Jaideep A Prabhu
Vilifying MS Golwalkar
This article originally appeared in centreright.in. CRI content has now been subsumed in swarajyamag.com. The views expressed here are personal and do not necessarily reflect those of the editors of swarajyamag.com
I am not a fan of Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar – I am at a loss to think of anything good Guruji has done. But, call me a liberal if you want, even a condemned man deserves a defence, especially when the attacks on him are by completely ignorant pseudo-secular elements who know less about pluralism than they do about fornication. Golwalkar has been made out to be a Prophet of hate based one one or two select quotes taken from his early work, We, Our Nationhood Defined:
From this standpoint, sanctioned by the experience of shrewd old nations, the foreign races in Hindusthan must either adopt the Hindu culture and language, must either adopt the Hindu culture and language, must learn to respect and hold in reverence Hindu religion, must entertain no idea but those of glorification of the Hindu race and culture, i.e. of the hindu nation, and must lose their separate existence to merge in the Hindu race; or may stay in the country, wholly subordinated to the Hindu nation, claiming nothing, deserving no privileges, far less any preferential treatment – not even citizen’s rights.
Now, clearly, it is entirely irrelevant that Golwalkar himself repudiated this work later on (and even withdrew the book from print in 1948), as is the fact that this was no better than could have been expected under Islamic law even in more liberal regimes such as the Ottoman Empire. Or for that matter, depending upon occasional mood swings, no better than Jews in Christian Europe could expect (I will refrain from mentioning how life was under communism, in the glorious People’s Republic of China or Eastern Europe). However, this statement, and others like it from this work, have been used repeatedly to vilify Golwalkar. It might also strike the unbiased reader here that anyone who expects the thoughts of a person to remain unchanged throughout his life either has a political axe to grind or is mind bogglingly obtuse.
So what else did Golwalkar say or write in the thirty-six years he lived after the publication of the book that would damn him
forever? Though Golwalkar’s published speeches and writings run into many hundreds of pages, only a few dozen of these pages deal with Islam. His image in the seclarist press was that of an anti-Muslim fanatic, yet the interest he took in the ‘Muslim problem’ was very limited and never motivated him to a serious study of the subject. As a result, his interviewers usually forced the subject and most of quotations of Golwalkar’s on Islam are from interviews, published as appendices in his books, Bunch of Thoughts and Spotlights or as a separate pamphlet, Guruji and the Muslim Problem. His utterances invariably revolved around the alleged Muslim disloyalty to India. Golwalkar routinely referred to Muslims as foreigners who used India as a sarai. This is not entirely unprovoked given, for example, Muhammad Iqbal’s poem Shikwa in which he writes, No matter if my idiom is Indian,my spirit is that of Hijaz. Or the poet Hali’s famous couplet which read,
راستے ہندوستان , ای گلستان بخزن ؛ بہت دیں رہ چکے ہم تیرے بدیشی مہمان
(Farewell, O Hindustan, a garden in which autumn never comes, We, your foreign guests, have lived here long enough).
In his 678-page book, Vichaardhaara, Golwalkar devotes barely 15 pages to a discussion of Muslims in India. His objections are purely of a nationalist nature and not religious. His concerns were of Muslim loyalty to the state they now live under. As examples, he cited numerous incidents in history when Muslim generals betrayed HIndu kings, one of the most famous such event being at the Battle of Talikota on January 23, 1565 when two Muslim generals withdrew their forces from battle, reducing Rama Raya’s army by 150,000 men. Golwalkar was indeed not fond of Muslims by any stretch of the imagination – the Partition and the electoral success of the seccessionist Muslim League had embittered him, particularly when millions of Muslims opted to stay behind in India despite the creation of Pakistan. Golwalkar always worried of a fifth column now that Muslims in India had organised and understood the value and power of their vote.
Unexpectedly though, Golwalkar supported the Gandhian and secularist view that the Hindu-Muslim conflict in 1921-47 culminating in the Partition was purely a British machination unrelated to the political doctrine of Islam. Golwalkar opined that if India reconquered Pakistan, the Hindu-Muslim problem would not continue because Hindus and Muslims had lived in one land, albeit with a few problems, for hundreds of years – the problem was the British policy of divide and rule. Once the British were ejected from the subcontinent, there would be no one to rake up mischief. As he wrote in Vichaardhaara, “the Muslims must realise that we are all one people and it is the same blood that courses in all our veins. They are not Arabs or Turks or Mongols. They are only Hindu converts.” (Spotlights, 43) This does not mean that Golwalkar wanted to reconvert Muslims – Hinduism has never sought converts, and Golwalkar was no different. “Indianisation does not mean making all people Hindus. Let us realise and believe that we are all children of the soil coming from the same stock, that our great forefathers were one, and that our aspirations are also one. That is all, I believe, the meaning of Indianisation…The main reason for Hindu-Muslim tension is that the Indian Muslim is yet to identify himself fully with India, its people and its culture (Former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf told an audience of Indian Muslims in Delhi in 2005 that they should be Indians first and Muslims second). Golwalkar’s position that Islam is not the problem but Muslims is contrary to the traditional Hindu criticism of the followers of Muhammad. For Golwalkar, Muslims who cause trouble in India are necessarily Pakistani agents – thus Indian Muslims are not a problem.
This sentiment is not restricted to merely events of long ago. On a burning social and political issue like the Uniform Civil Code, Golwalkar’s thoughts are surprising: A reformist’s attitude is all right. But a mechanical leveller’s attitude would not be correct. Let the Muslims evolve their own laws. I will be happy when they arrive at the conclusion that polygamy is not good for them, but I would not like to force my views on them. Implied is that Golwalkar had no quarrel with any class, community or sect wanting to maintain its identity so long as that identity does not detract from its patriotic feeling (Anderson and Damle, Brotherhood in Saffron, p.83). “Let Muslims be more devout Muslims. We will help them to be more devout” he wrote in Spotlights (p.48).
So why do I not like Guruji? He does not appear, contrary to what the “secular” brigade have been screaming, the next genocidal dictator. I am not fond of Golwalkar because he was an anti-intellectual – despite teaching at a university as a biology professor, every time he
would see an RSS man reading, he would ask them if they had nothing sueful to do for the Sangh. Although many RSS members are today doctors and engineers, it is not because of their belief in intellectual pursuits but because of the status such degrees bring to the holder in India. Golwalkar was dismissive of the humanities and valued only practical and functional academic interests such as the sciences. Thus, he did not encourage disciplines that stressed critical and multi-dimensional thinking and deeply distrusted anyone who had such a background. He felt that too much focus on cerebral activities divorced people from ground realities and paralysed their ability to act. Following his lead, many RSS people have rhetorically asked, “What good was ever done by intellectuals?” This attitude also stems in part from the droves of Marxist intellectuals whom the RSS see as traitors. These intellectuals dominate Indian cultural life quite easily because there has been no challenge for control of the public space by the RSS or any Hindu unit. Sadly, although most communities have representation in India – Muslims, Christians, scheduled castes – it is Hindus, the majority, who remain unrepresented. What is worse, given some of the crass outbursts of some of the lower levels of the RSS or VHP, defending Hinduism has become a malodorus activity. If there is no viable opposition to multiple personal laws, the Haj subsidy, and Marxist attempts to take over temples, it is because the space for Hindu interests has been occupied by an ineffective and lethargic organisation who remain out of politics for the most part. Sant Kabir expressed it best in his doha: