Mohan Bhagwat's 2023 Vijayadashami Address
by Dipankar Bhattacharya

Every year the RSS observes Vijayadashami as its foundation day with an annual address by the Sangh supremo. Since 2014 with the rise of the Modi government the RSS has of course acquired an unprecedented level of prominence and power in India and the Vijayadashami address of Mohan Bhagwat is seen as a key text throwing light on the unfolding Sangh-BJP project. This Vijayadashami being the last one before the next Lok Sabha elections, this year's address by the Sangh supremo became an out and out election call with the Sangh amplifying the loud propaganda of the Modi government.

Bhagwat portrays India as an emerging global power, viswaguru in the Sangh-BJP parlance, which the world is looking to for leadership to solve today's multiple crises. From the G20 Delhi summit to the hundred-plus Indian medal tally in the recent Asian games, everything is showcased as a pointer in this direction. He also tells us that there is a foreign conspiracy to destabilise and damage India. Manipur to him is a burning example of such a foreign conspiracy. He however keeps mum about the Modi government's abject failure and complete abdication of responsibility in dousing the Manipur fire which has traumatised the people and shattered their lives.

Soon after the G20 summit Canada alleged Indian involvement in the assassination of Canadian Sikh leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar. While India has reacted by halting visa services with Canada, the western world has by and large sided with Canada and asked India to cooperate with the probe. In the ongoing Israeli genocidal war on Gaza, Modi government has alienated India from the Arab world and global public opinion by siding with the US-Israel axis and refusing to support a UN resolution for an urgent humanitarian cease-fire. And now eight former veterans of the Indian Navy stand sentenced to death by Qatar on charges of spying for Israel. The propaganda manufactured around Narendra Modi's so-called global stature is getting punctured with every passing day.

Endorsing the Modi government's desperate vendetta against political opponents, independent media and progressive intelligentsia, Bhagwat links up voices of domestic dissent with alleged foreign conspiracy. We have already seen the Modi government's attack on Newsclick journalists in the name of Chinese funding which conflates journalism with terrorism and criminalises powerful people's movements like the farmers' movement as a conspiracy against the state. Bhagwat has added two new categories - cultural Marxists and woke elements - to the Modi government's lengthening list of internal enemies, accusing them of spreading intellectual confusion and social anarchy! This lie is being invented only to hide India's institutional and social reality where the RSS has planted its people in positions of control over every Indian institution and educational campus to stifle academic freedom and unleashed its thug squads to terrorise people and regiment their lives in every sphere of personal choice.

Marxists of course do not compartmentalise themselves as economic, political or cultural Marxists. ‘Cultural Marxism’ has been a term used by the fascists and other far-right forces internationally since 1920s to target Marxists (it also had a strong antisemitic connotation in this period) and Bhagwat has just applied it in India to intensify the witchhunt against progressive academics and writers. Bhagwat accuses Cultural Marxists of having forgotten Marx since the 1920s. Does he then uphold the Marxist legacy till 1920 which will include most prominently the publication of the Communist Manifesto in 1848 and the victorious Russian Revolution of 1917? Perhaps the RSS is worried about the growing resistance it faces in the arena of culture where the forces of diversity, justice and democracy are rising against the Sangh's attempt to bulldoze its model of social regression and regimentation in the name of 'cultural nationalism'.

‘Woke’ or the awakened ones, the other term used by Bhagwat along with Cultural Marxists, is a more recent American rightwing usage against the Left and other progressive forces fighting for social justice and equality. Being awakened or woke has been used as a positive term in the protracted battle against racism in America, but the white supremacist supporters of Trump started using it as a pejorative term much like the Sangh-BJP distortion of the term 'secular' in India. As the quest for social justice gets stronger in India with increasing assertion for gender justice and equal rights for the LGBTQ community including Trans people, alarm bells are ringing among privileged and conservative sections. While Bhagwat sometimes tries to inject political pragmatism among these sections, for example by asking them to accept reservation for two hundred years, in this address he has sought to instigate the forces of social reaction by targeting Cultural Marxists and Woke elements.

Bhagwat has also made an intriguing reference to Ambedkar in his address asking his audience to read Ambedkar's speeches at the Constituent Assembly. Ambedkar's last speech on the eve of the adoption of the Constitution remains a most insightful warning on the challenges before India's Constitution. This is where he insists on taking liberty, equality and fraternity as an integrated whole and warns about the equality of vote losing all meaning in the face of mounting social and economic inequality. It is in this address that Ambedkar identifies bhakti in politics - hero worship and personality cult - as a sure way to degradation of democracy and eventual rise of dictatorship.

We do not yet know the reasons that prompted Bhagwat to invoke Ambedkar's last address at the Constituent Assembly. But we have not forgotten the fact that when the Constitution was being adopted, the RSS was busy rubbishing and rejecting it for not drawing on the inheritance of Manusmriti. Indeed, years before Ambedkar developed the blueprint of the Constitution of modern India, he had publicly burnt the Manusmriti as a code of slavery and injustice for India's oppressed. Let us also remember that a few weeks before his untimely demise, Ambedkar had exercised the constitutional right to choose one's religion by publicly embracing a new version of Buddhism along with half a million of his comrades. The occasion was the Vijayadashami of 1956, and the venue was Nagpur, the headquarters of the RSS. Sangh's dream project of fascism will never be able to steamroll democracy in the India of Bhagat Singh and Ambedkar's dreams.

Mohan Bhagwat's 2023 Vijayadashami Address