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“I Was A Swayamsevak For 10 Years”: The RSS From An Insider’s Perspective

By Devesh Samaiya

I am 27 years old, well into my prime. Some say age is just a number but fortunately for me, with this number comes numerous life experiences and among them comes the Sangh.

I was introduced to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) when I was a paltry boy of 11, looking for means to pass my evenings. From the age of 11 to 21, I was a member of the Sangh, and I am still in touch with many of my fellow Swayamsevak friends of that time.

I have observed that a majority in India don’t have a clear picture of what actually RSS is and what they do. For them, the Sangh is an organization they have heard about from TV news, newspapers and heated discussions. Most of us, who are not directly involved with RSS, think of it as a Hindu organization, just like the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP).

As an insider for 10 years and a spectator closely following its activities, I assume that I can give an unbiased insider’s perspective of what RSS actually is, and what the advantages and disadvantages of being an RSS member are.

For representational purposes only
For representational purposes only

The Sangh is the single largest volunteer organization in the world with over 50 lakh volunteers (called ‘swayamsevaks’). Attending the Sangh’s ‘Shakha’ is joyful in many ways, they teach you some very useful life skills. It ensures physical fitness, teaches niyudh (a form of martial arts), musical instruments and even helps you with your school studies. The Shakha disciplines you, teaches leadership skills from an early age, and makes you confident by improving your inter-personal skills. Overall it’s a free personality training jackpot.

When I was an active member of RSS, I learnt that it is easy to make new friends. The Shakha converted a shy boy into a confident and motivated man. I used to enjoy it a lot as it was helping me in my physical fitness, teaching me new skills, and helping me improve in my studies.

But at the same time, after spending some time off RSS, I observed the dark threads woven into the fabric of RSS. They make you very rigid in your thinking. I also observed those who were actively involved with the RSS were comparatively less tolerant. Sadly, I remember how we used to celebrate 6th of December (Babri Masjid demolition) as a festival; it was called Shaurya Diwas (a day of pride). We used to hear a lot of stories about how some brave swayamsevaks demolished Babri Mashjid in Ayodhya, and we were even shown a video.

We used to hear stories of how Christian missionaries were converting ‘our’ people to Christianity and I used to take part in public meetings where we used to work against it. They use the passion of a child to convince him into doing something he may not do otherwise. I was convinced during those days that if I do 10-20 japas (chants) of Ram naam daily, it would help create a positive environment for building a Ram Mandir in Ayodhya. There was a time in my life when I used to write ‘Jai Shree Ram (Hail Lord Rama)’ in every book of mine.

I was also convinced that celebrating 15th August as Independence Day was not a good idea because India was partitioned that day, as a child I was very influenced by these Ideas. There was also a constant pressure to attend the training programs of the Sangh.

The RSS makes you a hardcore deshbhakt for sure and it is good for the country, but at the same time, it reduces your tolerance for other religions and ideologies. I am thankful to RSS for giving me life skills that helped me throughout my life, but after leaving my hometown, I saw that India is very different from what the RSS’s idea of India is.

I saw India as a melting pot, a pot of an interesting mix of people which make the country what it is. There is no harm in following your religion with all the faith you can muster, there is no harm in doing Ram naam japa, but in a country like India, it is unwarranted to make people less tolerant towards other religion.

The RSS has given many great leaders to India like Atal Bihari Bajpai and Narendra Modi. I have tried to communicate both good and bad aspect of the Sangh as an insider, pitting the positive against the negative. I leave it to the wisdom of the readers to arrive at their own conclusion of what the Sangh is and is not.

Image source: Sonu Mehta/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
You must be to comment.
  1. Prateek Mathur

    Wow!!! Its really nice to know what RSS actually up to…

  2. mohd shaarif khan

    I tz good to know about RSS.i have a question that a boy of other religion can join RSS without any discrimination and without changing his own religion and respecting and learning hinduism ,that will assist our society with more flower of understanding and will cherish our society with more peace and prosperity.but as usual people of this world tend to pick the path of long journey.
    Thank you!

    1. Rad

      Apparently there is a Muslim part of the organisation though I don’t know much. http://www.muslimrashtriyamanch.org/

      This was an interesting read but still it’s problematic the many activities such as the 6th of december day. I am sure there are other similar organisations of other religions but is it necessary for the largest volunteer organisation, RSS, to divide people on religion rather than unite others. In essence by doing that they just alienate 20% of our population. I have some amazing Muslim and Christian friends in India who are productive hardworking citizens. is it necessary to taint them with the same brush? How would the members of the Muslim Rashtriya Manch feel? Ok, they didn’t make Babri Masjid but it would still hurt their sentiments. This is like a Christian organisation in the US welcoming Hindus into their group but condemning Hindu places of worship. Or a Muslim organisation in Bangladesh welcoming Hindus but celebrating people who attacked Somnath temple. Now this may occur but can’t we expect a higher standard being Indians.

  3. Raj

    Not celebrating Independence Day and calling yourself as nationalist? What a hypocrite l

  4. Monica I.

    Thank you for writing this! This is a good read for someone like me who has absolutely no idea about RSS. . .

  5. Sourabh

    My experience with Sangh has been slightly different. They never taught me to “hate” any religion. On the contrary they taught that everyone is equal. However, they did teach about the dangers of those who try to highjack religion for their own personal benefits at the expense of the common man.

  6. kapil

    The author’s version is hypothetical. Sure he is not an RSS guy but know about the activities of RSS. I am swayamsewak since my childhood and RSS never teach InTolerance.
    RSS respects all religions but cautious about some which we know the obvious reasons. Seems that the author is underestimating or convinently ignoring the activities carried on by the Abrahamic religions.

  7. Krishna Rao

    The writer didn’t mention anything thing about the voluntary relief work done by RSS. The very meaning of swayamsevak

  8. KumarILUVINDIA

    Hi, I am an active Swayamsevak, aged 21.
    I have a little to contribute to this answer.
    1. Intolerance – No, we are taught that everyone are equal. The person may be of any religion, he is still our brother. “Sarve Jana Sukhino Bhavathu” is taught to all swayamsevaks in my Shaaka.
    2. “Stories” of conversion – They are not stories, they are true incidents. We teach Swayamsevaks to be alert at all times to curb conversions. Conversions are a cancer to the society, it brings in chaos in long run.
    3. Independence day – All swayamsevaks go together to any nearby celebrations, it has been a tradition in RSS, though we dont celebrate it in our shaaka(RSS has only 6 festivals). We mourn the partition on 14th august at midnight and end the program with national anthem.

  9. Rahul Gandhi Khan

    The author is not an RSS guy I have fetch his detail he is from Congress party it cell just ignore this article

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