Dr. Raghvendra sharma was State chairman of National Commission for Protection of Child Rights and Former Cabinet Minister
Infeed: A normal middle-class dreams of being in high-earning profession like a Doctor or an Engineer. What made you think to pursue your career as a socially-bound cultural worker and to follow a public life?
Raghvendra: I don’t remember since what age I started visiting the RSS Shakha, but it was very early, possibly 5 to 8 years of age. We were told nice historic stories over there. Normally, we talk about IQ level in children, but I was more into MQ (Moral Quotient). I think that the upper-class are financially sound, but the middle-class has more feelings of nationalism. So my childhood was filled with all such emotions and learnings, surrounded by the learnings in Shakha and family values. So I decided to work for my society 24×7 without any distraction from other fields.
Infeed: Your story is really inspiring. As you referred to role of RSS in your life, the people have started knowing about the RSS since 2014. But still there is so much that needs to be brought out to the youngsters like us. Is it like the Madarsa system where children go for their daily learnings or you give 2 hours on a weekly basis? What is the general routine of RSS Shakhas, to make a layman understand?
Raghvendra: There is nothing hidden in RSS, as no activity is done in-house in the Shakhas. Even Mohan Bhagwat has asked people to come to Shakhas and see their work. Secondly, as the world is changing, the RSS Shakhas have also changed with time, and they organize IT-enabled Activities, like Online Discussions, plannings etc. Those who cannot visit daily, have been allowed to visit once a week, fortnight or month, as per their comfort. Lastly, RSS teaches you how to be honest and sincere in whatever work you do. Its not like you have to be working for RSS only, you can work for any organization and be good in your work.
Infeed: What is the definition of a nation as per your perspective?
Raghvendra: First of all, we need to understand difference between Nation and State. Normally, people understand these two as one and the same thing. Nation is a cultural unit in itself, whereas State is a geographical unit. As per my perspective, Pakistan is bound and separated by religion, but it is still culturally a part of India. We can still find big temples out there. Few years back a family from Baluchistan visited India and they showed some photographs of their mosques back home. Those mosques had signs of Swastik and Trishul at the top of their domes. When we asked them why is it so, they said that we may be from different religion but our culture is same as that of India. So it’s very important for us to understand the difference between nation and state. Cuture and Nation are very much related to each other. This is why RSS always speaks about Nationalism. They never talk about political states.
Infeed: Coming back to your journey, you completed school and college education under the influence of RSS. So how did you join politics then?
Raghvendra: Even today I don’t consider myself as a politician, and would like to be known as a social worker only. I don’t want any politician to enter into myself. I did Ph.D. in Law and finally I decided to work in a field where I can help people in getting justice. I think that lives of poor children are mostly affected by our country’s judicial process. The young children are kidnapped, sold and child trafficking is done, but the innocent kids are not aware if its right or wrong. So I decided to work for such kids. I joined politics also and I was given the rank of Cabinet Minister as well. I want that children must have a fearless environment and my entire fight is for the same. It will be my agenda to do something for children, if I achieve something in future.
Infeed: As you must be aware that Child Labor is banned in India, but still there are many places where it is openly exercised. As per statistics, 21% child labor still exists in India. What should we do in this regard?
Raghvendra: The data which you are talking about is a very small part of the actual problem. But you must look at the hazardous works in which these children are involved, due to which they are being exposed to illnesses and they die. If we look at the real data then we will find out that the problem is much bigger than it appears. I recently visited a village and I found that due to people working in mines, there life span does not go beyond 40-45 years of age. Children as young as 8-10 years of age start working in these mines. Another big problem is that of malnutrition. If a child is not fed well today, he will never become physically fit and his brain will not develop as well. Due to which, his school life will be affected. So if we want to make a better nation in the next 20 years, there must not be any child labor, and we must also fight the problem of malnutrition in children. No childhood must be ruined because of such problems. Even the cases of child exploitation must be dealt with severely so that no child has to go through any experiences which are not good for his conscience. Such children may grow up to become unsocial and with negative perception.
Infeed: Can you share any inspiring story from your journey so far, which made you follow the path of public service, and made you think about the country as a land of unity in diversity?
