Ideological Underpinnings

CAB: Rooted in Hindutva ideology

Print edition : January 03, 2020

1944: V.D. Savarkar (seated fourth from right) after addressing a State-level Hindu Mahasabha Conference in Shivamogga. Photo: The Hindu Archives

The CAB carries forward the Hindutva vision of V.D. Savarkar and M.S. Golwalkar.

A few months after Narendra Modi was sworn in as Prime Minister in 2014, Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) pracharak and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Rajeshwar Singh claimed, “Muslims and Christians will be wiped out of India by December 31, 2021.” His words were promptly dismissed as the utterance of a fringe element. But five years later, the Modi government seems intent on proving his hate speech correct. The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (CAB) passed by Parliament in December shuts the door on Muslim immigrants from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. Keeping the doors open for persecuted minorities in these countries, the Bill differentiates between victims on the basis of religion. And a Muslim, no matter how discriminated or persecuted he might be, has no hope of getting Indian citizenship any longer.

Interestingly, the Bill comes close on the heels of a plea by Pakistani leader Altaf Hussain seeking asylum in India. A fugitive for many years, Hussain at one time was the voice of Indian immigrants in Pakistan and his Muttahida Qaumi Movement was popular there.

While there is no way of knowing Hussain’s fate (he is a British citizen now), the CAB, as Home Minister Amit Shah has said in the past, is to be seen with the National Register for Citizens (NRC). Those left out of the NRC can hope to get Indian citizenship through the CAB. This applies to all communities except Muslims. In effect, the NRC-CAB reduces Muslims to second-class citizens. If others fail to produce relevant documents to prove their citizenship for the NRC, they can hope to continue to stay in India and enjoy citizenship rights because of the doors opened for them through the CAB. Muslims will get no such opportunity. With this discrimination on the basis of religion, the new Bill takes forward the “othering” concept of Muslims propagated by the RSS ideologue M.S. Golwalkar, and earlier by the Hindu Mahasabha’s icon V.D. Savarkar. Golwalkar believed that only those qualified to be Indians whose pitrubhoomi (fatherland) and punyabhoomi (sacred land) was in India. Those whose pitrubhoomi was in India but punyabhoomi elsewhere could not be regarded as true Indians. In other words, people following Semitic faiths were barred from being Indians. They could live only at the sufferance of the majority community.

Writing in We or Nationhood Defined, Golwalkar said, “The non-Hindu peoples in Hindusthan (different from Hindustan) must either adopt the Hindu culture and language, must learn to respect and hold in reverence Hindu religion, must entertain no idea but those of glorification of the Hindu race and culture i.e., 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 other words they must cease to be foreigners, or may stay in the country, wholly subordinated to the Hindu nation, claiming nothing, deserving no privileges, far less preferential treatment—not even citizen’s rights. There is, or at least should be, no other course for them to adopt. We are an old nation; and let us deal, as old nations ought to and do deal, with foreign races, who have chosen to live in our country.”

Similarly, Savarkar, who coined the term Hindutva, wrote in “Who is a Hindu?”, “A Hindu means a person who regards this land of Bharat-Varsha from the Indus to the Seas as his Fatherland as we as his Holyland, that is the cradle land of his religion. These are the essentials of Hindutva—a common nation (rashtra), a common race (jati) and a common civilisation (sanskriti). All these essentials could best be summed up by stating in brief that he is a Hindu to whom Sindhusthan is not only a pitrbhu but also a punyabhu. For the first two essentials of Hindutva nation and jati—clearly denoted and connoted by the word pitrbhu while the third essential of sanskriti is pre-eminently implied by the word punyabhu, as it is precisely sanskriti including sanskaras i.e. rites and rituals, ceremonies and sacraments, that makes a land a Holyland.”

This division on the basis of sacred land was made a little before M.A. Jinnah’s demand for a separate state of Pakistan. The noted historian Aditya Mukherjee wonders: “If those whose holy lands were outside India could not be part of the Hindu nation, then were they a separate nation? Were there then two nations in India?”

