Rabindranath Tagore in his letter to A.M. Bose in 1908 wrote that “patriotism cannot be our final spiritual shelter. I will not buy glass for the price of diamonds and I will never allow patriotism to triumph over humanity as long as I live”. In 1911, at the Calcutta session of the Indian National Congress, India’s national anthem written by Tagore was sung for the first time.
Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat is an outspoken person, who is always in the news due to his comments on various issues. Recently, at the launch of J.K. Bajaj and M.D. Srinivas’s book, Making of a Hindu Patriot: Background of Gandhiji’s Hind Swaraj, the RSS chief made his latest controversial statement by asserting that “a person born into the Hindu faith can never be anti-India as it was their intrinsic nature to be patriotic”. Bhagwat went on to say that the love for the country flowed from their dharma and “if someone is Hindu, he has to be patriotic, that will be his or her basic character and nature”. He also quoted Gandhi, who had said that his patriotism flowed from his dharma.
At times, the RSS chief is unnecessarily criticised without the real intent of his statements being fully appreciated. His statement on the need to have a debate on reservations in a harmonious atmosphere was widely condemned and even the Bharatiya Janata Party did not waste much time in distancing itself from this statement – though in reality he had not opposed reservations, but merely suggested a debate on the subject. A few months ago, he was again in the limelight for his interview to a Hindi daily for his statement that the happiest Muslims in the world are in India. Let us examine his latest statement more closely, as though he has not said anything about the patriotism of other faiths and communities.
Bhagwat is absolutely right that dharma is not just religion. In fact, it is not just law either but idealised duty. It is a combination of morality, law and religion. It is more like an idealised, self-controlled order. Dharma signifies the eternal law which maintains the world.
The central expectation of dharma is that each Hindu would strive to do the right thing at the right time. Article 51A of the constitution, which lists our fundamental duties, clearly states that it is the duty or dharma of each citizen to uphold the noble ideals that inspired our freedom struggle, abide by the constitutional ideals and promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood amongst all people transcending religious, linguistic and regional or sectional diversities, and to value and preserve the rich heritage of our composite culture. Anyone who tries to negate these values and denies the presentation of diversities is in violation of Hindu dharma as well as constitutional dharma.
The Prophet of Islam too is believed to have said that loving one’s country is a part of faith. He is also reported to have said that loving one’s country is half of what constitutes religion. While most followers of all religions are good people, each religion has people who deviate from the fundamental tenets of their religions. For such deviants, their religions cannot and should not be blamed, be it Hinduism, Islam or any other.
Some followers of each Indian religion, including Hinduism, have been unpatriotic at one point or another. In ancient India, the king of Taxila, Ambhi, supposedly welcomed Alexander the Great so that he could defeat the kings of Paurava and Abhisara. Who can forget Raja Jayachandra Rathod, the king of Kannauj. It seems that since Ajmer’s ruler Prithviraj Chauhan was in love with Jayachandra’s daughter, it was Jayachandra who in 1192 ensured the defeat of Prithviraj against Muhammad of Ghor in the Second Battle of Tarain, which ultimately led to the establishment of the Delhi Sultanate in 1206.
Even in the establishment of the Mughal Empire in 1526, Rana Sanga had played a role by sending his envoy to Zahiruddin Babur and offering to attack from Agra while Babur, as per Sanga’s plan, was to attack Delhi. This is what Babur himself has recorded in the Baburnama. But Babur not only defeated Ibrahim Lodhi in the first battle of Panipat, but also Rana Sanga himself in the battle of Khanwa in 1527. In fact it was Sher Shah who defeated Babur’s son Humayun, forcing him to flee to Iran in 1540, though Humayun returned in 1555 and regained control of the Indian empire.
In modern history, Mir Zafar betrayed Nawab Sirajudaulah, leading to Robert Clive’s victory in the Battle of Plassey in 1757 and the establishment of East India Company’s rule in India. The Nizam of Hyderabad too worked for the British against Tipu Sultan. In the first war of independence, Jivaji Rao Scindia, the ruler of Gwalior, not only did not fight against the British but also worked against the great freedom fighters, Rani Laxmibai and Tatya Tope.
Post independence, there have been several incidents of Indians working against the national interest and helping the enemies. In 1985, the sensational Coomar Narain case came to light, with people working in the highest Indian offices being involved in a spy ring. He was leaking sensitive documents to several foreign agencies. In 2002, 12 officials of the Prime Minister’s Office and president’s office were convicted and sentenced to ten years’ imprisonment. K.V. Unnikrishnanan of RAW was similarly working for the LTTE via an air hostess. Rabinder Singh, who had worked with the Indian Army and subsequently with RAW, was a CIA mole and in spite of RAW’s surveillance, escaped to the US via Nepal in 2004.
In 2010, diplomat Madhuri Gupta was arrested for spying for Pakistan’s ISI and leaking highly sensitive information. She was convicted in 2018. In 2018, Nishant Agrawal, an engineer working at the BrahMos Missile Research Centre, Nagpur was arrested for spying for ISI and leaking sensitive information about the missile. In 2020, Jammu and Kashmir DSP Devinder Singh was arrested when his vehicle was intercepted and two militants Naveed Babu alias Babar Azam and his associate Asif Ahmad were found. He was apparently helping them get to Chandigarh. Recently, Saurabh Sharma, a retired Indian Army soldier, was arrested from Hapur by the Uttar Pradesh anti-terrorism squad for espionage and helping the ISI since 2014.
Thus Bhagwat’s claim that all Hindus are patriotic is not empirically proven.
But the RSS chief was absolutely right in saying that “love for the country does not mean land only, it means its people, rivers, culture, traditions and everything”. Thus those who do not love fellow citizens, or rather hate them, can hardly be called patriotic. Bhagwat does have the influence and power to restore sanity in the country and bring an end the the environment of hate, suspicion and exclusion which exists. Those who pollute our rivers, lynch and kill people in the name of religion, caste or ideology are certainly not patriotic.
Gandhi was a practising Hindu who dedicated his entire life to his motherland. Unfortunately, Hindutva supporters doubt even the father of nation’s patriotism, as for them the real hero is not Gandhi but his assassin, Nathuram Godse. The act of Gandhi’s killing was recreated by Hindu Mahasabha national general secretary Pooja Shakun Pandey by shooting an effigy of Gandhi on January 30, 2019. Even a temple dedicated to Godse was opened in the Hindu Mahasabha’s Gwalior office, the city where he purchased the pistol to kill Gandhi and plotted the conspiracy. It was subsequently removed due to the protests by the Congress. Last week, a library in Godse’s name was inaugurated in the Hindu Mahasabha’s Gwalior office. If Gandhi was not a patriot, it would be difficult to find a single patriot in the country.
The shocking Capitol Hill attack by a rightwing mob due to false propaganda and radicalisation should worry us, as an overdose of aggressive nationalism coupled with hatred for certain sections of citizens would eventually challenge all the values for which Hinduism stands. Let the police pay heed to this observation of the RSS chief and bring to book all those who are working against the interests of India, her people, her culture and traditions.
Faizan Mustafa is an expert of constitutional law and Vice-Chancellor of NALSAR University of Law, Hyderabad.