30 July 2009

Veer Savarkar v/s Gandhi

It is amusing how even accomplished people tend to think like the crowd. I was reading a paper in EPW by Rudolf C Heredia who is with the Indian Social Institute, Delhi and wrote in opinions regarding Hinduism of Veer Savarkar and Hinduism of M.K. Gandhi after his research.

He asks us what is Hinduism? He answers it by saying Hinduism refers to a religious faith tradition that is far easier to describe than define. There are three traditional Hinduism margs - jnana, karma and bhakti (path of knowledge, path of duties and path of devotion). Hindu academic, Arvind Sharma, opines that "the great challenge Hinduism faces in our times is to ensure for all Hindus an equal opportunity in determining what Hinduism should be for our times". Jyotirmaya Sharma says, "Every Hindu decides what is Hinduism. That space ought to remain inviolable. It is a space worth living for and dying for". Note this (1).

He goes on further to describe Gandhi’s Hinduism: Gandhi redifined hinduism by talking about the reality of god, the unity of all life and the value of ahimsa (the desire not to harm) as love. His profound redefinition of Hinduism gave it a novel reorientation with his seva marg (the path of service). Gandhi reworks Bhagavad Gita's nishkama karma (detached engagement), to become the basis of his ahimsa and satyagraha (truth-force)! Moreover, for Gandhi, truth (satya), is the ultimate reality, and violence is always a violation of this truth. He prefers "god is truth", and finally, even reverses this to "truth is god", where "truth" is the ultimate reality (satya). Ahimsa is my God and Truth is my God and realising this was his moksha. "What was the meaning of saying that the Vedas were the inspired word of God? If they were inspired, why not also the Bible and the Koran?" Gandhi integrates the Upanishads and the Tulsi Ramayan in his religious synthesis. When it comes to bridges across traditions, Gandhi brings the Gita together with the Sermon on the Mount and reads one into the other.

Note this (2): Logical consistency of Vedantic Hinduism diluted by making Jainism the base for its definition, detachment is linked to inaction which is contrary to the virtue of action glorified by Lord Krishna, and all this is garnished by a theoretical mirage of merging cultural guidebooks for intellectual satisfaction.

Dr. Radhakrishnan’s opined in his Hindu View of Life that "whoever calls himself a Hindu is a Hindu"! Belief was not relevant, though social customs were to be respected. It is a religion of orthodox practices, not of orthodox doctrine. Any attempt to homogenise such a rich and multifaceted tradition under a hegemonic hierarchy will impoverish it religiously and devastate it culturally." The result was that the opposite happened. The Ramakrishna Mission in West Bengal even filed a petition in the high court in 1981 claiming minority status as a religion, distinct from Hinduism, which the court upheld in 1985. But which was finally rejected by the Supreme Court in 1996. But by in personal law, everyone who is not of another religious community, is a Hindu by default unless they positively disown the religion. This is nothing new. Even Hinduism accepts atheists as a valued Hindus to provide it the chronological dynamism needed. Note this (3).

For Gandhi the unity of humankind was premised on the oneness of the cosmos. However, diversity was rooted in the fundamental Jain principle of anekantavada (nonabsolutism), the many sidedness of truth. For him "unity in diversity" was the integrating axis not just of Hindu, but of Indian culture, and of all humanity as well. Once conceded, this becomes a foundational truth, and tolerance a necessary consequence. Any encounter between religious traditions must be premised on equal respect for all religious traditions as the basis for mutual learning. Swami Vivekanada has said that Hinduism cannot live without Buddhism and Buddhism not without Hinduism...The Buddhists cannot stay without the brain and philosophy of the Brahmins, nor the Brahmin without the heart of the Buddhist... Let us join the wonderful intellect of the Brahmin with the heart, the noble soul, the wonderful humanising power of the Great Master. Note this (4) keeping in mind Note (3) above.

Let us take another perspective. Gandhi did not separate religion from politics for his personal ambitions. He was never a successful lawyer. To overcome his knowledge of lack of ability, he brought religious inaction in the name of tolerance to politics rather than political militancy into religious communities. Note this (5) where Gandhi used religion to further his political ambitions.

