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Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)

by Vikas Kamat
First Online: August 7,2001
Page Last Updated: May 09, 2017

The Rastriya Swayamsevak Sangh -- RSS or the National Association of Self-helpers, is a very large, voluntary organization focusing on development of the society based on Hindutwa -- the essence of Hinduism.

The RSS was founded by Dr. K.B. Hedgewar in 1925 when he unfurled the Bhagawadhaj-saffron flag-at a camp in Amaravati. Hedgewar talked of a Hindu-Rashra, but was his successor, M.S. Golwalkar, popularly known as Guruji who expounded its ideology.

Hindu youths were recruited into RSS and trained in self defense. They were told that the fight for freedom of Hindus should take precedence over the fight for freedom of India. The spate of communal riots from 1924 to 1927 helped the RSS movement grow. After the partition, the RSS concentrated its activities in around Delhi where Hindu refugees from West Pakistan were migrating in hundreds of thousands (see also : The greatest migration in human history). Its membership grew by leaps and bounds.

Vikas Kamat/Kamat's Potpourri
Activities at an RSS Branch
Activities at an RSS Branch

RSS has been banned in India twice but has remained a strong and popular political force. Soon after Mahatma Gandhi's assassination, there were anti-RSS violence, as the rumors spread that the many of the conspirators were members of the RSS and Hindu Mahasabha. In February of 1948, the RSS was declared an unlawful organization and the ban continued over a year.

RSS was again banned during the emergency by Indira Gandhi, but its forces were instrumental in defeating Mrs. Gandhi in the subsequent elections and RSS flourished under the Janata Party rule.

Today , the core of RSS has been weakened by differences in political ideology, its branding as a communal force by its rivals and the weakness of its own leadership.

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