RSS at 100: Reflections on a Century of Service and Influence

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has played a multifaceted role in shaping Indian society and politics.
Keywords: RSS, Society, Politics, Culture, Inspiration, Global, Community
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The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) approaches its centenary in 2025 is a testament to the enduring influence and significance of this socio-cultural organization in shaping the fabric of Indian society. Founded in 1925 by Dr. Keshav Baliram Hedgewar, with a mere handful of dedicated individuals, the RSS has grown into a vast network with a profound impact on the nation. As the organisation prepares to mark this historic milestone, it is important to reflect on its journey, its role in modern India, and the reasons behind its enduring relevance.

From its humble beginnings, the RSS has expanded exponentially, with a presence in almost every corner of India. With daily shakhas held in thousands of locations across the country, the RSS has become deeply ingrained in the social and cultural landscape of India. Its emphasis on physical fitness, moral values, and national pride has resonated with millions of individuals, making it one of, if not the largest voluntary NGO in the world.

One of the defining features of the RSS is its commitment to nation-building and social cohesion. Through its various initiatives, including educational programmes, disaster relief efforts, and community service projects, the RSS has played a pivotal role in fostering a sense of unity and solidarity among diverse communities. In a country as vast and diverse as India is, such efforts are crucial for maintaining social harmony and promoting mutual understanding.

Moreover, the RSS has been instrumental in preserving and promoting India’s rich cultural heritage. By celebrating festivals, staging cultural events, and promoting traditional arts and crafts, the RSS has ensured that India’s civilisational legacy continues to thrive. In an age of rapid globalisation and cultural homogenisation, the RSS’s efforts to preserve indigenous traditions are more relevant than ever.

RSS has maintained its growth and influence, producing notable leaders and inspiring various movements. One such leader who played a pivotal role in the RSS’s evolution is Professor Balraj Madhok, whose contributions have left a lasting impact on the organisation.

Balraj Madhok, a prominent RSS pracharak, was instrumental in articulating and disseminating the organisation’s ideology. His deep understanding of Hindu nationalism and ability to communicate its principles effectively helped galvanise popular support for the RSS’s objectives. Madhok’s tireless efforts to promote the RSS’s vision earned him widespread respect. His legacy continues to inspire current and future generations of RSS workers, reinforcing the organization’s commitment to its core values.

One of the most significant contributions of the RSS in recent years was its role in the political landscape leading up to the 2014 general elections in India. The RSS, through its affiliated organisations, including the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), played a crucial role in mobilising support for the Narendra Modi-led government. The BJP’s landslide victory in 2014 marked a turning point in Indian politics, with the RSS’s ideological influence becoming more pronounced at the national level.

With regard to Jammu and Kashmir, the RSS has been actively involved in advocating for the abrogation of Article 370, which granted special autonomous status to the region. The RSS’s efforts to repeal Article 370 were aligned with its vision of a unified and integrated India. Through grassroots mobilisation, awareness campaigns, and lobbying efforts, the RSS exerted pressure on the government to address the issue. The eventual revocation of Article 370 in 2019 was a significant victory for the RSS and its supporters, signaling a decisive shift in India’s approach towards Kashmir.

Furthermore, the RSS has played a crucial role in addressing various socio-economic challenges facing Jammu and Kashmir. Through its extensive network of volunteers and affiliated bodies, the RSS has implemented numerous developmental projects aimed at empowering local communities, promoting education, and fostering economic growth. These efforts have helped bridge the gap between different segments of society and fostered a sense of national belonging and solidarity among the people of Jammu and Kashmir.

Beyond India’s borders, the RSS has actively engaged with the global  diaspora, fostering a sense of cultural and religious identity among Hindus living abroad. Through cultural exchange programs, educational initiatives, and advocacy efforts, the RSS has strengthened ties between India and its diaspora, promoting mutual understanding and cooperation. The global outreach of the RSS has facilitated the exchange of ideas and resources, enriching the collective experience of Hindus and members of Indic religions worldwide.

In addition to its domestic activities, the RSS has also been actively involved in promoting a positive image of India on the global stage. By highlighting India’s cultural and spiritual heritage, as well as its contributions to the fields of science, technology, and literature, the RSS has sought to enhance India’s soft power and influence in the international community. This intercontinental action has helped to foster greater understanding and cooperation between India and other nations, paving the way for mutually beneficial partnerships.

As India grapples with the challenges of the 21st century, including economic development, social inequality, and national security threats, organisations like the RSS are needed now more than ever. With its emphasis on self-discipline, patriotism, and social responsibility, the RSS provides a moral compass for individuals and communities alike. By instilling a sense of pride in Indian culture and heritage, the RSS empowers citizens to contribute positively to the nation’s progress and prosperity.

Furthermore, in a world increasingly plagued by extremism and radicalism, the RSS’s message of tolerance, inclusivity, and respect for all religions is particularly relevant. By promoting interfaith dialogue and mutual respect, the RSS acts as a bulwark against the forces of hatred and division. In  India, where religious and cultural differences often intersect, the RSS’s efforts to promote harmony and understanding are indispensable.

Over the past century, the RSS has made significant contributions to the socio-cultural fabric of India and the world at large. From its humble beginnings to its current status as a global phenomenon, the RSS has remained true to its founding principles of selfless service, national unity, and cultural revival. As it nears its centenary, the RSS stands as a shining example of the power of grassroots activism and community engagement.

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has played a multifaceted role in shaping Indian society and politics. Some instances are its service activities in Jammu and Kashmir, its contributions to the 2014 general elections, and its engagement with the global Hindu diaspora. As India continues to navigate complex challenges and opportunities, the RSS is poised to play a key part in shaping the nation’s trajectory.

From its inception as a small cadre of dedicated individuals to its current status as a global force for positive change, the RSS remains committed to its mission of nation-building, cultural revival, and global harmony, shining as a beacon of hope and inspiration for generations to come.

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Akanksha Singh

Akanksha Singh is a Policy Research Consultant MA LLB at Green Genome.

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