Dear Shri Pranab Mukherjee,
Let me begin by asking you a simple question: would you have attended the RSS function at Nagpur if the Congress was in power at the Centre? What have you gained by becoming a caricature of your former self? I have heard about two reasons that prompted you to associate yourself with the secretive organisation.
One is that you want to be bestowed with the Bharat Ratna award. Another is that you want to become the consensus Prime Minister if the BJP loses 100-120 seats in the 2019 election and it emerges as the single largest party. There may be other reasons which the people are not aware of.
Whatever be the reason, your participation in the RSS function was indeed shocking to tens of millions of people. Now I understand why fourteen years ago, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi chose Dr Manmohan Singh, not you, as the Prime Minister of the country. She was shrewd enough to know that you could not be trusted.
Most people would have by now forgotten how you fell out with the Congress leadership at one time. When Indira Gandhi was assassinated in 1984 by two of her own bodyguards, you were not in Delhi and your first reaction was to find out how to reach New Delhi to be sworn in as Prime Minister. You were too half-witted to expect you to be her legitimate successor.
You were so cut up with the Congress and Rajiv Gandhi as Prime Minister that you formed a brand new political party to prove that you were something in Indian politics. What was the name of that party? Was it Rashtriya Congress Party? Did even a panchayat member join your party? It was the greatness of the Congress that it allowed your party to merge in the Congress. The merger was comparable to a devout Hindu pouring a jar of water as an offering to the mighty and holy Ganga.
The point to be noted is that you were a political nonentity and your entire political career rested on Indira Gandhi’s trust in you. It was she who brought you to the Rajya Sabha where you were a permanent fixture until you won one election to the Lok Sabha from West Bengal, again on the Congress party ticket. It was often mentioned that you as Finance Minister was the boss of Manmohan Singh when he was the Governor of the Reserve Bank.
If self-respect was an issue, you could have remained aloof from the government but you had no compunction in serving under the same Sardarji who once served under you. Again, it was the Congress which made you the President of India and not the BJP, which supported the candidature of the late PA Sangma.
Yet, you chose to defy public opinion and make the shameful trip to Nagpur. People tend to obey their children when they are in old age. In fact, the best cautionary statement I heard was made by your daughter Sharmistha Mukherjee who tweeted, “Hope @CitiznMukherjee now realises from today’s incident, how BJP dirty tricks department operates. Even RSS wouldn’t believe that you are going to endorse its views in your speech. But the speech will be forgotten, visuals will remain and those will be circulated with fake statements”.
I wish you were as sensible and politically astute as your daughter. The RSS is a 90-year-old outfit and every year a certain number of its cadres undergo the highest level of training at Nagpur. Nobody except the cadres noticed it. This time the whole print and electronic media were there only because you decided to go there as the RSS’ chief guest. You said that you would say whatever you wanted to say at Nagpur.
If you think that you said something great, you are thoroughly mistaken. It is a speech that you would have made anywhere and everywhere, whether you were a President or a Cabinet minister. Now let me make a confession. Sometime ago, I wrote in an open letter to the RSS chief to allow me to address his top leadership for 30 minutes on the ban on cow slaughter.
Either I would have been lynched to death or I would have returned convincing the RSS leaders that the ban was injurious to the Indian farmer and detrimental to the interest of the Indian economy. No, I did not expect an invitation as the RSS is not known to have opened its windows to let fresh ideas seep through them.
One image that will forever remain in my mind is you standing in attention as RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat and two RSS men, including a turban-wearing Sikh, doing the RSS salute, often compared to the Nazi salute or the Hitler salute, though they are as different as chalk and cheese. What did you see there? Some 700, potbellied men past their prime doing a ludicrous parade.
Have you forgotten that you were for five years, the supreme commander of the Indian armed forces, one of the best fighting forces in the world? Did you ask the RSS chief whom you addressed as “Sarsanghchalak”, as if he is a Field Marshal, what for is this parade and wielding of lathi? Who are their enemies against whom they can use their lathi? Did you ask him what right do they have under the Constitution, which you extolled in your speech, to use the lathi?
You mentioned Rabindranath Tagore in your speech. Did the function start or end with the national anthem the same Tagore composed? Did you ask Bhagwat what was the need for hoisting the Bhagwa Dhwaj (Saffron Flag) when we have the national flag?
If you had asked, he would have told you the RSS’ considered opinion, as reflected in an editorial in its mouthpiece the Organiser, “The people who have come to power by the kick of fate may give in our hands the Tricolor but it never be respected and owned by Hindus. The word three is in itself an evil, and a flag having three colours will certainly produce a very bad psychological effect and is injurious to a country”.
This is what they say about the flag that you would have hoisted a thousand times as a minister and as the first citizen of the country.
