The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s (RSS) plan to reach out to Christians by setting up an organisation on the lines of the Muslim Rashtriya Manch didn’t find favour with Catholics who form about 70% of the community.
The RSS was planning to float a Rashtriya Isai Manch, modeled on its Muslim wing that was formed in 2002 at the initiative of then chief KS Sudarshan. He made a call to Indianise all churches then but it failed to make much impact.
The Sangh, the BJP’s ideological mentor, has been sending feelers to the church for more than a year but to no avail. “It seems the church is wary of our overtures. Our move is not political but only want to create goodwill with the community and dispel some mutual apprehensions,” a senior RSS leader from central Kerala said.
RSS leader Indresh Kumar even met two archbishops and many diocese heads in December in New Delhi to discuss the plan. Later, it sent some functionaries to Kerala, which has the highest concentration of Christians in the country.
Some sections of the church were initially sympathetic to the BJP government at the Centre but reports of a plan to impose a ban on beef and the growing debate over intolerance sweeping through the country held them back. The VHP’s plan to reconvert some believers also added to their apprehension.
The Congress, which enjoyed the church’s backing in Kerala, too sniffed trouble and warned the RSS against the move.
Cardinal Baselois Cleemis, president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India, has made it clear that he was yet to be convinced about the need for such an organisation.
“We will wait and see what they have to offer. They say one thing but something different happens. So, let them be clear what they want. I am not of the opinion that an organisation cannot change positively in the future,” he said.
People see the move as the state BJP’s strategy to court Christians in a state going to poll in three months. When Sangh pracharak Kummanam Rajsekharan took over the party’s state president, one of the first meetings he held was with Cardinal Cleemis.