An RSS Shakha in Anantpur Celebrates Its First Anniversary

Pictures of KB Hedgewar, Bharat Mata, and MS Golwalkar.

Rahul M
16 March, 2015

On a pleasant evening in early March, as the light grew dim, a college student dressed in a white shirt and khaki shorts distributed biscuits to a group of children who had gathered outside the Ram temple in Bhairav Nagar, Anantpur, Andhra Pradesh. Dhanush, a six-year-old, touched a biscuit to his eyes as if it was prasad from a temple, before eating it. He and the other children were attending the first anniversary celebrations of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh shakha at Bhairav Nagar. There were about 200 young people gathered there—school children from surrounding villages and students from a polytechnic government college.

The student volunteers from the polytechnic college drew chalk lines in the soil to demarcate the three groups of people attending the event: the speakers (two senior swayamsevaks and a polytechnic college lecturer), the swayamsevaks who would be demonstrating the vyayam, or the exercise drill, and the audience.

The event began with about twenty swayamsewaks from the polytechnic college, placing themselves in a formation of four rows. They did the gaja namaskara, a prayer offered to the stalwarts of the RSS and to Mother India, an exercise drill, yoga and karate.

The chief guest and the first speaker was Ramakrishna, a lecturer from the polytechnic college who was a former swayamsewak. He began, "We should serve the people. This was what Dr Godse…" he paused and corrected himself, “…this was what Dr Hedgewar explained.”

His speech was followed by a volunteer’s song: "I will become the light in a lamp and burn for my country. My decency and my culture are paths to a new life. With the memories of yesteryear's glory, I will respond," he sang in Telugu.

After the song, Raghavendra, the Anantpur and Kadapa division secretary, took over the microphone. He spoke about Hedgewar and narrated episodes from Hedgewar's childhood. One was about an adolescent Hedgewar organising students to shout out “Vande Matharam” when a district educational officer, a Britisher, came to visit his school. Another was about a young Hedgewar going to Calcutta to study medicine, "because all the revolutionaries at that time were fighting from there."

Raghavendra went further on to say: "Britishers have ruled us today, Mughals the day before, who will rule us tomorrow? Our aim should be Hindu sanghatana karyakramam (a programme to unite Hindus)."

After about half an hour of RSS history, Raghavendra turned to Kashmir. “We collected funds from Anantpur during the Kashmir floods because everything from Kashmir to Kanyakumari belongs to us.”

He then narrated a story from the 1965 India-Pakistan War: “During the war, when Swayamsevaks from Kashmir went to help the army, few army boxes fell to the other side of the boarder. The swayamsevaks said, ‘Don’t go, soldiers, we will fetch the boxes.’ Only four out of eight returned. When the Major asked Golwalkar Guru-ji , ‘How did these 16, 17-year olds show such courage?’ Guru-ji answered, ‘They play kabaddi everyday at the sangh.’”

Raghavendra continued: “Two of the swayamsevaks who played kabaddi became prime ministers of our country. All kinds of people join the RSS. There are dhobis, barbers, rickshaw wallas etc. The RSS is the only organisation that can shape a common man into a PM."

After the speech, a few children who tried to clap were asked not to. "We never clap at sangh," a volunteer explained. After the programme, biscuits and panakam (jaggery water) were distributed to the students, before they returned to their homes.

Rahul M is an award-winning independent journalist based in Andhra Pradesh.