For decades considered to be working behind thick veils of secrecy—impenetrable and impervious to light—the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has lately found itself in the centre of much public attention. With the Narendra Modi government in its fourth year—as muscular a presence as ever—interest in the ruling BJP’s ideological fountainhead has only burgeoned. For the first time perhaps, it seems to be reciprocating—by encouraging a kind of wider engagement, inviting other voices to a tentative dialogue, eager to dispel the fear.
‘Mainstreaming’, though, will call for clarity on a host of questions. Does the Sangh interfere in governance? Does its political writ outline the limit of possibility for any government under its broad mandate? Does its Hindutva agenda, with the final goal of an Akhand Hindu Rashtra, form the governing spirit for regimes otherwise sworn to India’s secular Constitution? Does that not make for a split personality? If its cadres help the BJP during elections, can it claim to be apolitical, and merely a cultural and social organisation? How did its chief Mohan Bhagwat claim the RSS is capable of raising a fighting force for the country in three days? Does its authority, such as it is, lie outside and parallel to India’s statuted frameworks?
Rahul Gandhi made a scathing attack on the RSS in Europe, comparing it to the Muslim Brotherhood
On the social side, is the RSS anti-Dalit,...