Intro: The daily shakha system of imparting knowledge of character and discipline, removing all the weeds that were dividing the ancient society, to build up an indomitable organised strong Hindu society is RSS founder Dr Hedgewar’s greatest and unique contribution and service to his motherland.
The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) is a very well known organisation. Decades ago, the BBC announced that it is the most wide spread and biggest non-governmental voluntary organisation which is working in India for Hindu consolidation. Since then RSS has grown and spread in multiple proportions. But still, very few, outside sangh circles, know about the founder of this mighty organisation, Dr Keshavrao Balirampanth Hedgewar, popularly known as ‘Doctorji’.
Dr Hedgewar was a born patriot, and this instinctive patriotism burst forth at an early age of eight when he threw away the sweets distributed to the school children on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of British Queen Victoria. There are many such occasions which reflect how he grew up manifesting his patriotic nature. He intensely felt that our motherland must be freed from the foreign yoke at any cost and so worked zealously to achieve it by working with revolutionaries, Indian National Congress and Hindu Maha Sabha. His involvement in whatever activity he got associated was total, selfless and dedicated.
It is said he was not charmed by influence and longing for name, fame, wealth and women. He went to Calcutta to pursue medical degree only to know about and work with freedom fighters in the capital of British Raj at that time. After getting his medical degree he did not practice even for a day, even though he lived a life of poverty and went through extreme harsh financial conditions for long. Throughout his life, he desired only to live for the county and work for its good.
After returning from Calcutta, he worked at Nagpur and nearby areas and rose up to the position of joint general secretary of the Provincial Congress in 1922. He was a very powerful speaker; his burning words attracted, and inspired the youth for which he had to face the charge of sedition and was dragged to the court, where he defended himself in a vigorous manner. The presiding judge exclaimed that “His defense is more seditious than his original speech”. Not content with his defense arguments Dr Hedgewar followed it up with a brief speech. For short of space, only a few sentences of that speech are quoted here….. “India belongs to Indians; we therefore, demand independence……”
“I am asking you the counsel for the government this simple question, is it not against natural justice, if it is true that no country has a right to rule over another country? Who gave the British the authority to trample the people of India under their feet? Is it not a most blatant murder of justice, morality and dharma? …… We demand nothing short of complete independence till we achieve it we cannot be at peace……”
The Judge pronounced one year’s rigorous imprisonment for him. After one year when he was released prominent leaders including Motilal Nehru were there to receive him.
The founder of RSS, Doctorji, was associated with several social organisations also. He noticed pronounced indiscipline among workers at every level in both the political and social organisations. To counter this he tried to organise a disciplined volunteer corps as part of the congress. Some people did not like it and this experiment did not give the expected results. Selfishness was rampant and ideologically also he was dissatisfied with the congress policy of appeasement of Muslims.
He delved deep into all these experiences to find answers to certain basic questions : over these years of fraternisation, have the Muslims ever responded positively to any of our gestures? Have they developed any warmth towards the Hindu society? Have they reciprocated the Hindu tradition of tolerance, of live and let live? Have they exhibited the slightest willingness to join us in paying homage to Bharat Mata? How is it that Muslims, who are so few in numbers, are so fearlessly attacking the Hindus? And why Hindus, who constitute the majority, are not able to protect themselves? Is this not a matter of shame? Why is this so?
Hedgewar had by this time realised that the lack of cohesion and self respect among the Hindus was the chief melody. The only lasting solution therefore was to mould the Hindu consciousness into one of self respect, unity and courage. More than the external threat of Muslims or the British, it was the curse of internal dissensions and indiscipline eating into the vitals of Hindu society, which worried him the most.
In the atmosphere that prevailed in 1925, quite a few of the national leader keenly felt the need for organising the Hindus. Some others, even doubted Doctor’s efforts as “Communal” “childish” etc. However, Doctorji remained cool and unruffled. He had firm faith in the worthiness of the mission he had conceived after he had studiously analysed the happenings during those days. His mind was engrossed in searching answers to deeper questions. What is the true nature of our nation; what freedom are we actually fighting for? What are its traits? And again, what is the root cause of our national downfall and slavery?
