The sarsanghachalak (supremo) of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) addresses the public on Vijayadashami or Dussehra [a Hindu festival] every year. This year, on October 8, Mohan Bhagwat delivered this customary speech. Generally, these speeches are reflections of the RSS on the political and socio-economic condition of the country; and they are delivered with an intent to lay down a blueprint to achieve a ‘Hindu Rashtra’. Ever since 2014, we have had an RSS government, and in 2019, PM Modi spoke the language of Hindutva, propagated the agenda of the RSS and was re-elected. Against this backdrop, we should note that this year’s speech by Bhagwat tells us about what is in store for the coming five years.
It is important to carefully examine this year’s speech—also because the ‘secular’ and ‘progressive’ media is seemingly very keen on finding aspects of Bhagwat’s speech which were supposedly “inclusive”. This cannot be only because the media is afraid of the Modi government or is interested in the perks of taking side of the government.
Also Read: Will Lynching in Bharat Be Called Vaddh?
Farce of Inclusivity and Lynchings
Mohan Bhagwat, in his speech, which was more than an hour long, spoke about several things. As usual, he said things like, “Hindutva is not religion. It is Indianness. Those living here may follow any religion. They should just respect the history and live according to the culture of this land,” and many more of such “pearls of wisdom” of Savarkar. However, this year, he also said, “Hindutva is Ambedkar’s idea of brotherhood.” Sangh Parivar is struggling hard to hide their violently non-secular ideology. As it can be seen in this speech, they are ready to appropriate even Ambedkar to push their agenda.
We also have to note that the willingness to replace the word ‘Hindu’ with ‘Indianness’ by the Sangh Parivar was cited as the evidence of the RSS being inclusive. However, Bhagwat drew the curtain on this farce by finally saying, “Some call the nationality of this country ‘Indic’ and some prefer to use the word, ‘Indian’. But the most appropriate word is Hindu.”
Saying that the people in this country worship various gods and live together in harmony, Bhagwat continued, “Islam came to this country with the invaders.” By stating this incorrect fact, he went on to project this historically false belief of the RSS upon the people of this country. He declared that the people of this country do not like Muslims and Islam because they were invaders. According to him, this ‘dislike for Muslims’ is apparently declining in the country and “might also disappear”. However, he chose not to utter a word about the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and the Citizenship Amendment Bill, which are designed to rip off the rights of the Muslims in this country.
Also Read: Nationalism of RSS-BJP is Blatant Communalism
Moving further, he said, the country should be strong; and “this strength should be made of respect and kindness”. Here, he appropriated Buddha as well as Ambedkar. However, in the same breath, he justified lynchings and killings of those belonging to vulnerable communities in the country by the Hindutva forces—taking place ever since the formation of the Modi-led NDA government. He said, “The term lynching is not Indian. So, lynchings have never taken place in this country and they would never take place in this country.” By saying this, he once again lynched Tabrez Ansari, Pehlu Khan, Akhlaq, Subodh Singh, and Rathod. This was also washing off the blots of massacres and carnages in Kilvenmani, Belchi, Pipra, Karamchedu, Kambalapalli, Khairlanji, and also of the recent lynching of two boys for open defecation. He shamelessly continued to say that the lynchings are done by “both the parties” (Hindus and Muslims/Dalits) and the media “chooses to narrate only one side of the story”.
Along with this, Bhagwat spoke about the state of women in this country. Condemning the increasing instances of abuse and harassment against women, he said, it was important to “protect” women and “encourage” them for public participation. We have to remember that just a few months ago, the same Bhagwat had said that women’s place is within the confines of four walls.
One should never forget that the RSS—which is represented by the very same Bhagwat, who is talking of public participation of women—has got no place for women in it. It had to start a separate wing for women and call it, ‘Rashtriya Sevika Samiti’.
