On marriage age, RSS not with Govt: Social, not legal

Ahead of the annual meeting of its highest decision-making body, the RSS has made it clear that it has a difference of opinion on the legislation proposed by the government on the age of marriage for women and believes such issues should be left to society to decide. It also believes that the hijab controversy has been blown out of proportion and should have been handled at the local level.

These two issues, along with other contemporary issues, are likely to be discussed during the Akhil Bharatiya Pratinidhi Sabha (ABPS) baithak at Ahmedabad from March 11-13, RSS sources said.

The ABPS holds a meeting every year to take stock of the organisation and its work, and chart the future course of action. The meeting is attended by all top leaders of the RSS, representatives from regions across the country and over 30 associated organisations.

“The issue of marriageable age is under discussion. There are many opinions. Among the tribals or in rural areas, marriages happen early. The government’s argument is (this inhibits) education and (results in) early pregnancy. But even the government does not appear to be in a hurry to push it through. The question is how much should the government interfere in such matters. Certain things should be left to the society,” a senior RSS leader said.

Sources said there were also opinions shared with the government to bring everyone’s marriageable age down to 18 years, but some social organisations opposed this.

In December last year, the government brought a Bill that seeks to increase the age of marriage for women from 18 to 21 years. Amid criticism from the Opposition, the Bill was sent to the Parliamentary Standing Committee for further discussion.

Sources said the Sangh has a similar opinion on the issue of marital rape and believes it should be left to the family to decide how to deal with it.

The twin issues, the RSS believes, go against its nationwide campaign to revive the culture of familial bond which it says has come under stress due to modern economic compulsions and western influence. The RSS runs a programme called Kutumb Prabodhan that has the family as the most important unit of society and pushes people to spend at least a day in a week with their larger family and eat together.

“There should not be a political discussion on these, rather a social one. Helpless societies demand laws for everything. A strong society must find a solution on its own. If governance improves with less government, so does society,” the RSS leader said.

The Sangh also believes that the recent controversy in Karnataka over the wearing of hijab in classrooms has been blown out of proportion. “While we see this as the Popular Front of India trying to increase its sphere of influence, we believe the matter should have been handled at the local level. That is why the Sangh is not pushing the matter. But it is also true that consistently coming up with ways to assert religious identity is not good,” the leader said.

The three-day ABPS meet is likely to discuss these issues. “One can’t say whether these will figure in formal resolutions, but several matters are discussed during the meeting informally as well,” the leader said.

While the government has yet not framed rules on the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) passed in 2019, sources said the RSS is committed to both the CAA and the National Register of Citizens (NRC) across the country and will continue to push for them.

This year’s meet is also significant as it will discuss the centenary celebrations of the RSS in 2025. “Preparations for the centenary will be discussed, apart from plans on the expansion of the organisation. We have to reach to the mandal level, connect more people with us and have our swayamsevaks at places where they are not there yet,” the leader said.

The RSS has 55,000 daily shakhas and public outreach programmes in the country today. It aims to increase it to 1 lakh, sources said. To reach out to the youth and professionals, the RSS has also started night shakhas that start at 9.30 pm, and weekly meetings.

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