Panipat: “The Congress imposed Emergency, turning the country into a living jail. Did they ever apologise? Does the party have any moral right to question the [state of] democracy in India?” asked Dattatreya Hosabale, general secretary of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), reacting to statements made by the Congress Member of Parliament (MP) Rahul Gandhi in London.
Hosable was referring to Gandhi’s address in London as part of his UK trip earlier this month, when he had contended that the structures of the Indian democracy were under “brutal attack”. The RSS general secretary made the comment during his concluding remarks at the end of the organisation’s three-day Akhil Bharatiya Pratinidhi Sabha (ABPS) 2023, held at Panipat in Haryana.
“Rahul Gandhi is a Congress MP and a senior politician. He should be more responsible while making such statements. It was his party that imposed the Emergency in 1975. So many people were sent to jail. I, too, was in jail for days,” Hosabale said, adding that, “The country had been turned into a living prison”.
Questioning Gandhi’s remark on democracy, the RSS general secretary said, “Elections are happening in the country and the Parliament is running. Is this not democracy? For the new education policy [the National Education Policy announced by the Narendra Modi government in 2020], suggestions from 6,000 Panchayats were taken. It could have been done through advisory councils, too, like it happened earlier. Is it not democracy?”.
About Gandhi’s remarks on the RSS, the outfit’s general secretary said, “Reaction to his comments about the Sangh is unnecessary. He has his political agenda. There is no comparison between his politics and the work the Sangh does.”
In London, Rahul called the RSS a “fundamentalist, fascist” organisation, which functions like a “secret society” and was formed on the lines of the “Muslim Brotherhood”.
Claiming that a senior politician like Rahul should learn to express responsibly, Hosabale said, “His forefathers too attacked and criticised the RSS time and again. The country now sees the truth and the international community also understands. Hum apne kaam karenge, haati age chalte rahegi (we will do our work, the elephant will keep moving ahead),” he added.
Mentioning some “forces and individuals” who were trying to tarnish India’s image abroad, and invoking Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore, Hosabale said, “We have to change the narrative. There are attempts to misrepresent and distort our history. There were some bad things, like untouchability, and we admit that. But we have to portray the culture and tradition of our country, which makes us a great nation.”
The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, its general secretary said, was working on the ground, at the village-level, to get people united and eradicate caste discrimination and untouchability.
“Our volunteers are working in the villages to ensure everyone gets free access to temples and crematoriums. People of the same village should eat together during functions or weddings,” Hosabale added.
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Talking about the RSS’s stand on population control policy, the Sagh’s general secretary said, the outfit has expressed its views on the “population imbalance” in the country, not about the policy related to population control. “We have spoken about population imbalance, not about population control. It is the government’s job to form policy,” he added.
Hosabale added that the issues related to demographic imbalance were raised by several important and influential personalities, including Mahatma Gandhi, former chief election commissioner T.N. Seshan and others, who were in no way related to the RSS.
RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat had called for a “comprehensive population control policy” last year, that applied to all “equally”. Bhagwat had also said that it was in the national interest to keep an eye on community-based “population imbalance”.
About the reference to India as a “Hindu Rashtra”, an oft-repeated phrase by the RSS, Hosablae said, “Our idea about Hindu Rashtra was never religious, but cultural. It is never about a theocratic nation, but about the cultural concept. That way, Bharat is a Hindu Rashtra. It always was.”
Talking about the Sangh’s Muslim outreach programme, the general secretary said, “We are getting invitations from them, and we are responding. It is not about making any new outreach but responding to some positive approach taken by their (Muslim) organisations and communities.”
(Edited by Richa Mishra)
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