Mostly men: To strike gender balance, RSS decides to induct more women in its ranks

The ratio of women in the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) compared to that of men is highly skewed… it always has been. The national team of the VHP has a total of 30 workers, a mere three are women and ABVP’s total strength is 22 and only 3 members across the country are women. But RSS wants to change the image and balance now. But times are changing and so is the RSS.

Representative image. PTI.

According to a report in The Indian Express, the RSS, which is not known to recruit women for its affiliates, has decided to get the gender balance right at long last by asking its office-bearers to recruit more women.

“A meeting of six organisations — Akhil Bharatiya Itihas Sankalan Yojana, Pragya Pravah, Sanskar Bharti, Vigyan Bharti, Sahitya Parishad and Adhivakta Parishad — called will be held on September 5-6 in Delhi. Each affiliate has been asked to try to send at least two women to the event, called Vichar Samooh, which is expected to have around 60 participants,” The Indian Express reported.

In 2005, former chief of RSS KS Sudarshan had said that when young girls and boys work together, there are ‘consequences’ in society.

“Women were not allowed entry as Indian society at that time did not accept the idea of their working together with men. People at home did not relish the idea. That view remains even today and we know what its consequences could be on society,” PTI had quoted the former chief as saying. Ironically, Sudarshan had said this at an event to pay his respects to Laxmibai Kelkar, founder of RSS women’s wing ‘Rashtra Sevika Samiti’, which holds women’s shakhas on the same lines of RSS shakhas.

Describing the Rashtra Sevika Samiti, Neha Dixit of The Outlook writes, “Even though the RSS was founded in 1925, when women were already active in all shades of anticolonial movements—nonviolent as well as revolutionary extremism—it did not even develop a women’s front for the next 11 years. Lakshmibai Kelkar, known as ‘mausiji’, the mother of a Maharashtrian RSS veteran, had approached Dr. Keshav Baliram Hegdewar, the founder and leader of the RSS, many times in the early 1930s for the admission of women, but he was not responsive. At last, in 1936, he agreed to her proposal and advised her to set up a separate women’s wing. The Samiti was formed with the intention to create awareness among women about their cultural and social responsibilities. Replicating the RSS schedule, the women are trained in the Hindutva ideology and paramilitary through shakhas, vargs, Yoga and discussions.”

Dixit in this Outlook article of 2013, noted that while the term Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh means ‘Nationalist Volunteers’, the term Rashtra Sevika denotes women who serve the nation. The article observed that the definition hinted at the conventional ‘services’ expected from a ‘sacrificial’ woman. “The sense of autonomy and self-choice that are associated with the word ‘volunteer’ are notably missing.”

Interestingly, the pracharikas of Sevika Samiti believe that it is the western women who had to fight for their rights in the 1920s unlike their Indian counterparts. “We are not feminists, we are family-ists. We believe in ‘dampatya’ (conjugality) where a man and a woman together need to bring up a family.”

Speaking to The Indian Express, Mahila Samanway chief Geeta Tayi Gunde, who coordinates among the affiliates on women’s issues, said, “Representation of women is gradually increasing in our organisations. At the Ahmedabad conclave, we will discuss several aspects of women empowerment and their role in our organisations.”

Source: First post