In an effort to woo neo-Buddhists, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief KC Sudarshan lauded Dalit messiah BR Ambedkar and quoted Hindu priests as saying that the architect of the Indian constitution was forced to lead Dalits out of the Hindu fold because of the "grave mistakes of our forefathers".
In a Vijayadashmi speech replete with laudatory references to Ambedkar and Mahatma Gandhi in Nagpur on Sunday, Sudarshan revealed that Babasaheb Ambedkar had made efforts to have the ban on the RSS lifted post the January 30, 1948, assassination of Gandhi.
Sudarshan's effort at bridging the gap between neo-Buddhists - a modern Buddhist revivalist movement in India - and the upper caste Hindu organisation that he heads assumes significance in the backdrop of the mammoth golden jubilee celebrations of 'dhammachakra pravartan din' scheduled at the historic Deekshabhoomi in Nagpur on Monday.
Ambedkar had embraced Buddhism along with thousands of his followers on October 14, 1956, in Nagpur on Vijayadashami or Dussehra day. The RSS was founded on the same day in 1925.
Nagpur witnesses two major events on Dussehra every year - the RSS' Vijayadashmi rally and the dhammachakra pravartan din rally of Ambedkarites.
This year however, the RSS function was held a day prior to Dussehra. The golden jubilee rally of dhammachakra pravartan din, being held to commemorate the conversion of Dalits to Buddhism, is to be held on Monday, which is Vijayadashmi.
Sudarshan quoted the second RSS chief late MS Golwalkar praising Ambedkar for choosing Buddhism, "an offshoot of Upanishadik philosophy, born in India," instead of embracing an alien religion.
He also quoted Mahasthavir Chandramani and other Buddhist monks as saying in 1956 that Hindu religion and Buddhism are two branches of the same tree.
The RSS chief's speech also contained allusions to Azhimulla Khan, an important leader of the 1857 War of Independence, Sadguru Ram Singh Kuka who led the 1862 Kuka (Namdhari) agitation, Sardar Bhagat Singh besides several Hindu saints and acharyas.
Indirectly praising Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for being circumspect while signing the civil nuclear deal with the US, the RSS chief expressed apprehensions about India getting into the trap of the US Congress which was seeking to introduce certain conditions.
Sudarshan however flayed Manmohan Singh for what he termed as giving Pakistan a certificate in Havana for being a victim and not a source of terrorism. Lt Gen (Retd) BT Pandit was the chief guest at the RSS rally.