Vol. XLII No. 07 February 18, 2018

Bhagwat’s Army

THE RSS chief, Mohan Bhagwat, has stated in a speech to RSS workers in Muzaffarpur that while the army takes six to seven months to train its soldiers, the RSS can get its cadres ready for battle in two to three days. 

This remark has drawn widespread condemnation with the main criticism being that the RSS chief had insulted the Indian army by claiming that the RSS can do a better job than the army in training soldiers.  While this criticism is valid, the intent of these remarks is much more serious. The statement has revealed a vital aspect of the RSS’s outlook about the army and the militarisation of society.

Responding to the criticism, the RSS issued a clarification: “Bhagwatji said that if situation arises and the constitution permits, Indian army would take six months to prepare the society whereas Sangh swayamsevaks practice discipline regularly”.  This and the defence put out by the minister of state for home, Kiren Rijiju, has revealed the hidden aspect of Bhagwat’s remarks.  Rijiju tweeted that “Bhagwatji only said it takes six to seven months for a person to be a trained soldier and if Constitution permits, the RSS cadres have the ability to contribute”. 

Both the above clarifications in defence of Bhagwat inadvertently reveal the actual import of the RSS chief’s remarks.  “If the Constitution permits”, the RSS would like to have a say in the running of the army and contribute towards militarising society.  This is integral to the RSS worldview of a ‘Hindu Rashtra’.  The founder of the Hindutva concept was V D Savarkar, whose motto was “militarise the Hindus, Hinduise the nation”. 

Following the footsteps of Savarkar, the founder of the RSS, Hedgewar, was also infatuated with the idea of militarising the Hindus. His mentor, B S Moonje, a leader of the Hindu Mahasabha, had visited Italy and acquainted himself with  the fascist ideology and the fascist military training institutions. Back in India, Moonje set-up the Bhonsala Military School in Nashik in 1943. 

The school and college still exist in Nashik which has courses and training for students who wanted to join the armed forces.  The Central Hindu Military Education Society, which runs this institution, now consists of RSS members.  Lt. Col. S P Purohit, an accused in the Malegaon bomb blast case, had attended a special coaching class for those wishing to join the army as Short Service Commission officers in the Bhonsala Military School. 

What the RSS wants in the re-moulding of the Indian State is an armed forces which adheres to Hindutva.  For Bhagwat, the soldier in the Indian army and the swayamsevak of the RSS are on the same footing.  Under the present Indian Constitution, such an integration of the army and the RSS is not possible.  That is why, both the RSS clarification and the defence put out by Kiren Rijiju makes this qualification that if the Constitution permits, the RSS can go ahead with its interference in military matters.  The implication is ominous: a re-worked Constitution should enable this to happen. 

(February 14, 2018)