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What RSS chief Bhagwat really meant when he said ‘Akhand Bharat’ could be reality in 10-15 yrs

Map of 'Akhand Bharat' that members of RSS are known to keep shows entity as comprising Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Tibet, Bhutan, Nepal and Aksai Chin.

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New Delhi:  Last month, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat kicked up a political storm when he claimed that the idea of Akhand Bharat, or ‘undivided India’, could be a reality in the next 10-15 years.

Hamari gaadi chal padi hai, bina brake ki gaadi hai, sirf accelerator hai. Jo rokne ki koshish karenge, woh mit jayenge. Jo aana chahe, woh hamare saath aa ke baith jaaye, gaadi rukegi nahi (Our car is on its way. It has no brakes and only the accelerator. Anyone who comes in the way will be destroyed. Those who want can come join us in the car. This car won’t stop),” Bhagwat said, addressing a gathering in Haridwar.

“‘Akhand Bharat’ will be a reality in the next 20-25 years if we keep going at the current pace, but if we put a little more effort which we definitely will this time will be reduced by half and we’ll see it happen in 10-15 years,” he added.

His speech drew a political backlash, and, since then, RSS functionaries have been at pains to explain that the sarsanghchalak was speaking in the cultural, not geopolitical, context.

So, what is ‘Akhand Bharat’

Vinayak Damodar Savarkar explained his idea of the notion at the 19th annual session of the Hindu Mahasabha held in Ahmedabad in 1937.

Savarkar, then president of the Hindu Mahasabha, told the session that to him, “Akhand Bharat” or “united” or “indivisible” India was from “Kashmir to Rameswaram, from Sindh (in present-day Pakistan) to Assam”.

While Savarkar’s idea was geopolitical, RSS functionaries say Bhagwat meant a “cultural integration leading to a confederation of neighbouring countries under the leadership of India”.

The idea of ‘Akhand Bharat’ is not geopolitical but geo-cultural, RSS sah sarkaryawah (joint general secretary) Manmohan Vaidya said.

“For years together, before the British captured and then divided the entire landmass here, we as a people were one, connected culturally with each other as we all shared the same view of life based on spirituality,” Vaidya added.

However, the timeline given by the RSS chief has left many in the Sangh baffled.

Also Read: Day after Dhami govt forms panel, RSS says uniform civil code needs ‘absolute consensus’

The idea of ‘Akhand Bharat’

A map of ‘Akhand Bharat’ that members of the Sangh are known to keep in their homes and offices shows the entity as comprising Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Tibet, Bhutan, Nepal, and Aksai Chin.

RSS literature is replete with the idea of ‘Akhand Bharat’. In his 2016 book Akhand Bharat — Sankriti Ne Joda Rajniti Ne Toda, Devendra Swarup, an RSS ideologue and Right-wing historian, had drawn a chronology of what was described as the systematic geopolitical divisions of Bharat.

The map kept by RSS members in their homes & offices | By special arrangement
The map kept by RSS members in their homes & offices | By special arrangement

Swarup refers to the Vishnu Puran and Bhagvata Puran —  two of 18 major Purans, which are some of Hinduism’s most revered religious texts — to claim that India was said to include Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, Bali [in Indonesia], the Philippines, and Malaysia, apart from the regions under pre-Partition India.

In the same book, he says that “Bharat” included Afghanistan, Tashkent, and Samarkand in central Asia in the 7th century, and that it wasn’t until the Islamic invasion that it began to be divided.

Radha Kumud Mookerjee, a member of the RSS and historian, described his idea of ‘Akhand Bharat’ in a speech at the Akhand Bharat Conference at Lucknow University in 1945.

“One prayer views her as the land of seven sacred rivers from the Sindhu or Indus to the Cauvery, from the Ganga and Yamuna to the Godavari and the Narmada, the commingling of whose holy waters imparts their collective purity at the indispensable bath before worship,” he said.

“By such a prayer, [a] South Indian is at once united across the barrier of the Vindhyas with his brethren of the North in worshipping what constitutes their common country. Sacred also are the waters of the Kabul (Kubha), of Qoomaal (Gomati), of Kuram (Krumu) and of Swat (Suvastu) on whose banks were sung the hymns of the Rigveda.”

Kabul is the main river that flows through eastern Afghanistan and Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province before it merges with the Indus river in the latter country.

Qoomaal is a river that rises in eastern Afghanistan near Sarwāndī on the Khumbur Khūlē Ghar (Ghar is mountain or range in Pashto, one of Afghanistan’s most widely spoken languages), and enters western Pakistan near Domandi, also a river in Pakistan and Afghanistan, before it joins the Indus river. The Swat and the Kuram rivers also originate in Afghanistan and flow through Pakistan.

‘A confederation’

RSS functionaries claim that ‘Akhand Bharat’ is a confederation of all of India’s neighbours, with Bharat as its leader.

“The security, prosperity, happiness and peace of our neighbouring countries is connected with Bharat as these countries are not just neighbours but were part of Bharatvarsh as one people. We feel that Bharat has to rise to be a gathering point and play a supportive role to realise it,” Vaidya told ThePrint.

Senior RSS functionaries said the Modi government should play a more proactive role in supporting crisis-ridden neighbouring countries like Pakistan and Sri Lanka to stop them from playing into China’s hands.

It was never geopolitical boundaries, according to RSS functionaries — it’s about the future of the country’s foreign policies, international border issues, and a peaceful and “cultural” amalgamation of all neighbouring nations under India’s leadership, they said.

Apart from Punjab and West Bengal both of which have non-BJP governments all the border states, as well as the Union territories of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh, are aligned with this idea of piecing together ‘Akhand Bharat’, senior RSS members added.

The RSS calls itself the “ideological mentor” of the BJP, to which Prime Minister Narendra Modi belongs.

India has already witnessed major shifts in foreign policy, and more is in the offing, senior RSS members said.

“Work is being done in the direction to make ‘Akhand Bharat’ a reality,” said a Sangh functionary in Delhi.

“We have done our own research and we know people in Pakistan and Bangladesh want to be in a democracy like India. We came to know that when Ramayana was re-telecast during the pandemic, at least 30 per cent of fan mails came from Pakistan. These are but small examples.”

Also Read: Aibak, Akbar, Aurangzeb—the Gyanvapi divide & why a controversial mosque has a Sanskrit name

‘Changing political scene’ 

A central executive committee member of the RSS told ThePrint that the changing political climate in the country would help achieve the idea. The change, the member said, is reflected in India’s foreign policy as well.

“One can see the major shifts in foreign policy. PM Modi has been travelling to all neighbouring countries since he assumed office in 2014. This never happened before,” he said.

“We are not saying that all these countries will suddenly join the political map of India, but this is a start. We’ll certainly have a cultural integration soon that will lead to a confederation of all these countries under Bharat,” he added.

The RSS believes that Muslims, even those living in India’s neighbourhood, are “organically Hindus made different” by invading forces.

“Bharat has always been a unified land. From Afghanistan, Pakistan to Tibet, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, we were all together and organic Hindus. Muslims living in our neighbouring countries also know this,” a Sangh functionary said. “They were Hindus not by religion but by culture. The change is artificial, forced on them by western forces and invaders.”

Mohan Bhagwat, this functionary said, was always “prophetic”.

“He used to tell us that we’ll see the Ram temple in our lifetime. And we’re seeing Ram Mandir in our lifetime,” he added. “We never thought that Article 370 [of the Indian Constitution] would be done away with in J&K. But that has also been done. In fact, that was the first step in preparing the ground for Akhand Bharat.”

(Edited by Uttara Ramaswamy)

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