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BJP defends Sangh definition of ‘Hindu’

New Delhi, Aug. 19: The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and the BJP today ramped up their defence of Sangh chief Mohanrao Bhagwat’s statement that “Hindutva constitutes the identity of our nation”, a day after the Congress assailed the remark.

Manmohan Vaidya, the Sangh’s propaganda and publicity head, cited Rabindranath Tagore and former President S. Radhakrishnan to argue: “Bharat and Hindutva are akin to the flow of the Ganga which assimilates the Yamuna and many other rivers and yet maintains its sanctity.”

His statement added: “The same (view) was conveyed earlier by Rabindranath Tagore and S. Radhakrishnan, which was reiterated by Shri Mohan Bhagwat during the opening speech of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s golden jubilee celebrations (in Mumbai).”

By any interpretation, though, the views expressed by Tagore and Radhakrishnan carry nuances and sensibilities that have little in common with the Sangh’s outlook and its ideas of “nationalism”.

Ram Madhav, the former Sangh spokesperson who recently became a BJP general secretary, dubbed the Opposition’s tirade an “uncalled for controversy”. He argued that what Bhagwat said had been the Sangh’s position since its inception in 1925.

The foreword of the book RSS: National Upsurge by M.G. Chitkara — a swayamsevak since 1950 — explains the Sangh’s notion of “Hindu” as held by its founder K.B. Hedgewar.

“The words ‘Hindustan’ and ‘Hindu’ are often used with a national connotation…. Dr Hedgewar vehemently opposed this misleading notion,” S.K. Gupta, a former vice-chancellor of Himachal University, wrote in the foreword.

“He asserted that Hinduism is not merely a community and Muslims do not form a separate nationality. Bharat is a Hindu nation and Hindutva is nationalism.”

Madhav’s case was that Hindutva was a “cultural” identity and not a religious one. He cited a quote by a jurist-politician, M.C. Chagla, to buttress his point.

“M.C. Chagla called himself a Hindu by culture and a Muslim by religion,” Madhav told a news channel.

Prafulla Ketkar, editor of Sangh weekly Organiser, claimed that Bhagwat’s statement was an “eternal truth”.

“Otherwise, there would not have been the tradition of Sufi saints in Indian Islam, which is inherently un-Islamic, or caste institutions would not have been justified by Indian Churches demanding reservations for Dalit Christians,” Ketkar wrote in an editorial in the latest issue of Organiser.

The Congress had yesterday objected to Bhagwat’s remark and said religious fundamentalists had been emboldened by the advent of the Narendra Modi government.

“The RSS has the sole agenda of using religion to perpetuate its narrow vision and capture India,” party leader Digvijaya Singh had said.