July 01, 2016

India: RSS-backed magazine targets Ashoka

The Indian Express

RSS-backed magazine targets Ashoka: ‘He was reason for India’s decline… (but) worshipped as great’
The RVKP is affiliated to the Sangh Parivar as a part of the RSS’s tribal wing, the Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram, which is headquartered in Chhattisgarh.

Written by Mahim Pratap Singh | Jaipur | Published:July 1, 2016

After Mughal Emperor Akbar, the Sangh Parivar has now raised questions about the legacy of Emperor Ashoka. A publication backed by the RSS has claimed that Ashoka’s conversion to Buddhism and his promotion of ahimsa opened India’s borders to foreign invaders.

It has also accused followers of Buddhism under Ashoka of having played a seditious role by assisting Greek invaders thinking they would destroy “Vedic religion” and pave the way for dominance of Buddhism.

The article was published in the May issue of the mouthpiece of the Rajasthan Vanvasi Kalyan Parishad.

The RVKP is affiliated to the Sangh Parivar as a part of the RSS’s tribal wing, the Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram, which is headquartered in Chhattisgarh.

While the article recognises Ashoka’s greatness as a world leader before his conversion to Buddhism, it quickly moves past that to note that after his conversion he started over-promoting some principles related to ahimsa.

“It was India’s misfortune that the same Emperor Ashoka, who became the reason for India’s decline…we worshiped him as great…It would have been better if, like Bhagwan Buddha, Emperor Ashoka too, would give up his kingdom, become a monk and promote Buddhism…(then) India would not have had to face such a mountain of hardship,” noted the article published in the magazine, Bappa Raval.

It further added that “instead, he (Ashoka) turned the entire empire into a giant monastery for promoting Buddhism. It was because of the Buddhist leaders of Magadha that Greek invaders returned to conquer India…Buddhist monks propagated seditious, senseless, anti-India ideas among their disciples that Buddhism did not believe in caste or nation. Whenever foreign invaders sympathetic to Buddhism attacked India, these Buddhists colluded with them, instead of fighting them bravely.”

The article is part of “Bharat: Kal, Aaj, Aur Kal (Bharat: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow)”, a series of essays on India’s history that is featured regularly in the magazine. RVKP office bearer and magazine editor Dr. Radhika Ladha, who authored the article, said she did not mean to accuse Buddhists or Emperor Ashoka of anything.

“All I wanted to say was that although our ancestors were great luminaries, our country has had to face so much due to certain small mistakes on their part. I never called Buddhists seditious…it was only meant to convey their poor understanding during that period,” Ladha told The Indian Express.

“My perspective was that we should learn from our mistakes and lead the country on to a path of prosperity and development,” she added.

The RVKP, established in 1978, works with six Scheduled Tribes in Rajasthan across 3000 tribal villages. It operates residential schools, hospitals and sports training centres in scheduled areas.