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RSS is patriotic, says Shankaracharya

RSS is patriotic, says Shankaracharya

S. Balakrishnan
The Times of India
February 4, 2000
Title: RSS is patriotic, says Shankaracharya
Author: S. Balakrishnan
Publication: The Times of India
Date: February 4, 2000

Shankaracharya of Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham Sri Jayendra Saraswati has supported the Gujarat government's decision to permit its employees to take part in Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) 'shakhas'.

He told The Times of India in an interview that the RSS was a "patriotic organisation engaged in building character and inculcating discipline." Hence, there was no harm if government employees took part in its' shakhas. "In fact, employees who are RSS volunteers work diligently and are not clock-watchers. It is probably because of this that they are being singled out," he said. He noted that the courts have also not passed any strictures against the RSS, which is neither a political party nor a banned organisation. The swamiji is here on a tour of Mumbai to meet his devotees and is currently camping at the South Indian Educational Society's sprawling campus at Nerul in New Bombay.

Asked about the controversy over persons of foreign origin holding high offices, the Shankaracharya said that the issue never cropped up when Sonia Gandhi was installed as Congress president. It came to the fore only when she made a bid for power. "There is nothing wrong in a person of foreign origin holding important posts if that person has integrated himself or herself with Indian culture, is patriotic and respected Indian sentiments. The Parsis had come from Iran, but they have integrated themselves beautifully with the Indian ethos and are patriotic. Can anyone legitimately deny them the right to hold high offices?" he asked.

The 64-year-old seer also stated that India should grant refuge to the Karmapa from Tibet. He said India had a time-honoured tradition of giving refuge to all those who seek shelter. Lakhs of Bangladeshis and Sri Lankans were staying in India and nobody raised any objection. In the case of the Karmapa, India had special relevance since it was the birthplace of Gautam Buddha. It is natural for a Buddhist monk to seek shelter in India. "This is not a political issue," he said. "In any case, China has in the past let down India even during the days of "Hindi Chini bhai, bhai," he observed.

The Shankaracharya also called for a halt to religious conversions. He said large-scale conversion of Hindus to Islam and Christianity was done when the Moghuls and British ruled India. This was possible because of the apathy of Hindu society. "Unfortunately, Hindus continue to be apathetic to this issue even after Independence," he lamented.

He said conversions would increase by leaps and bounds if the benefits of the reservation policy were extended to backward caste Hindus who had embraced other religions. "Some persons want to have the best of both worlds. This should not he allowed. The reservation policy should be applicable only to scheduled castes and tribes. If dalits belonging to other religions are given the benefits of reservation then opportunities for scheduled castes and tribes will be reduced substantially," he warned.

In this context, he called for a frontal attack on casteism. He said that Hindu society should make concerted efforts to bring the dalits and tribals into its mainstream and treat them with equality and respect. Steps should be taken for their socio-economic upliftment. He said there was no place for casteism and those who practise it were doing a distinct disservice to Hinduism.

Asked for his views on the late socialist leader Ram Manohar Lohia's suggestion that people should not use casteist surnames, the spiritual leader said it was a good idea worthy of being practised even though people continued to refer to Mr Lohia by his surname.

Responding to a query, the Shankaracharya said that the government should not grant travel subsidy to anybody going on pilgrimage. "The government is at present giving travel subsidy to those going on Haj pilgrimage. This should be stopped. In fact, such a facility should not be given to any community. The government should treat all its citizens on an equal footing," he emphasised. He also opposed government control over Hindu temples. "When mosques and churches are granted autonomy why should the government interfere in the administration of Hindu temples?" he questioned.

The Shankaracharya called for a moral revival so that the family values are cherished. "These days we are witnessing large-scale corruption, a sharp increase in divorce cases and abandoning of parents by their own children. This is because Indian values have not been inculcated by the people. Divorce should he looked upon as a sin and children should be taught to respect their parents. Greed for money should be discouraged", he said.

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