In the wake of the combined opposition attack on the Narendra Modi government, clubbing side by side the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), painting them as the sworn enemies of the Muslim, Christian and Dalit communities, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat came on the platform to demolish the wild allegations and the fallacious arguments advanced by a broken, dispirited opposition that wants to grab power through the meanly power of falsities and recriminations. Sitting at the head of a massive non-political, cultural outfit, Bhagwat is feeling immensely pained over how amazingly even the country's towering opposition leaders have lost the sense of history, what to talk of Congress chief Rahul Gandhi, who is yet to learn the basics of political nuances that willy-nilly are not getting into his head, even as his party leaders and cadres below feel mortally benumbed and frustrated.

Rahul's hatred for Modi and the RSS is now turning even more venomous with the eight non-NDA regional parties forming their electoral 'gathbandhan' without his Congress, which remains ‘untouchable’ for them in the final pre-poll understanding. This implies that even after all these parties get together post-poll, there will be no chance of Rahul becoming the Prime Minister. That is also the pain of Sonia Gandhi, an ailing mother, who wants to foist her son on the nation as PM in her lifetime. That also explains why Rahul is seen extremely agitated today blasting his adversaries with worst-possible plaints. He calls Modi “corrupt, dishonest” citing the Rafale deal, which was the making of the UPA regime where his mother and Dr Manmohan Singh called the shots. In his naivety, he is also forgetting all the scams in which hefty public money was allegedly stolen by UPA's top brass. No remorse here, only charges and accusations!

Ignorance giving rise to opposition anger

Rahul and the Communist leaders have repeatedly accused the RSS of killing Mahatma Gandhi, but the former, in particular, doesn't even know that Nathuram Godse, who assassinated Gandhi, was not even a member of the RSS. He had quit both RSS and the Hindu Mahasabha in 1946 on sharp differences over the Partition of India. Godse's ties with RSS brass irreversibly soured because he felt that the Sangh instance towards Muslims had taken a turn that would, in the long run, be disastrous for the interests of Hindus. He believed that Gandhi unjustly favoured the political demands of Muslims during the Partition. If, therefore, Rahul insists in his public utterances that it was the RSS that killed the Mahatma, it's a travesty of facts and he better stop making such a wild charge.

When the Congress chief and the opposition leaders sharpen their vitriolic attacks against the RSS on numerous frivolous issues, with Rahul even going calumnious in London, comparing the Sangh with the  Muslim Brotherhood (MB), a transnational Sunni Islamist outfit founded in Egypt way back in 1928, which is much hated now as a terrorist entity, Bhagwat had to come overboard to explain more specifically the real profile of his organization and what it stands for. The MB faced periodic government crackdowns in several countries for alleged terrorist activities and by 2015, it was declared terrorist organization in many countries, including Bahrain, Egypt, Russia, Syria, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Pranab effect? Bhagwat says RSS believes in inclusive India

For the three-day conclave, 'Bhavishya Ka Bharat--An RSS Perspective', Bhagwat extended invites to people from varied fields and sectors, especially those who often stridently lambaste the RSS. Most of the target invitees, especially those political leaders who seek support by appealing to prejudices rather than by using rational argument and continue to be the worst critics of this non-political cultural front, didn't turn up. Why? Possibly, they felt embarrassed in facing the RSS chief who took the podium to instill confidence in Sangh's patriotic fervor, integrity, openness, hard work by its large force of pracharaks and volunteers and deeper involvement in social service, as against the detractors' mere slander campaigns. RSS is the world's largest voluntary organisation, with over eight million 'swayamsevaks', who either attend daily 'shakhas' or are connected to it through various programmes.

Going through Bhagwat's elaborate annotations, I find contents mostly similar to what former President Pranab Mukherjee advised at the RSS event at Nagpur in June last. Just peruse how Bhagwat reasserts Sangh’s ‘inclusive ideology’: "India diversity must be respected and celebrated... For the sake of uniting the society, no one is stranger to us, not even those who are opposed to us... We believe in an India which includes everyone and does not exclude anybody... That is why we try to approach everyone... Hindutva would stop existing if Muslims, Christians and other communities are unwanted... We do not want to dominate the society... The Sangh wants common man to lead the society in the right direction... People tell us that Sangh is becoming faceless... We want to be faceless, so that we don't become arrogant... Dr Hedgewar (the founding chief of the RSS) always used to ask, 'For how long will we blame the Muslim invaders and British for our state?' How did it happen that a handful of invaders from thousands of miles away conquered this nation of warriors? When we forgot our values, our decline started. India's decline started with our decline. The solution lies in the restoration of values. This value-based behaviour and culture is our Hinduness."

