Like people of all regions and religions, a large number of Hindus have been migrating to all the parts of World. The reason behind this is better pastures and better living standards in those places. In most of the parts of the World one can see a substantial number of Hindus/people of Indian origin. The concentration of these émigrés is particularly more in richer countries. Earlier large number of Indians migrated to UK, Canada and currently United States is the hot favourite. The émigrés from here do tend to adapt to the countries they adopt, still retaining their umbilical cords. Some of them locally meet to celebrate their Indian-ness; some also meet bearing their religious identity as Hindus or Muslims in particular. There is a large Diaspora, from India scattered all over the US. Some Hindus among them recently held World Hindu Congress in Chicago and invited RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat to address the same.
Some of these NRI’s, as they are known popularly, identify RSS combine as representative of Hindus. At one level it should be surprising as to how RSS combine can be representing all the Hindus. RSS upholds a version of Hinduism, which is wedded to Brahmanical norms; majority of Hindus all through freedom struggle chose Gandhi as their icon and identified with freedom struggle. In contrast RSS, which has the agenda of Hindu nation, kept totally aloof from the freedom movement. These Hindus, behind the WHC, may well know that greatest Hindu of twentieth Century, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was killed by a person who was the follower of RSS ideology of Hindu nation.
Be it so! Addressing the Congress Mr. Bhagwat made many comments which are indirectly insulting to the people of other religions and ideologies in India. While emphasizing the need for Hindu unity he said “wild dogs can invade and destroy even a lion if he is alone”, a remark that was interpreted by some as a veiled reference to the Sangh parivar narrative of Muslim invaders dominating and leaving their imprint on India, and Christian missionaries work in poor areas leading to conversions. He also made a reference to pests and the use of pesticides in agriculture, analogy being to religious minorities in India.
Summarizing his ideology and understanding of history Mr. Bhagwat, said, “Why are we suffering for thousand years? We had everything and we knew everything. We forgot to practice what we knew. We also forgot to work together,”
Reacting to this many a spokesmen of Indian political parties poured their anguish. Mr. Nawab Malik of NCP stated “The ideology of RSS and BJP is anti-Hindu and they only know how to do caste politics…The day they stop dividing Hindus on the basis of caste, every Hindu and people from other religions as well will be lions. Similarly Sachin Sawant from Congress said, that “RSS ideology is anti-Hindu. It is known for hatred towards other castes and religions. It is shameful of the RSS chief to describe any religion in this way.”
At a more forthright level Prakash Ambedkar of Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh leader Prakash Ambedkar felt that that the “dog” reference was for the “opposition parties” in the country. And “I condemn this ‘mansikta‘(mentality) of Mohan Bhagwat that he has referred to Opposition parties in the country as dogs.”
Interestingly at the site of the WHC there were posters which showed RSS agenda in a blunt way. One such poster related to Love Jihad, depicted the marriage of Shramila Tagore to Mansoor Ali Pautadi as love jihad. Posters question whether Saif Ali Khan will force his wife to Kareena Kapoor to convert to Islam and also as to why they gave an Arabic name to their son (Taimur). In loud and clear manner the posters say that interfaith marriages are a silent Holocaust of Hindus, showing a clear patriarchal mindset of the organizers. These assertions of WHC council did not go unchallenged from the progressive Indians community. Many from Indian origin community stood to challenge with a statement and labelled RSS politics as “Hindu supremacist ideology that is spearheading the violation of human rights and religious freedom of minorities in India.” Many young activists from Chicago’s ‘South Asians for Justice’ shouted slogans “RSS Turn Around, We don’t want you in Our Town,” and “Stop Hindu Fascism.” These protestors had some fracas with those attending the conference.
Overall the organizations like WHC have come up cashing on ‘identity crisis of Hindus’ in US. Many a first generation Hindus who migrate for jobs or better business opportunities to US get a cultural shock there. The shock is that related to equality; related to social norms as such and to gender equations in particular. The whole first generation of Hindus landing up in US see women in very different role there, women as autonomous beings, which come as a threat to their own mindset. It is at this juncture that RSS ideology of glorification of the past, a decoy to hide caste and gender inequality, comes in as a succor to these troubled souls, longing for their mother land but pinned down to United States by lure of lucre. RSS type Hinduism gives them the identity they needed to sustain their original values. So for this section; RSS is synonymous with Hinduism, which surely it is not.
This was the ground on which VHP of America, HSS and other parallel organizations started flourishing in US. In elections in Gujarat many NRI Indians come regularly to campaign for BJP, similarly a good amount of donations pour in for RSS combine and BJP electoral campaign in India. Today RSS, parallel Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh has thousands of active shakhas (branches) in US. The statement of RSS chief are a clear denigration of the religious minorities in India, one hopes that the progressive organizations like South Asians for Justice continue to promote secular values, values of amity and counter the divisive agenda, which RSS is spreading there.
(Ram Puniyani was a professor in biomedical engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, and took voluntary retirement in December 2004 to work full time for communal harmony in India.)