Patriotism and Hinduism were not separate from each other for the father of the nation Mahatma Gandhi, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat said at a book launch on Friday.

Speaking at Rajghat during the launch of Making of a Hindu Patriot: Background of Gandhiji’s Hind Swaraj, by JK Bajaj and MD Srinivas, Bhagwat said: “Gandhi ji has said my patriotism comes from my dharma. If you are a Hindu, then it is natural that you are a patriot.”

In the book, the authors have quoted Gandhi having written to Leo Tolstoy, “…My patriotism is patent enough, my love for India is ever growing but it is derived from my religion and is therefore in no sense exclusive.”

Bhagwat also stressed that Hinduism believes in the existence of unity. “Difference does not mean separatism,” he said, and quoted Gandhi as having said that his religion takes all other religions along.

Referring to Gandhi’s emphasis on Swaraj, or self-rule, Bhagwat said that for Gandhi the struggle for Swaraj was not only about replacing the rulers but the reconstruction of society based on civilisational values.

“A country is more than just land but when we say rashtra (nation) it means everything including the forest, the rivers and all living beings. You cannot understand what Swaraj is, till you understand swadharma,” he said.

Bhagwat also refuted the charge levelled by critics that the Sangh was trying to appropriate Gandhi. He said such personalities cannot be appropriated by anyone.

Even as the RSS has steadfastly distanced itself from Gandhi’s assassin Nathuram Godse, those critical of the Sangh allege that Godse’s Hindu Mahasabha was inspired by the RSS. The Sangh was banned for the first time after the assassination, but the ban was revoked in July 1949.

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