ABVP’s National Organising Secy Sunil Ambekar says his book will dispel myths about RSS, lays out its relationship with BJP, says one needs to give Kashmir situation some time, explains Sangh’s concept of ‘Bharatiyata’, and talks about why history is important for RSS
LIZ MATHEW: What made you write this book on the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh now?
This is not the first book on the RSS. After the Idea Exchange programme (in 2017), Rupa, the publishers of my new book, approached me. The idea of the book was not mine. I discussed it with RSS office-bearers and then decided to write it. I am not a writer, I am a worker. But yes, I visit universities, and there I got a sense that people wanted to know about the RSS. Some people are curious, some people want to serve the country, and they think they can do it through the RSS… But they don’t know enough about the organisation. For them this book will be useful. It will also be useful for those who have formed a certain opinion about the RSS, without really knowing the organisation.
LIZ MATHEW: You have written that the RSS does not interfere in the BJP’s affairs. Has the BJP’s emergence helped the RSS or vice-versa?
Doctorji (K B Hedgewar) founded the Sangh as a social organisation. At the time, people were forming political parties and there were many political movements taking place against the British. He wanted to form an outfit to strengthen the society. So he founded the RSS as a social organisation. After Independence, when Syama Prasad Mookerjee and others came to him and said that the Sangh should become a political outfit, he maintained that the Sangh’s agenda will remain the same. So then he (Mookerjee) asked Guruji (M S Golwalkar) that if he formed a political party, will (the RSS) help. Guruji said that as long as our vision for the country is the same, we can give you some of our karyakartas. He gave some RSS men to Mookerjeeji, but maintained that the Sangh will not be involved in the day-to-day running of the party.
So the Sangh’s position is clear. At the time of the Emergency, the Sangh had some political involvement, but that was to restore democracy. And once that was done, the Sangh returned to its work. Now if people from the Sangh go and work in a political party and spread the Sangh’s positivity, it is a good thing.
LIZ MATHEW: What difference does the RSS see between Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s and Narendra Modi’s governments?
There will be a difference. This is the second (Modi) government, and because of his experience, leadership, understanding of issues, there have been a lot of positive changes. In terms of the difference between the two, the previous (Vajpayee) government was an NDA government, this government has a clear majority. It makes a difference.
SHYAMLAL YADAV: In your book you say that by 2047 the society and Sangh will become one, and that the country will not need the Sangh. Can you elaborate?
To understand these issues, one has to understand the Sangh better. Do we want a good government in the country? We do. Do we want a good political party? But the Sangh does not just want a good government and good political party. The Sangh is taking action to change many other things. The Sangh wants good professionals, good doctors, engineers… In every place, where there is corruption, discrimination… The Sangh wants good people everywhere. That is why the Sangh stresses on ‘man-making’. The Sangh wants people to get good entertainment, the Sangh wants good intellectuals, journalists… We want an atmosphere in the country where people can live with honesty, and have a sense of responsibility towards society.
RAVISH TIWARI: In your book you write, ‘The Sangh feels that every community and faith must be able to locate its history in India’. Why are people, the roots of whose faith can be traced to outside India, less Indian? Isn’t it exclusionary and divisive?
You missed out on what I wrote before these sentences. I was talking about reclaiming history. For instance, many people, many communities were part of the freedom struggle. There were people from Tamil Nadu in the Azad Hind Fauj. We don’t know about the people from the Northeast who have fought in our battles, and also for freedom. People want everyone to get their rightful place in history. If you talk about Muslims and Christians, 99% of them are from here. They have also contributed to the country. There were Muslims in Shivaji’s army. I have written in detail about this. Even if you take the Battle of Panipat, it wasn’t like there were Hindus on one side and Muslims on the other. There were people from both communities on either side. So it is in this context, that I have written that everybody should find their place in history. It is reclaiming history. You are taking it in a different context. Our history is a little exclusionary now, where only a certain section of people are given credit for the Independence struggle, or for fighting the Emergency… There are a lot of people who fought against the Emergency. Everyone should be given their place in history.
VANDITA MISHRA: Who does the Sangh attribute the BJP’s winning streak to? Is it the Prime Minister or have the people of the country changed?
