Monday, December 1, 2008

British Charity & Hindu Extremism - 10

Awaaz — South Asia Watch Ltd, 2004


Since 1989, the RSS founder K.B. Hedgewar’s birth centenary, the RSS has massively expanded its service and education networks across India. Over the same period, parallel organizations have been started abroad that have a key aim of raising funds for RSS and VHP projects in India – especially for Sewa Bharati, the Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram, Vidya Bharati and the one-teacher schools (ekal vidyalayas). Two important international projects are: the US-based India Development and Relief Fund (IDRF), which has been extensively researched by groups in the US[1]; and Sewa International UK.

Indian RSS service organizations include:

Sewa Bharati (a key RSS service network in India, of which Gram Bharati is an important rural section)

Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram (RSS affiliate working among ‘tribal’ groups)

Bharat Vikas Parishad (RSS affiliate working in cultural, health, slum, dalit and ‘tribal’ areas)

Vanabandhu Parishad (RSS ‘friends of tribals’ society)

Utkal Bipanna Sahayata Samiti (a local RSS affiliate working in Orissa)

National Medicos Organization (RSS medical / doctors affiliate)

Samajik Samarashta Manch (Forum for Social Integration)

Swadeshi Jagaran Manch (RSS development organization)

Also of importance are the service and education networks of the VHP, including the one-teacher schools (ekal vidyalayas) and the Bharat Kalyan Pratishthan, a trust created by the VHP in order for the VHP to be able to receive funds from abroad (since the VHP itself cannot legally receive foreign funds under Indian law).

The key reasons for the RSS establishing a range of affiliates working in diverse fields of social life are provided by its ideology:

Right from its inception the Sangh has clearly marked out as its goal the moulding of the whole of society, and not merely any one part of it, into an organized entity.[2]

A people who had been sunk into gross selfishness, mutual jealousy and internecine dissensions had to be lifted out of that morass and made intensely conscious of their obligations towards the nation. Further, centuries of foreign rule had bred abject mental slavery…In short the battle for national reconstruction had to be pursued on many more fronts until our nation became invincible and glorious in all its aspects. It is to this supreme task that the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh has decided to address itself. The ever-expanding dimensions in various fields of national life have been directed to exactly this purpose…The ‘power’ of the Sangh…is no other than the band of disciplined and dedicated Swayamsevaks fired with the vision of true and total national renaissance and equipped with virtues necessary to translate that vision into actuality in every single field of national life.[3]

The ideological purpose behind these organizations is made clear in the RSS’s own service department report of 1997, Seva Disha:

…A senior, experienced pracharak [full-time propagator] was spared in the year 1989 to organize and co-ordinate seva work through the RSS shakhas and a Seva Vibhag [service department] was established as a part of R.S.S. work. ‘One upa-shakha [RSS cell], at least one seva karya [service unit]’ is the proposal of the RSS. A regular short course on seva is now included in the annual training camps of Sangh so as to expose the trainees to various dimensions of seva karya [service work]. Pracharaks [propagators] and other workers are appointed at all the Kshetra (regional) levels, prant levels, vibhag levels, and at almost all district levels to look after the conduct and development of seva karya [service activities] in their respective jurisdictions. On the eve of the birth centenary of late Param Poojaneeya Dr. Hedgewar in the year 1989, late Poojaneeya Balasaheb Deoras, the then Sarasanghachalak [supreme leader] of the RSS, declared that the RSS would start 5,000 seva karyas in the country as a tribute to its founder. However, on account of the wide-spread network of RSS branches (SHAKHAS) all over the country the Seva Vibhag could surpass this number within just three years of its announcement…Yet another development is the establishment of an international organization titled SEWA INTERNATIONAL which now has branches in many countries. Sewa International will look after the interests of seva related issues not only in the respective countries where they have chapters but also take up GLOBAL level care of sewa work carried out under the Sangh ideology[4].

The all-India head of the RSS service wing explained how the nature of service work is directly linked to the aim to build a Hindu nation (Hindurashtra). He said deprived groups needed to be awakened and welded together to form the backbone of a nascent Hindu nation[5]. The service work of RSS fronts is also directly linked to the need to expand RSS cells (shakhas), recruit volunteers and activists for the RSS, and promote a militant Hindutva[6].

When the [Sewa Bharati] coaching centre was started in Meerut, there were many hurdles. Many tried to have it closed. But the karyakartas [workers] persisted with determination…Many students attending the coaching centre at Harinagar participate in the Sangh Shiksha Varg [RSS annual training camp] training every year… After return, they started Sangh Shakhas [RSS cells] in their Bastis [slums]. These Shakhas have an average attendance of 30-35. During the last four years, 20 students have received initial Sangh Training; 8 have completed Sangh Shiksha Varg [RSS annual training camp] and have now taken responsibility for Shakha work in their areas.[7]

Even medical help is associated with recruitment for the RSS:

In Gujarat, Sewa activities in fact began with a mobile dispensary, which paved the way for other lines of service…As a result, during the last couple of years, many local youths have expressed desire to participate in Sewakarya [RSS service activity]. Through the initiative of such youths, Samskar Kendras have already been established in eighteen villages. Likewise, a mobile dispensary started in a ‘chawl’ in front of Ashok Mills on Narora Road in Karnawati (Ahmedabad) paved the way for Bal Samskar Kendra [young children’s inculcation centre] and even a Sangh Shakha [RSS physical and ideological training cell].[8]


RSS service networks in India are complex, but the following points are important for understanding them:

1 - The RSS is both a tightly controlled and hierarchical organization and claims not to keep bank accounts nor does it pay income tax. At the same time, it works in and through a very wide range of front organizations. In important ways, especially in recent years, the local RSS itself exists as these front organizations.

