Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya was born on September 25, 1916, in the village of Nagla Chandraban, some 30 km from Mathura. On February 11, 1968 — when Upadhyaya had been president of the Jana Sangh for just 43 days and was at the height of his popularity — he was found dead at Mughalsarai railway station. The cause of death remains unknown.
The BJP-RSS have launched massive celebrations for his birth centenary, aiming to pitch his ‘Integral Humanism’ against prevailing socio-economic ideas. Snapshots from Upadhyaya’s life and philosophy:
He joined the RSS in 1937, became a Pracharak, and remained so for the rest of his life. After Independence, as the RSS decided to spread its ideology, Upadhyaya set up Rashtra Dharma Prakashan in Lucknow, and launched the monthly magazine Rashtra Dharma and later, Panchjanya, with Atal Bihari Vajpayee as its first editor. In 1951, Upadhyaya and Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee founded the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, the political arm of the RSS. By 1957, the Jana Sangh had 243 regional and 889 local committees, and 74,863 members. Upadhyaya remained its general secretary from 1951 to December 1967, when he became its president.
Bharat Mata and Hindi
“The foundation of our nationalism is Bharat Mata. Remove Mata, Bharat will be reduced to just a piece of land,” he famously said, which is now the foundation of the Sangh Parivar’s idea of Mother India. In his presidential address to Jana Sangh delegates in 1968, he described Mother India as a woman with the characteristics of Sujala, Suphala (overflowing with water and laden with fruits), and Dashapraharana Dharini Durga (Durga with her 10 weapons), Lakshmi and Saraswati.
Upadhyaya favoured Hindi as India’s national language. In “A New Jaliawala”, a famous editorial in Organiser in 1963, criticising the Official Languages Bill that proposed that English would continue to be used for official purposes, Upadhyaya wrote: “If [Home Minister Lal Bahadur] Shastri claims that this Bill enhances the status of Hindi, I feel constrained to say that he is wilfuly trying to dupe the people.”
The Bill and the proposed continuation of English “violated the Constitution”, he said, as the “Constitution-makers intended to allow, if necessary, English only for some limited purposes”. He noted that Shastri brought the Bill on Baisakhi, the day on which the Khalsa Panth was born, and the outrage of Jallianwala Bagh was perpetrated.
What would Upadhyaya have said on the current debate on intolerance? His writings offer some very significant pointers.
He noted that “Vedic Sabhas and Samitis were organised on the basis of democracy, and many medieval states in India were completely democratic”. On one occasion, he quoted the famous statement — “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it” — which is often presented as a summary of Voltaire’s political beliefs, and wrote, “Indian culture goes beyond this and views democratic discussion as something through which we arrive at the essence of thought.”
According to Upadhyaya, “The mainstream of democracy has been tolerance. In its absence, elections, legislature, etc., are lifeless. Tolerance is the basis of Indian culture. It gives us strength to find out what the public at large desires.” Elsewhere, he wrote that “democracy is not merely the rule of the majority”, as in such a system, “at least one segment of the public will be there whose voice is stifled even though it may be right”.
Thus, “anyone who has a different opinion from the majority, even if he a single individual, his viewpoint must be respected and incorporated into governance.” Significantly, he cautioned against the rule of the mob — recalling that “the public that was celebrating the murder of Julius Caesar with Brutus a moment ago” was roused against Brutus after Mark Antony’s speech.
“It is difficult to keep alive democracy between the two forms of government — mobocracy and autocracy,” he wrote.
Though extremely critical of Indian communists, Upadhyaya’s stance on Marx was nuanced. Marx, he noted, “raised (his) voice to protest against” the evils of the industrial revolution that had made the worker “a victim of torture”. “He commented on the economy and history in order to bring about a transformation. It was on the basis of his thought that socialism assumed a scientific standing. The later socialists may or may not have subscribed to his views, but he has left a deep imprint on their thinking,” he wrote.
However, “wherever the Communist Party takes up an issue, their aim is not to resolve it but to generate dissatisfaction and create a conflict.”
According to the RSS-BJP, this philosophy, one of their “guiding precepts”, was “first presented” by Upadhyaya “in the form of four lectures delivered in Bombay on April 22-25, 1965”. Here’s what Upadhyaya said: “Bharatiya culture looks upon life as an integrated whole. It has an integrated view point… We have thought of life as Integrated not only in the case of collective or social life but also in the individual life. Normally an individual is thought of in the physical bodily forms… Body, mind, intelligence and the soul — these four make up an individual. But these are integrated. We cannot think of each part separately… The confusion… in the West is due to the fact that they have treated each of the above aspects of human being separately and without any relation to the rest… Often it has been propagated that Bharatiya culture thinks only salvation of the soul… This is wrong.”
The ideal is “of catering for the needs of body, mind, intellect and soul with a view of achieve the integrated progress of man… Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha are the four kinds of human effort.”
From Upadhyaya’s own words, it appears that he thought of “Integrated” as part of ancient Indian thought, and not as something he devised or propounded.