f anyone has any doubt about the RSS being the nerve-centre of BJP governance, be it in the states or at the Centre, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat’s remarks October 10 on conversion of Hindoos should dispel it. Those controversial harangues and different appraisal of India’s history are no off the cuff exercise, but a cool, calculated effort to shore up BJP’s prospect of retaining power in UP which will go to polls in a few months from now.
Bhagwat chose the organisation’s meeting at Haldwani in Uttarakhand apparently to set the electoral agenda of the BJP in the coming UP polls and enthuse RSS cadres to go all-out for a high pitched campaign with strong communal overtones. The Yogi Adityanath government’s atrocious track record in the past five years and inept and insensitive handling of the COVID-19 pandemic have put the BJP in the back foot. It is increasingly becoming apparent that the saffron brigade is desperate to once again play the communal card and whip up communal passions to ensure it can retain power in UP.
The tone and tenor of the RSS chief’s pontification is that conversions of young Hindoo girls and boys are wrong and that there is a need to instil pride in their own religion and traditions. According to his diagnosis, reflecting the RSS’ core tenets, conversions are taking place because Hindoo girls and boys adopt other religions for ‘petty selfish’ gain such as marriage. He condemns those who marry Moslems, but doesn’t blame them outright as in his opinion more than them it is their parents who are to blame for it. He questioned the ways Hindoo parents are bringing up their children. His prescription for setting the ‘wrong’ right is that ‘values’ are to be imparted to the children at home. “We need to instil pride in them for ourselves, our religion and respect towards our tradition of worship,” he told RSS cadres present at the meet. However, parents might face an uphill task when trying to instil a so-called pride for any religion. Religions are supposed to be a part of life and daily living.
Instead of ‘pride’, there should be love for one’s own chosen path to Divinity. In the modern world, getting stuck in religious beliefs and tenets is proving harmful for society. Like social growth cannot alone be measured by the growth of GDP of an economy, similarly, pride for any particular religion has been proven not to be the path for creation of better human beings. If pride alone was the sole reason, then Islamist jihadists, willing to kill and die themselves, could be considered epic examples of pride for their religion. It would, therefore be unjust to condemn Taliban violence and condone Hindoo lynching of Moslems. Similarly, it would be improper to condemn Hindoo mob violence against Moslems but keep quiet about Islamic terror killings.
When someone of the stature and importance enjoyed by Mohan Bhagwat publicly speaks against inter-religion marriages, his utterances would set afire many a violent mind against couples for whom love has overpowered religion. This situation also raises an important issue of respecting personal choices of individuals in a democratic and free country. It should also be borne in mind that Hindoo society itself is highly fragmented. In a state like Odisha, unlike some North Indian states, there is very less likelihood of inter-religion liaisons but much more possibilities arise of inter-caste marriages. When an opinion or thought is extrapolated across this sub-continent, the result could be disastrous. In simpler words, Mohan Bhagwat’s intention to bolster BJP’s sagging image in UP by drawing from the well of communalism may have negative impact on Hindoo society in other parts of the country. This implies, parents of young girls and boys should not be faulted for the choice of a life partner by their children. We in India have to remember that while winning elections could be temporarily extremely important for politicians who themselves are not permanent, every word we utter and every action we take will be casting a shadow on society. If it has a positive impact at one place, it can also have a very negative fallout at another. There is a saying ‘If you have never had a bun in the oven, do not give baking advice.’