The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sangh spices up media dinner with ideology

New Delhi, April 26: The swadeshi Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) is dining with videshi media.

On Thursday, senior RSS leaders hosted a dinner for a select group of foreign journalists, a first for the once closed-door organisation.

Senior correspondents from the CNN, The Guardian, Financial Times, The Washington Post, Associated Press and Reuters were treated to shuddh shakahari khana (a pure vegetarian meal) and a crash course in Sangh ideology.

On the dinner table were dal, roti, rice, puri, raita, paneer, gulab jamun and kheer. Though the spread did not include the usual favourites — pizza, cutlet, ham or kebabs — a journalist described the food as “very good”.

The venue was the residence of former journalist and BJP Rajya Sabha MP Balbir Punj. Senior RSS leader and co-ordinator of various Sangh outfits Madan Das Devi and RSS spokesperson Ram Madhav were present.

The hosts scoffed at Marxists and their support for secularism. The “comrades” had helped Mohammad Ali Jinnah create Pakistan “and they are talking about secularism”, the Sangh leaders laughed.

The RSS, the journalists were told, did not draw inspiration from Hitler. One of the guests had referred to RSS ideologue M.S. Golwalkar’s book, We, Nationhood Defined, which praised Hitler.

The Sangh leaders said they had disassociated from the book long ago.

The subjects of discussion varied from saffron to red, the Ram temple movement in Ayodya to Godhra and the Gujarat riots, Praveen Togadia and the morning shakhas (meetings) to Bangladeshi infiltration. The journalists were given a brief introduction to the RSS, in particular its stand on nationalism and patriotism.

When a correspondent asked why the Sangh demanded that Muslims should earn the goodwill of Hindus, Devi pointed to the Godhra massacre.

Another correspondent wanted to know why India should be seen as a Hindu rashtra. Punj quipped: “If you take Hinduism from India, what do you get'”

The hosts seemed happy with the way the dinner had gone. Fifteen out of the 20 journalists invited had turned up.

Madhav said “suprisingly, there was misconception but absolutely no bias. They were receptive and trying to understand. It was a pleasant surprise”.

The RSS, which had always worked behind an iron curtain, threw itself open to the Indian media only after the BJP-led government came into power. It started interacting with Indian journalists on a regular basis about three years ago. Thursday was the first time the Sangh leaders reached out to the foreign media in a big way.

Madhav played down the meeting, saying it was just an “interactive session” without a specific agenda.

“We wanted to get acquainted with foreign journalists based in Delhi. It is necessary to put across our viewpoints. We are regularly interacting with Indian media personnel.”

The dinner for the American and European journalists has whetted the Sangh’s appetite. Madhav said similar meetings will be held with journalists from other countries as well, including those in Asia.

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