Also Read: The Context of 'Lynching' in US Then, and in India Now
None of what Bhagwat said should surprise us. What is surprising, however, is the fact that there are a few among us who are eagerly trying to show that the RSS has changed its views and is becoming inclusive. If these people cannot detect the preachings of Hindu majoritarianism in the suga-coated speech of Mohan Bhagwat, it is only because these people have selectively turned deaf to the divisive agenda of the Sangh Parivar.
No More ‘Swadeshi’
If at all there was anything new in this year’s Vijayadashami speech of Bhagwat, it was his statement: ‘Swadeshi doesn’t mean something anti-globalisation’. The curtains have been drawn over the facade of swadeshi that the RSS and the BJP had been pulling off. He declared that international funding is necessary for the development of the economy and international commerce. However, according to him, we should be careful about countries like China. He, of course, did not utter a word about the Modi government’s decision to allow foreign investments in public enterprises like coal and in small-scale enterprises which have employed mostly from the Indian middle class. This is probably because investments from the US are expected to flow into these sectors.
This is what RSS has always been. Its hypocrisy can be seen from the motto of its wing Swadeshi Jagran Manch, which says it is against both capitalism and communism; but follows a “Hindu model of swadeshi”. Dattopant Thengadi of the BJP is the founder of this model—whom Bhagwat even mentioned in the speech, as RSS is all set to celebrate his birth centenary year.
Also Read: Will India Finally Become a Hindu Rashtra?
In the initial days of the RSS, BJP and the erstwhile Jan Sangh, the organisations were supported and patronised by the upper caste industrialists and businessmen. Until 1990, the landlords in the Northern part of the country were ideologically attracted towards the BJP, but stood with the Congress politically and sometimes, with the BJP. So, understandably, RSS and BJP never ever questioned these economic elites. They, in fact, worked and continue to work in their interest.
In 1990, the Congress had started the process of liberalisation. A small class of the large capitalists in India were lobbying the terms and conditions of liberalisation with the Congress. (The bourgeois of Bombay and Kolkata had differences. The former wanted full liberalisation and the latter wanted to be a stakeholder.) This was, however, a really small group. The BJP decided to become the voice of this class against the Congress and thus was formed ‘Swadeshi Jagran Manch’ (SJM) in 1992. It is noteworthy, nonetheless, that it never raised its voice against globalisation or privatisation.
In 1991, as soon as the BJP emerged as a powerful party through its communal politics, the large capitalists in the country shifted their allegiance to the BJP. This did have an impact on the say of the BJP and RSS in the foreign investment. The best example of this impact is the stand of SJM on the Enron project, an American electricity project. It was SJM that was against the permissions given to the project by the Maharashtra government, but did nothing about it when Vajpayee government in 1996 had agreed to all the humiliating conditions of the firm.
Also Read: Ram Temple: The Farce of A ‘Movement’
In 2002, the Modi government in Gujarat was all about welcoming foreign investment, embracing large capitalists, nurturing hardline Hindutva groups. This was the ‘Gujarat Model’ that was designed to show to the country. Even though SJM initially opposed this ‘model’ of Modi, the RSS and other Hindutva organisations supported him for his second term as the CM of Gujarat in 2007.
In 2010, after Mohan Bhagwat became the sarsanghachalak of the RSS, all the animosity between the corporate world and the RSS-BJP disappeared. There is a new relationship now between them. Because of this, even though the capitalists like Tata opposed Modi for the 2002 Gujarat riots, supported his candidature in 2013, ahead of the Lok Sabha elections. Ever since then, there is a decline in the work of SJM and Bhagwat’s speech has conveyed that they have done away with the swadeshi ideology. So, this speech has clarified the agenda for the next five years in the country: neo-liberal Hindutva. It also showed growth of the face of Indian Fascism.
Shivasundar is an activist and a journalist based in Karnataka. He is a longtime associate of the late activist-journalist Gauri Lankesh.
Also Read: ‘Future of Bharat’: How RSS is Masking its Real Face