Rise Of The Kshatriya. Khalsa Influence On Hindutva by Girilal Jain

Since intellectuals of different hues began warning us over a year ago against ‘enemies’ of ‘true’ Hinduism out to ‘semitise’ it, I have waited for a statement by anyone of them on what precisely alarms them in Judaism, Chris­tianity and Islam. I have waited in vain. Instead, we have been treated to lectures, heavily loaded with quotations from newly discovered Vivekanand, on the ‘unity’ of all faiths.

Apparently, the defenders of ‘tolerant’ Hinduism do not have much respect for the intelligence of their readers and listeners. Or else they would not assume that they can sell such contradictory propositions. All faiths are essen­tially one; still it is possible for some evil-minded persons and or­ganisations to recast one in the mould of others to the great detriment of the original and its adherents. So they tell us.

Only Aspect

This is only one aspect of the story. For they also tell us that when two or more faiths co-exist in a country for centuries, as they have in India, it is only natural that they freely borrow from one another to produce a synthesis. Indeed, some of the forbears of the proponents of ‘tolerant’ Hinduism have even contended that the great Sankaracharya himself was greatly influenced by Islamic monotheism and that this was reflected in his philosophy of Advaita.

Something is obviously worrying them, however. And what is worry­ing them is no secret. A large number of Hindus have begun to realise, as the followers of Guru Nanak realised in seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, that it is necessary to reintroduce the Kshatriya element among people who for centuries have been brought up on varieties of Bhakti (piety) on the one hand, and Brit­ish theories which made many of us feel inferior and cowardly in our own eyes on the other. Witness martial-non-martial race theory.

The very choice of the term kar seva in connection with the proposed Ram temple in Ayodhya makes it obvious that the propo­nents of Hindutva derive inspira­tion from Sikhism and not from Semitic faiths, incidentally a euphemism for Islam, though the proponents of the Hinduism of Swami Vivekanand and Mahatma Gandhi would never admit it.

The Khalsa was not deliberately designed. It grew and crystallised over a period of time in response to a specific challenge; Guru Govind Singh presided over the process of crystallisation. It has had an enormous appeal for the Hindus, especially in north India, ever since, occasional conflicts between its adherents and some other Hindu organisations like the Arya Samaj notwithstanding.

The surprise, therefore, if any, is not that someone in the RSS or the VHP should have thought of using some Khalsa practices, but that the proponents of Hindutva should not have moved further in that direc­tion. Imagine the impact on middle class urban Hindus if they were to take to the kara.

Both Swami Vivekanand and Mahatma Gandhi were painfully aware of the consequences of the disarming, especially moral, of middle class urban Hindus. Vivekanand’s speeches proclaim that awareness, as it were, from the house top. Witness his repeated call for ‘nerves of steel’, his talk of a ‘Hindu soul in a Muslim body’ and his emphasis on physical cul­ture so much so that he spoke of football being a better passport to heaven than meditation. Revolutionary leaders in Bengal, includ­ing MN Roy and Aurobindo Ghosh, derived inspiration from the teachings of the Swami.

It is at best a matter of academic interest to debate whether this ap­proach could have produced the desired results. For it was aban­doned not only because the British police were efficient in unearthing underground movements but also because Gandhiji, with his in­sistence on non-violence, came to dominate the national scene at the end of World War I.

Non-violence, as the Mahatma did not tire of emphasising, is the weapon of the brave and not of the weak and the cowardly. Thus, it is not an accident that it was used most effectively by the Sikhs and the Pathans in the pre-indepen­dence period; during the emerg­ency (l 975-77) too, the non-violent resistance was best organised among the Sikhs.

Policy Instrument

It is thus indisputable that satyagraha was successfully applied not by social groups who swear by ahimsa as a doctrine but by groups who accepted non-violence as a policy instrument. The Indian Na­tional Congress also accepted non­violence only as a policy. Mahatma Gandhi’s own case was different. For him, ahimsa was a means for his personal elevation to the status of a Mahayogi in the Hindu tra­dition. Indeed, his search for truth which he equated with God would have remained, as it were, suspended in mid-air without tapas (austerities) which, for him, was an integral part of ahimsa.

As an individual, he, of course, succeeded remarkably well. He be­came totally fearless. But while he could promote defiance of authori­ty on a pretty big scale and with it a measure of courage among or­dinal people, he could not possibly implant in the general middle class urban Hindu mind the kind of fearlessness which alone can be basis of ahimsa in the active sense.

This is not to deny his achieve­ment; it was great; he shaped men out of dust, as Pandit Nehru said, but the success was in some ways flawed. This should be evident from the demonstration of lack of courage of conviction among Con­gress leaders soon after indepen­dence. Almost all supporters of Sardar Patel and opponents of Pandit Nehru and his theory of socialism switched over to the latter after the former’s death in 1950 to give just one example.

Gandhi’s Leadership

The Hindus in question remained disarmed in ideological-moral terms under Gandhi’s leadership on other counts as well. He abhorred Western civilisation which in some ways had served as the basis of Hindu self-renewal and self-affirmation. He sought to negate much of what had taken a century to achieve. He of course, did not succeed; his own ‘army’ consisted largely of men and women westernised in varying degrees; but he reinforced the am­bivalence and confusion which haunts us till today.

Nationalism under Gandhiji’s leadership came to be defined largely in negative anti-British and anti-western terms divested of cul­tural content. His concept of vil­lage republics rested on a myth invented by the British and his economic and education program­me based on it proved a non­starter. His valiant campaign against untouchability met a des­perate Hindu need. But it could not serve as a framework for the remaking of India.

In all probability, however, we might have continued to drift on the Gandhi-Nehru route if first the communist system and then the Soviet Union itself had not col­lapsed under the weight of internal contradictions. This has deprived us of even the semblance of a coherent outlook. The Nehruvian concept of secularism has, for in­stance, been reduced to an empty slogan without the underpinning provided by socialism of the Nehruvian variety and non-align­ment. Obviously a tripod cannot stand as one leg.

Inevitably there is search for a new framework. No one has a blueprint. But it is obvious that the status quo cannot be preserved. Indeed, the dominant elite has already abandoned it in the fields of economic, defence and foreign policies. Marxists of various varieties do not subscribe to the changes. But they have nothing concrete to offer. In effect, they too, are hanging on to one piece of the old tattered banner. This desperate act can confuse and delay the march forward with serious consequences for the nation. It cannot help restore the status quo ante of the Gandhi-Nehru design.

The Times of India, 8 April 1993

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