IN BAD FAITH? BRITISH CHARITY & HINDU EXTREMISM
Awaaz — South Asia Watch Ltd, 2004
APPENDIX 4: HINDUTVA & THE RSS
WHAT IS HINDUTVA?
Hindutva is an ideology mainly invented by Vinayak Damodar Savarkar and written about in an English pamphlet published in 1923, Hindutva – who is a Hindu? Savarkar was involved in the terrorist wing of the anti-colonial movement and was imprisoned by the British. After 1937, Savarkar became president of an organization called the Hindu Mahasabha (Great Hindu Assembly). He was a serious political opponent of Mohandas K. Gandhi.
There were six attempts on Gandhi’s life by Hindu nationalists. Gandhi’s murderer, Nathuram Godse, was Savarkar’s ‘lieutenant’, and close associate. He was a full-time worker (pracharak) for the RSS, and a prominent member of Savarkar’s Hindu Mahasabha. Savarkar stood trial for Gandhi’s murder but was acquitted. However, a commission in 1964 headed by Justice Kapur was presented new evidence of Savarkar’s involvement in the conspiracy to murder Gandhi. Nathuram Godse’s brother, Gopal Godse, also stated in an interview that Nathuram was involved in the RSS and only claimed not to be to protect RSS leaders following Gandhi’s murder. The current BJP-led government insisted in 2003 that a portrait of Savarkar be placed in the Central Assembly Hall of the Indian Parliament (Lok Sabha), opposite that of Gandhi.
Savarkar’s Hindutva is based on the political view that India must be an exclusively Hindu nation-state (Hindurashtra) in which all citizens must demonstrate obedience and allegiance to Hindutva. Hindutva, for him, was an identity based on ‘race’ and ‘blood’ (which he called ‘the most important ingredient’ of Hindutva), a sanskrit-based, upper-caste idea of culture, and a sacred territory. A Hindu, according to him, was someone who shared the blood of ‘Vedic-Aryan’ ancestors, embraced only ‘sanskritik’ culture and who viewed India as their fatherland and holyland. Savarkar was influenced by Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy and made many statements in their support. He compared Muslims in India to Jews in Germany, supported Hitler’s military invasion and occupation of Czechoslovakia and other sovereign states, and attacked Nehru for criticising Nazism and Fascism. Even as late as 1961, he said that India would be better off with a dictator like Hitler instead of being a democracy.
WHAT IS THE RSS?
The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS, National Volunteers’ Corps) was formed in the period 1925-1926 by Keshav Baliram Hedgewar in Nagpur, Maharashtra state, north-west India. Its formation was influenced by the ideas of Hindutva created by Savarkar. It is an exclusively male organization devoted to the political ideology of Hindutva and represents an Indian version of fascism. Hedgewar formed the RSS as an organization of young boys and men that was based on military drills, physical exercise, weapons training, propagation of the ideology of Hindutva and anti-minority hatred. Hedgewar, together with another key founder of the RSS, Balkrishna Shivram Moonje, was also influenced by Fascism and Nazism. In 1934, Hedgewar presided over a meeting in Nagpur aimed at propagating Mussolini’s fascist thought in India. Moonje not only met Mussolini but was a strong admirer of Nazism and Fascism. He is today called Dharamveer – hero in the religious struggle – by the RSS. He said that India not only needed a dictator like Hitler but that a scheme to bring such a dictator had to be urgently carried out.
The RSS’s second leader, Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar, supported Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. In his key book We, or our nationhood defined, published in 1939, he openly supported the anti-semitic policies of Nazi Germany towards German-Jews, openly supported Hitler’s violent invasion of other sovereign territories, lauded Fascist Italy and said these were models which India could learn and profit by. In this book , which the RSS re-published after the end of the Second World War (after the horrors of the Holocaust were fully known), and which the RSS in the 1950s called an ‘unassailable doctrine of nationhood’, Golwalkar stated that in India, minorities deserved no rights whatsoever, not even any citizen’s rights. Minorities were to either give up their beliefs or live at ‘the sweet will of the majority’. In 2002, the RSS stated that the safety of Muslims in India lies in ‘the goodwill of the majority’.
