What the RSS as 'Vishwaguru' Means for India and the World

The RSS’ drive to position India as preacher to the world encapsulates a long-term political programme of eliminating political dissent within the country and, later, establishing control over South Asia.

The world paid a heavy price for ignoring Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf. He, on his part, had suppressed nothing. His agenda, and the outlook which inspired it, were laid bare with perfect candour.

The Italian scholar Marzia Casolari’s classic In the Shadow of the Swastika: The Ambiguous Relationship between Indian Nationalism and Nazi Fascism [(2011), I Limri die mil, via Benedetti Marcello F, 40141 Bologna; Italy] based on stupendous research in the archives in New Delhi and Rome, exposes the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) and V.D. Savarkar’s attachment to the Nazi-Fascist ideals and the links and contacts between them.

The RSS’ claim to be the Vishwaguru (tutors of the world) is not a new development, nor is it a vain boast based on an insane version of history. M.S. Golwalkar, the RSS’ boss for years, claimed in his Bunch of Thoughts (1966): “Our arms stretched as far as America on the one side—that was long long before Columbus ‘discovered’ America!—and on the other to China, Japan, Cambodia, Malaya, Siam, Indonesia and all the South-East Asian countries and right up to Mongolia and Siberia in the North. Our powerful political empire too spread over these South-East areas and continued for 1,400 years, the Shailendra empire alone flourishing for over 700 years— standing as a powerful bulwark against Chinese expansion.”

His chela, Pravin Togadia of the Vishwa (World) Hindu Parishad, an RSS’ creature, gave free rein to his imagination: “At a point of time, the entire world was Hindu. There were 700 crore Hindus, and now there are just 100 crore.” He was then the international working president of the VHP. Such people live in Vedic times and conjure up “achievements” of that era.

Also Read: How an Aspiring ‘Vishwa Guru’ Has Brought the ‘Third World’ Back to India

Hindustan Times reported on January 5, 2015: “Maharshi Bharadwaj’s Vaimanika Shastra prescribes a chemical formula that can make a flying plane invisible; the 100 Kaurava brothers were the first evidence of human cloning; cow urine can cure cancer…. Set up in 1991, Sangh-affiliated science organisation Vijana Bharati says it plans to expand in the Muslim-dominated Gulf countries to acquaint children of Indian families there with the country’s rich scientific and cultural heritage….

“With eminent scientist G. Madhavan Nair and Anil Kakodkar as patrons, the organisation is headed by Vijay P. Bhatkar, who developed India’s first supercomputer.

“Vijnana Bharati identifies promotion of ‘swadeshi science’, intertwining traditional and modern sciences, as well as natural and spiritual sciences, as its founding principle.

“What is available in the Vedas and Upanishads can give India a big leap. The government should promote research based on them,’ [Dr. Somdev] Bhardwaj [of Vijnana Bharati] said….

“While Vijnana Bharati wants to expand to the Gulf, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) is pushing the government for steps to protect and develop indigenous cows….

“The [agriculture] ministry is already in overdrive. It has allocated Rs 500 crore to protect and promote desi cows. Projects worth Rs.378 crore have been sanctioned and Rs 123 crore released in this financial year. Two breeding centres in Mathura and south India have also been proposed [by the end of 2014].”

No wonder Prime Minister Narendra Modi asserted in Mumbai while inaugurating a newly reconstituted hospital that plastic surgery very much existed in those times.

Initially, the term “Jagatguru” was used to denote the Hindu world order. But it was apt to be confused with the names of heads of the four principal monasteries of Hinduism – the Jagatguru Shankaracharyas. Hence the term Vishwaguru for India – as governed by the RSS, of course. A desperate effort has been made of late by the Sangh Parivar to dissociate itself from Golwalkar’s two books; namely, We or Our Nationhood Defined (1939) and Bunch of Thoughts (1966).

The effort is as futile as it is devious. For the RSS solemnly owned up to both books in Application No.17 of 1978 by the RSS chief Rajendra Singh and Bhaurao Deoras, brother of M.D. Deoras, former chief of the RSS and a junior colleague. In paragraph 17, they owned up to both books. Crazy reconstruction of history should not divert attention from the political implications of the RSS’ claims to be Vishwaguru. We have an explicit, unambiguous statement of the politics of this business from Amit Shah, Union home minister, former BJP president, and an ardent member of the RSS. He said on March 5, 2016: “If we have to elevate Bharat Mata to the status of Vishva Guru (the world’s teacher) … it is important that the country has a BJP government for 25 years.”

This explains the true raison d’être of the cry of Vishwaguru and its implications for the country. It encapsulates a long-term political programme – elimination of political opposition in India; suppression of dissent; discarding of secularism; acquisition of military might; acquiescence of the world as the new India wing of the RSS abroad, and parts with all fascist forces elsewhere. In short, the triumph of Hindutva at home and its acquiescence internationally.

