The Vijaya Dashmi speech of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat must be keenly analysed, not just for the worldview of the Sangh but, more importantly, for the impact that his words will have on the vast number of followers. His condemnation of the growing instances of lynching is welcome. However, it needs to percolate down to the ground level. Often, the self-proclaimed guardians of Hindu culture indulge in criminal activities and justify them while claiming to speak for the Sangh. By claiming that lynching is a western construct and that the stray incidents were being used to defame the country, we would only end up glossing over the problem. The need, however, is to first acknowledge the gravity of such mindless violence and then take corrective measures to prevent recurrence of such incidents. Interestingly, the RSS chief suggested a stricter law to punish those who resort to lynching. This should send the right message to the government to go after the lynch mobs with an iron hand. The lawlessness created by targeted violence will threaten the economy and progress. While Bhagwat was emphatic in denouncing lynching, distancing Indian culture from it and clarifying that no one from the Sangh was engaged in such activities, the onus is now on the vast network of Sangh Parivar organisations to take the message to the grassroots and ensure that peace and social harmony prevail. Since the RSS enjoys enormous influence on society and its adherents are now at the helm of the government, it becomes imperative for the organisation to make its ideological co-travellers accountable for their actions.
Diversity is India’s intrinsic strength and nothing should be done to weaken this social fabric. While Bhagwat emphasised that India being a Hindu rashtra did not mean that his organisation was anti-minorities, such a nuanced positioning is open to many interpretations and, more importantly, raises fears and sense of insecurity among the minorities. Because, what often percolates to the workers on the ground is that India is a country where Hindus have primary rights. The Sangh must ensure, both by its words and actions, that the country belongs to all and there should be no discrimination on the basis of religion. Targeted violence is a challenge that hits at the very roots of the country’s democratic ethos and must be nipped in the bud. Dismissing lynching as just another incident of crime would mean ignoring the larger dimension of the problem. The forces that are at play in this heinous campaign have turned ‘Jai Shri Ram’ into a war cry. Such weaponisation of religious slogan must be curbed at any cost since it poses a threat to social harmony.