The Akhil Bharatiya Pratinidhi Sabha (ABPS) is considered to be the highest decision making body of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). There is a growing influence, expectations, curiosity and speculations about the RSS. On this background, editors of Organiser and Panchjanya, Prafulla Ketkar and Hitesh Shankar respectively, spoke to Sarsanghachalak Shri Mohan Bhagwat immediately after the ABPS in Nagpur on how does the Sangh see all these developments. Excerpts:
Today the Sangh work has a growing acceptability. How do you view this?
The Sangh swayamsevaks reach out to all corners of the society. They work in various other fields too. Right away from Shakha to the society, different organisations and their own families, all of this is enveloped by their right conduct. They are characterised by their approach, inclusivity, transparency, simplicity and selfless attitude, and this leaves an extraordinary impact on the society. This increases the societal confidence in the Sangh. People may recognise some well-known faces associated with the Sangh from distance, but actually it is the swayamsevak living in their vicinity is the basis of this confidence. By observing the words and actions of the senior Sangh functionaries, by and large, people experience that they do what they say. They do not function discretely. This is critical for confidence building. The common people have started realising that Sangh swayamsevaks are trustworthy and they would work for the society, for the welfare of all and being with them they can also do well. Therefore, the society trusts. We need not do anything else, but to continue being better swayamsevaks to be true to that trust. The social expectations will gradually be fulfilled by taking the society along.
What would be the direction of the society and politics in the next one and a half years? Are we going through a major transformation?
Change is a continuous process. Yes, the atmosphere is changing all over, including Bharat. The country is more respected and venerated than ever before. Therefore, it is logical that ways of dealing with the state of affairs, both inside and outside the country, tend to change. Greater admiration would lead to greater influence. Societal conduct is also changing gradually. Especially, in the young generation we can see the same spirit and enthusiasm as it used to be during the freedom struggle. The spirit of do or die for the Motherland, that minimises the parochial interests, is being replicated by the youth today. They want to achieve whatever they wish with fair and transparent means, while detesting any kind of hypocrisy. They would join wherever they get transparency, simplicity and right direction. Moreover, decades after the Independence, we are maturing as a society with our collective experience. Naturally, all this leads us towards crucial changes, but one could be sure that this all would add up to positivity and optimism. Of course, we are undergoing a churning in the society and in the process as there will be nectar, even some poison also would be the outcome of it. Someone would absorb those toxics for the betterment of society. When Lord Shiva Himself is there to digest that poison, we need not worry. It seems the Sangh swayamsevaks will play a similar kind of role.
There were lot of speculations about major changes in the Pratinidhi Sabha. Not only those discussions were falsified, but some surprising announcements were also made. Why does Sangh leave people surprised when it is so simple?
It is not sufficient for object to be simple, even the subject who is observing that object also should be simple. For many reasons, that subjectivity turns even simple things into difficult ones. A simple problem in mathematics, which we can solve now in seconds, were very difficult for us in certain age, as our undestanding and focus was not the same. This is a first reason. Secondly, there are some people who tend to find tricks even in simple actions. Thirdly, some people develop this suspicion due to their previous experiences. Once they approached something in a straightforward manner get the contrary experience, then they tend to scrutinise every simple thing. There are some sincere people who have this inquisitive approach. They come up to us, verify whatever they have heard about us and then accept the reality.
