'RSS advocates inclusion': Mohan Bhagwat systematically refutes Rahul Gandhi, Sangh critics in day one speech
Bhagwat made it clear that the “purpose was not to convince” those attending the programme at Vigyan Bhawan or watching it outside on TV or various digital platforms, but to inform them what the Sangh stands for
On Monday evening, Nawazuddin Siddiqui chose to skip the premiere of his movie Manto in Mumbai. Siddiqui instead flew to New Delhi to attend the inaugural three-day lecture series Bhavisya ka Bharat: Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh ka Drishtikon (India of the future: An RSS perspective)’ by RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat. Siddiqui is playing lead role of Saadat Hasan Manto in the biopic, written and directed by Nandita Das, a known critic of the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP. After the event was over, Siddiqui along with some others, sat with the RSS for tea and an informal conversation.
And Siddiqui wasn't the only one. A whole host of public figures from various walks of life—film, academia, diplomacy, internal and external security agencies, people living near the border, and the media—all of whom who are uninitiated to the RSS philosophy were there to see and understand it firsthand: from the fountainhead of the Sangh Parivar.
From the outset, Bhagwat made it clear that the “purpose was not to convince” those attending the programme at Vigyan Bhawan or watching it on TV or various digital platforms, but to inform them what the Sangh stands for. His idea was to portray before the world that the RSS is not a closed society and let the people understand it better so that they can reexamine their idea of it.
Bhagwat put RSS founder Keshav Baliram Hedgewar at the very center of his talk and systematically countered almost all the charges that have been made by its critics over the decades, and more recently by Congress president Rahul Gandhi. First, to the charge that the RSS did not participate in the freedom struggle—albeit without referring to it directly—Bhagwat began by narrating the story of Hedgewar, who opposed British colonialism from his school days and even suffered on that account.
He spoke of Hedgewar being a member of the militant nationalist organisation Anushilan Samiti, while he was studying medicine in Calcutta. Of Hedgewar's fiery defence in court and questioning the British rule and how Hedgewar even went to jail.
Bhagwat said that when he was finally released from jail, in a meeting presided over by Motilal Nehru, Hedgewar said that one would go to jail, but staying out of jail was equally important to create awareness, and organise protests against British rule. When the Congress passed Purna Swaraj resolution in 1929, all RSS wings sent congratulatory messages to the Congress, Bhagwat added.
Second, Bhagwat spoke about respecting the National Flag, and contended that the Sangh had the utmost respect for the Tricolour even when the Charka was in the centre instead of the wheel. Bhagwat cited an example: When the Tricolour was being unfurled in Maharashtra's Jalan for the first time, its cord stuck in the middle of the huge pole. A swayamsevak immediately climbed the pole and straightened it out, allowing the flag to unfurl with due honour. When Jawaharlal Nehru invited the young man to participate in the evening function, he was politely told that the swayamsevak could not come because he had to go to the RSS shakha.
Third, Bhagwat countered the charge of the RSS being a dictatorial organisation where one man’s command was supreme, and called it the “most democratic organisation”. Bhagwat said some discipline is important in the building of an individual (vyakti nirman) and there was a sarsanghchalak (chief of the organisation), but decision making was a collective process where the views of even a new recruit mattered.
Bhagwat returned to the example of Hedgewar and spoke of the way decisions were made back then, and even gave his own example: Bhagwat said he was once questioned by a young swayamsevak why he did not attend the Nagpur shakha regularly.
Fourth, to the charge that the RSS was excluding people and communities, he said “Hum log to sarwalog-yukt Bharat waale log hain, mukt wale nahin” (we are those who advocate for inclusion of all, exclusion of none). In some quarters, this was seen as a critique of BJP’s slogan of a Congress-mukt Bharat, but at another level he was responding to the criticism that the RSS was for Hindus only, and ignored Muslims and Christians.
Fifth, to the charge that the RSS wanted its philosophy to be the only philosophy in India, Bhagwat argued that they didn't want an all-pervasive domination by the Sangh. If that happened, the very purpose of the Sangh’s existence would be defeated, Bhagwat added. There is so much diversity in India: linguistic, social, cultural and religious. The idea was to have “festivity of diversity” and the challenge for the RSS was to be the thread that ties varied pearls, Bhagwat explained.
Sixth, to the charge that RSS remote-controlled its constituents (the BJP), Bhagwat said that the various components of the RSS were free to take their own decisions. Without naming the BJP, Bhagwat said swayamsevaks were in dominant positions in those organisations and were capable of taking decisions they deemed fit, though the Sangh is conscious that they may make mistakes.
Since the swayamsevaks are part of the bigger umbrella organisation they keep on meeting 'sukh-dukh me khana, milna-julna chalta rahata hai’, Bhagwat said. The coordination meetings between various organs are for exchanging ideas, but how an organisation takes its decisions are that organisation’s outlook, he added.
Seventh, on the exclusion of women, Bhagwat said that the idea, from the beginning, was to have a separate women’s wing (Rashtra Sevika Samiti), which has now grown by leaps and bounds. Women are contributing in a big way to the Sangh by staying within their familial bonds, Bhagwat said. If a decision to merge the two will be made, it will be a joint decision of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and Rashtra Sevika Samiti, but no such proposal was on the table, Bhagwat clarified.
Eighth, to the charge that the RSS was a resource-rich organisation, Bhagwat said it ran on the meagre resources generated from swayamsevaks and did not take donations from outsiders. Bhagwat said that it generally has a tough time monetarily from March to July. But he added that they were not worried and that it is the RSS' responsibility to run the Sangh.
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