Sandeshkhali, Farmers’ Protest on Agenda for RSS’ Annual Meet in Nagpur from March 15-18 – News18

Caste discrimination too will be discussed, given that RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat has appealed to Sangh volunteers to ensure that all villagers get access to the temple, crematorium, and water sources. (Getty)

A new general secretary will also be chosen in this meeting, though sources said Dattatreya Hosabale may get another term

West Bengal’s Sandeshkhali and the uprising by women following the allegations of sexual assault and coerced slavery by local politicians are likely to be at the forefront of discussions in RSS’s ‘Pratinidhi Sabha’ scheduled to be held between March 15 and 18 in Nagpur.

Pratinidhi Sabha is the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s highest decision-making body that holds an annual meeting to set the course of action and programmes for the rest of the year.

“Sandeshkhali has now become a women’s movement. It is one of the crucial movements that the country has seen. We will discuss the issues related to Sandeshkhali. The Sangh volunteers who work in the region, and the Prant Pracharak (RSS functionary in charge of the area), will attend the meeting and brief us about what exactly happened. We will discuss the movement, what RSS can do on the ground to help the survivors, and how we can support them to fight this battle,” said a senior RSS functionary.

The four-day-meeting will see representation of all its affiliates, including its political front BJP. Senior political functionaries like national president of the BJP JP Nadda and its national general secretary BL Santhosh are likely to attend the meeting, among others. According to sources in the RSS, the meeting will see the participation of 1,570 senior members, including 10 senior members of the Rashtra Sevika Samiti — women’s wing of the RSS.

The consideration by the RSS is crucial because the organisation’s decision to take up an issue means it will pull in all its resources, affiliates and inspired organisations to spearhead a movement in and around the area. This also shows that BJP will make it an election issue and do everything to intensify the agitation.

West Bengal is a state where BJP faces a tough challenge from Mamata Banerjee. However, the party feels the issues of land grab, coerced slavery and alleged sexual exploitation of women will bring in momentum against the ruling Trinamool Congress.

Politically, this is an important development as Bengal has historically witnessed change in political power through movements that were primarily land agitations.

In Sandeshkhali, which is one of the many islands of Sundarbans and located in North 24 Paragana district, the allegations of land grab, conversion of agricultural land into fish ponds and sexual assaults on women have already made the region a political flashpoint between Trinamool Congress and the BJP.

Sandeshkhali, farmers’ protest, caste discrimination

Apart from Sandeshkhali, RSS seniors are also likely to discuss the farmers’ protest and its probable remedies. The senior functionaries will listen to the feedback from the members and volunteers on these matters and decide the future course of action.

Caste and the caste discrimination have always been a crucial issue for debate and deliberations in the organisation. RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat, in several addresses, appealed to the Sangh volunteers to take efforts to ensure that all villagers get access to the temple, crematorium, and water source. He repeatedly mentioned that there should not be any caste bias or discrimination in rural areas regarding these three common social points.

“Our organisational heads have been directed to conduct surveys across states and districts to understand where and why the caste discrimination is still prevalent. Once we get the reports, we will work on it and work towards ending caste discrimination,” said another senior functionary.

This is the year of elections for the RSS too. A new general secretary will be chosen in this meeting. The current general secretary is Dattatreya Hosabale. According to senior functionaries, the Sangh may decide to grant him another term. There are several instances in which the RSS has given multiple terms to its senior office-bearers.