"Hindu society does not see the transgender community as a problem", asserted RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat on January 9, 2023, adding," LGBTQ people should have their own private and social space". These apparently supportive statements about queer community were made by Mohan Bhagwat in a major interview entailing LGBTQ rights as the spotlight of the discussion. Conscious cognizance should be gained about the fact that the interview came at a time when there is a flurry of petitions seeking rights for the queer community at the door of the Supreme Court of India. Despite the remarks being apparently in favour of the queer community, there's a scope for concocting controversies from this interview. Apart from the facts being clearly demarcated, we will be analyzing to what extent this interview can have nuanced interpretations and what can be the positive impacts and repercussions for the same.
A Change in ideology or just a self-defensive cover-up?
Since the foundation stone for RSS was envisaged, it has been reckoned as a conservative right-wing organization, but the recent remarks by the RSS chief can be astounding as well as paradoxical at the same point in time. This is mostly because of the inexplicable shift in the paradigm and ingrained ideologies of the conservative organization. The conundrum here is: Has the temperament of the organization changed for real or is it just a mere act of pretence leading towards no reforms when it comes to real-life scenarios?
In March 2016, Dattatrey Hosabale, then Deputy General of RSS, took a sceptical stance by negating the fact that homosexuality is a crime, but at the same time expressing piercing criticism by saying that homosexuality is 'socially immoral' and needs 'psychological treatment'. Another leader from RSS, Rakesh Sinha, during a TV debate in 2016 vociferously alleged that only Indians in favour of the 'European mindset' demand for decriminalizing homosexuality. In spite of the overwhelming opposition by RSS members against petitions seeking to revoke Article 377 of the Indian constitution which criminalized homosexuality, the Supreme Court in 2018 unanimously passed a verdict to decriminalize homosexuality.
Despite the fact that RSS members are staunch supporters of eliminating homosexuality, as is clearly exuded from their blatant and brazen statements till now; a sudden shift in values can reflect varied connotations. Moreover, the remarks, as Mr Bhagwat concluded by asserting that we should accept these people without much hullabaloo, further insinuating that we have conceded the queer people into mainstream society but with no specific arrangements made for them as it is none of our business. It is a great beginning if the RSS is actually liberalizing by opening up to the oppressed groups of the society but at the same time not doing it for ephemeral publicity and support. If RSS really wants to establish the truthfulness of its comments, it needs to engage with the queer community and help them find practical solutions for their problems.
The Hinduism Angle
So here comes the cornerstone of RSS- Hinduism and Indian culture. Mr Bhagwat talked about Jarasandha and his two generals Hans and Dhimbaka while taking excerpts from religious Hindu texts. He narrated a story wherein Lord Krishna in his battle against Jarasandh fabricated a rumour about Dhimbaka's death which eventually led Hans towards committing suicide. This was a trick which was used by Krishna to get rid of the two generals. But what does this story have to do with our discussion about the queer community? Basically, it symbolizes a relationship between the two generals wherein they cannot live without each other. Mr Bhagwat used this case as a validation of the existence of such communities within 'Hindu culture' from the past times. While on a trivial note, it seems overwhelming as Hinduism which was once overlooked as an Orthodox religion, is now conspicuously supporting queer people's rights. It can be interpreted as a political move to garner more support from the majority Hindu population. What we know is RSS is a nationalist political party which promulgates themes of Hinduism and Indian culture and is present in prominent facets of Indian society including BJP. But during the Gujarat elections, even congress tried to appease the Hindus by showcasing the visit of Rahul Gandhi to temples in the poll-bound state despite the congress being in opposition to such populist approaches. Arvind Kejriwal from the Aam aadmi party declared himself as a hanuman bhakt in 2020 inclining towards soft Hindutva just like the Congress. Reaching upon the conclusion ideologies of both conservative and liberal parties are generally inclusive of the Hinduism angle and have a general bias towards majority appeasement. The major point here remains the sudden shift in the temperament of RSS and its proper assessment on the basis of the credibility of the change.