Is Mohan Bhagwat – the patron of Hindu nationalist organization – RSS, which drove Narendra Modi to power, is striving to soften its image ahead of 2019 Indian elections. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, or the RSS, led by its influential leader Mohan Bhagwat, held an unprecedented three-day event in the capital Delhi to explain their views to both critics and followers. EurAsian Times looks at Washington Post Report.
- 2019 Elections in India: Why is PM Modi Demanding Simultaneous Elections?
- Hindu Organization – RSS Bars Pakistan From Attending Lecture Series in India
Mohan Bhagwat, the leader of the RSS, attempted to address all criticism which included that he leads a chauvinistic and divisive group — and rather said his group promoted a vision of India that embraces religious minorities.
“We believe in a country which includes everyone and does not exclude anybody,” Mohan Bhagwat said. “For the sake of uniting society, no one is a stranger to us, not even those who are opposed to us.”
The event was part of an ongoing drive by the RSS to move from the fringes of public debate in India toward the mainstream. The unusual outreach event came as the RSS has encountered intensifying criticism from India’s opposition parties. The opposition Congress party, last month likened the RSS to Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, asserting the RSS was trying “to change the nature of India” and “wants to capture its institutions.”
Under the Modi government, dozens of people — mostly Muslims — have been assaulted and killed by self-styled Gau-Rakshak’s translating to “cow guards” squads seeking to punish people who harm or slaughter especially cows. Members of groups affiliated with the RSS have also bragged of their ability to attack Muslims with impunity and insisted Muslims who marry Hindus are engaging in “love jihad.”
Bhagwat sought to distance the RSS from such episodes. Vigilante violence is a crime and should be punished, he said. He also maintained that the RSS vision of a “Hindu Rashtra” translating to “Hindu Nation” — does not exclude Muslims.
RSS – A Background
Founded in 1925, the RSS is the backbone of the Hindu nationalist movement and the forebear of India’s current ruling party, the Bharatiya Janata Party. Indian PM Narendra Modi spent most of his time as an RSS organizer. The RSS is known to have strong influence at the highest levels within the Indian government.
In 1948, the Indian government briefly banned the RSS after a former member assassinated India’s revered independence leader Mahatma Gandhi. It currently has dozens of affiliated groups operating under its umbrella, including a women’s wing, a labour union and a farmer’s union. Its members have worked to elect BJP candidates across the country.
Meanwhile, Mohan Bhagwat continued to describe a vision in which everyone born in India is considered Hindu by virtue of certain shared “eternal values” — despite their faith.