioning, with avoidance of written communication and emphasis on personal meetings, was taken from the armed freedom fighters of Bengal, a movement in which founder Dr. Keshav Baliram Hedgewar had briefly participated. Those aspects of RSS life were purely pragmatic and provisional, but Golwalkar institutionalized them more firmly.
In particular, he ideologized the purely circumstantial fact of the RSS's lack of an intellectual dimension. He distrusted books and taunted his followers if they were caught reading. He would rhetorically ask if anyone ever needed a book to love his mother,-- or his Motherland. So now, he is reaping what he sowed: his successors are unable to make sense of his own first book. Intimidated by the secularists' domination of the media and the intellosphere, they shy away from a debate on his legacy, leaving the moulding of public opinion about him and his book entirely to their enemies.
To the current RSS leadership, I would suggest that this approach is also flawed for a reason that won't matter to outsiders but ought to be painful to themselves as heirs to Guruji's legacy. The RSS is actually trying to save or restore its own reputation at Golwalkar's expense. By organizing a debate on We, it could have effected a change in public opinion and ultimately cleared Golwalkar's name from the charge of being some kind of Nazi. There is nothing to hide there or to turn one's eyes away from: while We was immature, it was by far not as incriminating as the Marxists want us to believe. And to the extent that it was incriminating, it would only be healthy to face and analyze this faux pas in Guruji's career.
A fresh wind of glasnost (openness) could have worked wonders in restoring a sense of proportion and fairness in the evaluation of Golwalkar and of Hindutva in general. Instead, the RSS has chosen to leave the current demonizing beliefs about We intact, to "defend" Golwalkar only by wrongly shifting the booklet's authorship to G.D. Savarkar, and to wash its own hands off the whole matter by pushing the booklet out of sight even in the publication of Guruji's "complete" works. That way, only its own rank and file will remain ignorant of it, and helpless when attacked about it, while its enemies have other channels of information.
6. The Indian approach to World War 2
In coming to terms with its past, the RSS could learn a few things from the former Communist Party of the German "Democratic" Republic, now functioning as one of the parties within the German Federal Republic's multi-party democracy. A few years ago, these post-Communists abandoned their self-righteousness and called a conference to discuss their organization's and their ideology's historical errors. I suggest that the RSS should likewise organize a public debate of Golwalkar's merits and failings, particularly the latter. Its scholars (but where are they?) should replace the quotes from We in their book and world context from which the quoters always carefully detach them.
In this case, it is not even that difficult. First of all, the RSS need not follow its enemies in acting as if the booklet or indeed its two most popular quotes somehow encapsulate the essence of the RSS. If that had been the case, many similar statements would have been made by post-1948 Sangh leaders, and the Marxists wouldn't have needed to dig up a yellowed text from 1938 to "prove" their Nazi-RSS allegation. The quotes are so popular and by now worn out precisely because they are not representative for RSS thought.
In my interviews and conversations with hundreds of Sangh leaders and activists, including in confidential settings where they let their guard down, I have never ever heard anyone cite Golwalkar's "race pride" quote nor make any statement to the same effect. If it were representative, then certainly it shouldn't be difficult to find more recent statements to the same effect. To be sure, attempts have been made to find or rather to fabricate such more recent RSS statements, vide the false presentation of a Gujarat textbook issued under Congress rule as a BJP textbook and then claiming, equally falsely, that it discussed Nazism without mentioning the Holocaust. Such attempts do show in passing how the Marxists realize that their single piece of evidence for "Hindu fascism", even if it had been strong in itself, is a bit dated and in need of being supplemented with more recent expressions of the same ideological tendency.
As the Times of India reports (9 March 2006): "Former RSS spokesperson M.G. Vaidya while approving the removal of We from the Sangh's pantheon of texts, says the book that is central to 'us is Golwalkar's Bunch of Thoughts since it consists of his views after he became sarsanghchalak on June 21, 1940'. Speaking from his village in Wardha, Vaidya told Times of India: 'We is not the RSS Bible as everyone would like to believe. If it was the Bible then every Sangh worker would have read it and it could have been found in every house. But it is not the case.'" Well said, but this implies that there is no good reason for the hypersensitive and uptight way the RSS is dealing with this apparently only minor piece of heritage.
Secondly, India is one place where a level-headed discussion of the history of the 1930s and 1940s is still possible. In the West, the typical textbook and media treatment of World War 2 history has gradually degenerated into unhistorical morality tales pitting pure black against pure white. Hitler has been placed outside human history and turned into a demon incarnating unalloyed evil, eventhough racialist thought and the rejection of democracy were widespread tendencies in those days. Anyone remotely associated with his camp is likewise blackened in every aspect of his life activities, even those long before or after the Nazi period; while Stalin is still whitewashed by virtue merely of being an enemy (as least after 22 June 1941) of that demon. In India, by contrast, it remains the done thing to distinguish between the numerous different angles from which people got involved in this worldwide conflict, and to reserve a separate evaluation for colonial underlings trying to define their own position and pursue their own goals in the middle of forces they couldn't control nor even understand.
