Eminent historian Irfan Habib stoked a controversy recently by equating right-wing outfit Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) with the terrorist group ISIS.
“Intellectually, there is not much difference between RSS and ISIS,” he said while addressing a convention organized by agitating writers, filmmakers and intellectuals, who are miffed with the reports of growing ‘religious intolerance’ in the country.
This, I believe, is an incorrect and injudicious comparison. For the RSS, unlike ISIS, is not out on the roads beheading people for their ideologies, stoning them to death and burning them alive in order to spread its tentacles around the world. Needless to mention, the barbarity of the savage ISIS knows no bounds. Therefore, to suggest that both the outfits are similar is ridiculous to say the least.
The correct comparison, therefore, would be between the RSS and the Muslim League, two ideologies that sit on the far right of India’s political spectrum. They are two sides of the same coin, seeking Hindu and Muslim supremacy.
Likewise, some BJP leaders’ controversial remarks in recent days reek of nothing but immense hatred for a particular community. While Kailash Vijayvargiya said that Shah Rukh Khan’s heart was in Pakistan, Yogi Adityanath equated him with 26/11 Mumbai attacks mastermind Hafiz Saeed.
No prizes for guessing whether these irresponsible statements will end up uniting Indians or dividing them.
The problem with most of us is that we do not think before speaking and forget that excercising an economy of words is a virtue. When we compare RSS with ISIS or attack fellow countrymen for no fault of their own, it pushes us further towards the abyss of darkness. It is to be noted that Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), the political wing of the RSS, secured a major victory in 2014 Lok Sabha polls and currently has a stable government at the Centre led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
There are as many as 13 states in India where it either rules the roost or shares the power with other regional parties. RSS, like ISIS, is not a banned organization. Although following the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi in 1948, a ban was imposed on the outfit by the government, yet it was soon lifted in view of a lack of sufficient evidence showing its involvement in the former’s murder. RSS has over 50,000 Shakhas (branches) across the country.
The organizational network of the RSS, which claims to be a nationalist organization, is virtually unparalleled. For instance, in the last one year alone, it has established over 6,000 shakhas where its workers gather every day and discuss issues faced by the nation.
The correct comparison, therefore, would be between the RSS and the Muslim League, two ideologies that sit on the far right of India’s political spectrum. The Muslim League, led by Muhammed Ali Jinnah, was a communal outfit seeking a separate country for Muslims and a division of India along the lines of religion.
“Hindus and Muslims cannot live together and are two nations,” was the two-nation theory based on which the League fought its sanguine political battle for ‘Pakistan – the land of the pure’ and eventually secured it causing unprecedented and irreparable damage to India’s unity.
When I think of the Muslims League, my mind dwells upon the ‘Great Calcutta Killings’ that took place on August 16, 1946 which served to catalyse into violence the rivalry of India’s Hindu and Muslim communities. It was Jinnah’s ‘Direct Action Day’, to prove to Britain and the Congress Party that India’s Muslims were prepared ‘to get Pakistan for themselves by “Direct Action” if necessary’.
‘We shall have India divided,’ Jinnah had vowed, ‘or we shall have India destroyed.’
Never, in all its violent history, had Calcutta (now Kolkata) known 24 hours as savage, as packed with human viciousness as this one. By the time the slaughter was over, the great city belonged to the vultures. The League’s violence continued till it achieved the partition of India in the name of religion and created a country where minorities have almost no rights today.
The RSS and the Muslim League were two sides of the same coin, seeking Hindu and Muslim supremacy. Cadres of both the outfits were allegedly involved in the mass murders and rapes during and after the cataclysmic partition. When the Congress party was fighting for India’s independence, these two outfits were allegedly collaborating with the British.
One of the prominent leaders who influenced and shaped the ideology of the RSS was Vinayak Damodar Savarkar. Tushar Gandhi, the great-grandson of Mahatma Gandhi in his book ‘Let’s Kill Gandhi’, writes that Savarkar was the first Indian leader to publicly say that India could never be a united country; at the Ahmedabad convention of the Hindu Mahasabha, he stated that there are two Indias – a Hindu Rashtra and a Muslim nation. This was much before Jinnah’s Muslim League voiced the demand for Pakistan.
It was Savarkar who had, in 1931, first mooted the idea of forming a Hindu Sangathana, a militant Hindu organization. It was he who had, in 1942, mooted the idea of forming a Hindu Rashtra Dal – members of which would be the storm troopers of the Hindu Mahasabha.
Savarkar wanted to be the leader of the Hindu Rashtra and did not care for what the Muslims did with their Pakistan. Jinnah had similar thoughts. He wanted a Muslim Pakistan which would have nothing to do with India.
Only one man could stop them – Mohandas K Gandhi.
Savarkar and Jinnah hated him for this. Verily, the former was one of the accused of the murder of Gandhiji. However, the leader was later acquitted of all the charges in this regard. In a nutshell, the communal ideologies of both the RSS and the Muslim League are the very antithesis of the idea of a pluralistic, liberal India. They are more like each other.