The Narendra Modi government has brought a peculiar trend in India – celebrating the idea of “national unity” by spreading divisiveness; talking about the unity of the country by actually dividing the people of the country into sectarian lines. It’s the first government of India, which overtly, and quite unapologetically, identifies the unity of India and the Indian people as the unity of the Hindu community only. It amalgamates the idea of “Indianness” with the Hindu faith and identifies only a Hindu as an “Indian” citizen, leaving the people from other communities to scribble for their identity. The celebration of the “Rally for Unity”, organised on 31st October, the birth anniversary of Vallabhbhai Patel, post-colonial India’s first home minister and deputy prime minister, a day which Narendra Modi has named “National Unity Day”, reinforced the strongly-held belief of the regime’s critics that the Modi government is unapologetically dividing India by polarising the people on communal lines. The Modi government, by the choice of its icon of “national unity” made it evident that by unity it means the forceful subjugation of people of all ethnicity under the boots of Hindi-language, North and West Indian upper-caste Vaishnava Hindu culture and the fascist doctrine of Hindutva. Narendra Modi and his government eulogise Vallabhbhai Patel, a die-hard Congressman and a close-aide of Sangh Parivar’s bete noire Jawaharlal Nehru, due to his staunch anti-Muslim outlook, his allegiance to comprador capitalists like the Birla and Sarabhai family and for his vehement opposition to the communists and working class and peasants’ movement in the country. They uphold Vallabhbhai Patel, who played the role of a divisive figure during the post-partition days and showed his allegiance to the idea of Hindu-rule in India, with one intention- to portray India as a Hindu nation and making only Hindus eligible to live in the country.
It must be remembered that Vallabhbhai Patel played a crucial role in extending state support to the post-partition religious violence committed against the Muslims living in or fleeing from India. Except for few secularist and humanist stints in Punjab and elsewhere, which were done at the insistence of the Congress Working Committee, Vallabhbhai Patel was strongly an opponent of the Muslims living in post-partition India and only called the Hindus as “our people” in most of the public discourse. The RSS and its affiliates received immense state-sponsorship during Vallabhbhai Patel’s reign as a home minister. Vallabhbhai Patel played a notorious role in inciting anti-Muslim hatred during his reign as the home minister. He also helped the despotic Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir, Hari Singh, to organise a large-scale Muslim genocide in the Jammu region by employing the RSS and the Sikh refugees from West Punjab. Nearly 100,000 Muslims of Jammu were killed, the rest were forced to flee to Kashmir and Pakistan and the demography of the kingdom was changed overnight. Vallabhbhai Patel’s complicity in the crime, which he didn’t try to stop, helped him to become popular among the Hindutva fascists led by the RSS and the Hindu Mahasabha at that time and the Congress, through its silence on the issue, endorsed this brutal massacre of the Muslims in Jammu. Vallabhbhai Patel’s role in bringing the erstwhile kingdoms and princely states by hook and crook into the Indian Union earned him the praises of the feudal landlords, big capitalists and the foreign powers that controlled the Nehru government as the Ambanis, Adanis and their foreign investors and big foreign banks control the Modi government at present.
Though the liberals and hardcore Congress supporters try to build a positive and secular image of Vallabhbhai Patel by citing his role in banning the RSS, soon after the Hindutva outfit and its fraternal organisation, the Hindu Mahasabha, found themselves in the scoop following the assassination of Congress leader M.K. Gandhi by a Hindutva fanatic in New Delhi on 31 January 1948. Contrary to the popularly-held belief in the liberal camp that Vallabhbhai Patel was upset with the RSS, Vallabhbhai Patel was compelled to ban the RSS as there was a nation-wide and international condemnation of M.K. Gandhi’s assassination and the people were angry at the Hindutva camp. Therefore, the ban on the RSS for the brief period of few months remained a cosmetic and symbolic ban as the organisation and its leaders were allowed to carry on their nefarious activities without any hindrance, there was absolutely no large scale or even visible crackdown on the organisation. On the other hand, the ban on the Communist Party of India by the Nehru government followed a massive state crackdown on the left-wing activists, state repression was unleashed on workers’ and peasants’ movements using the colonial armed forces. The ban on the RSS was lifted shortly after the public anger against Hindutva camp died-down. Using an undertaking from M.S. Golwalkar that the RSS will not directly involve in politics and keep itself confined in “cultural” activities, Vallabhbhai Patel advocated for an end of the ban and then lifted it with Nehru’s nod. When the frenzy anti-China chauvinistic campaign was launched by the Nehru government in 1962, the RSS was reinstated on a national scale as a “patriotic” and “social-service” organisation. This certification of the RSS helped the Jan Sangh, the precursor of the BJP, to grow its political clout and organisational presence in North and West India. There is a speculation that the Congress government led by Nehru was relieved to some extent due to the assassination of M.K. Gandhi, whose larger than life image and fan-following was creating an alternative centre of power and was dwarfing the authority of the Nehru-led government.
