One section of a subject in one year of a three year graduation course should not be subject to so much brouhaha. Considering the fact that everyone wants to know all about the RSS, there are many reasons why an academic analysis of the organisation would be useful. For a cultural organisation that likes its work to speak for itself, it is quite surprising how the Sangh manages to raise the dust through no fault of its own.
If one does study the RSS, what are the lessons can be learnt from the analysis? According to 2019 RSS annual report, there are at present 59,266 Shakhas which impart the training of character development. Starting from a single shakha of five members, this is an amazing achievement of exponential growth.
For over nine decades, 94 years to be precise, the RSS has continued its disciplined activity of inculcating morals, values and leadership within the society, developing people into better human beings and instilling in them a feeling of national pride. Dr Hedgewar decided that the national character needed to be built and the youth needed to feel pride in the nation. Therefore, to transform society, he started shakha to inculcate this emotion. The shakha format has continued since the inception and now the Sangh has expanded its ‘parivar’ to work with multifarious sections of society to help their transformation and development. These include farmers, student politics, religion, trade unions, the legal system, agriculture, politics, tribal development, nursery education, ecology, Muslim outreach, social service, farmers, the backward classes, educational institutions, encouraging indigenisation, etc. to name just a few.
Swayamsevaks constructing a road damaged during the flood
As a non-political entity, the RSS has played catalyst to the birth of two political parties. In 1951, Guruji Golwalkar loaned a few senior pracharaks to eminent educationist and nationalist Dr Syama Prasad Mookerji to help found Bharatiya Jana Sangh. After Dr Mookerji’s tragic death in Kashmir in 1953, the Pracharaks stabilised the fledgling political party and also held together.
When the erstwhile members of Jana Sangh walked out of Janata Party in 1979 against the allegation of their dual membership, it was due to the emotional and fraternal ties that they had with the Sangh. Led by shri Atal Behari Vajpayee and LK Advani, the Jana Sangh members formed Bharatiya Janata Party and reaffirmed their decades old bond with the Sangh.
Today, the BJP holds power at the Centre with an absolute majority, winning elections in 2014 and 2019. The BJP members do not shy away from saying that the RSS is their inspiration and ideological mentor. They take pride in their association and the RSS is no longer the untouchable or pariah that it was earlier.
The opinions expressed by RSS Sarsanghachalak on national issues are accorded respect since it is well known that the Sangh believes that the demands of the individual and the organisation take a backseat where the nation is concerned. BJP too takes cognizance of the opinions of the Sarsanghachalak and there are often detailed discussions on issues of national importance.
This situation is a far cry from the time the RSS was banned three times since Independence. Yet, the Sangh has come out of it unscathed, unblemished and with its head high. The first ban was in 1948 after the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi when it was alleged that Nathuram Godse was once a member of the Sangh. The Sarsanghachalak and many of their members were arrested. However protracted negotiations, a new constitution and a huge agitation later, the ban was revoked. The second ban was during the Emergency when the Sangh whole-heartedly participated in the Nav Nirman agitation led by Jayaprakash Narayan. Thousands of swayamsevaks were arrested and jailed during the Emergency in 1975 and those swayamsevaks who were outside, kept the underground movement against the authoritarianism of Indira Gandhi alive when there was no opposition left outside jail. The third ban was after the demolition of the Babri Masjid when they were banned along with the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal which under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 for a period of nearly six months from December 1992 to June 1993.
In more than nine decades, there has been no stain on the character of the Sangh members, no allegations, no accusations of misconduct and even members of political parties opposed to the BJP accept in private to the dedication and honesty of the Sangh karyakartas. Such accolades are not easy to achieve. It is mainly due to the commitment and nationalism that is projected by the karyakartas. Every day, swayamsevaks intone at their shakhas, as a part of their daily prayer. This daily reinforcement goes a long way in strengthening the resolve of every swayamsevak.
The daily shakha unites the Sangh. It allows swayamsevaks to rise above caste, class and other parochial divisions and dissensions. Balasaheb Deoras firmly believed that it was the swayamsevak who would transform the society and the shakha was the instrument to create such swayamsevaks. The Bhagwa dhwaj being their guru, there is little scope for personality cult in the RSS. Very early on, Dr Hedgewar decided that the saffron flag associated with Shivaji would be the ‘Guru’ that each swayamsevak would revere instead of any individual. While the Sarsanghachalak is venerated, they also accept that he is there because of his actions, devotion to the organisation and its cause. The Sarsanghachalak also accepts that it is his responsibility to consult other senior members of the organisation and once a decision is taken, it is accepted as sacrosanct for all.
It is this devotion to the nation that brings RSS karyakartas to places where there calamities and disasters anywhere in the country. Floods, earthquakes, natural and other manmade calamities, these silent workers pitch in to help with no expectation of recognition or awards just their devotion to their motherland.
A notable and unique feature of the organisation is that there has been no single case of a split in the organisation or senior functionaries walking out and starting parallel organisations. There is no internal strive or discordant notes – at least it is not made public. Issues are discussed and debated and the decision is by consensus. Differences, if any are ironed out internally. The Marathi phrase - mat bhed asawe, man bhed nahi aptly conveys the underlying thought process that difference in opinion should not result in personal acrimony. This is another example of the internal discipline that is a characteristic feature of the organisation, its strength and strong binding force.
An interesting WhatsApp message circulated some time back. It described the RSS as the best pool of talent in the world. With the President, the Prime Minister, several Governors, Chief Ministers and Ministers from the Central and State cabinets having risen from the ranks of the daily ‘shakha’, it is testimony to the resilience, character and unlimited availability and access to a strong talent base. Aur kya chahiye?
(The writer is author of ‘RSS-BJP Symbiosis’)