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RSS, foreign media and richness of India’s diversity
Opinion

RSS, foreign media and richness of India’s diversity

Hari Jaisingh

In his bid to build a shining image of his organization overseas, RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat had an interaction with 80 foreign journalists of 30 countries from 50 organisatons at Dr Ambedkar International Centre in New Delhi last month. He talked about various explosive issues like Article 370, NRC, mob lynching, etc.

It must be acknowledged that the head of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) is clear and candid in expressing his views on all controversial matters. His opinion matters since it is believed that it carries great weight in the BJP-ruled NDA government headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The Bhagwat exercise was meant to clear certain “misconceptions” the foreign media might be nursing about the RSS establishment. It is no secret that the RSS as a “cultural outfit” is the ideological umbrella of the ruling BJP at the Centre. So, it is but natural that Mohan Bhagwat’s utterances, directly or indirectly, would not go against the Modi establishment’s policies and postures in most sensitive matters like Kashmir after the scrapping of Article 370 and mob lynching.

Viewed in this light, I am not sure whether the RSS chief is able to build a “new image” for his organization overseas. At the same time, the foreign media persons have got some better understanding of the organization and its nationalist agenda. I wish to discuss some major points of Mohan Bhagwat’s pronouncements.

First, the RSS is of the view that “every Indian is a Hindu”.

Second, he said the much talked about concept of Hindutva (‘Hindu-ness’) is nothing but “diversity in unity”.

Third, while the RSS chief supported the abrogation of Article 370, which had given special status to the state of J & K, he wanted the government to allay the fears of the Kashmiris in this regard. Rightly or wrongly, I feel that the government has so far failed in this task.

This is unfortunate since this will undo much of the government’s positive thinking of removing the mental barriers of the Kashmiris vis-à-vis the rest of the country. Regrettably, neither the Centre nor the RSS seems to have proper grasp of the ground realities in the Valley. Hopefully, better sense will prevail on New Delhi’s ruling class in the months ahead.

Four, on the ongoing NRC exercise in Assam, the RSS chief made it clear that the NRC is not about expelling people, but about identifying those who are not citizens of this country. Well, I am keeping my fingers crossed till the whole exercise gets over.

Five, Bhagwat denied “anything such as lynching exists in the country”. He, however, condemned all forms of violence and said that RSS volunteers would “try and stop all such incidents”. It is a pity that both the government and the RSS should keep their eyes shut on various incidents of mob lynching in the name of cows.

Six, the RSS chief denied any ‘paralysis’ in the economy. I suggest that he needs to interact with fomer UPA Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh for proper understanding of the country’s economic slowdown. I feel the blame game on this count will not help the Modi government.

Seven, Bhagwat emphasized the need to create a consensus on the Uniform Civil Code (UCC) idea. I wish the government well in this exercise.

It may be recalled that the RSS had interacted with the Indian media personnel last year. The foreign press had been kept out then. I don’t know what had prompted Bhagwat about RSS’s image-building. He, however, must know that image-building is not an easy task. For this, he ought to know about sensitive areas that disturb foreigners. The Indian media is seen to be selective in sensitive areas of democracy.

No doubt, the Indian media has acted as a watchdog of democracy. But of late, media barons seem to have a misplaced understanding of the ground realities and the challenges ahead.

It needs to be realized that democracy flourishes best when the thinking class leads the people correctly and puts truth, and only unbiased truth, before the nation. Pretensions, sycophancy, fallacious reasoning, absence of scientific temperament, cross-communication and mental slavery to things foreign give danger signals to the healthy growth of the media.

In this context, I must say that the media personnel ought to address themselves to the complex issues facing the nation today. The media cannot be left to manipulators and operators who turn around the system to enslave it for promoting their distorted goals.

As for the economy, liberalization and globalization are fine to arrest its current slowdown and speed up the growth with a human face.

In fact, liberal values have to be part of our thinking process under all circumstances.

Healthy competition can certainly go a long way in improving information quality. For this purpose, the battle of ideas and communication as well as sharing of experience must continue by making full use of the technology to demolish mental barriers and prejudices.

I am saying this keeping in view Bhagwat’s interaction with the foreign media personnel so that a one-track approach to sensitive issues, like mob lynching in the name of cows, and tackling Kashmir’s ground realities could be handled in right earnest.

Distorted facts do not make a nation great. Prof Ashis Nandy says: The colonialists have gone, but the colonial mentality remains. And it is not going to change so easily unless the powers-that-be show some better understanding of the power of liberal Hinduism and adopt an open-mind approach to men, matters and issues facing the nation.

It is, however, necessary to draw a line between decency and indecency, an honest approach and falsehood, fair-play and unfair practices and public morality and immorality. I expect Bhagwat and Prime Minister Modi to induct a heavy dose of public interest detached from the politico-bureaucratic mindset and the Delhi-centric approach to critical issues of life the people are faced with.

What is regrettable is that the system and official thinking have failed to adequately respond to ordinary people’s hopes and aspirations for a better deal for tomorrow. A new image of the RSS and the government can be built if they look beyond their preconceived ideas. It ought to be constantly remembered by them that India lives beyond Delhi too!

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The facts and views expressed in the article are those of the writer.