Raghvendra: Yes of course. I have visited all states from Kashmir to Kanyakumari, and have observed that sometimes you may not find the nationalism in rich and influential people, but it can be easily found in people from smaller places and villages. I once visited a small place PeepalKhuta in Jhabua, which has small colonies spread across a piece of land. I was invited for food in a house, and they served all the food they had in front of me. The best thing is that they never serve you a portion. When asked why do they serve everything they have, they said that guest is like a god for them and to serve everything to god without keeping it for themselves is the Hindu culture. Whatever is left is then eaten by them. This is what the poor practice but not those who are well-to-do. If you keep it for yourself and then serve to god then it’s the leftover and not Prasad (gift). So a tribal family in a remote and rural area is actually prosperous with the cultural values in their hearts, which many rich people do not have.
Infeed: It was really a thought provoking story and a memorable one. Do you remember any negative incident as well which you have noticed while your experiences while journey of the country?
Raghvendra: Yes recently a woman in Gwalior, lost her girl child in crowd. She searched her a lot and finally went to the police station. The police has setup a few kiosks in the city, and very soon the whole city was aware of the photograph of the missing child. An auto-rickshaw driver who was carrying the ride watched the photo on a kiosk and identified the child sitting in his vehicle who was weeping, and a lady holding her tightly. The driver understood that something is wrong and he stopped right in front of a police station. He told the policemen that it’s the same missing child and they should know what to do in such case. In the same case, 17 people have been jailed till now and 12 children have been rescued. So it was a complete child-selling racket where kids were being sold to other states as well.
Another thing which was exposed from this incident is, that there is still existence of ‘Devdasis’ which we call as prostitutes, and few communities are indulged in such practices even today. Earlier, I used to think that prostitutes push their children also into this profession. But after this racket was caught, it was found that nowadays these people involved in prostitution are educating their children in big schools, and never want their kids to endorse their profession. But to keep earning money from this side, they kidnap young girls or buy girls of 3-4 years of age in around 50 thousand to 1 lakh rupees, admit them in schools as their child, and register a new Aadhar Identity Card of such girls, and now officially they become parents of such girls. They make them feed on growth hormones so that they look much older than their actual age and push them into prostitution, when they reach an age of around 13-14 years. This incident shocked me to the core and even today I feel hyper when I see a child going towards a person, whether it belongs to that person or not. I can never forget this moment of my life, as I have seen a long time. One of my contributions is in making a law which against such crimes in Madhya Pradesh, in which criminals exploiting small children must be hanged to death.
Infeed: As you just spoke about penalties against criminals what do you think about capital punishment? Many countries have already removed such punishments.
Raghvendra: It must be given in some rare cases, like I support in case of rape of very small girl child.
Infeed: As you said that you have come growing from public life, can you name two of your inspirations in social service or social activists.
Raghvendra: Many such people were there like RSS Pracharaks (Propagators) who guided me in ideology. One such person is Apahar Singh, who is RSS Pracharak for last 65 years. He has never done anything for himself, but just lives for the society. Sometimes I feel, what is 65 years. If you calculate the total time he spent on the society, then you will come to know that such people are so rich that they have given their lives for the people. They have worked so much but never expected anything in return. I am very impressed with such people.
Infeed: A very common question which comes into mind of many people, what is the relation between BJP and RSS. Is RSS the political ideologue of BJP?
Raghvendra: I think RSS has its own perception for the country. To take the path to reach that viewpoint, BJP is the closest link to RSS. If any other party agrees to the points of our ideology, then RSS will certainly support that party as well. For RSS, nation comes first, and party comes after that.
Infeed: As you discussed about Article 370 in our conversation, we all know that it was in your promises since 1990s. Do you think that a state can have more development or two separate Union Territories will gain more in terms of development? What are your views in the matter of Jammu & Kashmir?
Raghvendra: Smaller states develop faster than bigger ones, just like Madhya Pradesh was divided into Chhattisgarh, which shows more growth now. When the country was free in 1947, most of the states had their own constituent assemblies, as India’s Constitution was not ready till 1950. It was the responsibility of state constituent assemblies to carry on with their own constitution until the Constitution of India was under progress. The situation of Jammu-Kashmir is different. The local police there was also involved in anti-national activities, in big numbers, and I have observed it as a researcher. The army was deployed for this reason only.
