The Sangh Parivar (Family of Organisations) refers to the family of Hindu nationalist organisations which have been started by members of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) or drew inspiration from its ideology. The Sangh Parivar represents the Hindu nationalist movement. It includes the RSS and several dozen affiliated organisations, whose members' expressed opinions have been diverse over a range of topics. Nominally, the different organisations within the Sangh Parivar run independently and have different policies and activities.
In the 1960s, the volunteers of the RSS joined the different social and political movements in India, including the Bhoodan, a land reform movement led by prominent Gandhian Vinobha Bhave and the Sarvodaya led by another Gandhian Jayaprakash Narayan. RSS also supported the formation of a trade union, the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh and a student's organisation Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad and many other organisations like Seva Bharati, Lok Bharati, Deendayal Research Institute etc.
These organisations started and supported by the RSS volunteers came to be known collectively as the Sangh Parivar. Next few decades have seen a steady growth in the influence of the Sangh Parivar in the social and political space of India.
The ideology of the Sangh Parivar has been seen to have a diverse set of thoughts and opinions that has made it difficult to be categorized by the Western stereotypic divisions of ‘Leftists’ and ‘Rightists’.
While some of their policies are seen as ‘Conservative’ and ‘Rightist’, on a range of different issues, they have shared similar concerns as Leftists, Liberals and the Green activists.
Culture and diversity
Sangh ideologue M. S. Golwalkar articulated the Sangh’s vision on diversity and pluralism, as follows, “Individuals and nations in all parts of the globe have distinctive traits and features, each of them having its own place in the scheme of the universe. The different human groups are marching forward, all towards the same goal, each in its own way and in keeping with its own characteristic genius. The destruction of the special characteristics, whether of an individual, or of a group, will therefore not only destroy the natural beauty of harmony but also its joy of self-expression. Evolution of human life also, which is a multi-faced one, is retarded thereby.”
The political opponents of the Sangh Parivar have often termed Sangh Parivar’s concerns about cultural intrusion by the Western commercial interests as ‘Rightist’. David Frawley argues that the cause is similar to that of native and tribal people all over the world, like Native American and African groups trying to protect their native cultures.
While the BJP governments have been progressively seen to be industry friendly, the opinions and the views of the Sangh Parivar constituents like Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) find consonance with the known leftist stands on labour rights. The Sangh Parivar, as a whole, even the BJP in its earlier days, has advocated ‘Swadeshi’ (Self Reliance). Sangh Parivar leaders have been very vocal in their criticism of globalization especially its impact on the poor and native people. They have been suspicious of the role of international agencies such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Sangh constituents have advocated and promoted decentralized village centric economic growth with emphasis on ecological protection.
The constituents of the Sangh Parivar have been known for their demands for steps to “protect the environment, natural-ecology and agro-economy” and for establishment of a “self-reliant village-oriented economy”. They have been vocal in their demand against the use of Chemical fertilizers and have supported preservation and development of Organic farming in India. Many of these views are seen to mirror the concerns of the Green party.
The Bharatiya Janata Party, a constituent of Sangh Parivar, is one of the very few political party at that included the concerns on global warming in its election manifesto for the National Elections of 2009. The manifesto promised prioritising "Combating climate change and global warming", "programmes to arrest the melting of Himalayan glaciers", "afforestation" and emphasis on "protecting India's biodiversity".
The Sangh Parivar has been described with monikers spanning the spectrum from "patriotic Hindus" and "Hindu nationalist". Some have also labeled them "Hindu chauvinist". While its constituent organisations present themselves as embedded in the traditional ethos of Hinduism, their ideological opponents have characterized them as the representatives of authoritarian, xenophobic and majoritarian religious nationalism in India, furthermore these organization have been also documented for alleged acts of Saffron terror. Flemish Indologist Koenraad Elst has challenged the critics, in his book The Saffron Swastika, he wrote "So far, the polemical arrows have all been shot from one side, replies from the other side being extremely rare or never more than piecemeal."
The activities of the Sangh Parivar have had considerable social and religious impact. And considerable influence over country's educational, social and defense policies.
In 1979, the religious wing of the Sangh Parivar, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad got the Hindu saints and religious leaders to reaffirm that untouchability and caste discrimination had no religious sanction in the Hindu scriptures and texts. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad is also spearheading efforts to ordain Dalits as priests in temples across India, positions that were earlier usually occupied only by people of "upper castes". In 1983, RSS founded a dalit organization called Samajik Samrasta Manch.
The leaders of the Sangh Parivar have also been involved in the campaigns against female fetocide and movements for the education. VHP founded a number of educational institutes such as Bharat Sevashram, Hindu Milan Mandir, Ekal Vidalayas and schools in tribal locations.
Social and political empowerment
The service programs, over the years, have led to the empowerment of the economically and socially underprivileged sections of the society, mostly the tribal, who have long remained politically under-represented. Babulal Marandi belonging to the tribal community, who was the organizing secretary of Vishwa Hindu Parishad, became the first Chief Minister of the state of Jharkhand. Other such leaders of Sangh Parivar who belong to the tribal community include Karia Munda, Jual Oram; both ministers in the Union Government led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
The emergence of the Sangh Parivar in Indian politics also brought many Dalits and representatives of the backward classes, who had been victims of social neglect, to prominent positions in the Government and Administration. Dr Suraj Bhan, a dalit, who had been a member of the RSS, became the Governor of Uttar Pradesh, the most populous state in India, in 1998. Other leaders of the Sangh Parivar from the backward classes, who rose to prominence include Kalyan Singh, the former Chief Minister of UP, Uma Bharti, the former Chief Minister of MP, Narendra Modi, the incumbent Prime Minister of India, Gopinath Munde, the former Deputy Chief Minister of Maharashtra, and Shivraj Singh Chouhan, the incumbent Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh.
