Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav - as a bridge to monolithic cultural identity of RSStext_fields
Modi Government’s two-year-long project to celebrate the 75th Independence Day under project Azadi ki Amrit Mahotsav (AKAM) and laying foundation for “Amrit Kaal” for the next 25 years has been running for a while. The project presents a new cultural and historical identity for democracy in effect by rejecting the ideas of constitution – an effort that is in full swing already through various activities. On 12 March 2021, with exactly 75 weeks to 15 August 2023, Narendra Modi inaugurated the dream of a new India at Sabarmati evoking memories of the life of Gandhiji and incidents like Dandi March. Along with smuggling in ideology everywhere, it boosts emotional patriotism by glorifying martyrs and violent forms of freedom struggle together with dismantling importance of non-violent forms of national movement. The program has been ongoing through every arm of the government from the military to primary schools.
Moreover, the office of the Indian Council of Social Science Research, the museum department, and various other government entities like Doordarshan and All India Radio are working overtime to achieve agendas of cultural Hindutva. Various ground-level/outreach activities also have started recently by introducing new themes with focus on both election and propagation. The philosophy behind all this was clear in what J Nandakumar, convener of RSS think tank team wrote in the Organiser:
“As we celebrate Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav, it is important for us to revisit the whole idea of the Bharatiya freedom movement from the perspective of Swa (“our Selfhood”), which has much to inspire our people and will, hopefully, unfold its true meaning to the people of our times. This is a great opportunity for all of us to revisit, refine and reinvent our lost ‘collective truth’ about the whole narrative of freedom struggle, to explore and acknowledge the unsung heroes of the freedom struggle as well as to change our perspectives to analyse the unfolding truths about our past and collective identity.”
Under Akam, the BJP, which hitherto hoisted national flag until 2002, conducted a mega flag-hoisting event in 20 core households named Har Ghar Tiranga on Independence Day of 2022 under the theme of Akam. For this, the flag code was amended to allow polyester or machine-made flags, criticisms arose that the historical relationship between tricolour, khadi, and independence movement would be disturbed. It is also paradoxical to Akam’s own main theme of “Atma Nirbhar Bharat” for promoting local business and becoming self-reliant. Reliance is the largest manufacturer of polyester in the country. it was in same year a school in Tamil Nadu denied permission to Dalit women Panchayath president to hoist the flag because of of her caste identity. The Organiser, mouthpiece of RSS wrote an article in its August 14, 1947 issue,
“The people who have come to power by the kick of fate may give in our hands the Tricolour but it will never be respected and owned by Hindus. The word three is in itself an evil, and a flag having three colours will certainly produce a very bad psychological effect and is injurious to a country.”
The continuing gimmicks such as statue building has been progressing along with other means for boosting cultural identity like building/reshaping museums, renaming historical places, and deconstruction of heroes to replace or extort credit for the freedom struggle as in the revival of Alluri Sitarama Raju, Andhra Pradesh, Adi Shankaracharya, Kerala and many more with the initiation of new programs under Akam.
RSS has been trying to swallow Alluri Sita Raju in disparate ways and included him as part of the Akam events. Interest in Alluri Sita Rama's revival both to make the ground safe in state politics of Andhra Pradesh and to create a space in the freedom struggle that RSS had no role in. The popular film bearing his name, statue construction, renaming districts under his name, etc. are nothing but saffronizing a man who stood for his nation and people with agitation against the inhuman aristocracy under colonial rule. Additionally, the privilege of his caste identity is satisfactory for the state and Brahmanical politics of BJP. Similarly, in the case of Adi Shankaracharya, who was an ancient philosopher and ardent propagator of the varna system, at the beginning of Akam celebration Modi arrived at Kaladi, Kerala, where he was born, tweeted about the revival of his intellectual traditions and even tried to link Sree Narayana guru and Ayankali as his “followers". In fact, the event was an effort to replace Sree Narayana Guru in the cultural space of Kerala with Shankaracharya who dedicated his life to the reformation of Kerala society that was mired in the muddle of caste inequality.
