'It's counter-Islamic terrorism, not Hindu terror'
Joshi's statement claimed that the RSS only believed in the Constitutional path. It said the RSS would not support or protect anyone indulging in violent activities. The crucial fact that emerged from the short statement was that the accused have been removed from any posts of responsibility in the RSS.
Joshi also demanded that accused be investigated, but innocent people should not be harassed. The RSS is obviously worried. The organisation supported by millions and hated by millions has never been above controversy. But the arrests and investigation of some RSS office-bearers and activists is a matter too serious to be forgotten after a media statement.
After all, Devender Gupta, who was arrested by the Rajasthan police in April in connection with the 2007 Ajmer blasts, is now also an accused in the Mecca Masjid blasts in Hyderabad that same year.
Gupta was an RSS office-bearer from Bihar. According to the police he is linked to Sunil Joshi, an RSS pracharak in Mhow, Madhya Pradesh, who was murdered in December 2007.
Sunil Joshi was connected to Sadhvi Pragya Singh and Lieutenant Colonel Srikant Purohit, who were arrested in the Malegaon blasts case.
Sunil Joshi, who had been sacked from the RSS for his radical views, was associated with Abhinav Bharat, an outfit accused of inspiring the radical group who have resorted to terrorism.
The Central Bureau of Investigation is on the look out for Sandeep Dange and Ramachandra Kalasangar, who are allegedly part of the terrorist group.
Ram Madhav, the RSS's media savvy and sober face and member of its national executive, vehemently denies the organisation's direct or indirect involvement with these cases of terrorism and claims that his organisation is not infected by such radical elements.
He spoke to Rediff.com's Sheela Bhatt.
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Image: Devender Gupta and Lokesh Sharma, hooded, being produced in a Hyderabad court. Inset: Ram Madhav
'The RSS does not support anyone involved in terrorism'
Absolutely not. We only said that there are certain agencies investigating certain incidents. One of the functionaries (of the RSS) Devender Gupta was arrested by the Anti Terrorism Squad from Bihar. He was working as a Vibhag Pracharak there.
We said we want an impartial investigation and we don't want innocents to be troubled. We told them that if necessary, we will co-operate. If there is any evidence against any individual, then take necessary action, we told them.
Don't you think it's a telling story that someone from your organisation is being investigated for such a heinous crime?
This is the first of its kind that someone working with the RSS is accused of involvement. But this is only the charge. The agency will have to establish the evidence in court. The RSS doesn't support nor protect anybody involved in such activities.
Image: Policemen stand guard at the Mecca Masjid, Hyderabad, May 18, 2007
Photographs: Krishnendu Halder/Reuters
'Nobody is indulging in terrorism in the name of Hinduism'
Number one, it is not a matter for us to worry about for these are charges against one person. He is arrested now. Let the charges be proved. We do not believe in such activities, so don't assume that the RSS is involved in it.
If some individual is found to be involved in some manner, maybe he is not directly involved or maybe he is, let the investigation get completed.
We don't know the charges yet. When we know about it, then we will certainly think about it. But beyond that there is nothing.
Let me talk about the other part of your question. This vicarious satisfaction of people like you is amazing. The event (arrests of Hindus) doesn't mitigate the fact that there exists something called Islamic terrorism in this world, not just in India.
There is something called global terrorism that is inspired by the ideology of jihad. It exists.
Just because someone associated with the RSS or Bajrang Dal or any organisation gets arrested, it doesn't mean there is no Islamic terrorism. How can you say that?
I am saying that there is no Hindu terrorism. For a simple reason -- at the most some Hindus have indulged in such acts which have to be condemned by everyone.
At the most you can call these people's action as counter-Islamic terrorism. It is not at all Hindu terrorism.
Nobody is indulging in terrorism in the name of Hinduism as Hinduism doesn't support or encourage such things.
How can you say it is counter-Islamic terrorism when Hinduism doesn't permit even counter-terrorism?
I am saying the same thing. I am saying Hinduism doesn't sanction any such things.
Hinduism and terrorism cannot go together.
Image: A Bajrang Dal activist attends a protest rally in Lucknow
Photographs: Pawan Kumar/Reuters
'We have nothing to do with Abhinav Bharat'
Remember one thing you are insisting that there are many people arrested or investigated. The police arrested 11 people for the Malegaon blasts and three for the Ajmer blasts. Only one, Devender Gupta, happened to be our Vibhag Pracharak, who is normally in charge of three districts.
Is it not true that Ramanarayan Kalsangra is an RSS member. He is absconding.
No way! If you go by technical facts, we don't have membership. Nobody is a member of the RSS. I am admitting that one functionary of the RSS was arrested. We want the facts to come out and until then we don't want to commit either way.
All other arrested people are linked to the RSS ideology.
What do you mean by that? They could be participating in other political activities too.
As a responsible organisation and as responsible citizens, we say that we don't defend any acts of terrorism nor we are going to protect anybody.
Are you not shocked by Gupta's arrest? He was one of you.
It is true that someone who was our Vibhag Pracharak is being charged. It is an unfortunate thing.
Mere investigation against one individual cannot make us disturbed or worried.
You are asking me repeatedly, but please tell me what is the charge against him? Is it proved?
The charge against him is that Gupta helped a person called Sunil Joshi, who is dead. The entire allegation is indirect. The police claim Gupta helped somebody who was supposed to be behind the violence.
What do you have to say about Abhinav Bharat? Most of those who have been arrested are directly involved with it.
We have nothing to do with Abhinav Bharat.
Image: People pay their last respects to Malegaon blast victims
Photographs: Punit Paranjpe/Reuters
'This terrorism is not a pan-Indian phenomenon'
Yes, he was our pracharak. He was removed from the RSS in 2003.
Has the core group of the RSS debated about these so-called Hindu terrorists getting arrested?
There is no Hindu terrorism.
There is nothing going on to sit and discuss. Since you are asking so seriously, I will give you the perspective. All this began sometime in 2008 in and around Indore, you can say Madhya Pradesh.
There were some arrests after the Malegaon blasts in 2008. Till 2008 there was nothing.
What does it suggest? If there is any involvement of any group, that might be a small group somewhere. The police are investigating that group, they will find out. But it is not a pan-Indian phenomenon. There is nothing to worry.
There were some incidents in which allegedly some group is involved. The group is being investigated and interrogated by the agencies.
Nowhere else are any other such incidents taking place.
I am saying that none of our functionaries will be allowed to get involved in such activities. If anybody is found involved, he will be immediately removed.
The RSS is a cadre-based party which inculcates certain views and ideology of India and its future. Then how come this kind of thing has happened -- what you called an 'aberration'? So far you were known for your training and discipline.
If the charges are taken to be true -- and they are levelled against one individual of the RSS, then I can say it is an aberration.
The RSS has half a million people who have some responsibility or role in the organisation. At least 6 million, 7 million people are formally associated with it. It is a huge organisation. Anybody can walk in and join our activities.
Most people will not be charitable about this 'aberration'. They would say the RSS has a certain ideology that is isolating Muslims and creates a kind of 'us versus them' divide.
In reality, even if the RSS is not involved behind the group who indulged in terrorism, your ideology was responsible for leading them to this violence.
This argument is as old as the RSS. It is weird logic. Now you are saying ideology is responsible, not you.
I am saying that what you understand is not our ideology.
Our ideology is unity and strengthening of Indians. We want a strong India and a united India.
Do you teach young minds not to be violent? Do you ensure that?
We teach them the great principles of Hinduism.
Image: RSS supporters at a camp in Ahmedabad
Photographs: Amit Dave/Reuters