Akhand Bharat – a forbidden dream

An archaic philosophy to establish cultural hegemony over a region is clearly regressive

The idea of a unified subcontinent doesn’t sound so parlous keeping in mind the collective good of the concerned countries. But surely becomes delusive if it comes fuelled with ideas of establishing the political and cultural hegemony of a particular region across the subcontinent, then it seems a tad bit disappointing.

Ask any of the RSS followers about India’s geographical map and he would talk about the age-old belief of re-establishing the idea of “Akhand Bharat” and will go on to draw a map which includes Afghanistan, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Tibet, Pakistan, and Bangladesh as part of the Indian landmass.

This forgotten and sidelined view of India’s geographical boundaries came under limelight when BJP’s national secretary and RSS pracharak Ram Madhav spoke of “Akhand Bharat” or ‘United India’ described as the re-unification of Pakistan and Bangladesh among other neighboring countries “through popular goodwill”. This statement stirred up a controversy at a crucial time when Prime Minister Modi made a surprise Lahore visit to re-emphasize his ‘soft’ diplomatic skills. Madhav gave this answer in ‘Head to Head’- an interview show broadcasted by the Al Jazeera channel – in response to anchor Mehdi Hasan’s question regarding India’s map that he saw at the RSS office, which included Pakistan and Bangladesh as its inseparable arms. The show was telecasted at a time which eventually shifted the whole discussion surrounding Modi’s visit to the debates questioning the underlying intentions of the BJP since, it carries the baggage of Hindutva ideology of the RSS from which the party took birth.

The akhangbharat.org website’s ‘about us’ section provides a little background and tries to give reason behind harboring a forbidden dream as this, it states –

“An astonishing fact of the breadth of our country’s political map was till early 20th century was 76,56,000 Sq KMs and today we will also be astonished to know that our country is at a stretch of only 31,59,450 Sq KMs that means less than half of its size then where did the other land go? During the Mogul and Church rule i.e., British rule we have lost our land because today’s Afghanistan, Pakistan, Tibet till Amod were our parts which we have lost and today we are left over with less than half of our land, why do you think this happened like this, it was because of our ethic less politicians since ages and till date, and you may be aware that in spite of victory over Pakistan war in 1971 we had to leave a part of our land to them why did it happen that way, the conversions were started during Mogul and British rule on this land and still after the so called Independence we are unable to stop their conspiracies why?”

Akand Bharat

The Sangh believes that all the land that lies south of the Himalayas and north of the Indian ocean is Bharat. All those who live across the Himalayas till the Indus River and the sea are Hindus, constituting a single race that had a monolithic culture during the Vedic times. Their philosophy stands on the pillars of common culture, common land and thus common blood. It propagates the view that the Muslims, Christians or the Buddhists originated from this single piece of land, and didn’t come down from any other foreign land. And that, whoever adopted other religions due to various historical reasons are still a part of a shared civilizational bond. RSS continue to produce literature in the form of books and songs which propagates the vision of “Akhand Bharat” and making it a reality.

“I and many like me strongly hold the view that the coming together of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh as people, on the basis of mutual goodwill and shared common historical ties, is a very important step to overcome our strained political relations.”, Madhav wrote in Indian express explaining his view over the whole controversy. He further added, “Let me reiterate that the “Akhand Bharat” doctrine is a cultural and people-centric idea. I was not even remotely suggesting that we should redraw the boundaries of our countries. But I do notice great eagerness and urge among the people in all the three countries for greater engagement and interaction.”

Going through some of Quora’s Q & As regarding the “Akhand Bharat” issues – Is the idea of Akhand Bharat an impossible goal now? – the majority have rejected the regressive ideology and pointed out how any such step can ultimately result in the collapse of the whole economy as all our neighboring countries perform poorly on the global currency charts. And some pointed out even the need of debating issues from the bygone era.

But, in times of massive globalization, small countries now want to become part of the global economy. And this can be done by exercising economic integration with immediate neighboring countries. This can draw the subcontinent to greater unity and can create better economic and technological networking within those countries. Restoring the historical unity of the common land by rising above the questions of cultural dominance, according to some, may result in greater trans-regional cooperation.

More than anything else, this whole clash between the hyper-nationalists’ historic beliefs and the rejection of those beliefs by their contemporary counterparts after a long time, has set the debate burning.

It is true that our subcontinent is still the least integrated one, and it does not need unity on the cultural and political lines as outlined by the Sangh – those will be the fault lines. Instead, it needs regional confederation on the lines of economic, information and development – based lines. This  and will act as an iceberg in the way of a ‘modern day’ regional integration. The subcontinent needs a lot more than a race for securing any nation’s dominance over the other. It needs non-hegemonic and a voluntary confederation.

Aarushi is pursuing a postgraduate course in journalism from Indian Institute of Mass Communication, Delhi. Born and brought up in the metropolis, she is from Palampur and remains deeply rooted to the hills and its cultures.

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