Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh

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Path Sanchalan (marching) in Bhopal

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (abbr. RSS; Rāṣṭrīya Svayaṃsevak Saṅgh, lit. 'National Volunteer Organisation') is an Indian right-wing, Hindu nationalist volunteer paramilitary organisation. It is the progenitor and leader of a large body of organisations called the Sangh Parivar (Hindi for "Sangh family"), which has developed a presence in all facets of Indian society and includes the Bharatiya Janata Party, the ruling political party under the Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The present Sarsanghchalak of the RSS is Mohan Bhagwat.


  • Linking of RSS with fascism of Europe by some Indian and western critics has been systematically criticized by many scholars. For example, Jyotirmaya Sharma in his work contends that there is an attempt by western writers to defame Indian idea of patriotism and national unity”, and such type of “simplistic transference” wrongly put Indian culture, nationalism and knowledge system at wrong place. Belgian scholar Dr Koenraad Elst, affirms that such accusations and analysis have written mainly by the Marxist researchers and academicians from India and abroad, thus these writers are less driven by facts but by their ideological zeal and commitments. He also criticizes the RSS with some other nationalist organizations for being silent on such analysis and accusations... The accusations that RSS is a fascist organization has been criticized by many scholars. For example, Koenraad Elst claims that the ideology of RSS cannot be linked with the notion of fascism as an ideology. Another scholar named Vincent Kundukulam also presents the similar views and calls RSS as the only organization which believe in social service of mankind.
    • Rashtirya swayam sevak sangh: Popular myths and locked mind Anurag Pandey International Journal of Humanities and Social Science Research Volume 7, Issue 5, 2021, Page No. 19-25
  • During the Emergency period some followers of the Jamaat-e-Islami found themselves in the same jail as the members of the RSS; here they began to discover that the latter were no monsters as described by the 'nationalist' and secularist propaganda. Therefore they began to think better of the Hindus. This alarmed the secularists and the interested Maulvis. Some Maulvis belonging to the Jamiat-ul-Ulema-i-Hind met President.. Fakhruddin Ahmad, and reported to him about the growing rapport between the members of the two communities. This 'stunned' the President and he said that this boded an 'ominous' future for Congress Muslim leaders and he promised that he would speak to Indiraji about this dangerous development and ensure that Muslims remain Muslims.
    • Fakhruddin Ahmad. Lal, K. S. (1999). Theory and practice of Muslim state in India. New Delhi: Aditya Prakashan. Chapter 6 (quoting Ram Swarup and citing Fakhruddin Ahmad and My Eleven Years with Fakhruddin Ahmad by Fazle Ahmed Rehmany)
  • Non-violence and the advice given by Mrs. Sucheta Kripalani, Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Rajendra Prasad, etc., to stay out where they were with a firm trust in God appeared to most of the victims as a counsel of perfection which could only be given from a safe distance. Who else came to the rescue of the people at this stage, but a band of young selfless Hindus- popularly known as the RSS? They organised in every Mohalla of every town of the province the work of evacuation of the Hindu and Sikh women and children from dangerous pockets t comparatively safe centres. They organised for their feeding, medical aid, clothing and care. Parties for the protection of institutions were organised. Even fire engine brigades were formed. in various towns. Arrangements for transport by lorries and uses and provision of escort on the trains carrying the fleeing Hindus and Sikhs were organised. Day and night vigils in various Hindu and Sikh localities were kept up and people were taught how to defend themselves when attacked. When the Situation on the eve of Partition became very serious and law and order utterly broke down-or it would be more correct to say, was now used only to suppress the Hindus and Sikhs,— several members of the RSS showed their proficiency in the use of fire weapons. it almost became a tit for tat. These young men were the first to come to the help of the stricken Hindus and Sikhs and were the last to leave their places for safety in the East Punjab. I could name several Congress leaders of note in the various districts of Punjab who openly solicited the help of the RSS even for their own protection and the protection of their kith and kin. No request for help from any quarter was refused and there are cases which came to our notice where the Muslim women and children were safely escorted out of the Hindu Mohallas and sent to Muslim League refugee centres in Lahore by the RSS men.
  • I also found during my tour of the East Punjab a deep: sense of gratitude and gratefulness to the Sikhs and the Sanghies among the masses. They were considered the saviours of the people and it was a universal belief that they had made the rehabilitation of a part of the Hindu and Sikh refugees possible in the East Punjab. A few lakhs of them had at least found a temporary shelter in the vacated house and lands. Judging in the light of subsequent history of rehabilitation of refugees, one shudders to think of what would have happened to these refugees if like the other unfortunate refugees they had also to seek shelter in refugee camps and on road-side...
  • Their (RSS) discipline, their physical fitness and their selflessness in face of dangers came to the rescue of the people in the Punjab when the whole province was burning and when the Congress leaders were helplessly fiddling at New Delhi, not being able to overcome the opposition of the Muslim League and the obstinacy of the Governor-General to their proposal for stronger action for the maintenance of law and order. If now somebody from a place outside the Punjab were to call upon the Hindus and Sikhs of the Punjab to disown the Sikhs and RSS- heroes who defended them gloriously, his advice is sure to fall. on absolutely deaf ears.
  • The refugees from the West Pakistan —all of them without exception wherever they are living in India, to a man are grateful to RSS for coming to their help at a time when they felt deserted by all.
    • A.N. Bali, Now It Can Be Told, pp. 137-47. Quoted in [1]
  • "The RSS is the biggest collection of duffers that ever came together in world history" (1989)
    "The RSS is leading Hindu society into a trap from which it may not recover" (1994),
    "Hindu society is doomed unless this RSS-BJP movement perishes" (2003).
    • Quotes by S.R. Goel on the RSS. As quoted in [2]
  • Many workers appear to take a delight in blaming others for all ills. Some may put the blame on the political perversities, others on the aggressive activities of the Christians or Muslims and such other faiths. Let our workers keep their minds free from such tendencies and work for our people and our Dharma in the right spirit, lend a helping hand to all our brethren who need help and strive to relieve distress wherever we see it. In this service no distinction should be made between man and man. We have to serve all, be he a Christian or a Muslim or a human being of any other persuasion; for, calamities, distress and misfortunes make no such distinction but afflict all alike. And in serving to relieve the sufferings of man let it not be in a spirit of condescension or mere compassion but as devoted worship of the Lord abiding in the heart of all beings, in the true spirit of our dharma of surrendering our all in the humble service of Him who is Father, Mother, Brother, Friend and Everything to us all. And may our actions succeed in bringing out the Glory and Effulgence of our Sanatana-Eternal - Dharma.
    • M.S. Golwalkar: Bunch of Thoughts
  • A reading of the RSS history tells us that seva has always been at the core of Hindutva praxis. Since its inception, an important aspect of the organization’s work revolved around providing service in the form of relief during natural and political calamities such as the Partition of India in 1947, the Assam earthquake of 1950, the Punjab Floods in 1955, the Tamil Nadu cyclone in 1955, the Anjar earthquake in 1956, the Andhra Cyclone of 1977, the Latur earthquake of 1993, the Odisha Super Cyclone in 1999, the Bhuj earthquake in 2001, Koshi River Floods in 2008 and most recently the Uttarakhand Floods in 2013. Apart from creating a humanitarian and compassionate image for itself, _ relief interventions after these disasters also provided opportunities to the RSS to undertake cadre building and consolidate its organizational network.
    • About Humanitarian aid and the RSS (the largest nongovernmental organization in the world). Disaster Relief and The RSS: Resurrecting 'Religion' Through Humanitarianism, Malini Bhattacharjee
  • In their official training programme, all activists of the RSS, BJP and related organizations, i.e. millions of people, today, are taught Deendayal Upadhyaya's philosophy of "Integral Humanism", ... now the official party ideology of the BJP.
    • Elst, Koenraad (2001). Decolonizing the Hindu mind: Ideological development of Hindu revivalism. New Delhi: Rupa. p83
  • The official doctrine of the BJS/BJP is called Integral Humanism.... it is the alpha and omega of ideological training sessions of RSS and BJP workers.
    • Elst, Koenraad (2001). Decolonizing the Hindu mind: Ideological development of Hindu revivalism. New Delhi: Rupa. p490ff
  • While fascist doctrine traces all power to the political leader, the belief system of the RSS displays a marked distrust of political leadership. Indeed, there is a millennial hope in RSS literature that political power will fade away when dharma becomes the accepted norm of behaviour. However, it could be argued that the leadership principle is incorporated into RSS practice. In its blueprint of the ideal society, political power is held to be illegitimately exercised unless restrained by ‘constitutional’ sages who interpret dharma...
