In late 1980s, Bhanwar Meghwanshi, a 13-year-old from the Dalit community, started attending the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh’s shakhas in Rajasthan, without knowing much about the organisation. Over the course of around four years, Meghwanshi grew to harbour a visceral hatred for Muslims and began to take immense pride in his Hindu identity. He dedicated himself to the cause of the RSS’s Hindu Rashtra, even receiving military training by the organisation. But after facing discrimination within the RSS, he realised that its vision is different for caste Hindus and Dalits.
Meghwanshi is now a journalist and an activist. His book Main Ek Karsevak Tha—I Was a Karsevak—was first published in Hindi in 2019 and its English translation, I Could Not Be Hindu: The Story of a Dalit in the RSS, was published by Navayana in January this year. That month, Sushil Kumar, an independent journalist, spoke to Meghwanshi about the RSS’s process of indoctrinating its cadre, its glorification of violence and its vision for a Hindu Rashtra.
Sushil Kumar: In which period were you in the RSS?
Bhanwar Meghwanshi: I was active from 1987 to 1991. I participated in the first “karaseva” of 1990. I had left home to dismantle the Babri Masjid [in Uttar Pradesh’s Ayodhya], but did not reach, as the [Samajwadi Party chief] Mulayam Singh’s government was in power. At that time, we used to call him “Mulla-yam” Singh, meaning “maulana Mulayam.” His government arrested me, near the Tundla station, and kept me in the Agra jail for some ten days. By then, whatever karaseva had to take place had taken place. Then I returned home.
SK: Were there any women at the shakha?
BM: At the shakha, all were men. We talked only about purusharth, male dominance. It is evident that there was no place for women. Seen one way, the meaning of purushartha is masculinity, patriarchy.
SK: What did you learn during your time as a swayamsevak?
BM: I got to learn many things. First thing, I evidently became a reactionary. The second thing I learnt was to imagine everyone who was not from my village and panchayat as an enemy, and fight them, defeat them and hate them.