As the government prepares for another round of talks with protesting farmers Wednesday, RSS No. 2 and General Secretary of the organisation, Suresh (BhaIyyaji) Joshi speaks to The Indian Express.
How do you see the ongoing farmers’ protests against the new farm laws?
In a democracy, there are always many sides and every organisation has its own expectations. Generally, it is difficult to find common ground. That’s how various demands are raised. Those who have to fulfil these demands have their own limitations. It is not possible to fulfil all demands. I do not want to comment on whether demands are justified or practicable.
Democracy provides an opportunity to both sides. I consider both sides right (in) their place. Agitators must consider that whatever they can get through dialogue, they must accept. The government must think about what more it can give. Agitations run and they end as well. So a movement must consider the space it has, and the government should be mindful of its own. Because a government has to make several provisions, it has limited space, while those demanding have more.
So it is important to find that point where the two sides can agree and the agitation can end. Any agitation running for long is not beneficial. No one should have a problem with an agitation taking place. But a middle ground must be found. An agitation does not just affect people associated with it, but also impacts society, directly or indirectly. It is not good for the health of society for any agitation to run for too long. So a middle ground must be found and both sides must work to find a solution.
But it appears the government is not sympathetic to the demands.
Whenever a discussion is held, there can’t be an argument that my position is non-negotiable…The government is repeatedly saying we are ready to discuss, but (the protesters) are saying any discussion will take place only after the laws are repealed. How will a discussion take place like that?
So what is the way out?
I believe farmers must have a discussion with the government over issues they have with the laws. Until now, it appears the government is ready to discuss. There should be a positive initiative from both sides. If agitators also take a positive approach it will be good.
But how will there be a positive approach if those associated with the government call agitating farmers Khalistanis and Maoists?
Some people may be saying this but the government has not said this. All I will say is that a rigidity has crept into the whole issue. Who are the people behind this, must be investigated. Are there such elements who do not want a resolution to come through? This should be probed.
It appears you could not gauge anxiety over the laws within a section of the farmers.
It is the government’s job, not ours. But we can see that the agitations are not getting any support from the rest of the country. At many places, such as Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh, farmers are also speaking in favour of the laws. Even from among the agitating farmers, there are people in support. So there are two views within the movement.
What more can the government do to resolve it?
I don’t know. It is for the government to think. But if there are any more such issues which need resolution, the government must do it. But I don’t think in any country a law like this is repealed… If there are any positive suggestions, the government must consider. We just want the agitation (to) end quickly now.
A similar agitation was held a year ago against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) but the government did not engage with the protesters.
The Home Minister repeatedly gave assurances. But if you do not want to believe even a senior minister from the government, how will things move forward? He said no minority community will suffer and no one is being ousted from the country…If people start saying we do not have papers or evidence, then are we going to allow just anyone to reside in the country? Go to the USA, once your visa expires, you will be kicked out. India has not done that.
Does the government have the right to point out foreigners living in the country? That’s what the government was trying to do. What’s the point of opposing that? Yes, it must be ensured that a law must not cause any injustice to anyone.
The RSS was accused of pushing an agenda to reduce minorities to second-class citizens.
Is there anything in that law that says Muslims have to be treated in any particular way? Yes, it is our long-standing demand that Hindus have no other country to go to except India. So India has to think about giving citizenship to Hindus coming from outside. So many people from Pakistan, after suffering atrocities there, have come to India and are living on the footpaths in Delhi. And we are giving citizenship to Muslims from Pakistan as well. If the government was against minorities, it would not have given them citizenship.
How do you see the recently passed the so-called ‘Love Jihad laws’?
Is it OK to lure someone and then convert them? Today it is happening in many states. First declare yourself as a Hindu, start a relationship and then reveal your true identity while marrying. There is no objection to people falling in love and marrying. But there is a difference between love marriage and love jihad. On one side, there is love and consensus, on other side there is allurement. So if something is being done through falsehood, there should be a law to deal with it. Now how tough the law should be and who should be protected, only experts can tell.
The chances of its abuse and misuse are high.
Whenever such laws are brought, some problems arise. I won’t call it misuse, but one has to struggle to prove one’s innocence. Though a good law, what happens in (SC/ST) Atrocity Act? I am not saying it is being misused. But then the case drags on and later it is proven that it is not true. Till then both sides suffer. Whenever any law is brought, its implementation will cause some difficulties, which some innocent people will also have to bear.
Be it Suitable Boy or Taandav, cultural nationalists are back to getting offended.
When people come into this field (of showbiz), they should be prepared for critical examination. Fine, you have created something and it has caused a controversy. So give a solution. If you do something that is against principles and ancient traditions, there will be controversy… Creative freedom does not mean you will hurt the sentiments of any society on the basis of unproven facts. Even truth that can cause social unrest must not be told. There should be no compulsion to tell the truth. But show such things that do not cause misunderstanding in the society. No one should feel humiliated by your show.
But should it be done through FIRs and causing fear?
There are elements in society which try to cause fear. They are not part of any organisation. There are individuals and they are wrong. There is no need to cause fear. As long as you have the law, take recourse to it. But the idea of not causing fear must apply to all. It can’t be selective. If one side does it, the other side will also do it.
There has been violence and tension during the donation campaign for Ram Temple spearheaded by the VHP.
VHP is not doing this (violence). When a crowd gathers, some violent elements also creep in. I understand this gives us a bad name. So the organisation is working on keeping the movement safe from such elements. Whatever happened was not right.
In the past six years there has been an atmosphere where dissent is branded anti-national.
I don’t agree. Maybe it has happened sometimes, but this is not the norm. There is always opposition in a democracy. Everyone is not called anti-national. Even Opposition is not accused of that. If someone has accused the Opposition of being anti-national for asking questions of the government, it is not right. But there is also a background of the person who is asking the question. That also has to be seen.
How do you see India and China co-existing in the long term in context of the current tension?
Only time can answer that. If relations have to improve, that will depend on both sides. India has never shown aggression towards China or Pakistan. We have only answered their aggression. So we have always remained positive. Now they have to think about what kind of relationship they want with us. We will not mortgage our self-respect and sovereignty for it though. There should be cultural relations. As Atalji said we can choose friends and enemies, but not neighbours.
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