The RSS is not a democratic organization but based on the idea of one ‘Supreme Leader’ (sarsanghchalak), obedience to the one Supreme Leader (ek chalak anuvartitva) and of the Supreme Leader as ‘the principle one who is to be venerated’ (parampoojaniya). RSS members are called ‘swayamsevaks’ – volunteers working in the service of the Hindu Nation. The Indian RSS claims not to keep membership records but it has an estimated 2.5 – 4 million members and 40,000 regular cells (shakhas). It claims not to keep any bank accounts and it does not have to pay income tax. It is notified under Indian law as an organization of a political nature and so cannot legally receive foreign funds.
The RSS’s primary goal is to completely hierarchically organize and strengthen Hindus and create an entirely new society based on its ideology of militarism, masculinity and hatred of others. The RSS believes only it is the genuine society, and the whole of India must be recreated in its image as a powerful and exclusive Hindurashtra. The RSS is organized through cells (shakhas) in which members undertake physical exercise and military drill, ideological discussions and a range of rituals, of which the most important are devotion to its saffron flag and its first two Supreme Leaders, Hedgewar and Golwalkar. Shakhas, whether held in India or the UK will include devotion to the RSS’s saffron flag, pictures of Hedgewar and Golwalkar and the RSS’s Hindu nationalist hymns and songs. Shakhas are organized by age groups, from very young children to youths, adults, and the elderly. The shakha is the core recruitment strategy of the RSS (and the HSS) and is based on catching children at a very young age to inculcate them in RSS ideology, bring them closer to the RSS and its organizations and eventually lead them to more activist and senior positions. In the UK, however, shakhas may be presented to parents, teachers and others as simply educational activities for young children, including classes on Hinduism and Gujarati language.
UNDERSTANDING HOW THE RSS WORKS
The Indian RSS
is an extremely tightly structured and secretive organization with a very strong hierarchy, rigid rules for its members and officers, its own decision making bodies and structures, its own festivals, hymns, songs, rituals, uniform and daily shakhas (cells or branches).
is both an independent entity and works in and through a very wide range of political, religious, women’s, cultural, welfare, educational, students, labour, tribal, peasants, youth and other organizations using different national, regional and local names and working across a range of fields in Indian civil and political society. These national and local organizations are ‘like-minded’ and share the RSS’s ideology. The RSS presence is not immediately visible in its front organizations, but all of them are started, coordinated or run by RSS full-time propagators or volunteers, usually on loan from the RSS for such work.
is the base or foundational organization for the whole sangh parivar. The key to understanding the activities of sangh parivar organizations, whether in India or elsewhere, is the RSS, its aims and goals, and its ideology.
has always had the overriding aim to totally organize, order and strengthen ‘Hindu society’ in order to turn India into a Hindu nation-state. The various RSS statements about pseudo-secularism, minority appeasement, ‘Hindu rights’ are secondary to this one principal aim to create a ‘Hindu nation’.
works strategically, patiently, on a long-term basis and at a very deep, personal, individual and familial level in the sectors of civil society that it has identified as important uses methods for organizing, ‘strengthening’ and consolidating Hindus called sangathan. This is also central to how RSS organizations outside India carry out their work. The aim of sangathan is to bring other Hindus closer to the RSS and recruit them.
uses a very carefully created language that substitutes its narrow ideology for Hinduism, Indian nationalism, patriotism, social service, welfare, charity and religion. This includes the deception that the RSS is a cultural and not a political organization.
