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See RSS, Think Al Queda!

By Subhash Gatade

22 August, 2005

The RSS may call itself a cultural organisation, but an established US think tank has virtually equated it with Al Queda and some other outfits, terming them "new religious movements (NRMs) that have also emerged as sources of violence". ..

The report titled "Exploring Religious Conflicts" says "NRMs can be found in Hinduism (the RSS), Israel ( Gush Emunim), Christianity ( the US based identity movement) and Islam, including Al Queda, a global network with a transcendent vision that draws support in the defence of Islam"...
For the RSS, the adverse comment comes close on the heels of the Virginia based Terrorism Research Centre (TRC) declaring it a terrorist organisation and lumping it with a number of Jihadi and secessionist outfits.( Report by S. Rajagopalan, Hindustan Times, delhi, dated 11 th August 2005)


The recent report on 'religious conflicts' by the US think tank RAND Corporation has definitely brought a fresh spate of bad news for the beleagured RSS which is passing through one of its worst crisis since its inception. Ruthlessly tearing apart its well cultivated and projected image that it is a 'cultural organisation' the said report virtually equates it with Al Queda and some other outfits, terming them "new religious movements (NRMs) that have also emerged as sources of violence".

Labelling the RSS as "an ultra Hindu nationalist movement" it clearly states that the RSS espouses a "strong and militant religious philosophy based on exclusivity and hate", blames it for violence directed at Muslims and Christians and reiterates that it remains a threat to the idea of India as a secular state.

For the RSS, the report has been so devastating that despite a section of the media going public with the inferences of the study and its critics raising the temperatures further, none of the media savvy spokespersons of the Parivar have dared to comment on it. It appears that the Sangh bosses have preferred to adopt the much tested maun vrata a vow of silence over this. Looking at the genesis of this study which has emanated from a conservative think tank which is very close to the US establishment , the maun vratam seems to be the best option before them.

Gone are the days when the RSS and its men, which are part of the plethora of organisations which it has built, were patting themselves on their backs for effecting a paradigm shift in its relation vis-a-vis the USA. Now forget paradigm shift, within a span of a few months this is the third time in a row that the Parivar and its men have received rebukes either at the hands of the US establishment itself or through those institutions/peoples who are working closely with it. It was only last September that the Virginia based 'Terrorism Research Centre' a leading think tank specialising in terrorism studies with due help from the US government, declared RSS as a terrorist organisation and lumped it with a number of Jihadi and secessionist outfits. The first quarter of this year witnessed the denial of visa to Narendra Modi, the poster boy of the Sangh Parivar which rather stopped him from going to US for luring Non resident Gujaratis to invest in the state. And now comes the RAND study which tells us to have a relook at the commonalities between RSS and Al Qaeda and the danger they like many of their ilk present before humanity.


Formally the RAND Corporation may call itself a '..nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decision making through research and analysis' but nobody can deny the umbilical chord which unites it with the US establishment. A product of the cold war competition with USSR and founded in the period of Mccarthysim in US polity when intellectual witch hunt was at its peak, the institution has down the years carved out a niche for itself as a very reliable conservative 'thinktank' for the US establishment. May it be the Korean war or for that matter the Vietnam (mis)adventure of the USA or the present preoccupation of the Bush led establishment towards 'war against terror' RAND's policy recommendations have been reflective to service to power and in the most recent period has turned its attention to bring about “a reformation in the Muslim world.”

A mere perusal of the present study 'Exploring Religious Conflicts' makes it clear that it is basically a summary of the workshops hosted by the RAND National Security Research Division with due financial help from the CIA. The introduction makes it clear that it has been undertaken to 'assess religious motivations in international politics, what may cause violence with religious roots and how states have sought to take advantage or contain religious violence.' Looking at the mess in which the US finds itself today especially in middle east, a mess of its own making, the present study suggests some ways out. There is no denying the fact that the bulk of the 84 page report brought out by RAND is mainly focussed on this present preoccupation of the US establishment namely the 'war against terror' or Islamic extremism.

Interestingly although funded directly by the CIA, the conclusions of the study are at variance with the way the Bushes, Cheneys or the Rumsfields have viewed the unfolding situation before them. The world very well knows how the neo cons have reformulated rules of US engagement in world politics and have discovered the rule of 'preemptive strike' supposedly to contain the 'rogue states'. The present study frankly states that the use of military force to combat cosmic war could be counter productive. It cautions the US from even aspiring to the military destruction of the opponent, even in the long run. It advises the U.S. policymakers to try to adjust their mental map of relations with the Islamic world from one based on a historic sense of “conflict” to thinking of relationships along a continuum that encompasses a wide range of issues.

