Book Review: The RSS: Roadmaps for the 21st Century by Sunil Ambekar

    11-May-2020
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Ambekar’s book is exhaustive in its expanse, lucid in style, unsentimental in its presentation, direct in its assessment of the predicament of India and its political system, merciless on its stand on retrogressive views.
- Prof. S.C. Sharma
 

Sunil Ambekar RSS Book_1& 
 
Sunil Ambekar’s The RSS: Roadmaps for the 21st Century makes an interesting reading. It is an insider’s bold exposition of the most powerful organisation and one of the world’s biggest non-government organisations. It is a detailed delineation of the RSS, its ethos, its agenda, its policies, its mission and its future plans.
 
The word RSS inspires many envious thoughts and ray of assurance for different people not only in India but the world at large. Right from its participation in the freedom struggle, its relationship with Gandhi, its stand on the partition of India, its stand on emergency, its idea of Hindu Rashtra, its open and unequivocal stand on Ram Mandir, its claim that all minorities are nonetheless Hindus as their ancestors were Hindus, its opposition to conversions, gaurakshaks and their vigilantism, the happenings on the University campuses because of CAA and more, the RSS and its affiliates called the SanghParivar have inspired varied notions. For a lot of pseudo-seculars the ideas of RSS are divisive and not-secular. They fear that RSS’ idea of Hindu Rashtra propagates exclusivity is a groundless claim that lot of people nurture. Many vested interests fostered the idea that the RSS is conservative, traditional, pro-Hindu and ‘closed’ in its attitude. Ambekar’s book The RSS Roadmaps for the 21st Century holds a mirror up to nature and its affiliates and tries to present the true idea of the RSS, its idea of Hindutva, its stand on many issues which are open, inclusive and accommodative. The book is the need of the hour at a time when some people look at the RSS with awe and distrust due to negative propaganda which was carried for several decades and at the same time majority of the people look at the RSS as the only hope in a hopeless predicament.
 
The book tries to reconstruct the hundred years’ history of the RSS and its affiliates, right from the pre-formation years to nascent years to the present and the future. The book is inspired by Ambekar’s concern for the future of India and the role that the RSS can play in the evolution of Bharth, the 21st Century India. In the introductory remarks, Ambekar says that when India celebrates its 100years after independence in 2047, how will India be or to put it aptly, ‘what India should be’ from the perspective of the RSS as an avowed RSS volunteer is the outcome of the book.
 
All through the book, Sunil Ambekar is unwavering in his conviction and narration. He presents a bold and uninhibited narrative that employs an unsentimental tone. He delves deep into the psyche of the RSS and its founding father Dr. Keshav Baliram Hedgewar popularly known as ‘Doctorji’ and comes out with many answers that have plagued the nation and the world. The simplicity of the RSS thought is the simplicity of its vision, says Ambekar. Starting from the inception of the RSS, Ambekar traces the roots of its founder, its affiliates, the galaxy of its Sarsanghchalaks, the trials and tribulations it faced to the most unexplored and the controversial.
 
At a time when the opportunists of any dynastic rule feel threatened their political survival, more and more because of its supposed influence having broad based backing from the political mandate, the RSS agenda of Hindu Rashtra, its stand on minorities, constitution, Ram Mandir, Uniform Civil Code etc., are called in for question, Sunil Ambekar’s book tries to trace the history of the Sangh since its inception and goes on to explain the RSS’ stand on all these issues in a no-nonsense style. While delineating the past and the present, the book tries to project the agenda of the Sangh for the 21st Century. The book is a comprehensive record of the Sangh, its formation years, the upheavals it faced, the organisation, its role and responsibilities, its commitment to the nation, its policy of nation first and its own brand of nationalism and the Hindu Rashtra.
 
The book makes many bold statements on the Hindutva, the RSS’ idea of Nationalism, its views on minorities, Tribal groups, Ram Mandir, Caste, Naxalism, Maoists, Urban Naxals, ‘tukdetukde gangs’, the so called saffornisation of education, the controversies in the Universities, its idea of nationhood and by including the latest episodes that have drawn headlines, the book is the latest and the most current book on the RSS which covers all issues concerning the controversies over the Sangh. The lucidity with which Ambekar tries to present the perspectives of the RSS on the controversial issues is worthy of appreciation. At any point in the book he does not try to answer the controversies or its detractors in a direct manner, but in a lucid style, he presents the RSS view of the controversial issues through which the detractors attack the RSS.
 
The RSS’ views on Indian culture, its stand on the family systems and values, its idea of setting right the individual through the concerted efforts of the entire society, its views on live-in relationships, abortions, divorces, joint family system, the place of religion in one’s life, the role of the state, the role of the women in the family, the idea of globalisation all these and more find a place while Ambekar critically evaluates them with clinical precision.
Starting from the individual self to the idea of the world, Ambekar touches upon every issue concerning the people of India and the world. He looks ambitious in exploring issues that have impact on the individual, on the family, on the society, on the country and the world. It is ambitious because it presents in an exhaustive manner the perceptions of the Sangh on the most controversial to the least controversial. He presents the RSS viewpoints on abortions, foeticide, nuclear families, divorce, elderly care, equality of opportunity, inclusive development, domestic violence, homosexuality, transgender rights, the role of women and feminism, participation of the RSS in politics or non-participation, aboriginals and more.
 
An avid reader will find answers to many questions which have been raised over the years and questions that are repeated every time the name of the RSS has cropped up for discussion. The book also elaborates the delicate relationship that the Sangh has got with the BJP. The writer claims that the Sangh always adhered to the democratic values to engage in dialogue with any party that held power. Ambekar opines that the RSS believes in creating awareness about ‘Bharatiyata’ in bringing national awakening in minds of the populace. His stand that the minorities are Hindus as their ancestors were Hindus is a stance that the RSS has always taken and the book goes on to justify that the idea of ‘Hinduness’ that is applicable not just to the minorities but across all civilisations in the world. He believes that the idea of ‘Hinduness’, which believes in equality, sharing-caring, common good of all living species including the flora and the fauna, the idea of universal brotherhood, the idea of ‘man-making’ efforts and the idea of ‘Ekatmata’ are universal and that India should continue to hold its role as the ‘world guru’.
 
Ambekar’s book is exhaustive in its expanse, lucid in style, unsentimental in its presentation, direct in its assessment of the predicament of India and its political system, merciless on its stand on retrogressive views. Ambekar tries to present the RSS and its affiliates as a whole the Sangh, not only as an insider, but as a concerned citizen of India. His conviction is clear that the RSS and its ideology was and is appropriate not only for India but the world as a whole. The idea of ‘Ekatmata’, ‘VasudhaivaKutumbakam’ and the reformation of the individual for achieving the reformation of the society and nation is most precise and conclusive.
 
I am sure that Ambekar has accomplished the mission with which he embarked on a bold journey that is devoid of nostalgia but is inspired by his concern for the 21st Century India and the world’s common good.
 
(Prof SC Sharma is the current Director of National Assessment and Accreditation Council, Bengaluru)