Trained in using traditional weapons it is difficult to imagine that “Rashtriya Swamsevak Sangh (RSS) workers will be battle-ready in three days” while it will take months for Indian army, one of the most professional forces, to prepare for war.
Perhaps RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat has misunderstood the statement attributed to French statesman Georges Benjamin Clemenceau: “War is too serious a matter to entrust to military men.” Clemenceau had twice served as the Prime Minister of France both before and during World War-I and knew what the war actually is. Yet he said so in an entirely different context.
The truth is that war is a serious business and in normal situation it should be entrusted to the professional army. Instead of making laud claims about his organization’s ability to mobilize volunteers––as he did in Muzaffarpur (Bihar) on February 11–– Bhagwat and his organization should work for improvement in the enrolment in Army, Navy and Air Force as they are facing shortage. They have to give advertisements to newspapers and television channels appealing youths to join them.
Volunteers of a social organization trained in wielding lathis may surely take three days to get ready. But that may be for the battle fought in the ancient past and not in 21st Century India (or any country) surrounded by nuclear powers in the north and west. The era when all able-bodied men were recruited at the time of war is now a medieval history.
An ‘army’ of RSS volunteers as conceptualized by Bhagwat cannot be fit to guard the international border but can only be deployed in the civil defence force of mohallas––or indulge in all sorts of vigilantism. At best they can be pressed into service at the time of natural calamity. No doubt RSS workers take up such works, but they are not alone. Many other social outfits do so.
Bhagwat seems to have little understanding about the institution called army. Perhaps he thinks that his RSS volunteers are more motivated and nationalistic than Army, Navy and Air Force personnel. He missed the point as to how difficult it is to enter the armed forces. The candidate should be young, physically, mentally and psychologically tough. An Army, Navy and Air Force personnel are equipped with the latest weapons they are trained accordingly. This process goes on continuously.
In contrast the RSS is an organization with no fixed age-group. In fact it is not the army of Jawans, but of people in mid-life and even a bit aged. An hour of morning drill does not make them most disciplined and professional force.
Though Indian armed forces are 1.3 million strong, we have huge reserve of Territorial Army, para-military forces, police, home-guards and NCC. In time of crisis all of them can be trained and enlisted in the Army––as it happened during the two World Wars.
Not only that, modern armed forces do not rely too much on number, but on technology. That is why even country like China, which had a huge army, has reduced its strength. Thus, apparently there is no such scope left for RSS in the battlefield. If they are really so zealous and dedicated––and nobody doubts these qualities––they can help the Army in nursing the wounded soldiers at the time of war.
It is difficult to say whether Bhagwat’s statement amounts to insulting the Indian Army, but it can certainly be said that he lacks even the basic knowledge about the functioning of defence forces.
(Soroor Ahmed is a freelance journalist writing for prominent newspapers)