Efforts to give the RSS a makeover are duplicitous
Mohan Bhagwat’s three-day lecture outreach to dress up the RSS with a modern, inclusive and liberal image is an exercise displaying its characteristic duplicity. This is akin to its attempt (familiar to my generation) to lure youth to join its ‘shakhas’ through ‘vyayamshalas’ (body building clubs).
The main thrust of this outreach was to address the perception that RSS is a communal Hindu organisation by stating that ‘Hindu Rashtra’ does not mean that it has no place for Muslims. “The Sangh works towards universal brotherhood and the cardinal principle of this brotherhood is unity in diversity. This thought comes from our culture, which the world calls Hindutva. That is why we call it a Hindu Rashtra.”
Let us examine these two words ‘Hindutva’ and ‘Hindu Rashtra’. The term ‘Hindutva’ was coined by VD Savarkar in 1923 stating that it had nothing to do with the Hindu religion. It was a political project for the creation of a Hindu nation. To achieve this, he gave the slogan, “Hinduise the military, militarise Hindudom”. The basic thrust was how to unite the various sects, faiths and religions who consider India as both their motherland and holy land (to the exclusion of Muslims and Christians). Former RSS chief, MS Golwalkar, wrote his theses ‘We or Our Nationhood Defined’ in 1939 where he defined the RSS vision of ‘Hindu Rashtra’. He provided both the ideological foundations and the organisational network in order to achieve the RSS project of a fascistic ‘Hindu Rashtra’. Here he defines the role of the non-Hindus by stating that: “There are only two courses open to foreign elements, either to merge themselves in the national race and adopt its culture, or live at its mercy so long as the national race may allow them to do so. .….must learn to respect and hold in reverence Hindu religion, must entertain no idea but those of the glorification of the Hindu race and culture, i.e., of the Hindu nation and must lose their separate existence…” (pp. 47-48)
Later, in the 1966 book, Bunch of Thoughts, in a chapter on ‘Internal Threats’ (for the Hindu Rashtra), he lists out Muslims, Christians and the Communists in that order. Bhagwat says that what was said in this book is not eternal and it was said in a context and those do not remain static. But Bhagwat stopped short of negating what Golwalkar said.
This is the moot point. Of course, the nearly 200 million Muslims living in India today cannot be expelled. But what will be their status under the ‘Hindu Rashtra’? The Indian Constitution provides equality to all its citizens “irrespective of caste, creed or sex”. Will they be equal citizens living their life with liberty and dignity?
The experience of the last four years of the Modi government, yet again, confirms that the BJP functions as the political arm of the RSS. The murderous attacks on the Muslims and Dalits in the name of cow protection, the private armies of moral policing dictating to our children — how they should dress, what they shall eat and whom they can befriend — and attacks on them for not following such instructions, mob lynchings, campaign of ‘love jihad’, dehumanising child rapes and murders, have all created an atmosphere of hate, violence and terror in many parts of the country, particularly in states with BJP governments.
This experience is a chilling reminder of what Golwalkar’s conception of ‘Hindu Rashtra’ means. Bhagwat spoke on many other issues as well. On the issue of murders and violence over cow protection, he says that there should be stringent punishment for those who take the law in to their own hands, but there should not be double speak. Just as our voice is raised against incidents of lynching, there should be protests against cow smuggling. This is the classic forked tongue manner of speech. Since protests against cow smuggling are seldom held, mob lynching is justified. All BJP-ruled states where such terror escalates have laws for cow protection. Why are they not being implemented?
He called for a new education policy which will include our (read ‘Hindu Rashtra’) value based systems. On language policy, though he called for the need to preserve all languages, but said that we should respect our mother language, i.e., Sanskrit, and that we need to push for its popularisation through more literature. On religious conversions, he said that this should not be based on ulterior motives. His example: stop the money being paid to attend church. Since the determination of “ulterior motives” will be done by public perception generated by the RSS, attacks on religious minorities institutions are, thus, justified.
In sum, this exercise was an effort to take the RSS through a beauty parlour to effect an image change. A leopard can never change its spots.
Sitaram Yechury is general secretary of the Communist Party of India
The views expressed are personal