Two separate critiques of the worldview of the RSS in the recent past should have it extremely worried, largely because their authors, barely known till a month ago, haven’t adopted the Left-secular-liberal perspective to argue their points. Yet, despite their relative anonymity, their critiques have had resonance because they undermine Hindutva’s claims to moral superiority. It is also because neither can be described as anti-Hindu, the label the Sangh habitually stamps on all its critics.
The two authors are Dr Anand Rai, who is widely regarded to have blown the lid off the Vyapam scandal in Madhya Pradesh, and Rohini Salian, the special public prosecutor in the Malegaon blast case of 2008.
In fact, Rai had been a member of the Sangh till recently, regularly participated in its shakhas wearing khaki shorts, and was the vice-president of the Indore chapter of Arogya Bharti, the medical wing of the RSS. It won’t be wrong to classify his disapproval of the Sangh as ‘criticism from within’.
Salian isn’t a member of the Sangh. But her interviews over the last one month show she is proud of her Hindu identity. She’s the sort of person whom the RSS considers its naturally ally, hoping to wean her or him into its fold by stoking anxieties and fears about Hinduism being in peril. In other words, Rai and Salian critiqued Hindutva not because they subscribe to any of the secular ideologies, but because they believe in their religion.
But first, a brief outline of Dr Anand Rai, culled from the interview he gave to the Hindu newspaper.
Son of a village schoolteacher, Rai belongs to the typical Little India, which lives forever in awe of the metropolis. The pre-medical examination Rai took in 1993 provided him a hint to the rigging of the entrance tests in Madhya Pradesh – the Geology paper he took had been leaked in Gwalior. It was during his MBBS studies, he won his spurs in student politics.
In 2005, Rai took the MD/MS examination, in the result of which he noticed an odd pattern – a good number of those who had qualified stayed in one hostel; they invariably had poor academic record; and they all belonged to the families of powerful bureaucrats. Rai began to sleuth for evidence. Four years later, he tipped the Crime Branch about the presence of impersonators in an Indore hostel. They were to appear as proxies for prospective candidates in a pre-medical examination. The can of worms was prised open, but it took another four year years for the Vyapam scam to become public, not the least because of the support Rai received from Paras Saklecha, an Independent MLA, mind you.
Rai had presumed support from the RSS, which celebrates the austere lifestyle of its members as an expression of their selflessness and incorruptibility. In fact, the reverse began to happen as Rai was projected as the whistleblower in the Vyapam scam – the RSS stopped inviting him to its programmes and weekly workshops.
Rai’s disappointment with the RSS is evident in his interview to the Hindu newspaper. Perhaps he isn’t even aware of the damage he has inflicted on the RSS. For instance, he explains the decision of the RSS to distance itself from him as “maybe to avoid making it appear as if RSS men were taking on the BJP government.”
Those few words of his belie the trite but bogus claims of the RSS that it is a cultural organisation, isn’t engaged in politics, and has a nationalistic approach to issues. He is also suggesting to us that the relevance of all issues for the RSS, corruption included, is linked to whether these are advantageous or detrimental to the future prospects of its parivar.
Rai says the RSS always “claims to fight for corruption”, but then goes on to ask a rhetorical question: “Till now, has (RSS chief) Mohan Bhagwat said a word on Vyapam?” Very subtly, he has ripped apart the mask of righteousness the RSS leaders sport, forever lecturing people on the need to place society above individual. For Bhagwat too, as is true of leaders of other formations, the corruption of his parivar has to be condoned.
It has to be condoned also because the RSS is engaged in waging the battle of ideologies, a battle of infinitely greater import than the one aimed at rooting out corruption. This is the battle of turning India Hindu to unite its people. But Rai isn’t impressed. He wants Bhagwat to speak out on the Vyapam scam. So he asks: “Is this deadly scam a lesser issue than Art 370 and the uniform civil code (UCC) they claim to fight for? (italics mine)”
In not so many words, Rai is establishing parity between what the RSS considers its holy grail of issues – the Ram Temple, Art 370 and the UCC – and problems people encounter in their daily lives. For Rai, corruption is a moral issue as it undercuts the very notion of fairness and justice, precisely why it is as important an issue as any on the RSS-BJP agenda.
But he doesn’t stop here – he goes on to establish the superiority of his quest over the espousal of abstract notions of cultural nationalism. This is evident in Rai’s bristling statement: “If the Sangh can stand up for terror accused Pragya Bharti, who has brought public disgrace to the organisation, then why did it abandon me when I was exposing Vyapam?”
Pragya has disgraced the RSS, Rai is certain. He doesn’t spell it out explicitly, but it won’t be wrong to conclude that the RSS has been disgraced because Pragya’s violent deeds were deemed immoral, and therefore disapproved, by Hindus at large. But because the Vyapam scam too is viewed as immoral, the reader of Rai’s interview is bound to ask: Why is the Sangh willing to protect Pragya then, but unwilling to support Rai?
This is because Rai unearthed the Vyapam scam and exposed the alleged culpability of the Sangh members in it. By contrast, Pragya and her comrades bombed to kill Muslims. They took upon themselves to avenge the Hindus who died in terror attacks carried out by Muslims. Their acts of immorality are essentially noble; their valour the Hindu community is bound to support, so the Sangh seems to think.
But this assumption stands challenged by Rohini Salian, the special public prosecutor who went public stating that she had been under pressure from the National Investigating Agency (NIA), ever since the NDA government came to power, to go “soft” in the Malegaon bombing case of 2008. Shorn of equivocation, the word “soft” implied that she shouldn’t persevere to have the accused convicted.
The 2008 Malegaon bombing had been earlier described as yet another instance of Muslim terror. Subsequent investigations, however, implicated a Hindu group, which was also accused of triggering blasts at Ajmer, Hyderabad, and on the Samjhauta Express. Stung at the NIA’s suggestion that she should go “soft” in the Malegaon case, Salian asked the NIA to denotify her as special public prosecutor – and then went public to express her dismay.
For the RSS, it might be instructive to hear Salian’s reasons for taking up the Malegoan case. “From morning to evening I read the (case) papers. I was shocked. I started crying and got emotionally upset,” she said to the Indian Express.
Why did Salian get upset? The case papers told Salian that the militant Hindu group “wanted a Hindu rashtra… had their own constitution written, their own flag – even their Bharat Mata was armed.” Salian’s response shows she doesn’t subscribe to the idea of a Hindu rashtra. It isn’t because she is anti-Hindu or a communist or a deracinated Indian. It is because she is rooted in her religion.
As she tells the Indian Express, “I have no inclination towards any party, any politician. I am a pucca Hindu. Hindu means what? You should be straight, not have bias against anyone — Hindus, anyone who commits an offence, is an offender.” Why can’t the offence of the Hindu be condoned? That’s because, as she explains, it goes against society. And what goes against society is, at least to her, immoral.
This is why it won’t be wrong to say that the most steadfast resistance to Hindutva will come from the Hindu who is also a believer, for whom religion isn’t just a marker of cultural identity but also the fount of rules of morality by which he or she lives daily. The believing Hindu will find the Hindutva project repugnant because its vision is chillingly amoral if not alarmingly immoral.
Ajaz Ashraf is a journalist from Delhi. His novel, The Hour Before Dawn, published by HarperCollins, is available in bookstores. Email: email@example.com
Updated Date: Jul 21, 2015 12:31 PM