In the 16th century Mughals invaded India, stayed back and then started spreading Islam in the country. Several Hindu families were converted by coercion and other methods. In 1608, British entered India as traders and slowly started occupying the country, spreading Christianity. Many Hindus were similarly converted.
This led to an existential threat to Hinduism. While savants like Swami Vivekananda espoused the rich philosophy of Hinduism and brought it to the attention of some parts of the world and tried to create sense of pride amongst Hindus, his valiant efforts had little impact.
Helpless, many concerned Hindus decided to build a counter force to protect Hindu tradition, culture and way of life in order to stop further erosion. Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh (RSS) was born a few years before India’s independence, catching the imagination of a section of Hindus to an extent.
While years have passed and several developments have taken place, even RSS was banned for some time in India, yet it remained a force to be reckoned with. Attempts to discredit RSS has continued, yet popular view gained that it has played a positive role in stemming the existential threat to Hinduism.
Till now RSS claimed it was essentially a cultural organization, functioning with the objective of conserving and highlighting the traditional value system of Hinduism. At the same time, several RSS members started showing interest in political activities, thinking that attainment of political power is an essential requirement to protect Hinduism’s glorious past.
A decisive change took place when pledged members of RSS, AB Vajpayee, and later Narendra Modi, became Prime Ministers. Modi has stayed on to the job after convincingly winning in the national parliamentary election for second term, enjoying reasonable level of popularity.
Earlier, an impression was sought to be created that RSS functions independently of BJP. But Modi has removed this “curtain” by laying the foundation stone of Ram Temple in Ayodhya at an official function.
An impression was sought to be created that RSS functions independently of BJP. But Modi has removed this curtain by laying the foundation stone of Ram Temple
The ceremony took place in the presence of RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat. The intention was to establish the fact and conveying the view to the nation that BJP and RSS are the same with regard to objectives and long-term goals. The veil that BJP and RSS are different has now been erased by no less a person than the Prime Minster of India.
Unlike earlier Prime Ministers who were extremely reluctant to be seen in public eye as wedded to Hinduism, Modi has demonstrated his determination to be seen and understood as a Hindu with strong faith in the religion and its rituals.
In several other countries in the world it is common for the governments to be officially associated with a particular religion, as seen in several Islamic nations. There are also countries where Christianity is the official religion. This has not been so in India. India calls itself as a secular country.
While theoretically India continues to remain secular, with all religions enjoying similar status, and those belonging to minority status even getting special privileges, it is for the first time that an Indian Prime Minister asserted the predominant status of Hinduism in India.
While the “secularists” in India object to this approach and stand of Modi, one wonders if there anything ‘unsecular’ with regard to the approach of Modi, as the basic concept of secularism remains intact.
A Prime Minister declaring himself as Hindu and adopting Hindu religious practices and his party being associated with another organization (RSS) wedded to the spread of Hindu philosophy does not mean that secular philosophy of India has been given up.
There appears nothing inappropriate in declaring that BJP and RSS share the same values and they complement each other.
*Nandini Voice for the Deprived, Chennai