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Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh
The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh is a Hindu nationalist movement which bases itself on the principles of Hindutva. It was started in 1925 by Dr. K.B. Hedgewar. According to the BBC, RSS is the largest voluntary organization in the world. Since 1925, it has slowly gained prominence and political influence, culminating in the rise of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), usually considered to be the political wing of the Sangh movement, to head the central government of India.
The Sangh organises itself hierarchically, with a single individual, the sarsanghachalak, directing it. The position is decided by appointment, with each sarsanghachalak appointing his successor. The current sarsanghachalak of RSS is K.S. Sudarshan. Most of the organisational work of the Sangh is done through the coordination of shakhas, or branches, these shakhas are run every morning for 1 - 2 hours in public places. Currently more than 25,000 shakhas run throughout India. These shakhas are the core building blocks of RSS structure. During a Shakha, the activities consist of yoga, games (including sometimes training in stick fighting), discussions on broad range of social topics, prayer to Bharat Mata or Mother India and an educational session (bouddhik) given by a notable figure selected by the shakha coordinator. Usually the educational session relates to the History of India, Indian philosophy and culture, or ethics.
In 1948 it was banned following the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi by Nathuram Godse, a right-wing Hindu who was upset at Gandhi's "appeasement" of Muslims. Godse was an ex-member of RSS as well as the Congress Party. The Sangh was cleared after an investigation and the ban was lifted the following year.
The Sangh is often considered to be a right-wing group and the Hindutva philosophy is often labelled "fascist" by its critics. RSS supporters say their main demand has been that the Government stop the alleged "appeasement" of Muslims, such as the handling of the controversial Shah Bano case and government subsidies for Hajj pilgrimage. Critics say these stir up anti-Muslim hate, and ignore Hindu-oriented policies such as tax breaks for Hindu undivided families, the funding of Hindu pilgrimages, and the prevention of discrimination against lower castes.
The stated historical position of the RSS and the Hindutva movement is that Hindus have been oppressed in their own homeland (India) for many years, and that RSS is only asserting the natural rights of Hindus and correcting historical wrongs, which critics say is an attempt to change the secular foundations of India. The most notable conflict over this divergent view of history involves the re-building of the Ayodhya temple, where it is argued that Babri Masjid was built by the Muslim ruler Babur in the 16th century after he demolished the pre-existing Rama Janmabhoomi Temple, which some Hindus believe to be the site of the birth of the legendary mythological Hindu God Rama. Critics say that the sangh only wants to stir up controversy as there are at least 50 temples in Ayodhya which claim to be the birth place of Rama. A controversial study conducted by the Archaeological Survey of India in 2003 concluded that a temple-like structure existed at the site prior to the construction of the mosque.
The Sangh also considers all inhabitants of India irrespective of their religion as Hindus and wants them to adhere to the Hindutva philosophy. Their idea of a Hindu country accommodates every religion. (See Hindutva for further discussion.)
Achievements of RSS
RSS has made its presense felt in every section of society since its beginning in 1925. For example, during the 1962 Sino-Indian War, the Indian Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru was so much impressed that he invited a Sangh contingent to take part in the Republic Day Parade of 26th January 1963. At a mere two days' notice, over 3,000 Swayamsevaks turned up at the parade in full Sangh uniform.
During recent time, people who share RSS's ideology have gone on to achieve the highest political positions in the Indian Politics. These leaders include Shri Bhaironsingh Shekhavat (Vice-President), Atal Bihari Vajpaypee (ex-Prime Minister), L.K. Advani (ex-Home Minister ) and Narendra Modi (Chief Minister Of Gujarat State).
List of Sangh Inspired Organizations
- Seva Bharti
- Vidya Bharti
- Swadeshi Jagran Manch
- Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad
- Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh
- Vishwa Hindu Parishad
- Vishwa Hindu Parishad
- Bajrang Dal
- Bharatiya Janata Party
- Survey of Hindu organisations
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