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By Kishore Asthana

We are used to reading irreverently flippant and derogatory comments about the Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh. However, few, if any, of the commentators bother to find out anything about the RSS. These commentators also ignore the fact that the Sangh is an organization that has evolved significantly from its inception onwards.

Very often, evil-doers are identified in the media as ‘RSS men’ even when they are not – for example, the dismaying murder of Graham Staines and his two children was blamed on the Bajrang Dal. Later, the Wadhwa Commission and the murderer Dara Singh both denied involvement of Bajrang Dal. On Feb 3, 1999, the infamous ‘nun rape case’ in Orissa was also blamed on Bajrang Dal. Rape was not established in the medical investigation. The police found the allegation false.

Then there is the accusation that RSS killed Gandhi ji keeps getting repeated even now, despite there being no evidence. An example from 2003 is The Statesman’s apology: ‘(In the Statesman 29-30 May 2000), we had described the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh as “the organisation that killed Gandhi”. This was incorrect, and unsupported by both facts and the record.’

There are a large number of such cases. Once the damage is done, the correction does not reach everyone.

Had these criminal activities been the true face of the RSS, it would not have survived and flourished for 91 years.

Those who have been impressed by the RSS span a wide range. Gandhiji visited the winter camp in Vardha and offered his salute to Bhagavadhwaj. Subhash Chandra Bose visited Guruji when he was ailing. Jayprakash Narayan was impressed by the selfless service of the Swayamsevaks during the 1966 drought in Bihar. The Saudi Government, wrote a laudatory letter when RSS volunteers helped after the horrific plane crash at Charki Dadri in 1996. These are just some examples.

Those promoting motivated misinformation about the RSS do not stop at attributing hate crimes to it. Some commentators keep mentioning that RSS sided with the British during our independence movement. This is despite the fact that when Congress passed a resolution proclaiming complete independence in 1930, the head of RSS instructed all shakhas to celebrate 26 January 1930 as Independence Day. Subsequently, when the Congress launched ‘Quit India’ agitation demanding that the British must leave India several Sangh workers took active part in it. Dr. Hedgewar was jailed.

In 1954 Swayamsevaks liberated Dadra and Nagar Haveli from Portuguese control on August 2 and handed these to the Central Government. In 1955 swayamsevaks took a leading part in the all-party struggle for the liberation of Goa from the control of Portuguese.

An idea of the appreciation of RSS by even the Congress party can be judged from the fact that the Nehru government invited the RSS to march in the Republic Day Parade in 1963. 3,000 swayamsevaks with full uniform and band participated.

Over the years, the Sangh has been very active all over India, in helping the victims of flood relief, cyclones, earthquakes, tsunamis or human violence since its formation. At the time of partition, the RSS helped thousands of refugees displaced from Pakistan. During the Bangladesh war, RSS volunteers were amongst the first to offer all kinds of help, including blood donations.

In 1984, after the assassination of Mrs. Gandhi, hundreds of Sikh families were given protection in Swayamsevaks’ homes. A large number of Swayamsevaks offered karseva for the reconstruction of the Golden Temple in Amritsar after Operation Blue Star. These are just some incidents. Over the last 91 years, the RSS has been involved in more social work than any other NGO in India.

Despite the above, the RSS has been banned thrice. In 1940 the British Government banned the Sangh uniform -ganavesh – and route march. Then the Interim Government blamed RSS for Gandhiji’s murder & banned the Sangh on February 4, 1949. This ban was lifted unconditionally on 9th December 1949 when it was found that the allegations were not true.

Finally Mrs. Gandhi banned the Sangh on 4th July 1975 during the emergency and many RSS leaders were jailed. The ban was lifted after the Janata Party came to power.

The three resolutions passed by the Akhil Bharatiya Pratinidhi Sabha of the RSS, in March 2016 at Nagaur indicate the Sangh’s present priorities. These deal with the need for easy access to affordable medical services, accessible, affordable & quality education for all and Social Harmony.

