FORMER PRESIDENT AT RSS CAMP
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."