This is where we need to bring in Mr. Nathuram Godse. He had given a speech in the court while he was presenting his case during trial for murder of M.K. Gandhi. I will quote some portions here "Born in a devotional Brahmin family, I instinctively came to revere Hindu religion, Hindu history and Hindu culture. That is why I worked actively for the eradication of untouchability and the caste system based on birth alone. All the reading (of Swami Vivekananda, Dadabhai Naoroji, Socialism etc) and thinking led me to believe it was my first duty to serve Hindudom and Hindus both as a patriot and as a world citizen. To secure the freedom and to safeguard the just interests of some thirty crores (300 million) of Hindus would automatically constitute the freedom and the well being of all India, one fifth of human race. This conviction led me naturally to devote myself to the Hindu Sanghtanist ideology and programme, which alone, I came to believe, could win and preserve the national independence of Hindustan, my Motherland, and enable her to render true service to humanity as well. Gandhi in condemning history's towering warriors like Shivaji, Rana Pratap and Guru Gobind Singh as misguided patriots, has merely exposed his self-conceit. 'A Satyagrahi can never fail' was his formula for declaring his own infallibility and nobody except himself knew what a Satyagrahi is. Mahatma became the judge and jury in his own cause. All his experiments were at the expense of the Hindus. I thought to myself and foresaw I shall be totally ruined, and the only thing I could expect from the people would be nothing but hatred and that I shall have lost all my honour, even more valuable than my life, if I were to kill Gandhiji. But at the same time I felt that the Indian politics in the absence of Gandhiji would surely be proved practical, able to retaliate, and would be powerful with armed forces. My confidence about the moral side of my action has not been shaken even by the criticism levelled against it on all sides. I have no doubt that honest writers of history will weigh my act and find the true value thereof some day in future."

The above opinion of Nathuram Godse is bypassed by the author. Maybe the reason was assuming legal judgements, can be passed on as moral and value judgements. In the same tone, the author has called Savarkar’s ideology as narrow and exclusivist in its conflation of janma bhoomi (motherland) and punya bhoomi (holyland). Note (6).

The author himself says Hindu nationalism is not particularly religious. In its present avatar it claims to be "cultural nationalism". Its founding father, Savarkar, was himself a rationalist atheist, who wanted his body cremated after his death without any religious ceremonies. Yet he was "fanatical" about Hindutva or Hinduness, which he first formulated in 1923, and deliberately set in opposition to other religious traditions not originating in India, such as Islam and Christianity. His Hindutva was articulated as a political ideology of ethno-religious nationalism to include culture and race. In 1941, his birthday wish was expressed in the slogan: "Hinduise all politics and militarise all Hindudom". Thus for him "Hinduism must necessarily mean the religion and the religions that are peculiar and native to this land and people". He defined Hindu in terms of "the three essentials of nation (rashtra), race (jati) and civilisation (sanskriti)". The first important qualification of a Hindu is that "the whole continental country from the Sindhu to Sindhu, from the Indus to the Seas", "is not only a Pitribhu but a Punyabhu, not only a fatherland but a holyland" as well. In his speech to the Hindu Mahasabha at Nagpur in 1938 he insisted that "India must be a land reserved for the Hindus". Justice J S Verma in his remarks in a Supreme Court judgment in 1995 concerning the political use of religion opined an explicit equivalence between the two: Hindutva is nothing but Hinduism. Hindutva is now projected as Bharatiyata, Indianness. The change in name proposed is merely to make it more acceptable to the unsuspecting. Note (7)

But all this written by the author above is untrue. Savarkar did make an exception to his own ideology and acknowledge Nivedita as a Hindu, even though her janma bhoomi (land of her birth), was not India, she made it her punya bhoomi, her holyland, because she adopted its culture and religion as her own. Anticipating the global-local dilemma she insisted: "Only the tree that is firm in its own soil can offer us a perfect crown of leaf and blossom...cosmo-nationality consists in holding the local idea in the world idea".

Coming to even Gandhi's view on caste. He said that "There is no calling too low and none too high. "If untouchability was a part of Hinduism it could only be a rotten part". He was saying exactly what Nathuram Godse was following. But he was doing it for political ambitions of being the only person acceptable to Muslims and the lower castes.

Now my opinion, which is as valuable as him in a democracy:
Note (1): Leave it to a Hindu to decide what Hinduism he follows. Don't counter your own statement and decide for us.
Note (2): Natural spring water is pure and so is distilled water. What would you call a person who tries to mix both? Natural spring water is good for human health and distilled water is good for car battery health. Do NOT mix religions.
Note (3): Hinduism is far more accomodating than what the author knows. No hindu kills another in the name of "jihad" or in the name of the Pope. All Hindus visit the same temple. He is yet to digest the inherent complexity and variety of our religion.
Note (4): "Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam" i.e. the world is one family is a founding principle of Vedantic Hinduism. There was no need for redifinition by a mere mortal like Gandhi.
Note (5): Here Gandhi violates the fundamental law of life or teachings of the Bhagavad Gita by preaching inaction. It is what brings a sense of melancholy to the whole culture spoiling its pride in its heritage and also the motivation to work for greater heights. Just for the ego of being called the "Mahatma".
Note (6): I ask WHAT IS WRONG IN CALLING MY MOTHERLAND AS THE SACRED LAND? This doesnt show exclusivism of Veer Savarkar, but the inherently under-developed and insecure mindset of the author Mr. Rudolf Heredia.
Note (7): The author is calling "cultural nationalism" based on geography, native traditions of the race and a civilization older and more refined than the western one, as fanatical. I can smell bias here.

