Sunday, September 22, 2013

Savarkar's Strategic Agnosticism

Today, I am attempting a paraphrase of the paper "Vinayak Damodar Savarkar's 'Strategic Agnosticism: A compilation of his Socio - Political Philosophy and Worldview" by Siegfried O. Wolf that was published by the Heidelberg Papers in South Asian and Comparative Politics in January 2010. Readers are encouraged to finish the paper after the paraphrase to capture what I couldn't.

Paraphrase: -

The author recognizes that there are two mainstream views on Savarkar, one where Savarkar and his socio - political vision (Hindutva) are seen as the greatest enemy for a modern secular society. The other is one which considers it to have a legitimate place in political life. But according to him, the big picture of what Savarkar thought, is lacking and his piece seeks to cover that gap in people's understanding of Savarkar. The tool used for that is an analysis of Savarkar's philosophical tenets and worldview. This is done by taking fragments from all of Savarkar's various writings, which can be split into three different categories: 1) the non political literature, 2) Historical studies, and 3) Political statements.

Siegfried recognizes that the basis for Savarkar's thoughts is strategic agnosticism. The three major premises that one must hold while analyzing Savarkar's works are as follows:

1) The supremacy of Western political and social thought in Savarkar's philosophy and worldview: While Savarkar had gone over the holy scriptures, he was also impressed by Western literature, which related to rationalism in religion, liberty in thought and equality in fundamental rights. 

2) The 'clash' of two different worldviews: The two worldviews are 'world and life negation' and 'world and life affirmation'. Believers of 'world and life negation' think that man's existence on earth is meaningless and sorrowful and (a) live a life of self denial of pleasures, (b) do not try to improve their living conditions. Believers of 'world and life affirmation' think the opposite. Savarkar developed a critical attitude towards aspects of 'world and life negation' in Indian literature and endorsed 'world and life affirmation' aspects. 

3) Savarkar's agnosticism - Religion as an extension to the portfolio of political strategies: Savarkar accepted only those aspects of religion that seemed rational. He never accepted religious books as the final word, and always sought to evaluate them according to current times. Other aspects of Savarkar's agnosticism include accepting that rules of physics govern the universe and Hinduism as a collective identity for all Indians. He wanted to instill the idea that service to the nation ought to be the religion of his countrymen. He accepted that 'holyland' can be a place where one earns merit through patriotism. In this context, it is possible for non Hindus to accept India as a 'holyland'. 

Savarkar's philosophical outlook included five aspects: (1) Utilitarianism (2)Rationalism and Positivism (3) Humanism and universalism, (4) Pragmatism and (5) Realism. He wanted social reform with these in mind. His idea of philosophy of life included a portfolio of elements drawn from classical Indian thought, western social and political philosophy and his own experience and observations. Savarkar's strategic agnosticism comes from rejecting some aspects of the Hindu faith that could not fit in with this portfolio. With this background, the author wishes that Savarkar be viewed through a new analytical and scientific study in order to learn the foundations of Savarkar's vision of the Indian nation-state.

1 comment:

webasura said...

My thoughts on Hindutva thought leaders and political leaders choosing agnosticism or even atheism to identify themselves: