Center-left Indian Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad angered many this month when he made a comment comparing Hindu nationalist group RSS and terrorist outfit ISIS. Azad was criticized by the Hindutva outfit (Hindutva is the belief that the Indian subcontinent belongs to the Hindu people) and the right-wing major party BJP.
Azad said that the Indian Left will oppose ISIS "the way we oppose [Hindu nationalists] RSS."
"We oppose organisations like ISIS, the way we oppose RSS. If those among us in Islam too do wrong things, they are no way less than RSS."As India's right-wing major party, BJP has close ideological and organizational links to the Hindu nationalist RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh). Indeed, RSS has been referred to as BJP's "ideological mentor."
RSS spokesperson J Nand Kumar hit back at Azad following his remarks, saying that the ISIS/RSS comparison showed "intellectual bankruptcy" on the part of the progressive Indian Congress party.
"Azad comparing ISIS with RSS exhibits the intellectual bankruptcy of Congress and its unwillingness to deal with fundamentalist and cruel forces like ISIS."Kumar states that RSS will consider legal action against Azad. BJP called the comments "unfortunate" before requesting that Indian Congress chief Sonia Gandhi condemn the remarks and take action against Azad if he does not withdraw them.
Kumar also reflected on the long history of Indian Congress attacks against the RSS. Jawahar Lal Nehru and scandal-plagued former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi both worked against the organizsation, but the RSS only emerged "stronger."The relationship between Rajiv Ghandi and the RSS was a complicated one. Sunday Guardian reports that the late Indian Congress leader had "a secret pact" with the RSS, and notes the fact that Ghandi inherited "a light Hindutva legacy" from his mother.
Guruprasad's Portal has argued that the leftist Rajiv Ghandi actually helped the rival BJP Party -- they go so far as to call Ghandi "the father of the BJP."
"In mid 1980s, after Rajiv Gandhi came to power, some of his actions indeed helped the struggling BJP (still in infancy stage) get its first big break."Following the recent ISIS controversy, the BJP slammed Sonia Ghandi's written message, saying that groups like RSS are "spreading hatred" by targeting secularism.
Some scoffed that Sonia Ghandi was criticizing the BJP for actions that she is in fact most guilty of.
"[Sonia Ghandi] is speaking against what her party has always practiced. Congress divided nation along caste, religion and regional lines. She should not be preaching [to the] BJP."Right-wing think-tank leader Rakesh Sinha came forward criticizing the Indian left in general. The academic stated that people are in a hurry to see Che Guevara in every Indian leftist, when the reality is that the "Indian left can produce only bubbles." Dr Rakesh Sinha, a member of the non-Left India Policy Foundation, was perhaps lamenting the fact that non-Left think tanks like India Foundation, Indian Policy Foundation, and Deendayal Research Institute are "not half as well known as the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation, not even in Delhi, a hub of advocacy outfits and think tanks," according to the Telegraph India.
While they may feel pushed out of the hub of Indian life and enraged by the recent comments by Azad, these non-Left groups are adamant that adversity only makes them stronger.
Political scientists agree that India's non-Left think tanks play an important role. One political scientist described the three non-Left groups as "creating a big space in India's intellectual discourse" for the non-Left "nationalist stream."
Rakesh Sinha spoke to reporters about the hostility right-wing nationalists receive in India. Sinha claims that when he applied for an MPhil at Delhi University in 1989, he was harangued by a panel of academics. The panel showed no interest in his academic prowess, despite the fact that he was "a topper" (high performer) and instead asked an extremely inflammatory question comparing him to the assassin of Mahatma Ghandi.
"I was a topper in MA. Yet, the only question they asked was what is the difference between you and (Nathuram) Godse (Mahatma Gandhi's assassin)?"Sinha believes that the provocative comment was made because the academics knew that he was a member of the student wing of the RSS.
"Perhaps the provocation was I was a member of the ABVP (Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, the RSS's student wing)."Sinha recalled that he was stunned by how blinkered the leftist academics were, and by their inability to think outside the limits of their favored ideology.
"I was stunned to know how little these professors knew outside the ideological space they inhabited and worse still, how they had straitjacketed the nationalist ideology in black-and-white terms."Sinha also lamented the fact that his Leftist rivals received ample funding from rich patrons following Indian Independence from the British Empire in 1947.
"Unfortunately, after Independence, governments hugely patronised the Left-based discourse."Sinha weighed in on the recent Azad controversy on Twitter. He accused the Indian Left of lending respectability to ISIS by comparing it to the RSS. He said that Azad's comments are irresponsible and will encourage Indian Muslims to go and join ISIS. The think tank leader warned that "discourse will become more aggressive" if Sonia Ghandi does not apologize. [AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi]