Doctor Keshav Baliram Hedgewar, after finishing his medical degree at the National Medical College in June 1914, completed a yearlong apprenticeship and returned to Nagpur as a physician in 1915. But his thoughts did not wander in the direction of the practice and earning a living. He desired to diagnose and cure the disease that had afflicted the nation, and with this goal in mind, he dedicated his life to Motherland’s altar.
Following an in-depth examination of our history, he concluded that a lack of patriotic feelings and disunity among Hindus was the cause of our defeat at the hands of foreign invaders and enslavement under foreign rule. As a result, he decided to establish a one-of-a-kind organisation to address the issues. He vowed to remain single and devote his life and energy to the noble cause.
On Vijayadashami, September 27, 1925, he established the “Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh” for this purpose.
Dr Hedgewar envisioned Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) as a separate organisation of selfless workers known as Swayamsevaks. For them, service to society is a 24-hour job, and no area is unaffected by the Sangh workers. The organisation is not interested in raising funds, and the ‘Swayamsevaks’ contributions cover its expenses. The members meet in the Sakha daily, saluting the vibrant flag, discussing issues intellectually, and doing physical exercises. RSS workers are distinguished by their purity of heart, readiness to serve the societal cause at any time, and selfless service.
The Sangh’s activities continued to expand steadily. Doctorji was always on the go. His mode of propagation was also unique. He showed little interest in publicity in an age when it was supposed to be the lifeblood of any movement. Doctorji followed Rabindranath Tagore’s dictum: “Let us remain anonymous until we achieve something substantial: let us be in the background and away from the spotlight”. Doctorji agreed with Tagore’s assessment of a serious social flaw in our society: However, the mental makeup of our people is not conducive to such withdrawal.
Doctorji’s main goal was to shape each Swayamsevak’s personal and national character. His strong leadership, perseverance, commitment, and ongoing engagement with Swayamsevaks helped develop many Swayamsevaks for the national cause. He wanted everyone to be free of caste, regional, and linguistic discrimination. One such example is given below. Doctorji began training a few Swayamsevaks to go on study tours to various provinces and organise the movement there.
The Swayamsevaks required familiarity with the new area’s language and the ability to adapt to the atmosphere of those places. Doctorji insisted on Swayamsevaks learning Telugu, Hindi, Bengali, and other languages. The fact that Nagpur spoke both Hindi and Marathi was advantageous.
Doctorji first used Hindi in the Nagpur Shakha. He sent some people to spread the Sangh’s activities in the Mahakoshal sector. When a Swayamsevak expressed a desire to visit a Marathi area, Doctorji would tell him, “How can you sit in your own zone if you don’t know other languages? Start working in a new location. The language will become second nature to you. Is it possible to learn to swim without ever entering the water?”
Dr Hedgewar only lived for 15 years after founding RSS, but he inspired the Swayamsevaks to work with nationalistic zeal till the goal was achieved. His words of “not bowing down to hardships, not caring for the criticism but to answer the opponents through their service” are followed by the RSS members. During his lifetime, great national figures such as Mahatma Gandhi and Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose visited RSS camps and praised establishing such a great organisation. Dr B R Ambedkar was surprised to see people working for the cause of the RSS and the nation, and he admired the cadre who worked without any caste discrimination.
Dr Hedgewar ji was an excellent organiser. This is undeniably true, as the evolution of the organisation he founded demonstrates, and the organisation has never looked back. And today, the RSS is the world’s largest disciplined socio-cultural organisation, not just in India.
However, if contemporary observers want to compare the Sangh with a contemporaneous organisation, they can do so with the Communist Party (CPI) because these are two contemporary organisations. However, the parallel ends there. After 98 years, the RSS has reached its pinnacle of glory, leaving other modern organisations far behind in history. Dr Hedgewar founded the RSS on the auspicious day of Vijayadashmi in 1925 in Nagpur, and Lenin founded the CPI on October 17, 1920, in Tashkent. Compared to Sangh, the CPI was only five years old then. Lenin, a world-renowned personality whose influence was felt worldwide, founded the CPI.
On the other hand, Dr Hedgewar, the RSS’s founder, was virtually unknown outside of Nagpur. At the time, he was just a name in the province of his work. In the case of the CPI, the strength of organisational skills was widely recognised, whereas the RSS’s identity as a promoter still needed to be recognised. Within five years of its founding, on December 25, 1925, the CPI held its all-India convention in Kanpur, attended by thousands of delegates, bringing the CPI to National prominence.
The Sangh, on the other hand, had yet to achieve fame. Forget about the country; it still needed to gain traction in the Vidarbha province, Nagpur, where it was founded, or its surrounding regions. The Sangh was only known in two or three Nagpur neighbourhoods. Even in these areas, the RSS was regarded as one of the many akharas operating in Nagpur. The Sangh shakhas, founded by Dr Hedgewar, were also counted among such akharas, hardly making a difference in the scheme of things.
The first Prime Minister of independent India referred to himself as an accidental Hindu. One can imagine how difficult it would have been to instil self-esteem and keep the organisation running in such a situation. In comparison, the celebrated Communist Party split into two and then many factions. The ideology was deemed archaic and untenable as a political and social model. It was abandoned in its home country, and other countries with political regimes influenced by Communist ideology abandoned it in favour of different socio-political approaches.
One divine soul’s vision is restoring the nation’s glory and uniting all Hindus so that no country would dare rule us. RSS continues his non-stop fight and works for the “Swa” of Bharat, as seen at the Akhil Bharatiya Pratinidhi Sabha (ABPS) meeting this year. Doctorji’s seed has grown into a massive tree that helps and works for people from all walks of life.
Over 68000 Shakhas work in various countries, 36 large organisations, millions of Swayamsevaks, and numerous seva projects. The journey to becoming “Vishwaguru” is in the right direction.