Chapter 22: Woman is the inspiring force for the family and for the nation. So long as this force is not awakened, society cannot progress!
“Rashtrasya sudrudhaa shaktihin cha dharini |
Bharate samskruthe naari maata narayani sadaa ||”
The feminine power of Bharatiya women is such that she can keep a nation together, bring revolutionary betterment in society, she is called Narayani because she thrives for the betterment of country and countrymen.
The year was 1936. Almost ten years after the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) was formed in 1925, Laxmibai Kelkar in Wardha met Dr Keshav Baliram Hedgewar to discuss the idea of women participating in the RSS activities.
She wished that women must contribute their bit towards nation building. Laxmibai’s son regularly attended the Shakha at Wardha, Maharashtra.
A decision was later taken to establish an organisation that would be supported by the Sangh and the same principle of conduct of Sangh will apply to this organisation too.
It was also affirmed that despite having the same ideological and visionary tilt, both organisations would function independently of each other. Thus, Rashtra Sevika Samiti was formed, a women’s only organisation actively involved in inculcating cultural and moral values along with patriotism. It was to be done by uniting women and channelising their skills and intellect for the benefit of our future generations and the nation.
False Narratives of patriarchy about Sangh:
Former president of Congress Rahul Gandhi had mocked ideology of Sangh asking “have you seen women attending RSS Shakha?” Trying to imply that RSS is patriarchal.
On social media supporters of the Sangh ideology, are often asked, even mockingly at times, about why women don’t attend Sangh Shakhas and why RSS does not admit female members.
It’s quite evident that this false narrative about gender discrimination in the RSS is being built and presented by those people who have ideological differences with the BJP, and those who view the RSS as a colossal challenge that now stands firmly between them and the unaccounted, boundless power that they have enjoyed for several decades.
There is no need for an explanation, but for those who are genuinely concerned about the stature of women in society and women empowerment, it is important to present few facts about the organisation and their founding principles.
Unlike the patriarchal image that is being portrayed, the RSS has a very clear view that women are the inspiring force not just for their families but also for the society and the nation.
In his address to the Rashtra Sevika Samiti, RSS Sarsanghchalak Shri Mohan Bhagwat had specifically mentioned that Bharat would not be able to achieve its full potential and pristine glory in the world unless ‘Matrushakti’ is given due respect and significance.
India is one such country in which worship of the feminine has prevailed.
“Woman is the inspiring force for the family and for the nation. So long as this force is not awakened, society cannot progress.”— these are the words of Laxmibai Kelkar founder of Rashtra Sevika Samiti. So the question of patriarchy shouldn’t arise when every morning, at the break of dawn, lakhs of Swayamsevaks across thousands of Sangh Shakha begin their day by paying obeisance to Ma Bharati?
Sangh Against Patriarchy:
RSS chose to enhance and channelise these two unique energies to provide maximum benefit to the society by giving them different responsibilities best suited to their abilities and expertise. This with its support was born Rashtra Sevika Samiti
Rashtra Sevika Samiti is today the largest Hindu women’s organization working to uphold Indian culture and traditions.
RSS women are actively involved in socio-cultural activities. Samiti inculcates a sense of patriotism and social awareness in people. Various types of training camps at different levels in all parts of India are conducted periodically.
Active Shakhas (local branches with regular gatherings of members where they practice yoga, sing nationalist/patriotic songs, military training and have discussions) of the Samiti currently operate in 5215 centers. 875 centers conduct the Shakhas on a daily basis.
The estimates of active membership range from 100,000 to 1 million It has overseas branches in 10 countries, which use the name Hindu Sevika Samiti.
Samiti also runs 475 service projects all over India for the poor and underprivileged, without regard to religion, caste, creed, sect, gender, or ethnicity. These include schools, libraries, computer training centers and orphanages.
A Swadeshi Bhandara operates in Delhi, Nagpur, Karnavati etc.
Rashtra Sevika Samiti focuses on Hindu women’s role in the society as leaders and agents of positive social reform. Samiti teaches its members three ideals;
Matrutva (Universal Motherhood)
Kartrutva (Efficiency and Social Activism)
The organization believes that all women have the capability to create a positive change in their community.
With a strong belief that women are by no standards the weaker gender, the Rashtra Sevika Samiti trains their Sevikas not only in outdoor sports but also teaches them skills like horse riding and sword fighting, which help them develop physical capacity and are confidence-building exercises.
An exemplary mother like Jijabai, a capable administrator like Ahilyabai Holkar and a brave, fearless leader like Rani Lakshmibai of Jhansi are the role models of the Sevikas.
It is with this strong 360° mindset that they actively participated in the ‘Quit India Movement’ in 1942 and also contributed their services during rescue efforts after the Bhopal gas tragedy and natural disasters like the Latur earthquake and Morbi floods.
“Build the individual to build the nation” – is the motto that is the driving force of the Samiti.
Living up to it, the Sevikas have committed themselves to various seva projects which cover all aspects of service to humanity – from Swasthya (health) and Shiksha (education) to Seva (service), Sanskar (value-education) and Swavalamban (Self-reliance).
Today, the RSS and its affiliate, the Rashtra Sevika Samiti have built a strong, deep-rooted network of selfless nationalists, not just in India but across the world, and their number is only increasing. In spite of several attempts by their critics to malign their image, their conscious decision to remain low key and not publicise their work has made no difference to their growing popularity.
Contrary to the belief that RSS is a patriarchal organisation, the functioning of Sevika Samiti and Sangh’s ideas about the feminine power demonstrate the just acknowledgement of women’s role.
Source: excerpts from Priti Gandhi’s report on Rashtra Sevika Samiti for Organiser
Dr Sindhu Prashanth