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Mohan Bhagwat says no Hindu Rashtra without Muslims: Is RSS changing before 2019 polls?

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Mohan Bhagwat, during the three-day RSS lecture series called ‘Bhavishya Ka Bharat’, said that the Sangh’s interpretation of Hindutva does not exclude Muslims and that they are a part of the Hindu rashtra.

ThePrint asks Mohan Bhagwat says no Hindu Rashtra without Muslims: Is RSS changing before 2019 polls?

Saying Hindutva includes Muslims furthers good Muslim vs bad Muslim distinction

Nazia Erum
Author, Mothering A Muslim

It is important here to understand who his audience was, and if he takes the same message across to everyone.

Was this an illusionary inclusive statement made to ‘appease’ a certain block, which is unsure of its political alignment in the wake of widespread sustained attacks on the minorities, Dalits and liberals?

Is this an attempt to set the ‘tone’ right? Because the bottom line is that actions speak louder than words. And, in an era where murderers of minorities are garlanded and celebrated, saying that Hindutva includes Muslims only goes further to draw the good Muslim vs bad Muslim distinction. In other words, Muslims who behave in a certain way are ‘welcomed’, but those who don’t are not part of India. I think that this is simply a new packaging of the same old philosophy.

Remember, whoever lives in Bharat has one identity, and we call it ‘Bharatiya’. Unity in diversity, that’s the backbone of being Indian. It is not some self-serving definition that appears to concede some space to a community which deserves equal status as per the Constitution.

Those who want to demonise the Sangh are spreading lies for votes

Raghav Awasthi
Lawyer and RSS member

Mohan Bhagwat today made it amply clear that he does not see the RSS as a political organisation at all. Hence, in my opinion, to speculate that the RSS is changing in the run-up to one election does not make any sense whatsoever.

Hindutva, in its most classical sense, is not supposed to exclude Muslims or Christians as long as it is acknowledged that even though their mode of worship may be different, their commitment towards India’s spiritual and temporal unity is retained.

As far as the RSS is concerned, irrespective of religion, all such people are adherents of Hindutva and therefore, Hindus. This time the sarsanghchalak even went one step further and stated that for the Sangh, even if this nomenclature is not accepted, there is no problem. Walter Andersen’s latest book also documents the increasing presence of Muslim pracharaks in the Sangh. Hence, to say that the outreach towards Muslims is a recent development and is being done with the 2019 election in mind would be quite inaccurate. The Sangh’s position on all of these issues is clear. It is only those who have a vested interest in demonising the Sangh for the sake of vote bank politics are spreading misinformation on the issue.

The most important and the best takeaway over the three-day lecture is that all of these lies are being nailed one by one.

RSS may employ Bhagwat’s lecture to gain wider acceptability among ‘neutral’ Hindus

Hilal Ahmed
Associate professor, CSDS

Mohan Bhagwat’s comment that Muslims are an inseparable constituent of RSS’s imagination of Hindutva underlines two related yet slightly divergent sets of arguments.

Bhagwat does not deviate from RSS’s known position on Muslims. Sangh’s literature conceptualises the ‘Indian’ identity of Muslims in strictly Hindu terms. Hence, defining Muslims as Hindavi Musalman does not pose any challenge to RSS’s established imagination of Hindu Rashtra or loosely worked out conception of Hindutva.

Second, Bhagwat invokes the Constitution to justify RSS’s version of ‘unity in diversity’ and ‘universal brotherhood’. This invocation of the Constitution could be read as a political necessity to counter the allegation that Sangh disregards Indian republicanism. After all, RSS leaders often remain uncomfortable with certain provisions of the Constitution, especially with regard to the rights given to religious minorities. In fact, the previous NDA government actually constituted a commission to review the Constitution!

Bhagwat’s unequivocal ‘celebration of the Constitution’ to accommodate Muslims in Hindutva fold, thus, must be seen as an interesting threefold political strategy.

First, as a self-declared cultural organisation, RSS may employ Bhagwat’s lecture to gain wider acceptability, particularly among those neutral Hindus who are not interested in the violent anti-Muslim conception of Hindutva.

Second, this strategy may also be used to reconfigure the internal balance of power within the Sangh Parivar. By projecting RSS as a Constitution-loving democratic outfit, Bhagwat may be able to assert Sangh’s supremacy over the highly powerful and overtly centralised BJP.

Third, this so-called ‘Muslim accommodation’ will help the RSS to disassociate itself from individuals and organisations involved in anti-Muslim cow protection movement, mob-lynching and organised Hindu communalisation at the grassroots level.

RSS may legitimately say that those who indulge in violence do not belong to Sangh, and therefore, anti-Muslim violence is ‘a natural reaction of Hindus’, which has nothing to do with RSS!

