Communalism

Has RSS Really Distanced Itself From Hindu Claims Over Kashi and Mathura?

Mohan Bhagwat was coy on answering questions about the Sangh's direction after the Ayodhya verdict, but that is a tactical stance.

On Saturday, after the Ayodhya verdict, when a reporter asked the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat about the role of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) in the wake of the verdict, instead of directly answering he remarked, “Unhone  aapko dhai baje bulya hai,” indicating towards the VHP’s press conference at 2:30 pm that day. Later on, when another reporter specifically asked him about the role of the RSS in the coming days, especially its role in cases such as the Hindu claims over mosques in Mathura and Kashi, he claimed that they were not into the business of launching campaigns and movements, while maintaining that Ayodhya was an exceptional case given its history.

Bhagwat also claimed that the RSS as an organisation was only involved in manushya nirman (training people or character building), implying that they had nothing to do with politics. “Sangh kisi andolan ko nahi karta, Sangh manushya nirman ka kaam karta hai” (The Sangh doesn’t undertake any agitation, it is only engaged in character building), said the RSS chief.

When he was asked again about the Kashi and Mathura cases, his response was on similar lines — “sangh andolan karne wala sangathan nahi hai…” (The Sangh is not an organisation that undertakes agitations). He further added that, “Hum manushya nirman ka kaam karte hai aur karte rahenge (We are into the work of character building and will continue to do that)”.

Also Read: ‘Kashi-Mathura Baaqi Hain’: Why the Ayodhya Verdict Won’t Offer Any Respite From Saffron Hatred

On the face of it, these statements create an impression that Bhagwat has distanced the RSS from the Kashi-Mathura movement after the Ayodhya verdict, as widely perceived and reported in the media. But, is really the case? Will the RSS not be interested in any such movement and only focus on its stated objective of manushya nirman? Even a cursory glance at the RSS’s history and its activities over the years inform us that there is hardly any reason to believe this claim and that it should be given the benefit of doubt. But before we go into the details, let us first have a look at what the VHP had to say about Kashi and Mathura during the press conference.

According to a report by PTI, during the press conference, when the VHP was asked if it would now raise the Kashi and Mathura issues, Alok Kumar, its working president, said that the Supreme Court’s verdict was not the end of the story; rather only the beginning. He said, “About Kashi and Mathura, I must make it clear that the Supreme Court judgement is not the end of the story, it is the beginning”. However, he added that the VHP was currently focussed on the construction of a “grand Ram temple” in Ayodhya and it has no time to raise any other demands. So clearly, the VHP is hinting that it won’t refrain from raising the Kashi and Mathura issues.

The mosques at (from left) Mathura, Ayodhya and Varanasi which are the Hindutva brigade’s targets. Photos: Wikimedia Commons

One should, however, also remember that while the RSS chief might be seen as distancing himself from Kashi and Mathura, he did not say that the organisation had nothing to do with the VHP. These two issues have gained prominence in the wake of the Ayodhya verdict as after the demolition of Babri Masjid in 1992, one of the major slogans of the Hindutva movement was ‘Ayodhya to bas jhanki hai, Kashi Mathura baaki hai’ (Ayodhya is just the trailer, Kashi and Mathura are still left). Similarly, one also needs to recall that the VHP played a pivotal role during the Ram Janmabhoomi movement, along with several other (direct and indirect) frontal organisations of the RSS such as the BJP and Bajrang Dal, collectively known as the Sangh parivar.

What is ‘character building’?

Now let’s assume that, as repeatedly claimed by its chief, the RSS is only involved in “character building”. The obvious questions then are who are these characters that are being built, what do they do and what do they stand for after they are trained? Also, what sort of “training” does the organisation provide and what has been its result so far?

The RSS, which projects itself to be a cultural organisation, is known for providing military training to its cadre and to mould them into ideological beings, who are against the idea of communal co-existence. It has provided leadership to various organisations which are involved in claiming and spreading falsehoods, including that thousands of mosques and mausoleums across India were built after demolishing Hindu temples.

Also Read: Justice A.K. Ganguly: ‘If Babri Masjid Was Still Standing, Would SC Have Had it Demolished?’

Hence, it hardly matters if the RSS and its leadership are directly involved or not. The fact that they are bound by Hindutva ideology and work in tandem, is worry enough. To think/believe that the RSS and its larger parviar has abandoned its claim over Kashi, Mathura and other ‘disputed’ land would be naive. They might have postponed it for the moment, but discarding it altogether doesn’t fit into their larger plan as well as ideology. This becomes quite clear from the VHP leader’s statement and Bhagwat’s reluctance to answer these questions.

One needs to remember that during the press conference, Bhagwat did not rule out the organisation’s support for further movements, he just skirted the questions as was rightly pointed in a report by The Telegraph. According to the newspaper, off the record, Sangh parivar leaders said that they didn’t want to talk about Kashi and Mathura now, as it was not an appropriate time. “Rejoice, eat sweets and digest this moment of victory. Why talk about Kashi and Mathura now?” an RSS leader told the newspaper. So, clearly the Sangh’s current stand on issues like Kashi and Mathura are tactical. In other words, they are waiting for the right time.