When a government becomes a victim of trust deficit, people start believing the nastiest speculations about it. And so it happened on the day (February 11) of counting of votes in the assembly elections in Delhi. All the exit polls, without any exception, had projected a clear win for the Aam Aadmi Party led by Arvind Kejriwal. They had also predicted a poor performance by the BJP, whose campaign was macro-planned and micro-managed by none other than Leader No. 2 in the party and the government.
On the eve of counting day, the supremely confident Leader No. 2 had even told a gathering of journalists in the capital—and this I’ve heard from unimpeachable sources—that the BJP was going to win “45 seats” in an assembly of 70. It ended up with eight.
Nevertheless, speculation surfaced on Twitter on the night of February 10—that Narendra Modi’s government was going to bring in the oft-promised Uniform Civil Code (UCC) the following morning. Many Twitterati suggested it was part of the government’s strategy of “headline management” (the famous words coined by Arun Shourie, one of the government’s trenchant critics). UCC, they reckoned, would knock the AAP off the media headlines the next day. In the end, it turned out to be a false alarm.
Yes, Golwalkar Opposed a Uniform Civil Code
The alarm could well become true someday, since UCC has, for a long time, been one of the BJP’s three main ideological commitments and poll promises, the other two being abrogation of Article 370 (“done”, in the emphatic words of the prime minister) and construction of the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya (also “done”, insofar as the Supreme Court itself has paved the way for it).
But at the time the social media was abuzz with speculation about the Modi government’s “headline management” move, I thought of bringing to the attention of both the followers and foes of the BJP and the larger Sangh Parivar that one of the two iconic leaders of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) was vehemently opposed to the very concept of a Uniform Civil Code. He is none other than Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar (19 February 1906 – 5 June 1973). Popularly known as “Guruji” Golwalkar, he was the second and longest-serving Sarsanghchalak (supremo) of the RSS. He was its chief for 33 years, from 1940 to 1973.
Whenever I have mentioned, either to the supporters or to the opponents of the RSS and BJP, that Golwalkar had strongly disfavoured UCC, their reaction has been, “No, this can’t be true. How could the most important ideological guru of the RSS have spoken out against it?” To them, I have replied with a famous Chinese aphorism—“Seek truth from facts.”
Golwalkar’s Interview on UCC in Sangh’s Own Newspaper
So, what are the facts? To know his iconoclastic views on the Uniform Civil Code, we should read his interview given to KR Malkani, the cerebral editor of the Sangh’s own weekly newspaper Organiser (23 August 1972; reproduced in Guruji Golwalkar - Collected Works, Volume 9, page 165). Here are the excerpts.
“Uniformity is a pointer to the downfall of nations.”
Malkani: Don’t you think that Uniform Civil Code is needed to nurture the sense of nationalism?
Golwalkar: I do not think so. What I say on this issue might surprise you and many others, but this is my view. And I must speak out the truth as I see it.
Malkani: Don’t you agree that uniformity is needed to promote national unity?
Golwalkar: Harmony and uniformity are two different things. For harmony, uniformity is not necessary. There have always been limitless diversities in India. In spite of this, our nation has remained strong and well-organised since ancient times. For unity we need harmony, not uniformity.
Malkani: But the rise of nationalism in the West happened simultaneously with the codification of laws and establishment of uniformity.
Golwalkar: It should not be forgotten that the arrival of European nationalism on the world scene is a recent phenomenon. European civilization is also a new thing. It did not exist before, and perhaps it may not remain in existence in the future. In my view, Nature does not like excessive uniformity. Therefore, it would be premature to say what might be the future outcome of an excessively uniform western civilization ... I think that diversity and unity can co-exist, and they do co-exist.
Who Is Opposed to the Integration of Muslims?
Malkani: Don’t you believe that Muslims are opposing Uniform Civil Code only because they want to maintain their separate existence?
Golwalkar: I have no quarrel with any caste, community or section wanting to maintain its own individual identity or existence, until and unless this desire for a separate existence causes them to distance themselves from a feeling of nationalism.
Golwalkar went on:
“In my view, the reason why many people realize the need for Uniform Civil Code is that they think that the Muslim population is growing in a disproportionate manner because their men are allowed to have four wives. I am afraid that this is a negative way of looking at the problem.
The real problem is that there is lack of a feeling of brotherhood between Hindus and Muslims. So much so, that even those who call themselves secular, base all their considerations on the belief that Muslims are a separate community. They have definitely adopted a policy of appeasement to capture the Muslim vote-bank. Those who are opposed to this policy of appeasement also believe that Muslims are a separate community, but they wish that Muslims’ separate identity be erased and they be subsumed within the uniformity.
There is no basic difference between those who favour appeasement and those who favour uniformity. Both consider that Muslims are separate and do not want integration.
My perspective is totally different. So long as Muslims love this nation and its culture, they have a right to live according to their way of life.”
When Golwalkar Stunned the Interviewer with His Radical Views
Malkani: Is it proper to let our Muslim sisters become victims of purdah and polygamy?
