When the RSS chief says nothing about ‘jihadis’ but spends considerable time on ‘Marxists and woke’ sections, accusing them of creating unrest and division in the country, one must sit up and take note, points out Jyoti Punwani.

Every Dussehra, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat gives a speech. As head of the organisation that has always been the ideological mentor of India’s current ruling party, whatever Bhagwat says is important.

This time, though, his speech merits special attention because it comes on the eve of a crucial election season. By the time Bhagwat’s next Dussehra speech is made, we would know the verdict given by voters not just in five states but also across the country.

Next year’s Lok Sabha elections did feature in Bhagwat’s speech. The RSS chief had a message for voters: There will be many attempts to inflame emotions and divide society during the elections. But keep a cool head and think of the country’s integrity, unity, identity and development when you vote.

This advice surely can’t be taken seriously. For the BJP, the party mentored by Bhagwat’s organisation, has just given a ticket to a man known for inflammatory speech. T Raja Singh, the BJP MLA from Hyderabad’s Ghoshmahal constituency, was suspended from the party after his arrest in August 2022 for his remarks on You Tube against Prophet Mohammed. The BJP also served him an inquiry notice.

Nobody knows what his reply was to the notice, if at all there was one. Definitely, he expressed no regret for the offensive remarks.

Yet, his suspension was revoked, obviously to enable him to fight the forthcoming Telengana assembly election. Rumours that Singh may join the TDP, his original party, only added to the BJP’s determination to have him back in action.

Singh’s trademark is anti-Muslim vitriol. There is no reason to believe that the MLA will restrain himself during his campaign in a constituency which has 24% Muslim voters.

But Singh isn’t the only BJP candidate who can be expected to indulge in hate speech in this election season. The BJP’s Himanta Biswa Sarma already did so last week. Targeting the only Muslim MLA in Chhattisgarh, Mohammed Akbar of the Congress, Sarma said: ‘Since I came here, I have only heard the name Akbar. Earlier, when we visited Uttar Pradesh, we used to hear the name Babur… When Modiji became prime minister, he finished Babur and made the Ram temple. I request you, in whichever corner of India you hear the names Babur, Aurangazeb, Humayun and Akbar, please finish them quickly.’

The Assam CM went on to say: ‘First a few Akbar came from Bangladesh and our innocent people welcomed them with warm hearts. And now 35% of the demography in Assam has changed and Hindus are a minority in 12 districts. It became a camp of ‘love jihad’. One Akbar comes and then brings a hundred Akbars. Do not forget this, and hence send off this Akbar as soon as possible, or this soil of Goddess Kaushalya will become impure.’

Is Bhagwat’s advice then, aimed only at Muslim voters? For, in this election season, it is this category that needs to keep their cool.

There was another part of the RSS chief’s speech that seemed puzzling.

Decrying uniformity as an ideal, he said attempts to mould the world in one direction have never succeeded. But what then of his party’s determined attempts, over the last nine years, to mould the country in one direction, by imposing uniformity of language, ways of worship, diet and attire?

This uniformity has often been imposed by force by the RSS’ own militant wing, the Bajrang Dal, which goes around closing down meat shops during Navratri; forces colleges to ban hijab; leads boycott campaigns of products advertised by models without a bindi

So clearly, it would not be amiss if we took this part of Bhagwat’s speech with a huge dose of salt.

Ditto for his homilies on climate change and the degradation of the Himalayas. Callous disregard for what has always been regarded as our national treasure started long back, but nothing done in the past can match the BJP government’s single-minded pursuit of tourism as well as ‘national security’ in this fragile zone.


Unlike the prime minister’s studied silence on the subject, Bhagwat devoted some time in his speech to Manipur, only to blame the foreign hand for disrupting the ‘peace’ that had existed for the last decade in the state.

But how many foreigners have been arrested in Manipur? Manipur’s CM N Biren Singh cited the recent arrest of two militants belonging to the Chin Kuki Liberation Army, as proof of the ‘foreign hand’.

In August, the Supreme Court was told that 6,523 FIRs had been filed and 252 persons arrested for the Manipur violence. Another 12,740 preventive arrests had been carried out.

So, until now, out of a total of 12,992 arrests, only two have been foreigners.

Yet, the NIA also describes the Manipur violence as a ‘war against India by terror groups based in Myanmar and Bangladesh along with some militant groups of Manipur.’

It is this convergence between the thinking of the NIA, the country’s most powerful investigative agency, and Bhagwat’s ‘foreign hand’ theory, that makes it imperative for us to take the RSS chief’s remarks seriously.

Indeed, his categorisation of the main enemy of the country: ‘Cultural Marxists’ and those who consider themselves “‘woke’, is unsettling, given the targeting of Leftist intellectuals by the State, the latest example of which were the raids on journalists associated with NewsClick and the arrests of its editor and HRD head under the UAPA.

Let’s not forget that 15 Left intellectuals still remain accused under UAPA in the 2018 Elgar Parishad case; only 5 of them are out on bail and one is under house arrest.

Soon after the Bhima Koregaon violence for which these intellectuals have been languishing in jail since the last five years, Sambhaji Bhide, who was named as accused in the first FIR filed after the violence, said that the police must probe the role of Leftists in the incident. Very quickly after his statement, the investigation changed track.

Though Bhide, a former RSS member and a hardline Hindutva proponent, and Milind Ekbote, a former BJP corporator, were the two accused in the first FIR, the Pune police started going after those who had organised the Elgar Parishad a day before the Bhima Koregaon incidents.

There’s another reason why Bhagwat’s words are important.

Leaders of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Bajrang Dal, both important wings of the Sangh Parivar, invariably blame ‘jihadis’ for all the ills of the country. But when the RSS chief says nothing about ‘jihadis’ but spends considerable time on ‘Marxists and woke’ sections, accusing them of creating unrest and division in the country, one must sit up and take note.


Another announcement made by Bhagwat also needs to be taken seriously. The next year, he said, will see the anniversaries of three national heroes: Rani Durgawati, Chhatrapati Shahu Maharaj and Ramalinga Vallalar. Their message must be propagated.

Testimonies before the Commission of Inquiry into the Bhima Koregaon violence have brought to light how Milind Ekbote and Sambhaji Bhide, through their outfits, appropriated Chhatrapati Sambhaji as a Hindutva icon. They opposed the prevalent belief that the last rites of Sambhaji Maharaj, who was killed on the orders of Aurangzeb, were performed by a Dalit family.

This opposition led to a violent clash in village Vadhu Budruk, where lies the samadhi of Sambhaji Maharaj. This clash was the precursor to the Bhima Koregaon violence.

Of the three heroes named by the RSS chief, Rani Durgawati has already been made into a Hindutva icon thanks to her brave fight against Akbar’s army. Shahu Maharaj, however, who ruled Kolhapur in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, is a byword for progressive thought in Maharashtra. What will the RSS do to the image of this visionary leader, the first to introduce reservations for ‘Depressed classes’ when Brahmin might was at its peak?

After the Bhima Koregaon violence, advocate Mohan Wadekar, who runs the Bahujan Nayak Smruti Samiti, had told this columnist that the failure of progressive sections in Maharashtra to project Chhatrapati Shivaji and Sambhaji Maharaj as ‘Bahujan Yodhas’ had led to their appropriation by Hindutvawadis.

Does the same fate await Tamil’s saint poet Vallalar, known for his anti-caste and anti-superstition teachings?

No, the RSS chief’s speech cannot be dismissed as just hot air.

Feature Presentation: Aslam Hunani/Rediff.com

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