“Untouchability is a… saddening and unfortunate aspect of our social inequality. Some thinkers opine that it was non-existent in the olden times, but at some stage, during the passage of time, it gatecrashed into our social system and took root. Whatever be its origin, all of us consider that untouchability is a terrible folly and it must, of necessity, be thrown out lock, stock and barrel. There are no two opinions about it. ..If untouchability is not wrong, then nothing in the world is wrong! Therefore, every one of us must aim to eradicate social inequality in every form” – Madhukar Dattatreya alias Balasaheb Deoras, 3rd Sarsanghchalak of RSS, in his speech delivered at Vasant Vyakhyanmala (a lecture series organised at Pune on May 8, 1974) on Social Equality and Hindu Consolidation
A statement by Sarsanghchalak Dr Mohan Bhagwat is again twisted and misrepresented by a section of the media that has created an uproar. Invoking the teaching of Sant Ravidas, he said in Marathi, “If any Pandit gives a scriptural justification of caste-based discrimination, then it is false”. Otherwise, a very progressive and egalitarian statement meant to promote social harmony.
The misreporting for the purpose of misrepresenting RSS is not happening for the first time. When the Sarsanghchalak explained the Western, contractual view of marriage and the limited role of women in social life in contrast to the Hindu civilisational thought where women have equal Dharmic rights, the media misrepresented it with a half quote. Many political leaders using Goebbelsian techniques made the repetitive attribution of the same. The same was true about the issue of reservation. The Sarsanghchalak ardently argued for the effective implementation of the reservation policy so that it would reach the unreached. He was, unfortunately, presented as anti-reservation since then for short-term political interests. After terming the RSS Brahminical for decades, the same section of media is trying to portray the organisation as anti-Brahmin.
Is this misrepresentation by accident or by design? Is it the problem with the Hindutva practised and propagated by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) or pertaining to a section of media and intelligentsia that sees anything Hindu with contempt and aversion?
In this case, the problem started with a section of Marathi media. Unlike Hindi, in Marathi, the Pandit word is not equated with the Brahmin caste. Still, the mischief was played to distort the statement. More importantly, the Sarsanghchalak was speaking at the event commemorating Sant Ravidas’s birth anniversary, a great social reformer from the Bhakti tradition. The central message of saintly figures like Ravidas Ji was that caste-based discrimination does not have a scriptural sanction of Hindu Dharma. Dr Mohan Bhagwat reiterated the same in the present context instead of discussing the nuances of how to reduce, minimise and annihilate caste-based discrimination and differences, the same media and intellectuals who never get tired of branding the RSS as Brahminical preferred to project it as anti-Brahmin. This mischief of misrepresenting RSS is rooted in the fundamental folly of the dominant intellectual class of Bharat that took pride in carrying forward the colonial legacy of painting anything Hindu as regressive and rightist and, therefore, promoting social hierarchy.
During the era of external aggression and subjugation, we had forgotten the inherent unity and continuity in our society across the region. Since its inception, the RSS school of thought has believed in reorganising the society on the civilisational edifice by reigniting those connecting threads.
Denouncing any form of inequality and discrimination, primarily based on birth, was a precondition for such an endeavour. RSS did precisely the same, not just in thoughts but also in practice through the Shakha and allied activities. Vishva Hindu Parishad, under the guidance of the Second Sarsanghchalak MS Golwalkar, brought all sects under the broad Hindu umbrella together in 1969.
They collectively passed a resolution that any form of caste-based discrimination does not have a Dharmic sanction. The then RSS Sarsanghchalak Balasaheb Deoras gave a clarion call of ‘caste is no longer a system and it must go lock, stock and barrel’ in 1974. This has been RSS’s mission and vision in action that has been in practice since 1925.
The problem is not with the Hindutva (Hinduness) represented by the RSS but with the folly of Intellectual Reductionism rooted in the colonial understanding of Hindu society and culture. Sadly, the same thinking that believes in social divisions and frictions as progressive and unifying diverse sections on common cultural ethos as regressive dominates the media space. It is absolutely fine to critically evaluate and analyse what the RSS is doing or saying. Misrepresenting and misreporting what the RSS and Hindutva stand for is a clear sign of intellectual dishonesty rooted in anti-Hindu bias.