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                                                        <h1 class="gmail-native_story_title">A new RSS?</h1>
                                                                                                                        <h2 class="gmail-synopsis">It’s unlikely, given the deep tension between RSS philosophy and individual freedoms and rights.</h2>
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                                                                                                                                                                                                <div class="editor" id="gmail-storycenterbyline"> Written by                                  <a href="https://indianexpress.com/profile/columnist/ashutosh-varshney/" class="gmail-bulletProj" id="gmail-written_by1">Ashutosh Varshney</a>
                                                                                                                 Updated: October 5, 2018 12:01:42 am                                                                                                   </span>
                                                                                                                </span><span class="gmail-custom-caption"><img class="gmail-size-full gmail-wp-image-5363632" src="https://images.indianexpress.com/2018/09/mohan-bhagwat7.jpg" alt="RSS, Mohan Bhagwat, Mohan Bhagway speech, RSS event, Ram Madhav on RSS, Indian Express" style="display: inline;"><div id="gmail-inhouseimg" class="gmail-imghalder" style="min-width:300px;padding:0px;display:block;width:640px;text-align:center"><span class="gmail-imgclose" style="background:rgb(0,0,0) none repeat scroll 0% 0%;color:rgb(255,255,255);width:20px;height:20px;border-radius:20px;padding:0px;font-size:12px;text-align:center;line-height:18px;box-sizing:border-box">X</span></div> Bhagwat now believes that children should be educated in their mother tongues, including regional languages. (File)</span>
<p>Since mid-September, a new political discussion has made its presence
 felt. The sarsanghchalaks (chiefs) of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh 
(RSS), unquestionably the BJP’s mother organisation, have spoken in 
public before, but mainly to comment on specific policies and 
programmes. They have rarely, perhaps never, spoken at length about the 
ideological underpinnings of the organisation. Over three days of public
 appearances in the heart of Delhi, Mohan Bhagwat, the current RSS 
chief, has changed all that. Some are hailing it as a veritable 
<p>How momentous is the change? Answering this question requires probing
 two analytically distinct issues: Ideological and organisational. In 
what ways has Bhagwat made an ideological departure? And would his 
statements, if they deviate from the conventional ideology of the 
organisation, change the RSS?</p>
<p>We can’t really answer the latter question yet. It is futuristic at 
its core. But we do now have elaborate public pronouncements about the 
current ideology of the RSS. I will concentrate here on two things that 
constitute change, and two that, despite appearances, fundamentally do 
On language policy and affirmative action, Bhagwat’s position was a good
 indication of how far the RSS has come. In its early days, the RSS used
 to be not only anti-English but also, effectively, against regional 
languages, for it would advocate imposition of Hindi on the entire 
country — an essentially European idea that India’s freedom movement, by
 embracing linguistic diversity, rejected, but the RSS, by espousing a 
one-language-one-nation European concept, accepted.</p>
<p>In contrast, Bhagwat now believes that children should be educated in
 their mother tongues, including regional languages. Moreover, English 
should not be removed, but kept, though not unduly privileged (angrezi 
hatao nahin, angrezi rakho, per yathaasthaan rakho). Finally, children 
should also learn Hindi, for it is spoken by a huge plurality, if not a 
<p class="gmail-_yeti_done">This is simply a restatement of the three-language
 formula that the Congress party put into operation, but the old RSS 
opposed. Hints of change have been coming for some time, but they were 
never articulated so clearly. All Indian languages are mine (Bharat ki 
saari bhaashayen meri bhasha hain), said Bhagwat.</p><div id="gmail-mainContainer" style="width:640px;height:480px;background:rgb(0,0,0) none repeat scroll 0% 0%;overflow:hidden" class="gmail-_yeti_normal gmail-_yeti_video"><span class="gmail-_yeti_mute gmail-muted" style="width:20px;height:20px"></span></div>
<p>Bhagwat’s support for affirmative action also constitutes a 
substantial, if not a total, departure. If for thousands of years our 
society has rendered a part of the community completely disabled 
(poornatah nirbal), said Bhagwat, then the upper castes should bow down 
for 100-150 years — as a duty to those who have suffered. The RSS had 
originally opposed affirmative action because, in its view, it divided 
Hindu society. Note, however, that Bhagwat’s statement endorses Dalit 
reservations, not OBC reservations. He has only spoken about society’s 
“ek ang”, not “kayee ang” (one part, not several parts). His term 
“poornatah nirbal” (completely powerless) covers Dalits, not the OBCs.</p>
<p>On two other matters — Muslims and India’s Constitution — Bhagwat’s 
arguments are contradictory. Does the RSS now accept Muslims as an 
integral part of the Indian nation, and does it also fully believe in 
India’s Constitution? On Muslims, Bhagwat does not evince the outright 
hostility of M S Golwalkar, the second RSS chief (1940-1973).</p>
<p>But his ideological departures are minor. Despite claiming that he 
fully accepts India’s diversities, including the diversity of gods (devi
 devataon ki vividhta) and the diversity of diets (khaan paan ki 
vividhta), Bhagwat insists that Muslims should call themselves Hindus 
(for the term Hindu, he says, describes the Indian nation, as the RSS 
has always claimed); that Islam attacked India (Islam ka aakraman); that
 beef eating is unacceptable and cow protection is a national duty. 
