Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh
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|राष्ट्रीय स्वयंसेवक संघ|
|Formation||27 September 1925|
|Founder||Keshav Baliram Hedgewar|
|Type||Right-wing volunteer, paramilitary|
|Purpose||Advocating Hindu nationalism|
|Headquarters||Nagpur, Maharashtra, India|
56,859 shakhas (2016)
|Suresh 'Bhaiyaji' Joshi
|Mission||"Selfless Service to Motherland"|
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Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, abbreviated as RSS (Rāṣṭrīya Svayamsēvaka Saṅgha; IPA: [rɑːʂˈʈriːj(ə) swəjəmˈseːvək ˈsəŋɡʱ], lit. "National Volunteer Organisation" or "National Patriotic Organisation"), is an Indian right-wing, Hindu nationalist, paramilitary volunteer organisation that is widely regarded as the parent organisation of the ruling party of India, the Bharatiya Janata Party. The RSS is one of the principal organizations of the Sangh Parivar group.
The initial impetus was to provide character training through Hindu discipline and to unite the Hindu community to form a Hindu Rashtra (Hindu nation). The organisation promotes the ideals of upholding Indian culture and the values of a civil society. It drew initial inspiration from European right-wing groups during World War II. Gradually, RSS grew into a prominent Hindu nationalist umbrella organisation, spawning several affiliated organisations that established numerous schools, charities, and clubs to spread its ideological beliefs.
The RSS was banned once during British rule, and then thrice by the post-independence Indian government – first in 1948 when a former RSS member assassinated Mahatma Gandhi; then during the emergency (1975–77); and for a third time after the demolition of Babri Masjid in 1992.
- 1 History
- 1.1 Founding
- 1.2 World War II
- 1.3 Indian Independence Movement
- 1.4 Activities during partition
- 1.5 First ban
- 1.6 Second ban and acquittal
- 1.7 Opposition to the National Flag of India
- 1.8 Opposition to the Constitution of India
- 1.9 Decolonisation of Dadra, Nagar Haveli and Goa
- 1.10 War-time activities
- 1.11 Movement against the Emergency
- 1.12 Participation in land reforms
- 2 Structure
- 3 Mission
- 4 Affiliated organisations
- 5 Social service and reform
- 6 Relief and rehabilitation
- 7 Court rulings on RSS
- 8 Reception
- 9 Criticisms and accusations
- 10 Swayamsevaks
- 11 References
- 12 Bibliography
- 13 External links
RSS was founded in 1925 by Keshav Baliram Hedgewar, a doctor in the city of Nagpur, British India. He had earlier been charged with sedition in 1921 by the British Administration and was imprisoned for one year.
Hedgewar was educated by his elder brother. He then decided to study medicine in Calcutta, West Bengal. He was sent there by B. S. Moonje in 1910 to pursue his medical studies. There he lived with Shyam Sundar Chakravarthy and learned the techniques of fighting from secret revolutionary organisations like the Anushilan Samiti and Jugantar in Bengal. He is said to have joined Anushilan Samiti, and he had contacts with revolutionaries such as Ram Prasad Bismil.
Previously,[clarification needed] he was involved in such type[clarification needed] of revolutionary activities, a fact disclosed by writers such as C. P. Bhishikar, M. S. Golwalkar, K. S. Sudarshan and Rakesh Sinha.
After completing his studies and graduating, he returned to Nagpur, inspired by the armed movement.[clarification needed] In his memoirs, the third chief of RSS, Balasahab Deoras narrates an incident when Hedgewar saved him and others from following the path of Bhagat Singh and his comrades.[clarification needed] Later, in 1925, Hedgewar left the revolutionary organisations and formed the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.
Since Hedgewar was primarily associated with the Hindustan Republican Association, he adopted the full constitution of the erstwhile HRA[clarification needed] and later implemented it forcibly[clarification needed] in his newly established organisation, the RSS. The RSS first met in 1925 just two months after the Kakori train robbery in a small ground[clarification needed] of Nagpur with five to six people on Vijaya Dashami.[not in citation given] After the formation of the RSS, Hedgewar kept the organisation from having any direct affiliation with the political organisations then fighting British rule, but he and his team of volunteers did take part in the Indian National Congress and lead movements against British rule. Hedgewar was arrested in the Jungle Satyagraha agitation in 1931 and served a second term in prison.