    There are significant differences with the European expressions of fascism that should caution one to handle the comparison carefully. In its Western expressions, fascism embodied the national will in a leader. The leadership principle is rejected by the RSS as a logical effect of Western ego-centred ideologies. The belief system of the RSS and its practice do impute a higher wisdom to individuals who have attained ‘realization’. Yet these same individuals must at least give the appearance of detachment and must not be too involved in the affairs of the world. At Golwalkar’s first monthly shraaddh (death rite), his successor praised him ‘because he [Golwalkar] was untouched by temptation for anything worldly, his mind was as pure and innocent as that of a child’. The present sarsanghchalak has stated that he personally does not possess such virtues, and that the work of the RSS is sustained by the joint efforts of the RSS cadre. Soon after founding the RSS, Hedgewar cautioned the first recruits that no man, including himself, should be honoured as the embodiment of the RSS. He decided that the flag (the bhagva dhwaj) should be recognized as its ‘living’ guru.
    The RSS does not make total claims on society. The members are not encouraged to overthrow or replace the government. Their claims are partial, and they demand primacy only in the character-building area. It has infrequently challenged government authority. When it did so, the actions were limited, and lasted only until the specific grievances were resolved. These examples were acts of civil disobedience, not revolution...
    European fascism, like other Western forms of totalitarianism, sought to destroy or to seize control of all existing centres of socio-political and economic power.58 The RSS has not abandoned the Hindu bias towards semi-autonomous social units within which a group discovers its own ethos.
    • Anderson and Damle. Brotherhood in Saffron, p 83ff, quoted in Elst, K. (2010). The saffron swastika: The notion of "Hindu fascism". p 671ff
  • In both India and Pakistan civilian politics have taken on a military tinge, with some political parties sponsoring paramilitary organisations whose members wear uniforms, march in formation with flags and carry sticks to menace their opponents. Or in the case of India’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) it looks more as though the paramilitary Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) sponsors it.
  • Bhagva Dhwaj represents the tradition and history of the Hindus, the saints and sages from Vedic times and all heroes of Hindu history. It is the undisputable Guru of all those who call themselves Hindus.
    • Festival, Shree Vishwa Niketan, Delhi, 16-7-1999.
  • The epitaph of an RSS man will be: he was born, went to shakha, and died.
    • V.D. Savarkar. Quoted from Elst, Koenraad (2014). Decolonizing the Hindu mind: Ideological development of Hindu revivalism. New Delhi: Rupa. p. 256
  • It was the Congress leaders who instigated mobs in 1984 and got more than 3000 people killed. I must give due credit to RSS and the BJP for showing courage and protecting helpless Sikhs during those difficult days. No less a person than Atal Bihari Vajpayee himself intervened at a couple of places to help poor taxi drivers.
    • Khushwant Singh: 'Congress (I) is the Most Communal Party', Publik Asia, 16-11-1989. , quoted in Elst, Koenraad (2002). Who is a Hindu?: Hindu revivalist views of Animism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and other offshoots of Hinduism. ISBN 978-8185990743
  • Even in a stern and hostile letter to RSS leader M.S. Golwalkar, Home Minister Vallabhbhai Patel had acknowledged: ‘In the areas where there was the need for help and organisation, the young men of the RSS protected women and children and strove much for their sake.’
    • V. Patel. About the help offered to Hindus by RSS to cover their escape to the border during the Partition of India. Quoted from Elst, Koenraad (2018). Why I killed the Mahatma: Uncovering Godse's defence. New Delhi : Rupa, 2018.
  • The RSS was not founded as a vehicle of some deep "identitarian" strategy, but as a simple vigilante group protecting Nagpur Hindus against Muslim rioters in the post-Khilafat tension.
    • Koenraad Elst : The Ayodhya Demolition: an Evaluation, in India., & Dasgupta, S. (1995). The Ayodhya reference: The Supreme Court judgement and commentaries.
  • To conclude..., it deserves mention that most original Western publications dealing with the Hindu Mahasabha, RSS, Jan Sangh or BJP, just don't seem to be aware of the notion that these could be fascist movements, or they reject the allegation explicitly after closer consideration. Objective outsiders are not struck by any traces of fascism in the Hindutva movements, let alone in the general thought current of anti-imperialist Hindu awakening. While one should always be vigilant for traces of totalitarianism in any ideology or movement, the obsession with fascism in the anti-Hindu rhetoric of the secularists is not the product of an analysis of the data, but of their own political compulsions.
