How PM Narendra Modi & RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat Keep 'Akhand Bharat' Alive
PM Narendra Modi, too, uses memories of partition for political gains just like the RSS chief.
The sarsanghchalak of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, Mohan Bhagwat’s declaration that remedy for the ‘pain’ inflicted on the nation due to partition lies only in it being “undone”, is an affirmation of the organisation’s almost a century-long belief in the idea of Akhand Bharat. It is a different matter that he articulated this sentiment in different words to camouflage real intent.
This assertion is diplomatically inopportune, especially at a time when south Asia is in turmoil following developments in Afghanistan and New Delhi’s own queered pitch with Islamabad, and possibly would not be to liking of the foreign ministry. Bhagwat's statement at a book launch event is evidence of zero-shift in the RSS’s belief in its basic tenets, drawn up in the 1920s by its founding leaders.
Unlike Vajpayee, Bhagwat is Stuck in Time
Importantly, during his tenure as prime minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee abandoned the idea of undoing Partition during his visit to Lahore in February 1999. He did this symbolically by visiting Minar-e-Pakistan, which epitomises the creation of Pakistan. Vajpayee also put forth a forward-looking approach of developing trust, confidence and pledged to create “a solid structure of cooperation.”
But, Bhagwat’s observations on partition and his refusal to accept the division of the Indian sub-continent as an irreversible process exposes that he remains stuck in the old groove. It also demonstrates that efforts in recent years to project a ‘liberal face’ of the RSS which is more embracing of religious minorities, especially Muslims, were little but part of a ploy to obfuscate actual intentions.
Since the RSS chief’s well-publicised and politically choreographed lecture series in New Delhi in 2018, he continually stated that a Hindu Rashtra (nation) does not envision exclusion of Muslims.
Mohan Bhagwat's Constant Refrain on Partition
The real reason behind superficially conciliatory statements that if Muslims are excluded there shall be no Hindutva, has been bared now with his latest statement at the book launch. Bhagwat’s conviction of undoing the partition (vibhajan ko nirast karna hee hai) would lead – if it ever becomes reality - to a situation, when territories extending to Pakistan and Afghanistan are bought into India’s fold, where Muslim population in the ‘unified’ country would become proportionately greater than it is currently.
No one would be gullible to believe that partition can be actually reversed and that the RSS would suddenly be open to the ideal of a major shift in the demographic balance because this would certainly impact the BJP’s electoral fortunes.
Yet, Bhagwat keeps the aspiration of Hindutva votaries alive because it fosters the sense of territorial grandiosity.
Significantly, shortly after he took over the mantle of the RSS chief from his predecessor KS Sudarshan, in 2009, Bhagwat expressed the same views more explicitly. Besides expressing confidence that “an 'akhand Bharat' incorporating Afghanistan, Pakistan, Tibet, Nepal, Myanamar and Sri Lanka would be formed”, he also claimed that not only Indians but also people from other countries want to be part of India.
“Akhand Bharat is also for the happiness of those living in Pakistan as after Partition it is in turmoil. Similarly, what is the condition of Kandahar in Afghanistan,” Bhagwat had asked at a December 2009 seminar. He also perpetuated the RSS article of faith that leaders of the Indian National Congress, Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru specifically, were responsible for India’s partition.
Continuous Chastising of Congress for Partition
Bhagwat contended that Indian leaders at the time of Partition did not have the vision, courage or conviction to prevent it. Audaciously, he claimed that Congress leaders of the time could have attempted to defer partition for a few months or a year by seeking more time from the British for thrashing out a consensus.
The RSS has long argued that partition could have been averted because MA Jinnah died within a few months and it was hastiness on part of Nehru to acquire power that led to a truncated territory being India. In twelve years since December 2009, there has been little evolution in Bhagwat’s thoughts on issues of partition and minorities, especially Muslims.
Even back then, he dubbed all minorities as descendants of Hindus and asserted, “There is no minority here.” The RSS chief’s recent statements are almost a verbatim copy of what he said previously although he has begun to couch it differently.
In Bhagwat’s words we find a resonance of thoughts expressed by various Hindu nationalists from the 1920s onwards. The RSS had proclaimed 15 August, 1947 as a day of mourning for the destruction of the “sacred indivisibility of Bharat Mata.”
MS Golwalkar also famously declared in 1956: “We have to pledge resolutely not to rest content until we have wiped out this blot (partition).” An August 1965 Jana Sangh resolution stated: “Muslims will integrate themselves with the national life and Akhand Bharat will be a reality, unifying India and Pakistan once we are able to remove separatist politics.”
PM Modi, Partition, and Akhand Bharat
But Prime Minister Narendra Modi is in a more pragmatic mould. When speaking with the former Rajya Sabha member and now RLD leader, Shahid Siddiqui in 2012, Modi was asked about his views on Akhand Bharat. He replied: “In Pakistan, there is a movement to unite Pakistan, India and Bangladesh so that Muslims are in a majority. Your mouths must be watering at the prospect of creating a Muslim-majority nation in the name of Akhand Bharat.”
Bhagwat and the RSS, however, stick to this goal because of its romantic draw and for being a mobilisation tool.
Modi, too, uses memories of partition for political gains. In this year’s Independence Day speech, Modi declared that henceforth 14 August—the day in 1946 when Muslim League called for ‘Direct Action’ resulting in unprecedented violence in Calcutta and thereafter the situation spiralled out of control making partition inevitable—would be observed as ‘Partition Horrors Remembrance Day’.
Introduction of this commemorative day would ensure that people do not forget “of the need to remove the poison of social divisions, disharmony and further strengthen the spirit of oneness, social harmony and human empowerment.” He, however, makes no mention in any speech of reversing partition and thereby questioning Pakistan’s existence.
But, both Modi and Bhagwat maintain complete silence on the daily culture of vilification and prejudice that has undeniably deepened since 2014. Contrarily, in his latest speech, the RSS chief issued a warning that “this was the India of 2021 not 1947. Once partition had happened, it will not happen again – those who think that way will face partition themselves”.
Hypocrisy in the Face of 'Go to Pakistan' Jibes
The warning is typical signalling because no religious minority in India is currently seeking another division of the country. On the contrary, Muslims are constantly told, “go to Pakistan”, even if they ask for constitutionally guaranteed rights.
In an effort to reach out to his political fraternity’s core constituency, Bhagwat made sweeping statements that have no empirical basis. For instance, he said: “One thing is clear- Partition cannot be a solution. Neither India is happy, nor are the people who demanded partition in the name of Islam happy.”
This assertion is problematic for two reasons. Without providing evidence, Bhagwat virtually claimed that people in Pakistan would acquiesce to reversing partition because they are “not happy” with it.
Furthermore, the RSS leader – and Modi previously – makes no mention of the fact which must be appreciated that the majority of Muslims of undivided India chose to not just remain in the country but also decided to give up the separate electorate that existed for them since 1909.
(The writer is a NCR-based author and journalist. His latest book is The Demolition and the Verdict: Ayodhya and the Project to Reconfigure India. His other books include The RSS: Icons of the Indian Right and Narendra Modi: The Man, The Times. He tweets at @NilanjanUdwin. This is an Opinion article and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)
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