11 September 2000

The Sangh is Vajpayee's soul

11 September 2000
The Times of India

The Sangh is Vajpayee's soul

By Siddharth Varadarajan
The Times of India News service

NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee's declaration that no one
could take away his right to be a swayamsevak (volunteer) might have raised
eyebrows in political circles but he has only stated a point he has never
attempted to hide.

In February, he responded to the controversy over the Gujarat government's
order allowing its employees to join the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh by
saying, ``The RSS is not a political outfit. It is a cultural and social
organisation and I don't think objections should be raised on anybody
joining it.''

In May 1995, he wrote an article in the RSS organ Organiser titled `The
Sangh is my soul'. In it, Vajpayee described how he was drawn towards the
organisation as a student and how he decided, in 1947, to give up his
studies and devote his energies to the RSS.

According to Vajpayee, the RSS has a two-fold task. ``One is to organise the
Hindus...The other is to assimilate the non-Hindus, like Muslims and
Christians, in the mainstream. They can follow the faith of their own
conviction...But they must have a feeling of patriotism for this country''.
The prime minister's description echoed a fundamental tenet of RSS theology:
that all Indian Hindus are, by definition, patriotic, while Indian Muslims
and Christians have to be `assimilated' into loving their country.

Elaborating on the role of Muslims in India, Vajpayee repeated the familiar
RSS charge that Muslims have ``yet to learn the art of existing and
flourishing in a country where (they) are in a minority''. ``The Quran'', he
alleged, ``offers no guidance in this regard. It only talks of killing
kafirs or converting them to Islam. But they cannot do it always and
everywhere. How can they do it where they are in a minority? If they try to
do it, a major clash will take place and only the members of the minority
will be killed''.

Ironically, in August 1979, Vajpayee had written an article in the Indian
criticising the RSS for not doing enough to address the genuine
apprehensions of people. ``Its repudiation of the theocratic form of the
state was welcome, yet the question could legitimately be asked - why does
it not open its doors to non-Hindus...(and as a) natural
corollary...clear(ly) enunciate that by Hindu Rashtra it means the Indian
nation, which includes non-Hindus as equal members.'' To this day, the RSS
has never really answered that question, though in all fairness, Vajpayee
has never really bothered to ask it again.

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