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TIMES OF INDIA EDIT-Poles Apart Father of the nation, or father of Hindutva?

October 19, 2019 05:35 AM

Union home minister Amit Shah alluded to VD Savarkar while expressing the view that history needs to be rewritten from an Indian perspective. Shah’s views on the need for rewriting Indian history are understandable, since histories during much of the last century had a colonial bias and were tilted towards the British perspective. However, those histories began to be rewritten from about the 1970s onwards – Percival Spear’s ‘A History of India’ is hardly considered the last word in history writing nowadays – and subsequent histories can’t all be assumed to have a leftist bias as Shah suggests (although some do).

What stands out, however, are concerted attempts on the part of BJP leaders to ‘rehabilitate’ Savarkar, who was charged with murder in the plot to assassinate Mahatma Gandhi. Whether or not he was part of the plot to murder Gandhi (Sardar Patel, who BJP holds up as a countericon to Jawaharlal Nehru, thought he was), there can be little doubt that the outlook of Gandhi – the ‘apostle of non-violence’ – was absolutely incompatible with the radical Savarkar’s. BJP prides itself as an “ideological” party, but for it to uphold both Gandhi and Savarkar is dizzyingly dissonant (the equivalent, say, of America upholding equally Thomas Jefferson and Vladimir Lenin).

While Gandhi upheld “Hindu-Muslim unity” Savarkar upbraided him for his “obsession” with it, and endorsed the two nation theory much before Jinnah did. Any ‘authentic’ history will need to record this as well. Savarkar’s most alarming idea – also a keynote of the Hindutva ideology he founded – is that the patriotism of Indian Muslims and Christians is always suspect as their “holyland” is different from their “fatherland”. To the extent that it promotes Savarkar, BJP will have to clarify where it stands on this principle – accepting which would do violence to the Indian Constitution and render India a Hindu Pakistan where, too, minorities are deemed lesser citizens.

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