Samarasta/ Social Harmony : Fraternity for Equality
Samarasata, not a principle but the practice of freedom, equality and fraternity, is the answer to why I should treat others with equality, why I should defend their freedom and why treat them as brethren
Many in India are very creative when it comes to create confusion and delusion in people's minds about the words and concepts from RSS' ideology. The RSS started using the word Samarasata
(harmony) in public discourse since about 1983. The veteran pracharak of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and great thinker late Dattopant Thengadi used this word for the first time in the social context. He was the first to give the phrase
samajik samarasata (social harmony). The Samajik Samarasata Manch was formed with the objective of social harmony with the inspiration from the RSS and it started its work in Maharashtra. The idea that ‘equality is impossible without harmony’ was put forward from
Everyone, from Kanshiram to the
intellectuals in our own vicinity, started objecting that the samarasata was a slow poison, inequality was being
inflicted in the name of harmony, Manuvad was being reinforced etc. This debate has not stopped yet. Prakash Ambedkar also challenged the Sarsanghchalak for a debate on samarasata. Many bigwigs firmly believe that accepting the phrase samarasata was akin to accepting RSS, Hindutva and the idea of Hindu Rashtra. Their followers also blindly accept leader’s words as final. Hence, it is pertinent to understand what the RSS wants to convey through the word samarasata.
Let us think of equality first. The
preamble of our Constitution has three words – freedom, equality and fraternity.
Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru had put this
preamble before the Constituent Assembly on December 9, 1946. The word fraternity was not there in the draft
presented by Pt. Nehru. When the
responsibility of redrafting the preamble fell on Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar, he put in the word fraternity in addition to the
freedom and equality. He knew that fraternity was necessary if the Indian state was to change into a nation state. The sense of we all being one, brethren of each other should be imbibed in the mind of every Indian. A state consists of only
people while the nation has a nationality as well as national people.
Freedom, equality and fraternity are not three words but three principles. Of these, the principles of freedom and equality are being debated across Europe for last many centuries. On Liberty, Rousseau’s thoughts on equality, Rights of Man by Thomas Penn etc. are considered to be classic books on this subject. The discussion on equality and freedom has been mainly on political angle. The Europe had the monarchy; people revolted against the king in France, they killed the royal family and gave a cry of freedom and equality. We can run the state without a king, we need freedom for that, all citizens are equal, there should be no discrimination between feudals, knights, aristocrats and labour class; everyone was equal was the message of the French revolution. Before that, there was a revolution in America. The Americans rejected the monarchy of the Britain. They said, “We will run our state. The parliament where we have no representation does not have the right to levy tax on us. We do not need the inequality of rulers and subjects. We want equality.” The Charter of American Freedom that Jefferson wrote had a statement, “All Men Are Created Equals”. It meant at the time that all white American people were equal. Jefferson did not offer equality to all the people living in America or the then slave Negros. Even French revolution did not give equality and freedom to Asian and Africans living in French colonies.
Dr Babasaheb's thinking and stand were not so narrow. Babasaheb would say, “I have taken the three principles of freedom, equality and fraternity not from the French revolution but from my guru Bhagwan Gautam Buddha”. This means that only political equality or political freedom is not useful. The social condition in Europe and America and the social condition in Bharat have a sea difference. The political situation was also equally afar. Europe had a monarchy but that monarch was native. Bharat had a foreign monarch. Europe and American societies had class divisions. The Bharatiya society had divisions of class and caste. Class and castes are very different. The class can be changed, but caste cannot. There is an unequal distribution of rights where the castes at the bottom of pyramid have no basic rights. In a class society, the status of a person is decided not by his caste, therefore he can attain higher status by his qualities. This was not possible in Hindu society even until recently.
The equality and freedom assume an altogether different meaning in such a society of social inequality. Equality means all people are equal. To respect this means rejecting the hierarchical system of castes. The classification of Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Shudra do not fit in the idea of equality. Speaking of the race, everyone's race is one. In the society based on the social equality, the freedom means freedom of thought, freedom of profession, freedom of knowledge, freedom of faith etc. This idea of freedom also rejects the social inequality and its Manuvadi basis.
The Constitution has given the equality and freedom to all. The law is there to protect it. However, the law cannot ensure the equality and freedom to everyone. Babasaheb used to say that the sense of fraternity should be in the entire society to experience the equality and freedom in the social life. Fraternity, and not the law, ensures the equality and freedom. What is fraternity? And why it can't be given by law? The fraternity is a mental state. No parliament in the world can enact a law to change the mental state of an individual or a group of individuals. Even if such a law is enacted, it is of no use.
