RSS: Homogenising, Dictatorial or Diverse -Part 3
In the last two articles, we saw how and why Sangh is at the focal center of attack from the right-left and center of the spectrum. As I go ahead with sharing the third part, I wish to say that my expositions are not to convert or convince anyone, rather a genuine attempt to give some insights to the best of my capabilities.
Bharat is a peculiarly beautiful country. For us, as I said earlier Dharma and Rashtra go hand-in-hand. But what really makes this Dharma-Rashtra so unique and in some sense enigmatic to the english language? Here culture, customs, and cuisine, everything changes in a few kilometers. In this fusion of culture and practices, RSS operates in almost every district of Bharat. It is not merely a political work or a social unity project, As I said earlier social and political unity is just the manifestation of a deeper inherent oneness- Hindu or Sanatani. But Often we see that sly remarks are made on RSS by both left and some others. Their whole point of contention is that Sangh is a homogenizing force that is killing the diversity of this land. This has been repeated ad nauseam since RSS’ inception.
Is this so? Let me share Some first-hand experience and throw some light on this criticism. I have visited RSS Shakha in more than 10 states and also their allied activities. I will try to give a comprehensive picture of my experiences to date.
I started from my village, then to Patna, where I studied till standard 12th, from thereon, I moved to Delhi for completing my college. Talking specifically about these three places, there was a difference on 2 basic elements of Shakha itself, leave alone other meetings- intellectual discussions or Baudhiks and Sports activity. Talking about my village the sports were mainly inexpensive and simple ones which didn’t require monetary investments. RSS has a huge roaster of such games. I won’t even say all of it is originally made by RSS but most of it is the local games that RSS also uses for its purpose — Kho-Kho, Kabbadi, etc. Intellectual discussions in my village revolved mostly around the village Kuldevi and the history around it. How we can keep the temples and area around it clean was a very important issue in those days. We used to sweep the floors of the temple along with the Pandits. I recount a special event when after many years there was a huge Yajna in my village. The Yajna was to pray for the prosperity of the villagers and was held just before the sowing season. Our Shakha was cut short for half an hour and we roamed around the village to collect monetary and other support for the yajna to be successful. A mini Rath Yatra was taken out to aware the people about the Yajna just a night before it. My uncle himself was Zila Sanghchalak, I fondly remember my discussion with him wherein he mentioned that shakha is not only a one-hour exercise but how you help out the society in the rest 23 hours. In a way, we were not forced to share our hands for the success of Yajna, it occurred naturally to us. This was the idea inculcated in Shakha day in and out.
Due to the lack of good schools in the village, I moved to Patna at a very early age. Even here I started attending shakhas. Some senior retired army officers used to visit the shakha in Patna. You can imagine the kind of sports I went through. It was fun but very intense. In the same shakha, a Yadav Baba, aged 92, joined us. He taught us Pranayam. He never joined us for the intellectual discussions but carried on with his asanas. Towards the end of the Shakha, we used to call him for the Prarthana (prayer). The intellectual discussions were more about RSS history and its social projects. Most of the discussions were around the parts of the speeches made by either Dr. Hedgewar Ji or Guru Ji. When I finally reached college the whole intellectual discussion took a very disciplined leap. I was introduced to more fundamental readings which were not limited to RSS’ own literature but broader Hindu literary works. I mentioned my introduction with Sitaram Goel Ji’s work, it started in college. Not only the intellectual part but even the sports here included some sophisticated elements. We sometimes used to play football and badminton or sometimes went back to kabaddi. Point is that the options were plenty and we weren’t restricted to enjoy it.
Apart From these, I have also visited shakhas from Amravati in Maharashtra to Bangalore in Karnataka. Amravati needs a special mention because they used to have local bhajans in the shakha. It Didn’t just stop at Bhajan but Sant Tukaram’s commentary on Hindu scriptures was also read. All in Marathi and I just used to enjoy the tone and music. I did understand some bit of it though. The only constant amongst all such variations is Prarthna(Prayer). We were told and taught to immerse in the society and then only the real strength of our society can be known. They believe it cannot be taught without directly getting exposed to society. Deendayal Ji in his lectures on Integral Humanism mentioned it multiple times- “Nation is a living organism”. We can only interact and lend our support wherever required. We are just a small part of it.
I also remember I was sitting in a small village temple in Rajasthan along with swayamsevaks and local residents chanting hanuman chalisa. I was blessed to witness renditions of many Rajasthani bhajans that night. The divinity of this culture can never be expressed in limited words, it can only be felt. Soothing, serene, and sublime.
While I was enjoying all my visits and learnings, the criticism of RSS’ taking away the diversity of this land by some eminent intellectuals did concern me. The left has always been attacking RSS on this point but the right has also joined the bandwagon lately(or at least I came to know about it very late). In whatsoever I have experienced from collecting money for Yajna at the Kuldevi Mandir in the village to intellectual discussions during college to enjoying bhajans in local dialects- I can vouch for the respect for diversity inculcated by RSS in the shakha and other platforms. This is the very basic contour of their Hindu Rashtra(or Dharma-Rashtra as I mentioned in beginning). A Hindu Rashtra can never be processed and progressed with an artificial unity. In my last two articles, I have explained the broad idea of unity that is professed by RSS and its need in current times specifically.
I am sure RSS local or even senior leadership have goofed up on some occasions. That is undeniable but it is also true that it has accepted and corrected the course as well. We must criticize for the wrongs but it is not correct to paint an organisation with 96 years of history with only a few local incidents. There has to be a holistic analysis and we should avoid throwing reductive conclusions. The hermeneutics should be well defined before going ahead with any such study. We should remember that it is an organization which can be misjudged easily.
As I began, I just shared my experience which is true and authentic but we can also read some scholarly works on RSS’ work amongst various communities. The Republic of Hindutva by Badri Narayan Ji captures it very well wherein he defines how RSS is at the forefront of shaping the lives of micro and impoverished communities. These communities are politically insignificant but culturally very significant that is why RSS spends so much energy working for them. I know my personal anecdotes will have their limitations and therefore we need much more of such scholarly work. We would need more unbiased documentation of the RSS journey.
I will stop here and in the next part, I will try to debunk some other myths.