How Aakar Patel Under-Read The Character Of Hindu Rashtra? A Review Article

Aakar Patel starts his timely and well-researched book Our Hindu Rashtra: What It Is. How We Got Here with a sentence “Majoritarianism is primitive and easy to do”. He surmises that establishment of Hindu Rashtra, which has only one meaning, that a Kshatriya king should rule the Hindu Rashtra under the supervision of a Brahmin head priest. Such a Hindu Rashtra was in existence in Nepal till abolition of monarchy in 2008.

According to him India had no Varna-Dharmik Hindu Rashtra for a long time in history, therefore, it is not possible to establish it now. It is true that unlike Nepal, which is a small state and fully hegemonic Brahmin-Kshatriya forces with small non-tribal population, India was very vast and never had any one ruler with his/her Brahmin guru/priest ruling entire India. However, we must not also forget that most of the princely states that existed till 1947 were Hindu Rashtras. Wherever Muslim rulers, like Hyderabad and Junagdh, were in power they were basically theological in nature and by administrative and ideological apparatus.

The prototype of Hindu Rashtra ideology goes back to Chandra Gupta Maurya and Kautilya period. When Chandra Gupta refused to follow the directions of Kautilya who was his head priest and Prime Minister, he resigned from his positions and wrote Arthashastra, which is a fundamental source of the statecraft of Hindu Rashtra. Arthashastra is a book of varna dharma and dandaneeti. It does not allow a Shudra king to rule without getting kshatriyahood in a ritual ceremony under a Brahmin head priest, who later assumes the Prime Minister position and controls the king. From the mighty Shivaji to Baroda Maharaja, who could not give a house to Ambedkar in Baroda along with job, with a fear of Brahmin guru, were under such Brahmin priesthood spell.

The Indian Shudras never got out of the view that Brahmin is Bhoodevata. The Shudra’s surrendered consciousness that the idea of Hindu Rashtra is in operation in a very different form even now. The idea of Hindu majority would not sustain if the Shudras reject the Brahmin authority. Or even if Shudras claim the right to priesthood by rejecting the hierarchical control of varna dharma the idea of Hindu Rashtra gets rejected forever. The institutional operation of Hindu Rashtra to some degree has been in operation in India through Hindu temple system and ritualism under the complete control of the Brahmins even after 1947. The fundamental reason why Sardar Vallabai Patel was sidelined from becoming the first Prime Minister of India was that as Shudra he would not be accepted by the Hindu Brahmin ritual system. A Brahmin, whatever could be his ideology, would be accepted, and thus Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru was agreed upon. Let us not forget that Mahatma Gandhi was also a strict follower of varna dharma. He too did not like a Shudra to become the first Prime Minister.

Even in Nepal, inspite of the fact that it is being ruled by the communist conglamoration, only Brahmins beccome the Prime Minister. This is also one of the basic characteristics of the Hindu Rastra. The RSS/BJP combine is tightening the Dwija control over the Indian state and civil society after they came to power. A full scale Hindu Rastra is not meant for only to supress Muslims but also to set back the Shudra/Dalit/Adivasi masses to the classical casteist status. Caste is the critical structure in Hinduism as a religion and Hindu Rastra as a state system.

Aakar Patel’s main thesis is that the Rastriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s idea of Hindu Rashtra is nothing but isolation and marginalization of Muslims by consoliding Hindu majoritarianism. But in varna terms who constitute this majority? What is the place of Shudras who constitute both according to 1931 census and B.P Mandal commission report 52 per cent of the total population? Apart from Shudras 18 per cent Dalits and 7.5 Muslims are treated as part of majoritarianism that the RSS constructed. Aakar Patel’s majoritarianism also includes them.

The notion of majoritarianism combining Shudras/Dalis/Adivasis and Dwijas has been used not just now for a long time in post-colonial India. Aakar Patel does not see any other form of Hindu Rashtra getting operationalized by RSS/BJP with electoral democracy and the present constitution being in place.

According to him no Kshatriya dynasty rule with a Brahmin priesthood will be possible now. Any other theocratic experimentation by the RSS/BJP also will not work as the theocratic experiments in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Srilanka and Myanmar around India did not succeed and the RSS/BJP leaders know that. Hence the civil society should work to safeguard the interests of Muslims, is his conclusion.

After a promising start, Aakar Patel just left his varna dharma structured Hindu Rashtra analysis there and preemptively moved on to establish that it is not possible to establish Hindu Rashtra in India now given the post-colonial secular constitution and pre-colonial non-existence of Kshatriya-Brahmin Hindu Rashtra. The pre-colonial Indian state because of British rule and Mughal or Muslim rule earlier to that for a long time, the Hindu Rashtra structure got dismantled, hence it cannot be brought back now.

