We know what the RSS is but do we know what we are?
Does it show our collective idiocy when we feel pride when the PM hugs a world leader or congratulates a world beater or feel pride at a cultural organisation usurping political power?
The Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh has never lied about what it is: a Hindu supremacist organisation that hates non-Hindus, especially Muslims. Apart from its own closely guarded inner circle, and its attendant wings, it gathers around itself similar bigots. It has been careful to call itself a “cultural organisation” and to this end, it can pretend that it is interested in general welfare and social work.
Now that the RSS is in power, it has ensured that its gameplan is being put in place. Demonise Muslims and then other religious minorities. Keep Dalits subjugated unless they agree to toe the RSS line. Destroy all history which does not show Hindus in a triumphant light. Get rid of every opponent of the RSS ideology especially in academia, the arts and the media.
But you know all this. We all know this.
And yet, each subsequent act of democratic destruction by the RSS and its wings passes us by.
Some might say we are distracted by the collapse of India’s economy and systems.
Others say we are distracted by the religious hatred and turmoil.
But are we? Distracted?
In fact, we live our lives in all these layers: we mourn the collapse of the economy but we are proud that some Indian actress said that Cannes is coming to India or some such meaningless thing.
We are not happy that China is building bridges within Indian territory but we are overjoyed that a Hindu religious symbol has been found inside a mosque which might mean the end of the mosque.
We know that the judiciary, the bureaucracy, the police, the election commission, agencies like income tax and enforcement directorates are badly compromised, much more than before. We know that every decision made about changing rules for public service commissions or electoral funding has only strengthened and emboldened the RSS thought process. And yet we applauded these decisions as “masterstrokes”.
We watched and danced as hundreds and thousands of Indians suffered through malicious and despicable government decisions like demonetisation. We were presumably happier when the pandemic struck and migrant workers struggled to get home. We clapped to get rid of coronavirus and clapped when migrant workers were sprayed with disinfectant.
Millions died because of official negligence, and we still clapped.
We clapped even more, filled with nationalistic zeal, when the government fought with the world and claimed that no one died.
We are now at a precipice, a cusp – not the cusp of greatness which the actress spoke about, though who knows maybe that was a sly dig. We stand at the edge of the abyss.
The efforts to rescue us are minimal.
However, when we reach a conversation about politics, that is when you can clearly understand why we are at a precipice.
Partly because the Opposition, whether as a whole or as individual units, is too caught up in personal egos and local gain to take on the might of the RSS and the BJP.
And partly because we ourselves give the RSS-BJP as many outs and excuses as they themselves come up with.
The precipice is real. The journey into the abyss is unconscionable.
And yet we’re heading there.
Because we cannot come out and call Hindu supremacist thought for what it is. We celebrate bits of their ideas that suit us. We find it so simple to ignore the bigger picture. The people who died were other people. We find pride in arrant nonsense.
That a rich millennia-old civilisation is steeped in inferiority is not because no one told us about our richness before. It is patently because some of us have agreed to believe the lies which the RSS has told us. And because we believe these lies, we find the spectacle of a Prime Minister prancing about in costume a matter of great pride. If Narendra Modi hugs a foreign politician, it is a matter of pride. If he gives a speech, is a matter of pride. If he takes an aeroplane journey, it is a matter of pride.
Is this our collective idiocy or just a manifestation of our collective hatred for everything that the RSS hates?
The RSS tried to destroy the Taj Mahal, because it was built by a Mughal emperor, because it is a much-loved symbol of India across the globe. The RSS cannot take pride in that because it is not a Hindu supremacist symbol.
The move to destroy the Taj was not a distraction.
Just as the destruction of the economy was not a destruction.
Together, these are tools to destroy us. Destroy India. And destroy our democracy.
They will not stop unless we stop them.
The RSS is what it is.
What are we?
(The writer is a columnist based in Dehradun. Views are personal.)