It is worth noting that while the present report suggests restraint, two of the earlier reports brought out by RAND very much resonate with the neo cons thinking. The report issued in March 2004 entitled "Civil Democratic Islam : Partners, Resources and Strategies" written by some Cheryl Benard recommended a civil war among the various parts of the Muslim community with a hope that the end result will be that those who support the US world view would prevail through its help. The 600 pages report issued in December 2004 entitled “ US strategy in the Muslim World after 9/11 suggests that Sunni, Shiite and Arab, non-Arab divides should be exploited to promote the US policy objectives in the Muslim world.

Ofcourse to put the things in proper perspective the study under discussion namely 'Exploring Religious Conflicts' also discusses similar 'potential new religious movements (NRMs), even violent ones, apart from those spawned by Islamic radicalism.' and notes that if Islam has its Al Qaeda, Christianity has US based identity movement, Jews have Gush Emunim and Hinduism has its RSS ( Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh). According to the study ".Sometimes referred to as cults, NRMs have two defining characteristics – a high degree of tension between the group and its surrounding society and a high degree of control exercised by leaders over their members. There is a discernible proliferation of NRMs across the global landscape. While they have gotten most attention in the richer countries, they are found everywhere, including countries of the Third World and the Middle East."

Coming to the RSS the ultra Hindu nationalist movement it says it "..[e]spouses a strong and militant religious philosophy based on exclusivity and hate. After the assassination of Gandhi in 1948, the movement was banned for a few years by the Indian government because of its acts of violence and terrorism and its exhortation to followers to resort to terrorist methods in the promulgation of its religious ideas. In the 1990s, under the government led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), its role and influence in India grew and continues to grow even today. During the BJP’s tenure in political office....the RSS continued to gain momentum and was engaged in violence, particularly against what it viewed to be threats against the Hindu state, namely Muslims and Christians. .."


For layperson it may appear incomprehensible this sudden 'dawning of wisdom' upon the western world especially the USA vis-a-vis RSS. It may appear puzzling to them that why till date sharing the vision of 'anti communism' as a glue the US and its think tanks have suddenly woken up to the danger the RSS presents to India's secular state.

The reasons are not far to seek. But before delineating the possible reasons one needs to note that these changes in the evaluation of the RSS vis-a-vis US establishment are of a short term nature. Strategically speaking the USA has always looked towards the RSS as a force which can counterbalance the communist forces in the unlikely event that the democratic experiment fails in India prompting greater intervention by the reds in the polity. One can remember the early 50s study of the Communist Movement in India done by Overstreet and Windmiller which was done at the behest of the CIA where they had even put forward this hypothesis and had underlined that RSS would act as a bulwark against the Communist movement.

- The need for tactical or short term changes in the evaluation of the RSS has arisen because of the Iraq-Afghanistan imbroglio where the USA finds itself in a mess of its own making. As the present study makes it clear that the "..[U]S foreign policy in the Middle East, particularly its strong and unswerving support of Israel and its current war against terrorism and “Islam,” have made the United States an object of hate. ..the United States is perceived as evil and out to destroy Islam; it therefore must be fought in order to defend the faith."

One route open before the US regime it to shed its 'anti Islam' image is to make friends with moderate Islamic regimes may it be Pervez Musharraf led Pakistan or Hosni Mubarak led Egypt. The second option before it is by distancing itself from groups, organisations which cherish ideological hatred towards Islam or detest Muslims as a community. Definitely the RSS which wears its anti minority image on its sleeve and has no qualms in rationalising pogroms of Muslims or breaking of mosques serves the purpose well.

There is no doubt that a major factor which has prompted the USA to undertake this reevaluation is the recent changes in the Indian polity namely the exit of a government led by the Sangh Parivar diehards. And despite a long history of support provided by the Sangh Supremos namely the Golwalkars and the Deorases in times of cold war and despite the fact that Vajpayee-Advani led regime had unilaterally offered it support when US launched its 'war against terror' The US government and its affiliated institutions lost no time in recalibrating their evaluation of the RSS. If Virginia based TRC ( Terrorism Research Centre) called RSS as a 'terrorist organisation' ( September 2004) and lumped it together with 31 other jihadi and secessionist organisations like the Hizbul Mujahideen and the Jaish-e-Mohammad operating in India , the US government itself denied a visa to the poster boy of Sangh Parivar Narendra Modi when he wanted to meet the Non resident Gujaratis to appeal to them that invest in Gujarat. And the latest dressing down has come at the hands of RAND report which has equated it with the likes of Al Qaeda. Indeed for a self proclaimed cultural organisation, this hatrick of sorts of a different kind within a span of mere ten months, must be a world record.

