Bhagwat should have condemned lynching in a more forthright manner; did well to support privatisation/FDI.
RSS sarsanghachalak Mohan Bhagwat’s annual Dussehra address has come in for flak given it is somewhat ambiguous in parts. While talking about lynching, Bhagwat says the “incidents have not been one-sided”, going by the transcript on the RSS’s official media Samvada, and that there are “allegations and counter-allegations”. Bhagwat is right in saying some reports of lynching are distorted/fabricated, but there are enough videos and other testimonies that make it clear that lynchings took place; so, why even bring in the possibility of some fake news since it makes it look as if he is defending the lynchers? Nor is it clear what the sarsanghachalak meant when he denounced such incidents being ‘branded’ as ‘lynching’; that is precisely what they were. Yet, Bhagwat’s address is also very clear in saying that such instances have “crossed the limits of the law and order,” and that “neither this tendency is the tradition of our country nor does it fit in the spirit of the Constitution”. No matter how “deep the difference of opinion” is or “howsoever provocative actions might have taken place”, Bhagwat rightly advises citizens to go to the police; he said the Sangh condemned such actions and that swayamsevaks were working to ensure that such incidents never took place. And, like prime minister Modi did earlier, Bhagwat talks of how “so-called leaders” create clashes between Hindus and Muslims, and “have made an industry out of their pursuits for self-aggrandisement”.
Given these statements, Bhagwat should ideally have just condemned the incidents and talked of how they were against both Indian traditions and Constitution, and not brought in the possibility of some of them being fake or distorted; after all, you do have fake allegations of rape and murder, but you don’t discuss the issues of rape/murder by saying there is a lot to be said on both sides of the case. When, according to Bhagwat, there is an attempt to “defame our country and the entire Hindu society” that “has to be countered at all levels” and “alertness is a constant necessity”, the RSS needs to unequivocally condemn such incidents. On a similar note, while it is true that the FIR against prominent citizens who wrote to Modi about lynching and mob violence was an action taken by a district court, had the government said that it didn’t agree with the way the court was equating criticism with sedition, this would have made its stand on dissent very clear.
And, while Bhagwat has done well to support the government on its policies like disinvestment and further liberalising of rules for FDI, the speech makes it clear the support is a reluctant one. To “strengthen the economy”, he said, “the government is compelled to take steps such as allowing Foreign Direct Investment and disinvestment of industries”. The government is bringing in FDI to make Indian industry more competitive and, in several cases, to improve the country’s export prospects or, as in the case of the oil sector, to reduce import dependence. Given how PSUs are bleeding the taxpayer and how their poor performance in areas where they dominate—like minerals—has meant large imports, the RSS chief needed to be more welcoming of privatisation and shutting down these PSUs. Over the last five years, Air India’s losses were Rs 28,952 crore despite getting Rs 17,320 crore of fresh equity from the government, BSNL’s Rs 39,879 crore, and MTNL’s Rs 14,145 crore. Saying the Sangh’s philosophy of swadeshi didn’t mean cutting off from the rest of the world is, of course, a good thing.