Is the RSS trying to hijack People’s movements?

By Anand Muttungal

Even though of late controversies are rising regarding the role of the RSS in the agitations, the public uprising against corruption and related issues is being seen as the beginning of social transformation. People from all classes and walks of life and with diverse political leaning have condemned the police crackdown on people assembled to participate in the anti corruption movement of Baba Ramdev when he was on a fast on the Sunday night, 5 June 2011. The agitation is said to have reminded people of the great people’s movements lead by Jayaprakash Narayan and V. P. Singh. The movement recently initiated by Anna Hazare and Baba Ramdev seems to have weakened as doubts began to creep into the minds of people as to whether the Sangh Parivar was trying to use these persons to strengthen its eroding public support like in the past. We need to critically examine some historic facts.

Jayaprakash Narayan, the first of Independent India’s all time people’s leader, was the biggest critic of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh till 1966’s severe Bihar famine. He was in-charge of the entire relief operations. He refused to include RSS in the relief works. After requests from many quarters he allowed them. While checking the accounts of the associated organizations, he noticed that the RSS workers collected the most, spent the least on collection and distributed the collections the best. He was very impressed and his relation with them grew. RSS is said to have gained more through their extending support to his agitation against Indira Gandhi Government. The critics consolidate their claim by quoting his address to the huge RSS training camp on 3 Nov 1977 in which he called the RSS a nationalist organization.

The second person to lead people’s movement was V P Singh, a well known socialist who stood for secular values and the hereditary ruler of one of India’s many feudal fiefdoms of U.P. When the long-term Gandhi family loyalist declared war against the Rajiv Gandhi Government, the poor and the socio-economically backwards chanted, “he is not a king but a saint, the destiny of the nation.” This slogan was heard in 1988-89 across the Country, wherever he went he created a storm by forcefully highlighting corruption at the highest levels of governance. He aligned with all non-congress organizations, including communal forces in the fight against the Congress. His efforts did not have SP yield the desired result and his charismatic leadership could not last because the Sangh Parivar used this opportunity to strengthen its base in the Country. And in no time he slipped into the pages of history.

India saw a new public movement from 5th April 2011 with the Gandhian social activist Anna Hazare along with most admired personalities like Kiran Bedi, Swami Agnivesh, Arvind Kejriwal and representatives of many faith-based organizations started his indefinite hunger strike demanding enactment of a comprehensive Jan Lokpal Bill against corruption. Spontaneous mass support to the clarion call of the man who lives on four hundred rupees a month grew by the day. The Union Government realised that the charisma of Anna Hazare galvanised the whole country so they tried to reach a settlement on the terms suggested by civil society. Baba Ram Dev who verbally declared support was very quick to protest against the members of the Lokpal Bill Draft Committee. It gave him a voice to present himself as another messiah of social transformation and fight against corruption.

As we analyse the unfolding of events; it was very evident that well organized NGO machineries tried to crystallize the spontaneous upsurge of people in support of Anti- Corruption movement led by Hazare. RSS backed the fast by Hazare to indirectly convert the mass support of the ‘Second Gandhi’ to their own organization like they did with Jayaprakash Narayan and V P Singh. Hazare refused to accept support of political organizations but accepted support by the RSS. RSS spokesperson Ram Madhav during his fast handed over the letter of support to Hazare. He shared the dais saying, “We have passed a resolution. Our friends and supporters across the country have been asked to actively join Anna’s movement. Corruption is an evil that concerns every citizen of India. Therefore, the RSS lends its support”. But Hazare did not openly send out any positive feelers to the RSS.

It may be true to say that ‘one of the major considerations of the government to somehow reach a consensus with Anna Hazare was the possibility of a takeover of his movement by a resolute Opposition and the most effective “cultural” organisation doing politics in the country, the RSS.’ So the RSS used the clout of the Yoga Guru to get the issue transferred to the Sangh Parivar. If we delve deep into the developments, the ideology of Anna Hazare is slowly vanishing into thin air of Sangh Parivar. If Anna Hazare and his team are not careful, then the great uprising of the people will become part of history. 

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 July 2011 on page no. 2

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