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CRIME AND REDEMPTION : TOI Article on Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh

Violent young men experience a different conversion

On Friday evening, Thamaram, a small hamlet near Kalady in Thiruvanantha puram has a special visitor.

The supreme head of RSS, sar sangh chalak Mohan Bhagwat, arrives and joins around 200 se vaks in their routine prayer and ex ercise. Thamaram shakha is the only one in Bhagwat’s Kerala itinerary . There is a reason for that.

Thamaram was once notorious for goons and quotation gangs, young men on hire to whoever bid the highest price to maim and kill. That was before the RSS shakha was set up. Today, around 600 families living there vouch that peace is back in their lives.

The RSS views the transformation of Thamaram as the result of an active shakha functioning there. Adjacent to the small Devi temple, a lively shakha functions and sevaks assemble every day morning at 6am for training.

On Friday evening, Bhagawat doesn’t address the gathering, but his very presence and effervescent smile has a visible effect. To welcome him, around 200 members had reached the shakha on Friday evening.

“We have 75 active workers. There are sevaks as young as five years to as old as 65,“ says Akhilraj M L who is in charge of the shakha. True to his word, half a dozen toddlers were seen doing Surya Namaskar ahead of Bhagwat’s visit.

N Mohanan (61) is the oldest sevak present for Friday’s session. Unmindful of a weak kidney, Mohanan joined others in doing 45-minutes of physical exercise. “I am 37 Sangh years old,“ he says with a smile when quizzed about the secret of his energy. From 1979, Mohanan attends shakhas and is now in charge of the basthi comprising Thamaram and three nearby shakhas. “I only skip play during our exercise regimen,“ says Mohanan.

He said the priority of Sangh leadership in shakhas similar to Thamaram is to ensure social security. “We still see youngsters lured by something that they don’t know would be detrimental to their interests. They need to be brought back,“ said Mohanan.

Thamaram was notorious for goonda gangs and local politicians used to hire henchmen from this area. Twenty two years ago, RSS established a shakha here to take up the challenge. “We have lost eight sevaks in conflicts with CPM. Many of them had switched over to RSS from their fold,“ says a senior RSS senior leader who preferred anonymity.

“There are several specialties in this shakha. All four sections of the shakha ­ schoolchildren, teenagers, college-going students and adults ­ are active here. More than 80% members of the shakha come from weaker sections,“ the leader recalls.

The RSS, as the next step of expansion, recently launched Akshayasree at Thamaram.Akshayasree is a self-help society for women like Kudumbashree and through this the Sangh aims to bring women from the families of shakha-regulars to their fold.

 

The Article was written by B. Sreejan and published by Times of India on 24th September 2016

 

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