By Dipankar De Sarkar, IANS,
London : The British government has said neither the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) nor the Bajrang Dal are terrorist organisations and their members are not banned from entering Britain.
“The government do not consider the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh or the Bajrang Dal as terrorist organisations,” British Minister of State for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Lord Malloch-Brown told the House of Lords.
“Neither organisation is proscribed in the UK or in India, nor do the Indian government classify either as a terrorist organisation,” Malloch-Brown said in reply to a question by former cabinet minister Lord Chris Patten.
Malloch-Brown said decisions on whether or not to ban a group in Britain “must be proportionate and based on evidence that a group is involved in terrorism as defined in the Terrorism Act 2000.”
The British minister also turned down a plea by Patten, who had visited India in October, to “ensure” that members of the RSS and Bajrang Dal are prevented from entering Britain.
Malloch-Brown replied that neither the RSS nor the Bajrang Dal are banned in Britain or subject to other restrictions or sanctions. Nor were they classified as terrorist organisations or banned by the Indian government.
“Unless an organisation is proscribed in the UK under the Terrorism Act 2000, membership of an organisation does not in itself provide grounds for refusing entry to the UK.
“Where there is evidence that the presence in the UK of a particular individual would not be conducive to the public good, consideration will be given to denying entry,” the minister said in his answer earlier this month.
While Patten’s questions at the House of Lords may have been prompted by the anti-Christian violence in Orissa, informed sources said the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS) – set up in 1966 as the nearest equivalent of the RSS in Britain – works very differently from Hindu groups in India.
“The HSS was set up in a number of countries. They have little to do with the RSS and abide by the laws of the country where they are based,” said a source closely allied to the HSS in Britain.
“They largely undertake activities concerning cultural identity rather than nationalistic identity. You can’t equate what happens in Gujarat, or elsewhere in India with what’s happening in Britain. For the second generation in particular, India is a bit abstract,” the source told IANS.
The HSS is said to have around 70 ‘shakhas’ or branches offices in Britain, with around 1,100 regular visitors.
“Over the years, British prime ministers and opposition leaders have passed through their doors,” the source said.
RSS General Secretary Mohan Rao Bhagwat stopped over in Britain in September on his way back from a visit to the Caribbean.
“He was felicitated by the community. Some important people, including police, were aware of the visit and there was no problem,” the source said.