RSS cannot broaden its appeal if it excludes women from its ranks
It could make concerted efforts to end child marriage, discrimination against Dalit women and for better gender laws. But for all this, it needs the active participation of women and their inputs which are surely not lacking in India.editorials Updated: Oct 14, 2017 09:25 IST
Rashtriya Swayasewak Sangh (RSS) spokesman Manmohan Vaidya was most incensed at news reports that the 92-year-old organisation is considering letting women into its shakas. The close-to-six million-strong RSS has often courted controversy with pronouncements by its leaders, which have been regressive on the issue of gender rights.
One is that the woman forms the fundamental unit of the family and her priority is to raise children in the best of Indian traditions. Its leadership hierarchy has been strictly restricted to men as also its rank and file. Yet in recent times, it has effected cosmetic changes to project what is considers is modernity in the form of a change in uniform. The leadership has also called for greater inclusiveness and actively courted the minorities though not always with great success. In fact, it has a small Muslim affiliate.
And it also has a women’s wing which however has no role in the decision-making of the organisation that envisions a more homogenous India in tune with Hindu tradition. But since it claims to be a cultural organisation, it is passing strange that its attempts at modernising should chose to exclude women from its ranks.
Yet, the BJP of which it is a mentor organisation, has actively promoted women to high office. There can be no argument in favour of excluding women from the organisation if it is looking to broaden its appeal. There are many issues concerning women that the RSS can take up given its reach and power.
If there are more women in it, it could make a much greater push for women’s education, for their health and reproductive rights, and many other things. It could make concerted efforts to ending child marriage, bringing down discrimination against Dalit women and having better gender laws. But for all this, it needs the active participation of women and their inputs which are surely not lacking in India. To put women on a pedestal as devis and the embodiment of virtue has done nothing for their rights. On the contrary, vicious crimes against them are rising. If it puts its mind to it, the RSS can do a lot to transform gender equality across India. But the vehement denials of accepting women into its ranks as though this were an undesirable proposition does not suggest that it has changed its mindset to reflect the reality of a modernising India where women have to be given their rightful place. These attitudes are precisely why it has not evolved to reflect the aspirations of a younger India, half of which comprises women.