RSS backs govt on economy, says lynching a western idea
Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat on Tuesday defended the Union government against criticism of its economic policy, but underscored the need for protecting domestic interests, firming up trade agreements on India’s terms, and insulating the economy from global turbulence.
Bhagwat also stressed that belief in a “Hindu Rashtra” did not mean being “anti-minority”, and drew a distinction between the Sangh’s call for cow protection and the violence by vigilantes, asserting that the Sangh’s cadre are not involved in lynching, which, he said, was a “foreign” concept.
In his annual Vijayadashmi speech in Nagpur, Bhagwat chose to applaud the Narendra Modi government for decisions such as the nullification of Article 370, beefing up security, and the dip in terror incidents.
But it was concerns about the economy that were the mainstay of the Sangh chief’s speech.
At a time when even the RSS’s own offshoots have expressed concern about the state of the economy and slump in production, Bhagwat tried to blunt the criticism of the government’s policies by stating the Centre is sensitive towards the economy and has taken certain steps, and it is the responsibility of everyone to contribute to the nation’s progress.
“The slowing down of the world economy has left its impact everywhere. Many countries, including India, have to suffer the result of the ongoing global trade war between the US and China,” he said, adding “…personalities leading our economy are competent enough.”
The RSS, which has traditionally opposed Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in spheres such as multi-brand retail, food processing, defence production and the pharma sector, seemed to have softened its stance on the issue.
“…To strengthen the economy, the government is compelled to take steps, such as allowing FDI and disinvestment of industries. However, while implementing many government schemes and welfare policies at the lower level, more alacrity and efficiency and avoiding unnecessary stringency can set many matters right,” Bhagwat said.
He reiterated the concept of Swadeshi and echoed the concerns of offshoots such as the Swadeshi Jagran Manch (SJM) and the Laghu Udyog Bharati (LUB) when he pitched for more room and attention of the small and medium enterprises. He also quoted Sangh ideologue Dattopant Thengadi and Acharya Vinoba Bhave’s push for self-reliance.
Without naming the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), a trade agreement involving 15 other nations the government is currently considering and which the Sangh’s offshoots are vehemently opposed to, Bhagwat said India must formulate its own economic policy. The emphasis, he said, must be in creating more and more employment, with the least consumption of energy, and expanding trade relations with the world on the basis of its strength and terms. He also said India should not give into to any kind of arm-twisting when it comes to trade negotiations or feel compelled to give up its rights to self sufficiency.
“…This has been the stated position always. However, it is significant that Bhagwat ji has reiterated at this time, when officials negotiating RCEP are pushing India into an unequal and disastrous treaty, caving in to the demands of China and other countries, detrimental to the interests of Indian economy in general and manufacturing, dairy and agriculture in particular, in the name of free trade. This needs to be stopped,” said Ashwani Mahajan, the national convener of SJM.
Govind Lele, general secretary of LUB, said centralisation of money power and monopolistic practices are challenges that have to be addressed. He said just as globalised economies use interventions, such as anti-dumping duties or tariff barriers, to protect their domestic sectors, India, too, should have mechanisms to offer equal opportunities to the local manufacturers.
This is not the first time that Bhagwat has raised the issue of MSMEs. In is speech last year, he pitched for making the army self-sufficient and said while it was imperative to purchase equipment for the armed forces from countries abroad, it was equally important to ensure that the terms of the trade are not skewed.
The Sangh chief also sought to dispel the notion that its cadre are involved in cases of violence against minorities by distancing Sangh volunteers from vigilantes. “The Sangh has never supported people who were involved in such incidents and it stands against each and every such incident. Swayamsevaks are working in this direction so that such incidents do not take place. But branding such incidents with words like ‘lynching’, there is an attempt to denote it as practices which are alien to India and belong elsewhere,” he said.
Bhagwat underlined that the consolidation of Hindus does not mean being anti-Muslim. The RSS chief said: “Sangh does not mince words that India is a Hindu Rashtra, Hindus are those who understand that everyone is right in following their own faith, but follow Dharma,” he said. Reports of communal tension, he said, were distorted and aimed at creating “fear among the so-called minority communities”.
“We have to understand that such a conspiracy is also being hatched. Everyone should keep away from talking in provocative language or indulging in provocative acts. The so-called leaders — who, in the name of advocating the interests of a specific community, create clash in between the two communities of our society and have made an industry out of their pursuits for self-aggrandisement — should not be patronised,” he said.
While he applauded the nullification of Article 370, a long-pending demand of the Sangh, Bhagwat was quick to add the effort will come to fruition only when justice denied under the influence of Article 370 is restored. “…It will happen when Kashmiri Pandits, who were unjustly driven away, are brought back and rehabilitated and allowed to remain secure, fearless, patriotic and Hindu,” he said.
On the issue of women’s rights and safety, he said women need to be given their rightful place in society and have to be encouraged to do so. “A high responsibility of imparting values rests with the family. It is a matter of great concern that women feel unsafe today. The sanctity and decency of our culture is to be instilled in the men’s approach towards women,” he said.
Commenting on the speech, BJP’s Rajya Sabha MP Rakesh Sinha said Bhagwat demolished narrow interpretations and discourse artificially imposed on the RSS by its adversaries and unequivocally rejected a discourse and a way of life based on binaries.
The Congress condemned the RSS chief’s remarks. “Shocked at Bhagwat’s insensitive comment. The issue is not Europe or India, English or Hindi. The killing of innocent, hapless people by agitated mobs is unacceptable to humanity. Languages don’t matter. I demand that you clarify in India’s national interests and global perception, whether you endorse or condemn such killing of innocent men, women and children by mobs. Please come clean on this in India’s national interest,” senior Congress leader Anand Sharma said.
Political analyst Shirish Kashikar said Bhagwat, by reiterating the Sangh’s stance on lynching and by asserting that it is not anti-Muslim, made an effort to underline that Hinduism included the tenets of secularism. “He specifically pointed out that labelling Sangh as anti-Muslim is an attempt to defame it.”