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Mohan Bhagwat’s comment on Indian Army continues to draw flak despite RSS clarification

Congress’ Anand Sharma asks the Prime Minister to clarify his position on Bhagwat’s remarks while CPI-M accuses RSS of floating parallel militias.

india Updated: Feb 12, 2018 19:04 IST
Members of the Indian Youth Congress protest against RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s statement on the Indian Army in New Delhi on Monday.
Members of the Indian Youth Congress protest against RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s statement on the Indian Army in New Delhi on Monday. (Sanchit Khanna/HT Photo)

Opposition parties on Monday demanded an apology from RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat for his “insulting and poor” remarks against the Indian Army even as the right-wing organisation said his comments were being “misrepresented”.

Congress president Rahul Gandhi criticised Bhagwat for his remarks that the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh could “prepare military personnel” faster than the army and accused him of “disrespecting” the force and those who have died for the nation in a post on Twitter.

“It is an insult to our flag because it insults every soldier who ever saluted it. Shame on you Mr Bhagwat, for disrespecting our martyrs and our Army. #ApologiseRSS,” Gandhi tweeted.

Senior Congress leader and spokesperson Anand Sharma also said Bhagwat’s “sad and disturbing” statement was a direct insult to the Indian armed forces.

Sharma added that nations which have allowed private militias and military outfits independent of the country’s armed forces to fight for it have come to grief and have paid a heavy price. He cited examples of Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Somalia and Congo, and said India cannot allow such a development.

“The RSS chief should apologise to the country and the armed forces, as he has put a question mark on the capability and bravery of the Indian Army. Such statements and thoughts weaken the morale of our armed forces,” he said.

The Congress leader said his party and its workers are opposing his statement across the country.

“The Prime Minister of India will have to clarify his position on this, on whether he is thinking of allowing the work of national security to be handed over to the RSS other than the Indian Army,” Sharma said.

“We expect that this mistake be rectified as it is not in national interest and we take this very seriously as the entire country is disturbed.”

CPI(M) leader and Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan said Bhagwat’s comments on the Indian Army were “in poor taste, against constitutional propriety”.

“His statement exposes RSS’ hidden agenda to float parallel militias to wreak havoc, crush national unity. A parallel army is talking about what we have always warned against. Hindu terror,” he added.

As the criticism mounted RSS spokesperson Manmohan Vaidya clarified in a statement that Bhagwat said if the country’s law calls for raising an armed force, the preparation time for ordinary citizens would be six months, but volunteers of the RSS would take a shorter time to be ready, because of the army-like discipline that they follow.

“This was no way a comparison between the Indian Army and the Sangh swayamsevaks but it was a comparison between general society and swayamsevaks. Both are to be trained by the Indian Army only,” Vaidya said.

Union Minister Kiren Rijiju also defended the RSS chief’s remarks and hit out at the Congress, saying it should not try to politicise the army.

“Indian Army is our pride. In emergency situation (not Congress emergency), every Indian must volunteer to stand with Defence Forces. Bhagwat ji only said it takes 6-7 months for a person to be a trained soldier & if Constitution permits RSS cadres has the ability to contribute (sic),” the minister of state for home said in a tweet.

Rijiju targeted the Congress in another tweet saying “who had asked for proof of surgical strike from Indian Army?”

“... Congress tried to dilute the Army in 2004 on religious lines by head counting but Army firmly stood the ground,” he said.

Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress (TMC) attacked Rijiju for his tweet defending Bhagwat and alleged that it has become “even more evident” that the government is being “remote-controlled” by the Sangh.

“A minister of the government is supporting and defending the RSS. Kiren Rijiju is not a minister of state but a minister of Sangh,” Trinamool Congress leader Derek O’Brien said.

The Trinamool is likely to give notices in the Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha on what it called the “breakdown of constitutional institutions” in the second half of the budget session of Parliament.

The RSS chief, who is in Bihar on a 10-day visit, reportedly said on Sunday that the outfit has the ability to prepare an army to fight for the country within three days which the army would do in six to seven months.

“This is our capability. Swayamsevaks will be ready to take on the front if the country faces such a situation and the Constitution permits,” Bhagwat told RSS workers at the Zila school ground in Muzaffarpur.