Ram Madhav, BJP general secretary on lien from the RSS, whose comment that “RSS believes one day India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, which for historical reasons separated only 60 years ago, will through popular goodwill come together again and an Akhand Bharat will be created” caused a great deal of embarrassment to his party and government, has realized that he had not said something diplomatically correct and given a clarification. In the clarification, which came in a media interview, Madhav said: “My comments on Akhand Bharat were in the context of a cultural union in South Asia. I never spoke about physically redrawing boundaries.” Beneath the layering, Madhav has only said the same thing in different words. It is wrong to blame Madhav. He only gave vent to the RSS view, which in nutshell is that the Muslims and Christians, who are converts from a Hindu ancestry, must accept Hindu culture in order to prove their loyalty to Indian nationalism. The RSS has no problems with their religion; they can practise their particular faiths with full freedom; but they must accept the Hindu way of life. As an example, the RSS cites the case of Indonesia where the natives even after their conversion to Islam continue to be attached to Hindu epics, mythological figures and symbols. Why can’t the Muslims of India follow their Indonesian religious co-brothers? the RSS asks.
The Akhand Bharat that Madhav spoke about is an Akhand Bharat that, according to the RSS, can be formed if the Muslims of Pakistan and Bangladesh, while continuing to follow the Islamic faith, adopt the Hindu epics, mythological figures and objects of veneration. The whole emphasis in the Sangh Parivar’s Ayodhya movement was why the Muslims cannot accept Lord Rama as their cultural hero too. The idea of Akhand Bharat can be understood as a geographical magnification of the same idea. The RSS philosophy springs from a sense of Hindu revivalism which flows from a sense of historical injustice perpetrated by Muslim invaders and European colonizers. History is seen by the RSS absolutely in religious terms. The full restoration of the Hindu power and pride, according to the RSS, cannot be possible without those former Hindus, who changed their religion under force, accepting the culture of their ancestors. So, not only the Muslims and Christians living within India, but also those in Pakistan and Bangladesh must accept the culture of their ancestors. That would be the dream of Akhand Bharat fulfilled – the Akhand Bharat of many religions but one culture.
Madhav is ideologically highly mature, but he probably did not realize at the moment when he was giving an interview to Al Jazeera the implication of his expression of the RSS dream of Akhand Bharat. First of all, there were serious implications of international diplomacy. Modi and Sharif were trying to reach out to each other formally and informally when Madhav’s interview was broadcast. The statement could supply gunpowder to hardcore anti-India and religious radical fireworks in Pakistan and Kashmir. Both the RSS and the BJP had to distance themselves from Madhav’s comment. The avalanche of adverse comments forced Madhav to modify his statement to diplomatically correct wording: “Akhand Bharat is an idea where people can move around freely without boundaries and where trade and peace flourishes.” Good that Madhav eventually realized the implications.
Let us not entertain any fantasies about India, Pakistan and Bangladesh re-unifying as an undivided India politically. The hope of Pakistan and Bangladesh merging with India by fulfilling the RSS condition of acceptance of “one country, one culture” is even more absurd. India was divided into two, and then Pakistan was divided into two, and the three countries exist as sovereign nations with different cultures. It is irrational to re-draw the boundaries according to what happened 60 years ago, as Madhav would want them to be. In history, boundaries were ever changing. What was India, and what was not, cannot be decided retrospectively going back to 60 years. Tomorrow a more radical Hindu organization than RSS can emerge and say, why define Indian boundaries going back only 60 years? Before Ghazni, many portions of today’s Afghanistan were part of Magadha and Kushana empires. Kabul was ruled for centuries by a Hindu Shahi dynasty. Hinduism and Buddhism had strong roots in Afghanistan. The passes in the Hindu Kush mountains were controlled by Hindu kings. The more- radical-than-RSS-organisation can start asking for an Akhand Bharat that also includes Afghanistan on the condition of all Afghans accepting Hindu culture. Will not that be absolutely insane?