It seems that Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s (RSS) Chief Mohan Bhagwat is worried about the declining attendance at shakhas of RSS. It means youths are being disinterested about visiting the Sangh’s shakas. However, despite these odds Bhagwat asserted that time is ripe to pursue Hindutva agenda across the country. Social media has been a powerful medium in exposing the sinister campaign against RSS. However, many ‘so called seculars’ still talk against Sangh. While reviewing some of the tweets by anti RSS polemicists, it is a need to expose some of the popular myths about RSS. RSS is not just a Hindu or Brahmin’s organisation, it is true nationalist organisation. Members of this organisation belong from other religions too.
Jawaharlal Nehru had invited RSS to participate in the 1963 Republic Day parade. 3500 Swayamsevaks marched on that day, in their typical uniforms. During his final years, Nehru realized the patriotic pulse of RSS, that too only when his Congress party’s foreign policy went seriously wrong resulting in a humiliating defeat at the hands of China. It was RSS that helped Indian soldiers and civilians greatly in 1962, for which even Nehru was forced to invite them to be a part of 1963 Republic Day parade. I am sure the icon of secularism, Nehru would not invite an anti-national organisation to march with Indian Army on the Republic Day. In fact, the secular folks like members of Indian communist parties, were busy raising donations for India’s enemy China during 1962 war. During the 1965 Indo-Pak war PM Shastri requested nationalist RSS to help control traffic in Delhi so policemen could be freed for defence duties. When Pakistanis were trying to take over Jammu and Kashmir, it was swayamsevaks who cleared the snow, so that Indian air force could land their aircrafts.
The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh tried introducing new mantra, so that no youth were left behind. RSS is indeed showing good flexibility in embracing change. It is a male-oriented organisation hence there is no-point in talking about women with RSS, as long as they are not insulted or ignored – we must not complain about it. A sign of RSS gaining ground amongst youth / educated class is evident in the number of followers / defenders on social media which is ever increasing. Re-energised by the unbroken momentum of the Modi wave, the RSS is now targeting youths studying at engineering, medical and management institutions as potential cadres as part of a larger move to increase its strength across the country.
After the Modi waves for short time, youth from engineering, medical and management institutions will be urged to join as Swayamsevaks and farmers from villages have also been brought into the fold. Unfortunately, the latest reports suggest that the attendance in the shakhas is going down,” Bhagwat was quoted as saying at a meeting of the Sangh members in Uttarakhand’s Nainital. Over 180 members of several wings of the Sangh were present at the meeting.
In 2012, about 1,000 people attached themselves with us every month through ‘Join RSS’, the online forum. There was a gradual growth in the numbers. The figure increased to 2,500 by 2013 and now about 7,000 people join us every month. The RSS has about 40,000 shakhas across the country, and their aim is to open 4,500 new shakhas every year. The organisation has set up an elaborate network to reach out to people willing to join the RSS. Going by numbers, a 13 per cent increase in shakhas or daily conventions was registered across the country between July 2012 and July 2014. During this period, 4,635 shakhas were opened. In 2012, the RSS had 34,761 active shakhas; that figure rose to 37,125 last year, hitting 39,396 by July this year.
In West Bengal, the growth is three times the national average and the number of shakhas has gone up by nearly 38 per cent. The daily shakha is the most visible symbol of the RSS. Since the BJP-led NDA rule ended in 2004, there had been a fall in the number of shakhas. According to reports, in 2005-06, after the six-year rule of the BJP-led NDA, the number crossed 51,000 but witnessed a decline in the past few years. The RSS wants every shakha to be effective. Once there was an increase in youth participation in the Sangh activities in all spheres of work, especially in voluntary participation.
Back in Delhi, Ram Madhav — the Sangh’s public relations in-charge and now BJP leader — operates out of his plush office in Jangpura. Shuffling between his ipad, iphone and Macbook, RSS is reinventing itself to connect with the new generation. To target the youth, besides the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, the RSS now has its own university, college and hostel pramukhs — there is a special focus on student-dominated towns like Kota. There are 2,000 shakhas exclusively for university students.
Besides reworking shakha-format, new media has been embraced, and the ‘packaging’ of the message has changed. Power Point presentations and documentaries are used in special shakhas. The ‘Join RSS’ link on its website has generated responses; its sympathisers are active on Twitter and Facebook; and they have mailing lists. The RSS is also having an internal debate on whether it is time to change its uniform, the khaki shorts, which isn’t perceived to be popular with the young. I hope as the time change, people may appreciate the strength of Swayamsevaks and their services to this nation.