How can the sense of fraternity be created in the society? Since fraternity is a mindset, it needs an emotional base. The blood relations create the sense of fraternity in the family. Innumerable unwritten rules, codes and conventions take place. We follow them naturally. There is an incident from Mahatma Gandhi's life. He was taking his morning stroll and was climbing the hill. At the same time, a girl was climbing the hill carrying her brother on her back. Gandhiji's assistant asked her, “Child, where are you going?” The girl answered, “I am climbing up the hill”. The assistant said, “Why do you carry this load on the back?” The girl replied, “It is not load, he is my brother. I am taking him up to show beautiful scenes.” Gandhiji became very serious with this reply. The sense of affinity is like this. When it is in the heart, there is no sense of load, one never feels someone as other, the toil taken for him or her are not felt as toil. Even today, the toil that the mother and father, sisters and brethren take for each other know no bound. This sense of affinity thickens the fraternity. Another name for the sense of affinity is fraternity. The Bharatiya Constitution proclaims the freedom, equality and fraternity. The sense of intense affinity should be there to actually experience all these three principles in the social life.
The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh works to create such living sense of affinity in every element of the Hindu society. The ultimate objective of Sangh is organising the Hindus. Which Hindus? The Hindus who were divided into thousands of castes, thousands of languages and thousands of sects were to be united. The chaturvarnya was the basis of organising Hindus at one time. It had become redundant now. Organising the entire Hindu society based on inequality was a far-fetched possibility. The basis of universal equality is utmost necessary for the organisation. The organisation cannot happen without equality. How to establish the equality? How to experience it? These were the intricate questions at the time of formation of RSS. It is said about the Hindus that no four Hindus walk in one direction unless there is fifth on their shoulders. To make them march in one direction was a tedious task. The RSS has done it. The RSS could do this only because of the experience of sense of affinity.
His Life was His Message
Dr Hedgewar established the ideal for this. He was born in an orthodox Brahmin family. The atmosphere at home was also like that. However, Dr Hedgewar would effortlessly go to houses of various castes. Sometimes he would dine there. He would drink tea at their houses. An incident from his life is there in which he was offered tea when he
visited a poor person's house. At that time, Dr Hedgewar would not drink tea. The person could not afford anything except tea. He was poor. Dr Hedgewar left home without taking anything. The disappointment that he could not offer anything to Dr Hedgewar was reflected on his face. Dr Hedgewar realised this. He became very uneasy after returning home. His face loomed before his eyes every now and then. He got up in the night, took the workers with him, went to that person's house and drank the tea
that was skipped in the morning. Thus, Dr Hedgewar started drinking tea. This affinity has become the soul of the RSS' work.
Dr Hedgewar's life is full of affectionate incidents like this. Everyone who worked with him such as Appaji Joshi, Yadavrao Joshi, Balasaheb Deoras, Sri Guruji, Dadarao Parmarth experienced this. His affinity towards was not born out of sympathy but was based on the basic value that the 'entire society is my own'. Dr Hedgewar never gave speeches on ending untouchability or eradicating castes. Because, nobody leaves one's caste or stops following untouchability by hearing speeches. One has to practice on it. Bharat Mata is the mother for all of us. We all are her children. Thus, Dr Hedgewar displayed the sense that our mother is one and all of us are her children and created the lives that lived with this sense. Samarasata is the another name of the organic feeling for our nation.
Bachcharajji Vyas was a swayamsevak from Nagpur. He had an orthodox Brahmin family. Eating from a person of another caste was anathema. There was RSS camp. Bachcharajji Vyas wanted to attend the camp. Everyone eats together in the camp. That did not suit with Bachcharajji Vyas' rituals. Dr Hedgewar allowed him to come to the camp and provided him separate ingredients for cooking. On day first, he ate separately but next day, he refused the ingredients and ate with all others. He abandoned the thought of untouchability. Dr Hedgewar did not lecture him to abandon it. In one of such camps, the swayamsevaks said that they would not eat with swayamsevaks of other castes. Dr Hedgewar said to them, “Your row will be different, but I will eat with those whom you have refused.” The next day, these swayamsevaks also abandoned the insistence on separate row and they became 'swayamsevaks' in the real sense.