World War II
During World War II, RSS leaders openly admired Adolf Hitler. Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar, who became the supreme leader of the RSS after Hedgewar, drew inspiration from Adolf Hitler's ideology of racial purity. RSS leaders were supportive of the Jewish State of Israel, including Savarkar himself, who supported Israel during its formation. Golwalkar admired Jews for maintaining their "religion, culture and language".
Indian Independence Movement
The RSS, which portrays itself as a social movement, stayed away from the Indian independence movement and did not engage in any form of resistance against the colonial British Government.[clarification needed] It also rejected Gandhi's willingness to cooperate with the Muslims.
After founding the organisation, Hedgewar started the tradition of keeping the RSS away from the Indian Independence movement. Any political activity that could be construed as being anti-British was carefully avoided.[clarification needed] According to the RSS biographer C. P. Bhishikar, Hedgewar talked only about Hindu organisations avoiding any direct comment on the Government. The "Independence Day" announced by the Indian National Congress for 26 January 1930 was celebrated by the RSS only that year and subsequently avoided. The Tricolor of the Indian national movement was shunned. Hedgewar personally participated in the 'Satyagraha' launched by Gandhi in April 1930, but he did not get the RSS involved in the movement. He sent information everywhere that the RSS would not participate in the Satyagraha. However, those wishing to participate individually were not prohibited. In 1934 Congress passed a resolution prohibiting its members from joining RSS, Hindu Mahasabha, or the Muslim League.
M. S. Golwalkar, who became the leader of the RSS in 1940, continued and further strengthened the isolation from the independence movement. In his view, the RSS had pledged to achieve freedom through "defending religion and culture" and not by fighting the British. Golwalkar even lamented the anti-British nationalism, calling it a "reactionary view" that had had disastrous effects upon the entire course of the freedom struggle. It is believed that Golwalkar did not want to give the British any excuse to ban the RSS. He complied with all the strictures imposed by the Government during the Second World War, even announcing the termination of the RSS military department. The British Government stated that the RSS was not at all supporting any civil disobedience against them, and as such their other political activities could be overlooked. The British Home Department took note of the fact that speakers at Sangh meetings urged its members to keep aloof from the anti-British movements of the Indian National Congress, which instruction was duly followed.The Home Department was thereby of the opinion that the RSS did not constitute a menace to law and order in British India.The Bombay government, in a report, appreciated the RSS by noting that the Sangh had scrupulously kept itself within the law and refrained from taking part in the disturbances (Quit India Movement) that broke out in August 1942. It also reported that the RSS had not, in any way, infringed upon government orders and had always shown a willingness to comply with the law. The same Bombay Government report further noted that in December 1940, orders had been issued to the provincial RSS leaders to desist from any activities that the British Government considered objectionable, and the RSS, in turn, had assured the British authorities that "it had no intentions of offending against the orders of the Government".
M. S. Golwalkar later openly admitted to the fact that the RSS did not participate in the Quit India Movement. Golwalkar further stated that such a stance led to the Sangh being viewed as an inactive organization, whose statements had no substance in reality.
Activities during partition
The Partition of India affected millions of Sikhs, Hindus, and Muslims attempting to escape the violence and carnage that followed. Noted Gandhian and recipient of Bharat Ratna, the highest civilian award in India, Bhagwan Das commended the role of the "high-spirited and self-sacrificing boys" of the RSS in protecting the newly formed Republic of India from a planned coup to topple the Jawaharlal Nehru Administration in Delhi.
The first ban on the RSS was imposed in Punjab Province (British India) on 24 January 1947 by Malik Khizar Hayat Tiwana, the premier of the ruling Unionist Party, a party that represented the interests of the landed gentry and landlords of Punjab, which included Muslims, Hindus, and Sikhs. Along with the RSS, the Muslim National Guard was also banned. The ban was lifted on 28 January 1947.
Second ban and acquittal
Following Mahatma Gandhi's assassination in 1948 by a former member of the RSS, Nathuram Godse, many prominent leaders of the RSS were arrested, and RSS as an organisation was banned on 4 February 1948. A Commission of Inquiry into Conspiracy to the murder of Gandhi was set, and its report was published by India's Ministry of Home Affairs in the year 1970. Accordingly, the Justice Kapur Commission noted that the "RSS as such were not responsible for the murder of Mahatma Gandhi, meaning thereby that one could not name the organisation as such as being responsible for that most diabolical crime, the murder of the apostle of peace. It has not been proved that they (the accused) were members of the RSS.":165
RSS leaders were acquitted of the conspiracy charge by the Supreme Court of India, and following an intervention by the Court the Indian Government agreed to lift the ban with the conditions that the RSS pledge its loyalty to the Constitution of India, accept the Tricolor as the National Flag of India, and adopt a formal written constitution, and make it public.:42– As the second Sarsanghchalak, M. S. Golwalkar drafted the constitution for the RSS, which he sent to the Government of India on 11 April 1949. On 11 July 1949 the Government of India lifted the ban on the RSS by issuing a communique stating that the decision to lift the ban on the RSS had been taken in view of the RSS leader Golwalkar's undertaking to make the group's loyalty towards the Constitution of India and acceptance and respect towards the National Flag of India more explicit in the Constitution of the RSS, which was to be worked out in a democratic manner.
