The issue is whether the RSS is misunderstood and, particularly, whether the RSS’ ideology is misunderstood
My good friend Ram Madhav has written a piece saying that “most leaders reacted to RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s interview without reading it”. Now I have not read Madhav’s piece, but that is not the point. The issue is whether the RSS is misunderstood and, particularly, whether the RSS’ ideology is misunderstood. To get there we do not need to read the apologists but go straight to their texts. And this I have done, for one of my books. Here is a condensation for those who do not have the time or inclination to read their speeches. I say speeches because they have not written any books. Neither Golwalkar nor Deen Dayal Upadhyaya wrote any book. This is surprising because Upadhyaya is referred to as an “ideologue” and his “Integral Humanism” is referred to by the BJP as its “basic philosophy”. “Integral Humanism” is a collection of speeches. So is “Bunch of Thoughts” (that is why it was given this name because it is a rambling, incoherent collection). So, what do they say? Here are the main parts.
In “Bunch of Thoughts”, Golwalkar says that the Hindu people are his god and this god manifests itself through caste. Meaning that the organisation of Hindu society in the way Manu described it (Brahmin head, Kshatriya arms, Vaishya thighs and Shudra feet) is the entity that is worthy of worship. In 1960, Golwalkar said that caste could be used for cross-breeding superior humans, like it was done in animals. This was done by Hindus earlier, through Namboodiri Brahmin men marrying outside the caste. It was also done, he said, through Namboodiri men fathering the first child of a woman married to someone else. It may interest readers to know that Europe in the feudal period may have had something similar called droit du seigneur (“right of the lord”), allowing feudal lords to have sexual relations with subordinate women on the wedding nights of the women. That this is straight exploitation of the weak and the marginalised and not some noble thing does not appear to have occurred to Golwalkar.
If such things are not pushed forth by the RSS cadre or the BJP it is not because these statements have been withdrawn but because they are likely confident that few people will do what the author has done and actually read the primary texts. It would be interesting to see a television debate today around whether or not the caste system should be worshipped and ossified as the RSS wants it to be.
Upadhyaya’s talks are comical if read seriously (see my book Our Hindu Rashtra for details) but in part also nasty. Consider this paragraph:
“Let me give you an illustration. Once during a conversation between Shri Vinobaji and the Sar Sanghachalak of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, Shri Guruji, a question arose as to where the modes of thinking of Hindus and Muslims differ. Guruji said to Vinobaji that there are good and bad people in every society. There can be found honest and good people in Hindus as well as in Muslims. Similarly, rascals can be seen in both the societies. No particular society has a monopoly of goodness. However, it is observed that Hindus even if they are rascals in individual life, when they come together in a group, they always think of good things. On the other hand, when two Muslims come together, they propose and approve of things which they themselves in their individual capacity would not even think of. They start thinking in an altogether different way. This is an everyday experience. Vinobaji admitted that there was truth in this observation but had no reasons to explain it.”
The writer Devanura Mahadeva in his recent book on the RSS says that the RSS promotes discipline and unanimity over thinking and analysis. Of the title “Bunch of Thoughts” itself, he says that there is not much thinking in the work, only a series of “random, dangerous beliefs and that too from a bygone age”. Thinking is discouraged in the RSS through the insistence on order over diversity. The RSS “tames” its volunteers, Mahadeva writes, and quotes Golwalkar as saying that they must “do what is told… if told to play kabaddi play kabaddi, told to hold meeting then meeting… their discretion is not required”. Among the things that this cadre is taught is that the Constitution is flawed. For instance, the RSS has always attacked federalism. The very idea of states is offensive to Upadhyaya, because there can be only one Bharat Mata and the existence of a Tamil Nadu or Gujarat or West Bengal is wrong.
We can see echoes of this in the current problem with a BJP governor in the South. Mahadeva links this hatred of federalism to the Goods and Services Tax, which has taken away or severely limited the rights of states to raise their own revenues.
Mahadeva calls Hindutva a “cow-faced tiger”, an entity that is eating at Indian society from within. He makes a number of original observations, such as “the RSS tries to pull out the teeth and nails of Jaina, Bouddha, Sikh, Lingayat and other dharmas that were born in India and rejected the Chaturvarna order”. By merely saying that these are Hindu faiths, it is sought to subsume their message.
These are the things the ideology promotes, according to its own people. We should not be surprised then that there are frequent reactions of the negative sort that Madhav is referring to. These reactions only reflect the truth.