THE Modi government reconfirmed, once again, that the BJP is the political arm of the RSS. It has rolled out red carpet for the RSS chief to lecture from Delhi’s Vigyan Bhawan, which is normally allotted only for government functions, or on rare occasions for non-government functions where the president, vice president or the prime minister are participating. It is unusual to permit a private organisation. Further, these lectures were beamed live telecast across the country. What is strange and unacceptable is that the Rajya Sabha TV, essentially mandated to live telecast the parliament proceedings and discussions connected with parliamentary issues and policy discussions permitted this live telecast.
Mr Mohan Bhagwat’s three-day lecture outreach to dress up the RSS with a modern, inclusive and liberal image is an exercise displaying its characteristic duplicity. This is akin to its attempt (familiar to my generation) to lure youth to join its `shakhas’ through `vyayamshalas’ (body building clubs).
The main thrust of this outreach was to address the perception that RSS is a communal Hindu organisation by stating that `Hindu Rashtra’ does not mean that it has no place for Muslims. “The Sangh works towards universal brotherhood and the cardinal principle of this brotherhood is unity in diversity. This thought comes from our culture which the world calls Hindutva. That is why we call it a Hindu Rashtra.”
Let us examine these two words `Hindutva’ and `Hindu Rashtra’. The term `Hindutva’ was coined by V D Savarkar in 1923 stating that it had nothing to do with Hindu religion. It was a political project for the creation of a Hindu nation. To achieve this, he gave the slogan `Hinduise the military, militarise Hindudom’. The basic thrust was how to unite the various sects, faiths and religions who consider India as both their motherland and holy land (thus, the exclusion of Muslims and Christians).
Former RSS chief, M S Golwalkar, wrote his theses `We or Our Nationhood Defined’ in 1939 where he defined the RSS vision of `Hindu Rashtra’. He provided both the ideological foundations and the organisational network in order to achieve the RSS project of a fascistic `Hindu Rashtra’. Golwalkar carried forward internal logic provided by Savarkar and defines the role of the non-Hindus by stating that: “We must bear in mind that so far as ‘nation’ is concerned, all those, who fall outside the five-fold limits of that idea, can have no place in the national life, unless they abandon their differences, adopt the religion, culture and language of the Nation and completely merge themselves in the National race. So long, however, as they maintain their racial, religious and cultural differences, they cannot but be only foreigners” and that: “There are only two courses open to foreign elements, either to merge themselves in the national race and adopt its culture, or live at its mercy so long as the national race may allow them to do so. .….must learn to respect and hold in reverence Hindu religion, must entertain no idea but those of the glorification of the Hindu race and culture, i.e., of the Hindu nation and must lose their separate existence….” (pp. 47-48)
Later, in the 1966 book `Bunch of Thoughts’, in a chapter on `Internal Threats’ (for the Hindu Rashtra) he lists out the Muslims, Christians and the Communists in that order. Mohan Bhagwat says that what was said in this book is not eternal and it was said in a context and those do not remain static. But Bhagwat stopped short of negating what Golwalkar said.
This is the moot point. Of course, the nearly 200 million Muslims living in India today cannot be expelled. But what will be their status under the `Hindu Rashtra’? The Indian constitution provides equality to all its citizens “irrespective of caste, creed or sex”. Will they be equal citizens living their life with liberty and dignity?
The experience of the last four years of the Modi government, yet again, confirms that the BJP functions as the political arm of the RSS. The murderous attacks on the Muslims and dalits in the name of cow protection, the private armies of moral policing dictating to our children – how they should dress, what they shall eat and whom they can befriend – and attacks on them for not following such instructions, mob lynchings, campaign of `love jihad’, dehumanising child rapes and murders, have all created an atmosphere of hate, violence and terror in many parts of the country, particularly in states with BJP governments.
This experience is a chilling reminder of what Golwalkar’s conception of `Hindu Rashtra’ means. Mohan Bhagwat spoke on many other issues as well. On the issue of murders and violence over cow protection, he says that there should be stringent punishment for those who take law in one’s own hands, but there should not be double-speak. Just as voice is raised against incidents of lynching, there should be protests against cow smuggling too. This is the classic forked tongue manner of speech. Since protests against cow smuggling are seldom held, mob lynching is justified. All BJP-ruled states where such terror escalates have laws for cow protection. Why are they not being implemented?
He called for a new education policy which will include our (read `Hindu Rashtra’) value based systems. On language policy, though he called for the need to preserve all languages, he said we should respect our mother language, i.e., Sanskrit, and we need to push for its popularisation through more literature. On religious conversions, he said that this should not be based on ulterior motives. And, the example he gives is the money being paid to attend the Church which should be stopped. Since the determination of `ulterior motives’ will be done by public perception generated by the RSS, attacks on religious minorities institutions are, thus, justified.
Mohan Bhagwat said that the existing reservation should continue. Yet again, in classic double speak he did not mention any of the anti-dalit attacks and campaign led by RSS-BJP leaders – the Bhima-Koregaon incidents and the subsequent nationwide attacks against dalits. In Bunch of Thoughts, Golwalkar endorses the Manusmriti which also defines the RSS attitude towards women. Here, Golwalkar speaks of a ‘four-fold arrangement’ i.e., the varna based caste system. He says the Brahmins are the head, the Khsatriyas the shoulders, Vaishya the thighs, and Shudras the feet. All outside in the pail of this ‘four-fold arrangement’ are the out castes – the dalits of today. Being anti-dalit, thus, is the RSS’s genetic code. Cosmetic assertion for reservation does not take away its sectarian anti-dalit outlook.
In sum, this exercise was an effort to take the RSS through a beauty parlour to effect an image change. As the old saying goes, “A leopard can never change its spots”.
The fundamental question that the RSS needs to answer to the Indian people is that whether it considers the present Indian constitution and its fundamental values of secularism, democracy, equality, fraternity and liberty of all citizens as inviolable. RSS’s ideological foundation, its practices and activities, however, displays the strong determination to transform the current secular, democratic constitutional Republic of India into their version of a rabidly intolerant fascistic ‘Hindu Rashtra.’