NEW DELHI: Hinduness is not about what one should wear or eat but accepting others as they are, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat said on Tuesday, in comments that are significant in the context of the current political and ideological debate over intolerance and moral policing.
Interacting with diplomats, Bhagwat also spoke out against trolls, calling them aggressive, adding that their extreme expressions on the internet amounted to hitting below the belt. He also asserted that neither RSS nor BJP ran each other and despite interactions, the two organisations took separate decisions.
In a rare meeting, Bhagwat spoke to a group of ambassadors and diplomats from around 50 countries at an informal gathering organised by BJP general secretary Ram Madhav’s India Foundation. The RSS chief, who spoke on the activities of the organisation, spoke at some length on “Hinduness”, which he said accepted everyone, irrespective of what the person wore or ate.
Hinduness is about “accepting others as they are” and “Hinduness is the ever-changing quality of Hinduism”, said the RSS chief, according to a source who attended the session. His comments come in the backdrop of BJP and Sangh being accused of encouraging right-wing extremists like cow vigilantes and the saffron parivar claiming that it is being targeted selectively by political opponents.
But Bhagwat’s remarks that Hinduness is not about setting down dress and food codes, coming after PM Narendra Modi’s repeated warnings that vigilantism is unacceptable, mark out the Sangh’s official position and should be a marker for Hindutva outfits like VHP and Bajrang Dal.
The RSS chief also clarified that BJP and his organisation are distinct. “Sangh doesn’t run BJP, BJP doesn’t run Sangh. As swayamsevaks, we consult and exchange notes but (are) independent in functioning,” tweeted Madhav, quoting Bhagwat. The RSS chief added that the Sangh and BJP sometimes have a common agenda, but that is “natural and not engineered”.
Those who attended the session said several questions were posed, including what kind of work RSS swayamsevaks do. Bhagwat replied that RSS was in the work of “man-making”, and runs 1.7 lakh service projects in health, education, rural development. He reportedly invited the diplomats to visit RSS shakhas as well as the projects undertaken by RSS.