Why does the RSS dread the terror tag?
Ram Madhav, the bespectacled ex-spokesperson of RSS is not known for his sense of humour.
It is a different matter that some of the media people just could not control their smiles when sometime back (second week of Feb 2011) in a press conference in the capital he enlightened the journos about l’affaire Aseemanand and the broader phenomenon of Hindutva terror.
Giving a completely new and almost unforeseen twist to the Aseemanand episode he said that he (i.e. Aseemanand) had in fact left the RSS in 2006. Of course, as a good spokesperson – although he has become an ex- he had the usual disclaimers in the beginning: RSS does not believe in violence and is a cultural organisation… One does not know whether much on the lines of the School Leaving Certificate, with which lesser mortals like us are more familiar with, Ram Madhav distributed photocopies of ‘Sangh Leaving Certificate’ of Aseemanand or anything similar to give authenticity to his claims or not.
Anyway, the smile shared by the media people was not difficult to comprehend. Few months back Mr. Ram Madhav had uttered similar words about some other RSS pracharaks in an interview.
It was the time when law had finally caught up with the real perpetrators behind Ajmer bomb blast, Mecca Masjid bomb blast and the terror module comprising of Devender Gupta, Lokesh Sharma, Ramji Kalasangra, Assemanand and others had come to the fore. With RSS pracharaks and expert bomb maker Ramji Kalasangra and his associate Sandeep Dange still absconding the CBI had to put a reward on them for their arrest.
In the said interview Mr. Ram Madhav told the interviewer that apart from Devender Gupta rest of them had left the organisation ‘long time back.’ In fact, he had no qualms in declaring that even Sunil Joshi, a senior RSS Pracharak, who is ‘credited’ with being a mastermind of the terror strategy and had been working on it since late 90 s , and who was killed by his own men, had also left RSS ‘sometime back.’
Smiles apart, any close observer of the RSS knows very well that there is nothing new in this practice of ‘disowning’,’ dumping’ one’s own activists. In fact, down the years RSS has perfected this strategy. The most famous example of disowning own people happens to be that of Nathuram Godse, the murderer of Mahatma Gandhi. (To know the details of the matter readers can refer to the interview of Gopal Godse in ‘Frontline’ in early 90 s wherein he had categorically stated that neither Nathuram nor he himself left the RSS at any point of time. When the interviewer specifically asked him why did Nathuram tell the courts that he had left RSS, Gopal Godse had replied that ‘to save the organisation’. See ‘Frontline’ Jan 28, 1994, Interview by Arvind Rajgopal). With no membership list available, it is very easy for the organisation to disown anyone. Imagine tomorrow RSS decides to dump some senior leader what proof anybody is going to have than believing the words of the Supremo or any of his representatives that the ‘senior leader had left the organisation sometime back.’ With plethora of affiliated organisations (anushangik sangathan) it is easy for it to shift the blame also.
Undoubtedly, this practice of ‘dumping’ or ‘distancing’ elements who can become a liability must be helping save the skin of the organisation. Of course, even a layperson can see that there is no question of principle involved here. ‘Dump’ or ‘Disown if inconvenient’ seems to be the reigning Mantra. If the Anti Terrorist Squad people come calling at Jhadewalan or RSS headquarters at Nagpur or some regional headquarters of the Sangh, then the Pracharak sitting there can just give a crisp reply to the police that the said person had ‘left the organisation’ long time back or had been ‘expelled from the organisation’.
A caveat is needed here. While dumping / disowning the perpetrator (if they are caught) seems to be the first line of defense adopted by the RSS, it seems to hold good for lower level functionaries only. If you have moved up the ladder in the RSS hierarchy, then it is seen to it that no stone will be left unturned to save you whatever might be your depredations. If ‘dumping the planters’ seems to be the first Mantra then ‘embracing the masterminds’ seems to be the second mantra.
Aseem (Unlimited) Terror
“Indreshji met me at Shabri Dham sometime in 2005. Many top RSS functionaries accompanied him. He told me that exploding bombs was not my job and instead told me to focus on the tribal welfare work assigned to me by the RSS. He said he had deputed Sunil Joshi for this job (terror attacks) and he would extend Joshi whatever help was required.”
- from the confession of Aseemanand before magistrate.
