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Gathering storm: RSS meet puts riot-scarred Ranchi on edge, again

Special Correspondent | Updated on: 31 October 2015, 16:15 IST

Through this season of Dussehra and Muharram, Ranchi was on the edge, fearing communal violence. The fear wasn't unfounded: the city had witnessed clashes in late September.

Thankfully, both festivals went off peacefully. So much so that Chief Minister Raghubar Das praised the residents, saying their conduct proved they were "peace lovers".

Das had played a proactive role in helping calm Ranchi then, ensuring the city returned to normalcy quickly. His efforts were widely praised.

Now, however, ominous clouds are gathering over Ranchi again. The city's communal climate is vitiated as the RSS is holding its National Executive Meeting here between 30 October and 1 November.

Das is currently busy campaigning for his party in Bihar. But even if he were in the city, it's doubtful his intervention would have the same effect this time if violence breaks out.

Raising the heat

The RSS is meeting at Sarla Birla School. Many top functionaries, including Mohan Bhagwat, are participating. BJP chief Amit Shah may also spare time from campaigning in Bihar to attend the meet.

According to the RSS' Prachar Pramukh Manmohan Vaidya, the meeting will mainly discuss the "population situation" in Assam and West Bengal. The Sangh fears Hindus will become a minority in these states by 2050. Instead of referring directly to Muslims and Christians, however, Vaidya talked about the growing numbers of "foreigners" in these provinces.

The fear is that the meeting could polarise Jharkhand as well as poll-bound Bihar. One political analyst pointed out that the agendas of such meetings are not revealed beforehand. But this time the message was aimed at Bihar.

VHP launches Hindu-only medical helpline: 'Dial the number, hundreds of Hindus will reach you'

While Vaidya was briefing the media, firebrand VHP leader Praveen Togadia was inaugurating a helpline service for medical and lodging facilities for Hindus in Ranchi.

"We are issuing this helpline number for Hindus. You just need to dial this number at your hour of need. Hundreds of Hindus will reach for your help," Togadia thundered. He was apparently speaking for a noble cause, but his shrill tone suggested otherwise.

Vaidya made it amply clear at the outset of the meeting that the "population growth" of Christians and Muslims would be the main topics of discussion. The Sangh's other affiliates, in fact, are actively disseminating this message in Bihar. The agenda of the meeting is also aimed at the upcoming elections in Bengal and Assam.

Back in the bastion

If this is the RSS' agenda, there can be no better place for RSS than Ranchi to further it. The city is an old Sangh bastion, which it has used as a base to oppose Christian missionaries in Jharkhand.

Since the BJP came to power in the state last year, Jharkhand has increasingly become a preferred destination for such RSS events. Indeed, this was also the case when Jharkhand was ruled by Babulal Marandi.

And not just the RSS, many of its offshoots such as Vanvasi Kalyan Kendra, VHP and Seva Bharti, which were largely dormant in the state until recently, are also planning to hold major events in the state.

Vanvasi Kalyan Kendra is gearing for a national-level sports meet for tribal children. The BJP is indirectly supporting the event, with the chief minister organising a 'Run for Unity' marathon on Friday, October 31. The RSS has discreetly been kept away from the marathon to send out a message that Das is doing his own bit to support the upcoming sports meet.

Indeed, the government has only helped with the RSS meet, though few in the Sangh are willing to admit it. The state's efforts, however, are not hidden from anyone. The roads leading to the venue, for instance, were metaled in record time.

According to Jharkhand Mukti Morcha General Secretary Supriyo Bhattacharya, "it is clear that the government is bearing the cost of arrangements for the meeting".

The Congress spokesman Rajesh Thakur alleges that everybody "from top to bottom in the government is misusing official machinery for the event".

First published: 31 October 2015, 16:15 IST