RSS : The Flagbearer Of Hinduism

We can change everything. All the ideologies can be changed, but the only one thing that cannot change is that 'Bharat Ek Hindu Rashtra hai' Says Mohan Bhagwat, RSS chief.

RSS : The Flagbearer Of Hinduism

"The Hindu culture is the life-breath of Hindusthan. It is therefore clear that if Hindusthan is to be protected, we should first nourish the Hindu culture. If the Hindu culture perishes in Hindusthan itself, and if the Hindu society ceases to exist, it will hardly be appropriate to refer to the mere geographical entity that remains as Hindusthan. Mere geographical lumps do not make a nation. The entire society should be in such a vigilant and organized condition that no one would dare to cast an evil eye on any of our points of honor. Strength, it should be remembered, comes only through the organization. It is therefore the duty of every Hindu to do his best to consolidate the Hindu society. The Sangh is just carrying out this supreme task. The present fate of the country cannot be changed unless the lakhs of young men dedicate their entire life to that cause. To mold the minds of our youth towards that end is the supreme aim of the Sangh."

Even after 95 years of establishment of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the information about its founder, Dr. Keshav Baliram Hedgewar, is scantily available in the public discourse and on various academic and intellectual forums. In fact, whatever little information is available appears to have been peddled around with an objective to create a stereotype. This outcome is a logical corollary of the fact that historians nurtured by the Left and the Congress have interpreted contributions of national icons according to their convenience. For example, an organization such as the RSS, which is more open than any other organization, has been portrayed as a secret organization and on three different occasions, it was banned. The historians from the Left and Congress have been competing with each other to undermine the contribution of RSS in India's freedom struggle.

Dr. Hedgewar was a member of Yugantar and Anusheelan Samiti. He purposely joined National Medical College in Kolkota to work with Sri Aurobindo, Trailokya Nath Chakraborty, and Rash Behari Bose. After completing his degree he came back to Nagpur. The Central province had only 75 doctors then but he decided not to get into the profession and work for India’s independence.

Although Hedgewa disagreed with Mahatma Gandhi’s policy of launching the non-cooperation movement with Khilafat as its major plank was to restore the Caliphate in Turkey, he continued to travel and address meetings to inspire people to join the freedom struggle. He was arrested in May 1921 on the charges of sedition for his objectionable speeches at Karol and Bharatwada. His hearing in the case began on June 14, 1921, and the court was presided over by judge Smely. He read out his statement in the court and exclaimed after hearing the statement, “His defense is even more seditious than his original speech”.

In his judgment delivered on August 19, 1921, the judge ordered him to give an undertaking in writing that he would not deliver seditious speeches in the future for a period of one year and furnish bail of Rs 3,000. Dr. Hedgewar refused to comply with the order for bail. The judge sentenced him to one year’s rigorous imprisonment. He was released in July 1922 from Ajani jail and a public reception was organized by Congress in which the then senior congress leaders Pandit Moti Lal Nehru and Hakim Ajmal Khan also addressed the gathering.

In a program organized in Nagpur on July 12, 1930, Dr. LV Paranjpe participated along with Hedgewar. It was announced Hedgewar would participate in ‘Jungle satyagraha’. Hedgewar stood up after a brief speech by Paranjape and announced his resignation from sarsanghchaalak (chief of RSS) to join the ‘jungle satyagraha’.

Paranjape was appointed sarsanghchaalak (chief of RSS) till the time of Hedgewar’s return. Hedgewar courted arrest in Nagpur on July 21, 1930. He broke ‘Jungle Kanoon’ with 11 people and was immediately arrested. He was tried on the evening of July 21. On the same day, Congress also organized a rally in his support. Justice Bharucha sentenced him for rigorous imprisonment for nine months. Eleven others who accompanied him were sentenced for four months only. This was his second jail term. Hedgewar’s satyagraha was one of the most successful programs of the civil disobedience movement of the central province. After returning from jail in February, he once again became the sarsanghchaalak.

