RSS defence of vigilantes surprising

The Constitution has been twisted out of shape in dealing with those accused of cow vigilantism by the powers that be.

The observations of RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat in the course of the traditional Vijayadashami address of the Hindutva outfit can only fill the country with dread. In no uncertain terms did Mr Bhagwat choose the occasion last Saturday to boost the morale of the so-called cow protection brigades in the country that have gone on the rampage in the past two years or so, not even stopping at murder. The price has been paid by members of the Muslim minority and dalit community.

The Constitution has been twisted out of shape in dealing with those accused of cow vigilantism by the powers that be. Broad daylight murders in the name of cow protection have drawn protests across the country, but the “brotherhood in saffron” is clearly unfazed.

The obvious reason appears to be that members of this fraternity are holding power at the Centre and in a swathe of states. It is evidently in this backdrop that Mr Bhagwat seized the opportunity to embolden his followers.

Without ado the RSS leader pronounced from Nagpur, where the headquarters of the organisation is located, that the pious and virtuous people who protect the cow should not pay heed to what people in high places in government have to say (it was implied that this was for the sake of form), or bother even with the observations of the Supreme Court, on the subject of vigilantism in the name of “gau raksha” which has created an uproar in the country.

The uproar has been caused because the “gau raksha” brigades have indulged in murder, open violence and intimidation in open defiance of the Constitution, and cast a shadow over the functioning of our democratic order. Senior government functionaries, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, have been obliged to indirectly criticise the vigilante groups, in muted terms (and apparently without conviction), precisely because they were earning a bad name for our constitutional order. But Mr Bhagwat has dispensed with all niceties.

The day of Vijayadashmi is the RSS’ foundation day. The address of the RSS chief is keenly anticipated by adherents for overall guidance. When the BJP was not in power, the RSS leader kept scrupulously out of anything that may even remotely suggest that the Indian Constitution or democratic norms were being sought to be defied. That restraint appears now to be dropping.

In asking for amending the Constitution to “assimilate” the people of Kashmir into the Indian Union in spirit, Mr Bhagwat was doing no more than bark up the standard RSS line on deleting Article 370 of the Constitution, although, in constitutional terms, it is this provision that made possible the accession of the erstwhile princely state of J&K into India after Independence. Mr Bhagwat’s reviling of all Rohingyas as terrorists is in line with the Modi government’s view.

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