Something is cooking in the RSS. Certainly, it is fishy (apologies to fish). Otherwise, why this turnabout? Why this change of heart? Out of nowhere.Even the Hindutva spokespeople have become civilized suddenly, giving up their abrasive, aggressive, intolerant rant as has been evident in the English language TV news channels. They are using more reasonable language, have toned down voices, and are using friendly terms like “Bhai” for their opponents. Wow! This is too good to be true! Which means exactly that: that it is not true or genuine. The sudden change of views of RSS on India’s sizable Muslims, Reservation andAmbedkar is revolutionary, to say the least. Its views on women and homosexuality continue to be regressive. The RSS will stop being RSS, a Hindu fundamentalist organization, if the statements made by RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat during the three-day conclave in Delhi are genuine and reflect the considered views of the top bosses of the RSS. But it would be foolish to go by mere words and even more foolish if we are to believe that a hardcore fundamentalist organisation that has preached the superiority of Hinduism and Hindus, that considered everything Muslim as evil incarnate, that has preached and practiced superiority of Brahmins, that has questioned or distorted every historical fact regarding the Muslim rule in India, has had its moment of Nirvana/Enlightenment. Even the most liberal of RSS followers (if there are any) wouldn’t have even in her wildest dreams thought that such a day would come when an RSS chief would sing paeans to diversity, secularism and the principle of live and let live.
One can try and understand why this turnabout has been undertaken. Clearly, the motivation is political and the context is the 2019 general elections. Is this move to help BJP, which everyone knows to be the political wing of RSS, to win support of the minorities and the oppressed castes so that the party gets another five-year term? Should the BJP win, all the earlier statements of RSS can be retracted as ‘election jumlas’ and then implement its fundamentalist agenda with a vengeance. As PrakashAmbedkar believes, aHindutva-based Constitution has been readied and will be adopted if BJP gets a clear majority in the LokSabha. It will be a matter of time before a majority in RajyaSabha can be achieved and hey presto, the Constitution that brought into being the democratic, socialist, secular Republic of India, will be a thing of the past. In its place will be a fascist dictatorship which will have categories of citizens whose rights will be differ with religion, gender, region, caste and so on.
Or, can this ‘reasonable face’ of RSS be an attempt to pull the rug from under Modi’s feet, clip his wings as he’s seen as a threat to RSS’ dominance? Is RSS feeling threatened by Modi since he has grown so powerful? Have the dissidents within BJP convinced the RSS that Modi could likely cut his umbilical cordwith RSS if he wins a second term? Would he then, along with his partner Amit Shah, become a law unto himself, not accountable to RSS? The scenario is not too difficult to imagine considering how Modi ruthlessly sidelined his guru and mentor L K Advani and finished him off politically. If Modi manages to emerge victorious, then even the power of RSS might not hold him down, fear his fellow-Hindutva travellers. Those pointing out the disaffection within the ranks of BJP, especially the senior leaders include not just Congress but ArunShourie, an insider of BJP,YashwantSinha, a top party leader and ShatrughnaSinha, a second rung leader, to name a few. There have been whispers of unhappiness among senior ministers in the Modi cabinet who have been reduced to zero, powerless and voiceless by the centralized decision-making in the Prime Minister’s Office.In a direct hit at Modi, Bhagwat decried the politics of ‘shamshanandkhabristan’, something that Modi had invoked in UP elections last year. The politics of shamshan-khabristan was practiced for power and not for public welfare, he said. Modi had used the expression during an election rally in February 2017, accusing the AkhileshYadav government using religion to divide people, basically to favour Muslims. He said “If you create a khabristan (graveyard) in a village, then a shamshan (cremation ground) should be created. If electricity is given uninterrupted in Ramzan, then it should be given in Diwali too. There should be no discrimination,” he said. Perhaps this is the first time that RSS has openly rebukedModi but without taking his name.Coming to Bhagwat’s concessions to Congress, praising its role in freedom struggle and in building the nation after independence, he seems to be ‘doing a Rahul’, giving Congress a verbal hug to disarm it, even if momentarily, and thus spread the impression of being a reasonable organisation, not hating its main opponent. He is willing to go the extra mile in praising Congress, who has been its bête noire, to convince the people that he and his organisation were much misunderstood and that they do appreciate Congress and its contribution to India, or Bharat. Or, is Bhagwat aiming at Modifrom Congress’ shoulder? Now, coming to the most important issue for the RSS and its sister ‘senas’ and ‘parishads’ of the SanghParivar, that of status of Muslims and their role in the country, Bhagwat has not minced words. His definition of Hindutva and ‘Hindu Rashtra’ means ‘unity of existence’ of those who live in India. “The day it is said that Muslims are excluded from such a conception, it would render Hindutva infructuous.” Of course, RSS includes Muslims in the Hindu Rashtra provided they live as Hindus, appreciate Hinduism, and admit their Hindu ancestry. Bhagwat admits very patronizingly that RSS talks of Muslims’ Hindu ancestry “not to ostracise you but to emphasise you are one of us.” Asked how he would explain RSS ideologue M S Golwalkar describing India’s Muslims and Christians as ‘internal threats’ in 1966, Bhagwat said it was ‘contextual’. Admittedly contexts change but how is the context of 1966 different from that of 2018? If the context was 1947, for argument sake, one could explain it away but what happened in the 1960s that our fellow Indians were seen as threats by Golwalkar? In the very same book, Golwalkar gives the context for his antipathy towards Muslims.On page 178, he says “..Have those who remained here (after creation of Pakistan) changed […] Has their old hostility and murderous mood, which resulted in widespread riots, looting, arson, raping and all sorts of orgies on an unprecedented scale in 1946-47, come to a halt at least now? It would be suicidal to delude ourselves into believing that they have turned patriots overnight after the creation of Pakistan. On the contrary, the Muslim menace has increased a hundredfold by the creation of Pakistan which has become a springboard for all their future aggressive designs on our country.” The context for RSS’ hatred towards Muslims has remained the same, despite efforts of Bhagwat to whitewash it.
Despite the hand of friendship extended by the RSS chief to the Muslims, it has been accompanied by a threat. And this shows RSS in its true colours, notwithstanding all the noises of tolerance, diversity, universal brotherhood that Bhagwat espoused in his three-day public relations show for Hindutva.Asked about building Ram Mandir in Ayodhya where once Babri Masjid stood, Bhagwat said it was for the government to decide on an ordinance or ‘any other route’, but he wished that a grand Ram temple be built at Ayodhya soon.Now comes the twist: “If it can be built through consensus, it will foster harmony and far fewer fingers of suspicion will be pointed at Indian Muslims in future,” he said. In other words, the Muslims should agree to the building of Ram Mandir or they will be suspect. Now this is called an iron fist in velvet glove.The apparent change of heart is false. The threat is real.
(The writer was Foreign Correspondent and Special Correspondent of Deccan Herald. The article appeared in:countercurrents.org)