New Delhi: The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has been caught off-guard by the controversy over sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat’s remarks on the issue of reservation.
The organisation feels that, deterred by its growing influence among Dalits, the political parties and organisations wary of Sangh ideology are trying to create a false bogey by stoking controversies that tend to project the organisation as anti-Dalit.
“We feel that the comments have been deliberately blown out of proportion and a deliberate attempt is being made to misconstrue the sarsanghchalak’s remarks,” said a senior RSS functionary.
“All he has said is that there should be a dialogue in a cordial atmosphere on this issue. That does not mean the RSS wants reservation to be taken off.”
Elaborating further on Bhagwat’s comments, the functionary added, “What he meant was that society should not allow the issue of reservation to be hijacked by political parties and use it as a tool to create divide in society. So there should be a dialogue among different sections of society within the constitutional framework.
“The RSS,” the functionary said, “had passed a resolution in 1981 expressing the same sentiment.”
According to the resolution passed by the Akhil Bharatiya Pratinidhi Sabha (ABPS), the highest decision-making body of the RSS, in 1981, “The RSS considers it necessary that reservation be continued for the present with a view to bringing all these brethren of ours who have remained backward in educational, social and economic fields over the centuries at par with the rest of society.”
The aforementioned RSS functionary said “rather than being a medium or tool to empower the socially- and economically-backward people in society, reservation is becoming an end in itself for many people and organisations”.
“That is why we have always maintained society should have a dialogue on this,” the RSS functionary added.
The RSS has been focusing on Dalits (Scheduled Castes) and Scheduled Tribes over the last couple of decades. Especially during the last 10 years, there has been a major thrust on the uplift of Dalits. In the RSS parlance, it is known as ‘Samajik Samrasta’.
There is a separate vertical now within the organisation that focuses on various programmes and initiatives for those on the margins of society. The vertical has teams up to the colony and village level in most parts of the country.
The result of all these initiatives has been reflected in the way the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) juggernaut has been rolling over the last six years.
“This has worried our opponents. Many political parties feel that the RSS’ work among the marginalised sections of society is ensuring that those who oppose the organisation are getting rejected by this section of the population, that is why there have been consistent efforts to corner the organisation on the sensitive issue of reservation,” said a Sangh source.
In 2015, just before the Bihar assembly polls, a similar controversy had erupted over Bhagwat’s remarks on reservation. Now, once again, in the run-up to assembly polls for three states, there is an attempt to dent the RSS’ image. It cannot be a coincidence, there is a pattern to it, said another RSS functionary.
“The fact of the matter is that the Akhil Bharatiya Pratinidhi Sabha has already made it clear that it is in favour of continuing reservation,” said yet another senior RSS functionary.
On 21 January 2017, the RSS’ joint general secretaries Dattatreya Hosabale as well as Manmohan Vaidya had issued statements on the issue to spell out the RSS’ stand.
“Caste-based reservation to SCs, STs and OBCs, according to the Constitution, should be continued… The reservations should continue till caste discrimination exists in Hindu society.”
The writer is CEO of Indraprastha Vishwa Samvad Kendra, and author of the book ‘Know About RSS’.