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Mainstream, VOL LVI No 40 New Delhi September 22, 2018

Mohan Bhagwat’s Frank Talk

Tuesday 25 September 2018, by SC



Long years ago in 1991, the then Prime Minister, Chandra Shekhar, was asked at a press conference in New Delhi if he sensed the danger of a Hindu Rashtra in pluralist and secular democratic India. Chandra Shekhar brushed aside the threat with characteristic flourish, saying that if the regular assemblage of sadhus and sants at kumbh melas did not turn India into a Hindu Rashtra, such a prospect was remote in the near future. Even if the then PM’s assurance in this regard left the listeners with a sense of relief at that time, the latest developments since 2014 have brought to the fore that specific danger with a force as never before. The utterances of both PM Narendra Modi and BJP President Amit Shah have only heightened that danger. Additionally, the insecurity among Muslims has increased in large measure.

It is in this context that the widely publicised speech of RSS sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat at a lecture series of the organisation in New Delhi on September 18 provided a refreshing change from the stereotypical ultra-Hindu outbursts of the key figures of the Hindutva brigade that have hogged the limelight of late. The most significant point he made was this: Hindu Rashtra does not mean it has no place for Muslims. The day it is said that Muslims are unwanted here, the concept of Hindutva will cease to exist.

A day earlier Bhagwat had said something equally important: Those who oppose us are also ours.... we are for yukt Bharat (inclusive India), not mukt (exclusive). And he added: Nobody is an outsider for the Sangh (RSS). Those who oppose us today are also ours. That’s certain. We will be concerned if their opposition is going to harm us.

On September 19, Bhagwat explained that the RSS had discarded chunks of Guru Golwalkar’s thoughts. (Golwalkar had called Muslims India’s enemy, something Bhagwat said had been subsequently rejected by the RSS.) The RSS had vehemently opposed the Indian Constitution when it was framed and instead wanted Manusmriti to be the Constitution of the country. But Bhagwat said his organisation, obviously as an afterthought, endorsed the Indian Constitution as the consensus of the country. While advocating cow protection he opposed those who indulged in forcible implementation of cow protection leading to lynchings, saying in such cases the law must take its own course.

While analysing his frank talk The Indian Express aptly concludes:

Bhagwat’s exposition of the RSS vision will be tested on the ground since the RSS is a cadre-outfit deeply embedded in grassroots politics. What would his message be to the radical activists, who target innocent Muslims in the name of cow protection and other such agendas? A religious minority is not an abstraction but people with clear preferences of faith, diet, dress, social relations and so on. The Constitution recognises it as such and has provided for special rights to protect the minorities from being subdued by the cultural preferences of the majority; a nationalism founded on the Constitution will be different from the toxic potion currently served by the Hindu Right. The sarsanghachalak is deemed the final word in the RSS. Bhagwat will now have to ensure that swayamsevaks walk his talk.

And one may add: while the sarsanghchalak has expressed himself on the eve of the 2019 general elections, the question iswhy didn’t he do so earlier? Is it because of electoral compulsions of the Sangh Parivar that he is now compelled to take this step? There is also no certainty that Bhagwat is not resorting to doublespeak as the RSS frequently does so. Nevertheless, Bhagwat’s exercise is welcome inasmuch as it highlights the reasons that have forced him to explain the Sangh’s position on various issues regardless of the consequences (in terms of the acceptance or otherwise of his views by the Sangh Parivar’s  different constituents).

September 20 S.C.

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