RSS: Steady Growth and Expanding influence

Akhil Bharatiya Pratinidhi Sabha (ABPS), annual meet of RSS, was held in Jamdoli, Jaipur of Rajasthan from March 15th-Mar17th 2013 (Yugabd 5114). RSS Sarasanghachalak Mohan Bhagwat inaugurated the meet and the annual report for 2012-13 was presented by RSS Sarakaryavah – General Secretary – Bhaiyyaji Suresh Johi. The meet was attended by Akhil Bharatiya Karyakari Mandal (National Executive) and Akhil Bharatiya Pratinidhi Sabha (National collegium of delegates). The annual report provides interesting statistics and a basis for an assessment for the influence of the organization.

Regularly, the RSS conducts daily gatherings (nitya-shakhas), weekly gatherings (saapthahik-milans), and monthly gatherings (sangh-mandali) through the country. Sangh work is being carried through 42,981 Shakhas, 9,557 saptahik-milans and 7,178 sangh-mandalis. The Shakhas are being run in 28,788 places. Sangh shiksha vargas is a unique mechanism adopted by RSS to train the swayamsevaks. A Varga is a short stay training camps where participants (also referred to as trainees or shiksharthi‘s), undergo systematic training in physical, intellectual, management and leadership skills. A volunteer or RSS is expected to undergo three years of graded training by attending a Varga in each year. The third year training is held at Nagpur, the headquarter of RSS every year. In the year 2012-13, 52 sangh shiksha vargas (RSS Training Camps) were held. 12,549 trainees in first year, 3,063 trainees in second year, and 1,003 trainees participated in third year varga. About 1,986 persons were trained through special varga with 1,218 persons in first year training and 768 persons participating in second year training. Training camps were held in 50 places. Participants of first year vargas were from 7,408 places, participants of second year vargas were from 2,320 places, and participants of third year vargas were from 923 places. Participants of special vargas were from 895 places, and from 621 places respectively for first year and the second year training. In summary, about 18,601 persons were trained in training camps in more than 50 places.

The shakhas, milans, and sangha-mandalis are the foundational base of the RSS. Even an average of 15 persons are considered as associated with regular gatherings, about 10lakh active volunteers are associated with the Sangh. The numbers associated with the foundational structuctures may not be inspiring. A quick look at the previous year’s annual report reveals growth in number of regular gatherings, and the number of participants in the training camps. However, this growth is not at all significant. The growth rate and the absolute number of Swayamsevaks imply not a significant impact of Sangh on a nation of more than 1 billion people. But, this number does not reflect the true strength of the organization. To provide a realistic assessment, information from the rest of the report has to be analyzed.

From previous ABPS reports of RSS

Year Campsshiksha Varga Personsshiksharthis Unitsshakhas Places Assembliesmilans+mandalis
2010-11 70 11556 39908 27078 14421
2011-12 69 15494 40891 27978 14953
2012-13 52 18601 42981 28788 16735


There are three major departments in Sangh – Shaareerik Vibhag (Physical training department), Bauddhik Vibhag (Intellectual training department), Prachara Vibhag (Media department), Seva Vibhag (Social service wing), and Sampark Vibhag (wing for establishing/expanding network of contacts). Every year, the Sangh undertakes special programmes through these departments to reach larger number of people in various sectors in a systematic way. Shareerik vibhag (Physical training department) had presented Prahar Yagna programme for shakhas this year. The programme was organized in 15,924 shakhas. 1,66,959 swayamsevaks took part in the programme. More than 5,71,76,520 Prahars were performed. About 18,421 Swayamsevaks performed more than 1,000 Prahars. Bauddhik vibhag (Intellectual training department) conducted a special training workshop of selected 78 swayamsevaks in Bhopal. 40 of them made presentations to the audience.

Prachara Vibhag (Media wing) of RSS has a very well established presence in print media. The publications of RSS include daily newspapers, weekly magazines and monthly magazines. Each of the state units of RSS has its own set of publications. Among them, few of the publications are specifically meant for providing organizational information and they are called as Jagarana Patrikas. About 31 Jagarana Patrikas reach about 1.7 lac villages throughout India. A moderate estimate of readership of Jagarana Patrikas is not less than 20lakh. There are initiatives to enhance quality of activism through media channels. About 25 state level letter writing workshops, and training programmes for participating in TV debates were organized. More than 2,248 swayamsevaks participated in letter writing workshops and around 100 RSS associates participated in TV debates. The sage Narada is considered as the first reporter (Journalist) of the world and RSS felicitates selected journalists on this occasion every year. This year too, about 182 journalists were felicitated. These journalists were selected from 82 places. Vishwa Samvad Kendra, a news agency of Sangh coordinates many of these programmes in association with Prachara Vibhag. Social media channels are actively being deployed to communicate and reach out to larger number of people. Around 1,500 people have shown interest in joining Sangh each month through some of these channels.

