When Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a surprise stopover at Lahore to greet Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif on his birthday, December 25, 2015, the move was heralded as nothing short of a master stroke, reminiscent of former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s cross-border diplomacy of the 1990s.
But a day later, on December 26, BJP national secretary and RSS pracharak Ram Madhav, in an interview broadcast on Al-Jazeera television channel, spoke of “Akhand Bharat”, one that would see Pakistan and Bangladesh reunited with India “through popular goodwill”.
“As an RSS member”, Madhav had said, “I hold on to that view”. The statement caused much controversy, and stole the thunder from Modi’s surprise Lahore visit, with many questioning the BJP’s and the government’s real political intentions, given that the RSS governs the ideology of the party.
THE RSS’s VIEW
In response to Al Jazeera anchor Mehdi Hasan’s question regarding a map he had seen at an RSS office which showed Pakistan and Bangladesh as part of India, Madhav had said, “The RSS still believes that one day these parts, which have for historical reasons separated only 60 years ago, will again, through popular goodwill, come together and Akhand Bharat will be created.”
It’s a view the RSS, which was formed in 1925, started propagating in 1947, after Partition. At a press conference in Delhi on August 24, 1949, after the government lifted the ban on the RSS — imposed on it for its role in Gandhi’s assassination — M S Golwalkar, the organisation’s second sarsanghchalak, termed Pakistan an “uncertain state”. “As far as possible, we must continue our efforts to unite these two divided states…Nobody is happy with Partition,” he had said. He had repeated this view at another press conference held in Kolkata on September 7, 1949.
Bhartiya Jansangh (BJS), as the BJP was known earlier, passed a resolution at its meeting in Delhi on August 17, 1965, which stated, “India’s tradition and nationality has not been against any religion. Modern Islam should also not be an obstacle in the way of unity of Indian nation. Real obstacle is separatist politics. Muslims will integrate themselves with the national life and Akhand Bharat will be a reality, unifying India and Pakistan once we are able to remove this obstacle (separatist politics).”
BEYOND PAKISTAN: TIBET, LANKA & AFGHANISTAN
RSS’s idea of “Akhand Bharat” includes not only Pakistan and Bangladesh, but also Afghanistan, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Tibet. It terms the combined region as a “Rashtra” based on “Hindu cultural” similarities.
Suruchi Prakashan, a publishing house run by the RSS, has brought out a map called ‘Punyabhoomi Bharat’ in which Afghanistan is called “Upganathan”, Kabul “Kubha Nagar”, Peshawar “Purushpur”, Multan “Moolsthan”, Tibet “Trivishtap,” Sri Lanka “Singhaldweep” and Myanmar “Brahmadesh”, among others.
Outside the RSS’s headquarters in Keshav Kunj in Jhandewalan, west Delhi, a book titled Pratyek Rashtrabhakta Ka Sapna: Akhand Bharat (Dream of every patriot: Akhand Bharat), written by one Dr Sadanand Damodar Sapre, is on sale. The book says: “We can put the map of Akhand Bharat in our home so that it is always before our eyes. If the map of Akhand Bharat is in our hearts, we will be offended every time we see the map of divided India on Doordarshan, newspapers and magazines, and remind us of the resolution of Akhand Bharat.”
Sapre writes of making the idea of Akhand Bharat “possible through our manliness (purusharth)”. “People who want Akhand Bharat must continue their efforts with indefatigable self-confidence. This is need of the hour,” says a line in the book .
RSS literature — books and songs — is replete with references to “Akhand Bharat”, and continues to be sold at book shops run by the organisation. The first edition of Sapre’s book was published in 1997. Its fourth edition was published in January 2015 by Archna Prakashan, Bhopal.
But all publications insist Akhand Bharat is a “cultural” entity, not a national or political one.
The late HV Sheshadri, who was sarkaryawah for many years, in his book, The Tragic Story of Partition (first edition in 1982, last in 2014), writes, “There is always the possibility that the divided halves will seize the first opportunity to nullify the unnatural division. Such a possibility need not to be ruled out in respect of Bharat, Pakistan and Bangladesh too.” He talks of the “ancient national roots” of Pakistan being “essentially Hindu” and raises a question, “Would it be a surprise if a state (Pakistan) based on such specious and artificial presumptions and devoid of any philosophical base would one day choose to enrich its life by returning to its ancient mother culture?”
Advocating the possibility of re-unification, he continues, “Gradually, the truth would one day dawn upon them (Pakistan and Bangladesh) that they have not, after all, benefited from Partition, and that their physical and mental happiness could result only from their union with Bharat and its cultural heritage.”