MG an air warrior, a political observer, and writer with wide experience.
One of the ills facing Hinduism is the caste system. What is the caste system? It is a system of social classes that divides the Hindus as per their profession. There is nothing wrong with and such a system as it did exist in other countries earlier on. The problem in Hinduism was of a different nature as the castes were mutually exclusive and there was no social intercourse between them. Hinduism was divided into 4 social classes namely the Brahmins(Highest caste), the Kshatriyas( warriors), the Vaish(traders), and the Shudras( menial workers). The castes had a social hierarchy and certain professions were given lower status and others given a higher status. The castes as per mythology had emanated from Maharishi Manu and were thought to be god-given. This was fallacious thinking but the belief was perpetrated by the higher castes, notably the Brahmins. This system has been in vogue since the days of the Mahabharata, which is almost from 5000 BC.
During the days of the British Raj, the caste division remained. The British brought in many reformist acts but they did not bridge the caste divide among Hindus. There was a reason for it; the British believed that in case Hindus remained divided between untouchables and higher castes it would benefit their rule as the Hindus could not unite against the Raj.
There were many Hindus who wanted to do away with the caste system. This led to the formation of the RSS (Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh) in 1925. The RSS was formed as a cultural organization. There were two significant pillars of RSS on which the RSS based its policy. The first was the concept of Hindutva. This word had been coined by the revolutionary Hindu leader Veer Savarkar in 1923. The three essentials of Hindutva which are generally accepted can again be traced to Savarkar. They were firstly a common nation (Rashtra), common race (jati), and common culture or civilization (Sanskriti).
Savarkar further elaborated and thought that Hindutva included all Indian religions, i.e. Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism. His thinking was that all these religions had a "Hindu nationality" in the sense that they shared a common culture and fondness for the land where they resided.
The RSS was of the view that the caste system needed to be modified. They accepted the caste system but wanted to channelize all of them into one unified Hindu group. Thus when Dr. Ambedkar framed the Constitution the RSS was not happy that there was a provision for reservation of certain jobs and other activities based on caste.
The RSS also believed in a militant form of Hinduism. For this purpose, they would have mass drills and parades to inculcate a martial ethos in Hindu culture. The RSS drew inspiration from ancient Indian kings who had been great warriors and ruled over vast empires. When India became free after the lapse of British rule in 1947 the RSS was at the crossroads.
RSS and India
In 1947, when British rule lapsed in India the RSS was at the forefront in Punjab and other states trying to stem the carnage taking place. Various Hindu organizations like the Hindu Maha Sabha and the Hindu Vishwa Parishad and others came under the umbrella of the RSS. In 1948, Nathuram Godse who was a member of the Hindu Maha Sabha and had left the RSS in 1946 because of ideological differences assassinated Mohandas Gandhi because he felt his policies were pampering the minority community. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru who always had an allergy to the RSS prevailed on Sardar Patel, the home minister to ban the RSS even when there was no evidence linking this organization with the killing of Gandhi.
But after intelligence reports which cleared the RSS, Sardar Patel despite opposition from Nehru revoked the ban on the RSS and the RSS was accepted as part of the Indian polity. Even Pandit Nehru later realized the true colors of the RSS and in the 1963 Republic Republic Day parade, Nehru insisted that a contingent from the RSS be allowed to march along with the regular army.
The RSS however opposed the policies of the appeasement of the minority community which was ingrained in the policy of the Congress party. The party played vote bank politics and continued to win elections by creating a fear psychosis in the minorities particularly the Muslims. At the same time, they did precious little to improve the economic condition of the Muslims who continued to be among the poorest in India. None of the Congress leaders now or earlier can explain this.
In 1975 Indira Gandhi who had been unseated by a decision of the High Court for indulging in malpractices during her election campaign decided to impose an emergency. She got the constitution amended and clamped an internal emergency on the country. She decided that she needed an alibi for imposing the emergency and accordingly the RSS was again banned.
