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Dhiraj Kumar Sarma | North East Today | May Edition 2016:: There were not many takers of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in the Northeast till recently due to its communal image. But of late, the Men in Khaki have gained substantial grounds in the region. Many educated youths have now joined the saffron brigade, thanks to the current BJP-led Central government’s strong endorsement of it besides the Sangh’s relentless effort to penetrate into the region for decades. Northeast Today reports:
During the recently concluded South Asian Games, in a high voltage hockey match between India and Pakistan at Maulana Md. Tayabullah hockey stadium in Guwahati, Assam, when the Indian players entered the field, thousands of spectators gathered from different parts of the Northeast region at the gallery greeted them with “Bharat Mata Ki Jai”, a slogan relatively new for the people of the region. This was, perhaps, an indication of the changing times for the Northeast.
“During the past couple of years, more and more educated youth of the Northeast have joined our organization. The ‘Join RSS’ tab on our website is getting more and more hits in the recent times,” says Shankar Das, Pranta Pracharak (publicity head of RSS), Assam.
The rise of the RSS in the Northeast is evident as the organization, which had only one branch, Assam Kshetra, till a few years ago, has now four divisions – Uttar Assam (covering Meghalaya and Nagaland), Dakshin Assam (covering Tripura and Mizoram), Arunachal and Manipur.
RSS in Northeast: It was in 1946 the first Shakha in the Northeast was established in Guwahati, on the grounds of Shukreshwar temple, beside the Brahmaputra. Initiative of some locals resulted in brining three experienced Maharashtrian RSS Pracharaks – Dadarao Parmarth, Vasant Rao Oak and Shri Krishna Paranjpe – to Guwahati on October 27, 1946. While Parmarth became the Prant (regional) Pracharak of Assam, he deputed two of his colleagues to Shillong and Dibrugarh.
The RSS, however, had a setback when it was banned after the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi in 1948. In December 1948, RSS Swayamsevaks across the country launched a nationwide Satyagraha against the ban. Fifty-two activists from the Assam unit took an active role in this; among them were, Keshav Deo Baawri, Girish Kalita, Shankarlal Tiwari and Prafulla Kumar Bora of Guwahati. Dadarao Parmarth was arrested and detained in the Shillong jail. In July 1949, after the ban was lifted, Dadarao Parmarth left due to illness and was succeeded by Dattopant Thengdi. In 1949, Thakur Ramsingh was appointed the Prant Pracharak of Assam. The next Pranta Pracharak was Sukanta Joshi, who extended the unit of the RSS to other states of Northeast such as Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh.
“The RSS doesn’t believe in having region specific aims and objectives. We want the idea of nationalism to flourish across the country. So we propagate the same in the Northeast India too.
However, since there are some specific problems pertaining to the region, the style of functioning is different in the Northeast. But at the end, we want the idea of nationalism to continue in the region,” says Dr Umesh Chakravarty , Pranta Sanchalak (president) of Northeast, adding, “The anti-nationalist elements are very much active in this part of the region. The terrorist, Maoist and fundamentalist groups try to keep the region away from the mainstream Indian though process. They have been doing this over the years through various means and the Sangh has been vehemently opposing it. We want to ensure that the anti-nationalist elements don’t succeed with their sinister designs. What we endeavour is to make the people of the region feel proud to be an integral part of India. We also make them aware that prosperity of the people of the region depends upon the progress made by India.”
Assam: In Assam, after the national emergency of 1977, the work of the RSS gained momentum. The Sangh played a part during the Assam Movement, which sought deportation of illegal migrants from Bangladesh. “In 1980, RSS made it clear that Hindu migrants would be given the refugee status, but the Muslims would be regarded as foreigners,” Das said.
In 1980, Hindu Sanmilans were organized in various parts of Assam and the RSS gradually started its operations in the state. However, the actual ground was made in 1984 when Eketmata Yatra was organised where Raths coming from Bhairabkunda and from Tripura met in Guwahati.
The Sangh started functioning actively in Assam after the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992. In 1994, three local Pracharak emerged in Assam to give RSS a boost in the region. When RSS celebrated its 50 years in the state in 1997, there were 42 local Pracharaks.
“Not just Assam, the entire country is becoming polarized as Hindus face more and more opposition. This is mainly due to the stand of successive governments and intellectuals against the RSS. If we talk about Hindus, people call us communal. However, the educated young generation has understood the reality. Even a huge section of youths studying abroad are getting attracted by our ideology and following us. The youth have realized that the root of the BJP is RSS. In Assam, on an average, three persons are joining our organization every day,” explained Das.
He further added, “More importantly, of late, people have realized that we are not anti-Muslim or anti-Christian. Earlier, people of Assam had a wrong perception that Sangha is for the people of the Hindi belts. With more and more local people joining the Sangh, people have started taking us seriously.”