The public opinion inside the US or for that matter other western countries also created its own pressure on the respective governments. We are aware that apart from the international level human rights organisations visiting Gujarat in 2002 to seek more details, many a teams from western countries themselves visited Gujarat state when the world at large became aware of the pogrom undertaken by the nazi loving Parivar people. People also knew how the ascendance of BJP at the centre has also seen unleashing of attacks against the Christians all over India. The tragic burning of Graham Steins and his two sons by criminals owing allegiance to the Hindutva ideology had been witnessed by the world.

Many a business delegations also visited the 'model laboratory of Hindutva' namely Gujarat to ascertain the safety of their invested capital. It was clear that a state which could attract enough capital because of its infrastructure and related facilities suddenly saw drying up fresh investments after the carnage 2002.

Ofcourse the important role played by the civil society organisations inside USA especially the role of the secular diaspora from south asia in influencing the public opinion cannot be denied. The important role played by them in highlighting the Gujarat genocide which officially saw killings of mainly 2,000 Muslims organised with due connivance of the BJP led state machinery or the way they led a massive campaign inside USA where they exposed how by utilising the US Corporate Philanthropy the Sangh people have been channelising millions of dollars to Hate groups in India also created an impact. (Times of India, Nov 22, 2002).The Project Saffron Dollar launched by intellectuals, students and other professionals compelled many a respectable US companies to even stop funding the innocuous looking funding arm of the Sangh linked IDRF (India Development and Relief Fund)

The secular activists also demonstrated the sameness of the Hindutva inspired groups in USA with the other fanatic groups as far as modus operandi is concerned. They showed how a very popular Hindutva web site'' ( engages itself in venomous propaganda against minorities and has even prepared a 'hit list' of individuals, organisations which are opposed to the anti human agenda of the Parivar. They also brought to the notice of the authorities the close connection between the Hindutva groups and Zionist groups and how they have been coordinating their activites. When the website was compelled to discontinue its operations by the service provider because of its venomous postings, a zionist group came forward to host it. Although in his famous book 'We and Our Nationhood Defined' the RSS supremo Golwalkar has supported Hitler for his experiments in ethnic cleansing by targetting the Jews his followers were found to be enjoying the good company of the Zionists without any reservation. The only common thing which connected these groups is their common hatred towards Islam.


Prof Ram Puniyani had written an article 'Is RSS A Terrorist Organisation' ( 2 June 2005 ) immediately after the Terrorism Research Centre's categorisation about the RSS that it is a 'terrorist organisation' made headlines. In this article he explained the indoctrination work of RSS which goes on twin tracks, namely physical and bauddik (mental) one.

He explained :" It is the latter which motivates its progeny to incite people to take up arms and kill the ‘other’, the ‘enemy’ in the ruthless fashion. The anatomy of a riot, violence, is very interesting and complex both at the same time. How the average dalit, adivasi, worker with empty stomach and non existent future is mobilized as the foot soldier of RSS agenda, is something social scientists have to explain. RSS pracharak may be at the same time sitting and giving a quiet discourse on Hindu values, Hindu rashtra while RSS ideology will grip the section of population to unleash violence, to kill the innocents. It does achieve the political goal of consolidation of section of Hindus behind RSS; it does make them come back to power or strengthen its power. The definition with which we began was killing of innocents for power or political agenda is terrorism. And that’s precisely what RSS work does. "

Contrasting between the Ladens or the AK 47 wielding terrorists and the RSS volunteers he rightly says that he may appear to be apostle of quietness. According to him to get the minorities beaten and killed without taking up the arms oneself this is the wiliest and cleverest part of the RSS operation. And he righly concludes "The violence is leased out by clever social and psychological manipulation. In that sense AK 47 may miss the target but a mind poisoned and initiated by Hate ideology propagated by RSS will come out as violence some time or the other, here or there, it’s just a question of time. Culture, the cloak of this organization is the most subtly disguised cover for the terrorist goals of this organization."











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