We got independence on August 15, 1947, along with the partition of the country. This partition happened on the basis of the Muslim league winning most of the Muslim dominated seats in the 1946 election to the provincial assembly. With partition happened the transfer of population. When the whole country was celebrating the hard-fought independence, a part of the country was under a blood bath. And people sitting in Delhi showed their apathy towards the suffering of Hindus in those parts, especially west Pakistan.

The Hindus were left to defend them from armed Muslim league men on their own due to a lack of impartial security apparatus. In his book ‘Now It Can Be Told published in 1949, Professor AN Bali elaborates how the RSS swayamsewak, under the leadership of the chief ‘Shri Guruji’, helped abandoned Sikhs and Hindus to cross the newly erected border.

He writes, “The police was mostly League-minded... non-violence and advice given by Mrs. Sucheta Kriplani, Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Rajender Prasad, etc. to stay out where they were with a firm trust in God appeared to most of the victims as a counsel of perfection which could only be given from a safe distance. Who else came to the rescue of the people at this stage, but a band of young selfless Hindus popularly known as RSS.

A 'mono-cultural Hindu identity'

Since its inception, the RSS has worked toward transforming India's Hindus from being a religious community into a political constituency. Observers say its aim is to establish Hindu hegemony in a Hindu-majority country, leaving religious minorities out in the cold."Our expansion is based on our core ideas and our modus operandi. We have developed a sustainable methodology," Rakesh Sinha, a spokesperson for the RSS,  once told DW. He dismissed rumors that the RSS instill fears in the minds of minority groups. 

"Our nationalism is about the unity and integrity of our beloved motherland. It is about enlightening the people about the great traditions of 'Bharat' (a legendary Hindu king) and India's cultural heritage. Our aim is cultural unity," said lawyer Raghav Awasthi, a member of the RSS. But critics are apprehensive about the RSS' growing presence and influence. They fear that the organization's clout will soon allow it to determine the nation's political discourse and direction, which could spell trouble for the country.

"The cow, beef and the Hindu god Ram are elements of that script, meant to be raised with an undertone of religion to create a mono-cultural Hindu identity. Identity politics is sought to be brought back into the political spectrum," argues social researcher Aakash Mehrotra. 

'Fear psychosis':

Since the BJP came to power in 2014, several state governments have been accused of pushing an RSS-backed ideology in a number of areas, including education. A strong RSS influence seems to be guiding education policies, from the setting up of research chairs in universities to appointments made in the education sector. In some BJP-ruled states, efforts are being made to revamp the school curriculum in an attempt to recast Indian history through a Hindu perspective. The education wing of the RSS, the Bharatiya Sikshan Mandal, has long been urging the government to "Indianize" the education system.

"The RSS people are not going to have another such opportunity anytime soon. So they are going to make the most of it. They will seek to convert a number of people, who would otherwise be critical thinkers, into followers of one ideology," historian Romila Thapar told DW. Opposition parties have accused Modi's government of attacking institutions and attempting to install people sympathetic to the RSS ideology even in the judiciary. "They have filled educational institutions with RSS workers. Now they are making attempts to fill the judiciary with RSS or people with their thinking. If this happens, democracy will be weakened," said Congress leader Kapil Sibal. Critics say the imprint of the RSS is seen even in cabinet reshuffles. Last year, when a big reshuffle took place, about half of the new or promoted ministers had strong RSS connections, they point out.

"Instead of implementing the many promises they made to the people procuring their mandate in the 2014 and 2019 elections, the singular agenda that the Modi government is vigorously pursuing is to advance the RSS agenda," says the Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Sitaram Yechuri. The BJP, however, dismisses such fears. "Opposition parties have a fear psychosis. They know they have little chance to dislodge our party, which rules in 21 states. A democracy has space for non-political actors," said BJP leader Sanjay Tandon.