Keeping in mind all the notes above, I would like to make a statement. In my limited knowledge, the author has personally not faced any wrath of communal tension. He has no understanding of why a non-religious person can be a nationalist and takes the easier route of calling such people militarist and fanatical. He has never gone through the RSS mission charter. I sense jealousy when he sees the work of Christian missionaries being done far better by Hindus. So how can they get more converts? Moreover, the Sangh that he is denouncing was not only given due respect by the Supreme Court of the land and was called to be a part of the Republic Day parade by Jawaharlal Nehru. Gandhi only talked of seva ashram and it was the Sangh that is till date doing all the social work. It is not congress workers that reach a flood hit site, but the khaki shorts wearing missionary activist of the Sangh following Veer Savarkar's ideology. The congress workers of Gandhi only distribute money and get votes. All that the saffron brigade wants is a strong nation with its people having pride in their land, their customs and their forefathers. If he has a problem with that, we all have a problem with him. But inspite of calling us militarist, we spare him. Somehow, just like M.K. Gandhi he can just sit.

Neither Gandhi nor the author have the might to hit back. They only know how to lay low and find ways to make it seem honourable. It is us who have the might and still tolerate them. We all know who is the honourable worker and who is the lazy punching bag.

Today when i see the photograph of M.K. Gandhi, I am filled with indifference for him and pity for the generations of his followers. He made value judgements on the lives of patriots like Netaji Subhas Bose and Bhagat Singh who chose to sacrifice lives for us. He made us learn so-called novel and totally trash things like non-cooperation and civil disobedience which people do even today with their own goverment and PSUs. The discipline of an advanced culture of the race of the Indian nation was lost. Netaji was foresighted when he said that only a dictatorial rule would be able to cure this malaise. When he preached non-violence, he was teaching how to kill your fellow beings. The post-independence riots are enough proof. He earned freedom at the cost of the generations today.


  1. Nice posting. Do you know about this edition of the Gita?


  2. sir, what do u want to say from this long post .
    could u please summarise in some points.
    do u believe in the Indian constitution ?

  3. Hinduism is a way of perfect life. It has no narrow meaning of faith as Islamic veiw. Hinduism say that to serve mankind is the worship of God. Hindu can not hate anyone because his thinking that the soul of any one a part of Holy God. Hinduism is the only way to save humanity.

  4. I am personally an anti-Gandhian too ... he made us all live his insecurities/confusions and we still blindly do. While Gandhi has got the basics wrong, he wasn't totally that ineffective too ... the mistake was him not backing other ways (Subhash Chandra bose and Bhagat Singh) of achieving the same goal of independence ... (so much for non-cooperation)

    from my blog ...

    (writing about the telangana issue)

    Also, isn't this a great victory for the Gandhian legacy? All we have learnt, in the nation building is to hold the systems ransom with a tactic that is a political equivalent of a eight-grade school boy threatening to skip school unless his mom gives him pocket money ...


  5. @sashikanth: M K Gandhi's methods have brought far deeper ills than we think. Govt. officers "boycott" work for "chai-paani" as if the non-cooperation movement was never called off... "meri marzi" and "chalta hai" are phrases that show indiscipline in the people of the country... of what use in an indisciplined army, even if it is the largest in the world??? can a huge bunch of such individuals pull up the nation???

    Netaji had said that the country needs atleast 10 years of dictatorial rule to set right the ills MK Gandhi is leaving behind and inculcate the sense of nation pride and self discipline...

  6. @ author: I was just surfing the net, and came across your article. Well, you have made some points about MK Gandhi. It is true that his way was not necessarily right or wrong way, but it was THE WAY to unite India, and have fight against Britishers. Violence was tried before and during his times. It didn't worked so well. The things MK Gandhi did for the country is honorable much as others who sacrificed themselves for it.

    @ Artemis Fowl III : It's not Gandhi's fault that Indians have become indiscipline. It's the forgotten value of freedom, and corruption that is pulling down the nation. If the Indians have kept little bit of honesty and integrity in their work, the nation would have been at better place than right now.

  7. Gandhi is history..

    Savarkar is Future...

    Gandhi was wrong in various issues...
    Veer savarkar was the perfect..