January 22, 2023

The Bhagwat Interview: Update of Hindutva

Brinda Karat

THE RSS chief, Mohan Bhagwat in an interview to the editors of the RSS publications, Organiser and the Panchjanya (January 15,) dealt with a range of questions. Bhagwat’s comments should be taken as the 2023 update of the writings of RSS founders like Hedgewar and Golwalkar for the building of a Hindu Rashtra. He says “Hindustan is a Hindu rashtra. This prosperous and powerful Hindu society—Hindu Rashtra—Bharat—will reach to the pinnacle of its glory and provide leadership to the world.” The RSS spelled out its project when India was a British colony. Today independent India has its own Constitution. The RSS chief’s outrageous utterances substantiate the view that the RSS has never accepted the constitution. He also states that today the RSS has “resources” , “abundance’ and “means.” It is legitimate to ask what are these resources, how abundant are they and where is the money coming from.


The interview is premised on a discussion of “ Hindu samaj (society) “, but the concept of a Hindu samaj as enunciated by the RSS chief has no place in the Constitution of India. According to the RSS chief the “Hindu samaj has been at war for over 1000 years—it is but natural for those at war to be aggressive.” Thus at one stroke Bhagwat manufactures a history of a binary, of a homogeneity of Hindus versus others, where  the wars of invaders and conquerors aided by their local allies among feudal monarchs are converted into a religious battle between Muslims and Hindu samaj. In the name of perceived historical injustices, “aggression” of “Hindus” in the present day is justified. In his words “ this is not an enemy without but an enemy within. So there is a war to defend Hindu society, Hindu dharma and Hindu culture”  and further,  “ There is no harm to the Muslims living in India today in Bharat if they wish to stick to their faith they may if they wish to return to the faith of their ancestors, they may—Islam has nothing to fear… but at the same time Muslims must abandon their boisterous rhetoric of supremacy.” This is described as being claims that Muslims are an “exalted race” going to rule India again and so on.“They must abandon this narrative, in fact all those who live here—whether a Hindu or communist—must give up this logic.”

This is the logic of the RSS—threaten, bully, intimidate all those who are uncompromising, like communists, in the fight against the fake narratives of the RSS. Golwalkar had said, “Muslims can live in India wholly subordinated to the Hindu nation” – Bhagwat’s statements, though modified to escape the law, has the same aim, to subordinate the Muslim community to the scrutiny of the RSS, to condone the criminal attacks of the Sangh Parivar, to maintain that there is a war against an internal enemy in which  Golwalkar’s  definition of the enemy as Muslims, communists and Christians is expanded to include Hindus who do not conform to the RSS narrative. This is a toxic mix of communalism and authoritarianism with a threat – “all those who live here” as though those who are Indian citizens have to conform not to the Constitution of India but to the RSS view, to live in peace.

It may be added that the CPI(M) has held that the intense provocations of the RSS has enabled a group of Islamicists to peddle their fundamentalist views and practices among sections of the Muslim community which in turn strengthens the polarisation and divisive strategies of the RSS. This interview substantiates the point repeatedly made by the CPI(M) that one communalism strengthens the other.


Bhagwat speaks as the self-appointed representative of this “Hindu samaj”, making outlandish assertions on behalf of the “samaj.” It is one thing to claim the mantle of Hindutva—a political concept which has nothing to do with religion, and quite another to claim to represent all those who are Hindu, when the vast majority of people in this country—Hindus by religion do not subscribe to the RSS view.  For the RSS chief it would appear that the marked increase in atrocities against dalits is not an issue at all. The only mention to caste is “ Shri Ram strung together all jatis and sects.” Shri Ram thus becomes a political instrument reflected in Jai Shri Ram slogans to build the Hindutva identity while the reality of Dalits facing discrimination, violence, sexual assault by caste Hindus does not merit a mention.


Bhagwat talks of a “prosperous and powerful Hindu society.” With India’s shameful rankings on the Global Hunger Index as being among the countries with the largest malnourished and hunger affected population, the large majority of whose religious affiliation would be Hindu, to talk of “prosperity”  is like a sick joke. It is striking that, the RSS chief has not a word to say about the plight of the common people, the social and economic inequalities that are ravaging India. For the RSS, there are no such categories as workers or kisans—all are submerged in the so-called Hindu samaj. So, when Adani makes on average 1,216 crore rupees in a single day and a rural woman worker makes barely 250 rupees a day, the RSS places them in the same category—that is the Hindu samaj.  The omission of reference to a glaring reality sometimes turns out to be the commission of a defence. In that sense the RSS chief defends the huge inequalities by refusing to recognise the identity of rich and poor – in the overarching Hindutva identity that the RSS seeks to create. While the majority of Indians are hit by price rise, where even official figures show a very low consumption expenditure reflecting the low purchasing power of the large majority of people, the RSS chief holds that inflation is a function of “consumerism” – that people are buying more thus pushing up prices! India is on the verge of recession, even the most pro-capitalist economists are pushing for policies to increase demand, but here the RSS chief blames the people for the price rise. The interview underlines the necessity to expose the claims of RSS representing the “Hindu samaj” with the reality of the corporate class interests that Hindutva defends.


