RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat. (Source: PTI)

In RSS Makeover Attempt, An Outreach Programme And A Message To The BJP

RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat ended the organisation's three-day conclave with an appeal to Muslims to visit any centre of the Sangh before judging the organisation.

This came at the end of a session in which Bhagwat fielded questions on many issues ranging from why Muslims shun the Sangh to whether reservations should continue, religious conversions and the recent Supreme Court’s verdict on Section 377 that decriminalized gay sex.

The Sangh’s programme was a stark departure from how it communicated with people in the past. “RSS has been very reticent in reaching out to people,” said Ratan Sharda, author and RSS sympathizer. "The Sangh always preferred to let its work speak for itself.”

It’s a very different step to reach out to people with the use of modern media and explain what RSS stands for.
Ratan Sharda, Author, RSS 360.

The RSS, long considered as the parent body of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party has attempted to portray a more mainstream image through the programme. To a question on the book by MS Golwalkar, ‘Bunch of Thoughts’, that projects Muslims in a negative light, Bhagwat chose to distance himself from it, saying the organisation was constantly evolving.

Watch the key quotes from Mohan Bhagwat’s speech here:

To this, the political analyst Javed Ansari said: “The easiest thing in the world is to say all the right things.”

Ansari said any attempt at a makeover would be convincing only if it translated to action on the ground and violent incidents such as mob lynching in the name of the cow stops.

I’m cautiously optimistic but will withhold judgement till I see this translate on the ground.
Javed Ansari, Political Analyst.

To be sure, Bhagwat, in response to a query on the topic at the event, said that citizens taking the law in their hands should be punished—while at the same time batting for cow protection.

The timing and the broader message of the RSS—an organisation to which the Prime Minister Narendra Modi and several top BJP functionaries belong—has come under question. Bhagwat said the RSS doesn't belong to any political party. He also sought to dispel the Sangh’s notion that insists that all citizens of India are Hindus.

The words may be reassuring, said Neerja Chowdhury, noted political analyst, while questioning the event’s larger purpose. “Is it to get liberal Hindus into their fold?” she asked. “Or, is it signalling the BJP that they can’t take the RSS’ support for granted?”