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Since 1st March, 1999
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Sangh snubs VHP, puts stamp on Atal’s musings

New Delhi, Jan. 4: Days after the Vishwa Hindu Parishad mocked the Prime Minister’s Goa musings as an expression of “pseudo-Hindutva”, the RSS today rose to Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s defence, saying his New Year reflections were “very important” and “every person should look at them seriously and with an open mind”.

The two-page statement in Hindi — whose title translates as “The true meaning of secularism” — was written by former RSS chief Rajendra Singh alias Rajju Bhaiyya and released by the party’s media cell.

BJP sources hoped that the RSS’ stamp of approval on the Goa ruminations would “isolate” the VHP and reinforce its image as the parivar’s prime “trouble-maker”. It has also spared the BJP the ticklish job of answering the VHP’s charges against Vajpayee and risk incurring its wrath before the next round of Assembly elections.

The operative part of Rajju Bhaiyya’s statement read: “To reinterpret certain words, find their correct meaning and place them in the context of their Indianness (Bharateeyata) are tasks all of us should embark on because they can help redefine controversial words correctly and put an end to differences on basic issues.”

Vajpayee had said: “There is no difference between such (his interpretation of) Hindutva and Bharateeyata, since both are expressions of the same ‘chintan’ (thought). Both affirm that India belongs to all, and all belong to India.”

The Prime Minister had sought to give a more liberal definition of Hindutva than the one “projected by some people in a narrow, rigid and extremist manner” (to quote from the musings) but the obvious reference to the VHP so irked its leaders that Acharya Giriraj Kishore called Vajpayee a “pseudo-Hindu”.

The RSS, however, gave its own spin to Vajpayee’s Hindutva interpretation. Rajju Bhaiyya took exception to the Hindi translation of secularism as “dharmanirpekshta” (neutrality towards all religions) and argued that the western definition could not be superimposed on India because “India has never taken a rigid view of religion or sectarianism and, therefore, it has never been a theocratic state”.

The former RSS chief added: “Nowadays, secularism is translated as dharmanirpeksh and this is highly inappropriate. Dharma is not the correct translation of religion. In our country, dharma has a high place because it forms the basis of society. The social order is erected on the foundation of dharma, dharma is the source of rules and values and it is the only means of integrating different social components. Therefore, Krishna said in the Gita that whenever adharma dominates the country and governance, I return in a new avatar to destroy the saboteurs and re-establish dharma.”

“How can we run a country by being neutral towards the concept of dharma by which every god and every noble being swears'” Rajju Bhaiyya asked. He asserted it was impossible to have a word like “dharmanirpekshta” in India and suggested that secularism’s Hindi equivalent should be either “sampraday nirpekshta” (neutrality towards all communities) or “panth nirpekshta” (neutrality towards all sects). Quoting a Supreme Court ruling which stated that Hindutva was a way of life, he said: “Therefore, Hindutva and Bharateeyata mean the same. Hindu dharma is a humane dharma.”

The former Sangh chief — regarded as a skilled practitioner of realpolitik hailing from Uttar Pradesh — said in his efforts to evolve a new Hindi coinage for secularism, he asked former Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao to take the initiative in one of the several meetings he had with him on the Ram temple issue. He claimed that Rao had accepted that “dharmanirpeksh” was a misnomer. “But when I requested him to rectify the wrong without ado, he laughed and said who will listen to me'”

But what might disconcert Vajpayee and the BJP was Rajju Bhaiyya’s indirect questioning of the words secularism and socialism in the preamble to the Constitution. Noting that they were introduced by Indira Gandhi, Rajju Bhaiyya’s take was they were “superfluous” as spirit of the two concepts had in any case permeated the Constitution.

Rajdharm reminder

In a veiled attack against Vajpayee, VHP international general secretary Praveen Togadia today said those who speak of compassion in the face of terrorist attacks are unfit to be rulers, adds our correspondent from Cuttack.

“Raja ka kartavya hai rajdharm. If the King can’t fulfil his duties, then he should turn into a saint and start residing in temples. The duty of a king is to kill the terrorists who attack the temples. Those who preach non-violence and tolerance have allowed things to come into such a pass,” Togadia said at a rally here this afternoon.

The rally was the venue for launching an eight-day discourse on Bhagvad Gita, to be addressed by Sadhvi Rithambara from tomorrow.

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