Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh chief Mohan Bhagwat’s loaded statements in an interview to Organiser and Panchjanya on January 9 have caused some outrage, but they are not a shocking departure from anything the Hindutva organisation has been working for since its inception.
Among other things, Bhagwat told the two Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh publications that Hindu society is at war so it is “natural for Hindus to be aggressive”. He also said that Indian Muslims have nothing to fear, but they must “abandon their narrative of supremacy”.
The claim that Muslims must stay within set limits if they are to be accepted as a part of India has been the core idea behind the formation and growth of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. It would be absurd to expect the Hindu nationalist organastion to depart from the position that Hindus can dictate terms to non-Hindus, especially Muslims. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh would lose its vital fluids if it were to abandon its agenda of keeping Muslims on tenterhooks.
Clearly, the “Muslim outreach” by Bhagwat chief in recent times was a characteristically insincere exhibition of magnanimity that the Hindutva organisation cannot actually put into practice.
At the outset, Bhagwat needs to be questioned: who do the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and he think they are to tell Muslims how to behave? It is also important to point out some obvious fallacies in what Bhagwat said, as well as what the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, in general, believes in.
First, while saying that Muslims must abandon their “sense of supremacy”, Bhagwat gives no evidence of why he or the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh think that Muslims harbour any such impression about themselves. Which Muslim leader – spiritual, religious or political – has said such a thing in recent times? Or is Bhagwat merely reiterating what often comes as a result of the deep-rooted antipathy and prejudice that the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh has towards Muslims?
Had he backed his statement with evidence, it would have been possible to analyse it better. But in the absence of that, Bhagwat’s attribution of some apparent sense of “supremacy” to Muslims should be summarily dismissed as a mobocratic vilification of a large number of Indians.
Besides, since Bhagwat broached the issue of supremacist positioning, it is imperative to show the Sangh the mirror.
The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh has, ad nauseum, been claiming that Hindus have the god-given task of rescuing the world from its various crises. “Yeh Hinduon ka ishwar pradatta kartavya hai (this is the god-ordained duty of Hindus),” Bhagwat himself has said numerous times in his annual Dussehra speeches.
Clearly, it is the Sangh that portrays Hindus as god’s chosen ones and hence superior to others. Most Hindus do not hold such false notions about themselves. But non-Hindus can easily point to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s view to similarly claim that Hindus hold a supremacist view of themselves.
Just all Hindus cannot be said to subscribe to the Sangh’s view, the assertion of the historical supremacy of Muslims over Hindus by anyone, if at all, cannot be held against the community as a whole.
In the interview, Bhagwat made another claim that “Hindus have been at war for over 1,000 years”. But the Sangh also boasts that Hindus are quintessentially tolerant, welcoming everyone who came to the subcontinent and assimilating them into Indian culture. If Hindus were welcoming people from all over the world because of their innate accommodating capacity, who were they at war with?
This claim of the Hindu spirit of accommodation needs further scrutiny. When outsiders came to the Indian subcontinent over different periods of time, it was the upper castes who held power. Lower castes had no role in making decisions. Does this mean that the upper castes welcomed the outsiders?
Here lies a catch. Can this accommodating quality be attributed to people who were intolerant and unaccommodating of those at the lowest rung of their own society, their own fellow Hindu brethren?
If Hindus have, in any way, suffered due to the rule of alleged outsiders, then the blame lies squarely on those at the helm of affairs in Hindu society at the time.
While the upper caste Hindus have finally regained their place of pride at the end of the centuries-long political subjugation by non-Hindu rulers, those on the lower rungs continue to play second fiddle.
It is time for Hindus to move on and correct the anomalies within rather than exact revenge for a phenomenon caused by a section of Hindu society, which always has and continues to hold the reins of power.
But Bhagwat’s view is yet another indication that the Sangh is one of the biggest hurdles in Hindu society’s ability to affect a much-need course correction.
Vivek Deshpande worked with The Indian Express and is now a freelance journalist in Nagpur.
Decoded: Why RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat is calling for Hindu-Muslim tensions to be dialled down