When I decided to pursue Ph.D. in political science, I was looking for a topic that I could base my research upon. I wanted to study various discourses of nationalism in India in recent times but couldn’t find anything new since it is a much-debated topic.
That’s when my supervisor Prof. Pawan Kumar Sharma suggested the name of Shri Dattopant Thengadi Ji.It was the first time that I had heard his name and so I took my time before making a decision. As I started reading about Thengadi Ji, I came to the realization that he was an exemplary figure, not just a politician but also a philosopher and a visionary. Despite not being acknowledged as an established theoretician on nationalism, his ideas give a refreshing and extraordinary perspective on Indian nationalism.
What captured my imagination and pushed me to contemplate was the distinction that he made between Rashtra and Nation and other Indian concepts that according to Thengadi Ji have been wrongly translated. I realized that there prevails a poor understanding of Indian nationalism and it has mainly been seen as right-wing propaganda to further their ideology Henceforth, I decided to take my professor’s suggestion and the topic of research for my Ph.D. is DISCOURSES OF NATIONALISM IN INDIA: A STUDY OF THE IDEAS OF DATTOPANT THENGADI.
It is a colossal task to capture such a great personality- a philosopher, visionary, organizer, economist, orator, author, and eminent thinker in one article. But here I’m attempting to write about Shri Thengadi Ji and his ideas.
Dattopant Bapurao Thengadi was an Indian Hindu ideologue, trade union leader, and founder of the Swadeshi Jagaran Manch, Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, and the Bharatiya Kisan Sangh.
He set up these organizations on the principles of Hindutva and nationalism and did not follow the then prevalent ideology of Marxism as his ideas differed significantly e.g. Marxism believed in conflict of classes but Thengadi Ji talked about the convergence of classes. In reality, Thengadi Ji was discontent with both the western models of development, viz. capitalism and socialism. Therefore, he propounded the ‘Third Way’ of socio-economic development based on the ideology of Sanatan dharma. Not only this he is also credited with exemplary speeches and books in which he has made a clear distinction between Indian concepts and their western translation and talked about his well-founded belief in Indian culture. Although he was a member of parliament in Rajya Sabha for two terms during 1964-76, he was a man of conviction and a strong advocate of simple living, clarity of thought, and self-reliance. He was a full-time RSS pracharak and referred to himself as karyakarta.
Thengadi Ji was not only a philosopher but also a visionary, way ahead of his times, who shaped the idea of Atmanirbhar Bharat decades ago. He allowed his ideas to develop with time and global changes. He laid the foundation of the economic philosophy of RSS and was one of the preeminent ideologues of swadeshi economics.
Thengadi Ji firmly believed in Indian culture and its ultimate success and took inspiration from ancient Indian concepts. It was at the centenary celebrations of Swami Vivekanand’s universal Vedantic message and Chicago address that Shri Thengadi Ji first spoke on a Global economic system that should contribute to a peaceful world, for this he suggested the Indian approach that emphasizes a just and non-exploitative world order. His philosophy was inspired by Sanatan dharma which, according to Thengadi Ji features universal laws that are constant and compatible with the ever-changing global order. Further elaborating on these universal laws, Thengadi Ji emphasized how these can act as guiding principles for the economic system that is in line with welfare and not exploitation. These laws are: ‘AVIBHAKTAM VIBHAKETSHU’, perceive oneness amid all diversities, and ‘VASUDHAIVA KUTUMBAKAM’, inter-relationship of one world. Thengadi Ji wonderfully explained these laws as the eternal message of Sanatan dharma and their relevance in contemporary times. Stating the importance and relevance of these principles, Thengadi Ji stressed upon unlearning the wrong and anti-future lessons to have a balanced understanding of the past, only then the desired present can be achieved.
One of the most important things that he highlighted, decades ago was the fact that the development or ideology of one particular region cannot be perceived as globalization as the conditions of living, availability of resources and everything else differ from region to region. Therefore, a holistic view of globalization and development should be taken into consideration before making anything standard. Only then an ideal Global order could be contemplated.
Thengadi Ji criticized the Indian intellectuals who consider everything western as standard and Hindu substandard and called for a deeper study of the Indian concepts which have been improperly translated and therefore largely misunderstood.
To conclude I would like to state that Thengadi Ji’s ideas and beliefs of providing universal health care, energy access, and poverty alleviation using the Indian approach should be further studied and sincerely implemented as it would not only strengthen the concept of self-reliance but also promote India’s contribution to humanity.