Will Pranab Mukherjee tell RSS what all is wrong with its Hindutva ideology in Nagpur?
New Delhi, June 7: Since former President Pranab Mukherjee has accepted the invitation of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) to address the members of the right-wing Hindu nationalist group in Nagpur, Maharashtra on Thursday, it is almost futile for the "liberals" to ask him to "reconsider" his decision to be seen with an exclusive group of "Hindu protectors" or "swayamsevaks"---as the RSS members are known as.
The former Union minister, who was a Congress leader for almost five-decades before he left politics to become the President of the country in 2012, has already reached Nagpur to be the chief guest at the concluding function of "Tritiya Varsh Varg" or third-year course which will start from 6.30 pm on Thursday at the RSS headquarters.
To stop Citizen Pranab--as his Twitter handle describes the 82-year-old politician-President--at this juncture will be like praying to the dark, cloudy, belligerent sky to be merciful and not flood your city/town/village during the monsoon rains.
So like Mukherjee's former colleague and senior Congress leader P Chidambaram, all those who have "reservations" regarding the Congress patriarch's decision to be seen with the "Hindu zealots" in their "kingdom" and give validation to the core ideology of the RSS which stands directly against the country's secular and democratic ethos can simply hope that the former President will hold a mirror to the RSS during his Nagpur visit.
"Now that he has accepted the invitation, there is no point debating why he accepted it. More important thing to say is, Sir, you have accepted invitation, please go there and tell them what is wrong with their ideology," Chidambaram said, while making it clear that he himself would have never accepted such an invitation.
A host of Congress leaders like Jairam Ramesh and CK Jaffer Sharief have asked their "dear Pranab babu"-- who had earlier on many occasions himself did not mince words to attack the RSS and its ideology of creating a Hindu rashtra (India as a Hindu country and not a secular one)--not to go to Nagpur.
Those who are opposing Mukherjee's visit to the RSS headquarters find it offensive that a "secular" leader like the former President has decided to go to a place considered as the mecca of "Hindutva politics" where there is no space for "others", especially Muslims.
While urging Mukherjee not to attend the RSS event, the so-called liberal and secular brigade of the country maintains that it came as a "rude shock" for them as the veteran leader has decided to "embrace the communal forces".
But Congress leaders like Abhishek Singhvi told people to not jump to any conclusion till the former President had spoken. Mukherjee, who himself was maintaining a stoic silence after the controversy regarding his visit to the RSS camp started, recently told Bengali daily Anandabazar Patrika, "Whatever I have to say, I will say in Nagpur. I have received several letters and phone calls but I haven't responded to anyone yet."
His veiled response does not make it clear what will be the tone and tenor of his speech. Will his speech be a pleasing one for the RSS praising the right-wing group for "protecting the country's age-old traditions", or a mild reminder of what India stands for by outlining the main features of the Constitution (as he had done on many occasions as the President), or a sharp attack on the Hindutva ideology which is witnessing an unprecedented rise under the incumbent Narendra Modi regime?
With incidents of mob lynchings of Muslims, atrocities against Dalits, 'love jihad', support for rape accused by members of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), saffronisation of textbooks and institutions and other problems on rise, can the former President act "neutral" and give the nation a false hope of "achhe din"?
It is perhaps the best platform for Mukherjee to tell the RSS and its affiliates that India can't be a Hindu rashtra, killings of Muslims in the name of gau rakshak (cow protection) are the most heinous crimes, women are not just baby-producing machines, Dalits grooms can't be beaten to death for riding horse, playing with proven historical events is a big injustice to the future generations, banning films, books and artworks attack freedom of speech and renaming roads, railway stations and cities will not bring "vikas" (development).
What Mukherjee will speak at the much-awaited event is his prerogative. He should not be dictated or influenced (not even by his daughter Sharmishta Mukherjee who has openly disapproved her father's decision to attend the RSS event) by anyone.
Like all of us, Mukherjee too has the "freedom of speech". But while exercising his freedom, the veteran and seasoned leader should stand for the liberty and emancipation of millions of Indians-- irrespective of religion, caste and gender--who don't have a platform to speak their minds.