by Kumar Ritwik
[i]I am glad that someone has brought up this entire issue and misconception regarding the actions and views of the RSS to the forefront through Glasnost. I am thankful to the author for providing an opportunity to me to counter his claims and largely half-baked information that he tried hard to sell in an article published a week ago, ‘March of the Bhagwa Brigade’. I shall attempt to counter every point of the argument and information that he has presented and leave it to the readers to decide for themselves, unlike what the author has attempted to do.
Despite the unfavourable circumstances and continued opposition to its views by a few sections of society, the march of the brigade has continued for ninety long years and I can only see it strengthen further, when the youth of this country are finally getting to interact with and understand the RSS. Contrary to what the author of the article has stated, I can see the enthusiasm and excitement in the youth of this country (in villages and cities alike) and their recognition of the RSS as the country’s nationalist and sacrificing set of Swayamsevaks. In fact, their urge to join the group to advance its cause is unparalleled.
The author starts on a brilliant note about Shivaji, regarding organising Muslims in his army and administration, and how the RSS would have trampled over someone like him for doing so. This completely ignores the fact that the RSS has a specific organisation called the ‘Muslim Rashtriya Manch’ which has my brothers from the Muslim community, who believe that describing Vande Mataram as an un-Islamic song is wrong and believe in the principle of Paigham-e-Aman. The author focuses on the supposedly exclusive nature of the RSS. The close relationship between the educated Muslims and RSS academicians is further substantiated by the fact that a large population of Muslims have begun looking forward towards a united progressive governance model by working in a coordinated manner on various fronts. A wonderful comment by the author where he labels Swayamsevaks as ‘chaddi-donning’ confirms my understanding that he has failed to understand the larger picture. I am sure the author must have looked at the chaddi that the Swayamsevaks wear. For a better understanding, this chaddi is made of pure Khadi, which generates employment opportunities for a large population in villages, where the RSS social service wing, Seva Bharti, has established centres for the same purpose, contributing to the economy in a huge way.
The author, very regrettably, places national icons like Bhagat Singhji and Ambedkarji at a pedestal of religious and sectarian beliefs, to which I take strong objection. The two icons served the motherland to their utmost capability and must always be looked upon as figures of national importance, that must not be reduced to identifying with a particular caste or sect. But at the same time, it is important for the readers to understand that Ambedkarji has been symbolised as the central figure in the Anti-Hinduism line of arguments, whereas his four major works, namely “Castes in India”, “Annihilation of Caste’”, “Triumph of Brahminism”, and “Who were the Shudras?” point out how Ambedkar spoke of the evils that existed in the religion and what steps should be taken to further improve our religion’s standing. He spoke of and condemned the entire idea of Brahmanism taking over as Hinduism in the country, and not Hinduism, and it is a point every individual of the RSS appreciates. Why else would the great Savarkar fight against such Brahmanism and talk of dismantling the caste system as a whole, alongside Ambedkarji in the 1930s? Why is it so, that Ambedkarji’s view of unity of culture, that exists in India, is in absolute agreement with the RSS view of ‘One Nation, One Culture’, if he was only an icon to be exploited by us? The view of a united culture was brought to the forefront in 1951 with the establishment of a political party called the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, led by a Swayamsevak, Deen Dayal Upadhyayji.
It is interesting to note how the author seems to have forgotten the role of the RSS in the struggle for freedom; therefore it is my responsibility to point out the relevant instances and personalities who contributed to the same. Veer Savarkar was awarded two life sentences (the maximum punishment to be awarded to any political prisoner) for continued anti-British activities, in both India and London; was this absence from the struggle? Dr. Hedgewarji was responsible for the mobilisation of the masses in Maharashtra for the independence movement, and later served a sentence in Nagpur jail for many years; was this the absence the author talks of? Madanlal Dhingraji was captured in London and held in captivity for conducting anti-colonial movements in the India House at London for fifteen years; neither his dead body nor his ashes were allowed to come back to India, until 2003, when the erstwhile Chief Minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modiji, did a service to the nation by doing so. Is this the absence the author talks of? Lala Lajpat Rai died while protesting; Bhagat Singhji laid his life with Sukhdev and Rajguru. Is this the absence? Shyama Prasad Mookherji died in mysterious circumstances while protesting in Kashmir against the structure of two flags and two constitutions in the state, for the larger unity of the country. Is this the absence the author talks of? Therefore, it is of great importance that we check facts before we write something as faulty as this.
