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Published in the 16-31 May 2005 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Hindutva Undivided Family

By Ram Puniyani

The Milli Gazette Online

Recent statement of K. Sudarshan (April2005) that Vajpayee and Advani should retire created a lot of storm in the tea cup. It appeared as if heavens have fallen on this combine and we will be witnessing some thing drastic on the political scenario. Just a few days later another news item spoke that most of the children of RSS have been told to keep their mouth shut on this issue. No doubt some VHP top brass did endorse the Sangh supremo's fatwa but by that time the damage control department of RSS took over and word has been sent far and wide to the vocal elements of RSS progeny not to comment on this in house pulling up of the errand sons by the patriarch of the family. As matters shaped up, in due course the storm was brought under control and the tea cup is showing the signs of subsiding. No doubt some cracks in the RSS family became visible to the public. Also some of the weaknesses of its electoral face, BJP, came to the surface in a very visible way. But can we read this episode as the decline of RSS or Hindu right? Is it that RSS grip on the sections of society and the political levers from behind the curtains is weakening? Is it that the heydays of RSS and its progeny are over?

No doubt, even in the past, Vajpayee came in for some flak from the more rabid elements like Praveen Bhai Togadia, Singhal etc. It was also rumored that RSS may float another party, as an alternative to BJP, which will be more in line with the agenda of RSS. The in house squabbles over the spoils of power and pelf have been too numerous to be recounted. But there is more to this outfit, the sangh combine, which makes it a resilient structure, capable of wrecking Indian democracy, the samples of which have been seen in the past in the form of Babri demolition, murder of Pastor Stains and the Gujarat pogrom.

All this is the outmost layer of Sangh structure and functioning. In a way all this just amounts to nothing but some of the intra family differences being aired in public. These have a limited value as BJP itself has been doing the balancing act between its deeper loyalty to RSS agenda of Hindu nation and its limitation of not being in the power on its own. At the core level from suave looking Vajpayee to roughshod Modi and Togadia, there are differences but these are the one's pertaining to the role they have been allotted or taken up in pursuance of the politics of Hindutva. They all have a loyalty and commitment to RSS and its anti democratic project of demolishing the democracy to institute the authoritarian rule controlled from the top by the iron claws of RSS and its ideology. The main functionaries of all these organizations have been trained in the same ideology, with the same curriculum and same social goals in mind. At that level the unanimity is total and complete, what differs is the area of operation and the language and strategy to appeal to particular sections of society.

RSS was shrewder than its parallel hindutva outfit Hindu Mahasabha, which plunged into politics head on, and within few years of getting independence it withered away as it had not prepared a layer of cadres who will carry on its agenda. At that time many of them who were trained by RSS later joined to become part of Hindu Mahasabha, Nathuram Godse being the most notorious example of that. RSS was at one level inspired Savarkar's formulation of Hinduta, Hindu nation and it did take up from Savarkar's interpretation of history, the version which was primarily used in its Shakha bauddhiks, to indoctrinate the swayamsevaks. It had aimed at cultural manipulation of society to preserve the feudal hierarchies of caste and gender, and focused on training the volunteers who are equipped with its ideology.

It was only after its being banned in the aftermath of Gandhi murder that thought began in RSS to start a political outfit. That's how Shyamaprasad Mukherjee of Hindu Mahasabha, who had the experience of running coalition ministry along with Muslim League in Bengal, floated Janasngh and RSS lent its important volunteers like Deen dayal Upaddhay, Vajpayee etc. to work for the new party.

In the course of its trajectory RSS kept throwing up organizations for different aspects of society and the plethora kept on expanding. In a way one interesting point is not only division of labor but also duplication of the caste and gender hierarchy in the RSS planning. Broadly it did follow the Varna system and female subjugation in its planning. As Brahmins are the highest in hierarchy, RSS kept itself as the thinkers and providers of ideas to other lower and subordinate rungs of the ladder. Earlier Jan Sangh and later BJP assumed the role of khatriya, the warriors on the political battle field, VHP and Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram played the background supporting role like the viashyas and Bajarang Dal plays the role of low caste shudras the storm troopers, the one who take up the trishuls and lately guns for the glory of Hindu nation.

Keeping with the times women's services have also been roped in as subordinate Rashtra Sevika Samiti and Durga Vahini. The role of women in communal violence, as the perpetrators of violence is being mediated through the latter. In Mumbai riots one witnessed this phenomenon through Shiv Sena Mahila Agahdi, a women's organization subordinate to Shiv Sena, the close relative of RSS. In Gujarat Durga Vahini played this role where the women assisted 'their' men folk in the anti minority violence in more ways than one.

In a big family differences do come up. There are all the attempts to keep these in the confines of the family; the repressive autocrat, RSS Sarsangh chalak, usually does this job. But again some of these differences do spill out in the open and that's when the RSS supremo reprimands openly. Also at times many a children do bit of in(out)fighting. But surely this is not the first time. These infightings, sometimes visible in the open, have been occurring sporadically but ultimately have been controlled over a period of time. Some leeway is wriggled out by the dissenting children but overall those differing from the patriarch, RSS' dictates are marginalized in due course of time. One recalls Balraj Madhok, one of the earlier Presidents of Jansangh was marginalized as he differed from the main fatwas coming from Nagpur, The RSS head office. Currently the likes of Praful Goradia who has sounded the dissenting note will be forgotten in due course. Problem with expanding families is that differences are likely to crop up due to the multifarious activities of the spectrum, but overall the supreme organization RSS, the Brahmin of the family does have the final word and say.

If one scratches one's memory there is a clever use of those working for the Sangh, for periods of time. At one time no major BJP meeting was complete without the venom spewed by Sadhvi Rithambra. Memory about her is by now totally erased from the public mind. Dr. Togadia also seems to have been quitened by some ideological tranquilizer as the Sangh may be feeling his outpourings are spoiling the RSS-BJP image in the larger sections of society.

Two comparatively marginal points but of some significance are Sudarshan's comments about Uma Bharati's background. What type of background is being talked about one is not sure but her belonging to OBC will matter at some point of time in the hierarchical notions being upheld by RSS. Interestingly amongst the Prime ministers who were relatively appreciated, one was Narasimha Rao who provided all the passivity needed from the state to demolish the Babri masjid, the event which laid the foundations of BJPs assertion in electoral arena. Vajpayee comes lower on the scale as he being an in-house man was expected to do more than what he did in the service of Hindu nation. But internally they all realize that it was a coalition due to which his report card is not as 'bright' as expected of a swayamsevak. Narasimha Rao had the advantage that he could conceal his khaki knickers under his dhoti, while poor Vajpayee had the compulsion of holding the tricolor while he was dictated to hold the saffron flag by the supreme authorities of his family.

Overall as by now RSS swayamsevaks have spread far and wide, even if they are not in political level barring a few states their impact on the society at political level is too deep to be ignored. So even if these cracks in the sangh outfit are visible how much it will actually weaken its venom remains to be seen. Writing obituaries, which one longs to do, of these proto fascist outfits, is a bit too early perhaps.

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