    • Quoted from Elst, Koenraad (1991). Ayodhya and after: Issues before Hindu society.
  • But then there is the other, unrealistic face of Gandhi, the morbid face of "when slapped, turn the other cheek". Even in this extremist view of non-violence, the RSS is often a follower of Gandhi... When in ca. 1990, and again in 1996, Communist militants started killing RSS men in Kerala, the RSS was very slow to react in kind. The Islamic bomb attacks on Sangh centres in Chennai and elsewhere, the murders of BJP politicians in UP, Mumbai and elsewhere, they all have not provoked any counter-attacks. Anti-Hindu governments in Bihar and West Bengal have achieved some success in preventing the growth of sizable RSS chapters by means of ruthless intimidation and violence, all without having to fear any RSS retaliation. [Quite often, Sangh-related people tell me interesting and potentially explosive background stories about riots (and other controversial matters such as discrimination of Hindus, connivance at Bangladeshi infiltration etc.), but when I ask them for exact names, times, places, it usually turns out that they have not bothered to record anything: what would have become a credible-sounding propaganda story in the hands of A.A. Engineer remains a rumour headed for oblivion in the hands of Sangh people.] [...]
    • Elst, Koenraad. (1997) BJP vis-à-vis Hindu Resurgence
  • The RSS originated in the context of the communal tension resulting from Mahatma Gandhi's tragicomical involvement in the pan-Islamist Khilafat movement of 1920-22, culminating in the anti-Hindu pogrom known as the Moplah rebellion. Its uniform was originally that of the Indian National Congress volunteers acting as security guards in Congress conferences. Its secretive style of functioning, with avoidance of written communication and emphasis on personal meetings, was taken from the armed freedom fighters of Bengal, a movement in which founder Dr. Keshav Baliram Hedgewar had briefly participated. Those aspects of RSS life were purely pragmatic and provisional, but Golwalkar institutionalized them more firmly.
    • Elst, Koenraad. Return of the Swastika: Hate and Hysteria versus Hindu Sanity (2007)
  • On the Hindu side then, at least the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS, "National Volunteer Corps") could qualify as "communalist"? Certainly, it is called just that by all its numerous enemies. But then, when you look through any issue of its weekly Organiser, you will find it brandishing the notion of "positive" or "genuine secularism", and denouncing "pseudo-secularism", i.e. minority communalism.
    • Elst, K. in : India's only communalist. A short biography of Sita Ram Goel [3]
  • The physical danger in writing against the temple is imaginary; by contrast, it is dangerous to uphold rather than oppose Hindu activist positions. It is a fact that throughout the 1990s, many office-bearers of the RSS, the BJP and their Tamil affiliate Hindu Munnani have been murdered; but that was more because of the demolition and other political matters than because of any statements on the historical background of the Hindu claims on Ayodhya.
    • K. Elst, Ayodhya: The Case Against the Temple (2002)
  • During the Khalistani separatist struggle in Punjab (1981–93), hundreds of RSS and BJP men were killed by the Khalistanis, yet this did not provoke a single act of retaliation, neither against the actual perpetrators nor against the Sikh community in general. On the contrary, when Congress secularists allegedly killed thousands of Sikhs in 1984, it was the Hindutva activists who went out of their way to save the Sikhs. When in the 1980s, and again from 1996 till the time of this writing, Communist militants started killing RSS men in Kerala, the RSS was very slow to react in kind. The bomb attacks on Hindutva centres in Chennai, the murders of BJP politicians in UP and Mumbai and elsewhere, have not provoked any counter-attacks. Anti-Hindu governments in Bihar and West Bengal have achieved some success in preventing the growth of sizable RSS chapters by means of ruthless intimidation and violence, all without having to fear any RSS retaliation. [...]
    • Elst, Koenraad (2018). Why I killed the Mahatma: Uncovering Godse's defence. New Delhi : Rupa, 2018.
  • Any Indian who comes with the intention to settle in Kashmir will be treated as an agent of RSS and not as a civilian and will be dealt with appropriately.
