RSS EVENT: MOHAN KI BAAT
RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat has over the last week been the talk of Delhi. In his organisation’s 93-year history, it has arguably never enjoyed such national prominence. Bhagwat’s three-day lecture series in the national capital was a manifestation of the organisation’s confidence, a signal that it is willing to stake its claim to the future of India. Indeed, the series was titled ‘Future of Bharat: An RSS Perspective’, a kind of RSS coming out party after decades in the national shadows.
Despite Congress president Rahul Gandhi likening the organisation to the Muslim Brotherhood, the RSS’s newfound place at the centre of national life was arguably first indicated by former president and Congressman Pranab Mukherjee’s acceptance of an invitation to its headquarters in Nagpur in June where he described RSS founding Sarsanghchalak K.B. Hedgewar as a “patriot”. Bhagwat and Mukherjee have met twice more since.
The lectures in Delhi were made in the conciliatory spirit of an organisation that knows its time has come, that it is the new mainstream. It is the culmination of a process RSS joint general secretary Manmohan Vaidya traces back to the Emergency, when RSS leaders mingled with politicians and even Muslim leaders in jail. But the
RSS has shied away from the national limelight, content to build its cadre strength, unwilling to appear too ambitious, until now when the national mood is conducive. In the past, says Ram Madhav, a former member of the RSS national executive and current BJP general secretary, the “RSS has been too reticent. But it is open to changing alongside changing times”.
In the content of Bhagwat’s lectures over all three days, he portrayed the
RSS as all-encompassing and Hindutva as an inclusive ideology. He maintained the RSS view that all Indians are Hindus, but accepted that not everyone was ready to acknowledge this, for him, self-evident truth. And so the RSS is flexible enough to respect the wishes of those who would rather be referred to as Bharatiya than Hindu. Bhagwat stressed the organisation’s commitment to nationalism over religion (in part because Hinduism transcends religion) and to the Constitution. Bhagwat argued that the RSS had little political influence over the BJP, praising the Congress’s role in the independence struggle and drawing a distinction between the BJP’s desire for a Congress-mukt Bharat and the RSS’s inclusivity, its co-option even of ideological opponents. The RSS has supported the Congress in the past, joining hands with Indira Gandhi in 1982, both concerned by the decision of 200 Dalits to convert to Islam, to set up the Virat Hindu Parishad led by Congress’s Dr Karan Singh.
To underline his openness, Bhagwat also quoted the Muslim founder of what became Aligarh Muslim University, bemoaning the separation of Indians into Muslim and Hindu, as if they were not all children of Bharat Mata. Another significant statement Bhagwat made was on former RSS chief Guru M.S. Golwalkar’s views on Muslims as expressed in his book, Bunch of Thoughts. The RSS’s outlook has changed with the passage of time and circumstances, Bhagwat said about Golwalkar’s views.
Over three days, it was an assured performance designed to allay fears, to present the RSS as n unifying rather than divisive force.
Bhagwat stressed the organisation’s commitment to nationalism over religion and to the Constitution
TAKING CENTRESTAGE: Bhagwat presenting the RSS as a mainstream, unifying rather than divisive force