What RSS chief Bhagwat has to say about Hindus’ 1,000-year war – Shanker Arnimesh & Unnati Sharma

Mohan Bhagwat

The Print LogoClaiming there is a war underway “to defend Hindu society, Hindu Dharma and Hindu culture”, the RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat said while foreign invaders are no longer here, “foreign influence and foreign conspiracies continue”. – Shanker Arnimesh & Unnati Sharma

The “new-found aggression in Hindu society” is because “Hindu society has been at war for over 1,000 years” and it is “but natural for those at war to be aggressive”, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat has said. He added, “Sangh has offered its support to this cause, as have others. There are many who have spoken about it. And it is because of all these that the Hindu society has awakened.”

Clarifying that the “war is not against an enemy outside, but against an enemy within”, the Sarsanghchalak said Muslims in India have “nothing to fear” but they must “abandon their boisterous rhetoric of supremacy”.

Bhagwat (72) made the remarks in an interview with the editors of the RSS-affiliated Hindi journal Panchjanya and the RSS-affiliated English weekly Organiser. In the interview, he articulated his opinions on Hindu society and culture, politics, a space for the LGBTQ community, and Sangh’s plans to increase the participation of women.

Claiming there is a war underway “to defend Hindu society, Hindu Dharma and Hindu culture”, the RSS chief said while foreign invaders are no longer here, “foreign influence and foreign conspiracies continue”.

“Since this is a war, people are likely to get overzealous. Although this is not desirable, provocative statements will be uttered,” he said.

Bhagwat, however, cautioned that staying perpetually at war will not do the Hindu society any good and that Hindus should change their language and discourse per the circumstances. “When we have acquired sufficient strength, we should be clear about our priorities for the future. Staying perpetually in fighting mode will do us no good,” he added.

Citing the example of Italian unification icon Giuseppe Garibaldi, Bhagwat said Garibaldi led his people into war but wanted others to lead once the fighting stopped.

“When they (Italians) had to choose a monarch, Garibaldi refused and said it should go to someone else. Of the three leaders who rose to prominence during Italy’s rise, it was Garibaldi who led on the battlefield. However, in the end, he distanced himself … Hindustan is a Hindu Rashtra. This prosperous and powerful Hindu society, Bharat, will reach the pinnacle of its glory and provide leadership to the world,” he said.

Bhagwat, who has been sarsanghchalak since 2009, said, “there is no harm to Muslims living today in Bharat” and they can stick to their faith if they wish. “If they want to return to the faith of their ancestors, they may. It is entirely their choice.”

He, however, added that Indian Muslims must “abandon the narrative” that they are “of an exalted race” that “once ruled over this land and shall rule it again”, or that only their path is right and “rest everyone is wrong”.

LGBTQ rights & transgender community

On the issue of LGBTQ rights, Bhagwat said members of the community “also have a right to live” and that “without much hullabaloo, we have found a way, with a humane approach, to provide them social acceptance, bearing in mind they are also human beings with an inalienable right to live”.

“We want them to have their own private space and to feel that they, too, are a part of the society,” he said.

Homosexuality has “been there for as long as humans have existed”, the Sangh Pramukh said, adding, “since I am a doctor of animals, I know that such traits are found in animals too. This is biological, a mode of life.”

Citing a story from the Mahabharatha to suggest that demon king Jarasandha’s generals—Hans and Dimbhaka—were in a homosexual relationship, Bhagwat said the “problem of LGBT is a similar one”.

“When Krishna fanned a rumour that Dimbhaka has died, Hans committed suicide. That is how Krishna got rid of those two generals. Come to think of it, what does the story suggest? This is the same thing. The two generals were in that sort of a relationship,” he said.

Bhagwat also said that India has a transgender community and that the Sangh “did not see it as a problem”. Members of the transgender community, he said, “have a sect and their own deities”.

“Today, they have their own mahamandaleshwar too. During Kumbh, they are accorded a special place. They are part of our everyday life,” he said.

Thrust on increasing women participation

Bhagwat told Panchjanya editor Hitesh Shankar and Organiser editor Prafulla Ketkar that the participation of women within the Sangh has risen, implying that the process of accommodating more women is on the cards. Swayamsevaks (RSS members) are encouraged not to turn those women down who are curious about the Sangh, he said.

“Now, we have started telling our karyakartas (cadres) that before taking any firm steps in this direction, if such women come to us, we should not tell them to go to the samiti. Because as of today, the samiti does not have that much strength (in terms of shakhas and swayamsevikas).”

Founded in 1936 the Rashtra Sevika Samiti is a parallel organisation of the RSS, but only for women.

“We will have to find a way to accommodate them (women). We must think about it. During the days of Dr Sahab (RSS founder K.B. Hedgewar), the situation was not conducive enough to think about it, but today we can think about it,” he said.

Stating that there are “some places where school and college-going girls also attend shakhas”, Bhagwat said, “Today, we do not tell them ‘this is not for you’. We encourage them to form a separate group and observe a minimal distance during prarthana (prayer). Or recite the samiti prarthana. We’re doing such things. But, how to formalise this, we still have to think. We certainly have to and we will do it soon,” he said.

‘Pranab da would listen to us’

Touching on the RSS’s role in politics, the Sarsanghchalak said the outfit has maintained a distance from day-to-day politics, but always engages on political issues that concern national policies and interests of Hindus. “We are not concerned with day-to-day politics, but we are definitely linked to rasthraneeti (national policy). We have our opinions about it. Today, as we have gained adequate strength (through the organisational network), we try to utilise it in the national interest and we will certainly do so,” he said.

Bhagwat also underlined a major difference between now and earlier by pointing out that swayamsevaks were not in positions of political power in previous decades.

“People forget that swayamsevaks have reached certain political positions through a political party. Sangh continues to organise society for organisation’s sake. However, whatever swayamsevaks do in politics, Sangh is held accountable for it. Even if we are not implicated directly by others, there is certainly some accountability; as ultimately, it is in the Sangh where swayamsevaks are trained. Therefore, we are forced to think—what should be our relationship, which things we should pursue (in national interest) with due diligence.”

The RSS chief added that when approached by people facing difficulty as a result of political developments, the Sangh can bring the issue to the attention of those concerned as long as those concerned are swayamsevaks.

Recalling Sangh’s association with former president late Pranab Mukherjee during the Congress veteran’s tenure as Union finance minister in UPA-II, Bhagwat said, “Pranab da was finance minister in the Congress government. He was also looking after Nepal affairs. We used to take our concerns to him. And he would listen to us too. That is all we do. Otherwise, we have no business in other spheres of active politics.” – The Print, 11 January 2023

Shanker Arnimesh is a political journalist who coveres national politics. Unnati Sharma is a political correspondent at The Print.

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