Home minister Amit Shah and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Photo: PTI

Second half of Hindutva

The fact that this quixotic dream will not be realised is beside the point. It is the danger it spells for our country that matters. Its corollary is dominance over South Asia. Vishwaguru is the second half of Hindutva.

Savarkar’s essay “Hindutva” (1923) expounded the poisonous theme at length and sowed the seeds of Vishwaguru. His successors watered the plant and nursed its growth. But Savarkar did aver: “Let all people of the world learn their duties from the elders born in this land.” He is at pains to emphasise his respect for Buddha and Buddhism. But his lament at its spread in India and deep regret at its consequences are not concealed. It is the period before the rise of Buddhism that inspires him, as it did the RSS’ leaders. “Up with the Vedic Dharma! Back to the Vedas! The national cry grew louder and louder …. because this was essentially a political necessity.” Very true – and “Hindutva” is a political manifesto. It was a political necessity that led to the rejection of Buddhism in India.

Read this revealing bit: “Hatred separates as well as unites”. Like Savarkar, the RSS spews hatred at once to unite the Hindus and separate them from the rest of Indians, especially Muslims, Christians and Communists, the three “Internal Threats” listed in Golwalkar’s Bunch of Thoughts (Chapter XI).

Golwalkar took over the theme and the task of expressing it in his We or Our Nationhood Defined. His detailed exposition, laden with hate, ends thus: “The spirit of the race beckons to us and has lighted for its benighted children the path to their cherished ideal, with beacons of undying spiritual splendour. Let us rouse ourselves to our true nationality, let us follow the lead of our race-spirit, and fill the heavens with the clarion call of the Vedic seers ‘from sea to sea over all the land—One Nation’, one glorious, splendorous Hindu Nation benignly shedding peace and plenty over the whole world.”

Savarkar. Credit: savarkarsmarak.com

Savarkar. Credit: savarkarsmarak.com

Extravagant claims

Bunch of Thoughts begins with “Our World Mission” (Chapter 1). What he wrote explains the extravagant claims of past achievement made by Modi & Co. “History has recorded that it is in this land alone that, right from the hoary times, generation after generation of thinkers and philosophers, seers and sages rose to unravel the mysteries of human nature, dived deep into the world of Spirit and discovered and perfected the science of realisation of that Great Unifying Principle. The penance and sacrifice and experience of hundreds of centuries of a whole nation is there as the inexhaustible fountain-head of this knowledge to assuage the spiritual thirst of the world. It was not mere dry knowledge confined to the intellectual speculations of a few thinkers sitting in their forest hermitages. It was a living thought driving our ancestors—thinkers, administrators, merchants, scientists, artists and philosophers—to reach distant lands carrying that message of world brotherhood. Wherever they stepped, they taught the local people the spiritual and cultural values of life, taught them the sciences of material prosperity as well and built up a homogeneous brotherhood of nations under their benign wings. Our Hindu Society strong, self-confident and self-effulgent provided the unifying pivot for that far-flung empire of the Spirit.”

Also Read: History Shows How Patriotic the RSS Really Is

Fascination for the United States

Right from the beginning, the RSS advocated an alliance with the US (rejection of non-alignment) and made no secret of its distaste for “Communist” China. The quest for international sway is coupled with divisiveness in India based on hate. “In fact, we are Hindus even before we emerge from the womb of our mother. We are therefore born as Hindus. About the others, they are born to this world as simple unnamed human beings and later on, either circumcised or baptised, they become Muslims or Christians.

“Therefore, to strengthen the unity and spirit of identity in our society is a duty born with our birth, our sahaja karma. And that which is our sahaja karma must not be given up even if it may appear to be defective. It is therefore our pre-eminent duty to see that the present differences and dissensions eating into our vitals are removed and our society made once again into a unified and harmonious whole”—not by inter-faith conciliation but by imposition of Hindutva in India as a Vishwaguru pledged to teach the world.

Contempt for M.K. Gandhi and the Congress is not concealed. “Our leaders raised the slogan of ‘Hindu-Muslim unity’ and declared that anything that stood in its way should be forgotten. As they dared not tell the Muslim to forget his separatism, they pitched upon the docile Hindu for all their preachings. The first thing they preached was, that our nationality could not be called Hindu, that even our land could not be called by its traditional name Hindusthan, as that would have offended the Muslim. The name ‘India’ given by the British was accepted. Taking that name, the ‘new nation’ was called the ‘Indian Nation’. And the Hindu was asked to rename himself as ‘Indian’…

