RSS appropriates icons as they don’t have their own: Irfan Habib

From Sardar Patel and Subhash Chandra Bose to Bhagat Singh, the RSS has been appropriating icons since forever, the noted historian said

Mahatma Gandhi, Sardar Patel and Pandit Nehru.
Mahatma Gandhi, Sardar Patel and Pandit Nehru.


Historian and author S. Irfan Habib on Saturday alleged that the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) "has been appropriating" national icons like Sardar Patel, Bhagat Singh, and Subhash Chandra Bose as it didn't have any of its own to whom the people of India can connect.

"Be it Sardar Patel, Subhash Chandra Bose, or Bhagat Singh, the RSS have been appropriating icons since forever. Tell me one name they have backed who was one of their own," the author said during a session titled "Savarkar and Hindutva" at the ongoing Sahitya Aaj Tak at the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts.

"They don't have anyone they can take to the people, anyone with whom people of India can connect," he added.

RSS thinker Desh Ratan Nigam, in his rebuttal, attacked the past governments led by the Congress, alleging that that they neglected these icons and the Sangh ensured that these leaders are not forgotten.

"What you call appropriating I call it giving due importance. Nobody paid what was due to Patel, or Savarkar for 70 years by the Congress. The RSS is doing that now because they are national icons and shouldn't be forgotten," Nigam said.

Recently, the BJP unit of Maharashtra in their election manifesto had mooted Bharat Ratna to Hindu nationalist icon Vinayak Savarkar, drawing sharp reaction from the opposition.

Nigam too endorsed the demand, saying Savarkar deserves to be recognised.

"The RSS has never pushed for an award to anybody. Our own leaders like Golwalkar and Hedgewar never wanted a reward, it is not in our ideology to seek something in return.

"The BJP took Savarkar's name in their manifesto and we support it because he was a national hero and deserves to be recognised," he said.

Journalist and author Vaibhav Purandare, who recently came out with a book on Savarkar, added that while K B Hedgewar was inspired by Savarkar's idea of Hindutva, the latter carried scientific thought and wouldn't have agreed with the RSS' version of history.

"Savarkar's book on Hindutva is sacred text for the RSS. His concept of Hindutva to certain level matches that of the RSS, but he would have not said things like there were nuclear weapons during Mahabharata. He carried scientific thought," Purandare said.

It was the lack of any freedom fighter in the history of the RSS, which is why the nationalistic group leans onto others, he added.

The discussion was also attended by journalist-author Ashutosh and author Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay.

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