RSS supporters want Mohan Bhagwat to attend university convocations
Irked at Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh Chief Mohan Bhagwat not being invited to address convocations at universities despite heading one of the largest nationalist and social organisations in the world, RSS sympathisers are asking whether Bhagwat is a persona non grata at such ceremonies.
Mohan Bhagwat took over the reins of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh in March 2009. File pic
Sunil Mishra, former chairman of the Board of Studies of Mass Communications, Nagpur University, had, in June this year, shot off letters to the Union Human Resources Ministry and the Maharashtra Governor, who is chancellor of universities in the state, asking them to invite Bhagwat to the institutions.
“Universities invite many dignitaries to address the convocation ceremony. However, Mohanji Bhagwat has not been invited by any university in the state,” he said in the letter, adding, “Bhagwat is working in several fields like social and cultural development, plantation, water conservation, child development and tribal welfare.”
He had urged the Governor to circulate his request letter to all vice-chancellors in the state. The very next month, in July, Mishra filed an Right to Information (RTI) application asking whether the government had taken any action on his letter and if it had been forwarded to universities as per his request. mid-day has access to these documents.
The government took a neutral stand on the issue and, after duly putting up the letter before Governor Ch Vidyasagar Rao, the Raj Bhavan informed Mishra that no further action was necessary on his petition as choosing which dignitary to invite for convocations was the prerogative of the universities. When mid-day spoke to Mishra, he said he was unhappy with the reply and had hoped that the letter would at least be circulated to all the universities.
Pointing out that Bhagwat and the RSS were doing unparalleled work through 1.6 lakh centres across the country, Mishra said, “Many people like me wish that he (Bhagwat) should be invited to all universities in the state, and the Union HRD should also invite him to attend convocation of Central universities. In fact, we wanted this to begin at the Nagpur University, where he studied,” he said.
Even though no decision has been taken on the issue yet, it has already begun to cause ripples in political circles, with the Congress seeing it as another move by the RSS and the BJP to “encroach upon the educational field”. “The RSS and BJP’s top agenda is to encroach upon the educational field.
The RSS, in particular, sees a lifetime opportunity in the current governments to get its agenda through. This demand must be condemned by all,” said Congress spokesperson Sachin Sawant. Sawant added he BJP-RSS combine was systematically working in the government to bring in changes it desires.
“The RSS-affiliated organisations are being used to train government employees and the people who were associated with them are working in top positions in the government and some of them have been made vice-chancellors as well,” he said.
Leaders from the RSS and the BJP, however, saw nothing wrong with the demand. RSS ideologue M G Vaidya said that there should be no objection if Bhagwat was invited to grace (university) convocations. “However, he (Bhagwat) will decide whether to attend or skip them,” said the 93-year-old former RSS veteran from Nagpur.
“RSS is a nationalist organisation which teaches us to love our country. I also agree that universities are autonomous and can decide on their own. But what’s wrong if some people want their university to invite the RSS chief for the convocation?” asked state BJP spokesperson Keshav Upadhye.
“There should be no objection (from others) if Mohanji is called for guiding the students at a crucial juncture like their convocation ceremony,” Upadhye said.
Political commentator Virag Pachpor, who has been following the RSS for many years, said that commenting on the issue would be premature at this point. “Let a university invite him first. The universities are free to invite anyone. Bhagwat is a public figure, who leads the world’s largest organisation. To me, there is no reason for a controversy as such,” he said.