A blow to image boosting

Samarjit Kambam *

Gloom cocoons Rashtriya Swamsevak Sangh (RSS) after inviting the Ex-President, Pranab Mukherjee as Chief Guest on the Closing Ceremony of the “Tritiya Varsha Singh Shiksha Varg”, an event to mark the conclusion of a three-year training camp for RSS in Nagpur on 7th June as the follow-up of the event grabbed headlines cornering the RSS in a tight spot.

Now, RSS has the notion that they had invited the wrong guy with RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat commenting that the presence of former President of India at the ceremony was a “routine” event and hinted that the hype given to his visit was pointless.

What stunned the writer is the word “hype”. Mr Pranab Mukherjee, who was the President of India from 2012 to 2017, no doubt, is a very knowledgeable person. The speech he delivered on that event as Chief Guest was quite remarkable, makes sense, just the right speech for a pluralistic country like India where its Constitution follows secular norms.

Mr Mukherjee’s speech was absolutely based on secularism and communal harmony which goes divergent to the acts of RSS. No doubt, the RSS has become an emerging giant with its branches spreadingacross every nook and corner of the country including the state of Manipur also. Even though it’s not declared openly, the RSS has distorted its beautiful idealism with its endeavour of Hindunisation of India with Hindutva as its political tool.

There is no denying the fact that the ruling NDA government at the centre backs centpercent the various organisations such as RSS, Vishwa Hindu Parishad(VHP), Shiva Sena, Bajrang Dal etc etc that tries to make India a totally Hindu based-nation. Or is it the other way round, by the ruling government directing them to carry out such mis-ventures?

Even though the RSS calls itself a nationalist because of the word “Rashtriya” at the beginning of its name as well as a cultural organisation rather than a political or religious one, it is a known fact that it has evolved into a Hindu right-wing organisation.

Many political experts are of the opinion that the Ex-President was deliberately invited by RSS as Chief Guest to cover up its poor image, to project that it is nationalist centric and stands for secularism while on ground reality, the opposite prevails.

Maybe Mr Mukherjee was invited by RSS to act as a shock absorber of after-effects from the resolution during a Congress party conclave in 2010 to investigate into the alleged links of terrorists with RSS and its sister organisations. It is obvious that the RSS dearly wants its image to be thoroughly cleansed.

The RSS no doubt is a mammoth entity, has delivered its part and has made praiseworthy contributions to the nation. In times of national disasters, members of the RSS are the first to reach the spot to help the common man whether it was the Tsunami in Tamil Nadu, the floods in Uttarakhand or the earthquake in Gujarat.

Among other initiatives, the Sangh runs 27,000 Ekal Vidyalayas (schools) in remote tribal areas where more than 8 lakh socially deprived tribal students are enrolled. There are records of RSS volunteers clearing up the airstrips and patching them up so the Indian Air Force could safely land the troops during national exigencies and emergencies.

During partition, the RSS set up 3,000 relief camps for refugees streaming in from Pakistan. And in 1962, during the India-China war they contributed much by helping the Army and locals of the region. These efforts were appreciated by the then Prime Minster Pt Jawaharlal Nehru who invited them to take part in the 1963 Republic Day Parade.

In the 1965 Indo-Pak War, Prime Minister Lal Bahadhur Shastri requested the organisation for help with traffic policing in the country so that the police could be freed for defence purposes. RSS volunteers were also the first in line to donate blood for the wounded jawans.

Eminent late journalist cum writer Kushwant Singh, although not a RSS fan noted that its members saved the lives of many Sikhs in 1984 when mobs went crazy in the capital after Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her Sikh guards.

The founding pioneer of the RSS is “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” who envisioned the whole world as one family. The guiding principles towards his vision are voluntary service to the nation for socio-economic welfare and development and to make all Indians proud of being Indian.

It is worth mentioning that Mr Pranab Mukherjee was associated with the Congress for quite a long time. The sole aim of the RSS was to boost its image that it transcends all political barriers, that it stands for an illuminating exposition of the noble ideas and ideals of Indian nationalism and respects the diversity of India including pluralism of faiths. But simply boosting the image by way of inviting Pranab Mukherjee at the function will last only for a short duration.

The true image of RSS will spring out like a monster from a dark alley until and unless the RSS change its mis-ventures and follow in letter and spirit its ideologies.Whatever action they take up should be applicable in a pluralistic country like India by setting aside communalism at bay.

