New Delhi: On Sunday, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat delivered his annual Dussehra address at the RSS headquarters in Nagpur as a message to those who follow the RSS ideology, including the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). In episode 601 of ‘Cut The Clutter’, ThePrint Editor-in-chief Shekhar Gupta explained the significance of the speech.
Gupta said Bhagwat’s address gives an idea of what’s happening in India’s most powerful political organisation, even though it calls itself a purely cultural body.
Highlighting how this speech was different from Bhagwat’s previous ones, Gupta said it may not have been headline grabbing, which was the essence, but as one lifted the layers, there were some significant political pointers.
As an aside, Gupta also spoke about the ongoing tussle between journalist Arnab Goswami-owned Republic TV and the Maharashtra government.
On Hindutva explanation
One of the key highlights of the RSS Sarsanghchalak’s 69-minute speech was that it was quite defensive in explaining the definition of Hindutva, and also paid a big tribute to diversity, said Gupta.
Speaking about Hindutva or Hindu Rashtra, Bhagwat explained that it was a philosophical identity and could not be defined in a narrow religious sense. He said anybody could follow any religion, and stressed that anybody who is a patriot and proud of India, Indian values and culture is united under the Hindu identity. However, if anyone wants to refer to it by anything else, they were welcome to do so.
Gupta noted that Bhagwat went to great lengths to explain how important diversity is and used the example of a hand — how each finger is different, but like different parts in the body, have essential functions.
Bhagwat also mentioned the Constitution a lot and noted that the Preamble underlined and explained the true essence of Hindutva, said Gupta.
However, he also cautioned that the RSS disagreed with those who believed that diversity meant ‘separateness’ and this could further cause problems, where he specifically mentioned proselytisation.
Speaking about China, Bhagwat said it was becoming a nuisance for the entire world and while there was no evidence, Beijing’s role in the Covid-19 pandemic was not above suspicion.
The RSS chief went on to say that the entire world knows that China was trying to bully, adding that it is an expansionist power temperamentally. When India responded to China with firmness, they were taken aback, he said. Due to the global pushback against the Chinese, they were unpredictable and therefore India must be prepared, he said.
Bhagwat advised the country to focus on the neighbourhood, adding that India needed better relations with all its neighbours. He named Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Nepal but left out Pakistan.
Gupta saw Bhagwat’s inclusion of Dhaka as a pleasant surprise due to the history with Bangladesh and Bangladeshis and infiltration, and the newly passed CAA law.
While analysing Bhagwat’s speech, Gupta said one could argue with the RSS on whether Hindutva was the right definition of India’s secular and diverse nationalism or not, but while he did not think it was, he underscored it was a healthy argument to have.
However, Gupta said one aspect of Bhagwat’s speech noted some problematic areas — the economy and agriculture.
He highlighted Bhagwat’s remarks that initially the Indian farmer saw farming as a philosophical spiritual pursuit to carry out to fill others’ bellies, and traditionally never looked at agriculture as a business and didn’t know what the most profitable thing to grow was.
Here, one could see a value judgment on farming for profit by Bhagwat and it was problematic because the farmers should not have to take the onus of feeding people forever without looking at better days for themselves and their families, said Gupta as he asked why farmers should only grow certain types of crops or only feed people’s bellies.
Farmers too should look at income enhancement, said Gupta.
During his speech, Bhagwat also gave the implication that if a farmer had to buy modern seeds, with modern technologies (pesticides and fertilisers) and if that led to bad economics and risky economic outcomes, it could result in farmers’ suicides.
Gupta opined that this was a dated idea and semi-modernisation in agriculture and the science of agriculture was one of India’s great gains in the 1960s and early 1970s. These should not be frittered away, he said, adding that he was happy the Modi government was moving in this direction.
Gupta also stressed another issue Bhagwat brought up in his speech — research in agriculture. With Bhagwat saying that corporates controlled research and present these to suit their own interests for profit, Gupta underscored that the reality was the opposite.
He said he was happy that the Modi government’s new agriculture laws brought corporates and farmers closer and didn’t create a Chinese wall between them.
Gupta added the Modi government figured out the way forward for Indian agriculture, and to make the Indian farmer richer and give them more opportunities to earn profits, even if this came late.
In this regard, he added that this was an uncharacteristic speech for the RSS chief as what he said had been discounted by the Modi government and Bhagwat was not speaking from a position of strength.
Why RSS won’t push govt
Concluding his analysis, Gupta said the RSS would not push the Modi government on the economic issues as the latter has fulfilled its agenda with the scrapping of Article 370, and some elements of the Uniform Civil Code with criminalisation of triple talaq, and the Ram temple as well.
He added that while the RSS and Bhagwat believed in frugal living, once things become better after Covid, people would go back to right where they were because human beings are ambitious, hungry for more, entrepreneurial and like to create wealth.
And it was important to keep doing this, else the country would not go anywhere, he said.
On Mumbai Police vs Republic TV
Gupta concluded the episode on a different note, discussing the stand-off between the Mumbai Police and Arnab Goswami’s Republic TV over cases being filed against the editorial staff of the channel over causing disaffection against the Mumbai Police.
He said the answer to bad journalism was not police high-handedness. If one started justifying it in Maharashtra then it would set a bad precedent. As it was anyway taking place in other states such as Uttar Pradesh, which he labeled the “champion of police high-handedness”, charging people with sedition and anti-terror laws for tweets criticising the police forces.
This is self-defeating as nobody in the establishment has ever intimidated the media successfully by using these tactics, said Gupta, adding that Goswami and his channel even had the president of the ruling party jumping to their defence.
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