He issued an open command to the government, made some unveiled criticisms of the Opposition parties and gave a clear instruction to the law-enforcement authorities. When Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh chief Mohan Bhagwat delivered his Vijaya Dashmi speech in Nagpur on Tuesday, he almost seemed like a powerful politician of a ruling party.
Speaking for the first time in full-length trousers as the RSS discarded its traditional khaki shorts on Tuesday, Bhagwat issued advisories to the government on two counts.
One, while praising the government for giving a fitting reply to “forces from across the border”, the RSS chief asked it to expedite the work of resettling Kashmiri Pandits in Jammu and Kashmir. “There is an urgent need to rehabilitate with honour and security and ensuring all-round welfare, our Hindu brethren, who had migrated from those areas [Mirpur, Muzzafarabad, Gilgit and Baltistan in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir], and the Pandits, who are forced out of the Kashmir valley,” he said.
Secondly, he called on the government to speed up educational reform. “Education is needed so that a person imbibes good values,” he said, emphasising the necessity of reforms in curricula and the need to appoint teachers “best suited” for new education. “We have waited for long to see reforms in education, but now the wait should end,” he said.
Broad field of fire
Bhagwat also asked the government to take a hard look at the proposed new education policy recommended recently by the committee headed by former Cabinet Secretary TSR Subramanian. “After the new government took over, a committee was appointed to go into the matter and the committee has already submitted its report," he said. "I am not privy to this report, but it remains to be seen whether the committee’s suggestions are in sync with the wisdom of the educationists and activists in the education field,” he said indicating that the RSS had some reservations about the panel's recommendations.
The RSS chief had a few words for the Opposition parties and the media. “Some sections of our polity are attempting to blow small incidents out of proportion," he said. "Oppose not for the sake of opposition. Political parties should not cross limits and ensure that people are not pitted against each other. Media should also be careful in not to create divisions in the society.”
Bhagwat also asked the administration to rethink its treatment of cow protection vigilantes. “The administration should know the difference between gau-rakshaks and anti-social elements,” he said. “Countless good people are working for cow protection. The Jain community is totally given to cow protection…These good people are working within the ambit of law and Constitution….Administration should see to it that those creating trouble should not be compared with cow protectors.”
No responsible political leader would ever attempt to ask the authorities to use different yardsticks for different people. But, of course, under no circumstances would Bhagwat accept that he is a political leader. After all, the RSS had taken a pledge in 1949 – as it desperately tried to wriggle out of the ban imposed on it following Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination – that it would act solely as a cultural organisation without any political overtones. Accordingly, Article 4 of the RSS constitution, adopted in 1949 before the ban was lifted, states: “The Sangh, as such, has no politics and is devoted purely to cultural work.”
Against this backdrop, it was interesting to hear an overtly political speech on Tuesday by a man, who – as per the RSS constitution – calls himself a cultural leader. What possibly might have made Bhagwat don the mantle of a politician?
Over the last two-and-a-half years, he has tried to balance various interest groups in the Sangh Parivar, hoping that they would sort themselves out over time. They did not.
In two particular areas – the activities of gau-rakshaks and the slow movement on educational reforms suggested by the RSS – there has been bubbling resentment in the Parivar. When Prime Minister Narendra Modi in August said that “80%” of gau-rakshaks were anti-social elements", this created a rift between the government and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, which is also a party of the Sangh Parivar.
The RSS has bided time to capture power through proxy, and is now working hard to consolidate itself even further. For that, it is essential to ensure that every major wing of the Sangh Parivar is working in tandem. On Tuesday, Bhagwat made it clear that a promise made seven decades ago wouldn't stand in the way of the organisation's goal of turning India into a Hindu rashtra.