Dr Hedgewar delved deep into past history and recognised certain basic truths. Ours is an ancient nation, it came long before other nations of the world appeared. When most of the modern nations of the west were not out of jungles, and the world had not even heard of Jesus or Mohammed, our county was universally revered for its achievements in every sphere of human activity—science, art, commerce, philosophy and spirituality. And all this was made possible by the endless efforts and sacrifices of the original residents, popularly known as Hindu people.
All the great father figures of national renaissance had drunk deep from this fount of Hindu Nation and fought both Muslim and British invaders. Whether it was Ranapratap or Shivaji, Vidyaranya or Guru Gobind Singh, Vivekandanda or Aurobindo, Tilak or Gandhi all of them spoke in the same strain, invoking the same Hindu innate spirit and roused the people into action.
Doctor Hedgewar concluded that if the two pronged attacks of the British domination and Muslim separation had to be met, the only effective course was to awaken and organise the Hindu people and to fill them with an intense spirit of nationalism, for he felt, it is only on the bedrock of such national strength that the British Power could be humbled and the Muslim made to realise that their interests are better served by merging into national mainstream. It is the realisation of this basic fact of our national life that formed the ideological base of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh founded by Dr Hedgewar.
The Mission of the Sangh was therefore to be one of recharging our people with the true spirit of national character and cohesion. All the social evils, like caste, untouchability, etc., which disrupted and devitalised our nation during the last several centuries should be eradicated and the sublime and life sustaining values of our national culture had to be cultivated. This was not to be limited to any particular caste or class, sex or creed, province or political party. Based on these principles, Doctorji thought he should first build up a devoted and sincere band of intelligent workers and train them to rouse the indifferent Hindu society.
Doctorji deeply thought about how and what should be the practical method through which such groups of workers sincere and devoted could be trained? After a few experimentations and careful and intense pondering he hit upon the novel plan : this idea was that the personas of one locality or area forgetting their caste or status differences should meet at one particular place and time regularly, without fail. During that one hour, simple programmes which would impart discipline and train the body, mind and intellect in an atmosphere of mutual love, affection and trust, without giving any room for differences, enthusiastic games and physical exercise, patriotic songs sung in chorus, small talks about the national hero’s and other great men of our country and a common prayer in the last ending with “Bharat mata ki jai” should be conducted. This one group meeting was to be called “Shakha”, and each person participating was to be called “a Swayamsevak”- a self-motivated, selfless servant of the society. Such Shakhas should gradually cover every area of every town, city and village throughout the country. Shakha should begin with hoisting of the Bhagwa dhwaj with salutations, and should end with bringing down the Dhwaj after salutation.
It was not an easy to make every one meet daily at a particular time and place for a cause, without getting anything in return personally. But Dr. Hedgewar determined as he was would personally visit the houses of Swayamsevaks everyday at their freetime, sit with them, and spend some time affectionately and informally. His affection, sincerity, patriotism were all so transparent that he would influence everyone to follow him with full faith.
In the evening again he would go to every house and take them to the Shakha. This made the Shakha gathering a success and swayamsevaks started attending shakhas daily with great enthusiasm. Dr Hedgdewar closely observed every person and monitored their developments. He gave special attention to young people in the age group of 15-18 and personally took pains to imbue them with ideological convictions along with training them for conducting shakhas by themselves.
The living model which provided the necessary vision inspiration and guidance to the swayamsevaks to mould them however remained the life of Hedgewar himself. He earnestly and meticulously worked on his image as a shining embodiment of the mission he had initiated through the Sangh by overcoming all his shortcomings. He tried hard to reform himself to the extent that he metamorphosed from a purely agitator and fighter into a silent, patient and calm nation builder by casting away his inherited and inborn nature of hot temper to a sweet, affectionate and loving nature. Another most important aspect he had mastered was the quality of maintaining a personal contact, informal and living communication with everyone. This personal touch endeared him to every person. Dr Hegdewar had innovated a system of special training classes to train and develop ordinary swayamsevaks into devoted and efficient, effective workers. These swayamsevaks are responsible for the present enormous growth of the sangh and its allied activities, spread in every district of this vast country from Himalayas to Kanyakumari.
Swayamsevaks moulded as instruments of transformation have by and large proved successful in whatever field they have entered and are working undauntedly for the all round national regeneration.