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By Victor Banerjee

Seventy five years ago, to this Bijoya Dashami day, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh was formed. Today, its relevance, in a society that is still caste-ridden and consumed by the subliminal brainwash of multinational commerce and globalization, is questioned by everyone that suffers under the hilarious delusion that Nehru and Gandhi were responsible for making Hindus “secular”.

Distinguished editors write caveats that are always full of insight and well researched. Although by definition a caveat is a caution or warning that the notifier be given a hearing, yet it usually helps stall rather than alter a situation. Laid back individuals like myself who love to read newspapers over scrambled eggs and percolated coffee at breakfast and review it during a paid-for lunch at work, seldom act beyond discussing it while stirring the soup to cool it. In the evening, lulled by the callousness of another day of sameness, we cast the issue upon a stack in a proscribed corner of our homes, for consignment to the kabariwalla at the end of the month.

Eminent columnists can justly claim to know more about and have greater insights into all the problems that our societies confront. But they are not the sole proprietors of commonness. The knock at K.S. Sudarshan of the RSS and the simplistic interpretation of what the man said makes you wonder if columnists address the same people as Sudarshan does everyday. In other words, those who, in the name of a ludicrous “democracy”, are conned to put a stamp on a cow or lantern or bicycle or rose to elect goons and hoodlums to Parliament, to the utter disgrace and disgust of the rest of the nation. As for the sop we continually offer missionaries, it would take no major journalistic scoop to unveil some of the detestable activities of modern-day Christian missionaries, in the name of Jesus who, given half a chance, would probably cast them out of his temple.

My cop out with such political incorrectness, like yours, is that some of my best friends are Christian or Muslim. Ask them sincerely, and they too will endorse the hypocrisies of today’s evangelism and mismanagement of church properties and funds. Our leaders and the press, paranoid about the foot-in-mouth disease, are forever on the defensive: shameful of our pantheistic heathenism and caught on the self-righteous backfoot. Bollywood, for the moment, desists from depicting all Christians as deeply religious alcoholics and all Muslims as secular saviours of the community.

There is no such pussyfooting in China, England or in the United States when it comes to defending the faith in their countries. It is not considered prejudice, nor bias. However, the West also has the proprietorship in a specific definition of “human rights” that the eastern bloc, Africa and Asia are fast learning to incorporate into their ethos if they want their bogies attached to the economic gravy train: our only priority. One never needs to condemn a faith but nor should one shy away from pointing a finger at an individual who uses it for the wrong ends or whose means of achieving an end are honestly questionable. I have publicly condemned our politicians’ rath yatras and their pathetic disacknowledgment of any responsibility for the destruction of the Babri Masjid, for the same reason. I also think Mulayam Singh’s shooting down of unarmed rowdies was a horrific example of how little we value life.

If one flips through the pages of Madhavrao Golwalkar’s (Guruji’s) Bunch of Thoughts, the RSS handbook so to speak, one might be pleasantly surprised to discover that most of the work is simple commonsense and morally upright. Something you can safely hand to your children. Golwalkar’s book is not, and the RSS ideologies are not, nearly as inflammable and fundamentalist as is popularly dished out by respectable intellectuals to an impressionable public which has also been taught to believe that Gandhi and Nehru and other imports and clones from the British educational system are the ones responsible for making us xenophobic Hindus “secular”.

Every Hindu, Christian, Muslim and Buddhist who lives below the poverty line and at the mercy of floods, droughts and cyclones will tell you that the RSS is more sinned against than sinning. I know from personal experience in Orissa and Uttarkashi that while governments were still sleeping, tucked under the warmth of ill-gotten wealth and sycophantic worship from acolytes, the RSS was out in a matter of hours, if not minutes, with organized rescue operations. Even when the fashion of “relief work” has moved on to newer calamities, the RSS continues its work silently. Every international agency, whose Christmas cards we charitably purchase and distribute, will vouch for the fact that the RSS does more work in devastated parts of India than any government agency, from Arunachal to Dwarka and Kashmir to Kanya Kumari.

