The Hindu Janajagruti Samiti, or HJS, was established on 7 October 2002 for the “Education of Dharma, Awakening of Dharma, Protection of Dharma, Protection of the Nation and Uniting Hindus.” The group is known to be associated with the Goa-based Sanatan Sanstha, which was founded by Jayant Athavale in 1999. The Sanstha’s website states that it was established to “present Spirituality in a scientific language to those curious about Spirituality.” After the murders of the rationalists Narendra Dabholkar and Govind Pansare—on 20 August 2013 and 16 February 2015, respectively—both these organisations and their rhetoric in support of Hindutva came under public scrutiny because of the alleged roles that their members had played in the killings. On the day Dabholkar was murdered, after the news had broken, the HJS uploaded a photograph of the activist with a red “X” over his face onto its website—it later took down the image on the direction of the Pune police. In a statement that was published on the Sanstha’s website the next day, Athavale wrote that “such a death for Dabholkar is a blessing of the Almighty.”
On 16 September 2015, a special investigation team of the Maharashtra police arrested a “seeker” from the Sanstha, Sameer Gaikwad, on suspicion of his involvement in Pansare’s death. In September 2016, the Central Bureau of Investigation filed a chargesheet alleging that Virendra Tawade, a Panvel-based doctor, was a key conspirator in Dabholkar’s murder. Tawade, who had been arrested by the CBI in June 2016, was previously a member of the HJS and was associated with the Sanstha as well. The Sanstha spoke out against both Gaikwad and Tawade’s arrests, terming the former “a conspiracy,” and the latter, “an Act 2 of ‘make Sanathan Sanstha the scapegoat.’” On 17 June 2017, Gaikwad was granted bail by a sessions court in Kolhapur.
Early in June, the HJS reportedly demanded a beef ban across the country. The HJS’s national guide, Charudatta Pingale, said, “There are 33 crore gods residing in the cow and this is our faith. The Constitution gives us a right to protect our faith.” Pingale made this statement in the run-up to the sixth edition of the All India Hindu Convention in Goa, a four-day event—jointly organised by the Sanstha and the HJS—which was held from 14 to 17 June. The resolutions passed at the convention included demands for: India to be declared a Hindu state; a ban on cow slaughter; the declaration of the cow as the national animal; a ban on religious conversions; and the construction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya. In late June, Sagar, a web reporter with The Caravan, sent a questionnaire addressed to Pingale over e-mail. In his response, which was also sent over e-mail, Pingale asserted that Gaikwad is innocent, expressed his faith in Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Uttar Pradesh’s chief minister Adityanath regarding the construction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya, and deemed the need for a Hindu nation “inevitable.”
Sagar: Is the HJS a religious trust, an offshoot of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh or a unit of the Sanatan Sanstha?
Charudatta Pingale: The Hindu Janajagruti Samiti is an independent charitable trust. A great thinker of the RSS, Shri Gopalrao Gokhale had put forward the concept of “Spirituality-based structure of the Nation.” Hindu Janajagruti Samiti has taken inspiration from this concept and taken up the mission of establishing the Hindu nation. In the present times, the founder of Sanatan Sanstha, Paratpar Guru (Dr) Athavale has expressed the thought of the spirituality-based Hindu Nation. This thought is very much in line with the thinking of the Samiti and hence, Paratpar Guru (Dr) Athavale is a source of inspiration to the Samiti and the Sanatan Sanstha is a like-minded organisation.
S: What is the position of the HJS on Prashant Juvekar—a member of the Sanstha who was accused and subsequently acquitted in a case regarding a bomb blast in Madgaon, Goa, in 2009—and Sameer Gaikwad?
CP: To cut the story short, the present system is hanging the renunciant instead of the criminal. In the Margao bomb blast case, Prashant Juvekar has been acquitted of all charges after four years in jail. It is surprising that he is still being termed an accused. We have no doubt that Mr Sameer Gaikwad will be known one day for having been imprisoned for 21 months in spite of committing no crime.
S: Many lawyers and judges participated in the All India Hindu Convention. They urged Hindu lawyers secure the release of those Hindus who had been arrested after communal riots and bomb blasts. Could you elaborate on how the HJS was able to bring judges and lawyers on one platform for the common cause of the “establishment of a Hindu Rashtra?”