THE SANGH PARIVAR
The RSS has created a range of affiliated organizations in India called the ‘sangh parivar’ or the RSS ‘family’. The most important of these organizations are:
Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP – World Hindu Council), formed in 1964 by RSS activists and Madhav Golwalkar (the second RSS supreme leader). The VHP has grown tremendously since the 1980s and has both a national (Indian) and an international structure (Vishwa Hindu Parishad International / VHP Overseas). It also has a youth wing, the extremely violent Bajrang Dal, a women’s wing (the Durga Vahini), associated organizations such as the Hindu Jagran Manch (Forum for Hindu Awakening), and a variety of other service, religious and social sections. The RSS Supreme Leader is also a member of the VHP’s ‘Council of the Learned’ and executive body. The VHP has been at the absolute forefront of mass violent Hindutva movements, such as the ‘Ramjanmabhoomi’ movement to destroy the sixteenth-century Babri mosque at Ayodhya and build a Ram temple in its place, the campaign for ‘the liberation of Krishnajanmasthan’ at Mathura in which the VHP wishes to destroy mosques near a Krishna temple, the Kashi Vishwanath campaign, Varanasi, in which the VHP wants mosque buildings near a Shiva shrine to be removed, the Saraswati Bhojshala campaign, Dhar, in which the VHP wants shrines and mosques used for a joint Hindu-Muslim tradition of worship at a Saraswati shrine to be destroyed. Of the Gujarat carnage, the VHP said that it was an experiment that had to be repeated across India. The VHP and its associated organization the Hindu Jagran Manch, and the extremely violent VHP youth wing, the Bajrang Dal took the lead in the systematic attack on Christian communities in Gujarat from 1997, which reached a peak of brutality in 1998-1999.
Bajrang Dal (Hanuman’s Army)is the extremely violent and fanatical youth wing of the VHP. The Bajrang Dal works through terror and intimidation of minorities and secular opponents. It has been consistently involved and implicated in acts of violence, terror and murder, including many of the killings during the Gujarat violence in 2002. The Bajrang Dal are the shocktroops of Hindutva.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Hindu nationalist political party which currently heads a coalition government in India as part of the National Democratic Alliance. The BJP shortly after coming to power detonated nuclear devices in the Pokharan desert close to the Pakistani border, resulting in a similar response from Pakistan. The BJP is committed to the ideology of Hindutva, cultural nationalism (sanskritik rashtriyavad) and Integral Humanism (an ideology of Hindutva developed by an RSS full-time organizer called Deendayal Upadhyaya in the mid-1960s). Its slogan is ‘One Nation, One People, One Culture’ in which all citizens must consider the Hindu nation as sacred. The BJP presents a ‘moderate’ face in the figure of Atal Behari Vajpayee, the current prime minister of India and a long-term member of the RSS, as well as a militant one in the figure of L.K. Advani, deputy prime minister of India and also a long-term RSS member. The RSS decided that only its trained propagators (pracharaks) should be senior officers in BJP controlled states and in the BJP senior party hierarchy.
Rashtra Sevika Samiti, a women’s organization created in 1936 as the first RSS affiliate. It is committed to the same Hindutva ideology as the RSS, and strongly opposes feminism and secular women’s emancipation projects. It adopts the patriarchal RSS ideology of matruvat paradareshu, which essentially means that women have two roles only, mother or wife. The Hindutva women’s movement has also been violent, and encouraged violence against minority communities, especially through the hate-filled activities of Sadhvi Rithambara (VHP) and Uma Bharati (BJP, VHP). The Sevikas also have their own cell (shakha) structure, organizational hierarchy, songs, festivals and uniforms, paralleling those of the RSS.
Other major organizations affiliated to the RSS include:
Sewa Bharati – the RSS service affiliate formed in 1989
Sewa International – the international fundraising wing for RSS service projects
Bharatiya Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram (VKA) – the RSS affiliate working among adivasi (‘tribal’) populations
Vidya Bharati Akhil Bharatiya Shiksha Sansthan – the RSS educational affiliate formed in 1976
Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) – the RSS student affiliate formed in 1948 to combat left-wing influences among students and academics in the university and college sector
Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh – the RSS labour affiliate formed in 1955 to defeat ‘communist influences’ in industry
Bharatiya Kisan Sabha – the RSS farmers affiliate formed in 1979
Bharatiya Shikshan Mandal – the RSS teachers / education affiliate formed in 1969
Deendayal Research Institute (DRI) – an outfit formed in 1991 and promoting the RSS intellectual agenda, and the ideology of the Jan Sangh / RSS worker, Deendayal Upadhyaya
Bharat Vikas Parishad – an RSS affiliate formed in 1963 and working in a variety of health areas and among poor communities
 A. Rajagopal, ‘He did not leave the RSS’, Frontline, 28 January 1994.
 The Foreign Exchange of Hate: IDRF and the American funding of Hindutva, Sabrang Communications / South Asia Citizens Web, November 2002, p. 4.