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Mainstream, Vol XLVII, No 43, October 10, 2009

Dr Mukerjee on Hindutva and Article 370

Sunday 11 October 2009, by Balraj Puri

The BJP chief, Rajnath Singh, and the RSS chief, Mohan Bhagwat, reiterated the commitment of the two organisations to Hindutva and abrogation of Article 370 which grants a special status to the Jammu and Kashmir State. They were speaking at a function organised by Dr Shyama Prasad Mukerjee Research Foundation at the University of Jammu on the occasion of 57th death anniversary of the founder President of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, Dr Mukerjee, on June 23.

As far the concept of Hindutva is concerned, there was no clarity or unanimity among the leaders of the BJP. Much of the internal debate has been widely reported in the media. Sudheendra Kulkarni, whose affinity with the BJP and its top leaders like Vajpayee and Advani is well known, advised the party to keep away from Hindutva for the sake of its own future growth. In his view, Hindutva had never been the foundational ideological representation of the BJP and its predecessor, the Jana Sangh.

He quotes from a revealing conversation between Dr Mukerjee and Vir Savarkar who met on August 26, 1952. The former requested the latter to bless the Jana Sangh. Savarkar wanted the philosophy of the Hindu Mahasabha, that is, Hindutva, to be adopted by the Jana Sangh, which Mukerjee declined to do.

The Jana Sangh had adopted “Integral Humanism†, as propounded by Deen Dayal Upadhyaya, its “foremost ideologue and organiser†, as the party’s guiding ideology, according to Kulkarni. He further adds: “When the BJP was born it adopted Gandhian socialism as its ideology and changed its flag from saffron to add a green patch to it, perhaps as an overture to the minorities.†Vajpayee, he says, never used word Hindutva.

M.G. Vaidya, the senior RSS ideologue, asked the BJP to quit the Hindutva agenda, so that it could win back its former allies like Trinamul Congress, Biju Janata Dal, Telugu Desam and AIADMK.

Striking a via media, Advani defined Hindutva as a way of life and not a religion and was inclusive and respected all faiths alike.

However, the wisdom of launching the Hindutva offensive at Jammu is questionable. The BJP’s predecessor, the Jana Sangh, had launched its first popular movement in the country from Jammu in 1952 and led a very popular mass agitation over the Amarnath shrine land row last year. Yet it could not get majority in the State Assembly election and lost both seats of the Lok Sabha from the region because Muslims, who constitute a decisive vote-bank in Jammu, did not respond to the Hindutva appeal.

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A more relevant issue for the State, raised on Mukerjee’s martyrdom day, was the claim of the RSS leader that “he (Mukerjee) laid down his life to oppose the theory of two constitutions, two flags and two heads of state within one nation†(which were agreed upon under the Delhi Agreement between the Indian Prime Minister and the Kashmir leader, Sheikh Abdullah, in 1952).

This claim is factually not correct. No doubt that the Jana Sangh came to Jammu to support the movement of the Praja Parishad for this objective. But after a prolonged correspondence with the then Prime Minister Nehru extending for two months of January and February 1953, and considering the arguments of Nehru, Mukerjee, in his letter to Nehru dated February 17, 1953, offered to withdraw the agitation and support the Delhi Agreement, which “should be implemented in the next session of J&K Constituent Assembly†. He further suggested that “both parties reiterate that the unity of the state will be maintained and that the principle of autonomy will apply to the province of Jammu and of course to Ladakh and the Kashmir Valley†.

This was precisely the formula that I was able to persuade Nehru and Abdullah to agree to and they announced it at a joint press conference on July 24, 1952. The unfortunate and untimely death of Mukerjee on June 23, 1953 only hastened the process of implementation of the offer made to Nehru. The leaders of the Praja Parishad agitation were released on July 1 and invited to Delhi and on July 3, they met Nehru where they agreed to the offer of regional autonomy made by Nehru and to withdrew their agitation. Meanwhile a 45-page draft on Regional Autonomy was sent by the State Government to the underground leader of the Praja Parishad agitation, Durga Dass Varma, and he returned it after approval of the party experts. There might have been no Kashmir problem and further complications added to it if the agreement between Nehru, Abdullah and Mukerjee on autonomy of the State within India and of the regions within the State had been implemented.

Many months later, the Jana Sangh, under directions from Nagpur (the RSS headquarters), according to Jana Sangh leader Balraj Madhok, withdrew support to the Delhi Agreement and regional autonomy. The consequences of this volte-face are well known and, in any case, cannot be gone into here.

The Jana Sangh, originally formed by hard-core Hindutva cadres, had presentable faces in the personalities of Dr Mukerjee, Deen Dayal Upadhyaya and Atal Behari Vajpayee who avioded hard-core slogans. Now in the absence of presentable faces, revival of hard-core slogans cannot ensure the emergence of the BJP as a viable force. n

The author is the Director, Institute of Jammu and Kashmir Affairs, Jammu.

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