Responding to the criticism directed at former President Pranab Mukherjee for accepting an invitation from Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the organisation said that it has a long history of engaging with those with divergent views. Manmohan Vaidya, joint general secretary of RSS, said the body has a special outreach cell known as the Vishesh Sampark Vibhag, which has a mandate of reaching out to opinion makers from across the political spectrum. “The Vibhag reaches out to influential people from different walks of social life and opinion makers. Through such outreach meetings, we try to understand their work and contribution to society and tell them about the Sangh’s views, activities and achievements. We also discuss different national issues and exchange our views. On the basis of this, we invite them to visit and get a first-hand experience of the Sangh,” said Vaidya.A list of personalities whom RSS has invited to visit shakhas or preside over functions include political leaders and critics of the RSS such as Mahatma Gandhi, BR Ambedkar, Jaiprakash Narayan and former President APJ Abdul Kalam. Mukherjee will be addressing the Sangh’s third-year camp for its volunteers at Nagpur on June 7. Several Congress leaders, who are critical of RSS ideology, have objected to Mukherjee’s decision and have asked him to reconsider. “Everyone who comes may not join the Sangh, but it surely helps them to understand Sangh better,” said Vaidya.Citing examples of people from Congress and other parties who have attended events organised by the RSS in the past, another functionary said: “In 1990, BJP’s Prabhat Singh Chauhan and a Congress MLA attended an RSS function in the presence of Sarsanghachalak Balasaheb Deoras. In 2010, at Kollam in Kerala, a local mayor and a Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader were invited to inaugurate the RSS office.” He said invitations are extended with the purpose of acquainting guests with the organisation’s ideology and work.