We, Or Our Nationhood Defined: Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar
Published First in 1939
Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar, or M. S. Golwalkar, was the second Sarsanghchalak, or supremo, of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the Hindu right-wing cultural organization whose political wing, the BJP, is currently ruling India. The RSS is known for its espousal of a Hindu Rashtra (a Hindu theocratic state) as opposed to the secular state that India currently is.
Golwalkar has set down the principles of the same in this book, “We or Our Nationhood Defined”.
Golwalkar takes off from V. D. Savarkar’s Essentials ofHindutva, but whereas that book only sets forth the idea of a state based on ‘Hindutva’ (or ‘Hindu-ness’), this one is a practical guide. Golwalkar’s model is based on five factors which he calls “Unities”:
According to Golwalkar, a country of residence with an ancient history is required for a people to be a nation. For him, India (he calls it only Hindusthan, with an “h”) is such a country. He traces India’s history from the Vedas, Ramayana and Mahabharata, pushing back the ‘Hindu’ civilisation to eight or ten thousand years in the past, and making it the world’s oldest and most advanced civilisation. Most of his arguments are grievously off the mark – and some are indeed laughable (the arctic having been part of India, for example) – but one of his arguments are still held on to by a fringe group of right-wing historians today; namely, that the Aryans are of indigenous stock, and there never have been any migrations into India. But that issue is not relevant to the discussion of the core issues in the book.
He is ambiguous about the concept of race. He writes:
A Race is a “hereditary Society having common customs, common language, common memories of glory or disaster; in short, it is a population with a common origin under one culture. Such a race is by far the important ingredient of a Nation. Even if there be people of a foreign origin, they must have become assimilated into the body of the mother race and inextricably fused into it. They should have become one with the original national race, not only in its economic and political life, but also in its religion, culture and language, for otherwise such foreign races may be considered, under certain circumstances, at best members of a common state for political purposes; but they can never form part and parcel of the National body.
This is different from the real racist philosophies, such as Nazism and Zionism, where race is an integral part of one’s make-up and cannot be changed. Golwalkar here seems interested in making it more fluid, tying it up with religion and culture – maybe because a theory of “racial purity” is impossible to posit for a country like India. And maybe, as will become clear, his ultimate aim is different from those of the racists.
Religion and Culture
According to Golwalkar, religion and culture in India are inseparable – and connected with race, it becomes a package.
Where religion forms the very life-breath of a people, where it governs every action of the individual as well as of the Society as a whole, where in short, it forms the only incentive to all action, worldly and spiritual, it is difficult to distinguish these two factors clearly. They become one, as it were.
According to the author, this is not the same as religion in Europe, because even though Christianity is the majority religion of almost all the nation-states, they are different in ethos: so the nationality is not shaped by religion per se. But for India:
On the other hand in Hindusthan, Religion is an all-absorbing entity. Based as it is on the unshakable foundations of a sound philosophy of life, (as indeed Religion ought to be), it has become eternally woven into the life of the Race, and forms, as it were, its very Soul.
Our Race-spirit is a child of our Religion and so with us Culture is but a product of our all-comprehensive Religion, a part of its body and not distinguishable from it.
A common language is the fifth factor – and here Golwalkar knows he is on weak ground. So his arguments are mainly against the “foreign” English being forced down our throats, rather than for a common national language. Later on he makes an extremely weak, unconvincing – one may call it even facetious – argument for all Indian languages being varieties or derivatives of Sanskrit.
Having set out his premise, Golwalkar now arrives at his conclusion.
Thus the conclusion at which after so much discussion we arrive, is that for the Nation concept to exist and be manifest, it must have as its indissoluble component parts the famous five unities “Geographical, (Country) Racial (Race), Religions (Religion), Cultural (Culture) and Linguistic (Language),” that the loss or destruction of any one of these means the end of the Nation as a Nation. This is the unassailable position on the view of Nationality, subscribed to by the world’s Political notaries, ancient and modern.
Pluralism is out: uniformity is in. If ethnic cleansing is required to keep the nation “pure”, then it has to be carried out.
To keep up the purity of the Race and its culture, Germany shocked the world by her purging the country of the Semitic Races—the Jews. Race pride at its highest has been manifested here. Germany has also shown how well-nigh impossible it is for Races and cultures, having differences going to the root, to be assimilated into one united whole, a good lesson for us in Hindusthan to learn and profit by.
Only those who subscribe to the idea of this “pure” Hindu nation and work for it are true patriots. The others are “either traitors and enemies to the National cause, or, to take a charitable view, idiots.”
Any perceptive reader would have, by now, correctly guessed where this polemic is going. After having reiterated ad nauseum that only those who adopt the religion, culture and language of the nation should be allowed to stay there, Golwalkar turns his ire on the League of Nations and its stand on religious and ethnic minorities. He says that minorities should not have any special rights, and they should be assimilated brutally into the mainstream culture.
There are only two courses open to the foreign elements, either to merge themselves in the national race and adopt its culture, or to live at its mercy so long as the national race may allow them to do so and to quit the country at the sweet will of the national race. That is the only sound view on the minorities’ problem. That is the only logical and correct solution. That alone keeps the national life healthy and undisturbed. That alone keeps the Nation safe from the danger of a cancer developing into its body politic of the creation of a state within the state. From this standpoint, sanctioned by the experience of shrewd old nations, the foreign races in Hindusthan must either adopt the Hindu culture and language, must learn to respect and hold in reverence Hindu religion, must entertain no idea but those of the glorification of the Hindu race and culture, i.e., of the Hindu nation and must lose their separate existence to merge in the Hindu race, or may stay in the country, wholly subordinated to the Hindu Nation, claiming nothing, deserving no privileges, far less any preferential treatment –not even citizen’s rights.
There is no doubt who these foreign elements are – it has been made abundantly clear in various places in the book. The progeny of the ‘invaders’ – Muslims and Christians. Quoting the example of Maulana Mohammad Ali who wanted to inter his mortal remains at Mecca, and not “the land which had fostered him and his forefathers before him”, Golwalkar fumes:
This example strongly substantiates our proposition that in this country the Hindus alone are the Nation and the Moslems and others, if not actually anti-national are at least outside the body of the Nation.
But then, knowing all this, why are Hindus not awakening and throwing out the foreigners? Why are they talking about secularism and democracy? Golwalkar puts the blame squarely at the door of the Indian National Congress, which according to him is an organisation formed by the British to douse the Hindu spirit.
This “Educated” class of Hindus became in truth ‘aangalshoodr’ slaves of the English, as the late Dr. B. V. Ketkar has aptly described them. They had cut their traces, lost their footing in the National past, and become deculturised, de-nationalised people. But they also formed the bulk of the “Congress” and found no difficulty in eagerly gulping down the extraordinary absurdity, that their country was not theirs, but belonged to the strangers and enemies of their Race equally with them. These creatures took upon themselves the burden of “leading” the people, to what they considered, following the false start, as the National regeneration. And today the same old tale of the blind leading the blind is going on, necessitating trumpet calls of correction from right minded Patriots, following whose resounding footsteps we have compiled this little work, towards the same end of arousing proper National Consciousness among the Hindus in the country.
But according to him, things are changing and people are waking up to the “real” Hindu spirit, and one day Hindusthan will be reborn as a Hindu Rashtra.