    • June 1, 2020. statement by TRF--a front of the banned Pakistani terror outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba--"openly" declared that "any Indian who comes with the intention to settle in Kashmir will be treated as an agent of RSS and not as a civilian and will be dealt with appropriately". [4] [5][6] [7]
  • The way in which the RSS was overwhelmed by a thousand determined youngsters on 6 December 1992 is telling: The sect is worthless in street combat. ... Its manifestations remind us more of the boy-scouts than of mass politics.
    • Gerard Heuze, Ou va l'inde moderne, p 122, also in Elst, K. (2010). The saffron swastika: The notion of "Hindu fascism". p 794
  • The realms of high culture that in more civilised countries resonate with literature, music and art are occupied in India by Bollywood and trashy TV serials. Inevitable, since mass education is such a mess that most children leave school without learning to read a storybook. Reading is so out of fashion that most small towns in India have no bookshops, most villages have no libraries and, in our bigger cities, bookshops stock mostly books and magazines written in English. So when the RSS leaders turned up in Delhi last week to tell the Minister of Human Resource Development that they wanted changes in school education, they had a point. Unfortunately, because the RSS is led by doddering old bigots and provincial intellectuals, this ‘cultural’ organisation is in no position to give the HRD Minister worthwhile advice. The RSS leaders who met the minister reportedly confined their concerns to history books that they claim portray a ‘Western’ view of history. They demanded that these books be replaced by those written by historians with an Indian view of history. They have a point, but they make it badly. [...] In the interests of 'secularism', most Indian schools and colleges provide only limited courses for the study of ancient India, Vedic Hinduism and Sanskrit literature. So the vast majority of Indian children grow up with a sense of being Indian that is restricted to a religious identity. When this gets infused with a toxic sort of nationalism, as happens in RSS educational institutions, the result is bigotry of a lethal kind.
  • “RSS is a revolutionary organisation. No other organisation in the country comes anywhere near it. It alone has the capacity to transform society, end casteism and wipe the tears from the eyes of the poor. I have great expectations from this revolutionary organisation that has taken up the challenge of creating a new India.”
    • –Shri Jai Prakash Narayan, 1977 After the emergency, on Nov.3, 1977, JP addressed a huge RSS training camp in Patna. Excerpt from that speech quoted from Ratan Sharda - RSS 360 °_ Demystifying Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh-Bloomsbury India (2018)
  • Organising the Hindus and helping them is one thing but going in for revenge for its sufferings on innocent and helpless men, women and children is quite another thing…apart from this, their opposition to the Congress, that to of such virulence, disregarding all considerations of personality, decay of decorum, created a kind of unrest among the people. All their speeches were fill of communal poison. It was not necessary to spread poison in order to enthuse the Hindus and organise for their protection. As a final result of the poison, the country had to suffer the sacrifice of the invaluable life of Gandhiji. Even an iota of the sympathy of the Government, or of the people, no more remained for the RSS. In face opposition grew. Opposition turned more severe, when the RSS men expressed joy and distributed sweets after Gandhiji’s death. Under these conditions, it became inevitable for the Government to take action against the RSS…Since then over six months have elapsed. We had hoped that after this lapse of time, with full and proper consideration, the RSS persons would come to the right path. But from the reports that come to me, it is evident that attempts to put fresh life into their same old activities are afoot.
    • Sardar Patel, letter to Golwalkar, September 11, 1948. In Justice on Trial, RSS, Bangalore, 1962, pp. 26-28.
  • “When I read today all the subversive, communal propaganda the media attributes to RSS shakhas, I am frankly baffled. My memories of what happened at our shakha between 6 and 7 p.m. each weekday evening are completely different—we marched about in our khaki shorts, did some yoga, worked out in a traditional outdoor gymnasium with no fancy equipment, sang songs and chanted Sanskrit verses that we did not understand the meanings of, played games and had a bunch of fun with our fellows.”.... “The whole thing was overseen by a team of mostly-well-meaning—if not always inspirational—adults, who truly believed they were helping raise good ‘civilian soldiers’— boys respectful of authority, well-behaved in the presence of adults and well-aware of the importance of physical fitness— who would put their efforts into nation-building when they grew up.”
  • It should be obvious to anybody that the most vicious anti-RSS propaganda is at heart anti Hindu propaganda. So long as the RSS is identified with Hinduism in one form or another, it would invite this attack.... But while the enemies of the RSS have worked themselves up to a frenzied point and have whipped up their tirade, the propaganda itself is losing its appeal with the thinking people....
    • Ram Swarup, Hinduism and monotheistic religions (2009)

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