Parochial forces are active in using the discriminations and inequalities to further widen the differences. This is a challenge. Our experience is that such inequalities are reduced in the areas wherever Sangh work is effectively percolated
It was difficult to fetch time of 69 year old Sarkaryavah (General Secretary) of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) Shri Suresh Joshi, who is popularly known as Bhayyaji Joshi in public life, thanks to continuous travel throughout the country as per the annual schedule fixed in advance. Besides this, he has to attend many public programmes also. Still, he agreed to speak to Organiser and Panchjanya considering the planning of Collector’s Edition on the 90 years journey of RSS. On October 9, he was supposed to participate in the release function of Complete Works of Deendayal Upadhyaya for which he came to Delhi on October 8 itself. The Group Editor, Jagdish Upasane along with Prafulla Ketkar, Editor Organiser and Hitesh Shankar, Editor Panchjanya spoke to him in a small room of Deendayal Research Institute, where he was staying. Bhayyaji spoke from the initial efforts for the formation of Sangh to growing wider and perpetual acceptance in the society. He also replied frankly on the issues of allegations and misperceptions. Excerpts:
How do you see this 90 years journey of the Sangh? What is the biggest contribution by Sangh to the national life in all these years?
When this work was initiated the idea was clear that what is to be done for the Hindu society, with the Hindu society and on the basis of strength of the Hindu society. A simple but effective functioning was started, which even a common man can follow. Get together in a ground to play, sing and chat. No brainstorming, nothing intellectual, just simple programmes, which common individual would undertake.
I would like to mention three things about the contribution of the Sangh. Firstly, Sangh is successful in inculcating the feeling of ‘this is my nation’ among common masses from Kashmir to Kanyakumari. Secondly, a confidence was built that even common person can initiate something constructive in the society. Thirdly, from the beginning itself the Sangh stated that we are well aware of the problems (our society is facing). Therefore, we do not want people, who are there to create problems. Sangh system has been generating such individuals who have taken initiatives to solve the problems.
The daily Shakha system is the original thought of RSS or was borrowed from some experiments anywhere in the world?
There was no such experiment anywhere in the world. Swami Vivekananda had said that small centres of social awakening should be created. He also said that I can see such initiative coming from central part of Bharat. So there was a influence of his thought. Sangh work has been going on in this direction in some or the other way. Therefore, Dr Hedgewar clearly said that “I am not doing anything new”. That is how he connected the Sangh work to the incessant efforts going on for thousands of years. With the objective of reaching wherever there is Hindu, Sangh started marching from Nagpur.
In this journey of 90 years, many hindrances were created; still Sangh continued its march. How was this possible?
This journey has certain phases. In the first phase from 1925 to 1940, it was proved that Hindu society can be organised. By 1948 Sangh was an emerging force in social life. The kind of atmosphere we had in the pre-Independence period, Sangh was the only organisation that could give confidence to Hindus. Most of the political leaders were busy in their own concerns. I consider 1948 to 1977 as the next phase. This phase is important for three reasons. Firstly, the RSS work reached to all provinces and districts of the nation. Secondly, the organisational functioning was fully evolved. Thirdly, the ideological foundation of the Sangh became clearer, giving answer to the question ultimately why there is the Sangh. Pujya Shri Guruji was the Sarsanghachalak till 1973, his contribution was biggest in this regard.
After 1975, there is a phase of initiating the process of social transformation. Whether it was Sri Ram Janmabhoomi Movement in which social strength was manifested, or taking forward the subject of Samajik Samarasata, the process which was started in 1969 itself in Udupi, where all sects unanimously said that the core reason for social problems is discrimination, which should be eliminated. After Emergency, functional dimensions of this issue were explored. The Sangh work was doubled after 1977 and the process of finding solutions to many problems was also initiated.
