HYDERABAD: Titled ‘India’s Divider in Chief’, the Time magazine’s May 20, 2019 issue features a caricature of Prime Minister Narendra Modi on its cover. Written by Aatish Taseer, the article says, “Not only has Modi’s economic miracle failed to materialise, he has also helped create an atmosphere of poisonous religious nationalism in India ... Modi, inadvertently or deliberately, has created a bewildering mental atmosphere in which India now believes that the road to becoming South Korea runs through the glories of ancient India.”
At the heart of his ideology is an entity – the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). Introduced to RSS at the age of eight, Modi’s outloook and perception has been shaped immeasurably by the right-wing organisation. ‘The RSS’ by renowned constitutional expert and political analyst AG Noorani explores how the Sangh came into being, its role in Gandhi’s assassination, demolition of Babri Masjid, among other issues from the time of its existence till date.
The RSS was founded in 1925 by Dr KB Hedgewar in the aftermath of Nagpur riots. Over the years, it has steadily gained ground across the length and breadth of the country, with nearly 59,000 shakhas (branches) as of 2018, with a membership of over 5 million individuals. Along the way, it set up Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) in 1964, which, in turn, founded Bajrang Dal in 1984. VHP had spearheaded the RSS’ drive to demolish Babri Masjid in 1992, the author points out.
Noorani says RSS leaders regularly talk about ‘Indianisation’ of 17 crore Muslims and 3 crore Christians, and are convinced that the Constitution is imbued with ‘Western’ values. He believes that the goal of RSS in seeking ‘religious unity’ in the name of ‘cultural unity’ is an impossible one. Interestingly, the organisation was banned thrice after Independence, first after Gandhi’s assassination, then during the Emergency, and later, after the Babri Masjid demolition.
In less than two weeks, the election results would be out. They would determine whether, we, as a country, would be more inclusive or divisive; whether minorities can breathe easy or suffer more; whether institutions be really independent or become ‘caged parrots’; whether individuals act as per their will or be commanded by somebody on what to eat and how to live; whether rationality thrives or gets replaced by a dictatorial mentality; and whether Muslims and Christians can co-exist peacefully with Hindus or become victims of the‘tyranny of the majority’.
One thing, however, is certain. If the right wing elements ride back to power again, it would be the end of India as we loved it. Mass conversions of minorities to Hinduism, rise in lynchings in the name of ‘gau raksha’, renaming cities, making changes in textbooks, hounding intellectuals, silencing critics, weakening all kinds of opposition, and even rewriting the Constitution itself may take place. All as part of a pre-planned, larger agenda. India would have begun her inexorable march towards becoming a Hindu Rashtra.
With an exhaustive compilation of quotes, news clippings from reputed publications, snippets from well-received tomes, Noorani’s incisive commentary and an appendix section comprising correspondences of RSS leaders with the government, ‘The RSS’ is an essential read for those interested in knowing more about the organisation’s checkered history, its relation with BJP and its fascist ideology.
Pages: 547; Price: `1,500