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Bad signal: why DD must not telecast RSS chief's speech

Charu Kartikeya | Updated on: 13 February 2017, 6:35 IST

The speech

  • DD live telecast Mohan Bhagwat\'s speech to the RSS faithful
  • Airing of the annual speech last year had drawn much criticism
  • So, only the president and the PM addressed the nation live on DD

The message

  • Bhagwat kept to the RSS latest plan of claiming Ambedkar\'s legacy
  • He raised the bogey of the \'threat\' of a \'growing\' Muslim population
  • Says Hindu culture is the chord that keeps our society together

Last Dussehra, when Doordarshan aired live Mohan Bhagwat's annual address to the RSS faithful, it drew a storm of criticism. But public opinion does not seem to matter to the public broadcaster, for this year too, it telecast the RSS chief's speech.

If you need convincing why this "tradition" started by the Modi regime must be stopped, just listen to the speech carefully.

So far, live telecast by DD of an address to the nation was an honour reserved for the president and the prime minister. And during elections, leaders of political parties recognised by the Election Commission get designated time slots to air their party's appeal to voters.

Which of these qualifications does the RSS chief possess that make him eligible for this privilege?

Also, the relevance of the address by the president or the prime minister is reflected in its content. Essentially, they are messages extolling the democratic and secular values that guided the freedom struggle and are now enshrined in our constitution.

Affront to secular tradition

Compare this with what Bhagwat had to say. He began by referring to the 125th birth anniversary of BR Ambedkar and his "lifelong struggle against the injustice of social inequality".

This is in keeping with the Sangh's new-found love for Ambedkar that it has been lately expressing in order to bring Dalits into the fold. Never mind that throughout its 90 years, it has been the flag bearer of the upper caste narrative of the "traditional" Hindu society.

The RSS' bible is Manusmriti, which, in the opinion of its second chief MS Golwalkar should have been adopted as our constitution. Ambedkar, on the other hand, so despised Manusmriti he burnt it publicly.

Bhagwat then paid tribute to RSS founder KB Hedgewar, its third chief Balasaheb Deoras, and its leading political light Deendayal Upadhyaya. They might be greats in the Sangh pantheon and figures of reverence for its followers, but they have little relevance for our national conscience.

The Sangh chief then recalled the king Rajeshwar Rajendra Chola, who, he said, had "established a model of good governance in Bharat and promulgated in Southeast Asia the benevolent influence of the eternal Bharatiya culture."

What Mohan Bhagwat spoke about: Ambedkar, Muslim population, RSS icons and, of course, Hindutva

He also touched upon the 1,000th birth anniversary of the "great Shaiva philosopher from Kashmir Acharya Abhinav Gupt" and "the 5,151th anniversary of our revered Bhagvad Gita".

Bhagwat mourned the loss of former president APJ Abdul Kalam, whom the Sangh admires for helping build India's nuclear programme, which conforms to its vision of a "strong Bharat". He also condoled the death of Vedic preacher Swami Dayanand Saraswati.

Propaganda by numbers

While talking about obstacles in the country's development, the RSS chief suggested that we ponder over "our population policy" on the lines of "whether the current systems and resources would be adequate to provide employment and basic amenities to masses 50 years from now?"

"Facts and figures from the last two census reports and the imbalances that have come to notice as a result are being widely discussed," he explained. "We need to rise above vote bank politics to formulate a holistic approach, equally applicable to all citizens, towards the population policy."

This is a veiled reference to the notion the Sangh has long propounded: that while Hindus conform to the state-mandated norms of family planning, Muslims get away with it due to political patronage.

Particularly since the religion-wise population figures of Census 2011 were released, the saffron brigade has been raising the bogey of a rising Muslim population threatening the Hindus, whose numbers they claim are falling.

RSS' bible is Manusmriti, which its second chief MS Golwalkar wanted adopted as our constitution

The problem is with the interpretation of the census numbers. The Sangh subscribes to the popular analysis that the Muslim population went up by 24% in the previous decade while the Hindus' rate of growth was 16%.

This ignores the fact that in the decade before, Muslims grew by 29% and Hindus by 19%. What this means is that the Muslim population is growing slower now, and its growth rate has fallen more sharply than that of the Hindu population.

This interpretation of the data will be used by the Sangh as a propaganda tool for sometime to come. The issue will reportedly be discussed at an RSS meeting in Ranchi, to be held between October 28 and November 1. Bhagwat's remarks appear to be the primer for the event.

Disguising Hindutva as Hindu culture

Apart from this, Bhagwat talked about the Sangh's guiding ideology of Hindutva. He identified "Hindu culture" as "the chord that can keep our diverse society together", insisting that those with a "smaller identity" become a "part of the larger social identity". He went on to provide a contorted definition of Hindutva as the combination of "Hindu culture, celebration of the glory of our ancient culture and respect for the motherland".

Bhagwat claimed that the "onus of the good and bad of this nation" rests only with the Hindus. To this end, the RSS has been "constantly trying to galvanise the energies of Hindu society" for the last 90 years.

He invited everybody to "become Swayamsewaks and be part of this sacred work because this the only way to build the Bharat that the world inevitably looks forward to for a new opening".

He concluded by saying, "Hindu Hindu ek rahen, bhed-bhaav ko naheen sahen, sangharshon se dukhi jagat ko, maanavata ki shikhsa den (Let all Hindus unite, fight against discrimination and teach humanism to this world grappling with challenges).

Bhagwat's "Vijayadashami speech", like most speeches delivered by him and other RSS leaders, are meant for only one community - Hindus. Rather, a fraction of the community that subscribes to the Sangh's worldview.

That's fine, perhaps. But the public broadcaster providing such divisive views and "traditions" a national platform is not only wrong, it's dangerous.

First published: 22 October 2015, 11:27 IST
Charu Kartikeya @CharuKeya

Assistant Editor at Catch, Charu enjoys covering politics and uncovering politicians. Of nine years in journalism, he spent six happily covering Parliament and parliamentarians at Lok Sabha TV and the other three as news anchor at Doordarshan News. A Royal Enfield enthusiast, he dreams of having enough time to roar away towards Ladakh, but for the moment the only miles he's covering are the 20-km stretch between home and work.