Skip to main content

All-encompassing ideology? Savarkar's Hindutva was 'on the fringe' till late 1990s

By Shamsul Islam*
The term Hindutva took birth with the appearance of VD Savarkar's book “Hindutva” in 1923. Savarkar’s “Hindutva” was declared to be the “Holy book of Hindu sangathan or organization”. MS Golwalkar, who headed the RSS after KB Hedgewar, too regarded Savarkar’s Hindutva as a great scientific book which fulfilled the need of a text-book on Hindu nationalism (Dhananjay Keer, “Veer Savarkar”, Popular Prakashan, Bombay, 1988, p 527).
According to a biography of the founder of RSS Hedgewar published by the RSS, “Savarkar’s inspiring and brilliant exposition of the concept of Hindutva marked by incontestable logic and clarity, struck the cord of Doctorji’s [Hedgewar’s] heart” (HV Seshadri, “Dr Hedgewar: The Epoch-Maker”, Sahitya Sindhu, Bangalore, 1981, p 65).
Despite such statements glorifying Hindus. In fact, even the title of the book seemed to have been an afterthought.
A perusal of the original edition (1923) will show that the booklet was printed with the title Hinduism but subsequently a separate piece of paper on which Hindutva was printed was pasted on the title page of the book. Since the term remained alien even to the Savarkarites, by the 4th edition "Hindutva" as title was dropped and it was published under a new title “Who Is a Hindu?”
In 1963 Maharashtra Provincial Hindusabha published it as part of Savarkar’s collected works with the title Essentials of Hindutva. Another notable fact about this book was that it was published under the pen name ‘A Maratha’ signifying a regional identity of the author whereas book stressed only the Hindu identity of the country and its inhabitants.
Savarkar admitted at the outset that the ‘term Hindutva defies all attempts at analysis’ (A Maratha [VD Savarkar], “Hindutva”, VV Kelkar, Nagpur, 1923, p 3). He began by trying to make a clear-cut distinction between his theory of Hindutva and religion Hinduism. But few pages later it became clear that Hindutva was nothing else but political Hinduism.
According to his definition a Hindu
"…is he who looks upon the land that extends from Sindhu to Sindhu, from the Indus to the Seas, as the land of his forefathers -- his pitribhu, who inherits the blood of that race whose first discernible source could be traced to the Vedic Saptasindhs [seven holy rivers] and which on its onward march, assimilating much that was incorporated and ennobling much that was assimilated, has come to be known as the Hindu people, who has inherited and claims as his own the culture of that race as expressed chiefly in their common classical language Sanskrit and represented by a common history, a common literature, art and architecture, law and jurisprudence, rites and rituals, ceremonies and sacraments, fairs and festivals… 
“These are the essentials of Hindutva -- a common rashtra [nation] a common Jati [race] and a common Sanskriti [culture, though in later editions it is translated as civilization]” (A. Maratha [V. D. Savarkar], Hindutva, VV Kelkar, Nagpur, 1923, pp. 102-103.)
According to Savarkar, these were the Hindus with Aryan blood who established the Hindu nation the day...
"when the Horse of Victory returned to Ayodhya unchallenged and unchallengeable, the great white Umbrella of Sovereignty was unfurled over that, Imperial throne of Ramchandra the brave, Ramchandra the good, and a loving allegiance to him was sworn, not only by the Princes of the Aryan blood but Hanuman—Sugriva—Bibhishana from the south— that day was the real birth-day of our Hindu people" (Maratha [VD Savarkar], “Hindutva”, VV Kelkar, Nagpur, 1923, p 11).
Major parts of the book contained repetitive discussions over the origin of nomenclature like Hindu/Hindusthan, folk literature, evils in Buddhism, how Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists were Hindus and description of perpetually continuously raging conflicts between Vedic and non-Vedic sects in Hinduism.
The concept of Hindu nation as elaborated in Hindutva remained a fringe thought despite the fact that Savarkar while presiding over the 19th session of Hindu Mahasabha at Ahmedabad in December 1937 declared it to be the goal of Hindu Mahasabha, there were not many takers for the book.
With the ascendancy of the RSS-BJP in the Indian parliamentary politics in late 1990s idolizing of Savarkar began
The dismal reach of the book can be gauged by the fact that after the publication of its first edition in 1923, the second edition could appear only in 1942. With the last edition appearing in 2003, only seven editions of the book came out in more than eight decades.
However, with the ascendancy of the RSS-BJP in the Indian parliamentary politics in late 1990s idolizing of Savarkar began. While renaming the Port Blair airport after VD Savarkar on May 4, 2002, the then Home Minister LK Advani declared that “Hindutva propounded by Savarkar was an all-encompassing ideology with its roots in the country’s heritage”.
The glorification of the prophet of Hindutva did not stop there. On February 26, 2003, a portrait of Savarkar was unveiled at Parliament. Savarkar thus came to share the eminence accorded to Gandhi and other prominent leaders of the freedom struggle in the Central Hall of Parliament.
However, we need to have a convincing answer to the question that if Savarkar with his eternal love for the two-nation theory can be glorified as an Indian nationalist and patriot, who can stop Mohammed Ali Jinnah from claiming this status?
The present RSS-BJP rulers led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi keep on declaring publicly that they are committed to usher India into a Savarkarite model of Hindu nation.
---
*Formerly with the Delhi University, click here for some of Prof Islam's writings and video interviews/debates. Twitter: @shamsforjustic. Blog: http://shamsforpeace.blogspot.com/

