At the height of militancy in Punjab, the rss was one of the sternest critics of the Khalistan movement. Yet today the self-styled Khalistani leader, Dr Jagjit Singh Chauhan, was all praise for the Sangh's concept of a Hindu rashtra after a secret meeting with rss chief K.S. Sudershan. The meeting was held in Delhi last week following the firebrand secessionist leader's return to India after a long exile in London.
The Chauhan-Sudershan tryst has left many in the Sangh parivar unhappy. Acharya Giriraj Kishore, acting vhp vice-president, is one among those who have not taken kindly to the meeting. "The credentials of the man (Dr Chauhan) are known. His hands are soaked in blood. I don't think Sudershan should have talked to him," he told Outlook. It isn't the first time that the acharya has candidly expressed his differences with the rss supremo. Sudershan had incurred his wrath earlier when he had propounded the theory that it wasn't the kar sevaks who demolished the Babri masjid but a dynamite explosion.
Surprisingly, the self-appointed president of Khalistan and the man who had even issued his own currency in the 1980s was all praise for the rss ideology of the Hindu rashtra after he broke bread with Sudershan. Said he: "The ideology of the Hindu rashtra is their philosophy but we are learning from it. It's a very good philosophy. There is no need to introduce changes in it."
Political circles are agog over the possible reasons for the meeting. The rss had always prescribed strong-arm tactics to deal with militancy in Punjab. It was perhaps the only organisation then to have demanded that Punjab be handed over to the army.
And more than Chauhan's new-found inclination towards the rss, it's Sudershan's willingness to grant him an audience that's surprising most. There is a conviction that Chauhan's return has been preceded by some give-and-take and the meeting had political overtones—the reason being the deep-seated differences within the ruling Akali-bjp coalition in Punjab. The bjp, some feel, wants to use Chauhan to counterbalance the constant pressures from the Akalis. Entertaining the discredited Khalistani leader is a step in that direction.
Expectedly, the Akalis were kept out of the government's decision to allow Chauhan to return. That the decision didn't go down well with them became evident when Union cabinet minister Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa confronted home minister L.K. Advani with the issue at a function some time back. "I asked Advani openly from the stage at a function of the Hind Samachar group whether our party or the Punjab government was involved in bringing Chauhan to India. But Advani didn't say anything," Dhindsa told Outlook. He said he was not aware of Chauhan meeting Sudershan.
Chauhan himself was less than forthright on his meeting with Sudershan. "I just went to see him, nothing important. I am meeting everybody. It's essential to meet leaders in politics. I don't believe in politics of confrontation.... I believe in politics of reconciliation," Chauhan told Outlook.
While Chauhan insists the meeting with Sudershan was only part of the series of his meetings with political leaders, including former PM Chandra Shekhar and Ram Jethmalani, the rss is finding it difficult to justify it. Says Shyam Khosla, an old rss hand and Organiser columnist: "Now that more people come to see rss leaders, Sudershan should be more careful in meeting people."
But Chauhan is already well into metamorphosis mode. He has even started supporting almost all controversial steps which had once threatened to jeopardise the Akali-bjp relationship. Most significant of these is the rss plan to recite the Guru Granth Sahib in Hindu temples. Even though the rss front organisation, the Rashtriya Sikh Sangat, had to withdraw its plans after widespread protests, they have a new supporter in Dr Jagjit Singh Chauhan. Says the man: "People didn't oppose the recitation of the Granth Sahib in temples, the Akalis did." He even promises to cooperate with the rss on "positive points".