The threat we failed to see in RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s Army remark
Why has the RSS been imparting arms training and what is this talk of the Constitution ‘permitting’?
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In a recent statement, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat has stated that if the Constitution were to permit, the RSS could raise a force for the country in three days, as opposed to the Indian Army, which would take six to seven months. He maintains that the Sangh is not a military institution, but has the wherewithal to raise a militia.
Bhagwat making the three days versus 6-to-7 months distinction calls into question the functioning of an entire system and the capabilities of the country, although the RSS has since been at pains to clarify that this was not what he meant.
The Opposition has gone to town over the issue, calling the statement an insult to the Army and the tricolour. It claims Bhagwat has insulted the martyrdom of our soldiers.
Sadly, however, the Opposition has been unable to see what Bhagwat has actually revealed from his remarks. The outcry has been akin to tackling cancer with painkillers, completely missing the full heft of the issue.
Bhagwat, through his remarks, has made two key things clear.
His first claim is that he can raise an army in three days. The point here is not whether he can actually mobilise a fighting-fit force in three days. The question that needs to be asked is – why exactly has the Sangh been training an “army”? What have its shakhas, camps and lectures been teaching that can be useful in organised warfare? In a democracy, is any organisation or ideology permitted to raise an army? Who gave the Sangh the permission to impart military training, and can such a militia ever be in the country’s best interests?
Naxalites had tried to raise similar “armies”. They even managed to raise some platoons, which ended up killing people they were made up of. The Indian government considers them outlaws, and is running major operations against them.
Similar attempts in Bihar saw the creation of upper caste militia Ranveer Sena, which proceeded to slaughter Dalits, and Bihar burnt in caste violence for years. Several communal groups indulge in armed training, and we suffer the consequences in the form of riots.
If, by “army”, Bhagwat meant mobilising an army of volunteers, who, like the Armed Forces, can provide relief work in case of floods and other natural disasters, then every citizens’ collective, Gurudwaras, missionary bodies, should also be given the permit to raise such armies, for they all provide similar service, with more zeal than the Sangh.
However, if Bhagwat actually meant an armed, fighting unit, it is a matter for grave concern.
The Sangh draws its basic belief system from a deeply communal, polarised ideological space. Its ideology goes against the broader Hindu way of life, as well as India’s syncretic cultural heritage. In such a scenario, a clash of ethos is natural. But in such a clash, if one group is talking of raising armies and has actually been imparting training to that effect, it rings alarm bells for the country and the society.
The second important bit is Bhagwat talking of the “Constitution permitting” the creation of such an army.
The RSS’s fond dream is a Hindu Rashtra based on its brand of Hindutva. Bhagwat knows that is not possible unless it has absolute control over the country’s government. He is also aware that for such total, lasting control, the Constitution needs to be altered.
Changing the Constitution in a manner that can further the saffron agenda is among the Sangh’s dearest ambitions. The RSS has always dreamt of the day when the Constitution’s ownership will be taken away from Ambedkar and the Indian society and put on its table. From that day, the Sangh’s writ will be law.
Not for nothing did Bhagwat talk of “if Constitution permits”. The words betray his visions of a Constitution the Sangh can derive legitimacy and authority from. A Consitution that validates and empowers the RSS. This vision is of a divisive, polarised India that goes against the grain of the Constitution as we know it. It is instead a reflection of the kind of India that the RSS dreams of building and ruling.
Today, the government that rules the country is controlled by the Sangh. However, this government has limitations – of numbers in the Parliament and of the Constitution. The Sangh is aching to increase these numbers, so that the government is in a position to alter the Constitution and make the RSS’s hold over India permanent. The claims of rustling up an army in three days and the implicit admission of conducting armed training do not stem from nothing.
For the next few days, Bhagwat will be in Uttar Pradesh, where there will be a buzz over his recent remarks. The state’s chief minister already runs an "army" of his own, the Hindu Yuva Vahini. Such statements and situations create an atmosphere where one section of the society is living in fear, and the other is allowed to exploit and reinforce the fear at will. This violates the spirit of inclusiveness, and is dangerous for India’s internal security.
Unfortunately, the Opposition, which claims to be the defender of the Constitution, has failed to recognise the actual menace behind Bhagwat’s words. It has limited itself to the flag and the Army, while the scale of the war is far greater.