The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) is known for its patriotism, its service, the big movements it has led and the success it has achieved in several areas including politics, student activism, labour, education and development of Vanvasi areas in the country.
It works silently, not seeking publicity but its message has today reached all continents. It has given two Prime Ministers and its ideas have a big say in shaping the destiny of the country. So far it is the biggest success story in organisation-building the country has seen.
So, what is the source of its strength? Why is it the most unique venture?
The RSS journey spans over nine decades. It was founded in Nagpur in 1925 on Vijayadashami by Dr. Keshav Baliram Hedgewar, a social worker and freedom fighter, who held a senior position in the then central provincial unit of the Congress Party.
But Doctorji, as he was popularly known, believed that without uniting the Hindu society, the fight against the British and other foreign invaders will remain incomplete. So through a network of shakhas, he focused on national renaissance through creating men of dedication, who had love for motherland and resolved to strive till end for the glory of the country. He laid great stress on discipline and feeling of brotherhood amongst the cadre.
By recreating our past, by sewing in a curriculum of physical drills and intellectual conceptualisations, retelling the Indian saga in heroism, the RSS has today grown as the largest voluntary organisation in the world. The Sangh has about five million regular members, 4,000 full-time activists and 50,000 local branches – known as shakhas – in India alone.
It has affiliated bodies abroad, and within the country there are over 60 organisations defined by the area in which they operate. Bhagwa, the flag is the guru. For, it is the symbol of purity and infallibility.
And unlike the multitude of social organisations that live on the dole of government or public subscriptions, the RSS receives its funds from gurudakshina, the offering of the swayamsevak, collected just once a year.
The RSS ideology is 100 percent Swadeshi, it believes that the Indian way of life, developed through millennia is the model for world peace and conflict resolution.
The RSS espouses three ideas: One, the Sangh believes in the cultural unity of India. Two, faith in democracy as the only means of changing society. The RSS was at the forefront of the battle against the Emergency (1975-77), when the Congress government suspended civil liberties, abolished political dissent and imprisoned opposition leaders across India. And, for RSS, democracy means not just regular elections; it is equally crucial to give a voice to the most ordinary and humble citizen.
Three, working for global peace based on the belief that all men are created equal and belong to the same family. While this ideal is desirable, it can only be achieved in a framework of mutual dignity and trust.
The RSS has organisations and groups working in almost all the sections of the society, like Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, Bharatiya Kisan Sangh, ABVP and Swadeshi Jagaran Manch and Vanvasi Kalyan Sangh, to name a few.
The Sangh has from time to time launched many national campaigns to create wider awareness of the concepts that are at core of its existence. It has taken up struggles at local levels to fight and resolve issues that threaten to create fissures in the society.
The Sangh is also the force fighting terrorists in all their various manifestations, Jehadis, Naxalites and North-East’s divisive outfits. Sangh fights them at all levels.
Sangh is a unifying, harmonising force. RSS activists are well-known for their public service during natural disasters. RSS volunteers are among the earliest to reach the affected areas to provide food and medical care to the injured and protecting the dignity of the dead. If success is the measure of acceptance of an ideology, RSS has it in abundance. Its faith lies in its strength.