Dr Mohan Bhagwat ji’s lecture has created a furore in social and political circles. There are two streams of negative reactions. One from the usual suspects whose political enterprise runs on dividing Hindu society, the other from newly awakened Hindus angered by years of mistreatment by secular establishment and the left illiberal politics, awakened by the RSS working tirelessly for 97 years for this purpose. Of these, there are two kinds of purists. One, those who consider themselves Savarkarites and think that the RSS has diluted its Hindutva by having open talks with Muslims and Christians. It’s worth noting here that Savarkar in his book said: “A time will come when being a Hindu may mean nothing but a person born in this land, when people have got over bigotry…” The other purists are traditionalists and ritualists who think that the RSS’s Hindutva is sham as it is not religious and ritualistic.
The speech of Mohan Bhagwat ji has left the Left in confusion. They are not sure how to react, except show scepticism. Who can oppose a solution that unites the people, except those whose agenda is to divide and break the society?
Mohan Bhagwat ji has quoted Sant Ravidas whose powerful influence on Hindu society and his views on equitable society created a huge impact. His Guru was a Brahmin, his followers included so-called upper caste kings, queens, including Meera Bai. However, the traditionalists claim that the RSS is trying to target Brahmins, though it is a misquote. They believe that Hindu society was divided by the British and had no casteist problems earlier, and we as Hindus had no hand in it. It is believed by most, including the RSS, that the misuse or exploitation of castes began due to distortions in society brought in by the lsIamist and Christian invaders. The other sad side of this truth is that ultimately our society accepted these distortions to perpetuate these divisions and exploit weaker sections. Nobody could have forced us to introduce untouchability, nor forced us to fight each other on the basis of caste. An author is criticised for presenting a history of Ranas because many believe that he does not present Ranas’ caste correctly. An author’s book is disputed hotly about Raja Suheldev, both by Rajbhars and Passis! Chhatrapati Shivaji took oath as a Hindu king designating his throne as Hindu Padpadshahi but many try to reduce him to only a Maratha warrior. Brahmin Peshwas fought relentlessly and selflessly under Maratha kings’ flag to create a pan-Bharat kingdom. But there is an effort to split hair over their legacy. These differences are our own gifts to ourselves.
“On February 5, 2023, Pujaniya Sarsanghchalak Dr Mohan Bhagwat was speaking on the occasion of Sant Ravidas Jayanti in Mumbai. In his address, he used the word ‘Pandit’, which means ‘Vidvan’ (Scholar). Based on the feelings of Hindu saints, Dr Bhagwat said, the truth is that Bhagwan (God) is omnipresent. Whatever the name may be, but the ability and respect are same and everyone is equal. Therefore, nobody is superior or inferior by birth. Scholars, who talk about caste quoting scriptures, is false” — Sunil Ambekar, Akhil Bharatiya Prachar
Sant Tulsidas, now attacked by casteists, was harassed and opposed by pandits (scholars) and the priestly class for writing Ramayan in simple Avadhi. Sant Gyaneshwar had to pass many ‘agni parikshas’ and suffer immensely before he was accepted as a Sant. Ironically, both sides in these cases were Brahmins. But the Hindu society has also shown its debt to these great saints through ages. Many saints who criticised our society heavily were accepted and the Hindu society reformed itself. We are the only society that is self-correcting and that is why we survive and thrive.
We, conscious Hindus, acknowledge that Brahmins are being targeted by the Left groups, because they sacrificed their lives to save dharma and knowledge. They remained in poverty and never sold their soul. Their genocide was measured in weight of their sacred thread ‘janeu’. Yet it is also true that we Indians follow the caste system even after converting to allegedly casteless religions. However, these are uncomfortable truths that we need to accept and rise above casteism of every type to create a unified, strong society. Is there a design behind Bhagwat bashing?
I have watched the speech of Dr Mohan Bhagwat ji at Sant Ravidas Jayanti. It is an outstanding speech; a compassionate plea for following his teachings and rise above caste and feelings of high and low, because God did not create these divisions. It was a 45 minute appeal to rise above caste divisions and work hard, respect dignity of labour and stand united. Out of this fine speech, one sentence is plucked out and a new controversy created. It is not the first time. A serious social activist would have gone through the full speech to understand the spirit before reacting, not passed angry comments on the basis of one mistranslated sentence.
Targeting of Mohan ji began the day people realised his grand vision of moving towards a casteless harmonious society. His call for ‘One well, One Temple’ and ‘One cremation ground’ is the call for such a society
Targeting of Mohan ji began the day people realised his grand vision of moving towards a casteless harmonious society. His call for ‘One well, One Temple’ and ‘One cremation ground’ is the call for such a society.
