RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat's advice to Hindus on producing more kids shows his organisation is still caught in a time warp. While the world has moved on and rejected the ideas that inspired the RSS, Bhagwat is still on the cusp of the 19th century.
In March 1931, RSS ideologue BS Moonje visited Italy and came back inspired by the Fascist methodology of 'catching them young'.
After meeting Mussolini in Rome, Moonje visited some of the Fascist training schools where boys in their teens performed physical exercises, learnt basic man-to-man combat skills and listened to speeches on nationalism and supremacy of their race.
On returning to India, Moonje decided to implement the idea in RSS Shakhas by recruiting young kids and indoctrinating them. To give the Shakhas the facade of a quasi paramilitary academy, the recruits were given a uniform — borrowed from the Mussolini brigade — and crash courses on wielding an oiled lathi, the weapon of choice against enemies real and perceived.
Mussolini's fascism was rejected just a few years after Moonje's visit. Lathis and the idea of basic combat training became obsolete after the advent of modern weapons. The concept of stopping an enemy with a stick became laughable with the evolution of the concept of an enemy who now comes less from an enemy state and more from terror cells from within the country — disguised, intent on a suicide attack, difficult to identify and, thus, impossible to stop.
Prima facie, it is really absurd that a group of celibates want women to produce as many children as possible for the benefit of Hindutva. In this new age and era, how does Bhagwat's idea of 'rashtravad benefit from Hindu women becoming child-producing machines? Does he really believe that numerical strength of a particular race or religion, armed with lathis and dressed in khaki shorts, guarantees a nation's development, supremacy and security against enemy countries and terror attacks?
India's current population is almost 1.3 billion; 80 per cent of it are Hindus. Yet, the Indian army faces a perennial shortage of officers and soldiers. In 2015, according to government figures, the army had 55000 vacancies, 11000 of them for officers, according to a report in The Indian Express.
Obviously, feelings of rashtravad and patriotism among Indians remain largely confined to drawing room debates and social media discussions; they do not reflect in the army's numbers. So, for argument's sake, even if Hindu women start reproducing at an even higher rate, how will it help Bhagwat's idea of a more martial India?
The other argument that India needs more Hindu children to maintain the country's demographic balance is also bogus. Several studies have extrapolated the current fertility rates in India to conclude that 80 per cent Indians would be Hindu even when the rate of growth of Muslims — the Sangh's real enemies — peaks.
As this article in Mint argues, the Hindu growth rate in between 2001 and 2011 was 1.55% annually, while Muslims grew at 2.2%. However, the figures for the previous decade (1991-2001) were an annual 1.8% and 2.6%, respectively. If this decline in growth rates persists (both continue to grow at slower rates), both Hindu and Muslim populations will hit a peak in 2061. Then, Muslims will number 29.24 crore and Hindus 140.25 crore. India’s overall population at the time would be 173.03 crore with the Muslim proportion at 16.89%. Hindus will actually account for 81.06% at that time.
So, why does Bhagwat want Hindu women perennially in labour? To add to the growing employment, rat race for useless degrees and to devour the already depleted natural resources?
Every time the RSS talks of an imminent danger to Hindus, it actually plays on the most basic of human emotions — fear. The Sangh knows that fear blinds most humans and makes them take decisions rooted in conservatism, bigotry and even hate. It turns individuals into herds that can then be shepherded for political and ideological gains.
In a letter to the then Home Minister Sardar Patel, Congress leader Rajendra Prasad, who later went on to become India's first President, had argued that when the RSS was formed, it dreamt of ruling India after the British left.
Prasad wrote: "Through the RSS, the Maharashtrian Brahmins have been dreaming of establishing a Peshwa Raj in India, after the withdrawal of the Britishers. The RSS flag is the Bhagwa flag of the Peshwas. The RSS people argue that the Peshwas — Maharashtrian rulers — were the last to be conquered by the British and, after the termination of the British rule in India, the Maharashtrians should be vested with political powers."
Some witnesses who deposed in front of Justice JL Kapur, who probed the RSS role in Mahatma Gandhi's death, averred that soon after Independence, the organisation was considering a coup d'etat with the help of secret armed militia being trained at Alwar, Bharatpur and some other places and establishing a Hindu India, according to Volume IV of JL Kapur commission report.
But, the RSS dream of ruling India was thwarted by two factors. One, the British decision to hand over governance to the Congress. And, two, Jawaharlal Nehru's steering of India into a secular, liberal culture where the majority was not constantly kept on its guards with frequent acts of crying wolf.
The RSS, however, has not given up its dream. It still aims to put together a Virat Hindu Parivar that will rule India for a 1000 glorious years.
There is, however, a fundamental flaw in the RSS strategy. Its theory of unifying Hindus is based on outdated principles that inspired Moonji in 1931. While hoping that giving Hindu boys a kachcha, danda and a quick lecture on Hindutva will send them rushing into each other's arms, the RSS forgets that dealing with challenges of day to day life — hunger, poverty, unemployment, falling agrarian incomes, poor infrastructure, casteism — is a more pressing concern for people than establishing a Hindu rashtra.
India can become a great country only if all its citizens have equal rights and opportunities, they coexist without fear or feelings of supremacy, persecution or prejudice. When, as Ashutosh Varshney argues in The Indian Express, we learn to deal with our internal conflicts and address existing fault lines, like the animus and distrust between upper class Hindus and Dalits over cows.
"For decades, Hindu nationalists have coveted Hindu unity as a cultural, social and political objective. That pursuit has always run into conflict with their ideological view, which privileges the proverbial doctrinal tolerance of Hinduism but radically under-recognises an equally true historical phenomenon: That traditional Hindu society has practised caste oppression for centuries, reserving severe indignities for Dalits," Varshney writes.
Turning Hindu women into factories for producing more sons, who can be indoctrinated in Shakhas and fed delusions of taking on an increasingly invisible enemy with weekend drills and sticks dipped in oil, or the nonexistent threat of demographic imbalance will never help India, or the RSS.
Bhagwat better get into a time machine and travel out of 1931.