RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat addresses a camp at Jamdoli in Jaipur on Friday. (PTI)
New Delhi, March 15: The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh today claimed a five per cent growth this year in the number of its shakhas or recruitment camps but sources privately regretted the youth’s dwindling interest in the 88-year-old organisation.
The big hole in the Sangh’s annual report is the absence of membership figures. The reason is that it does not register its members — a practice prompted by the bans it faced after the Mahatma’s assassination and during the Emergency.
Off the record, Sangh officials admit that attendance has been falling at the shakhas, which should suggest poor recruitment.
To attract the youth, some officials have suggested introducing a “smarter” dress code in place of the over-sized khaki shorts, and replacing the kabaddi and kho-kho games with cricket, basketball and computer games. But the conservative leadership has withheld the green light.
The shakhas are conducted twice every day to recruit young men and boys and raise an army of whole-timers or swayamsevaks indoctrinated in the ideology of “Hindu nationalism”.
The Sangh’s data, yet to be verified independently, show that 42,981 shakhas were run at 28,788 places in 2012, and 9,557 saptahik milans (weekly get-togethers) and 7,178 Sangh mandalis (monthly get-togethers) organised.
“Good plans have been made in all the states to expand Sangh shakhas…. Everybody will have to pay attention to the stability and quality of the shakhas so that this momentum carries on,” says the annual report released today at the Sangh’s ongoing Jaipur conclave.
In 2011, the yearly report counted 40,891 shakhas at 27,978 places, and gave the number of weekly and monthly gatherings as 8,508 and 6,445. This comes to about a five per cent growth for the camps and ten per cent for the gatherings.
In 2010, the Sangh had cited 39,908 shakhas at 27,078 places, entailing a two-and-a-half per cent rise between 2010 and 2011.
Unlike the hopeful note struck by this year’s annual report, the past years’ were more circumspect. The 2010 document underscored the need to qualitatively analyse the reasons for the “lack of growth” instead of just chewing on numbers.
In 2011, the report stressed that aspects of the Sangh’s work demanded “qualitative improvement” though it did not elaborate.
Among the “special” programmes listed in the latest annual report are a “youth camp” at Kalyani in Bengal, apparently organised with the help of sanyasis from the Ramakrishna Math. In western Andhra Pradesh, band musicians were brought together at a special camp whose objective remains unexplained.
At a time Narendra Modi has been trying to use Swami Vivekananda’s name to boost his political agenda for the youth, the Sangh’s homage to the Swami has gone almost unnoticed.
“We are celebrating the 150th birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda this year. His thoughts inspire and give us energy and strength. Therefore, we should study his thoughts regularly,” claimed the report.
One issue that seems to have caught the Sangh’s imagination is the “plight of Hindu migrants” from Bangladesh on which the conclave will adopt a resolution.
Sangh sources had conceded in the past that the parent was in danger of being dwarfed by its progenies, notably the BJP and labour union Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh. They had ruefully said the Sangh was growing or managing to stay afloat only in BJP-ruled states with official patronage.
With the BJP out of power at the Centre for nearly 10 years, sources said, the Sangh’s only hope is that the party would return to Delhi in the near future and open up new possibilities.