In an open letter to NDA’s presidential nominee, Shamsul Islam has reminded him of conflicts of interest between the Constitution he is expected to uphold and the public stand of the RSS to which he belongs
Respected Ram Nath Kovind ji,
Namaskar, I must congratulate you for being chosen as presidential candidate of the Indian Republic by BJP. It is heartening to note that you have been chosen, to quote BJP president Amit Shahji, for being “a Dalit who has struggled in life to reach the position he is in today.” Your Dalit identity was also underlined by Ram Vilas Paswanji, a minister in the Central Cabinet, when he declared that any one opposing your candidature will be seen as “anti-Dalit”. In a scenario when violence against Dalits and minorities like Muslims and Christians (most of whom hail from Dalit stock) and their disempowerment has surged many fold, your candidature gives rise to hope.
However, it is claimed by RSS leaders that you have been chosen for being an old and seasoned RSS swayamsevak or member. It is being emphasised that you are a seasoned ‘Hindu nationalist’. We are informed that you donated your ancestral home in Kanpur Dehat to the RSS. Such affiliations do cause concern. Allow me to explain why.
The BJP MLA from Iglas Reserved constituency in UP, Diler ji, a Dalit with family links to RSS for two generations (whose father was also a BJP MP), while campaigning earlier this year, not only would sit on the floor but also carried his own steel glass for drinking water/tea when he visited homes of upper-caste voters.
Diler, a Valmiki, justified his desire to remain shackled in casteism by saying “Main apni maan maryada khatm nahin kar sakta. Zama na chahe badalta rahe.’ (I cannot break away from tradition. Let the world change, I won’t)”.
Significantly, neither RSS nor BJP condemned this self-imposed Untouchability nor stopped Diler ji from doing such reprehensible anti-constitutional acts.
With these credentials, I fear, there is going to be a serious conflict of interests between your beliefs in RSS ideology and being the highest constitutional authority of democratic-secular Republic of India. I put forward some of the serious concerns of mine for your kind perusal.
Conflict between oath as President of India and oath as a member of the RSS
If elected president you will be taking an oath which reads: “I, Ramnath Kovind, do swear in the name of God that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the Republic of India, and will to the best of my ability preserve, protect and defend the Constitution and the law, and that I will devote myself to the service and well-being of the people of Republic of India.”
But as a member of RSS you would have committed to fulfil the following oath:
“Before the all-powerful God and my ancestors, I most solemnly take this oath, that I become a member of the RSS in order to achieve all round greatness of Bharatvarsha by fostering the growth of my sacred Hindu religion, Hindu society, and Hindu culture. I shall perform the work of the Sangh honestly, disinterestedly, with my heart and soul, and I shall adhere to this goal all my life. Bharat Mata Ki Jai.”
Moreover, members of RSS are opposed to an all-inclusive democratic-secular India. The RSS English organ, Organiser, on the eve of Independence (August 14, 1947), editorially (titled ‘Whither’) underlined its belief in the two-nation theory that Hindus are a separate nation in the following words:
“Let us no longer allow ourselves to be influenced by false notions of nationhood. Much of the mental confusion and the present and future troubles can be removed by the ready recognition of the simple fact that in Hindusthan only the Hindus form the nation and the national structure must be built on that safe and sound foundation…the nation itself must be built up of Hindus, on Hindu traditions, culture, ideas and aspirations.” (Organiser)
Tri-colour as national flag vs the Bhagwa Jhanda
RSS before and after Independence has been allergic to the National Flag. Guru Golwalkar while addressing a Gurupurnima gathering in Nagpur on July 14, 1946, stated that it was the saffron flag which in totality represented the great Hindu culture. It was the embodiment of God: “We firmly believe that in the end the whole nation will bow before this saffron flag.”
Just on the eve of Independence the denigration of the national Flag by the RSS crossed all limits. Organiser in its issue dated August 14, 1947 declared a kind of war against the Tri-colour in the following words: “The word three is in itself an evil, and a flag having three colours will certainly produce a very bad psychological effect and is injurious to a country.”
Even after independence when the Tricolour became the National Flag, it was the RSS which continued decrying it. In 1960 Guru Golwalkar writing about the National Flag wrote: “Our leaders have set up a new flag for our country. Why did they do so? It is just a case of drifting and imitating…Ours is an ancient and great nation with a glorious past. Then, had we no flag of our own? Had we no national emblem at all these thousands of years? Undoubtedly, we had. Then why this utter void, this utter vacuum in our minds.”
Indian democracy vs hatred for democracy
India is the largest functional democracy on this earth. We have a democratic-secular Constitution which is in force for almost seven decades. But RSS hates democracy. Guru Golwalkar, most prominent ideologue of the RSS while addressing a group of 1,350 top level cadres of the organisation in 1940 had to say this about political system of India: “RSS inspired by one flag, one leader and one ideology is lighting the flame of Hindutva in each and every corner of this great land.”[i]
I would like to bring it to your notice that this decree of ‘one flag, one leader and one ideology’ was also the battle cry of Fascist and Nazi parties of Europe in the first half of 20th century. What they did to democracy is well-known to this world.
Indian Constitution decries casteism but RSS declares casteism as essential element of Hinduism and Hindu nation:
Indian Constitution provides a polity to the Indian Nation which is above Caste, Class, gender, race considerations. But Guru Golwalkar who demanded conversion of democratic-secular India into a Hindu Nation declared that casteism was synonymous with the Hindu Nation. According to him, the Hindu people are none else but, “The Virat Purusha, the Almighty manifesting himself. According to purusha sukta sun and moon are his eyes, the stars and the skies are created from His nabhi [navel] and Brahmin is the head, Kshatriya the hands, Vaishya the thighs and Shudra the feet. This means that the people who have this fourfold arrangement, i.e., the Hindu People, is [sic] our God. This supreme vision of Godhead is the very core of our concept of ‘nation’ and has permeated our thinking and given rise to various unique concepts of our cultural heritage.” [Italics as in the original]
Respected Kovind ji, I hope as President of India you will follow the constitutional oath and not the one obligatory in the RSS, you will be flag-bearer of Indian Nationalism and not Hindu Nationalism, you will defend democratic-secular Constitution of India against any attempt to enforce Manusmriti, you will resist any attempt to bring back Untouchability by glorifying Casteism as essential ingredient od Hinduism and Hindu nationalism, you will check denigration of Father of the Nation and glorification of his killers, you will not allow any mischief with the National Flag and Indian democracy. And finally, you will not allow present India to be converted to a Hindu Pakistan.
Wishing you all the best.
(The author is a former Professor in Delhi University)