The RSS regards the Bangladeshi immigrant problem as the core of every problem in Assam. They believe that since the formation of the Muslim League in 1906, there has been a sinister design to occupy Assam through a plan known as ‘Sonar Bangla’. “Assam has always been their soft target. Assam will only survive if the 66 per cent Hindus (including tribals) remain united,” Das expressed.
Young people from diversified background have joined RSS in the recent times in Assam. Manabendra Chakraborty (32), a corporate employee, says, “I have joined RSS after having an in-depth study about the organization. Its ideology is not communal. It teaches us to have self respect (read a proud Hindu), but never asks us to hate people of other faith and religion.” Echoing the same feeling Ranjit Dev Choudhury (45), a practicing lawyer of Gauhati High Court, said, “After I joined Sakha, my physical strength has improved and my sugar level is in control. One needs a healthy body to have a sound mind. This is the advantage of joining the Sangh and practising Pranayam every day.”
Arunachal Pradesh: Since 1960, RSS has been running a programme called Bharat Mera Ghar (India My Home) for the teachers and deprived students from the border areas, through which they used to visit different parts of the country on educational tours. Even in 2013, a group of 23 teachers from nine districts of Arunachal Pradesh toured Maharashtra under the programme to promote national integration.
The establishment of Arunachal Vikas Parishad, a brainchild of the indigenous faith movement doyen Golgi Bote Talom Rukbo in 1993, also boosted the spirit of the people. Thereby, RSS Sakhas in Arunchal Pradesh came into existence in 1990s.
“Arunchal Pradesh is strategically a very important state for our country. The state shares its boundary with three foreign countries – Myanmar, Bhutan and China. From the point of national and international security and China’s claim on Arunachal’s territories, the state becomes even more important,” says Sunil Mohanty, Arunachal Prant Pracharak, adding, “The patriotism of the people of Arunachal Pradesh is beyond doubt and there are over 50 local units including Sakhas, Milans and Mondolis of the RSS in the state. We also constantly make the people aware on what China is doing in Tibet and how China is building big dams over Brahmaputra. The response we get from the people of Arunchal is tremendous.”
Observing the 50 years of Indo- China war, Sanskar Bharati Poorvottor organized ‘Sarhad Ko Swaranjali’ in November 2013 at Indira Gandhi Park in Itanagar, where delegates from Arunachal Pradesh and other Northeasteastern states paid rich tributes to the martyrs of the 1962 war and acknowledged the exemplary services rendered by the Indian soldiers. They also felicitated the wheel-chair bound Leela Devi (94), mother of martyr Jaswant Singh, who came all the way from Dehradun to attend the programme as the chief guest. “Under Seva Bharati our volunteers have been imparting education to underprivileged students of Arunachal. Especially, our free-of-cost coaching classes on Mathematics and civil services orientation classes are helping a large number of students,” Mohanty said.
Dora Bage (22), the education secretary of Galo Students’ Association, Daporijo, Arunachal Pradesh, joined RSS in 2002. Bage shares, “One of my friends introduced me to the ideology of the Sangh and I got inclined to the organization. I was also impressed with the discipline of the organization. RSS talks for patriotism, which is good about our country.”
Manipur: Manipur is another state of Northeast India, where the RSS has made a significant mark. At present there are 115 local units including Sakhas, Milans and Mondolis operating in the state. Although RSS existed in the state since 1952, day to day operational activities of the organization started in the year 1965.
“The activities of the RSS gained momentum in 1994 and we have been raising issues like national integration since then. We have been working for promoting Hindu culture, traditions and identity of Manipur. We are against the illegal influx of Bangladeshis through Jiribam,” says MM Asokan, Prant Pracharak of RSS in Manipur.
The organization got a major boost when the RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat while inaugurating a conference of cadres of the organization at the Bhaigyachandra Open Air Theatre in Imphal on December 7, 2014 said, “The problems faced by Manipur are the problems of the nation,” adding, “RSS has given Prime Minister to the nation and could produce many such others, and urged the people to join the RSS.”
Manipur is just one step ahead of the other RSS Sakhas when it comes to development of education. There are RSS-run single teacher Ekal Vidyalaya schools in five districts of the state and the organization has been regularly organizing yearly educational camps on a regular basis. “Even now we are holding Sangh Shiksh Warga-2016 for Manipur at ‘The Ideal Teacher’ Training Academy, Khurai Khongnagmakhong in Imphal East district from April 18 to May 9. Altogether 106 trainees are participating in the camp from 34 different places of Manipur, representing 6 of 9 districts in Manipur, says Rajen Singh, a Karyavah from Manipur.
