Cameraperson: Abhishek RanjanFor the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the Sarsanghchalak’s speech on Vijayadashami – which also happens to be the RSS’ foundation day – is the Sangh’s version of the ‘State of The Nation’ address.In the speech delivered at the RSS headquarters in Nagpur, the Sarsanghchalak lays down what he believes are the main challenges before the country, in particular the Hindu community, and provides his vision for the future.There was a great deal of focus on Sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat’s Vijayadashami speech on 8 October as it was the first RSS foundation day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s huge victory in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.Bhagwat’s speech needs to be analysed on two aspects:Has there been any change or dilution in the Sangh’s ideology?What, according to the Sangh, are the main priorities before India?RSS May Shun Hindu Rashtra Idea: Jamiat Head on Mohan Bhagwat MeetHas the Sangh Become More Inclusive?Recently, Bhagwat met Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind leader Maulana Arshad Madani.Given that Maulana Madani is part of the Darul Uloom Deoband, one of the biggest Islamic seminaries in the world, many saw the meeting as proof of Sangh’s willingness to engage with Muslims.After the meeting, Maulana Madani even told The Quint that Bhagwat gave him the assurance that RSS is willing to set aside its aim of a “Hindu Rashtra”.However, in his Vijayadashami speech, Bhagwat belied those hopes and said in clear words: “Hindustan Hindu Rashtra Hai (India is a Hindu Nation)“.Even regarding Islam, his views were no different from Sangh’s traditionally negative view.“Islam came to India through invasions,” he said in his speech.Most of the reports on Bhagwat’s speech went with the headline that he had called lynchings a “Western construct” that is being used to “defame India”.“If five-ten people kill someone from another community, these incidents are blown out of proportion... the Sangh is blamed, Hindus are blamed. This is a conspiracy,” he said.Bhagwat actually went many steps further than what the headlines suggest. Not only did he deny that lynchings are taking place, he actually said that lynching as a concept comes from Christianity and Islam.His exact words were: “There is no lynching in India... Lynching comes from the religious texts that came from outside”.What RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat Says vs What RSS Leaders Really DoMaking clear which religious texts he meant, Bhagwat narrated a story about Jesus Christ. “One woman was about to be lynched, Jesus came and said ‘you are stoning her because she is a sinner. But the first stone should be thrown by one who hasn’t sinned’”.“So, this word lynching applies to the area where this comes from. This is not from here,” he said.By saying this, Bhagwat not only blamed Abrahamic religious texts for being the source of lynchings, he also asserted that these faiths “are from outside India”, repeating what is an old Hindutva bias.Economy a PriorityA great deal of Bhagwat’s speech was focussed on the economy. That this would be his main focus was only to be expected, with industrialist Shiv Nadar being the chief guest of the Sangh’s foundation day function this year.“Fall in economic growth happens now and then. But why should one discuss this and unnecessarily create an atmosphere (of pessimism)?” he asked.He said that it was wrong to label the present state of India’s economy as “recession”.RSS’ Women’s Survey Results Align With Ideology But Why Hold It?“I spoke to an economist, who told me that recession is when growth rate falls below zero. We are above zero, so why should we call it recession?” he said.Bhagwat went on to reiterate the Sangh’s commitment to Swadeshi economics and asserted that it did not involve rejection of other economies.“If a particular item is available in India, why should we get it from abroad? If it is not available, we should first see if there is a way we can survive without it. If it is absolutely essential, then surely we should import it from other countries,” he said.Bhagwat’s focus on the economy and inviting Nadar as chief guest is important as it is the Sangh’s way of telling the Narendra Modi government to get its act together on that front.It also appears clear that the Sangh doesn’t want the public resentment against the government on the economic front to jeopardise its ideological projects.What came across in Bhagwat’s entire speech is the desire to project the Sangh as an inclusive entity and make it a hegemonic force in Indian society.This was evident when Bhagwat began his speech by stressing that this year is the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak, the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi and the 100th birth anniversary of Dattopant Thengadi.His invocation of a Sangh ideologue in the same breath as icons like Guru Nanak and Mahatma Gandhi was a clear attempt at projecting the idea that the Sangh represents India’s greatness.However, even though Bhagwat spoke about the economy and made statements like “India is for every Indian”, his speech betrayed that the Sangh’s traditional bias against Christians and Muslims is still intact.Betrayal or Pragmatism? 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