RSS and ‘nationalism’

RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s decision to desist from using the word ‘nationalism’ has come somewhat of a surprise, for it is generally thought that for his organisation, it is the defining ‘ism’. His rationale for the removal of the oft-evoked word ‘nationalism’ from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)’s verbal repertoire is that worldwide it is associated with ‘Hitler, Nazism and Fascism’.

It is gratifying to know that the RSS has grown to be not quite comfortable with the perception of ideological proximity, if not similarity, between it and the National Socialist Party which controlled Germany from 1933 to 1945. Nevertheless, it cannot be taken to mean that the RSS won’t represent Hindu nationalism or divide people into ‘us and them’ on the basis of religion.

The mere expurgation of the term ’nationalism’ from RSS’s lexicon may not suffice to dissuade people from perceiving it as a quasi-fascist organisation. RSS will have to do a lot more than disowning and discarding ‘nationalism’ to become truly ‘patriotic’. It is rightly said that ‘patriotism is an inoculation against nationalism’ and if people are more truly patriotic they will be less nationalistic. ‘Nationalism’ is a fig leaf for the dominance of the ruling elites whereas ‘patriotism’ embraces all.

RSS has to acknowledge that India is a heterogeneous society and it is not amenable to be homogenised. It has to disprove that it is against the three Ms — Muslims, Marxists and Missionaries (the last two Ms no more matter that much). It has to repudiate its long-held narrow view that those who own India as their pithrubhoomi and punyabhoomi are more equal than others.

Most importantly, RSS has to reject the religious texts that sanctify caste and affirm human equality. It has to promote inter-caste marriages if it is to succeed in forging ‘larger Hindu unity’. But, given its raison d’etre — safeguarding the upper caste interest — it is doubtful whether it will be able to reinvent itself as an all-embracing ‘cultural’ organisation. For a change, RSS can make a Dalit the Sarsanghchalak.

Hindutva is the provenance of virulent nationalism and remains the main impediment to India’s emergence as a great nation. RSS can make a gesture towards public opinion and demonstrate that it is not tied down by narrow nationalism by prevailing on the Modi government to repeal the discriminatory Citizenship Amendment Act.

G. David Milton

Maruthancode, Tamil Nadu

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Printable version | Apr 19, 2021 6:31:04 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/letters/rss-and-nationalism/article30884559.ece

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