Did you notice that before you were invited to address, Bhagwat gave a cryptic message to his cadres. Let me paraphrase what he said, “We know who we are and what our strength is. We can listen to whatever our chief guest wants to say”. What he meant was that the RSS is a 90-year-old organisation and they will remain steadfast in their beliefs. They are like the leaves of Colocasia that does not allow water to remain on it.
That is the point. Except for the RSS uniform which has been evolving over the decades, the RSS ideology has remained the same. You extolled the Constitution in your speech. Do you know what they think about it?
“Our Constitution too is just a cumbersome and heterogeneous piecing together of various articles from various Constitutions of Western countries. It has absolutely nothing, which can be called our own. Is there a single word of reference in its guiding principles as to what our national mission is and what our keynote in life is? No!” Had MS Golwalkar been alive, I would have sent him a copy of a book written by my friend and Constitution enthusiast MP Raju who argues that everything in the Constitution is derived from the ancient texts of India. The RSS considers the Manusmriti, not the Ambedkar-drafted Constitution, as the text that should guide us.
I had once an opportunity to visit the RSS headquarters. They have a bookstall from where I wanted to buy Golwalkar’s books Bunch of Thoughts and We, or Our Nationhood Defined. I was told that the books were no longer in print. Do you know why? Because they contain statements which expose the RSS as an organisation modelled after the ones created by Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini and is out and out an anti-Muslim, anti-Christian and anti-Communist organisation.
Do you know that there is one fundamental difference in the definition of the state by most of us and the RSS. We consider the nation as a geographical area whereas the RSS sees it as the people who live in an area. But in its scheme of things, the people mean Hindus, while all others can live only as second class citizens. The day after your visit to Nagpur, a BJP MLA in Karnataka, Basangouda Patil Yatna, ordered the corporation staff not to serve the Muslims who did not vote for him.
He is not a greenhorn in politics. He was a minister of state in the AB Vajpayee ministry. The RSS has never accepted the Nationhood as defined by BR Ambedkar or Jawaharlal Nehru or Mahatma Gandhi. The RSS might not have killed the Father of the Nation but it was its ideology that encouraged Godse to buy an Italian revolver and shoot him point-blank.
Over-enthusiasm is the characteristic hallmark of a Neo-convert. You showed a similar tendency when you expressed a sudden desire to visit the house where Dr KB Hedgewar was born. You wrote in the Visitor’s Diary that he was a great son of India. What did he do? He took part in the freedom struggle and even courted arrest. But after he set up the RSS, he dissociated himself from the freedom struggle and devoted himself to the organisation. Have you read what he wrote about the Muslims and the Christians. He believed that “Hindusthan” was for the Hindus like Germany was for the Germans and France for the French.
Savarkar, who gave four letters of clemency to the British, was his hero. Throughout the British Raj, the RSS remained subservient to the colonising power and opposed the mass movements for India’s freedom in every phase of the struggle. However, there are countless inquiry commission reports which mention the nefarious role its members played in riot after riot in the country.
The RSS was banned four times, first during the British rule. This is how Sardar Patel justified the ban, “Speeches of the RSS leaders were full of communal poison… As a final result of the poison, the country had to suffer the sacrifice of the valuable life of Gandhiji. Even an iota of sympathy of the government or of the people no more remained for the RSS. In fact, the opposition grew. Opposition turned more severe, when the RSS men expressed joy and distributed sweets after Gandhiji’s death. Under these conditions, it became inevitable for the government to take action against the RSS.”
LK Advani has praised you for your attendance at the RSS rally. You can read his autobiography. It tells us how the RSS parades in Karachi gave a lot of confidence to the Hindu youth there. It does not tell us what impact it made on the Muslim youth there. Finally, did Advani get any security when he had to flee his native land?
Have you noticed any change in the ideological positions of the RSS? Have they repudiated what Hedgewar, Golwalkar and Savarkar preached? They no longer publish the books in question because they are inconvenient. Once they get a clear majority in both Houses of Parliament, they will attempt what they always wanted to do, declare India as a Hindu nation. Let there be no mistaking about it. Let me use a popular Malayalam saying to tell you that speaking about Constitution and Nehru’s definition of nationhood is like “chanting Vedas in buffaloes’ ears”.
A week after your speech, nobody will remember even a word of it but everyone will remember the fact that you tried to legitimise the ideology and the farcical practices of the RSS by being its chief guest. Just as some have already used Photoshop to raise your hand and salute the RSS flag, they will use your two-day presence in Nagpur for their propaganda purposes.
Now imagine how the American citizens would have reacted if Barack Obama had attended a KKK meeting or how the Germans would have reacted if a former German Chancellor had addressed a neo-Nazi gathering, ostensibly to “humanise” them. How I wish you had stayed away from the RSS meet and utilised the time to hear the ever-enchanting Rabindra Sangeet!
Yours etc(Published on 11th June 2018, Volume XXX, Issue 24)