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Is RSS looking at a new definition of nationalism

Our Bureau/PTI New Delhi/Ranchi | Updated on February 21, 2020 Published on February 20, 2020

RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat addressing cadres in Ranchi on Thursday   -  PTI

Its Chief Mohan Bhagwat’s says the word could be confused with Nazism, Fascism

“Cultural nationalism” and “Hindutva” being the founding principles of the RSS for the 95 years since its inception in 1925, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s statement on Thursday that the word “nationalism” can have different interpretations and could be equated with “Nazism and Fascism” had already set off heated debates.

Talking to the Sangh cadre in Ranchi, the RSS chief said he had been advised against using the term “nationalism” by some volunteers while he was on a visit to the UK.

Varied meanings

“I was on a visit to the UK. A karyakarta advised me not to use the word nationalism as English is not our language and this word can have different connotations and interpretations,” he said. “It is all right to say nation, national and nationality but not nationalism. Because it alludes to Hitler, Nazism and Fascism (in England),” he said.

The RSS, in its vision statement, quotes its founder Keshav Baliram Hedgewar as saying that “the Hindu culture is the life breath of Hindusthan. It is, therefore, clear that if Hindusthan is to be protected, we should first nourish the Hindu culture. If the Hindu culture perishes in Hindusthan itself, and if the Hindu society ceases to exist, it will hardly be appropriate to refer to the mere geographical entity that remains as Hindusthan”.

The vision and mission of the RSS has, according to historian Dilip Simeon, clearly enforces affinity to the Nation or “Hindusthan”. Simeon pointed to the recent comments made by Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani in the wake of continued nationwide protests against Citizenship (Amendment) Act and probable pan-India NRC. “Muslims have 150 countries to go to, Hindus have only India,” the Gujarat Chief Minister had said on December 25, 2019.

According to Simeon, the Gujarat CM’s observations illuminate the RSS’s founding principle that the nation is identified by religion and anyone can be at home in a country so long as his/her religion is the same as the dominant religion of this country. “Would a Christian from Nigeria be at home in say, Mexico,” wrote Simeon in a blog. Talking to BusinessLine, Simeon said, “It is natural for human beings to have affinity with a place, village, language, food, a large geographical area and these affinities are porous. The problem and divisions arise when affinities are defined and enforced by organisations such as the RSS. The different interpretations of nationalism are already being given by persons in authority such as the Gujarat CM recently.”

Holistic solution

Bhagwat, meanwhile, also said problems like “radicalism and climate change” were disturbing world peace and only India, with its ethos of thinking holistically, can offer a solution.

“Problems of radicalism, environment and the belief that one is right while the rest are wrong are the basic issues disturbing world peace,” he said. Only India has got the experience to think holistically to find solutions to these problems, Bhagwat added. “And the world waits for India, so India has to become a great nation.”

The RSS chief said different countries had different languages, religions and models of economic development and someone not accepting those cannot be its national. You can be (their) guest, host, minority, anything, even enemy, but not its national,” he said without elaborating.

Calling upon RSS members to connect with people irrespective of their caste, language, religion or region, Bhagwat said India’s characteristic is to bind everyone in one thread following the principle of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam (the world is a family).

“We (Indians) live for each other, not for ourselves,” he said.

Published on February 20, 2020
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