Sangh is quite straightforward. But in outside world the Sangh type of functioning is not there. So, they tend to speculate. There will be some changes. There is nothing like big or small here. Yes, we do switch responsibilities and that is not really significant. The series of responsibilities is only a system to facilitate the smooth functioning. Everyone is a swayamsevak. When one has to work in the society, a certain formal structure is necessary and therefore, a system has to be put in place. Different kinds of responsibilities are to be shared. But an ordinary swayamsevak is as important as Sarsanghachalak or Sarkaryavah. Sangh means all the swayamsevaks together and all the swayamsevaks form the Sangh. As there used to be discussion “Who after Nehru?” someone asked Sri Guruji, “Who after you?” Guruji promptly replied, “Why not you?” He meant that the organisation (Sangh) was not going on because of him alone. Anyone can be there. Balasaheb Deoras, when entrusted with the responsibility of Sarsanghachalak said, “I do not have a natural talent like Dr Hedgewar, nor do have a towering personality like Sri Guruji. Whatever heights the Sangh work has reached, it is because of these two great personalities. I can do justice to this responsibility only on the basis of rare set of karyakartas with Sangh.” So, collectively many people carry on the Sangh work and change of responsibilities goes on as a routine. There is no differentiation in this at any level. This is a very normal practice in Sangh. Outside people consider it as a place of power or executive authority. There is nothing like that. All this happens with the consensus among swayamsevaks. They propose names, on the basis of which elections are held.
What is the basis of it and what is the process?
The process is based on the RSS Constitution that active swayamsevaks in the Shakhas elect their representatives, who further elect their provincial representatives. In proportion to those Prant level representatives, national representatives are elected. These elected members are called Pratinidhis. Along with them, Prant Sanghachalaks, Prant Pracharaks and all the above office bearers constitute the Electoral College. The election takes place as per the prescribed process. A name is proposed after considering everyone’s will and then it is seconded by others. When I was entrusted with the responsibility of Sarkaryavah, it was very sudden. There were many karyakartas senior to me. There were no serious reasons for a change of responsibility. But Shri Seshadri ji, who was Sarkaryavah then, said that he had held the post for four terms, so there must be a change. New people should come as it also brings fresh ideas, was his consideration. With the changing times, responsibilities do change. It is as simple as this. There is no personality cult in Sangh, but people do not understand this. Every individual is important, we take care of them, we consider it as the organisational responsibility, but the organisation is not personality based.
The canvass of the Sangh inspired work in different fields is very wide. Is it going to expand further?
May be. Sangh inspires the swayamsevaks. It must be noted that Sangh doesn’t make any action plan, swayamsevaks initiate a work. If it turns out to be good, we encourage them. If needed, some support is provided. There was no plan by Sangh to form the Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP). Some young minds planned it as per the prevailing conditions. Two organisations cropped up simultaneously. National Students Union was started in the Northern regions like Jammu & Kashmir and Punjab, while in the name of Vidyarthi Parishad similar work was initiated in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. Later, both the organisations thought that as both of them were started by swayamsevaks, working for the same objective, then why to work with two different names. So, they came together, and in 1949 the ABVP was formed. However, Sangh extended the first Pracharak to it only in 1960. Sangh would only organise Shakhas, swayamsevaks will take care of the rest. If they find something important and worthwhile, they will certainly undertake it and the work will expand.
How does Sangh manage and coordinate with so many organisations?
This is not to be done, it just happens. The samskars, actions and goals of swayamsevaks are the only common things. If these three things are there, then coordination and complimentarity naturally take place. We just ensure that originality of the swayamsevaks remains intact. Rest of the things take care of themselves. Sangh coordinates even with those people who are not directly Sangh swayamsevaks, but share the same qualities.
A resolution regarding Bharatiya languages has been passed in this Pratinidhi Sabha. Earlier, a resolution on mother-tongue was also passed. What is the fundamental difference and similarity between the two?
Both the resolutions are regarding languages, especially focusing on the Bharatiya languages. The earlier resolution was about imparting education in mother-tongue and therefore, it is more related to the Government policies. This year’s resolution is related to Bharatiya languages, dialects and even policies. It is more related to the social behaviour. There are some policy concerns that are reflected in the resolution. But we should respect all the languages and consider them at par with our mother-tongue. We should interact in our languages. There are suggestions pertaining to reading of traditional knowledge resources existing in Bharatiya languages. This is not only addressed to the Government. We have also appealed to the media that language should be used in its pristine form.