We recall the first famous controversy when he was quoted half way when he described how the West and orthodox people look at women. He had then gone on to explain that the Hindu society and the RSS don’t think that way, and men should forget about supporting women and guiding them – just let them be free and they can decide what they can do or achieve in life.
He was again targeted with a wrongly picked quote when he said that we have to relook at the reservation policy, and find out why the deserving sections of the society have not benefited from reservations and why a few chosen groups are cornering all the benefits for decades. It was a wake-up call. Instead, his words were widely misrepresented and he was made the scape goat for the defeat of the BJP in Bihar.
His support for decriminalising LGBT was not liked by many Hindus too, just like many Christians and Muslims. He was again targeted by such people for this support based on the Hindu world view.
His call to Muslims to join the national mainstream by owning their heritage, forefathers and history, and not be enamoured by Arabs with whom 99 per cent of Muslims have no relation has been ridiculed in worst terms and insults heaped on him. His appeal to Muslims to give up their supremacist attitude clearly shows that he is speaking from a position of strength and not a ‘secular’ mindset. His harsh critics, when asked, if they have any solution to the Muslims question, have nothing to offer except hate. National issues are not solved by negation and abuse.
He has been criticised for quoting Swami Vivekananda who said forget all Gods for next 50 years and worship and work only for the motherland. In the current controversy, his passionate call for unity of Hindus beyond casteism has been neglected by picking on one line out of a 45-minute address. Are these concerted attempts to stop him from being vocal?
RSS and Casteism
Anyone who has done any serious reading on the RSS, would be aware that one of the key reasons for founding the RSS was to reform the Hindu society, help it envision a larger goal of free Bharat on the strength of a united society rising above caste, linguistic and regional divides. The RSS’s conduct in public life with a casteless approach was appreciated by Gandhi and Ambedkar too. Ideas to move away from casteism were simple.
Bachharaj Vyas had joined the RSS during Dr Hedgewar’s time. When invited to the RSS camp, he said, “I don’t eat food prepared by ‘others’.” The swayamsevak told Dr ji to drop him. Dr ji asked him to let Vyas join and carry his own utensils. After one day, Vyas ji came to Dr ji and admitted to his mistake and joined other members in the camp. The same style was used by Shri Guruji to change a die-hard high caste host by taking him to another home, saying, “this is also my home.”
Shri Guruji earned the ire of Karpatri ji Maharaj when the latter asked him to implement varn vyavastha in the RSS, and Guruji politely told him that he should implement it first on his disciples and then think of talking to swayamsevaks about it. At another time he clearly said that varna vyavastha and jaati might have been good social structures at one time, but they were outdated now and should be dropped.
The VHP persuaded many sants and matham pramukhs to go out and visit dispossessed brethren in their homes. There are many cases, including Guruvayoor, where the VHP and RSS were able to persuade the temples to open their gates for the Dalit brethren
His signal service was persuading all the Mahants, Sants and most importantly the Shankaracharyas to pass a resolution in the first sessions of the newly founded Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) that said, “Hindavah sahodarah sarve, Hindu na patito bhavet” (Hindus are born of the same mother – so they are brothers -, and no Hindu is ‘fallen’ – all are equal.) It was a revolutionary statement coming from Hindu leaders including the Shankaracharyas who believed in varna vyavastha.
Balasaheb Deoras said, “If untouchability is not bad, there is nothing bad in this world. It must be thrown out lock stock and barrel.” He added that our forefathers may have taken sour water from their well. If we find a new well with sweet water, should we still stick to the old well? The Samajik Samarasta Manch was established under his guidance to spread the message of brotherhood between all sections of the society.
The VHP persuaded many sants and matham pramukhs to go out and visit dispossessed brethren in their homes. There are many cases, including Guruvayoor, where the VHP and the RSS were able to persuade the temples to open their gates and welcome Dalit brethren. It trained priests from SC/ST communities and also women.
The RSS passed many resolutions against casteism and made policies to help society get over this feeling of high and low. The Ram Temple movement saw all sections of the society come together as one, as Hindus, beyond caste and creed. The RSS has always promoted inter-caste marriages and its leaders have happily gone to such weddings to bless the couples.
A last anecdote before I close. I have heard this story first hand. A senior RSS pracharak was promoted to the post of Sah Sarkaryavaah (joint general secretary). Some newspapers picked up the story and claimed that he was promoted to overtake a ‘Dalit’ Sah Sarkaryavaah. The new appointee was stunned. He went and asked the named person known to him for many years, if he belonged to a particular caste. The person just smiled and kept quiet. This is the RSS – vision in action.