The threat is real

  • How the RSS rose to power

Prime Minister Imran Khan, while addressing the nation during Kashmir Hour on Friday and later speaking to Islamic Society of North America in Houston via video link, rightly likened the BJP government in India to the Third Reich of Nazi Germany, which was madly pursuing the supremacist ideology of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). He was right on money to warn the world about the threat that the RSS creed posed to peace and security in the region, referring to the communal politics of the ruling party and the killing spree in Indian Occupied Kashmir which had brought the two nuclear powers face to face with each other.

A peep into the emergence of RSS and its fundamental creed corroborates the assertions made by the Prime Minister. leaving no doubt about the fact that the threat to peace and security in the region is real.

RSS, a right wing Hindu nationalist paramilitary organization widely regarded as the parent entity of BJP, the ruling party in India, was founded in Nagpur on 27 September 1925. Its initial objective was to provide character training through Hindu discipline and to unite the Hindu community to form a Hindu Rashtra (nation). It promoted the ideals of upholding Indian culture and values and the spread of Hindutva ideology. Hindutva means strengthening the Hindu community. It drew inspiration from European right-wing parties before World War II, particularly the leaders like Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler and their philosophy of racial purity. French Political scientist Christophe Jaffrelot specializing in South Asian affairs, particularly India and Pakistan, points out that the ideology of the RSS along with other Hindu nationalist movements such as the Arya Samaj and the Hindu Mahasabha, thought of Muslims, Christians and the British as “foreign bodies” implanted in the Hindu nation, who were able to exploit the disunity and absence of valor among the Hindus in order to subdue them.  However, a majority of scholars believe that the RSS was actually formed to fight the Indian Muslims.

What Modi has done in IOK and Asam could have very dangerous repercussions for India itself as well as the region. Its spill- over effect can have disastrous consequences as rightly pointed out by Prime Minister Imran Khan. The civilized world needs to wake up to the lurking dangers that the fascist ideology of RSS poses to peace and security in the region and the world at large

Though RSS did not participate in the Independence movement and remained aloof from Indian politics, it faithfully campaigned to foment anti-Muslim feelings among the Hindus. No wonder then that the first communal riots in India occurred in Nagpur. In 1927 the founder of RSS, Kashev Baliram Hedgewar. led a Hindu religious procession beating drums in defiance of the usual practice not to pass in front of a mosque with music, which triggered clash between the Hindu and Muslim communities. The Hindus had the upper hand. This incident vastly enhanced the prestige of RSS and contributed to its subsequent expansion.

Hedgewar was opposed to Gandhi’s stance on the Indian Muslims and the fact that the ‘cow protection’ was not on the Congress agenda. RSS adopted as its emblem the saffron flag of the Hindu warrior King ‘Shivaji ‘ and objected to the adoption of the tricolor flag of India as well as the Indian Constitution, particularly its secular creed and the fact that it would treat all castes equally. The RSS believed that Partition was a result of a mistaken soft line towards the Muslims, which only confirmed the natural moral weaknesses and corruptibility of the politicians.

After Partition, the process of the RSS becoming a political force to reckon with started during the 1971 war between India and Pakistan which culminated in the emergence of Bangladesh. The RSS provided support to the government, by offering its services to maintain law and order in Delhi and its volunteers were apparently the first to donate blood. The organization got a boost during the Emergency imposed by Indira Gandhi for its role in the movement against it. It was finally lifted in 1977.

The RSS and Jana Sangh, a nationalist party, took complete advantage of the 1965 war with Pakistan to ‘deepen suspicion about Muslims’, and also encashed the growing unpopularity of Congress, particularly in the Hindi -belt, where a left-wing alternative was weak or non-existent. The major themes on the party’s agenda during this period were banning cow slaughter, abolishing the special status given to Jammu and Kashmir and legislating a uniform civil code.

The RSS dominated Jana Sangh started making alliances by joining anti-Congress coalitions. It became part of the 1971 Grand Alliance and finally merged itself with the Janata Party in 1977. The success of the Janata Party in the 1977 elections made RSS members central ministers for the first time (A.B. Vajpayee, L.K. Advani and Brij Lal Verma) and provided the RSS with an opportunity to avail the state and its instruments to further its ends, through the resources of various state governments as well as the central government. Meanwhile, the other components of the Janata Party denounced the allegiance that the ex-Jana Sanghis continued to pay to the RSS. This led to a ‘dual membership’ controversy, regarding the links the former Jana Sangh members were retaining with the RSS, and it led to the split of Janata Party in 1979.

The former Jana Sangh elements formed a new party,  Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in 1980. The BJP did not have much electoral success in its initial years and was able to win only two seats in the 1984 elections. After Advani replaced Vajpayee as party president in 1986, the BJP also began to rally around the Ayodhya campaign. In 1990, the party organized the Ram Rath Yatra to advance this campaign in large-scale. Advani also attacked the then ruling Congress party with the slogans such as ‘pseudo secularism‘, accusing Congress of misusing secularism for the political appeasement of minorities, and established an explicit and unambiguous path of Hindu revival.

The Ayodhya issue and the related communal riots which polarized the electorate along religious lines helped the BJP make good progress in the subsequent elections of 1989, 1991 and 1996. Finally the BJP won the elections in 2014 and a diehard disciple of the RSS, Narendra Modi, who is known as the butcher of Gujerat for the massacre of Muslims there in 2002, became Prime Minister of India. The party in its election manifesto pledged to undo article 370 and 35 A of the Indian Constitution. Modi adopted a belligerent posture towards Pakistan which boosted his popularity. His landslide victory in the 2019 general elections was premised on this stance. Modi could not implement the party manifesto on Kashmir during his first tenure because of being short of the required parliamentary majority. However he did so after the 2019 victory. He boasted in his address to the nation on Independence Day that he had done within 70 days what could not be done in 70 years and that he had fulfilled the dream of Vallabhai Patel of a united India. Stripping 1.9 million Muslims in Assam of Indian citizenship is yet another example of the Modi government trying to implement the Hindutva ideology. What Modi has done in IOK and Asam could have very dangerous repercussions for India itself as well as the region. Its spill- over effect can have disastrous consequences as rightly pointed out by Prime Minister Imran Khan. The civilized world needs to wake up to the lurking dangers that the fascist ideology of RSS poses to peace and security in the region and the world at large.