While celebrating the former home minister’s contribution in “unifying the nation” the Modi government attempted to divide the country into communal lines by showcasing Vallabhbhai Patel’s unifying of India as the unification of the Hindus as a nation. By portraying Vallabhbhai Patel as a Messiah of the Hindu community, the Modi government projected its deep hatred against the Muslims, whom the Hindutva camp considers “others” in the narrative of nation-building. Vallabhbhai Patel kept the interests of the big capitalists, feudal landlords and foreign capital supreme during his reign and unleashed state-terror, using the forces that the colonial British rulers had built to dominate Indians, i.e. the army, police and other repressive organs of the colonial state, against the peasants and workers of the country fighting for their right to rule. Vallabhbhai Patel’s rule as a home minister served the interest of those very forces whom Narendra Modi and the Hindutva camp serves today. As the Hindutva camp today plans to divide the people of the country broadly on religious lines and then pit one section of the poor against another to help the rule of big foreign monopoly capital, Indian comprador and crony capitalism and big feudal landlords to go on unbridled, it seeks legitimacy to its fascist rule from Vallabhbhai Patel and use that divisive leader and his communal and pro-ruling class politics as the driving force to call for “national unity” which is actually – Hindu unity; purely upper-caste Hindu unity.
One of the main reasons why the Sangh Parivar and Narendra Modi loves to love Vallabhbhai Patel is the latter’s extreme anti-communist and counter-revolutionary standpoint in Indian politics and world affairs. As a very influential Congressman, Vallabhbhai Patel swore allegiance to the principles of nonviolence charted by M.K. Gandhi since the days of the Non-Cooperation Movement. Vallabhbhai Patel desisted the peasantry of the country, the working class and the broad masses of poor from taking up weapons against the brutal colonial rule of the British imperialism. His strenuous advocacy for Gandhian nonviolence as the only way to fight British imperialism helped the colonial rulers to carry on their unbridled plunder of India and exploitation of the workers and peasants; the oppressed were told by these evangelists of “non-violence” that resisting colonial atrocities and repression with counter-violence is a weakness, a disease. The “wow” moment for the colonial masters! This man, suddenly after he received the charge of the Home Ministry in the Nehru-led transition government, became fond of violent methods and military might and started advocating it as superior to Gandhian pacifism. To bully the princely states and kingdoms to accede into Indian Union, Vallabhbhai Patel would either use money from public exchequer to appease the feudal rulers or threaten the monarchs with his military might and in the case of Muslim rulers like the Nizam of Hyderabad and the ruler of Junagadh, nothing could have stopped Vallabhbhai Patel from sending the army with guns and bombs to seize control of the territory. The attempt to unify the princely states, especially Hyderabad, was important for Patel as armed peasants’ uprising was taking place there under the Communist Party’s leadership and the guerillas nearly liberated 5000 villages from the Razakar forces of the Nizam in the Telangana area. The great upsurge of a revolutionary wave in peasants’ movement cautioned Vallabhbhai Patel, who was determined to thwart the advent of the communists and wanted to preserve the Brahminical hegemonic feudal-comprador rule in India. His over-enthusiasm in the world-wide US-promoted anti-Communist movement made him advocate sternly in favour of India’s submission to the US-led NATO or other such military alliances against the Soviet Union and China. Through the help of the CIA, Vallabhbhai Patel extended immense support of the Indian government to the terrorist-feudal reactionaries in Tibet, who were fighting to stop the Chinese revolutionary forces from arousing the Tibetan peasants against the feudal-monarchist rule of the Lamas. Through multiple such activities, including the ban on the Communist Party, until the opportunist leaders capitulated to the Nehru government, shows that the nonviolence that Vallabhbhai Patel and other Congress stalwarts swore allegiance to, was limited to the Indian people’s dealing with the British colonial rulers and violence was cherished and lauded by the Nehru-Patel and subsequent Congress regimes when it came to the relationship of the comprador capitalist, feudal landlord-owned state machinery with the people it tend to subjugate and enslave under its jackboot. Vallabhbhai Patel championed violence, state violence; he championed the cause of the capitalists and the feudal landlords, which made him such a lovable figure for the Hindutva fascist forces and Narendra Modi-led government.
