Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)


Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)

Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS, 'National Volunteer Organisation') is a Hindu nationalist organisation with 5-6 million members.

Established in 1925 to unite the Hindu community, the RSS has been banned three times in post-independence India, the first time after the murder of Mahatma Gandhi in 1948 when the organisation was accused, but later absolved, of plotting the assassination. RSS has close ties to India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and Prime Minister Narendra Modi is a member of the organisation, having previously worked full-time as a campaigner for the group.

Critics say that the group has a sectarian, and sometimes militant, agenda, promoting Hindu supremacy against Muslim and Christian minorities. Last year, the RSS were associated with moves to infuse Hindu nationalist ideology into the mainstream curriculum in the state of Gujarat, a move said by a professor of sociology at Gujarat University to represent a pilot for potential replication across the country. Gujarat saw crippling inter-communal violence in 2002 whilst Modi was governor.

Even though the RSS has officially distanced itself from the practice, the group has also been closely associated with the surge in ghar vapsi ("homecoming") rituals at the end of 2014, in which Christian and Muslim communities were targeted for 'reconversion' to Hinduism, perceived to be the 'base state' for Indians by many Hindu nationalists.

Milo Comerford, Centre on Religion and Geopolitics