Manmohan Vaidya, All India Prachar Pramukh of the RSS, in conversation with Smriti Kak Ramachandran
Does the Sangh Parivar see itself as the custodian/torchbearers of the Hindu society and religion and why?
No. We never thought of the RSS as a custodian of religion or anything. We only create awareness about our ancient cultural values among people. It is a false allegation against the RSS, by those very people who pose themselves as a custodian or saviour of the entire society. They see the RSS through the prism of religion.
What according to Sangh is its role in the present Indian society?
The RSS basically is engaged in the work of character building and organising the entire society of the country. Society needs people with integrity, character, discipline, work culture, awareness and pride about our ancient spirituality - based view of life. It needs people with a feeling of love and a bond for all irrespective of caste, language, way of worship et al. Only then can the country march ahead, progress and prosper. Creating such people is the role of Sangh and we are seeing more and more people coming forward to do some social work, just out of this bond of love.
How far do you think does the RSS’ social and religious views matter to the common Indian.
The RSS does not work in religious arena. But the cultural, social views and conduct of swayamsevaks in society has resulted in growing credibility and confidence about the RSS. This is the source of widespread and consistent growth of the organisation. All sections of the society welcome, accept, support and trust the RSS across Bharat.
Hinduism allows pursuing different disciplines and beliefs within it. The importance given by the RSS to the worship of Lord Rama or devotion to cows is seen as an attempt to narrow down an essential diverse faith.
In RSS we have swayamsevaks who follow different religious disciplines and beliefs (including Christianity and Islam). Some may worship Lord Rama as a deity but for many Lord Rama is an embodiment of our cultural values and is adored by all irrespective of one’s gender, caste, religion, language or province. The cow has been the backbone of our prominently agrarian society because of the medicinal importance of its milk, urine and dung. It is becoming more relevant seeing the menace created by excessive use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, resulting in the growing importance of organic farming.
Even other countries are studying and accepting the importance of Bharatiya breed of cows. It has nothing to do with faith. In Rajasthan there is a Muslim working for cow protection and having a Gaushala.
Often the RSS and its affiliates like the VHP underscore that Hinduism is under attack from other religions. This, when the RSS says Hinduism is a way of life...
The RSS has never blamed others and thinks that we ourselves are responsible for the present condition of Hindu society. Hence we are working amongst Hindus for social transformation. But Hindus are attacked and discriminated by people from a particular religion who think that Hindus do not subscribe to the faith they believe in. What happened to Pandits in Kashmir, Reangs and Chakmas in Mizoram? Their only fault was that they were Hindus and refused to convert. What has happened recently in Malda, West Bengal? Somebody from UP said something (allegedly blasphemous) some months ago. The person is arrested and in police custody. Why were the Hindus in Malda attacked, their shops burnt and property looted? It happened only because Hindus are in minority and the administration is biased.
The RSS was supposed to pass a resolution on population imbalance. You had sought a wider debate on the Upamanyu Hazarika Commission’s report that illegal migration from Bangladesh is threatening to reduce the indigenous population of Assam.
Sarsanghachalak Mohan ji Bhagwat in his Vijayadashami speech has already addressed this issue stressing the need to have a national population policy that looks at the total resources available and young hands needed for our country after 50 years. We have discussed this issue in our last national council meeting at Ranchi in October 2015.
BJP President Amit Shah recently said there is no question of compromising the core ideology of Sangh Parivar in any action of the central government or the BJP. How much weight does the RSS pull in shaping BJP’s policies?
I cannot speak on behalf of Amit Shah or BJP but I think BJP as a party has its own ideology which is reflected in its manifesto that BJP made public before the 2014 Parliamentary elections.
Bhaiyyaji Joshi said at the Pratinidhi Sabha that the prosperous should not demand reservation and it has to be seen if benefits of caste-based quotas have reached the intended beneficiaries. This was followed by the RSS saying it backs quotas for SC/ST/OBCs in its current form. Is there pressure from the BJP to not articulate the Sangh’s stand on reservation?
Unfortunately, social discrimination has been practiced in Hindu society for centuries and it is based on birth in a particular caste. Such sections were deprived of the facilities and self-honour others were enjoying. Reservations were provided for such class to bring them at par with others. As long as there is social discrimination in our society, reservations should continue. We all should work together to end caste-based social discriminatory practices and create a ‘Samarasa Samaj’. If the benefit of reservation has not reached the most deserving section of the society even after more than 65 years of independence, we need to look into it and come with some corrective measures to realize the vision of the Constitution makers at the earliest.
The RSS has passed resolutions for accessible, affordable and quality healthcare and education, you have flagged budget cuts for these welfare sectors; which are the other areas where you think the government needs to focus more?
It is essential that quality education and healthcare facilities be accessible and affordable to all. Not only the government but social institutions, educational trusts and social leaders also should take initiative for this. That was the focus of the resolutions passed at the Pratinidhi Sabha – 2016 in Nagaur (Rajasthan).
The RSS has been complaining that there has been a surge in the attacks against RSS members. Your comment.
It is really a matter of serious concern that RSS members are attacked and killed mercilessly. In Kerala one Sujith was assaulted and killed in front of his old parents and family members by CPM goons. Recently a peaceful protest march of BJP supporters was attacked with stones and iron rods by CPM workers injuring 26 including ex BJP state president of Kerala V Muralidharan. What is shocking is no political party and so-called ‘torch bearers of humanity’, votaries of freedom of expression or democracy have come forward to condemn this murderous vendetta. No media has covered this dastardly incident on prime time or written editorials or held discussions on TV channels. But such violence will not deter the confidence, commitment and resolve of RSS workers to serve Bharat Mata.
There has been a demand, especially the youth to push for decriminalisation of homosexuality. Dattatreya ji also indicated at the India Today conclave that it is not a crime. Do we see the RSS agreeing to the opinion that homosexuality should be decriminalised?
Dattareyji himself has clarified in his tweets that “homosexuality is not a crime, but socially immoral act in our society”. He has not advocated punishment, but they have to be treated as a ‘psychological case’. Gay marriage is institutionalization of homosexuality. Hence it should be prohibited. Approach to homosexuality should be ‘no criminalization, no glorification either’.
Has there been any decision yet on allowing marriage for full-time pracharaks?
Changing with time has been a characteristic of Hindu way of life. Accordingly, changes also occur in RSS functioning from time to time and this tradition will continue. There is a misconception about Pracharaks. There may be at least 3,00,000 active workers of the RSS holding some charge. Not all of them are Pracharaks. Most of the Sangh work is carried out by earning members with families or by students. In many districts, there is not even a single Pracharak and still growth is visible in these areas. There are a few who are not paid, but decide to devote all their time to doing the work of the RSS as their ‘first priority’. These are called ‘Pracharaks’. They are hardly one per cent of the total number. When a Pracharak wants to marry he may opt for it and continue to work as a RSS Karyakarta. He then ceases to be a Pracharak as his priority naturally will be family matters.