Rajat Sharma

How Mohan Bhagwat has changed RSS

akbRashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) supremo Mohan Bhagwat, while addressing the traditional Dussehra rally on Wednesday in Nagpur, sought to dispel confusions about his organization’s views on Muslims, population control and casteism.

In his address, Bhagwat said, ‘Hindus neither scare others, nor do they fear others…This is our Bharatiya sanskriti (Indian culture)’. He also said, ‘putting women on the pedestal of a goddess is not sufficient, they must be given equal rights’.

The RSS chief also called for a “well thought out, comprehensive population control policy, which should be applicable to all social groups equally”. He said, ‘those who are trying to create a bogey about RSS in the minds of Muslims are enemies of our society…RSS had never been anti-Muslim, nor is it anti-Muslim, nor shall it be anti-Muslim. Our talks with Muslim intellectuals shall continue’.

Addressing the rally after performing the traditional ‘shastra poojan’, Bhagwat explained the meaning of Hindutva. “All those who live in Hindusthan, all those who project themselves as Indians, are Hindus. Hindus never fear anybody, nor do they scare anybody. Hindus also speak about welfare”, he said.

Bhagwat’s explanation comes in the wake of apprehensions expressed by leaders of Congress, NCP, PDP, National Conference, Samajwadi Party, Rashtriya Janata Dal, Trinamool Congress and AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi. These leaders have been frequently alleging that RSS is planning to convert India into a ‘Hindu Rashtra’.

Bhagwat said, “Hindu Rashtra means the nation of all those who live in Hindusthan. Hindutva comprises ideas about Bharatiyata (Indian-ness), our culture, having pride in our traditions.” He then told RSS ‘swayamsevaks’ (volunteers), “it is important that you place your views, but while placing your views, you must ensure that the hearts of others are not hurt. Do not speak ill about the mode of worship of others, their style of living, their food and traditions. Our languages, provinces, religions may be different, but we are all Indians.”

There can be nothing clearer about ‘Hindutva’ and ‘Hindu Rashtra’ than this. Opponents of RSS had been frequently alleging that RSS hates Muslims, and if RSS becomes stronger, Muslims may have to leave India and settle elsewhere. On this, Mohan Bhagwat said, “Scare-mongering is being done by some people that there is a danger to minorities, but this is neither the nature of RSS nor of Hindus. RSS stands resolutely for brotherhood, amity and peace. …RSS, since its inception, had been keeping in touch with Muslim society. I have myself met Muslim scholars and social workers. This will continue, because it is necessary”.

The RSS chief said, “now, when the Sangh is receiving the affection and trust of people, and has also become strong, the concept of Hindu Rashtra is being taken seriously. Many people agree with the concept, but are opposed to the word ‘Hindu’. They prefer to use other words. We don’t have any issue with that. For the clarity of concept, we will keep emphasizing the word ‘Hindu’ for ourselves.”

Bhagwat then turned to the issue of religious fundamentalism, and mentioned about the brutal beheadings of Kanhaiylal in Udaipur, Rajasthan, and Umesh Kolhe in Amravati, Maharashtra. He expressed satisfaction that Muslim society raised its voice against such barbaric killings. “If any Hindu commits a wrong act, Hindus do not remain silent, they denounce it. Similar voices should rise from Muslim community too when such incident happens. Killers may belong to any religion or caste… the entire society must stand firm against such acts. Only then we will have harmony and those trying to divide our society will be weakened.”

Bhagwat also spoke on the issue of population control. Pointing out at China’s ‘one family, one child’ policy, the RSS chief said, “we should see what happened in China. They went for ‘one child policy’ and now they have a huge population which is getting older. In India, we have 57 crore young population. We will remain a young nation for the next 30 years, but what will happen to India after 50 years? Will we have enough food to feed our population? Our huge population is a reality.”

Bhagwat said, “We must control population growth carefully. It is a serious problem. Along with this, demographic imbalance can also create big problems in future. There are several countries which broke up due to demographic imbalance….75 years ago, we experienced this (Partition) in our country. In the 21st century, three new countries came into existence because of population imbalance in Indonesia, Sudan and Serbia. They are East Timor, South Sudan and Kosovo…”

Bhagwat said, “Population imbalances lead to changes in geographical boundaries. Hence, it should not be ignored. …Our new population policy should be applicable to all communities equally, to strike a balance. We must strike a balance between different communities. Along with the differences in birth rate, religious conversions by force, lure or greed, and infiltration from across the border, are also big reasons. All these facts will have to be considered.”

The RSS chief said, “Devotion to Bharat, the lofty ideals of our ancestors and the great Sanskriti (culture) of our country – these are the three pillars which light up our path, on which we have to travel together with love and affection. This is our selfhood and our Rashtra Dharma…The Sangh works to develop the entire society as an organised force. This work is Hindu Sangathan work because our ideas are about Hindu Rashtra and it is so.”

Soon after Bhagwat’s speech was over, AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi tweeted: “For Mohan, it is Annual Day of Dog Whistles & Hate Speech. Fear-mongering over “population imbalance” has resulted in genocide, ethnic cleansing & hate crimes across the world. Kosovo was created after a genocide of Albanian Muslims by Serbian nationalists. If Hindus & Muslims have “same DNA” then where’s the “imbalance”? There’s no need for population control as we’ve already achieved replacement rate. The worry is an ageing population & unemployed youth who cannot support elderly. Muslims have sharpest decline in fertility rate.”

Nowhere in his speech, Bhagwat made any mention of Hindus and Muslims on population control issue. But Owaisi looked at it from the angle of controlling the population of Muslims. Bhagwat did not speak about implementing population control by force. Owaisi is however free to air his opinions.

RSS chiefs had been traditionally addressing Dussehra rallies in Nagpur every year. There was a slight difference this time. It seemed as if Mohan Bhagwat’s speech was meant for those who are not in RSS, or are opposed to RSS, or those who deliberately spread disinformation about RSS.

Bhagwat’s speech was probably meant for those who consider RSS as a danger for them and their brand of politics. In 2025, the RSS will be completing 100 years of its existence. For several years, it was being felt that there was little scope of change in the ideas and thoughts of RSS leadership, but Mohan Bhagwat has changed this perception now.

Since the time Dr Mohanrao Madhukarrao Bhagwat took over as Sarsanghchalak of RSS, he tried to change the organization in line with the times. He made the RSS organisation flexible, went for outreach so that people outside the periphery of the organization could understand the RSS better.

Earlier, RSS leaders used to meet Muslim scholars secretly. RSS leaders avoided speaking about Muslims openly, but Mohan Bhagwat took the initiative for outreach. He went to a mosque, visited a madrasa, and openly said that “I have met Muslim leaders, will meet them again, because it is necessary”.

For women volunteers, the RSS had set up Rashtra Sevika Samiti in 1936, but women were not opted in the central leadership that took vital decisions. Mohan Bhagwat took the initiative and changed this tradition. To convey a message, he made Santosh Yadav, the famous mountaineer as the Chief Guest at the Dussehra rally. Santosh Yadav is the first female mountaineer in the world, who scaled Mount Everest peak twice.

On population control policy, RSS leaders had been speaking on this issue for past several years, but the manner in which Mohan Bhagwat cogently explained the pros and cons of the policy, was never witnessed before.

Mohan Bhagwat changed the RSS swayamsevak’s uniform for the first time. He changed the style of working in RSS, and also changed the manner in which RSS projected itself to the rest of the world. He has been, however, careful not to change the basic ideology of the organization. This makes Mohan Bhagwat different from his predecessors. A staunch nationalist, Bhagwat knows what keeps a nation united and strong.

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