Today’s Sangh is not limited to Shakhas and grounds, but is also present in the virtual world. You have experienced this changing time. How do you perceive this?
This is only logical. Even though we remain few steps behind the soceity regarding use of resources and facilities, still we walk with the society. Deliberately we remain two steps back. Various services and facilities are useful, but they also have their nuisance value. Therefore, they must be used in a restrained way. We follow the same dictum. Whatever is necessary for the organisational work, we have been using that. First, we used to travel on foot, and then vehicles were provided with. We have seen the time when in the whole of Nagpur, Sangh had just one vehicle, which was kept for Sri Guruji’s use. Those were the days when the use of vehicles was very limited in the society, so may be 3-4 Sangh swayamsevaks used to have cars (Ambassador or Fiat) or motorcycle. For others, bicycle was the most affordable vehicle. With the changing social conditions, many swayamsevaks have vehicles now. This is a normal process. We make sure that we do not become slaves of these comforts and the side-effects of them are not entered the organisation.
How do you see the usage of apps and other social media platforms?
They are useful instruments and should be used as per their utility. While doing so we should also understand their limitations and side-effects as well. They can make you egoist and self-centric. Social media means me, my, mine and I have to express my opinion on each and everything. Even after knowing that my opinion is part of a collective whole, still without waiting for the collective opinion, I post my opinion. Many a times it leads to misunderstandings, sometimes with our own people, and then you have to delete the same. This happens with many people including swayamsevaks. Facebook by name itself represents your face as an individual and therefore, tends to make you more self-centric. Self-projection has its limited importance at individual level but not at the organisational level. Therefore, the Sangh has its Facebook page and Twitter account, but not mine. And I will never have. People working in the political field have a greater value of these platforms, but they also have to use it with caution. We should not be slaves of technology. We should use it in limits.
Earlier Shakhas, organisation and related issues used to be the focus of Sangh, now even in Shakhas social issues are getting more prominence. Is the Sangh changing?
This is not a change, this is a natural expression. Thengadi ji used to call it “progressive unfoldment”. In ‘Sangh Prarthana’ when we say, ‘Samartha Bhavatva…”, it means increasing the evolutionary strength. Sangh is instrumental in that process. The swayamsevaks are one as a collective whole and at individual level they work as an element of the Sangh and work for the cause with sincerity, dedication and purity. Earlier also it was the same. Then we were few in numbers so our work was not noticed. Since inception of the Sangh, swayamsevaks have been working during the national calamities. Just within a year of formation the Sangh, in 1926, swayamsevaks had worked hard to avoid any chaos during the famous religious fair that takes place at Ramtek near Nagpur. Since then this has been going on, but was not noticed. Now we have grown in strength and spread, therefore what swayamsevaks are doing and the way Sangh is functioning is everybody’s concern. We tell swayamsevaks in Shakha, our strength is increasing, now people of the village or locality in which a Shakha is working regularly should have affinity with the Shakha, they consider the Shakha work pious and therefore they have some expectations, we should strive to fulfil those expectations. As our strength has increased now, we are in a position to deliver the same. The original conceptualisation of the Sangh was for the same purpose.
Dr Hedgewar used to explain that generally a person who goes to office on time and comes back home after doing his work sincerely, without bothering about what is happening around, is considered as a gentle or straightforward by the society.Actually, a gentleman is the one who thinks for the society and is conscious of what is happening around. Dr Hedgewar himself was a living example of this. It was not possible to effectively contribute in social transformation then. Now it is possible, therefore we are doing.
There is a big change in this year’s Pratinidhi Sabha. Instead of four, there are six Sahsarkaryavahs now. Any specific reason?
