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Social Awakening, Individual Character Building: What RSS Expects From Its Cadres

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh aims to bring about systemic changes through social awakening and character building of swayamsevaks, at an individual level and together as a united front.

Social Awakening, Individual Character Building: What RSS Expects From Its Cadres
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While Western thought sees the ind­ividual as the smallest unit of the society, Indian culture believes that it is the family. The family is the first step of the journey from “me” to “we”. In the same spirit, every volunteer of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) takes an oath, “I have become a constituent (volunteer) of RSS for the all-round progress of the nation.’’

The Sangh expects certain qualities from its swayamsevaks, that they will effectively execute Sangh’s mission in the society; will uphold the Akhil Bharatiya perspective, that this nation from (Ram) Setu to the Himalayas is one and is my own; firmly believe that all members of the society are equal; regularly attend the shakha to place the nation above oneself and lead the movement while remaining in the backdrop; and channelise various character traits gained through shakha.

In his address during a 1940 RSS training camp, RSS founder Dr K.B. Hedgewar had said, “Sangh work and values should not be confined to the shakha but must be extended and established in the entire society.” To invest your time in actively working towards social change and social awakening is the complete definition of a Sangh worker. Nevertheless, it is irrational to assume that volunteers alone can bring about all-round progress. Many influential and well-­intended people want to contribute toward the society’s betterment. The Sangh strives to bring all of them into the fold.  

The RSS, founded in Nagpur in 1925, will compl­ete 97 years of its existence on the Vijayada­shami of 2022. As it approaches its centenary, the San­gh’s reach and influence is growing manifold, despite opposition and obstacles. Consistent hard work, penance and sacrificial spirit from Sangh workers; support from society; and blessings of the Almighty have made this possible. This achi­e­v­e­ment has fascinated many all over the world. People are also curious to learn how RSS would celebrate its centenary. One of the Sangh’s luminaries, Shri Dattopant Thengadi, had remarked that “conceptually, RSS and Hindu society are co-terminus and psychologically they are one”.  

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The monumental expansion of Sangh operati­ons unfolded in four phases. The period spann­ing the foundation of the RSS up to Bharat’s ind­ependence was Phase I. Here, the focus was on ‘organisation’ since it was necessary to make people believe that the Hindu society can be united, and speak about Bharat and Hindutva as a unified chorus. While swayamsevaks particip­ated in the freedom movement and social ref­orm movements, the Sangh completely abs­o­rbed itself in organising the collective.

One of Sangh’s luminaries, Shri Dattopant Thengadi, remarked that “conceptually RSS and Hindu society are co-terminus and psychologically they are one”.

Phase II of the Sangh expansion is from Bharat’s independence to 1990. A thousand-year-long struggle followed by the inspiration of the freedom movement called for a need to envision a social and national blueprint based on our swa (true identity/self). Rooted in the traditions of Bharat, initiatives were propelled by swayamsevaks in several areas like educat­ion, student development, politics, labour and agriculture. Today, Sangh’s shakhas are conduc­ted in over 84 per cent development blocks and more than 35 community-driven initiatives are addressing different needs of the society.

Phase III commenced following Dr Hedge­war’s birth centenary in 1990 with a mission to weave the society into a thread of affinity and intensify outreach to the deprived, weak and the backward. The Sewa Vibhag (social service initiative) was established to work towards their upliftment.

In 1994, the Sampark Vibhag (societal outreach initiative) was set up to identify and connect with social achievers and their contributions, make them aware of the Sangh’s vision and collaborate on areas of mutual interest.

Consider the issue of conversion that has been debated since the freedom movement. In the 1960s, the Congress governments of Madhya Pradesh and Odisha passed anti-conversion laws. Since then this issue has single-handedly been taken up by only the Bharatiya Janata Par­ty, and most bills to stop conversion were pas­sed during the BJP’s rule in various states, with an exception of Himachal Pradesh in 2006, when the Congress government led by Virbha­dra Singh passed a bill against conversion. A few years ago, Sampark Vibhag officials met Virbha­dra Singh, who said that if he could be instrum­e­ntal in stopping conversion anywhere in India, he would readily contribute.

