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Nothing Indian about the RSS

columns Updated: Feb 11, 2014 21:01 IST
Sujata Anandan

Before Caravan put the tape recordings of its conversations with Swami Aseemanand into public domain, I had some doubts about his claims that RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat had authorised the bombings of Muslim targets in such cold-blooded fashion as described in the story, a journalistic coup of this century.

Not that I doubted the veracity of the story per se but I had not thought that any one, least of all people in the RSS who have pretensions to intellectualism and describe themselves as custodians of Hindu culture, could be so utterly stupid or even so ignorant of a civilisation that eschews violence and values every life, including that of birds and animals, as one’s own.

If they really knew their Hinduism, the RSS should have realised long ago why Adi Shankaracharya had to rise from Kerala and travel through the subcontinent to set up several ‘mutts’ across the country to unite Hindus again into a single fold. The Shankaracharya happened because Hindus in that century were in danger of exiting the fold and embracing Buddhism or Jainism which were essentially non-violent responses to the very violent Hindu society prevailing at that time.

But, now, if I had even an iota of doubt about the RSS’ intellectual capacities, it has vanished after reading the cold-blooded and chilling account of Swami Aseemanand and I do not quite know how to critique an organisation in whose shadow I have grown up. (During my school and college days in Nagpur. I regularly saw my teachers, who were its members, riding their Vespa scooters, in what even then I thought were rather odd khakhi shorts, to the nearby maidan for their daily morning routines).

Just before the 1999 elections, the RSS undertook an exercise to regain its diminishing relevance. It wanted to indoctrinate more and more people and went visiting various homes across the country with its message — and a garish poster out of either the Ramayana or the Mahabharata. It stuck these posters on people’s beautifully polished doors against the will of the house owners.

Even then the only ones who welcomed them, politely, were either Muslims or non-believers in the RSS ideology. I inveigled myself into one of these groups in Pune and noticed that it tried to draw as many children as possible into its early morning shakhas (which were little short of indoctrination camps) under the guise of ‘vyayam’ (exercises) with parents crying off with the excuse of having to send them to school or tuitions.

But I was more taken aback by the responses of people who should have been believers — families of RSS pracharaks — who did invite them in but then they tore the campaigners apart for their outdated ways. I still remember the granddaughter of a pracharak’s sister telling one of the RSS workers, “You want me to use soap made of gomutra (cow’s urine)? You do not care that it might take my skin off and contribute to all sorts of dermatological problems?

Go to the adivasi areas where you might have more success but don’t tell me how to live my private life!’’ And she walked out of the house leaving everybody gaping open-mouthed. In a fast globalising India, the RSS wanted to sell her their desi carbolic to replace the skin-softening creamy soaps she used — even in something as material as this they were hopelessly behind times.

There were others less rude who still pointed out that in the 75 years or more of its existence the RSS had not evolved from its positions of the pre-Independence era — including continuing with a ridiculous uniform, unlike other garment anywhere in the world, inspired by the angrez’s need to let in some air in the hot and dusty India, a salute by Hitler’s Brown Shirts and a philosophy by Benito Mussolini.

There is nothing Indian about any of those RSS basics. No wonder then that they said, “We want something more from the RSS. Something that is more Indian without being completely outdated.’’

But the only ‘modern’ thing the RSS seems to have learnt since then is how to make bombs (and with no great finesse either) — this time inspired by the Islamic jihadis. And that, too, is as un-Indian as it can get.