What RSS can learn about sex from Hindu gods

It's high time the saffron warriors broke away from a 90-year-old practice that only serves as a vestige of the ugly, celibate past.

 |  4-minute read |   15-03-2016
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Covering up hairy legs of paunchy old men in public places makes aesthetic sense. It's also a sexually correct statement. But with its top leadership packed with celibates, the RSS sartorial statement is cosmetic and ephemeral.

If the RSS was indeed keen on sending a message of sailing with times, it should have brought more substantive changes than discarding khaki shorts for brown trousers.

For one, it should have freed its pracharaks from life-long bond of celibacy, bachelorhood and abstinence from sex.

It has taken a baby step in allowing women's entry into temples in keeping with the times and under pressure from Hindu women's orgnaisations. "Women go to thousands of temples across the country but in reference to some, where their entry is an issue, there is a need to change the mentality, " a senior RSS functionary has said.

That's laudable. But what prevents the RSS from freeing its pracharaks from celibacy? Failure to initiate reform on this score leaves the RSS leadership with the old and valid charge that it's a patriarchal and myogenic organisation.

The RSS's top leadership comprises only bachelors. Its pracharaks or apparatchiks, who are full-time workers, are bound by the RSS' code to remain unmarried and not have sex. RSS has about 2,500-3,000 pracharaks who form the backbone of its leadership. They wield tremendous influence within the organisation and over the various affiliated bodies including the BJP.

The RSS is a hierarchical, rigid and top-down set-up. Its celibate apparatchiks are bound to support and propagate a worldview that's patriarchal, authoritarian, sexist and anti-women.

Celibacy and forced abstinence from normal sexual activities have been linked to rise of authoritarian and fascist tendencies. When a group of men bound by such abnormal code are at the head of a large and closed organisation, decision-making suffers.

Around the time RSS was formed in 1925 and was propounding its pro-celibacy theory, the Austrian scholar and psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich was working on his masterpiece, The Mass Psychology of Fascism, which was published in 1933.

Reich drew a link between suppression of sexual desires and rise of fascism in Germany. He said, "the suppression of natural sexual gratification leads to various kinds of substitute gratifications. Natural aggression, for example, becomes brutal sadism which then is an essential mass-psychological factor in imperialistic wars."

Reich was a student of Sigmund Freud. His studied the impact of suppression of normal sexual gratification on human activities including culture and politics.

Observance of celibacy is not confined to RSS pracharaks only. Its women's wing Rashtriya Sevika Samiti too follows the same principles.

Pracharikas are celibates.

One would expect that a large organisation of women such as the Sevika Samiti with thousands of branches all over the country would work for the advancement of the woman's cause, fight the social and cultural practices that perpetuate the prevalent gender injustice in the Hindu society.

On the contrary, the Samiti has been content with implementing and perpetuating the RSS practices. Members of Sevika Samiti are taught and encouraged to abide by the primacy of male-dominated and patriarchal Hindu family. They don't raise questions about the dominance of one gender over the other. They hold nation and the traditional family structure in high esteem, just like the RSS.

Independent journalist Neha Dixit visited a Rashtriya Sevika Samiti camp to have a look inside their world and came out with some amusing findings in the January 28, 2013 issue of Outlook magazine.

"The pracharikas are categorically told that the difference between the Rashtra Sevika Samiti and other women's organisation is that unlike others they do not fight for women's rights, instead they fight to create a Hindu rashtra. With the 'bhagwa' (saffron) flag for guru, the Samiti believes that the Indian women already enjoy equal rights in an egalitarian Hindu rashtra," said a Pracharika who was with the organisation for 60 years, and celibacy.

Dixit asked one woman in her 20s about wife-beating."Don't parents admonish their children for misbehaviour? Just as a child must adjust to his/her parents, so must a wife act, keeping in mind her husband's moods and avoid irritating him. Only this can keep the family together," the Samiti member said.

On love marriage, a Sevika said "it's okay if the marriage is arranged with parental consent." On divorce, "Our task is to keep the family together, not break it. We tell the women to adjust." The Sevikas are taught to conform to the norms of existing social and family structures, and not to challenge or break them for the better.

The Rashtriya Sevika Samiti was formed in 1936 by one Lakshmibai Kelkar who met Dr Keshav Baliram Hegdevar many times to seek his permission to start the women's wing. It follows the same principles, aims and objectives as the RSS. The women's wing holds its own separate shakhas.

It's high time for the RSS to take substantive and meaningful reforms and break away from 90-year-old practices such as adherence to celibacy and chastity that are vestiges of the ugly past.

Don't RSS leaders know that Hindu gods and goddesses were happily married and enjoyed a blissful family life?


Ashok K Singh Ashok K Singh @kashoksingh

He is a journalist, writer and commentator.

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