Bhagwat also does not believe in the concept of minorities (alpsankhyak 
shabd thheek nahin). Finally, his extensive telling of Indian heroes, 
some cited repeatedly in the speeches, included Shivaji, Hedgewar, 
Golwalkar, Guru Nanak, Guru Gobind Singh, Gandhi and Tagore. The speech 
referred to no Muslim heroes — no Akbar, no Kabir, no Azad.</p>
<p>His is not a discourse about the full and equal citizenship of 
Muslims. It is hard to escape the inference that for Bhagwat, Muslims 
may be Indians, but they are secondary Indians. They have produced no 
Indian heroes; their religion “attacked” India; they must give up beef 
eating because Hindus are offended by it; accepting Ram as 
“Imam-e-Hind”, they should agree to a Ram Temple in Ayodhya, or the 
fingers of suspicion will continue to be pointed at them. The welfare of
 the Muslim community, in other words, depends on Hindu pleasure, not 
constitutional principles. There is no conception of rights.<br>
This also leads us to examine Bhagwat’s statements about India’s 
Constitution. As is well known, the RSS was opposed to the Constitution 
when it was promulgated, something true until as late as the K S 
Sudarshan period (2000-2009). The RSS argument was that India’s 
Constitution represented western ideas, not India’s ethos. Now a hero, B
 R Ambedkar was an outright villain in the 1950s.</p>
<p>In contrast, Bhagwat clearly said that the RSS accepts the 
Constitution. But he was also emphatic that India is a Hindu nation, an 
unconstitutional idea; he did not accept the concept of minorities, 
enshrined in the Constitution; he repeatedly said that laws and courts 
are inadequate instruments for social change, and organised social 
action is necessary. The pursuit of a Hindu India through social action,
 until the Constitution is changed, is an unconstitutional project.</p>
<p>At another fundamental level, too, there is an ineradicable conflict 
in Bhagwat’s acceptance of the Constitution and the underlying RSS 
philosophy. The latter, according to him, says that individuals should 
not think of their own interests, but dissolve their existence in the 
service of society. This argument goes against the concepts of civil 
liberties and fundamental rights, which are individually based and 
constitutionally anchored in India. They are also integral to 
democracies in general.</p>
<p>Autocrats often speak of society’s interest as the only reality, and 
individual interests as a misleading falsehood. Hitler demanded complete
 immersion in German nationhood, and while launching the Cultural 
Revolution, Mao called for the creation of a new Chinese man — 
unacquisitive, unselfish, thinking only of China.</p>
<p>Democracies demand civic spirit, but they also defend individual 
rights, guarding against the possibility that governments might use the 
idea of collective interest to crush citizen rights and individual 
spirit. If the RSS endorses India’s Constitution, it also needs to ask 
whether it believes in individual freedoms and rights.</p></div></div></div></div></div></div></div></div>

<br clear="all"><br>-- <br><div dir="ltr" class="gmail_signature" data-smartmail="gmail_signature">=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+<br><br> Harold F. Schiffman<br><br>Professor Emeritus of <br> Dravidian Linguistics and Culture <br>Dept. of South Asia Studies                     <br>University of Pennsylvania<br>Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305<br><br>Phone:  (215) 898-7475<br>Fax:  (215) 573-2138                                      <br><br>Email:  <a href="mailto:haroldfs@gmail.com" target="_blank">haroldfs@gmail.com</a><br><a href="http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/~haroldfs/" target="_blank">http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/~haroldfs/</a>    <br><br>-------------------------------------------------</div></div>