In our democratic system, people vote for a leader. They look at the party also, but the leader is important. The main issue is that people’s aspiration, that had been suppressed since Independence, was waiting to come to the fore. People wanted all hurdles to development, such as corruption, to be removed. They wanted the country to move forward. I visit universities often, and I have seen a surge in this aspiration. So people were in search of a leader, of a party… In 2011, if you remember, people said ‘Sab party chor hain (All political parties are corrupt)’. Then people started a movement… So they were searching, and felt that this (Modi, BJP) model was suitable. And, in a democracy, a party is evaluated every five years. So in 2019, once again, people put their stamp on the BJP.
SANDEEP SINGH: Given the rise in unemployment, the economic slowdown, is the RSS satisfied with the development work done by the Centre?
The Sangh does not consider itself an expert on economics. It has been just a few months since the general elections. The people will evaluate the government. The Sangh does not do such evaluations on a day-to-day basis. There are Sangh-inspired organisations, labour and farmer groups, who look into such matters and give their views to the government. The government listens to them. They agree to a few things, disagree with some. If these groups don’t agree with the government, they also publicly protest against it. As far as the role of the Sangh in such (economic) matters goes… the Sangh works on the ground. We get inputs from people, what they feel… So we speak to the people and perform our role in the form of a social organisation, but it’s not on a day-to-day basis.
People like me visit universities every day. We hear students talk about their concerns. When they read about the economic slowdown in the newspaper, of course, they get worried… And these concerns have always been there among students. But, the students also feel that there is a change happening, new sectors are opening up, decisions are being taken, new schemes are being launched… So they are saying, ‘Let us wait’. They realise that the economy cannot be fixed in one day after the damage of so many years. So, in universities, I am also seeing patience. I am also seeing a lot of people getting inclined towards entrepreneurship. So I am very hopeful.
AAKASH JOSHI: Your book talks about bringing about a correction in education and history on the basis of ‘Bharatiyata’. How exactly does the Sangh define it?
We were under colonial rule for a long time and there were many changes made then — most in education. They set up an entirely new education system and till today we are suffering from a colonial hangover. We need to change that. For example, our students think that we have not contributed to science and technology. They don’t know that ‘zero’ is our contribution. If the students know of such things, it will help. Now, there is so much awareness about yoga because of the International Yoga Day. The whole world is now moving towards organic foods… All these concepts need to be talked about. The Sangh discusses things publicly, academics write about it, parents make suggestions… And changes (in syllabus) are not being done by the BJP government alone. Many changes were made by the Telangana government as well. Even in places where there are no BJP governments, changes have happened. I think people want to shed the colonial baggage. We cannot cut-copy-paste from Russia, China and America. We need to come up with a model keeping in mind our resources, potential, situations and needs. Based on that we will need an economic, education and employment model. That is what an Indian awdharna means.
SHYAMLAL YADAV: You have written in your book that Indian languages should be encouraged. Are you happy with the efforts the government has been making for this?
The Centre removed the ‘3-language’ clause from the revised draft National Education Policy (NEP) after an uproar, as this was seen as an attempt to impose Hindi on non-Hindi speaking states.
The 3-language formula has been there for a while. It’s an old policy… Sure it’s not completely implemented, we should discuss it.
SHYAMLAL YADAV: In 2013, 17% of the UPSC candidates took the exam in Hindi. In 2014, the number dropped to 2.11%. It’s 2.04% this year. So while on the one hand you are talking about promoting Indian languages, on the other you are creating a ruling class that speaks a completely different language.
A lot of the systems in our country are still in English. The main point is not to impose a language on anyone. All the developed countries in the world work in their own language. We started conducting work in a language that was imposed on us. This is not just about Hindi, but all languages of our country. Each one of them has the potential to communicate issues related to modern development. We have even suggested that a university be made to help the cause (of regional languages). Also, our shastras should be translated and made available in all Indian languages. I understand the topic of languages is sensitive; English is trendy. We are making efforts to ensure that all state and other boards have Indian language options.
LIZ MATHEW: You have mentioned in your book how funds are collected for the RSS. Does the Sangh have bank accounts? Who manages the money?
