An overview of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) was founded in 1925 by Dr. K. B. Hedgewar from Nagpur, with an aim to unite Hindus. He was the one who took the RSS to a considerable network across India. M. S. Golwarkar was then nominated as a successor to Mr Hedgewar in 1940, who held the charge for 33 years.  The nationalistic ideology of the RSS made it popular throughout India. Currently the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh is active in India as well as abroad and is also known as Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (National Volunteers’ Organisation) or just a Sangh that is a Hindu nationalist organization.  The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh has near about 4.5 million active members across India and over 100 affiliate bodies. Some of the members also take part in military drill.

Main objective of the RSS is to safeguard the holy and moral traditions of India. According to them Hinduism is not just the religion but a way of living. As per critics, political party BJP is strongly influenced by RSS. Reviving Hindu tradition is the major goal of the RSS. Moreover the core ideology of the RSS is based on Hindutva, a kind of Hindu Nationalism and supports the philosophy Ekam Sat Viprah Bahudha Vadanti Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam (Truth is One, Sages Call it by Many Names. The Whole Universe is one Family). Initially only upper caste Brahmins were part of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh but with time the RSS has had many Dalit and members from middle caste. Many of these are now holding key positions in the Sangh.

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh actively took part in every national moment called upon by the Indian National Congress at the time of freedom struggle. The RSS also played a crucial role at the time of partition by providing its support in many relief activities and helping Hindus in migrating.

In October 1950, Janasangh, a new right-wing Hindu party was launched by the members of the RSS.

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh was banned thrice in the history but the ban was lifted as no evidence against them was produced to prove their involvement in any activity. The RSS was banned in 1948 after Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination, during the 1975 Emergency in India, and after the 1992 Babri Masjid demolition. Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated by a Hindu militant in 1948 who had once been a member of RSS. Subsequently the organization was banned. Ban on RSS was lifted in 1950 when it gave an undertaking that it would work under its own written constitution.

Family head of the RSS organization is known as The Sarsanghchalak who is elected annually through elections “Akhil Bharatiya Pratinidhi Sabha”.

Sangh has a very simple method of working. Shakhas (branches) are the basic units of Sangh to carry out its work. In each locality Daily Shakhas are held, generally in an open ground for an hour. The place where the meeting is held is known as Sanghasthan. Swayamsevaks are the members of Sangh who take part in these meetings. So growth of the Sangh since its inception is through personal contact.

Seva Bharati, is an RSS-affiliated NGO that till date has adopted thousands of children from militancy affected areas. Adopted children are then provided education. Kargil war victims were also taken care of by the RSS.

The RSS provided a strong support to build a Hindu temple at Ayodhya.

The RSS emphases the cultural rejuvenation and maintenance of the Hindu values to protect the nation.