1990, the birth centenary celebration of Dr Hedgewar was next important step. The feelings of Sangh swayamsevaks towards the society should be manifested and that should be in the form of service projects. Then we started venturing into other fields also. When this process got momentum after 1990, new departments such as Sewa (Service), Prachar (Media Relations), Sampark (Public Relations), Dharma Jagaran Samanvay (Faith awakening and integration), etc were added to the functioning. In the next phase from 2006-07, which was celebrated as the birth centenary year of Shri Guruji, Sangh approached all possible sections of the society. Caste is generally considered as a complex issue. We realised that to take along the leadership of these caste groups in the process of social transformation we have to explore new steps. This process got impetus after 2006. Samajik Sadbhavana (Social Harmony) conventions were called. Thus, Sangh evolved with the time in these 90 years.
The RSS was banned couple of times. Thousands of activists were put in jail, still Sangh continued growing. What is the secret behind this?
One reason is the informal functioning of the Sangh. For us the system (structure of functioning) is important, but the Sangh work is not dependent on this structure. There is an informality in it, natural human interactions in it; the process of communicating with the larger society is involved in it. There were efforts to scuttle the structures, but the strength of Sangh work lies in informal functioning. If there is any special identity of the Sangh then it is this informality. So when the bans were imposed, Shakhas stoped functioning, but informal interactions did not stop. The result was as soon as the ban was lifted, the Shakhas started functioning. Secondly, dedicated karyakartas (activists) are our strength who keep working without considering personal gains or losses. Sangh has travelled through the period of upheavals due to the dedication of these karyakartas. Thirdly and most importantly, despite all kind of storms we did not compromise our fundamental ideological commitment. Therefore, Sangh is growing incessantly.
In 1925, national Independence was the prime objective of the Sangh. How this objective was redefined after Independence?
During the Independence Movement itself, this (RSS) type of work was haunting Dr Hedgewar’s mind. The root of present day problems lies in the mindset of the Hindu Society and not merely the colonial slavery was the basic premise on which this process started. For him, colonial rule was just an external manifestation of this mindset. But internally society is struggling with many problems. Therefore, unless we treat the root cause of this disease, our national problems cannot be cured. British would go and someone else would invade. If societal power is awakened then we can fight with the external aggression. Once Doctor (Hedgewar) ji said “what is our objective? No one should be able to frown towards the Hindu society with sinister motive.” Raising such strength was a fundamental thinking for which Independence was the precondition. When such situation arises, it is sure that the Sangh will not exist. There would be no need of Sangh. We clearly see that even after Independence, problems are not resolved because the society was not awakened to deal with these problems. Today we can say that process of coming out of problems has started.
Can we say that Sangh is truly a movement to bring all Bharatiyas together?
We often talk of Hindu organisation but the expectation is that the entire society should be awakened. The first phase is to strengthen everyone who considers himself/herself a Hindu. Sangh has never tried to define who is a Hindu. Balasaheb (Deoras) once defined Hindu as “whoever calls himself/herself a Hindu”. There is not better definition. The name Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh also suggests that Hindu and Rashtra are not separate from each other but one. The life of Hindu society is the life of this nation. Therefore, working for the Hindu society is working for the nation. Doctor (Hedgewar) said the same thing in simple and beautiful words that “unless and until there is even a single Hindu exists on this earth, Hindu Rashtra will exist.” Hindu Rashtra is not dependent on numerical strength. We need to give a right perspective to it to take it forward in the right direction. We do not want to create any confusion or delusion about these words. We are only saying that we will work first among Hindus. This is ultimately a work of organising the entire society, that is right and going on in the right direction.
Even Gandhiji speaks about the eternal Bharatiya thinking and life values such as Swadharma, Swaraj, Swadeshi and Gram Swaraj, Gau-Raksha, Spirituality, Integrity, Character building. Sangh also works on the same lines. Then why is the Sangh allegedly considered to be the opponent of Gandhiji’s thought? Even Sangh is alleged for Gandhi’s assassination?
