Politics

An RSS Show in Banaras Hindu University Tries to Set Right ‘Myths’ About the Sangh

RSS Varanasi chief Abhay Kumar, the keynote speaker at a seminar on the RSS in Banaras Hindu University being felicitated. Credit: Wire staff

RSS Varanasi chief Abhay Kumar, the keynote speaker at a seminar on the RSS in Banaras Hindu University being felicitated. Credit: Wire staff

Varanasi (Uttar Pradesh): Back in 2006, a number of teachers of the Banaras Hindu University (BHU) were served a notice by the then vice-chancellor Panjab Singh for attending a seminar organized at Varanasi’s Vishwa Sambad Kendra by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).

The notice accused the central government employees of violating the provision of Rule 5(1) of the Central Civil Services (Conduct) Rules, 1964, as it reportedly said the government “has always held the activities of RSS to be of such a nature that participation in them by government servants, who is a member of or is otherwise associated with it, is liable to disciplinary action.”

One such teacher who was served that notice was Kaushal Kishore Mishra, presently head of BHU’s political science department.

A decade later Mishra, who admits being associated with the Sangh for years, organized a two day seminar on the RSS within the BHU campus. The ‘international seminar’, held last week on the campus, drew a sizable audience of researchers, students, academics and faculty members at the BHU associated with the RSS. A few of the participants paid an entry fee of Rs 800 to attend.

Some reports suggested that the present VC G.C. Tripathi, — also closely associated with the RSS — was not too happy with him for organizing the seminar, but that did not deter Mishra. Nor did he have to worry about getting another another official show cause notice this time around.

Tripathi’s absence from the inaugural session of the seminar, titled “The Role of RSS in Nation Building: Illusion and Reality”, didn’t go unnoticed though. In his speech, Mishra said, “To hold a seminar on RSS in BHU has been my dream. It was here that Madhav Sadashiv Golwarkar taught; a shakha (RSS branch) opened in BHU in 1931. I don’t care much about who has not come here today but am grateful to all of those who have, to make the seminar a success.”

The key speaker of the inaugural session of the two-day seminar organised by BHU’s department of political science at the K.N. Udupa auditorium, was Abhay Kumar, the sarchanchalak of RSS’s Kashi Prant.

Popularly called Abhayji, he is also the one to have proposed to RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat at the February 2014 Lucknow meeting of the organisation’s samannay baithak to endorse the name of Narendra Modi, and not Murli Manohar Joshi, as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidate from Varanasi. A familiar face in the temple town, Abhayji has become an important name after Modi won from Varanasi. Local sources say that this being being the prime minister’s constituency, a union minister visits Varanasi every week, meets RSS top members, besides holding meetings with BJP workers on how to nurture the PM’s voter base.

Abhayji’s one hour speech covered a wider range of issues that RSS associates itself with, also those which “others” associate the RSS with. He wanted to “usher in a new thought process,” he said, but he took the opportunity to clear alleged misconceptions about the organisation and also put forward familiar points of view.

He began by expounding on how “others” have defined the Sangh so far. Fingers were pointed at not just the Congress, the Left, the Samajwadi bloc (they are all the same, he said), but also at mainstream media for spreading “misconceptions” about RSS. “In the 90 years of our existence, we have done less publicity about ourselves compared to what others have done for us, by those who don’t even know us. It is like, in bad publicity too, there is some publicity…”

“How much does the media know Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh? It has never tried to know the Sangh. After independence, all the talk began to get around politics; somehow the newspaper owners felt without writing about politics, their products won’t sell. So politics became a big part of news coverage. The media dragged the Sangh into it, presenting it as an organization which functions behind the curtain to help set up political outfits with a certain ideology, an organization which has deep roots in politics…so when we go abroad, we are often told now, control the government; we are asked about what the government is doing. When we say we have nothing to do with politics, that none of our swayamsevaks contest elections, we are told, but we ‘know’ it is the Sangh which is behind the scenes, directing the government what to do. However, in spite of being associated with Sangh for so many years, I am yet to come across that curtain behind which we are supposed to exist.”

“If you ask a swayamsevak, what do you do then, he would say I work for the Sangh. So what is the work of Sangh….he would then say, I am still learning. But others have defined us the way they wanted,” he said, categorically denying that “the BJP is Sangh’s political wing.”

The top RSS leader from Varanasi alleged that it was this definition by “others” that led to the organization often being linked to Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination and that there was a conspiracy against the Sangh.

“It was a big conspiracy against Sangh…when Gandhiji was assassinated, it gave the Congress an opportunity (to malign RSS). Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru was the prime minister then. A day later, he declared, the man who shot Gandhi was a swayamsevak. Four days later, Sangh was banned. The Sarchanchalak of the Sangh (M.S. Golwarkar, also referred to as Guruji for being a teacher at BHU) was sent to jail, the houses of swayamsevaks were set on fire…this was done even though Nathuram Godse never said he was from the Sangh,” Abhay ji stated. He accused the Nehru government of “manipulating the investigative agencies, the judiciary” to prove its point there.

Reminding those present that Nathuram was a Chitpawan Brahman, “the highest in the order of Brahmins in Maharashtra”, from which came leaders like Veer Savarkar and Bal Gangadhar Tilak, that “all of them fought for freedom”, he stridently asked, “Why one needed to take a certificate from Gandhi alone to be called a freedom fighter.”

Delving deeper into the seminar’s focus – “illusion and reality” even as the audience heard him with deep attention and sporadically applauded, he also denied yet another common notion, that RSS “is anti-Muslim and anti-Christian”.

“Some of those who claim to know RSS, the Leftists, assert that the Sangh is opposed to Muslims. They say that if by chance Sangh grows, there will be fear for Muslims. It is the only fear. If the name of RSS crops up somewhere, it is for sure the killing of Muslims will be added to it. But we tell Muslims, you are safe, India is for everyone and that is why we are there to protect you. We tell them if Sangh is not safe you can’t be either…some time ago the present sarsanghchalak (Mohan Bhagwat) was asked by journalists, are you anti Muslim. He said no. Are you anti-Christian. He said no. It didn’t make news. So they asked, then tell us who you are. He said I am a supporter of Hindutva; I am a supporter of Hindu.”

He was emphatic that the Congress and the left parties were responsible for ushering in ‘western thoughts’ into India and underlined the English language as a threat a threat to the growth and promotion of “Indian culture”.

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