Alive - - Editorial -

When former Pres­i­dent Pranab Mukher­jee ac­cepted the RSS in­vi­ta­tion for the con­vo­ca­tion of its cadres pass­ing out af­ter their train­ing in Nag­pur, there was anx­i­ety all around. The Sangh Pari­var – BJP, RSS and sev­eral Hin­dutva out­fits – was in­trigued why one of the se­nior most Con­gress­man got the in­vi­ta­tion to ad­dress an au­di­ence that was meant to prop­a­gate ide­ol­ogy and agenda di­a­met­ri­cally op­po­site to the RSS. Con­gress­men and sec­u­lar­ists in gen­eral were un­happy that he ac­cepted the RSS in­vi­ta­tion and were anx­ious to know what he had to say.

How­ever Mukher­jee's ad­dress to the Swayam­se­vaks was based on his own ideas and much against the pre­cepts and prac­tices of RSS. " Any at­tempt at defin­ing our na­tion­hood in terms of dog­mas and iden­ti­ties of re­li­gion, re­gion, ha­tred and in­tol­er­ance will only lead to di­lu­tion of our na­tional iden­tity," he said. The very sen­tence de­mol­ished what the RSS was stand­ing for. Its ide­ol­ogy of Hin­dutva, work­ing for a Hindu Rash­tra, ha­tred for re­li­gions like Is­lam and Chris­tian­ity.

The very con­cept of what RSS con­sid­ered to be na­tion­al­ism was de­mol­ished by Mukher­jee: "The soul of In­dia re­sides in plu­ral­ism and tol­er­ance – sec­u­lar­ism and in­clu­sion are a mat­ter of faith for us – In­dia's na­tion­hood is not one lan­guage, one re­li­gion, one en­emy. It is the peren­nial uni­ver­sal­ism of 1.3 bil­lion peo­ple who are 122 lan­guages…. prac­tice 7 ma­jor re­li­gions… live un­der one sys­tem, one flag and one iden­tity of be­ing Bharatiya and have no en­e­mies." There was no na­tional flag or singing of na­tional an­them in the RSS func­tion.

As an em­i­nent His­to­rian, Mukher­jee con­tra­dicted what the RSS con­sid­ers non-Bharatiya: "Each con­queror and each for­eign el­e­ment had been ab­sorbed to form a syn­the­sis and unity… to cre­ate an in­di­vid­ual soul, that is called Bharat."

Did Pranab Mukher­jee's speech make any im­pact on the Swayam­se­vaks who were hear­ing op­po­site to what they have been taught dur­ing their train­ing? Hardly any. How­ever, Mukher­jee had in­sisted that he would be the last speaker in the func­tion, so the supreme leader Mo­han Bhag­wat had no chance to re­pu­di­ate Mukher­jee's ar­gu­ments at the venue.

The anx­i­ety of the Con­gress­men must have some­what over and they were re­lieved. But the fear ex­pressed by his daugh­ter, Congress MP, Sharmishta Mukher­jee, be­fore her fa­ther went to Nag­pur, has be­come a re­al­ity: "Even RSS wouldn't be­lieve that you are go­ing to en­dorse its views. But the speech will be for­got­ten, vi­su­als will re­main and those will be cir­cu­lated with fake state­ments."

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