I haven’t been able to understand how a local villager stating something, in his personal capacity, becomes a headline as ‘Senior RSS leader…’ in the media. It used to happen in the past and it happens today, probably because the news-hungry people need a story and the agenda-driven people think of this as their jobs. There has been no such statement from any senior leader of the RSS and it is absolutely not the view that we have had. The independence struggle was of supreme importance and every Swayamsevak contributed to the cause in their own capacity.
What the Union Minister of Culture has stated regarding women stepping out in the dark is definitely condemnable and a highly regressive mindset. Every rational individual would agree with the author on the same. At the same time, the importance of understanding and promoting our vernacular languages is significant and ought to be taken seriously, by all of us.
Yes, it is true that I believe that Bharat is not a nation that was born on 15th August 1947, but a nation that is an amalgamation of a lot of processes, syncretism, struggles, and movements spanning centuries. The author may attempt to forget the First War of Independence in 1857, but as a nationalist who respects the sacrifices of the likes of Rani Lakshmibaiji, Tantya Tope. and Nanasahebji, I cannot. This nation may be only 69 years of age for the author and a few like-minded individuals, but for the RSS and a large mass of our population, our nation is an ancient civilisation that has existed for thousands of years. We consider it to be not only a piece of land, but our motherland, for which any level of sacrifice needed is just.
In the last few paragraphs of the second part of the article, the author commits the blunder of not understanding the feeling with which the RSS and its Swayamsevaks work. The author uses the term ‘ruling’, while the RSS strongly believes in the concept of ‘serving’ the masses. There exists a huge difference between our thought process and that of the author’s. That thought process is brought to light when another Swayamsevak of the RSS, and India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modiji announces from the ramparts of the Red Fort that he is the ‘Pradhan Sevak’ of the country. The author mistakes the widening of the social base of RSS with our competency of convincing the youth. RSS is full of people like me, who come from a middle-class or a lower middle-class background; we do not possess the magic wand that can convince crores of people to blindly follow a leader or an ideology. The RSS has been successful in its widening of ideological base courtesy the rationality and openness of a young adult and not the competency of the RSS. Those who have seen the functioning of the RSS would have no doubts regarding the fact that it is the hardest working nationalist organisation and indeed the one that has contributed to the cause of unity, on the largest scale.
The author mentions the protests of FTII. To be honest, I have not been to Pune to look at the wide-scale protests and hunger strikes that are happening there, but the major line of argument that the students at FTII have given is that Mr. Gajendra Chauhan is incompetent, since he is not a prominent film person and cannot compete with the likes of Vinod Khanna, Mrinal Sen, and Mahesh Bhatt who have occupied the chair in the past. But the fact that U.R. Ananthamurthy, who has never acted in a TV serial or movie, or even directed one and yet, was the Chairperson for FTII from March 2005 to March 2011, raises doubts regarding the issue, because Gajendra Chauhan has himself acted in about 150 movies and 600 TV serials over a career spanning 34 long years. Administrative acumen has not been given any merit, because the first step that Chauhan took after taking over was getting a proposal for an Rs. 80 crore studio for students.
A revision of textbooks of school-level is necessary. The days of worshipping the Nehru-Gandhi family and Congressmen only is over, my friend, and it is important that we include more than one paragraph on Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Bhagat Singhji and Netaji. When the Union Human Resource Development Ministry is taking strong steps in this direction to correct the imbalance that exists in our books, the author seems to have a problem with it, probably because we have forgotten our true heroes and gotten too accustomed to worshipping very few names.
Lastly, the author talks of facts and figures and makes it sound as if the current government has been elected illegitimately and has almost no right to serve the citizens. As per the official records of the Election Commission of India, the registered electorate of India stands at 81.4 crore Indians. The turnout at 66.38% was highest ever recorded in the history of Lok Sabha elections of the country and that is truly representative of the parliamentary democracy that India practises. The author seems to have a problem with the entire concept of First-Past-The-Post system and seems to think of the election of 2014 as a Presidential form of government, where such statistics would influence the election of the President, but as we stand today, the BJP has won 282 Lok Sabha seats and the entire NDA is pegged at 337. We have a government in power that is taking steps to ensure maximum governance takes place with a proactive and energetic Prime Minister who is willing to go the distance to realise the one dream that every Indian has: to see India redeem its lost glory.
(This article is a response to March of the Bhagwa Brigade by Prem Ayyathurai, published last week on Glasnost.)