Intellectuals of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the Bharatiya Janata Party emphasize the theory of integral humanism that Deendayal Upadhyaya (1916-1968) is said to have advocated.
RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat, general secretary Dattatreya Hosabale and secretary Ram Madhav have spoken repeatedly about Upadhyaya’s integral humanism, defining it as the core philosophy that will guide their future in power.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi also occasionally speaks of this philosophy as the beacon of his government. The last invocation of this theory was at the book launch by Ram Madhavs The Hindutva Paradigm: Integral Humanism and the Search for a Non-Western Worldview. At the introduction, Hosabale said: “Hindutva is neither left nor right, integral humanism is its essence.”
The question, however, is to what extent this philosophy of integral humanism distinguishes RSS and its ideologues from those who they used to be, as followers of VD Savarkar, KB Hedgewar and MS Golwalkar. It is important to examine this philosophy not only in the interests of the Indian minorities, which the RSS has traditionally denigrated, but above all in the interests of the Shudras, Dalits and Adivasis, who use it as muscle power against Muslims and Christians, without putting them on an equal footing in that varna Dharma parampara (the tradition of caste based religion) that the Hindutva Brahmin philosophers have followed so far.
Deendayal Upadhyaya was an RSS employee who later became the second president of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, the political wing of the RSS. He was a Brahmin from Uttar Pradesh, raised in the same environment Bhagwat, Hosabale and Ram Madhav grew up in, as they are all of the same caste even though they were born in different states.
The growth of caste culture that takes place in an Indian’s personality in childhood remains with him or her for the remainder of his or her life.
There are many traits of Brahmanism that violate human equality, even in the Hindutva realm, that are a by-product of the varna-dharma casteism of the Brahmanic tradition. In many of its earlier theoretical writings, particularly on Golwalkar, the RSS elaborated an entire system of Hindutva parampara. Both Golwalkar and Hedgewar had a Brahmanic background, and as yet there is no Shudra, Dalit or Adivasi theorist among the Sangh.
An education within the caste culture avoids any integral coexistence with other caste beings. Caste divisions are enforced more strictly than divisions with people born and raised in different religious cultures. Can integral humanism serve to make India an individually balanced cultural nation? Only if it includes the goal of making Hinduism a democratic religion.
All science – western or eastern – is rooted in the dignity of work and the production of goods and goods without taking into account the principles of purity and pollution in relation to human production, including agricultural and craft activities.
As an organization deeply rooted in Brahmanism, the RSS conception of Indian tradition is based on the Brahmanic values of purity, pollution and the graded inequality of caste and gender, along with human untouchability.
Upadhyaya has not problematized the caste issue in the same way as Marxist and liberal intellectuals with a Brahmin background. Even the contemporary RSS or BJP intellectuals do not problematize caste culture by using the ideology of Mahatma Phule and Dr. Integrate BR Ambedkar, in which the abolition of caste and human untouchability is a cardinal principle in all areas of human life.
What Upadhyaya is trying to do is the combination of Mahatma Gandhis sarvodaya and Gram swaraj. Why Gandhi and not, shall we say, Phule or Ambedkar? Because Gandhi was also a follower of the Hindu Varna Dharma, if not the human untouchability.
According to one review, the Upadhyaya Integral Humanism theory followed the tradition of the advaita developed by Adi Sankara. Although the Advaita school speaks about the non-dualism of the divine essence, it did not contradict the worship of deities, the Kshatriya (Vishnu, Sri Rama, etc.) Ramayana mythological lore. The Ram Temple Movement – with its slogan “Jai Shri Ram” and violence against minorities as an acceptable norm – was the creation of RSS itself. RSS intellectuals know that Ram came from a Kshatriya dynasty that did not believe in the abolition of the caste , but rather on their continued existence.
How does the idea of integral humanism become possible when the divine deities they sponsor and institutionalize have their roots in caste spirituality? The idea of non-dualism should at least work on the principle that there is only one God and that God created all people – men and women – equal. The greatest challenge facing the work of the Shudra, Dalit and Adivasis in the Hindutva school – even with the re-emphasized ideology of integral humanism – would be to negotiate their place in this spiritual and cultural nationalism.
