The Arya Samaj was founded by Swami Dayanand Saraswati, whose motto was “‘back to the Vedas.”’ According to him the Vedas, the original Hindu religious texts, inculcated belief in omnipresent but invisible God and in the equality of human beings: he was therefore against the worship of idols and the caste system. Dayanand was a forceful Orator. Within a few years his voice was heard all over India. His iconoclastic monotheism and egalitarianism had special appeal for the Sikhs.
In the summer of 1877, Dayanand came to the Punjab, where he received great welcome from the Hindus and the Sikhs. He opened a branch of the Arya Samaj at Lahore. Proselytisation (Sudhipurification) was an important part of its activities, and gained many Hindu and Sikh adherents. However, the Granth, the Sikh holy book, was to him a book of secondary importance, and the Sikh gurus, men of little learning; Nanak, he described as dambhi (hypocrite). Dayanand was contemptuous of Sikh theologies because of their ignorance of Sanskrit: his favorite phrase for anyone who did not measure up to him was maha murkh (great fool). Dayanand set the tone; his zealous admirers followed suit. It did not take the Orthodox Sikhs long however, to appreciate that Dayanand’s belief in the infallibility of the Vedas was as uncompromising as the Muslims in the Koran (1).
The cult as directed by Dayanand was aggressive, and militant in its outlook to life. According to Dayanand the Raja (the King) should not shirk from making war. Making war on his enemy is a normal function of the ruler. He says in Yaju VII.37: ‘“‘The Raja should make all necessary preparations for the victory in war. By vanquishing the foes, he should make his people happy. He should make the righteous fearless and inspire awe and fear in the hearts of the wicked.” (Yaju VII.37). ‘‘Without winning victory the king cannot rule the people and cannot make them
happy.” (Yaju VIII.53). “The Raja should so strive that the victory over the enemies becomes easy.” (Yaju IX.11). ‘“O people! By having strong armies equipped with latest weapons, destroy your enemies and protect the righteous citizens, so that your enemies may not live in peace and the good people and your friends should not suffer. (Yaju III.61). The strength of a rajanyas (persons belonging to ruling class) lies in war. Great wealth and happiness are never secured without fighting. (2).
The rapid expansion of the Arya Samaj and the antiSikh bias of many of its leaders (3) constituted a challenge to the Sikh movement. It also brought about the final rupture between the Samaj and some of its Sikh supporters.
The Sikhs turned their backs on Dayanand; instead they joined the Muslim and Christians in demanding the suppression of Dayanand’s book, Satyarth (4), which maligned the prophets of their three faiths.
The rise and expansion of the Arya Samaj in the Punjab had a decisive bearing on the course of HinduSikh relations and on the pattern of antiBritish political movements in the province. The sudhi crusade (reconversion drive) launched by the Samaj was fiercely resisted by the Sikhs. The more the Samajists claimed Sikhism to be a branch of Hinduism, the more the Sikhs insisted that they were a distinct and separate community. This action and reaction broke up the close relationship which had existed between the two sisters communities.
Also, Dayanand’s teachings had a very strong political flavor. In proclaiming his intention to purify Hinduism of its postVedic accretions, he desired to liberate Hindu society from non-Hindu domination. His criticism of Islam and Christianity in effect was the criticism of Indian Muslims and the English. Consequently, the renaissance of Hinduism brought about by the Arya Samaj had a strong anti-Muslim and anti-British bias which was often discernible in the utterances of Punjabi Hindu nationalists, a large number of whom were Arya Samajists, e.g. Lajpat Rai, Hans Raj. The domination of the Indian National Congress by Arya Samajists gave the freedom movement an aspect of Hindu resurgence and was chiefly responsible for the aloofness of the Muslims and Sikhs.
As Kushwant Singh says, ‘“‘The chief cause of Sikh uneasiness in free India was the resurgence of Hinduism which threatened itself in a phenomenal increase in Hindu religious organizations, the revival of Sanskrit, and the ardent championing of Hindi. The Punjabi Hindu was more aggressive than the Hindu of other provinces. Organizations, notably those connected with the Arya Samaj and its political counterpart, the Jan Singh, started a cam paign to persuade Punjabi speaking Hindus to disown their mother tongue and adopt Hindi.’’(5).
