RSS chief wants both swayamsevaks and civilians to be trained by the Indian Army. His comment goes against the democratic spirit of the Constitution.

Mohan Bhagwat’s statement that the RSS could ‘prepare the society’ faster than the Indian Army has been condemned for the wrong reasons.

Congress chief Rahul Gandhi calls it ‘an insult…a disrespect for those who have died for the nation’, while Sanjay Singh of AAP describes it as an outrageous statement. Interestingly, the central claim of Bhagwat’s speech at Muzaffarpur was entirely missed.

Bhagwat actually made two powerful arguments, which need to be unpacked for a nuanced understanding of the RSS’s imagination of Indian society. It is imperative to remind ourselves about the group’s founding principles, which evoke the Hindus to get ready as soldiers to fight internal and external threats.

Discipline versus militarisation

His first argument was actually a self-clarification. Bhagwat said:

“The Sangh is neither a military nor a paramilitary organisation, rather it is like a ‘parivarik sangathan’ (family organisation) where discipline is practised like the Army.”

This clarification is very important. The RSS, unlike the Hindu Mahasabha of V.D. Savarkar, never openly called for ‘militarisation’ of Hindus. The RSS always makes a distinction between physical training for self-defence and militarisation. This distinction helps the Sangh to present itself as a ‘cultural’ organisation in a strict constitutional sense to avoid possible legal complexities.

It is worth noting that this distinction between discipline and militarisation was not always seen sympathetically by the governments in the past. In a letter to chief ministers written on 7 December 1947, for example, Jawaharlal Nehru noted:

“We have a great deal of evidence to show that the RSS is an organisation which is in the nature of a private army and which is definitely proceeding on the strictest Nazi lines, even following the technique of organisation… their activity more and more goes beyond (the)…limits and it is desirable for provincial governments to keep a watchful eye and to take such actions as they may deem necessary.” (J. L. Nehru, Letters to Chief Ministers-1947-1964, Oxford University Press 1985, pp. 56-57)

After the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, the RSS was finally banned in 1948. Although RSS’s involvement in Gandhi’s murder was ruled out completely, the activities of the organisation were regarded as unlawful and anti-national. The text of the government order which banned the RSS said:

“…It has been found that in several parts of the country individual members of the RSS have indulged in acts of violence …and have collected illicit arms and ammunitions. They have been found circulating leaflets exhorting people to resort to terrorist methods, to collect firearms, to create disaffection against the government and suborn the police and military.” (Des Raj Goyal, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, Radha Krishna Prakashan, 1979, pp. 201-202).

The self-description of the RSS as a parivarik and disciplined organisation, thus, is actually embedded in a very complicated past. That is the reason why Bhagwat does not make any comparison between the RSS and the Army; instead, he tries to justify RSS’s ‘discipline-oriented Shakha networks’ by appropriating the patriotic image of Indian armed forces.

This is precisely what the RSS’s official clarification also reiterates. It says:

“Bhagwat ji had said that if situation arises and the Constitution permits, Indian Army would take six months to prepare the society whereas Sangh swayamsevaks can be trained in three days, as swayamsevaks practise discipline regularly.”

This was in no way a comparison between the Indian Army and the Sangh swayamsevaks, but it was a comparison between general society and swayamsevaks. Both are to be trained by the Indian Army only.

Does the Constitution prefer militarisation?

Bhagwat’s second point was equally interesting. He evoked the Constitution of India to transform the Indian society—like RSS—into a disciplined entity. The clarification by the RSS, it seems further elaborates this point. It asserts that both the RSS as well as Indian society should be trained by the Army.

This straightforward appeal for militarisation of Indian society raises two relevant questions: what is the Constitutional imagination of an ideal Indian society? What ought to be purpose of Army-like training for Indian citizens?

The Constitution of India, we must remember, envisages a peaceful national society. Article 39, for instance says, “the State shall strive to promote…a social order in which justice, social, economic and political, shall inform all the institutions of the national life.” Although Article 51 A (d) calls upon all the citizens of India “to defend the country and render national service when called upon to do so”, the Constitution does not make any reference to Army-like training for ordinary citizens.

In fact, the term ‘armed forces’ appears only 14 times in the Constitution, especially with regard to separation of powers between the state and the Centre. The Constitution, in this sense, upholds the supremacy of citizenship by clearly defining the powers of elected government with regard to armed forces.

Bhagwat’s comment, hence, goes against the civilian and democratic spirit of the Constitution. However, as an intelligent politician, he continues to employ the terms like the ‘Constitution’, ‘Army’ and patriotism as ideological metaphors to legitimise RSS’s interpretation of Indian society—a society in a war-like situation!

Hilal Ahmed is an associate professor at CSDS.

15 Comments Share Your Views

15 COMMENTS

  1. If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein.
    Robert H. Jackson
    US Supreme Court Judge
    (13 Feb 1892-1954)

  2. What is wrong in military training to youngsters. It does not mean you are going against the principles of constitution. Like any other field, military is a field in the society. If a person goes through a year of military training, he can be of use anytime in his lifetime.

