Deendayal Upadhyaya, Bigoted 'Guiding Force' of a Hindu Rashtra

The man Narendra Modi wants India to accept as its philosophical lodestar did not regard Muslims as "proper Indians".

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and home minister Rajnath Singh offer tributes to Deendayal Upadhyaya. Credit: PTI

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and home minister Rajnath Singh offer tributes to Deendayal Upadhyaya. Credit: PTI

“Fifty years ago, Pandit Upadhyaya said ‘Do not appease Muslims, do not shun them, but purify them’,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on September 25, 2016, while addressing the BJP’s national council convened in Kozhikode on the birth centenary of Deendayal Upadhyaya – the RSS ideologue who had played a crucial role in setting the political and cultural agenda of the party’s earlier avatar, the Bharatiya Jana Sangh.

Naming yojanas, educational institutions and hospitals after him, spending crores of taxpayers’ money to make his books available in government libraries and holding quizzes in schools about the life and thought of a man who presumed the country’s Muslims were impure in some sense, are all a clear indication of the government’s intention to resurrect this Hindutva icon.

Under such circumstances, a look back at the virulent ideology of this ‘Merchant of Hate’ as A.G. Noorani called him – a leader who regarded the Muslim community as anti-national, secularism as an attack on the very soul of India, federalism as a separatist tendency acting against the national ethos and the constitution as an Anglo-Indian child who should never be accepted as purely Indian – might as well be a gaze into the crystal ball telling us of the times to come: of the challenges that the coming years will pose to those determined to uphold constitutional values in the face of a sustained assault on them.

A disciple of the guru who admired the Nazis

Upadhyaya’s earliest foray into politics began in 1937 when, as a  21-year-old, he joined the RSS. There he was groomed by M.S Golwalkar, who went on to become the organisation’s second supreme leader. Never finding it necessary to mince words, Golwalkar, who regarded all non-Hindus as foreign and thus impure elements, had written in his book We, or our Nationhood Defined:

“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… 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.”

From left to right: RSS ideologues K.B. Hedgewar, M.S. Golwalkar, Deendayal Upadhyaya

Golwalkar’s obsession with national impurities and purification led him down the dangerous path of seeing virtue in Nazi Germany’s war on the Jews:

“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.”

The frightening consequences of Nazi policies made this book too hot to handle, even for those who frowned upon the ideals of secularism. Given the political untenability of such ideas and the costs of being associated with such positions, the RSS had to officially distance itself from this book and for the longest period dared not make a public attempt to promote Golwalkar as a figure to be looked upon and respected. This is where Deendayal Upadhyaya came in handy.

Golwalkar’s disciple, Upadhayaya, “was in complete unison with the thoughts of Shri Guruji (Golwalkar),” writes  C.P. Bhishikar, the official biographer of many RSS ideologues including Upadhyaya and Golwalkar. But Upadhyaya’s relative moderation, at least in the use of language, made him an appropriate candidate who could carry forward a sanitised version of Golwalkar’s vision into the political arena.

Muslims a ‘complex problem’ in the Hindu rashtra

Upadhyaya believed that of all the “problems” in Indian history, Muslims are the oldest and most complex one. But unlike Golwalkar, he did not advise Hindus to seek inspiration from the Nazis to solve this problem. “No sensible man will say that six crores of Muslims should be eradicated or thrown out of India,” Upadhyaya wrote in an article titled ‘Akhand Bharat: Objectives and Means’. “[B]ut then they will have to identify themselves completely with Indian life.”

On the question of what qualifies as ‘Indian’, he made no attempts to conceal the fact that in his lexicon, ‘Indian’, or ‘Bharatiya’, which was a word he preferred over the former, simply meant Hindu. The culturally-inclusive nature of the concept of Indian nationality that was being propagated in the newly-independent country was, in Upadhayaya’s opinion, a mischief of the Congress party.

