‘Sangh Is Casteist’: Why a Dalit Who Went to Break Babri Quit RSS

A kar sevak who quit RSS due to casteism, Dalit author Bhanwar Meghwanshi records his time in the Sangh in his book.

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India
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(A special CBI court will pronounce its judgment in the decades-old Babri Masjid demolition case on 30 September, in which former deputy prime minister LK Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Kalyan Singh and Uma Bharti are among the 32 accused. In light of this development, we are republishing this article and video from The Quint's archives, which was originally published on 17 March, 2020.)

Video Editor: Sandeep Suman/ Purnendu Pritam

Once a kar sevak who wanted to demolish Babri Masjid, Bhanwar Meghwanshi eventually quit Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) after a few senior functionaries of the Hindutva outfit refused to eat food at his house.

Author and activist Meghwanshi chronicles his time in the RSS, from 1987 to 1991, in his book Main Ek Karsevak Tha which was first published in Hindi in 2019 and later translated to English by Nivedita Menon as I Could Not Be Hindu and published in January this year.

‘Sangh Is Casteist’: Why a Dalit Who Went to Break Babri Quit RSS
(Ilustration: Arnica Kala/The Quint)

How did you become a part of the RSS?

When I was 13 years old, I used to go to a field in my village to play and to exercise. Our Geography teacher used to ask us to gather in that field. For about one hour, we used to play games, exercise, chant slogans, sing songs and discuss some things. This continued for about 5-6 months after which I gradually realised that we were not just playing games in that field. It was a branch of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and we were all a part of that organisation.

What are the kinds of things the RSS taught you? Did they discuss other religions?

Initially, they used to talk about the greatness of our religion, our village, our society and our culture. They talked about how an Aryan’s blood is completely pure, how Hindus are loyal to their country and how India is our holy land, our birthplace and also our workplace. They told us that people of other religions have their holy lands outside India like Christians have in Jerusalem, Muslims have in Mecca-Medina.

Gradually, we didn’t even realise when we started hating other religions. It was embedded in our hearts and minds that Muslims are rapidly increasing their population. They marry multiple times, they produce multiple kids, they hide weapons in their mosques and they are very evil people.

‘Sangh Is Casteist’: Why a Dalit Who Went to Break Babri Quit RSS
(Ilustration: Arnica Kala/The Quint)

What was your role in the Babri Masjid demolition? Tell me more about your journey to Ayodhya.

(In 1990) When we left Bhilwara for Ayodhya, till Ajmer there were senior VHP and RSS functionaries who were accompanying us. When we took the train from Ajmer for Ayodhya, they made us board the train but didn’t get on it themselves. When I asked “What happened, even they were supposed to come with us?” they said that they will get more people and meet us in Ayodhya.

In that coach, there were some Muslim passengers who were also travelling. When we saw them we felt angry, that because of them Ram Mandir construction had been halted and they are travelling in peace while we have to stand and travel. So we started chanting slogans saying, “Saugandh Ram ki khate hai, mandir wahin banayenge”, “Bharat mein yadi rehna hai toh Vande Mataram kehna hoga”.

With such slogans and chants, we continued our journey but in between, we were stopped at the Tundla station and put in a temporary jail at Agra stadium. After spending 10 days there, I came back.

In 1992 when the mosque was demolished, I had left RSS by then.

‘Sangh Is Casteist’: Why a Dalit Who Went to Break Babri Quit RSS
(Ilustration: Arnica Kala/The Quint)

How did you feel when Babri Masjid was demolished in 1992?

I once wanted to demolish Babri Masjid myself but when the same mosque fell in 1992, I felt neither happy nor sad. I did not even take part in any celebration.

What happened that you decided to leave the RSS?

After the first karseva, we had an agitation for Ram Mandir in which two people were killed. When kar sevaks on an asthi kalash (funerary urn) yatra led by senior RSS and VHP leaders passed through my village, they refused to eat at my home. They said the saints who had come don’t know that it is a Dalit’s house. They said they will pack and take the food and eat it somewhere else. But they didn’t eat the food. In fact, they threw it away. When I got to know, it was a turning point which made me leave the RSS.

‘Sangh Is Casteist’: Why a Dalit Who Went to Break Babri Quit RSS
(Ilustration: Arnica Kala/The Quint)

You wanted to convert your religion after leaving RSS, right? Why did you not ending up doing it?

I thought I should not continue with the religion that the RSS boasts of protecting. So I thought of exploring options to convert. RSS had taught me that Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains are all part of Hinduism, so I didn’t consider that option. I had quit RSS but because they had embedded a strong feeling of hatred against Muslims, I did not think of converting to Islam. But since RSS used to be averse to Christians, I thought that was my only option. But when I saw the internal conflicts in Christianity, I wasn’t satisfied there either. Finally, I never ended up converting.

‘Sangh Is Casteist’: Why a Dalit Who Went to Break Babri Quit RSS
(Ilustration: Arnica Kala/The Quint)

How does RSS target Dalit, Adivasi kids?

RSS targets and admits Dalit and Adivasi kids into their organisation. Those kids who have no understanding or ideology. These kids are taken to the RSS sakhas and treated with respect. RSS senior officials sometimes visit the homes of the Dalit, Adivasi kids.

If Dalits have small fights with their Muslim neighbours in their villages, RSS would flare them up to create enmity between them. They would also provoke Adivasis against Christian missionaries.

Do you think RSS is a casteist organisation?

RSS is definitely a casteist organisation. If you see the RSS cadre, most of them are anti-Dalit, anti-Ambedkar and anti-Constitution. There is no Dalit or Adivasi in the decision-making body of the RSS because they are not allowed to rise to that level.

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