Opposition to the National Flag of India
The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh initially did not recognize the Tricolor as the National Flag of India. The RSS mouthpiece, the Organiser, in its issue dated 17 July 1947, demanded, in an editorial titled "National Flag", that the Bhagwa Dhwaj (Saffron Flag) be adopted as the National Flag of India. After the Tricolor was adopted as the National Flag of India by the Constituent Assembly of India on 22 July 1947, the Organiser viciously attacked the Tricolor and the decision to adopt it as the National Flag of India. The 14 August 1947 issue of the Organiser, in an article titled "Mystery behind the Bhagwa Dhwaj", stated
The people who have come to power by the kick of fate may give in our hands the Tricolor but it never be respected and owned by Hindus.The word three is in itself an evil, and a flag having three colours will certainly produce a very bad psychological effect and is injurious to a country.
Further, Golwalkar, the second sarsanghchalak of the RSS, in an essay titled "Drifting and Drafting" published in his book Bunch of Thoughts, lamented the choice of the Tricolor as the National Flag of India, and compared it to an intellectual vacuum/void. In his words,
Our leaders have set up a new flag for the country. Why did they do so? It just is a case of drifting and imitating...Ours is an ancient and great nation with a glorious past. Then, had we no flag of our own? had we no national emblem at all these thousands of years? Undoubtedly we had. Then why this utter void, this utter vacuum in our minds.
The RSS hoisted the National Flag of India at its headquarters in Nagpur, on 14 August 1947 and on 26 January 1950, but stopped doing so after that. This issue has always been a source of controversy. In 2001 three activists of Rashtrapremi Yuwa Dal – president Baba Mendhe, and members Ramesh Kalambe and Dilip Chattani, along with others – allegedly entered the RSS headquarters in Reshimbagh, Nagpur, on 26 January, Republic Day of India, and forcibly hoisted the national flag there amid patriotic slogans. They contended that the RSS had never before or after independence, ever hoisted the tri-colour in their premises, even on Independence Day and Republic Day. Offences under the relevant section of the Bombay Police Act and the IPC were registered by the police against the trio, resulting in their being jailed. They were released after eleven years in 2013. The arrests and the flag-hoisting issue stoked a controversy, which was raised in the Parliament as well. Subsequently, in 2002 the National Flag was raised in the RSS headquarters on the occasion of Republic Day for the first time, after 52 years.
Opposition to the Constitution of India
The Rashtriya Swaysevak Sangh initially did not recognize the Constitution of India and heavily criticised it in view of the fact that the Indian Constitution made no mention of "Manu's laws" from the controversial ancient Hindu text Manusmriti, which had been accused of denigrating the lower castes and untouchables in India. When the Constituent Assembly finalized the Constitution of India, the RSS mouthpiece, Organiser, complained in an editorial dated 30 November 1949 that,
"But in our constitution, there is no mention of that unique constitutional development in ancient Bharat... To this day his laws as enunciated in the Manusmriti excite the admiration of the world and elicit spontaneous obedience and conformity. But to our constitutional pundits that means nothing"
The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh did not stop its unrelenting attacks on this issue, and criticised B. R. Ambedkar's public pronouncements that the new Indian Constitution would give equality to all castes. On 6 February 1950, the RSS mouthpiece Organizer carried another article, titled "Manu Rules our Hearts" by a retired High Court Judge Sankar Subba Aiyar, which reaffirmed their support for the Manusmriti as the final lawgiving authority for Hindus, rather than the Constitution of India. It stated,
"Even though Dr. Ambedkar is reported to have recently stated in Bombay that the days of Manu have ended it is nevertheless a fact that the daily lives of Hindus are even at present day affected by the principles and injunctions contained in the Manusmrithi and other Smrithis. Even an unorthodox Hindu feels himself bound at least in some matters by the rules contained in the Smrithis and he feels powerless to give up altogether his adherence to them"
The RSS' opposition to, and vitriolic attacks against the Constitution of India and its author B. R. Ambedkar continued post independence, even long after Ambedkar's death. M. S. Golwalkar, the second Sarsanghchalak of the RSS, in his book titled Bunch of Thoughts asserted,
"Our Constitution too is just a cumbersome and heterogeneous piecing together of various articles from various Constitutions of Western countries. It has absolutely nothing, which can be called our own. Is there a single word of reference in its guiding principles as to what our national mission is and what our keynote in life is? No!"
Decolonisation of Dadra, Nagar Haveli and Goa
After the independence of India, RSS was one of the socio-political organisations who supported and participated in movements to decolonise Dadra and Nagar Haveli, which was at the time ruled by Portugal. In early 1954, volunteers Raja Wakankar and Nana Kajrekar of the RSS visited the area round about Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman several times to study the topography and also to get acquainted with locals who wanted to switch from being a Portuguese colony to being an Indian union territory. In April 1954, the RSS formed a coalition with the National Movement Liberation Organisation (NMLO), and the Azad Gomantak Dal (AGD) for the annexation of Dadra and Nagar Haveli into the Republic of . On the night of 21 July, United front of Goans, a group, working independently of the coalition, captured the Portuguese police station at Dadra and declared Dadra independent. Subsequently, on 28 July, volunteer teams of the RSS and AGD captured the territories of Naroli and Phiparia and ultimately the capital of Silvassa. The Portuguese forces which escaped and moved towards Nagar Haveli, were assaulted at Khandvel and were forced to retreat until they surrendered to the Indian border police at Udava on 11 August 1954. A native administration was set up with Appasaheb Karmalkar of NMLO as the Administrator of Dadra and Nagar Haveli on 11 August 1954.
The capture of Dadra and Nagar Haveli gave a boost to the movement against Portuguese colonial rule in the Indian subcontinent. In 1955, RSS leaders demanded the end of Portuguese rule in Goa and its integration into India. When Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru refused to provide an armed intervention, RSS leader Jagannath Rao Joshi led the Satyagraha agitation straight into Goa. He was imprisoned with his followers by the Portuguese police. The nonviolent protests continued but met with repression. On 15 August 1955, the Portuguese police opened fire on the satyagrahis, killing thirty or so civilians.
In 1971 Bangladesh War of Independence, RSS volunteers offered their services to maintain law and order of the country and were apparently the first to donate blood.
Movement against the Emergency
In 1975, the Indira Gandhi government proclaimed emergency rule in India, thereby suspending the fundamental rights and curtailing the freedom of the press. This action was taken after the Supreme Court of India, cancelled her election to the Indian Parliament on charges of malpractices in the election. Democratic institutions were suspended and prominent opposition leaders including Gandhian Jayaprakash Narayan, were arrested whilst thousands of people were detained without any proper charges taken up against them. RSS, which was seen close to opposition leaders, and with its large organisational base was seen to have potential of organising protests against the government, was also banned.
The RSS defied the ban and thousands participated in Satyagraha against the ban and against the violation of human rights regulations. Later, when there was no letup, the volunteers of the RSS formed underground movements for the restoration of democracy. Literature that was censored in the media was clandestinely published and distributed on a large scale and funds were collected for the movement. Networks were established between leaders of different political parties in the jail and outside for the coordination of the movement. It said that the movement was "dominated by tens of thousands of RSS cadres, though more and more young recruits are coming". Talking about its objectives it said "its platform at the moment has only one plank: to bring democracy back to India". The Emergency was lifted in 1977 and as a consequence the ban on the RSS was also lifted.
Participation in land reforms
It has been noted that the RSS volunteers participated in the Bhoodan movement organised by Gandhian leader Vinobha Bhave, who had met RSS leader Golwalkar in Meerut in November 1951. Golwalkar had been inspired by the movement that encouraged land reforms through voluntary means. He pledged the support of the RSS for this movement. Consequently, many RSS volunteers led by Nanaji Deshmukh participated in the movement. But Golwalkar has also been critical of the Bhoodan movement, on other occasions for being reactionary and for working "merely with a view to counteracting Communism". He believed that the movement should inculcate a faith in the masses that can make them rise above the base appeal of communism.
RSS does not have any formal membership. According to the official website, anyone can become member by joining the nearest "shakha", which is the basic unit. Although the RSS claims not to keep membership records, it is estimated to have 2.5-6.0 million members. The number of shakhas stood at 51,335 in August 2015.
