We, or our Nationhood, Redefined.

A couple of weeks ago, filmmaker Anand Patwardhan was invited by the Editors’ Guild to deliver its annual lecture. Patwardhan’s speech, titled We or our Nationhood Redefined, was marked by his characteristically cool tone, systematically reassembling facts that have a tricky habit of leaking from national memory. Facts like the twentieth century’s worst genocidal dictator Adolf Hitler and his programme of racial cleansing has a respectable and massive following in India in the form of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh. That the RSS has at least 50,000 branches across the country with over 40 million members, and runs a network of 18,000 schools across India. That one such child, recruited from the age of 8 from a relatively poor family, is Prime Minister Modi; and another is Party Chief Amit Shah. That just before the recent reshuffle, 5 Chief Ministers and 17 of the 23 Cabinet-level senior ministers were current or former RSS members. That the assassins of Gandhi are really the RSS, not the lone lunatic Godse who merely carried out what others dreamed about. That RSS’s poisonous communal agenda was roundly condemned by Sardar Patel, of whom PM Modi has promised to build the world’s tallest statue. Or more obscure but equally revealing facts, like the letter written by RSS chief Balasaheb Deoras from jail during Emergency, praising Indira Gandhi and especially her programme of sterilisation of Muslims. And those truly mind-boggling-in-their-irony facts, like the widespread involvement of the RSS in the 1984 anti-Sikh pogrom, when the BJP cynically says “1984” every time somebody says “2002”.

On a day when the Nanavati Commission has termed the 2002 anti-Muslim pogrom in Gujarat as a purely communal reaction to Godhra, and cleared then Chief Minister Modi’s government of any wrongdoing, or even inaction, it is critical we re-read Patwardhan’s speech, to remind ourselves exactly what we are up against if we believe in a non-communal, non-divided, heterogenous India. As Patwardhan put it, given the history of the RSS in this subcontinent, if a Modi didn’t exist, he would have to be invented. Read more.

8 thoughts on “We, or our Nationhood, Redefined.”

  1. Any attempt to move away from the constitutional ideal of citizenship to one of Hindutva would entail illegality, violence and large-scale disruption that would unravel the India story. While sharing a large commonality of culture and history, India’s populace is composite rather than homogeneous. They speak different languages, follow different faiths, have different regional identities, are boxed into different ascriptive identities of caste and have different ethnic origins. India is the world in microcosm. This is why it makes sense to celebrate that part of the Indian tradition that celebrates unity in diversity rather than to impose an artificial uniformity. This unity gained a political form during the struggle for Independence from the British. Today, it is deepening, with steadily increasing enmeshing of individual lives of all Indians wherever they live through a national market, production and consumption of national culture and a growing stake in global resources whose access calls for a national stance by a national government.


  2. Reblogged this on Saya..D..Poet and commented:
    I am yet to digest all that Mr. Anand Patwardhan has told in his speech and the conclusion it takes us to ultimately. But still re-blogging it to know your views on his speech. Please do read the speech which opens at the end through the Read More option.


  3. Thank you Kafila team for publishing this article here which certainly gives a unique perspective to our history and present. Thought provoking!


  4. Can you give up Hitler.Please, the whole tirade becomes absolute bollocks hen you invoke Hitler,since anti antisemitism still flourishes in Soviet states,and was on full strength when Mother Russia was communist.Was Hitler just alone in his atrocities in the 20th century.The answer is no.Stalin killed as many jews in Ukraine and Poland as did Hitler during blitzkreig and Nazis uncovered some of the graves in Katyn.Stalin eliminated 5-8 million conservatively with as much efficiency.Pol Pot did about the same number with as much finnesse,The Armenian genocide is forgotten and so is the one in Bangladesh.Point is Hitler is about as cruel as every opther loon who takes charge,and communism has killed far more than Hitler did,and Hitler was warped communist in many sense of the word.Lastly Gandhi praised Hitler more than RSS did which recanted when the full horrors of Nazi Germany were clear in 1945.NOt to cheer lead RSS here it is a loon fringe but it hasnt nearly killed as many people as these communist loons have killed.And as much you want to twist the 1984 narrative, it is patently false,The riots were limited since right wing leaders didnt particpate,for one moment of brilliance even Bal Thackeray too came as one wearing pants, when we asked people not to go against the Sikhs,and largely the sikh riots though reprehensible were in a ways were the deep pushback against unchecked khalistani terrorism.The thing is invokation is hitler is sort of problem for you, since you invoke Hitler, yet the next moment you sound as much anti semitic when Israel comes up in conversation. Hence the hitler effect is dulled.Sure criticize people when they say Heisenberg and Vedas or genetics inn India,which is horseshit or shut down on TSR Subramaniam ‘s report on green reforms, but this fear mongering doesnt work, since it is patently non sense.Try and work incrementally like anti abortionist work in US, instead of pushing for personhood amendments which fail even in reliably red states in an off year elections.And lastly if the comment is published and someone tries to refute it I would like words like neo capitalist fascist hitler Hindutvawadi out .Ad hoc name calling is stupid


  5. While it is futile to comment on the outcome of the recent parliamentary elections (2014), because people voted for the present government. However, the party in power needs to tell all people, not just the Sangh Parivar, that it will uphold the constitutional, moral and natural rights of all citizens, with as much vigour as it shows in promoting the interests and desires of the saffron brigade.
    Mr. Modi must de-fang the irresponsible members of the RSS, Shiv Sena, VHP, Trishul brigade and others, who believe and publicly proclaim that India belongs to Hindus only, and others have no legitimacy here.
    If he fails to do that, he will become the destroyer of a secular society, instead of being honoured as the maker of the new and progressive India.
    Unfortunately, this choice is of Mr. Modi and not of the people of India.


  6. Dear Bogo,

    We shall happily give up Hitler if the RSS will: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/In-Modis-Gujarat-Hitler-is-a-textbook-hero/articleshow/868469.cms

    And not to put too fine a point on it, but there is Golwalkar’s own praise of Hitler and the race-based nationalism of the Germanic peoples – “which Hindustan could profit by”:


    And the fact that “Guru” Golwalkar’s views have not faded away but are regularly repeated in RSS publications and those cute little shakhas:


    And last but not the least, there is the baffling popularity of Mein Kampf in railway and roadside bookstalls across India:


    Some self-professed Communists have killed large numbers of humans, yes, but so has the non-Communist U.S around the world, the absolutely Communist-hating Islamic terrorists, and countless loony dictators and autocrats. Communism is not in principle based on the extermination of a “race” while Nazism is. It is that racially-based nationalism that the RSS praises even today. So again, if they will give up Hitler, we will. He wasn’t that good-looking anyway.


  7. The article made for good reading. I had read a similar piece by Mr.Patwardhan on scroll.in .

    One issue was the use of the images supposed to be of Bin Laden and Brzezenski. The bearded guy is DEFINITELY not Bin Laden (source: http://www.911myths.com/index.php/Bin_Laden_and_Brzezinski).

    Similarly, the use of John McCain’s photo-op with “Al Qaeda/ISIS and the Free Syrian Army”. So, which of the three is it? And what is the source?

    Use of unverified photos weakens the article. Which is a shame because the rest of the it is quite articulate.


  8. Rss made ghachi as Pm but broght Brahmin rule in name of obcs
    Finance minister
    Foreign minister
    Chief secretary
    Defence minister
    Chief secretary
    All are Brahmins
    Home minister thakur feet worshiper of Brahmins what else Hindus wants from RSS


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