One wonders what Pranab Mukherjee, Kailash Satyarthi and Ratan Tata will make of the RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s latest speech in which he gave a clarion call for an ordinance to build the Ram temple without any further delay.
The three stalwarts – a former President, a Nobel laureate and a corporate czar – have been guests at the annual Dussehra/Vijaydashami celebrations of the Hindu supremacist organisation. Except for Ratan Tata, who wisely kept quiet, the two others chose to deliver their homilies.
While doing so, the two appeared oblivious of what the RSS stood for. Satyarthi, for instance, urged the members of the RSS shakhas (schools) to act as protectors of children, especially girls, at a time when they are facing threats of rape. But will the shakhas be willing and able to provide security to all children irrespective of caste and creed, especially the Muslim girl children?
If Satyarthi had done some homework on the RSS before making his appeal, he would have been aware of its impracticality, given the intense animus which guides the saffron cadres against the minorities. It is possible that he was influenced by the RSS chief’s speech at a Vigyan Bhavan conclave a few days ago where he spoke of accommodating Muslims in a Hindu Rashtra.
Bhagwat’s speech was hailed at the time as a sign of the RSS turning over a new leaf, bringing it closer to the secular ideals of the equality of all religions which it had derided in the previous nine decades of its existence. But how short-lived was this supposed evidence of glasnost (openness) became obvious during his pitch for the immediate construction of the temple in his latest speech.
It goes without saying that there will be a political and communal turmoil if the government follows his advice of bringing in an ordinance to start the construction of the temple even when the issue of the ownership of the land in Ayodhya is pending before the Supreme Court.
For the Muslims, the attempt to forcibly assert the Sangh parivar’s stand on the temple, which is proposed to be built on the disputed site where the Babri masjid once stood, will be a definitive step in the direction of a Hindu Rashtra where the minorities expect that their fear of becoming second class citizens will become true.
It is clear that Pranab Mukherjee’s belief about how pluralism constitutes the country’s “soul”, which he expressed in his speech as a guest last year, has made no impact on the RSS’s thought process. Satyarthi, too, spoke about “inclusivity” being “our soul”. But it is a concept which is alien to the RSS’s restrictive worldview, which wants India to be a Hindu-dominated country where Muslims can offer namaz at mosques but not look like Arabs with beards as BJP MP Subramanian Swamy has said.
It is not surprising that advices of the kind offered by the guest speakers are like water off a duck’s back where the RSS is concerned. The organisation’s purpose in inviting them is probably to widen its appeal among the middle class by showing that it is willing to listen to contrary opinions. But there is little doubt that its own views have remained unchanged.
From this standpoint, the RSS chief may have hedged his bets somewhat during his earlier glasnost speech in the sense that while the casual listener may believe his accommodative comments on Muslims, the true saffronite will take them with a pinch of salt. From this aspect, Bhagwat’s observations may have been some kind of a jumla or an insincere remark.
It is not known who will be the RSS’s guest at the next annual show with its display of lathi-wielding cadres. But given the fact that their discourses have little meaning for the organisation, it can be asked why do they go at all, thereby helping in mainstreaming an outfit – unwittingly or otherwise – which had long been on the periphery of national life?
It is difficult to see in what way the likes of Pranab Mukherjee or Kailash Satyarthi can gain by associating with an organisation which had been banned several times, including in the aftermath of Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination because of suspected complicity.
In a way, such naïve guests in the Nagpur headquarters of the RSS can be classified as what Lenin called “useful idiots” when referring to those who supported the Bolsheviks for their anti-Tsarist stance while ignoring their violent and intolerant record, of which no one could have been more aware than Vladimir Illych himself.
If the RSS is really interested in starting on a clean slate, it will have to reorient its inherently regressive and anti-minority outlook and desist from pushing the government further towards divisive policies by recommending temple construction in Ayodhya to boost the “self-esteem” of Hindus, opposing the entry of women of all ages in the Sabarimala shrine and targeting the Left-Liberals in the name of opposing “urban Naxalites”. If it can change its backward-looking mindset, certificates from prominent outsiders will not be necessary. (IPA)