Gandhi’s Hinduism Is Not What RSS Preaches, Why Appropriate Him: Shashi Tharoor

Shri Mohan Bhagwat, whom I have never had the pleasure of meeting, continues to offer me much material to debate with — from his concept of a ‘Hindu Rashtra’ to the differences between my celebratory ‘unity in diversity’ and his more grudging ‘diversity in unity’ — all of which I have challenged at length in my writings.

His latest provocation is in a similar vein. “If someone is Hindu, he has to be patriotic, that will be his or her basic character and nature,” Shri Bhagwat sagely declared at the start of the new year. “At times you may have to awaken his or her patriotism but he [a Hindu] can never be anti-India.”


The RSS chief was speaking at an event to release a book titled ‘Making of a Hindu Patriot: Background of Gandhiji’s Hind Swaraj’, so the religious colour of patriotism was on his mind. Releasing the book, he seems to have been conscious that he would be accused of doing so as part of the RSS’s ongoing attempts to appropriate a man they had demonised all his life — and for six decades after his death — Mahatma Gandhi. Shri Bhagwat said there is no need for speculation that he “is trying to appropriate Gandhiji, that is not the case, no one can appropriate great personalities like him.”

Can An RSS-Backed Govt Afford To Disparage The Mahatma Who Is Universally Revered?

Let us get that piece of disingenuousness out of the way: the Hindutva movement is indeed trying to appropriate the Mahatma. Many RSS shakhas distributed sweets upon hearing the news of Gandhiji’s assassination, and Shri Bhagwat’s long-serving predecessor MS Golwalkar was particularly scathing in his contempt for the Mahatma’s teachings of ahimsa and inter-religious harmony (“every Hindu god,” he famously claimed, “carries a weapon”!)

But Narendra Modi’s rise to prime ministership has forced a rethink. Can even an RSS-backed government afford to disparage a saintly figure who enjoys such universal admiration? Would the Hindutva movement not lose lustre globally as a result? Hence the desire to appropriate the name and image of the Mahatma, but not his teachings or values. Thus, there is no place for ahimsa or “Ishwara Allah tero naam” in Shri Bhagwat’s lexicon, but the Mahatma’s glasses can be used to adorn the Swachh Bharat campaign.


Source: The Quint