The Clan: How the RSS spawned the VHP and Bajrang Dal

In an RSS publication, Matrusansthas (literally, ‘mother organisations’), on the numerous affiliates and organisations which the RSS has spawned over the decades and which form part of the Sangh Parivar, are included the Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram and the VHP. (See Detailed Annexures, Volume III

The VHP was born in 1964, when the RSS chief, Shri Golwalkar, met a select group of sanyasis and heads of religious organisations in Mumbai with the aim of launching a new organisation to unite all Hindu religious sects under a single umbrella. During the first ten years of its existence, the VHP worked largely in the north-eastern states, proselytising against the Christian missionaries. But following the mass conversion of Dalits to Islam in Meenakshipuram (Tamil Nadu) in 1981, it shifted its focus and turned against Muslims. In this new phase, it sought to enlarge and formalise the institutional links between the high priests of Hinduism across the country. Two apex bodies were created for this purpose – the Marg Darshak Mandal, which meets once or twice annually, and the Dharam Sansad, which meets only when needed. The Shankaracharyas, all heads of top maths, were given a prominent role within them and most of them became closely identified with VHP (RSS) politics.

In legal terms, the VHP was conceived of as a trust, with a 100-member board of trustees and a 51-strong governing council. The latter body includes only one sanyasi at present (2002), Swami Chinmayananda. An indication, perhaps, that the ultimate controlling power rests not with traditional religious leaders, but with the RSS patriarchs. VHP activists are called hitchintaks (well-wishers).

In a relatively short span of time, the trust has developed eighteen departments. These include the Dharma Anusthan department, which organises kirtans and bhajans in temples. Another branch looks after dharma prachar (missionary work) geared towards ghar vapasi (reconversion, or literally, return to home) of Christians and Muslims. Yet another is the Acharya Vibhag, which trains pujaris (priests) for the VHP as well as for other non-VHP run temples. The Parva Samanuyaya department co-ordinates common festivals with non-VHP temple committees.

Since the early ’80s the VHP has become politically visible with its aggressive ‘Ramjanmabhoomi Andolan’. The declared aim was to ‘reclaim’ the ‘birthplace of Lord Ram’ in Ayodhya on which the Babri Masjid stood and to build a Ram temple in its place. Among other things, the campaign involved a series of national mobilisations — the Ekatma Yajna (1983), Shri Ramjanaki Janmabhoomi Yatra (1984), other rath yatras (1985-89), Shilapoojan and Shilanyas ceremonies at Ayodhya (1989), and finally, Shri Advani’s rath yatra (1990). All these, except the last one, which was organised under the BJP banner, were conceived and organised by the VHP.

While some of these yatras were for ‘consciousness-raising’, others required active contributions from everyone – a brick, a rupee, or the sale of a bottle of Ganga water in each village of the country. The mobilisations were a means to claiming and, to an extent, creating ‘Hindu unity’ under the VHP’s auspices.

Of the myriad texts that exist for the eclectic faith of Hinduism, it is curious that Manusmriti and Arthashastra are treated as central by the ideologues of Hindu Rashtra. It is interesting to remember that the Manusmriti prescribes a rigidly stratified caste and gender hierarchy, while the Arthashastra recommends a police state under a single despotic head.

In retrospect, the core concern behind the formation of the VHP was the desire to forge ‘unity’ in a society fragmented by the rigidities of caste. Beginning with the tribals of the north-east, VHP activities then extended to Delhi, Karnataka, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, MP, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Kerala, UP and Bihar. The ‘Hinduisation’ of exploited social groups became urgent, particularly after the Meenakshipuram incident. In UP, the VHP has been wooing the forest-dwelling Kol tribes. The nature of the VHP’s activities among such groups reveals that their inspiration is drawn entirely from the RSS worldview. On paper, the VHP is engaged mainly in educational work: setting up of libraries, yogashramas, balwadis, student hostels and child samskar centres for the development of the knowledge of Hindu texts and Hindu national heroes. But the central thrust – though the VHP seldom describes it as such – is clearly the ‘conversion’ of tribals and Dalits to Hindutva-approved forms of worship. Raghunandan Prasad Sharma’s VHP: Aims, Activities and Achievements advises the spread of the ‘chief religious samskaras’ among ‘vanvasis, girijans and harijans’. Clearly these are meant to replace existing beliefs and practices among tribals and ensure a homogenised version of religion.

The Bajrang Dal (See looks after the training of young boys. It calls itself by different names in different parts of the country. In Bengal, for instance, it is known as the Vivekananda Vahini.

