The Hindu Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), which provides paternal ideological guidance to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, has decided to hold a rally in Kolkata’s Muslim dominated area of Kidderpore on January 14, which will be addressed by RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat.
The Kidderpore rally will include a drill by RSS workers in their trademark khaki shorts-white shirt attire. Bhagwat will hold a series of meetings with Sangh and BJP leaders on January 15, after he reaches Kolkata on the night of January 13.
“The rally is being organised by our Kolkata chapter and we expect over 3,000 people to participate. The drill and singing of patriotic songs will be followed by Bhagwat’s speech,” said Sashanka Sekhar Dey, secretary of the Sangh’s Kolkata branch.
The last time Bhagwat visited Kolkata was in December 2014, when he addressed a Viswa Hindu Parishad rally at the Maidan, where he defended ‘Ghar Wapsi’ or ritualistic cleansing of converted Muslims to rejoin the Hindu fold.
Though the rally is being held in a communally sensitive area such as Kidderpore – that too after the recent communal flare up in parts of Howrah district – the administration, so far, has no plan to disallow it.
This, in spite of the RSS posting in its website a press release, which reads: “In West Bengal, the communal violence against Hindus has seen menacing rise which has claimed many lives and many more seriously wounded till now… The law enforcement machinery remained only a mute spectator in such incidents even refusing to register FIRs…”
Kolkata has about 20 per cent Muslim population. Most Muslims live in the Kidderpore-Garden Reach area in West Kolkata, Razabazar in North Kolkata and in Park Circus in Central Kolkata.
In April 2015, the Bengal government had banned the Vishwa Hindu Parishad chief Praveen Togadia from entering the state. This was because in January that year, Togadia had addressed a rally in Bengal’s Birbhum district where the VHP had held a “suddhikaran” ceremony in which some Christians and Muslims were reportedly “reconverted” to Hinduism. An FIR was later lodged against him for inflammatory speech.
The RSS Strategy:
The RSS wants minority Muslims and Christians to accept that India is a nation of Hindus, and it is pushing some of them to convert. To spread its Hindu-first ideology to all corners of India the RSS plans to propel the BJP to power in as many states as possible. West Bengal emerged as a prime target in its game plan, after the BJP managed to win three seats in 2016 assembly election. Dilip Ghosh, the present BJP chief in the state, has been a RSS pracharak, throughout his political career.
“We would want the BJP to win all the state elections because only then can significant social, political and cultural changes take place in this country,” RSS Joint General Secretary Dattatreya Hosabale recently told Reuters. “The 2014 election victory should be seen as the starting point of a long term mission.”
The RSS was founded in 1925 with a narrative that India’s glory days as one of the most advanced nations of the world ended after it was invaded – beginning in the 8th century – by Muslims and then Christians, who converted the Hindu inhabitants.
The RSS believes that if all Indians were to acknowledge and accept that ancient Hindu identity as theirs, it would unify the country, offer the best defence against any future aggressors and head off separatist movements.
Even till recently, the RSS had focused on achieving its vision of a Hindu nation from outside the electoral realm. Those interested in electoral politics traditionally migrated to the BJP and its predecessor, Jan Sangh.
That changed in July 2013. At a meeting in Amravati in Maharashtra, RSS leaders decided it was time for the group to start using its network to more systematically help the BJP come to power. The leadership convinced the skeptics within the RSS – who felt that politics was dirty like a “toilet,”- that it was for the RSS to clean up the mess.
Significantly, the RSS registered its highest growth between March 2015 and 2016, ever since it was formed in 1925, opening 5,527 new branches
Since October, West Bengal has seen several incidents of communal tensions across the state. As reported in the media, though sketchily, these include: Jalangi in Murshidabad, Sankrail in Howrah, Telenipara in Hooghly, Naihati in North 24 Parganas, Bhagabanpur in Poorba Medinipur, Katwa and Ketugram in Bardhaman, Khargapur in Paschim Medinipur, Chanchal, Englishbazar and Kaliachak in Malda.