By Amulya Ganguli
Even as the secular – sorry, “sickular” – brigade is upset over the live telecast of RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s speech on Doordarshan, they seem to have missed a few tell-tale omissions in his address to the Hindu nation. For instance, there was no mention of the Ram temple or love jehad or conversions – issues that have agitated the saffronites for years and have enabled them to mobilize the communal-minded Hindus by arousing anti-minority feelings.
In the past, these have been integral features of his speeches. For instance, on the occasion of Vijaya Dashami in 2012, Bhagwat called upon parliament to “bring in legislation at the earliest to allow the Ramjanmabhumi Nyas to construct a majestic Ramjanmabhumi temple, and at the same time ensuring that any construction for the sake of Muslims shall be allowed only outside the cultural boundaries of Ayodhya”. This wasn’t his only wish. Bhagwat also warned against an “indirect attack against Hindu society through love jehad and religious conversion”.
Furthermore, Bhagwat referred to a “lurking doubt” in “Hindu society” as to whether the current leadership “is representative of them and taking care of their interests”. Instead, the “forces of rank opportunism that have infiltrated the state governments and the central government … are out to destroy Hindutva and Hindustan”.
There is a good reason why communal and political diatribes of this nature are absent this time from Bhagwat’s speech because the unrepresentative elements who are supposedly indifferent towards Hindu interests have lost power. The leader of the “cultural” organization based in Nagpur is pleased, therefore, over the political change that has taken place with the advent of a government which is emitting “positive signs” according to him.
It is possibly the optimism engendered by this change which persuaded Bhagwat to start his speech with references to the Mars mission (even if it was started by the rank opportunists) and the successful show of the Indian sports personnel at the Asian Games. But, what is noteworthy are some of the observations to which no secularist can object. For instance, he said that Hindutva is defined as a creed that despite the “plurality of languages, geography, faiths and sects, castes and sub-castes, food habits, traditions … assimilates and accepts all of them”.
Although this is apparently a tactical retreat from the majoritarian, Hindu supremacist agenda to give Narendra Modi more elbow room to pursue his development programme, it does show how a multicultural democracy can partially soften fascistic elements. There is little doubt that the saffron camp will return to its hawkish roots if things go wrong for the Modi government. But, there is undoubtedly a dilution at present of its core objectives, of which the most important is the Ram temple.
The admission by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad that the issue has been put on hold for a year means that Modi has been able to persuade the BJP and the Sangh parivar that he is serious about the 10-year moratorium on divisive issues which he proposed in his Independence Day speech. It is not impossible that the unusual privilege given to the RSS chief of a live telecast of his speech is a compensation for the parivar’s decision to shelve the temple issue for the time being.
Whether or not there is such a quid pro quo will be evident if there is no more articulation of Bhatwat’s “all Indians are Hindus” thesis, or of the BJP MP Sakshi Maharaj’s suspicion that the madrasas are training grounds of terrorists, or of another MP Yogi Adityanath’s belief in a Muslim conspiracy to lure Hindu girls into marriage and then converting them.
Arguably, Bhagwat will have a free hand in claiming, as he did in his speech, that “Rishis, Munis, Bhikshus, Shramanas, saints, scholars and experts travelled across the world from Mexico to Siberia in olden eras” to disseminate the “Bharatiya ethos of love, affection and universal welfare”. Presumably, these journeys over vast distances (including crossing the Atlantic before Columbus) took place when the Aryans emerged, according to the parivar’s belief, from the Indian subcontinent to travel to other countries in Europe and Asia.
The decision of Delhi University’s Sanskrit department to resurrect the “India is the homeland of Aryans” theory of the saffron camp is in line with Bhagwat’s claims. Similarly, the appointment of an obscure “historian”, Y, Sudarshan Rao, as chairman of the Indian Council of Historical Research, reflects this saffronisation trend since he believes that the Ramayan and Mahabharata are “true accounts”. But, these are apparently sops to keep the RSS in good humour. The need to do so is important because the RSS must have realized by now that it will not be able to push for an establishment of Hindu rashtra in the foreseeable future. Instead, it will have to be satisfied with articulating views through its “scholars” which have few takers among the mainstream intelligentsia.
How long it will remain satisfied with such crumbs of comfort is difficult to say. The test will come after a year when the freeze on the temple issue will be over. Next year’s Vijaya Dashami speech will give an indication. (IPA Service)