Following the traditional fascist practice of promoting cult of an individual and rhetoric to spin jingoistic fervour throughout the country, the Modi government has decided to set-up Vallabhbhai Patel’s statue looking at the Sardar Sarovar Dam, which was built by forcefully evicting thousands of Dalits and Tribals from their villages and by submerging a huge part of the Narmada basin. The statue of Vallabhbhai Patel is named the “Statue of Unity” and it will be the world’s tallest statue at 597 ft. According to Narendra Modi, this tall statue, which will be built spending nearly ₹2000 crore, will draw the attention of the world towards India. The cult worship of Vallabhbhai Patel and celebrating his pro-Hindutva and narrow-nationalist ideology by spending the money from public exchequer, at a time when India is sliding down even below countries like Bangladesh and Nepal in the Global Hunger Index and at a time, when the nation is, like the affected villages of the Sardar Sarovar Dam, submerged in the flood of economic crisis, shows what remains on the priority list of Narendra Modi and his sycophant Hindutva coterie. They are keen to use the “tallest statue” and “international prestige” of India jargons to evoke extreme chauvinism among the upper-caste urban Indians and thereby, use that chauvinistic upheaval to consolidate the rule of the Modi regime for the longest period possible. At a time when the people of the country are losing jobs, farmers are sinking in the quagmire of debts, the working class is rendered without their hard-won rights and turned into slaves of foreign monopoly and finance capital, at a time when devastation called demonetisation had robbed the country of its leftover economic sheen and the implementation of the GST gave a fatal blow to trade and commerce, the talk about a statue intended to promote nationalism, built in China to hike the “prestige” of India, is actually a sheer hypocritic act that aims at fooling the common people by instilling fake icons as inspirational ones before them.
The Modi government has always selected convenient data and information from history to back-up its claims and to build up the Hindutva narrative of the RSS as the mainstream narrative of India. Without considering the multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and multi-lingual characteristics of the vivid Indian society, which was united into a formidable force by the cohesive of anti-colonial nationalist struggle, the fascist RSS and its progeny, the Modi regime, kept building the narrative of a uniform, great Hindu chauvinist nation, which derives its legitimacy and sacrosanct nature from a mythological past. For the Modi government, and of course for the RSS and the BJP, the element of national unity that ties India together is the hatred of the “persecuted Hindus” against the minority Muslim and Christian communities. The RSS’ complicity in strengthening the British colonial rule as a stormtrooper organisation of the monarchy in India makes it imperative for it to divert mass attention from the anti-colonial and anti-imperialist nature of the Indian unity that was tempered in the fire of great rebellions against the colonial rule to the notion of “Hindu unity” and portraying of the “Hindu” identity as a national identity, which again, ironically conforms to the Two Nation Theory used by the Muslim League to execute the partition of India. The very theory that the BJP publicly oppose, though, ironically, its Hindutva ideologue Vinayak Savarkar hailed it and supported it.
Today, when the BJP and the Modi government talks about building a strong and united India, it actually means dividing the people of the country on the basis of sect, religion, caste and language. It has a single track vision of unification of the “nation” – i.e. through the imposition of Hindi language, making Hindutva the official religion of India and the guiding ideology of the state, and above all subjugate the minority communities and the ethnic nationalities that demand right to self-determination or seek secession from the Indian Union. By invoking Vallabhbhai Patel’s legacy or by heaping praises on his role in the post-partition days, Narendra Modi is showing that his love is reserved for the strengthening of the upper-caste Hindu unity and the Brahminical fascist rule that wants to uniformise India according to the narrowly defined religious doctrine of North and West Indian upper-caste Vaishnava Hindus, promoting extreme bigotry, male chauvinism, vegetarian mobocracy and Brahminical hegemony.
