Days after his remark on a relook at reservations sparked off a political storm that has found an echo in the Bihar election campaign, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat today began his annual Vijayadashmi address by invoking Dalit icon B R Ambedkar. In his speech that marked the 90th year of the RSS’s formation, he applauded the Modi government for ushering in what he called hope; he referred to the “view that the media should be regulated while conserving their freedom” and, citing “imbalances” that have emerged after the Census data, called for a national population-control policy.
Avoiding any direct reference to recent controversies — Dadri lynching or writers returning awards — he said that “minor incidents” that are “exaggerated” cannot damage Hindu culture. “Chhoti moti baatein idhar udhar hoti rahti hain. Uska bahut bada karke chitra bataya jata hai (Minor incidents take place here or there. These are exaggerated and presented in a big way),” he said, adding that “Chhote mote prasang hote hain, Hindu sanskriti nahi bigadti…it is our eternal culture — Hindu culture — that accepts and respects all forms of diversity and which precisely forms the nature and value system of every Bharatiya.” Bhagwat called for dialogue with communities for peaceful settlement of disputes over traditions.
Comparing Ambedkar with two prominent ancient Indian philosophers, he said that “(Ambedkar’s) talent was a confluence of Acharya Shankar’s sharp intellect and Tathagat Buddha’s unbounded compassion”. He credited him for making provisions in the Constitution to remove social and economic inequality faced by weaker sections and praised Ambedkar for embracing Buddhism with his followers without attacking Hinduism.
“He (Ambedkar) made a lifelong struggle against the injustice of social inequality and made provisions in the Constitution thereby eradicating those discriminations from the political and economic spheres of our national life,” Bhagwat said.
His remarks on Ambedkar came after his interview to Organiser that the issue of reservation has been politicised. “We believe, form a committee of people genuinely concerned for the interest of the whole nation and committed for social equality, including some representatives from the society, they should decide which categories require reservation and for how long. The non-political committee like autonomous commissions should be the implementation authority; political authorities should supervise them for honesty and integrity,” he had said.
Terming Santhara part of “age old practices prevalent in the Jain community”, he criticised the Rajasthan High Court judgement that termed it illegal and said that such decisions should be taken by religious leaders. “To bring about changes in such matters without consulting the Acharyas of the respective sects about the reason, importance and philosophy behind such practices, will affect social cohesion and harmony and finally harm the nation…All such changes have always come from within. Any external attempt to bring about such changes has always ended up only in controversies,” he said.
On the media, he said: “There is a view that media should be regulated while conserving their freedom to ensure that no ill effect, knowingly or unknowingly, prevails in the society.”
Bhagwat also underlined what he called the need to review population growth in the country. “Facts and figures of last two Census reports and imbalances that have come to notice as a result are being widely discussed. Our present and future is getting impacted by same,” he said.
According to the recently released Census figures, the percentage of Muslims in the country’s population increased 0.8 percentage points between 2001 and 2011 to 17.22 crore or 14.23 percent of the total population. But this growth is slowing down — between 1991 and 2001, their share in the total population had increased by a bigger measure or 1.73 percentage points to 13.43 per cent.
“Whether current systems and resources would be adequate to provide employment and basic amenities to masses after 50 years? We need to rise above vote bank politics to formulate a holistic approach, equally applicable to all citizens, towards the population policy. Such a population policy cannot be enforced by our Governments or laws, all alone. Considerable efforts are required to tune society’s psyche to the same.”
Recently, BJP MP Yogi Adityanath had demanded a law to check the Muslim population growth. His official website ran an opinion poll on the subject and said that almost 98% had backed his demand.
Bhagwat called for a “comprehensive and firm” policy on problems created by international terrorism. “Hostilities by Pakistan, expansionism from China, rising fundamentalism and chauvinism in the world order, and unfair international diplomacy, resulting in rise of terrorist outfits like ISIS, are acting as a catalyst to already complicated and serious internal and external security of our country. Fostered by external powers and inspired by external ideologies, some people from within are walking the path of terrorism. It goes without saying that it is government’s responsibility to come out with a comprehensive and a firm policy to root out all such problems once and for all,” he said.
Praising the Modi government, Bhagwat said: “When we ponder over the present situation in the country, we get a very optimistic and soothing view. An atmosphere of disappointment and lost faith, which existed couple of years back, has evaporated. It has to be made sure that these positive vibes reaches the last person in the row.”
Applauding several schemes of the government including “Mudra Bank, Jan Dhan Yojna, voluntary surrender of cooking gas subsidy, Swachh Bharat and skill development,” he said: “Bharat’s esteem in the world has gone up many-fold in the last couple of years…many pro-active steps have been taken to improve bilateral relationship with the neighbouring countries, with successful results. It seems that the world is being introduced to a new modern Bharat.”