Wednesday, August 17th, 2022 16:00:10

Nation, Nationalism and Nationality : The Praxis of Hindutva

By Prof. Tapan R. Mohanty
Updated: April 4, 2022 10:00 am

The Hindu culture is the life-breath of Hindusthan, it is therefore, clear that if Hindusthan is to be protected, we should first nourish the Hindu culture.  (Dr. K. B. Hedgewar)

The history of modern India is the history of freedom movement and its tryst with the social and cultural awakening. The dominant political discourse and commentators of modern history have often been accused of sidestepping the social and cultural while emphasizing on the pollical. Consequently, our understanding of modern India has been flawed, fragmented and deeply distorted. Therefore, the need of the hour is to have a comprehensive analysis of the history of India from early nineteenth century to post -Independence period and an effort to reorient our citizenry with socio-cultural dimensions of this critical past.

At the outset, it would be prudent to contextualize this past with the movement against the partition of Bengal and the subsequent cultural awakening in Bengal. The socio-religious reform movement in Bengal dis act like a curtain raiser in contesting caste, superstition and rigid social practices. But the two saint patriots who took upon themselves to the task of realizing the true of potential of the country in the deep recess of its religious ethics and spirituality were Swami Vivekananda and Shree Aurobindo. Swami Vivekananda’s ‘Universal Vedantism’ and Shree Aurobindo’s ‘Integral education’ were the fountainhead of cultural awakening in India, sadly which do not find its exalted space in the pantheon of national movement. Their efforts were instrumental in firmly putting the agenda of cultural nationalism at the centre stage of discourse on nation-state. In contrast to the Eurocentric description and definition of nation in terms of shared geographical boundary, ethnicity andlanguage, it put forward an alternative thesis, more plausible and sophisticated in terms of common national heritage, culture and philosophy. The cultural nationalism of neo-Vedantic tradition was a complete juxtaposition of narrowed binary of Western notion of nation. However, what was more important than this ideological battle is the rooting of this idea and its manifestation in common cultural psyche through praxis. This task was left to the peerless founder of Rastriya Swayam Sevak Sangh, Dr. Keshav Baliram Hedgewar.

It is interesting to note that Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, Babasaheb Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar and Dr. K. B. Hedgewar were contemporary and had occasional meetings. They were fiercely patriotic and deeply concerned with the development of society yet their path was different. The holy trinity of India’s nationalist movement, the great sons of Bharat Mata received due encomiums. But while Gandhi and Ambedkar received their exalted status in history Hedgewar was even less than a footnote but he has his place in the heart of people, whole believed his sacrifice, struggle and strength in making the world’s largest cultural organization as the meta-State.

The wave that swept Bengal found its echo in the heart of Hedgewar in Nagpur right at the centre of western India.  After completing his education, Hedgewar joined the Anushilan Samiti in Bengal, which was influenced deeply by the writings of Bankim Chandra Chatterjee. Hedgewar’s initiation into this group, rooted in Hindu symbolism, later became core of his ideological belief. He was also deeply influenced by Vinayak Damodar Savarkar treatise Hindutvaand Samarth Ramdas’s Dasbodh. Lokamanya Tilak’s was his political guru and Geeta Rahasya had a strong presence in his heart as that of quotes from Tukaram.

In order to understand the contributions of Dr.Hedgewar it is imperative to realize the social background of the then India. The dominance of Muslim League and pacifism of Gandhi ji towards the Muslims in general and the League in particular forced his hands to surrender his will to Congress. Indoctrinated in the ideas of Tilak he wanted the younger generation to understand and appreciate the strength, sacrifice and commitment of past generations of Hindu leaders against the Mughals and Britishers. For this, he followed the Swami Vivekanand’s call that youth of India should learn Gita and play football. A combination of depth in cultural moorings and physical capabilities. The rigorous exercise and fitness drills that he made mandatory for Swayamsevaks bear testimony to the emphasis that Dr.Saheb gave to exercise. As Hindu symbolism was central to his consciousness, he was particular to the colour and type of cloths that he adopted for Swayamsevaks like the famous Khalsa symbol of Sikhs by Guru Gobind Singh ji. Bankimchandra’ simagery of Bharat Mata and saffron colour as colour of valour became the trademark of Sangha’s symbolic culture. Needless to add, the concept of Sangha itself was taken from Shakyamuni Goutam Buddha, the light of Asia,

Like Shree Aurobindo and Bhagat Singh he too realized that mere political freedom is not going to solve the problems of India or create a sense of identity and nativism among its inhabitants. Shree Aurobindo established the Ashram at Pondicherry focusing on development of super consciousness and integral education and led a life of a Yogi and ascetic. Bhagat Singh did not leave enough to see the manifestation of equality and integration among the fellow citizens. But Dr Hedgewar though died relatively at the young age of 51 had the vision and action to build a society of where people were interested in preserving their culture and sacrificing self for the safety, security and protection of Bharat.

Dr. Hedgewar did not believe in the power of money or position to expand his work rather he demanded like Netaji, a commitment to nation. He shunned publicity and therefore, never sought interviews, write ups and benevolence of industrialists. However, he believed in the goodwill and blessings of national leaders like Netaji, Tilak and Gandhiji in testing the ideological resilience of his creation. Hence in   1928, he invited Vithalbhai Patel to address a gathering of Sangh workers in Mohite Wade Shakha in Nagpur.  Same year Dr B R Ambedkar visited a Sangh Shakha in Pune. Both leaders hailed the great work Dr Hedgewar was doing. Gandhiji was much impressed by the social harmony and eradication of caste in the Sangh when he visited the Wardha camp on December 24, 1934. Hedgewarparticipated in non-cooperation movement, freedom struggle and anti-Cow Slaughter agitation.

If social change is about bringing transformation in social institutions, then Dr Hedgewarplayed an important role in contesting the caste system, the nemesis of social equality. Further, if education is self-realization as Adi Shanakracharya has defined then Hedgewarwas the harbinger of such a thought in every Swayamsevak’s mind. Indeed, it was Swami Vivekananda who said that no nation can flourish unless its citizens take pride in its culture, ethos and civilization, Dr.Hedgewar did just that through the creation of fountainhead called RashtriyaSwayamsevek Sangh. Further, if education is an instrument of social change, then Dr.Hedgewar used it to transform the mind and society.

Dr Hedgewar devised a simple, unique and powerful mechanism of connecting and relating with people. He was fantastic strategist, powerful theoretician and a great motivator. Millions of people left their families, belongings, consideration for personal gains and comfort for the service of Bharat Mata. The history will be much kinder to him and future generations will remember of as a great patriot and servant of nation.


By Prof. Tapan R. Mohanty

(The author is the Dean, Department of Distance Education and Professor of Sociology of Law at National Law Institute University, Bhopal. The views are personal.)

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