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Why is BJP backing an outfit inspired by Mussolini and accused of terror?

Charu Kartikeya | Updated on: 25 February 2020, 16:52 IST

The leader

  • 12 December is the 143rd birth anniversary of Hindutva ideologue BS Moonje
  • He was the mentor of KB Hedgewar and helped him shape the RSS

The outfit

  • Moonje founded the Central Hindu Miltary Education Society which runs the Bhonsala Military School in Nashik
  • The School was named in connection with the 2008 Malegaon blasts

More in the story

  • What is the BJP\'s view of Moonje?
  • Why associating with Moonje\'s outfit can harm the BJP?
  • What was Moonje\'s association with Benito Mussolini?

If you are in Delhi on 12 December, do not be surprised if you see a group of 80-odd young boys marching to military music in the heart of the national capital. These will be students of Bhonsala Military School run by Nashik-based Central Hindu Military Education Society (CHMES).

These young men will be celebrating the 143rd birth anniversary of Balakrishna Shivram Moonje, the society's founder. Moonje was also a president of the Hindu Mahasabha and mentor to the founder of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), K B Hedgewar.

CHMES, which was established by Moonje in 1935, will organise a route march and a salutation programme near the statue of its founder. The statue is located close to the New Delhi Railway Station. The event is likely to be attended by several dignitaries. The society's treasurer Atul Patankar told Catch that BJP MP Meenakshi Lekhi has confirmed her participation.

Resurrecting another Hindutva icon

Indications are that this event is in keeping with plans of RSS and associated organisations to revive the memories of key members of their pantheon. These organisations and theirs followers have been celebrating the life and deeds of several such leaders on a national level ever since the BJP-led NDA came to power in May 2014.

This galaxy includes Hedgewar, his successors M S Golwalkar and Balasaheb Deoras, founder of Jan Sangh - BJP's forerunner - Shyama Prasad Mookerjee and Mookerjee's successor Deen Dayal Upadhyaya, among others.

Moonje is best known for his deep faith in the need for Hindus to militarise, a goal for which he went all the way to Europe, and especially to Italy to seek inspiration from the founder of fascism, Benito Mussolini. Upon his return, he collaborated closely with Hedgewar in shaping the RSS and making military training compulsory for its volunteers.

Bhonsala Military School's sinister connection

The BJP is believed to have sought to distance itself from Moonje for a brief period in recent decades. However, in an indication of the growing significance of his inspiration for the RSS, Sangh-chief Mohan Bhagwat had addressed the platinum jubilee function of the Bhonsala Military School on 21 February, 2012. "We should give top priority to military education to students to make India strong," Bhagwat had said at the function.

Moonje met Mussolini in 1931. He was impressed by the ideology and structure of the Fascist party

The school itself has also been in the news for being named in the charge-sheet filed by the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad in the 2008 Malegaon blasts probe. The charge-sheet had claimed that the main accused in the blasts had been teaching at the school. One of these was Lt Col Srikant Purohit, accused of conspiracy for terror and murder, currently lodged in Nasik Central Prison. The charge-sheet had also alleged that conspiracy meetings were held at the school.

Moonje's fascination with Fascism

Moonje's fascination with military training and his admiration of Italy's fascists for the same comes out best in a paper written by Italian scholar Marzia Casolari. Documenting archival evidence, Casolari has presented extensive details of Moonje's trip to Italy between February and March 1931.

The paper says Moonje visited some important military schools and educational institutions there, but the highlight of his visit was the meeting with Mussolini.

Here are a few excerpts -

1. "The deep impression left on Moonje by the vision of the fascist organisation is confirmed by his diary: 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."

2. In his meeting with Mussolini, Moonje told him, "Every aspiring and growing Nation needs such organisations. India needs them most for her military regeneration...I shall have no hesitation to raise my voice from the public platform both in India and England when occasion may arise in praise of your Balilla and Fascist organisations. I wish them good luck and every success."

3. In March, 1934 Moonje, Hedgewar and Laloo Gokhale had a meeting to discuss the military organisation of the Hindus, along Italian and German lines. Moonje said in this meeting, "I have thought out a scheme based on Hindu Dharm Shastra which provides for standardisation of Hinduism throughout India."

Bhonsala Military School was named in the Maharashtra ATS' chargesheet on the Malegaon blasts

"But the point is that this ideal cannot be brought to effect unless we have our own swaraj with a Hindu as a dictator like Shivaji of old or Mussolini or Hitler of the present day in Italy and Germany...But this does not mean that we have to sit with folded hands until some such dictator arises in India. We should formulate a scientific scheme and carry on propaganda for it".

4. In 1934, Moonje began to work at the foundation of the Central Hindu Military Education Society, whose aim was to bring about military regeneration of the Hindus and to fit Hindu youths for undertaking the entire responsibility for the defence of their motherland, to educate them in the 'Sanatan Dharma', and to train them "in the science and art of personal and national defence".

5. "There is an explicit reference to fascist Italy and Nazi Germany in a document that Moonje circulated among those influential personalities who were expected to support the foundation of the school. It said at the outset:

This training is meant for qualifying and fitting our boys for the game of killing masses of men with the ambition of winning victory with the best possible casualties (sic) of dead and wounded while causing the utmost possible to the adversary. Moonje does not give any clear-cut indication regarding this 'adversary', whether it was the external enemy, the British, or the 'historical' internal enemy, the Muslims."

6. "...from Mussolini's Doctrine of Fascism, I absolutely disbelieve in perpetual peace which is detrimental and negative to the fundamental virtues of man, which only by struggle reveal themselves in the light of the sun, war alone brings up to its highest tension all human energy and puts the stamp of nobility upon the peoples who have the courage to meet it, Fascism believes neither in the possibility nor the utility of perpetual peace. It thus repudiates the doctrine of pacifism which is born of renunciation of the struggle and an act of cowardice in the face of sacrifice."

RSS and the multitude of organisations associated with it have long been accused of having a fascist orientation. Moonje's study of Italy's fascist organisations and the record of his attempts to emulate them through the RSS only further deepen this suspicion.

As a party participating in democratic electoral politics, why does the BJP want to associate with such an organisation? Backing the CHMES function is a double whammy of sorts, given the terror links that its military school is accused of.

First published: 22 November 2015, 0:04 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.