Very few people are bestowed with the skill of rational think as Dr. Koenraad Elst. When it comes discourse on religion and politics in India, I hold Dr. Elst in very high regard.
Those who have worked with RSS or related organizations at some point of time in their life will probably realize that the organization has a very different attitude towards criticism. When their sympathizer criticises them, they will haul him over the coal, but when their ideological opponent does it to them they will chicken out. In fact this chickening out is pretty common with RSS.
RSS might have many faults but that should not give legitimacy to the self proclaimed secularists and leftist any way. Most of the secularists and leftist label any hindu sympathizer as RSS man.
That is how Anna Hazare becomes a RSS man.
The problem with most critic of RSS is that they are not sensitive to the problem of Hindu society, in fact they will completely deny existence of such problem. Sometimes they will attribute the problems to Sangh itself. Their main objective is to strengthen the understandings an misunderstandings of their own vote banks/fan bases about RSS.
There is a set of RSS critic though, who understand the Hindu society’s struggle to have an independent identity and also understand that RSS is doing more harm to Hindus than benefit.
Dr. Elst in my opinion is one of those observers who gets many things right about RSS.
His recent blog post which talks about RSS’ shortcomings as a voice of hindu society and gives some glimpses about possible alternatives is a must read. It is very long but Dr. Elst’s logical flow will keep you engaged.
Here is an excerpt.
Most supposed experts refuse to see the existence of Hindu activism outside the Sangh and instead reduce any Hindu sign of life to “Hindutva” (thus incidentally flattering the Sangh). One reason is purely political: in the struggle against Hindu activism as a whole, it is simply more useful to extend all prevalent criticism of the Sangh, e.g. that it murdered Mahatma Gandhi or committed “genocide” in Gujarat 2002, to any and every form of Hindu resistance. It implies that if you hear a Hindu complain about, say, Christian missionary demonization of Hinduism, you must stop him for he is about to commit murder if not genocide. In the Indian media, this kind of innuendo is frequent enough.
The RSS has never abandoned the working style introduced by its founder Dr. Keshav Baliram Hedgewar, who had been formed by the Revolutionary movement and adopted its secretiveness, discouraging written communication in favour of personal communication through travelling office-bearers. A lot of physical locomotion is a status symbol in the RSS hierarchy, but motion is not action. The numerous RSS self-praise brochures boast about mass campaigns with millions marching, but these have rarely translated into the realization of their stated goals. Thus, the anti-cow-slaughter campaign of the late 1960s achieved nothing, and the Ayodhya campaign in spite of its unprecedented magnitude has not realized the construction of the projected temple even twenty years later. Though it is part of Hindutva culture to deny failure (vide the way the California Hindu parents tried to present the disappointing court verdict in the textbook case as a victory), inevitably at least some people had to draw the logical conclusion from these failures and try something new.
One reason for the Sangh’s respectability among the Hindu masses, though you might not know of it if you only read the expert studies on Hindutva, is its massive presence in social and relief work. After an earthquake, Sangh relief workers are the first to arrive in the disaster area. That doesn’s prove anything about its politics, and could be likened to the motivated social and relief work of the Christian Missions or the Hamas; but at least it ought to be noticed and reported. It helps explain why most criticisms of the Sangh among Hindus are restrained by an acknowledgment of its undeniable merits. But now it is dawning upon an increasing number of Hindu activists that all this charity is no substitute for ideological clarity.
In the case of Hindutva, nationalism is proving to be the last resort of blockheads unable to construe conflicts and power equations in ideological terms. While Christianity has changed race several times in its history (from Levantine to North-African and South-European to North-European to non-white), and while most missionaries in India are now non-white and generally Indian-born, Hindutva polemicists keep on ranting against “white racist Christian missions”. This saves them the trouble of studying the scholarly critique of Biblical truth claims and the challenge of arguing the religious case for Hinduism and against Christianity with fellow Indians who happen to be Christian. One very useful experience of NRIs and PIOs in their non-Indic surroundings is that religious issues exist in their own right, by virtue of the distinctive mores inculcated and the truth claims of religions, and regardless of the ethnic origin of a religion’s followers. The modern identification of Sanatana Dharma with the geographical entity India, explicitly proposed by Hindutva ideologues, is negated by the NRI-PIOs’ experience, where Hindu traditions turn out to remain meaningful even after being severed from their geographical cradle. This makes them more receptive to the universalistic understanding of Hindu tradition as expounded by Goel’s mentor Ram Swarup and by some globe-trotting Gurus.