Fact-check: Did RSS chief Bhagwat insult the Indian army?

Today media houses reported the speech of RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat, which he gave at a function in Muzaffarpur. The headlines of some stories were as below:

Some other media houses had their headlines presenting that Bhagwat had taken a jibe at the army, and had somehow disrespected it. 

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Most of the reports, were based on a quote of Bhagwat, which was as below (as reported in above stories):

Scroll.in, quoting Jansatta: While the Army would take six to seven months to get ready to fight, the RSS would take only two to three days

Thewire.in, quoting Times of India: The Sangh will prepare military personnel within three days, something the Army would do in 6-7 months to do. This is our capability.

The New Indian ExpressThe Army may take six to seven days to prepare for a war, but RSS can put together an army in just three days, if necessary

Economic Times, based on a PTI report: Sangh will prepare military personnel within three days which the Army would do in 6-7 months. 

The Indian Express: ….then the Army would take six to seven months to get ready, our volunteers will take three days.

Rahul Gandhi too took support of media reports and claimed that RSS chief had insulted every Indian, the flag, the army and our martyrs, hence RSS has to apologise:

So did he really say this? A video of the speech is available online, which shows what Bhagwat said:

A transcript of what he said in Hindi, is as below:

“Hamara, military sanghatan nahi hai, military jaisi discipline humari hai. Aur agar desh ko zaroorat pade, aur desh ka sanvodhan/kanoon kahe, to sena tayyar karne ko 6-7 mahina lag jaayega, sangh ke swamsevakon ko lenge, 3 din mein tayyar ho…..”

A translation of the above is:

“We are not a military organisation, our discipline is like that of the military. If the nation needs it, and if the constitution and the law says, then it will take 6-7 months to prepare (an/the) army. If sangh’s swayamsevaks are taken, will get ready in 3 days”

The crucial sentence here is “sena tayyar karne ko 6-7 mahina lag jaayega”.  In this sentence, Bhagwat has said it will take 6-7 months to raise an army. He does not specify whether it is “the” army, or “an” army.  Hence, the confusion. “The” army would obviously mean the Indian army, and “an” army, in the above context would mean an army of citizens or public. However, as seen above, most English translations in media reports, have assumed that he has referred to “the” army.

In fact, if we see The Indian Express’s report, they give both the versions, in Hindi and in English. In Hindi, “sena” is unspecified, in English, it somehow becomes “the Army would take six to seven months to get ready“. As soon as the word “the” is inserted, it becomes a reference to the Indian army, via the context.

This addition of “the” changes the meaning of the statement, and has become the basis for all media reports. The RSS on its part has given a clarification that the remarks of Bhagwat are being misrepresented:

Sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat’s speech in Muzzafpur(Bihar) is being misrepresented.

Bhagwat ji had said that if situation arises and the Constitution permits, Indian army would take 6 months to prepare the society whereas Sangh swayamsevaks can be trained in 3 days, as Swayamsevaks practise discipline regularly.
This was no way a comparison between the Indian army and the Sangh swayamsevaks but it was a comparison between general society and swayamsevaks.Both are to be trained by the Indian Army only.

– Dr.Manmohan Vaidya
Akhil Bharatiya Prachaar Pramukh

The RSS claims that Bhagwat was saying that the army would take 6-7 months to train the society, whereas RSS workers could be trained in 3 days. The original speech does not say “sena ko tayyar karne ko” (the army, to get ready), but instead says “sena tayyar karne ko”. Thus by itself, the speech is not clearly saying that the Indian army was being referred to.

Adding to this, the clarification by RSS makes it clear that the RSS chief was not in fact referring to the Indian army, but was talking about how long an army of ordinary people would take to be trained, as opposed to training an army of the RSS.

However, Indian media and politicians from the opposition, have already begun the narrative that the RSS chief had insulted the army. Thus, it remains to be seen whether the correct version will ever be reported by the media.

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