No Hindu rashtra without Muslims, Hindutva based on unity in diversity: Mohan Bhagwat
A Hindu Rashtra (nation) does not envision the exclusion of Muslims and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has not gone against the Constitution and the law of the land; the organisation’s head Mohan Bhagwat said on Tuesday.
On the second day of his lecture series, an outreach exercise aimed at those who are not familiar with the Sangh, Bhagwat sought to clarify that the RSS is not anti-minorities and doesn’t propose to change the framework of the Constitution, as is often alleged by the Opposition, .
“We think everyone must abide by the Constitution…The RSS has never gone against the Constitution. (Sure), The words secular and socialist were added later, but now they are there,” he said. The RSS is the ideological parent of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
In 2017, Bhagwat’s statement that the Constitution was written based on the understanding of the ‘Bharatiya’ (Indian) ethos, but that there are several laws in use based on foreign sources that need a rethink, was perceived by the Opposition as an indicator of the Sangh’s intent to change the Constitution.
Speaking at length on the issue of Hindutva, as defined by the Sangh, Bhagwat said the concept of a Hindu Rashtra or Hindu nation does not rest on segregation or rejection of any community or faith. “Hindu Rashtra doesn’t mean there’s no place for Muslims. The day it becomes so, it won’t be Hindutva. Hindutva talks about one world family,” Bhagwat said. He also channelled BR Ambedkar to say, “our perspective towards religion is that it is based on values.”
In the wake of attacks against minorities by cow vigilantes, the RSS has been accused by its opponents of fostering an anti-Muslim sentiment in the country.
Bhagwat, however refuted these allegations and said the genesis of RSS was unification of society; and it is for this reason the Sangh has made a conscious decision to stay away from electoral politics since its inception. He said while swayamsevaks (volunteers) are not forbidden from joining political parties, office bearers of the Sangh are not permitted to hold positions in political parties or to contest elections. He was also quick to point out that volunteers are not given directions to favour any political outfit.
He said no one party can have the sole mandate of working for national interest, so the swayamsevasks are instructed to support anyone who works with the country best interest in mind.
The Opposition has accused the Sangh of determining the agenda and influencing policy decisions, but the Sangh chief rebuffed these charges and said by maintaining a distance from electoral politics, the RSS has not relinquished its right to articulate its position on issues of national issues.
“Sangh’s work is to unite the whole society; who will rule is decided by the people, but how it should run, on that we have an opinion. We make efforts democratically. Just because we keep a distance from politics, it does not mean we will not speak on issues such as illegal immigrants… And the speculation, that Nagpur (the RSS is headquartered in the city) calls [the shots in the government], is a wrong notion. People don’t need anyone’s advice, but we do exchange ideas,” Bhagwat said. He added, the “power centre is decided by the Constitution.”
The RSS chief also clarified that the organisation believes in the equality of women and men; he added that women don’t need to be deified, but they should be empowered and treated as equals. Since, the Sangh has a separate wing for women instead of incorporating them in the main organisation, the Opposition has often accused it of not treating women at par.
Jawaharlal Nehru University professor Badri Narayan said Bhagwat’s statement that a Hindu Rashtra cannot be without Muslims was part of a “discursive strategy to appropriate, absorb and include all sections and fragments that were considered opposed to their ideology”. “The RSS wants everyone to come under the umbrella of their ideology now,” he said.