'Hindutva integrating force for India'

"Hindutva unites us," Bhagwat stressed, quoting Dr Hedgewar, who "visualized a united Hindu community... He didn't want to oppose anyone... Who will be in power, what policy the country will accept is something to be decided by the society and people... There are mechanisms in place for that... We are not concerned about that, what we are concerned about is the conduct of the society... Sangh is the most democratic organization... We function by consensus. Here every worker can express his views... There are no restrictions... We have started our work to make a certain kind of people and society and we do not want anything else... People often believe that RSS is a dictatorial organization and that one man decides everything... If you want to see the most open organization, then you should come to Sangh. There is no restriction. An RSS worker conducts himself in line with values given to him by the organization."

Thus, the RSS fully endorses the 'Idea of India,' though its detractors create confusion over this claim. Bhagwat said, the RSS had an "inclusive ideological framework and is not in favour of excluding people and communities." But the diversity, he stressed, “should be in keeping with India’s rich social, cultural, linguistic and religious plurality.” Bhagwat made it clear that RSS also accepted the Indian Constitution, including "secularism", which was later included in its Preamble. Let it be clear that RSS believes in inclusiveness, but it insists on true national integration where "patriotic zeal" remains the core of the discourse. There is nothing wrong if the RSS expects communities "not to play foul" to preserve the national equations?

What Bhagwat said in the three sessions of his Samvad admittedly represents a noticeable dilution of the RSS ideology from the days of M S Golwalkar who believed in “Robust Nationalism” that focused primarily on the Hindu ethos at the core. The RSS apparently has taken note of the demographic structure of modern India that calls for a more liberal Hindu attitude towards other aspiring communities for ensuring a more unified, integrated and strong India. That is why Bhagwat expects all communities to lend their potential power towards making the country a “strong, nationalist entity.” It doesn’t matter who rules, he says, but the country’s power and potential must continue to grow. This proposition of the RSS chief is welcome.  

Media sections see an 'open' mind 'closed'

It is encouraging that greater part of the media has welcomed Bhagwat's "clarifications" and "openness" on various issues that were often presented as “carrying concerns" by those who found this cultural organization pretty "closed and mysterious". Strangely, some even found the RSS chief "confused", even though he spoke so openly and with clarity. Well, nothing appears to be new in this as our media wears sundry shades -- Leftist, Rightist, Centrist -- and one, of course, that pounces on Modi and the RSS rabidly and passes on such structured homilies as no one can absorb. For instance, when Bhagwat said earlier this month that "RSS has the ability to prepare an 'army' to fight for the country within three days, if such a situation arises", he was misconstrued. It was not a "threat", as a section of the media howled. He only talked of the outfit's internal strength.

Also, what is wrong if RSS takes umbrage at attempts to brazenly convert hundreds of Dalits to Christianity in Gorakhpur, the UP chief minister's constituency? Or, why does a Catholic educational society buy non-transferable land -- part of which being encroached land -- with 'forgery and deceit' in Jharkhand in the name of 27 Church priests associated with institution at rates way less than the circle rates, thereby causing loss of revenue over and above the illegality of sale-purchase? Although it's a case of criminal breach of trust and the law, which will be probed by the agencies, it becomes a concern of every citizen as to why such irregularities are committed in the tribal region. Or, why should there be protests if Hindu tribals, Dalits, or other have-nots, who were earlier converted to Christianity or Islam under 'promises of rosy life', willingly return to their original religion? Why should the RSS get flak if it firmly speaks on such aberrations?

Dr Hedgewar wanted safeguards for Hindu honour  

The RSS has always remained under constant attack from pseudo-secular forces of the country who presented it not only as an anti-Muslim, anti-Christian entity, but also hegemonistic in its nationalistic pursuits. It was founded in 1925 by Dr Keshav Baliram Hedgewar, a Maharashtra physician, as part of the movement against British rule and as a response to rioting between Hindus and Muslims. With a great sense of history, which witnessed torture, mass killings of Hindus and other non-Muslim communities, women's dishonor, enslavement, plunder, loot and desecration of their temples and shrines by Muslim invaders for centuries, Hedgewar realized early in life that Hindus had to consolidate their power and remain united in the modern times if they wanted to safeguard their honor in the face of the “continuing Muslim and Christian aggression even when they were in minority.”

