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Deen Dayal Upadhyay's regressive worldview
Sangh icon's posthumous fame is toxic for India
By Amulya Ganguli
One of the BJP's icons, Deen Dayal Upadhyay, had never been as famous in his life as he is now in the year of his birth centenary celebrations.

A famous railway junction is being named after him and libraries are being told to stock his books. These are honours, which have been denied to two other luminaries of the Hindutva parivar, VD Savarkar and MS Golwalkar.

A possible explanation for the singling out of Upadhyay is that he is less controversial than the other two and, therefore, may not create the kind of furore which the acclamation of Savarkar and Golwalkar is likely to do.

Savarkar, for instance, has unambiguously clarified the status in India of Muslims and Christians by stating that they are virtually aliens even if they have been born in the country because their punyabhumi or holy lands are abroad, in Mecca and Rome. Golwalkar has been even more forthright, for he has categorised Muslims as "Internal Threats No. 1" and Christians as "Internal Threats No. 2".

Upadhyay, in contrast, is less provocative. His claim to fame is the propagation of a new ideology, Integral Humanism, which is as vacuous as Gandhian Socialism, which the BJP claimed to be its doctrine at the time of its formation in 1980 when the party acquired a new identity on transiting from the Jana Sangh.

According to Walter K Andersen and Shridhar D Damle in The Brotherhood of Saffron, Upadhyay believed that capitalism and socialism were flawed "because they stimulated greed, class antagonism, exploitation and social anarchy".

In their place, he proposed an "integral" approach "to create a harmonious society by satisfying the needs of the body (hunger, shelter), the mind (traditions), intelligence (reforms) and soul (the common aspirations of a people that shape their unique culture)".

The essence of this palpably Hindu-centric worldview can be seen in what Upadhyay says about the cow. "The nation", according to him, "is the inspiring mind-force behind the physical human conglomeration. It derives its existence from the spiritual traditions and faiths which alone pour life and vivacity into its limbs. And the cow forms not only the centre of national mind but she permeates through our entire existence like 'Brahma'".

Hindi, like the cow, is another of Upadhyay's obsessions along with his rejection of English. "It is difficult to convince those who are opposed to Hindi", he says. "They belong to two categories. The opposition of one class is not Hindi alone, but to the very concept of one nation, one culture and one country. They want yet another partition of India. And, therefore, they call Hindi as an instrument of 'imperialist' rule of Indians over Indians.

"There is another class of opponents who are nationalist to the core. Some of them plead for Sanskrit. They have a strong case. But by opposing Hindi or by delaying its use, they do not help Sanskrit … In the three-language formula, Hindi, English and the regional language will naturally oust Sanskrit.

"If Hindi comes, the need for the present emphasis on English will no longer be there. Even if English continues to be taught as a subject, proficiency in it will not be required for all. We can, then, have a combined course of Hindi and Sanskrit, along with the regional languages".

However, his case against the "foreign" language of English is rather wobbly. Asked whether dispensing with English will close a "window of world knowledge", Upadhyay said that the question shows an "inferiority complex that we have always received knowledge from others. It is a counsel of despair.

"We have also to develop and give our knowledge to the world. We have a sublime culture and tradition, which we can give to the world only through our language". Then, Upadhyay goes on to say: "It is also not true that English serves as a window to world knowledge. We have been denied the knowledge of other languages like French, German, Russian, etc. Lakhs of our young men are studying only English. If they learn other languages, our knowledge will definitely increase manifold". So, English is the sole villain, according to Upadhyay while other "foreign" languages are more equal, to quote George Orwell.

It is easy to discern in these articulations the mind of a typical Hindi-belt politician with a limited, regressive worldview. The BJP appears to be circumscribed, therefore, by the venomous anti-minority ideas of Savarkar and Golwalkar on one hand and the meaningless jargon of Upadhyay on the other.

These parameters of the Hindutva camp enable one to understand why its intellectual reach has been so limited in the 90 years of the existence of the RSS. Even today, the peddling of Upadhyay is a political exercise based on the BJP's electoral success and does not reflect his appeal as a thinker.

For all practical purposes, therefore, he will return to his earlier anonymity once the present political phase passes.

--(IPA Service)

News Updated at : Saturday, August 12, 2017
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