The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh chief Mohan Bhagwat was quoted as saying, yet again, that “Akhand Bharat will be a reality soon." He waxed eloquently on how it will be a reality in 25-30 years but if the speed of work was accelerated then it could take half the time. Akhand Bharat, or unified Indian sub-continent, is the ultimate ambition of the Hindutva nationalist philosophy whose fount is the RSS. The idea inspires its activities, and with two successive stints of the Narendra Modi government, has been neatly planted into India’s public discourse. Every once in a while, Bhagwat or an RSS affiliate or an astrologer speaks about how India is on the verge of realising this ‘dream.' Dreamers must be allowed to dream on, it’s often said. The RSS and its affiliates can nurture the dream of Akhand Bharat, create maps and make flags, and find ‘support’ from minor organisations set up for the purpose. In the dream, it stretches from present-day Afghanistan (called Gandhar in RSS parlance) and Pakistan to Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Tibet, Sri Lanka, Maldives, and Myanmar. These are not merely different geographies but also varied people with multiple cultures, languages, and religions.
How the RSS and its political face, the BJP, will achieve this “not with force but with Sanatan Dharma” is a mystery. Their track record is hardly inspiring. Within India, the rise of Hindutva nationalism has seen an exponential increase in violence against minorities, especially Muslims. Take the Ram Navami celebrations which became the trigger to hold boisterous processions in Muslim localities, make hate speeches, and vandalise homes and businesses of Muslims in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Rajasthan, and others. This comes on the back of the hijab ban controversy, halal food certification storm, and the azaan on loudspeakers dispute. This pattern of low-intensity communal violence against Muslims – Christians elsewhere at other times – is royally ignored by the institutions of the State. It’s fanciful to expect Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a proud graduate of the RSS, to condemn this or call for peace; he has the authority but he is unlikely to command it for peace. Opposition leaders across India fall short too. The condemnation comes mostly from civil society and voluntary organisations, both of which have been relentlessly targeted by the government in the last few years. The perception of India now is of a Hindu supremacist nation unfriendly to minorities and uncaring of human rights abuses on them. The US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken’s words stung.
If the RSS philosophy, as seen on ground, cannot accord Indian Muslims and Christians the space, rights, and liberties laid down in the Indian Constitution, how can a Hindu-dominated India accommodate people of various faiths and cultures – the Afghan Muslim is culturally different from the Bangladeshi Muslim – into one land? All talk of Akhand Bharat, therefore, is to keep the converted flock close and have their dream. The RSS may pretend to not know the ground realities but the BJP certainly does. Modi, after all, has the job of maintaining international relations with all the countries that are part of the dream. For now, the dream is merely a distraction.