Three months before the RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s statement that there was a motive behind the service Mother Teresa provided to the poor, that is to convert them to Christianity, the VHP leader Ashok Singhal laid bare his “Hindu” heart at the 2014 World Hindu Congress. “Eight hundred years after it [power in Delhi] went away from Prithviraj Chauhan, it did not come into the hands of a proud Hindu,” he thundered. Singhal was referring to PM Narendra Modi leading the BJP to victory in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. What is interesting is Singhal did not regard Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s reign either from 16 May to June 1, 1996, or from March 19, 1998 to May 22, 2004, as Hindu rule.
A government headed by an OBC (Narendra Modi) has today become the biggest source of strength for a Hindu supremacist organisation in a way two previous governments headed by a Brahmin (AB Vajpayee) could not be. This has to do with the fact that Modi has a Hindu strongman image which milder-mannered Vajpayee, who never flaunted his chest size, didn’t, and a much wider acceptance among the rank and file of both the BJP and the RSS as well as the rest of the country. But there is more to this.
For a while now, the Parivar has been trying to woo those whom Manu, the progenitor of caste, had kept aside as “children of a lesser god”. To bring in the numbers during the Lok Sabha and later in Assembly elections, the BJP went after those whom Manu had kept at the bottom of the ladder.
Electoral compulsions forced the Parivar to change tack though many of its members have kept caste alive in their minds and manners even in the 21st century. A recent news report says the BJP in the post-1990s era managed to attract only one in every ten Dalit voters. However, last year, one in every four Dalits voted for the party. The ratio is even higher for the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) coalition where nearly one in every three Dalits voted for it. The BJP has surpassed both the Congress and the BSP in attracting a larger share of the Dalit vote.
Which is why RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s recent rants against Mother Teresa are a waste of time. While her lifetime dedication to the cause of the poor is beyond debate, what has been deliberately overlooked is the poverty porn industry that grew around her and tainted Kolkata as a city of squalor whose only redemption was a white Christian woman with a holy heart. Many have alleged that the Mother converted many of those she “lifted”, but the Hindu right should not lose sleep over it.
Inequalities in the Hindu caste system have forced millions to trade gods. If the Hindu right wants to keep its flock together, it needs to address this problem rather than blame the likes of Mother Teresa. And the Sangh seems to be taking baby steps to correct this historic wrong.
It is no secret that the Parivar has not always been a meeting ground for egalitarian minds. In 2006, five Dalits were held for skinning a cow. Within three hours, a mob of a few thousand gathered near the police station where the "culprits" were sheltered. As policemen reportedly watched in silence, the mob burnt two of them alive and lynched the other three. The Sangh Parivar had mobilised villagers from the surrounding areas to "kill the cow-killers". This happened at the police post of Dulena in Jhajjar district in Haryana.
It is delicious irony that eight years later, the BJP had to woo Dalits in Haryana and elsewhere to get the required numbers and wrest power from the UPA. The party even took the support of controversial Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh to whom Dalits flock in large numbers.
Since then, the RSS has intensified efforts to find a common Hindu thread to unify all groups under one Hindu identity. A newspaper report on September 22 says three top RSS leaders have sought to attribute the genesis of Dalits, tribals and many other groups to “Muslim invasion” in medieval times. They wrote this in their forewords to three books, authored by the BJP spokesman Vijay Sonkar Shastri and released by Mohan Bhagwat recently — Hindu Charmakar Jati, Hindu Khatik Jati and Hindu Valmiki Jati.
The Sangh leaders said these castes had come into existence due to atrocities by foreign invaders and did not exist in Hindu religion earlier. According to Bhaiyyaji Joshi, who sits pretty at the number two slot in the RSS hierarchy, shudras were never untouchables in Hindu scriptures. "Islamic atrocities" during the medieval age resulted in the emergence of untouchables, Dalits and Indian Muslims.
Joshi said: “To violate Hindu swabhimaan (dignity) of Chanwarvanshiya Kshatriyas, foreign invaders from Arab, Muslim rulers and beef-eaters, forced them to do abominable works like killing cows, skinning them and throwing their carcasses in deserted places. Foreign invaders thus created a caste of charma-karma (dealing with skin) by giving such works as punishment to proud Hindu prisoners”.
Researchers on caste may shudder at such deliberate distortions of history, but to stop large-scale conversions to other religions, the Parivar needs to manufacture a saner past. But more importantly, they need to move on from Mother Teresa and dilute caste by reaching out to the so called “lowly born”.