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Mohan Bhagwat lecture will attempt to redefine Hindutva perception

Hindutva will be a central theme of RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s three-day lecture series in Delhi that begins on Monday, people aware of the development said.

india Updated: Sep 15, 2018 23:15 IST
Smriti Kak Ramachandran
Smriti Kak Ramachandran
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Mohan Bhagwat,RSS,Hindutva
RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat during an event in Mumbai.(PTI File Photo)

Concerned by the increasing conflation of Hindutva with an ideology that prescribes a theocratic state and is essentially anti-minorities, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) leadership is seeking to change the perception that the Hindutva espoused by the Sangh is sectarian and discriminatory.

Hindutva, as advocated by the Sangh, will be a central theme of RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s three-day lecture series in Delhi that begins on Monday, people aware of the development said.

The focus will be on presenting Hindutva as “an encompassing” idea that does not differentiate on the basis of religion or caste, said one RSS functionary, not wishing to be named.

Bhagwat’s comments about Hindutva have in the past fuelled controversy. In 2017, the Opposition parsed his statement that “Hindustan (India) is a Hindu nation... Hindutva is the identity of our nation... (Hinduism) that can incorporate others (religions) in itself.” Although the RSS immediately clarified that the Hindutva which Bhagwat referred to did not mean ‘Hinduism’ but ‘Hindu-ness’, the comment gave the Opposition ammunition to dub the RSS divisive.

“The RSS wants to shift the focus from the political definition of Hindutva to a more philosophical one. The RSS is not anti-anyone or anything,” the functionary cited above said.

The attempt to redefine Hindutva coincides with an increase in factionalism between various Hindu castes, a phenomenon the RSS has been aggressively trying to counter through its Samajik Samarasta, or social harmony, initiatives and the growing conflict between religious sects.

A second RSS functionary said the exercise to clarify the RSS’s position comes in the wake of the brazen positions taken by the “fringe” on issues such as inter-faith marriages, food choices and even political stances that have “created a misconception about the Sangh’s ideology.”

“The RSS wants anti-cow slaughter laws; it does not condone violence in the name of cow protection. Similarly, the RSS is not anti-Dalit, but there are periodic attempts to create a perception that the RSS wants caste-based quotas to be removed,” said the second functionary, also on condition of anonymity.

Seshadri Chari, a former editor of the RSS mouthpiece Organiser and an ideologue of the Sangh, also said Hindutva was a way of life rather than a religious identity for the Sangh.

“For the RSS, Hindutva is a group of ideas that has cultural, geographical and geo-political connotation. It cannot be seen through a narrow, political prism,” Chari said.

Bhagwat’s lecture series, which will be followed up with more meetings across the country with individuals drawn from a cross-section of society, have been planned with the purpose of demarcating the Sangh’s ideology and activities and the recent spurt in vigilantism that has led to several cases of lynching in many states.

While the RSS attempts to distance itself from the more militant Hindutva of Veer Savarkar, considered the exponent of the ideology, historian Aditya Mukherjee of the Jawaharlal Nehru University said: “There is no question of distancing the RSS’s idea of Hindutva from Savarkar’s. After Gandhiji’s assassination, they distanced themselves from Hindu Mahasabha and (assassin Nathuram) Godse… anything that they don’t feel comfortable with, it’s their strategy. Their idea of Hindutva is the same as Savarkar’s —that anyone whose punyabhoomi (sacred land) is India, is an Indian— which excludes Muslims and Christians (their holy places being outside India).”

First Published: Sep 15, 2018 22:42 IST