The Takeover

How the RSS is infiltrating India’s intellectual spaces

01 April 2019
On 25 February 2018, Mohan Bhagwat, chief of the RSS, addressed a large scale gathering of RSS volunteers in Meerut.
SAJJAD HUSSAIN/ AFP/ GETTY IMAGES
On 25 February 2018, Mohan Bhagwat, chief of the RSS, addressed a large scale gathering of RSS volunteers in Meerut.
SAJJAD HUSSAIN/ AFP/ GETTY IMAGES

FOR TWO DAYS IN MARCH 2017, over seven hundred academics and vice chancellors from 51 state and central universities gathered in Delhi University to learn how to bring the “true nationalist narrative” to academia. The closed-door event was called the Gyan Sangam—knowledge summit—and one of its main speakers was Mohan Bhagwat, the sarsanghchalak—supreme leader—of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the ideological parent of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party. The topics under discussion, reportedly, were the “cultural onslaught on educational system,” the “colonisation” of intellectuals and the resurgence of nationalism in academia.

According to its website, the Gyan Sangam is an “initiative started in 2016 to create a platform for positive nationalistic academicians.” The site quotes Vivekananda, stating “all sciences originated in Bharat.” These workshops are organised by the RSS-affiliated Prajna Pravah—a typical Sangh project that was floated 25 years ago. The organisation describes its vision as a “rational umbrella that stimulates, trains and synthesizes individuals to recognize the inherent strength of Bharath with academic vigor directed towards decolonizing Indian minds from Eurocentric impact.” Its will to transform, it seems, is not limited to India. “Hindutva being assimilative and self-sustaining has the potential to liberate world from arrogance of power accumulated through dictatorship policies of the west.”

The scale at which the Prajna Pravah was able to hold the event suggests the enormous heft the organisation has acquired under the Modi administration. That year, J Nandakumar, a prominent figure in the Sangh who was the akhil bharatiya sah prachar pramukh—national vice president for publicity—of the RSS, was appointed the national convenor of the Prajna Pravah. Often described as the intellectual wing of the RSS, the organisation is meant to take on the cultural dominance of the Left, whether in universities such as JNU or in states such as West Bengal or Kerala.

Hartosh Singh Bal  is the political editor at The Caravan, and is the author of Waters Close Over Us: A Journey Along the Narmada.

Keywords: Elections 2019 RSS Narendra Modi Mohan Bhagwat gowalkar KB Hedgewar BJP Prajna Pravah gyan sangam M jagadesh kumar JNU
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