The Sarsanghchalak is the head of the RSS organisation; the position is decided through nomination by predecessor. Until as of October 2015, RSS leadership has always been upper caste, primarily Brahmin. The individuals who have held the post of sarsanghchalak in this organisation are:
- K. B. Hedgewar (1925–1930. 1931–1940)
- Laxman Vaman Paranjpe (Acting Sarsanghchalak, 1930–1931)
- M. S. Golwalkar (1940–1973)
- Madhukar Dattatraya Deoras (1973–1993)
- Rajendra Singh (1993–2000)
- K. S. Sudarshan (2000–2009)
- Mohan Bhagwat (incumbent since 21 March 2009)
"Shakha" is Hindi for "branch". Most of the organisational work of the RSS is done through the coordination of shakhas or branches. These shakhas are run for one hour in public places. In 2004, more than 51,000 shakhas were run throughout India. The number of Shakas had fallen by over 10,000 since the fall of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led government in 2004. However, the number of Shakas has again increased to about 40,000 by mid 2014 after the return of BJP to power in Delhi in the same year.
The shakhas conduct various activities for its volunteers which include physical fitness activities through yoga, exercises and games. It has other activities which emphasize 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 become involved in the developmental activities of the village or locality.
Most of the shakhas are located in the Hindi-speaking regions. As of 2016, Delhi had 1,898 shakhas. There are more than 8,000 shakhas in UP, 5000+ in Kerala, 4000 in Maharashtra and around 1,000 in Gujarat. In the Northeast India, there are more than 1,000 shakhas, including 903 in Assam, 107 in Manipur, 36 in Arunachal, and 4 in Nagaland. In Punjab, there are more than 900 shakhas as of 2016. As of late 2015, there were a total of 1,421 shakhas in Bihar, 4,870 in Rajasthan, 1,252 in Uttarakhand and 1,492 in West Bengal. There are close to 500 shakhas in Jammu and Kashmir. There are 130 shakhas in Tripura and 46 in Meghalaya.
Golwalkar describes the mission of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh as the revitalisation of the 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 one of the ideologies of the organisation.
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 organisation 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, 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".
In Vichardhara (ideology) Golwalkar affirms the RSS mission of integration as:
RSS has been making determined efforts to inculcate in our people the burning devotion for Bharat and its national ethos; kindle in them the spirit of dedication and sterling qualities and character; rouse social consciousness, mutual good-will, love and cooperation among them all; to make them realise that casts, creeds and languages are secondary and that service to the nation is the supreme end and to mold their behaviour accordingly; instill in them a sense of true humility and discipline and train their bodies to be strong and robust so as to shoulder any social responsibility; and thus to create all-round Anushasana in all walks of life and build together all our people into a unified harmonious national whole, extending from Himalayas to Kanyakumari.
M. S. Golwalkar and Balasaheb Deoras, the second and third supreme leaders of the RSS, spoke against the caste system, though they did not support its abolition.
Golwalkar also explains that RSS does not intend to compete in electioneering politics or share power. The movement considers Hindus as inclusive of Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, tribals, untouchables, Veerashaivism, Arya Samaj, Ramakrishna Mission and other. as a community, a view similar to inclusive referencing of the term Hindu in the Indian Constitution Article 25 (2)(b).
When it came to non-Hindu religions, Golwalkar's (who once supported Hitler's creation of a supreme race by suppression of minorities) view on minorities was that of extreme intolerance. In a magazine article in 1998 some RSS, and BJP members have been said to have distanced themselves from M.S Golwalkar's views though not entirely.
The non-Hindu people of Hindustan must either adopt Hindu culture and languages, must learn and respect and hold in reverence the Hindu religion, must entertain no idea but of those of glorification of the Hindu race and culture...in a word they must cease to be foreigners; Or may stay in the country, wholly subordinated to the Hindu nation, claiming nothing, deserving no privileges, far less any preferential treatment— not even citizens' rights
Organisations 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-up and manage these organisations in their initial years.
The affiliated organisations include:
- Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), literally, Indian People's Party (23m)
- Bharatiya Kisan Sangh, literally, Indian Farmers' Association (8m)
- Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, literally, Indian Labour Association (10 million as of 2009)
- Seva Bharti, Organisation for service of the needy.
