India's minorities need to stop fearing RSS

The Sangh Parivar has been a subject of probably greater distortion than any other group in the country.

 |  4-minute read |   29-01-2016
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In 1988, my Ayurvedic teacher in Mumbai introduced me to a Hindu social organisation that he was involved with. This was my first contact with RSS. My teacher was one of the most kind and honest individuals I had met, as well as an insightful thinker in regard to medicine, history and spirituality.

I learned about RSS literature and read Guruji Golwalker's Bunch of Thoughts. Having a background in Vedanta from Swami Vivekananda and Sri Aurobindo, I found Golwalkar's work to provide a cogent view of India and reflect a similar inspiration. Fortunately I discovered RSS before encountering the massive propaganda against it. So when I began to read anti-RSS statements in the media, I could not naively believe these.

The RSS has been a subject of probably greater distortion than any other group in India. It has been falsely accused, maligned and misrepresented in a way that is inaccurate and dishonest, motivated by electoral politics, and reflecting anti-Hindu biases.

Demonisation of RSS has been a prime political imperative of both Congress and the communists in India for decades. Though the charge of RSS having killed Mahatma Gandhi was refuted and thrown out in court, it remains stated as fact by politicians who know better, hoping to arouse uncritical emotion from it.

Nature of RSS

RSS, contrary to certain media stereotypes, is nothing like a paramilitary organisation, but a many-sided service group. It is likely the largest volunteer service organisation in the world. RSS is not an extremist religious group either, another propaganda item against it.

Like others who honor Hindu thought, RSS has a pluralistic view of religion and accepts the existence of many paths to God or truth - a view more liberal than the Catholic Church today. Yet it does criticise conversion efforts, reflecting Swami Dayananda's statement that "conversion is violence".

RSS is not a monolithic organisation but a set of numerous affiliated groups with sometimes differing points of view. These RSS offshoots or Sangh Parivar include prominent associations relative to farmers, labor unions, students, women, numerous schools, yoga and religious groups, and various think tanks, with service work for children, the poor, backward classes, and tribals. RSS services reach millions of Indians who would otherwise be neglected. Were even a small portion of this work performed by foreign NGOs, they would be highly praised for it.

Gandhian life-styles

Over the years I met several RSS groups and came to know KS Sudarshan, the previous head of the organisation. Sudarshanji was gentle, kind and soft-spoken, concerned with nature and the poor, hardly the fiery radical portrayed in the media. The same is true of other RSS leaders. RSS continues a Gandhian emphasis on the villages and common people, rather than the urban elite. It emphasises an austere way of life, not seeking personal fame, money or power.

The association of RSS with BJP and its political aspirations has caused the main criticism against the organisation. BJP has many former RSS workers in its ranks, extending to the Prime Minister Narendra Modi. However, bringing simplicity and karma yoga into the political realm, such as RSS values promote, is a good idea, particularly given the corruption and nepotism rampant in Indian politics.

RSS media management

RSS does appear to lack skills in media management, particularly with English language groups. Yet we must remember that the leftist dominated media rarely affords an unbiased forum for RSS to express its views. RSS has similarly been criticised as anti-intellectual, but this is largely relative to English language intellectuals in India alienated from their own heritage. RSS has a number of profound thinkers, particularly in traditional circles and regional languages. RSS has embraced great thinkers of modern India from Vivekananda and Aurobindo, to Chinmayananda and Dayananda, who leftist intellectuals also prefer to ignore.

RSS has often not always afforded adequate space or prominence to the youth and can appear to be trapped in the past. But this situation is changing, including a new sense of entrepreneurship and learning to work with the social media.

RSS has a genuine sense of service for humanity and will not deny help to anyone because of religious identity or social background. RSS is not anti-minority but pro-India. Yet it recognises India's Bharatiya roots going back many centuries. One certainly need not agree with the organisation on all points, but an honest review of RSS activities shows a great contribution in many fields.

There are many helpful social movements within Hindu society, but reform movements outside of Hindu society - and often against it -unfortunately command more attention and respect. The very fact that RSS organises Hindu society and asks it to be proud of its own heritage is enough to threaten leftist/Marxist groups that continue the divide and rule strategy of the British.


David Frawley David Frawley @davidfrawleyved

The writer is the director of the American Institute of Vedic Studies and the author of more than 30 books on yoga and vedic traditions.

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