It has been over 75 years since the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has been working tirelessly in the North East for national integration.
Sangh Pracharaks Dadarao Parmarth, Vasantrao Oak and Krishna Paranjpe arrived in Assam on October 27, 1946, and went on to establish RSS shakhas in Guwahati, Shillong (the then capital of Assam) and Dibrugarh. Since then, lakhs of selfless RSS Pracharaks and Karyakartas have worked indefatigably in the Northeastern region, overcoming enormous challenges.
Today, 75 years after its quiet beginnings in the North East, the RSS can claim that it has successfully set the nationalist narrative in the region, which has a large Muslim and Christian population.
As per the 2011 census, Assam has a whopping 34 per cent Muslim population, while in five other North East states more than half of its population are Christians — Nagaland (87.93 per cent), Mizoram (87.16 per cent), Meghalaya (74.59 per cent), Manipur (41.29 per cent) and Arunachal Pradesh (30.26 per cent).
RSS in Tripura
The tiny Princely State of Tripura has a Hindu population of over 83 per cent. The state has a large tribal population and the RSS started its foray in Tripura by serving this community. In Tripura, the RSS started its activities in 1952 but found it hard to find its ground. The Sangh initially began its activities in Tripura through “Udbastu Sahayata Samiti” and later started shakhas in 1956. But the expansion of shakhas was not so easy.
The Sangh also started welfare works for the tribals through ‘Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram’, which started its functions in the state in 1979. Currently, the Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram runs 8 hostels and 6 ‘Khelkud Kendra’ for the tribal people of the State. In the 1980s and 1990s, there were constant threats to the Sangh Karyakartas from extremist organisations like the Tripura National Volunteers and the National Liberation Front of Tripura. This came to a head in 1998 when four RSS workers were kidnapped and killed by NLFT. Even though Tripura is an overwhelmingly Hindu State, the CPI (M) governments made it difficult for the Sangh to expand its ideology of nationalism in the state.
Tripura, with 83.40 per cent Sanatani followers, was ruled by the Communist Party for many decades. Sangh Pracharaks and Karyakartas had to overcome the hurdles caused by Left goons virtually on a daily basis. Many tireless Sangh Karyakartas sacrificed their lives to build the nation-building narrative in the State.
Despite its presence since 1956, things gradually changed only after 2014. Now Tripura has around 150 shakhas, around 60 Milan and around 60 Mandali. In addition, 200-250 schools are run in the state by RSS-affiliated organisations like ‘Sanskar Kendras’. There are hostels as well for the poor and needy students.
In 2017, when Tripura was still under the rule of Left parties, the RSS organised a mega Hindu congregation, which was addressed by Sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat ji and attended by a number of top RSS Pracharaks. Lakhs of people from more than 500 villages across Tripura and other districts of nearby northeastern states attended the event. The RSS said the mega Hindu congregation was “inspirational” and “effective in every sense”.
“The Hindu Sammelans organised in the northeastern states, especially in Tripura, were inspirational in many ways,” the Sangh said in its annual report in 2018. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad started its functioning in Tripura in 1984. Since then, the VHP is involved in organising and consolidating the Hindu society to serve and protect the Sanatan Dharma. It has been involved in many social service projects and the organisation is currently running 4 hostels for the poor and needy students.
EDUCATION AND SERVICE
Likewise, the flagship program of RSS, the ‘Ekal Vidylaya Abhiyan’ has been a transforming factor in the field of education in remote and hilly tribal areas. Started in 2001, the Ekal Abhiyan is running more than 60 Ekal Vidyalaya in the tribal areas of Tripura.
Similarly, Vidya Bharti, another frontal educational organisation of the Sangh, has made a huge impact on the rural and semi-urban educational scenario of Tripura since 1995. Vidya Bharti now runs 11 successful schools in the state. Besides all these, social awareness initiatives by various organisations affiliated with the RSS, such as Janajati Kristi Sanskriti Mancha and Reang Saranarthi Seva Kendra are working tirelessly to bridge the gaps in the society. Some of the very successful social initiatives are Sarhad Ko Pranam in 2012, Tripura Hindu Malayam 2017, and Maharaja Bir Bikram Jayanti in 2019. Pujjya Santikali Maharaj Ashram Pratistha in 2022 had a huge impact on the Hindu society and helped the Sangh gain more social support in the state.
The Sangh umbrella has expanded today in Tripura and in all other Northeastern states, with shakhas, Vivekananda schools, Balwadis, Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalayas, tuition centres, study circles, vocational training centres and a hospital.
Dr. Kanak Chaudhury, a physician from Agartala the capital city of Tripura, said, “I have always been impressed by the social welfare programmes initiated by the RSS. In my personal capacity as a doctor I always try to attend the medical camps for the poor people by Seva Bharti. These types of initiatives bridge the gap in our society.”
The journey of the RSS in Tripura was never easy in a state run by Left parties for 25 years and disturbed by extremism. Four RSS Pracharaks – Shyamal Sengupta, Dinen De, Sudhamay Datta and Subhankar Chakraborty – were abducted by NLFT extremists on August 16, 1999 from Kanchanpara in North Tripura district. The four men had gone to Kanchanpara to visit the Ratanmani Shishu Shiksha Mandir run by the Vanavasi Kalyan Ashram.
Six months later, the Pracharaks were executed in the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh by the extremist group. It was perhaps the first time in the history of independent India that innocent members of a non-political organisation were killed in a foreign country in such a manner. Even today, 22 years later, the conspiracy behind the murders is been revealed. The BJP government had constituted an SIT to reinvestigate the murders. Apart from the sacrifices of these four karyakartas, RSS workers have suffered many attacks during the Left rule.
SANGH AND THE NORTH EAST
In the 80s and 90s, the Sangh established many welfare programs, especially in education, through the Vanavasi Kalyan Ashram in the tribal-dominant States of Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Meghalaya and Mizoram. During this period, the RSS, through its affiliate organisations, began to sponsor the education of students (mainly tribal students) from the region. By the mid-90s, the RSS had strong roots in the North East states. Not only the Hindu society, Sangh institutions like the Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram and Eklavya Vidyalaya have earned appreciation even from the Christian community for their educational work.
Today the RSS, through its immensely effective social impact initiatives, especially in the education sector, has established its presence in the region and successfully implemented the theory of nation-building through person-building. Dr Susendra Barman, an educationist of the region, says that when the elected governments did not provide basic education to the tribals of far-flung hilly areas of the North East, it is the RSS which is giving them an opportunity to learn through their affiliated organisations. Giving a chance to the poor and needy to gain knowledge is the best service to mankind, Barman added.