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Banning RSS will alienate voters, feels Congress

By Renu Mittal
January 08, 2011 00:29 IST
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Striking a strident note, the Congress has renewed its attack on the Sangh Parivar asking the government to take strong and tough action against them, in the wake of a top Sangh functionary Swami Aseemanand admitting that he and his colleagues were involved in the Samjhauta Express blasts.

Describing it as "sanghi aatankwad", the congress spokesperson Shakeel Ahmed said that the country can no longer afford to ignore the role of the Sangh parivar, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and its affiliate organisations in terrorst activities and in spreading hatred.

Swami Aseemanand is the head of the Sangh outfit Vanvasi Kalyan Parishad. "The involvement of fanatic Hindu groups in terror activities has not only posed a grave threat to our internal security, it has also weakened India's position in the world on cross-border terrorism," said Shakeel Ahmed.

Asked if the RSS should be banned, Ahmed said, "ban or disband, but the government should take tough action and do whatever is most suitable."

AICC general secretary Digvijaya Singh, who has been the most vocal critic of the RSS and the Bharatiya Janata Party and their links with right wing terror groups said he had been raising the issue for a long time but most people did not take him seriously. Singh said that the RSS and BJP should introspect whether they should be supporting all such people instigating communal violence, hatred which has led to right wing extremist terror activities by RSS activists.

Digvijaya Singh said they (the RSS) are of the same ideology which killed Mahatma Gandhi, they never spoke up against any communal fanatic muslim organisation but always targeted the liberal hindu because they had nothing to do with the hindu religion. He said leaders like Veer Sawarkar and Golwalkar did not believe that Lord Rama was a god but only saw him as an adarsh purush (ideal man). Singh said they have used religion for their own political ends and poisoned the communal harmony of the country.

He said that banning an organisation does not help since it is the mindset which needs to be looked at.

Most senior Congress leaders are not in favour of banning the RSS though outfits like SIMI were outlawed after its members were found involved in terror activities. Previous Congress governments had banned the RSS thrice in the past--first after Mahatma Gandhi's assassination in 1948, then in 1975 during the Emergency and finally in 1992 after the demolition of the Babri mosque--but the Sangh Parivar has only grown in strength, refusing to be restricted or marginalised.

In fact the BJP's best

time came after the demolition of the mosque and hence the Congress does not want to ban the RSS again. Digvijaya Singh pointed out that the ban would not be effective as the RSS ran over 150 outfits and the need was to fight the communal ideology at the social and political level. "All liberal Hindus and Muslims should come together to fight the RSS and the BJP. They are the product of the same ideology that killed Gandhi," he said, congratulating the investigating agencies for exposing the inner working of these outfits.

Digvijaya has asked the BJP to stop obstructing and maligning the investigating agencies as they did when the late Hemant Karkare was probing Pragya Singh and others. "L K Advani and Rajnath Singh had even approached Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in Pragya Singh's defence. The BJP is committing the same mistake by defending the new suspects and questioning the integrity of investigative agencies," he said.

The Congress party's political resolution at the last month's plenary had said, "The role of religious fundamentalist organisations in challenging the security of the nation can no longer be ignored. The Congress calls upon the government to tackle this menace in the strongest possible manner and investigate links between terrorists and the RSS and its sister organisations that have been uncovered in some recent cases. Terrorism from wherever it comes and whatever form it takes must be dealt with firmly and effectively."

But Aseemanand's confession and the direct involvement of senior RSS functionary Indresh Kumar, in addition to the roles of middle-rung leaders like Sunil Joshi, has led to a section of the Congress asking for more substantive action. The Congress has so far done little in fighting the RSS; its much-hyped legislation on communal harmony has been pending for the last few years and the action taken on Liberhan Commission report too has been antiseptic.

The Congress which has in its midst, leaders with a more tolerant approach towards the radical Hindu organisations has always fought shy of taking on others head on, deciding to go by the policy of live and let live. But it was Digvijaya Singh who at last month's AICC plenary session delivered what can arguably called one of the strongest speeches against the "Sanghi aatankwadis", so much so that many congress leaders privately wondered whether it would cost the congress dear in terms of Hindu votes.

A senior leader admitted that while the Congress leadership has strong moorings in secularism, there is a vital section which believes that the party should not be too tough on the RSS for fear of alienating the hindu vote and it is this dilemma which leads to a situation where the party fails to act, letting decisions linger on.

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Renu Mittal in New Delhi