Another revealing aspect of the interview is when he speaks of the relationship between the RSS, its swayamsevaks, politics and the government. He repeats the myth that the RSS is a “cultural” organisation, not interested in day to day politics, but  admits that in the present situation the RSS is “forced” to intervene in government issues even if they don’t want to. He says “ the difference earlier was that our swayamsevaks were not in positions of power, whatever the swayamsevaks do in politics we are held accountable for the same… there is certainly some accountability as ultimately it is the sangh where swayamsevaks are trained. Therefore, we are forced to think what should be our relationship, which things we should pursue with due diligence.” The “difference” is that the prime minister himself is a former pracharak, an estimated 71 per cent of the ministers in the union cabinet  are linked to the RSS, similar RSS affiliations are there as far as ministers in state governments run by the BJP are concerned. The RSS declares it has oversight over its swayamsevaks in government, what else does “some accountability”  mean?

Further “ the only point is about political developments, if people are expecting something, if they are facing any difficulty which is conveyed to us then it can be brought to the notice of the concerned people, if they are swayamsevaks… that is all we do.”

Look at the implications of “all we do” –  oversight ( “some accountability”)  over two thirds of the cabinet who are trained in the sangh;  interventions in policies (“ some things with due diligence”) recommendations to swayamsevak ministers by the RSS (brought to notice of concerned people). This is precisely what is meant by an extra constitutional authority. Power wielded by the RSS over governments run by the BJP, was not a secret—this has been now spelt out by the RSS chief himself. An aspect of this extra constitutional power and the sectarian divisive ideology of the RSS is how to continue its policy but change the perception of it. Bhagwat says “ we have increased our media interactions, started a few outreach initiatives, now the issue is extending these………to ensure in due course of time they deliver the desired results, we will have to act at the right time with the right strategy..” In the coming days we can expect stories that flatter the RSS and flatten its hate filled past.


Some have approvingly commented on the perceived change in RSS views on “LGBT/transgender communities”. Bhagwat says “ These are not new issues. They have always been there. These people also have a right to live.” Even if one ignores the patronising tone what follows shows utter contempt. He says “ Since I am a doctor of animals I know that such traits are found in animals too. This is biological a mode of life. …...... we have to promote this view because all other ways of resolving it are futile.” Sexual choice gets reduced to “biology” and insulting comparisons to animals. His point of view is in stark contrast to that of  the Supreme Court which in its historic judgement had  called “sexual orientation a fundamental right guaranteed by the Constitution.”

The refusal to recognise a rights based democratic framework is also reflected in the specific comments about women. For the RSS women are to be seen as part of the family. He says “women’s emancipation and women’s empowerment etc., have been raised for long .. but now women of the West are returning to gender-interdependence and the need for family life.” For the RSS an independent minded empowered woman with equal rights is bound to be in conflict with family life, since for them guided by their Manuvadi approach, within the family, the woman has to “adjust” regardless of the violence she may face. This is what the Rashtriya Sevika Samity the women’s version of the RSS is propagating. But it is a failed project as the RSS chief himself admits, “ as of today the Samity does not have that much of strength”. What is new is that he says the number of women learning from the shakhas is increasing so they should not be sent to the samity—the RSS has to work out how to include them more directly. The hate speeches and highly provocative statements by women members of the Hindutva brigade like Pragya Thakur, could be the role model for the RSS to more directly recruit women. The RSS chief is silent on the dowry deaths, the increasing violence including child rape which affects women—the possible introduction of women into the RSS is not for women’s rights, but for the spread of its hate ideology more directly by female RSS cadre.

The interview of the RSS chief is a warning to all those committed to the basic values of the freedom struggle—a secular democratic just India. The ravages of capitalism have brought to naught many of the promises of the Constitution and in turn have given rise to the forces of extreme reaction. As this interview shows, these forces now have access and in some spheres control over the levers of State power, courtesy the Modi government. The answer lies in alternative policies, popular mobilisations and actions to defend the rights of the people against capitalist loot and to build resistance and defeat Hindutva’s updated agenda.