‘Soul of India at Stake’: AG Noorani Decries RSS at Book Launch
Scholar, lawyer and author AG Noorani launched his latest book The RSS: A Menace to India, a comprehensive, research-intensive deep-dive into one of India’s biggest and most secretive organisations on Tuesday, 2 April.
When asked if with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s seeming omnipresence in today’s times, can we afford to accept the organisation as a political reality, Noorani told The Quint, “With the RSS, no compromise! Fight to the finish.”
In a political climate where it seems creative freedoms are curbed and intimidation is growing, the publishers of the book, LeftWord Books, alleged they were being threatened by the Delhi Police before the launch.
“I asked them if I could quote the DP (Delhi Police) calling the RSS a political organisation,” Deshpande said with a laugh, adding that “they retracted immediately, but the calls continued.”
Can the RSS Change its Stripes?
Noorani told the rapt audience, “Why have I written this book when there are many others? Because some well-meaning people ask, ‘Why doesn’t the BJP become a non-communal, conservative party? Why doesn’t the RSS open its doors to non-Hindus?’”
He continued, “A constitutional lawyer once said, ‘People ask, why does the Pope do this or that?’ They forget that the revolutionary never becomes the Pope and the man who becomes a Pope has no desire to be a revolutionary.’”
The launch included speeches by a prolific panel comprising former Vice President Hamid Ansari, novelist Githa Hariharan and Founding Editor of The Wire Siddharth Varadarajan.
RSS’ Tryst with Politics
Despite claiming to be separate, the RSS has enmeshed itself in politics, especially in the current government. The ideology has seeped into common discourse. Vardarajan spoke on the incredulity of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's comments about Congress President Rahul Gandhi's decision to contest the Lok Sabha polls from Wayanad.
"There was the same central theme of Hedgewar or Golwalkar idea, that India is a country of Hindus and everyone else here is illegitimate.”
He added, “This statement is a blatant violation of Section 123 of the Representation of People's act that says appealing to voters on the basis of religion is a criminal offence. The EC is silent. Even the Opposition isn’t raising this manner sharply. "
Reacting to Modi’s comment on Congress linking “peace-loving Hindus” to terrorism, Varadarajan said, “Either he genuinely believes that what Godse did was not an act of terror, or he believes that Godse is not a Hindu.”
He added that Modi can get away with this, as “the RSS agenda also involves dominating institutions from the police to the judiciary.”
What is the RSS’ and Hindutva’s Youth Appeal?
Speaking to The Quint, Noorani said, “The RSS try to get the young, who may not be educated or informed, and they exploit religious appeal. They come from families that may not be very educated, and so they get attracted to the Sangh.”
Varadarajan added, “Let’s wait till the elections to see what the youth feel.”
He continued, “Yes, there would be some youth who are seduced by the propaganda of the RSS but by and large the RSS does not hold anything of great value to young people because it is a dictatorial organisation. They don’t believe in letting people live the way they want to live, they believe in controlling and regulating people’s lives.”
Any Redeeming Quality of the RSS?
Vardarajan told The Quint, “The short answer is no. You have to judge an organisation not its fringe activities but its core activities and outlook. The RSS says, ‘Our guys help during national disasters,’ but that is a fringe activity of the RSS.”
“And you cannot have the core activities being rotten and fringe activities somehow changing the character of the organisation. I think that if the RSS wants to be seen as a positive organisation it has to stop being what it is and they can’t do that as Mr Noorani said,” he added.
The Question of Caste
The RSS is often criticised for propagating Hindutva terror, however, the caste question remains unspoken.
At the event, Hariharan quoted a Dalit poet as saying, “There is no possibility of saying you can annihilate without breaking the backs of Hinduism.”
Besides this, however, the panelists also did not bring up the caste crimes other than in references to violence against minorities, where Muslims, women, Dalits, adivasis, tribals – basically everyone non-male, non-upper caste and Hindu – were clubbed.
Special attention to underrepresented crimes against caste and structural oppression would have clinched the discussions.
Nonetheless, like Hariharan says about the book, “AG Noorani offers us hope” to fight for our democracy.