Suraj Bhan 'proud' of RSS links
From P M Damodaran

''I was a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) worker and I am proud of it. But I strongly deny the allegations that the premises of the Raj Bhawan (official residence of the governor) are being used for sangh activities.``

These remarks were made by Uttar Pradesh Governor Suraj Bhan in an interview to this correspondent here when his attention was drawn to the complaint lodged with President K R Narayanan by the Congress that the former was saffronising Raj Bhawan.

The governor had recently released a magazine, ''Path Sanket,`` which deals with folk traditions in India at the Gandhi Sabhagar at the Raj Bhawan. The Congress had alleged that the magazine was virtually a mouthpiece of the Sangh. The magazine carried advertisements of Saraswati Shishu Mandirs, run by the sangh parivar and a message from a senior RSS functionary.

Mr Bhan, however, refuted the allegation and asserted that the function was not an RSS- sponsored one. It was a function organised by a freedom-fighter, who was known to him.

To his knowledge, no RSS leader was present at the function. Neither was there any reference to the sangh or its activities at the function by him or the office- bearers of the magazine. We just spoke about the folk culture. Such functions are being organised at the raj bhawan regularly, he added.

In the same vein, the Governor also pointed out that the RSS was not a banned organisation! Mr Bhan was forthright in his admission that he was associated with the sangh since his student days and was attending the shakhas regularly. In fact, he said: ''I am indebted to the RSS in giving me a new direction. I had been a victim of untouchability in my childhood and the sangh joined me in fighting against this evil,`` Mr Bhan nostalgically added.

Elucidating the sangh ideology, he said it never discriminated people on the caste basis.

Though it was, by and large a Hindu organisation, it also never preached hatred against the Muslims or other communities.

But he clarified that once he was appointed as the state governor he neither attended the shakhas nor associated with any activities of the RSS. Mr Bhan said that he welcomed people in raj bhawan irrespective of their social background, caste, creed or religion. To cite an example of his neutrality, the governor pointed out that out of 14 the vice-chancellors of universities appointed by him, one was a Dalit and the other a backward. He also appointed a Muslim as vice-chancellor of Bareilly University.

In reply to a question, Mr Bhan denied the reports that there was a tiff between him and the state government or Chief Minister Ram Prakash Gupta on the implementation of the welfare schemes meant for the Dalits, particularly in giving scholarships for them and filling the employment quota meant for them. In fact ''I am happy with the performance of the government in this respect,`` he quipped.

But the Governor bluntly said that many more things had to be done to better the cause of the Dalits in the state as well as elsewhere, as the latter were still the victims of untouchability and suppression, against which he had begun his war from his childhood.

He proudly said that on his suggestion, a committee of governors was constituted at the governors` meeting held in Mumbai earlier this month.

Mr Bhan said he was happy that he could contribute something for the state during his tenure as governor so far. He had particularly taken keen interest in the field of education. To set the things right, the governor, in the capacity as chancellor, visited a few universities.

He has plans to visit all the universities in the near future.

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