| ON NEW ROAD' RSS workers marching in Bhopal. File picture
New Delhi, Sept. 5: If you are a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh pracharak, you stay that way all your life: single, celibate and without an office of power and patronage.
Should you wish to unshackle yourself from the cloister of Nagpur and Jhandewalan, you cease to be a pracharak ' propagandist in translation and whole-timer in transliteration.
But the times they are a-changin’ and nothing reflects it more tellingly than a poll on the Net. If you click www.rss.org and access the media site, you will chance upon the “poll of the day”: should Sangh pracharaks be allowed to marry'
The results show of the 708 votes polled so far, 57.2 per cent (405) said yes, 32.6 per cent (231) said no, 7.3 per cent said maybe, while the rest had no opinion.
The “survey” carried a quote, presumably sent by a pracharak, Chetan, who wrote: “When people have no time to even attend a shakha (an RSS branch) or visit this site regularly, then why such a poll, just like armchair philosophy. Let this matter be decided in any karyakarni (working committee meet) at the national, state or district levels.”
Chetan’s take was endorsed by RSS spokesperson Ram Madhav, who said: “The order of brahmacharyas (celibates) is part of Hinduism. Several religious missions practise it. Not just the RSS.”
He maintained that brahmacharya was an “unwritten rule” of the Sangh because it was “impossible for a householder to devote full time and attention to a pracharak’s job”.
Asked if the “poll” indicated the Sangh’s changing mindset or the start of a debate on marriage versus bachelorhood, Madhav denied that the exercise was inspired by the RSS. “We will have to delink this particular site from our website,” he said.
Madhav’s disclaimer notwithstanding, the debate had bobbed up last year when a journal with RSS leanings, Hinduism Today, put out a news item in its August issue claiming that the Sangh was taking a relook at the rule that banned pracharaks from marrying.
The journal even quoted a “study” purportedly carried out by a group of unnamed Mumbai psychologists who said bachelorhood induced cynicism in several swayamsevaks once they crossed 50. The study suggested that marriage was the only way to prevent the Sangh’s geriatrics from becoming recluses. It was of the view that their spouses could work with them in rural areas.
The item irked the RSS. “An honest peep into the working of the RSS will convince one that for any pracharak, service to the nation is the only main purpose of his life, not marriage, nor comforts and not fame or any personal gain,” Balram Mishra, a veteran swayamsevak, had written in the Organiser, the Sangh mouthpiece.
“It is absurd to say that pracharaks tend to be reclusive mid-life. The more they age, the more they get national consciousness.”
A former swayamsevak had contested Mishra’s view in private, saying that the oath of celibacy and a diktat not to set eyes on anything “worldly” was one reason why RSS shakhas no longer drew youths even in small towns and villages.
He had said there was a dominant opinion that allowing pracharaks to marry was the only way to avoid the occasional “scandal” ' remember K.N. Govindacharya and Uma Bharti' ' and ensure that the swayamsevaks were looked after in old age.