The emperor's masks: 'apolitical' RSS calls the shots in Modi sarkar

The Emperor’s Masks
It is deceitful of the RSS to compare themselves to any other civil society organization, rather than to the National Advisory Council to which they had strenuously objected. No other NGO exercises ideological control over the government and maintains a vast cadre of political activists, many of whom undergo arms training. None of them can summon government ministers for discussions.

The RSS sustains many front organisations that do its bidding. Prior to the 2014 general elections, the leader of one such front, VHP President Togadia, reminded Muslims of the violence in Gujarat and Muzzafarnagar. It is unlikely that he will be punished for hate speech. The Bajrang Dal is another front. One of its local leaders hailed the murder of Professor Kalburgi and warned of more such outrages. In fact, BJP members had participated in threatening demonstrations at Kalburgi's house. One union minister of state is accused of incitement in the Muzzafanagar violence. Their involvement in the Vyapam scandal has been exposed by whistle-blowers who had once been its own cadre. 

In interviews published in February 2014, Swami Aseemanand implicated the highest RSS leadership in the Samjhauta Express terrorist attacks. Thereafter little was heard of these serious allegations. Recently the public prosecutor in the Malegaon terror case alleged that she was asked to sabotage the case.

Prima facie all these are criminal activities – why are they covered up by elected representatives who have sworn to uphold the Constitution? Why do most of our public commentators avoid the issue of violence and intimidation, while waxing eloquent about economic reform? 

The RSS is obsessed with nation-worship and the conviction that its adherents are the only genuine 'patriots'. All their critics and members of specified religious groups are deemed to be 'anti-national'. This relentless demonisation of entire communities is the emotional fuel that drives the RSS. Standardization, uniformity and compulsion are the base ideals of its concept of India and Hinduism. An example of this is their campaign against the inclusion of AK Ramanujan’s The Three Hundred Ramayanas in the Delhi University History syllabus.

In the midst of the Emergency of 1975, Sarsanghchalak M.D. Deoras wrote to Indira Gandhi stressing RSS loyalty to the government. He asserted that the RSS ‘keeps itself aloof from power politics.’ In 2000 Vajpayee stated that the RSS was not political – this was to support Keshubhai Patel’s order enabling it to recruit within the ranks of the Gujarat state administration. In 2013, as their involvement in politics became crystal clear, senior RSS leader M.G. Vaidya asserted that ‘no promise was ever made to the government in 1949 ahead of lifting of the ban on it that it will never enter politics.’ The RSS is political, apolitical and non-political as per convenience.

The RSS was banned in February 1948, following Gandhiji’s assassination. The circular issued by the Home Ministry under their icon Sardar Patel mentioned the ‘cult of violence sponsored and inspired by the activities of the Sangh’. It spoke of its indulgence in arson, robbery, dacoity and murder and the collection of illicit arms and ammunition; ‘activities (that) have been carried on under a cloak of secrecy’. The ban order was lifted in July 1949; after discussions between Patel and Golwalkar, in which it was understood that the RSS would ‘restrict itself to the cultural sphere, abjure violence and secrecy, be loyal to the Constitution and provide for a democratic organization.’

The RSS's activities over the decades demonstrate scant respect for this agreement. Here is a list of judicial commissions of inquiry regarding major communal carnages: Jagmohan Reddi Commission (Ahmedabad, 1969); D.P. Madon Commission (Bhiwandi, Jalgaon and Mahad, 1970); Joseph Vithayathil Commission (Tellicherry, 1971); Jitendra Narain Commission (Jamshedpur, 1979);  Venugopal Commission (Kanyakumari, 1982); B.N. Srikrishna Commission (Mumbai, 1992-93). Two threads run through all these reports: one, the criminal role of Hindutva organisations in masterminding the violence; two, the partisan conduct of the police. Why do our elite condemn the violence of Maoists and Islamists, but condone the violence of the ‘Parivar’?

Violence is the deadliest epidemic of our time, yet the one most evaded. How does the BJP/RSS discuss this issue? They deliberately evade the act of murder. After a perfunctory condemnation of Kalburgi’s murder, for example, their spokespersons keep their focus on the Sangh’s grievance against the victim.  It is almost as if they know the motives of the murderers. This is strange, given their claim that they have no connection with the criminals. The same may be said for protests against this or that film, book and cartoon. For those of us who are more offended by murder than by controversial ideas or cartoons, the crucial question is: Why do you always change the subject? Why do you justify political assassination? 

Patriotism is often used to cover up evil deeds. Is it patriotism to murder elderly scholars and boast about it? The RSS worships not Divinity but power - its nationalism is a form of atheism. A standardized version of Hindu culture is being mixed with perpetual communal hatred to create an army of foot soldiers. Democracy is being manipulated to install a local version of the rule of the Ayatollahs. 

If the Sangh Parivar loves India so much, they should cease the destruction of our institutions of justice and knowledge. If they admire Hindu civilisation, they should refrain from confusing pragnya with propaganda, wisdom with cunning. A political project shaped around the ideal of historical revenge and the humiliation of your fellow citizens is a recipe for perpetual strife.

The RSS has emerged as an extra-constitutional authority. Did Modi tell his voters in 2014 that he would give the RSS informal entry into the Government of India? Its political influence is a portent of the creeping dissolution of state authority, similar to what has taken place in Pakistan, where state-enabled fanatics now hold sway over the state. Its cultural politics will produce a worsening stink as the months and years roll by. Justice, harmony, probity and even politeness in ordinary speech will be thrown into the cesspit of communal politics. 

Fanatics are equally dangerous, whether they fly the flag of Islam or of Hindutva. Bureaucrats, judicial and police officers should remember that they are servants of the Constitution and not of the government of the day. The foul language and crimes unfolding before us are a warning. Only an alert citizenry can stop these unscrupulous ideologues from destroying the democratic institutions of the Indian Union.

Dilip Simeon

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