Eye In The Sky
Why should India care about what RSS thinks about gays?
Who is running the BJP government today? Is it Mr Modi or Mr Bhagwat?
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When and how did we come to this turn when one of the largest selling English national dailies leads its Page One with a story on the "opinion" of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS)? What is even more appalling is that the grand opinion and discussion is about homosexuality and what these old men in khaki shorts think and feel about deeming homosexuals as criminals.
The headline in Hindustan Times says: "Homosexuality not a crime, but immoral says RSS."
The story explains that RSS joint general secretary Dattatreya Hosabale is of the opinion that homosexuality shouldn’t be considered a criminal offence as long as it does not affect others and sexual preferences are private and personal.
Well, thank you very much.
But who cares what Mr Hosabale or the likes of him think? Who exactly is interested in their opinion? Actually, who asked them for an opinion?
Historically, RSS may have had a semblance of some philosophy when Baliram Hedgewar founded it whose idea of India was a Hindu Rashtra. So he recruited youngsters and built a workforce in khakhi chaddis that went around instilling this thought among the masses.
Despite trying hard to become a part of the political dialogue, it didn't.
The RSS was banned several times by various ruling governments and reminded of its place: that it would be nothing more than a cultural organisation, with no politics of its own.
But like truant children the old men in the parivar went on about their job of building a new nation based on Hindu ideology. It was not taken seriously by anyone and remained irrelevant, and at best were considered fringe elements.
Most of us discounted them as chaddiwalas who run around our colony parks. Our attitude was that we may not agree with their beliefs and thoughts, but it is a free country. Each to his own. None of us bothered to sit up and take notice even when Babri Masjid was brought down with clinical precision.
May be it is time to take notice, after all.
The RSS is not a truant child who can be given a wrap on the knuckles anymore. It is not a fringe element anymore. It is very much a part of the country's political dialogue, and their primitive views and opinions seem to matter.
We had a great prime minister in Atal Behari Vajpayee, who was an RSS worker. So was our current PM Narendra Modi. But unfortunately, the RSS of today is not that Vajpayee marched into or probably even Modi did, for that matter.
The difference between the two BJP prime ministers however is that at no point during Vajpayee's term did RSS enter mainstream conversation, least of all mainstream media. And certainly, their political opinions did not dictate the country's laws.
Today the gang of Swayamsewaks led by the kind of Mohan Bhagwat and Hosabale have become important voices with views and opinions on everything from sexuality to economy to women and religion. And somebody clearly believes that the allegedly apolitical Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh parivar is important enough to seek their considered opinion on matters of national interest.
The RSS too is getting ready for this important role. Why, they are replacing the old khakhi chaddis with modern designer trousers.
They are going from being chaddiwalas to patloonwalas. Sadly, that is how far their idea of modernity and India begins and ends.
Take for instance, RSS chief Bhagwat's view on women. At a packed rally in Indore Mr Bhagwat explained the role of women in clear terms. I quote him, "A husband and wife are involved in a contract under which the husband has said that you should take care of my house and I will take care of all your needs. I will keep you safe. So, the husband follows the contract terms. Till the time, the wife follows the contract, the husband stays with her, if the wife violates the contract, he can disown her."
His view on rape is: "Crimes against women happening in urban India are shameful. It is a dangerous trend. But such crimes won't happen in 'Bharat' or the rural areas of the country. You go to villages and forests of the country and there will be no such incidents of gang-rape or sex crimes."
Hosabale, who incidentally attended a BJP meeting in Lucknow along with party chief Amit Shah, believes Muslim men are using love and marriage to lure Hindu women into religious conversion. He further confirms at a legitimate party meeting that "the Ram mandir is in the country's interest. It is already a national issue. It is part of the BJP's manifesto, we don't have to ask them."
This where it gets frightening. The RSS, which once upon a time was dismissed as a mere cultural group, says "We do not have to ask them."
Not ask whom Mr Hosabale? The ruling government? The prime minister? Muslims? Hindus? The people of this country?
This is the new RSS for you in their freshly-starched pair of trousers. Arrogant and adamant.
There was a time when the BJP never missed a chance to accuse the UPA government of being run by the Gandhi family skulking in the shadows. They made fun of Manmohan Singh and his silence. They called Rahul Gandhi a fool and a clown.
Well, now that all the shadows have moved out, we have one simple question.
Who is running the BJP government today? Is it Mr Modi? Mr Bhagwat? Mr Amit Shah? As voting citizens it is our right to know who is running our country.