The word Bharatiya, Bhishikar complained, “has been wrongly used to propagate a new definition of nationhood in the last fifty or sixty years. The word has lost the inspiring and enlightening value-oriented content… Deendayalji’s insistence is that unless we stick fast and with conviction to the word Hindu, the twin objectives of national integration and the emergence of an organised society will never be attained.” Having learnt from Golwalkar himself, “he never forgot to identify ‘Bharatiya’ with ‘Hindu’.”

Deendayal Upadhyaya Interacting with journalists

Complaining that no one during the freedom struggle pondered over the fundamental question “who are we”, Upadhyaya declares: “We shall have to concede that our nationality is none other than Hindu nationality.. If any outsider comes into this country he shall have to move in step and adjust himself with Hindu Nationality.”

With a strange analogy of thermometer, he also advocated measuring one’s nationalism using Hindu nationality as the reference point.

“It is like measuring our body temperature with thermometer. The thermometer has a mark indicating normal temperature. It is with reference to this mark that we say whether the temperature is high or low. In the same way, Hindu nationality is the standard here. Everyone knows.. that our nation hinges on Hindu nationality.”

Every community – whether Muslim or Christian – “must identify themselves with the age-long national cultural stream that was Hindu culture in this country.” On this demand, Bhishikar assures us, Upadhyaya “was not prepared for any compromise.. He looked upon culture as the soul of nationalism.” And in this nation, Upadhyaya argued, “there exists only one culture.. There are no separate cultures here for Muslims and Christians.”

Deendayal never entertained the concept of multiculturalism because “unless all people become part of the same cultural stream,” he feared, “national unity or integration is impossible. If we want to preserve Indian nationalism, this is the only way..” Though he claimed to be willing to permit different modes of worship in the country, he complained bitterly, “why did we not proclaim in unequivocal terms that the national cultural stream would continue to remain one and those who cannot identify themselves with it would not be considered nationals?”

In explaining which community is automatically disqualified from having any claims over Indian nationality, Upadhyaya was unambiguous:

“Mecca, Medina, Hassan and Hussain, Sohrab and Rustom and Bulbul may be very significant in their own ways but they do not form a part of Indian national life and stream of Indian culture. How can those who are emotionally associated with these and look upon Rama and Krishna tradition tradition as alien be described as nationals? We see that the moment anybody embraces Islam, an effort is made to cut him off from the entire tradition of this country and connect him to the alien tradition.”

Deendayal Upadhyaya greeting well wishers. Credit: Screengrab from YouTube/Deendayal Upadhyaya | Jeevan Darshan, a film directed by Vinay - Samaksh

Deendayal Upadhyaya greeting well wishers. Credit: Screengrab from YouTube/Deendayal Upadhyaya | Jeevan Darshan, a film directed by Vinay – Samaksh

Accusing the Muslim community of wanting “to destroy the values of Indian culture, its ideals, national heroes, traditions, places of devotion and worship”, Upadhayaya declared, this community “can never become an indivisible part of this country.” In his persistent attempts to convince the Hindus that Muslims were foreigners who cannot be considered as Indian nationals, Upadhayaya did not shy away from using fiery rhetoric that could potentially incite mass hysteria against the Muslim community.

Making a case for annexation of Pakistan in a speech he delivered in Pune in 1965, Upadhyaya, who always suspected that Indian Muslims had their loyalty to Pakistan, went on to say:

“Some argue that Muslims are our brothers and should not be called foreigners. Arguing the same way, why is Aurangzeb, who lived and utilized the wealth here, regarded as a foreign ruler? Are not Moghal Kings to be treated as foreigners? If not, Shivaji, who fought against Moghal power, must be regarded a traitor to this country. If Akbar is our man, Rana Pratap, who fought with him, will no more be a patriot. If Rana Pratap, Chhatrapati Shivaji, Chhatrasal, Durgavati are patriots, then those against whom they fought must be regarded as foreigners. Akbar may have been great but he was not ours… during Akbar’s reign we were in bondage.”

