Recent invitation by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) to former president and senior Congress leader Pranab Mukherjee elicited reactions from across all the political spectrum. Ordinarily, an invitation such as this would have gone unnoticed and uncovered by the media. How many of us remember the names of dignitaries who have attended previous events of the RSS? But these are extraordinary times.
Sangh has been an over-rated organisation that basks in notions of greatness which it never earned and wallows in victimhood which it never suffered from.
That Mukherjee graciously accepted the invite by the RSS is not newsworthy, as it is in the DNA of the Congress to accept and interact with those who have divergent views. That the RSS invited the former president for their Trittiya Varsh Training program needs more analysis. To understand the reason why the Sangh felt the need to invite Mukherjee, we need to deconstruct the mentality of this unregistered organisation called the RSS. Right from its inception, the Sangh has been in defensive mode. Fraught with contradictions and an unviable raison d'etre, the organisation could never garner popular support despite providing an umbrella to hundreds of sector and region specific organisations that have been working for decades. Right from its inception, the Sangh found itself on the wrong side of history and they are still grappling with it. Partly through running national icons down, partly through foisting fake heroes, and when nothing else works, through reducing the narrative to hackneyed binaries.
Where appropriation of legacies worked, like the Arya Samaj (despite major differences in the way both looked at Hinduism), the Sangh resorted to that. Where they could not find a toe-hold, they resorted to demolition of legacies. Consistent and childish attacks on the Nehruvian construct have been an ongoing agenda of the Sangh.
The Sangh actively sabotaged the Dalit outreach of Arya Samaj — a movement which from 1875 to 1925 had revolutionised the Hindu worldview. Several freedom fighters like Lala Lajpat Rai, Ram Prasad Bismil, Ashfaqullah Khan were either associated with the Arya Samaj or drew inspiration from it. Not many people know this but Bhagat Singh's grandfather Sardar Arjun Singh took Diksha from Swami Dayanand himself. Arya Samaj was an anathema to the Sangh agenda. An organisation which attracted Hindus (including the so called Dalits) and Muslims alike (the largest donation of Rs 5,000 to Arya Samaj came from Allahrakha Rehmatullah). Performing yagyopavit ceremony for Dalits, opening the doors and windows of Vedic knowledge to everyone irrespective of which caste he or she was born into, fighting for equality of women were aspects of Arya Samaj that the ideologues of RSS abhorred.
Inspired by European fascists, the founders of RSS believed in ethnic nationalism as against Indian nationalism of the Congress, and sought to militarise Hindus. The Congress and the RSS continue to differ on this basic understanding and definition of India, that is Bharat.
The historically-chronicled fact that RSS not just stayed away from the freedom struggle but actively sabotaged it, cannot be undone, despite the most creative efforts of PN Oak, Ram Bahadur Rai and Dinanath Batra. Echoing what is largely believed by RSS, Ram Bahadur Rai, chairman of the Indira Gandhi National Center for Arts, recently claimed that Baba Sahib Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar had no role to play in the making of the Constitution and he just corrected the draft made by BN Rau. The fact remains, Sangh kept opposing the Tricolour until they realised it was a lost battle. The fact remains, every time the BJP comes to power, there is talk of rewriting the Constitution. In Ram Bahadur Rai's words "this is a new testament of our ghulami' and that this 16th Lok Sabha should be the Constituent Assembly that rewrites the Constitution.
Congress constantly reinvented her definition of Indian Nationalism. Constitutional Nationalism is what comes closest to inclusive growth and peaceful, productive and dignified coexistence. Last four years are testimony to the various attempts made by the state and non state actors protected by the state, to undermine the very legitimacy of the Constitution.
Having constantly failed at replacing symbols of ethnic nationalism in the minds of people, RSS keeps seeking approval from Left, Right and Center. From spreading rumours of Nehru having invited RSS to participate in the parade on 26th January, 1963 to RSS volunteers having participated in the Chinese war, the Sangh keeps making such unsubstantiated claims at mainstream nationalism. The fact remains, in the Sangh scheme of things, nationalism without the other cannot exist.
Inviting an intellectual giant like Mukherjee, who vehemently opposed all that the Sangh stands for is yet another attempt by the Sangh to mainstream itself and shed its image of an unregistered, unaccountable hydra-headed monster. Legitimacy, like respect has to be earned. It can neither be secured by keyboard warriors who have no understanding of the rainbow called India, nor by lathi-wielding men working hard to undermine the very foundation of India.
The author is a Congress spokesperson
Updated Date: Jun 07, 2018 10:35:59 IST