Can RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat walk the talk?

Bhagwat needs to explain why these ‘Hindus’--who profess a different form of worship-- but who have accepted India as their motherland are being hounded and alienated by their supporters?

RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat
RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat

Shyam Pandhatpripande

If the occasional statesmanlike assertions of RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat are not taken seriously, he himself and his Parivar’s track record are largely to be blamed. The Sarsanghchalak’s choice of the occasion - the concluding function of the month-long Sangh Shiksha Varg (officers’ training camp) of the RSS at its headquarters in Nagpur was however significant, coming as it did in the wake of the Gyanvapi mosque controversy.

“Finding a Shivaling daily in every place of worship and raking up a new controversy is not right; we don’t want fights and friction, we want brotherhood and harmony” he had declared. He sounded reasonable in calling on both sides to resolve the issues amicably or accept the court’s verdict if amicable settlement is not possible.

Confident in the knowledge that large sections of the population, the executive and the judiciary have internalised the Hindutva hardline, the RSS perhaps feels there is no need to stir up a storm in a teapot. Indian envoys having to apologise to Islamic nations for a BJP spokespersons’ irresponsible statement about the Prophet, the urgency to deflect attention from the radical fringe and to rob the Opposition of a talking point could also have prompted the reasonableness.

The ‘shrewdest and most political’ RSS Sarsanghchalak’s call for restraint on communal controversies, thus, appeared strategic. The sceptics however could have taken him at face value, welcomed his statement and pointed out that it was still vague and not enough to quell misgivings. They should have grasped the opportunity to tell him that he needed to say and do a lot more to undo the communal hatred his organisation had unleashed.

The RSS chief also claimed that the RSS plunged into the Ram Janmabhoomi Andolan due to historical reasons and against the grain of the RSS and the nature of Hindus. He did not elaborate though but it is safe to presume that the trigger was BJP’s historic defeat in the 1984 general election when its strength in the Lok Sabha was reduced to just two.

There was no other reason for the RSS to poison the mind of illiterate but devout Hindus, campaign for the demolition of the Babri Masjid and engineer a socio-economic rupture between Hindus and Muslims. It turned out to be far more effective than the country’s Partition. That remains the vilest sin against Mother India committed by the RSS while claiming to be her most, nay, only patriotic sons!

A third year trainee from UP attending the RSS Varg in Nagpur in the late 1960s asked Yadavrao Joshi, then Dakshinanchal Prachar Pramukh, “Sir, we always tell Muslims and Christians in India that they are welcome to follow their religion but at the same time we also say that Hindustan belongs to Hindus, that change in religion is tantamount to change in nationality. How to reconcile these contradictions, sir?”

This writer, himself a Swayamsevak from Nagpur, was present when Yadavrao Joshi replied, “As of now, neither RSS nor Hindu society at large is strong enough to say anything different. But once we become strong, we will tell them to convert to Hinduism if they want to live in India or otherwise get out!”

Bhagwat, however, said recently that any campaign for Hindu-Muslim unity would be redundant as they (the two communities) are basically one and not two, that they share the same genes! He has repeatedly claimed that Hindus and Muslims in India share the same ancestry. He is on record saying that Muslims in India, who don’t look upon themselves as descendants of alien Muslims, are free to go to mosques.

“Let them do that, let us respect that. We already have so much diversity, so many gods. Let there be one more, what’s the problem?” he has said. Mahatma Gandhi said that his opinion evolved with his experience, that should anyone find contradictions in his averments, his latest statement be taken as authentic. Similarly, can Bhagwat’s latest averments be taken then as refuting earlier positions of the Sangh and his predecessors?

Late Balasaheb Deoras, after he took over as 3rd Sarsanghchalak, in his Vijayadashmi address in 1973-74, held a different view, for example. He had declared, “RSS is wedded to the mission of uniting Hindus… the question arises as to who are the Hindus that we seek to unite. Here, I don’t want to get into the polemic of definitions. So, I will clearly say that the ones born in Hindu families are Hindus and RSS is here to unite them!” This writer was again present in the audience.

RSS has always glibly said things like “all those born in India are descendants of Indian race…those who look upon India as their motherland are Hindus irrespective of their ways of worship. If that is what they really believe, then Bhagwat needs to put the RSS money where its mouth is and explain why these ‘Hindus’ --who profess a different form of worship-- but who have accepted India as their motherland are being hounded and alienated by their supporters?

(The author, a senior journalist, is a former RSS member turned critic. Views are personal)

(This article was first published in National Herald on Sunday.)

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