DR Keshav Baliram Hedgewar, the founder of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh or RSS as it is known in today’s popular parlance, was not only a born burning patriot, but also a great son of Mother Bharat who descended on this material world to guide the future generations. How do we measure one’s greatness? Which are the criteria that can be applied to scale the height acquired by the visionaries like Dr Hedgewar? There may be many such criteria but the one that comes to my mind finds its mention in late Shri Dattopant Thengadi’s monumental treatise titled Karyakarta.
In that book he refers to his dialogue with some of his Communist friends in the Rajya Sabha during 1966-68. During the discussion Thengadiji’s Communist friend from Kerala posed him a teaser as to when was ‘his’ RSS founded. There intervened Shri Balchandran Menon, another Communist friend of Shri Thengadiji. He asked his Communist friend “When did Nehru die?” “In 1964”. “How popular was he at the time of his death”? Menon shot another question to him. “Well, Nehru was one of the most popular leaders of the Third World after Marshal Tito and Abdul Gamal Naser”, came the reply. Then Menon asked Thengadiji, “When did Dr Hedgewar passed away?” “In 1940”. “How popular was he then?” “Not much except in Central Provinces and some other areas”, replied Thengadiji. Then Menon asked the Communist MP as to how many people would today sacrifice their lives for the cause and ideology Nehru practiced, propagated and preached all through his life. The response was not very encouraging. The same question was posed to Thengadiji who said that there are hundreds and thousands of people who have already gladly sacrificed their comforts and even lives for the cause of Dr Hedgewar and even continue to do so with increasing numbers with each passing day. Then Menon said that the greatness of any leader can be measured by only one criteria and that is the LENGTH OF ONE’S SHADOW ON FUTURE.
Here lies the greatness of Dr Hedgewar. The organisation he founded on the Vijayadashami day in 1925 not only grew in statistical terms but it has spread to every section of the society, every nook and corner of the country encompassing all the facets of socio-economic-political and cultural life of Bharat today. And it is still growing. The recent figures tell us that the RSS has over 40,000 branches all over the country with a daily participation of over 30 lakh swayamsevaks! The devoted, dedicated and compassionate swayamsevaks are running a whopping 157,000 service projects in urban, rural and remote inaccessible areas of the country and serving the Hindu society.
Not only this, the organisation has spread to over 40 countries outside Bharat. There is an e-shakha being run from Finland where swayamsevaks from 26 countries participate. The colossal growth of RSS has surprised many, some perceiving it as threat to their politics of power; some taking it dead against the Muslims and Christians; the media both print and electronic do not get tired of projecting the RSS as a militant, anti-minorities and even involved in terror activities in the recent past. But in spite of this there are millions others who look at RSS and think of it as a live force of patriotic, devoted and dedicated nationalists and a fountainhead of national renaissance.
What is the secret of this monumental growth and strength of RSS? What is the source of inspiration to hundreds and of thousands of its dedicated swayamsevaks who sacrifice everything mundane at the altar of the motherland and plunge themselves in the service of the society?
That one and only one perennial source of inspiration is none other than the sterling life of Dr Keshav Baliram Hedgewar himself! He was the very personification of his mission of uniting the Hindu society dissolving all its differences of caste, creed, religion, language and regional aspirations by inculcating the strong nationalist, common civil character in it. He lived every breath of his life for the Sangh and its growth till he breathed last on June 21, 1940 at Nagpur. In that short span of 15 years, Dr Hedgewar could succeed in taking the RSS to an all-Bharat level which he acknowledged in his last discourse before the participants of the 1940 Third Year Officers’ Training Camp (OTC) at Nagpur.
The birth of RSS
The birth of RSS was a very important event that took place in Nagpur. It was founded between the two prominent non-cooperation and non-violent movements launched by the Congress under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi in 1921 and 1931. The tiny seed of a huge and mighty banyan tree was planted silently by Dr Hedgewar to fulfill the mission and vision of a great nation. Today the dimensions, importance and expanse the RSS has acquired made it the number one organisation in the world. It has attracted the attention of the scholars world over and just to cite an example, there are as many as over 500 scholars doing their PhDs on different aspects of RSS in foreign universities!