  3. Bhagwat has National interest uppermost in his mind .The RSS is a cultural highly disciplined organisation whose main objective is Nation building. They have rendered yeomen services during India-China and India-Pakistan wars, sacrificed many of their cadres in the process, that have also done commendable work during National disasters and natural calamities like earthquakes, floods, families etc. They are only next to the Indian Armed Forces in protecting the borders. Against this background Bhagavat is absolutely right in making this statement

  4. Bhagwat has National interest uppermost in his mind .The RSS is a cultural, highly disciplined organisation whose main objective is Nation building. They have rendered yeomen services during India-China and India-Pakistan wars, sacrificed many of their cadres in the process, they have also done commendable work during National disasters and natural calamities like earthquakes, floods, famines etc. They are only next to the Indian Armed Forces in protecting the borders. Against this background Bhagavat is absolutely right in making this statement

  5. If Mohanji is blamed by Rahul and his ilk, then i think Rahul should be answering for the anti party rants of his mentor and party leader Mani shankar that too in Pakistani soil.
    If he gets so much love there and hatred in India , then he better stay in Pakistan permanently and then see the enge in treatment he gets. He does not know that he is just a tool in their hands and would be discarded once the utility is over

    • Even if you don’t train Yeman situation is coming fast , pandits out from Kashmir scenario is being created in many parts of India ,police can’t save from Muslim love for voilence and religious intolerance for others ,so it is better to get ready. Otherwise Hindus will be Yazidies.

  6. According to the article, RSS is separate from average Indian society? Are Swayam sevaks more virtuous and competent than an ordinary Indian citizen? How is NCC inferior than RSS in Discipline, the Indian armed forces impart training to NCC in school & colleges, is this training in anyways inferior to the training given at RSS Shakhas? Bhagats idea of Indian society is too fragmented. It seems RSS have now hired services of people like you to rational foolish statements from their top brass.

    • So, without RSS saying anything, NCC training is imparted to willing citizens by the Same Army.. and that’s OK. But just because RSS utters a word , same NCC like training become Fascist?

      After all he is not saying Citizens should be forced or Unconstitutionally trained, nor trained as/ or by a private army.

  7. According to the article, RSS is separate from average Indian society? Are Swayam sevaks more virtuous and competent than an ordinary Indian citizen? How is NCC inferior than RSS in Discipline, the Indian armed forces impart training to NCC in school & colleges, is this training in anyways inferior to the training given at RSS Shakhas? Bhagats idea of Indian society is too fragmented. It seems RSS have now hired services of people like you to rational foolish statements from their top brass.

  8. Someone rightly said, Mankind must end wars before the wars end mankind. Today’s war mongers must realize that jingoism leads to destruction only.

  9. does Rahul Gandhi understand anything what this great person who s a veteran of many a issues of this Country….what does Rahul Gandhi want for India ….is he a patriot….does he love India remotely….he s surround by a few woman coterie who is handling his affairs like a college campus electioneering with all young giggling girls like Priyanka Chaturvedi and road side Spandana etc

  10. if congress has any brains they should say that if we r elected to power first thing we ll do is abolish Income tax and Modi s finished…..cos Subramaniam Swamy has d most superior brains as an economist n if he s saying this I believe him but Modi s ignoring it is becos Subramaniam Swamy ll walk away with d name…..Arun Jaitley is d most miserable fellow of all seasons….he has never won an election cos he is n egoist n also not a large hearted giver like Subramaniam Swamy…..

  11. Very thought provoking article. I agree what Dr Hilal is saying in his article. RSS has never believed in our constitution, national flag and so on but their own saffron flag and dream to change the constitution. They cannot do it, ours is a multicultural society and we indians have a tendency to respect every culture. Our culture does not teach us to hate but to accept and respect the other culture. I disagree on one point, RSS more particularly after 1984, openly asked for militarization of all hindus against alien religions. Shah bano movement and ram janam bhumi issues provided them fertile ground. I am a nationalist, but not on the lines RSS defines nationalism, I support india will can be a vishv guru, but certainly not on the lines RSS borrowed nationalism lines. We indians have a rich tradition to accommodate and respect various cultures, second we did not fight independence movement based on the skin or color or the British, but our fight was based on principles. We are not racist. We love each other. We have to leave RSS kind of nationalism from our day to day life, it will only bring hatred, violence and destroy our civic life. Remember the past of a beautiful country Shree Lanka. Third many countries got disintegrated, but India stood firm, although many writers of 50s, 60, used to believe india is going to face a disintegration and many states will separate itself from indian union, this did not happen and will not, reason is, we respect various cultures, languages, religions and so on. India will teach the world how to live in diversity, how to respect diversity and how to accommodate diversity. The concept of vish guru comes from this very concept. Talking about military training to citizens, fake nationalism, and spreading hatred by using various symbols will only destroy our real values that is love, care and respect of every culture.

  12. Culture, society,duties,nationalism, sense of pride these are the words that we Indians who were ruled by the congresis are not aware of. Basically we don’t understand all this rubbish. We understand nepotism, corruption, appeasement, slavery, which were embedded by the so called great leaders of post independence era. So now when somebody talks about sense of nationalism and society we are the first one who heckle s him. Look at Israel, Japan, Singapore then u will understand what does these words mean.

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