EDITED EXCERPTS FROM AN INTERVIEW
Why did you leave the Sangh Parivar?
I was with the Bajrang Dal for 16 years and served as the state president for four years until my resignation in 2009. During the 2008 church attacks, the state government faced a lot of flak. In order to save the government, they emotionally blackmailed me by saying they would put me behind bars for two days just to show the world that action has been taken. However, I ended up spending 42 days in prison. That was the turning point of my life as prison provided me a space to contemplate and reflect on my life. Even after my release, I took another year to come out of the Parivar during which time I was not involved in any organisational activities.
What is your understanding of Hindutva now?
Hindutva is a political strategy and it has nothing to do with Hinduism or the welfare or benefit of Hindu society. Playing on emotions, projecting wrong history and some negative points of the minority community, hatred is sown among the Hindu youth. It has been the strategy of the RSS to target minorities to consolidate Hindu votes for the BJP. When it was in the Opposition, the BJP raked up the issue of hoisting the tricolour at Hubli’s Idgah Maidan. By arousing sentiments, it created a statewide struggle, which led to communal clashes and lives were lost. But the same BJP government is in power and it is least bothered about this issue now. All these issues were raked for gaining political mileage. There is also a caste and class angle to it.
What is the caste angle?
Most of the top leaders of the Sangh Parivar come from the forward caste. None of their children are into active Sangh activities. Mostly, they are software engineers and well-settled. It is the youth from the backward and lower castes who fill the rank and file. And it is they who finally pay the price. Look at Gujarat, most of the youth languishing in jail for the 2002 riots are Dalits and people from the backward castes.
How much control does the RSS have on Bajrang Dal?
The VHP is a wing of the RSS and it is its job to keep a check on Bajrang Dal. And the RSS keeps a check on the VHP.
Can you give us some idea about how much of their politics
is influenced by local/national issues?
It’s mostly national. Earlier, the Ram temple issue was a turning point. It has been replaced now by issues like terrorism and conversions. These have become the rallying point to influence the youth. State issues play a factor but not that much. The major issue in Karnataka was of Datta Peetha. It was made out to be the Ayodhya of the south.
Recently, there have been several cases of Sangh activists
getting caught for their role in bomb blasts that were earlier ascribed to
Muslims. What is your take?
The tragedy is that the greater role played by the RSS hasn’t been exposed completely. It is fringe organisations like Sri Ram Sene and others who are accused or caught. Whereas in fact, the main brain behind all these is the RSS. I have been campaigning and telling people that due to the few instances and actions of fringe elements in the Muslim community, you cannot hold the entire community responsible. And my understanding says that the Muslims of this country are largely peaceful, except a few fringe elements. But, the larger threat to this nation is posed by RSS and organisations like them who want to control the Hindu society through their divisive politics.
Recently the Sangh Parivar held a Hindu Samajotsava in Hubli
and Dakshin Kannada, in which many ministers took part. What purpose do these
The BJP has lost its face due to internal bickerings and the exposure of several ministers involved in corruption scandals. BS Yeddyurappa is also threatening to break away from the party if he is not suitably rehabilitated. There is a fear among the BJP that if this happens they might lose the vote of two strong communities. Hence they are in a process of consolidating the Hindu vote bank as they will have to face polls in 2013. The recent incident of a Pakistani flag being hoisted in Sindhagi was meant to polarise the Hindu vote bank.
Is there any discontentment within the Sangh Parivar?
The middle- and lower-rank members are angry with the top leadership for siding with the government on issues like corruption. Their constant shielding and defence of top BJP leaders has brought discontentment among the workers. But since there is no place for dissent and questioning in the RSS, nothing much is coming out.
Imran Khan is a Senior Correspondent with Tehelka.com.