A new political RSS, four years old, takes on the old RSS, the cultural organisation

While the RSS, the cultural organisation, is 96 years old and has been instrumental in the rise of BJP to power, the other RSS is four years old, overtly political and committed to secularism

A new political RSS, four years old, takes on the old RSS, the cultural organisation

Sujata Anandan

In September 2017, Janardan Moon, a former corporator from Nagpur and a follower of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar, applied to the Charity Commissioner to register a new-founded organisation. The name? Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the name and spellings indistinct from and identical to the original RSS founded in 1925.

Before applying to the Charity Commissioner, Moon had done ample research and waded through all the records at the Charity Commissioner and the Registrar’s office over the past 100 years to ascertain if there was any organisation in any category registered by this name anywhere in the country but came up with a blank.

So, he thought he was well within his rights to register his own NGO under the name of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and his document of intent listed all the activities cited by the original RSS barring a political agenda.

Predictably, the Charity Commissioner dismissed the application as frivolous and Moon then proceeded to petition the Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court for justice. Here his petition did not even get past the two Registrars of the court who refused to list his appeal. Moon accused both of pushing the RSS agenda and denying him justice but although RSS functionaries dismissed his action as gimmick, they were concerned enough to quickly appoint two lawyers to file caveats just to be on the safe side.

Having failed to register his own RSS or get a court ruling in his favour, Moon is nevertheless carrying on his social service activities under the name of his own Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, in an agenda vastly opposed to that of the original RSS (pro-Dalit, pro-Muslim, anti-casteist, anti-upper caste etc.) which needles the RSS no end but they can do little about it considering that Moon tells everyone who cares to hear that if Mohan Bhagwat’s RSS can function as an NGO without registration of any kind, so can his.

The RSS, despite pretending a disregard of his gimmickry, is wary of stirring up a hornet’s nest by going to court against his activities and Moon is merrily trundling along Bhagwat for the past half a dozen years with impunity.

The RSS being an unregistered NGO has been overlooked for decades despite several bans on the organisation at different times. RSS ideologues have always claimed that the organisation is supported by voluntary donations from its pracharaks who have turned over their homes and other properties to the mother organisation.

But this admission itself raises questions about the legality of the donations and RSS properties--who hold the title deeds, who pays the property and municipal taxes or does anyone pay taxes at all? If the RSS can function as an unregistered NGO for so long, why do other charitable organisa-tions and NGOs need to register, maintain accounts and file returns? Why is RSS allowed to accept anonymous donations but not others? Why must other NGOs spend foreign donations in ways specified by the government but not the RSS?

Of course, the RSS makes no bones about the fact that it has more than 35 frontal organisations which are registered and have their own bank accounts; but it still does not explain how it got away for so long by not adhering with the laws of the land, including flying a flag other than the Indian tiranga from its headquarters until as late as 2002.

It has inveigled its way into every section of urban and rural life in India over the past half-century, though it is also true that until almost a decade or two ago it was struggling to convert the disbelievers to its way of thinking. The first BJP-led government at the Centre between 1998-2004 turned a blind eye to RSS volunteers invading homes of Muslims and other non-RSS members of the Hindu community, preaching Hindutva to them, sticking garish pictures of Arjun and Krishna on chariots and that of other gods and goddesses on doors, bullying them to send their young children to their early morning shakhas.

But there were also people who did not appreciate the invasion of their privacy. One recalls an upper caste Maharashtrian home they barged into believing these would be friends. The man of the house was at work and the lady was polite in welcoming them to her drawing room.

The husband arrived just as they were pasting a garish sticker on his door. Red-faced, he barged straight into his bathroom, came out with a bucket of soapy water and a dishcloth and proceeded to scrub the sticker off.

“Call the painter tomorrow and have this door painted again!” he told his wife loudly in front of the now embarrassed pracharaks, “I do not want my door sporting any nonsense. And I want to see my kids in the school playground not any vyayaam at any early morning shaakhas!”

There was another instance of the well-educated daughter-in-law of the sister of a pracharak who had donated his home to the RSS, who sent them packing with fleas in their ears. “You dare to ask us to use your carbolic soap that takes the skin off our faces when you yourselves don’t practise what you preach!” she said pointing to the man’s high-end watch.

“You want us to send our children to your ashram schools, where you do nothing but indoctrinate them in some backward notions of past glory and render all the children from your schools unemployable in India or elsewhere. You pick up adivasi children from backward areas and turn them communal when they have no concept of religion except as animists. And what’s more, you are still wearing those ugly shorts so many years after India earned its spurs in the modern world!”

They were speechless.

There are still people in much greater numbers, in a majority if votes polled by the BJP is any indication, who do not believe in the RSS. It is a battle for their minds and souls and Janardan Moon expects them to join him in redirecting the agenda towards a constitutional democracy and restore the nation to its original liberal, secular moorings.

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