In 2008-09, when the Gau-Gram Rath Yatra was organised, Sarvodaya workers joined this yatra from many locations. In this way, the Sampark Vibhag enables issue-based cooperation with those who don’t share the Sangh’s worldview.

RSS has been and still continues to be at the receiving end of spiteful, organised efforts to malign its image through misinformation. To tackle this, the Prachar Vibhag (media relations initiative) was formed in 1994. Its aim is to diss­e­minate what Sangh really stands for and does for the society. It emphasises the RSS’s national outlook using different media and also counters malicious, false propaganda by providing accurate information.

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Additionally, during Phase III, alarmed by bur­ning social problems, key social reform projects were instituted. Through the intervention of Dharmajagaran Vibhag efforts were initiated to stop organised mass Hindu conversions and the project of helping the proselytised and desi­rous of reconnecting with their roots was initia­ted. It was felt that villagers could be mobilised to enable rural development, independent of state intervention. Gram Vikas work was star­ted to empower villagers so that they can avail benefits of the government schemes.

Swayamsevaks should be active in society, meet new people so that newer sections of the society can come into contact with Sangh, and learn about the national ideals of the RSS.

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Since ancient times, the Hindu society has had members who have identified with varied caste nomenclatures. But those elements that have vested interests in dividing the society have consistently tried to instigate caste-oriented ani­mosity. To create a consortium for all to discuss common challenges and contemplate collective action, a series of samajik sadbhav (soc­ial harmony) meetings have been organi­sed. Similarly, efforts are being made through samajik samarasata (social equality and brotherhood) to eradicate untouchability and malpr­actices associated with it.

The Gauseva-Gausamvardhan initiative has ensured that thousands of new gaushalas are being set up all over Bharat. Creating awareness about the medicinal value of products obtained from cows of indigenous breeds, conservation, promotion and breed improvement of cows, and educational activities to train farmers in cow dung-based natural farming, are some programmes under this initiative.  

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In the past few centuries, growth based on a western paradigm of development has wrecked the Earth’s ecological balance. To restore this equilibrium, ‘environmental protection’ work was started, which strives to bring in awareness and propel activism around the issue of ‘enviro­nment,’ by encouraging public participation.   

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At present, we are in Phase IV of our evolution, wherein we expect every earning young swayamsevak to actively participate in and cooperate for social awakening by choosing any one area for social transformation according to their interest and ability. Swayamsevaks should be active in society, meet new people so that newer sections of the society can come into contact with Sangh, and understand and learn about the national ideals of the RSS. They can also connect and contribute to protect Hindu Dharma, the Hindu culture and the Hindu society, and remain devoted to the cause of the nation’s all-round progress.  

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Currently, urbanisation and the fast pace of life have curtailed opportunities to come together and celebrate heritage, traditions, relationships, and festivals. Therefore, kutumb prabodhan (fam­i­lial awakening through dialogue) was started, whe­­rein family members gather weekly to analyse our civilisational heritage, traditions, culture and the prevailing social scenario from the nationalistic point of view and also discuss their duties.   

Therefore, the RSS centenary cannot be confi­ned at the organisational level. Since the Sangh is synonymous with the society, and Dr Hedge­war opined that our mission to unify the entire society under Sangh’s vision should be fulfilled even before the celebration of the silver jubilee, accomplishing Sangh’s mission before the centenary would be the ideal celebration.  

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There’s a line in Sangh’s song: Karyamagnata Jeevan ho aur Karyapurti hi Vishranti (to live is to be absorbed in work and only its completion is to rest). The fundamental work of societal organisations and character building will go on. Social awakening is also a perennial task. With a view to bring about systemic changes, swayamsevaks are actively contributing in different are­as through various organisations. It is time that each swayamsevak goes out with a renewed vigour for social change. Working towards these initiatives directed at the realisation of Sangh’s goals would be the best way to celebrate the centenary because kimanyaihi shramaihi shunyaihi (all other efforts are pointless).

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(This appeared in the print edition as "Fundamental Duties of the Righteous")

(Views expressed are personal)

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