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Thank you, Pranab da, for the conversation

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Thank you, Pranab da,  for the conversation

Former President Pranab Mukherjee’s visit to the RSS headquarters reflects the Bharatiya tradition of acceptance; neither imposition nor appropriation

Despite the staunch protest by his own party, Dr Pranab Mukherjee remained resolute in his decision to participate in the closing ceremony of the Tritiya Varsh Sangh Shiksha Varg of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). His conviction in the democratic principle of open engagement is worth acknowledging with gratitude. During his visit to Nagpur, the former President visited Dr KB Hedgewar’s ancestral home and offered homage to a man he considered “a great son of India”.

He also paid his respects at Smriti Mandir, dedicated to the memory and service of Dr Hedgewar and Shri Guruji Golwalkar at the RSS headquarters and went on to place his thoughts before the gathered audience with unflinching honesty. Before the program and away from the camera lens there was a meet-and-greet program with senior RSS functionaries and special invitees, in which he participated with endearing simplicity. At the time of personal introductions, he suggested all present introduce themselves and, leading by example, offered: “I am Pranab Mukherjee.” For a man who needs no introduction, his simplicity was heart-warming.

Pranab da had come with a written speech in English whilst RSS Sarsanghachalak Dr Mohan Rao Bhagwat spoke in Hindi. Both speeches, however, met at the confluence of — Ekam Sat Vipra Bahudha Vadantior That which exists is ONE, sages call it by various names. Furthermore, Pranab Da explained very clearly that the Bharatiya concept of the nation based on a unique, integral view is entirely different from the state-nation concept in the West. He emphasised our 5000-year old civilisational history with eloquence, highlighting the beliefs embedded in our view of life — Vasudhaiva Kutumbhakam and Sarve Bhavantu Sukhina which are values of diversity, secularism and tolerance that are further enshrined in our Constitution. Dr Bhagwat also expressed the same views in different words. Instead of ‘tolerance’ he used acceptance of all. He emphasised that no Bharatiya can be treated as ‘other’ or alien as we all come from the same ancestors. Both stalwarts emphasised in their speeches that the national life of Bharat did not flourish on the basis of one religion, language or race but on the basis of a spirituality-based integral, holistic view of life and the values that stemmed out from it. Dr Bhagwat also clearly articulated that the “Sangh would remain the Sangh and Pranab da, Pranab da” as this is the Bharatiya tradition of acceptance; neither imposition nor appropriation but acceptance.

This very view of life and value system is reflected in our Constitution. This humane worldview is also our greatest inheritance. Our neighbour Pakistan (which was once a part of Bharat) also gave itself its Constitution at the same time as us. However, its Constitution does not speak of these values that are inclusive; it neither takes note of inherent diversity nor celebrates it. Now the obvious question that arises is that when both were one country and one people, then why did this distinction emerge going forward?

The answer lies in the very spirituality-based, integral and holistic view of life which we have inherited. Former President Dr Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan and Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore have described it as the “Hindu View of Life”. Pakistan rejected it and Bharat accepted it. Actually, our Constitution is not the reason for our liberal and inclusive values enshrined in it but the result of our age-old integral and holistic view of life.These liberal, plural values have not come to us from our Constitution but through our Constitution. As Kahlil Gibran writes in his poem Children — Your children are not your children.They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.They come through you but not from you. And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.

Similarly, we are traditionally liberal, secular and inclusive not because of our Constitution but our Constitution has enshrined these values because we have been like this since ages, for at least 5,000 years. Hence, it is our duty to honour and follow the Constitution. The RSS has stayed steadfast in this pursuit. Despite the unfair, unjust ban on the RSS imposed by the then regimes twice, the satyagraha carried out in protest on both occasions was countrywide, disciplined and peaceful; an unparalleled example of protest in the history of independent Bharat, and one that was absolutely Constitutional. No other organisation or party can claim such a history. But consider the dissonance — those who violate every tenet of the Constitution, take the path of violence, attack our own armed forces, and those who support divisive, unconstitutional activities are the ones who preach the virtues of the Constitution to the RSS.

On April 2 this year, the “Bharat Bandh” called only in six BJP-ruled States which witnessed despairing scenes of unprovoked violence was actively supported by Rahul Gandhi and the “secular-liberal” lobby, without any consideration for the Constitutional and democratic values propounded by Dr BR ‘Babasaheb’ Ambedkar and  enshrined in our Constitution. After Pranab da’s speech, those who had been anxious about what this engagement might reveal were quick to come up with sanctimonious summations that explained away this engagement. These reactions confirmed that the Left still has influence over the political and intellectual space of our country. This very Left ideology lacks space for dissent, liberty and tolerance — and being non-Bharatiya does have something to do with it. Left intellectuals discarded analysis and commented with farcical haste that Pranab da had shown the RSS “a mirror” by speaking of secularism and Jawaharlal Nehru from an RSS platform et.al.

It is important to note, however, that critics of Pranab da’s visit to Nagpur had nothing to say of Dr Bhagwat’s speech. It’s possible that they didn’t hear his speech; maybe it wasn’t worth their time. After all, that would be in sync with their elitist definition of ‘free speech’ which prescribes that all they say is correct and all else is falsehood. Essentially, they were saying ‘We are right and you are wrong’, on the lines of “Four legs good, two legs bad”, the famous analogy used by George Orwell in Animal Farm to expose the authoritarian tenets and hypocrisy of the communists. Hence, listening to “two legs” would obviously be blasphemy. The inclusiveness of Vasundhara Parivar Hamara (the song recited before the speeches in Nagpur) includes everybody, even those who practice intolerance. But those who believe “four legs only are good” would prefer to reside in the darkness of their ignorance.

In all those negative articles that followed the Nagpur visit, not one writer spoke of his/her own experience of interaction with the RSS as to be in conversation with the RSS is considered blasphemous and results in instant ostracisation by the “liberal left”, an oxymoron if there ever was one. Under such pressure, paying heed to what the RSS Sarsanghachalak says is not even an option.

(To be continued in these columns tomorrow)

(The writer is Sah Sarkaryavah, RSS)

 
 
 
 
 
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