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Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) is a Hindu nationalist movement that bases itself on the principles of Hindutva. It was started in 1925 by Dr. K. B. Hedgewar. In 1948 it was banned following the assassination of Mohandas Gandhi by Nathuram Godse, a right-wing Hindu who was upset at Gandhi's appeasement of Muslims and who was an ex-member of RSS as well as the Congress Party. It was cleared after an investigation and the ban was lifted the following year. Since then it has slowly gained prominence and political influence, culminating in the rise of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), usually considered to be the political wing of the Sangh movement, to head the central government (Center) of India.

Organisational structure

The Sangh organises itself hierarchically, with a single individual, the sarsanghachalak, directing it. The position is decided by appointment, with each sarsanghachalak appointing his successor. Most of the organisational work of the Sangh is done through the coordination of shakhas, or clubs, which consist of a group of men and women (usually segregated) from an area. The activities consist of prayer, games (including sometimes training in stick fighting), and an educational session (bouddhik) given by a notable figure selected by the shakha coordinator. Usually the educational session relates to the history of India, Indian philosophy and culture, or ethics.

The organisation is ostensibly entirely volunteer-run, though full-time volunteers (pracharaks) are sometimes subsidized by donations.


The Sangh is usually considered to be a right-wing group. The Hindutva philosophy is often labelled fascist by Communists though the main demand of RSS has been that the Government stop appeasement of Muslims. References to the infamous Shah Bano case and subsidies for Haj pilgrimage by the Sangh are often labelled as stirring up anti-Muslim hate. However, the historical position of the RSS and the Hindutva movement has been that Hindus have been oppressed in their own homeland (India) for many years, and that RSS is only asserting the natural rights of Hindus and correcting historical wrongs. The most notable conflict over this divergent view of history involves the Babri Masjid mosque, which was destroyed in 1992 by devotees who wanted the land on which the illegitimate mosque stood. Babri Masjid was built by the Muslim ruler Babar in the 16th century after he demolished the preexisting Rama Janambhoomi Temple, which Hindus believe to be the site of the birth of the legendary Hindu God Rama.

The Sangh also considers all inhabitants of India irrepective of their religion as Hindus and their idea of a Hindu country accommodates every religion. This point has been countered by various political parties, notably Communists, who have insisted that Muslims are exempted from the legal system. Imposition of the Shariat has caused great hardship to Muslim women in India. (See Hindutva for further discussion)

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