Reiterating the vision of Hinduism being the essence of India, RSS president Mohan Bhagwat claimed India did not have a problem with various identities – homegrown or with roots outside – and said no one is treated as a foreigner.
Participating in a seminar on ‘Identity and integration’, Bhagwat on Tuesday recalled India’s long tradition of syncretism, and accused politics of “sometimes” disturbing the unity in diversity in the country. The world today needs India’s example to resolve conflicts, he said.
Bhagwat was here for a week-long visit mainly to attend a three-day ‘mahashibir’ (camp) of the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS), the UK version of RSS, which has grown exponentially since its foundation in 1966. The news media was kept away from the ‘mahashibir’.
“We have a glorious tradition of unity in diversity. We see diversity as the manifestation of unity, of a single inherent unit, of the underlying oneness. We have no problem with identities. Oneness and many-ness are not opposites; it is not so in our tradition,” he said.
“This unity in diversity…is being lived. Where to find it? Go anywhere, where Hindus live. Hindu is that identity that says all identities are respected, accepted and they are bound together by this magnificent oneness of ‘atman’. Hindu says diversity is to be celebrated. It enriches our unity,” Bhagwat added.
Presenting a picture of harmony in Indian society, Bhagwat said there were so many inter-marriages and ‘mingling’ in everyday life that no one noticed it.
“We go to each other’s religious places…not only the identities who have origin in the land of Bharat, but also other identities acquired from outside…they come together and we celebrate their identities also. In spite of our history, we don’t treat anyone as a foreigner. A ‘gyani’ from every discipline was equally respected in the past, and that is what happens even now.”
Answering questions, Bhagwat said that according to Indian tradition, every individual can independently decide which faith to belong to.
“But using other means, and using conversion for some other things, and converting people by lure or some other means, that is aggression on individual rights. That should not be allowed, that is what our tradition tells us,” he said.
Urging Hindus settled anywhere to become torch-bearers of “unity in diversity,” Bhagwat said: “Unity can be achieved within diversity, without conflict. But then you have to be a human being. You have to have that compassion. You have to have clarity of truth. And you have to have the daring not to succumb to lowly impulses, existing or artificially created from somewhere.”
Accompanied by private security during the visit, Bhagwat did not speak to the news media. Questions were invited at the seminar by text on a mobile number, but queries by journalists on the Narendra Modi government or on India’s reservation policy were not taken up.
Organized by the HSS, other main speakers at the seminar attended mostly by HSS members or supporters were Gauri Das, managing director of Bhaktivedanta Manor ISCKON UK; Samani Pratibha Pragya, head nun of Jain Vishva Bharti, London; and Girdharilal Bhan, former president of Vishwa Hindu Parishad UK.