Dr Hedgewar knew that for the sake of vote, no political leader would talk of how cruelly Muslims invaders had treated Hindus from 8th century onward, looting and killing millions of them at different times. Sultans and Mughals preyed on the Hindus in barbaric torture sprees. How Mughal emperor Shahjahan, often sold as a liberal by modern historians, had “converted the entire family of the rebellious Bundela ruler of Orchha to Islam and forced his women kin into his harem as a mark of punishment.” He constantly planned to convert Hindus into Islam through coercion and inducements. Or, how the Portuguese rulers converted the Hindu population to Christianity in Goa and Konkan through torture and death in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries.

Golwalkar was averse to communist-socialist ideology

The writings of Hindu nationalist ideologue VD Savarkar had great influence on Dr Hedgewar, who adopted much from of his ideology concerning the need for the creation of a “disciplined, culturally sound Hindu nation.” Thus, he formed the RSS as a disciplined cadre, consisting mostly of upper-caste people, who were dedicated to independence and the protection of Hindu political, cultural, and religious interests. Upon Dr Hedgewar’s death, mantle of the leadership fell on MS Golwalkar and later on Madhhukar Dattatray, Deoras and others.

A major thrust of Golwalkar's views, according to Indian Council of Philosophical Research, was "rejection of communist-socialist ideology and revival of ancient ideals." He was a hard task master who "wished to mould people into perfect human beings." He had the guts to “fight the arrogance” of Jawaharlal Nehru who banned the RSS after Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination and put him in jail without any substantive evidence of culpability. If the ban was lifted in 1949, it was because of Golwalkar’s steely nerve that defied Nehru’s intransigence that had support of Sardar Patel, as he was furious over Gandhi's murder, even though Patel had earlier cautioned Nehru against "efforts to crush the patriotic RSS that served the Hindu society and protected women and children." Golwalkar wrote to Nehru that it would be a grave crime for the government not to lift the ban after the RSS was absolved of the murder charge. He accused Nehru "of a closed mind living in the Dark Ages... Either prove or drop the charges." His words virtually put off Nehru. Subsequently, the ban was lifted after the intervention of TR Venkatrama, Advocate General of Madras.

Savarkar saw dangers from proselytizing religions

But why did Dr Hedgewar borrow from Savarkar's manifesto on "Hindutva"? Because, Savarkar warned about the dangers to Hindus from members of proselytizing religions. He laid down guidelines for protecting Hindus and the Hindu religion from "aggressive designs of the campaigners of converting religions." But he was not for second-grade status to religious minorities and, instead, stood for equal treatment for all religions unlike many Muslim countries where Hindus can’t even build a temple or cremate their dead. Savarkar's "Hindu Rashtra" manifesto not only allowed full freedom to the religious minorities to practice their religion, but also called for the intervention of the state if the right to practice religion of a religious minority was blocked.

However, Savarkar's guidelines did not allow "creation of a nation within a nation in the name of religious minoritism". Hedgewar saw Savarkar as a visionary who had foreseen decades back the political atmosphere of minority appeasement in times to come. And the obtaining distortion in the nation's polity today is the result of this uncalled for appeasement for votes. In fact, Savarkar believed in "total national integration" where all communities could live together in peace and without fear. However, his experience in the Cellular Jail changed his outlook when he found the Muslim jail staff and the prisoners harboring hatred for Hindus and openly working for the conversion of Hindu prisoners into Islam . After that he hardened his stand against minorities.

Bose, Dr Hedgewar rose against Khilafat Movement

Even INA stalwart Subhash Chandra Bose was impressed by Dr Hedgewar's vision and both defined the course of Indian nationalism in their own ways. Both were Congress activists endowed with great organizing potential. While Bose emerged as the most popular Congress leader, Dr Hedgewar rose as an eminent party leader in Maharashtra. Both fell out with the Congress, as it espoused appeasement politics on issues like the Khilafat movement and turned eyes from Mopla or Malabar riots where thousands of Hindus were butchered by the Khilafat supporters. This Movement was a Muslim campaign, launched to pressure the British government to preserve the authority of Ottoman Sultan as Caliph of Islam after World war l. Its leaders joined forces with Mahatma Gandhi's non- cooperation movement, promising non-violence in return for his support to the Khilafat Movement. How could the Congress think that these nationalists would agree to the Congress backing this movement, which was primarily meant to achieve pan-Indian Muslim political mobilization?