It’s quite easy to comprehend that with the advent of modern democratic ideas that clash with an essentially undemocratic and fascist Indian social structure, ebbed by casteist and communal prejudices and bigotry, a lot of antagonisms were bound to happen from the grassroots upwards and it was the Indian ruling classes who found the idea of democracy and liberty frightful all years since the British colonial rulers handed over the baton of power to their most trusted lackeys, of whom both Nehru and Patel were key figures. Despite talking about progressive ideology and secularism, Nehru and Patel, whom the RSS tries to pit against each other, were staunchly communal bigots and they jointly allowed the Maharaja of Kashmir, Hari Singh to carry out a large-scale genocide of the Muslims in Jammu using the mercenaries of RSS to alter the demographic composition of the state. It was Nehru and Patel who jointly conspired to put down the nationalist aspirations of the Naga people using military might, the anti-people and colonial policies of the Nehru government in North East India and Kashmir resulted in some of the longest-running civil wars and unrests in the subcontinent.
Modi actually worships that divided and subjugated India that both Nehru and Patel worked towards realising. Despite his occasional pot shots at former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, Narendra Modi has replicated her style of functioning, cult building and propaganda mongering more than what any other prime minister could do. Modi’s aspiration to be the third-most-famous Gujarati politician after M.K. Gandhi and Vallabhbhai Patel has made him appropriate the Congress leader’s legacy more than what the Congress Party itself could in all these years. Moreover, as the Congress lacks any strong moral or democratic ground to counter these divisive politics that the RSS is spearheading through the Modi regime, the government is getting a free reign to transform the Indian society and polity into a more morbid and sclerotic one, more than what it had been all these years.
India is a country that consists of various nationalities, culture, ethnicity, languages, way of life and the only thing that leads to a strong bonding between the contrasting cultures and ethnicities is the hatred of the people against the colonial rule, against which they exploded in rebellions, time again, since 1857, the year when the Indian people took to arms to defeat the British colonial rule. While the poor, the workers and peasants of India, always strived for a revolutionary change and a forceful toppling of the colonial rule, the elites, the landlords, the capitalists and the upper-middle class always attempted to derail such aspirations of the people using the bait of reformism and bargaining with the colonial rulers for power sharing. The difference between the Congress Party, the RSS, Hindu Mahasabha or Muslim League’s political aspirations in the colonial era can be understood by their respective attempts to prove their loyalty to the British crown and through that tailing of imperialism, all these political forces, which were created by the British colonial rulers themselves to act as shock absorbers and safety valves in the colonial society and protect their rule from violent revolutionary upsurges, betrayed the general anti-imperialist sentiment and aspiration of the broad masses. The unity of the people was achieved repeatedly in the course of anti-colonial struggle and was wrecked repeatedly through different divisive political attempts of the ruling class and their lackeys – the Congress, the RSS, the Muslim League and other such outfits.
If there is one thing that needs to be done right to unify the Indian people across all regions, languages, ethnicity, religion, caste and sects then it will be only a nationwide patriotic movement against the big foreign corporations and their Indian subsidiaries like Ambani, Adani, Tata, etc. who are looting and plundering India with the help and support of the political parties like the BJP and the Congress and with the active backing of Narendra Modi’s government at present. It’s only when the working class and peasantry will be thoroughly educated about the peril that lies ahead in the way of neo-liberal economic order that the inherent anti-colonial spirit can be re-enhanced in them and then, powered by that anti-colonial hatred against the notorious hate monger fascists and their foreign and domestic masters, the workers and peasants can definitely wage large-scale democratic and patriotic struggle to claim their rights upon India and to end the tyranny of foreign capital, Indian comprador and crony capitalism and feudal rule. The national unity of India can be achieved only through such large-scale struggles against the neo-colonial rulers and their puppet government led by Narendra Modi and not by the latter’s divisive efforts to divide the people by inciting communal hatred and bigotry.