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Vivekanand = Hinduism = RSS = communalism - Blitz

S. Kulkarni ()
21 October 1993

Title: Vivekanand Hinduism RSS communalism
Author: S. Kulkarni
Publication: Blitz
Date: 21 October 1993

In our Independence Day special issue, which thematically
celebrated the centenary of Swami Vivekananda's historic speech
at Chicago on September 11, 1893, chartered accountant and social
thinker 5. Gurumurthy had described in his article how our pseudo-
secular Congress government sought to de-saffronise the great

The occasion was the culmination of the Bharat Parikrama
programme, organised by the Vivekananda Kendra, at Kanyakumari on
Dec. 28, 1992. P V Narasimha Rao suddenly decided to visit the
place on that day - a day that marks Swamiji's ascension of the
Rock at the confluence of the three seas. There was nothing wrong
in the Prime Minister's sudden decision to visit Kanyakumari, but
totally wrong was his decision to insist on a blue - not saffron
- cutout of Vivekananda for the backdrop to his function.
Obviously, with December 6 only a few weeks behind him, the Prime
Minister wanted to shun even circumstantial association with
saffron and, hence, thought nothing of disrobing the Swami of his
traditional saffron attire.

But if the Prime Minister wanted saffron out but the Swami in,
Bombay's Indian Institute of Technology, one of the country's
premier educational centres, recently decided not to have
anything to do with Vivekananda. No picture - neither saffron nor
blue nor red - to be displayed and not even his name to be

Vivekananda Swadhyaya Mandal, a group of socially committed
students and teachers in IIT, had organised a .seminar early this
month on "The role of Intellectuals In nation-building". Among
the speakers Invited by the organisers were journalists Arun
Shourie, M. V. Kamath, Muzaffar Hussein and this columnist.
Invitations and press releases were sent out, but just a couple
of days before the seminar some secular fundamentalists on the
campus lodged a protest with the institute's director:
Vivekananda Hindu figure who is being projected by the RSS to
spread its "communal" message and, therefore, the seminarists
must not be allowed to use the lecture theatre of a secular

The Institute's authorities quickly caved in. "If you want to use
the lecture theatre, you cannot hold the seminar under the aegis
of the Vivekananda Swadhyaya Mandal," the authorities, who had
earlier given permission for holding the seminar, told the
organisers. "You cannot carry the organisation's banner In the
backdrop, or anywhere else near the venue, you cannot mention
your organisation's name, and you cannot even display
Vivekananda's portrait in the seminar hall."

Faced with the threat of the seminar having to be cancelled, the
organisers bed no alternative but to accept the authorities'
"secular" terms.

The seminar itself was a resounding success, even though the
organisers had to hide their Identity (a ludicrous thing,
considering that everyone knew who was behind the activity)
behind a backdropless dais. And even though Vivekananda's
portrait was nowhere in sight, his spirit informed and inspired
an intellectual exercise in which over 400 students and teachers
participated avidly for over four hours.

The IITs are the country's premier centres of scientific and
technological education. But, contrary to popular perception,
they are not islands of apathy and insensitivity as far as the
larger problems of society are concerned. A small but significant
section of their teachers and students have always responded to
social and national issues with a heightened sense of
responsibility. This is, indeed, true of all our institutes of
higher learning. One thing, however, is notable about this
phenomenon. While In the past it was alien and ban-baked
ideologies like Marxism-Leninism and existentialism which held
sway, now, increasingly, it is indigenous thinkers like
Vivekananda, Gandhi, Aurobindo and others who are becoming the
sources of inspiration and illumination. That is why, today's
Intellectual class in our universities bears a stronger stamp of
nationalist self-confidence.

Very often, however, this intellectual shift leaves the
authorities of our educational institutions untouched. They
continue. as ever, to play safe and to be on the rigid side of
their authorities - ruling politicians. One of the organised of
the IIT seminar, a very popular teacher, told me during the lunch-
break: "Not that our director believes In the rationale of his
own order delinking the seminar from Vivekananda. It is just that
he is resorting to self-censorship. He doesn't want to be
questioned by anybody in the government, especially since he has
to go to them for grants and such other things."

Not surprising, come to think of it. When the head of the
government wants a Vivekananda sans saffron, you can't blame the
head of an educational institution for banning Vivekananda
himself from his campus.

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