In his recent tour abroad (August 2018) while addressing the International Institute for Strategic Studies Rahul Gandhi stated that "The RSS is trying to change the nature of India. There is no other organization in India that wants to capture India's institutions.. It is similar to the idea that exists in the Arab world of the Muslim Brotherhood. The idea is that one ideology should run through every institution and one idea should crush all other ideas,” and that "Muslim Brotherhood was banned after Anwar Sadat's assassination; RSS was banned after Mahatma Gandhi's assassination… And the most interesting one -- women are not allowed in either of these organizations," In response to this BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra retaliated and  “the likes of President Ram Nath Kovind, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee…have a RSS background and Gandhi’s comparison of the organization with an Islamist outfit is “unforgivable”. .

Some from RSS stable went on to say that one who has not understood India cannot understand RSS. As such there has been various analysis of the nature of RSS politics. Academics and political scientists have tried to unravel the real politics behind its activities. RSS is not just a political organization, it is a supra political organization, where its political wing BJP is a small component of its total activities manifested through myriads of its organizations. Sudhanshu Mittal from BJP in an article states that RSS affiliated organization all have greatly contributed to the nation.

Hundreds of such organizations are active in different sections of society. While not talking of the manipulative role of these organizations, let’s see what some of these have not been doing which is needed and is relevant for social groups. One such point comes to one’s mind about RSS affiliate Bharatiya Kisan Sangh for example. One is witnessing the torment of farmers in the form of suicides, which reflects the deeper agrarian crisis. Have we ever heard the voice of this organization as to how to protect the agrarian sector, how government policies are flawed leading to the critical situation in village? Same question can be raised about agenda of these organizations among Adivasis’s. While one hears a lot about rising anti Christian violence in these areas, one knows that RSS affiliates don’t raise their voice against the displacement and marginalization of Adivasis.

RSS also claims to be having involved in lots of charity work, its claims generally dominate the media, saying that RSS volunteers are the first to reach the site of calamity. Interestingly Muslim Brotherhood is also prompt and active in the area of charity work. But in both the cases RSS and Muslim Brotherhood, Charity is the superficial point the core agenda is to impose particular type of social relations, those of inequality on the society. At core; the project of both RSS and Muslim Brotherhood is to bring in a social system which is opposed to democratic ethos of equality of all. Surely RSS and Muslim Brotherhood are no clones; still there are some features which are common as their political agenda is similar. Despite all this big paraphernalia of RSS; its core agenda remains Hindu nationalism, it regards the values of Indian Constitution as being Western and is aiming to push the society back to the values given Holy Scriptures. Let’s see what Islamic brotherhood wants? On parallel lines it has stood in opposing the democratic values of equality, calling the very democratic institutions as Western and so the need to promote Islamic values, which as interpreted by them stand for inequality of gender and social groups.

Both are the exclusively male organizations, harping on the past golden era, harping on opposition to modern (called Western by them) values. This should be the defining point in comparing any organization. It is also true that while RSS has trained Pracharaks who in turn float different organizations, rooted in RSS agenda, which have different formal structures. Muslim Brotherhood probably encompasses most of the activities under its own umbrella. Here one can add that the Christian Fundamentalism which came up in US in the decades of 1920s had many similar features. In post colonial societies in particular; organizations deriving their legitimacy in the name of religion; to begin with; have come up in opposition to the rising values of Equality. In India when the Indian National Congress began in 1885, it aimed at an inclusive nation hood cutting across all the religious communities. It also aimed at equality of all.

Category :- English Bazaar Patrika / OPED

With the loss of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the ex-Prime minster of India, many obituaries poured in praising his liberalism and amicable nature. Many of them described him as ‘Right man in the wrong party’. This is the most prevalent image about him. He is perceived as a Right man for his accommodating nature during Governments under his leadership. His brilliant oratory stands out without any doubt. But was he is Right man?