The above mentioned website describes the formation of the Bajrang Dal thus: "Vishva Hindu Parishad decided to start ‘Ram-Janaki’ rath yatra for awakening the society on October 1, 1984… Many elements refused to give protection to Rath and the participants. The Holy saints made a call to the Youths to protect ‘Rath’. Hundreds of youth gathered in Ayodhya. They performed their duty very well. Thus Bajrang Dal was formed with a temporary and localised objective of awakening youth of UP, and get their involvement in Ramjanmabhoomi movement… In 1986, the VHP decided to form Bajrang Dal in other states and very soon Bajrang Dal was formed in other states too, as its youth wing." (See Detailed Annexures, Volume III

It is clear from these assertions that whether it is the VHP, BD or the Durga Vahini, perceived wrongs against a supposedly homogenous Hindu society are played upon to whip up sentiments against India’s religious minorities, be they artisans from Aligarh or Moradabad, peaceful residents of Faizabad or businessmen, traders and agriculturists from Gujarat. Implicit in their agenda is aggression against fellow Indians.

The VHP was born in 1964, when the RSS chief, Shri Golwalkar, met a select group of sanyasis and heads of religious organisations in Mumbai with the aim of launching a new organisation to unite all Hindu religious sects under a single umbrella.

The Durga Vahini wing of the VHP works among young girls and women.

Centres of the BD are often located at Hanuman mandirs where they organise weekly satsangs (prayer meetings). The BD was largely instrumental in recruiting urban youths for the ‘kar seva’ at Ayodhya.

The distortion of Indian history, in a bid to project a ‘Hindu history’ of a people who for centuries were victims of Muslim marauders and Christian design, is at the heart of the mobilisation of these outfits. School textbooks and every other forum of public discourse are used for this purpose.

During the Ramjanmabhoomi movement between 1989-1992, Sadhvi Rithambara (an incendiary VHP protégé), frequently proclaimed an all-out war: ‘Khoon kharaba hota hai to ek bar hone do’ ("If there has to be bloodshed, let it happen once and for all"). The call for blood was sufficient to instigate cadres into violence against Muslims in Meerut, Maliana, Bhagalpur, Ahmedabad, Varanasi, Kanpur, Jaipur, Hubli, Ahmedabad, Surat, and Mumbai.

"Angry Hindu! Yes. Why not? Why are Hindus in the Dock?" An RSS booklet by that title celebrated manufactured rage as the saving grace for the community. A Hindu Jagaran Manch leaflet from Khurja, published during the same period, evoked the image of divine vengeance, seeking Muslim blood, elevating Hindutva’s blood-thirst to divine desire: "Ranchandi khali khappar liye gali gali vichar rahi hain" ("The goddess of war is roaming the streets thirsting for blood"). The open call for bloody revenge underpins the thinking of these organisations.

A distinct component of the VHP strategy to evolve an ‘all-Hindu reality’ is to mobilise Dalits to do their job so that caste Hindus can avoid getting blood on their own hands. Thus the Valmikis (Dalits) were deployed in communal conflicts in Nizamuddin (New Delhi) in 1983 and during the riots in Delhi’s walled city in 1987. A more fundamental motive seems to be the assimilation (‘Hinduisation’) of Dalits after their ‘trial by fire’ in Ram’s name. Dalits are invited to embrace the ideal of ‘Hindu unity’ even as discrimination against them and their exploitation remains a harsh reality. A Harijan was thus given the great privilege of laying the first foundation stone at the Ram temple site in Ayodhya in 1989.

The VHP’s promotion of the Valmiki group, in particular, is significant. It co-ordinates with the Valmiki temple committees for its festivals and VHP literature pays glowing tributes to Valmiki and Ravi Das as ‘Hindu’ religious leaders. The association between Valmiki and Ram is striking. It is also significant that in Delhi, Valmiki temples abound and constitute practically the only visible activity of the VHP among the low caste groups. The strategy is to recruit the traditionally neglected and exploited tribals and Valmikis to defend the high caste Hindu cause, by glorifying them even while showing little concern for their socio-economic status.

The VHP and the BD have played an important role in Gujarat is recent years. Since the BJP came back to power in 1998, these outfits have been breaking the law with impunity, certain as they are of political patronage from both the state and the centre. The Tribunal was presented with abundant examples of FIRs lodged against the cadre of these outfits in the past four years. The police, however, have launched no investigations. (See chapter on Build-Up, Volume II)

(Excerpted from the Concerned Citizens Tribunal – Gujarat 2002, Crime Againsy Humanity, Volume II; an inquiry into the carnage in Gujarat; parts of the chapter titled Preparation for Violence; Section :  Role of the BJP and Allied Organisations – RSS/VHP/BD; The VHP and Bajrang Dal: Their Evolution and Role ;; The Tribunal had the following members :Justice VR Krishna Iyer,Justice B Sawant,Justice Hosbet Suresh, KG Kannabiran, Aruna Roy, KS Subramanian, Ghanshyam Shah,Tanika Sarkar)




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