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Mainstream, VOL LVI No 22 New Delhi May 19, 2018

RSS Unmasked: Insider’s Account of Sangh’s Activities

Sunday 20 May 2018

BOOK REVIEW

by T. Navin

Cellars of the Inferno: Confessions of an RSS Pracharak by Sudheesh Minni; Publisher: Chintha Publications; pages: 122.

The RSS has been critiqued for long for its divisive and fascist ideology. Its role in spreading hatred, communal violence, killings—arson and loot, blasts has been pointed out by critics. However, the attempt of the RSS to project itself as a cultural and nationalist organisation working for the welfare of the majority community, nation and practising non-violent methods is still believed by many to be the truth. This is despite all the violence that is being instigated by it in recent times.

The book by Sudheesh Minni, titled Cellars of the Inferno: Confessions of an RSS Pracharak, removes all doubts, if any, about the RSS. Sudheesh was an RSS pracharak, who was inducted to its divisive ideology at the very early age of five. He participated at different levels—as a participant in shakhas as well as an organiser of shakhas, both at the State and national levels. He travelled across the country and spent about 25 years of his life with the RSS. The initial conviction with the RSS ideology later gave way to repentance for his activities carried out on its behalf. The book is a product of his repentance for his role as an RSS pracharak. The book provides an insider’s view of the RSS, its activities, functioning, role in divisive actions.

Sudheesh was born in a small village in the Kannur district of Kerala. His association with the RSS started while he was a five-year-old. He used to attend Balagokulam, which was organised on weekends. This was targeted at children. The natural curiosity of children to listen to stories of child Krishna was used as a means to instil hatred. Stories around Shivaji and Rana Pratap were also recited to children. Shivaji was depicted as a protector of Hindus from Muslim invasion. The fact that many Muslims were part of the military machinery of Shivaji was never projected. In the manipulated stories with ideological colour, wars were never presented as rivalries between kings for power and territorial expansion but as wars taking place between two different religions. The happenings of those times, such as the Mumbai bomb blasts, were discussed in Balagokulams and were portrayed as operations carried out by Muslims against Hindus.

The evening shakhas used to take place for an hour. Apart from yoga, nigooda (traditional war education), marching—what also used to take place were sports activities like kabaddi and khokho. In kabaddi, children were instructed that on the other side of the line were enemies of the nation—who were Muslims, Christians and Communists. The children were instructed to touch as many enemies as possible during the game. This was followed by songs where they were made to feel proud of their Hindu identity. Inculcating superstitious thinking was common where in one instance it was affirmed that a ‘political enemy would die of snake bite, through god who would come in the form of a snake’.

The prathamik varg shikshak varg course used to be organised for a week during Christmas vacation. It used to be residential and would go on for a week. It started with morning prayers, followed by stick movement, discussions, speeches and evening sports. Each event had a strong anti-Muslim, anti-Christian and anti- communist component. The content was primarily from Golwalkar’s Bunch of Thoughts and We or Our Nationhood Defined. The last day was followed by lighting of lamp and a talk urging the trainees to shoulder the responsibility of ‘protecting Hindus’ who are in danger. With this they were prepared as primary instructors.

The RSS has an organised structure. Based on duties, the RSS has Khat Pramukh, Mukya Shikhshak, Shikshak, Shakha Karyavaha and Seva Pramukh. At the Mandal level are Mandal Karyavaha, Saha Karyavaha, Mandal Sharirik Pramukh, Mandal Boumik Pramukh, Mandal Seva Pramukh and Mandal Sampark Pramukh. Apart from this it has Taluk Sangh Chalak, Zilla Pracharak and Zilla Vyavastha Pramukh. These were based on geography and functions such as sports, social activities and public relations.

The RSS has no economic agenda. It has its connection with more powerful sections such as large landholders. The concept of land belonging to the tiller is not a principle believed by them. This is revealed in incidents where they stand by large landholders and against the cultivating landless. These bring out an arrangement through which they can get some land, monetary and political support for RSS activities.

The spread of rumours is a regular process. Rumours are manufactured to throw up the existence of a threat to Hindu religion-based activities and the community. An instance of the Theyyam festival is pointed out where a rumour was spread of the festival going to be disturbed by the other party. Any suspicion of activities targeted against the RSS is acted upon. Sathyan, a famous athlete, became a victim of such suspicion.

Sudheesh attended his first Sangh shiksha varg in Madurai for 25 days. Daily physical training, stick movement, speeches, discussions and exams were an integral part. The shibhir stressed that adoption of Christianity, Islam and Communist ideology had caused the destruction of Indian culture. It was emphasised that to protect Bharat Mata from being turned into pieces and preserving its culture, they needed to fight. The participants were made to draw the map of Akhand Bharat which included China, Afghanistan, Bhutan, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. It was emphasised that as sevaks, they should rest in peace only after getting back Akhand Bharat. Elimination of the three enemies was projected as the way to attain Akhand Bharat. In the second Sangh shiksha varg, attended by the author, the points discussed also included strategies for Hindu revivalism, anti-Hindu behaviour of Gandhi, critics of the Hindutva ideology, pilgrimages, old temples, the need to protect Hindu temples etc.

