Most of the trainees at RSS Officers’ Training Camps [OTC] are between fifteen and twenty-five. The youngest we met was fourteen, and the oldest was thirty, though we were told that there were older swayamsevaks in attendance. We met Africans of Indian descent at several OTCs.
They had come to India to take instructional training in the RSS discipline and intended to implement the discipline within their overseas RSS affiliates. The Bharatiya Swayamsevak Sangh (the RSS affiliate in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda) now conducts its own camps, as does the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (the British affiliate).
The participants of OTC are assigned to ganas (groups of between fifteen and thirty) which are directed by ganapramukhs (instructors). The instructor stays with this group throughout the month. He is responsible for teaching the physical (sharirik) and intellectual (baudhik) classes which form the camp curriculum. The instructors we met were in the age group of twenty-five and thirty-five. The camps’ directors make a deliberate effort to mix different age groups and people from various regions of the state. We were told that this was done to break down feelings of exclusiveness. While we met men from the scheduled castes, their gana mates were either ignorant of the fact or expressed a lack of interest. If pressed on the issue, a typical response was, ‘We are all members of ek jati [one group] here.’
The various activities carried out in the camp are designed to develop a sense of solidarity among the participants. The participants are encouraged to call each other by kinship terms. They take turns serving food to each other. To break down feelings of purity/pollution, they are required to take their turn at cleaning the latrines, sweeping, and other so called ‘defiling’ activities.
Besides this, the seminars and lectures frequently emphasize the unity of all Hindus. The activities are designed to teach the participants the games, exercises and songs which form the basis of the shakhas’ programme. They are required to participate in the seminars which are held every day. Many participants keep notebooks, in which they record the words of patriotic songs, take notes on physical exercises, games and topics of discussion. Below is a list of moral and civic lessons which one swayamsevak recorded in his diary:
- A swayamsevak should behave like an ideal person in society. He should not commit any antisocial action and damage the image of the Sangh.
- Non-Hindus must be assimilated with the Hindu way of life. The words ‘Muslim’ and ‘Christian’ denote a religious phenomena, while the word ‘Hindu’ is synonymous with the nation. Even in the United States, it is emphasized that non-Americans should be assimilated into ‘Anglo-Saxon’ culture.
- The RSS was organized to prevent the further disintegration of Hindu society.
- The RSS is a family. The RSS emphasizes the samskaras [inculcation of good values]. The samskaras create the man. We have to create the man by reviving his unknown virtues.
- The higher authorities within the RSS can be compared to the head of the family.
- The lack of leadership in India must be eliminated. A gatanayak [group leader] should work in his own field with a specific purpose. A little work will not do. In the past, castes and pilgrimage places provided group leadership. Now the RSS has to fulfil this responsibility. The RSS shakha programmes create and develop such qualities.
- We purposely avoid taking credit for achievements, though in reality, many things have been done by the RSS. Whatever we have done, we have done for the good of society. We do not want credit. We have to work as a part of society.
- Those who attend shakha are one, and the remaining are divided by caste and class.
- Rational arguments separate people from us. It is not necessary to convince people of the need of the RSS. Our arguments should appeal to the heart. To succeed in RSS work, we should attract society with a sweet tongue. We should avoid a hot temper and debate.
- Inactivity in a swayamsevak is a psychological sickness, but it can be eliminated. Give others work which they are capable of doing. Tell others of his [sic] capacity. Through this, you can increase his capacity.
- We are all children of this land. So we are one family without any discrimination between us.
- Our nation should be so powerful that nobody could dare insult us. If we unite, no power in the world can check our progress.
- Government cannot change the nation; selfless people change it. So we have to create a cadre of workers in different fields and on different levels, and then planning will be successful.
- Land and people are the body. Government is the clothing, and culture is the soul.
- The RSS does not want to organize only a part of society, but all of society.
- In the last one thousand years, the bonds that linked society were broken. This led to selfish caste mentality that divided society. To unite it, the RSS has devised a certain methodology. Meeting together every day is the heart of the system. RSS shakha is our, home for one hour each day, and RSS work is our duty for the other twenty-three hours.
There runs through these notes an emphasis on submerging the self within the ‘nation’, which tacitly assumes a commitment to the RSS and which involves the conviction that there exists a mutuality of interests between the individual and the RSS.
This excerpt from The Brotherhood from Saffron has been published with permission from Penguin Random House India.
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