Sridhar D. Damle, currently residing in Chicago, United States, has co-authored the book- The RSS: A view to the inside and Brotherhood in Saffron- with an American academic Walker K. Andersen. Tracing the growth of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) since its formation in the mid-1920s, Damle along with Anderson has examined its ideology and training system. As the first significant book on its internal workings, Brotherhood in Saffron book is the prequel to RSS: A View to the Inside. It was for the first time in this book that readers received a glimpse into the inner workings of the RSS.
Professionally, Damle is a scholar and since 2010 he has been studying the confidential British Records on Vir Savarkar. He has acquired two Master’s degrees- one in History and the other in Political Science and has also done courses in Mass Communications, Journalism, Social Psychology, and Christian theology. Being a researcher, he reads a lot of Newspapers, articles, and books in various languages. He keeps his database up to date with authentic documents. Damle also studies various archives to Government documents, especially available Home Department confidential reports.
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Damle has been closely observing RSS and its development over the years. The idea of his second book on RSS was borne out of a desire expressed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi soon after he ascended to the post in 2014. NewsGram’s Kashish Rai got an opportunity to interact with him. In the interview, he has answered all those intriguing questions in detail which people generally have in their minds regarding RSS.
Here are some excerpts from the interview:
Kashish: In your view, Why does RSS have been equated to the Nazis? What is your take on this?
Shridhar Damle: Regarding the word “Nazi” we have already talked in our book “Brotherhood in Saffron” with documentation. Hitler came into power in 1932, while the RSS was formed in 1925 by prominent Hindu Sabha leader and mentor Dr. K.B Hedgewar and people in India came to know about Hitler after 1936. Let me tell you historically also- many prominent Indian revolutionaries considered Nazis as a group which followed the ancient doctrine called “Enemy’s enemy is our friend”. So, whomsoever would be the enemy of Britain, would be the friend of India in gaining freedom.
In 1932, when RSS was a small organization in size in Madhya Pradesh, the Madhya Pradesh Government Prohibited to join the RSS. In 1933, they banned government servants from joining the RSS. In 1934 at the assembly, the then Madhya Pradesh Home Minister equated RSS with the Nazis. And that time, the Muslim member Rahman, criticized the British government and said that the RSS can not be compared to the Nazis. In 1948, Congress minister of UP Devendra Sahay accused RSS as Nazis and he wrote that the RSS founder K.B Hedgewar went to Germany, got inspiration from Hitler, and then formed the RSS in India. Regarding that, I would like to say that Dr. Hedgewar never went out of India. Sahay must have made a mistake.
We have mentioned in our book “Brotherhood in Saffron” that power remains the center or foundation of Nazi/fascist/communist ideology. In these ideologies, one leader has got all the powers, and this can also be seen in any country ruled by a dictator also, but, in the RSS, all RSS leaders from the Prantha Pracharak to the Chief of RSS are prohibited to contest the elections. So, they don’t get political power!
“Political power is the only means by which a dictator can establish his rule and use the military or rule to suppress the freedom of press or the freedom of Speech.”
I would like to tell you that the RSS considers the political power as the single part of the life and RSS advocates counter all India organization for the checks and balance with the political power. That’s why you can see the 36 Parivar organizations are working with the cooperative movements, labor movements, farmers’ movement, student movement, or any other social movement. So, from that point of view, RSS is not to be accused of being dominant or the same as Nazis.
Kashish: Ok, So Many people claim that Sanghis have a “paramilitary” attitude. What is your take on this?
Shridhar Damle: Regarding the paramilitary attitude I would say that the goal of the Indian freedom fighters was to free India from the British Rule. There are three schools of thought for the Indian Freedom struggle- Liberal, Agitational and Revolutionist and to Achieve the goals of these schools, many people joined the Akhada, where the British didn’t allow the use of rifles. So people joined the Akhada and learned sword fighting, lathi fighting, etc.
RSS founder Dr. Hedgewar who had the experience in revolutionary activities believed that for having an all India revolt for freedom, we need to have disciplined and well-trained people. There was another aspect of Indian political life, which was riots. And riots in India is a very complicated topic. During that time self-defense was a legal right of an individual. So, for self-defense and taking part in revolts, you need to know some kind of defense technique. As the use of rifles and revolvers was banned by the British, volunteers used Lathi and Swords as their training force. So many people considered these things as a “paramilitary attitude”.
“Without any formal training, volunteers of RSS learned all the formations, march-past all other disciplines of the army. So, these are some accounts of before independence. “
Now, after independence, slowly RSS abandoned sword and dagger from their training camps and they even started using lathis just for the formation and dignity.
Most of the time they replaced the sword and the daggers with Karate. They considered Karate as the best mode of self-defense. The only thing that remained constant in a good force is discipline and planning activities in social life.
(The interview will be published in 3 parts, this was part-1. The next part will be published on 31st August 2020)
– By Kashish Rai (Twitter: @KaafyyFilmyy)