17 May, 2021

A Seamless Hindu Vision

Deoras personified the RSS paradox: reformist on caste, close-minded on all things non-Hindu

A Seamless Hindu Vision

ABOUT 60 years ago, Madhukar Dattatreya Deoras convinced his mother, an orthodox Brahmin, to accept the fact that the Hindu shastras give no sanction to untouchability. He told her that he would never invite his friends home if her treatment of 'untouchables' was different. She ultimately gave in, even washing their plates, as the young Deoras would often dine with them.

In 1974, a year after he became chief of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS)—viewed as an obscurantist organisation by liberal Hindus and non-Hindus—Deoras declared: "If untouchability is not wrong, nothing in the world is wrong." The passion almost equalled Abraham Lincoln's when he said: "If slavery is not wrong, nothing in the world is wrong."

The upper caste Deoras' protest against untouchability was an act which only a few of his kin and friends knew about but never publicised—'self-publicity' is a taboo in the Sangh. But what he said as the RSS chief in 1974 became a mantra for millions of Sangh volunteers. Deoras died a...

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