Meghalaya & Nagaland: The RSS has been able to spread its wings in the Christian- dominated Northeastern states of Meghalaya and Nagaland. While there are five divisions of RSS in Meghalaya – two each in Khasi Hills and Jaintia Hills – there are three Sakhas in Nagaland. Against nine Milan (weekly programme) units and eight Mondoli (monthly programme) units in Meghalaya, there is one Milan and two Mondolis in Nagaland.
RSS Shillong unit leader Makashang Khongshei cited the influx of Bangladeshi migrants into Meghalaya as the main problem of the state. He alleged that people at the helm of affairs were ‘sleeping’ as most of the areas in the state were being dominated by Bangladeshis. Khongshei said, “Bangladeshis are infiltrating into the Khasi and Jaintia tribal families by marrying their girls and they take advantage of the matrilineal system to set up their business. We have been constantly raising the issue,” adding, “Since 80 per cent people here are Christian, we have involved a huge section of the people and imparting education among them.”
On January 24, 2016 the RSS took out its maiden ‘Path Sanchalan’ (procession) in capital Shillong. Nearly 300 RSS cadres – mostly from the indigenous Khasi and Jaintia communities from across Khasi-Jaintia Hills region – donning khaki shorts and white shirts and armed with sticks marched from Upper Mawprem to Balika Vidyalaya School. The rally was organized to commemorate the birth anniversary of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose.
RSS cadres also took out a road march in Zikzak area of South West Garo Hills district to pay tribute to Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose on his 119th birth anniversary. Five Christians also participated in the Shillong rally. “It was a historic moment for us (RSS) in Meghalaya to take out Path Sanchalan in Shillong and Garo Hills to pay tribute to Netaji,” RSS Shillong unit leader Makashang Khongshei said.
The RSS Pracharaks are also running four Book Banks projects in Khasi-Jaintia Hills. “We cannot bypass the Christian people in a state like Meghalaya and we are providing a helping hand to them by organizing health camps even in the remotest corners of the state,” says Makashang Khongshei.
Khongshei, who has been associated with RSS since 1993, exuded confidence that more people will be joining the group in Meghalaya to protect the interests of the indigenous people. “We are not against any person belonging to any religious faith as our base is to be a ‘Rashtriya’ (nationalist). In India, there are 33 crore ways of worshipping god. Therefore, it does not matter, Christian or non-Christian, but what we need is unity,” he said.
In 2015, the RSS influenced the BJP government at the Centre to celebrate the birth centenary of Rani Gaidinliu, a legendary freedom fighter from Nagaland and pioneer of the Heraka reli-gious movement and setting up a library-cum-museum in Kohima dedicated to her.
Tripura: Although RSS started its work in Tripura in 1956, the activities of the Sangh got a major jolt when the four RSS workers – Purvanchal Kshetriya Karyavahak Shyamal Sengupta, Vibhag Pracharak Sudhamay Dutt, Sharirik Shiksha Pramukh Dinen De and Uttar Tripura Zilla Pracharak Shubhankar Charovorty – were kidnapped on August 6, 1999 from a Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram institution in North Tripura.
However, since the past five years, activities of the RSS have gained a little momentum in the Left ruled state. “For the first time in the history of Tripura, over 100 Sakhas are operational in the state. Many members from the young generation are joining in our organization,” said Mohendra Sharma, Pranta Pracharak of Tripura.
Sharma added, “We don’t have any state specific propaganda for Tripura. We simply try to reach out to the people, but we find difficulties in expanding our works in state due to political reasons. However, nearly 50 people are taking our trainings in the state.”
In Retrospect: There seems to be little doubt about the fact that the RSS has been increasingly active in the Northeast region and the same way its acceptability is also growing gradually. But the organization has a long way to travel in the diverse region of Northeast. Besides, it has to shed away its communal tag. “I don’t believe RSS is good for us. The Northeast is a multi-ethnic society and Hindtuva centric propounding of the RSS will cause division in the social fabric,” says Amar Barua (64) of Guwahati, adding, “Hinduism is too wide scoped a religion to be hidebound by some people in Nagpur. Their conservative ideals will not be good for our Northeastern liberal societies. The Hindu first agenda will alienate the vast Christian and ethnic Islamic populace. Any fear psychosis from the Hindus will not go down well with other communities and that’s not good for the region.”
Even the members of the RSS feel that it has to travel a long way in the Northeast India. “People know us as our works are concrete. 80 per cent people of the region know RSS, 20 per cent still don’t know us. So we are yet to cover a lot of ground,” concludes Shankar Das.
Courtesy: NET/Tripura infoway/HT/THC/IE/AA/ENE/Hindutva Info.