A friend recently suggested to counter a piece published in a national daily against the RSS. I sent him an article of mine published a decade ago and asked if there was any scope to add more to contest the content of the aforesaid write-up. Fact is, the country’s socio-political dynamics have undergone significant transformation. What has remained static is the trenchant criticism of RSS by cynical detractors. Secular apologists have been alluded by their belief that polemics and perception can work forever.
Truth be told, no political force can claim even a modicum of consistency in its policy towards RSS—all have been the Sangh’s bedfellows, one time or other. In 1967, CPI justified its sharing of power with Bharatiya Jana Sangh as “not a sop, but based on concrete programme”. In 1989, it was CPI(M)’s turn to collaborate with BJP to form the V P Singh government. A decade later, Deve Gowda’s “centrist” hypocrisy lay exposed. During a discussion on the confidence motion when the “RSS bogey” was raised, Vajpayee had to quote Gowda’s praise of RSS for its unmatchable social service, commitment and integrity. The Red-Green coterie of hypocrites must be truly naïve to believe that the RSS needs their certificate on democracy and secularism.
In the first two decades after its formation in 1925, no minority community accused the RSS of communalism. Anti-RSSism became the requirement of the perpetrators of the Pakistan movement. It was as late as in 1946 that Dawn, the Muslim League mouthpiece, shot an editorial against RSS (May 13, 1946) demanding its ban, advising the Congress to “condemn its organisation and leaders”. In an editorial on May 31, the paper attacked the Congress for its softness on the Sangh: “We regret to find that Mr Gandhi, Nehru and other top leaders to whom we have appealed to condemn the ideology and activities of the Sangh, continue to maintain a strange silence.”
After Independence, Nehru tactically used anti-RSSism to consolidate his position in the party and government. It was a tool to malign those who differed. His targets included leaders like Sardar Patel and P D Tandon. Nehru rebuked S Radhakrishnan for addressing an RSS rally at Rewa and derided Kundan Malviya, son of the legendary Madan Mohan Malviya, as a “madman” for attending an RSS programme.
Nehru also overturned the Congress Working Committee resolution of November 1949 admitting RSS men into Congress. It was then that senior Congressman and minister in the United Provinces A G Kher wrote in Mahratta on November 18, 1949, “Let those who desire that RSS should not be admitted even as primary members of Congress understand the implications of their attitude. Don’t throw RSS people, who are not politically trained, into a dilemma.”
Nehruvian state-sponsored propaganda and the increasing use of anti-RSSism to conjure up an imaginary Hindu majoritarianism has concomitantly institutionalised vote-bank politics, aided no less by icons investing their image and influence for their low ends. The RSS’ tragedy has been compounded by its unequalled intellectual output. The victimhood of the Sangh has not remained confined to the BJP’s loss or gain but has also increasingly deconstructed the Indian tradition of secularism. The real, insidious assault on secularism under the guise of anti-RSSism has had a ripple effect on the Hindu psyche, which is alive to the danger to secularism emanating from vote-bank politics. History is witness that it had culminated in the tragic partition of the motherland. The bogey of anti-RSSism is precursor of every pre- and post-election opportunism. The superiority complex of secularists prevents them from realising the limits of recycling an idea whose time has passed.
Sinha is Hony. Director of India Policy Foundation