Why Barry O'Farrell's meeting with the RSS chief was not wrong

When Australian High Commissioner to India Barry O’Farrell met the chief of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), Mohan Bhagwat, last month, he tweeted that RSS had been actively supporting the community during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The @RSSorg has been actively supporting the community during COVID19. I met with Sarsanghchalak Dr Mohan Bhagwat who shared the relief measures the organisation has adopted across India during these challenging times,” Mr. O’Farrell tweeted.

He also tweeted pictures of the meeting which took place at Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) headquarters in Nagpur.

Little did the principled Barry O’Farrell, who quit as Premier of New South Wales while at the top of his game – for accepting a bottle of wine as gift, couriered to him; knew that his casual meeting with the RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat – will make heavens fall for the Greens in Australia.

His tweet earned him infinite wrath of Senator Janet Rice who, speaking in the Senate, called for his resignation and NO LESS.

On the floor of the house (Senate) she described the RSS as a fascist organisation that openly admits admiration for Adolf Hitler and the appalling genocide that occurred under his Nazi regime”.

“The contemporary RSS rides roughshod over people’s human rights. Time and time again, the RSS has attacked Indian people’s rights to freedom of expression, freedom of religion and safety. Their advocacy of a ‘Hindu Rashtra’ is for an India where, by definition, minorities are denied rights and privileges. They demonise and encourage persecution of some of the non-Hindu citizens of India, particularly those of Muslim background”.

“He [Farrell] is only the second senior diplomat from any country to meet the RSS at their offices in recent times. This is a disgrace,” Senator Rice added.

Janet Rice’s stance on RSS and O’ Farrell meet is lop-sided at best.

The claim of RSS admiration for Adolf Hitler during World War 2 has two big glaring problems:

  • All ‘so-called’ authoritative texts refer to RSS leader, Golwalkar only allegedly taking inspiration from Adolf Hitler’s ideology.

Other than ‘quote-bites’ there is no proof of Gowalkar’s leanings.

  • This is further proven by the fact that the RSS was not against the idea of Israel – poles apart from Hitler’s ideology. Rather, the RSS leaders were supportive of the formation of Jewish State of Israel.

It is known that Golwalkar admired Jews for maintaining their “religion, culture and language,” – a vision similar to the essence of Australia’s multicultural policy – integration as opposed to assimilation.

Unhelpful to her theory or liking, Senator Rice does not mention the above facts nor does she refer to any evidence to reject the above.

Further, the claim that contemporary RSS has attacked Indian people’s rights and that they encourage persecution of non-Hindu citizens also fails glaringly.

  • Other than ‘quote-bites’, there is no evidence in history that contemporary RSS has attacked Indian people’s rights to freedom of expression, freedom of religion and safety or that they demonise Indian citizens of Muslim background.

RSS has always been an organisation that was opposed to mass struggles or mass movements and just after independence, constituted itself to be a purely cultural organisation with no political agendas.

Unless Senator Rice can substantiate her claims against RSS with documentary evidence, she should simply retract her demand for Barry O’Farrell’s resignation.

Perhaps she should take some inspiration from Barry O’Farrell himself, for doing the honourable thing.

Ill-advised Senator Rice should not over-feed herself into making such sweeping statements and forming lop-sided views of a certain community or organisation, simply based on ‘quote-bites’ and without any consequential evidence.

Alternatively, Senator Rice should substantiate her allegations that can stand in a court of law.

“Most people who misunderstand the RSS are often those who have never really worked within the organisation… because they are not open to working with the RSS; and… never understand it”: Sinu Joseph, a born Christian, who has been carrying out SEVA in Indian villages. She believes that all those born on Indian soil belong to a deep pauranic culture that is now known as Hinduism.

However, false claims, yet again without evidence, was continued by Dr Meera Ashar, Director of ANU’s South Asia Research Institute in Canberra. She told PEDESTRIAN.TV that the meeting “displays a lack of textured awareness of the Indian social and political landscape.”

“The RSS, from its moment of inception, has voiced admiration for Hitler and others. The role of the RSS in anti-Muslim pogroms is well documented,” Ashar said.

“This [meeting] is something that needs to be remedied immediately if Australia is to have a successful political and economic partnership with India in the long run.”

We emailed Meera Asher asking her

  1. to list the ‘anti-Muslim pogroms’ where RSS played a role and the document(s) she refers to in her claim
  2. to list names of people/companies and business entities in India that would have been so offended that the bilateral Australia-India economic partnership could be jeopardized

Meera Ashar chose not to respond until the time of publication.

Meanwhile, Council of Indian Federations of Australia (CIFA), the peak national body of Indian Australians released a statement, noting that the demand for resignation of Barry O’Farrell are views that are “not representative of the views of the broader Indian-Australian community as the vast majority of our community sees no issue with this meeting.”

Chairperson, Dr Yadu Singh said that: “A small and irrelevant group of individuals claiming to be representing the diaspora in Australia has condemned the Honourable High Commissioner’s meeting…

“there is nothing wrong in Australian High Commissioner’s meeting with Dr Mohan Bhagwat, the head of RSS,” he confirmed, after CIFA in a meeting, resolved on November 29.

A medical professional, Dr Singh described RSS as one of the largest and prominent socio-cultural organisations in India.

CIFA expressed its “strong support for Mr Barry O’Farrell who is doing an excellent job in India… towards strengthening economic and strategic relations between Australia and India”.

The federation, CIFA condemned “the attempts by any group(s) to impose their views on the activities of the High Commissioner, which is akin to bullying…”

Claims or allegations against anyone without credible evidence, is not something that should be overlooked.

The RSS is understood to have had meetings with numerous other foreign delegates, including German envoy Walter Lindner, in keeping with its outreach initiatives for Hinduism as many other Christian and Muslim organisations in India.

Noteworthy, PM Modi is the first prime minister in the history of independent India to rid Muslim women of the curse of dreaded Muslim law of Triple Talaq.

Also Read: Era of Expansionism is Over, Modi tells China

Having been made a law on 31 July, 2019; the day is now celebrated as ‘Muslim Women’s Right Day’.

Since the reform, there has been 82 per cent decline in instant Talaq in the first 12 months according to Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, a Muslim and a minister in Modi’s cabinet.

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