It is evident that the remarks contemporary BJP leaders like Sangeet Som, Vinay Katiyar and others have made against the Taj Mahal or the Mughals is part of the ‘intellectual’ inheritance that Upadhyaya left behind.

It is not entirely inconceivable that he, like many others then and now, did not believe in the Aryan invasion theory which implied that the Hindu culture, which he regarded as the national culture, had also evolved out of a foreign race that had settled in India. But was Upadhyaya, who drew confident implications from thousand years of history, genuinely unaware that Hindu kings had also fought other Hindu kings, just as there were battles between Muslims kings in the past? Or was he knowingly using faulty but impassioned arguments in a speech to build up a frenzy of hate in a mob?

Deendayal Upadhyaya delivering a speech.

In an apparent endorsement of the then popular slogan “Unity in diversity”, Upadhyaya said: “As a nation we are spread over an extensive area of land with wide, natural variety, which adds charm because it is the garland of multicoloured flowers. Our unity in diversity is expressed through the medium of spiritual attitude of life.” But there was a caveat:

“This unity and co-ordination can be established only among homogeneous cultures, not among the contrary ones. A preparation of various cereals and pulses mixed together can be prepared: but if sand particles find their way into it, the whole food is spoilt. If you develop boils on your body, they have to be operated upon; there can be no adjustment or compromise with them, because they lead only to further disease. The same principle applies to the life of the nation.”

Though he adds later that people practising different modes of worship, different food habits and dress codes can co-exist in harmony so long as all have “uncompromising devotion to our Motherland”, the motherland Upadhyay was referring to was not the India or the Bharat visualized in the constitution, but the “Hindu Rashtra”.

But what set Upadhyaya apart from his guru, Golwalkar, was that in order to separate these “sand particles” from the dish of diverse cereals and pulses, and to operate on these disease-causing “boils” which have developed on our national body, he did not recommend that Hindus draw inspiration from the Holocaust. His Final Solution was to “nationalise Muslims”, to “make Muslims proper Indians” – i.e those that accept the authority of Hindu culture and “look upon Rama and Krishna tradition” as their own.

But “in order to make Muslims proper Indians we will have to change our policy of the last half a century. The Congress made its efforts for Hindu -Muslim unity on a wrong basis,” Upadhyaya argued. The mistake in the Congress party’s approach was that “it tried to bring a number of diverse people artificially together through political bargaining.” This misguided approach, according to him, was not adopted post-independence but was prevalent even during the time of freedom struggle.

Deendayal Upadhyaya hoisting the RSS flag.

“Constant and strenuous efforts were made to bring about Hindu-Muslim unity only through the notion that patriotism lies in opposition to a third party. One of the significant aspects of our politics even before divided India attained freedom in 1947 was that we made consistent attempts to appease groups..”

“Such efforts”, he scoffed, “can never succeed. Nationalism and anti-nationalism can never co-exist in harmony.” Having thus declared the Muslim community as anti-national, he set for the Bharatiya Jana Sangh the agenda to “nationalise Muslims” – a process evidently more complicated than nationalising banks. And for this complicated process of nationalisation to begin, “a situation will have to be created in which political aspirations of Islam in India will be rooted out. Then and then alone can a longing for cultural unity take root them.”

In his 1965 speech about the need to annex Pakistan, an issue from which he could never separate the “Muslim problem” in India, Upadhyay explained, the problem of Pakistan “can’t be solved until and unless Muslims are politically defeated. It is only after such a defeat that it will be possible to assimilate the Muslims… Defeat often makes a person prone to self-analysis, they will awake to the truth that their traditions are Indian traditions.. and Bharat Mata is their Motherland.”