Golwalkar: If your objection to Muslim customs is based on broad considerations of humanism, then it is proper. Reformist outlook in these matters is welcome. But it is not proper to try to bring about equality in a mechanical manner through the external instrumentality of laws. It is better that Muslims themselves reform their outdated laws and customs. I’ll be pleased if they come to the conclusion that polygamy is not good for them. But I would not like to impose my views on them.
Malkani was probably unprepared to hear such radical responses from his own leader. This is apparent from the last remark he made: “It appears that this question has now become profoundly philosophical.”
Golwalkar’s reply was again very assertive. “Of course, it is profoundly philosophical. I firmly believe that uniformity is a pointer to the downfall of nations. Nature does not accept uniformity. I am in favour of preservation of diverse ways of life. At the same time, we should pay attention to ensure that these diversities nurture unity of the nation. They should not become hurdles in the path of national unity.”
What Golwalkar Said to Khushwant Singh
A comprehensive study of Golwalkar’s writings shows that his views were highly communal. Naturally, these have strongly influenced the attitude of the RSS towards Muslims and Christians. Nevertheless, some of his articulations on Islam and Muslims, especially in the last years of his life, completely contradict the image his leftist critics have built of him. I would like to cite here two other important interviews that Golwalkar gave on the subject–to Khushwant Singh, who was then the editor of The Illustrated Weekly of India, in 1972; and Dr Saifuddin Jeelani, a journalist and Arabic scholar in 1971.
Khushwant Singh begins the interview (Illustrated Weekly of India, 17 November 1972; reproduced in ‘Guruji’ Collected Works, volume 9, page 200) with these introductory words: “There are some individuals whom we start to hate without even bothering to know them. Guru Golwalkar comes first in my list of such persons.”
Khushwant Singh: What are your thoughts on Muslims’ issues?
Golwalkar: I have not the slightest doubt that historical factors alone are responsible for the divided loyalty that Muslims have towards India and Pakistan. Moreover, both Muslims and Hindus are equally to blame for this. The difficulties that Muslims had to face after the Partition, and the sense of insecurity that it created, also contributed to it. Nevertheless, it is not right to hold the entire community responsible for the guilt of some people.
Elsewhere in the interview, Golwalkar says the following: “We have to win over the loyalty of Muslims with love. This is the only right policy towards Muslims.” “I am optimistic and I believe that Hindutva and Islam will learn to co-exist with one another.” “We have no dispute whatsoever with Christians except for the methods that they adopt for religious conversion.”
“Indianisation does not mean making all people Hindus.”
“The Hindu Philosophy Holds That All Religions Are Equally Sacred”
In the interview given to Dr. Jeelani (Bunch of Thoughts by M.S. Golwalkar, page 639), he says: “According to our ways of religious belief and philosophy, a Muslim is as good as a Hindu. It is not the Hindu alone who will reach the ultimate Godhead. Everyone has the right to follow his path according to his own persuasion.”
Citing what he once told a Muslim gentleman from Kashmir, Golwalkar says, “Follow your own religion. But there is one substantial philosophy which does not belong exclusively to the Hindu or to the Muslim. Call it whatever you like. It says that there is one Single Power, one Single Existence which is Truth, which is Bliss. All our conceptions of God are our own limited conceptions of that Ultimate Reality. So that bedrock of Ultimate Reality can join us all together. It does not belong to any one religion. The God of Islam, Christianity and Hinduism is thus the same and we are all His devotees.”
“Give people true knowledge of Islam. Give people true knowledge of Hinduism. Educate them to know that all religious teach men to be selfless, holy and pious.” “Indianisation does not mean making all people Hindus.” (In another interview, Golwalkar says, “The Hindu philosophy holds that all religions are equally sacred.”)
Golwalkar’s Thoughts Can Be an Antidote Against Communalism
All these articulations refute those who argue that Golwalkar believed in “the intrinsic superiority of Hindus over all other people”, and puncture the stereotypical projection of Golwalkar as a person who harboured uncompromisingly hostile views about Islam and Muslims.
I have thought of highlighting these little-known facts about Golwalkar because of my firm belief in the necessity and usefulness of dialogue between the supporters and opponents of the RSS. And such dialogue has become all the more necessary in today’s highly, even poisonously, polarised climate in India. A lot that the RSS and constituents of the Sangh Parivar are doing today is wrong and indefensible. They are chiefly guilty of polarising Indian society on communal lines, and introducing intolerance and arrogance in the national discourse. Even so, we must not be blind and deaf to the voices of sanity in the long history of the saffron family. Prejudice and ignorance have helped none in “seeking truth from facts”. And without commitment to truth, none can promote peace, progress, harmony and justice in society.
Lastly, Golwalkar’s own thoughts, as cited in this article, can be used as an antidote to the communal poison being spread by hardliners in the Sangh Parivar.
(The writer, who served as an aide to India’s former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, is founder of the ‘Forum for a New South Asia – Powered by India-Pakistan-China Cooperation’. He tweets @SudheenKulkarni and welcomes comment at firstname.lastname@example.org. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)