New Delhi: On Monday, the first day of three-day lecture series titled, ‘Future of Bharat: An RSS perspective’, organised by RSS, Sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat countered all the political-ideological criticisms. The lecture though remained strictly apolitical, concerned only with conveying the “reality of the Sangh”.

Having invited over 1100 participants from all walks of life, the event would conclude on September 19, with Bhagwat answering questions from the participants.

Bhagwat started with the life history of Sangh founder Dr Keshav Baliram Hedgewar. Narrating events when Hedgewar opposed the British in India’s anti-colonial struggle by joining the revolutionary stream, Bhagwat took on Congress-Left criticism that the Hindutva body remained aloof from the Independence movement.

In the same breath, Bhagwat established that liberal and tolerant credentials were at the root of RSS as the Sangh founder, he said, was close friends with Leftist leaders of Maharashtra. Peaceful ideological dialogue is germane to RSS, he conveyed, so far national welfare was at the centre of it.

Diversity was at the heart of the social experimentation and a cornerstone to the methodology of social change thus developed by Dr Hedgewar, Bhagwat said. Bhagwat laid out the diversity of Indian society, asserting that acceptance of it was central to social and individual reform. Diversity was only excrescent, not essential to the national life of India.

Often accused of being dictatorial, Sangh chief addressed it. He said since decisions were taken by consensus, only one voice spoke on behalf of all others. This gave the appearance of a lack of democracy and debate. Sangh discussed issues from the lowest to the highest levels of the organisation and once a decision was reached, all voices were dissolved in that consensus.

Bhagwat also took on the issue of remote control, which the RSS is often accused by detractors of holding over other sister organisations and its governments. Bhagwat told the gathering of leading luminaries that all the adjunct organisations were autonomous and free; the Sangh only took care they did not commit some grave mistake.

The Sarsanghchalak countered imbuing of motives to its social welfare activities. He cited ideologically sensitive Kerala, where RSS swayamsevaks or volunteers jumped to organise help in the recent devastating floods. Those RSS workers were not trained in disaster management, he said.

Bhagwat also blunted allegations on RSS that it had its own flag and thus divided loyalties when it came to the national Tricolour. RSS has a fundamental respect for the Tricolour since it was flown for the first time, he said,

Right From Bhagwat’s Mouth:

1.     “I am not here to convince you. That is your choice. I will tell you what the Sangh is. Answer your questions to the best of my capacity. You accept it or not is your prerogative, but at least your discussions will be informed by the reality of RSS.”

2.     “To understand RSS one needs to start from Dr Keshav Baliram Hedgewar. We call him a ‘born patriot’. He became a patriot from his days in the primary school. He threw the sweets that were distributed in his school on the coronation of Queen Victoria. He told his teacher that he could not celebrate the coronation of one who had colonised our country.”

3.     “Dr Hedgewar participated in the Vande Mataram movement and got rusticated as he was not ready to tender even a token apology. He completed matriculation from national school and was sent to Kolkata by nationalist leaders to get training in Anushilam Samiti. He came back as doctor and joined national movement.”

4.     “Dr Hedgewar was charged with sedition and tried. He pleaded his case and maintained that speaking for freedom was not a crime. He was imprisoned for a year.”

5.     “Dr Hedgewar vowed to remain a bachelor or ‘brahmachari’ and not marry so that he could invest his life for the nation.”

6.     Bhagwat stressed social reform as the key to national welfare. In this respect he quoted Rabindranath Tagore and even radical Marxist MN Roy. “Rabindranath Tagore has said in his Swadeshi Samaj that we are unity in diversity and this is not political but social. MN Roy who was an exponent of Radical Humanism said that superficial changes will not suffice until social change happens. There is no shortcut to this. Shortcuts will cut you short. President Abdul Kalam also advocated social change. Dr Vargese Kurien in his book ‘I Too Had A Dream’ advocated social uplift.”

7.     “Dr Hedgewar used to say, ‘How long will you blame British and Muslim invaders for your bad condition?’ The biggest problem is Hindus. The deterioration of India started with our own deterioration. This nation is value-based and that is Hinduness. The day we left our values is the day our downfall began.”

8.     “Whatever be said, but some positive attempts have been made in the past also. But there are no results. Why: we need to deserve it. We lack national character in so much as there is no discipline and sense of civic duties which are central to a nation.”

9.     “It is said that RSS is a dictatorial organisation. There is a Sarsanghchalak and is now called ‘chief’ by outsiders. This gives the impression. But, we are the most democratic organisation. Decisions are taken after discussion from below to the top and a consensus is reached. Once it is reached, all others voices drown themselves in it. Do not go by what I say, come inside and see for yourself: you will find it.”

10.  On the dichotomy between the Tricolour and RSS’ dhwaj (insignia), Bhagwat narrated an incident from Faizpur Congress when Tricolour was unfurled for the first time. “The flag was to be hoisted on an 80-feet tall post. While going up, it got entangled. A man came running forward, and putting his life in danger scaled up the pole and disentangled the knots. He was Kishan Singh Rajput. Nehru asked him to come to the open session the next day so that he could reward Rajput. Some Congressmen came to Nehru and prompted that Rajput went to shakha and must not be rewarded. Hedgewar, later, rewarded him with a small silver vessel. RSS has been associated with the tricolour's honour since the very first day.”

Bhagwat said RSS was the methodology of social change that Dr Hedgewar had come in conclusion to his 8-year-long experimentation. The RSS scheme is to shape national character and virtuous volunteers in every village and mohalla who can affect social change. “RSS stands for sarva lok yukt, not mukt (including all, not excluding them),” he said.