RSS regional units initiate special drives to reach out to larger public through special programmes. For example, in the year 2012-13, Southern Bengal unit (Dakshin Bang) organized a youth camp in January 2013 on the occasion of 150th year birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda. About 9,115 youth in the age group of 15 to 40 years participated in the camp. They represented 2,052 places of the region. More than 25,000 people were present for the valedictory function. Similarly, a Hindu Chaitanya Shibir (Hindu Awakening camp) organized by Eastern Andhra Pradesh unit (Poorva Andhra) attracted 1.25 lakh people to an exhibition, and 60,000 people to the valedictory function of the camp. About 17,233 active volunteers participated in the camp and more than 10,000 women volunteers participated in an assembly designed for women. About 960 intellectuals and 72 saints also participated in the event. A camp for RSS band in Western Andhra Pradesh trained 865 members of the band (ghosh) and approximately 8,000 people witnessed the camp. A get together by Malwa unit witnessed presence of 83,345 swayamsevaks, Karnataka south organized a camp of 85,347 swayamsevaks, Konkan unit organized a three-day workshop for 1,467 students, Jaipur unit organized a camp for 6,968 active volunteers of the region, and North Tamilnadu unit organized a Suryanamaskar programme for 10,721 people.

Swami Vivekananda Shaardh Shati Samaroh (Celebrations on 150th birth anniversary of Swami Vivekanand) was initiated on 25th December, 2012. Shobha yatra programmes, Collective Suryanamaskar programmes, tribal congregations are being organized throughout the country. So far, 4.5 lakh men, 90,000 women have participated on inauguration day, 48 lakh people participated in processions, 64 lac students from 26,597 schools have participated in the collective school based Suryanamaskar programmes. About 7.25 lakh people participated in public Suryanamaskar programmes. Vishal Hindu Sangam in tribal area of Chhasttisgarh state attracted 1.25 lakh villagers from 1,500 villages. About 10,000 Srilankans participated in related programmes.

Sangh is reaching a large number of people through a series of programmes organized through a number of initiatives. These initiatives are sustained by volunteer groups. The members of the foundational structures of the RSS – Swayamsevaks – play a pivotal role in creation, and sustenance of volunteer groups. About a million sized core group influences a 5 million activists who in turn are capable of reaching out to 20 million public. It is about 2% of the Indian population and about 2.5% of Hindus.

It is interesting to note that these numbers are excluding Sangh Parivar organizations and BJP. Some Parivar organizations are mass based and many of them are influential in the sectors to which they are contributing. The influence of BJP as a principae political party with its nationwide political network, elected representatives and state & local Governments, is an outcome of a political design of the RSS. Then, is it reasonable to estimate the influence of RSS over about 10% -20% of Indians? Why then RSS is still not able to shed its moderate image? Why is RSS not able to change politics or society in a decisive way?  The answer lies in the challenges faced by the Sangh.

Presently, more than 80% of each generation of the public are not receiving RSS philosophy from direct sources. Many of the media sources provide distorted image of RSS.  Swayamsevaks are not able to reach majority of the population to provide accurate information about the organization and its philosophy.

Hundreds of NGOs are managed by Swayamsevaks and the social impact created by these NGOs is significant. Still, RSS inspired NGOs are not able to and are not focused on influencing public affairs.  For example, Hindu Seva Pratishtana trains Sevavratis and is sustaining a series of socially benefical projects aimed at women and children in various sectors including Health and Education.  But, HSP is not able to contribute in formulating laws, help authorities in correct interpretation of existing laws or to influence government policies either at state level in Karnataka or at national level.

Mainly because of these two reasons, it is becoming difficult to inspire BJP and other associated organizations to work in the desirable direction. BJP, as a political party, has many similarities with the Indian National Congress and is not able to change the course of Indian politics. Delay in making desirable impact generates a series of coordination issues with in the Sangh and affiliated organizations. Lack of coordination within creates hurdles in smooth relationships or RSS with external Hindu and non-Hindu organizations.

Inevitable ideological dilemmas within the biggest Hindu organization are are contributing to the delay in surmounting of the challenges.  Meanwhile, the above challenges have the potential to aggravate the ideological dilemmas within the Sangh parivar.  While, there are no innovative suggestion to address the problems,  the committed core move forward to clear the clutter in their own non-profit ways.




Pope Francis – a profile

Jorge Mario Bergoglio was born on 17 December 1936 is a native of Buenos Aires, Argentina. Bergoglio is one of the five children of Mario José Bergoglio, a railway worker born in Portacomaro (Province of Asti) in Italy’s Piedmont region, and his wife Regina María Sivori, a housewife born in Buenos Aires to a family of northern Italian (Piedmontese-Genoese) origin. He was a Jesuit and was ordained as a priest in 1969. He served as head of the Society of Jesus in Argentina from 1973 to 1979. In 1998 he became the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, and in 2001 a cardinal. He was elected as the 266th Pope of the Roman Catholic Church on 13 March 2013. Bergoglio choose the papal name Francis in honour of Saint Francis of Assisi. He is the first pope to be a Jesuit, to come from the Americas, and to come from the Southern Hemisphere.

Bergoglio graduated from the technical secondary school with the qualification of chemical technician. He earned a master’s degree in chemistry from the University of Buenos Aires. He suffered from life-threatening pneumonia and a lung removed shortly afterwards.Bergoglio was mentored by Salesian Ukrainian Greek Catholic priest Stefan Czmil and knows the Byzantine liturgy well.

He is known for simplicity and focussed on social welfare initiatives. He has good relationship with Muslims, Jews and other Christian denominations. He has very strong traditional opinions on abortion, Homosexuality, same sex marriage, euthanasia, birth control, and the elderly. He has criticised child trafficking and sex slavery. His role in non opposing the government forces during dirty war of Argentina is criticised by Human right activists. Similarly, his stance on proselytization would come under scanner in the coming days of his papacy.