The Haridwar ‘Dharam Sansad’ organised by Yati Narsinghanand and others poses a serious threat to the social harmony of India. It is highly unlikely that such a conclave would take place without the Uttarakhand government’s permission. The question is: Was it organised without the approval or knowledge of at least a section of the top Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh leaders? The open call to kill Muslims by speakers is not just an issue of the minority community’s survival. Repeated invoking of Nathuram Godse’s name and making former prime minister Manmohan Singh a ‘target’ shows the brazenness with which they issued a threat to Narendra Modi’s authority.
The organisers know that they cannot wipe out Islam from this land as Indian Muslims are not isolated. The Islamic world is too big to be handled by such forces, even with the RSS/Bharatiya Janata Party’s power and command. The ‘sadhu samaj’ is getting more and more involved in national issues but in terms of caste ideology they are Brahminical. So far, not many Shudras, who accept that they are part of Hinduism, have become sadhus. Historically, they were not allowed to be.
Narendra Modi is a self-proclaimed Other Backward Class (OBC) prime minister, and in his second term after the 2019 Lok Sabha election, things seem to have gone out of his hands. The RSS has started executing its agendas through his government. His image as a ‘strong PM’ seems to have worked only during the first term. In the second term, his attempts to reassert that image in certain spheres is facing resistance, with a counter activity launched by his detractors within the Sangh.
RSS’ exclusion of Shudra/OBC
The RSS agenda consists of many Muslim-related issues that were kept completely out in Modi’s first five years. He was seen as a man in full command of the central government machinery, despite being new to Delhi.
The 2019 election, unlike the 2014, was fought by the BJP with an anti-Pakistan and anti-Muslim rhetoric. With the new government in place, Amit Shah put out a future roadmap. They went one after the other — abrogation of Article 370, triple talaq law, Citizenship (Amendment) Act, and marginalising Muslim presence in all the State institutions. Some of these issues had the support of a section of the Shudra/OBCs because they thought that it might benefit them.
However, the RSS has not evolved any agenda related to Shudra/Dalit/Adivasi forces except repeatedly defining them as ‘Hindu’. No Shudra/OBC was allowed to emerge as theoretician even in the Sangh system. Most social and political agendas related to Shudra/OBCs were evolved outside the Sangh system — be it reservations, share in political power, or education. There is not a single issue that pertains to Shudra/OBCs that the RSS broached when the Congress and other parties were in power and fought to achieve it at the national or state level.
This has been a challenge for the RSS throughout its history. The Shudra/OBCs are mainly farmers and tasted their first attack through the enactment of the farm laws. For such a large Sangh network to not anticipate farmers’ backlash is unthinkable. They wanted to bulldoze them. But it did not work.
If Modi hadn’t said he is for ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas’ as Prime Minister, I don’t think the Shudra/OBCs would have ever believed him. If we carefully examine the language of RSS sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat, he never said that he or his organisation would implement or work towards achieving the idea ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas’. In fact, throughout the 2014 election campaign, Bhagwat remained totally silent and also invisible. It appeared as if there was no RSS in that election scene.
As Modi’s OBC background grew more and more in public discourse, Bhagwat started appearing on the national scene, speaking on various forums by spelling out his anti-reservation, anti-minority agendas. His call for a debate on reservation and attack on Mother Teresa institutions are cases in point. The strategy in the 2014 election appeared to be — ‘let Modi promise anything he wants and get votes and power’. During Modi’s second term, a section of the top RSS leadership sprung into action.
Attack on Christians
Now it appears that even the most powerful Modi government team has no control over the system. The recent developments clearly show where things are headed: To boost his international image, particularly in the Western Christian world, Modi met the Pope and invited him to India. Many in the RSS leadership obviously disliked that because they were opposing the Pope’s Christian agenda for India. However, just before Christmas, attacks on churches in different parts of India started. It is important to note that most of the instigators come from ‘upper’ castes. On 16 December, at the Hindu Mahakumbh in Chitrakoot, Mohan Bhagwat gave a call for ‘Ghar Wapsi’ (homecoming) of Christians back into Hindu fold.
While the whole country was worried about such attacks, the Ministry of Home Affairs rejected the FCRA renewal application to Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity, quite shockingly on Christmas Day itself. This can be seen in the light of what Mohan Bhagwat said about the saint’s work a few years back: “There was a motive behind the service that Mother Teresa provided to the poor — to convert them to Christianity”.
Modi has never spoken about Christianity in that tone. The Western democracies, by and large, are Christian. Modi must have thought of repairing his image by inviting the Pope. But the Sangh network at the ground level has shown its opposition. Now, nobody believes in his slogan: ‘SabkaSaath, Sabka Vikas’.
Haridwar offenders haven’t been booked yet. Modi himself remains silent on all these planned offences. His silence is a major setback for his government, especially in the aftermath of the farmers’ agitation. All this is not an accident. Something certainly seems to be brewing within the Sangh, while the nation continues to suffer on all fronts.
Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd is a political theorist, social activist and author. His most known books are Why I Am Not a Hindu: A Shudra Critique of Hindutva Philosophy, Culture and Political Economy, and Post-Hindu India: A Discourse in Dalit-Bahujan Socio-Spiritual and Scientific Revolution. Views are personal.
(Edited by Srinjoy Dey)