India under the shadow of RSS

Published: September 7, 2019
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A former RSS pracharak, BJP PM nominee Narendra Modi meets RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat. PHOTO: PTI

A former RSS pracharak, BJP PM nominee Narendra Modi meets RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat. PHOTO: PTI

A former RSS pracharak, BJP PM nominee Narendra Modi meets RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat. PHOTO: PTI The writer is a former interior secretary and former ambassador

Many believe that the Rashtriya Swayemsevak Sangh (RSS) is riding the crest of a wave of Hindutva. Those who are used to observe things in a perfunctory manner are happy that the right-wing nationalist ideology has triumphed and that the future belongs to those religious bigots who are driven by a bizarre, perverted doctrine of the inevitable ascendance of Hindutva.

This is not only contrary to the objective realities but also in conflict with the philosophy and wisdom of the founding fathers of India’s freedom movement.

India has prided itself on its unique ability to unify a host of ethnicities — Rajputs, Tamils, Bengalis, Assamese, Muslims, Christians , Parsees, and speakers of dozens of languages and peoples of many more diverse cultures into a single, unified nation under a democracy that has thrived on principles of tolerance, secularism and protection of minorities. No other country with such huge diversity in faiths, cultures and languages has succeeded in bringing under one system a nearly one-fifth of humanity and that system was India’s democracy.

Now for the first time that system is under threat. India’s core values which have sustained the Indian unity in diversity is under attack. The bedrock of India’s unity was its commitment to pluralism, democracy and protection of the rights of its minorities. Indeed the greatest Indian leader of modern India, Mahatma Gandhi, laid down his life for the cause of safeguarding lives and properties of Muslims. He was assassinated by an RSS zealot for his fast unto death that he was observing to stop the communal violence that had erupted in both India and Pakistan in the wake of the partition.

The victory of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has rekindled hopes in rank and file RSS members that finally their time has come. Those long-cherished ambitions of transforming India into an exclusive Hindu state would, they believe, be realised now. All over the country, after the BJP’s stunning victory in the polls, there are clear signs of a reinvigorated Hindu nationalism manifesting itself in the RSS activists chasing, humiliating and beating Muslim youth on the slightest pretext.

This attitude could spawn more communal hatred if it continues unchecked. All over the country, religious frenzy will take hold.

Could this spiraling ethnic sentiment and its accompanying elements of hatred, acrimony be checked? There is some hope that India’s opposition parties led by Congress would sooner or later realise the gravity of the situation and launch a robust campaign to restore some sanity to the Indian politics and rid it of the terrible influence of organistaions like the RSS. The Congress party which won freedom for India and is a guarantor for such values and norms as secularism, democracy, protection of the rights of minorities, bears a responsibility to defeat forces which are out to dismantle the foundations of India’s governance systems, shattering its core values and making it vulnerable to insidious forces of disruption. It is for people who cherish India’s acclaimed values of “unity in diversity” to wake up to the grim reality of a monstrous effort to induct the ideology of Hindutva in the body politics of the country.

Not only Muslims and other minorities in the country but also all those millions of Hindus across the country, who espouse moderation and support the cause of communal harmony, have to extend support to any endeavour that seeks to restore the core values of India’s democratic governance.

The RSS’s goal of making India an exclusive Hindu state is laughable given the long history of the existence of multiple faiths and cultures in South Asia. Hindus are not the only ethnic group in the vast cultural mosaic of the sub-continent although they constitute a significant component of its huge population. One would not object to the basic goals that the RSS sought to achieve when it was created in 1925. One of its fundamental aims was ‘’ the revitalization of the Indian value system based on universalism and peace and prosperity to all ‘’. Nor would one disagree on the group’s emphasis on ‘Hindu renaissance that would build an egalitarian society and a strong India that could propound this philosophy ‘.

But when the RSS goes beyond its declared mandate and targets muslims with a view to sidelining them and eventually forcing them to abandon India as their home , it generates hatred, hostility and a severe backlash.

If the RSS current agenda of making India an exclusively Hindu state is implemented it would be the beginning of the end for the Indian Union. There are strong movements for autonomy all over India –the Nexal rebellion, the Mao movement, the struggle for autonomy in east Indian states, the Tamil’s revolt etc. Those movements will get a boost and indeed new dangers would arise that would threaten India’s unity and its institutions of democracy and its adherence to the principles of secularism.

The time to act to stop the RSS juggernaut is now –before it causes more institutional or structural damage to the country and indeed to South Asia’s stability and prosperity. A massive effort is needed to make India conform to the vision, ideals and philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi, Nehru, Dr Radha krisnan, Maulana Azad and Dr Zakir hussain.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 7th, 2019.

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