It is not difficult to understand why RSS felt it necessary to tell the outside world about Aseemanand’s alleged leaving RSS (in 2006, if one refers to Ram Madhav’s press conference) around five years after the decision . Anybody can see that RSS could have done it earlier also when he was declared an absconder in many terror attacks in the country. It could have looked more authentic then and appeared more keen to ‘distance’ itself from terrorist elements among its midst. Now when Aseemanand is in police custody and has given a confession before the magistrate which implicates the organisation as well as many of its senior leaders, the declaration does not carry much weight and looks more as an attempt to save its skin.
Perhaps RSS wanted to have it both ways. Benefiting itself politically from the terror attacks in which he was involved with and simultaneously maintaining its ‘social-cultural’ image. RSS must have felt that if he was ever caught then he would give primacy to organisational committements and would not put the organisation in an uncomfortable situation by exposing anything.
The proximity of Aseemanand with the top leadership of RSS-BJP is on record. Leaders like Narendra Modi, Shiv Raj Singh Chauhan, ex Supremo K.S. Sudarshan and current Supremo Mohan Bhagwat have attended programmes organised by him at Shabri Kumbh.
It must have been unimaginable to the ‘Parivar people’ that this man Naba Kumar Sarkar alias Swami Aseemanand, 59 who hails from the same village in West Bengal where Ramkrishna Paramhans was born, and had been active with the organisation since last three decades as a very disciplined activist, would one fine morning give a written confession about the crimes he had committed and how people from his organisation were party to it. As events unfolded before us they erred in his assessment.We know that before finally settling in Dangs, a tribal majority district in Gujarat to ‘fight conversions by missionaries’ he worked for the organisation in different places and was active in Andaman islands also. Naturally with the confession before the magistrate under article 164, which is admissible as evidence, RSS finds itself on a more slippery path. (Full text of the confession available on http://www.tehelka.com)
The confession makes few things clear :
-A team of RSS Pracharaks were involved in Malegaon 2006 and 2008 bomb blast, on the Samjhauta Express blast in 2007, in Ajmer Sharief and Mecca Masjid in 2007.
- The signed statement by Aseemanand tells us that the bomb blasts were engineered not by fringe ultraright wing organisations but by RSS national executive member Indresh Kumar. Indresh Kumar handpicked and financed some RSS Pracharaks to carry out terror attacks.
- Indresh Kumar had deputed Sunil Joshi for this terror attacks and had extended all possible help
- Muslim boys provided by Indresh Kumar executed Ajmer bomb blast.
- Aseemanand had feared that Indresh Kumar can get Sunil Joshi killed.
There is no doubt that the confession raises many uncomfortable questions before RSS. In the eighty plus year history of the organisation, Aseemanand’s confession could be the first of its kind. The usual practice has been Modisquean where carnages are packaged as ‘successful experiments’, which should be ‘emulated’.
Commissions after commissions have blamed RSS or its affiliated organisations for its participation in different riots, the sting operation done by ‘Tehelka’ targeting the network of RSS-BJP-Vishwa Hindu Parishad-Bajrang Dal from Gujarat have shown their complicity in the carnage in 2002 but a confession by one amongst them has happened for the first time.
As anybody can see for himself, Aseemanand’s confession implicates himself at every juncture knowing well that he can even receive death sentence for his acts. It is of key importance that it points to the existence of a broad network of RSS Pracharaks who not only planned and participated in these terror attacks but also received shelter by sections of the organisation. Naturally the confession had put the RSS in a very piquant situation and had left it with merely three options :
Firstly, it could have accepted Aseemanand’s confession in toto and would have said that whatever Aseemanand is saying is a correct version of the developments and submited itself before the law of the land much on the lines of Aseemanand. Looking at the nature of the organisation and its exclusivist agenda this first option was out of question. It could have proved to be a political harakiri for the RSS.
Secondly, it could have claimed that the said confession is a forced one. It did try to work out this option through Aseemanand’s cousel but it did not succeed.The magistrate before whom Aseemanand had given his confession had ensured this aspect.
Thirdly, it could have disowned the person himself which the RSS promptly did.
Ram Madhav’s impromptu looking statement about Aseemanand is thus part of a well thought out plan. It reflects one simple thing: With five different agencies – of different states as well as centre – in the thick of investigations of the Hindutva terror network, and with new disclosures on the way with recent revelations in Sunil Joshi murder case, which has even put the M.P. government on the defensive, RSS is very very worried.
Dump the Footsoldiers, Hail the Mastermind !