Also readIf you could please accept Hindu supremacy, RSS can become whatever you want it to be

Those who think RSS is turning accommodative towards Muslims have short memory

Hindi professor, Delhi University

What is pronounced for public consumption by RSS functionaries is never taken seriously by RSS workers. They are adept at getting the real message. And that real message is to use all means to capture every field of life in India. If it means speaking contrary to the principled position of RSS, the swayamsevak understands the context.

Those who think that RSS is changing or turning accommodative towards Muslims have a short memory. From our childhood we have been hearing RSS people patronisingly say that Muslims are acceptable as ‘Mohamdan Hindus’.

So, there is nothing new in the address by RSS chief. First, it seems to establish the supremacy of Hindutva by claiming that as opposed to the non-Indic religions, it is diverse and tolerant of hundred ways to approach god. So, everything comes under its fold. It doesn’t mind them calling themselves by different names. For RSS, they remain unconscious Hindus.

Listen to him carefully – “Whoever lives in Bharat are all of one identity and we call that identity Hindutva. But we have no problem with those who don’t want to call themselves that”. In the same breath, he dubs their self-identification dishonest, driven by “material considerations and political correctness”. He unambiguously declares that it is the Hindutva values, which helped bind a diverse society such as India’s together.

So, the doctrine is the same old one, which Deendayal Upadhyaya tried to articulate with a different metaphor: there’s a core to the Indian civilisation, all others have to confirm to it or submerge themselves to be purely Indian.

When a bully tells you that I want to make you my own, one needs to put him/herself on guard. One way of integrating the other is to devour it. Thus, it becomes one with you. This is the not-so-hidden message from the chief of RSS.

RSS never tweaks organisation’s philosophy for electoral politics

Ratan Sharda
Author, Secrets of RSS: Demystifying The Sangh, and columnist

What Bhagwat has said about Muslims is not new. He has said the same thing earlier too – all people born in this country who treat it as their motherland and connect to its past are Hindus. He re-asserted that Hindu is a way of life that celebrates diversity, respects plurality, finds unity in this diversity, and respects its ancient Hindu heritage.

Hindu and Hindutva are inclusive by nature not exclusivist. All the proclamations made by the rishis and saints since ages have been for the benefit of the mankind and not for a particular group of people.

RSS has asserted that 98-99 per cent Muslims and other converts have Hindu forefathers, and they remain culturally Hindus, whatever be their way of worship. No RSS top leader has ever talked of throwing minorities out.

Guru Golwalkar in his interview to Saifuddin Jeelani in January 1971 for Organiser had expressed the same opinion. Jamat-e-Islami had similar pleasant experience with RSS leaders when they were in jail together during the infamous Emergency. Those who quote Golwalkar selectively from Bunch of Thoughts forget the historic context of those lectures on the back of violent partition in which RSS swayamsevaks sacrificed their homes, hearths and lives to save their brethren.

It is incorrect to assume that RSS takes the Hindutva definition exactly as defined by Veer Savarkar. In fact, the 1942 Quit India was a major point of friction between Hindu Mahasabha and RSS because RSS refused to boycott the movement.

Bhagwat has only used simpler language to make RSS stand very clear. RSS never tweaks it organisation’s philosophy for electoral politics. If it wished to, it would have delayed this lecture series to a later date to match with 2019 elections.

RSS chief understands that no news is not good news

Yashwant Deshmukh
Founder-director, CVoter International

My simple take is that RSS is not changing in terms of its fundamental ideas. What has changed is its outreach programme. All RSS heads have been saying the same things all along, but only when someone reached out to them in order to understand the organisation. This is probably the first time that RSS chief himself went out of his way to explain his organisation.

Earlier, when any top editor requested for an interview or just a casual conversation, they were always welcomed by RSS heads on a personal basis. I personally know about the meeting of S. Mulgaonkar, the fiery editor of Hindustan Times (and later The Indian Express), with Guru Golwalkar in the presence of my father (who was editor of Panchjanya), which positively changed the outlook of many senior journalists of that generation.

The difference is that for the meeting, Mulgaonkar asked my father (they were colleagues at Editors Guild of India and good friends) rather intriguingly, “Yadu, does this Guruji ever meets anyone outside RSS?” My father said “let’s check out right away” and took him to Guru Golwalkar just like that. They had a free flowing conversation on all questions that could come along, and Mulgaonkar just couldn’t believe how easy it was to get an access and have a conversation.

Problem was (and still is) that the Lutyens zone, more so the English one, was never interested in talking or understanding RSS. It was more interested in not talking and misunderstanding it on purpose. The RSS was never inclined towards such outreach earlier, simply because it just wanted to focus on its work. If someone asked, it was happy to answer.

The current RSS chief has consciously gone for this outreach as he understands that no news is not good news, particularly when your swayamsewak is a Prime Minister with majority.

