Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh or Rashtriya Seva Sangh, was founded by Keshav Baliram Hedgewar in 1925. It was a part of the movement against British rule and as a response to rioting between Hindus and Muslims.
It was established during Vijayadashami in Maharashtra by Keshav Baliran Hedgewar, a physician in Sukrawari, Nagpur. Initially, the sangh started at his house and there were training in drills and marches by the volunteers. On Thursdays and Sundays there were discussions on National issues. RSS, the world’s largest voluntary non-governmental organisation, states that its ideology is based on the principle of selfless service to India.
RSS And Hedgewar:
Hedgewar, was born on 1st April, 1889. Since high school he began participating in National activities. He pursued his medical studies in Calcutta and returned to Nagpur in 1916. But rather than continuing his practice he was actively involved in social work and held responsible positions in Congress and Hindu Mahasabha.
After years of thinking, he was convinced that only if Hindus are united there will be survival of India during Indian Independence and formed Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh in 1925.
Hedgewar believed that a handful of British were able to rule over the vast country of India because Hindus were disunited, lacked valour and lacked a civic character. He recruited energetic Hindu youth with revolutionary fervour, gave them a uniform of a khaki shirt (but now it is white) and khaki shorts and taught them paramilitary techniques with lathi, sword, javelin, and dagger.
RSS had weekly sessions called baudhik (ideological education), consisting of simple questions to the beginners concerning the Hindu nation and its history and heroes, especially warrior king Shivaji. The saffron flag of Shivaji, the Bhagwa Dhwaj, was used as the emblem for the new organization.
Initially, there were problems, as there was no permanent place for the Shakhas to be held. They started with Mohite Wada which had uneven ground with some walls but no ceiling. The place was believed to be haunted by ghosts. However, Sardar Mohite had mortgaged the place to a money-lender. And he had now asked this moneylender to get it vacated.
However, in 1934 that Hedgewar bought Reshim Bagh as the permanent and central Sanghasthan, amidst a jungle on the outskirts of the city. But in 1944 Government tried to acquire even this particular patch of ground in the name of a cinema hall. But the place was saved for RSS as there were protests by the people.
Even though at beginning, RSS was a small organization it needed funding. Despite various suggestions, it ultimately decided to collect money from its members. The first Gurudakshina function was held at 1928 and the initial collection was Rs. 84.
But, on December 15, 1932, the Governor-in-Council of the Central Provinces issued orders prohibiting Government servants from attending RSS Shakhas. It was later made applicable to Municipal and District Local Board employees. A number of DLBs and Municipal Committees protested.
Later, on March 7, 1934, Shri Kolte, MLA, moved a one-rupee cut motion against Demand No 8, in the Assembly on this issue. Apart from Home Minister E Raghavendra Rao and his three English colleagues, NL Roughton, EA MacNee and E Gordon, every single speaker supported the cut-motion.
Finally, after two days of debate, the cut-motion was put to the vote, and carried. The Government was defeated.
The sacrifice of the RSS activists and their contribution in protecting India during Partition deserves special mention in India’s history. Whether it was charging the entire atmosphere by taking out processions during the independence struggle, or collecting information about Pakistan’s military activities and of the possible Kashmir invasion, swayamsevaks proved they are even ready to lay down their lives to protect the honour of their Motherland.
Today, with over 5 million active members assembling in 40-50,000 shakhas each day across India and over 100 affiliate bodies, the RSS is certainly a force to reckon with. With such an extensive network they have successfully conducted mass movements for the greater good of societies. The RSS runs 27,000 Ekal Vidyalayas (schools) in remote tribal areas where more than 8 lakh socially deprived tribal students are enrolled. This is just one of their many initiatives.
Basically, the RSS is known to be a pro-Hindu organization but that doesn’t mean it is anti-Muslim or anti-Christian. In fact the basic founding principle of the RSS is “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” i.e the vision of the whole world as one family.