Misery, Shakespeare said, acquaints a man with strange bedfellows. But the US-RSS fellowship, which started when the RSS was leading a miserable marginalised life in India, has blossomed into much more. What started as an academic watch by the US embassy personnel and even by some CIA staffers, is slowly developing into a cosy relationship, somewhat like the Bush and Blair pair. The Modi-Trump duo is trying out a new model for South Asia, and in India, it is striving for a Hindu Rashtra, backed by bonhomie with the USA, based on common interests. Side by side, the BJP is aiming to gain absolute power, by hook or by crook, in 2019 – if not a few months earlier.
In the hurly-burly of day to day developments, we tend to forget past trends which lead to the future, and even present news, unless it is of immediate interest. As a result, we often forget to see connected developments or even the historic forces at work. Over the years, since the birth of the Jana Sangh, its rise and fall, to the birth of the BJP and its rise to the present peak, there has been behind it always the invisible hand of the RSS playing different roles in different periods. The mask is slowly coming off, as the RSS now is in the political game as never before.
Today, the American interest in the growth of the present BJP and RSS is not only getting curiouser and curiouser – but thicker and thicker, as are the Indo-American relations too. It was said during the Iraq war that Bush and Blair made a great pair. Today, it can well be said that Modi and Trump, are complementing the role at least in South Asia. It is a relationship which has been cultivated and nurtured behind the scenes over the entire period by a bunch of US embassy personnel, some of whom were diplomatic staff, some were CIA and some combining the RSS Sangh Parivar watch by academic research too. Consider the following facts.
As an RSS expert, professor and later journalist, Desh Raj Goyal and his team put it years ago: “It may be just a coincidence, but it is a significant coincidence, that intimate and full length studies of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh have come from two highly placed officials of U.S. Administration. One is the monograph Militant Hinduism in Indian Politics: A study of the RSS, by Jean A. Curran Jr. and issued by Institute of Pacific Relations, New York, The other is The Jana Sangh, A Biography of an Indian Political Partyby Craig Baxter. The former was the head of CIA in Asia and Africa at the time he prepared his study while the latter prepared his notes while working as political secretary in the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi”.
The help that Baxter received from Jana Sangh sources is acknowledged in the preface to his book, where he says that “Three of the Jana Sangh leaders have spent much time to aid me: Lalchand K.Advani, then Chairman of the Delhi Metropolitan Council, arranged for the use of the back files of Organiser at his home, a necessity. Balraj Madhok, gave many hours too, loaned books and some others related interesting lores of the party”.
The confidence and openness to foreigners whose interest, positioned as they were, could not be purely academic and objective. Surely, a CIA official and political secretary of the U.S Embassy could not be taking interest in the two organisations just as an academic exercise. That the leaders who went out of their way to provide information about themselves did not know who they were consorting with is also not believable. “Nothing except the realization of commonness of interests and kinship of spirit could be the reason behind this intimacy” writes Goyal.
Another significant coincidence about these studies is that by the time the first (ie.by Curran) was completed in 1951, the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh launched the Jana Sangh on the Indian political scene. And by the time Craig Baxter finished writing his book in 1969, the Jana Sangh was building up what was called the Grand Alliance of various opposition parties.
Significantly, next came Anderson, authority in the RSS getting set for yet another book as a follow up of his “The Brotherhood in Saffron”, which could cover the entire period from the takeoff of the BJP to its present strength right up to 2019, along with Damle, his old chum – now ensconced in the USA. Anderson now has added respectability of being connected to the John Hopkins University.
Then we have Walter K. Andersen, known for his scholarship on contemporary Indian politics, especially the rise of Hindutva. At the peak of the Ayodhya agitation, in 1987, he published The Brotherhood In Saffron:The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and Hindu Revivalism, written with Sridhar D. Damle. It was a sympathetic but thorough investigation of Hindutva.
Anderson was a BJP watcher.Hetaught comparative politics at the College of Woosterbefore joining the United States State Departmentas a political analyst for South Asia– specialising in Indiaand Indian Ocean affairs. Additionally, he was an adjunct professor at the American Universityin Washington, D.C.Anderson became virtually a psephologist later, meeting journalists during crucial elections and also an expert on Indian politics.
Shridhar Damle said in a recent, 2018 interview that the RSS believes in making Hindu society aware of its civic duty by compulsory military training. The 1942-born Damle graduated from Bombay University; later completed his post-graduation in Political Science from Pune. Based in Chicago, he is now working on Savarkar and has made several forays to India. Damle, in an interview with the Telegraph, revealed: “When he was in the US in 2014, we met at a get-together and Modi asked me why we had not updated our book when so much had happened in India. I spoke to Walter and within days we were planning our book.”
So, after nearly 35 years, Andersen with his co-author Damle, will be rewriting the book in the new context of a Hindutva party leading the Union government.
As the 2019 elections draw close, the BJP and the saffron brigade mount their hi-tech razzle dazzle campaign, possibly the costliest till date – if recent bypolls and state elections are indicators. During the course of the last five years, while some tentacles of the saffron brigade’s organisational network keep the communal cauldron boiling, other sops are tried too. The communal agenda, however, remains the core issue. The goal is a ‘Hindu Rashtra’ of its conception – with a brute majority. Of course, all this, with a still closer relationship with the USA.
Recall the words of the RSS supremo and chief ideologue Golwalkar and his messageto the USA President during the Vietnam War: “By God’s grace the USA is the leader of the Free World, Dharma and Adharma are today engaged in a world-wide war. In this war USA heads the side of Dharma.” This was a war the USA lost and was reviled across the world for its atrocities in Vietnam. The RSS stood by it then. The relationship is now reaching newer heights and seeking newer horizons.