Vantage point

Wednesday, May 28, 2003


I thought of writing this post in response to Pushkar's complaint that I should not attribute some actions and words of certain Sangh members or even the Saffron brigade, to the RSS way of thinking.

I have heard many guys do this before. They will criticise select actions of the VHP, Shivsena, Bajrang Dal...even the BJP but somehow assume that the RSS is above board. They don't realise that it is the fountainhead of all such unrealistic extremist philosophy. Sure, the image they would like to project to the world is that the RSS is a "social" organisation. It never fights elections, they say. It only feeds the poor and does volunteer work. They have no fixed leaning towards Hinduism, they say. Look at the name, it means "National Volunteers Association", so how can you call it a communal body, they ask with shock. Why, many Muslims are members of the RSS, they claim (though I've never met one). And so on....

But if the RSS is so free of religious leanings, why does it support the Ram temple movement? Oh, that is because the Babri Masjid was built by an invader and so is a blot on Indian nationalism. So would they like to raze the Taj Mahal to the ground as well? Oh no, but they would like to call it a Shiva Temple.

The RSS has always been playing a two-faced game. All said and done it is a communal body. It has religion (and by that I mean their definition of Hinduism) at the core of their philosophy.

However due to this two-faced image they portray, they leave their cadre confused. What exactly does the RSS stand for? Can all swayamsevaks answer in one voice? If so, then why do they seem to be borrowing (hijacking??) personalities from other groups/parties to further their agenda?

The biggest case in point is Vinayak Damodar "Veer" Savarkar. The RSS absolutely loves to use his name and his image. But how many of you know that Savarkar had nothing to do with the RSS? He headed a separate entity called the Hindu Mahasabha, which he revived in 1923 when he got out of prison. If the Sanghists were so in love with Savarkar, why did they start a separate body? I'll tell you why. Because Savarkar was an atheist. He has gone on record saying that the cow is just an animal, not "our mother" or anything. He has talked about the evils of the caste system. Now you see why the RSS found it difficult to align itself with him? These are the people who are wasting precious hours of the Lok Sabha to ban cow slaughter. These are the people who idolise Golwalkar who has written "Anyone who does not abide by the chaturvarna caste system does not deserve to live in India". The RSS despite all external appearances, holds religion close to its heart. Not just religion, but their definition of the caste-based Hinduism.

Which is why you see them getting all incensed at ill-treated Dalits converting to Christianity. But what is the use of attacking the symptom? The root cause is the prevalent heinous caste system. Never has the RSS looked to take any steps to break down this caste system. It has such a wide grassroot presence, but one never hears of any major(note - major, not cosmetic) efforts to wipe out the caste system.

Then there is Sardar Patel, whom they have hijacked. A Congressman who was a staunch follower of Mahatma Gandhi is actually being idolised by the RSS!! That is another opportunistic step. After the degeneration of the Congress into a one-edynasty party, Patel is not at the head of the Congress pantheon. So the RSS latches onto the much respected iron man, though during his lifetime, he believed they were a threat to national security.

The RSS has always claimed to be in favour of the 'free market' enterprise within the framework of swadeshi. They did this just to take a viewpoint opposite to Nehru's socialism. Yet of late the RSS seems to be the staunchest supporter of socialism. In 1980, they announced so as well. And if you have any doubts, ask Arun Shourie where he is facing the stiffest opposition from. The RSS leadership considers Shourie to be the prime villain for his steps to unshackle the economy from a government grip. Vajpayee has had to defy the RSS to keep him in the cabinet. As Shourie said on NDTV some days ago, "Those who once claimed to be the strongest supporters of a free market are suddenly discovering their love for socialism and state-control". Why? Simple. Since the RSS is now in control of the state, through the BJP, it does not want to relinquish control of the industry.

This is what I mean as far as hijacking other leaders and ideas is concerned.

Now look at how they are swift to dissociate themselves with their leaders when it looks "politically incorrect". The book "We, Our Nationhood Defined" written by Golwalkar, one of the RSS stalwarts, has stuff which would make Hitler happy. It openly espouses fascism, the caste system, etc etc. But if you ever take a quote from that book (like the one I made above), a Sanghist would give you a gamut of excuses like "The RSS does not recognise that book", or "Guruji later retracted that book" or "There is no such book". The point remains that the RSS was shaped by this man, who held such beliefs, which he retracted only after the second world war when the follies of Nazism became apparent. So while they will call Golwalkar a leader as important as Gandhi or Nehru, they are quick to discard those beliefs of his which are inconvenient.

And then of course there is the founder of the RSS, Dr. K. B. Hedgewar. For all this Congress-hate, how many swayamsevaks know (or want to talk about) the fact that Hedgewar was a member of the Congress right until he died in 1940? How's that for a propaganda loophole? The RSS was founded in 1925, but Hedgewar was a Congressi till the end.

The RSS is a religion-driven body. It is by no stretch of imagination a "nationalist" body. In fact the old prayer of the RSS, when it was established had the name of Ram in it. It was dropped later when they wanted to don this "nationalist" mask.

By the way, let me make it clear that I think that a Hindu fundamentalist body is a bit of a necessary evil. I mean, as much as I disagree with their ideas, I think that it is going to be a reality. As long as you have certain Christians and Muslims with organisation that preach their religion is the best...and seek to proselytise aggressively, there is going to be a Hindu fundamentalist body as well. It is like greed, gluttony, etc. By just denying its presence or seeking to wipe it out, we will achieve nothing.

The key is to keep in check the actions of such bodies. As long as they stick to the boundaries defined by the constitution, it is OK. We are a democracy after all.

The defunct Hindu Mahasabha was very clear in its approach. Some say it was too fanatical, and was responsible for Gandhiji's murder. Nevertheless, at least it did not have a two faced approach. The RSS is rife with internal contradictions. The sad thing is people fall for it. In part, I blame our historians who concentrate too much on the Congress. We are hardly taught anything about other bodies like the RSS or even the Communists. So the vacuum created is filled by the bodies themselves. So instead of knowing about RSS and Commies etc through proper sources, many tend to rely on what those bodies themselves have to state.

So you have people saying "RSS is not religious" or "CPI/CPM have India's interests at their heart". Yeah right.

Wolves in sheep's clothing.