Thus, in the West, it is suicidal for any reputation-conscious public figure to celebrate someone who collaborated with Nazi Germany in what he considered the service of his own nation's best interests. Finland, the Baltic states, Rumania and other formerly Communist countries are currently under pressure to remove statues and terminate other forms of official recognition for historic national leaders in that position, who had been squeezed into the tragic dilemma of a choice between Hitler and Stalin. By contrast, India officially and with good conscience celebrates the memory of Netaji (i.e. Führer) Subhash Chandra Bose, the socialist freedom fighter who opted, unpressured, for military collaboration with the Axis powers. The Communist Party (Marxist) in West Bengal has named an airport after Netaji and has a long-standing political alliance with his party, the Forward Bloc. Along with other leftist parties, they proposed the octogenarian Mrs. Lakshmi Sehgal, the commander of Bose's women's battalion, as their candidate for India's presidency in 2002. India's entire political spectrum is united in celebrating Netaji as a sterling freedom fighter.
In the West, this would now simply be unthinkable. Anyone with even the remotest and most indirect connection with the losing side of WW2 is deemed totally and irrevocably out of bounds. Like hysterics, Western academics and pressmen see (or force each other to pretend to see) Nazism as a contagious disease that can infect people via-via and spring full-blown from anyone who ever had even the faintest contact with any carrier of the contagion. In India, by contrast, it remains the normal thing to exercise the human power of discrimination so as to distinguish between Netaji's laudable patriotism and the reprehensible conduct of his tactical allies in distant countries. In those circumstances it shouldn't be too difficult nor too risky to subject Golwalkar's alleged sympathy for Nazi Germany to public scrutiny. Especially since it can be shown that he was definitely not presenting Nazi Germany as an example for Hindus to follow.
7. The Indian approach to the minorities
As for the other contentious quote, about allowing the minorities "not even citizen's rights", it too deserves to be dedramatized and replaced in its context. Those with an obsessive Nazi-centric mind may be told to consider that context more closely and see for themselves how very respectable the quote thereby becomes: Golwalkar warned against the persistence of unassimilated and disloyal minorities with reference to Czechoslovakia's betrayal by its German minority, resulting in the annexation of Sudetenland by Nazi Germany.
More importantly, here too the actual history of the RSS and its affiliated organizations offsets the suspicions attracted by young Golwalkar's viewpoint. While V.D. Savarkar may have equated "Hinduness" (Hindutva) with Indian nationality and vice-versa, excluding the non-Hindus, and while Golwalkar initially did advocate the exclusion of the "foreign" religionists (or at least those among them who refused to acknowledge India's Hindu character) from full citizenship, the fact is that this understanding of Hindutva was definitely disowned gradually by the Jana Sangh (1952-77) and rejected by the BJP (1980-) in favour of "genuine secularism". Most Hindu activists in India and abroad are perfectly satisfied with a secular state, i.e. one in which laws apply equally to all regardless of religion, e.g. where all abide by a common civil code (a defining trait of all secular states, but not of Nehruvian India) and where Hindu temples are as inviolate and legally free from government interference as mosques and churches are.
In these circumstances, it shouldn't be too difficult for the RSS to openly entertain the possibility that Golwalkar's insistence on homogeneity and the exclusion of the minorities from citizenship was a mistaken and un-Hindu policy. It should be understood as a loan from European political thought centred around the nation-state as conceived during the French Revolution. Indeed, in We, Golwalkar himself explicitly cited the modern "democratic states" of the West as his source of inspiration. Of course there is nothing wrong with Hindus adopting useful innovations from the West, but notions like the nation-state need to be problematized, not just in terms of Marxist or globalist anti-nationalism but also from the viewpoint of Hindu tradition. Whatever its flaws, Hindu society has always managed diversity rather well, and this good habit should be reformulated in modern terms as an alternative to the uniformistic understanding of the nation-state which young Golwalkar seemed to have swallowed hook, line and sinker.
To correct his own exaggerated reliance on this Western import, he could have reread his own remark made on another page of the very book he was writing then, We (1939:60, 1947:69): "Why did not the Hindu think for himself? Why did he allow himself to be misled by scheming Englishmen into absurdities and political blunders? The reason is simple and lies in the common human weakness of associating good qualities and wisdom with wealth and power." See, not all of his juvenile observations were misguided.
The image of M.S. Golwalkar (1906-73) has posthumously been narrowed down to just two infelicitous and embarrassing quotations from his first book, one that he himself had repudiated early in his career as RSS leader. If read judiciously and within their context, they are by far not as incriminating as various anti-Hindu polemicists would like to have us believe. In particular, contrary to the common allegation, they do not prove that Golwalkar was a Nazi sympathizer, nor that he had mass murder in mind as the solution for the problems Hindu society experienced with its Muslim and Christian minorities.
So, clearly the RSS could defuse the negative-publicity bomb which its enemies claim to have dug up from We, if only it had the intellectual wherewithal to properly analyze the text and then, if this proves to be the right course, to clearly disown specifically what must be disowned. But instead it is satisfied to bury the book, refusing to discuss its contents or even to make it available to readers of Golwalkar's "complete works". Like in decades past, it still prefers to look the other way, intimidated by the total control of the mediatic and intellectual domain by India's anti-Hindu coalition of Islamic, Christian and Marxist polemicists. As so often, it is playing by the rules its enemies have imposed rather than changing the power equation through a sincere intellectual effort.
It is a welcome development that Golwalkar's followers finally acknowledge that their Guruji has committed mistakes too. But whatever his faults, shouldn't they resolve that he deserved better than to be censored? Wouldn't they render a better service to his memory as well as to the Hindu cause by subjecting his book to a close and frank reading rather than to the silent treatment?
© Dr. Koenraad Elst