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Why Akhand Bharat should be based on equality, mutual respect, 'not' Hindu Dharma

By Ram Puniyani* 

India’s partition was one of the major tragedies of South Asian region. The causes for this are to be seen in the triangle formed by the British policy of divide and rule, Hindu communalism believing in primacy of Hindu nation and Muslim communalism demanding formation of Pakistan.
The falsehood of theory of ‘religion as the basis of nation state’ was demonstrated by the breakaway of East Pakistan from Pakistan leading to formation of Bangladesh. Majority of Hindus and Muslims stood rock solid against this theory of ‘religion as the basis of nation state’. Just two representative names should suffice Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi.
Hindu communalism held that this is a Hindu nation. Since partition many Hindu communalists have been holding that the breakaways from United India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, in particular should be brought back to Indian fold. This concept is being called as Akhand Bharat (Unbroken India) based on ‘Hindu Dharma’. This was articulated in the speech of RSS sarsanghachalak Mohan Bhagwat, who stated, “There is a need to become united again, not through force, but by ‘Hindu Dharma’ ”.
He added, “They (separated countries) did all they could, but did not find any remedy. And remedy is reunification (with Bharat) only and all their problems will get resolved,” he said. He, however, said the reunification should be done through Hindu dharma.
As such RSS holds that its idea of Akhand Bharat includes not only Pakistan and Bangladesh, but also Afghanistan, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Tibet. It terms the combined region as a Rashtra (Nation) based on “Hindu cultural” similarities.
At yet at another level Tripura’s Chief Minster Biplab Dev told a party meeting at Rabindra Satabarshiki Bhavan, during his visit to Tripura, that BJP wanted to establish the party and form governments in neighbouring countries after winning all states in India.
This is in a way fall back on the ideology of Hindu communalism that this whole region was a Hindu nation from times immemorial. The reference to ‘Hindu Dharma as the basis of unification’ shows their real colors. They hold that Dharma can’t be translated as religion. They state that Dharma is different from religion.
What is Dharma? It is religiously ordained duties. It does include words like Khstriya dharma, Stree dharma etc. hinting to the caste and gender roles as assigned by tradition. It is true that Hinduism is different from other religions but it a religion all the same. It has deities (Brahma, Vishnu Mahesh), it has rituals, it has holy books, clergy and holy places. In practice we have seen that most of the campaigns launched by Hindu nationalists have been around places of worship (Ram Temple), holy symbols (cow) and Hindu identity related issues like love jihad and what have you.
There are also claims that Hindutva is a way of life. That way all religions also have a way of life. Here the confusion between Hindutva and Hinduism needs to be understood. Hindutva is a politics while Hinduism is a religion with multiple tendencies within itself.
The concept of Akhand Bharat sounds hegemonic as its base is projected to be Hindu Dharma. We know the effort to base on the politics around religion that India got partitioned. Today different countries which are aimed to be brought in Akhand Bharat have different religions. Will they accept Hindu Dharma as the basis of uniting with India? India itself in theory is a secular state, Hindu dharma is not its base. The present articulations of Bhagwat and company sound more like being expansionist rather than collaborative.
Falsehood of religion as basis of nation state was exposed when East Pakistan broke away from Pakistan
The other pattern which human society has seen definitely needs to be emulated. The attempt to have global bodies trying to establish peace and sorting out problems between different nations like the United Nations, the European Union and the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) are the ones based on collaboration and are most welcome. The concept here is to respect the sovereignty of other’s and deal with them on equal basis. European Union saw a great collaboration between European countries.
Closer home, the SAARC experiment was also a great initiative to bring the neighbours together in collaboration in areas of trade, commerce, education and health. None of these moves kept religion as its base and so could take some baby steps in bringing in peace and enhancements of economic and social progress. Unfortunately most of these initiatives are comparatively weak in current times. But one thing which human society can learn from these experiments is that when the issues are taken up on concrete grounds of material cooperation, countries can come together and have more amicable relations.
The other method is to claim that those territories belonged to us either due to racial similarities or because of our religion. This path had disastrous effects on geo political scene.
The claim that those countries which separated are in distress is a lopsided statement. We know that at many places like Pakistan and Afghanistan, the imperialist policies of control over oil wealth wrecked havoc there. It was not due to religion. The other country which separated, Bangaladesh, is currently progressing better; leaving India behind in many development indices.
In South Asian region, the countries named as part of Akhand Bharat can definitely form a stronger federation on the basis of equality and mutual respect for each other’s sovereignty. Mutual respect for each other’s traditions and cultures has to be the basis. This can pave the way for better economic and political atmosphere. To say that these countries should come back and become part of India sounds hegemonic.
To make Hindu Dharma as the basis of this unification is domineering. What is needed is to strengthen democratic ethos within the country, to treat neighbours as friends and to sort out problems by peaceful negotiations. The need for collaboration, cooperation in field of commerce, trade, education and health cannot be overemphasized. That is the crux and core of the association with neighboring countries, and the union of these countries on these lines will definitely enhance the prosperity and peace in the region.
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*Well-known political commentator. This article has been distributed by the Peoples Media Advocacy & Resource Centre- PMARC

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