In 1977, Indira Gandhi and Congress were routed in the elections and they could not win a single seat in the Hindi heartland and the new government of Morarji Desai revoked the ban on the RSS.
All along the RSS was at the helm of affairs and believed that Hindus should all be together without division of caste. The RSS was also against the reservation of jobs and education based on caste because it went against their grain of an Akhand Bharat and Hindustan.
In 1950, the RSS felt the need for a political face, and a party closely associated with it was launched. This was called the Jan Sangh which later metamorphosed into the Bharatiya Janata Party.
The RSS however at one point forgot its policy of one India and in Punjab when the Sikhs had started an agitation for a Punjabi Suba the RSS opposed it. This was because the Hindus of Punjab were against the formation of a Sikh state on a linguistic basis.
The RSS however realized its mistake of the 60s and once the Punjabi Suba was created tried to incorporate the Sikhs as part of Hinduism. But the scars of the 60s remain and many Sikhs do not subscribe to the RSS philosophy.
The RSS began to have a bigger say when the BJP came to power in 2014. This was the time when Narendra Modi swept the election promising a Hindu identity. Unfortunately, the BJP also adopted vote bank politics and did not attempt to tinker with the reservation in jobs and education based on the caste system. This was the one issue on which the BJP and RSS had voiced strong opposition as they believed that Hinduism was one entity.
With the BJP coming to power in 2014, the BJP and RSS changed colors. This is unfortunate as both the BJP and the mentor RSS accepted the reservation in education and jobs based on caste. This was something that the RSS had always opposed ever since its formation in 1925. The RSS now has accepted this and there is no doubt that it is pandering to the vote bank politics to continue to remain in power. This has taken away much of the sheen from the RSS which claimed to be a vehicle of the Hindu Renaissance.
The RSS remains a vehicle of social change and development in India in particular for all those it considers as part of India. However, it will be difficult for the RSS to reconcile to how it has given up its opposition to divisions on caste just for the expediency of vote bank politics.
In case the RSS fails to rise and be a vehicle of social change in India it will be sad. It will have to come back to the old pristine policy of one India, one religion without caste. In case it fails to do so, history will record it as a failed organization. The RSS has to remember that just by talking of equality has no meaning if the government continues its division of society based on caste. Dr. Ambedkar who fathered the Constitution had said in the Constitution that these reservations of any type are valid only for 15 years. Now 73 years have passed but the reservations have now been extended to almost 55%. That means meritocracy has no place, reservation of jobs and education seats on the basis of caste has become the cardinal policy of the BJP government and sadly the RSS has forgotten its old ideals. It will be interesting to watch how the RSS tackles this problem. Failure to do it will mean that its inception in 1925 may become meaningless.
With the dawn of 2021, the RSS is again at the crossroads and appears to be rudderless as it has nothing new to offer. It's one strong plank of a nationalist Hindu organization without division on the basis of caste, has been thrown overboard for political expediency. This would mean that an organization formed a hundred years back for the Renaissance of Hinduism has fallen by the wayside. If it does not reinvent itself and counter the caste system it will go into the abyss of history.
MG Singh (author) from UAE on May 20, 2021:
in 2001. was there for 9 months.
tom on May 20, 2021:
which year did you serve in southern air command , i did my llm in trivandrum
MG Singh (author) from UAE on May 20, 2021:
Yes Tom, Dalit politicians- all scoundrels.
MG Singh (author) from UAE on May 20, 2021:
Tom, you are right.RSS has lost its aim and frankly word Dalit should be abolished. Yes, Kerala a more modern state. I had a Christian GF when I was at Southern air command, Thiruvananthapuram.
tom on May 19, 2021:
dalit politicians fail to prevent crimes ,look at up uttarpradesh
MG Singh (author) from UAE on August 16, 2020:
Thank you, Devika for sparing time and commenting
Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on August 16, 2020:
Interesting and a well written hub about The Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh. You enlightened me on a political leader I had no idea of.