What Mohan Bhagwat said about Hindus and Muslims represents consistent stand of RSS


The remarks made by Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh Sarsanghchalak (chief mentor) Mohan Bhagwat on Thursday (2 June 2022) while delivering a lecture in Nagpur have created quite a buzz. The essence of what Sarsanghchalak talked about was how Hindus and Muslims should amicably resolve their issues.

What Bhagwat said represents a consistent stand of the RSS and is in continuity with Bhagwat’s remarks made in July 2021 when he had said that the DNA of Hindus and Muslims is same. A strong buzz was created at that time also because of the lack of understanding about the RSS’ consistent stand on national issues. Many perceived it to be something ‘new’ in the RSS’ worldview about Muslims, the same mistake is being repeated post-2 June speech also.

It is important to understand here that the RSS considers all religions and their followers to be an integral part of Bharat as a nation. Way back in 1971, the second RSS Sarsanghchalak MS Golwalkar had said in his last interview to Dr Saifuddin Jilani that was published in weekly Organiser: “Indianisation does not mean converting all people to Hinduism. Let us all realise that we are the children of this soil and we must have allegiance to this land. We belong to the same society and our ancestors are common. Understanding this is Indianisation in the real sense. Indianisation does not mean that one should be asked to quit his religious system. We neither said this, nor we are going to say so. Rather we believe that a single religious system for the entire human society is not suitable.”

Elaborating on this issue further Sunil Ambekar, Akhil Bharatiya Prachar Pramukh (head of the media/publicity wing of the RSS) explains in his seminal work The RSS Roadmaps 21st Century: “The forefathers of Muslim and Christian populations in India, too, lived by following the Hindu way of life. In our country, many forms of worship developed over several millennia, and so there was no discrimination on the basis of faith or the form and manner of worship… To be born an Indian means to be a descendant of Indian culture; it is not just the physical act of being born, it is being mindful of a cultural ethos laid down by our progenitors…. The motherland is not a territorial map; she is a great spiritual being.”

In this context, it is interesting to see how Ambekar explains the concept of Hindu Rashtra (Hindu nation), as this is perceived to be the main and final objective of the RSS. Its critics have often claimed that people from non-Hindu religions, especially Muslims and Christians, will not have any religious freedom in Hindu Rashtra. What is the truth?

According to Ambekar, “Hindu Rashtra is not anti-Muslim. It never was. India’s socio-political kernel is that of ‘Hindu Rashtra’, hence different sects of Islam, Christianity and other religions still practise their faith and rituals openly and freely in India… Therefore, it is absolutely wrong to present Hindutva as a narrow idea to our future generations.”

Manmohan Vaidya, an RSS ideologue and at present the Sah Sarkaryavah (joint general secretary) of the RSS, had made an interesting statement in an interview in 2017 (RSS Interviews, Vichar Vinimay Prakashan, April 2017, p.25). Vaidya said, “In Bharat, traditionally, we believe that all religions lead to the same destination and hence are equal… Ninety-nine per cent of Muslims and Christians in India are converted, having origin in Bharat. Then how can a mere change of faith make them qualify as minorities?”

It is clear from above that what Bhagwat said on Thursday was a reiteration of the RSS’ consistent stand and there wasn’t anything new in it. However, the question also arises, when Sangh has such a consistent stand on these issues, why it is misinterpreted so often.

The reason is simple. The RSS doesn’t look at Indians from a binary of majority and minority; it considers all Bharatiyas to be Hindus who consider this nation to be their motherland and want to live and die for it. They might be practising any religion or following any particular way of worship, but for Sangh they are all Hindus. Hindu and Bharatiya are interchangeable words for the RSS. Those critics who often tend to misinterpret the present Sarsanghchalak’s remarks get it wrong, as their conceptual framework is based on a binary of majority religion and minority religion. They have built a stereotype image of the RSS that it represents majority, i.e. Hindus in India, and it is anti-minorities (broadly Islam and Christianity). Once these critiques stop thinking and interpreting in binaries, they would be able to understand the consistency of the RSS’ stand on various issues especially when it comes to Islam and Christianity.

It is clear that what the RSS has been trying to achieve is to have a strong and unified nation. That is why the Sarsanghchalak also spoke about the Russia-Ukraine conflict on 2 June. The essence of his comments on this issue was that weaker nations are taken for granted and hence India should be militarily strong, learning a lesson from Russia's invasion of Ukraine. These remarks were not meant to criticise any other country. These comments were aimed at reminding Indians that how important it is to have a strong nation so that no one can bully you internationally. This stand of the RSS has also been reflected in several of its annual resolutions passed by its top decision making bodies since the 1950s.

To sum up, consistency, clarity of thought and a long-term vision for nation building are hallmarks of the RSS’ roadmap for the future. However, these elements can only be understood if one goes through the speeches and writings of several RSS stalwarts including its past five Sarsanghchalaks. So, before you jump to the conclusion next time by analysing the RSS’ present day stand on any issue in only contemporary context, it’s very likely that you have missed the real message!

The writer, author and columnist, has written two books on RSS. Views expressed are personal.

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What Mohan Bhagwat said about Hindus and Muslims represents consistent stand of RSS
What Mohan Bhagwat said about Hindus and Muslims represents consistent stand of RSS
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