For the RSS, these are not mere slogans. It is actively working in different fields to make them a reality. In the field of education, the Ekal Vidyalay movement alone runs 52,599 schools, with 1,458,843 students out of which 720,178 are girls. Then there are other wings – Vidya Bharati, Shishu Mandirs etc. doing excellent work.

Hygiene and good health are emphasised at its Ekal Vidyalas. Many other initiatives in the field of public health have also been taken by the Sewa Bharati, which has 897 Service organizations affiliated to it. They working in all aspects of Indian life from Rural Development to Old Age Homes, Women’s Welfare Program, Hospitals, Adult Education, Disaster Management etc.

The Muslim Rashtriya Manch and the Sikh Sangat are just two examples of RSS’s desire to promote social harmony. RSS’s work with the tribals and Dalits is another example of this.

Despite all this, the Sangh the target of so much criticism. There are a number reasons:

The first and foremost is the Sangh’s unequivocal aim of looking after the interests of Hindus. The Sangh defines Hindus as all who reside in Bharat and is committed to the welfare of all. However, many journalists and Christian and Muslim organisations, view this as mere sophistry. They think the RSS wants to convert everyone to Hinduism.

The second reason lies in the actions of some of its fringe elements. When Bajrang Dal members attack couples peacefully sitting in parks or some organization with a Hindu sounding name attacks or murders alleged ‘beef-eaters’, or a hue and cry is made in the name of ‘’love jihad’ by someone, the RSS is immediately deemed guilty, regardless of its involvement.

The third is ignorance. Most educated Hindus take their cue from what they read in the media. They do not bother to personally check the facts though these are easily accessible. Thus their mindset is only based by the criticism they read.

The fourth is the fact that keeping the bogey of ‘communalism’ alive suits some elements. The irony is that very evidently communal organisations are in the forefront of calling the RSS communal.

Politics, too, has much to answer for in this vilification of the Sangh. Most opposition parties are convinced that the Sangh is the anchor of BJP and, if they can demonize the Sangh, the effect will tar BJP’s image, too.

I have not mentioned the education policy of the RSS currently creating so much controversy. The reason for this is that till now leftist historians have had a field day feeding our children their version of history and emphasizing that theirs is the only true version. Now the RSS is intent on setting the record straight. If they veer too much in the opposite direction, they will be as guilty of misleading our students as the leftists have been. However, the jury is still out on this one and I have no intention of joining the shrill chorus of the wounded leftists or the crowing of those opposed to them.

So, what should the RSS do now?

For one thing RSS has finally realized that perception is important. A start has been made on social media. RSS’s Facebook page and Twitter timeline are very popular. However, even more needs to be done if they have to take control of the discourse. For this, it is important to let some things go – countering everything that opponents of RSS do or say, only gives them more legitimacy and keeps the discourse alive in social media. The RSS has to be selective in what they vocally oppose.

Then, the RSS needs to control the fringe elements more strictly. Prompt and strict investigation and firm disciplinary action on those who tend to say and do things that give the RSS a bad name, is essential in the present context.

The last but most important point that the RSS must keep in mind is concerned with communalism. In its own view, given its definition of who is a Hindu, the Sangh is not a communal organization. However, this must be conveyed properly, in no uncertain terms, to both its followers and its opponents.

Many of the Sangh’s followers, especially those on the fringes, are usually ill informed and are prone to take things literally. This tends to make many of them jingoistic. RSS has to make perfectly clear to them that it does not stand for such jingoism and that its agenda is to make a strong and unified India where all Indians can live in harmony. All should know that there is no place in the RSS for anyone who believes in a divided India. Its third resolution says exactly this and it cannot afford to let a false sense of communalism amongst some of its followers color its avowed objective. That will be bad for the Sangh and worse for the India, which it loves.

