In Shadow Armies: Fringe Organizations and Foot Soldiers of Hindutva, Dhirendra K Jha, a senior journalist, reports on eight groups that are affiliated, in one form or another, with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). These include the Sanatan Sanstha, a radical group that was suspected of being linked to the murders of the rationalists Narendra Dabholkar, MM Kalburgi and Govind Pansare; the Hindu Yuva Vahini, a youth organisation with a history of violence and arson, whose founder, Yogi Adityanath, was recently appointed chief minister of Uttar Pradesh; and the Rashtriya Sikh Sangat, the Sikh arm of the RSS. “Whenever these other bodies create a controversy, the RSS and the BJP promptly label them ‘fringe organizations.’ The fact, however, is that they are active parts of the Sangh Parivar, working as buffer organizations,” Jha writes in the introduction to the book. “The brazen acts required to create polarization in our society are often carried out by these very establishments.”
The following is an excerpt from a section in the book that is based on the Bhonsala Military School (BMS). The school, which provides military education to young Hindus, was founded by BS Moonje, a prominent Hindu leader in Maharashtra during the pre-Independence era. Moonje headed the Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha, a Hindu nationalist political organisation, between 1927 and 1937, and was also a political guru to KB Hedgewar, the founder of the RSS. In 1934, Moonje established the Central Hindu Military Education Society (CHMES), under whose banner the BMS was founded, in 1937, in Nashik. The school, which continues to run till present day, has been linked to various attacks by Hindu extremists in the recent past. The Maharashtra Anti-Terror Squad, for instance, found during its investigation of the 2008 Malegaon blasts that several of the accused had been trained at BMS. Witnesses and co-accused told the ATS that they had participated in meetings with senior RSS leaders and their affiliates to plan the bombings, and that these had taken place on BMS premises. In the extract, Jha recounts how, after Moonje’s death, the RSS came to be involved in the running of the school.
The founder of the Bhonsala Military School considered it not just a centre for providing military training to young Hindu boys but also an establishment to preserve and promote Sanatan Dharma. He named the school grounds at Nashik “Ramabhoomi” (the land of Rama) and its cadets “Rama-dandee” (the bearer of the staff of Rama).