Dismantling Global Hindutva Conference: The story and politics of RSS

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The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) is an Indian right-wing, Hindu nationalist and paramilitary volunteer organization. It was founded in 1925 by an Indian Surgeon, Keshav Baliram Hedgewar.

As per details, last year, RSS had nearly 585,000 members and over 57,000 branches. In one of its articles, an Indian news outlet, The Print, reported that 3 out of 4 ministers in the ruling BJP have been members of the RSS, including the current Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi.

The Indian PM is a lifelong member of the RSS and is accused of “sanctioning” the 2002 massacre of Muslims in his state, Gujrat.

The RSS was formed in response to small and large-scale riots between Muslims and Hindus across northern India.

As the historian Tapan Raychoudhuri has recorded, Hedgewar considered the riots were Muslim riots as he [Hedgewar] claimed that “it is Muslims who start them in every single case.”

In 1927, the RSS co-founder, Dr. B.S. Moonje described the organization as an institution that could create “the military regeneration of the Hindus” and unite the people in line with “the idea of fascism.”

M.S Golwalkar succeeded Hedgewar as the RSS head in 1940. Golwalkar’s vision [of a Hindu state] drew influence from Italian fascism, especially Mussolini’s group of fascist paramilitary forces.

While comparing the supremacy of Hindus in India to the dominance of the Aryan race in Hitler’s Germany, Golwalkar wrote, “To sustain the purity of its culture and race, Germany jolted the world by killing around two-thirds of Europe’s Jewish population. Race pride at its highest has been shown here. A good lesson Hindus to learn and profit by here in India.”

Lately, the RSS has been at the forefront of promoting Hindu nationalism in India, with the organization accused of inciting violence and hate crimes against Muslims.

In 1992, RSS had campaigned to destroy Babri Masjid, claiming the Mughal era structure was constructed on top of the Hindu God, Ram’s birthplace. After the BJP’s electoral victory in 2019, Mohan Bhagwat reaffirmed the Sangh’s commitment to the masjid-mandir debate at an RSS-education camp, stating, “Lord Ram’s work will be done.”

Since its beginning, the RSS has been linked to white supremacist organizations in Europe and North America. The Sangh has also been associated with Hindu-American advocacy groups in the United States.

In February last year, following anti-Muslim massacres in Delhi, 16 RSS cadres were arrested and charged with murder and rioting. More than 50 people were killed during the violence, almost three-quarters of whom were Muslims.

Delhi riots, February 2020

Current members of the RSS try to distance themselves from their organization’s ideology. However, “its underlying belief, in which Muslims are cast as untrustworthy ‘outsiders,’ is a constant refrain in the BJP politicians’ public speeches and finds a response in the form of chilling slogans raised by rampaging mobs. For instance: ‘Musalman ka ek hi sthan—Qabristan ya Pakistan’ (Only one place for the Muslim—the graveyard, or Pakistan).

In October 2020, Mohan Bhagwat, the supreme leader of the RSS, said, “India is a Hindu nation. ‘This is non-negotiable.'”

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