“India” is an obstacle for Golwalkar’s communal imagination of history

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s leader, MS Golwalkar, gives a speech in New Delhi, on 30 May 1970. In his book We or Our Nationhood Defined, Golwalkar openly expresses his hostility to the term India and blames it for creating a “wrong” idea of democracy. N Thyagarajan/Hindustan Times
10 November, 2023

Recently, a committee set up by the National Council of Educational Research and Training recommended that “India” be replaced with “Bharat” in all social-science textbooks up to class twelve. This came in the midst of a controversy that has raged for the past few months, after the Sangh Parivar pushed for discontinuing the use of India as the name of the country. The ostensible reason, as a Bharatiya Janata Party member of Parliament Naresh Bansal told the Rajya Sabha in July this year, is that the name India is a symbol of “colonial slavery” and “should be removed from the Constitution.” 

Two months later, on 3 September, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh chief Mohan Bhagwat lent his voice to the chorus and asked people to stop using “India” since “our country has been known as ‘Bharat’ for ages.”

Yet, anyone who has read the former RSS chief MS Golwalkar’s book, We or Our Nationhood Defined, would know that the real motive of Bhagwat or any other leader of the Sangh Parivar, whether in government or outside, is not about shedding the vestiges of a colonial past or reclaiming the ancient name of the land. It is about implementing one of Golwalkar’s key formulations—as mentioned in his book—that is critical to the blueprint for making India a Hindu Rashtra.

In fact, in the history of the RSS, Golwalkar was the first person to openly express his hostility to the name “India.” He despised the word and called it an “outlandish name” in his book. Golwalkar asserted that it planted a concept of democracy which promoted unity among people of different religions, particularly Hindus and Muslims. “Wrong notions of democracy strengthened the view and we began to class ourselves with our old invaders and foes under the outlandish name—Indian—and tried to win them over to join hands with us in our struggle,” Golwalkar wrote. “The result of this poison is too well known. We have allowed ourselves to be duped into believing our foes to be our friends and with their own hands are undermining true Nationality.”