It is amazing that not much is known about Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in spite of being one of the oldest mass Indian organization, being around for 85 years and widely accepted as the largest NGD in the world. People only have half baked information about it.
While critics blame it on the secretive ways of the RSS, the RSS volunteers believe that these critics don't really wish to understand its working that is quite different from other organizations or its philosophy as that too goes against the established norms of ideological discourse in India, heavily influenced as it is by dominating elite brought up on western world-view of culture, nationalism and social organizations. The noise created by media also vitiates the view of any lay people. This book tries to rip off the so- called veil of secrecy around the RSS with its easy flowing narration that is peppered with live examples and anecdotes.
It is probably the first time that there is an attempt at comprehensive 3600 view of the RSS in a single book that covers not just its philosophy but also its organizational structure, its working; information about its little understood Prachaarak systems, its Prayer, its Constitution etc. It talks about working of its 'Shakhas' that look so simple and yet produce leading organizers, managers and leaders. It gives a glimpse of manifestation of this philosophy that has created thousand of organizations covering nearly the entire spectrum of socio-political action across India. The annexure throws light on some crucial days in this organization's history, namely 1942, 1947 and 1948 that also witnessed Gandhiji's assassination.
Ratan Sharda has been an RSS member since his childhood and has taken up various responsibilities. Last responsibility he held was the post of media in-charge for Mumbai and was the member of Mumbai working committee of the RSS. He also worked as an ABVP member during 1975-77 and was an active student leader, jailed during the emergency while he was the General Secretary of his college union. He has worked closely with nearly all the major the RSS affiliated organizations. He has a wide exposure to the working style of not only the RSS but its affiliated organizations too. He is a founder member of Vishwa Adhyayan Kendra (Centre for International Studies), Mumbai and was its General Secretary for eight years.
Born in Mumbai in December 1954 from Punjabi parents, he graduated in Arts from St. Xavier's College Mumbai and did his post graduation from Mumbai University in 1982. He also holds a Diploma in Textile Chemistry. He had a great academic record throughout his student career. He has had varied business experience and is an information technology consultant, specializing in Enterprise Resource Planning since the last 15 years.
His major hobby is editing and designing books, having 14 titles to his credit as an editor and writer in English and Hindi. Currently he writes monthly satirical political column in Hindi Vivek monthly.
It amazes time and again when people confess that they don't know much about the RSS in spite of it being around for nearly 85 years and being quite open about itself. While critics blame it on the secretive way the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh - or National Volunteers Corps) works, the RSS volunteers believe that critics don't really wish to understand the RSS and they only use this theory of secretiveness to cover their intellectual lethargy and, sometimes, bias. Apart from this, there are large number of people who simply don't understand its working as it is quite different from other organizations, nor its philosophy as that too goes against the established norms of ideological discussions of India, heavily influenced as they are with western notion of culture, nationalism and social organizations.
I am amused at the debates that take place between the RSS and its adversaries. It is like two people arguing with each other in different languages. 50, all you hear is lot of noise but not an informed debate. A recent comment by the venerable number one newspaper of the world, our own Times of India, that the RSS is a secretive organization while giving the news of elevation of Shri Mohanrao Bhagwat to the august post of Sarsanghchaalak or Chief of the RSS, prodded me to shred away the veil of so-called secrecy over working of the RSS. So the title of the book does not denote an effort by me to have a sensational tag line for the book, but only have a title that would not leave any excuse for the critics for being uninformed. If it be so, it would be only out of choice.
I have been a member of the RSS for many years and held various responsibilities in the organization over years, right from the first rung 'gat naayak' (or group leader) to responsibilities in Mumbai working committee. But, I have tried to write it as an observer, standing away from it for some years. Still, I may be accused of certain bias. I leave it to readers' judgment about my neutrality or bias. In writing this book, I am not bothered about the heavily biased ruling intellectual class and political parties and groups influenced by it. The power of this class is heavily overestimated as it dominates the media and guides the intellectual discourse in this country. However, its footprints on the ground are minimal. I wish to engage that large mass of Indians who genuinely wish to do something for the country and are disappointed with what they see around them. They are not sure how to help build a better India in the absence of any alternative organization or viewpoint as they are ignorant of the RSS and its ways of working and its vast body of work.
In this small book, I will try to open up the supposedly secret world of the RSS to the public. These are not the views of a purist as I was never a purist swayamsevak. I may not interpret the RSS' work as an RSS purist would like it to be as I have been out of day-to-day working for some time. I have used simple anecdotes or live examples to illustrate a point rather than argue about it solely on the basis of theory and philosophy. For the ideologues and critics, another day, another place perhaps!
Like many volunteers of my age, I had a fairly diverse exposure to other political movements and leaders of other political parties during the emergency. This period also coincided with my second round as a student of Arts after my earlier Science stream days. I was fortunate to be encouraged as well as criticized as a student leader by some of my left leaning professors during this period who gave me a different perspective of looking at issues. I recall Prof. Manjrekar fondly, who considered himself a Gandhian Marxist and who encouraged us a lot in our fight for democracy, but was equally critical of me for being a member of the RSS, till his last days. I had fascinating discussions with my Communist and Socialist friends inside and outside the jail during this period. It also was a time when I went through the magical world of dialectical materialism, supposed achievements of Russian revolution, Solzhenitsyn, Vladimir Dudintsev, Ayn Rand - the whole spectrum of economic and political thoughts. I also had close encounters with senior and junior RSS full- time volunteers (prachaaraks) which itself was an unforgettable learning experience.
The RSS is a huge organization. As a cadre based organization that works on consensus; its strong culture of taking along everybody democratically tends to slow down decision making; and any effort to bring about changes tends to get bogged down many a time. This makes a worker, who wishes to move fast with new ideas, feel frustrated. Since, he cannot do much about changing this style due to very nature of the organization, he either moves out and takes a different path or becomes indifferent. Similar experiences led me to, ultimately, distance myself from its regular day-to-day working.
My frustration arose, primarily, out of the refusal of the RSS to address the critical issue of biased media and its failure to reach out to vast audience with more 'with it' communication approach in tune with modern times. Its refusal to join adversaries in debate due to various reasons left me highly dissatisfied time and again. For the RSS, the biggest reason for not engaging in media polemics and propaganda has been its guiding principle of avoiding self-promotion at all costs and simply keep on working silently. Its founder Dr Keshav Baliram Hedgewar firmly believed that propaganda and self- promotion creates ego and this ego at personal and organizational level ultimately leads to corruption at both levels - not monetary corruption but more importantly, intellectual corruption that feeds on ego. Though, I sincerely appreciate this point having experienced this from close quarters, I believe that no movement can expand its base without the use of modern tools of communication today.
This attempt to unravel the secrets of the RSS is born out of this urge to explain the RSS working to lay people, especially the younger generation in an objective manner. I believe that my long experience with different generations of the RSS volunteers - both general members and senior workers of age groups ranging from 80s to 20s - and my frequent run-ins with my seniors due to my impatience with the RSS' style of working would tend to iron out any bias that an observer with limited exposure or contacts with such a vast organization may carry, thus influencing an objective analysis.
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