The origins of Sangh Parivar
The forerunners of the present day Hindutvawadi Sangh Parivar – the RSS and Hindu Mahasabha – since their early beginnings in the 1920s, were not part of any stream of anti-colonialism, in the subcontinent; and they chose to pit themselves against the entire spectrum of the anti-colonial front.1 This is evident from their writings, speeches and activities in the pre-Independence period. These outfits put themselves firmly on the side of the British colonial masters and the fact that they remained antagonistic towards reformist movements ranged against upper-caste hegemony, like the those led by Jyotiba Phule (in the then Bombay Presidency – now Maharashtra), starkly revealed their upper caste bias.
It was not the vision of the Sangh Parivar that shaped the writing of our Republican Constitution and the Sangh Parivar did not share the perspective, the promises and the idea India, enshrined in our Constitution and implicit in the minds of the people who participated in the independent struggle. The RSS openly flaunted their defiance and rejection of the ‘imagining of India as a nation through their murder of Gandhi; and paid the political price of being pushed to near oblivion. Immediately after the assassination of Gandhi, the RSS was banned; the ban remained in force for a few years and from there on the RSS had to operate clandestinely from within the Congress, following the advice of Vallabhbhai Patel. The RSS slowly resurfaced in the 1960s as the Congress was losing its appeal in the minds of the people and celebrated their re-entry with a string of communal riots across the country.
What the rule of sangh Parivar implies
The return of the right-wing BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) to power at the pan-India level, through the 2014 parliamentary elections, is the harbinger of a counter- revolution under the aegis of the far Right which has initiated a rolling back of the continuing ‘long social revolution’ in India.2
While discussing the resistible rise of BJP-Sangh Parivar, it is often argued that ‘the Congress despite being a party of the middle retained a leftist rhetoric and the BJP grew partly in agonised response to this leftism and partly because the rhetoric was empty’. If Congress leftist rhetoric was hollow then it is the ‘left’ (meaning communist movement3) with its true leftism that should have grown. For various reasons this has not been the case and the left has remained confined to its regional areas of influence.
Congress and the Left
For Congress ‘leftism’ is old hat. In the period of anti-colonial struggle, the Congress deployed leftist rhetoric, given the ascending spirit of the times, to consolidate its hegemony in the struggle for freedom. This trend in the Congress comes to the fore most glaringly in the period of ‘left moment’ in the 1927-1930s’ and gets more pronounced at the time of the Lahore Congress, during the anti-colonial struggle itself. It is this Congress session at Lahore (1931) which came out with resolutions outlining the contours of the future India as a nation, placing before the people a ‘social contract’, which later came to be enshrined as the founding principles of our Republic in the Constitution – universal adult suffrage, one person one vote, federal principle et al with the added promise to enable ‘one person one value’ as well in future, spelt out in the Directive Principles.
The Lahore Congress resolutions were fallout of popular upsurge in the wake of Bhagat Singh’s trial; and at the same time an attempt to ward of widespread resentment against the hanging of Bhagat Singh, which the British carried out hurriedly, just before the Congress meet. Gandhi is reported to have said that ‘if they (Bhagat Singh and associates) are to be hanged, let them be hanged before the Congress session (in Lahore) than later’. That is where Gandhi erred against the people, when he refrained from making the commutation of the death sentence on Bhagat Singh and his associates a pre-condition for talks with Lord Irwin. After signing the agreement with Lord Irwin, Gandhi erred again, by insisting that the Congress session should be held after these young men were sent to the gallows. This shows how Gandhi had decided to throw himself against the popular tide in an attempt to test the waters and ride the wave.
Alongside this, the Congress also launched a crusade to counter the left, in line with its links to the bourgeoisie. This trait gets crystalised in the functioning of the Congress ministries in 1937. While the Lahore Congress resolutions bore the imprimatur of demands of the left, the Congress ministries carried out the demands of the right. This dual thrust of the Congress became the hallmark of Congress rule in the post Independence period without any let up, whether as a policy response by default or as conscious strategy.
In the post-Independence period, it was latent anti-communism that fired many leading congressmen, socialists and even Nehru4; as they only concentrated on corralling the Left. While ignoring the machinations of the Sangh Parivar, the Congress did not think it was necessary to take up the task of deflating the logic of the sangh parivar.
It is apposite to say that the Congress was essentially an anti-communist political formation rather than saying that the communists were anti-Congress, as is often mentioned. The Left, even with all its reservations vis-a-vis Congress, has always been open to working with the congress on some basic policy issues.5 It is the congress which has been unwilling to walk with the Left. The United Front ministry of Deve Gowda and IK Gujral and even the National Front Ministry of VP Singh (who came out of the Congress), are all instances of Congress Left Co-operation on specific issues. The UPA-I was also an extension of this trend as the congress was left with no other option then.