CP: Your question itself is incorrect. Do lawyers and retired judges have no freedom? Remember, the Indian judiciary is an independent body where, through the medium of the testimony of witnesses and evidences, the judgement as to who is guilty and who is exonerated is decided; however, the Congress that terms itself secular, used power to inflict injustice on many devout Hindus. Sadhvi Pragya Singh is an example of the injustice by the Congress regime. [Pragya Singh Thakur is a former national executive member of the RSS’s student wing, the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, who was accused in a case regarding bomb blasts in Malegaon, Maharashtra, in 2008, and released on bail in April 2017]. Therefore, the HJS thinks that Hindu advocates should help the suffering Hindus when injustice is done to them or they are imprisoned for no reason.
S: During the convention, one of the speakers, Harishankar Jain, had suggested that Hindus should “retaliate” against terrorist organisations such as Islamic State. Was a resolution that would call for an armed operation to be waged by Hindus to establish a Hindu nation passed by the convention?
CP: No. No such resolution has even been discussed in the convention. We firmly believe that the Hindu nation can be established in Bharat only through the constitutional means.
S: The stated vision of the HJS is that that the present democratic and secular system of this country has led to the decline of “Dharma.”
CP: A detailed explanation about this aspect can be given; however, let us first consider two examples.
The present democracy and secularism have not only caused harm to Dharma, but also the Nation and the citizens. As per the British historian Angus Maddison, Bharat’s GDP [Gross Domestic Product] in 1 AD was 34 percent of that of the world and Bharat was the leading Nation in development and growth. Today, Bharat has debts of crores of rupees, there is unemployment, inflation is on the rise, there has been a failure to curb the Naxalite and terrorist menace. The question that arises is “who has benefited from the secularism?” Today, in Bharat, citizens neither have equal rights nor is there secularism; instead, what is prevalent is minority appeasement. The Muslims are in majority in Kashmir and Christians are in majority [in] Nagaland and Mizoram. They are in minority in rest of the states of Bharat; however, Muslims from Kashmir and Christians from Nagaland and Mizoram avail all the benefits of minorities. The slogans raised in JNU [Jawaharlal Nehru University], such as “Bharat tere tukade honge” [“India will be torn into pieces”] are being termed as “Freedom of speech.”
- A news [report] appeared on 15 June 2017 stating that “Firhad Hakim, the minister for urban development in the ministry of West Bengal has been appointed as the president of the famous Hindu Tarkeshwar temple in the Hugli District of West Bengal.” However, has this secular government ever appointed a Hindu as an administrator of a mosque or Wakf Board?
- The secular Government in the nation gives a subsidy of Rs 826 crore every year for Haj pilgrimage. Why is such subsidy not given to we Hindus for Amarnath and Manas Sarovar pilgrimages?
If under the pretext of secularism, there is so much interference in [a] Hindu’s religious arena, it need not be mentioned separately how much interference will be there in [a] Hindu’s social life. The Constitution not only agrees that equality is a fundamental right, but also assures that there will be no religion-based discrimination among citizens. However, it has been noted over the years that under the pretext of secularism, politicians on one hand are resorting to religion-based discrimination and on the other hand, depriving Hindus of their fundamental rights. Numerous examples can be cited about this aspect.
It is ironic that “secular”—a word that the parliament has dared not define for the past 70 years—is being used for gaining political mileage. The citizens, government and the politicians appear highly confused about this. It is this confusion that has made the demand for the Hindu nation inevitable.
S: Several news reports have stated that Firhad Hakim was made the head of the Tarakeshwar Development Board, and not the temple, in charge of activities such as infrastructure development, in his capacity as the state’s urban development minister. Would you still oppose the appointment?
CP: Our point of view considers this a matter of faith. This is not about the board or the temple. Hindus form a major part of the population in this country. One can find many highly-educated and well-qualified people from among them. Over the years, many Bengal-based Hindu organisations such as the Bharat Sevashram Sangh, and Ramakrishna Mission have been functioning impeccably. Despite this, the “secular” government has hurt the sentiments of Hindus by appointing a Muslim minister to this post. We firmly stand by our demand that no secular government should control Hindu temples. Hindu Dharmgurus and organisations are well equipped to do this.
S: The news website Scroll published a report in January 2017, which noted that apart from the subsidy for the Haj pilgrimage, the Indian government provides a range of other subsidies, mostly for Hindu pilgrimages, including the Manasarover Yatra. The report notes that the centre had spent Rs 1,150 crore on the Allahabad Kumbh Mela. Do you believe that there should not be a state-funded subsidy for any pilgrimage people belonging to both the Hindu and Muslim communities?
CP: The tenets of Islam state that the merits of Haj are earned when it is performed with one’s own earnings, then why is it done on state funds? Regarding the funds being provided to Kumbh Mela, it is imperative to note that these funds are utilised to strengthen the infrastructure and development of the place. The funds are not used to subsidise any Hindu pilgrim’s expenses.
