19/09/2018 8:03 PM IST | Updated 19/09/2018 8:04 PM IST

Mohan Bhagwat's RSS Asked If 'Hindutva' Was Different From Hinduism, And Guess What People Said?

Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh chief Mohan Bhagwat recently said, 'Hindu Rashtra doesn't mean there's no place for Muslims'.

Danish Siddiqui / Reuters
A file photo of RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat.

While Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat recently insisted that inclusion lies at the core of 'Hindutva' and the idea of 'Hindu Rashtra', a lot of people seem to be disagreeing.

Organiser, the mouthpiece of the RSS, has put up a survey on its website, asking readers, "Do you think Hindutva (Hinduness) is different from Hinduism?"

At the time of publishing this article, 50.02% of the respondents had polled 'Yes', indicating they felt 'Hindutva' was different from "Hinduism'.

At the same time, 46.56% of the respondents had polled 'No', meaning they considered Hindutva and Hinduism as the same. Some 2.83% of the respondents said they were undecided about it.

Screenshot from Organiser website.

Prafulla Ketkar, editor-in-chief of the Organiser, told HuffPost India that the survey has been up on the website for about a month and had been answered by around 8,000-9,000 respondents. He added that the survey was not related to Bhagwat's lecture series and had been put up only to understand what people thought about 'Hindutva'.

"There's a lot of conversation about Hindutva and you'll hear at times people saying, 'Hindutva and Hinduism are not the same at all'. Or some others saying, 'we agree with Swami Vivekananda's Hindutva but don't like RSS's Hindutva'. So we published the survey to understand what people think," he said.

Ketkar added that the results have convinced them that most people don't differentiate between Hindutva and Hinduism. "This whole differentiation between Hinduism and Hindutva is actually political," he said.

However, when HuffPost India pointed out that a greater percentage of the poll's respondents seem to think that Hindutva and Hinduism are not the same, Ketkar said "Those people actually think Hinduism is a more religious thing, while Hindutva is more cultural."

Ketkar said that once they close the poll and analyse all the responses, he wants to start an online discussion forum on the website where people can discuss the "nitty-gritties" of words such as Hindu, Hindutva, Hinduism and their implications. He also insisted that the poll was not spurred by a surge in the expression of discontent against Hindutva.

The RSS has organised a series of lectures by Mohan Bhagwat, where the RSS chief seems to be on a mission to paint the far-right Hindu organisation as an inclusive, non-radical entity. Sources have toldHuffPost India that the first-of-its-kind event has been organised to counter efforts by "so-called secular parties" to project RSS as a "dangerous and divisive organisation", especially before key state polls later this year and the general elections slated for 2019.

During his lecture, Bhagwat said, "Hindu Rashtra doesn't mean there's no place for Muslims. The day it becomes so, it won't be Hindutva. Hindutva talks about one world family."

Explaining what Hindutva is, he added, "Sangh works towards universal brotherhood. And the cardinal principle of this brotherhood is unity in diversity. This thought comes from our culture, which the world calls Hindutva. That's why we call it a Hindu Rashtra."

However, the people who have embraced Hindutva and glorify it seem to have a very different understanding of the concept.

In August, The Washington Post spoke to a group of young men who were reportedly trained at a camp organised by the World Hindu Council in Uttar Pradesh. The men said that they drew confidence and a sense of purpose from the camp and added that they learnt what they needed to "do for society". So they chased inter-faith couples and beat up Muslim drivers transporting cows. Recounting one instance where he beat up a Muslim truck driver, one of the men told the Post, "If I had a pistol, I would have killed him."

Bhagwat recently addressed a meet organised by the same World Hindu Council in Chicago.

Organiser, where the poll is featured, is running an article alongside the poll, headlined: "Different 9/11: Swami Vivekananda or Osama?"

It compares the Al-Qaeda terror attack in the United States on 11 September 2001 with Swami Vivekananda's speech in Chicago, delivered on the same date in the year 1893. "Hindus announced their presence in the modern world through Swami Vivekananda, not with a war cry or a terrorist attack but with a call for world peace, respect between religions and an honouring of Yoga and Vedanta along with all the spiritual paths of humanity," the article says, not very subtly suggesting that terrorism is essentially the legacy of Islam.