In this period (UPA-I) it was the congress that broke ranks with the left and it used the device of Indo-US Nuke deal to cast away the left, with disastrous results for its very relevance in Indian politics.
How the Congress contributed to the rise of Sangh Parivar:
The pursuit of the capitalist path in the post-Independence years by the Congress, their slow but sure turn to neo-liberalism and soft-Hindutva right from the day Indira Gandhi returned to power after the collapse of the polyglot Janata Party on the issue of dual-membership in RSS, in the post-Emergency period, all these factors coupled with the ruling classes gravitating towards the BJP helped ascendancy of the Sangh Parivar in the years of Vajpayee’s regime towards the end of the 20th century and again the Congress goofed up its third chance of sorts for some kind of revival under Manmohan Singh-Sonia Gandhi leadership in the years 2004-2014.
Chiefly the BJP grew because:
- the people by and large had lost faith in the Congress and were/are in search of an alternative that will guarantee their basic livelihood aspirations,
- the ruling bloc in India shifted its preference to BJP as, in their perception, the Congress had outlived its purpose, given the massive popular repulsion for the Congress evidenced through the results of the successive elections.
- the pursuit of ‘neo-liberalism’ necessitates the kind of exclusivist and diversionary rhetoric that hinges on false controversies promoting false consciousness and in promoting fratricidal conflicts among the general populace and the toiling people, in particular.
The sangh Parivar, from operating within the Congress (after Gandhi’s murder and the ban imposed on it) came into its own in the Samyukta Vidhayak Dal phase in the Hindi heartland, cut its teeth in the post Emergency Janata Party regime, tasted blood in the Shilanyas and the Ram Janmabhoomi war of position and romped into the portals of direct executive power in the period of Vajpayee government. From there on the story is simple. After the person touted as the Sangh Parivar Prime Ministerial candidate won the affections of the industrial magnates, the way forward – for a Pracharak of the Sangh Parivar in full control of the executive powers of the central government – without the compulsions of any coalition – was cleared.
Options before the Congress:
- to co-operate with the sangh parivar as a junior partner – as now sangh parivar has acquired the recognition/acceptance of the corporates and the corporates are uneasy about dynastic domination in the congress; or
- to push ahead with a soft-Hindutva approach – which it tried without success or
- take up a left of centre position – which it abandoned in UPA-I post US-Nuke deal – and take it further….
There are many in the congress who will/are itching to join the BJP bandwagon, some bent on going ahead with the soft-Hindutva option and there are rarely any who would toe a centre-left line. If the congress wants to opt for the third option, it has to do so with greater determination and transparency than hitherto; and when you do take a left of centre position it would, and should necessarily, by its own logic should lead to anti-neoliberal policies, particularly in the current juncture.
The International scene
The hegemony of the US-Anglophile world over the global resources, nations and peoples necessitates that their ideology and world view is suffused with anti-communism. This is the narrative that speaks of Capitalism as the end of history, espouses identity politics and the theory of clash of civilizations as dominating all spheres of human life and activity today. The neo-colonialism of US-Anglophile world and the Cold War has now brought the world to the current phase of proliferation of neo-liberal regime with various fascist projects springing across the world; and the financial and military hegemony of US-Anglophile caucus tightening up its grip all over the globe, after the dissolution of the Socialist experiment in Soviet Union.
Dark times ahead
The Sangh Parivar tribe feels that it is their ‘Now or Never’ moment which adds to their hubris and brazenness. The BJP assumes that it has passed the phase of being in the opposition once and for all; and that being the ruling party is the BJP’s privilege forever, they have turned a new leaf and acquired new life, with no memories of previous life or incarnations.
Sangh Parivar’s Hindutva, Hindurashtra, Akhand Bharat, Ram Temple, Cow worship, minority baiting, pitting dalits against the minorities are all the many facets of a single entity – a fascist project with Indian characteristics. In the current global context, the Sangh Parivar has changed gears in the rush to achieve their dream project. There is a very remote possibility of their realising this goal only as an adjunct of US imperialism entailing disastrous consequences for our nation, the region and the world. So, the Sangh Parivar now wants to hitch India to the ‘Fateful Triangle’ (US, Israel, Saudi Arabia) to serve its own petty purposes…and then straddle the world as a regional super power under the protective wings of the US and Israel. If anything, US and Israel are only fueling Sangh Parivar’s grandiose illusions. All this will only help to shore up the neo-liberal regime attenuating the agonies of the poor and marginalized toiling people in the region.
