Communalism is an ideology and should be fought by an ideology and not by economic development but by inclusive democratic state and secular forces.
To start with the view of Professor Irfan Habib that the concept of India is growing one, the question arises, how the concept of India generated and how India became a nation? India has both bright and dark moments in history. The leaders like Gandhi, the intellectuals like Dabholkar, Pansaria, and Kalburgi, the people like Mohammad Akhlaq, and Zahid Rasool have been killed mysteriously. To name a few many cases which describe the present situation of intolerance in India?
Coming to the idea of nation people must remember that India became a nation in recent past. What BJP, Hindu Maha Sabha or RSS activists are proclaiming that India was a nation since Rig Vedic times is grossly wrong an assessment to be made. Even in Rigveda, there is no mention of any geographical region called India, least of all, the concept of a country that is India. The first name of country India was in Prakrit (Sola-Mahajanpada) sixteen great states from Kabul to Anga in Bihar and was confined to Northern India. So there was not any concept called India. In Dharma Sutras, the term Arya Varta, (land of nobles) began to occur. In fact, it was Mauryans who gave the first perception of the whole India as a country. It was only during this time; political unity came to the forefront. The term Bharata was used in Prakrit inscription in Orissa. So gradually the concept of Bharat came to the limelight.
The Foreigners who visited this land regarded this country much more than the original inhabitants with few exceptions. It were Central Asians, who for the first time gave this country the name Hindu, and Hindu is a Persian form of the name of Sindhu river, that is the Indus river, and from this, the name “India” comes. For Greeks, Hindu became Indu and for Chinese India is Intu and later comes the Persian name “Hindustan’. In fact, there is no such word in Sanskrit as “Hindustan.” “Stan” is a Persian territorial suffix, so people who contemporarily talk of Hindutva forget; their name Hindu is Iranian. In fact, it was Amir Khusrau who praised India in his poem. He praised the languages of India from Kashmiri to Malabari and he called them Hindvi. In 1350 A.D the poet Isami praised India in these words
“Praise to the splendor of the country of Hindustan, for paradise is jealous of the beauty of this flower garden.”
It was in Mughal period especially during the rule of Akbar; patriotism became active assertion and there was the concept of tolerant state. Most Persian scholars during the Mughal period were Hindus even today we refer their reference. Dr. Tara Chand writes in his book, “The Influence of Islam on Indian Culture” that it was under Delhi Sultanate and Mughal Empire a sense of larger national allegiance was created. It was only during 1857 revolt that the concept of politically independent India came to the forefront, but that too was not sufficient, as large regions did not support and participate in the revolt. People like Raja Ram Mohan Roy said that “Indians could not be patriots because they are loyal to caste, not nation.” There was no concept of communalism in people like Dada Bhai Naroji, Ramesh Chandra Dutt, and Ranade. They always talked about all Indian’s irrespective of religion, caste, creed and tribe. They stood for and supported social movements and reforms. People like Raja Ram Mohan Roy and Keshav Chandra Sen were always against the untouchability, caste system, Sati and other social evils which were present in Indian society. Most important they were for modern education and equal rights to all. As Keshav Chandra Sen in 1870 that, “as social reform progresses, India will become a nation if its division into caste and religious communities will overcome.”
India was a country in the eyes of very small number of people during 1857 revolt, it was only Gandhi who brought the masses in national movement and created the Idea of India as a nation, by launching many movements like Satyagraha, Khilafat, and Non-Cooperation which created a sense of belongingness among people towards an idea of nation. In Civil Disobedience movement, a large number of people from all sections, especially peasants went to prison who were mostly poor. Here one thing is important those who talk nowadays about nationalism like RSS, VHP, Hindu Maha Sabha and BJP are psychologically and intellectually bankrupt. People of India should ask them what they did for the independence of their country. Why not they join the movement? Why not did they something against British colonialism during national movement? If they are such patriots of a country? Here V D Savarkar is an important person to mention; he was the man who gave the idea of Hindu Rashtra, to reconstruct new world for Hindu’s. Savarkar proclaims that a Hindu could be anyone who considered this land of Bharat Varsha as his fatherland and his holy land that is “Piturbhu and Punyabhu.” So Savarkar was in favor of Hindu Rashtra, These things are evident in his writings especially in his book “Hindutva; who is the Hindu.”
So there were many forces present during British rule who divided the community and people. Savarkar remained in Andaman jail for a decade to cherish violence but he speaks for pardon and apology to Britishers, he subsequently was released after which he said that he would never oppose British Government. After releasing from jail, he became president of Hindu Maha Sabha and set close links with RSS too. These people were radicals towards caste to unifying Hindus, and their real objective was that they were always against Muslim’s and propagated two nation theory even before Muhammad Ali Jinnah. Nowadays they are cherishing people like Dr. Ambedkar and Bhagat Singh as their heroes. What has people like these to do with Dr. Ambedkar and Bhagat Singh? These personalities like them always stood for justice, equality and freedom for the people which is opposed to core ideology of RSS, and Hindu Maha Sabha. Another hero which they claim is Subhash Chandra Bose. Did he ever say that there should be a Hindu Rashtra? He made Iqbal’s poem (Saare Jahan say acha Hindustan hamra) the national anthem of Indian nation army and made Urdu and Hindi as official languages of Azad Hind fauj. He gave slogan like Jai Hind and Inquilab Zindabad, the slogan Bhagat Sing used, but what is the slogan of RSS and other communal forces in India is “BHARAT MATA KI JAI.” The heroes of communal parties like Shyama Prasad Mukherjee and Deen Dayal did nothing against British colonial rule.
Therefore the idea of nation was a challenge from the day one, even assassination of Gandhi was a systematic attempt to change the state ideology. These communal organizations labeled Gandhi as anti-national. In fact, communalism is an ideology and should be fought by an ideology and not by economic development but by inclusive democratic state and secular forces. Many things have changed from last two, and a half decades in India, the communal forces had become more robust and powerful than ever, they demolished Babri Masjid and killed thousands amongst the minorities especially Muslims in riots by organizing violent mobs. There is fascist regime which rules the state, secular forces have failed in India to resist this fascist forces to which Atul Kohli in 1991 remarked that democratic state was allowed to decay. Secular writers returned awards because secularism has being destroyed. Dissent has been crushed in India from Hyderabad to JNU and other institutions of India.
“Sabka Sath Sabka Vikas” and “make in India” may be their short-term slogans and ideology but their long-term slogan and ideology are Hindutva nationalism which is hollow in its very essence. The hate speeches by RSS and BJP leaders inevitably leads to violence and new concepts like “Ghar Wapsi, Gau Raksha, Love Jihad” have become norms of the day. To conclude in the words of Partha Nuznic, professor of Political Science at the University Of Chicago, that “criticism of government nowadays in India means a criticism of nation”.
[This article is reflection of a series of lectures organised by “Itihas Ke Karigar” makers of the history, students department of history AMU Aligarh in 2016 delivered by Professor Irfan Habib, Prof. Shareen Mosvi, Prof. Ramesh Rawat, Prof. Mirdula Mukherji (JNU) and Prof. Aditya Mukherji (JNU).]