Today the RSS is cursed. It is responsible for the Babri Masjid and Hindutva and every other item on the Bharatiya Janata Party’s “covert” agenda. Anyone, who has known the RSS, will tell you that it never needed the BJP to give it muscle. On the contrary, the members of the RSS are the ones who lent their muscle to the BJP, when the party came begging for it in pursuance of its “nationalistic” ideals and an akhand Bharat. Atal Behari Vajpayee was an RSS member first and a Jan Sangh man later. Just because he writes and speaks Urdu, as most of his generation do, a language quaintly associated with Muslims to the sad cultural detriment of the Hindu Hindi-speaking belt, Vajpayee is given the stamp of approval for being a liberal and not a fundamentalist Hindu. Claims he can justly endorse in spite of his longstanding allegiance to the RSS that we consider a plague.

Shyamaprasad Mookerjee and Vallabhbhai Patel are fondly referred to as “great nationalists” that Sudarshan has no business identifying with because they had nothing in common with what is preached now. Shyamaprasad was a close friend of the family and I know different. The fact is if Patel had toed the line then and not spouted much more than Sudarshan dares utter today, Nehru would not have become prime minister. Perhaps Sudarshan should have referred to Veer Savarkar who led the Hindu Mahasabha and was the first to define the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857 as a “war of Independence” but was also manipulatively shunned by those aspiring to govern a partitioned India. He was later prosecuted by the Congress and tried for Gandhi’s murder, for his was a “cult of violence”, like Aurobindo Ghosh’s and Subhas Chandra Bose’s. To get Savarkar and the rest of the accused, the government extended the “Bombay Public Security Measures Act” (yesteryear’s TADA), with retrospective effect, to cover Delhi, before constituting the special court. That the partition of India killed more people and caused more bloodshed than the tragic holocaust in Europe is something seldom talked about or remembered, even though its ramifications shed innocent blood to this day.

So what about our favourite whipping boy, Nathuram Godse? A small quote is bound to leave you thinking. After his retirement, Justice Khosla, who presided over the appeals after the high court had passed its sentence, wrote the following: “The highlight of the appeal before us was the discourse delivered by Nathuram Godse in his defence. (He made no appeal against his conviction under Section 302 nor against the death sentence.) The audience was visibly and audibly moved. There was a deep silence when he ceased speaking. Many women were in tears and men coughing and searching for their handkerchiefs. I have no doubt that had the audience of that day been constituted into a jury and entrusted with the task of deciding Godse’s appeal, they would have brought in a verdict of “not guilty” by an overwhelming majority.”

The history of the 20th century will soon be researched and history books revised and it won’t need the BJP or the RSS to do it. A century later our great grandchildren shall have a better perspective on what is happening in India today. They shall judge us fairly and squarely. God knows we must try and develop a greater understanding amongst the peoples who constitute “the wonderful mosaic that is India”, if we expect to receive a pat on our dead backs for having moved the country forward and made the right choices.

Yes, we can all get hot under our collars and argue over this piece like the seculars we profess to be. We can call ourselves nothing else for fear of its colour sticking to us. Eventually, we shall collapse on our steaming sofas with a Rooh Afza on-the-rocks to nostalgically contemplate Balmoral’s reaction to Diana’s affairs and Charles’ greying temples or ruminate over a ubiquitous cigar and a night in the Lincoln Bedroom.

Let us stop throwing stones at the Missionaries of Charity one day and the RSS the next, when we don’t lift a finger ourselves to serve humanity. Donating money is easy, giving time a whole different ball game. Wheareas the RSS may stick in your throat every time you mention it, find an alternative for all the good work it does. Try and create an army of disciplined selfless social workers, like it has, in a world where the ladies of the “Time & Talents Club”, the “Spastics Society”, the “Friends of the Trees”, the “World Wildlife Fund” and the “Calcutta Foundation” flounder for support and membership even though they are embryonically connected to all the moneybags that buy and sell India’s future every day.

I know I am sticking my neck out by writing to remove some of the misgivings that we nurture about the RSS, but as Nathuram said to the jailer before he was hung, and I quote, “I must have a cup of coffee before I swing”. So it’s on to breakfast and today’s headlines. Death tolls? Mere statistics; our nation’s caveat? Ignore it.

And, by the way, for those who might be interested, I am not, nor was I ever, a member of the RSS.  




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