Dr. Keshav Baliram Hedgewar, the great freedom fighter of India, devoted his entire life to the Hindu society and nation. This Ajatshatru of the twentieth century was a great human architect. He was the originator of the mantra of public awakening in Hindu life. Dr. Keshav Baliram Hedgewar’s life is an unbroken source of inspiration for patriotism. The eternal flame of the spirit of upliftment of the motherland remained lit in his mind throughout his life. Shastra scholar Dr Hedgewar was born on April 1, 1889, in Nagpur, Maharashtra. Dr Hedgewar devised a simple, unique and powerful mechanism of connecting and relating with people. He was a fantastic strategist, powerful theoretician and a great motivator. Keshav Baliram Hedgewar founded the Rashtriya Swayamseak Sangh (RSS) in 1925 as an ideological alternative to the dominant Indian National Congress to uphold the primacy of Hindu civilization and Hindus in India. Dr Hedgewar sounded the bigul of ideological war and addressed a complex range of political, social, cultural and civilisational issues that have crystallised in the post-Independence India. It is the thought of upliftment of the weaker sections of the society that today hundreds of projects of the Sangh including Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram, Ekal Vidyalaya are running continuously with the personal efforts of the swayamsevaks of the Sangh.
RSS founder Dr Hedgewar was clear in his view that a small British administration was able to rule over a large country like India because Hindus were disunited, lacked valour and a civic character. Hence, the focus in the early days was on organising and uniting Hindus along with training in martial arts and use of weapons. Those were dangerous times and in the run-up to Independence, with the mass attacks called for by Muslim League and the murder of Hindus, this cadre was necessary for the safety of Hindus. Guruji Golwalkar also continued on similar lines with a focus on strengthening the cadre. All along though, the issue of untouchability was not highlighted. We must remember that in the early 20th century, India was a casteist society and even top leaders like Gandhiji did not support inter-caste marriages as he believed in the varna system. The Indian National Congress was started in 1885 and was always seen as an upper caste Hindu party. It was only in 1917 that INC considered passing a party resolution to prevent the practice of untouchability; here too, Dr Ambedkar and other leaders felt that it was mere semantics and none of the leaders did any work on the ground to fight against untouchability. But the RSS, as it grew in strength and due to its non-discriminatory practices, the cadre too reflected a multitude of castes including the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes. Always evolving with the times, Doctorji denounced the practice of untouchability saying, “If untouchability is not wrong, nothing in the world is wrong,” in one of his speeches. He exhorted the swayamsevaks to work for removal of caste-based untouchability from the Hindu society. It was his exhortation and persistence that the blemish of untouchability could be wiped out from the Hindu society to an extent.
By Deepak Kumar Rath