Another thing is that army is not for local law and order, but for border security. Jammu-Kashmir has 2800 km of undefined border, and so army is used in wide capacity to take care of any infiltration from the neighboring country. The current circumstances were not in control of the local government, and with increasing activities of Pakistan, it was best suited to take the control in the hands of the Central Government. In case the situation comes back to normalcy in future, then we can revert back the status to a single state once again.
Infeed: The 2019 elections was a very crucial one and the most hyped fight was on Bhopal seat. As a part of election team, you were deeply involved with the campaign and contestant in Bhopal, which is very obvious. Some people of our country look at her in good light while others find more exposure of her dark side. How was your first interaction with Pragya Thakur?
Raghvendra: I have known Pragya Ji since 1992-93. At that time Pragya Ji was Student Organisation Minister and lived in Bhopal. The image of her from those days, is of a very smart and bold girl, who knew martial arts, and used to roam around on scooter with modern attire. She was more like an icon for college girls at that time. Then I observed her journey to become a saint and later being framed in a terror attack case. I have witnessed all these phases of her life. I personally regard her as a great person. She was tortured to an extent that you will be shaken to know about it. When she came out on bail, and filed nomination for elections, I was with her all the time. She did not bow down in front of then government and never accepted the charges against her at any cost. She wanted to save the bad name coming on Hindutva because of those charges. There is no bigger achievement than this for your country.
Infeed: As we all know, that it was him who gave some statements against Pragya Thakur and calling her a terrorist. Were you sure about her winning in the election with such a big mandate, as the battle was real tough with Congress stalwart like Digvijay Singh standing against her?
Raghvendra: No war or election must be taken lightly, so we did not take this election also lightly. But we were quite sure that Digvijay Singh has been completely exposed for making a strategy against the society. This man was morally finised as he has been unfaithful to the country. So we were sure of winning this election with big margins, from day one.
Infeed: In present Indian political spectrum, whom do you see as the most inspiring figures in Indian politics for young generation.
Raghvendra: The Rajya Sabha MP from Rajasthan, Sri Bhupendra Yadav, is the General Secretary of BJP, impresses me a lot by his working and knowledge.
Actually, there is a long list of such people.
Infeed: Any other leader you can name who impresses you.
Raghvendra: I normally refrain from taking names as the names keep alive after many years. Still I am impressed with people like Lal Bahadur Shastri, for his simplicity. I remember an interview of Sri Madhav Rao Scindhia, where the journalist was repeatedly mentioning Sri Rajiv Gandhi, in his questions. Scindhia Ji told him that Rajiv Ji may even be a good friend of the journalist, but at that time he was the Prime Minister and taking his name was morally wrong on his part. So a person may not come out of the past, without acknowledging the fact that what the person has become today.
Infeed: Today Vande Mataram is not very controversial, but a couple of years ago, it had become a controversial phrase in India, as some people said that it must not be sung while others said that it should be sung by all. There were some people linked to RSS also, who were unable to sing the National Song of our country, on Live TV. As this is associated with national pride, should it be a part of our school courses and curriculum?
Raghvendra: Why not? After Second World War, when Russia became politically weak, they started to think what was missing from their society. Then they came to a conclusion that it was the feeling of nationalism. So they started linking their worships and other acts with nationalism. I think that such things must be kept above everything else. Those who oppose Vande Mataram, they are actually opposing the sign of nationalism. I think no religion teaches not to be a good citizen, or not to go for nationalism. I remember poem of Ashfaqullah
“Jaunga Khali Haath Magar Ye Dar Sath Hi Jayega..
Na Jane Kis Din Mer Watan Azaad Bharat Kahlayega..
Bismil Hindu Hain, Kehte Hain Aunga Aunga..
Aakar Ke Bharat Mata, Tujhko Azaad Karunga..
Jee Karta Hai Main Bhi Keh Doon, Par Mazhab Mein Bandh Jata Hoon..
Musalman Hoon, PunarJanma Ki Baat Nahi Keh Paat Hoon..