No donations are accepted for the Sangh’s work. Separate organisations accept the money but not the Sangh. There is no centralised system. Different shakhas are clubbed together, and they function like one independent shakha. They then accept contributions. At the end of the year, if some money is left, they are free to hand it to another shakha.
AAKASH JOSHI: There is a lot of deliberation on caste within the Sangh. RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat spoke about reservations during the Bihar elections. In his book A Bunch of Thoughts, Golwalkar is unequivocally in support of varna if not jaati. He says it is part of the Hindu ethos. Has the Sangh reached a stage where it is viewing caste ideologically?
The Sangh does not believe in the caste system. Now the question is how do we get rid of this system? A new system is needed to replace the old one. That is what happens in societies. But the Sangh can’t do that. People from society need to sit together and come up with a plan. The Sangh is working to create a conducive atmosphere for this. This is the Sangh’s priority for improving the Hindu society.
LIZ MATHEW: In your book you have been fairly critical of Mahatma Gandhi, whether it is about a party being centered around one personality, or his views on Partition. We have been hearing a few voices in the BJP, who are associated with the RSS, praising Nathuram Godse.
If Gandhiji and Doctorji’s views are being discussed, there is nothing wrong in that. They are two different views. Recently, Mohan Bhagwat also wrote a detailed article on the Sangh’s views on Gandhiji. One can disagree with someone’s views. What is wrong in that? The entire Sangh might disagree, or it could be one individual. But conclusions should not be derived from it on Gandhiji’s past, his life and contribution, or his greatness.
Secondly, on some people from the Sangh (being critical of Gandhi)… there are so many people in the Sangh. Not many people are talking like this. Everyone is taking Gandhi’s name. Now if someone has a Communist ideology, they are free to have that. It is also a thought process for the society’s upliftment. I might have a different view, we can have differences… And, what you have said (about the criticism of Gandhi), I feel the Sangh does not endorse it. It is clear from the reaction of the people. In 1947, Gandhi had come to a shakha. I have spoken about it at length in my book.
VANDITA MISHRA: What is your view on the lockdown in Kashmir after the abrogation of Article 370?
Every year J&K has remained shut for four months, six months. So many people lived in fear. Let’s wait. There is peace. The situation will not be the same forever, we should give it some time. Everyone wants normalcy to return soon. There have been inputs from Pakistan, there is terrorism across the world. The people of Kashmir have suffered for so many years. It’s such a big issue, we should wait for some time.
In the last six years, I have interacted with many students from Kashmir… There may be one section that wants terrorism, but there is another big section which knows the reality of Pakistan. There is a huge section of people who want to move forward with peace. In our country, not just Kashmir, every state has an identity. A lot of identities have synchronised in our country, and that is why we are one.
RAVISH TIWARI: Why does the Sangh lay so much stress on history? What is the need to remind people that we did this or that? In doesn’t happen in the West. Is there an inferiority complex?
The Sangh wants to uplift people who suffer from an inferiority complex. England was not colonised, neither do they have a history to be proud of. They have ruled the world for 200-300 years. We were colonised. When a country becomes independent, it establishes its pride. If you don’t have a history to be proud of, you can’t be confident. When any civilisation progresses, it turns to its past to look at things that were good. It also tells the younger generation what it lacks, so that they don’t repeat the same mistakes. There are so many museums across the world, but so few in India. Any country that is empowered, re-establishes its history. America took credit for the Second World War, and now Russia is rewriting it. They are saying they played a major role in it. So every country, generation and civilisation does it. It’s very natural. The ones that brush it under the carpet are the ones suffering from an inferiority complex.
RAVISH TIWARI: The Sangh is critical of Jawaharlal Nehru, but not Indira Gandhi. Why is that?
Neither of them is our enemy. Nehru was the first prime minister of Independent India. The criticism is based on issues. He also contributed to the fight for Independence. No one has any prejudice against him. Since he was the first PM, and stayed prime minister for many years, he took several important decisions. So he will definitely be mentioned. There is no grudge against him. But there should be criticism in politics. We spoke a lot about Indira Gandhi during the Emergency. We spoke about the war in Bangladesh. We also appreciate her. In the discussions in the Sangh, I have never felt any imbalance.