What the RSS Sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat said in his three-day outreach programme in the national capital beginning last Monday, is so unexceptionable, indeed, so wholesome, that you are left wondering what the controversy is all about the 92-year-old-organisation. He forthrightly explained his position on the very issues which the RSS’s critics invariably raise to dub it fascist. There was nothing fascist in his views frankly expressed before an invited audience which was at liberty to seek answers to its questions which Bhagwat provided most patiently and with a becoming candidness. Be it the question of Muslims, or Section 377, or the place of women in the society, or the Hindutva, Bhagwat offered cogent replies without causing any offence to anyone.
If some professional critics who mechanically mouth abuse against the RSS still refuse to clear their minds, it is their problem. The RSS chief has enunciated his vision for India, that is Bharat, and we find nothing threatening about it. To begin with, he openly swore allegiance to the Constitution, reiterating that it represents the consensus of the country. Note that critics have insisted that RSS wants to burn this constitution and replace it with a new constitution of a Hindu Rashtra. How terribly prejudiced they are , especially when Bhagwat was courageous enough not to swear by Guru Golwalkar’s ~Bunch of Thoughts~ which is often quoted by its detractors to paint RSS in poor light. Yes, some of the things he wrote in that book would not be acceptable, but those things were context- and time-specific. ( By the way, can the present-day Communists justify the mass murder of millions by Lenin, Stalin and Mao undertaken in the name of revolution?) One has to move with the times. Come to the question of Muslims. He explained that the word minorities was an insertion of the British. Muslims were welcome to see for themselves what happens in the RSS Shakhas. RSS did not believe in excluding anyone from Bharat… “the day Muslims said they are unwanted here, the concept of Hindutva will cease to exist…” If anyone has problems being called Hindus, they are welcome to call themselves ‘Bharatiya’. Diversities of religion, dress, eating habits, social relations, etc., were fine as it was not the RSS objective to create a homogeneous society.
Clearly, Bhagwat was emphasizing that regardless of their religion, those born and brought up here had to have loyalty to this land, though the word Hindu embraced everyone born here, a definition preferred by the French rather than by the English-speaking world. Bhagwat also cleared confusion that RSS was against caste-based reservations. It was not. RSS supports the existing reservations policy. So long as the beneficiaries of reservations themselves do not demand an end to it, it should be allowed to continue for the SCs-STs as well as the OBCs. Indeed, eliminating caste-based discrimination was the RSS objective and much success has been achieved in this direction already. Even on the de-criminalising of homosexuality, the RSS chief took a progressive view, saying that with the changing times the society had to move forward.
Disapproving of killings in the name of cow, Bhagwat nonetheless noted that he was against killing of cows which was a criminal act anyway. But nobody had the right to kill fellow humans in the name of cows, he said firmly. He could not have been more forthright in his disapproval of killings over cows. Indeed, some of the things the RSS chief said would suggest that it is far more progressive than the BJP. Or the BJP often resorts to a divisive agenda with an electoral objective which RSS feels no need to pursue. Indeed, Bhagwat repeatedly stressed that the RSS did neither set the BJP agenda nor remote-controlled the party’s governments. Bhagwat’s critique of the education and population policy was in consonance with the views of the independent-minded people. Meanwhile, it is unlikely that the hard-core critics of the RSS-BJP will lend any credence to Bhagwat’s words, preferring instead to harp on their own jaundiced views about the two organisations. However, all others should test Bhagwat on his word and watch the RSS conduct in the coming weeks and months. The most heartening was Bhagwat’s readiness to bring RSS up-to-date into the 21st century instead of some of its members wanting to live in an unknown past. Moving with the times is Bhagwat’s message to his own flock.