BHU: the Academic Laboratory of RSS

Banaras Hindu University is on boil. I sensed this when last month I happened to visit the University where I was invited to deliver a talk and preside one of the sessions in an international seminar on “Retrieving the Voices from the Margins: Thinkers of Modern India “. It was not difficult for me to realise soon that the whole programme was to highlight the role of the thinkers who are great in the RSS scheme of thingsand that the BHU is working as the Academic Laboratory of Hindutva. This was clear in the remarks of, Prof. Girish Chandra Tripathi, the Vice – Chancellor of Banaras Hindu University (in hot news these days) when he said,

“There is no denying the fact that the contribution made by such eminent Indian thinkers as Rabindranath Tagore, Mahatma Gandhi, Swami Vivekananda, Sri Aurobindo, Dr. B. R. Ambedkar and others have elicited much critical attention both on the national as well as international horizons. Simultaneously , it cannot be refuted that this heavy attention given to the aforementioned thinkers has created a kind of imbalance in the academic domain for the reason that we have a host of thinkers and luminaries such as Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay, Pandita Ramabai Saraswati, Jotiba Phule, M.G. Ranade, Bal Gangadhar  Tilak, Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya, Lala Lajpat Rai, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Shyama Prasad Mookerji, Pt. Deen Dayal Upadhyay and several others who have not been given adequate critical attention.”

Needless to say that almost all the names he complained about not being given the attention they deserved belong to RSS ideology. I had a chance to interact with a few students. They told me that the restrictions have become too hard to follow especially in recent months. I asked them what is bad if they are trying to keep students upright by putting restrictions on the movements of the students. They said that they are not just interested in keeping the students upright but they want them to think only in a specific way.

I was bombarded with hard questions in the conference but I was fearless in countering them and chose to launch a counter attack telling them to consider their love for Hinduism not just to be restricted to doing everything possible to antagonise Muslims. But the talks I heard during the seminar “enlightened” me in many ways. I could understand a little about the kind of ideological and practical strategies they are working on. I found two strong currents within their ideologues. The inaugural keynote address by Prof. Kapil Kapoor, Chancellor, Mahatma Gandhi Antarrashtriya University, Wardha, was interesting in many ways.

First, he was trying to prove that polytheism in Hinduism is not only central but it almost hinted total denial of any Supreme God. Initially, I felt it was news for me. But soon with other speakers coming, I realised that their original mentor, Sawarkar was himself an atheist. Further, this total denial of God was to prove Hinduism to be totally different from Islam and other Abrahamical religions. They appeared to be dismissive of any idea that the original Rigveda religion had any resemblance with Islamic concept of God. But I could see a clear wedge between those who recognised God while at the same time worshipping other gods – what I can term theistic polytheism – and those who tended to disregard God – what I can call Atheistic Polytheism.

Mr. Kapoor was also unequivocal in absolving Jinnah for Partition and putting the entire blame on Gandhi and Jawahar lal Nehru. He praised Jinnah as a secular Muslim who had nothing much to do with Islam. I felt that on this point almost all were unanimous and their main target was Gandhi. I heard not a word of praise for him.

The most “enlightening” thought for me was their emphasis on both Dharamshaastra (Religious Scheme of things) and Shastrashaastra (शस्त्रशास्त्र) or the Scripture dealing with weapons for safeguarding Dharma). It is to be mentioned here that in Hindi there are two words, Astra (अस्त्र) and Shastra. While the former implies small nonlethal weapons, the latter applies to lethal weaponry. There were lots of speeches that presented both as essential and obviously the message was that Hindus should not be reluctant to use Shastrashastra as their guide. It was of course hardly any surprise for me that the keynote speaker described Advani’s Ayodhya Movement as the most memorable event that united Hindus in recent history.

The ultimate plan is of course aimed at establishing the hegemony of certain castes in India. There were many speeches that defended the varna system and the need to continue it even if some speakers suggested that it can be on the basis of the work rather than the birth. It is also clear is that the caste equations among Hindus are also changing. Instead of Brahamanwaad it is now baniyawaad which controls Hindutva. While the upper-caste Hindus continue to monopolize India’s socio-economic structure and their hegemony is ever on the increase, it is not Brahamins and Brahaminwaad but Banyas (Vaishyas) or Baniyawaad that now reign supreme. All the propaganda about “appeasement” of Muslims and, to a lesser extent, about the schemes favouring Dalits and OBC Hindus, emanate from the desire to continue the centuries-old domination of upper caste Hindus. In the remote past, Kshatriyas ruled with their sword, with the help of the intellectual power of Brahamins and the money power of Baniyas. Then Brahamins started ruling the country with the help of the money power of Baniyas and the muscle power of Kshatriyas. More recently, Baniyas have taken the reins in their hands turning democracy into corporatocracy, with the help of the intellectual power of a section (not all) of Brahamins and the muscle power of Kshatriysa. This is the most dangerous phase because when money rules, morality soon gets cremated with full honours.  In Indian terms, my now well-known phrase of “economic fundamentalism” can easily be translated into “Baniyawaad” and Baniyas as the biggest economic fundamentalists. Brahamainwaad represented dominance of the power of “knowledge”, Baniyawaad represents dominance of the power of money. Baniyas are almost 80 in the list 0f 100 richest Indians (Forbes list). This gives an idea of just how the Baniya community has already monopolised India’s wealth, and to perpetuate it, it will of course try to use politicians, media and bureaucrats. Hindutvavad is nothing but a movement that seeks economic and political hegemony of Baniyas through polarisation of politics on communal grounds.

During the seminar, what however I also noticed was that they have developed deep sense of insecurity and the biggest fear in their mind is that sooner or later a large chunk of Hindu population may convert to Islam and Christianity. To stop this remains the ultimate aim of the polarizing agenda they openly indulge in. In order to do this, they have to circulate as much misinformation about Islam and Muslims and weaken Muslim socially and economically as possible. There were however a few among them who told me that they do not think the current strategy of RSS will work and they should instead heed what I advocated: work on religious morality rather than identity.

I would conclude this article with the remarks that formed part of the synopsis of the keynote address, which sums up their whole strategy,

“Therefore, the challenge for a thinker in the last 150 years or so has been the time honoured challenge of defending Dharma, i.e., defending the Hindu civilization thought values against the built up onslaught. There is nothing new about such onslaughts against what has been an alternative, non-proselytising, non-Abrahamic civilization – the Vyas Parampara attest that and also the fact that the cycles of loss of knowledge – traditions have always, so far, been, succeeded by cycle of recovery.  It is possible to see all the ‘modern’ thinkers and thought in this perspective.”