On Wednesday, May 28, when the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) jumped into the Article 370 debate, spurred by the comments of newly appointed MoS (science and technology) in the PMO, Jitender Singh, it was only on expected lines.
A day earlier, Jitender (who later issued a denial) had stated that the Prime Minister’s office had already started work on revoking Article 370. Naturally, his comments invited not just criticism but even some stern warning from Jammu and Kashmir CM Omar Abdullah. While the new MoS withdrew his statement, RSS spokesperson Ram Madhav took to Twitter to criticise Omar. In two consecutive tweets posted on May 28, Madhav asserted the RSS view: “J&K won’t be part of India? Is Omar thinking it’s his parental estate? 370 or no 370, J&K has been and will always be an integral part of India.”
Meanwhile, even though RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat was at the Sangh’s Delhi headquarters in Jhandewala for a day, nothing was offered on the subject by way of comment. Sources explained the RSS chief’s silence, “The Sangh’s stand on Article 370 remains unchanged. There is nothing new to add.” A senior pracharak in Nagpur told Outlook, “The RSS has always said that Article 370 must be scrapped. The issue finds mention in the BJP’s poll manifesto too.” He further added, “We will wait for the party (BJP) to make its stand on the matter clear.”
Would a wait and watch approach mean that the RSS is softening its stand on J&K? Not really, insiders confirm. At best, they say, it only means that the Sangh is willing to give the BJP a chance to do its bit. A Sangh leader said, “We are not in a hurry to either repeal Article 370 or even push for it. Let there be a debate and discussion on its relevance. After all, in a democracy, debate and discussion are important. There is a need to convince people about it.”
RSS ideologue M.G. Vaidya says that there is no harm in discussing the issue and the government must interact with the people of J&K and Ladakh on the same. Vaidya adds, “Article 370 was a temporary provision in the Constitution, anyway it’s been diluted since 1954.”
For the RSS and the BJP, Article 370 will always remain an emotive issue. Election after election, the BJP has included Article 370, the Ram temple in Ayodhya and the uniform civil code in its election manifesto. And not without reason. After all, it draws inspiration on this issue not just from the RSS blueprint for national integration but also from the life and works of Syama Prasad Mookerji, the founder of Jana Sangh, the political arm of the RSS until 1977. In the ’50s, Mookerji, a staunch opponent of special status to J&K, had launched a movement to do away with what he called a “republic within a republic”. For the BJP and RSS then, challenging J&K’s special status is only a means to go back to its roots, its core ideology.