The dehumanising philosophy of Integral Humanism

His deep-rooted hatred and suspicion of the Muslim community, however, did not translate into an antagonism towards every Muslim individual. Upadhyaya was more than willing to acknowledge that:

“The problem that arises had nothing to do with the goodness or otherwise of any individual… Mohammed Karim Chhagla and Hamid Dalwai were both born in Muslim society itself. Famous revolutionary Ashfaq Ulla was also a Muslim. Muslims held responsible and important posts in the armies of both Shivaji and the Peshwas. The important point is that they were all individuals, good individuals, loyal to their country; but they cannot be described as proper representatives of crores of Muslims.. If the majority of Muslims were like Chhagla, there would be no problem whatsoever.”

The distinction he made between Muslims and Hindus as individuals and as communities is explained in greater detail in his work Integral Humanism, whose “mantra”, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, “remains a guiding force” for his party. “It is possible that a person who is of a high character in his personal life, is unscrupulous as a member of the society. Similarly an individual can be good in society but not so in his individual life”, Upadhyaya explains and sets out to give an “illustration”:

“Once during a conversation between Shri Vinobaji and the Sar Sanghachalak of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, Shri Guruji (Golwalkar), a question arose as to where the modes of thinking of Hindus and Muslims differ. Guruji said to Vinobaji that there are good and bad people in every society. There can be found honest and good people in Hindus as well as in Muslims. Similarly rascals can be seen in both the societies. No particular society has a monopoly of goodness.”

“However”, he adds, after starting on a perfectly reasonable and secular note,

“it is observed that Hindus even if they are rascals in individual life, when they come together in a group, they always think of good things. On the other hand when two Muslims come together, they propose and approve of things which they themselves in their individual capacity would not even think of. They start thinking in an altogether different way. This is an everyday experience.”

Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the release of the full volume of works of Deendayal Upadhyaya, in New Delhi on October 9. Credit: PTI

Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the release of the full volume of works of Deendayal Upadhyaya, in New Delhi. Credit: PTI/Files

One wonders how this “illustration” – which represents nothing other pure prejudice and bigotry – can serve as  “a guiding force for us all”, as Modi declared.

Upholder of caste

Providing an insight into what is “integrated” about the philosophy of Integral Humanism, Upadhyaya begins this section with the words: “We do not accept the view that there is any permanent inevitable conflict among the multifarious personality of an individual, and different institutions of the society. If a conflict does exist, it is a sign of decadence perversion and not of nature or culture.”

After telling his readers that the concept of class conflict is an “error in western thinking”, Upadhayay goes on to explain how India had been an integrated society with no such conflicts.

“Classes do exist in a society. Here too, there were castes, but we had never accepted conflict between one caste and another as fundamental concept behind it. In our concept of four castes, they are thought of as analogous to the different limbs of Viratpurusha. It was suggested that from the head of the Virat-Purusha Brahmins were created, Kshatriyas from hands, Vaishyas from his abdomen and Shudras from legs. If we analyae this concept we are faced with the question whether there can arise any conflict among the head, arms, stomach and legs of the same Virat Purusha. If conflict is fundamental, the body cannot be maintained. There cannot be any conflict in the different parts of the same body.”

“If this idea is not kept alive”, he warned, “the castes, instead of being complementary, can produce conflict.”

Discard the constitution and create a new one

Anti-Muslim prejudice and a facile defence of the caste system are not the only features of Integral Humanism that are at variance with the Indian constitution. So is its opposition to secularism. Upadhyay said in an RSS meeting in Aligarh that, “By declaring Bharat as secular nation, the soul of Bharat has been attacked. A secular State is full of woes… Ravana’s Dharmaless State of Lanka had plenty of gold, but had no Rama Rajya in it.” 

But then secularism was not the only constitutional value which Upadhyaya opposed. His objection to the constitution began with its very first article: “India, that is Bharat, shall be a Union of States”. This federal structure endorsed in the first article, Upadhyaya complained, goes against the ethos of Bharat. “Union of states”, he insisted, should be replaced with a “Unitary State”. Even though all the states subscribed to the same constitution, he “saw the seeds of divisiveness in the accepted constitution.”

