(Continued from the article published yesterday)
Me and Kalidas Bhattacharyya began our interaction by exchanging trivial notes about each other as we started walking towards a room. I came to know that he has been a part of the RSS since 1977 and was a pracharak in the North Bengal town of Siliguri till he was named as an accused in a case. He did not divulge any details on the nature of the case and I refrained from sounding too inquisitive, so as to not raise any suspicion. But he said the trial was still going on. He was in charge of Saraswati Shishu Mandir, Hatiara, on the outskirts of Kolkata.
Over the next one hour, we sat down for an interaction which, like all others mentioned in this series, I recorded. I am reproducing some interesting parts verbatim here in a Q&A format.
I hear a lot about a group called Hindu Samhati and I often see them saying loudly that Bengalis are cowards…
You see, Bengalis are cowards as a race. I know the president of the group, Tapan Ghosh, very well. He often visits our school. A few years ago, some members of the Hindu Samhati, staying at the guesthouse of the Marwari Society, had some quarrel with the local Muslims at Gangasagar. The Muslims attacked them. It was the Sangh which rescued them. But the Sangh has its limitations and cannot do everything. Groups like Hindu Samhati are required for sure. They (Muslims) need to be beaten up. Once Tapanda asked me to provide shleter to some Hindu Samhati activists. But I booted them out because I overheard them bad-mouthing the Sangh.
I understand some miscreants have entered the Sangh.
Do you think the BJP and the Sangh have all good people? BJP is full of corrupt leaders. The party could have done well but a number of lower caste people have joined the BJP and the RSS in recent times.
What is the stand of the Ramakrishna Mission (vis-à-vis the Sangh)?
Vivekananda spread Hinduism in the west but several monks do not want to accept it. They think their order is different from Hinduism but a group within RKM have now turned back to Hinduism.
How do you recruit teachers for Shishu Mandir?
They apply, clear a test and then undergo training. The training is the same that is given to the intellectuals in the Sangh.
Are they offered any salary?
Not much, between ₹800 and ₹1500 per month.
What kind of course structure does the school follow?
We do not follow the government-prescribed course structure at all. We have our own books and syllabi. We teach our children about great personalities associated with the Sangh and celebrate all important dates that are celebrated by the Sangh.
How do you manage to teach conflicting histories like the Maratha invasion of Bengal where they burned and plundered temples?
This is a primary school, till standard fourth. So, Maratha invasion isn’t taught at all. However, we are certainly not going to teach anything against the Sangh. If the Sangh is putting some effort (in teaching these children), it must gain from them.
This is a Muslim area. Do they trouble you in any manner?
No. Till the main road, it is Muslim majority but houses around the school belong to Hindus. (Smiles) In fact, there were some Muslim students here as well and one of them had a Hindu mother. The child used to take part in all rituals and pujas conducted in the school.
Are the Muslims aware of this school’s association with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh?
No, not at all.
Do the teachers endorse the ideology of the Sangh?
Not all. Recently, one of the teachers showed some reluctance in attending an event during Mohan Bhagwatji’s visit to the city. But we made him buy the Ganavesh (uniform of the Sangh) and join the rally.
My interactions with the Sangh led me to the way the organisation functions that helped in drawing a few conclusions as well. I will reproduce them in a bullet-point format: