The RSS's Chanakya Neeti
The Rashtriya Swayamsevak
Sangh's (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat recently announced that it is a cultural
organisation and irrespective of the results of the general elections of 2019,
it will continue with its work. RSS is known to claim and distance the
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as per its convenience. It works relentlessly for
the BJP and uses state power to advance its Hindutva agenda, and coyly
distances itself when BJP begins to lose its popular mandate.
This has been a long-term
strategy of RSS, part of its Chanakya Neeti, to evaluate others but never allow its own work to be
scrutinised by the public. In a true age-old brahminical fashion, it considers
itself above society's collective gaze and suffers from a disdain of public
morality, even as it uses and routinely condemns it. It does not maintain a
registered list of its swayamsevaks (volunteers), and argues that a cultural
organisation is open to all.
RSS self-deluges itself of being
a cultural organisation that has nothing to do with politics but continues to
play a political, including an active role during the elections. It fuses
acceptable public norms with its insidious designs. None of their pracharaks who offer routine comments to news dailies ever
identify themselves. They believe, or rather would-have us believe, that they
don't crave for recognition and, therefore, wish to remain anonymous. Perhaps,
for the first time in television news channels, Desh Ratan, Raghav Awasthi and
Sandeep Mahapatra identified themselves as RSS ideologues or spokespersons. But
as the elections are drawing closer, while the latter two have disappeared, the
former is now designated as a political analyst.
Ram Madhav, a full-time pracharak is now the general secretary and a key
election-strategist for BJP. It wouldn`t come as a surprise if he gradually
disappears from public eye or returns to the fold of RSS. This is a strategy to
enjoy power without taking responsibility for their actions. Responsibility and
brick-bats are borne by either the BJP or other affiliates, often known as
fringe elements that are otherwise recognised as part of the Sangh Parivar.
Again, the affiliates are
distanced when it doesn't suit them, but continue the affiliation and tacit
support. This has been a routine practice that RSS brought into the BJP, with
its various firebrand leaders making incendiary and often insensitive comments
that are condemned or disowned by the BJP central leadership which has never
acted against any of them. As part of its Chanakya Neeti, this in a sense a mode of normalising a language, a
world view and even a certain kind of violence without directly confronting
with the counter viewpoint or owning up the inflammatory language.
As among many other standard
practices of the Sangh is its ability to shoot and scoot. It routinely blames
the Opposition of exactly what it itself is guilty of. It blames the Opposition
of being violent, communal, vulgar, conspiratorial, of speaking lies, indulging
in backroom machinations, intolerance, and hatred. Methods of the Sangh can be
understood from what they blame others of. This allows them to both nuetralise
the critique against them as well as creates confusion about who is doing what.
It creates a sense of detachment, disgust, and cynicism in the minds of the
ordinary citizen. This mode of disempowerment through detachment from everyday
politics and large-scale cynicism is perceived by the RSS as a precondition for
its authoritarian agenda to fructify. This is also the reason the RSS has
actively worked against the institutions of higher education.
Informed citizenry that has
self-confidence, especially from the lower rungs of the society, is a hurdle in
creating a hierarchical social order, where the RSS leads and the rest follows.
Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) came for special battering precisely because
of the role it played in creating elites out of the subaltern castes and
classes. JNU is disliked not merely for its ideological proclivities but this
social role of creating elite from subaltern groups that the RSS perceives as a
major threat to its centralised state structure without any kind of opposition
or difference of opinion.
The RSS, and much so the Hindu
Mahasabha, began essentially as social reform movements to transform practices,
such as untouchability, within the Hindu fold. Madan Mohan Malviya was
championing the cause of Hindu unity through social reform and social inclusion
of the depressed classes or then Harijans. However, with ideologue MS
Golwalkar, and the rise of the RSS after the 1930s, it took a turn to a
paranoid imagination of threats to the nation-state, which were essentially
anxieties of the possible liberation of lower castes, and the weakening of the
Hindu hierarchical order that would allow it be succumbed to Muslim rule. A
Muslim in many ways became a signifier of a declining brahminical order. This
paranoia, combined with an absolute claim over the ancient past, lends the RSS
legitimacy, in its own self-perception, in practicing retributive politics.
RSS perceives its strategy as
that of those wrongly displaced from the position of social superiority, first
by Muslim rule then by colonial modernity. RSS and its love of the ancient past
and 'Indian culture' are synonymous of its brahminical anxiety, led by the
Chitpawan brahmins of Nagpur. In course of time, this paranoia got
institutionalised as a deep sense of inferiority and an unfulfilled ego to
achieve the old kind of supremacy.
Colonial modernity in many
societies across the world creates a sense of subject-hood that suffers from
perennial inferiority. However, in the Indian context, brahminism adds a
dimension of exalted ego combined with an idea of natural superiority. This
inferiority-superiority dialectic finds itself articulated through criminal
subversion of all egalitarian principles and disdain for democratic practices.
Inferiority and diffidence then become part of the personality structure of not
just the so-called lower castes but also of the caste Hindus. It is, therefore,
difficult to generate alternative politics, and what the RSS is succeeding is
in generating a politics that drawing equivalence between various kinds of
inferiorities that eventually translate into a mass phenomenon of self-hatred
that is on the look-out for a target and Muslims become the 'vulnerable other'.
The global discourse of jihadand
aggressive neo-liberalism has only further boosted and justified this kind of
The writer is with the
Centre for Political Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi. He recently
authored the book, 'India after Modi: Populism and the Right'. The views are