Source: News Bharati English21 Mar 2015 13:33:09
Dr. Keshav Baliram Hedgewar, to my mind, was a radical revolutionary. Furthermore, I would add that he portrays that innate capacity found in all great people to be paradoxical. This was a man who outwardly was a Hindu zealot, and inwardly, at the deepest level of his spirit, an ardent critic of Hindu society.
For great chunks of his life, he had believed in violent revolt against the British in order to appropriate self-rule; then he realised that only through political channels could India gain its own liberty; finally, at the age of 36, he gained the foresight to realise that the invisible hand of fate was moving against the British and in a direction that would eventually lead to a free India. In midst of a disarranged freedom struggle, few leaders asked, what will we do after independence? Had they, and the society, the ability to build a progressive nation? Could the Indian nation, and more importantly the State, learn to govern itself? Could the Indians build a nation in its own image – one that was authentically Indian and modern? Hedgewar must have speculated, and wrestled with all sorts of questions ranging from identity – what did it mean to be Hindu; to be Indian; and social introspection – the inequality in society; the superstition embedded deeply in the social psyche; the social character of the Indian.
Hedgewar concluded in the negative. In many ways he was a pessimist. He believed that the Indian society, which was predominately Hindu, was incapable of developing a progressive nation because he argued that unless the Hindu society organised itself, India could never self-actualise. And yet, paradoxically, he was an optimist of the highest order, for he further came to the realisation that the Hindu society could be reorganised, but only if the common man on the street became an agent of change. And so in 1925, at the age of 36 he gathered 5 boys from his neighbourhood in Nagpur, central India, or so the folklore goes, and he started the first Shakha, or branch. These Shakhas were the medium he felt that could change the very social character of Hindu society. All great thinkers would have grappled with these questions and the inevitable doubts they create. What makes Hedgewar unique is that he had the audacity to hope; the audacity to believe that society could be reformed. Above all else, this epistemological difference between Nehru and Hedgewar makes all the difference. Nehru appears to have come to the conclusion that for India to progress it must emulate the West; and graciously leave behind India’s antiquity. Hedgewar concluded otherwise.
Hedgewar was a polarising figure in his own time, and he remains to be one now. And here too lies a paradox. He is deeply revered by millions of men and women who form the Sangh Parivaar; and equally loathed by those who oppose it; and increasingly unknown amongst the masses. Yet, without doubt, this ‘obtrusive’ character has had a greater impact on Indian society than any other. Nehru, without doubt has had the greatest influence on the legal and political; Gandhi on the moral and quasi-religious, but it is Hedgewar that has touched the lives of millions in a formative manner. The ideas of Hedgewar live on; his vision is clear as the day he taught it in his first Shakha; his organisation(s) is still single-minded in organising the society to transform the social character of the everyday Indian; and most of all millions still today, globally, are committing their energy to fulfil the vision he set out. How many are today devoted to Nehru’s vision; or Gandhi’s? A handful, maybe, in the intelligentsia? At the grass roots Hedgewar lives on; and now most recently, he has also conquered the powerful bastion of the political, to the demise of Nehru’s worldview.
India today, is increasingly transforming itself in vision of Hedgewar – not Nehru or Gandhi.
Whether the media, or the ivory tower of academia give him due respect or not, the facts cannot be denied that his ideas are alive now, as they were in 1925. In the fluid battle of ideas which exist in a plural society, the best ideas always rise to the top through debate, through work, and sheer influence, and the outdated sink to the bottom.
Hedgewar is rising.
His idea that the Hindu, is the Indian; and the Indian is the Hindu is one that is deeply misunderstood, not only by his opponents, but also by most people who consider themselves to be followers of his vision. The position itself reeks of bigotry at first glance, but on closer inspection, one finds that there is a Daoist essence to his words. They are not as they seem.
First, and foremost, for Hedgewar the Hindu is not a religious identification, rather it is a cultural and civilizational one. Indeed, I can’t but get the sensation that Hedgewar may have even been agnostic in his religious leanings. The civilisation that has risen from the land that we today call India, Hedgewar believed was Hindu. The psyche of the people is Hindu, even if millions profess to worship new Gods, and believe in a new theology. The people, no matter their outward diversity, were steeped in a Hindu psyche. He believed that it would be disastrous for the nation if we forcefully uprooted the people from this psychological pool of Hindu-ness, and submerge them in some hybrid of Indian socialism; or Indian western modernity. He believed that for India’s future to be progressive, and for her people to flourish, their society should be built upon this psychological pool of Hindu-ness. A society that was fundamentally plural; cohesive; disciplined and organised with a clear sense of identity and confidence.
India, he argued, had to be Hindu.
(The author is UK-based writer specialised in comparative study of religions.)