The Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh seeks to eliminate India’s non-Hindu minorities
By Aslam Abdullah
Hate against Islam and Muslims among the Hindu members of the militant Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) has crossed all limits in India. In almost all aspects of life, Muslims and their lifestyles have become the target of contempt and wrath. The hijab is under attack, and a mosque’s call to prayer is subject to objection. The boycott of small vendors with Muslim names is typical, and their entry into many areas is restricted.
To further exacerbate Muslim suffering, the Karnataka state high court agreed with the state government – a stronghold of the fascist BJP – on March 15 that the “headscarf was not essential to Islam” and wearing a hijab/headscarf was not “part of essential religious practice in Islamic faith” as protected under Article 25 of the Indian Constitution. In its zeal to further humiliate Muslims, the court overstepped its authority and raised issues that were not part of the petition of the girls wearing the hijab. All they wanted was to wear the hijab along with their school uniforms.
Essentially, the verdict has suspended fundamental rights to freedom of religion, culture, freedom of speech and expression, and opened a floodgate of countrywide bans, adversely affecting Muslim women’s education and employment.
Men with beards and caps and women with veils are targets of regular insults, and burning Muslim homes and businesses is part of a pattern overtaking those states run by the RSS’s political wing, the BJP. As a result, India is beginning to resemble a rogue state, one with no safety for Muslim and Christian men, women and children.
Who are these hate-mongers, why do they hate Islam and Muslims, and what do they want to achieve from their bigoted acrimony?
The hate mongers include Hindus who want to establish a Hindu Rashtra and consider the Muslims’ presence a source of continuous pollution in the land that the deities gave to them. Furthermore, they assert that Hindus have the sole monopoly on India, which in its original geography included now Muslim-majority Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, as well as now Buddhist-majority Myanmar.
In their view, Islam is a foreign religion, and the Muslim invaders introduced a way of life that challenged Hinduism’s caste system and customs, thereby instigating millions to switch their loyalties from Hindu deities to one Supreme God. The caste system divides society into four varnas or categories determined by birth. On top are the Brahmans, who enjoy this status and occupy the highest position because they are from the head of the creator. The lowest are the untouchables, also known as Dalits. In between are castes specializing in war, business, and producing various items for use and consumption.
Brahmins form 5% of the population, Rajputs 4%, Vaishyas 2%, Dalits and tribals 23% and others, including Marathas, Jats and Kayasthas (6 percent). Muslims are 15%, Christians 2.5%, Sikhs 2%, and Buddhists and Jains less than 1% each.
Hindu nationalists believe that Islam wooed Dalits to its fold because of its egalitarian values, which challenged the Brahmans’ supremacy. They insist that many of these conversions were forced and that the creation of Pakistan in 1947 as a separate Muslim homeland makes India a Hindu-only state. Their fear that Islam may increase its influence on tribals and Dalits, who still live in abject poverty and humiliation, makes them hostile to Islam and Muslims.
A demographic shift in favor of Islam also poses an existential threat to them.
Hindu nationalists view themselves as an extension of the Aryan race and believe they have maintained their purity by practicing a strict caste system. But on the other hand, the twice-born or the so-called upper castes, predominantly Brahman, consider themselves the purest of the pure. Their militant organization, RSS, consists of Brahman leaders.
The RSS upper caste leaders have used the Dalits and tribals as pawns against Muslims in this context. They use the resources of other twice-born castes to incite these two groups to combat Muslims. For example, many people recruited to demolish the Babri Masjid in 1992 came from castes generally viewed as lower by the twice-born.
The RSS teaches and systematically propagates hatred at grassroots levels. Founded by a physician named Keshav Baliram Hedgewar in 1925 in the western Indian city of Nagpur, it seeks to propagate the Hindutva ideology and to provide a “new physical strength,” as defined by upper castes, to Hindus.
