'Homosexuality not a crime, sexual preferences are personal': RSS begins to revamp its public image

It is not just the dress code which the Rashtriya Swayamwevak Sangh (RSS), the parent organisation of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has changed in the last few days.

Homosexuality not a crime, sexual preferences are personal: RSS begins to revamp its public image

The RSS is trying to re-invent its image. AFP

RSS joint general secretary Dattatreya Hosabale said at an event on Thursday in New Delhi, "I don't think homosexuality should be considered a criminal offence as long as it does not affect the lives of others in society."

"Sexual preferences are private and personal. Why should RSS express its views in a public forum? RSS has no view on that. It is for people to have their way. Personal preference of sex is not discussed in RSS and we don't even want to discuss that," PTI quoted Hosabale as saying.

However, before any of us could get excited for such a progressive stand taken by RSS, Hosable clarified on Twitter that he thought homosexuality needed to be treated like "a psychological case", even though he re-iterated that it was not a crime.

Nevertheless, there is still an important change in the RSS stand on homosexuality that comes out through Hosabale's remark.

Even when Hosabale tweeted out that homosexuality is a "socially immoral act", he began his tweet by confirming that he stood by his earlier remark that homosexuality was certainly not a crime. When compared to earlier statements made by RSS leaders on the issue, like the time Ram Madhav said criminalisation of homosexuality is 'debatable' or the time when the organisation said that there can be no compromise with gay rights, it seems the RSS has certainly further softened its stand on homosexuality.

Now, instead of saying that the issue of criminalisation of homosexuality was 'debatable', an RSS leader has come out and said that homosexuality is definitely not a crime. And that too, twice.

Even though there is still a long way to go before RSS' point of view on homosexuality can be called progressive, the right-wing organisation has taken a number of steps which seem to indicate that it is trying to re-invent its image, especially among the youth.

Even in a PTI report in which an RSS leader had rejected the perception that the organisation changed its dress code to attract the youth, the leader had still said that "khaki shorts made way for trousers following a long pondering on suggestions made to this effect by its cadre and the change is in sync with time."

One of the most important factors in deciding what is "in sync with time" is the youth. After all, it is mostly the youth of a country which decides what is in sync with time and what is outdated. But it is not just about the dress code.

On Sunday, RSS general secretary Suresh Bhayyaji Joshi had said that restriction on entry of women in any temple is "unfair" and managements in the temples doing so should change their mentality, PTI had reported.

This statement came at a time when there was a lot of outrage and protests against the restriction on entry of women in temples like Shani Shingnapur temple and Trimbakeshwar temple.

In fact, the right-wing organisation had to later face criticism from a Hindu outfit for this statement.

According to another report in IBNLive, RSS on 11 March had passed a resolution on caste discrimination and social harmony. The report added that the resolution was meant to address the sense of unease within the Sangh after the suicide of Dalit scholar Rohith Vemula and the Jat agitation in Haryana.

The report added that RSS leaders had even told Dalit BJP MPs to tell the voters that the Sangh was not anti-Dalit.

These reports about the RSS' attempt at an image makeover and its influence on BJP MPs, however, raise the question of why Lok Sabha voted against the introduction of a private member’s bill brought by Congress MP Shashi Thraoor to decriminalise homosexuality.

They also raise the question about whether the perception about parties thought to be Hindu nationalist parties is going to change or needs to change.

As Jaideep Prabhu wrote in this Firstpost article, "it is difficult to discern any Hindu agenda in the BJP's governance either between 1998 and 2004 or since 2014." The article also said that the actual important issues for Hindus were liberation of temples from government control, difficulty faced by Hindus in starting their own schools and colleges and the assault on many Hindu customs and traditions, something which the BJP government had not paid much attention to.

It is still difficult to say, though, whether the attempt by RSS to re-invent itself and change its perception will succeed or not.

(With agency inputs)

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Updated Date: Mar 18, 2016 16:51:20 IST

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