09/04/2015, 00.00

RSS nationalists like Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood

The ultranationalist paramilitary Hindu organisation is holding a conference this week, with in attendance many government ministers and officials, including Prime Minister Modi. For Dalit rights advocate Lenin Raghuvanshi, nationalists want to impose their ideology on the government’s agenda. The main points of discussion are economic, social and religious, as well as border disputes with Pakistan and Bangladesh, not to mention India’s growing Muslim population.

New Delhi (AsiaNews) – Members of the Hindu ultranationalist paramilitary group Rashtriya Swyamsevak Sangh (RSS) “now influence directly the programmes of the ruling BJP* government. Many of them are from the higher castes and work in the public service. They have been trying to link up with business interests in order to rule through people who share the same ideology,” said Lenin Raghuvanshi, director of the People's Vigilance Committee for Human Rights.

Mr Raghuvanshi, who is a medical doctor and a Dalits right advocate, spoke to AsiaNews about a meeting this week that brought together members of the RSS and members of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s BJP in New Delhi.

Some 93 Sangh Parivar (Hindu ultranationalist) leaders from 15 RSS-affiliated groups gathered, including senior Union ministers (Interior, Defence, Development and Human Resources, Relations with Scheduled Tribes), and government officials. Prime Minister Modi was expected at today’s session.

The Dalit rights advocate reiterated what opposition parties, led by the Congress Party, have already said namely that the meeting “sends a clear message that the group’s hold over the government is now in the open rather than in the background.”

Officially described as a simple routine meeting for discussions within the movement, the event underlines increasing Hindu nationalist sway over government policies and confirms the RSS’s role as the BJP’s ideological mentor.

For many analysts, this meeting is the most importance since Modi’s election just over a year ago. Its stated aim is to propose changes to the country’s political and economic reforms, following the release of disappointing Q2 data, which reported a lower than expected growth.

On the first day (Wednesday), growth and development topped the agenda. Yesterday, the focus was on internal and external security, in particular the border dispute with Pakistan over Kashmir and the border agreement with Bangladesh.

With regards to Bangladesh, speakers expressed concern over last week’s census data on religion, which indicated that the Muslim population was growing faster than Hindus.

RSS nationalists blame the trend on illegal Muslim immigration from Bangladesh and Nepal, warning that it could change the demographic balance in Indian states, like Assam and West Bengal, that border the two countries.

By contrast, for Raghuvanshi "Muslims in India are not a problem;” instead, “Hindu nationalists are.” The latter “can be compared to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt."

And he is not alone in his assessment of the situation. The “RSS-BJP meet demonstrates that remote control is now overt control. Modi may be PM but Bhagwat is the boss BJPGovt puppet of RSS& oligarchs,” twitted Manish Tewari, an important Congress Party leader.

For Randeep Surjewala, general secretary of the All India Congress Committee (AICC),** "The fact that some Union ministers honoured with their presence unelected rascals from a supposedly non-political organisation and received expressions of esteem from the RSS for the work that they are doing is a grave travesty of democracy."

* The Bharatiya Janata Party or Indian People’s Party is a political organisation whose ideology is based on Hindu nationalism.

** The AICC is the presidium or central decision-making assembly of the Indian National Congress Party.

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