04 February 2008

Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh - 1

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh is a unique organisation. It has a unique goal and a unique way of working to achieve that goal. Both in its ends and its means, it is unique. This is not a boast, but a plain fact. I am not saying this just because I am a swayamsevak. Once you understand the RSS fully and correctly, you will agree with what I have said.

The RSS is not a political party. Nor is it an NGO engaged in 'social service' (in the usual sense of the term). These are the two kinds of social organisations we are familiar with. The fact that the RSS does not belong to either of these two categories makes it very difficult for people to understand the organisation. Indeed, some swayamsevaks themselves are not clear about exactly what the RSS is.

Perhaps the best way to truly understand the RSS is to begin at the beginning. We must trace the footsteps of the man who founded the organisation: Keshav Baliram Hedgewar ('Doctorji').

Hedgewar was born in Nagpur in 1889. Even as a child he showed a fierce spirit of patriotism. His hatred of the British rule often got him into trouble at school. After finishing his elementary education he went to Calcutta to study medicine.

The partitioning of Bengal in 1905 had made Calcutta a hotbed of nationalist activity. Patriotic young men wanted to overthrow British rule by an armed struggle, and formed many revolutionary groups. One such group was Anusheelan Samiti. Hedgewar joined it and got involved in its activities, like making guns and bombs. But eventually the Samiti suffered the fate of all such groups: informers betrayed their comrades to the police. And one day, an accident occurred at the Samiti's secret bomb factory killing one of its members. Hedgewar was disillusioned by these developments. He finished his MBBS and returned to Nagpur.

In Nagpur, Hedgewar came under the influence of his idol Bal Gangadhar Tilak. With Tilak's encouragement, he joined the Indian National Congress and became an active member. He even organised the special session of the Congress held in Nagpur in 1920. But Hedgewar was not happy. The Congress-led freedom struggle, he felt, was negative in character. It was defined only by its opposition to British rule. It had no positive content. More importantly, the freedom struggle was not addressing the root problem: How could a small country like Britain conquer and rule a nation as vast, as ancient and as proud as India? And the British were hardly the first foreigners to rule us. They were just the latest in a long series of invaders and conquerors: from Greeks and Huns to Turks and Mughals. When the British were kicked out, what was the guarantee that we would not fall prey to some other foreign power?

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