Since the integral humanist philosophy advocated by RSS and BJP intellectuals does not have an agenda to abolish caste, gender inequality and untouchability as part of its core ideology, what about the unequal status of Shudras, Dalits and Adivasis in the Indian system happen? and also within the Hindutva organizations?
It is no coincidence that they did not allow Shudra, Dalit or Adivasi intellectuals to appear in their networks and that they reflected their own self-status.
RSS and BJP have so far not accepted that the dignity of work, even in the spiritual realm of Hindus, is part of their ideological agenda. Even if you ignore the box language, a Hindu shoemaker, pot maker, sweeper, scavenger, or shepherd cannot become a priest in a Hindu temple even if the person is qualified. How does integral humanism overcome this historical problem? What does integral humanism mean without a theory of human equality?
The integral humanism of Upadhyaya speaks theoretically of the organized attributes of body, understanding, intellect and soul. Does it include the minds, intellects and souls of Shudras, Dalits and Adivasis organized in Hindutva organizations? At present, they do not have the same spiritual rights and intellectual status in Hinduism as the Brahmins who hold these theories.
And how does integral humanism deal with the food culture of all Indians?
Both modern Brahmanism and Hindutva organizations believe in vegetarianism.
Universal humanism, a well-known philosophical postulate, does not discriminate against people based on their food culture, either in civil society or in spiritual society. If RSS’s integral humanism is like universal humanism, what will it do with its long history (in its current form of about 96 years) of emphasis on vegetarianism?
Upadhyaya’s integral humanism opposes individualism because it believes it is of Western origin. It seems that his opposition to individualism is based on his belief in caste systems or communalism. But the Indian Constitution itself operates on the basis of individual rights as every person is a citizen with one voice and one value. So doesn’t the integral humanism of RSS run counter to the current constitution?
Herein lies the threat to the rights of Shudra, Dalit and Adivasi, aside from minority rights, in this philosophy.
Look at the paradox of Hindu society. Apart from Brahmins and other dwijas, Shudras, Dalits and Adivasis are viewed both theoretically and practically as people who are only body but not mind, intellect and spirit.
In the Rig-Vedic theory of the four varnas – Shudra, Vaisya, Kshatriya, and Brahmin – the Shudras were assigned the role of slavery (what was called “service” for the other three varas) without being allowed to use their minds or intellects. They have been denied their spiritual soul. The idea of the soul is that it is a separate unit within the human being and that it should exist independently of the body.
The Hindutva school, which believes in religious dogmatism and wants to use it in the political field, still does not believe in promoting Shudras, Dalits and Adivasis as priests in Hindu temples. Hence, they are still treated as soulless beings.
How, in turn, does integral humanism create a soul among the productive masses that make up the food-producing peasants of India? They are the vast majority and the RSS Brahmin Integral Humanism is not showing them a new path to liberation.
Kautilyas Arthshastra, Manus Dharmashastra, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata have all confirmed the status of the boxes. These books are promoted in schools, colleges and universities under the current regime.
What kind of integral humanism is taught in our educational institutions where there is no curriculum that teaches castelessness and dignity of work? Silence about the systemically institutionalized caste and deeply rooted degradation of work, which promotes human untouchability, serves no purpose of transformation.
I firmly believe that RSS and BJP are anti-transformational structures. How does this theory of integral humanism transform it if it does not change the current status of Shudras, Dalits, and Adivasis?
If Mohan Bhagwat, Dattatreya Hosbale, and Ram Madhav let the nation know how this newly propagated theory of integral humanism differs from Hindutva brahminism, and how it solves some of the major problems raised here, the nation will surely be grateful to them.
Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd is a political theorist, social activist, and author. His books God as a Political Philosopher, Buffalo NationalismandPost Hindu India have studied the philosophy of spiritual democracy extensively.