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‘Ridiculous, based on disinformation’ — what Hindu Right press wrote on Agnipath protests

ThePrint’s round-up of how pro-Hindutva media covered and commented on news and topical issues over the past few weeks.

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New Delhi: “Ridiculous” was how the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s (RSS) English mouthpiece, Organiser, described the mass protests against the central government’s Agnipath short-term recruitment scheme for the armed forces in its editorial this week. 

Saying that such mechanisms were in place around the world, it added, “The skills they [the recruits or ‘Agniveers’] acquire at such a young age would be an added advantage. Based on the performance, 25 per cent of them would be accommodated with a regular commission. An agitation is being carried out based on a disinformation campaign leading to damage of public properties, mainly the railways.”

The protests — which have seen outbreaks of violence in states like Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Telangana — took up most of the attention of the pro-Hindutva press this week, although RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s statement that there was no need to look for a Shivling in every mosque, and concerns about the environment, also featured in editorials.    

ThePrint brings you a wrap of what made headlines in the Right-wing press over the past few weeks.

Condemnation but also some dissension

Organiser advised the BJP government to come up with a better communication strategy to reach out to the masses about the Agnipath scheme.

“There seems to be a concerted effort to take Bharat on the path of the Civil War under some pretext which is a concerning trend when Bharat is carving out its own space on the global stage (sic). We need a more reasoned civil society discussion based on facts. The governments should give a stern message to the violent protesters and rioters irrespective of their political or religious affiliations,” the editorial said. 

The RSS’s student wing, the Akhil Bharatiya Vidhyarthi Parishad (ABVP), took a similar view condemning the violence, although it said that protesters must be engaged meaningfully. In its editorial in its magazine Chhatrashakti, the ABVP said talks should be held with protesters to help allay their fears.     

“Healthy efforts from various levels are required to stop the ill-fated attempts to divert the hopes of the youth to the illegal path of violence,” it said.  

The editorial added that comments made by some political groups on the decisions taken by the leadership of the three armed forces could harm the future objectives of the policy.

Jawaharlal Nehru University professor and Right-leaning commentator Makarand R. Paranjape argued in an article in The New Indian Express that every reform in India hits the same roadblocks of “a divided polity and populism”. He also claimed that many of those protesting against the scheme were paid. 

“Now, do these arsonists and lawbreakers, by virtue of such actions which ought to disqualify them forever from serving in uniform, seek to bully and intimidate their way into those very forces that are meant to protect the state and its citizens from such elements,” Paranjape writes, and argues that the armed forces shouldn’t be treated as an “employment agency”.  

“That a large part of the present budget of the forces is ‘non-productive’ by any standards is a sad truth that we do not like to face. Ours, which is the second-largest standing force in the world, with close to 1.5 million soldiers in uniform, will soon cease to be fighting fit and competitive if we carry on like this,” he wrote.

“We need to invest in equipment, technology, and upgrade weaponry, infrastructure, and so on. But no, the armed forces, too, must be turned into a gigantic employment agency to satisfy the needs of the agitators who seek permanent government jobs,” he wrote.

The policy, however, found some critics in the Right-wing press. Journalist Hari Shankar Vyas drew an analogy between Agnipath and recruitment for Anganwadi — a rural mother-and child-care centre under the Integrated Child Development Services programme.

“But what does the quick reaction in the form of protests by the youth against Agnipath suggest? As if this is a deception of the government, a deceit,” Vyas wrote in Naya India

He also compared the policy to the three controversial agriculture laws that were repealed last year following a year-long sit-in protest by farmers.  

“The farmers reacted immediately because they also understood that they were being cheated. And this is applicable to every scheme, announcement, jumla that came out of Narendra Modi’s mouth in the last eight years. The promise of achhe din (good days) has been burnt to ashes on the tracks of inflation, unemployment, violence-stress-insecurity-anxiety,” Vyas wrote.  

Kabul gurdwara attack 

In his opinion piece in Dainik Jagran about Sunday’s militant attack at a gurdwara in Kabul, former Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP Balbir Punj said Afghanistan was on the verge of becoming Sikh- and Hindu-free. 

“While reporting the attack, the [Indian] media said the number of Hindus and Sikhs was going down in Afghanistan but no one dared to hold discussions on ideologies responsible for this,” he wrote.

“Archeological excavations have made it clear that present-day Afghanistan was a part of Indian cultural heritage. By the 12th century, present-day Afghanistan, Pakistan and Kashmir were major centres of Hinduism-Buddhism and Shaivism.”

Punj said in his article that attacks on Hindu and Sikhs in Afghanistan were hardly a new phenomenon.   

“Whether it was under Hamid Karzai or the government of Ashraf Ghani, Sikhs and Hindus were targeted. Till the 1980s, the number of Hindus and Sikhs in Afghanistan were about 7 lakh. Today, the numbers can be counted on [one’s] fingers,” Punj wrote.

Kashi, Mathura always on agenda of Hindu society, says VHP

Less than a month after RSS sarsanghchalak (chief) Mohan Bhagwat reiterated that the organisation wasn’t in favour of any other temple movements, Alok Kumar, the international working president of the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP), said in an interview with Organiser that Kashi and Mathura were and will be on the agenda of Hindu Society. 

The Kashi Vishwanath Temple-Gyanvapi Mosque complex in Varanasi is currently a subject of legal dispute — some Hindu women have filed a petition asking for year-round access to worship at the Maa Shringar Gauri Sthal within the complex. Hindu groups claim Mathura’s Shahi Idgah Mosque as the birthplace of Hindu God Krishna.

In his interview with Organiser, Kumar claimed that Bhagwat’s statement during the concluding ceremony of an RSS training camp in Nagpur earlier this month had been misinterpreted. 

“My understanding is that the sarsanghchalak ji never said that [the] RSS is not interested in Kashi or Mathura,” he said, adding, “He said it’s not the job of the RSS to agitate. [He said] ‘We are a man-making organisation. As an exception — as a one-time exception — we decided to participate in the Ram Janmabhoomi movement. [Now that it’s over], we will go back to our work.’ That’s all he said.”

Right-leaning Hindi journalist Anant Vijay, meanwhile, interpreted Bhagwat’s statements to mean a call to empower Hindus.  

In an article published in Hindi daily Dainik Jagran, Vijay wrote, “Those analysing Mohan Bhagwat’s statement to prove that the RSS has changed its stand on Muslims should see his comments with proper context. Neither he has changed his stand, nor did he say it to please the Muslim community.”

The RSS, he wrote, has always believed that Indian Muslims were an integral part of the country.

“The RSS has always believed that Indian Muslims are from this land. They do not belong to the category of invaders, and expects that Indian Muslims should also not associate themselves with the invaders,” he wrote.

Concern for environment 

The rising global threat to the environment and the idea of development came under intense discussion at an environment conclave organised by Panchjanya, the RSS’s Hindi mouthpiece, and Organiser earlier this month

Senior RSS pracharak Gopal Arya, who spoke at the conclave, emphasised the need to look for alternatives to environmentally hazardous materials. 

“The solution to the global environment issue revolves around Man,” Arya said. “We need to change our perception on development. Do our development strategies think about saving our world? We have to ponder over this, too.” 

“Today the way of living life has to change. One million plastic bottles are made every minute in India. Not protest, but an alternative is needed. A solution is needed,” he said.

“We will have to worry about it. I have to worry about fixing my home, my internal environment,” he added.

(Edited by Uttara Ramaswamy)

Also Read: ‘Self-evident Varanasi’s Gyanvapi mosque is a temple’ — what Hindu Right press wrote this week


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