THIS 15th of August India will be observing the seventy second anniversary of Independence. In a couple of years, it will be time to celebrate the platinum jubilee of the journey of post-colonial India. But by a cruel quirk of history, India is currently being ruled by forces that stood diametrically opposed to the battle for freedom from British colonialism.
At a time when millions of Indians were waking up with the dream of building a free and modern India by ending the colonial occupation of British imperialism, the ideological forefathers of today’s BJP were importing their idea of nationalism from the likes of Mussolini and Hitler. That was the period when thanks to the huge impact of the November Revolution, the world was witnessing a remarkable advance of socialist politics as well as a rapid growth of national liberation struggles. In many countries the two trends intermingled, most notably in China, where the Communist Party led the anti-Japanese national awakening towards a revolutionary reconstruction of China. In India too, Bhagat Singh and his comrades and the Communist Party made considerable headway in combining the two streams into powerful waves of mass awakening. But the RSS had its own grammar of nationalism.
The founders of the RSS were greatly inspired by Hitler’s idea of the pride and supremacy of the German ‘race’, and they imbibed it to draw up their vision of a Hindu India. For them freedom meant setting the clock back and settling the scores of the past, not battling the problems of the present. The British rulers were quick to appreciate and encourage this communal idea of nationalism and we know how this idea eventually culminated in the bifurcation of the country amidst an unprecedented communal bloodbath, cross migration of millions of people and complete division and dislocation of hundreds of thousands of families.
More than seven decades after that tragic denouement, the Sangh brigade once again seeks to re-inflict that trauma on the Indian people. The ill-conceived NRC exercise and the ominous move of amending the Citizenship Act have destabilised the social fabric of Assam and the BJP is now bent upon replicating this disaster in West Bengal and across the country.
However much we feel proud of our ancient civilisation and rich cultural heritage, it was the freedom movement which awakened and unified India like never before. The freedom fighters devoted themselves to the twin tasks of winning freedom and envisioning the trajectory and institutional architecture of free India. The constitution of India with its vision of a sovereign democratic republic with liberty, equality, justice and fraternity for all its citizens provided a new unified framework for one of the most diverse and stratified societies of the world. The Sangh not only stood away from the popular quest for Independence, it also opposed the very spirit of a modern democratic constitution, advocating Manusmiriti, the ancient charter of social slavery, as the guiding code of conduct for a modern society.
On the economic front, the Sangh opposed the ideas of planned economic development and state intervention for people’s welfare, and advocated unregulated private control over agriculture, industry and trade. No wonder that one of the first things the Modi government did after coming to power in 2014 was to dismantle the Planning Commission. And the second term of the government has signalled unbridled privatisation and closer integration with the US-led financial order. For the Sangh brigade, the discourse of nationalism is only a tool for ideological regimentation, political centralisation and cultural homogenisation, in the economic arena it is dead against nationalisation and public sector. The BJP knows it very well that it cannot consolidate its rule without falsification of the history of India’s freedom movement, and it has been systematically working in this direction using the twin levers of state power and social media falsehoods. The Andaman cellular jail, one of the most glorious testimonies to the resolve and sacrifice of India’s freedom fighters, has ignominiously been named after Savarkar, who had abandoned the cause of India’s freedom to adopt the communal ideology and seek the mercy of the British rulers. As the platinum jubilee of India’s independence draws near, it is important to reclaim the glorious history of our freedom movement and intensify the battle for the fulfilment of the democratic aspirations of the Indian people. The history and spirit of the freedom movement will remain a great source of strength and inspiration in combating the fascist design of the Modi government.