Comments

TRENDING

Why do I lend my support to voices protesting world class renovation of Gandhi Ashram?

By Martin Macwan* One would not expect an activist working on Dalit rights to join such a protest. Dalits carry unhealed trauma that Gandhi caused to Dr BR Ambedkar and the Dalit cause of effective political representation by using violent means of his own definition in the event of the Poona Pact. This apart, Gandhi’s ideas in general, which changed often, on caste were orthodox. I have nothing to add to the subject after the sharpest critique offered by Dr Ambedkar.

Iswarchandra Vidyasagar was a 'frustrated' reformer who turned into a conservative

By Bhaskar Sur "If someone says the Manusamhita was written by all wise Manu and the principal scripture of the land and if he asks me to throw it away, I'll say it is nothing short of atrocious audacity." -- Iswarchandra Vidyasagar

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Odisha bauxite mining project to 'devastate' life of 2,500 Adivasi, Dalit farmers: NAPM

Counterview Desk  While the public hearing on mining in Mali hills has been cancelled due to protests by Adivasi and Dalit farmers of the Mali Parbat Surakhya Samiti, Odisha, who have been protesting against the proposed bauxite mining project, India’s top civil rights network, National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) has said it is “deeply concerned” at the decision of the Government of Odisha to push the project in a Schedule-V Adivasi-belt Koraput district against the interests of the people and environment.

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

2002 riots: Gujarat assembly 'misinformed' about dereliction of duty, says ex-DGP

By Rajiv Shah  Former Gujarat topcop RB Sreekumar, an IPS officer of the 1971 batch, has alleged that the Gujarat government gave “totally false information” on the floor of the State Assembly regarding the appeal he made to the Gujarat governor for the “initiation of departmental action against those responsible for culpable negligence in maintenance of public order and investigation of genocidal crimes” during the 2002 riots.

'Devastating impact': Rural workers suffer as Govt of India NREGA budget down by 34%

Counterview Desk  A civil rights group, the NREGA Sangharsh Morcha has sent a letter to the Prime Minister and the Minister of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj stating that 34 per cent decrease in the fiscal budget of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGA) for year 2021-22 has added to woes on India’s rural population, already suffering from “devastating impact” of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Economy in tatters, labour codes 'take away' workers' safety, benefits, right to form TU

By Our Representative  The four new labour codes promulgated by the Government of India came in for sharp criticism from several labour unions and civil rights groups at one-day discussion meeting organised in Ranchi (Jharkhand) on the issue of ‘changes in labour laws. Participants in the meeting asserted that under these new codes, many of the benefits and safeties accorded to labourers have been "taken away", while the right of labourers to create trade unions has been attacked.

Celebrating birthday amidst image of 'coerced, submissive' India ruled by a strong leader

Pushkar Raj*  As the weeks long birthday festivity of the leadership was being rejoiced India wide, the Covid was still raging in several parts of India. The carnival was in line with the post-Covid decisions and actions of the leadership demonstrating a pursuit of personal power and glory instead of national interest in times of disease and death.

Politically-motivated: Global NGO network on ED 'harassment' of Harsh Mander

Counterview Desk  CIVICUS , a top global alliance of civil society organisations seeking to strengthen citizen action and civil society around the world with a claimed membership of more than 10,000, objecting to the alleged harassment of IAS bureaucrat-turned-human rights activist Harsh Mander by the Government in India, has said that the the the Enforcement Directorate (ED) raid on his house and office highlights “an ongoing pattern of baseless and politically-motivated criminal charges brought by the authorities against activists across India”.