To understand the concept of ‘Hindu Rashtra’, we first need to understand the meaning of the two words contained in it, ‘Hindu’ and ‘Rashtra’. We begin by understanding the meaning of the word ‘Hindu’.
The origin of the word ‘Hindu’ is purely geographical. The name Sapta-Sindhu is found in the oldest records of the world itself – the Rig-Veda- as an epithet applied to Vedic India. It is well known that the syllable ‘S’ in Sanskrit is at times changed to ‘H’ in some of the Prakrit languages and even in European languages. The ancient Persians referred to the people inhabiting Vedic India as Hapta-Hindus and later on the word ‘Hindu’ was used for the same purpose by all nations flourishing at that time.
As we can see, the word Hindu has a geographical history and does not mean a religious faith like Islam or Christianity. There are some instances which illustrate the use of the word Hindu.
When the Shahi Imam of Jama of Delhi went to Mecca on a pilgrimage, a local resident asked him, “Are you a Hindu?” The Imam was startled by this question and replied, “No, I am a Muslim.” When Imam Saheb asked him the reason for calling him a Hindu, he replied that all Hindustanis were called Hindu there.
Late Sri Mohammed Carrim Chagla, the former Chief Justice of Bombay High Court and Education Minister in the Central cabinet wrote that he is a Muslim only by religion but by culture and race he is a Hindu and all Muslims of this country are Hindus.
The word Hindusthan and Hindu are often used with a national connotation only. For example, the first nationalist daily from Chennai, started in the last century, was named ‘The Hindu’. Many public sector industrial units are named Hindusthan Aeronautics, Hindusthan Photo films, Hindusthan Machine Tools, etc. The sea to the south of our country is called Hind Mahasagar.
Mohammed Iqbal, the famous Urdu poet has sung Sare Jahan Se Achha, Hindostan Hamara — Note Hamara Hindusthan, i.e., Our Hindusthan.
The word Hindu thus connotes not a particular sect, a religion or a faith, but the people, the culture, the tradition, the way of life of the people inhabiting this part of the world from times immemorial. Before the advent of the British, Bharat was known as Hindusthan and all the nationals as Hindus. Only the British gave the new name India and the word Indian came to be used in place of Hindu.
What is a Rashtra?
We now try to understand the meaning of the second word in the concept of ‘Hindu Rashtra’ i.e. Rashtra or Nation. What is a Nation? Scholars on the subject agree that a mass of humanity assuming the nomenclature of Nation should be inspired by the feeling of ‘we-ness’ i.e. a common identity and identification. This means that people constituting a Nation experience a feeling of oneness with one another and consider themselves distinct from others. When Edward de Cruz asked a Japanese University student whether the Japanese people considered themselves nearer to the East or the West in their life-style, habits and beliefs, his reply was: “We are like neither the East nor the West. We are simply Japanese”. The young man’s assertion that even while mixing with the world in a hundred ways they remained Japanese, is in fact an indication of their true nationhood.
The stretch of land which a community, imbued with a sense of we-ness, forms the natural boundaries of that Nation. That community is not merely emotionally attached to it; it also derives from the mother soil a special characteristic for its life, civilization and culture. Thus the Nation imparts a distinct identity to its members.
Combining the meaning of the two words ‘Hindu’ and ‘Rashtra’, we are now ready to understand the meaning of ‘Hindu Rashtra’. ‘Hindu Rashtra is nothing but the Rashtra of Hindus. The Hindus have been living on their common motherland for thousands of years. They have common forefathers, common sages, saints and heroes, common values of life, common traditions and culture, common history, common way of life, which is called Dharma and common aspirations. Those who identify with these common factors form the Rashtra or the Nation here and that is exactly Hindu Rashtra. Thus Hindu Rashtra is not a religious or political concept but a cultural and emotional one, eternally asserting itself.
Nation Vs State
As we have seen above, Hindu Rashtra is not a religious or a political concept, but it is generally misrepresented as a theocratic state or a religious Hindu State. This is because of the confusion between the terms Nation and State. Nation (Rashtra) and State (Rajya) are entirely different and should never be mixed up. State is purely a political concept. It is a political authority with sanction, concerned with the governance of the people, laying down and directing the policies of the government. The State changes as the political authority shifts from person to person or party to party. The people and the Nation remain the same.
Since ancient days, various dynasties ruled in different parts of India at different times, but the basic and fundamental cultural unity of the people of India was never disturbed. For the past one thousand years various Islamic invaders ruled over different parts of the country at different times and later the British ruled over almost the entire country, but the people of India did not change, i.e. remained Hindus (as defined above) . After Independence, the Congress party ruled the entire country for some time and then various political parties captured political power in different states. But still, the common emotional factors of the people of Bharat have remained the same and the people too uphold those values and sentiments in one voice, rising above regional, linguistic and religious differences as was witnessed on several occasions. This is the uniform experience.
That clearly explains the difference between a Rashtra and a Rajya i.e., Nation and State. Rashtra is eternal and State is transitory. It is like the body and the Soul (Atma). According to the Hindu philosophy, the Atma is eternal and only the bodies and their forms are changed. Likewise, the Rashtra which is the soul of the country remains unchanged, but the State which is the body keeps changing.
All nationals of a particular country have an emotional attachment to its history, forefathers, heroes and traditions. This makes them work hard, suffer and sacrifice for the progress and protection of their country. The national sentiment is supreme and is above all other sentiments, whether religious or sectional. Take for example, one of the youngest nations, America, formed four hundred years ago by various people of various countries. For the past four hundred years they have developed an American identity, their own traditions and their own National heroes like George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. Every American holds this national tradition and their heroes with highest regard respect. No Jew or Muslim of America can say that because Washington and Lincoln were not Jew or Muslim he cannot revere them. The religious sentiments are subservient to national sentiments and values. As in America, in Hindu Rashtra, every national should hold its national heroes of Hindus like Sri Rama, Sri Krishna and Shivaji in high esteem. They are the age old symbols of all the great values which the country stands for.
Religion should not come into the picture at all!
However many consider the idea of Hindu Rashtra as rank communalism and a biggest threat to secularism. There are serious misunderstandings and confusion regarding concepts like nation, state, Hindu, secular, etc in the people’s minds. The reasons for these misunderstandings are plenty and are not a focus of this article.
Hindu Rashtra: The Vibrant Reality
What are the factors that have kept India as one in spite of foreign domination for over thousand years? It is its faith in its age old culture, Dharma, tradition, its forefathers and national heroes like Sri Rama, Sri Krishna, and Shivaji. All this can be condensed into one word and that is the Hinduness or Hindutva.
Hindu Rashtra is very much alive and it asserts in various forms. The RSS wants to make every Indian understand, realize and feel proud of the same. This is the strongest and the only integrating factor for binding people from North to South and East to West, rising above all other considerations of region, language, religion, caste or class. It is foolish to say that the idea of Hindu Rashtra will disintegrate the country into various Rashtras. In fact it is contrary to the very idea of Hindu Rashtra.
In spite of the havoc done by political parties and leaders for the last sixty years of independence, the country remains one only because of its essential Hindu character. Hindutva alone can integrate the entire country. Several fissiparous tendencies have cropped up only because Hindutva is being suppressed by politically vested interests. RSS is convinced that only when every person in India realizes that he is after all part and parcel of the Hindu Rashtra, the nation can progress, and stand up as one strong being. It is working hard against odds to see this goal realized.