Why does a member of Hindu society follow untouchability? Is he cruel by nature? Dr Babasaheb had raised these questions and he replied that, Hindu person is religious.If one does not follow the untouchability, it would amount to be a sin. The untouchability would not go from social practice unless this basis is not taken away.
Sri Guruji: Embodiment of Samarasata
The untouchability has been abolished through the Section 17 of our Constitution. This means that the State will not follow untouchability and anyone who follows it will be punished. The untouchability has not ended after the enactment of the law. It has not disappeared from the public life. The basis of the religion has to be taken away from. Shri Guruji did this work. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad's convention took place at Prayag in 1967. It was at this convention where Shankaracharya himself put the resolution that untouchability was not part of the religion. The resolution was passed that Hindu can never be patit (fallen). The convention of the dharmacharya took place at Udupi in Karnataka in 1969. The mantra that all Hindus are brethren was given in this convention. The Jagadguru and all the acharyas released a leaflet addressed to all Hindu society in which all Hindus were appealed to give up the untouchability. Shri Guruji staked all his might to fulfil what Dr Babasaheb expected.
Shri Guruji was also a live incarnation of the sense of affinity or samarasata. His eyes would become tearful as soon as he would see the pangs of the society. Shri Guruji could not bear their suffering like this. A beggar used to sit near his house in Nagpur. Once after returning from a tour, he observed that the beggar was not in his place. When he inquired, he came to know about his death. Shri Guruji became serious and said, “How could have his last moments passed? None of his close-ones was near him. How painful!” and tears came down from his eyes. Once while coming out of a railway station, a coolie was walking with heavy luggage on his head. Shri Guruji asked those with him to squeeze and make way for him. Quoting from a Sanskrit couplet, he said that the pregnant women, kings, learned men and porters should be given the way first. Shri Guruji would eat just once. When he was asked the reason for this, he said, “Crores of people in Bharat do not get even one-time meal. Their faces came before my eyes and I cannot take even a bite”. Shri Guruji's whole life was one with the nation. He had warned that the China's aggression was going on in the northern frontier. The government did not know this. When someone asked Shri Guruji, how did he know of this? Shri Guruji answered that the northern side of his body was quite uneasy for few days so he came to know. A rational person may not be convinced with this. However, those who have experienced from Shri Guruji's life as to what it is to be one with the nation would not see it as untrue.
The issue of social harmony received more impetus during the time of Balasaheb Deoras. Sangh Swayamsevaks have initiated service works in numerous sectors like education, health, employment, rural development, environment protection, drinking water supply etc. There number stands today at more than one and a half lakh. Work is going on in different sectors like tribals, nomadic people, urban slums, children on platform, labourers etc. The Sangh Swayamsevaks are the first to rush to any place of natural or manmade calamity. Swayamsevaks have rushed to every venue like the cyclone in Andhra, earthquake in Killari, aeroplane crash at Chakri Dadari and flood in the Uttaranchal.
Not a Principle but Practice
While thinking of equality, the State has to take an active role to bring equality in practice. Special facilities and plans have to be made for the backwards, reservation has to be provided. Weak and powerful cannot compete together. Weak ones have to be protected. Various schemes like reservation, discount in fees, grants for disease and houses etc. are to be provided. RSS' stand on these issues is of affinity. These facilities should be provided to those who need them. Balasaheb Devras would say that while considering these facilities we should adopt the mindset of those for whom they are meant for. We should experience their pain. When such affinity or samarasata is created in the minds, there will be no unnecessary opposition to them.
Samarasata is not a principle but the practice of freedom, equality and fraternity. Samarasata is the answer to why I should treat others with equality, why I should defend their freedom and why treat them as brethren. They and I are not different. “Mai nahi, tu hi,” (Not me but you alone) was the mantra of Shri Guruji's life. This mantra is so full of meaning that a book can be written on it. All of us are the manifestation of an infinite truth. One single energy resides in us. There is no place for discrimination here. We have to understand this and practice it in daily life. RSS does not indulge in speeches neither does it give lectures. RSS provides the experience of equality. RSS provides the experience of fraternity. RSS is the school of how we should live with the sense of affinity. That is why we have to say that this sense of affinity, this sense of being one with the joys and sorrows of others is samarasata and that is the life of RSS.
The writer is a founder member of Samajik
Samarasta Manch and a senior Journalist