RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s assertion that India is a ‘Hindu Rashtra’, reiterated in his annual Dussehra speech, has come in for sharp criticism in Punjab.
Not just editorials in prominent Punjabi newspapers, Punjabi Tribune and Nawa Zamana, even the Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) and the Shromani Akali Dal (SAD), a constituent of the NDA and BJP ally, have also reacted strongly against the RSS chief’s assertion.
The statement has also drawn flak from Punjabi intellectuals. While Dr Sukhdev Singh, a renowned commentator, felt that the statement was dangerous and did not portend well for the country, Punjab Lok Morcha chief Amolak Singh used even more stronger language and said that the statement was part of a bigger conspiracy and must ring alarm bells.
SAD chief, Member of Parliament and former Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, when asked, said he did not agree with the RSS chief’s statement. India, he said, was like a bouquet of flowers comprising different faiths and communities. It was not right, he said, to club them all with one religion.
SAD sources indicated that the issue would be raised by the party more vigorously after the byelections get over in the state.
But the SGPC has been less restrained. On Thursday speakers at a large Sikh conclave, speakers condemned the concept of India as a ‘Hindu Rashtra’. Condemning the statement, Jathedar Gyani Harpreet Singh without mincing words asserted that the RSS chief’s statement was objectionable. “How can he possibly describe Sikhs, Christians and Muslims as Hindu,” he asked.
India, he insisted, remains a diverse country with different communities, faiths and languages coexisting in harmony. To subsume all of them as Hindu was a mischievous and even dangerous exercise.
The SGPC president Jathedar Govind Singh Longowal also supported the critics and condemned the statement at the conclave. Former IPS officer-turned-political leader Simranjit Singh Mann warned that Sikhs would launch an agitation, if necessary.
Protests are being reported from various districts in Punjab as well. The district SAD chief in Jallandhar and a member of the SGPC, Kulwant Singh, felt the statement was a slap on other faiths. This, he warned, was not acceptable.