The author points out that events, which otherwise are not religious, have a hidden agenda when undertaken by the pracharaks. He cites his own example whereby he tried to reach out to the minority institutions to impart Vedic maths to Hindu students. Once the students enrolled to the course beyond the school, they were slowly influenced with the idea of a Hindu nation. This happened even in yoga classes run by pracharaks. Other activities included spiritual activities, yoga, social activities, tuitions, job trainings, coaching institutions for services by pracharaks. During these events there was subtle introduction to various aspects of the RSS ideology. He feels that different aspects of Vedic maths and yoga can be taught by making these completely devoid of any religious colour. The pracharaks operated clandestinely.

The author refers to the huge network of the Sangh Parivar. This includes the Akhil Bharatiya Vidhyarthi Parishad (ABVP) targeting students, Bala Gokulam targeting small children, Yuva Morcha targeting youth, Mahila Morcha targeting women, Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh targeting workers etc. Other wings include Vignana Bharati (Swadeshi Science), Vidya Bharati (Education), Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Hindu Aikya Vedika, Bharatiya Vichaar Kendra, Kshetra Sanrakshan Samithi, Seva Bharati (Social Activities), Bhaskar Jyoti, Vanavasi Kalyana Ashram, Ekalavya Institutions and Vivekananda Kendra. It also has the Ayyapa Seva Samithi, Kannaki, Janmabhoomi, Kesari, Vrattantham, Kurukshetra prakasamm. It has further started associations with the fisher community. Besides, a large number of NGOs are sponsored by the RSS. Each of these works as part of the larger Sangh Parivar to carry their agenda of Hindutva.

The author talks of his experience in organising the shibirs with children in tribal areas. Ideas of Hindutva were introduced in a

primitive community ignoring their identity. Anti-Muslim and anti-Christian feelings were also propagated among them. This was in a community that never believed in the Hindu identity and that by itself was alien.

Referring to his participation in a Naipunya varg (secret summit) of the RSS at Nagpur, he disclosed that it also had famous industrialists, including, Adani, attending the inaugural session. To inculcate the idea of Hindutva among different sections, separate cells were proposed for industrialists, government officials, Hindu priests, teachers, doctors, media and cultural personnel. Each cell was to identify loopholes in identified areas, review once in three months and attack the government in power. Internet was to be used as a means to propagate. The closing ceremony ended with a speech by a retired judge who called for accepting Hindutva as a way of life. This gave a measure of the penetration of the RSS ideology among the elite.

The author observes that the RSS-owned infrastructures have been reduced to places for corruption, sexual activities and preserving weapons. The need to prepare and buy arms for eliminating enemies is emphasised in the Sangh. In the name of fighting back the enemies in Kannur, the Karyavahak suggested the use of rifles instead of bombs and swords. The author quotes an instance where he expressed his frustration to another sevak stating that Swayam-sevaks had become groups which indulge in women harassment, looting and drinking. All this happens in the name of protecting the religion.

Sharing about his visits on RSS missions to the northern parts of the country, he discloses that Swayamsevaks here also consisted of professionals such as doctors, engineers, scientists, police officials. Each wore the sacred thread. Rich landlords with large landholdings were also part of them. The responsibility for running panchayati or block level shibirs was largely in their hands. Dalits, who were landless, were exploited. An instance is quoted where a rich landlord (a swayamsevak) was approached by a lease farmer requesting him to allow for delay in repaying his loan due to crop failure. In return, the lease farmer was asked to send his wife and daughters to the landlord. Another instance was where the request of a tribal leader to install Ganesh in a temple in a tribal dominant locality was made to the Sangh leaders. This was rejected on the premise that this was reserved only for upper castes. When finally it was installed, the temple was set on fire.

The author conveys that while the Sangh mobilises Dalits for events such as Babri Masjid demolition, the ones who instigate such operations from the upper caste continue to be safe. The Dalits, who are made to participate, become victims. This happened during the pulling down of the Babri mosque in December 1992 and was equally true at the time of Gujarat 2002. The Sangh mobilises crores of rupees in the name of Guru Dakshina. From within Kerala, about Rs 250 crores is mobilised. Big industrialists, business persons, contractors, government officials also donate to the RSS. A huge amount is mobilised from across the country. This is used for orgineering communal violence, planning terror activities, destroying peace and harmony among communities.

The author parted away from the RSS to join an alternative. He asserts that corporatisation and communalisation have come together and are posing threats to national security, democratic values and the secular fabric of the nation. Hence his emphasis on the need for an alternative.

The book by Sudheesh Minni is necessary reading for those who still have an illusion about the RSS and Sangh Parivar. It also analyses the way the parivar functions. Most importantly, it helps in breaking the myth of the RSS being a mere cultural and social organisation working for the protection of Hindus. It convinces you that more than protecting one, its activities are centred on propagating the idea of eliminating the other. On the pretext of building a Hindu identity, its attempt in maintaining caste and class-based dominance becomes more than clear. It is welcome reading for all those working to expose the activities of the RSS across the country.

The author works with an NGO as a researcher.

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