Under fire along with other BJP leaders for speeches against Muslims in Agra, Union Minister of State for HRD Ram Shankar Katheria says no one has the right to say things that “hurt the religious feelings of others”. The Dalit leader, professor and former RSS pracharak also describes JNU as a “prestigious institution” when many in the BJP have called it a bastion of “anti-national activities”.
Excerpts from an interview:
“We are not looking at it from a political perspective. Students are the future of our country. The wealth of our country is not stored in banks, our students constitute its wealth. JNU is a prestigious and important institution of the country. Uski garima, uski pratistha par kahin kisi tarah aanch nahin aayegi. [Its honour, its prestige will never be belittled in any manner]. Woh bani rahe. But if some people want to spread such [anti-national] messages, then I believe it’s wrong. Let them oppose the government. Kanhaiya Kumar spoke against Modiji, he can speak about anyone. But don’t speak against the nation. We are not saying they should join the BJP, why would we? Oppose the government 100 times, oppose Modiji 100 times, but don’t oppose the country.
The Agra slogans
“No one has any right to hurt the feelings of others, especially religious feelings, and say things that hurt such feelings. I have already admitted that whoever spoke… I also said so about Sadhviji [VHP leader Sadhvi Prachi], that she uttered wrong things, should not have. All others, whatever they spoke, we have no right to hurt the feelings of others. We belong to India, both Hindus and Muslims belong to India. We want both to come together and resolve the problems of the country, be it hunger, poverty and illiteracy. It [action against the guilty] will be taken by the party leadership. I have already said, jo galat hai, woh galat hai.”
Life with RSS
“I came in contact with the RSS during graduation. Gradually I realised the Sangh’s work is sacred, and one must dedicate one’s life to this sacred task. I also realised that marriage, job etc have no relevance. It was important to do something meaningful in life and follow the path already given to me. Hence, I became a RSS pracharak in 1988. In 1998, my father was killed, in 2001 my younger brother was killed. He had two young children. My mother was ill. I was concerned about my family. I talked to my seniors, they advised me to go back to the family system but continue as a swayamsevak. Later, I married and joined Agra University. Whatever good qualities I have, it’s because of the RSS. All the evils are because of me.”
Dalits and Mayawati
“I had a classmate in Etawah, Bhimrao Ambedkar. During the summer break, we would together go to villages for two months and study the condition Dalits lived in. We were influenced by Ambedkar… Kanshiram’s mission was also spreading in UP then. But when I came in contact with the RSS, I felt the Sangh’s work is more constructive. Mayawati sidelined the followers of Ambedkar, those running Ambedkar’s movement. If there is anyone who finished Ambedkar’s mission, the mission of Dalits, it’s Mayawati. She killed the social consciousness of Dalits. She has no democracy… no one can offer her any suggestion. Mayawati has assumed a feudal character, created an empire of her own, and damaged the cause of Dalits. Dalits are faring the worst on all indicators — Dalit children go to government schools, where teachers rarely visit. They have no land, no shop, get no respect… People are using Dalits for political gains.”
“I did my PhD on ‘The linguistic study of dialects in the border areas of Etawah district’. In the late 1980s, I spent 18 months in nearly 100 villages, taking in the intricacies of dialects. I found that tales that pass orally from one generation to the next inspire people, impact their lives… The advent of TV and English modified or destroyed oral traditions and dialects. For instance, people earlier knew of the life of Lord Rama from what elders had narrated, but when they saw Ramayana on TV, it was a different experience…”