The Arya Samaj made a determined effort for the spread of Hindi in the Punjab. Consequently the two Northern Indian states of Harayana and Himachal Pradesh have Hindi as their official language. As Dr. Ram Sharma an ardent supporter of the Arya Samaj claims, ‘“‘The clause in the Indian Constitution declaring Hindi to be the official language of the country is the work of some Hindi enthusiasts belonging to the Arya Samaj, such as Bakshi Tek Chand, Ghanshyam Das Gupta and K.M. Munshi who had at one been Secretary of time the Bombay Arya Samaj.’’ (6).
As quoted by Jones, “Brom the beginning, Arhas. Related ambigu ously to Sikhs and Sikhism. For Dayanand, Sikhism was one of the innumerable cults of Hinduism, to be noted, refuted, and then forgotten.”” Nanakji had noble aims, but he had no learning. He knew the language of the villages of his country. He had no knowledge of Vedic scriptures or Sanskrta.” (7). Without Sanskrit Nanak could have no _ understanding of the Vedas and without such understand ing could accomplish nothing of permanence.’’(8).
The early nineties saw a rapid escalation in tensions between Aryas and Muslims corresponding to a general worsening of relations between Hindus and Sikhs. The Arya attempts to defend themselves from external criticism and to maintain and enlarge their own group had succeeded, but increasingly at the cost of conflict within the Punjab.
The militant philosophies of the Arya Samaj are evident in the behayior and policies of the Reso (Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh), a communopolitical organization founded in 1925. The total thought content of the RSS can be summed up as follows: “Hindus have lived in India since time immemorial; Hindus are the nation because all culture, civilization and life is contributed by them alone; nonHindus are invaders or guests and cannot be treated as equal unless they adopt Hindu traditions, culture etc.; the nonHindus, particularly Muslims and Christians, have been enemies of everything Hindu and are, therefore, to be treated as threats; the freedom and progress of the country is the freedom and progress of the Hindus; the history of India is the history of the struggle of the Hindus for protection and preservation of their religion and culture against the onslaughts of these aliens; the threat continues because the power is in the hands of those who do not believe in the nation being a Hindu Nation; those who talk of national unity as the unity of all those who live in this country are motivated by the selfish desire of cornering minority votes and are therefore traitors; the unity and consolidation of the Hindus is the dire need of the hour because the Hindu people are surrounded on all sides by enemies; the Hindus must develop the capacity for massive retaliation and offensive is the best defense; lack of unity is the root cause of all the troubles of the Hindus and the Sangh is born with the divine mission to bring about the unity.’ (9).
“The RSS lien is very clear. It is a super a party, paramilitary organization which wants to take over the state and the nation and establish an authoritarian regime in the manner of the Nazi leaders.’’(10).
A quote from the late R.S.S. chief Golwalkar in a book he published in 1938, ‘“German race pride has now become the topic of the day. To keep up the purity of the race and its culture, Germany shocked the world by her purging the country of the semitic races Jews. Race pride at its highest has been manifested here. Germany has also shown how wellnigh impossible it is for races and cultures, having differences going to the root, to be assimilated into one united whole, a good lesson for us in Hindustan to learn and profit by.’’(11).
And what is the lesson he wants us to learn: “From this standpoint sanctioned by the experience of shrewd old nations, the non-Hindu people in Hindustan must either adopt the Hindu culture and language, must learn to respect and hold in reverence Hindu religion, must entertain no idea but those of glorification of the Hindu race and culture, i.e., they must not only give up their attitude of intolerance and _ ungratefulness toward this land and its age long traditions, but must also cultivate the positive attitude of love and devotion instead; in one word, they must cease to be foreigners or may stay in the country wholly subordinated to the Hindu nation claiming nothing, deserving no privileges, far less any preferential treatment, not even citizen rights.’’(12).
The R.S.S. methodology and propaganda for organizing riots has been analyzed into the following aspects by Subhadra Joshi as quoted in the Vythayathil Commission:
- Arousing communal feeling in the majority community by the propaganda that the non-Hindus are disloyal to the Nation.
- Deepening the fear in majority and playing on that fear complex.
- Infiltrating into administration and inducing the members of the civil, police and army services into adopting communal attitudes.
- Training young people of the majority community in the use of dangerous weapons.
- Spreading rumors to widen the communal cleavage and giving to any incident or movement a communal color.”
A review of the riots that have occurred in free would show that this technique has always been at play. Training camps of the RSS are held every six months. The administration and the machinery of law and order have been penetrated and affected. One has to only look at the recent outbursts of ant communal violence that erupted in India as a result of Indira Gandhi’s assassination as detailed in a recent paper by the Indian Civil Liberties Union, titled “Who are the Guilty?” (17).