The title of this post may seem strange — given that the Lingayat issue has blown into a full fledged issue only recently, and Veer Savarkar lived many decades ago. But then — that is the greatness of such stalwarts — I guess. Their anticipation of where society would head — and what attempts would be made at attacking the Hindu religion is what places them amongst the pantheon of great visionaries for the Hindu, and Hindutva, cause.
In his wonderful book “Essentials of Hindutva” Savarkar has offered a critical analysis of who is a Hindu, what constitutes Hinduism and how Hindutva is the overarching umbrella that the other two terms are a sub-set of. After offering a deep historical analysis of the genesis of the terms Hindu and Hinduism, he proceeds to construct the definition of Hindutva. Towards the end of the dissection, he brings all his concepts and terminologies together and offers a definition of what Hindutva, according to him, is. He summarises the same by creating a beautiful sanskrit shloka describing a true ‘Hindutva-vadi’.
असिन्धुसिन्धुपर्यन्ता यस्य भारत भूमिका |
पित्रुभूः पुण्यभूश्चैव स वै हिन्दुरिति स्मृतः ||
“One, for whom the land between the Sindhu and the Ocean, known as Bharata, is the Fatherland as well as the Holy Land — is verily a Hindu”
In explaining this position, Savarkar defined three essentials of Hindutva
- Common nation (Rashtra)
- Common race (Jati)
- Common civilization (Sanskriti)
While the terms “Rashtra” and “Sanskriti” are self-explanatory, one must emphasize that the term “Jati” was used by him in the sense of a common blood of all those who qualify — and not in the sense of caste, as is commonly understood.
“who inherits the blood of that race whose first discernible source could be traced to the Vedic saptasindhus….”
Subsequently in the book, Savarkar analysis the position of some communities vis-a-vis the definition of Hindutva that he had just defined. The issue of separate representation, and protection, for Sikhs was a raging topic in the 1920s, when this book was written and published first. Savarkar therefore picks up the issue of the position of Sikhs and rightly identifies that Sikhs were very much a part of the Hindutva framework. This is because Sikhs qualify when measured against all three constituents of Hindutva.
“ Let us first take the case of our Sikh brotherhood. No one could be so silly as to contest the statement that Sindusthan, Asindhu Sindhu Paryanta yasya Bharatbhumika’, is their Fatherland-the land that ever since the first extant records of the Vedic Period has been the land where their forefathers lived and loved and worshipped and prayed”
Thus the first constituent — that of accepting Bharata as their Fatherland — is fully satisfied.
“Secondly, they most undoubtedly inherit the Hindu blood in their veins as much as any one in Madras or Bengal does Nay more…”
Thus the second constituent of race is satisfied as well.
“Thirdly, they have contributed and to therefore are the rightful copartners in our Hindu culture…. Lastly the land Asindhu Sindhuparyanta is not only the Pitribhu also the Punyabhu to the Sikhs…”
Since their civilization and culture is also common, Savarkar declares them very much in the fold of Hindus.
Not Sanatanis and yet Hindus
At this stage, Savarkar re-emphasizes an important point he repeatedly makes in the book. Hindutva is an umbrella — under which every branch, sect or diversion from the mainline exists. As long as the three constituents are satisfied — every other deviation from the main branch is tolerated — even accepted. Thus, a community — say the Jains — or even atheists — may reject the Vedas — or the Vedic way of life — and yet they remain Hindutvavadis. They may not be ‘sanatanis’ — those who differ from the sanatana dharma concept — yet they very much remain Hindus — since Bharata is accepted by them as their Pitrubhuh and Punyabhuh!
“ Yet we must repeat it once more that the Sikhs are free to reject any or all things they dislike as superstitions in Sanatandharma, even the binding authority of the Vedas as a revelation. They thereby may cease to be Sanatanis, but cannot cease to be Hindus. Sikhs are Hindus in the sense of our definition of Hindutva and not in any religious sense whatever. Religiously they are Sikhs as Jains are Jains, Lingayats are Lingayats, Vaishnavas are Vaishnavas ; but all of us racially and nationally and culturally are a polity and a people, one and indivisible, most fitly and from times immemorial called Hindus”
Special benefits and preferences
Next, he touches upon the topic of Sikhs demanding special preferences and benefits for their own community (from the British). He empathises with him on this issue and says that the demand is fair and justified. However, he does not agree with the Sikhs attempting to take the route of declaring themselves as non-Hindus for achieving this purpose.
