Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh,  RSS is an Indian right-wingHindu nationalist,paramilitary volunteer organisation that is widely regarded as the parent organisation of the ruling party of India, the Bharatiya Janata Party. The RSS is one of the principal organizations of the Sangh Parivar group.

Founded on 27 September 1925, the organisation is the world’s largest voluntary missionary organization and claims a commitment of selfless service to India.The initial impetus was to provide character training through Hindu discipline and to unite the Hindu community to form a Hindu Rashtra (Hindu nation). The organisation carries the ideal of upholdingIndian culture and civilizational values. It drew initial inspiration from European right-wing groups during World War II. Gradually RSS grew into a prominent Hindu nationalist umbrella organisation, spawning several affiliated organisations that established numerous schools, charities and clubs to spread its ideological beliefs.

The RSS was banned once during British rule, and then thrice by the post-independence Indian government – first in 1948 when a former RSS memberassassinated Mahatma Gandhi; then during the emergency (1975–77); and for a third time after the demolition of Babri Masjidin 1992.

RSS was founded in 1925 by Keshav Baliram Hedgewar, a doctor in the city of Nagpur, British India. He had been charged with sedition in 1921 by the British Administration and was imprisoned for one year.

Since Hedgewar was primarily associated with the Hindustan Republican Association, he adopted the full constitution of erstwhile HRA and implemented it forcibly in his newly established organisation RSS later on. The RSS first met in 1925 just after two months of Kakori train robbery in a small ground of Nagpur with 5-6 persons on Vijaya Dashami.After the formation of the RSS, Hedgewar kept the organisation away from having any direct affiliation to any of the political organisations then fighting British rule. But Hedgewar and his team of volunteers, took part in the Indian National Congress, led movements against the British rule. Hedgewar was arrested in the JungleSatyagraha agitation in 1931 and served a second term in prison.

World War II

During World War II RSS leaders openly admired Adolf HitlerMadhav Sadashiv Golwalkar, who became the supreme leader of the RSS after Hedgewar, drew inspiration from Adolf Hitler’s ideology of race purity.RSS leaders were supportive of the Jewish State of Israel, including Savarkar himself, who supported Israel during its formation.Golwalkar admired Jews for maintaining their “religion, culture and language”.

Indian Independence Movement

The RSS, which portrays itself as a social movement, stayed away from the Indian independence movement and did not engage in any form of resistance against the colonial British Government. It also rejected Gandhi’s willingness to cooperate with the Muslims.

After founding the organisation, K.B. Hedgewar started the tradition of keeping the RSS away from the Indian Independence movement. Any political activity that could be construed as being anti-British was carefully avoided. According to the RSS biographer C. P. Bhishikar, Hedgewar only talked about Hindu organisation avoiding any direct comment on the Government. The “Independence Day” announced by the Indian National Congress for 26 January 1930 was celebrated by the RSS only that year and subsequently avoided. The Tricolor of the Indian national movement was shunned. Hedgewar personally participated in the ‘Satyagraha’ launched by Gandhi in April 1930, but he did not get the RSS involved in the movement. He sent information everywhere that the Sangh would not participate in the Satyagraha. However those wishing to participate individually in it were not prohibited. In 1934, Congress passed a resolution prohibiting its members from joining RSS, Hindu Mahasabha or the Muslim League.

M. S. Golwalkar

M.S. Golwalkar, who became the leader of the RSS in 1940, continued and further strengthened the isolation from the independence movement. In his view, the RSS had pledged to achieve freedom through “defending religion and culture” and not by fighting the British. Golwalkar even lamented the anti-British nationalism, calling it a “reactionary view” that had disastrous effects upon the entire course of the freedom struggle. It is believed that Golwalkar did not want to give the British any excuse to ban the RSS. He complied with all the strictures imposed by the Government during the Second World War, even announcing the termination of the RSS military department. The British Government stated that the RSS was not at all supporting any civil disobedience against them, and as such their other political activities can be overlooked. The British Home Department took note of the fact that speakers at Sangh meetings urged its members to keep aloof from the anti-British movements of the Indian National Congress, which was duly followed. The Home Department was thereby of the opinion that the RSS did not constitute a menace to the law and order in British India.The Bombay government,in a report, appreciated the RSS by noting that the Sangh had scrupulously kept itself within the law and refrained from taking part in the disturbances(Quit India Movement) that broke out in August 1942. It also reported that the RSS had not, in any way, infringed government orders and had always shown willingness to comply with the law. The same Bombay Government report further noted that in December 1940 itself, orders had been issued to the provincial RSS leaders to desist from any activities that the British Government considered objectionable, and the RSS, in turn, had assured the British authorities that “it had no intentions of offending against the orders of the Government”.

M.S. Golwalkar later openly admitted to the fact that the RSS did not participate in the Quit India Movement. Golwalkar further stated that such a stance led to the Sangh being viewed as an inactive organization, whose talks had no substance in reality.

