Millennium Post

Centre tied to RSS’ apron strings

A long time ago, the communists used to call Parliament a ‘pigsty.’ For decades the ruling BJP has made the country’s highest legislature a talking shop for its ‘Hindutva’ ideas spawned by its parental body, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). The winter session of this legislative body has witnessed some very coarse discourses on ideas like ‘haraamzaade’ and ‘Ramzaade,’ religious conversions and even renaming Delhi for Hastinapur.

Riding on the back of a popular mandate, members of Parliament (MP) from the BJP, with their umbilical chords attached to the RSS, are testing their concepts honed over long periods of time. In the process though, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s development agenda, which had attracted the Indian middle classes, is slowly being turned into a grotesque dance of RSS concepts. The narrow discourse now revolves around fringe ideas of how Hinduism is to be viewed.

This process has become the secondary schema of action by the RSS, the first being the rewriting of Indian history. The BJP has already appointed a man, Y Sudershan Rao, who believes that ancient Indian history specifically, has been interpreted and written by mostly Western scholars. In fact, Romila Thapar, the foremost historian of ancient India, for example, has been charged with not having known ‘Sanskrit’. This, members of Rao’s cohorts are trying to say, invalidates most of her writings.

According to Rao, the Puranas that have developed over millenia through ‘sruti’ or oral traditions of story telling, can trace its roots to Vyas, the sage. According to the ICHR chairman, whose views were posted on the government body’s website, “We should remember on this occasion, the great services rendered by Sage Vyasa.”

As this writer had documented earlier in this space, the RSS has grown ambitious. Not only are they seeking to rewrite history, they are also seeding various policy-making bodies of the government with specialists, who owe their allegiance to the organisation. This is being felt in areas like foreign policy, defence and even internal security. But the RSS is also trying to be more inclusive and contemporary. This has helped them net professionals, who have grown uncomfortable with Nehruvian concepts that had earlier pervaded the country’s establishments. Many observers belonging to the country’s intellectual elite believe that Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi has been reduced and then expropriated by the BJP and RSS because of his own fetish about cleanliness, through the ‘Swachh Bharat’ campaign. Jawaharlal Nehru, who is considered the creator of ‘post-colonial’ India, is being rejected for being influenced by Western ideas.

Leftist politics, especially of the Marxist strain, have for long been attacked as a Western political school of thought. The problem with leftist thought in this country, according to the RSS-BJP, is that it has dominated the intellectual ground in India ever since its birth as an independent country. Yet, the RSS cannot claim any distinct role in the struggle for independence. Since its birth in 1925, its formula for Hindu revivalism in the country has remained hobbled by the influence that Nehruvian institutions had wielded. But Nehru himself, beginning with his flirtations with Fabian socialism, was an anti-communist. The first provincial government he had toppled was a communist government in Kerala in 1959, when Indira Gandhi was the Congress Party president.

These were the early elite, who dominated all institutions, including those in the political arena that gave rise to cabals of monopolistic influence. In concept, this elite was weak in ideas of nation-building. And once their collaboration with the West became stronger, they were provided privileges by the latter that sought to entrench them and strengthen their grip on social, political and economic power. Unfortunately for the country, the left and communist parties proved to be weak in challenging and defeating these interest groups. On the contrary, they got co-opted by them through the mechanism of little power that the elite shared.

When the Congress Party took the line of ‘soft Hindutva,’ the RSS gained a fillip to the extent that after the country’s victory over Pakistan in 1971, their fellow traveler and face of the Jan Sangh, as BJP was known then, Atal Behari Vajpayee called then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, ‘Durga’ or the symbol of Shakti (power) in the Hindu pantheon of gods. Now, the RSS does not need to join the bandwagon of the Congress Party any longer and instead have become singularly strong to seek power, through the BJP and appropriate the people’s mind-space. It feels comfortable with the expansion of the middle class and thinks that if the latter buys into their ideology, they could mould the country into their idea of India based  on the notion of  Hindu supremacy.

The author is a senior journalist

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