New Delhi: With the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) being compared to Nazi Germany’s Nuremberg Laws by political observers and critics of the controversial law, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh chief Mohan Bhagwat seems to have made a conscious attempt not only to distance the Hindutva outfit from the anti-Semitism of the Hitler era but also to carve out a new meaning for the term ‘nationalism’.
The move is ironic, given the use of nationalism as a political and vote-catching tool by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, the political front of the RSS, in recent elections including the 2019 parliamentary polls.
On February 20, Bhagwat publicly urged RSS members and followers to avoid using the term ‘nationalism’ – stating that it has connotations of “Hitler and Nazism”.
“Do not use the word ‘nationalism’. Use ‘national’, ‘nationality’, ‘nation’. The meaning of ‘nationalism’ is Hitler, Nazism and fascism. The aim of the Sangh is to boost the feeling of patriotism and feeling of Hinduism,” Bhagwat reportedly said at a five-day RSS programme in Ranchi.
The BJP’s decision to introduce the CAA is being protested in several parts of the country as stemming from the RSS’s “Hindutva nationalism”, which is hostile to the country’s large Muslim population.
At the event, held at Shyama Prasad Mukherjee University, Bhagwat said a Sangh volunteer in the UK had “advised” him to not use the word. “I was on a visit to the UK. A karyakrata advised me not to use the word nationalism as English is not our language and it could have a different meaning in England. It’s okay to say nation, national and nationality but not nationalism. Because it [alludes to] Hitler, Nazism and fascism [in England].”
This is the second time Bhagwat has linked ‘nationalism’ to Hitler. Last October, speaking at an RSS event in Bhubaneswar, the Hindutva ideologue had reportedly said, “Nationalism scares people because they immediately link it with Hitler and Mussolini. But nationalism in India is not the same because this nation is built on its common sanskriti (civilisation).”
Dissociating from the term ‘nationalism’ seems like a conscious attempt by the RSS to sidestep the comparison being made with Nazi Germany, as on February 15, RSS joint general secretary Manmohan Vaidya too spoke on similar lines at an event in Nagpur. Vaidya had said, “Nationalism isn’t a Bharatiya concept. It was born in the Western concept of nation-state and comes with a baggage of ideologies like fascism and personalities like Hitler and Mussolini. In Bharat, the concepts is rashtriyata which are different from nation and nationalism. Hence, ‘rashtravad‘ for nationalism isn’t an acceptable parallel word.”