A New Age in Kerala

published on February 18, 2007

By Arun Lakshman


In Kerala, as in other States of India, Golwalkar’s birth centenary was a year-long programme aimed at stimulating mass opinion on the single most important issue before the nation: Terrorism

The year-long centenary birth celebrations of the second Sarsanghachalak of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), Madhav Sadasiv Golwalkar, popularly known as “Guruji” is coming to a close this Sunday. In Kerala, as in the rest of India, the events planned and executed by the Sangh were some of the most memorable public
displays of intellectual articulation ever conducted by any organisation in the State. The discipline of the cadre, the participation of the Hindu community and the presence of political leaders, social workers and other change makers has really given added boost to the RSS’s image in a State where Leftist rhetoric often clouds people’s perceptions on Hindutva.

When the RSS had decided to undertake a year-long programme, sceptics had pooh-poohed the claim and had mocked that the show would be called off midway. True to its nature as a disciplined and trained organisation, the Sangh proved to the world at large that there is no word called “impossible” in its dictionary and scheme of things. It worked tirelessly according to a set plan.

The “Rashtra Raksha Sanchalan” was undertaken from Kasargod in north Kerala to Thiruvananthapuram in the south with the message that national security deserved top priority. The march, along with its message, was accepted well by the public throughout the State and it resulted in attracting people from even outside the varied streams of the Hindutva movement to attend the functions organised as part of the

One of the major aspects of the year-long Guruji centenary celebrations was the number of seminars and intellectual gatherings organised by the Sangh. Three national seminars were held of which the Sarsanghachalak of the RSS, KS Sudershan, took part in one. Other leading lights of the Sangh’s school of thought like S Gurumurthy and KN Govindacharya also participated. According to J Nandakumar, the Sahapranth Pracharak of the RSS, three national seminars, 45 one-day seminars and more than 50 three-day intellectual discussions were held throughout the State at select locations. There were 156 Visala Hindu Sammelans in connection with the centenary celebrations of Guruji ,who has given the RSS its present-day organisational network.

The intellectual discussions were focused primarily on the foundation of Indian culture and there were seminars with terrorism as the major subject. There was particular emphasis on terrorism as the focus for discussion as feedback from independent observers and social scientists, as also reports from the well-knit organisational machinery, had resonated with the consensus that terrorism deserved
top priority in the national discourse. Even Defence Minister AK Antony was candid enough to admit that Kerala is a soft target for terror because of the ease with which terrorists use its long seacoast for infiltration.

Another important milestone for the Guruji centenary celebrations in Kerala was the presence of the leadership of almost all Hindu organisations at the various seminars. Senior leaders from the Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana and the Nair Service Society, the most powerful Hindu organisations representing the Ezhavas and the Nairs respectively, also graced the events. At the local level, leaders of almost all the sub-groups of the Hindu organisation participated. This gave the centenary celebrations some depth among the various Hindu movements and it has contributed to the image of the RSS as an umbrella organisation for different Hindu movements and social groups.This was not the case till some years back.

The participation of people with Leftist leanings and the presence of even Muslim intellectuals contributed much to the projection of the inclusiveness of Guruji’s vision. Kassim Irikkur and Hamid Chendamangaloor, both well-known Muslim writers and thinkers, and MP Parameswaran, the Left intellectual known for his theory on the
“Fourth World”, turned up in several seminars in connection with the centenary celebration. Senior Congress leader and one of the firebrand orators of the party, MI Shanavas, and SNDP yogam leader, Prof G Sathyan, also participated. “Eminent” historian MGS Narayanan was another noted presence in the RSS seminars.

Senior Sangh leaders are of the opinion that such participation from different spheres of Malayalee society has helped the movement to communicate its message among disparate groups. By engendering discussion between intellectuals with diametrically opposite views, the RSS has certainly overcome its victimhood to popular misconceptions spun by Communists for the sake of their own survival.

The year-long celebrations also prompted many people who had withdrawn from public life to come out and participate in the historic churning of ideas which Guruji’s birth centenary sparked off. Many shakhas, or basic units of the RSS, had long gone into slumber. These were rejuvenated and the RSS cadre got a morale boost. It was a time to recall not only Guruji’s intellectual life, but also his role as an organiser of men. From the RSS’ point of view, the year was one of exceptional importance as it truly gave the organisation a new lease of life in Kerala where it is reeling under attacks from the twin sources of national threat – Communism and fundamentalism.

An RSS office bearer of Thirunavaya in Malappuram district, Ravi, was murdered. According to Nandakumar, this could only be part of a larger game played by Islamist terrorists and their Communist backers to put a break on the march of the RSS. More than organisational jealousy and hatred, there was another motive. A large number of Muslims from poor and ordinary background were slowly coming back to the mainstream discarding the fundamentalist outfits. The Islamist organisations were
worried at the growing acceptability of these festivals among ordinary Muslims.

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