If we want to take one name that is deeply attached to the independence movement then it is of Mahatma Gandhiji. Till we attained Independence in 1947, it was under Gandhiji’s leadership. Some people who consider themselves as the followers of Gandhiji claim that Gandhiji is theirs. We say that Gandhiji is of the entire nation. He had also said that the forum (Congress) that was created with the objective of attaining Independence from the British rule, is not needed now. But the people with certain political orientation knew that their future is connected with this name. They did not listen to Gandhiji. Later he was, unfortunately, assassinated.
There can be disagreement with Gandhiji’s some political thoughts but Sangh did not have any differences with his thoughts pertaining to nation, society and Bharatiya philosophy. But people who wanted to weaken this emerging force (of RSS), got the opportunity with Gandhiji’s assassination and they put the allegation on Sangh. For them, RSS was a political threat to their future and therefore, it had to be eliminated at any cost. Common people had very high regards for Gandhiji. So this allegation has repeatedly been made. Till date all such efforts have failed. Whoever made such allegations had to withdraw it after reaction. We are confident that no one can defeat us using this issue on legal or any other parameters. We have come forward honestly. There is no way one can prove this falsehood that Sangh was behind the Gandhi assassination.
Do you think that still there are many misperceptions about Sangh and many of these confusions are to be cleared?
Certainly! Some of them are created by our opponents, some are due to the nature of our work. I understand that as we are growing – we are reaching to the rural areas, slum areas, different castes and communities of the societies, among Scheduled-Castes and Scheduled Tribes; our service projects are also reaching to them through various means, all this is clearing whatever confusions people have in their minds. Some more will be cleared over a period of time.
Many things are written about the political role of Sangh after the Emergency. There was a
discussion on the role of RSS during 2014 General Elections too. Does the Sangh have any political power or Sangh sees itself as a moral gatekeeper?
The reality is, attempts of creating political image of the Sangh had been started in 1948 itself. Our democratic life was under threat during 1975-77 and protecting democracy was everyone’s duty. Therefore, Sangh mobilised all its power through the Lok Sangharsh Samiti to save our democracy. Resultantly, democracy was restored. If Sangh really wanted to influence the political power of that time the strength of RSS was certainly enough to charter the political process. People would have accepted what the Sangh would say. But as soon as the 1977 General Elections were over, Sangh said now our role was over and the people who had to steer the political power of the nation should sit together and take the decision with mutual consultation.
Leadership of two extraordinary personalities were tested on that occasion. One was Jayaprakash Narayan who separated himself from the movement and Janata Party after the victory of 1977 and the other was Balasaheb Deoras who asked Swayamsevaks to get back to the basic work immediately after the election results. How can Sangh stay away from the process in which entire society is affected? Sangh will stand with the society and march with the society. In the future also, whenever movements take place for social awakening and social interests, it is impossible for the Sangh Swayamsevaks to stay away from it. We are part and parcel of these type of movements.
After 2005, many efforts were made to strengthen Shakha centric work and to reach out to various sections of the society. Is it because the number of shakhas were declining or for some other
No. Sangh work is the unfolding work and in such work very long term plans are not possible. Sangh did not prepare any blue print. We do whatever is necessary as per the need of the hour and we will continue to do so. If we have to take entire society along, then there are social and religious leaders of different sections too. All caste groups, associations, Maths, sects and religions, all of them connected to the Hindu society in some or the other way. So, we try to connect with all the powers who are influencing society through various means. Sangh Shakha is Man-Making work, karyakartas are being made there. Entire society may not be able to join that process. I am deliberately using the word process. Therefore, many people feel that Sangh has changed the strategy. Our core work and thinking remain the same.
Pracharak system is a unique initiative of the Sangh. It is also the axis of entire Sangh system. With the changing circumstances, do you feel that this axis will remain the same in the future?
