One should not be surprised to know that the two biggest architects of the two-nation theory who coined Hindus and Muslims as two separate nations, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar and Mohammed Ali Jinnah, in 1937 (Ahmedabad) and 1940 (Lahore) respectively, were staunch atheists. The celebrated writer Ronojoy Sen elaborates in 2010: “It is one of the deep ironies of South Asian history that the two figures crucial to the ideology of religious nationalism in the subcontinent - Mohammed Ali Jinnah and Vinayak Damodar Savarkar - were themselves non-believers, and militantly so. Savarkar arguably first peddled the two-nation theory some years before the idea of Pakistan was mooted and then put into action by Jinnah and the Muslim League. In his seminal text 'Hindutva', published in 1923, Savarkar gave a territorial and racial spin to the word Hindu.”
"Dharma of a Hindu being so completely identified with the land of the Hindus, this land to him is not only a Pitribhu but a Punyabhu, not only a fatherland but a holyland," he famously wrote. The essentials of Hindutva, in Savarakar's mind, had nothing to do with religion per se but were predicated on a common nation (rashtra), a common race (jati) and a common civilization (sanskriti).This was of a piece with Savarkar's personal life, in which he was fiercely atheist. He had publicly said there was nothing sacred about cows and advised Hindus to give up vegetarianism. Savarkar's biographer, Dhananjay Keer, points out that when his wife died, despite entreaties by his followers he refused to allow any Hindu rituals. Political psychologist Ashis Nandy, who has shed light on Savarkar's paradoxical relationship with religion, writes, "Savarkar's atheism was not the philosophical atheism associated with Buddhism and Vedanta, but the anti-clerical, hard atheism of fin-de-siecle scientism, increasingly popular among sections of the European middle class and, through cultural osmosis, in parts of modern India."
Though Barrister Savarkar (28 May 1883-26 February 1966) has been most controversial figure in India but none can deny that he was a fearless freedom fighter, social reformer, writer, dramatist, historian, political leader and philosopher. Niranjan Rajadhyaksha, who wrote “The Rise of India”, has thrown light on Savarkar’s lesser known contribution to develop scientific temperament: “Savarkar often called on his supporters to welcome the age of the modern machine. In an essay published in the magazine ‘Kirloskar’, and republished in a book of his essays on the scientific approach, he argued that India would continue to lag behind Europe as long as its leaders believed in superstition rather than science. It was 200 years ago that Europe entered the era that our country is now entering. This means we are two centuries behind Europe. We are entering what economists describe as the age of the machine. The spread of machines some 200 years ago in Europe challenged traditional beliefs and habits.”
“Europe could truly embrace the machine age only when its religious beliefs were demolished by the scientific approach,” states the Hindu Mahasabha President Savarkar and adds: “But in India, even someone as influential as Gandhiji swears by his ‘inner voice’ to say that the Bihar earthquake is a punishment for the caste system. And that he is still waiting for his inner voice to tell him why Quetta was rocked by an earthquake. And then there are Shankaracharya and other religious leaders who swear by the religious books that the earthquake was caused by attempts to do away with the caste system. What can one say about the religious naiveté of the ordinary people in a country when its prominent leaders hold such views? Europe is in the year 1936 while we are in the year 1736.”
Next Column: Nine Schemes to Carve out Pakistan
(The writer is a Socio-political Historian. E-mail: [email protected] )