Temple, Toilet and Sangh Politics

Photo: AP

After a long campaign, the RSS combine succeeded in demolishing the Babri mosque on 6 December 1992. While Advani lead the movement, there were many RSS swayamsevaks who formed the foundation of this dastardly act, one of them being Narendra Modi, the BJP’s current prime ministerial candidate. The importance given to this issue undermined other more important ones, especially those pertaining to people’s survival. At that time, many magazines carried surveys as to what should be built at the site of demolition. Many people said that either an educational institute, a hospital or sanitation facilities should be built at the site.

Kanshiram, the leader of the Bahujan Samaj Party, strongly put forward the case for the construction of a urinal at the site. A couple of years ago, Jairam Ramesh, the Union Cabinet Minister, said that toilets are more important than temples. Similarly, Modi recently said that shauchalay (toilet) should precede devalay (temple). When Ramesh had made his statement, Sangh activists – Modi associates  urinated and kept urine bottles in front of Ramesh’s house. BJP spokespersons accused Ramesh of destroying the fine fabric of faith and religion in the country. Now that Modi made the same statement, those spokespersons are silent, although Praveen Togadia criticised him. Other Sangh members have kept mum on the issue. Many commentators have come forward to uphold Modi’s statement saying that it represented the soft side of Hindutva and would help the BJP increase its electoral strength.

However, the elections are coordinated not by the BJP, but by the RSS. Even Jairam Ramesh stated that in the forthcoming elections, the Congress would have to fight against the RSS, not the BJP. It is the RSS members who come together to put in their best for BJP’s prospects. After the Babri demolition two decades ago, the toilet has suddenly become more important than the temple. This is a tactical move. The Sangh Parivar operates at various levels at the same time  it has a clever internal division of labor by which the VHP keeps the issue of the Ram temple alive to reap the harvest of communal violence by polarising people, and its supportive structures play the role of Goebbels to create the image of Modi as a man committed to development  an efficient and good administrator.

In the next elections, the RSS is going to use multiple strategies. One, to polarise the society through violence by keeping alive the Ram temple issue. Secondly, it is going to bank heavily on the propaganda around the Gujarat model of development and Modi’s leadership qualities. This explains Modi’s statements about development and toilets. Modi built himself up by polarising Gujarat through the post-Godhra carnage. Having consolidated polarisation as a state policy, he changed gears by talking about development. Various statistics have punctured these development claims. For instance, according to the findings of the Comptroller and Auditor General, every third child in Gujarat is malnourished.

The RSS directly imposed their choice of President and prime ministerial candidate on the BJP. Moreover RSS swayamsevaks constitute BJP’s core leadership. Atal Bihari Vajpeyee, in his speech in Staten Islands, United States, said that he was first a RSS swayamsevak and then anything else. The pattern of RSS functioning is such that it trains swaymsevaks in the Hindu Rashtra ideology and then these trained swayamsevaks undertake different assignments for building a Hindu nation. The core leadership of these organisations in turn is coordinated by the RSS. So Modi can talk of toilets, Togadiaya can stick to temples, someone at lower level can upload a video on mobiles to instigate communal violence, while others can saffronise textbooks or organise plays like Janata Raja (a play on Shivaji with a communal understanding of history). Swayamsevaks, seeped in the ideology of Hindu Rashtra, also infiltrate state organisations. One hopes that the major electoral party, which should stand for pluralism, knows its truth in totality. This party should also know that RSS control and coordination of politics is not just through electoral means.

So the Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram or Samajik Samrasta Manch may work in remote areas to do social engineering, but they constitute the foundation of the RSS agenda. In that sense, electoral politics is a small part of the RSS agenda, which by now has infiltrated all aspects of our social and political life. This agenda of the RSS  Hindu Nation or what is popularly called Hindu Pakistan  is, of course, against the ethos of Indian diversity. It is for an authoritarian elite-dominated society, and this is is the agenda of domination of a section of Hindus, while talking about the interests of all Hindus.

This work of RSS has gone up in the last three decades and its infiltration into different sections of the society will go up by leaps and bounds once the country is ruled by the BJP. That is what happened when the BJP-led NDA ruled the country from 1998 to 2004 and is now happening in the states ruled by the BJP. Jairam Ramesh and others have now woken up to this stark reality of our body politic, but this fact has been very obvious to those who have been trying to understand the phenomenon of RSS politics. So for those politicians who are interested in upholding democracy, pluralism and the values of Indian Constitution, it is not adequate to think of the menace of religious nationalism just at the time of elections. It is a battle, which has to be fought not just at the time of elections, but also in the arena of culture, literature, art and every other aspect of the life of the Indian nation.


  1. Contrary to the comments here, The author has made valid points. RSS, VHP and the like are Pseudo Patriots. They claim to love India, but hate a quarter of the people. It is a discriminatory crazy ideology based on lies and brain washing of young minds. India has always been and will be a multi relegious state. It never was a “hindu ” state. infact before the british came , there was no “India”. we were hundreds of different nations.


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