Years after Manmohan Vaidya tried to impress this upon swayamsevaks of the RSS, sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat said it during a programme in Ranchi. He narrated the incident from the stage during one of his travels to the United Kingdom. Bhagwat told the audience, while he was talking to RRS volunteers in the UK, he came to know that the meanings of words in the conversation varied. “Therefore, do not use this word ‘nationalism’,” he said.
“Saying ‘nation’ will do, ‘national’ is okay, ‘nationality’ is fine too, but don’t utter ‘nationalism’ because nationalism means Hitler, Nazism, Fascism. The senses of these words have changed,” Bhagwat said.
Bhagwat said during his speech, “What do we observe a country doing once it becomes a superpower? It dominates the whole world. All the world’s tools are used for that one nation. Political power over the whole world, be it directly or indirectly… they try to achieve this. We try to paint the world in our own colours. All this goes on and on. So the learned people in a large part of the world think that it is dangerous for a country to grow as a nation.”
Bhagwat went on to explain he was talking to a group of 50 odd intellectuals who interrupted as he spoke. A swayamsevak rose to say, “Be careful about the meanings of words, Bhagwat ji. English is not your language and you will speak according to what you read in the book. But the meaning of words in a conversation varies. Do not use this word ‘nationalism’. You will say ‘nation’, ‘national’, ‘nationality’, but never ‘nationalism’ because Nationalism means Hitler, Nazism, Fascism.” Bhagwat said he was relaying what he heard from that event in Britain.
After he became the country’s prime minister, this word stuck out as a jarring note in an interview of Narendra Modi with Reuters. The news agency had asked him how he reacted to the allegation that he was a “Hindu nationalist”. Prime Minister Modi replied, “I am a Hindu. That is not a problem. I am a nationalist. That is not a problem.” Clearly, what Prime Minister Modi and his interviewer meant by “nationalism” were a world apart.
While Indians by and large use “nationalism” and “patriotism” interchangeably, the second definition of “nationalism” in the Oxford English Dictionary, which is the more popular sense in which it is used in the West is:
In Merriam-Webster, which is more popular in the US, the definition of the term that make it synonymous with “national supremacism” figures as the first entry [in standard dictionaries, definitions are arranged in the decreasing order of popularity. The American English dictionary defines “nationalism” as: