There has been a widely propagated falsehood that the RSS has no ‘intellectuals’, in a public discourse that has been cornered by leftist ‘eminences’ the oeuvre of Sangh scholarship has been ignored and even suppressed. However, there is a large volume of writing that has been produced by the RSS.
Through its 94-year history, numerous books in multiple languages have been published by in-house publishing companies that have enjoyed a readership that will put the mainstream publishing numbers of bestsellers to shame. Pt Deendayal Upadhyay, an RSS pracharak and the co-founder of the Jan Sangh, the BJP’s former avatar, may be credited with the formulation of a philosophy—Integral Humanism—a uniquely indigenous thought experiment in post-Independence Bharat, a country which still wrestles with post-colonial axioms and idioms, as it secures an independent national identity.
Sunil Ambekar’s book RSS: Roadmaps for the 21st Century is a much-needed articulation which will add detail and context to the conversation about this near century-old organisation that finds itself at the centre of an evolving nation.
Ambekar’s book begins with a primer on the foundations of the Sangh and its history rooted in the ideals of its founder—Dr KB Hedgewar—a freedom fighter and former Congress worker, who believed that for India to secure and ensure its freedom, it must organise itself into a society that is self-reliant, confident of its identity and united. History had proven too many times that internal divisions had led to the enslavement of a rich civilisation and pushed it into penury and slavery.
Like Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Swami Vivekananda, Hedgewar wrestled with the awakening of a people, oppressed by a sense of inferiority that 1,000 years of foreign rule had brought on them. A psychological shift was the need of the hour, to arise and awake. Removing himself from political ambitions, Hedgewar launched the Sangh in 1925 and the rest, as they say, is history.
Since its inception, the Sangh’s multi-storeyed history has seen it evolve with a changing nation. An organisation that views itself as from and of society, its unfoldment has been chaperoned by full-time workers—pracharaks as well as swayamsevaks—from all walks of life, through a system of consultation. Even for keen Sangh observers, it is difficult to predict the shape of the organisation 10 years from now. For this, Ambekar’s book is essential reading, as it provides a clear understanding of how the organisation views itself and its role.
Contentious social issues have seen the Sangh take a progressive view, as in the case of homosexuality, when its criminalisation was thought unnecessary. This stance made headlines, but is in line with the Sangh’s belief in inclusivity, so whilst it draws the line on same-sex marriages at present, the criminalisation of a personal choice was contested. It is this calibrated and evolving approach which is in tandem with social realities that mark the Sangh’s approach to issues.
Ambekar, a full-time worker of the RSS, is someone who has internalised the ideology and workings of the organisation, hence his book provides clarity of context, history and purpose. Neither does the book shy away from addressing subjects that are often used to target the organisation. A lot is said about the RSS; in this book, the organisation speaks for itself.
Ambekar's accessible writing style and clarity of thought crystallises the present-day presence of the Sangh and is a must-read.