There are 50,000+ shakhas in India and the RSS inspired Hindu Swayamsewak Sangh is registered in 39 countries where they work under local laws. Perhaps, through more strategic planning, proper media management and appropriately phrased and timed responses, the RSS will find the place it deserves in the hearts and minds of the majority of Indians of all persuasions.

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Photo by Wikimedia Commons.

Char Dham Yatra resumed on Friday with more than 16,000 devotees resuming the pilgrimage from the Rishikesh camp.

As weather cleared up in Uttarakhand, Char Dham Yatra restored on Friday with more than 16,000 devotees resuming the pilgrimage from the Rishikesh camp.

According to sources, road leading to Badrinath has been repaired and helicopter service has also resumed.

Meanwhile, Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami visited Dungi village and met families of people who were missing after the landslip incident, and consoled them.

Dhami assured them of all possible assistance. Two people from the village are still reported to be missing.

Pilgrims were seen leaving from Rishikesh Char Dham Bus terminal and Haridwar bus station for the pilgrimage since morning.

As per the state government, various departments -- Devasthanam Board, police are assisting the pilgrims.

Police Chowki Yatra Bus Terminal, Rishikesh, was announcing passenger-information via loudspeaker.

Free RT-PCR tests of pilgrims were being conducted at Rishikesh bus terminal.

Uttarakhand Char Dham Devasthanam Management Board's media in-charge Dr Harish Gaur said pilgrimage was on in Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamunotri, while for Kedarnath, helicopter service was also available.

Though the weather was cold in all dhams, thankfully there was no rain, he added.

Portals of the temple in Badrinath will close on November 20, Gangotri on November 5, while that of Kedarnath and Yamunotri on November 6.

Uttarakhand floods, triggered by a major downpour from October 17 to 19, have claimed 65 lives so far, 3,500 people have been rescued while 16,000 evacuated to safety.

Seventeen teams of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), seven teams of State Disaster Response Force (SDRF), 15 companies of Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) and 5,000 police personnel have been engaged in rescue and relief operations.

The state has already been provided with Rs 250 crore Disaster Fund which is being used for relief works.

To prevent spread of the diseases, the Central and state governments have decided to send medical teams to the affected areas.

Snapped power lines will be restored at the earliest, the government assured.

The state government said that as soon as alert for heavy rainfall was issued, the Incident Response System was activated at state and district levels, and pilgrims were halted at safer places. (IANS/JB)

Keywords: Uttarakhand, India, Char Dham Yatra, PushkarDhami, Rishikesh.

Photo by Wikimedia Commons.

Naga leaders are adamant in their main demands for a separate Constitution and flag.

The Centre has continued the Naga peace talks with the Isak-Muivah faction of National Socialist Council of Nagalim (NSCN-IM) leaders, but negotiations face roadblocks as the Naga leaders are adamant in their main demands for a separate Constitution and flag.

The sources aware of these developments said that the Centre was hopeful that a successful solution of the six decades-long peace talks would arrive at a logical conclusion, but in the recent statements, Naga leaders have accused the Centre of offering post-solution options.

Sources quoting the stand of Naga leaders said that NSCN's stand was loud and clear that it would not follow the forbidden route to the Naga solution that was linked to foregoing the Naga national flag and Constitution, which is the face of the Naga political struggle and identity.

The Naga leaders have also said that the Centre has been using divisive policy and flattery in the name of finding the Naga political solution when the matters heated up.

When the Centre resumed the peace process in September this year and sent the former special director of the Intelligence Bureau (IB) A.K. Mishra as the Ministry of Home Affairs' emissary to the rebel outfit's chief negotiator and general secretary T. Muivah, he assured him (Muivah) that the peace talks would be initiated under the original framework signed in 2015, a source in the Naga rebel group said.

"Here we are talking about the Naga national flag and Yehzabo (Constitution), the two issues that are holding up the Naga solution under the ongoing Indo-Naga political talks in Delhi.

