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What does Mohan Bhagwat want to do with a private army that will be ready in 3 days?

Charu Kartikeya | Updated on: 12 February 2018, 17:40 IST
(Arya Sharma)

RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat's comments about the military credentials of the organisation he heads shouldn't be seen in the limited context of disrespect to the Indian Army. RSS has had a long tradition of placing its own beliefs superior to the institutions that have forged and protected the national identity.

At the core of the RSS' belief system is a pronounced lack of faith in that document that is said to contain the very soul of India's democracy, the Constitution. Its members have, historically, shown more reverence to their own saffron flag than the national flag.

Its former chiefs have openly despised democracy and have been accused of wanting to replace the Constitution itself with manusmriti.

For such an organisation, it is easy to consider itself superior to most institutions that represent the country, including the Army. However, Bhagwat's boast about the military readiness of the Swayamsevaks of RSS is a more serious issue than has been considered so far in the wake of his statement.

He said in an address delivered in Bihar's Muzaffarpur on 11 February, that “if the need arises and the Constitution permits, it will take 6 months to prepare the Army, but Sangh's swayamsevaks will be ready in 3 days”.

The RSS has said that Bhagwat's comments have been misinterpreted and what he meant was that while the Indian army would take 6 months to prepare the society, Sangh swayamsevaks can be trained in 3 days, “as Swayamsevaks practise discipline regularly”.

It should be recalled that RSS' founding fathers had unabiding faith in the need for Hindus to militarise in order to consolidate their position and defeat their 'enemies'. In fact, one of the mentors of the organisation's founder KB Hedgewar was well-known for his fascination with Italy's fascists.

Balakrishna Shivram Moonje was a president of the Hindu Mahasabha and had established the Nashik-based Central Hindu Military Education Society (CHMES) in 1935. He traveled all the way to Italy to seek inspiration from the founder of fascism, Benito Mussolini.

Back with lessons from his trip, Moonje then helped Hedgewar in shaping the RSS and making military training compulsory for its members. Italian scholar Marzia Casolari has pointed out to one of Moonje's diary entries, which states, “The idea of fascism vividly brings out the conception of unity amongst people...India and particularly Hindu India need some such institution for the military regeneration of the Hindus...Our institution of RSS of Nagpur under Dr Hedgewar is of this kind, though quite independently conceived. I will spend the rest of my life in developing and extending this Institution of Dr Hedgewar all throughout the Maharashtra and other provinces."

As a part of this legacy left behind by Moonje and Hedgewar, RSS routinely trains its men how to handle weapons. In fact, on Vijayadashami every year, RSS members worships arms and its members parade through towns across the country, brandishing swords and even firearms.

In an indication of what kind of intentions does the Sangh Parivar harbour, the CHMES-run Bhonsala Military School in Nasik was named in the charge-sheet filed by the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad in the 2008 Malegaon blasts probe. The charge-sheet had alleged that the main accused in the blasts had been teaching at the school and that conspiracy meetings were also held there.

Aren’t Maoist organisations in India outlawed because of their open espousal of armed action to ensure the victory of the system they believe in? Are the RSS' motivations any different? In many ways they are more sinister because while the Maoists call for overthrow of the government, the RSS is said to have identified specific sections among the country's population as its enemies.

It is not hard to imagine what will the foot-soldiers of this philosophy do if they are given a free-hand, which is what Bhagwat appears to be talking about by saying “if situation arises and the Constitution permits”. What dose Bhagwat want to do with an army of Swayamsevaks that he says will be ready in 3 days?

First published: 12 February 2018, 17:40 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.