- Rashtra Sevika Samiti, literally, National Volunteer Association for Women (1.8m)
- Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, literally, All India Students' Forum (2.8m)
- Shiksha Bharati (2.1m)
- Vishwa Hindu Parishad, World Hindu Council (2.8m)
- Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh, literally, Hindu Volunteer Association – overseas wing
- Swadeshi Jagaran Manch, Nativist Awakening Front
- Saraswati Shishu Mandir, Nursery
- Vidya Bharati, Educational Institutes
- Vanavasi Kalyan Ashram, Organisations for the improvement of tribals, and Friends of Tribals Society
- Muslim Rashtriya Manch, Organisation for the improvement of Muslims
- Bajrang Dal, Army of Hanuman (2m)
- Anusuchit Jati-Jamati Arakshan Bachao Parishad, Organisation for the improvement of Dalits
- Laghu Udyog Bharati, an extensive network of small industries.
- Bharatiya Vichara Kendra, Think Tank.
- Vishwa Samvad Kendra, Communication Wing, spread all over India for media related work, having a team of IT professionals (samvada.org)
- Rashtriya Sikh Sangat, a sociocultural organisation with the aim to spread the knowledge of Gurbani to the Indian society.
- Vivekananda Kendra, promotion of Swami Vivekananda's ideas with Vivekananda International Foundation in New Delhi as a public policy think tank with 6 Centres of study
Other Hindu organisations are also inspired from 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), it at times refused to do so due to difference of opinion with the party.
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 the Indian ambassador to the US.
Social service and reform
The RSS has advocated the training of Dalits and other backward classes as temple high priests (a position traditionally reserved for Caste Brahmins and denied to lower castes). They argue that the social divisiveness of the Caste system is responsible for the lack of adherence to Hindu values and traditions and reaching out to the lower castes in this manner will be a remedy to the problem. The RSS has also condemned "upper-caste" Hindus for preventing Dalits from worshipping at temples, saying that "even God will desert the temple in which Dalits cannot enter".
Christophe Jaffrelot said that "there is insufficient data available to carry out a statistical analysis of social origins of the early RSS leaders" but goes on to conclude, based on some known profiles that most of the RSS founders and its leading organisers, with exceptions were Maharashtrian Brahmins from middle or lower class and argues that the pervasiveness of the Brahminical ethic in the organisation was probably the main reason why it failed to attract support from the low castes. He argues that the "RSS resorted to instrumentalist techniques of ethno-religious mobilisation—in which its Brahminism was diluted—to overcome this handicap". However Anderson and Damle (1987) find that members of all castes have been welcomed into the organisation and are treated as equals.
During Mahatma Gandhi's visit to RSS Camp accompanied by Mahadev Desai and Mirabehn at Wardha in 1934, he said, "When I visited the RSS Camp, I was very much surprised by your discipline and absence of untouchablity." He personally inquired to Swayamsevaks and found that they were living and eating together in the camp without bothering to know their castes.
Relief and rehabilitation
The RSS was instrumental in relief efforts after the 1971 Orissa Cyclone, 1977 Andhra Pradesh Cyclone and in the 1984 Bhopal disaster. It assisted in relief efforts during the 2001 Gujarat earthquake, and helped rebuild villages. Approximately 35,000 RSS members in uniform were engaged in the relief efforts, and many of their critics acknowledged their role. An RSS-affiliated NGO, Seva Bharati, conducted relief operations in the aftermath of the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake. Activities included building shelters for the victims and providing food, clothes and medical necessities. The RSS assisted relief efforts during the 2004 Sumatra-Andaman earthquake and the subsequent tsunami. Seva Bharati also adopted 57 children (38 Muslims and 19 Hindus) from militancy affected areas of Jammu and Kashmir to provide them education at least up to Higher Secondary level. They also took care of victims of the Kargil War of 1999.
In 2006, RSS participated in relief efforts to provide basic necessities such as food, milk, and potable water to the people of Surat, Gujarat who were affected by floods in the region.[non-primary source needed] The RSS volunteers carried out relief and rehabilitation work after the floods affected North Karnataka and some districts of the state of Andhra Pradesh. In 2013, following the Uttarakhand floods, RSS volunteers were involved in flood-relief works through its offices set up at affected areas.