The answer, as Mukherjee writes in “RSS, School Texts and the Murder of Mahatma Gandhi”, was given by Savarkar in his presidential address to the Hindu Mahasabha in 1937. “India cannot be assumed today to be a unitarian and homogenous nation, but on the contrary there are two nations in the main, Hindus and Muslims, in India,” Savarkar said and went on to elaborate on “centuries of a cultural, religious and national antagonism between the Hindus and Moslems”. In other words, Hindus and Muslims could not stay together in one nation, something which the CAB seems to be reinforcing. Incidentally, the media had often reported on instances of discrimination of Shias and Ahmadiyas in Pakistan. The Bill offers these groups no solace. Just as it is silent on the fate of the followers of Hussain, who might want to come back to India after facing persecution in Pakistan.

Says Mukherjee, “The concept of religion-based nation stems from Savarkar’s idea of pitrubhu and punyabhu. I do not agree with the Home Minister when he says, the Bill is only enabling; it is not keeping anybody out. The CAB, by itself, seems innocent, aimed at giving relief to persecuted minorities seeking asylum here. But it cannot be seen in isolation. Seen with the NRC, it will disenfranchise a section of society. They want to reduce the land to a Hindusthan, but there was never a sthan, it was always Hindustan. They are going back to their core ideology. They have been pushed by the Assam situation, no doubt. After the NRC results, they had no option. They had to make Hindus acceptable, Muslims not. Thus, they came up with the CAB afresh. Earlier, they allowed the Bill to be put in cold storage.”

The historian Rizwan Qaiser of Jamia Millia Islamia stated: “If you look at the CAB and the CAB only, then it is not against Indian Muslims at all. But you cannot see it in isolation. It comes in conjunction with the NRC. Remember, BJP leaders called Bengali Muslims in Assam termites. They thought the so-called termites would not make it to the NRC. But the actual result turned out to be totally different in Assam. The “termites” proved secular in their suffering. Today, I feel, the CAB with the NRC is a deadly combination and carries forward the hate and divisive ideology of Golwalkar and Savarkar. The only difference is that Golwalkar had not captured state power. Nor would he have imagined there would come a time when they would be ruling the country. It is beyond his dreams, beyond everybody’s dreams. In 1952, the Hindu Mahasabha was very active. But most of its candidates lost in those elections. They lost later on as well. The then Hindu society did not endorse their hate agenda. Today, the same Hindu society has not only endorsed it but gone overboard. Apparently, the CAB is not anti-Muslim per se, but the moment you link it with the NRC, it has devastating consequences. The CAB ignores the suffering of Tamil Hindus. Or that of “standard Biharis” in Bangladesh. They are Muslims. They live in camps. What if they want to return. Look at muhajirs in Pakistan. They are not persecuted but badly discriminated. What if they want to come back? We must remember only 15 per cent decided the fate of 85 per cent. Only they had voting rights in 1947. Why should everybody else suffer because of their mistake?”

Rizwan Qaiser feels avenues should be explored to counter the law. “Else, the agenda of Savarkar and Golwalkar to carve out India as a place only for Hindus will be fulfilled beyond their dreams,” he said.

As recalled by noted author Jyotirmaya Sharma in “M.S. Golwalkar: The RSS and India”, “At the Sindi Chintan Baithak of 1954, Golwalkar refers to an incident in Nagpur, where he went to attend a meeting called to discuss the question of relations between Brahmins and non-Brahmins. He was surprised to see a Muslim addressing the meeting. The organisers told him that the Muslim was there because Muslims too were non-Brahmins. Golwalkar reacted by saying that if there were differences between Brahmins and non-Brahmins, it was still a question that concerned Hindu society…. Muslims, he argued, were not just against Brahmins but were hostile to Hindus as a whole. Do what you must, but keep the Muslims out, was his message.” The CAB seeks to do the same by keeping Muslims out.

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