Bhagwat’s comment shows Sangh understands that all Muslims can’t be marginalised

Ruhi Tewari
Associate Editor, ThePrint

To think that a cadre-based organisation like the RSS, whose very foundation and existence is based on its worldview and ideology, will change merely for an election is both myopic and superficial.

The RSS sarsanghchalak, in the first two days of the three-day lecture series, has attempted to present a more nuanced, finely-combed avatar of the Sangh, with the aim of clarifying its position on multiple issues.

Given the Sangh’s perceived (and real) suspicion of Muslims, does this mean that there is a fundamental change in the organisation’s worldview?

It is important to understand that the view on Muslims within the Sangh has actually been evolving over the past four decades. Till the time Golwalkar was the chief, there was a rather clear line which saw Muslims outside the fold. But gradually under Balasaheb Deoras, Rajendra Singh and even K.S. Sudarshan, there were gradual efforts to engage with Muslims. The fact that the Sangh even has a Muslim Rashtriya Manch (led by senior pracharak, Indresh) indicates that it has been open to engaging with Muslims. Bhagwat’s statement must be seen in this context where the Sangh understands that all Muslims cannot be marginalised in India; they cannot be expelled.

But the RSS can only be tested by its actions on the ground. The fact remains that the Sangh believes that India must be a Hindu rashtra and that itself assumes supremacy of one group over another. The Sangh would like to deny the distinct cultural and religious identity of Muslims and seek to assimilate it within majoritarian symbols.

By stating that a Hindu rashtra does not mean there is no place for Muslims, the Sangh is putting forth a rather patronising approach to Muslims wherein they are told that they are not unwelcome here. The Sangh organisationally may not have a bar on Muslims – but remains a Hindu organisation. To talk about any change, therefore, is premature.

By Fatima Khan, journalist at ThePrint. You can follow her on twitter @khanthefatima.

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  1. Though his speech about Muslims etc is bold and welcome, based on just one speech Mr Bhagwat can not expect people to change their decades-old perception about the RSS. Mr Bhagwat should demonstrate his sincerity by seriously trying that the BJP is defeated in 2019 elections. For this, he should clearly forbid his cadre to campaign for this party.

    Because the NEW attitude of the RSS, of tolerance and accommodation towards Muslims, is directly contradicted by that of the BJP towards the same community in last four and a half years. Examples are too many to quote. It should suffice to point out what the party’s President himself said recently — that the BJP won “despite Akhlaq”!!!! Can anyone imagine a more unfortunate statement from a party head in a democratic, secular country?

    Winning elections is absolutely the only goal for the BJP. If Mr Bhagwat does not ensure the above concrete step of preventing his cadre, then his new-found love for Muslims will stand exposed as a DECEITFUL CONSPIRACY hatched jointly by the BJP and RSS towards the same desperate goal — of winning the forthcoming state and 2019 elections.

  2. One of the points Dr Mohan Bhagwat made – in relation to “ Bunch of Thoughts “ – was that the organisation and its philosophy are not cast in stone, they evolve with time. His outreach and higher public profile are in themselves a departure from the past. Sceptics will wonder how deeply some of these sentiments are felt. However, having made a public declaration of some things that all Indians who respect the Constitution believe in, the organisation is committing itself, at its highest level. It will be judged by unfolding events. For hate crimes against minorities to abate would be applauded nationally. At the same time, there was no fudge or playing around with words. On Articles 370 and 35 A, Dr Bhagwat said, in one sentence, we believe they should go.

  3. 1. I know that many left-oriented activists, who are not attached to any political party, are opposed to RSS as well BJP. How many of them are ready to accept bitter truth that criticising RSS for its Hindutva ideology does not really serve any good purpose? This I am saying because these activists are still unable to recognise that real danger to our democracy lies in fact that today many citizens (who are basically BJP/RSS supporters) see nothing wrong if freedom of expression (and freedom of like freedom to eat beef) is curbed. It will be worth finding out whether these supporters are not really concerned about survival of democracy in India. As I see it, these BJP/RSS supporters’ mindset is of people who see nothing wrong if freedom of expression and action, guaranteed by our Constitution, is curbed (in what RSS calls) ‘national interest’. I think real danger lies in growth of this category of supporters. 2. It is not that democratic rights are in danger in India alone. In good many European countries, and even in USA, rightist parties and groups have become popular. They have been campaigning and want curbs to be imposed on democratic freedom, again in ‘national interest’. Question then is this: are left-oriented activists in India ready to accept the ground reality and what would they wish to do to strengthen democracy? 3. Incidentally, if Congress and other opposition parties wish to defeat RSS/BJP and parties like AIMIM, it would be necessary for all these parties to convince our vast country’s citizen-voters that policies and programmes of RSS/BJP and AIMIM are in true national interest.

  4. RSS Conclave and its chief’s speech is tool to confuse nation and keep people guessing. RSS acts as a shield its political wing to protect it from public outburst against core issues like petrol prices etc. We should not be carried away by this

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