“ The Sikhs were naturally anxious to guard the special interests of their community and if the Mohammedans could enjoy the privilege of a special and communal .representation, we do not understand why any other important minority in India should not claim similar concession. But we feel that, that claim should not have been backed up by our Sikh brothers by an untenable and suicidal plea of being non-Hindus. Sikhs, to guard their own interests could have pressed for and succeeded in securing special and communal representation on the ground of being an important minority as our non-Brahmins and other communities have done without renouncing their birthright of Hindutva”
While still on this topic, Savarkar goes on to make a very interesting and insightful comment on how various communities within the Hindu fold should approach the issue of obtaining special benefits and preferences.
“ Let the Sikhs, the Jains, the Lingayats, the non-Brahmins and even, for the matter of that. Brahmins press and fight for the right of special and communal representation, if they honestly look upon it as indispensable for their communal growth. For their growth is the growth of the whole Hindu-society…… They could do that without refusing to get fused into the larger whole and incorporated into the wider generalization of Hindutva, Let the Sikhs be classed as Sikhs religiously, but as Hindus racially and culturally”
He elaborates the benefits of staying united
“ Will they disown their seed, forswear their fathers and sell their birthright for a mess of pottage ? God forbid! Let our minorities remember that if strength lies in union, then in Hindutva lies the firmest and yet the dearest bond that can effect a real, lasting and powerful union of our people”
…and then elucidates the dangers of splitting away from the Hindu fold.
“Your interests are indissolubly bound with the interests of your other Hindu brethren. Whenever in the future as in the past a foreigner raises a sword against the Hindu civilization it is sure to strike you as deadly as any other Hindu community….. So, brothers, be not lured by the immediate gains, partly or otherwise, nor be duped by misreadings and misinterpretations of history”
Lessons for today
Savarkar’s statements, as noted above, sound prophetic, given how things have panned out 70 years after Independence. Our secular Governments have pitted majority vs minorities under the lure of benefits and protection.
Immediately after the recent announcement by the Karnataka Government to classify Lingayats as a separate religion, I had written a post lamenting that the efforts of various Governments over the years has been to split non-Vedic communities of Hinduism into separate religions (such as Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists and now Lingayats). At that time, I had not read this particular book of Savarkar. Given his immense scholarship, it is but obvious that he has prophetically identified the dangers of communities being lured out of Hinduism, and the instruments (sanatani vs non-sanatani) that would be used to effect the same.
It is time to facilitate the realization of Savarkar’s suggestions — to provide communities benefits to protect and enrich their culture — without having to desert Hinduism culturally or racially!
I have argued earlier how a sincere and simplistic assumption, by the members of the Constituent Assembly, led to the dropping of the word “community” from Article 30 of our Constitution. Given the narrow interpretation of the word “minority” in that Article by our Courts post the birth of the Republic, it has become necessary for communities to opt out of the Hindu fold if they desire the benefits guaranteed in the Constitution. It is time, therefore, to seriously re-look at the provision and (re)introduce the word “community” into Article 30 (if it is, for reason, difficult to simply make it applicable to all). That way, deserving communities from within Hinduism can also enjoy privileges granted to other minorities *without having to desert Hinduism*.
I reproduce my concluding statement from that post here
“ Therefore, communities such as Lingayats, Vokkaligas, Brahmo Samaj and others, who form a distinct minority ‘community’ under the broader Hindu religion also qualify for Rights under Article 30(1) WITHOUT HAVING TO MOVE OUT OF HINDUISM”
A very effective version of the new Article 30 could be as follows
“ All minorities, whether based on religion, community or language, shall enjoy equal rights to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice”
An appeal to our minority brethren
The Lingayats have overwhelmingly rejected the attempts to break them away from Hinduism. This is an extremely welcome development. The dangers of such moves must be seen by all communities — and any future attempts to similarly break Hindus must be resisted.
An appeal made by Savarkar towards the end of his book would serve as a great inspiration in this endeavour. I will end this post by reproducing that appeal.
“ Oh Hindus! whether Jain or Samaji or Sanatani or Sikh or any other subsection afford to cut yourselves off or fall out and destroy the ancient, the natural and the organic combination that already exists? — a combination that is bound not by any scraps of paper nor by the ties of exigencies alone, but by the ties of blood, birth and culture? Strengthen them if you can: pull down the barriers that have survived their utility, of castes and customs, of sects and sections…. Let the minorities remember they would be cutting the very branch on which they stand. Strengthen every tie that binds you to the main organism, whether of blood or language or common Motherland. Let this ancient and noble stream of Hindu blood flow from vein to vein, from Attock to Cuttack till at last the Hindu people get fused and welded into an indivisible whole, till our race gets consolidated and strong sharp as steel”