The “final draft of the constitution”, Bhishikar wrote, “threw cold water on all his (Upadhyaya’s) hopes of natural development. He has repeatedly expressed the opinion that our constitution does not reflect the characteristic features of the ethos of Bharat.”

The Bharatiya ethos could not be expressed in the constitution because in the process of drafting the document, Upadhyaya complained, “we aped the foreigners to such an extent that we failed to see that our inherent national ideas and traditions should be reflected in our constitution. We satisfied ourselves with making a patchwork of theories and principles enunciated in the foreign countries.”

Protesting against the use of English language for drafting the constitution, Upadhyaya scoffed at the constituent assembly, claiming that they “can think only on the lines dictated by the West.” There was an “un-Indian element that crept into” our constitution because it was drafted in English. “Hindi terminology, the meanings of Hindi words and the sentiment expressed through them would all have been the expression of Bharatiya life… But in the constitution, as it is now, it is the sentiments of the English that have found better expression than those of the Indians. Thus, our constitution, like an English child born in India, has become Anglo-Indian in character, instead of purely Indian.”

Prime Minister Narendra Modi releases full volumes of Deendayal Upadhyaya’s works. Credit: narendramodi.in

Prime Minister Narendra Modi releases full volumes of Deendayal Upadhyaya’s works. Credit: narendramodi.in

For a man harbouring such deep self-professed hatred towards the English, one might expect that he must have fought the British fiercely. But far from making any contribution to the anti-colonial struggle that roused the masses across the country throughout the period of his youth, Upadhyaya, being a true RSS man, not only remained aloof from this struggle but also questioned the true patriotism of those whose sacrifices we owe our freedom from the tyranny of colonial rule.      

In Upadhyay’s opinion, Bhishikar tells us:

“we missed the true taste of freedom because we were obsessed with the misleading notion that freedom consisted merely in overthrowing foreign rule. Opposition to a foreign government does not necessarily imply genuine love for motherland. Patriotism is indeed a strong positive urge. During the struggle for independence great emphasis was laid on the opposition to British rule. Our leaders tried to develop this very negative motivation in the minds of our people. It came to be believed that whoever opposed the British was a patriot. A regular campaign was launched in those days to create utter disaffection against the British by holding them responsible for every problem and misery which the people in our country had to face. This one-sided, negative notion of patriotism was chiefly responsible for the utter neglect of the real, positive love of the land.

“Pure and simple concept of nationalism”, which was the RSS’s notion of Hindu nationalism to which Upadhyaya had subscribed, “came to be distorted more and more during the freedom movement between 1920 and 1947 and prominent leaders tried to claim that the distorted was the real national concept. Any other way of thinking was branded communal,” a pained Bhishikar wrote. “The true devotees came to be regarded as communal and parochial in their own land.”

Summing up the disappointment of this “true devotee”, who unfortunately came to be regarded as “communal and parochial” due to the distortions made of the “pure and simple concept of nationalism” by those leaders who fought for the nation’s independence, Bhishikar wrote,

“The Indian ethos which Panditji wanted in the Constitution never found expression. Nor has the constitution been elastic enough for that. Panditji had hoped that if people in the country became alert and self-respecting, perhaps they would discard the foreign pattern of the Constitution and will formulate a new one expressing Bharatiya ideals and character. Who knows what the future holds in store?”

Who, indeed, could have known, at the time Bhishikar was writing, that barely two and half decades later, a party claiming its allegiance to Deendayal Upadhyaya’s philosophy will be elected to power? Who could have known back then that one day, the prime minister of India will publicly call for purification of Muslims while addressing the nation on Upadhyaya’s birth anniversary? Who knows what else the future holds in store?

Pavan Kulkarni is a freelance journalist.