From Golwalker to Mohan Bhagwat, what game is RSS playing in India?

Mohan Bhagwat’s speeches at a conclave in New Delhi have led a wave of mixed emotions across the country

RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat speaks on the 2nd day at the event titled ‘Future of Bharat: An RSS perspective’, in New Delhi, Tuesday, Sept 18, 2018


The three-day conclave by one of India’s leading ideological entities, The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (National Volunteer Organisation or RSS) that was held from Sep 17-19 in New Delhi has sent a wave of mixed emotions across the country as the RSS’s chief Mohan Bhagwat espoused values and viewpoints that took a surprisingly different turn from what is an entrenched belief system of the RSS for the nine decades of its existence.

Rooted in an ideology that leans to the extreme right, the RSS has always been unapologetic about its inflexible desire to redefine India’s nationhood, its religious identity and its Constitutional complexion of secularism to suit its idea of what India’s history should be.

Addressing a large audience comprising people from many walks of life, Bhagwat spoke on the many issues the RSS is intricately linked with, with the aim of re-educating people on what the organisation stands for.

In this context, it is worth juxtapositioning some of the opinions expressed by Bhagwat at the event and the overall stance of the RSS that has prevailed down the nine decades of its existence. Bhagwat’s freshly minted opinions come at a time when the national polls are due in May 2019 and the ruling party, BJP, is under attack for its lacklustre performance on the crucial indicators of national wellness since it assumed power in 2014.

Some of the most divisive issues confronting India today include its communal divide, state of economy, threat to freedom of expression, RSS’s concept of Hindutva (that is entirely divergent from the Constitution-defined role of religion in an individual’s life) and the nexus between RSS and the BJP and its combined agenda for Indian democracy.

Route march
Volunteers of the Hindu nationalist organisation Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) take part in Path-Sanchalan, or Route March, during a day-long camp in Ahmedabad, India March 4, 2018. (Reuters)

ON MUSLIMS OF INDIA

Mohan Bhagwat: 
“Hindu Rashtra doesn’t mean there’s no place for Muslims. If we don’t accept Muslims, it’s not Hindutva. Hindutva is Indianness and inclusivity.”

“The cultural identity of all Indians is Hindutva and the present inhabitants of the country are descendants of this great culture.”

“We say ours is a Hindu Rashtra. Hindu Rashtra does not mean it has no place for Muslims. The day it is said that Muslims are unwanted here, the concept of Hindutva will cease to exist.

RSS 
One of the leading lights of the RSS, the fomer Sangh chief M.S Golwalkar referred in his book to Muslims, along with Christians and Communists, [as] enemies of the Hindu Rashtra.

Golwalkar

 Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar 

According to archival material available online, in its mouthpiece Organizer, an editorial (titled ‘Whither’) that is dated August 14, 1947 (a day before India declared its independence from British rule) said:

“Let us no longer allow ourselves to be influenced by false notions of nationhood. Much of the mental confusion and the present and future troubles can be removed by the ready recognition of the simple fact that in Hindusthan only the Hindus form the nation and the national structure must be built on that safe and sound foundation…The nation itself must be built up of Hindus, on Hindu traditions, culture, ideas and aspirations.”

Indian muslim women
Indian Muslim women rest inside Jama Masjid in New Delhi. India’s Supreme Court struck down the triple talaq Muslim practice that allows men to instantly divorce their wives as unconstitutional. (AP)

ON THE LGBT COMMUNITY

Mohan Bhagwat: 
“One must accept them (homosexuals) so that they are not isolated in the society simply because their or orientation is different from ours. Everyone is a part of this society, times have changed and these issues should not have been blown out of proportion.”

RSS: 
“Same-sex relations and same-sex marriages are not natural. This is why we do not support them. The Indian tradition has never approved of these relationships.”

ON THE INDIAN CONSTITUTION

Mohan Bhagwat: 
“Constitution is the consensus of the country… We respect all symbols of freedom, and the Constitution is also one such symbol.”

RSS:
The RSS has historically viewed the Indian Constitution with deep reservations. According to many reports, the RSS rejected the Constitution when it was formally passed on November, 26, 1949, and referred to the Manusmriti, a canonical ancient Indian text that outlines an individual’s and state’s duties, rights, laws, conduct, virtues, etc. According to the RSS, Manusmriti “had the admiration of the world” and thus should have been adopted as the Constitution of India.

Mohan Bhagwat
A file photo of RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat (C) during the RSS function.

ON COW VIGILANTISM

Mohan Bhagwat at the conclave: “It’s a crime to take law into one’s own hands.” “We have to reject the double-speak as there is no talk of violence by cow smugglers.”

Mohan Bhagwat in 2017: “Nothing should be done while protecting cows that hurts the belief of some people. Nothing should be done that is violent. It only defames the efforts of cow protectors… The work of cow conservation should be carried out while obeying laws and the Constitution.”

Mohan Bhagwat in 2016: “Cow is our mother and Gau Rakshaks (cow protectors) are good; they work within the constitutional framework.”

mob attack
Police inspect the site of a mob attack in Rajasthan’s Alwar district, in which a man transporting cows was beaten to death. (Archive)

NEXUS BETWEEN RSS and BJP

Mohan Bhagwat: 
“From its inception, the RSS has decided to keep itself away from politics and political competition.”

“It is a myth that Nagpur (RSS headquarters) runs the government. We do not have any impact on government policies.

Mohan Bhagwat in 2016: “We have faith in swayamsevaks (volunteers) in government. Have patience ..

(It is a well-documented and historically established truth that the BJP is regarded as mentee of the RSS and is a conduit for its political agenda.)

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