Dr Hedgewar had wide ranging contacts with people from each stratum of the society. He was ajatshatru i.e. he never had any enemy. Now being in the social and political life not having an enemy was something difficult in days where talks of ‘enemy no, 1’, ‘rivals’ are in the vogue in democratic system. Even a certain kind of political untouchability has come to stay in modern, democratic, secular Bharat. But Dr Hedgewar was of a different kind of leader. When the RSS was established and grew some more in strength, the expectations from his contacts in various circles of social life also grew. They wanted RSS to help them in their cause. Dr Hedgewar had the organisation and his friends had expectations from him and his RSS. He must have been pulled in different directions. But with great presence of mind and fortitude he steered RSS clear of all such situations, because Dr Hedgewar was in the driver’s seat of RSS and knew pretty well how to run the organisation and lead it to the final goal. Ironically, those who claimed to be very close to Dr Hedgewar could not understand him or his mission.
Today, even after seven decades of his passing away from this world, and the RSS touching almost each and every aspect of national, social, political and cultural life of Bharat, not many people have the complete idea of the exact mission and vision of the RSS and its founder. It is not easy to explain either. It is a matter to feel and understand and experience how the petals of a lotus flower unfold themselves with the rising Sun, it cannot be explained in words. It is to be seen to be believed. So is the case with the RSS. The multi-dimensional mission of National Reconstruction called RSS gradually. It unfolded itself with each passing day which can be experienced only by the individuals.
The mission called RSS
Former Sarkaryavah of RSS late Shri HV Seshadriji in his RSS: A Vision in Action describes the mission of RSS in very apt words. “RSS is a mission in which the best and the noblest of all that is in our nation is involved. It is the mission handed down from generations by all the greatest of our nation-builders. It is in short, a mission nearest to the heart of every lover of our country and its culture, who would like to see Her once again adorned as the mother of all nations.”
Dr Hedgewar himself had said: “Ours is the mission to organise the entire Hindu society. No section of it, can we afford to neglect. However, high or low an individual may consider himself to be, our regard for every Hindu shall always be equally full of love and affection. To despise any Hindu as low is a nothing short of a sin.”
The RSS shakha has proved the best model for achieving this unity of Hindu society. The usual scene of a shakha is a gathering of young and grown ups in an open ground, where they play different games, sing a song infusing nationalist attitudes, listen to a story with moral and pray in front of the Bhagwa Dhwaj. This simple looking technique has the potentiality to make the Hindu society forget all its internal differences and unite to take the motherland to the highest pinnacle of glory! Former Sarsanghachalak of RSS late Shri Balasaheb Deoras, who was ‘right hand’ of Dr Hedgewar described this phenomenon called shakha in these words: “The RSS shakha is not just a place to play games or parade, but an unsaid promise of the protection of the good citizenry, an acculturation forum to keep the young away from undesirable addictions; it is a center of hope, for rapid action and undemanding help in case of emergencies and crisis that affect the people. It is a guarantee of the unafraid movement of women and powerful deterrent to the indecent behaviour towards them; also a powerful threat to the brutal and anti-national forces. But the most important aspect is, it is an university for training the appropriate workers to be made available for the requirements of various fields of life of the nation. And the medium to achieve all this is the games we play on the grounds of RSS shakha.”
Today we as a society and a nation are passing through turbulent times. Even the RSS is feeling the pinch of opposition to its strength and power it wields from the opponents. There is a growing demand for men with sterling, unblemished character to set on the right course the various spheres of our national and social life and all such elements are looking at RSS with great hope, nay, it is their only hope. The ideology of positive, all-encompassing, all-inclusive Hindutva or more precisely Hinduness, as evolved, developed and preached by Dr Hedgewar will alone steer clear the Bharateeya society through all these present turbulences and tides. He conceived, perceived and envisioned RSS as an organisation of the future Bharat. And the present happenings prove beyond doubt how correct was his diagnosis! What is needed is the firm, unshakable faith in the mantra and tantra Dr Hedgewar gave to Bharat in the form of RSS. This is the only way. There is no other way that exists as parallel and equally effective to replace the RSS as of today and there lies the futuristic vision of Dr Hedgewar.