There was a clear political edge to Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat’s much-awaited Vijayadashami speech on October 15.
From the beginning of his annual address, which has not yet lost its complete significance despite Bhagwat’s fondness for proclivity for frequent public speaking, the Sarsanghchalak struck a polarising political posture.
In his opening remarks, Bhagwat referred to “never-ending pain of partition settled in the heart of every Indian.” Thereafter, he said it was important to recall this bitter past and counter those trying to widen bygone schisms and repeat that phase of history.
On the face of it, Bhagwat’s words cannot be faulted. But, when framed against the Sangh Parivar theory that the Muslims League and Muslims who stayed back in India are solely responsible for partition (alongside the Congress for accepting the plan), the insinuation contained in the Sarsanghchalak’s assertion is clear.
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This is especially true when he shortly claimed that “in the intellectual environment of the country, the voices that create mutual intimacy and dialogue are less, the spoilers are more.” It has to be borne in mind that the Sangh Parivar has consistently mounted criticism at ‘prevailing intellectual consensus’ in the country, which according to it is the product of a left-liberal-Muslim cabal.
Unlike in the past when the Sarsanghchalak or other senior RSS leaders spoke rarely, they do so now more frequently. As a result, each of Bhagwat’s assertions serves as a reminder of past contentions, some of them more provocative than the nuanced tone of the Vijayadashami speech where the chief ostensibly speaks to a wider audience.
It was indeed paradoxical to hear the RSS leader recall how Guru Tegh Bahadur was “martyred for standing up against religious bigotry that was much in prevalence in Bharat then.” Against the backdrop of downgrading of India by various International Religious Freedom indices, this is nothing but a stark instance of the pot calling the kettle black.
Victimhood, which has been consistently leveraged for political gains by Hindutva forces, was the essence again of the assertion that some forces in the world disliked India’s progress, and it is reaching a respected place in the world.
The solution for this is, however, was grossly majoritarian in character: “If the Sanatani religion, that believes in the world based on the values of eternal humanity, becomes significantly influential, then the evil games of selfish elements with vested interests will stop.”
The single prescription for all ills is the Sanatani Hindu religion, at least as far as the RSS chief stated. All gloves, in fact, are off when Bhagwat declared that “it is our culture to integrate Bharat’s varied linguistic, religious and regional traditions into a comprehensive unit.”
The operative part is a ‘comprehensive (single) unit’ to indicative the assimilative nature of Hindutva and not allowing diversities to be what they are, distinct, yet part of the national stream.
Bhagwat constantly pointed fingers at so-called arrogant fanatics, mirroring a frequent claim of his ilk that only religious minorities are guilty of stoking communalism, militancy and violence against the state.
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Dues to the efforts of the Sangh Parivar, Bhagwat argued, there is a considerable increase in self-awareness and self-confidence in society. “The universally enthusiastic and devotional response seen during the fundraising campaign for Shri Ram Janmabhami Temple is a symptom of the awakening of this ‘Self’,” the RSS chief claimed.
Although well on course, the Ram temple’s construction has only opened avenues for further campaigns. Bhagwat demanded that all temple properties controlled by governments should be returned to Hindu society.
Listing this as one of the issues that pose a “challenge to the unity, integrity, security, order, prosperity and peace of the nation,” he had this requires speedy resolution in favour of Hindu society.
It is not correct to “usurp Hindu religious places in the name of secularism” for decades, he said. The RSS leader also called for making “temples the epicentre of our social-cultural life.” It required reminding that the temple premises were used during the Ram Janmabhoomi agitation as meeting places and campaign locations with innovative programmes like Shila Pujan, and so on.
The Sarsanghchalak also reiterated his organisation’s policy for a comprehensive nationwide population policy to take care of what it terms as “demographic imbalance” caused by various factors.
He read out a major part from a resolution adopted by the RSS in 2015 at Ranchi during one of its deliberative meetings. The resolution was titled ‘Challenge of Imbalance in the Population Growth Rate.’
It flagged, “vast differences in growth rates of different religious groups, infiltration and conversion resulting in a religious imbalance of the population-ratio, especially in border areas may emerge as a threat to the unity, integrity and cultural identity of the country.”
It requires mentioning that in his much-vaunted three-day lecture session in New Delhi for chosen sections of the intelligentsia in 2018, Bhagwat had stressed the same issue.
In January 2020, Bhagwat demanded a population policy that “will decide how many kids one should have.”
In recent months, the state governments in Uttar Pradesh and Assam have initiated legislative measures on population policy — incentivising those with two or less children while simultaneously disincentivising those with more than two children.
By raising this issue at his annual speech, Bhagwat has spelt out the next agenda of the Sangh Parivar, and one can expect the government to consider this a nationwide policy to limit number of children.
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The RSS and its affiliates have consistently campaigned on the existence of a Muslim ‘conspiracy’ to render the Hindus into a religious minority in ‘their country.’ Although data demonstrates that male opposition to contraceptive practises, vasectomy or use of condoms, is uniform across communities, it is made out that the principal opposition to birth control measures come from Muslims.
While the M-factor behind this demand, at this stage, is not mentioned, the people feeding on Bhagwat’s speech would comprehend what he is suggesting.
Bhagwat recalled the history of strife and discord in India and said that ways should be found to uproot these causes through actions and words. The way for this, he suggested, was by strengthening Hindu society because “as part of the mainstream value system of Bharat, it will be able to withstand the attacks only when its organised social strength, confidence and fearless spirit is realised.”
In a country where religious minorities have come under concerted attack since 2014, Bhagwat ironically asked his supporters to take a pledge to “create a Hindu society that epitomises the words – Neither do I threaten anyone, nor do I know any fear myself.”
A call for a “vigilant, united, strong and active society” becomes intensely problematic with the Sangh Parivar and its leaders constantly harping on forces within the country that work against national interests merely because they have an adversarial viewpoint.
(The writer is an NCR-based author and journalist. His books include The RSS: Icons of the Indian Right and Narendra Modi: The Man, The Times. He tweets at @NilanjanUdwin)
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