Court rulings on RSS
'The Hindu' and others vs. RSS
The case revolved around the RSS suit of defamation for the publication by The Hindu of statements made by the Indian National Congress politician Arjun Singh in a speech on 9 August 2004. In his 7 May 2012 ruling at the Punjab and Haryana High Court, Justice Mehinder Singh Suller notes that the speech was published by several national newspapers and that The Hindu published it as follows:
The Human Resource Development Minister, Arjun Singh, today asked the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, to cleanse the administration of people owing allegiance to the RSS, an organization he accused of being responsible for the killing of Father of the Nation Mahatma Gandhi. "Our first duty is that the fascist forces of the RSS should be detected. Today, Government administration is in grip of the RSS, we have to cleanse it," he said at the National Convention on Secularism here. The veteran Congress leader, who removed academicians close to the BJP and the RSS from panels drafting textbooks for schools, said the RSS had a strong hold on administration as "men having sympathies with the Sangh Parivar" were appointed (by the previous Government) on key positions. "If an institution's biggest achievement was killing of (Mahatma) Gandhi (then) you can expect what national purpose it can serve," he said (and) called for "exposing the RSS-men" in the Government. "Not one but there are hundred different fronts of the RSS. They are getting crores of rupees from within and outside the country. The previous Government allowed foreign money to come in but now this web has to be broken. People should know for what purpose the money was used for." Mr. Singh said. The Minister hoped that "the Prime Minister will take definitive action in this regard."
In its judgment the court cleared the publishers under the protections granted in Article 19(1)(a) (freedom of speech and expression) of the Constitution of India for accurately reproducing statements made at a public event. The court also noted various reasons for why it felt that the RSS had unfairly singled out only The Hindu in its complaint. The court observed that the complaint was filed with "mala fide intention, vexatiously and in order to wreak vengeance" and discharged the newspaper from the defamation complaint.
The State of Madhya Pradesh Vs Ramshanker Raghuvanshi
Many cases have been reported in post-independence India where RSS volunteers have been discriminated against by the government due to their allegiance to the RSS. In a court case of a teacher who was dismissed from service due to his past links with the RSS, the Supreme Court of India called the government's action "McCarthyism" and a "violation of fundamental rights".
A municipal school teacher, Ramshanker Raghuvanshi, was dismissed by the Congress government of Madhya Pradesh in 1974, which stated that he had taken "part in the RSS" activities and thus may have been "not a fit person to be entertained in Government service". The Supreme Court dismissed the arguments of the government and stated that the government had not adhered to the provisions of the Indian Constitution. The Supreme Court bench consisting of Justice Syed Murtuza Fazalali and Justice O. Chinnappa Reddy observed that "India is not a police state" and pleaded that the "promise of fundamental rights enshrined in the Indian Constitution not become a forgotten chapter of history". Delivering the judgment, the Court claimed that it believes "seeking a police report on person's political faith", in the first place, "amounted to the violation of fundamental rights". The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the municipal teacher and ordered his reinstatement.
State of Karnataka v. Ranganathacharya Agnihotri
Similar decisions were made by the High courts of different states of India in different cases of political persecution of RSS volunteers. One case involved Ranganathacharya Agnihotri, who was selected for the post of Munsiff but was not absorbed into service at least partially because he had been a volunteer of the RSS in his past. When Agnihotri approached to the then High Court of Mysore (now Karnataka High Court), he was reinstated. The Court said:
Prima facie the RSS is a non-political cultural organisation without any hatred or ill will towards non-Hindus and that many eminent and respected persons in the country have not hesitated to preside over the functions or appreciate the work of its volunteers. In a country like ours which has accepted the democratic way of life (as ensured by the Constitution), it would not be within reason to accept the proposition that mere membership of such peaceful or non-violent association and participation in activities thereof, will render a person (in whose character and antecedents there are no other defects) unsuitable to be appointed to the post of a Munsiff.
Darshan Lal Jain Vs C R Irani and Others
On 15 January 2000, The Statesman carried a story about the RSS that depicted the RSS as the killer of Gandhi. Subsequently, the Delhi unit of the RSS filed a criminal case of defamation against author of the article A. G. Noorani along with the cartoonist and the managing director of the publishing house. When two of the accused did not respond to the Court summons, non-bailable warrants were issued in their name by the Court. On 25 February 2002, Noorani wrote an unconditional apology to the court in which he regretted writing the defamatory article against the RSS. On 3 March 2002, The Statesman also published an apology regretting the publication of the article.
