RSS Schools Orissa
By Angana Chatterji
12 November, 2003
Orissa, over the last five years the Sangh Parivar's tentacles have
spread and thickened. Minorities, refugees, and the poor -- the social
crevices in which they live narrow from neglect. The disenfranchised
struggle to confront social violence. The annexation of territory and
resources from the subaltern, the imposition of virulent ideologies
and alienating economies, have produced diverse identity politics defining
contested practices of citizenship. At the intersections of globalisation
and hyper nationalism, Hindutva intervenes, unravelling the fragile
fabric of democracy.
of education is a serious concern across India. Sectarian education
campaigns undertaken by Hindu extremist groups demonize minorities through
the teaching of fundamentalist curricula. Such corruption of education
incites the political and social fires of communalism. The RSS has spearheaded
the movement, successfully penetrating into the educational systems
of both the grassroots and centralised regulatory commissions. The Rashtriya
Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has fashioned an institutional umbrella that
is having a damaging impact on education at the grassroots. The RSS
has established Vanvasi Kalyan Parishads, Vivekananda Kendras, Sewa
Bharatis and other groups to advance the ideological agenda of Hindu
nationalism. The RSS administers 9,300 Ekal Vidyalayas in adivasi areas.
For the diversity of cultures allied under the rubric of 'adivasi',
the ongoing reality of Hinduisation offers evidence of their gradual
and brutal incorporation into this caste system.
Created by the RSS
in 1978, the Vidya Bharati Akhil Bharatiya Shiksha Sansthan network
focuses on moral, extracurricular and physical education for 'mind,
body and spirit'. The Vidya Bharati system supervises over 18,000 schools
across India, with 1.8 million students and 80,000 teachers. A shared
curriculum is used across the country. The Vidya Bharati operates 60
graduate institutions. About 5,000 Vidya Bharatis are endorsed by Education
Boards primarily in states where the Bharatiya Janata Party is in power..
Known as Shiksha
Vikas Samiti, Vidya Bharati directs 391 Saraswati Shishu Mandir schools
with 111,000 students in Orissa. The RSS has constructed a network of
educational institutions across the state. Initially the RSS maintained
a public distance between the Sangh and Vidya Bharati. In recent years,
as Hindutva consolidates its position in Orissa, the RSS has actively
declared its affiliation with these schools. Rashtra Deepa, the RSS
Oriya weekly, regularly chronicles some of the academic aspirations
of the Sangh Parivar. Most RSS run schools are affiliated with the State
Board of Education and adhere to the state approved curricula. As the
Sangh infiltrates into regulatory bodies and actively leads the rewriting
of textbooks and reorganisation of the curriculum, the classroom transforms
into an agent of Hindutva.
With the increasing
impetus on the privatization of education, the RSS has been actively
inaugurating schools in areas across Orissa where the government fails
to provide public funding. The vigorous assertion of Sanskrit provides
for the erasure and Hinduisation of minority languages. History, science,
geography, literature, religious texts are interpreted into Hindutva.
These texts, written in Oriya, are taught in schools and available in
bookstores. The texts weave disparaging and malevolent fictions about
minority groups, inciting Hindus to revenge history. The curriculum
is censored and obscurantist, interpreted to legitimate the sanctity
of a 'Hindu worldview' in India and the assembling of a Hindu state.
It enables Hindu nationalism in advancing 'righteous' violence for ethnic
cleansing. The RSS broadcasts this education as 'holistic', patriotic
These schools are
financed by individual donations and contributions from various charitable
organisations such as the Mumbai based Bhansali Trust. These schools
also offer income generation and computer skills. They serve as gathering
places for Sangh organisations providing youth contact with Hindutva
leaders. Parents say they are drawn to RSS run schools because they
are affordable and profess to educate children in culture and religion,
history and ritual.
ideological training through extra-curricular activity as well. They
participate in development work and disaster relief, politicising education
and linking it to social service. An RSS worker in Bhubaneswar speaks
with pride. "We ask people to devote one hour a day for their country,
in the name of the motherland. To gather in a field and play Indian
games; with sticks, swords, other exercises, teach youth to march, some
musical instruments. And then we workers discuss the ideology of the
RSS -- what Hinduism is, how Hindu culture was great and how it is fading,
how the youth must become involved to revive and purify it."
educational camps, he continues, the RSS recruits teachers and campaigners.
Their task is to draw people to the Sangh. "To convince people
that the country is in danger, the motherland is in danger. To tell
people that no matter who they are, if they return to Hinduism there
is place for them in the nation." After training, RSS state and
district units send campaigners to serve within the different wings
of the Sangh Parivar, and to the rural areas to recruit and organise
the Sangh cadre.
The RSS holds month
long training sessions across Orissa during summer vacations to attract
students and young children. From these sessions, the RSS recruits for
the Officers Training Camps (OTC). Held twice a year, the OTC provides
schooling in self-defense and leadership. Around 500 people attend each
year. On completion, approximately100 join the organisation as campaigners.
Graduates take an oath, "I will devote my body, mind, and money
(tana, mana, bhana) to the motherland." For about 10 recruits,
this develops into a lifelong, intense and full time commitment. Each
December, the RSS organises the Sita Shibir, a 7-10 day winter camp.
The families of attendees finance the camps. The growth of the RSS testifies
to the success of these camps. The RSS boasts of 50,000 shakhas in India,
2500 in Orissa with a 100,000 strong cadre.
In Orissa, the RSS
charges that aggressive Hinduisation is a 'rational' and warranted response
to, among other factors, the growth of missionary activity leading to
an increase in the Christian population. In fact, Christians constitute
less than 3 percent of the population in the state, with a 1 percent
increase since 1981. The Christian population in India does not record
any appreciable increase from 2.6 percent in 1971, to 2.43 in 1981,
2.34 in 1991, and 2.6 in 2001.
History is animated
through extra curricular activities, seminars and workshops. New heroes,
timelines, events emerge to construct India's antiquity, to naturalize
her geo-political borders, to define her heritage as Hindu. History
is rewritten to determine belonging and unbelonging. Difference is represented
as 'other', a threat to the integrity of India as a Hindu nation, unless
manipulated and straitjacketed. A whole new generation is being grown
indoctrinated in Hindutva. It is a devious strategy to teach hate to
used in this article is derived from multiple sources, including interviews
with persons affiliated with Sangh organisations.
is a professor of Social and Cultural Anthropology at the California
Institute of Integral Studies