The introduction of new memorial days and holidays inducing nationalism or those that engender hate towards Muslims such as Partition Remembrance Day on August 14, which happens to be the Independence Day of Pakistan and Guru Tegh Bahadur Shaheed Divas on November 24, started in the last few years. The partition of India was the darkest incident in Indian history without any doubt but it is beyond comprehension how remembering the wounds over and over could heal it or stop creating more partitions. The period of partition was the precise time for this country to take a turn towards either secularism or theocracy. The current generation bears neither the aftereffects nor traumas of the incident are conditioned for the next partition by the RSS.
“Partition's pains can never be forgotten. Millions of our sisters and brothers were displaced and many lost their lives due to mindless hate and violence. In memory of the struggles and sacrifices of our people, 14th August will be observed as Partition Horrors Remembrance Day," PM Modi tweeted
These actions and prolonged discussions of BJP leaders and IT Cell also cover up the role of organizations like Hindu Maha Sabha in causing partition and blaming Muslims/Muslim league as the sole cause of partition. This announcement which was made in 2021 right after the failure of managing Covid crisis was also to “reconcile the image losses”. When the country reaches its 75th year of independence after fighting over countless struggles and poverty/human issues alongside making memorable progress in economic/scientific fields, this government is pushing back India to the same starting line by cancelling everything except communalism.
Remembrance Day of Guru Tegh Bahadur Singh also does the same by taking advantage of Sikh religious sentiments. Guru Tegh Bahadur is a legendary leader who devoted his life to human rights and religious freedom. He was publicly executed for protesting against the forced religious conversion laws of Aurangzeb. The reason and background of the Guru's dedicating his life has been getting lost in India and hence the declaration of the government of a day to remember him. Simultaneously enacting exclusivist laws like CAA that are not different from the law alleged on Aurangzeb and remembering the martyrdom of this leader is nothing less than an insult to his legacy. After the series of rewriting of history, the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR) is using Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav for running parallel outreach activities that can make more results on a long-term basis. Also, the MHRD and UGC are pushing the use of logos and themes of Akam in every academic program and seminar.
The major option on the website of Azadi ki Amrit Mahotsav is the Digital District repository and unsung heroes' section to remember unknown freedom fighters and events in the history of the independence struggle. This serves as whitewashing machines of RSS and Hindu Mahasabha's leaders. There were controversies on removing many freedom fighters from the list of ICHR's; thus the website's database has to be counted as an extension of it. This concentrates on localization and popularising modified history everywhere by validating its own inglorious past.
The results of Nashik district of Maharashtra in the forgotten heroes section of Akam show the founders of “Abhinav Bharat Society” which had an almost similar ideology of Rastriya Swayamsevak Sangh such as upper class-exclusivist plank, bellicose patriotism clubbed with Hinduva nationalism. Along with reconstructed glorifications of leaders V.D Savarkar and his family members Yesubai Ganesh Savarkar, Sakhram Gorhe, and RSS Pracharak like Hamant Laxman also portrayed as prominent freedom fighters from Nashik. As in Nashik, in the case of Nagpur district also important faces of forgotten history begin from Keshav Baliram Hedgewar whose biography highlights the foundation of RSS as his key contribution to the state. Digital district repository detail also adds significant malfunction to history as mentioned in Nagpur’s forgotten heroes. DDRS shows DrGV Ketkar, among the Akam site of 'unsung heroes' as the contributor to the nationalist movement while he better lived as editor of Kesari, a Maratha publicationand president of Hindu Mahasabha.
The project has been updating new initiatives day-to-day as intake/inclusion of Adivasis to the mainstream and bringing their contributions of independence to light. It includes the beginning of the celebration of new days like tribal pride day/Jan Jaathiya Diwas on the birth celebration of Birsa Munda which is not different from other initiatives - frenzied patriotism, a ploy to cover up the disdain towards tribals, distorting history and taking credit of martyrs by standing beside killers in past.