In this era of information overload it’s the perception that matters. People, organisations, leaders and communities have to manage and fight out this perception battle. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)--- world’s largest voluntary organisation, that boasts of millions of Swayamsevaks (voluntary workers), has been at the receiving end of this perception management, thanks to concerted efforts by the cabal of Communist-Congress nexus.
Ever since its inception in 1925, RSS remained too involved in the grass roots work and committed to its famed “man making” of Indian citizens, which in effect means character building and instilling patriotic fervour about India. Perception management became a casualty in this effort, so much so that over the last seven decades since India’s independence RSS had to remain content with a negative press largely controlled by Communist card holders.
Mohan Bhagwat, the sixth RSS Chief (SarSanghachalak) decided to take things head on. The three-day outreach programme from September 17 to 19 at New Delhi’s Vigyan Bhawan was aimed at this course correction. RSS functionaries had dished out invites to leaders across political parties, luminaries of film industry, media barons, academicians, lawyers, among others. The invitee list was carefully prepared to have ardent critics of Sangh in the VVIP arena of Vigyan Bhawan.
What followed was a three-day dose by Bhagwat on nationalism, education, women’s rights, security issues, Muslims, Uniform Civil Code and Sangh’s thinking about these issues.
It was a monologue and questions were allowed only during tea and lunch breaks where RSS functionaries described about Sangh, its thinking and their ideology in an informal chit-chat. Well, superficially it was a genuine effort by an organisation that had always been the favourite whipping boy of historians, academicians and media. An entire generation was made to believe that Sangh is a conglomeration of blood-thirsty men who wear outdated ballooned khaki shorts, imprison their women in purdahs, have often targeted freedom fighters and are a cult organisation which should be banned.
Even as historians sang paeans about Jawaharlal Nehru and their communist stooges hailed the efforts of Sheikh Abdullah in Kashmir they conveniently forgot to tell the world about RSS’s herculean efforts to keep Jammu Kashmir as an integral part of India. It is hardly mentioned in history books that it was only on the persuasion of Madhav Sadashivrao Golwalkar, lovingly called Guru ji by RSS swayamsevaks, that Hari Singh the erstwhile ruler of princely state of Jammu Kashmir signed on the Instrument of Accession and so Kashmir became an integral part of India. Academicians never bother to discuss or research about the Praja Parishad Movement in Jammu Kashmir and the martyrdom of Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee, the twin events which brought relative calm during the turbulent times in Jammu Kashmir immediately after independence.
During the Indo-China war it were the RSS Swayamsevaks who responded to clarion call by Nehru and offered unconditional support during the war. Acknowledging RSS’s efforts during the war a contingent of RSS participated in the Republic Day parade of 1963. Yet again this piece of history remains on the margins. There’s hardly any footage or photographs available of this historic moment. The reason was clear: Erase from public memory all good deeds and moments about the RSS.
The 1975 Emergency that was fought tooth and nail by the RSS remains another forgotten chapter in contemporary India’s history. In fact, before Narendra Modi took the reins of India in 2014 hardly any editor, academician or historian mustered courage to talk about the atrocities and high-handedness of Indira Gandhi during Emergency. Stories about the men who stood against this brutal assault and rape of Indian democracy have been systematically erased.
Fast forward to the Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Movement in 1992. It was the demolition of disputed structure referred to as the Babari Mosque that got massive coverage and efforts were made to implicate RSS and its cadres for masterminding it. The indiscriminate firing on karsewaks (devotees) by the then Uttar Pradesh government led by Mulayam Singh that led to the death of thousands of karsevaks was brushed aside as a law and order issue. Even today debates, discussions and talks take place about 6th December 1992 but thousands of innocent people killed in cold blooded murder by the UP Police in targeted firings on 1st and 2nd November 1990 on orders from Mulayam Singh government is seldom talked about. Ditto for the Godhra carnage of 2002. Reams have been written about Modi-led Gujarat government leading the pogrom against Muslims but unsuspecting karsevaks being burnt alive on the Sabarmati Express train coach is seldom talked about and is conveniently forgotten.
The Sangh leadership has been well aware of this phenomenon. With Narendra Modi at the helm since 2014 situation may have been a tad conducive and media slightly more considerate in objectively analysing the RSS and its ideology, yet the seven-decade old stranglehold of Congress-Communist clique has meant that even today genuine national issues are brushed aside and the country continues to discuss and debate frivolous issues.