Also Read: The RSS and Gandhi: A Necessary Backstory

“In other words, the Hindu was told that he was imbecile, that he had no spirit, no stamina to stand on his own legs and fight for the independence of his motherland and that all this had to be injected into him in the form of Muslim blood. What a shame, what a misfortune that our own leaders should have come forward to knock out the ancient and indomitable faith in ourselves and destroy our spirit of self-confidence and self-reliance, which is the very life-breath of a people! Those who declared ‘No swaraj without Hindu-Muslim unity’ have thus perpetrated the greatest treason on our society. They have committed the most heinous sin of killing the life-spirit of a great and ancient people. To preach impotency to a society which gave rise to a Shivaji who, in the words of the great historian Jadunath Sarkar, ‘proved to the whole world that the Hindu has drunk the elixir of immortality’, and to break the self-confident and proud spirit of such a great and virile society has no parallel in the history of the world for sheer magnitude of its betrayal.” Instil an inferiority complex and soothe it with the cry of Vishwaguru.

M.S. Golwalkar. Credit: Youtube

M.S. Golwalkar. Photo: YouTube

Campaign for Vishwaguru

There was no let-up in the campaign for Vishwaguru. On the contrary, it was stepped up after Independence and has continued right until January 2021, a splendid record of consistency. Consider the gems on the theme in recent years:

1. The RSS supremo Rajendra Singh addressed RSS workers in Nagpur on the Vijayadadshmi day in 1997. He said “lakhs of people have to forego and limit their personal pleasure and work for the realisation of the dream of making Bharat the Vishwaguru again. Great men such as Swami Vivekananda, Savarkar, Dr Hedgewar, Subhas Chandra Bose, Aurobindo Ghose, saw this dream and did wonderful work towards its realisation. If all our brethren decide to accomplish this incomplete work and recognise that the life can be worthy by realising this sacred dream and work towards this goal, we will be able to change the present depressing situation of the Motherland and an atmosphere vibrant with hopes and promises can be brought about within a year or two.” (Organiser, October 26, 1997).

2. Addressing a gathering at the Hindu Sammelan in Baitool, Mohan Bhagwat said the entire world was looking towards Bharat to become a Vishvaguru and it is the responsibility of every Hindu to work in that direction. He said while we see economic struggle being waged all around in the world, and lot of bloodshed in the name of religion and sects, it is time Bharat assumed the role of a Vishvaguru, because the world looks at Bharat to resolve such issues. (Organiser, February 19, 2017).

3. Organiser of December 20, 2020, reported RSS boss Mohan Bhagwat’s speech on India’s role in the global scenario. He said: “The world was waiting for India’s role long before we become independent, but this time also has its importance. The first thing is that now we have awakened. Even when we were independent, we did not do this type of thinking. We did not prepare any such vision document of what will be the place of the newly independent India in the life of the world. Nor was there any discussion in its intellectual field because at that time it was believed that what we will do, we are still a developing nation. But today this belief has awakened in us. Every nation has a purpose; Swami Vivekananda said it. He said that the purpose of Rome was to set an example of militarism in front of the whole world, which it did and the purpose of its existence ended, and Rome also ended. This is how nations incarnate. To pursue the life of this creation, the purpose of their life is their purpose, and they succeed and go away. But Vivekananda Ji used to say—India’s aim is always necessary for the world, from time to time, India is uplifted to give ground to the world and time has come; now India has to wake up.

“India has to become a contributor in the world based on its idols, its ideas, as they are global idols: Taking this whole imagination, our life has stood up, and each country has its scope of identity and diversity. We will not try to make everyone sit in one system.…

“India’s role is vital in the coming world because of the new powers emerging in the world. The power that gives them confidence, courage, assures them is the only the power India has in the entire world. If India comes forward and leads them, it will be our welfare. Therefore, we should wear the Shiv Tav that makes this belief meaningful and gives the world a new standard definition.” The issue also carried an article by one Shridhar Prabhu on “Vaccine and the Vishwa Guru”.

Representative image of an RSS conclave in Pune. Photo: Reuters

4. The latest issue of Organiser (January 24, 2021) is a delight to read. On the one hand it condemns “inter-faith” marriages; on the other it longs for the “The dawn of Dharma-based World Order” in an article by one Shekhar Patel, avowedly “President of the International Centre for Cultural Studies” in the US. It reveals the writer’s deep commitment to preservation of the environment in his assiduous recycling of garbage. He concludes at page 28 of the magazine: “Polarisation is a disease that destroys nations. India can build on its elders’ wisdom and wise seers and use societal cohesion as an antidote to the apparent chaos of social-politico-technological disruptions to guide the world to a better place. A world order, built bottoms-up, with universal-well-being at its core, will be the most just and aligned with all living beings’ aspirations.”

Mohan Bhagwat put the basic subtext underlying the Vishwaguru campaign tersely in a speech in New Delhi on October 3, 2012: “India has to lead the world.” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on January 2, 2021, that the time was perfect for “India’s influence” to spread across the world.

A.G. Noorani is a lawyer and author.

This article was first published on Frontline.