Friday, August 19th, 2022 17:19:17

RSS Template for Hindu Unity

BY DR. Sheshadri Chari
Updated: April 4, 2022 9:47 am

Any attempt to understand the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) as an external examiner might result either in limited understanding of the organisation and its founder’s thought process or comprehending the aims and objectives of the RSS from a narrow prism, either political, cultural or otherwise. The foundational history of the RSS, started in 1925,   its evolution and its ability to successfully surmount the teething troubles cannot be separated from the study of the biography of its founder Dr. Keshav Baliram Hedgewar. The origin and the evolution of the idea of nationalism as a driver of change, congruent with the concept of State, according to many Western philosophers is located in about eighty years of history spanning the eighteenth and nineteenth century. Nationalism thus got inextricably intertwined with the State and politics usually associated with the aims and objectives of the dispensation. Nationalism was understood as an important prerequisite for gaining political power and a basis for organising the polity within the confines of a particular geography with a history. Nationalism was seen as the sum total of national identity based on social features of culture, language, politics and traditions influenced and commanded by religion. These factors led to the grouping of nationalisms as civic and ethnic. German and European nationalism fastened to culture and ethnicity set them apart from the civic and political nationalism as also from the nationalism resting on the idea of shared culture, shared history of victories and defeats, common aims and aspirations and inclusivism versus exclusivism. It is in this background that the renaissance movement in India needs to be viewed, which was dominated by stalwarts like Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Rabindranath Tagore, Lokmanya Tilak and many others. Although the social and cultural reformation was greatly influenced by the Western thought process, the touch of “Indianness” was inevitable and also immensely enriching the process and the objectives. One of the outcomes of these lengthy progression of ideas was the foundation of the RSS by Dr. Hedgewar. While study and understanding of history was important, Dr. Hedgewar felt the need to interpret history and also analyse it from the perspective of the consequences of history on the national mind and psyche. He insisted on looking at the one thousand years of history not only as a period of subjugation but also the establishment of three empires, the Magadh Samrajya, the Vijayanagara Samrajya and the Hindavi Samrajya by Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. While the conquerors were not sequential, the empires were interconnected and emphasised the innate and underlying unity of the national spirit. What was lacking was the confidential approach to the victorious events of history, build upon the triumphs, eschew disunity and all the socio-cultural practices that promote social stratification on the lines of caste, community and faith-based divisions. Doctor Hedgewar strongly believed that social unity is a must before gaining Independence. He was of the firm conviction that merely filling the jail barracks will not automatically lead to freedom from subjugation. At the same time, he also experienced the futility of resorting to the practice of ‘eye for an eye’ approach. He was part of the “ AnusheelanSamiti” which believed in the all-round development of an individual to be ready to perform supreme sacrifice to achieve the avowed objectives. But Doctor Hegdewar also realised that merely laying down one’s life or taking someone’s life to reach one’s goal will give limited results which may be short lived. While Dr. Hedgewar concurred with the thought process of his contemporaries he felt the need to look at our problems essentially from an Indian perspective rather than from purely Western, theological or political perspective. According to him, most of the solutions suggested by contemporary reformers did not meet with the desired success not because of lack of sincerity or hard work but due to the absence of a methodology that is simple, easy to follow and implement and based on self-imposed discipline. It is thus that he developed a unique concept called shaka, where adherents of the RSS meet daily for an hour and come together for a national cause at a local level. This unique methodology called shakha could easily impart discipline and encapsulate the grandeur of sanatan philosophical essence of ethical and moral values flowing uninterrupted through eons. Dr. Hedgewar’s idea of Hindu unity, man making and nation building through shakha was echoed long after he passed away in 1940, by the Sage of Kanchi, Paramachrya of Kanchi Kamakothi Mutt during a speech in Satara, Maharashtra in 1980. He said, “Our country’s welfare demands an organised, sustained movement to re-establish ethical and moral values – signified by the comprehensive term Dharma so that the nation could regain its lost direction for a better future for the present generation and for posterity. To remain passive, though distressed at heart, in this hour of all-round crisis of character is a betrayal of national consciousness and failure in national duty.”   BY DR. Sheshadri Chari

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