It is natural for the traditional Vijayadashami speech of the RSS Sarsanghchalak to get public prominence, especially when the BJP is in power at the Centre and in a majority of the States. The top slot that Mohan Bhagwat received in the media for his address to the gathering of the faithful at Nagpur on Tuesday did not come as a surprise. Besides, he did make some pronouncements which ought to have attracted notice even in the normal course. For instance, Bhagwat’s assertion that ‘lynchings’ is an alien concept, and in no way can it be associated with the Hindu society, ought to spur a debate. Given that stray cases of lynchings over suspected cow killings have allowed critics of the Sangh parivar to lynch it in the media and in the political space, Bhagwat’s disapproval of the horrendous crime is welcome. Lynchings of slaves in an earlier era in the West find copious mention in the literature of the time. There have been such incidents in India as well in recent decades but since the dominance of the BJP in the political sphere these have increased, though, to be fair, publicity such gruesome acts receive now is inordinately high than when these had occurred in the Congress regimes. In this context, Bhagwat’s counsel to always remain within the four walls of the Constitution sends out a message to cow vigilantes to not take the law into their own hands. He maintained that the Sangh had never supported such elements; in fact, perpetrators of such incidents must be dealt with sternly under the law. He added that the Sangh volunteers were expected to warn the ordinary people against lynchings. In this context, he also referred to the exaggeration of some such incidents while downplaying others, though provocateurs belonged to both communities. Bhagwat addressed the oft-heard charge that the RSS was a racist organization, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan said that in his address to the UN General Assembly last month. Most unambiguously rebutting it, he reiterated the controversial concept of Bharat or Hindustan, asserting that regardless of his or her religion all citizens were Hindus in their social identity, cultural affinity, etc., and enjoyed equal citizenship rights and duties, etc. On the recent abrogation of Article 370, the RSS chief while commending the government stressed that conditions be created for the return of Kashmiri Pandits and the restoration of their homes and lands. Removal of fear in the Valley was the first step for the Pandits to go back to their homes…there were still ‘internal enemies’ scurrying around but restoration of normalcy ought to be a priority for Kashmir to join the rest of the country in development.
Touching upon the economy, the RSS chief welcomed foreign direct investment and disinvestment of loss-making PSUs but in the same breath swore by self-reliance (swadeshi) in a globalised economic order. China did not become the second largest economy in the world with a powerful military by obsessing much over Swadeshi. No, it opened up its economy to foreign technology, foreign investment, pursued rapid education of its poor masses, enforced orderliness in public sphere. India lost the initial five decades to a closed socialist economic system of artificial controls on production and markets. Now the confused voodoo economics of the ruling parivaar, which remains suspicious of free markets, contributes to the economic slowdown. Undertaking a slew of top-to-bottom entitlement programmes, which heavily burden the public exchequer, the government has only increased the habit of dependency among the people. It was akin to giving the people fish for food, whereas the right way would be to help them to catch their own fish. Not all blame for the current slowdown can be left at the door of global problems, the US-China trade war, the Brexit etc. A skewed policy approach too is a major contributory factor. Without further unfettering the economy, without selling off loss-making public undertakings, without increasing the inflow of foreign direct investment, harping on swadeshi would make little sense in the highly connected national economy. We have to shed old home-grown shibboleths. China was no less nationalistic in deed and spirit but it adopted and adapted for fast-paced economic growth. The current Indian leadership is fiercely nationalistic, no doubt, but it lacks similar clarity in the economic sphere. And needs to heed expert advice instead of relying on empty shibboleths such as swadeshi.