New Delhi: Delivering the first of his three-part lecture on the RSS’ perspective on the ‘Future of Bharat’, Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh chief Mohan Bhagwat sought to explain the raison d'être of Sangh. Speaking at Vigyan Bhavan, Bhagwat also used the occasion to explain Sangh’s position on key ideological issues for which it has faced flak from its ideological adversaries.
RSS Role in National Movement
Bhagwat, in his lecture, quoted extensively from the life and times of the outfit’s founder, KB Hedgewar. “To understand RSS, you have to start with Dr Keshav Balram Hedgewar,” he said.
To illustrate Sangh’s nationalistic moorings, RSS chief cited three instances from Hedgewar’s life. While talking about the RSS founder’s works, Bhagwat added that he had joined the Congress and went to jail for a year during India’s freedom struggle. Speaking of Congress, the RSS chief even showered praises on arch-rivals Congress, for playing a “big role” in the freedom movement.
Addressing a huge gathering of distinguished guests from across the social strata, Bhagwat admitted, “In the form of Congress, a big freedom movement had started in the country which gave many great personalities.”
There has been a lot of controversy regarding RSS’s stand on the national flag. Congress chief Rahul Gandhi had last year accused the Sangh of “saluting the saffron flag and not the national flag” for 52 years after Independence.
In the first part of his lecture, Bhagwat sought to explain the Sangh’s position on the saffron flag and said RSS swayamsevaks offer “guru dakshina” every year to the “bhagwa dhwaja”. The organisation runs on the donations thus collected.
Citing an incident in Jalan in Maharashtra, Bhagwat narrated how a Swayamsevak climbed up the mast when the Tricolour that was being hoisted by Jawaharlal Nehru at a Congress function got stuck. The RSS has always respected the national flag, Bhagwat clarified.
RSS and Democracy
Calling RSS the most democratic organisation, Bhagwat narrated how he was questioned by a young swayamsewak for not attending the shakha in Nagpur where Bhagwat is enrolled as a member. “I had to explain to the boy that I had been travelling and hence could not attend,” said Bhagwat.
Participation of Women
RSS has a women’s wing, the Rashtriya Sevika Samiti. Saying it was set up before Independence, Bhagwat sought to clarify on allegations that the Sangh is a misogynistic organisation. “Our mothers and sisters, wherever they are, continue to contribute to the work done by the RSS,” Bhagwat said.
RSS Affiliates Not Remote Controlled
Speaking at the event aimed at reaching out to the masses, Bhagwat explained the workings of the RSS and its affiliates. This was in regard to the questions on RSS “remote-controlling” the BJP and the government.
Bhagwat insisted that its affiliates are independent and the coordination committee meetings of its fronts are basically to discuss and debate issues in the public domain. “Who will be in power, what policy the country will accept is something to be decided by the society and people. There are mechanisms in place for that... We are not concerned about that, what we are concerned about is the conduct of the society,” Bhagwat said.
RSS: Its Aims and Functions
Bhagwat quoted Hedgewar to say that the organisation aims to unite all Hindus. It can be done only by bringing about changes in the society.
‘Man making’ or ‘vyakti nirman’ as Bhagwat put it, is fundamental to that change.
But how does the RSS define Hindus? Hindus, despite India’s diversity are defined by a certain set of values imbibed by its people, said Bhagwat, which are, sacrifice, patience, corporation and gratitude.
“One finds the same set of beliefs in the value system in people in India even if they are followers of Islam and Christianity, the religion that have their roots outside India,” he added.
Evolution of RSS
Bhagwat also tried to explain how the RSS structure evolved over a period of time. Going back to the genesis of the Sangh in mid-1920s, Bhagwat said the organisation’s name was chosen by a majority vote by the first group of 16 swayamsevaks. Even the uniform and the drill evolved over a period of time. The explaining was seen as a rebuttal to Sangh critics who have charged that RSS was inspired by fascist forces in Germany and Italy, especially in regard to sartorial choices and military regimentation.