With his recent statement, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat has ruffled many feathers and raised the hackles of many. What has he really said? On Wednesday, in Haridwar, Bhagwat said that he agrees with the statement made by Swami Ravindra Puri, president of the Akhil Bharatiya Akhara Parishad.
Puri had said, “Astrological predictions suggest that we will realise the dream of ‘Akhand Bharat’ in the next 20-25 years.”
Bhagwat’s statement has been met with varying degrees of alarm and concern issuing forth from players across the political spectrum, including the Shiv Sena, CPI (M) and AIMIM. It has essentially opened a Pandora’s Box, one that is full of the unexpected and the hugely discomforting. Here’s a detailed look at the topic.
What is the concept of Akhand Bharat?
Akhand Bharat or Undivided India is a widely-used term for the concept of a unified Indian subcontinent. It implies that modern-day India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Tibet, Sri Lanka, Maldives and Myanmar are one nation. This was also reportedly the ‘dream’ of Swami Vivekananda and Maharishi Aurobindo. The call for the creation of Akhand Bharat has on occasion been raised by Hindu nationalist organisations such as the Bharatiya Janata Party, Hindu Mahasabha, RSS, Vishva Hindu Parishad, Shiv Sena, Hindu Sena and Hindu Janajagruti Samiti.
Why is it so controversial?
Proposing, as it does, that the disparate nations of India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan and others are essentially one and that even though they are separate entities at present, they would, in a few years, merge into one singular, solid Akhand Bharat or Undivided India, makes the idea potentially incendiary on the geopolitical level. However, this belief is espoused and held dear by supporters of Hindu nationalist organisations, some of whom have been mentioned above.
Addressing a gathering of saints and seers in Haridwar on Wednesday, Bhagwat hailed them for acting as a bridge between God and the common man. According to the excerpts of his speech shared by the RSS, Bhagwat said RSS founder K B Hegdewar had assigned its workers the role of the “guard” for protecting their religion. “India dreamt of by Vivekananda and Maharishi Aurobindo is nearing realisation. People say it may take 20-25 years, but from my experience I feel it will be realised in next 8-10 years. For this, the entire society has to work together.” He said further, “We will talk about non-violence but we will carry a stick in our hand. We have no enmity in our mind but world heeds to power. Therefore, we should have power which is visible,” Bhagwat told the gathering.
How has the opposition reacted?
Bhagwat’s remarks elicited a retort from Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut, who challenged the RSS chief to achieve the dream of Akhand Bharat in 15 days and not in 15 years. Speaking to reporters, Raut said, “…first include POK in India, then Pakistan, Sri Lanka and then others to complete ‘Akhand Bharat’, who is stopping? However, don’t promise to do it in 15 years, do it in 15 days, instead.”
Dilip Walse Patil of the NCP, who is currently Maharashtra Home Minister, said India is united even now and no attempt should be made to disintegrate it.
AIMIM president Asaduddin Owaisi wanted to know who stopped the RSS from making ‘Akhand Bharat’ a reality during the past eight years of BJP rule. “Who stopped you from creating an Akhand Bharat in eight years? And what will happen in the next 15 years? What is Akhand Bharat? Does he (Bhagwat) realise that it includes Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Pakistan Occupied Kashmir and China occupied territory?” Owaisi asked reporters in Ahmedabad.
Meanwhile, CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury on Thursday slammed Bhagwat’s comment saying, “What is this Akhand Bharat? They live on spreading this sort of poison, hate and consequently, violence follows. Please explain to Bangladesh, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and Afghanistan what ‘Akhand Bharat’ they are talking about.”
What will it lead to?
It is anybody’s guess how this proposition will pan out in the coming months and years. What is apparent, however, is that it will stir up plenty of far Right, ultra-nationalist discourses and consequent strident rebuttals from the opposition, particularly the Left. While the atmosphere in the country — inflammable due to recent communal violence — is already combustible, this proclamation could act as a catalyst for more communal tension, disharmony and geopolitical attrition.
The worry is that both sides — the proponents and the opponents — are holding on firm to their ideological ground. This is amply evident in what Bhagwat said while elaborating on the issue. “No one can stop India from achieving its goal”, the RSS chief said. “Isko rokane wale hat jayenge ya mit jayenge (Those trying to impede the country’s march forward will either move away or cease to remain),” he added.