The RSS has been banned in India thrice, during periods in which the government of the time posed that they were a threat to the state: in 1948 after Mahatma Gandhi's assassination, during the Emergency (1975–77), and after the 1992 Babri Masjid demolition. The bans were subsequently lifted, in 1949 after the RSS was absolved of charges in the Gandhi murder case, in 1977 as a result of the Emergency being revoked, and in 1993 when no evidence of any unlawful activities was found against it by the tribunal constituted under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
Field Marshal Cariappa in his speech to RSS volunteers said "RSS is my heart's work. My dear young men, don't be disturbed by uncharitable comments of interested persons. Look ahead! Go ahead! The country is standing in need of your services"
Zakir Hussain, former President of India told Milad Mehfil in Monghyar on 20 November 1949, "The allegations against RSS of violence and hatred against Muslims are wholly false. Muslims should learn the lesson of mutual love, cooperation and organisation from RSS."
Gandhian leader and the leader of Sarvoday movement, Jayaprakash Narayan, who earlier was a vocal opponent of RSS had the following to say about it in 1977 "RSS is a revolutionary organisation. No other organisation in the country comes anywhere near it. It alone has the capacity to transform society, end casteism and wipe the tears from the eyes of the poor." He further added "I have great expectations from this revolutionary organisation which has taken up the challenge of creating a new India."
Criticisms and accusations
Christophe Jaffrelot, Director of the Center for Studies and Research (CERI), observes that although the RSS with its paramilitary style of functioning and its emphasis on discipline has sometimes been seen by some as "an Indian version of fascism", he argues that "RSS's ideology treats society as an organism with a secular spirit, which is implanted not so much in the race as in a socio-cultural system and which will be regenerated over the course of time by patient work at the grassroots. He writes that ideology of the RSS did not develop a theory of the state and the race, a crucial elements in European nationalisms; Nazism and Fascism" and that the RSS leaders were interested in cultural as opposed to racial sameness.
The likening of the Sangh Parivar to fascism by Western critics has also been countered by Jyotirmaya Sharma who labelled it as an attempt by them to "make sense of the growth of extremist politics and intolerance within their society," and that such "simplistic transference" has done great injustice to our knowledge of Hindu nationalist politics.
RSS has been criticised as an extremist organisation and as a paramilitary group. It has also been criticised when its members participated in anti-Muslim violence and has since formed militant wing Bajrang Dal. Along with other extremist organisations the RSS was involved in a wide range of riots, often inciting and organising violence against Christians and Muslims.
Involvement with riots
The RSS has been censured for its involvement in communal riots.
After giving careful and serious consideration to all the materials that are on record,the Commission is of the view that the RSS with its extensive organisation in jamshedpur and which had close links with the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh had a positive hand in creating a climate which was most propitious for the outbreak of communal disturbances. In the first instance, the speech of Shri Deoras (delivered just five days before the Ram Navami festival) tended to encourage the Hindu extremists to be unyielding in their demands regarding Road No. 14. Secondly, his speech amounted to communal propaganda. Thirdly, the shakhas and the camps that were held during the divisional conference presented a militant atmosphere to the Hindu public. In the circumstances, the commission cannot but hold the RSS responsible for creating a climate for the disturbances that took place on the 11th of April, 1979
Human Rights Watch, a non-governmental organisation for human rights based in New York, has claimed that the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council, VHP), the Bajrang Dal, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and the BJP have been party to the Gujarat violence that erupted after 56 Hindus were burnt alive in a coach of Sabarmati Express train at Godhra station by a Muslim mob. Local VHP, BJP and BD leaders have been named in many police reports filed by eyewitnesses. RSS and VHP claimed that they made appeals to put an end to the violence and to have asked their supporters and volunteer staff to prevent any activity that might disrupt peace.
Religious violence in Odisha
Christian groups accuse the RSS alongside its close affiliates, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), the Bajrang Dal (BD) and the Hindu Jagaran Sammukhya (HJS) of participation in the 2008 religious violence in Odisha.
Involvement in Babri Masjid demolition
According to the report of the Liberhan Commission the Sangh Parivar organised the destruction of the Babri Masjid. The Commission said- "The blame or the credit for the entire temple construction movement at Ayodhya must necessarily be attributed to the Sangh Parivar". It also noted that the Sangh Parivar is an "extensive and widespread organic body", which encompasses organisations, which address and bring together just about every type of social, professional and other demographic grouping of individuals.
Each time, a new demographic group has emerged, the Sangh Parivar has hived off some of its RSS inner-core leadership to harness that group and bring it within the fold, enhancing the voter base of the Parivar.
The RSS has denied reliability and questioned the objectivity of the report. Former RSS chief K. S. Sudarshan posed allegations that the mosque was demolished by the government men as opposed to the Karsevaks. On the other hand, a government of India white paper dismissed the idea that the demolition was pre-organised.
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