People undertake pilgrimages to accrue merits. Even today, one billion people pilgrims do so by funding it themselves. They don’t beg from the government. Indians travel all over the country and the world as tourists, and they pay for the travels themselves. If India truly has a secular government, then it should not interfere in matters of faith. It is not necessary of the government to provide subsidies to any pilgrimage.
S: Presently, how many centres are the HJS and its sister organisations running to educate Hindu children on the Vedas and Puranas across the country?
CP: Though the Hindus are in majority, the government does not allow education on Dharma in schools. At the same time religion-based protection is bestowed upon the minorities and they are allowed to impart education on Dharma from their schools. Due to this religion-based disparity, Hindus cannot impart education on Dharma from government schools. Hence, the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti, depending on its capability, teaches spirituality in Hindu Dharma privately, through Dharma-shikshan-vargas (discourses imparting knowledge about Dharma). Presently, 450 Dharma-shikshan-vargas are being conducted in Bharat. This year, we have for the first time, appealed to like-minded organisations to start Dharma-shikshan-vargas in their fields.
S: How would the stated aim of the sixth edition of the All India Hindu Convention—establishing Hindu Dharma and a Hindu nation—be achieved?
CP: The sixth All India Hindu Convention was primarily held to help the cause of establishing the Hindu Nation. The Hindu organisations that participated in the convention have agreed on the following common action programme:
It was decided to awaken people across Bharat about establishing the Hindu Nation through Hindu Dharmajagruti Sabhas. These Dharmasabhas will be organised from November 2017.
As a measure of helping the society, a team of 750 activists and 66 doctors has been formed to help the government during calamities.
It was unanimously decided to fight unitedly and legally against the evil tendencies that have blossomed in fields of governance, trade and politics. The attendees agreed and decided to conduct workshops on various issues such as imparting knowledge on the Right to Information (RTI) Act, consumer awareness, and unfair trade practices such as food adulteration.
S: Will a Hindu Rashtra have space for Muslims or those from other minority or marginalised communities?
CP: Why not? A clear picture about the attitude of a community is available from the group’s history. When ancient Bharat was a Hindu Nation, it gave shelter to all minorities such as Jews, Parsis, Shak, Hun, Kushan etc; for, a Hindu always thinks of the welfare of the world. Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj has proven that the welfare of all castes and sects can be attained by establishing a “Hindavi Swarajya” (Hindu nation). Like other sects, there is neither “Jihad” nor “Crusade” in Hindu dharma.
All that we want to say is let the Hindu Nation be established. I can tell you one thing that in the Hindu Nation it will not be first donation, then admission and then education, as is prevalent now. The system will be first admission, then the education and only then Gurudakshina. There will neither be any appeasement nor injustice to anyone!
S: T Raja Singh, a BJP member of legislative assembly from Telangana and a speaker at the convention, demanded that the construction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya begin by 2019. If this did not happen, he said, he would quit the party and mobilise one crore Hindus to march towards Ayodhya to build the temple. Would the HJS join such march and mobilise Hindus to construct a Ram temple?
CP: In the All India Hindu Convention, a view was expressed in this regard that all should participate in the movement for the construction of the Ram temple. However, the organisations participating in the sixth All India Hindu Conventions expressed confidence about Yogi Adityanath and Narendra Modi, that these leaders will very soon construct [a] Ram temple in the Ram-janma-bhumi [birthplace] through constitutional means. From this perspective, it was resolved in the All India Hindu Convention that the Union Government should pass a bill for the construction of Ram temple in Ram-janma-bhumi. Vishwa Hindu Parishad has taken up the issue of Ram temple, so also the Santsamaj (Saints in Bharat) and Hindu Mahasabha are looking after the task of building the Ram temple. Therefore, if they unitedly appeal for the construction of Ram temple, the HJS will definitely support them.
S: Many speakers at the convention criticised the Modi government for not fulfilling its promise on Ram temple, the Uniform Civil Code and abrogation of Article 370. Does the HJS see hope in Adityanath and would it like to see him as the next prime minister?
CP: Expecting certain things from the tasks undertaken by an individual does not amount to criticism of that individual. For us, Narendra Modi and Yogi Adityanath are leaders of Hindus. Hence, instead of leaders such as Lalu Prasad Yadav and Rahul Gandhi, who have been accused of corruption, if either Narendra Modi or Yogi Adityanath becomes the next prime minister, the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti will be happy.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
Sagar is a staff writer at The Caravan.