The chargesheet filed by the Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) of the Rajasthan police against five accused in the 2007 Ajmer dargah blast case on Friday has named senior RSS leader Indresh Kumar as having provided “guidance” for a conspiracy hatched by radical elements for planting bombs in several cities across the country.
The Hindu, (Oct 24, 2010)
An unruly mob of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) members went on a rampage at Videocon Tower in the city ‘s Jhandewalan area. The building houses the offices of the TV Today Network and Mail Today. The 3,000 strong mob pelted stones, smashed glass doors..
(Mail Today, July 17, 2010)
Remember the 16 th July 2010 attack on one of the head offices of an electronic channel namely Headlines Today. Why did the channel headquarters came under attack, with thousands of RSS workers and members of other affiliated organisation joining them? As a recap, it may be told that the said channel had made public few of the tapes available with the police.
What did the tapes reveal? It showed the involvement of RSS top leader Indresh Kumar and others in the planning of Ajmer bomb blast. It also showed how one Dr R.P. Singh had planned to kill Dr Hamid Ansari during a programme in Jamia Millia Islamia by organising a bomb blast. The said tapes telecast (16 th July 2010) snaps of secret meetings discussing the need to carry out terrorist attacks against meetings of Muslims. The press release issued by the channel had said that the video and audio tapes telecast by it were extracted by the investigating agencies from the laptop of Dayanand Pandey, who is an accused in the Malegaon bomb blast case.
As witnesses to the attack had later revealed, lot of meticulous planning had gone in the attack. Of course, the RSS never claimed that their workers had organised it or had played a role in it, although it said that it fully sympathised with their ‘concerns’.
It is now history how Sangh Parivar took up the defence of Indresh Kumar since then in a big way. The attack on Headlines Today could be said to be a signal to its demoralised workers that they should go on the offensive. The month of November 2010 saw a massive programme under the aegis of RSS to ‘protest vindictive attitude’ of the UPA government and its ‘continued stigmatisation of Hindus’. For the first time in the RSS history, the Sangh Supremo and his close associates participated in different rallies. To keep the momentum the RSS also organised a nationwide campaign in February 2011 to reach out to people, telling them that ‘charges against RSS are part of Congress conspiracy’.
One does not know how RSS convinces its own activists/sympathisers about its dual approach vis-a-vis its own activists. One set of rules for the ordinary workers but for the higher ups the rules are moulded easily. Ordinary RSS workers in M.P. are reported to have even raised questions about the ‘silence’ maintained by the M.P government over the killing of Sunil Joshi. With the recent exposures in the case where it has been discovered that his own colleagues killed him and the M.P. police helped in its own way to cover up the case, there have been murmurs of protest within the organisation also.
It is a different matter that in this rigmarole of dumping / hailing or finetuning its response about the menace of Hindutva terror, the Sangh Parivar emerges as a lot which is incoherent, confused as well as highly demoralised : saying one thing today, denying it the next day ; accepting that there were few bad apples amongst its midst who had taken up extreme type of activities (‘who have been asked to go’ – refer to the reports of the five day Jodhpur meeting of the RSS held in May 2010) and offering all sorts of cooperation to the government (even claiming that none of these ‘bad apples’ would be given any legal assistance but in practice going all out to provide good lawyers) or within few months changing its tune ( refer to the Jalgaon meeting of RSS in Oct 2010) and frowning upon the government for its ‘witch hunt against Hindus’ and even mobilising thousands of workers in different cities and towns to score a political point.
Of course, none of its steps earlier to wriggle itself out of the Hindutva terror conundrum match its latest step wherein it has written a letter to Prime Minister asking him to form an independent commission to enquire into the alleged conspiracy hatched by the likes of Lt Col Purohit, Dayanand Pandey and others to kill Mohan Bhagwat and Indresh Kumar. With this letter there is a naive hope in the RSS that it would be able to turn the tides. The letter signed by Suresh (Bhaiyaji) Joshi, Sarkaryavah of the RSS asks :
The fundamental question that arises, but not addressed, is: how could the RSS be bracketed with those who were viciously hostile to it and conspiring to kill its leaders?
It adds ..
