The Congress on Tuesday criticised Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh chief Mohan Bhagwat’s claim that lynching was a “western construct” and should not be mixed with the Indian context to harm the country’s reputation.

“Shocked at Sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat’s insensitive comment,” senior Congress spokesperson Anand Sharma said, according to PTI. “The issue is not Europe or India, English or Hindi. The killing of innocent, hapless people by agitated mobs is unacceptable to humanity. Languages don’t matter.” He added that Bhagwat’s remark was unfortunate.

“I demand that you clarify in India’s national interests and global perception, whether you endorse or condemn such killings of innocent men, women and children by mobs,” Sharma added. “Please come clean on this in India’s interest.”

Bhagwat earlier on Tuesday said certain episodes of “social violence” were called lynching in order to defame the country and the Hindu society and to cause fear among a few communities. “Lynching is not the word from Indian ethos, its origin is from a story in a separate religious text,” Bhagwat said at Nagpur in Maharashtra on the occasion of Vijayadashami. “We Indians trust in brotherhood. Don’t impose such terms on Indians.”

“In such [lynching] incidents, RSS members do not get involved, rather they try to stop it,” Bhagwat said, according to ANI. “But the incidents are presented in a different way that propagate dispute. This is a conspiracy and everyone should understand it.”

Maharashtra Congress spokesperson Sachin Sawant claimed that it would be a lie to say that the RSS has nothing to do with lynchings. “It is as much a lie to say that RSS has nothing to do with lynchings as it is a lie to say that RSS is a cultural organisation, is anti-casteist, pro-reservation and respects the Constitution and tricolour,” Sawant said. “Spreading falsehood is the ideology of the Sangh Parivar.”

Senior Congress leader Digvijaya Singh said Bhagwat should follow his own message of harmony. “All problems will end the day Mohan Bhagwat starts following his message of harmony...mob lynching and hatred will also end,” Singh told reporters in Bhopal, according to PTI. “Our complaints will end the day [RSS] adopts the principles of love, harmony and the path of Mahatma Gandhi.”

There have been several cases of lynching in the last few years, many of which were connected with the transport of cattle or rumours of child-lifting. Most recently, in September, a man was lynched in Bengal on suspicion of child-lifting or kidnapping. The police had also been attacked by the mob in that case when they had tried to rescue the victim.