"The chequered history of the Indo-Naga political issue is clear enough before us, with accords and agreements that were never meant to be implemented in letter and spirit", an important office-bearer of the rebel outfit said while criticizing the governments' stand.

Accusing the Centre, he further accused the Centre of persuading the Naga people again to accept whatever is being offered to hurry up the Naga talks.

On the invitation of the Centre, the senior leaders of the NSCN-IM including T. Muivah arrived in the national capital on October 6 this year to hold another round of talks with the Centre.

Both, the Centre and the Naga leaders had indicated their keenness on resolving this long pending issue by the end of this year in an amicable manner.

Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sharma, who is also chairman of North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA), and Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio had been actively involved in the resumption of the peace talks and taking it forward to a logical conclusion.

Soon after the transfer of Nagaland Governor R.N. Ravi, who was appointed as the Centre's interlocutor for the Naga peace talks on August 29, 2014, to Tamil Nadu, the peace talks resumed on September 20 in Kohima when the Centre representative met the Naga leaders and invited them to visit Delhi for further rounds of peace talks.

The NSCN-IM and the other outfits entered into a ceasefire agreement with the Government of India in 1997 and over 80 rounds of negotiations with the Centre have been held in the past in successive governments. (IANS/JB)

Keywords: Nagaland, India, Constitution, Politics, Flag.

Photo by Wikimedia Commons

India-England test series will now be played next year from July 1 at Edgbaston Stadium

The series decider for the Test series between England and India will now be played at Edgbaston from July 1 next year, said the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) on Friday. India is currently leading the series 2-1 before the fifth Test at Old Trafford was cancelled hours before the start due to concerns over COVID-19 outbreak in the tourists' camp.

"The fifth match of the LV= Insurance Test Series between England Men and India Men has been rescheduled and will now take place in July 2022. The match, which was due to take place last month at Emirates Old Trafford, was called off when India were unable to field a team due to fears of a further increase in the number of Covid-19 cases inside the camp," said an ECB statement.

"With India leading the series 2-1, the concluding fifth match will now take place from July 1, 2022, at Edgbaston, following an agreement between the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) and the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI)," added the statement.

ECB also said that due to the rescheduled Test, the white-ball series between England and India will now start six days later than originally planned. The T20I series will begin on July 7 at Ageas Bowl with Edgbaston and Trent Bridge hosting the second and third matches respectively on July 9 and 10. It will be followed by the ODI series starting on July 12 at The Oval followed by Lord's and Old Trafford hosting the second and third ODI on July 14 and 17 respectively.

"Ticket holders do not have to take any action as all tickets will remain valid for the equivalent rearranged matchday at their host venue. Host venues will communicate the new fixture details to ticket purchasers and the options available to them, including the timeframe for requesting a refund if they are not able to attend the new match day," further said the statement.

"We are very pleased that we have reached an agreement with BCCI to creating a fitting end to what has been a brilliant series so far. I'm very grateful to all the venues involved for the cooperation they've shown in allowing us to reschedule this match. I'd also like to thank Cricket South Africa for their support and understanding to allow these changes to be possible," said Tom Harrison, the CEO of the ECB.

"We would like to apologise again to fans for the disruption and disappointment of September events. We know it was a day that so many had planned long in advance. We recognise that accommodating this extra match means a tighter schedule for the white ball series. We will continue to manage our players' welfare and workloads through next year while we also continue to seek the optimum schedule for fans, players and our partners across the game."

"I am delighted that the England-India Test series will now have its rightful conclusion. The four Test matches were riveting, and we needed a fitting finale. The BCCI recognizes and respects the traditional form of the game and is also mindful of its role and obligations towards fellow Board Members. In the last two months, both BCCI and the ECB have been engaged in discussions and our efforts were aimed at finding a suitable window. I thank the ECB for their understanding and patience in finding an amicable solution," said BCCI Secretary Jay Shah. (IANS/JB)

Keywords: India, Britain, BCCI, Test Match, Cricket.