This is a direct effect of the spreading Sangh work. Shakha and associated organisations have increased manifold. The Sangh work is dependent on human interaction. Earlier, there used to be an ample time to meet and interact with people. With the growth of Sangh, the functions were divided as Sharirik and Bouddhik. Later, more functional incharges were appointed. We have to allocate and share responsibility so that we can interact with certain number of people. We need to have more people at the top to take care of the organisation. That strength of sixty lakh swayamsevaks has reached up to the block level and now we are talking about reaching to the Mandal level. Other associated organisations manage their organisational functions, but we also have to maintain contact with them, meet them at certain intervals. Therefore, the number of Sahsarkaryavahs has been increased. There is a limitation to increase the number of Sarsanghachalak and Sarkaryavah, but number of Sahsarkaryavahs can increase. In future, if needed, different arrangements can be thought of. In the present situation, the number of Sahsarkaryavahs has increased among whom there will be a distribution of work with different focus areas.
Tripura is another noteworthy development. Is there any special or political reason to make Tripura as a separate Prant for the Sangh functioning?
Nothing special. As the Government looks at the regions from administrative point of view, we look at them from actual Sangh work point of view, terrain, connectivity and the flow of interaction among the people. This is the basis of our Prant structure. For instance, Arunachal; most of the public interaction is limited to the same region, so with the increasing work we considered it a separate Prant. The same is true with Tripura. The election has taken place just now but our consideration for this new Prant started two years ago. Goa is a different state politically, but for Sangh work it is part of the Konkan Prant. Vidarbha is not a separate state, but for Sangh functioning we treat it as separate one. For us, in Tripura, the Sangh work has increased, we have developed a team there to take care of the work and therefore, now it is considered as a separate Prant.
Bharat is the country of youth and largest number of young minds is getting attracted towards the Sangh. How do you see this flow of young and energetic human resource towards the Sangh?
Yes, youth are getting attracted and we would take them along and train them. As per their taste and ability, they will be encouraged to work in the national interest. Sangh also needs such people to spread its work in different walks of life. They would join, understand and experience. Once they are convinced with the thinking and working of the Sangh, they automatically will be active. This is an inevitable process.
In the present political scenario, there is an attempt to portray two kinds of Hindutva narratives. One what is called as original Hndutva and the other is aggressive Hindutva. How do you see this kind of differentiation?
We consider Hindutva as only one and what it does it mean, I had recently explained at the Rashtrodaya Samagam in Meerut. Hindutva is the set of values which we believe in. Satya (Truthfulness), Ahimsa (Non-violence), Asteya (not stealing), Aparigrah (non-possessiveness), Brahmacharya (consciousness of a higher ideal), Tap (Austerity), Shouch (Purity), Sontosh (contentment) and Ishwara-Pranidhana (Surrender to Almighty) if you believe; if you don’t then surrender to Truth. Gandhi Ji also talked about ‘consistent search for Truth’, that Truth is Hindutva. It is the same Hindutva, not necessarily Hindu society, about which Vivekananda, Subhas Chandra Bose, Gurudev Rabindranath Thakur, Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar, etc have spoken about. The expression of those values depends on the person and the situation. There was no word called ‘Hindu’ at the time of Maryada Purushottam Shri Ram, but He is still an icon of Hindutva. The principles that He practised were considered to be ideal and they are later called as Hindutva. On the other hand, Sri Krishna, who in a way broke all the norms of propriety of conduct but still He was following Hindutva. The same is true about Parashuram, who used violence and Karunavatar Buddha who practised and preached non-violence. All of them gave expression to Hindutva as per need of the then society. Shivaji Maharaj extended respect to Mirza Raja. He was also following the Hindutva.
Therefore, Hindutva is one. It cannot be different even if one looks at it with different prisms. I believe in Truth and non-violence, but somebody is attacking me, indirectly to kill the Truth and non-violence I believe in, then to protect those values I will have to fight. Whether to fight or not is not Hindutva, to live or to die for Truth and non-violence is Hindutva. To fight for and practice of Truth and non-violence is Hindutva. When to suffer and when one should not, can be an individual decision. That decision can be right or wrong. If one takes a wrong decision and fights, that fight is not Hindutva. In a wrong decision someone decides to keep quiet, then keeping quiet is not Hindutva. The fundamental values for which that decision is being taken is Hindutva. The talk of Swami Vivekananda’s Hindutva and the Hindutva of Sangh, assertive Hindutva and the moderate one, all this is irrelevant. The nature is of an individual being and not that of Hindutva. Human nature can be assertive or moderate, not Hindutva.