We believe that Col Purohits role was political and he was not acting on his own. Thorough probe is needed to find out those behind him in his attempts to divide the RSS and its friendly organisations from within. This larger political conspiracy cannot be unraveled by mere criminal investigation. Col Purohit had been aggressively anti-BJP and anti-RSS as the Malegaon case evidence brings out. Hence arises the issue about his hidden political connections and agenda. It is needless to say that only those who would politically benefit from such strategies could have been behind him. But, only a thorough, independent investigation will expose his political agenda and connections. Similar probe is also required against Dayanand Pandey, whose role is equally mysterious. Otherwise the full truth would remain buried.
Analysts have termed it as a ‘shift’ in the RSS tactics wherein it wants to go on the offensive instead of being defensive on the issue of Hindutva terror. Question arises whether this ‘shift’ would help the RSS save itself from the morass in which it finds itself today ?
All the Wise Men
Anyone closely following the trajectory of the case knows that the latest salvo by the RSS which tries to portray the likes of Purohit and Pandey ‘playing a political role’ and their attempts to ‘divide the RSS and its friendly organisations from within’ was very much in the pipeline since few months.A section of the media had carried reports of a 14 page unsigned document (Mail Today, 24 Oct 2010 ‘Purohit trying to divide the Sangh Parivar at behest of Cong leaders’) that said that Lt Col Purohit ‘had the blessings of ‘intelligence agencies as well as Congress politicians in power’. In its attempt to distance RSS from the Hindutva terror network, the document purportedly initiated by an ultra-right Hindu organisation had even claimed that Lt Col Purohit had made contacts with rogue elements in VHP and the RSS.
Of course, the latest letter signed by Suresh (Bhayya) Joshi, Sarkaryavah, RSS is definitely not so explicit. It gives enough hint to the reader what it wants to communicate. One understands that all the wise men at the top in the RSS must have deliberated on it to effect this ‘shift’ in its stand. Looking at the manner in which the letter has been flashed, and the time which went on in preparing it, it is expected that in the coming days likeminded mediapeople would be writing special articles and edits on it prodding the government to heed to the demand of the ‘social organisation called RSS’.
To be very frank, anyone who has not followed the debates the simple question sounds quite logical also “..how could the RSS be bracketed with those who were viciously hostile to it and conspiring to kill its leaders?”
But there are lots of gaps in it and convenient omissions, which make the perpetrator, look like a victim. But before going over to other details first look at two important gaps which Bhaiyaji Joshi has not mentioned
The first concerns the role of Shyam Apte, a businessman from Pune, in this conspiracy who has been associated with RSS for a long time. The tapes with the government tell us about the conversation Purohit, Apte and Dayanand Pandey had about the Mohan Bhagwat- Indresh Kumar duo and the manner in which the conspiracy had been hatched. It may be added here that if Hemant Karkare would have remained alive, Shyam Apte would have been put behind bar for his close relationship with Purohit.
What does one make of the role of Shyam Apte in the conspiracy ? Would it be proper to think that he had any personal animosity against the duo and that’s why he wanted to finish them. A natural query would be why Shyam Apte’s role was not mentioned by the RSS in its letter to Prime Minister.
Secondly, the number of meetings Lt Col Purohit had with Praveen Togadia, leader of the VHP is remarkable. What transpired at these meetings? ‘Mailtoday’ had done a story two plus years back when the late Hemant Karkare was leading the investigation in the Malegaon blast wherein he had stated that Togadia had tried to win over Purohit asking him to join him, whereas Purohit had castigated him for his lameduck approach towards Hindu Rashtra. In fact, Purohit’s email account had four email IDs of Praveen Togadia. Why all the ‘wise men of RSS’ did not mention this fact ? Or did they knew that similar to Purohit, Pandey Togadia also does not have high opinion of Mohan Bhagwat and Indresh Kumar.
Imagine for a moment the conspiracy of Malegaon bomb blast 2008 involving the likes of Purohit, Pragya and others with a side story or sub plot of killing Bhagwat and Indresh.
In fact Suresh Joshi should have demanded that since RSS man Shyam Apte was part of the conspiracy he should be immediately arrested and since Bhai Togadia was in regular touch with Purohit, he should be immediately called for questioning by the investigating agencies.
What does the plot to kill Mohan Bhagwat and Indresh Kumar tell us which also involves senior leaders of RSS like Shyam Apte ? It goes to show that there are ruptures in the RSS at the top level which are on political lines as well as personal lines. As far as differences along political lines are concerned they can be easily discerned at various levels. e.g. Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s vision for Hindutva was always resented by the likes of Singhal, Togadia. And when BJP was exited in the 2004 elections, the major attack unleashed on Atal was from this camp only.