The RSS believes in an India led exclusively by Hindu upper caste members, with all non-Hindus living as second-class citizens. M. S. Golwalkar (1906-1973), one of the RSS’s most influential and prominent figures and its second leader, first put forward this idea. When it came to non-Hindus, he supported Hitler’s creation of a supreme race by suppressing all minorities. This extremely intolerant leader wrote that “The non-Hindu people of Hindustan must either adopt Hindu culture or languages. They must learn and respect and reverence the Hindu religion and entertain no idea but glorify the Hindu race and culture. They should wholly subordinate [themselves] to the Hindu nation, claiming nothing, deserving no privileges, far less preferential treatment—not even citizens’ rights.”
The RSS, which has an estimated 5 to 6 million members, has no formal membership. Instead, Hindu men and boys join the nearest shakha (basic unit). The sarsanghchalak (the movement’s head) is nominated by the predecessor. The sarkaryawah, equivalent to the general secretary, is selected by the elected members of the Akhil Bharatiya Pratinidhi Sabha. It has four sah-sarkayavah (joint general secretaries).
Its pracharak, which number about 4,000, are active, full-time missionaries who spread the doctrine. The karyakartas, active functionaries, undergo four levels of ideological and physical training in camps. Other positions are the mukhya-shikshak (head teacher and chief of a shakha), the karyawah (executive of a shakha), the gatanayak (group leader) and swayamsevak (a volunteer).
Most of the roughly 60,000 shakhas (branches) are in the Hindi-speaking regions. They conduct various activities for the volunteers, such as physical fitness through yoga, exercises, games and activities that encourage Hindutva and anti-Islam and anti-Christian teachings.
Organizations that follow the RSS ideology refer to themselves as members of the Sangh Parivar. Some of them are:
- Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), literally, Indian People’s Party.
- Bharatiya Kisan Sangh, literally, Indian Farmers’ Association.
- Bhartiya Mazdoor Sangh, literally, Indian Labor Association.
- Seva Bharti, an organization for the service of the needy.
- Rashtra Sevika Samiti, literally, National Volunteer Association for Women.
- Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, literally, All India Students’ Forum.
- Shiksha Bharati.
- Vishwa Hindu Parishad, World Hindu Council.
- Bhartiya Yuva Seva Sangh (BYSS), Youth Awakening Front.
- Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh, literally, Hindu Volunteer Association – overseas wing.
- Swadeshi Jagaran Manch, Nativist Awakening Front.
- Saraswati Shishu Mandir, Nursery.
- Vidya Bharati, Educational Institutes.
- Vanavasi Kalyan Ashram (Ashram for the Tribal Welfare), Organizations for the improvement of tribals; and Friends of Tribals Society.
- Muslim Rashtriya Manch (Muslim National Forum), Organization for the improvement of Muslims.
- Bajrang Dal, Army of Hanuman.
- Anusuchit Jati-Jamati Arakshan Bachao Parishad, Organization for the improvement of Dalits.
- Laghu Udyog Bharati, the extensive network of small industries.
- Bhartiya Vichara Kendra, Think Tank
- Vishwa Samvad Kendra, Communication Wing, spread all over India for media-related work, having a team of IT professionals (samvada.org)
- Rashtriya Sikh Sangat, National Sikh Association, a sociocultural organization with the aim to spread the knowledge of Gurbani to the Indian society.
- Vivekananda Kendra promoted Swami Vivekananda’s ideas with Vivekananda International Foundation in New Delhi as a public policy think tank with six study centers.
The RSS holds a firm grip on many Hindus and spreads the hatred at the grassroots in an organized manner. Its supporters in Europe, Australia, the Middle East, U.S. and Canada provide extensive financial support. These supporters promote hatred worldwide, and their main targets are Muslims and Christian missionaries.
The hatred has roots in the Hindutva’s vision of history and religion. The poison emitted in the 1920s by upper caste leaders in the name of Hindutva has spread worldwide, threatening peace and stability.
Aslam Abdullah, Ph.D., is editor-in-chief of Muslim Media Network Inc., publisher of The Muslim Observer.
What did you think about this article? Send comments and story pitches to email@example.com. Islamic Horizons does not publish unsolicited material.