The events happening in the aftermath of his demise are very disturbing. We painfully saw Swami Agnivesh, trying to pay homage to Vajpayee, was beaten up. We saw Sanjay Kumar an academic with Motihari Central University Bihar, beaten badly for his social media post criticizing Vajpayee. We also witnessed an elected Corporator of Aurangabad, sent to jail for refusal pay tribute-condolence to Vajpayee. On the other side his niece Vatsala Shukla accused that while BJP ignored Vajpayee for last nine years, when he was bed ridden, now they are trying to milk his legacy for political purpose. The Asthi Kalash Yatra, (procession with mortal remains), the program to scatter his ashes to different rivers of the country, are being taken out with great pomp, which many are seeing as a political gimmick.

The trajectory of life of Mr. Vajpayee is very revealing as far as his political ideology is concerned, notwithstanding his friendly overtures to Pakistan and peace initiative in Kashmir. While much is being made of his oratorical skills, jocular nature and accommodative spirit, what is being underplayed is his political ideology, the sectarian Hindu nationalism for which he worked all his life. He joined RSS at an early age and became well known for his poem, Hindu Tan Man Hindu Jeevan (Hindu body-Soul: Hindu life). This was the time when Indian identity was becoming the major identity for the people of India. He also wrote an article in RSS mouthpiece Organiser, outlining his political agenda, the title of this aptly was ‘Sangh (RSS combine) is my soul’. Later in an article on the web he claimed that he had participated in the freedom moment This claim of his was debunked by investigation by Frontline and it turned out that he was a mere onlooker in the procession of Quit India movement in his village Bateshwar. As per his won confession he did not participate in the procession. He named the leaders of movement and was released from the jail in couple of days. He was a part of RSS, whose Chief had given the instructions to keep off the 1942 Quit India movement. As a loyal RSS worker he did not participate in Quit India movement.

After Independence, the first major attempt to bring Cow on the forefront of politics was done on 6th November 1966, when armed Sadhus attacked the Parliament. Vajpayee gave a strong speech on the occasion. When Janata party leaders demanded (1977-1979) that Vajpayee and company who have joined the Janata party; break the connection with RSS, he along with others members of erstwhile Jansangh refused to break their connection with RSS; leading to break up of the party.

As far as Ram Temple movement is concerned, the perception is that he was not a part of that. As a matter of fact he gave the provocative speech on 5th December 1992, about doing the Kar Seva and the necessity to level the ground for that. In the aftermath of demolition; on one hand he stated that we are sorry to the nation (7th December 1992) on the other a week later he stated that it was the will of God and a month later “If the sentiments of majority are not respected, this is what happens.”

Ruchira Gupta, who was covering the demolition and was molested by Kar Sevaks, tells us that she was called by Vajpayee for a cup of tea, where he told her that she comes from a good family and she should not speak about what happened to her. Vajpayee had cultivated a soft image, and with this image he was trying to cover up the RSS combine’s crime of demolition. It is true that his name was pushed forward by Advani for Prime Minster-ship. The reason was plain and simple that while Advani was the main mobilizer for BJP, they needed the alliances with other parties for coming to power. That time Advani’s image as the demolisher of the mosque was an impediment. Vajpayee remained forthright in his loyalty to RSS agenda. In Staten Island, during his US trip, he stated that he may be a Prime Minster, but he is primarily a RSS worker. In the wake of anti Christian violence in Dangs, Gujarat, (1999) in keeping with RSS agenda he called for national debate on conversion, there was no word for the victims of violence.

Similarly much is made of his Raj Dharma advice to Narendra Modi during Gujarat violence 2002. There are reports that as a Prime Minster he had made up his mind to sack Narendra Modi. After seeing the support for Modi’s with BJP workers, he retreated and kept quiet. Not only that in the speech later he spoke the Narenda Modi thesis of Action-Reaction in a sophisticated way, saying that, “If a conspiracy had not been hatched to burn alive the innocent passengers of the Sabarmati Express, then the subsequent tragedy in Gujarat could have been averted. But this did not happen. People were torched alive.”As per him the train burning had not been condemned enough! He also articulated the RSS antipathy to Muslims saying that where ever there are Muslims, there are problems. All this part of RSS myth making and communal elaboration he put forward in a subtle manner!

As such Vajpayee came at a political phase when RSS combine needed electoral rooting. The divisive language had to be put with the sugar coating, and that’s what he did with great competence. No wonder the RSS ideologue Govindacharya called him Mukhota (Mask) of BJP.

Category :- English Bazaar Patrika / OPED