By: Arun Anand
The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has played a stellar role in nation building since its inception in 1925. Especially during the post-Independence era, the organisation has played a key role with millions of swayamsevaks working round the clock dedicatedly for the nation and not seeking anything in return.
As soon as Bharat got Independence, the first challenge was to bring back Hindus safely from Pakistan and rehabilitate them. It may be recalled that in run-up to Partition, areas falling under Sindh, West Pakistan, and East Bengal were put under the command of a Muslim-dominated army-police combine. The Hindus in these areas were on tenterhooks.
The second RSS Sarsanghchalak, MS Golwalkar, also known as Shri Guruji, took the initiative to reach out to these Hindus and set up the Punjab Relief Committee and the Hindu Sahayata Samiti (Hindu Support Committee) for refugees from West Pakistan. The centre of activity for both of these was initially Lahore. The Punjab state sanghchalak, Raibahadur Badridas, was the chairman and Dr Gokulchand Narang was the treasurer of these committees. Similarly, relief committees were set up for refugees coming from East Pakistan also. The RSS played a major role in rehabilitation of the hapless refugees when they were left by the ruling dispensation to fend for themselves in pathetically managed government relief camps.
In 1947-48, when Pakistan attacked Bharat for the first time by sending tribal militia and its regular army in Jammu and Kashmir, the RSS volunteers played an important role in aiding the Bharatiya forces to repel that attack. The RSS swayamsevaks prepared an airstrip within no time in Poonch that helped to land planes carrying Bharatiya soldiers.
In 1962 Sino-Indian war, the RSS volunteers played an important role and despite having strong ideological differences backed the war efforts of Nehru government.
Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, who was initially quite critical of the RSS, invited the organisation to participate in the Republic Day parade of 1963. A 3,000-strong contingent of RSS volunteers participated in the Republic Day parade that year.
In 1965, when Pakistan attacked India, the then Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri invited the second sarsanghchalak of the RSS, MS Golwalkar, for an all-party consultative meeting, though the RSS was a non-political entity.
Golwalkar was travelling through Maharashtra and was stationed in Sangli for organisational work when he received this message. He immediately flew to New Delhi to attend the meeting.
Earlier, in the 1960s, a host of leaders visited and appreciated the Vivekananda Rock Memorial at Kanyakumari that was set up under the guidance of RSS pracharak and former sarkaryavah Eknath Ranade.
The then President VV Giri inaugurated the celebrations after the memorial was completed. The then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi visited it after a fortnight of its inauguration. She addressed a meeting of the memorial organising committee, whose secretary was Ranade. The latter also presented a report after the PM’s address.
Prime Minister Indira Gandhi commented during her visit: “It is a moving experience to come to Kanyakumari and see how the faith of thousands in Swami Vivekananda’s message has made possible this memorial. May it inspire all who visit it and give them the courage to live up to Swamiji’s great and timeless teachings.”
After Independence the swayamsevaks inspired by the RSS’ ideology have set up more than three dozen organisations. To name a few of them, Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram works in the field of tribal welfare, Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh works amongst trade unions and workers in both organised and unorganised sector, Sewa Bharati works in urban slums, Vidya Bharati works in the field of education, Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad works with college students, Seema Jagaran Manch works in border areas of the country, Bharatiya Shikshan mandal works with Gurukuls and on the pedagogy of education in our country, Sanskrit Bharati works for the promotion of Sanskrit, Sanskar Bharati works in the field of art and culture, Bharatiya Chitra Sadhana is active in the domain of film making, Laghu Udyog Bharati helps the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, Swadeshi Jagaran Manch works for economically self-reliant Bharat and Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) works for organising Hindus globally and promoting service to the society through Dharma.
Thus, there is hardly a domain where RSS swayamsevaks do not work and their scale of work is mammoth. To give an example, Vidya Bharati alone runs more than 30,000 schools across the country catering to more than 3.5 million students. Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) is the biggest labour organisation of the world. According to the BMS’ official website, “Of the 44 industries classified by the Ministry of Labour, Government of India for the purpose of membership verification, BMS has affiliated unions in all industries. BMS has membership of almost 1 crore in all States comprising more than 5000 affiliate unions.” The rise of BMS ensured that the anarchy created by the Left-dominated trade union in Bharatiya industrial space became thing of the past and the focus was brought back on increasing productivity that was to be mutually beneficial for both employers and employees.
In 1975, the RSS led from the front to oppose Emergency imposed by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. Socialist and revolutionary leader Jayaprakash Narayan visited an RSS training camp in Patna on 3 November 1977, where he said in his speech: “Sangh (RSS) is a revolutionary organisation and right now there is no other organisation in the country which come even close to it… (it) alone has the capacity to transform society, end casteism and wipe the tears from the eyes of the poor. Its very name is ‘rashtriya’, that is national. I am not saying this to flatter you. I believe you have a historic role to play… I have great expectations from this revolutionary organisation which has taken up the challenge of creating a new India.”
In the 1980s, the RSS started a massive campaign to check religious conversions of Hindus after around 800 socially marginalised members of Hindu society got converted into Islam at Meenakshipuram in Tamil Nadu in 1981. In 1983-84, the RSS took up the cause of Ramjanmabhoomi and the movement successfully culminated in 2020.
During Covid-19, more than a million swayamsevaks were on the ground for rescue, relief and rehabilitation efforts. In any natural calamity or disaster that has struck any part of the country, the RSS swayamsevaks are the first one to reach.
At present the RSS volunteers are running around two lakh welfare projects across the country. The focus is to work for the service of the society, to transform Bharat as a nation and society. Most significantly, the swayamsevaks do this selflessly. There is no urge in the organisation or individual volunteers to win accolades or claim glory for itself. The RSS Swayamsevaks take pride in being the unsung heroes. They are the eternal backroom boys.
The writer, an author and columnist, has written two books on RSS.