The RSS neither supported nor joined in the Royal Indian Navy Mutiny against the British in 1945.

Opposition to the National Flag of India

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh initially did not recognize the Tricolor as the NationalFlag of India. The RSS mouthpiece Organiser, in its issue dated 17 July 1947 demanded, in an editorial titled “National Flag” that the Bhagwa Dhwaj (Saffron Flag) be adopted as the National Flag of India.[71] After the Tricolor was adopted as the National Flag of India by the Constituent Assembly of India on 22 July 1947, the RSS mouthpiece Organiser viciously attacked the Tricolor and denigrated its being chosen as the National Flag of India. The 14 August 1947 issue of the Organiser, in an article titled “Mystery behind the Bhagwa Dhwaj“, stated

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> > “The people who have come to power by the kick of fate may give in our hands the Tricolor but it never be respected and owned by Hindus.The word three is in itself an evil, and a flag having three colours will certainly produce a very bad psychological effect and is injurious to a country”

Further, M.S. Golwalkar, the second sarsanghchalak of the RSS, in an essay titled “Drifting and Drafting” published in his bookBunch of Thoughts, lamented the choice of the Tricolor as the National Flag of India, and compared it to an intellectual vacuum/void. In his words,

“Our leaders have set up a new flag for the country. Why did they do so? It just is a case of drifting and imitating…Ours is an ancient and great nation with a glorious past. Then, had we no flag of our own? Had we no national emblem at all these thousands of years? Undoubtedly we had. Then why this utter void, this utter vacuum in our minds”

The RSS hoisted the National Flag of India at its headquarters in Nagpur, on 14 August 1947 and on the 26th January, 1950 and stopped doing so since then. This issue had always been a source of controversy. In 2001, three activists of Rashtrapremi Yuwa Dal– president Baba Mendhe, and members Ramesh Kalambe and Dilip Chattani – along with others allegedly entered the RSS headquarters in Reshimbagh, Nagpur on 26 JanuaryRepublic Day of India and forcibly hoisted the national flag there amid patriotic slogans. They contended that RSS had never before or after independence, ever hoisted the tri-colour in their premises, even on Independence Day and Republic Day. Offences under relevant section of Bombay Police Act and IPC were registered by Police against the trio, resulting in their being jailed. They were released after 11 years in 2013. The arrests and the flag-hoisting issue stoked a controversy, which was raised in the Parliament as well. In 2002, subsequently the National Flag was raised in the RSS headquarters on the occasion of Republic Day for the first time, after 52 years.

Opposition to the Constitution of India

The Rashtriya Swaysevak Sangh initially did not recognize the Constitution of India and heavily criticised it in view of the fact that the Indian Constitution made no mention of “Manu’s laws” from the controversial ancient Hindu text Manusmriti, which had been accused of denigrating the lower castes and untouchables in India. When the Constituent Assembly finalized the Constitution of India, the RSS mouthpiece, Organiser, complained in an editorial dated 30 November 1949 that,

“But in our constitution, there is no mention of that unique constitutional development in ancient Bharat… To this day his laws as enunciated in theManusmriti excite the admiration of the world and elicit spontaneous obedience and conformity. But to our constitutional pundits that means nothing”

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh did not stop its unrelenting attacks on this issue, and criticised B. R. Ambedkar‘s public pronouncements that the new Indian Constitution would give equality to all castes. On 6 February 1950, the RSS mouthpieceOrganizer carried another article, titled “Manu Rules our Hearts” by a retired High Court Judge Sankar Subba Aiyar, which reaffirmed their support for the Manusmriti as the final lawgiving authority for Hindus, rather than the Constitution of India. It stated,

“Even though Dr. Ambedkar is reported to have recently stated in Bombay that the days of Manu have ended it is nevertheless a fact that the daily lives of Hindus are even at present day affected by the principles and injunctions contained in the Manusmrithi and other Smrithis. Even an unorthodox Hindu feels himself bound at least in some matters by the rules contained in the Smrithis and he feels powerless to give up altogether his adherence to them”

The RSS’ opposition to, and vitriolic attacks against the Constitution of India and its author B. R. Ambedkar continued post independence, even long after Ambedkar’s death. M. S. Golwalkar, the second Sarsanghchalak of the RSS, in his book titled Bunch of Thoughts asserted,

“Our Constitution too is just a cumbersome and heterogeneous piecing together of various articles from various Constitutions of Western countries. It has absolutely nothing, which can be called our own. Is there a single word of reference in its guiding principles as to what our national mission is and what our keynote in life is? No!”


RSS does not have any formal membership. According to the official website, anyone can become member by joining the nearest “shakha“, which is the basic unit. Although the RSS claims not to keep membership records, it is estimated to have 2.5-6.0 million members. The number of shakhas stood at 51,335 in August 2015.


