The Mukherjee Episode - II

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 09 Jun 2018 11:21:41


Senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel, on Thursday, expressed his disapproval of former President Pranab Mukherjee visiting the RSS headquarters, and said, he did not expect this from him. 

- PTI

“We have often invited persons representing different thought-processes to our programmes, and will continue to do so. Our effort is to give space to other points of view. There was a controversy about Dr. Pranab Mukherjee’s visit to us, but there is no need to say anything about it”, said Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh chief Dr. Mohan Bhagwat, as he welcomed Dr. Mukherjee at the valedictory function of the Third Year Officers’ Training Camp at Nagpur on Friday.

- The Hitavada Staff Reporter

 “I have removed saffron colour from my wardrobe; I am ashamed of it”.

- Statement of a celebrated dancer in early 1990s

 “Are we untouchables? Are we not Indians? Don’t we work for an Indian cause? If others can have organisations to support their communities, then what is so unconstitutional about us creating an organisation for Hindus? ...”

- Senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader Mr. Lal Krishna Advani in 1977 when the RSS was  outlawed by the Government.

THE elements that opposed the acceptance of the invitation of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) by Dr. Pranab Mukherjee to address the valedictory function of its Officers’ Training Camp, were also the elements that had banned the RSS in 1977. And the crux of the issues raised by Mr. Lal Krishna Advani was -- Is the RSS untouchable? Has it come into existence through an unconstitutional channel? Can it not participate in democratic discourse?  Those who often criticise the RSS are almost suggesting that it is an unconstitutional organisation; that it does not stand on a legal ground.

The fallacy of their charge has been proved time and again. Yet, undeterred by that reality, some elements in India’s political and intellectual eco-system have continued to oppose the RSS as if it is an anti-national organisation, as if it is a narrow-minded organisation that does not think beyond the word Hindu. Their main premise is that when somebody utters the word Hindu, he is not secular.  Over the past four decades, however, colour of political discourse has changed dramatically, and the RSS and the BJP have gained a larger political ground for themselves. Suddenly, everybody has saffron in the wardrobe, and a nearness to some or the other person connected with the RSS.  Yet, there, of course, are some elements who want to continue to treat the RSS as untouchable. They still want to project the RSS as an unconstitutional organisation whose invitation is to be treated as a taboo. The Pranab Mukherjee episode has brought to fore this issue with certain vengeance.

But this has been a sad chapter in contemporary Indian politics. And unfortunately, a very undesirable effort is being made by certain sections of the political class to drive a wedge through various segments of the larger Indian community. The effort of the Congress party to declare Lingayat as a separate religion, the effort of the Maratha and the Patidar communities to seek reservation, the efforts to isolate the Dalits from the mainstream society are all parts of the same campaign aimed at dividing the larger Indian society, to weaken the social fabric of the country. The Pranab Mukherjee episode needs to be viewed and responded to from this larger perspective so as to understand the nature of domestic political discourse and electoral manipulations and machinations in India of today.

That Dr. Pranab Mukherjee has attended the RSS event and gone back, does not end the importance of the episode. Much to the contrary, the aftermath of the episode is going to tax the domestic discourse for quite sometime. For, no matter the actual outcome of the episode, no matter the good message the episode sent to the larger Indian community, the elements hostile to the RSS will continue criticising Dr. Mukherjee long after the event is over. For, it is in such opposition that certain elements in Indian politics draw their sustenance. And those elements want to treat the RSS as untouchable.

Let us not miss the fact that all such opposition and criticism make no impact on the RSS or on the common people who have accepted the RSS as a very Indian and constitutionally established organisation with equal right to participate in public discourse. Let us not miss the political reality that the RSS is gaining larger social acceptance every passing year since its inception in 1925 by Dr. Keshav Baliram Hedgewar, no matter what some vested interests might want to say. The Pranab Mukherjee episode brings to fore all these stated or unstated dimensions very capably.  This article is not being written as an RSS brief. The effort here is to showcase the changing reality of India’s domestic discourse over time. In fact, all the sections of Indian polity should give up obscurantist ideas and ideologies to oppose others on narrow grounds. In fact, it is time all the sections of the larger Indian community gave up pettiness of thought and action and create a harmonious social scenario in which respect for all points of view is the basic virtue. The Pranab Mukherjee episode brings to fore this real need of the Indian society. It would be a golden-letter day when the political class in India learns a little large-heartedness. And this applies to all sections -- without exception, without distinction.
May this happen.