The recent three-day RSS baithak with the prime minister and his Cabinet subjecting themselves to scrutiny of the RSS is a reconfirmation that the BJP is nothing else but the political arm of the RSS. Legitimate questions arose on how ministers sworn under oath to our Constitution are reporting on advancing the RSS agenda of transforming the secular democratic Indian Republic into their version of a rabidly intolerant fascistic 'Hindu Rashtra'. These are being brushed aside by drawing parallels of ministers addressing industry associations. Unlike Prime Minister Narendra Modi's allegations of a 'remote control' directing the former UPA government, this BJP government is under the actual control of the RSS.
Recollect history. As India's first home minister, Sardar Patel, following the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, banned the RSS. In a communiqué announcing this on February 4, 1948, Patel said: "The objectionable and harmful activities of the Sangh have, however, continued unabated and the cult of violence sponsored and inspired by the activities of the Sangh has claimed many victims. The latest and the most precious to fall was Gandhiji himself".
The RSS pleaded for talks with the government for withdrawing the ban. On November 14, 1948, Patel's home ministry issued a press note on the talks that were held with then RSS chief MS Golwalkar, who made many deceitful compromises. Saying that the "professions of RSS leaders are, however, quite inconsistent with the practice of its followers", Patel refused to withdraw the ban. It was only on July 11, 1949 that the ban was withdrawn when the RSS buckled and accepted all the conditions set by the government including that it shall remain a 'cultural organisation' 'eschewing secrecy and abjuring violence'. All 'conditions' that it is brazenly violating today.
In an effort to bypass the prohibition on the RSS in the political arena, it was then searching for a political arm. In 1951, it sent cadres to help Syama Prasad Mookerjee, who resigned from the Nehru Cabinet, to start the Bharatiya Jan Sangh. Among those who were sent were Deen Dayal Upadhyaya, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, LK Advani and SS Bhandari (Basu, Datta, Sarkar, Sarkar and Sen, Khaki Shots: Saffron Flags, 1993, p. 48).
In 1977, the Jan Sangh merged with the Janata Party and its leaders joined the central government as ministers following the defeat of Indira Gandhi's Emergency. That government fell on the 'dual membership' issue with these ministers and MPs refusing to quit the RSS. The former Jan Sangh component of the Janata Party thus separated forming the BJP. The BJP has scrupulously functioned as the RSS' political arm since then.
The import of this is clear now. Instead of implementing the many promises they made to the people procuring their mandate in the 2014 elections, the singular agenda that this Modi government is vigorously pursuing is to advance the RSS agenda. It does not have the people's mandate to do this. Instead of naming a new road or renaming other central avenues not named after any historical personality in New Delhi, like Shanti Path, Satya Marg and Niti Marg, they have chosen to rename Aurangzeb Road to perpetuate the memory of President APJ Abdul Kalam. The communal motivation is obvious. Those advocating the abolition of the death penalty in India, in consonance with the majority of world's countries, are branded as Pakistani agents in the wake of Yakub Memon's execution. Those demanding equality in the delivery of justice by demanding prosecution of the perpetrators of the Bombay communal riots following the Babri masjid demolition as identified by the Srikrishna Commission (which also confirmed that the 'causative factor' for the Bombay blasts were the communal riots) are condemned as 'anti-national'. Our vice-president is being targeted for having delivered an enlightened speech reminding India that a Muslim problem is an Indian problem. Muslims are 14% of our population, or 180 million, making them the second largest in the world, living as a minority in our country. A majority of Muslims were an integral part of our freedom movement and now in the modern Indian story. This speech has begun a churning process that impels all of us to introspect and act.
By castigating the vice-president for this, the RSS is, once again, puncturing the potential of India to rise to higher levels of syncretic civilisational advance. If there is any lasting impact on the advance of human civilisation by India, it is such syncretic evolution for centuries. Modern India has been the land where exciting intellectual and civilisational confluences took place. Prince Dara Shikoh, the legitimate inheritor of the Mughal throne after Shahjahan, murdered along with other brothers to allow Aurangzeb's accession, had authored in 1654-55 a short treatise in Persian titled Majma-ul-Bahrain (the mingling of two oceans). The prince learnt Sanskrit and meticulously translated the Upanishads into Persian. The West became familiar with these Sanskrit Upanishad texts through these translations which travelled through Arab lands. The prince translated "in order to discover Wahad Al Wujud (Singularity of the Creator) hidden in them". According to the prince, Islamic Sufism and Hindu mysticism converged on this concern though the forms of worship are vastly different.
Such religious and theological confluences elevating India's civilisational evolution were unfortunately aborted by the course of history. These threads of syncretic evolution that further enrich our civilisational content need to be picked up. Instead, all such efforts are being thwarted today. Aurangzeb ascended the throne as 'Badshah', admirably aided by religious zealots then. Communalism today prevents India from reaching greater heights of civilisational advances.
This is the biggest disservice being perpetrated by this BJP government. This comes over and above the betrayal of all promises it made to the people to capture their mandate.
(Sitaram Yechury is general secretary of the CPI(M) and a Rajya Sabha MP. The views expressed are personal.)