The Sarsanghchalak is the head of the RSS organisation; the position is decided through nomination by predecessor. Until as of October 2015, RSS leadership has always been upper caste, primarily Brahmin.The individuals who have held the post of sarsanghchalak in this organisation are:

K. B. Hedgewar (1925–1930. 1931–1940)

Laxman Vaman Paranjpe (Acting Sarsanghchalak, 1930–1931)

M. S. Golwalkar (1940–1973)

Madhukar Dattatraya Deoras (1973–1993)

Rajendra Singh (1993–2000)

K. S. Sudarshan (2000–2009)

Mohan Bhagwat (incumbent since 21 March 2009)


Shakha is Hindi for “branch”. Most of the organisational work of the RSS is done through the coordination of shakhas or branches. These shakhas are run for one hour in public places.

The shakhas conduct various activities for its volunteers which include physical fitness activities through yoga, exercises and games. It has other activities which emphasize qualities like civic sense, social service, community living and patriotism. The volunteers are trained in first aid and in rescue and rehabilitation operations. The volunteers are also encouraged to become involved in the developmental activities of the village or locality.


Golwalkar describes the mission of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh as the revitalisation of the Indian value system based on universalism and peace and prosperity to all. Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, the worldview that the whole world is one family, propounded by the ancient thinkers of India, is considered as one of the ideologies of the organisation.

But the immediate focus, the leaders believe, is on the Hindu renaissance, which would build an egalitarian society and a strong India that could propound this philosophy. Hence, the focus is on social reform, economic upliftment of the downtrodden and the protection of cultural diversity of the natives in India. The organisation says, it aspires to unite all Hindus and build a strong India, which could contribute to the welfare of the world. In the words of RSS ideologue and the second head of the RSS, Golwalkar, “in order to be able to contribute our unique knowledge to mankind, in order to be able to live and strive for the unity and welfare of the world, we stand before the world as a self-confident, resurgent and mighty nation”.

In Vichardhara (ideology) Golwalkar affirms the RSS mission of integration as:

RSS has been making determined efforts to inculcate in our people the burning devotion for Bharat and its national ethos; kindle in them the spirit of dedication and sterling qualities and character; rouse social consciousness, mutual good-will, love and cooperation among them all; to make them realise that casts, creeds and languages are secondary and that service to the nation is the supreme end and to mould their behaviour accordingly; instill in them a sense of true humility and discipline and train their bodies to be strong and robust so as to shoulder any social responsibility; and thus to create all-round Anushasana in all walks of life and build together all our people into a unified harmonious national whole, extending from Himalayas to Kanyakumari.— M. S. Golwalkar

Golwalkar also explains that RSS does not intend to compete in electioneering politics or share power. The movement considers Hindus as inclusive of Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, tribals, untouchables, Veerashaivism, Arya Samaj, Ramakrishna Mission and other. as a community, a view similar to inclusive referencing of the term Hindu in the Indian Constitution Article 25 (2)(b).

When it came to non-Hindu religions, Golwalkar’s (who once supported Hitler’s creation of a supreme race by suppression of minorities) view on minorities was that of extreme intolerance. In a magazine article in 1998 some RSS, and BJP members have been said to have distanced themselves from M.S Golwalkar’s views though not entirely.

The non-Hindu people of Hindustan must either adopt Hindu culture and languages, must learn and respect and hold in reverence the Hindu religion, must entertain no idea but of those of glorification of the Hindu race and culture…in a word they must cease to be foreigners; Or may stay in the country, wholly subordinated to the Hindu nation, claiming nothing, deserving no privileges, far less any preferential treatment— not even citizens’ rights— M. S. Golwalkar

Relief and rehabilitation

The RSS was instrumental in relief efforts after the 1971 Orissa Cyclone1977 Andhra Pradesh Cyclone and in the 1984 Bhopal disaster. It assisted in relief efforts during the 2001 Gujarat earthquake, and helped rebuild villages. Approximately 35,000 RSS members in uniform were engaged in the relief efforts, and many of their critics acknowledged their role. An RSS-affiliated NGO, Seva Bharati, conducted relief operations in the aftermath of the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake. Activities included building shelters for the victims and providing food, clothes and medical necessities.The RSS assisted relief efforts during the 2004 Sumatra-Andaman earthquake and the subsequent tsunami. Seva Bharati also adopted 57 children (38 Muslims and 19 Hindus) from militancy affected areas of Jammu and Kashmir to provide them education at least up to Higher Secondary level.They also took care of victims of the Kargil War of 1999.
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> > In 2006, RSS participated in relief efforts to provide basic necessities such as food, milk, and potable water to the people of Surat, Gujarat who were affected by floods in the region. The RSS volunteers carried out relief and rehabilitation work after the floods affected NorthKarnataka and some districts of the state ofAndhra Pradesh. In 2013, following theUttarakhand floods, RSS volunteers were involved in flood-relief works through its offices set up at affected areas.

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