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Hindu Society Is At War, Really?

“Hindu society is at war.” This is how Mohan Bhagwat, the Chief of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), defends the hate speech and bigotr. Read More

Sunday January 22, 2023 3:11 PM, Apoorvanand

Hindu Society Is At War, Really?

“Hindu society is at war.” This is how Mohan Bhagwat, the Chief of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), defends the hate speech and bigotry by the votaries and foot soldiers of Hindutva against Muslims and Christians. The fact that hate speech and violence have now become torrential and are getting more brazen with each passing day is explained by the fact that the war is not small. It is a 1000-year-long war, which has not ended. It is a continuous war, like the permanent revolution of Mao.

If we are to believe Bhagwat, Hindus are in a protracted war against several enemies: foreigners, foreign influences and worst of all, internal enemies. Can you expect politeness and civility from those who who have to fight a multi-pronged war with just ten hands, he asks.

Bhagwat is neither the first nor the only one to suggest that there is valid a reason for the hate speech directed against Muslims and Christians. Many have called for Hindus to take up arms, to keep them ready to chop off the heads of ‘enemies’. In fact, Bhagwat’s claim was preceded even by the Delhi police, which told a court in Delhi that the call to Hindus to arm themselves in a mass meeting in Delhi was actually an exercise to protect ‘community ethics’.

Bhagwat is a magnanimous man. Ideally, he would not prefer this aggression in Hindus. But he can appreciate their situation. They are at war.

Two days after Bhagwat legitimised hate speech, the Supreme Court asked the Delhi police about the reason for its inaction against Suresh Chavhanke, who is accused of hate speech. Bhagwat has supplied an argument to the state’s counsel. The police can now quote the respected Mohan Bhagwat to tell the court that aggressive language is inevitable as the Hindus are in the midst of a 1000-year-long war.

Remember, Bhagwat is defending those who have been calling for the mass slaughter of Muslims, rape of Muslim women, the boycott of Muslim businesses, those who put Muslim women on auction online or those who exhort Hindus not to sell houses or land to Muslims or those who campaign attack Christians for alleged illegal conversions. He explains away all the fear-mongering against Muslims by saying that in a war, it is natural for people to get suspicious. Hindus have to be alert as enemies come with many faces. There are good people in Muslims, he admits, but how do you differentiate good from bad in a war situation? So it is only natural for all Muslims to become suspects in the eyes of the Hindus.

 

Bhagwat’s not-so-oblique legitimisation of hate speech reminded me of the statement made by K.K. Shastri, a Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) patriarch, after the massacre of Muslims in Gujarat in 2002. He admitted that the VHP had prepared the list of Muslim properties to be attacked. He added:

“The youngsters have done even those things which we don’t like. We don’t support it. But we can’t condemn it because they are our boys. If my daughter does something, will I condemn it?”

Shastri told Sheela Bhatt that all this “had to be done” (karvun j pade, karvun j pade). It was war, after all. And excesses happen in wars, one must understand.

RSS finally owning up to its acts?

This is what Bhagwat wants us to appreciate. Now, the RSS is in a position of strength and can own the violence done in the name of Hindus – unlike in the past. Never before has it owned up to violent acts done by its men or the Sangh Parivar. Godse was excommunicated, the demolition of the Babri Mosque was attributed to the over-enthusiasm of karsevaks and hundreds of incidents of anti-Muslim violence were disowned. But that was a different time. It needed to have plausible deniability to protect itself from the law, even though many law keepers were largely sympathetic to it. But now, the law is in the hands of the pracharaks of the RSS. The state apparatus has also merged itself with the ideological regime of Hindutva. So, it can now safely own the violence.

 

It is also a fact that many other groups that espouse Hindutva have sprung up that are not part of the RSS parivar. They have many followers, commit violence and spread hate. But the RSS cannot let the mantle of Hindutva go to any other body than itself. So, it has to show that it is in control of everything being done in the name of Hindutva. That is another reason behind the RSS Chief openly defending hate speech and violence.

This is the only significant part of the long interview Bhagwat gave to the mouthpiece of the RSS. Other things he spoke about – like “accommodating the LGBTQ community” – are only meant to help those people who want to look for things to defend the RSS. But RSS insiders know that these things are for show and not to be taken seriously. Let us remember that the RSS once spoke out against caste divisions. But the message that the RSS cadre took from it was to other Muslims and Christians and treat them as aliens and enemies.

It goes without saying that the fountainhead of the ideology of anti-Muslim and anti-Christian hate and violence has no right to advise these communities about how to live. Since its inception, the RSS has been telling Muslims that they would be given safety only on one condition: follow certain restrictions. But who will tell the RSS chief that he has no authority to issue a diktat to Muslims?

Bhagwat’s excuse for the hate and violence meted out against Muslims is that they are “supremacists”. Was this the reason why Akhlaq, Tabrez, Junaid or Pehlu Khan were killed? Is this why Hindutva gangs attack Muslims regularly, to beat the supremacism out of them?

Then, there are some analysts who tell us that the stature of the RSS chief has been lowered because of the rise of a swayamsevak named Narendra Modi. Therefore, Bhagawat is trying hard to prove his relevance by issuing such statements, to demonstrate that he is still in command. These are excuses to say that the justification of hate speech should not be held against him. He has good intentions for Muslims but has to maintain his credibility among the masses.

But these arguments are no consolation for Muslims and Christians, who not only have to face the brunt of hate speech and violence but also have to watch people legitimise and justify these actions.

[Apoorvanand teaches Hindi at Delhi University. The above article was first published by The Wire.]


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