In many villages across India, Dharma Raksha Samitis (Duty/Religion Protection Committees) promote religious discourse and form an arena for bhajan performance. The Sangh sponsors calendars of Hindu deities and provides instruction on sanctioned methods of conducting Ganesh Chaturthi and Navaratri. This phenomenon has been documented in Tamil Nadu, where workers of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and Hindu Munnani share Tamil dalits (untouchables) devotional hymns and persuaded many dalits to begin celebrating Ganesh Chaturthi, a festival not widely marked in Tamil Nadu.
Deendayal Research Institute
Veteran RSS leader Nanaji Deshmukh retired from politics at the peak of his political career in 1977 and founded the Deendayal Research Institute, dedicated to building a rural based economic model of development. It was found that rural people were wasting a lot of resources in litigations, which left them both impoverished and exploited. Deshmukh and the Institute developed a method of sorting conflicts and differences based on the ancient Indian principles of consensus making and alternate conflict resolution, which has been called the Litigation-Free Model. Based on this model, villagers would sort all disputes amongst themselves amicably with least dependence on the Government. The initiative has been highly praised, e.g. by Former President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam.
Prominent industrialist, Jehangir Wadia, the grandson of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, is influenced by the work of Sangh organisation, Deen Dayal Research Institute (DRI), and is now a volunteer of the DRI. He says "At 26, I realised that while I was seeking responses to my questions, the answer was always in front of me. That's when I joined Nanaji and got involved in social work at Chitrakoot," "Nanaji (founder of DRI) envisions self reliance for 600,000 villages in his life time. It is my dream to translate Nanaji's vision of ameliorating the lives of this rural population."
The Bharatiya Janata Party, which represents the Sangh Parivar in national politics, has formed three governments in India, most recently being in power from May 2014 under the leadership of Prime minister Narendra Modi.
Political opponents of the BJP allege that the party's moderate face merely serves to cover the Sangh Parivar's "hidden agenda" of undiluted Hindutva, detectable by the BJP's efforts to change the content of history textbooks and syllabi as well as other aspects of the education system.
Such criticism of the BJP arises from the fact that BJP had only 2 seats in the parliament in 1984 and after the Babri Masjid demolition in 1992 the party gained national recognition, and only then it rose to power in 1998.
Babri Mosque demolition
According to the report of the Liberhan Commission the Sangh Parivar organised the destruction of the Babri Masjid. The Commission said- "The blame or the credit for the entire temple construction movement at Ayodhya must necessarily be attributed to the Sangh Parivar".
It also noted that the Sangh Parivar is an "extensive and widespread organic body", which encompasses organizations, which address and bring together just about every type of social, professional and other demographic grouping of individuals.
Each time, a new demographic group has emerged, the Sangh Parivar has hived off some of its RSS inner-core leadership to harness that group and bring it within the fold, enhancing the voter base of the Parivar.
Sangh Parivar members
The Sangh Parivar includes the following organisations (with membership figures in brackets). They are also categorized.
- Occupational and Professional
- Bharatiya Kisan Sangh, literally, Indian Farmers' Association (8m)
- Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, Indian Labourers' Association (10 million as of 2009)
- Bharatiya Railways Sangh, Indian Railways Workers' Association
- Fishermen's Co-operative Societies (2.2m)
- Samskar Bharati, Organisation of Indian Artists
- Akhil Bharatiya Adhivakta Parishad, All India Lawyers' Council
- Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, All India Students' Council (2.8m)
- Akhil Bharatiya Shaikshik Mahasangh, All India Teachers' Federation (1.8m)
- National Medicos Organisation, Organisation of Medical Practitioners
- Akhil Bharatiya Poorva Sainik Seva Parishad, (ABPSSP) All India Ex-Military Servicemen Council.
- Swadeshi Jagaran Manch, Nativist Awakening Front
- Vitta Salahkar Parishad, Financial consultants' association
- Laghu Udyog Bharati, an extensive network of small industries.
- Sahkar Bharati, Organisation of co-operatives
- Social Services
- Deen Dayal Shodh Sansthan, for the development of rural areas on the basis of Integral Humanism (1.7m)
- Bharatiya Vikas Parishad, Organization for the development & growth of India in all fields of human endeavor (1.8m)
- Vivekananda Medical Mission, Sociomedical Services (1.7m)
- Seva Bharati, Organisation for service of the needy (founded in 1984)
- Sakshama, an organization working among the blind
- Nele (a part of "Hindu Seva Pratishthana"), Home for destitute Children
- Lok Bharati, National NGO's Front
- Seema Suraksha Parishad, an organization working among the people of border districts
- Exclusively Women
- Vishwa Hindu Parishad, World Hindu Council(2.8m)
- Bajrang Dal, Literally, Team/Crew of Hanuman (2m)
- Hindu jagarana vedike, literally, National Volunteer Association for men to protect the Hindus
- Dharm Jagaran Samiti, Organization for conversion of non-Hindus to Hinduism and their coordinating committee "Dharam Jagaran Samanvay Samiti",
- Muslim Rashtriya Manch, National Front of Muslims
- Rashtriya Hindu Andolan, based in Maharashtra calls for the deletion of "secular" from the Indian Constitution
- Rashtriya Sikh Sangat, a sociocultural organisation with the aim to spread the knowledge of Gurbani to the Indian society.
- Hindu Munnani, a religio-cultural organization based in Tamil Nadu.
- Hindu Rashtra Sena, propagating for the establishment of Hindu Rashtra.
- Hindu Aikya Vedi, Hindu United Front based in Kerala
- News & Communication
- Think Tanks
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