Background to the RSS
This page has been set up to provide resources for colleagues interested in the rise of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) related activity on UK campuses.
RSS is a Hindu nationalist cadre-based organisation that is at the core of a network of extremist, right-wing Hindu organisations and political parties. It has been directly implicated in organised violence against minorities in India with the massacres in Gujarat in 2002 only the most high profile instance of this. RSS has repeatedly been implicated in the involvement or orchestration of large scale anti-minority violence against Christians and Muslims in India. Both international and Indian human rights organisations, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, have regularly documented the involvement of RSS and its family of organisations in very serious anti-minority violence, incitement and hate speech.
The current Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, is a member of RSS and was Chief Minister of Gujarat during the time of the riots. His involvement in these events led him to be proscribed from entering the UK and US for a number of years. The RSS is currently involved in a process of seeking respectability and visits to university campuses are part of this process of legitimisation.
The immediate context for this page is an event scheduled to be held at a university in the Midlands in mid-September hosting the Joint General Secretary of the RSS. The invited speaker is a major figure in the Indian RSS and has recently articulated concerns about Muslim birthrates and advocated Hindus produce more children. The event is organised as an open discussion with the general secretary about the nature and activities of the RSS, but is presented more as a promotional event designed to begin the process of rehabilitation of what is considered by many to be a fascist organisation. If this event was a proper examination of RSS, it would, at the very least, involve speakers on a panel able to present contesting views in the same systematic manner that is being allowed to the general secretary.
The location and timing of the event suggest that it is aimed more at the local community than at colleagues or students at the university (given that it is being held at the weekend, out of term time) and it seems that the venue of the university is being used to legitimate the event within that community.
If a student society had invited the leader of EDL or Golden Dawn or someone from Jobbik to speak on campus about their policies towards immigration and a ‘purified Europe’, and the event was directed toward the local community, universities and colleagues would likely express considerable concern. These organisations, like RSS, promote hate speech, violence, and suppression of dissent no matter how plausible an individual spokesperson might be.
Perhaps the university should ask why the event is being held at the university and not in any other venue in the city? It’s clearly because the organisers wish the association with the university despite the intended audience not being the university community. Perhaps the university should ask itself if it is happy with that association?
UPDATE: 31/8/14 The University in question has stated that as a consequence of procedural irregularities in making the booking, this event is no longer being hosted at the university.
Rightwing Fascism And Intellectual Apologia In India by Dibyesh Anand, University of Westminster
Narendra Modi: Britain Can’t Simply Shrug Off This Hindu Extremist by Priyamvada Gopal, University of Cambridge
Understanding Gujarat Violence by Ashutosh Varshney, University of Michigan
The Believer: Swami Aseemanand’s Radical Service To The Sangh By Leena Gita Reghunath
The Awaaz Network Report launched in the House of Commons on 1st May 2014 (which includes a chapter on the RSS)
Podcast of the ‘Gender and the Hindu Right‘ seminar at the LSE, 3 March 2014