It has been able to capitalise on the ‘appeasement politics’ of the Trinamool Congress.
The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has been rapidly growing in West Bengal where the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is fighting a bitter battle with the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC). The RSS has doubled its number of shakhas from 750 to 1,500 in the last few years, from 2013 to 2017.
It has also launched special programmes for youths to connect them with the RSS’ ideology. Most of the growth of the RSS has been noticed in the South Bengal region, which alone now has the presence of over 900 shakas, in districts like North 24 Parganas, South 24 Parganas, Kolkata, Hooghly, Birbhum, Howrah, East and West Midnapore. The border districts in Bengal have witnessed the maximum activities of the RSS in the recent past. The rest of the RSS’ growth has been in North Bengal.
Interestingly, the RSS has also been able to make its presence felt in districts like Malda and Uttar Dinajpur, comprising about 51% and 50% Muslim populations respectively.
Jishnu Basu, general secretary of the RSS’ South Bengal chapter, told The Sunday Guardian, “The present situation in West Bengal is very worrisome. We have never seen such an anti-Hindu government like the present one in the history of Bengal, post Independence. Hindus here have realised that the RSS is the only option to protect their rights and their religious identities in West Bengal. We do not want Bengal to be turned into West Bangladesh.”
Not only this, RSS affiliated schools have also seen a phenomenal growth in the last five years. Over 330 such schools have been opened across the eastern state, where some 66,500 students have been registered to study. The schools impart modern education along with “spiritual” teachings. Capitalising on the alleged “appeasement” politics of the Trinamool Congress government in West Bengal, the RSS has been able to mobilise and increase its membership in the state by almost 50% in the last few years, with a huge number of youths between the age of 15 and 40 years, joining the saffron organisation every year.
According to RSS functionaries from Bengal, the youths have been disenchanted by the present TMC government’s “pro-minority” stance, making them look towards the RSS in the hope that it would protect their “rights and religious freedom”. Basu added: “This has made many youths as well as people across age groups to join the RSS in the last five years. We have seen an increase of over 50% in the membership of the RSS in Bengal. This has mostly come from the youths of Bengal as they have realised that the RSS is the only option to fight against communal forces. We have also opened shakhas in almost all districts of Bengal and making our strong presence felt in over 300 blocks.”
Keeping in mind the changing times, the RSS, apart from conducting daily shakhas, has also started Saptahik Milaan (weekly meetings) and Mashik Mandlis (monthly meetings).
According to RSS functionaries in South Bengal, the organisation has conducted a little over 750 Saptahik Milaans and 144 Mashik Mandlis in the last few years. In North Bengal, 335 Saptahik Milaans and 82 Mashik Mandlis have been conducted so far.
A spokesperson of the RSS’ Bengal unit told The Sunday Guardian: “We are keeping in mind the changing times where people are busy with their daily work life. Therefore, we have also switched to weekly and monthly meetings and this has led to a huge presence of youths in our platform. We have seen rising membership from young college going students and young professionals in the recent past. However, the monthly and weekly meetings are on similar lines of the daily shakhas.”
The RSS has also been organising several events in Bengal like celebration of Hanuman Jayanti, Ram Navami, and other such festivals to make its presence felt across the state. It had also organised residential camps for youths, along with celebration of Swami Vivekananda’s 150th birth anniversary last year.