He is mostly silent about Shudra/OBC/Dalit/Adivasi marginalization by the Dwija forces within the structure of Hindu majoritarianism. He does not notice the increasing marginalization of Shudra/Dalit/Adivasis after the RSS/BJP came to power in 2014. Particularly as an intellectual who has come from the Patidar Shudra agrarian community from Gujarat he should have seen the present status of Shudras in the Hindu spiritual system over which the RSS/BJP have a lot of control now.

Why did Patel not think that Shudras who are the main productive force in our agrarian sector and who are completely under the control of Dwija  hegemony have seen what their fate is in the present form of Hindu Rashtra, which made farm laws that cut their jaws and make them toothless?

Majoritarianism of Hindutva would be what is only when the Shudras remain under the control of Dwijas, mainly Brahmins. Even the present process of isolation and attack on Muslims became possible with the uncritical consent that Shudras–including Patels, Jats, Yadav, Marathas, Gujjars, Kammas, Reddys, Lingayats, Vokkaligas, Naikars, Mudaliayars, Nairs, apart from the whole range of Other Backward Classes–gave to the Dwija bhadralok.

Right from the inception of RSS there was no Shudra leader in the formulation of its ideology, or heading its organizational structure. Savarkar, Hedgewar, Golwalkar to Mohan Bhagwat all were Brahmins. In between once Rajendra Singh (popularly known as Rajju Bhaiyya)  and Kshatriya lead the RSS. The theory formulation, organizational control, the programmatic agendas and the tactics of the Hindutva movement are worked out by the Brahmin leaders and the Shudra muscle power is deployed against minorities. The Shudra realization is the key in this majoritarian agendas. Unless they challange Brahminism Hindu Rastra would keep operating in different forms and degrees.

At least in the Indian National Congress Sardar Vallabai Patel was visible and in the communist movement Puchalapally Sundarayya was visible, though Brahmins and Baniyas played most critical roles in formulating their ideologies too. In the RSS ranks we cannot see even one visible Shudra. Why did Shudras go with that majoritarian construction and its operations? All along only Brahmins headed the RSS but the Shudras lent their muscle power to sustain their majoritarianism. Is it because the Shudras also have grouse against the Muslims? If there is a grouse how to solve it without driving them into communal carnages. Of course, there is a need for a major reform in the Muslim community in India.

The main fear of Dwijas, however, is that the Shudra/OBC/Dalit/Adiavsis should be kept away from Muslim culture because they fear that these forces might become Muslim, as it happened in Pakistan and Bangladesh in the undivided India.

Unlike many other writers and journalists Patel knows the status of Shudras in institutional Hindu religion now and also historically. He himself comes from Shudra background and the only one, as far as I know, good at writing both in English and Gujarati and knows the caste systems very well. In such an important book he did not examine what is the nature of this Hindu majoritarianism within? Where do Shudras, Dalits and Adivasis stand in Hinduism and Hindutva?

The Shudras do not have a right to become priests in the Hindu temples and cannot become the head of the RSS. The only thing that the Shudras could overcome in the present constitutional democratic system is that they do not have to take to Ksatriyahood with a Brahmin blessing, when they hold positions of power in the state.

After the RSS/BJP came to power at Delhi in North India the regional parties headed by the Shudra leaders have been thrown out of power. In Delhi central Government not a single Shudra leader is visible. Even within Gujarat after Modi came to power in 2012 the Patels were set aside in all major structures of power. The Baniyas control everything– capital, politics and the Brahmins control the religion. The Gujarat model is extended to Delhi now. The deconstruction of majoritarian violence essentially depends on the Shudra realization and they must initiate a fight within. Till then Muslims will not be safe nor does secularism comeback in any meaningful form.

However, Aakar Patel’s book initiates a new discourse about the direction of Hindutva movement. This period of RSS/BJP rule Indian democracy will definitely undergo a change. The Shudra/OBC/Dalit/Adivasis will slowly realize that the Dwija Bhadralok consisting of Brahmins, Banias, Ksatriyas, Kayashtas and Khatris formed a formidable and highly English educated bhdralok. Apart from Savarkar, Hedgewar and Golwalkar (all Brahmins) and Swami Vivekananda (Kayastha) are the bedrock of their ideology. Now Mahatma Gandhi Gandhi is also being roped into their ideological leadership. Recently J.K Bajaj wrote a book on Gandhi, Making of a Hindu Patriot, and Mohan Bhagwat released it in Sabarmati Ashram as part of that larger plan. There is no single Shudra thinker in their list.

One hopes that Aakar Patel will write another book on the Shudra status in the wheel of Hindutva majoritarianism.

Our Hindu Rashtra:What It Is.How We Got Here

By Aakar Patel

Westland Publication, 2020

Pages 368

Price 699

(The author is a political theorist, with an upcoming new book The Shudras — Vision for a New Path co-edited with Karthik Raja Karuppusamy (Penguin)


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