The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Saffron flutters under Red raj
- Sangh strength doubles in Calcutta in ten years

Calcutta, Dec. 4: Ayodhya may still be without the Ram mandir a decade after Babri Masjid was pulled down, but the state unit of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh has reasons to be happy.

Despite the December 6, 1992, demolition and the subsequent rounds of shilanyas failing to build a temple, the RSS — operating in a state where the majority has never taken warmly to its concept of Hindutva and where a “hostile” government has been in power for the last 25 years — has nearly doubled in strength in the last 10 years.

The Sangh is now gearing up to make the December-January season a grand affair that is going to culminate in a series of open and closed-door sessions throughout the state to be addressed by sarsanghchalak K.S. Sudarshan.

In 1992, the RSS had about 90 upashakhas (units) in Calcutta. Ten years later, the city has seen a mushrooming of such units; the number stands at 165 today.

Ten years ago, the city had about 5,000 “very active” RSS members who would attend the one-hour training programme every morning; the number of less active members, who did not find the time to attend this, was about 10 times that figure, RSS leader Subhas Ray said.

Today, “the number of people who make it a point to attend the sessions every morning would be around 10,000”, Ray said, adding that they were divided into 31 large shakhas.

Now, the state unit is working seriously on the coming season, a high point in the calendar of the group that gives most of the theoretical grounding to the larger Sangh parivar.

“The seniormost leaders in Calcutta and elsewhere in the state are now touring the districts,” Ranendralal Bandyopadhyay, known in local Sangh circles as an ideologue, said, explaining that they were making it a point to visit every upashakha and shakha to get the pracharaks ready for the big occasion.

The first of the three sets of open and closed-door sessions comes off in Calcutta in the third week of January. The second will take place at Durgapur (for the central Bengal region) and the third in Raiganj (the headquarters of the north Bengal region).

The first day everywhere will see a public gathering but the second days are going to be more important, say RSS insiders.

“Sudarshan himself is going to be present at all the closed-door sessions and these meetings will decide the future course of the RSS in the state,” Ray added.

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