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the unlikely pracharak

Parivar's problem child


Indresh Kumar is no stranger to controversy. His close aides describe him as "a simple person", but in the rest of the RSS he is known variously as a maverick, an oddball, and an adventurer. A pracharak of 1969 vintage, he seemed no different from his low-profile, unworldly peers till he started dabbling in areas where others were reluctant to tread. It immediately brought him into conflict with many in the RSS. But his ideas caught the fancy of K S Sudarshan who, as RSS chief, gave Kumar a free hand to experiment.


Kumar's laboratory has been north India, specifically the border areas, where as founder of an organisation called Himalaya Parivar, he actively involved himself with the Madhesi groups in Nepal, with the Tibetans in Himachal Pradesh, with Hindu groups in Jammu, and non-Valley Muslim groups in Kashmir. He has also been the driving force behind a shadowy RSS affiliate called Seema Jan (border people) that is suspected to have links with intelligence listening posts along the India-China and India-Nepal borders.
He probably would have remained a largely unknown figure with mysterious activities but for the controversy that erupted over his push for the trifurcation of Jammu & Kashmir into three separate regions of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh. The idea had Sudarshan's backing and Kumar was entrusted with the task of drumming up public support for it during the tenure of the Vajpayee government. It raised the hackles of the Jammu unit of the BJP. More importantly, it annoyed Vajpayee's PMO, which shot it down as an ill-advised move because it played into the hands of the militants who were fighting for the independence of the Kashmir Valley.


Neither Kumar nor Sudarshan understood the grave strategic consequences of the trifurcation demand and fought a bitter battle with the government and the BJP. In fact, Kumar was so upset by the BJP's opposition to his idea that in the 2002 assembly polls in J&K, he floated the Jammu Mukti Morcha, which flagged trifurcation as its main political plank. The Morcha put up candidates against the BJP in all the seats the party contested and ended up ensuring their defeat almost everywhere. When realisation finally dawned on the extent of damage it had caused, the Morcha was disbanded, but the BJP has yet to recover from the wounds that were inflicted on it in that period.


The failure of the trifurcation movement did not deter Kumar from pursuing his pro-Hindu agenda in Jammu. When the Amarnath land row erupted in 2008, he was at the forefront, organising rallies and demonstrations in Jammu to counter the protests in the Valley. The blockade of the Srinagar-Jammu highway, which caused immeasurable financial losses to fruit growers and farmers in Kashmir, is said to have been his brainchild.


Kumar never worried about the consequences of his activities or the outrage in the RSS over some of his ventures. He ruffled feathers in the Sangh with the creation of the Rashtravad Muslim Manch, which he sold to Sudarshan as a forum to bring Muslims closer to the RSS. Despite objections from several senior leaders, Sudarshan gave him the go-ahead and Kumar plunged into outreach programmes, meetings, and seminars with Muslim groups in places like Delhi, Rajasthan, and areas outside the Valley in J&K. One of his associates recalls that he would send out greeting cards in Urdu on Eid, much to the annoyance of RSS leaders who were suspicious of all this hyper activity with the minorities.


Those who know Kumar say that he is quite different from the public image of RSS pracharaks. A mechanical engineer by training, he is tech-savvy and wields a Nokia communicator with ease. He also has a weakness for the trappings of power and insists on being provided with a car with a red light when he travels to states where the BJP is in power. When his mother died recently, Himachal Pradesh's chief minister, Prem Kumar Dhumal, sent a helicopter to fetch him from the Northeast where he had gone on work.


Sudarshan's blind confidence in Kumar helped him to rise quickly in the RSS hierarchy to become one of its top leaders. While his associates believe that the organisation will have no option but to defend a senior pracharak like him, his detractors feel that he could be skating on thin ice with the present dispensation after the heartburn he has caused over the years.

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