June 09, 2016

India: Thanks to Ram Bahadur Rai (an RSS man), the Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts has become a venue for events by Hindutva front organisations

scroll.in - 9 June 2016

Sangh politics
RSS thinker who scoffed at Ambedkar has turned arts institution into Sangh meeting venue
Thanks to chairman Ram Bahadur Rai, the Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts in New Delhi has hosted several events for the saffron organisation recently.

by Dhirendra K Jha

Ram Bahadur Rai, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s thinker who described BR Ambedkar’s role in framing the Constitution “a myth” also has another achievement to his credit. Just two month after being appointed chairman of the Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts, he has turned the government-funded culture institution into a centre for RSS activities in Delhi.

The organisation, which is mandated to promote the study of Indian arts, has seen a series of formal and informal meetings of the RSS or its affiliates over the past few weeks.

“Most of these meetings do not have anything to do with the original objective of the IGNCA,” said a senior official at the institution. “The IGNCA under Rai Saheb has become an extension of RSS headquarters, a mini Jhandewalan.”

In the last ten days alone, the IGNCA has witnessed three official meetings of RSS affiliates and at least four informal discussions of senior office-bearers of the Sangh.

On May 30, for example, Sanskar Bharati, the RSS affiliate given to the promotion of Hindu customs and traditions, organised a big conclave in the IGNCA auditorium. Besides Rai and IGNCA member-secretary Dr. Sachchidanand Joshi, the meeting was attended by Sanskar Bharati’s general secretary (organisation) Ameer Chand and RSS’ Delhi state “Prachar Pramukh” Rajiv Tuli.

On June 1, the Bharatiya Kisan Sangh, the RSS affiliate active among farmers, organised a meeting at the IGNCA premises to release an agricultural atlas of Madhya Pradesh. The atlas, which aims to be a “a bilingual illustrated compendium of all aspects of agriculture in Madhya Pradesh”, was released by the executive head of the RSS, Sarkaryavah Bhaiyyaji Joshi. Besides Joshi and Rai, the event was attended, among others, by BKS’ organising secretary Dinesh Dattatreya Kulkarni, Union Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh and BJP MP Murli Manohar Joshi.

On June 4, Bharatiya Shiksha Mandal, an RSS outfit working in the field of education, organised a conclave on “Rashtriya Suraksha Hetu Shiksha" (Education for National Security) in the IGNCA auditorium. Besides Rai, the event was attended by BSM’s joint general secretary (organisation) Mukul Kanitkar and Major General Gagandeep Bakshi, a retired Army officer known for his pro-RSS leanings.

“Perhaps, Rai Saheb is completely unaware of the very idea of IGNCA,” said the official, “or he may simply be acting as the agent of the RSS.”

The IGNCA comes under the purview of the Ministry of Culture. It was established in 1985 in memory of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi as a centre for the study and promotion of Indian arts.

This official said that in addition to being the venue for all kinds of formal RSS events, it has also started hosting frequent informal meetings of the office-bearers of the Sangh and its affiliates.

Known in the RSS circle as one of its thinkers, Rai created a flutter last week after he told Outlook magazine that Ambedkar’s role in framing of the Constitution was limited and that he only corrected the language of the material provided to him by BN Rau, a civil servant. “So, Ambedkar did not write the Constitution,” Rai said. On whether Ambedkar’s role was then a myth, IGNCA chief’s reply was: “Yes, myth hai, myth hai, myth hai (yes, it is a myth, it is a myth, it is a myth). It is part of identity politics.”

Rai, the former general secretary of Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, the student wing of the RSS, was appointed chairman of the IGNCA in April when the Narendra Modi government rearranged the institution's 20-member board.