The RSS is not confined to ideology. It gives relief and spreads hope across the country. Tarun Vijay writes
Recently, I was in Nagpur to attend the ‘sacred thread ‘ceremony of a friend’s son and just chanced to know about a National Cancer Institute coming up there in memory of Abaji Thatte, who was a personal physician and assistant to the RSS Sarsanghchalak (chief) M.S. Golwalkar (popularly known as Param Pujya Shri Guruji). The institute’s description aroused curiosity and I was taken for a visit by its chief architect and executive Shailesh Joglekar. It was an eye opener for a person like me- who is borne in an RSS family. The National Cancer Institute can be termed as one of the best - if not surely the better one amongst all cancer hospitals in India. The campus includes allied facilities in Yatri Niwas, Nursing College, Hostel, Staff Housing Facility and an Engineering Service Block with a total build space of 700,000 sq. ft.
The dream is gigantic and the energy levels to valorise it are immeasurable. The two persons giving leadership to the entire project are Devendra Fadnavis and Shailesh Joglekar- both are friends and both have a story to tell how they got involved in this. Devendra, the present Chief Minister of Maharashtra, lost his father due to cancer and he tried his best to get the most advanced treatment in those years but he couldn’t save his life. And Shailesh, a senior advocate, lost his wife too due to cancer. He and Devendra both experienced that India lacks enormously the basic structure to help cancer patients and their relatives and friends find very few centres to get a treatment with satisfaction that also takes care of the expenses within a reasonable limit. Cancer treatment is so expensive, inspite of the great centre like Tata Memorial Hospital in Mumbai. The dream to start a best yet affordable and patient friendly cancer hospital began taking shape - the helping hands came from Nitin Gadkari- who hails from Nagpur, Ratan Tata and almost every one who was any where- came forward to contribute his best and soon the first phase came up near Nagpur- which now serving 1248 PATIENTS with 53 specialist doctors, having state-of-the-art 156 machines, and a facility of 470 beds.
The national Cancer Institute was dedicated to the memory of a RSS stalwart- an embodiment of serving the society, Dr Abaji Thatte. The Cancer Institute has introduced a unique scheme- named Kark Yoddhas - the warriors against cancer. This is about a group of highly skilled professionals who are devoting their careers and lives to eliminate cancer. Shailesh explains-in the fight against cancer, doctors are at the front line. We give the best oncologists and other medical practitioners a platform that helps them in their quest for conquering cancer by enabling them access to world-class infrastructure. We help them stay abreast with the latest and best innovations through affiliations with reputed international institutes. These Kark Yodhas help the patients, tale all their queries in a warm, friendly manner, assist their care takers, try to help them , as they are in a state of great anti, shock and feel dejected. The role of Kark Yoddhas is to provide hope to them and face the situation with calmness.
We provide access to the latest in cancer care equipment needed for treatment; and most importantly, enable them to give back to the larger society and not restrict their knowledge and empathy to just a certain elite class. The institute also plans to start university-recognised training courses for nurses, para-medical staff and medical fraternity including super-specialty training in oncology and PhD programs.”
I suddenly said- this cancer hospital is applied Hedgewar. Those who want to know what RSS is all about, and what was the vision of its founder Dr Hedgewar must visit this place- to know thermal introduction of the spirit that shapes RSS.
RSS is running more than 1.7 lakh service projects all over India. It is the only organization that is active in every single part of the nation- serving millions through hospitals, eyes banks and other Sewa projects. One cant understand RSS without knowing about the visionary who created the world of the singh. Who was he ?
If we have to select a person whose life and organizational capacity has impacted the life of an average Indian the most, that would undisputedly be Dr Keshav Baliram Hedgewar.
Born in Nagpur on the Hindu new year ( Varsh Pratipada- Vikrami Samvat ) in 1889, Hedgewar later rose to become the architect of a modern powerful India with unapologetic pride in Hindu civilization’s legacy.
His is the incredible story of a person who succeeded in transforming society with a new generation of dedicated youth, whose influence is seen today in every corner of India- from Tawang to Leh and Okha to Andamans.
He founded the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) on Vijayadashami day in 1925 but the name was given a year later- the very first announcement that day was a simple one liner- ‘I am announcing the formation of Sangh (organisation) today.’ The name RSS was given a year later after intense deliberations and after receiving many suggestions which included- Bharat Uddharak Mandal (loosely translated as – Society to Rejuvenate India) and Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh.
The principal purpose was to create a society that would never fall prey to internal squabbles and forge a kind of solidarity so no one would be able to subjugate us in future.
Before that, Hedgewar had been an active member of the Congress and was one of the people in charge of organising the famous Nagpur session of the party. He participated in the non-cooperation movement and was sentenced to a year’s rigorous imprisonment for giving passionate freedom speeches. He also became a target of the British government for his connections with the revolutionaries of the Anusheelan Samiti and its leader Pulin Behari Bose. Still, he never sought or got publicity and remained relatively lesser known than the people he moulded who later became internationally renowned.
