RSS is an organisation that is almost 88 years old (it was started in 1925). In its long existence it has seldom been free of accolades and controversies. A bunch of laudatory and objective observations about the RSS:
- Mahatma Gandhi in 1934: “When I visited the RSS Camp, I was very much surprised by your discipline and absence of untouchablity.”
- Dr. Ambedkar in 1939: “This is the first time that I am visiting the camp of Sangh volunteers. I am happy to find absolute equality between Savarniyas (Upper Caste) and Harijans (Lower Caste) without any one being aware of such difference existing.”
- Zakir Hussain (former President of India) in 1949: “The allegations against the RSS of violence and hatred against Muslims are wholly false. Muslims should learn the lesson of mutual love, cooperation and organization from the RSS.”
- Jayprakash Narayan, one of Independent India’s most important leaders, in 1977: “RSS is a revolutionary organisation. No other organisation in the country comes anywhere near it. It alone has the capacity to transform society, end casteism and wipe the tears from the eyes of the poor. I have great expectations from this revolutionary organisation which has taken up the challenge of creating a new India.”
- Field Marshal Cariappa: “RSS is my heart’s work. My dear young men, don’t be disturbed by uncharitable comments of interested persons. Look ahead! Go ahead! The country is standing in need of your services.”
- Christopher Jaffrelot, the director of the Centre for Studies and Research (CERI) has written that with its paramilitary style of functioning and emphasis on discipline, the RSS has sometimes been seen by some as “an Indian version of fascism”. The RSS’s ideology treats society as an organism with a secular spirit, which is implanted not so much in the race as in a socio-cultural system and which will be regenerated over the course of time by patient work at the grassroots. RSS leaders, he says, were interested in cultural as opposed to racial sameness making them markedly different from Nazism and Fascism.
About the RSS
RSS, a self-declared apolitical, cultural and patriotic organisation inspires unease by its para-military semi-revolutionary and highly volatile nature. Added to this is the fact it is unapologetically Hindu in a nation of minorities where being Hindu is considered something of a crime.
Indian politicians have worked hard in the past 67 years to ensure that there is no majority group in the country – creating regional, linguistic, social, religious, cultural, caste-based and class-based minorities (the latest to this is Rahul Gandhi proposing that Jains, a hitherto peaceable and peaceful group in the society be “granted” minority status – so we’ll now have one more group fighting and agitating).
In this, RSS with its vision of a caste-free Hindu group is seen as a threat. RSS has even recommended and advocated that Dalits should be trained as high priests of temples contending that “even God will desert the temple in which Dalits cannot enter”. They believe that the Caste system, in a large way is responsible for the dissolution of Hindu values.
Their complete discarding of untouchability had even surprised Gandhiji, who was constantly struggling against untouchability in the country, when he visited the RSS Camp in Wardha in 1934. On his visit there, Gandhiji spoke to members in the camp and was stunned to know that none of them knew or cared about the caste of the other members.
While it was earlier known as a Maharashtrian Bhramin group, its footprint has now grown with RSS shakhas spread all across the country. Adding to the RSS presence are the various groups which are inspired by the RSS ideology and consider themselves to be a part of the Sangh Parivar. Prominent amongst there groups are Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Vanbandhu Parishad, Rashtriya Sevika Samiti, Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, Vanavasi Kalyan Ashram, Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, Vidya Bharati and Seva Bharati. Various other Hindu groups also take inspiration from the RSS philosophy.
The ultimate vision of RSS is Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam – the vision of the whole world as one family. The guiding principles towards this vision are voluntary service to the nation for socio-economic welfare and development. An important stepping stone for this (as per RSS) is a Hindu renaissance which in turn would build a strong India.
They believe that since Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam is an old Indian philosophy it can only be carried forward by a united India. Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar, the second head of RSS and its’ ideologue says: “in order to be able to contribute our unique knowledge to mankind, in order to be able to live and strive for the unity and welfare of the world, we stand before the world as a self-confident, resurgent and mighty nation”.
Herein lays the catch of the entire noble philosophy of the world as a family. As soon as any group decides its own superiority, it loses tolerance and acceptance. It automatically means that they believe that other points of view are either lesser or wrong. The strong belief in their view and understanding of Hinduism has led RSS to have extreme reactions to other religions in secular India. If this smacks of the anti-Semitic rhetoric of Hitler, it is little wonder because during the World War II, RSS found him rather inspiring.
In Golwalkar’s book We, or Our Nationhood Defined which forms the basic belief of RSS today, he says: “To keep up the purity of the Race and its culture, Germany shocked the world by her purging the country of the Semitic races—the Jews. Race pride at its highest has been manifested here. Germany has also shown how well nigh impossible it is for Races and cultures, having differences going to the root, to be assimilated into one united whole, a good lesson for us in Hindustan to learn and profit by.”
Notwithstanding all the controversies around it and accusations of violence against non-Hindus, keen socio-political observers say that RSS is the only bulwark keeping Hinduism alive in the world today. If it wasn’t for them, their stand and their strength, the world’s oldest and longest practised live religion would have died an unnatural death like the other ancient beliefs which were branded “pagan” (including Greek, Roman, Scandinavian, Red Indian, Aboriginal and African beliefs).
The first time it was banned in Independent India was when its most notorious ex-member, Nathuram Godse, assassinated Gandhiji in 1948. More than 60 years after the deed, Nathuram Godse today has his own band of loyalists.
The second ban came during the Emergency in 1975. This was the time of despotism. During this period everyone of any standing not aligned to Indira Gandhi was jailed and any organisation not Congress was banned.
The third ban was in 1992 after the demolition of Babri Masjid.
All three bans were subsequently lifted.
By: Editorial Team