Hindutva forces must listen to RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s message of tolerance | editorials | Hindustan Times
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Hindutva forces must listen to RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s message of tolerance

Mohan Bhagwat’s message of inclusion and tolerance should trickle down to the rank and file of the RSS who have often acted as though it has carte blanche to do as it likes with a friendly government in place

editorials Updated: Sep 13, 2017 20:33 IST
RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat offers prayers as he celebrates his birthday with sadhus, Haridwar, September 11
RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat offers prayers as he celebrates his birthday with sadhus, Haridwar, September 11(PTI)

The recent statements from RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat seem to mark a welcome shift from some of the organisation’s rigid positions of the past.

Speaking to a gathering of 50 diplomats recently, Mr Bhagwat spoke of how Hinduism does not lay down food and dress codes. He said that RSS members were free to work in any political party of their choice. Whether these liberal views were for the benefit of the audience is a matter of debate but if we take him at face value, we can hope that this signals a progressive turn in the organisation’s thinking.

It has long been thought that the RSS, which is a self-proclaimed cultural organisation, has disproportionate influence on the BJP, many of whose top leaders come from its ranks. But we now have Mr Bhagwat saying that the RSS does not control the ruling party or vice versa. And rightly so.

An elected government should be answerable only to the people and the democratic institutions of the country and not to anyone else even though their ideologies may be in sync.

However, Mr Bhagwat’s message of inclusion and tolerance should trickle down to the rank and file who have often acted as though it has carte blanche to do as it likes with a friendly government in place. Mr Bhagwat’s condemnation of trolling on the Internet also comes not a moment too soon. In recent times, the Right-wing trolls have launched no-holds-barred attacks on those who hold differing viewpoints. They viciously attacked slain journalist Gauri Lankesh and rubbished her reputation on the Internet. Often they take upon themselves the role of defending India’s honour and image using hatred and innuendo against anyone perceived to be secular or liberal. If the RSS is serious about its opposition to such trolling, we can hope to see a drop in enthusiasm among offenders.

The RSS has over the years developed a reputation for having a largely single-point agenda, that of ushering in a Hindu rashtra. Mr Bhagwat’s more inclusive words seem at variance with this. If this is a trend for the future, it is a positive step forward for the RSS. Mr Bhagwat’s words should also send out a strong signal to other Hindutva forces like the Bajrang Dal and VHP, which have often taken cover behind the RSS when disseminating their sectarian views. So far the RSS seems to have nurtured a vision of homogenous India where everyone would fall in line with the majority’s views and thinking. Mr Bhagwat’s recent views mark a departure from this. And this comes at the right time when the nation is divided on so many faultlines, the most prominent being that between liberalism and intolerance.