I have been through the first phase of Sangh. In the initial 20-25 years, work expansion was the main task. The Pracharaks who left their homes for Sangh were the axis of this work in all sense. But Sangh never considers Pracharaks as the axis of the Sangh work. Our entire effort is to make Grihastha (family) Karyakartas the main pillars of our work. Today, thousands of families are taking forward this work. The number of Pracharaks is very less in comparison to the Grihastha Karyakartas. The role of Pracharak is limited to maintain dialogue, contacts and communication. Pracharak is not only meant to get new people to the Shakha but he is supposed to take everyone together and walk along with them. This role will not end. This is a wonderful system. We say that Pracharak should be there, but should not be visible. Like we know that electricity flows through wires, but cannot be seen, Pracharak is the internal flow of similar energy.
What has Sangh been thinking on the backward classes and minorities in the last 90 years? Is there any change in it from time to time?
Frankly speaking, we do not agree with both the terms. We do not consider any group in our society as backward. Yes, some sections are weak. Such sections should be provided with strength and they should be made strong. There minimal needs should be fulfilled. They should be able to live with dignity. With this thinking, from the beginning itself, Sangh has always considered the so-called backwards as ours, worked among them and strived to make their life better with their own abilities.
We do not accept the term ‘minority’ as well. Majority-minority is the division created by political people. This should be seen as another ploy to create divisions in the society. Our Constitution says, “We the People of India”. Then where is the question of someone being minority? Whoever considers this nation as his nation, whoever believes in the Constitution, is the part of this nation.
When the geographical and citizenship boundaries are getting blurred in the era of Globalisation, how relevant is the call of Hindutva given by Sangh?
Hindutva is not a geographical concept. This is a cultural term. Follower of any way of worship can consider himself to be a Hindu. Hindutva is a life style, it is a way of life. Whoever believes in this lifestyle is a Hindu. Whoever wants to follow globalisation in real sense will have to accept this term. Hindu can never be parochial. This way of life keeps the entire gamut of human feelings and emotions at the centre. This Hindu lifestyle tomorrow can be applicable to America or Pakistan also as it is not bound by any rituals. These are basically moral principles. They are universal. Are they different for everyone? There is no word called ‘self-dependent’ in the Hindu thinking, there is always consideration of ‘interdependence’. It is difficult for any group to fulfil all its needs on its own. Therefore, cooperation from others is must. If this is the pure meaning of globalisation then it is more than welcome. But if someone tried to establish imperialist concepts in the name of globalisation, if decentralised models are thrashed to create a centralised systems, then we oppose it.
Sangh inspired organisations are also growing day-by-day. In such situations, how does Sangh handle the issues of communication and coordination?
All these works or organisations you are talking about are based on one goal, one thinking. No questions have ever been raised about that goal. Yes, some coordination has to be established for reaching towards that goal as methods and priorities of each field are different. Coordination means, walking from all direction but in the same direction. If we start from the periphery of the society, we will reach to the centre. The centre is same, so all will reach to the same place. For us that centre is ‘Param Vaibhavam Netum Etat Swarashtram’ (Let us take this nation to pinnacle of glory). I always say that entry points are different but people chose them as per their interests and choices. When he/she will reach the centre, one will realise where he/she has reached. Like on a train, everyone gets in as per their financial ability or need. Some will travel in first class, the other will travel in Second AC. Then sleeper and even if that is not possible in general compartment of the train. But train is going to travel in the same direction and it will take you to the same destination, whichever compartment you get in. (with a big smile) Now people wrangle over compartments….!
It is said that the remote control of BJP is with the Sangh. How would you define the RSS-BJP relationship?
In the present political scenario, I see all political parties in three categories. First type is of regional parties, who encourage regionalism. The second type is of power centric parties, for whom political power is the only objective. There is another group which has ideological orientation, but their basic thinking is contradictory to the Bharatiya life and Hindu thinking. All of them have opposed the Sangh and the Hindu thinking. How can a swayamsevak go with them? Sangh swayamsevak obviously goes with the political force, which is close to his thinking. In today’s circumstances, BJP’s ideology is in tune with that thinking therefore swayamsevaks naturally stand with the BJP. But there is no restriction on the swayamsevaks to be with the BJP. As a responsible organisation, it is our duty to express our opinion on all important issues, questions, pertaining to our society. People can consider it a remote control or anything else, we believe in articulating our opinion on larger national issues in clear terms. And we will continue to do so.