2 - All RSS national service organizations, including the RSS’s health, education and medical affiliates, are committed to Hindutva ideology and are members of the sangh parivar.

3 - Funding locally or from abroad goes to front organizations created by the RSS and which are members of its sangh parivar. The RSS cannot directly receive funds from abroad without contravening the law (since it is notified as an organization of a political nature under the Foreign Contributions (Regulations) Act 1976 and later additions). However, many of its front organizations can receive foreign funds.

4 - RSS service and education networks cover a range of activities and groups, but the main focus is adivasi (‘tribal’) and dalit groups, children from these groups, and educational activities among these groups. Key areas of activity include border territories, areas (such as north-east India) that have a history of independent, autonomous, regional or secessionist movements, and areas that have significant Christian communities, Christian-run schools or Christian missionary influence.

5 - Even where RSS service organizations are seemingly undertaking humanitarian relief operations, such as during the Gujarat earthquake of 2001 or the Orissa cyclone of 1999, one consistent outcome is the creation of RSS schools and RSS cells (shakhas) among adivasi, dalit or poor populations.

6 - RSS fronts exist under an extremely wide variety of local names that often have independent corporate existence. They can co-exist with and work jointly on projects undertaken by the VHP, the Hindu Jagran Manch, the Bajrang Dal, the local BJP and various other outfits.

7 - Locally, the activities of RSS service organizations overlap with each other. All major RSS affiliates undertake work among ‘tribal’ groups, often in the same regions and districts. Similarly, one affiliate may organize events and activities which are participated in and attended by members and supporters of the other affiliates. For example, RSS one-teacher schools in ‘tribal’ areas (ekal vidyalayas) can be organized under the umbrella of the VHP, Sewa Bharati, Vidya Bharati, the Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram or all of these organizations.

8 - The VHP also runs a service network that is focused on similar kinds of activities as the RSS service network, including an obsession with adivasi groups. One way of conceptualising the VHP and RSS nexus among adivasi groups is that the VHP is often focused on conversion activities among adults, and the RSS often focused on ideological inculcation and training of children. The RSS is explicit that its service activities have the aim of ‘catching them young’[9].

9 - The RSS service department (sewa vibhag) considers all the various projects of Sewa Bharati, Vidya Bharati, Rashtra Sevika Samiti, the VHP, the VHP’s Mahila Mandal, the Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram, the Bharat Vikas Parishad, the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh and the one-teacher schools as part of its single vision and activities.[10]

10 - The clearest expressions of the interrelation of the activities of all the affiliates and their relation to the RSS’s aims are in: the annual report by the all-Indian national general secretary of the RSS to the highest decision making corporate body of the RSS, its Central Assembly (Akhil Bharatiya Pratinidhi Sabha); reports to the RSS’s three-monthly Central Executive Committee (Kendriya Karyakari Mandal); official publications of the RSS produced by its publisher, Suruchi Prakashan (Delhi); and speeches and statements of the Supreme Leader of the RSS and other senior office holders.


The RSS massively expanded its sectarian educational and schools network across India from about the mid-1990s. Vidya Bharati Akhil Bharatiya Shiksha Sansthan, usually known as Vidya Bharati, was founded in 1977 and is the main, but not only, RSS educational network. It runs an estimated 14,000-19,000 RSS schools. The cluster of RSS educational activities include the one-teacher schools (ekal vidyalayas) run by the VHP, Vidya Bharati, Sewa Bharati and the Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram. There is also a nation-wide network of RSS pre-primary, primary and secondary schools, as well as college level, technical education and Hindutva teachers’ bodies. Each of these organizations is linked to RSS strategic aims. RSS schools are typically called:

Saraswati Vidya Mandirs (RSS schools, which can also include residential schools)

Saraswati Shishu Mandirs (RSS primary schools)

Shishu vatikas (pre-primary indoctrination)

Sanskar kendras (ideological indoctrination centres and activities, often one-teacher schools operating in rural, ‘tribal’ or slum areas)

Ekal vidyalayas (one-teacher schools) or ekalavyas

Vivekananda Kendras / Vidyalayas

RSS schools go under a host of other local names, such as Bharatiya Vidya Niketan, Gyan Vidyalaya, Saraswati Bal Vidyalaya and Sewa Dham Vidya Mandirs. There is a range of RSS gurukulas run by the Karnataka-based Hindu Seva Pratishthan and the Jana Seva Vidya Kendra, and funded by bodies such as the Vikasan Foundation and the (US-based) Maharashtra Foundation. Of considerable significance in very recent years has been the importance attached by the RSS to the non-formal one-teacher schools (ekal vidyalayas) in ‘tribal’ and border areas.

[1] The Foreign Exchange of Hate: IDRF and the American funding of Hindutva, Sabrang Communications / South Asia Citizens Web, November 2002.

[2] M. S. Golwalkar, Bunch of Thoughts, Vikrama Prakashan, Bangalore, 1966, p.341.

[3] Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, Spearheading National Renaissance, Prakashan Vibhag, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, Bangalore, 1985, p.44.

[4] K. Suryanarayana Rao (All-India RSS Service Head), Seva Disha – Building an Integrated and Self-Reliant Society, Chennai, 1997,

[5] K. Suryanarayan Rao, ‘Concept of service – sewa and worship’, Sanghshaktih Vijetreeyam, Antar Rashtriya Sahyog Pratishthan, 21 December 1995, p.30.

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