It is modestly said that the person who influenced Narendra Bhai Modi is none other than Dr Hedgewar and this is true for about a million other Swayamsewaks who shone in their respective fields. You name an area of our national life and you will find a person inspired by Dr Hedgewar.
From medical help to schools and colleges and institutions of technology, from labour unions to students’ fronts and tribal service projects, Dr Hedgewar’s vision is being implemented by thousands of those young souls who have dedicated their lives for the cause of every citizen even in the remotest of areas.
It’s difficult to believe that just one organisation, which is providing education and health services to tribal children, the Vanavasi Kalyan Ashram, is running twenty thousand service projects that include hostels, schools, medical centres, women self reliance projects, girls’ hostels and so on. The largest number of inter-caste marriages happen within RSS families and the silent revolution to eradicate the caste-based discrimination is happening with the RSS workers active against casteist behaviour. When I took dalits for temple entry in Uttarakhand’s remote area villages in Jaunsar Bawar, the so-called high caste people kept a studied silence, while the only solace came from the RSS national general secretary Shri Suresh Joshi who said that ‘you are fighting for social justice’.
Today, the largest network of service projects run by any organisation in India are efficiently run by RSS workers – the people who are inspired by Dr Hedgewar. One lakh seventy thousand is the number of these projects – which include hospitals, blood banks, eye banks, special centres to help Divyangs, visually challenged and Thalassaemia-affected kids. Whether it’s war time or a natural calamity, Hegdewar’s followers are the first to reach and provide relief. Whether it was Charkhi Dadri plane crash, Tsunami, Bhuj, Uttarkashi earthquakes or the Kedarnath tragedy, the RSS’s Swayamsewaks were in the forefront to help the affected people and later in rehabilitation work too.
It is true that though the BJP owes its moral strength to the RSS and a large number of its leaders are swayamsewaks. Still it would be underestimating Dr Hedgewar’s impact on Indian society to judge the RSS only by the political spread of the BJP. Think of Moreh, the last village on India-Myanmar border – where the RSS is running a school there and providing medicines to the local villagers. It is the people inspired by the vision of Dr Hedgewar. Similarly, the Mokukchang and Changlang projects for serving local tribes in far North-East and Port Blair ashram for the tribal students in Andamans are run by these people. The RSS today has the biggest network of schools and teachers and educational institutions in the country. Vidya Bharati today runs more than 25,000 schools, has a quarter million students and 1 lakh teachers from the farthest village in the northeast to the snow deserts of Ladakh and border areas of Rajasthan, Jammu and Punjab.
Last week, I was on a shoot to make a documentary on Dr Hedgewar’s ancestral village Kandakurti in Telangana. It’s a historic village on the confluence of Godavari, Haridra and Manjiri. The ancestral home of the Hegdewar family is about 50 feet by 28 feet which has been turned into a memorial by local villagers helped and inspired by a senior RSS leader, Moro Pant Pingle. It is running a beautiful co-educational school Keshav Bal Vidya Mandir, having a modest strength of about 200 students. I was pleasantly surprised to find a good number, almost 30 per cent Muslim girls and boys, studying there. It is not that the village doesn’t have other schools. The sleepy, calm village has almost 65 per cent Muslims and 35 per cent Hindus. There are as many mosques as the ancient temples. They exist side by side and there has not been a single unpleasant incident. Why do Muslims here love to send their children in a school established in memory of the RSS founder?
I met a parent, Mr Jalil Begh, who traces his ancestry to the moguls. He is a journalist, writing for the famous Urdu daily Munsif. He said his family founded the school as a nice place to study because it caters the best facilities to the poor and financially weaker sections. Above all, the standard is good and they have a digital class also, training kids with computer education. I heard Rafia, a little sweet student of the school, sing rhythmically ‘Hind Desh Ke Niwasi, Sabhi Ham Ek Hain, Rang Roop, Vesh Bhasha, Chahe Anek Hain‘. (We the people of Hind are one, even if our colour, attire and language differ).
Dr Hedgewar, who remains the biggest influence on several prominent leaders, has given the best gift to them through his ancestral village representing the theme of Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas in its full glory.
The man who gave a pan Indian vision to millions, inspired bright young Indians to be part of a new order of thought as Pracharak-monks, who might not be wearing ochre robes but live a life of an ascetic, giving their utmost for peoples’ education, health care, civilisational awakening in a most silent, unpublicised way, keeping away from the media glares, is a story of an India that is being transformed like never before.
Dr Hedgewar, who inspired millions to live for the greater good of the nation, injected a sense of pride and courage to stand for the universal values and Dharmic traditions of Bharat, that is India, needs to be studied and appreciated more. He is the biggest change maker India has ever witnessed. No wonder the Sangh in 1988 decided to bring out a postage stamp of its own to honour him!
That’s RSS- Ready for Selfless Service.
(Traun Vijay was the longest serving chief editor of the RSS weekly Panchjanya for 20 years and has created a documentary on RSS founder Dr Hedgewar’s ancestral family’s journey from Kandakurti, Telangana, to Nagpur for Doordarshan)
© 2016 Sulabh Swachh Bharat. All Right Reserved