As there is a growing attraction towards Hindutva these confusions and distortions are deliberately created. This gravity towards Hindu thought is happening not only in Bharat, but all over the world. The proponents of Hindutva are getting natural benefit of it. To deny that advantage, divisions are being created. As a Hindu, we do not consider anyone as our enemy, nor do we consider anyone as alien. But for the sake of same Hinduness we have to protect Hindu Dharma, Hindu Sanskriti and Hindu Society. In the process, we may have to explain, we may have to fight, if necessary. That explaining or fighting is not Hindutva, but the fundamental values that we are carrying forward, on the basis of which we take a call for action, that is Hindutva. In every sense it is one. That is why in Meerut I said, “If Hindus become more kattar (fundamentalists), it actually means they will be more liberal”. In this sense, Mahatma Gandhi was a ‘Kattar’ Hindu. In one of his writings in ‘Harijan’ he declared that he was a ‘Kattar Sanatani Hindu’ in the same sense. Now how to practice and perfect that Hindutva is an individual decision. There is no differentiation in Hindutva. You can say someone’s understanding of Hindutva is wrong. You can say my interpretation and practise is right and others’ is wrong. There is no meaning in saying our Hindutva or their Hindutva. The society collectively will take a call about this and it is taking now. The larger collective consciousness of society is clear about what is Hindutva.
Whenever there is a favourable atmosphere, it brings lot of challenges as well. Amidst the growing strength of Sangh, how do you see these challenges? What would be your message for the swayamsevaks?
In a positive atmosphere, there are chances of being careless. Human mind obviously gets affected by the surroundings. Avoiding this natural sloppy route and being careful in the favourable atmosphere is the biggest challenge. We should stick to our fundamentals. There was a story in the 8th standard textbook of English. There was a Diwan called Ayyaz who was King’s close confidant, because of his skills, character and commitment. Even then, there were people in the court, who were jealous of him and experts in conspiracies. Someone traduced the King about him by telling that his Diwan goes to the Jungle at the outskirts of the city after midnight. We do not know what he does there, but he goes on a daily basis. Initially, the King did not believe, but when he heard the same story from many quarters, he decided to verify himself. The King in an ordinary dress secretly waited near Diwan’s residence. Diwan came out at midnight and the King followed him. He went to the jungle through a secret route and entered a lonely and almost ruined house. The walls were broken, there was no roof. He entered a room and in two minutes came out. Immediately, the King caught hold of him and asked what he did there. The King also said, “I trusted you, did not believe in what others were saying, but now I have seen with my own eyes. What do you do here?” He requested the King to accompany him and see himself. Diwan took him to the room with firelight in his hand. There was a small trunk there. Diwan opened it and asked the King to see himself. There was a torn coat in it. He told the King that on daily basis he went there, saw the coat and returned to his place. The King asked the reason behind it. Diwan replied candidly that when he came to the city, this coat was the only thing he had as a property. He could be a Diwan because of the King’s grace and his own skills. “I do not even look at such clothes now, wear very expensive ornaments, people respect me. In such a situation I do not want to forget where I come from,” he explained. He further added that he could travel this much because of his qualities and those qualities should not be rotten, that is why he daily looked at the torn coat.
In a favourable atmosphere this is the most important caution. It gives rise to expectations. Accordingly, one has to raise the standards, ability, understanding and everything. We have to be more open and inclusive. We not only will have to maintain our standards, but also will have to raise them further in a flattering atmosphere. We should never forget our basic qualities because of which we have reached here. Keep all those fundamentals in mind, while moving forward is my only message.