Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)

RSS was founded in 1925 by Dr. Keshav Baliram Hedgewar, who was a doctor in the central Indian city of Nagpur. Hedgewar as a medical student in Kolkata had been a part of the revolutionary activities of the Anushilan Samiti and Jugantar striving to free India from British rule. He had been charged with sedition in 1921 by the British Administration and was imprisoned for a year. After returning to Nagpur, he was briefly a member of Indian National Congress before he left it in 1925, to form the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. After the formation of the RSS, Hedgewar kept the organization from having any direct affiliation with any of the political organisations then fighting British rule. But Hedgewar and teams of volunteers, took part in the Indian National Congress, led movements against the British rule. Hedgewar was arrested in the Jungle Satyagraha agitation in 1931 and served a second term in prison.
The RSS was established as a educational body whose objective was to train a group of Hindus, who on the basis of their character would work to unite the Hindu community so that India could become an independent country and a creative society. Encyclopedia Britannica opines that "Hedgewar was heavily influenced by the writings of the Hindu nationalist ideologue Vinayak Damodar Savarkar and adopted much of his rhetoric concerning the need for the creation of a 'Hindu nation'. Contradicting its own statement Britannica also claims that RSS is established to foster unity among Hindu youths of all castes and classes" Hedgewar formed the RSS as a disciplined cadre who were dedicated to independence and the protection of Hindu political, cultural, and religious interests. During WW-II the RSS members openly admired Adolf Hitler in order to counter British rule in India.
The Sarsanghchalak (Sanskrit: राष्ट्रीय स्वयंसेवक संघ) is the head of the RSS organization. The individuals who have been Sarsanghchalaks are:
Dr. Keshav Baliram Hedgewar (founder), also known as Doctorji (1925–1930 & 1931–1940)
Dr. Laxman Vaman Paranjpe (1930–1931) (when Dr. Hedgewar was in jail during Forest Satyagraha)
Shri Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar, also known as, Guruji (1940–1973)
Shri. Madhukar Dattatraya Deoras, also known as, Balasaheb (1973–1993)
Prof. Rajendra Singh, also known as, Rajjubhaiya (1993–2000)
Kuppahalli Sitaramayya Sudarshan (2000–2009)
Dr. Mohan Madhukar Bhagwat (21 March 2009 – till date)
The position is decided by nomination by predecessor. The current Sarsanghachalak of RSS is Dr. Mohan Madhukar Bhagwat.
Protection of Sikhs during the 1984 anti-Sikh riots
Sikh intellectual and author of 'A History of the Sikhs', Khushwant Singh, credits members of the RSS with helping and protecting Sikhs who were being targeted by members of the Congress(I) political party during the 1984 Anti-Sikh Riots. Singh who otherwise has been critical of the RSS and believes that it is a " communal organization and dangerous to the country's secular fabric".
"Shakha" is Hindi for "branch". Most of the organizational work of the RSS is done through the coordination of shakhas or branches. These shakhas are run for 1 hour in public places. In 2004, more than 60,000 shakhas were run throughout India. However the number of Shakas has fallen by over 10,000 since the fall of the BJP led government in 2004. According to Vagish Issar, RSS's media representative in Delhi, the number of Shakas has fallen to 39,823 as of January 2010. Local leaders have asserted links to the casteist policies of the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Samajwadi Party have driven members away.
The shakhas conduct various activities for its volunteers which include physical fitness activities through yoga, exercises and games. It has other activities which emphasize on qualities like civic sense, social service, community living and patriotism. The volunteers are trained in first aid and in rescue and rehabilitation operations. The volunteers are also encouraged to get involved in the developmental activities of the village or locality.
Sangh Parivar
Organizations which are inspired by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh's ideology refer themselves as the members of the Sangh Parivar. In most of the cases, pracharaks (full-time volunteers of the RSS) were deputed to start and manage these organizations. The organizations within the Sangh include the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Vanbandhu Parishad, Rashtriya Sevika Samiti, Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, Vanavasi Kalyan Ashram, Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, Vidya Bharati, Seva Bharati and many others spread in all parts of society. Numerous other Hindutva organizations take inspiration from the RSS's philosophy.
RSS has never directly contested elections, but supports parties that are ideologically similar. Although RSS generally endorses the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), yet at times had refused to do so due to difference of opinion with the party. Also, RSS is open to support any political party that subscribes to its views.
Of late, the volunteers of the RSS have also held prominent political and administrative positions in India including the Prime Minister of India, the Vice President of India, the Home Minister and Ministers in the Central Government, Governors and Chief Ministers of various states and the members of elected bodies at the state and the national level and also the Indian ambassador to the US.

IT Milan
For swayamsevaks who work in IT(Information Technology) related sectors another form of Shakha is set, called as "IT Milan". These are weekly meetings unlike the regular Shakhas which run daily. IT Milans are observed in many IT cities in India – Bangalore, Chennai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Pune. There are as many as 3,000 techies in Bangalore who meet regularly this way. This 60–90 minutes weekly gathering includes a Prayer, Surya Namaskara, Yoga, games, song and sermon. IT Milans are user friendly; the prayer is available as a printout, usually everyone is addressed in English, and there are enough people to aid newcomers on the Surya Namaskara and seven yoga asanas. These exercises have been designed for IT professionals who suffer from chronic lower backache due to long hours at computers. It also helps that their employers respect their RSS links. Games are played during the Milan to relieve tension in the minds of IT Swayamsevaks and foster team spirit. An IT Milan also serves as a forum for discussion on various issues of national and international importance like the Copenhagen Summit and West Bengal government's decision to grant religion based reservation to Muslims.

The mission of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh has been described as the revitalization of Indian value system based on universalism and peace and prosperity to all. Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, the worldview that the whole world is one family, propounded by the ancient thinkers of India, is considered as the ultimate mission of the organization. But the immediate focus, the leaders believe, is on the Hindu renaissance, which would build an egalitarian society and a strong India that could propound this philosophy. Hence, the focus is on social reform, economic upliftment of the downtrodden and the protection of cultural diversity of the natives in India. The organization says, it aspires to unite all Hindus and build a strong India, which could contribute to the welfare of the world. In the words of RSS ideologue and the second head of the RSS, M S Golwalkar, "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".

1 comment:

  1. Please correct the name of the second sarsanghachalak listed above. The correct name is "Dr. Laxman Vasudev Paranjpe" not Laxman Vaman Paranjpe