The book, ‘The RSS: Roadmaps for the 21st Century’ caught the imagination of many and it was visible even before the book was officially launched. First book on the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) that also by someone of the stature of the organising secretary of Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, naturally created curiosity for swayamsevaks and common masses equally. What was the thinking behind this book and what were the challenges in writing a book are natural questions for the author, who was praised by none other than RSS Sarsanghachalak Shri Mohan Bhagwat. Shri Sunil Ambekar, who is the author of this book, spoke to Organiser editor Prafulla Ketkar about the book and his journey of being an author. Excerpts:
First of all, hearty congratulations for the launch of the book. What was the intent behind this book and why in English?
As the Sarsanghachalak himself said, in the RSS every Swayamsevak has a right to have and express his views. At the same time, there is a process to reach to the consensus on certain issue through a collective consultative process in the RSS. As I said while expressing my intent behind the book, I have been travelling throughout the country; one can experience a strong sense of patriotism and intense desire to do something for the nation among students. They want to join some constructive activities. They raise certain concerns and through dialogue we also try to address them. They are also keen observers of the situation and test various organisations on various parameters. They come to know about RSS and they want to know about RSS-inspired organisations. Many times they have a very little information about the Sangh but a positive inclination is definitely there. They do not know much about the thinking and functioning of Sangh. I thought, this is an appropriate time to tell them about past, present and on the basis of same how Sangh intends to work in the future.
It is written in English for the convenience of the academicians and researchers within and outside Bharat as already a lot of material available on RSS is in Hindi and other Bharatiya languages. Soon it will be available in other languages too. While doing so, I have taken a precaution in usage of appropriate terms. In the Sangh parlance or Bharatiya context, many words do not have a parallel exact word in English; there I have kept the word in italics as it is with suitable explanation in English. This was challenging but I have tried to give my best to communicate with the larger audience.
This book narrates the RSS roadmaps through structure, thinking and functioning of the organisation. At the same time, this book is also a story of you as an individual from being a Swayamsevak to improving understanding of the Sangh. How difficult was it as generally in RSS individuals do not narrate their own stories?
This was never intended to be my story; it is meant to explain how a common individual gets connected with the Sangh as a thought, organisation and process. RSS is an organisation of ordinary citizens, communicated in very ordinary language to the people with a simple message – this is my motherland, we have a natural affinity with fellow brothers and sisters and we need to do something for our country and people. To establish this, in the beginning I have shared my experience. To avoid the complicated narration, I thought using my own experience would be better, hence my story in the introduction. But the real subject matter of the book is RSS functioning, processes, how new issues are taken up, how the perspective is evolved through a consultative process etc. to make it clear for the common readers and researchers. To work for Bharat, RSS is the best collective platform is the simple message of this book.
You have touched upon many issues not generally discussed by the Sangh on public platforms such as women, environment, global perspective, etc. Why did you feel that the RSS position should be made public on these issues?
Discussion on all these issues takes place within the Sangh Baithaks (interactions) and society, both. For instance, in the development discourse, we come across various viewpoints on course of development and ecological concerns. All over the world also there is a discussion about ‘right’ model of development. Similarly, healthy family institution as a necessity for a balanced society is also a common narrative. Development should be ecology compliant, in tune with human values, ensuring participatory approach. On the man-woman relationship and role of women in social life has been a point of churning for the entire world for last few decades. Sangh has been working on this consistently with different experiments. Woman coordination in various organisations and recent comprehensive survey on the status of women are the initiatives with the same purpose.
The Sangh has been working for resurgence and progress of Bharat; entire country, both people and the Government, is working for the same. In this context, how to move ahead in a balanced way should be brought forward. This has been our model of development which we need to recontextualise. We cannot have a copy-paste model for Bharat. In this context, RSS thought and experience can be useful for everyone who is concerned about peace, prosperity and progress, therefore, tried to articulate my understanding from the Sangh point of view.
It is usually experienced that the RSS position does not come out in public, beyond official statements or resolutions. Initially, the Sangh remained aloof from any sort of publicity. What difficulties did you face when you undertook this project?
This was a challenging task as going to the original, primary sources was my approach. To some extent, this was mitigated with the new archives section initiated within the RSS for the last 10-12 years. Whatever little is available either in official notes, news reports and government records about the RSS is being stored systematically. I tried to talk to as many experienced Sangh personnel as possible to understand things and get the facts right. Many scholars and swayamsevaks are also pursuing genuine efforts to understand the Sangh with the help of National Archives and other institutions; I tried to take help from them as well for references. This was really challenging but going to the primary source was my effort. For instance, when Gandhiji visited the RSS camp at Wardha, I got hold of the original minutes of his interaction with Swayamsevaks and Dr Hedgewar. I cross verified the same with the writings of Gandhiji. Even on contemporary initiatives, though the information is available now, drawing certain lessons for the future on the experiences was a bit difficult task. The people involved in latest initiatives such as environment, women coordination, family awakening etc helped me a lot in this. As they have been working in the concerned area with some thinking and experiments, I tried to understand the possible future trajectory of the issues. It was a great learning experience for me.
How was this journey from an organiser-activist to an author? Do you think many in the RSS inspired organisations or specifically ABVP will come up with their own understanding or roadmaps in coming days?
I do not think I have become an author, it requires a different personality and skills. This was not the process of just expressing myself. In RSS inspired organisations, I do not think that anybody can come up with their own narration about the Sangh and it should not happen. This is a process, a long process. I also do not think that I have understood everything about the RSS roadmaps. This was not my sole decision, many people felt that continuous churning should be articulated in some form for the larger social discussion and with a process of two years we could bring this out. I have also done with great apprehension. This is very serious work and cannot be undertaken frivolously as this is a representation of larger organisational viewpoint. So, no harm in expressing views but without groundwork and consultation, serious work cannot be undertaken.