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

'Flawed' argument: Gandhi had minimal role, naval mutinies alone led to Independence

Counterview Desk Reacting to a Counterview  story , "Rewiring history? Bose, not Gandhi, was real Father of Nation: British PM Attlee 'cited'" (January 26, 2016), an avid reader has forwarded  reaction  in the form of a  link , which carries the article "Did Atlee say Gandhi had minimal role in Independence? #FactCheck", published in the site satyagrahis.in. The satyagraha.in article seeks to debunk the view, reported in the Counterview story, taken by retired army officer GD Bakshi in his book, “Bose: An Indian Samurai”, which claims that Gandhiji had a minimal role to play in India's freedom struggle, and that it was Netaji who played the crucial role. We reproduce the satyagraha.in article here. Text: Nowadays it is said by many MK Gandhi critics that Clement Atlee made a statement in which he said Gandhi has ‘minimal’ role in India's independence and gave credit to naval mutinies and with this statement, they concluded the whole freedom struggle.

A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

Don't agree on domestic subsidies, ensure food security at WTO meet: Farmer leaders

Counterview Desk  The Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers Movements (ICCFM), a top network of farmers’ organizations in India, in a letter to Piyush Goyal, Minister of Commerce and Industry, has asked him to “safeguard food security and sovereignty, even as ensuring peasants' rights" at the 13th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO MC 13), to take place from 26 to 29 February 2024 in Abu Dhabi.

Students, lawyers, professors detained in Delhi for demonstrating in support of farmers

By Our Representative  About 25 protestors, belonging to the civil rights network, Campaign Against State Repression (CASR), a coalition of over 40 organisations, were detained at Jantar Mantar for holding a demonstration in support of the farmers' stir on Friday. Those detained included students, lawyers and professors, including Prof Nandita Narain and Prof N Sachin. 

Sharp 61-85% fall in Tech startup funding in India's top 'business-friendly' States

By Rajiv Shah Funding in Tech startups in top business-friendly Indian states has witnessed a major fall, a data intelligence platform for private market research has said in a series of reports it has released this month. Analysing Tech startup data of Telangana, Maharashtra, Delhi NCR, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala, Tracxn Technologies Ltd , the Bengaluru-based research firm, finds that except for Kerala, funding witnessed a fall of anywhere between 61% and 85%.

Solar energy funding dips 9% in 2023; 2024 'kicks off' with US$1 billion investment

By Lakshmitha Raj*  Solar energy tech companies have already secured slightly over US$1 billion in funding in 2024 (till Feb 7, 2024) after total funding into Solar Energy companies in India fell 9% to US$1.55B in 2023 from US$1.7B in 2022. A total of 39 $100M+ rounds have been closed till date, with Delhi leading the city-wise funding, followed by Gurugram and Mumbai.

Maize, bajra, jute, banana cultivation banned off West Bengal border: Plea to NHRC

Counterview Desk  West Bengal-based human rights defender Kirity Roy, who is secretary, Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Manch, and is national convenor of the Programme Against Custodial Torture & Impunity, in a representation to the chairman, National Human Rights Commission, second within few days, has bought to light one more case of trespassing and destruction of a fertile banana plantation by BSF personnel along the Indo-Bangladesh border, stating, despite a written complaint to the police has taken "no initiative".

India second best place to invest, next to UAE, yet there is 'lacks support' for IT services

By Sreevas Sahasranamam, Aileen Ionescu-Somers*  The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is the best place in the world to start a new business, according to the latest annual Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) survey. The Arab nation is number one for the third year in a row thanks to a big push by the government into cutting-edge technology in its efforts to diversify away from oil.

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".

Mahanadi delta: Aggressive construction in flood plains, reduced fish stock, pollution

By Sudhansu R Das  Frequent natural calamities, unemployment, low farmers’ income, increase in crime rate and lack of quality human resources to strike a balance between growth and environment etc. continue to haunt the state. The state should delve into the root causes of poverty, unemployment and natural calamities.