If it truly stands for nationalism, then it should be open to people from different religions, caste and creed from different strata of society. Hindunisation should be removed from the dictionary of RSS and the organisation needs to refrain from using Hindutva as a political tool. If it truly respects “Unity in Diversity” it should liaise with its entire sister organisations for a secular India.

It may be hard to believe that the first Prime Minister of India Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru was an RSS activist. Years back, I had come across a black and white picture in a national weekly with him wearing the RSS uniform standing alongwith other members of the organisation.

However, he pursued vigorously for a secular India where the beauty of “unity in diversity’ was reflected in his book “The Discovery of India”. What really pains people to the core is that the ruling NDA government at the Centre spreads message to the people that it is the most secular government in the history of India but whenever any hotshot be he a self-styled godman or a big shot politician gives perturbing and unpalatable, sometimes vitriolic speeches based on religious lines, it remains silent as if being kept frozen in a deep freezer.

Pranab Mukherjee’s daughter Sharmistha Mukherjee who is the Delhi Congress Spokesperson claimed that RSS had circulated a morphed photograph of his father standing in a prayer position with a folded hand (the symbolic hailing position of RSS) during recitation of Sangha Prathana (prayer) at the Nagpur function, a picture which ran viral on various social media platforms.

On the other hand, RSS claimed that many other forces have been trying to create an opposition to make Mukherjee to refrain from attending the function and are trying to defame RSS. So, a blame game is going on. Now, Mukherjee’s attending the function has created a sensation by turning a molehill issue into a mountainous one. This shows the sorry state of the ground reality prevailing in the nation.

The former President of India gave a remarkable speech about the necessity of tolerance and secularism in India as well as on the flip side he did not fail to give the message that the RSS gathering at Nagpur was an attempt to define India through religion, hatred, dogmas and intolerance which would dilute our existence. It was kind of showing a mirror of truth to the Sangh.

Critics, however, say that the organisation continues to be a sectarian, militant group, which believes in the “supremacy of Hindus” and “preaches hate” against Muslims and Christian minorities.To counter such statements, the RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat said that unity is our strength and our forefathers have worked for this.

That our culture is about inclusion and working for universal happiness, that we are proud to be the sons of such great people who built our nation, that we are all sons of Mother India irrespective of our ideology, that we must work towards unity, that diversity is a blessing and it’s this that makes us united, that we are all one people and one person can’t build a nation, that it’s a collective responsibility. Quite dainty.

Now, the RSS is rife with resentment for inviting Pranab Mukherjee as Chief Guest as its intention to boost its image turned out into a topsy-turvy one. To the Sangh, it turned out more as giving a lesson by the former President of India to them, that their ideology was used in a distorted and crooked way and needs a complete overhaul and they are groping in the dark to find out the real facts whether Mukherjee’s speech on RSS was his own or a politically influenced one.

As a damage control measure, former RSS Spokesperson and senior RSS ideologue MG Vaidya stated that RSS is not under the influence of any political party, that it is an organisation of the entire society of India, not an organisation within society and further stated that no one is untouchable to the RSS. But truth be told, the people of India knows the core agenda of RSS and its sister organisations.

According to the RSS website, “only Hindu males” can join the group. For women, there is a separate organisation called the Rashtriya Sevika Samiti (National Women Volunteers’ Committee). Will the Sangh be able to force the government to follow its agenda? Or, will a “tough leader” like Mr Modi allow this to happen? Or, will both work together towards the similar goal of establishing Hindutva (Hindu-ness) as an all-encompassing, superior political ideology in modern India?If it is, then it’s better to bring down the statue of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel for it’s tantamount to humiliating him.

Some commentators have also raised the question as to why a non-elected body, outside the multi-party democratic system, should be allowed to influence the government’s decision-making process. So far, Mr Modi has not commented.A pluralistic country like India will never be peaceful if any kind of organisation abounds that is based on religion.

The beauty of unity in diversity of India is being appreciated by other countries. So, any organization, particularly the ones which are used as tools by political parties should come out from their “perfect world” and start possessing the spirit of openness and mutual respect for one another, create an atmosphere of tolerance, harmony and cooperation to build an India of collective common dreams, to make it united and strong.

* Samarjit Kambam wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer can be reached at kambamsamarjit0(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was posted on 23 June , 2018 .

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