By MR Lalu
Mohan Bhagwat, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief has always been viewed as a media-savvy person, a perspective that I personally disagree with. The RSS chiefs, according to my understanding and study, meet the media rarely and when they do, their views capture headlines. This is because not only Mohan Bhagwat, but also his predecessors maintained the norm of not making media-centric remarks for popularity, which I think; the outfit has been strictly following. Bhagwat is known for his highly influential and intellectual deliberations. In the RSS, what I understand is its cadre swallows the ideology that its hierarchy pedals, without questioning it. There are genuine reasons to put the philosophy that the Sangh propagates to critical examination. The Sangh’s pursuit to identify India as one cultural entity with diversity sprouting from across the span of its existence is mutually accepted by many in the country. Probably, nobody contradicts that view but when it calls that diversity, the basic structure, on which the idea of India exists as Hindutva, disagreements pour in from all directions. But its outreach for dialogues with its ideological opponents needs to be seen as a remarkable faculty that the RSS holds. The interpretations that Mohan Bhagwat made on the Gyanvapi row must have, to some extent, doused the temperature that the BJP and some units in the Sangh Parivar have been gearing up with. The BJP must have had a plan to keep the heat building up until the state and national elections are over-a well calibrated move before 2024. But now, the siblings in the ‘parivar’ under the umbrella of the Sangh need to hold their tongue before they step out with aggressive bad-mouthing on issues that are under dispute.
The Muslim community in India should have welcomed the statement of Bhagwat at Nagpur. While addressing the delegates of the third year Officers Training Camp (OTC), the Sangh chief made the opinion of the RSS public, on the disputes that the media and the courts are extensively exploring. He said it was futile and unnecessary to look for shivling in every mosque. This indeed has come as an acceptance by the Sangh on the volatility that such disputes could push this country into, especially, when it realises that radical changes with long standing effect can happen only if it manages to grab power at the centre again. Its political tool the BJP, that the RSS devised to capture the country politically, has been prospering successfully breaking the brittle bones of major parties including that of the Congress. We need to understand the success the Sangh was capable of making through the BJP in India. Everybody at the power centres including the President and the Prime Minister of the country, walk along with the Sangh ideology. The RSS, for that matter, stays behind with a steady silence when controversies erupt, while its organisational arms such as Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS), Viswa Hindu Parishad (VHP), Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) and many more organisations under its umbrella are planted to speak for its cause. While the RSS presents its views amicably without damaging its stature, it keeps the radical and most inflictive and aggressive Bajrang Dal or VHP in the front row to respond to issues that can rake up outrage in the country for its cause and also to frame counter narratives. This needs to be seen as a diplomatic somersault of the Sangh.
The RSS, in a way, is happy and complacent to have made a larger section of the country accept the Hindutva ideology that it was vocal about. Leaders in the opposition parties were also forced to publicly admit their Hindu identity despite their efforts to woo the minorities. Rahul Gandhi’s temple visits and Mamata Banerjee’s proclamation on her Hindu identity in public was an ideological victory for the RSS that it kept on hammering since 1925. It was also capable of expanding its presence in the civil society and the state institutions tremendously. Eight years of Modi Raj in India has intensified the ecosystem that the RSS was struggling to build. The ambiance that the Modi rule could generate for the Sangh’s growth in India was remarkable. The Sangh could not have achieved the stature and status that it did, had the BJP under the persona of Modi been not in power. The common mistake that every critique of RSS is prone to make is his ignorance on the depth into which the RSS has managed to send its roots. To fathom the space into which it has stretched its reach can be a subject of academic research. Whatever, the RSS has always managed to distance itself from maximum controversial issues, intelligently playing from behind the curtain- a strategy it has been playing out for years. Most of the controversial issues that the RSS is blamed for were not directly fuelled by the outfit. Now, the difficulty is with the BJP. After Bhagwat’s views on the Gyanvapi controversy, the party needs to cautiously inch in the direction of moulding the issues that it identified as political game-changers. Issues similar to Gyanvapi have been set to boil in the poll bound states of Karnataka and Gujarat and the RSS chief has probably sprayed water on the prospects that the party has been dreaming about.
The BJP leadership is fully aware of the potentiality of the RSS on the ground to toil the party to victory. That was the reason the top leaders of the party were cautious before they expressed their views on Mohan Bhagwat’s statements and also urged its rank and file to refrain from making comments in public. The Sangh had been vocal on its stance on three important spiritual places Ayodhya, Mathura and Kashi. It always maintained its stand on the spiritual importance of these places to the Hindus. Though the Sangh chief was critical about the frequent sweltering of controversies on every worship place under dispute, Bhagwat was firm on the faith that was attached to Gyanvapi by the Hindus. Essentially, his remarks on the fresh controversy on Gyanvapi should be seen as an attempt to nullify the damage, the blot, that it strongly believes a particular section of the media in India and abroad have been trying to cause to its image. Its outreach to the Muslims by incorporating a new wing to the Parivar, the Muslim Rashtriya Manch has been an endeavour to entice the Muslims to recognise the cultural ancestry that the RSS believes both the Hindus and the Muslims share in common. The Sangh first passed a resolution on Kashi in its Akhil Bharatiya Pratinidhi Sabha (ABPS), its highest decision making body, in 1959 and its resolution on Ayodhya came much later in 1987. Kashi was on its cards from the beginning itself, Mathura and Ayodhya were subsequent attachments. Many resolutions on disputed sites were passed in its meetings again and again but the organisation abstained from taking any controversial issue except Ayodhya into the streets. Mohan Bhagwat’s call for restraint and adherence to the court ruling is an approach that everybody in India can embrace with a sigh of relief.
(Author is freelance journalist and social worker based in Kerala. The views expressed are personal opinion of the author. He can be reached at [email protected])