RSS chief faces storm over remark on Army

New Delhi: The RSS, BJP and Union ministers on Monday rushed to the defence of Sangh Parivar boss Mohan Bhagwat over allegations that he had tried to undermine the Army’s preparedness and had disrespected martyrs.

As Congress president Rahul Gandhi attacked Mr Bhagwat, saying his remarks were an “insult to every Indian” and demanded an apology, Union minister of state for home Kiren Rijiju, along with the RSS, jumped to defend the Sangh Parivar supremo. While the RSS claimed that its boss’ statements were misrepresented, Mr Rijiju defended him by saying that in emergency situations “every Indian must volunteer to stand with the defence forces” and “Bhagwatji only said it takes 6-7 months for a person to be a trained soldier and if the Constitution permits, the RSS cadres have the ability to contribute” BJP ally JD(U)’s chief and Bihar CM Nitish Kumar also tried to defend the RSS boss when he asked: “If an organisation says that it is eager to safeguard the borders, is it a matter of controversy?” Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijiyan tweeted that Mr Bhagwat’s statements exposes the “RSS’ hidden agenda to float parallel militias to wreak havoc, and crush national unity” as it has no respect for India’s institutions.

Mr Bhagwat, who has been camping in Bihar, had purportedly claimed on Sunday that the RSS could “prepare” military personnel faster than the Army. But the RSS claimed that Mr Bhagwat’s remarks were only made as a comparison between ordinary citizens and Sangh volunteers (swayamsevaks) and were in “no way a comparison” with the Indian Army.

“Sarsanghchalak Moh-an Bhagwat’s speech in Muzaffarpur (Bihar) is being misrepresented. Mr Bhagwat had said that if situation arises and the Constitution permits, the Indian Army would take six months to prepare society, whereas Sangh swayamsevaks can be trained in three days, as swayamsevaks practise discipline regularly,” said RSS’ Akhil Bhartiya Prachaar Pramukh Manmohan Vaidya in a statement.

Minister of state for civil aviation Jayant Sinha said it was a case of “misconstrued statement” and that the Opposition was “making unnecessary noise… We are fully with our Army”.

In Agartala, BJP general secretary Ram Madhav, who is a Sangh pracharak, said Mr Bhagwat might have made the comments to highlight the organisation’s “tatparta” (state of readiness). He said: “I don’t know what he exactly said… He would have said so to highlight the readiness of RSS volunteers. RSS volunteers are always willing to stand with the Army for the nation’s security.”

Asked for his reaction on Mr Bhagwat’s comments, BJP president Amit Shah said he had heard about them only through the social media, and would react after getting to know what he had exactly said.

Targeting Mr Bhagwat, Congress president Rahul Gandhi tweeted: “The RSS chief’s speech is an insult to every Indian, because it disrespects those who have died for our nation. It is an insult to our flag because it insults every soldier who ever saluted it. Shame on you Mr Bhagwat, for disrespecting our martyrs and our Army. #ApologiseRSS.”

Later, speaking to the media in Karnataka, Mr Gandhi said: “Mohan Bhagwat’s remark is absolutely wrong, I’m pained at bhearing it… Our soldiers shed their blood, stand at the borders and work, they give their lives… Mohan Bhagwatji’s statement is absolutely wrong, he has to apologise. He has to say that he has committed a mistake… Soldiers, whether from the paramilitary forces or the Army, Air Force or Navy, or whoever works for the security of this country, he has said this against them. What he has said is absolutely wrong and he has to apologise.”

Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan tweeted: “RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s comments on the Indian Army are in poor taste, against constitutional propriety; confirms our worst fears about the Sangh that it has no respect for India’s institutions. His statement exposes the RSS’s hidden agenda to float parallel militias to wreak havoc, crush national unity.”

He also tweeted: “RSS wants to turn India into Mussolini’s Italy and Hitler’s Germany. Parallel Army he is talking about is what we have always warned against: Hindu terror. Running down the Army amounts to treason. RSS chief must apologise to the people of India for this treacherous remark. PM Narendra Modi should clarify his govt’s position over Bhagwat belittling Indian Army.”