The way forward
The present context is one where the fascism of the Sangh Parivar variety has morphed into a mass movement. This denouement has come to pass through the acts of commission and omission on the part of the Congress Party and the various regional and identify based political organisations. This is not a passing phase and it is also not merely the work of corporate/financial oligarchies, although undoubtedly they have played their role of facilitator in the ascendancy of sangh parivar.
The ascendancy of Sangh Parivar has opened a can of worms – with the Patels in Gujarat showing the way to Marathas in Maharashtra. They are all perhaps ranged against the Sangh Parivar but not on the side of ‘social justice’.
To begin with the sangh Parivar needs to be told that a victory in the elections does not absolve the victor of the crimes of the past or the present.
Any meaningful resistance to the sangh parivar ipso facto means straying away from the neo-liberal policies and in search of an alternative policy framework in tune with the aspirations of the people. There is no other simpler way. The Left does have a significant role to play particularly in weaving the alternative policy framework and this is seldom recognised and here lies the crux of the matter. Only when the peoples’ charter (incorporating the basic tenets of the alternative policy framework) becomes an inalienable part of the peoples’ consciousness the left will be grudgingly conceded a leading role in the anti-sangh parivar campaign/movement and without the left’s leading role such movement cannot fire the imagination of the people and move towards the logical unfolding of its fruition.
It is the strength of people’s resistance which will determine the continuance of neo-liberal policies. The Sangh Parivar has the option of drowning growing peoples’ solidarity in the fires of communal warfare. If the people truly stand up resolutely against the divisive communal and caste politics, consensus on resistance to neo-liberal policies cannot be far behind.
The current student upsurge on the university campuses and the Dalit resistance in Una signify that ‘We are, in short, on the threshold of major developments’.
What the Left should do
Briefly put, the Left should engage in the task of preparing the ‘resistance’ and abjure undue dependence on spontaneity. In other words, overcome what Vijay Prashad calls ‘the neo-liberalism’ of the Left’.
Notes and Reference
- From the time when India’s struggle for freedom from British colonial rule started gaining momentum in the early 1920s, there was a confluence of different strands:
- the religious strand (which should include the various terrorist groups in their formative years)
- the Gandhian strand (from 1920 onwards the Gandhian ethos dominated the Indian National Congress with the Socialists coming within the Gandhian camp) and
- the radical stream, viz. the Left spearheaded by the nascent communist groups sprouting in various regions of the country and organisations like HSRA(Hindustan Socialist Republican Army) and Bharat Naujavan Sabha led by Bhagat Singh.
- The process of ‘the values of democracy, secularism, social justice taking roots in ‘popular consciousness of the people’ during the long years of anti-colonial struggle, has been characterised by Prabhat Patnaik as the ‘long social revolution’ under way ‘in India over the last one hundred years’.
- The first central committee of the Communist Party formed in the beginning of 1926 (when the communists were being imprisoned under a series of Conspiracy cases) and then reorganized and became functionable after 1933.
- In the post-Independence period, Nehru, in his election speeches is reported to have famously remarked that ‘when it rains in the Soviet Union, the communists open their umbrellas here’, imputing that communists were puppets of the Soviet Union.It is worthwhile to note here Mirajkar’s remarks in his Oral history interview: “We were part of the Communist International as long as it functioned… The general directions for colonial people were laid down in the Colonial Thesis. We worked according to the general directions laid down by the Congress of the Communist International but that does not mean that every day the Communist International used to interfere in our affairs and directed us….we and our central committee were responsible for all the national policies that we pursued in our country and it was so with regard to all other countries and communist parties. After all, it is Prime Minister Nehru’s words against those of a communist trade union functionary.
- Just as the United Front Ministry in Bengal of the 1960s (allying with Bangla Congress of Ajoy Mukherjee). It is pertinent to note here that the Congress has many grassroots – one of the Mamata variety, one of the Ajoy Mukherjee variety and another of cozying up to the Sangh Parivar on a soft-Hindutva plank.
- Prabhat Patnaik in his article discusses the possibility of the current student upsurge on the university campuses heralding a “cultural revolution” that could be a precursor to a political revolution or preparing the ground for it and says that “We are, in short, on the threshold of major developments”.
- Vijay Prashad discussing the book ‘Communist Histories’ in his Interview to Counterpunch, mentions that: ’(the) aspect of political struggle, leadership or preparation, has been largely denigrated. I consider this a kind of neoliberalism of the Left, this rise and promotion of spontaneity above preparation’.