The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (Hindi: राष्ट्रीय स्वयंसेवक संघ, English: National Volunteers' Organisation), also known as the Sangh or the RSS, is a Hindu nationalist organization in India. It was founded in 1925 by Dr.K.B. Hedgewar. The RSS is active throughout India and abroad as the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh.
Their general philosophical outlook is cultural nationalism known as integral humanism, aimed at preserving the spiritual and moral traditions of India. The RSS believes that Hinduism is not a religion but a way of life. The proclaimed purpose of the organization is "serving the nation and its people in the form of God - Bharata Mata (Mother India) and protecting the interests of the Hindus in India".
They have engaged in numerous social, service charity, and relief works, and engaged in inter-community dialogues, as well as actively participated in the political process. They are well-organized and have a heirarchial structure to their organization, with the sarsanghchalak being the highest rank.
The RSS was banned in India thrice during periods in which the government of the time considered them a threat to the state: in 1948 after Mahatma Gandhi's assassination, during the 1975 Emergency in India, and after the 1992 Babri Masjid demolition, in order. The bans were subsequently lifted after the Supreme Court of India declined to uphold the bans due to lack of evidence of their involvement in the alleged activities.
The RSS continues to be viewed as controversial due its commitment to stop conversions of Hindus and to "organise" Hindu society, and by what some academics and commentators have called its "Fascist" tendencies. Its numbers have been bolstered by the rise of its associated Sangh Parivar members, especially the Bharatiya Janata Party.
In 1925, Dr. Keshav Baliram Hedgewar, a Nagpur doctor influenced by recent Hindu-Muslim riots in his town, formed the Rashtriya Swayemsevak Sangh aiming to protect Hindus by organizing together. Hedgewar proposed the Hindu masses must be united to combat the challenges facing them and protect the freedom and diversity of Indian civilization. In the 1940s the development of the RSS was fueled by a desire of some Hindus to organize themselves in reaction to the growing mobilization, sometimes in paramilitary form, of Muslim separatist movements. The response was strongest in areas where the Hindus were in the minority. RSS benefited from support from local community leaders. The "pracharaks" or "full-time workers", who were dispatched on the recommendation of such patrons, gathered support and coordinated their efforts from their headquarters in Nagpur. During the Indian independence movement, the RSS campaigned alongside the Indian National Congress for national independence at first keeping its organization separate and core mission different. However when some Congress leaders tried to subsume RSS into the Congress and urged the RSS leaders to dismantle the organization, they slowly diverged away from the Congress.
The Partition of India was a very traumatic event in the young nation's history. Millions of people, Sikh, Hindu and Muslim, attempted to migrate from India and Pakistan/East-Pakistan through the violence and the death toll was considerable .
The organization gained considerable strength and support because of its various relief activities organized for the migrating Hindus and successful protection of Hindus in the Hindu-Muslim riots during the time of the partition. At the time, its safeguarding of the migrating Hindu masses was alleged to be an anti-Muslim stance.
After Mahatma Gandhi's death in 1948, the RSS was suspected of involvement in or incitement towards Gandhi's assassination and was banned on February 4, 1948.
Following an intervention of the Supreme Court, the government agreed to lift the ban on the condition that the RSS adopt a constitution. The second sarsanghchalak, Golwalkar began drafting a constitution for the RSS which he sent to the national government in March of 1949. In July of the same year, after many negotiations over the consititution and its acceptance, the ban on RSS was lifted.
Over the 1950s and 1960s, under Golwalkar (usually called "Guruji" by members), the RSS regained its strength slowly and steadily, and amongst its social work embraced the Cow Slaughter Ban Movement and the Ram Janmabhoomi in Ayodhya movement. In 1967, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad was founded as an adjunct body, initially to organise the religious leaders of various Hindu sects and streamline religious doctrine.
The Sarsanghchalak is the family head of the RSS organization. The individuals who have been Sarsanghchalkas are:
Dr. Keshav Baliram Hedgewar (founder), also known as Doctorji (1925-1940)
Madhavrao Sadashivrao Golwalkar, also known as, Guruji (1940-1973)
Madhukar Dattatraya Deoras, also known as, Balasaheb (1973-1993)
Rajendra Singh, also known as, Rajjubhaiya (1993-2000)
Kuppahalli Sitaramayya Sudarshan (2000-present)
The position is decided by nomination followed with elections held at the annual "Akhil Bharatiya Pratinidhi Sabha" meeting. The current sarsanghachalak of RSS is K.S. Sudarshan.