Sangh Parivar a ‘bad joke’
It`s hardly funny
The Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) was never meant to be a body of intellectuals debating ideals of Indian nationalism. It was groomed as a fascist organisation, and as such it has pandered to the lowest common denominator and has worked since its inception to construct and disseminate its terrifying ideas of India as a ‘Hindu’ nation. It uses mythology, obscurantist historiography and Goebbelsian lies to canvass support among the petty bourgeois and lumpen classes in particular.
With India’s economic liberalisation, the more callous business tycoons have found in it a useful ally. They have increasingly used its street-fighting capacity to break up the country’s traditional trade unions, not any different to the experiment that was begun in the 1960s in Mumbai with the deployment of the Shiv Sena. Before it turned against Muslims, Biharis and so forth, the Shiv Sena was used by the Congress, in fact, to break up leftist unions, notably the Girni Kamgar Union of Mumbai’s textiles industry. Planting a subversive idea and then tactically dissociating with it is a typical method of fascist mobilisation. The mosque in Ayodhya was demolished by RSS men but there is no one to claim responsibility for what is passed for a feat of national valour. For tactical reasons, and to comply with the needs of parliamentary rituals, some of its members expressed sorrow at the violent destruction of the Babri masjid. Former prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee was one such contrite man.
It was a significant departure from his Enoch Powellian “rivers of blood” speech which had led to the notorious Nellie massacre of Muslim women and children in 1983 in Assam.
The Congress has used the RSS to bail it out of several sticky situations.
Only recently, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who badly needed the support of the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in a parliamentary vote, turned to Mr Vajpayee for help, describing him as the mythical sage Bhishma Pitamah. The BJP is the progeny of the RSS, its political wing, though some of its members have come from different routes, including the Congress. Mr Vajpayee was never shy to proclaim his allegiance to the RSS.
Last week, K.S. Sudarshan, who headed the RSS until recently, claimed in an interview that the Congress Party president, the Italian-born Sonia Gandhi, was a CIA agent and that she had murdered her mother-in-law Indira Gandhi and her husband Rajiv Gandhi to gain the levers of power. Bizzarre though it sounds, accusations like these are pretty normal for Mr Sudarshan, and ought to have been ignored.
Incensed by the foolish claim, the Congress Party went to town. Its volunteers staged demonstrations all over India. The RSS tendered an apology, a rare gesture. The Congress accepted the apology. The whole episode was a farce, funny if it were not so sad. RSS chiefs have a chronic problem with ludicrous smear campaigns against individuals as well as against entire communities.
According to last week’s Indian Express, Mr Sudarshan had told its editor in an (unpublished) interview in 2005 that Mahatma Gandhi was killed by Jawaharlal Nehru, and that Nathuram Godse, hanged for the crime, was falsely implicated. Nehru’s motive for killing Gandhi was that the Mahatma wanted Nehru’s rival Sardar Patel to become prime minister. Mr Sudarshan cited the absence of a post-mortem of Gandhi’s body and some theory about a second gun replete with questions concerning exit and entry wounds to drive home his point.
Had Mr Sudarshan’s conspiracy theories been restricted to his hallucinating fertile mind, there would be little to worry about any likely ill-effect.
The fact, however, is that such theories are an RSS staple. Its main critique of Christian, Muslim, Dalit, Sikh politics in India is often built around humongous canards. “Hum paanch, hamaare pachhis,” said Narendra Modi, an RSS ideologue and chief minister, deriding the Muslims of Gujarat. The implication was that an average Muslim family produces five children, which soon translates into 25 grandchildren. And it is this myth-making that assumes a worrying form when its strikes roots among gullible masses. Take for example its most revered leader Guru Golwalkar’s theory about how the North Pole being once located on the border of today’s Bihar and Orissa.
It was an idea first aired by Bal Gangadhar Tilak in support of his theory of the Arctic origin of the Aryans. But that would have meant that the Aryans were not the original inhabitants of India. Golwalkar tweaked the theory though he quoted a Lucknow-based botanist for it: “The result, in a nutshell, is that the North pole is not stationary and quite long ago it was in that part of the world, which we find, is called Bihar and Orissa at the present; that then it moved north-east and then by a sometimes westerly, sometimes northward movement, it came to its present position. If this be so, did we leave the Arctic zone and come to Hindusthan or were we all along here and the Arctic zone left us and moved away northwards in its zigzag march?” The “we” is the Aryans. If all this sounds like ranting from the lunatic fringe, it is worth keeping in mind that the RSS has tens of thousands of branches and hundreds of thousands of volunteers preaching its doctrine across India.
Given this, it is not difficult to understand Rahul Gandhi when in 2004 he described the BJP as a bad joke. He also said that the party had all along harassed his family and had been abusive towards his grandmother, Indira Gandhi. However, had the young Congress scion paid attention to Indira Gandhi’s main worry with the fascist RSS he would have gone along with her insights. She said she knew that the RSS had infiltrated state structures in her lifetime and had also slipped in some of its own into the Congress. But perhaps ‘bad joke’ is too gentle an adjective. Hitler may have been a cartoonist’s delight, but that was hardly a cause to take him lightly. You wouldn’t call the Nazis a joke, would you, Mr Gandhi?
In any case, the Congress’ habit of personalising its political stance is its bane. Its reaction to Mr Sudarshan’s remarks on Sonia Gandhi was swift and angry. It was heartening to see that reaction. But why did its prime minister not lose his sleep when the Babri masjid was demolished? And why was it silent through the communal trauma in Gujarat in 2002. Sonia Gandhi was advised by her Gujarat satraps not to meet the widow of a former Congress MP Ehsan Jaffry. He was brutally lynched by a mob together with his family members and neighbours. Why did she not speak up, why was there no street protest then?
The same Mr Sudarshan whose conspiracy theory triggered such a massive reaction made a far more worrying comment last year about the need for a nuclear war with Pakistan. There was no denunciation from the Congress, not even a squeak.
Mr Sudarshan said in an interview that a conflict becomes inevitable when
Aasurs (literally demons, but philosophically all the opponents of the Hindu Dharma) become a dominant force. In this case the Aasurs were evidently Pakistanis. It would be useful to quote him directly, since the utterances could imply a new Indian nuclear doctrine should Hindu nationalists represented by the RSS take power on their own in India.
Mr Sudarshan was asked if India should go to war with Pakistan over the Mumbai carnage. He said war should be the last option because it won’t stop there. He also said when “Aasuri powers” start dominating the planet there is no other way but war.
“It will be nuclear war and a large number of people will be perished. In fact, not me but many people around the world have expressed their apprehension that this terrorism may ultimately result in a Third World War.
And this will be a nuclear war in which many of us are going to be finished.
But according to me, as of now, it is very necessary to defeat the demons and there is no other way. And let me say with confidence that after this destruction, a new world will emerge which will be very good, free from evil and terrorism.” To describe this as a ‘bad joke’ is like gently rapping Hitler on the knuckles. It makes you wonder about the rapper as much as the rapped.