Differences on personal lines are also many. And its manifestation normally has taken ugly turn.
One of the much discussed (and later covered up) rupture at personal level involved Sanjay Joshi, a senior leader of RSS from M.P. who was asked to handle BJP. It is now history, how at the time of BJP’s Bombay conference a CD purportedly showing a lookalike of Sanjay Joshi in a compromising position with a woman was distributed, which ultimately led to his exit from the BJP. It was never revealed who was behind the ‘sting operation’ but the needle of suspicion was always towards Chief Minister of a neighbouring state belonging to the Hindutva camp and one of his close women colleague who also happened to be cabinet minister. M.G. Vaidya, the think tank of RSS, had written an article in the Marathi newspaper ‘Tarun Bharat’ at that time which attacked ‘Macbeth and Lady Macbeth’ and also threatened them that ‘they will have to face consequences’. Looking at the possibility of an all out war ensuing within different ‘Parivar’ members, Mohan Bhagwat, the then no. 2 in the RSS hierarchy had intervened and then there was a ‘ceasefire’ between the ‘warring camps’.
Too Clever By Half
By writing to the Prime Minister asking the ‘[g]overnment institute an impartial and independent inquiry into the hidden mission of Col Purohit, Dayanand Pandey and their associates’to look into the ‘plot to kill Bhagwat and Indresh’ RSS has inadvertently or so exposed the various levels of ruptures out in the open.
Tomorrow suppose the investigating agencies take up the probe into this plot seriously, it will have extra weight to arrest RSS leader Shyam Apte from Pune and also put Bhai Togadia to thorough interrogation who had never even been called for questioning despite enough evidence implicating him in financing Hindutva terror modules or addressing meetings of youth espousing them to take up retaliatory strikes.
In fact this single move on behalf of the Sangh Parivar has exposed it to further questioning and clarifications.
Today it might be finding it politically expedient to distance itself from Hindutva terrorists Lt Col Purohit and Shankaracharya Dayanand Pandey but is it ready to answer a simple query, why merely two years and few months back RSS and its affiliated organisations went all out to support these terrorists and the terror module with which they were associated. We should never forget that much on the lines of Maliq Qadri, the terrorist from Pakistan who was greeted with Rose Petals in Islamabad court, the Malegaon bombers comprising of Lt Col Purohit, Sadhvi Pragya, Dayanand Pandey and others were also showered with rose petals at the behest of RSS and other Hindutva organisations when they were produced in Nashik and Pune court..
Is not it time that Suresh Joshi, Mohan Bhagwat and other ‘wise men at the top’ write another letter addressed to the people of India seeking their apology for their shameful support to these terrorists sometime back. History bears witness to the fact that when the then Maharashtra ATS chief late Hemant Karkare was unearthing the Hindutva terror network spread over India when he took up the Malegaon 2008 bomb blast case, forces like Shiv Sena and RSS with its plethora of affiliated organisations were in the forefront to stigmatise him, spreading all sorts of canard against him and even calling him traitor. L.K. Advani, the then Prime Minister in waiting had even raised the issue in parliament also.
As an aside it may be mentioned here that the letter by Suresh Joshi to the Prime Minister nowhere expresses regret over the killings of innocents by the Hindutva terrorists. At least one had expected that Sarkaryavah would ‘own up’ the crimes of Pracharak Terrorist Devender Gupta, one of the executioners of the Ajmer bomb blast and Mecca Masjid blast (whom he himself acknowledges as a fanatic) and had said that henceforth we will see to it that none from our ranks becomes another Devender Gupta. Also there is no word of remorse for the deeds of those who were trained in the RSS Shakhas (whether they were officially with RSS or not is another debatable issue) may it be Sunil Joshi, Ramji Kalasangra, Sandeep Dange , Aseemanand and others.
Coming back to the Purohit, Pandey episode one is reminded of a Marathi proverb which says that ‘A cat drinks milk with its eyes closed and thinks the world is not watching.’ The behaviour of RSS has lot of similarities with the ‘cat’ in the proverb. The world has watched them praising, euologising and supporting the Malegaon bombers – mirror images of Malik Qadris on this part of the earth. Today when investigating agencies have found enough leads to nab some of their own top leaders for their role in promoting terror attacks they want us to believe the new wisdom which has dawned upon them.