Agar Khuda Mil Jaye Kahin To Jholi Phaila Doonga..
Phir Jannat Ke Badle PunarJanma Hi Mangunga..”
Who are those illiterates, who sit on 14th floor with cigarette and liquor, and write an article pretending to be intelligent? In reality, this is an army standing against the nation today. Why Muslims like Ashfaqullah, Abdul Hameed and Kalam Sahab are not ideal for us, or the last Mughal Emperor, who fought against oppressors? India is our motherland and everyone of us accepts this fact. There is nothing bigger than the nation itself and some people oppose it just to establish themselves. Otherwise all Indians, whether they are Hindus or Muslims, respect the nation.
Infeed: Sir the question was that Should RSS-linked schools, like Saraswati Shishu Mandir, also make Vande Mataram as a part of their assemblies?
Raghvendra: Yes it should be there. Not just reciting, but its history and other details must also be discussed in the schools. I have written a book in this regard, Bharat Ke ParamVir. It’s based on 21 ParamVir Chakra Awards. It’s my effort to share the knowledge about the soldiers who protect our country by sacrificing their lives, and keep our society safe.
Infeed: When Article 370 was abrogated from Jammu-Kashmir, then a slogan was raised ‘Ek Desh, Ek Vidhan’ (One Country, One Legislation). It means that everyone in the country must follow a common law, may it be Hindu, Muslim or any other religion. Do you think that Uniform Civil Code should be implemented or there should be different laws for different religions?
Raghvendra: I think Uniform Civil Code should be definitely implemented. Only thing should be taken care is that everyone is habitual of seeing himself as different from others, and that should be respected. I think country is going towards Common Civil Code and it is best for us. The Constitution has given us some fundamental rights and it is sufficient for us.
I can just tell you the cons of it, when you talk about Shariya law. In our society Child Marriage is banned and the person practicing it can be imprisoned for marrying a minor girl. But it is given in Islamic Shariya Law that you can marry a girl below 18 years of age. So when they want to marry a minor girl, they cite Shariya Law as an excuse. So I think that such things show a way to play with the laws of the Constitution.
Infeed: When the Constitution was being formulated, then the people involved discussed that such laws will exist. So were they correct in their idea of inclusiveness, or the idea of Common Civil Code?
Raghvendra: When Article 370 was included in the Constitution, at that time B R Ambedkar said that he did not want to include any such Article which differentiates with the citizens of our country. Ambedkar did not sign it and was included without his consent in the Constitution. Do you know this fact? So he was totally against this article.
Infeed: When we talk about progress, then people want the country to with progress like America.
Raghvendra: I think we should only progress like India, and not America, as we consider the world as a family and they consider the world as a business. We are country run with sentiments and feelings. And since 1947, several amendments have taken place in the Constitution, as and when required, and there is nothing wrong in it.
Infeed: As you said that we should develop as India, so what is your India after 15 years? What should be the parameter of development? Is it 5 trillion economy or equality or anything else?
Raghvendra: First of all, every person’s basic requirements must be fulfilled. It is said that nobody should stay hungry in our society. We are a country which cares about its animals as well. So we will reach the 5-trillion economy and beyond but nobody should be empty-stomach and everyone must get his basic rights.
Infeed: Where do you see yourself in next 5 to 10 years? What is your dream as a social activist and a political leader?
Raghvendra: The organization which I am associated with, will only command me about my future course of action. I am just like a soldier, who will stand in Jammu-Kashmir, or at China Border, as per the instructions of my organization, and I am completely devoted to this cause. I pray to god that such thoughts keep me occupied.
Infeed: Whenever somebody asks such a question about one’s future to any RSS worker, be it Narendra Modi or Ram Madhav, everyone’s answer is more or less same. How is it that everyone in RSS is so disciplined that they answer this question on similar lines?
Raghvendra: When we join the RSS, the first story that we are narrated is this one. So we are all devoted to a common cause and never want to go for an artificial life. Reality is to always do the right thing. I always say that whether you are a colonel or a general, but basically you are a soldier. If we consider ourselves as soldiers, irrespective of our ranks, then our way of thinking will be same.