Daya Varma and Vinod Mubayi


Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) was born in 1925 on the principle that ‘Hinduism is nationalism’.  In the eighty-six years since its founding it has traversed numerous paths – all leading to the fulfillment of this formulation.


RSS started with Shakhas in which male youth assembled and performed militaristic drills on a daily basis; it was a structured participation with slow but astounding results. It has grown ever since. While RSS was a small force during the high tide of the independence movement, it never regressed; it always grew. It sustained itself by underground organizing when banned after the assassination of Gandhi. It started one, then two, then many publications and influenced the theme of many national media. It formed student, workers, intellectual, student, women, children and numerous other fronts, each one of which has grown.


Having accomplished that much, RSS also influenced the formation of political parties, beginning with the Jan Sangh and then expanding it into Bharatiya  Janata Party (BJP), which now stands as the alternate ruling party along with Congress, eclipsing all other political formations. RSS is the Rajguru of a multi-pronged front of political groups and the growth of RSS-affiliates influences practically every aspect of Indian life. It has organizations specializing in terrorizing and killing Muslims; it has organizations to intervene in relief work; it identifies Hindu holy places, which were supposedly destroyed by Muslims and need to be restored to Hindu organizations it leads as “justice to history” and so on.


The latest is its approach to recruit unidentified godmen as champions of ancient traditions and glory, which ultimately helps bring into its fold most of Hindus, who otherwise might not be communal-minded but who have pride in their religion.


The article by Ram Puniyani in this issue shows how a personality like Sri Sri Ravishankar, who has an empire of his own, fits into this scheme of things. It is an advance over the movements led by Anna Hazare and Baba Ramdev.  RSS influence has grown enough to even have Delhi University ban a famous book by the celebrated poet and author A.K. Ramanujan on alternative versions of the Ramayana on the specious grounds that certain essays in the book will offend Hindu sentiments. The Ramayana as Told by Aubrey Menen was already banned.


Only a sustained movement from the left and secular forces can help in reducing the nefarious influence of RSS that manipulates religious identity as part of politics.  For manifold reasons, this is not yet on the agenda of the left parties who continue to fiddle like Nero while the country burns with communal fires.

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