It were these factors in mind when RSS Chief Dr Mohan Bhagwat decided to catch the bull by its horns and dished out invitation to all, to come and listen to what RSS is and its idea of Bharat. The chosen theme was “Bharat of Future”. The RSS functionaries worked overtime to reach out to the Sangh’s fiercest critics and doled out VVIP invites. The expectation was that the Sangh’s critics would come, listen to Bhagwat’s lecture, indulge in one-to-one interactions get their doubts cleared and walk away with a change of heart. After all Sangh’s philosophy has been that ‘to know about Sangh one has to come over to Sangh’ (Read Mohan Bhagwat’s Question and Answer)
Even the most die-hard optimist would agree that this was an innocent assumption and quite naïve assumption. Well, the critics whom RSS and its leaders are trying to win over are no usual critics rather almost all of them are well informed captains of their respective fields who defend their fiefdoms with zeal. They are the satraps who know each and every fact and they carefully choose what to ignore and what to highlight. This ensures that the country gets to know only those facts which benefits these vile satraps and they continue to sway public perception about them as champions of free speech and liberals of the highest order.
RSS and its functionaries in their naivety believe that these critics can be won over by showing them the true picture of Sangh. Well nothing can be far from truth. A person in deep sleep can be shaken and told about the sunrise but a person who is wide-awake yet chooses to close his/her eyes cannot be informed about the sunrise. Bhagwat repeatedly said that it was not his intention to change anybody’s perspective rather to lay down the true facts before them.
It’s for the RSS to take stock of this initiative and how far it has been able to drive home its point. But the fact remains that even after four years of Modi government it’s still the Communist thugs who run the show and successfully set the national discourse. Sangh is still in a reactionary mode and is able to offer only bland statements and denials.
Ironically, while the three-day exercise was meant to win over the critics Bhagwat’s comments about Guru ji Golwalkar’s book “Bunch of Thoughts” has angered a section of senior Sangh stalwarts. Several of them have questioned the rationale about such announcement. Bhagwat and other Sangh functionaries have defended the move as the flexibility permitted by Dr Keshav Baliram Hedgewar to adopt changes according to changing times and evolve as per the times. Dr Keshav Baliram Hedgewar was the founder of RSS.
“When we speak of “Bunch of Thoughts”, we do it with reference to the circumstance and context. It does not remain eternal. The eternal thoughts of Guru ji (the second RSS Chief) have been penned in his book “His Vision & Mission”. All the past based thinking have been removed and only thoughts that are eternal based on the future have been kept in that book. You should read that, you will not find such topics there. The second thing is that the Sangh is not a closed group. If Dr. Hedgewar has said something that does not mean we will abide by it forever. As the time changes, so do the ideals of Sangh, our thinking, articulation also changes. And we have this permission to keep the change going from Dr. Hedgewar. Otherwise, he would have specified this clearly that he wants us to run a national volunteering union, start the branch; he did not tell us to do a single thing, he gave us ideas, teen volunteers used them, what they deemed suitable, they kept, the rest they discarded. The Sangh has been growing the same way. So, if you believe the Sangh to be a closed union, then questions arise in your mind regarding what is written in “Bunch of Thoughts”. I say, you should experience everything that the volunteers are doing today and how they think, all your questions will be answered,” Bhagwat said while answering questions on Muslims being projected in a negative light in “Bunch of Thoughts”.
Golwalkar’s book “Bunch of Thoughts” serves as the guiding philosophy of RSS volunteers and gives a sneak peek into the ideological moorings of Sangh.
Sangh stalwart KN Govindacharya was not convinced. He said one can disassociate from what Guru ji had said but there is no question of the issues being expunged from the book. “To cull portions from the ‘Bunch of Thoughts’ implying that the next editions will not carry these passages…who has the rights for these…you may differ from ‘Bunch of Thoughts’ you may even disassociate with certain sections but denying its existence is doing injustice to the facts.” Govindacharya explained that even if there is a need to disassociate from certain thoughts of Guru ji then too the parameters needs to be clearly spelt out and the forum chosen carefully. “It’s a question about changing the beliefs of Sangh…yes the finality may rest with the SarSanghachalak but the modalities need to be discussed.”
How far the Sangh critics have been swayed with Bhagwat’s philosophy is yet to be seen. Bhagwat himself said it categorically that the entire three-day event was not meant to convince anybody rather to state the facts before all and sundry.
The million dollar question that remains unanswered is that these fiercest critics of Sangh, who owe their allegiance to Communist philosophy, and are placed at high a pedestal academics, media, films, arts and culture are very well informed about Sangh, its ideologies, policies and facts. Their opposition to what RSS stands for is not done in the wake of naivety rather it’s done in full consciousness. Reason? Communism like other Semitic religions is a totalitarian concept that does not tolerate any alternative point of view. That there can be an indigenous approach than what is propagated by Maoist-Communists is anathema to them. Indoctrinated through lethal doses of Naxalism these people who fashion themselves as champions of liberalism are most illiberal class. It were these whom RSS thought could bring a change of heart through the 3-day conclave at Vigyan Bhavan in New Delhi.
The RSS functionaries should take note that their fiercest critics are not ill-informed rather they are well-informed and their opposition to Sangh is a well thought out strategy.
(Vivek Sinha is a Journalist, Filmmaker and Author of the Novel "Chip in the Madrasa". His Twitter handle is @viveksinha28)