Jaipur: The second day of the Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF) on 20 January ended with one of the stages being given up to Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) ideologues Dattatreya Hosabale and Manmohan Vaidya, in the session Of Saffron and the Sanghas, moderated by journalist Pragya Tiwari.

Both Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje and education minister Vasudev Devnani were in attendance. While Vaidya sought an end to the era of reservations soon, Hosabale spoke against what he called the academic untouchability being practised against the Hindu right by leftist academics.

In response to a question on why the Hindu right lacked intellectual weight, Hosabale put the blame squarely on the shoulders of leftist academics and the media, who, he said, had practised “social, academic untouchability".

They were the intolerant ones who would not give the Hindu right a ear, he said. “We were coming to JLF, so they boycotted it and are gone. Is this tolerance?" he added. He, however, named Kannada writer S.L. Bhyrappa and Hindi writer Narendra Kohli, who though not RSS members, belonged to the same ideology.

Hosabale also clearly stated the RSS point of view that “distorted history was being taught in the country". He questioned how the Aryan invasion was being taught in schools when it had clearly been disproved by scientists, archaeologists and other experts. He also wondered why “the achievements of our ancestors" were not being highlighted by schools. “There’s a failure in imparting character building education in this country," he stated. The education system should be based on the “ethos of the country", he stated.

On the poor socio-economic condition of Muslims in the country, Vaidya claimed that this was because 68-70 % of Muslims lived in relatively backward states like Bengal, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. He, however, disputed any need for reservations to support the minority community, though he said it remained necessary as long as people from the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes were being discriminated upon on the basis of their birth. He, however, said to continue with reservations forever was not ideal, and instead of reservations, equal opportunity for all should soon come into being.

In the meantime, Vaidya brushed aside the view the RSS was intolerant of those from minority religions, claiming that the intolerant were those who had moved away from the Hindutva ideology.

The ideal Hindu rashtra, he said, accepts diversity of religions. “Sabko saath jodne ki baath hain," he said. “Religion is as personal as one’s own toothbrush," he said, emphasizing that Hindutva was not about religion as much as a way of life.

“The RSS doesn’t support violence. We are law-abiding citizens," Hosabale added. He said RSS workers in Kerala were being attacked but the state government had done nothing about it. He called upon the Kerala government to “perform its duty" and investigate the violence against RSS workers in the state. The media, too, he said was silent. “Where are the so-called tolerant people? Why didn’t they speak up?."

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