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‘Stick in Hand’: How RSS Chief’s Comments Encourage Mob Violence

Mohan Bhagwat must clarify: does he condone or condemn the brandishing of swords and guns at Hindu processions?

6 min read
‘Stick in Hand’: How RSS Chief’s Comments Encourage Mob Violence
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A wise saying in Hindi goes like this — “Kathani aur karani ho ek samaan, tabhi bante hain charitravaan” (a person acquires good character only when there is no contradiction between words and deeds).

One of the stated objectives of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), India’s powerful Hindu nationalist organisation, is charitra nirmaan (character-building). Undoubtedly, the RSS does pursue this objective with great dedication. RSS swayamsevaks are generally men of discipline and simple living. They are involved in a wide range of seva (social service) projects and are always ready to render help in times of natural calamities, regardless of the caste and religious identities of victims. Exceptions apart, they are also incorruptible. Even their ideological adversaries admire them for these fine qualities. This is why many parents send their children to RSS shakhas (the basic unit of its activities), hoping the kids would grow into men of 'good character'.

Whereas this is a positive and commendable side of the RSS, the same cannot be said about its commitment to keep its karni (deeds) faithful to its kathani (words). There is a great deal of dissimulation and dishonesty in what its leaders say and what they do, and, more importantly, in what they cause their large number of front organisations to do.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the pronouncements of the RSS chief, Mohan Bhagwat, and in his silent condoning – which actually amounts to approval – of all the ongoing anti-Muslim activities carried out by extremist Hindu organisations and mobs across the country.


Mob Violence Had Been In the Making for Months 

India is currently witnessing a steady and dangerous rise in communal violence. On Ram Navami (10 April) and Hanuman Jayanti (16 April) this year, Hindu mobs were seen brandishing swords, knives and guns in religious processions in various parts of the country. They raised provocative slogans in front of mosques. In some places, such as in Jahangirpuri in Delhi, they entered the mosque with saffron flags. In some other places, they hoisted it atop minarets.

In recent weeks, riots have taken place in Delhi, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka. Almost everywhere, the pattern is similar – Hindu extremists provoke Muslims, attack their homes and shops, and if they react, they are hit harder. In states where the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is in power – in Delhi, the police are under the control of the Central government – the police and civil administration have shown blatant bias and prejudice against Muslims.

All this has not happened out of the blue. For the past several months, many saffron-clad Hindu monks, who are an insult to the sacred tradition of monkhood, have made speeches calling for the mass killing of Muslims, that too at events misnamed as “Dharam Sansads”.

Maligning the entire Muslim community as “jihadis”, these fake sadhus and swamis have been urging Hindus to take up arms to attack them. The Bajrang Dal, Hindu Yuva Vahini and other extremist organisations inspired by the Hindutva ideology – and whose association with the Sangh Parivar is not a secret – have spread their tentacles in many parts of the country.


Communal Anarchy

The stormtroopers of these organisations have been openly calling for the economic boycott of Muslims, and even violently enforcing their threats. Most victims of such attacks are poor Muslims. In order to break the age-old tradition of social harmony and cultural syncretism, Muslim traders are being barred from selling their wares near Hindu shrines or near Hindu fairs.

Furthermore, it has become commonplace for Hindu mobs to raise their new war cry: “Hindustan mein rehna hai to Jai Shri Ram kehna hoga.” (If you want to live in India, you must say ‘Jai Shri Ram’). Many innocent Muslims have been beaten up in public places for refusing to obey.

Lastly, “bulldozer” has become the new favourite word of many Hindutva politicians. In BJP-ruled states such as Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, governments are using bulldozers to raze Muslim properties, with the least regard for the rule of law. Yes, action should be taken against encroachers and law-breakers. But why target only Muslims? And why not do so after the due process of law?


Bhagwat’s Mild Censure Has Had no Effect

While all this has been going on, what we have heard so far from Bhagwat is only mild censure — that too, only once. In a lecture on ‘Hinduism and National Integration’, which he delivered in February in Nagpur, the RSS chief said, “The Dharm Sansad does not represent Hindu ideology. Whatever came out of the Dharm Sansad were not the words and deeds of a Hindu mind. If sometimes something is said in anger, then it is not Hindutva.”

But what, according to him, is Hindutva?

“Affinity towards all is what represents Hindutva.”

Fine words, but his disapprobation has fallen on deaf ears. Hindu extremist groups have wantonly continued their bigoted activities.

If the RSS truly wants to stop such activities, it has the power to do so. But it is deliberately not exercising that power for the obvious reason that communal polarisation, which results in expansion and consolidation of the Hindu vote bank, helps the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), its political wing.

Such polarisation ahead of the upcoming crucial state assembly elections and the 2024 parliamentary election has become all the more necessary because of the growing public disenchantment over the Modi government’s economic mismanagement.

To divert people’s attention from the woes of their daily life, the RSS has been making statements that defy rationality. For example, within days of communal violence erupting during Ram Navami processions, Bhagwat delivered a speech with a highly problematic message. Addressing a gathering of saints in Haridwar on 13 April, he prophesied that the Sangh Parivar’s dream of ‘Akhand Bharat’ (re-unification of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh) could be achieved “in the next 10-15 years”. How will this goal be achieved? This is how he explained it:

“Everything will not be achieved at once. I do not have the power at all … it is with the people. They have control. When they are ready, everyone’s behaviour changes. We are preparing them; you also do it. We will walk together as an example, without fear. We will talk about non-violence, but we will walk with a stick. And that stick will be a heavy one. We have no ill-will, no enmity with anyone. However, the world only understands power. We should have strength, and it should be visible.”

Who Is the 'We'?

If we read between the lines, what emerges is a message that is not only self-contradictory but also highly disconcerting. He says: “We will talk about non-violence, but we will walk with a stick. And that stick will be a heavy one.”

Who is the “we” he is referring to? As he himself put it, it is the “people”. Ominously, the people who are inspired by the RSS are today walking fearlessly not only with a “stick” but also with swords, knives and guns in their hands.

Bhagwat says, “We should have strength, and it should be visible.” This is precisely what the followers of the RSS are doing. They are making the power of their weapons and hateful speeches visible and audible for all to see and hear, without any fear of the police or the courts.

What is also problematic about Bhagwat’s prophecy about having an ‘Akhand Bharat’ in the next 10-15 years is how the people and governments of Pakistan and Bangladesh will react to it, especially in view of the Sangh Parivar’s vile conduct towards Indian Muslims. The ‘Akhand Bharat’ concept of the RSS presumably also includes Nepal, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Maldives, Bhutan and Myanmar.

Does the RSS expect Pakistanis, Bangladeshis and others in South Asia to meekly agree to join ‘Akhand Bharat’ just because it wields a “heavy stick” and knows how to speak the language of “power”? The expectation is patently ridiculous.

South Asian Nations Must Work Together, But Not as 'Akhand Bharat'

Some kind of coming together of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and other South Asian nations in a confederal set-up – not in the form of ‘Akhand Bharat’ – is certainly desirable. It is both necessary and possible, provided such a set-up is anchored in the ideals of equality, peace, mutual respect, mutual affinity, mutual cooperation and shared prosperity for all, without any discrimination. But that dream can never be realised under the leadership of an organisation that ill-treats India’s own religious minorities, shows no concern for justice, security and dignity for them, and is hell-bent on destroying India’s social fabric and secular-democratic Constitution in order to transform India into a ‘Hindu Rashtra’.

India’s own Muslims, other religious minorities and a majority of Hindus will reject this divisive concept of ‘Hindu Rashtra’. They will never allow the Constitution to be changed in order to facilitate its birth. This being the unalterable reality, if Bhagwat believes that a larger ‘Hindu Akhand Bharat’ comprising all South Asian nations is going to be born on the world map in the next 10-15 years, he and his followers are entitled to their fantasy. But may India be spared all the bigotry, violence and destruction of our precious heritage that it will witness in the pursuit of that fantasy.

(Sudheendra Kulkarni served as an aide to former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and is the founder of the Forum for a New South Asia – Powered by India-Pakistan-China Cooperation. His Twitter handle is @SudheenKulkarni and he welcomes comments at

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Topics:  RSS   Mohan Bhagwat   Ram Navami Clashes 

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