German Ambassador Walter J Lindner’s Meeting With RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat Stokes A Controversy

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New Delhi: Though people from the embassies of different countries have been meeting RSS leaders but German Ambassador Walter J Lindner’s meeting with Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat at the organisation’s headquarters in Nagpur this week has stoked a controversy on social media, but for the Sangh the visit is part of a now-established outreach protocol between them and the diplomatic corps.

According to Sangh functionaries, the practice of interactions between diplomats and the Sangh took off in a formal setting in 2009; when an ambassador of a European nation invited 27 other ambassadors of the European Union to a meeting with Bhagwat.

“The meeting was supposed to be for an hour, but it lasted for over three hours as all the diplomats posed question after question to Bhagwatji. This was a first-of-its-kind opportunity to get to first hand overview of the Sangh and its ideology,” said a senior functionary privy to the meeting.

The luncheon paved the way for expanding the interaction between the Sangh and the diplomats that started in 1994 — ahead of the 1996 Lok Sabha polls when Bharatiya Janata Party Atal Bihari Vajpayee elected as Prime Minister.

“There was some curiosity about the Sangh [in 1994]; some diplomats expressed a desire to visit Nagpur...,” said a second functionary.

What began as small groups of mid-run diplomats visiting Nagpur in batches and individually interacting with Sangh functionaries and their families graduated to a more organised exchange at frequent intervals.

For instance, the then deputy High Commissioner and Minister Counselor of Singapore, Johathan Tow, was present for the Vijayadashami speech in Nagpur in 2012. In August 2016, the president of the Central Tibetan Administration, Dr Lobsang Sangay, met Bhagwat. The two, according to media reports, discussed key issues relating to environment and political situation in Tibet. In 2018, Kieran Drake, Minister-counselor at the British High Commission also called on Bhagwat, which was later described as a courtesy call.

“Outreach and engagement with different sections has become a regular feature of the Sangh’s work since 2007 when the Vishesh Sampark Cell started, and the RSS chief continues to meet people of different ideologies,” said the first functionary.

 

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