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India: RSS Wary of Terrorist Tag

by Bharat Bhushan, 22 January 2011

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Mail Today, 22 January 2011

With the revelations about the involvement of its past and present cadre in terrorist activities, the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) has suddenly sharpened its attack on the Congress. As the mother organisation of the main Opposition party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), this would normally not be considered exceptional.

However the virulently personal attack on Congress president Sonia Gandhi and her son, Rahul, is unusual. The political resolution drafted by the BJP at its national executive meeting at Guwahati earlier this month, played it down, but that does not explain why the RSS wants the BJP to go on the front foot against Sonia and Rahul.

Ban

In the eyes of the RSS, Rahul Gandhi is guilty of comparing its brand of Hindu radicalism with terrorism. He has publicly equated the RSS with the banned Students Islamic Movement of India, calling both fanatical. According to the Wikileaks cables from the US embassy in New Delhi, he told the US Ambassador to India that while there was some support for the Lashkar- e- Tayyeba among Indian Muslims the bigger threat to the nation could be “ the growth of radicalised Hindu groups, which create religious tensions and political confrontations with the Muslim community.” The statements of Congress general secretary Digvijaya Singh about Hindu terror are seen by the RSS as emanating directly from Sonia and Rahul Gandhi.

The RSS is increasingly convinced that there is a move afoot to ban it. RSS ideologue M G Vaidya wrote in a recent article: “ The present Congress, under the leadership of the new Mrs. Gandhi, needs a ban on the RSS — not to finish the RSS but to placate its Muslim vote bank.

The Congress party has come to the conclusion that its very existence is in jeopardy. And only en bloc Muslim vote can enliven it.

So they have carefully calibrated a policy to target Hindus. And to do so, condemning the RSS is the easiest thing” ( Open magazine, January 24).

Although some political parties have demanded a ban, the Congress apparently is divided over the issue. There is a fear of alienating “ Hindu voters” and apprehension that the RSS could emerge stronger as some believe it did from past instances of ban.

The RSS was first banned on February 4, 1948 after the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi.

Although it was not charged directly as a party to the conspiracy, the then home minister Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel acted against the RSS because he believed that its activities contributed to the atmosphere in the country which made the assassination of Gandhi possible.

The ban was only lifted on July 11, 1949 after M S Golwalkar, the RSS head, wrote letters to Prime Minister Nehru and Home Minister Patel swearing allegiance to the Constitution of India, secularism, the national flag and promising that the organisation would abjure violence and secrecy. The RSS was banned a second time on July 4, 1975, nine days after the state of Emergency was declared and its chief, Balasaheb Deoras, was arrested earlier on June 30.

Deoras immediately wrote cringing letters to India Gandhi.

He first congratulated her in a letter dated August 25, on her Independence Day speech describing it as level- headed and befitting the occasion. In another letter on November 10, Deoras made an abject surrender proposing that the RSS could be used for the development being undertaken by the government. He also appealed to the Home Minister S B Chavan to release him on parole so that he could clarify certain issues personally to him.

Fear

The third ban came after the demolition of the Babri Masjid in December 1992 which was lifted in June 1993. The banning of the organisation itself is not the issue today. Past experience has shown that it can propagate itself amoeba- like into different organisations that share the same DNA. What worries the RSS much more is the prospect of being declared a terrorist organisation in the changed international environment.

It is mortally afraid that the confessions, statements and trials in the Malegaon, Mecca Masjid, Ajmer Sharif and Samjhauta Express terrorist attacks could lead to its door.

Indeed this could happen with the exposure of RSS links with those it has ostensibly disowned — such as former functionary Devender Gupta, the murdered terrorist leader Sunil Joshi, Pragya Singh Thakur and the seven or eight unnamed full time functionaries that the RSS claims it has sacked for their extremism. The same danger emanates from those it still claims as its own, like Indresh Kumar, one of the eleven band of brothers who run the RSS. Should the investigating agencies be able to prove that the RSS was involved in sponsoring terrorism either ideologically or directly, the Indian state does not need to do much else. Such outfits get listed as terrorist organisations by various countries including the US, UK and France. That would mean seizure of bank accounts and an inability to collect donations abroad and at home. In short, the organisation would be economically choked and publicly blacklisted.

The RSS can ill afford this given its present organisational disarray.

The membership of the RSS is dwindling and the average age of its members going up. The success of the RSS lay in attracting youngsters at the fringes of middle class society who felt threatened by western mores and handicapped by their inability to engage with the world which conversed in English, the language of upward mobility.

If a youngster today has to go to coaching class to be competitive, learn computing, be on the internet and an ever burgeoning social media network, listen to music on cheap digital devices or cell phones, or spend an evening SMSing the girl he is wooing, where would he have time to go to a “ shakha” ( branch meeting) of the RSS and follow drill instructions in Sanskrit like “ Dakshah” ( Attention!), “ Vishramah” ( At ease!) or “ Uttishtha” ( Stand up!)? The youth of today sees no point in being part of a private flash militia which is part of someone else’s millennial dream. The world- wide web and the legitimate aspiration for upward mobility will eventually finish the RSS as a somewhat mainstream organisation of small town and urbanising India.

Option

Under these circumstances, a terrorist tag would be extremely damaging. Already graying, the marginalisation of the RSS would be accelerated. Funds from abroad will dry up, and domestic accounts of all associated organisations would be frozen. People would be wary of associating with it. Parents would advise their children to keep away from it. This is what the RSS is really worried about.

What is curious is that for preventing this predicament, its leaders do not blame their poisonous ideology which is essentially militaristic, demonises people of other religions and takes it upon itself to protect an exclusivist Indian nationalism. If the gray eminences of the RSS had any sense, they would distance themselves from the likes of Indresh Kumar. However, if the fire has already engulfed the outhouses and reached their door- step, they may find that there is no escape route left.

They will blame their favourite hate figures, the Nehru- Gandhi family for their predicament.

The RSS needs to dissolve itself. India needs no protection from self- styled militias. It has a state structure and judiciary capable of handling criminals and terrorists of various hues. It does not need religious vigilante groups to take revenge for jihadi terror or to save Hinduism, which has thrived for centuries without knobbly- kneed men in khaki shorts and black caps, bamboo staff in hand, taking part in an elaborate costume drama.

P.S.

The above article from Mail Today has been reproduced here in public interest and for educational purposes only.