There is a growing tension in society on the issues of discrimination and inequalities. What is the plan of Sangh to deal with this problem?
Sangh is born precisely for this. The path we have charted is unconventional. Instead of discussing discrimination and differences or inequalities, we said, we all are Hindus. Hindu is the word, which can eradicate these discriminations and inequalities. But parochial forces are also active in using these discriminations and inequalities to further widen the differences. This is a challenge before us. Our experience is that such inequalities are reduced in the areas wherever Sangh work is effectively percolated. Whichever caste or community we belong to, our roots are Hindu. From wherever our name, language, Gods, scriptures, pilgrimage, national personalities, etc have come that original source is Hindu. The more we remember this, the easier will be solutions to these problems.
On one hand there is growing acceptance of the Sangh, on the other consistent efforts are going on in a section of media and intellectuals to create confusion about the Sangh. How is Sangh going to deal with this?
We do not think much about this. These efforts have been going on since Sangh was nothing. Despite that Sangh has grown. Yes, we definitely try to clear these doubts. A section of the media is losing its credibility very fast due to this strategy of creating misperceptions and this is also a problem for ordinary people. This is great danger for any society that believes in civilised and democratic life. Ultimately, these mischievous forces can be dealt only with the pressure from people. To restore the credibility of media is an important responsibility the swayamsevaks working in the field of media have to shoulder.
How far the Sangh is satisfied about this journey of 90 years? How do you see the future of organisation in terms of speed and overall picture?
We are not satisfied, but certainly not disappointed also. We could not work as per the demand of the society and time. But the way we started our work in the adverse condition, we have certainly achieved a lot. Therefore, we are not disappointed. However, a long journey is yet to be covered, gigantic goal is to be attained. On the basis of my experience in the last 6-7 years, I can assure you that we have picked up a high speed in higher direction. Not only Sangh itself but the Sangh thinking is widely accepted in the society. And our point of view is gaining acceptance outside Bharat also. We are dissatisfied that our organisational strength has not increased as per the expectations and we are constantly working for the same. There is a conducive atmosphere, but it is useful only if we channelise our energy for the actual work.
The work is growing, still it is said that orders are coming from Nagpur…?
When people say what Nagpur is saying then generally it means what Sangh is saying. These words have become synonymous. Instead of order, I would say suggestion. When Balasaheb was addressing a press conference in Delhi immediately after assuming the responsibility of Sarsanghchalak, a journalist asked him, “We observe that Sangh is being dominated by Maharashtra?” Balasaheb instantly replied, “Your information is wrong. Sangh is dominated by Nagpur and not by Maharashtra (with a big smile), as more than 50 per cept of national level office bearers are from Nagpur.” The journalist was shocked. Later, Balasaheb said, “You only tell me, can such a vast organisation be controlled from one place? There are karyakartas all over Bharat, and we collectively work together.”
In such a long journey, some people must be feeling neglected, some must be dissatisfied. How do you take care of them?
This is a natural process. There is limitation in everyone’s nature. Generation gap is another issue. There is nothing wrong in this. Many a times the individual himself cuts him off from the main work, then obviously he loses the natural touch. When I go to meet some old people – they complain that, see I even do not know who the present District Pracharak is. I generally reply, did you go and enquire about him in the local RSS office? I was a District Pracharak when you were active, therefore, I visit your place. Now the present District Pracharak does not come to you, but visits many other places of his contacts. Wherever people understand this, there are less problems. Still, I feel that this is a miniscule problem. (Laughingly) And if that much is not there then what will we do?