A first in a century: RSS to start shakhas for Muslims, by Muslims
Two years before its centenary celebration, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) is planning to take an unusual step by starting shakhas or morning congregations exclusively for Muslims and to be run by Muslims.
This is the first time in the nearly 100-year history of the RSS that such a move has been planned. The modalities are being worked out by the Muslim Rashtriya Manch (MRM), which is spearheading this campaign.
“This is an effort to start shakhas or morning gatherings of RSS workers for Muslims, and it will also be run by Muslims. It will be the first of its kind because such an exercise has never been undertaken before. It was during the meeting of MRM earlier this month that this thought came to its members to start shakhas for Muslims,” said Afzal Ahmed, the national convener of MRM.
Senior leaders of RSS involved in the project said the first such meeting was organised in Bhopal for a couple of days by Muslim members of MRM and RSS to see the response to the shakha.
Elaborating on the plans of MRM and RSS, senior leaders of the two groups said these shakhas will be different from the normal ones.
About RSS shakhas
According to RSS leaders, there are over 66,000 shakhas in the country.
“A normal shakha has a saffron flag. But for the shakhas for Muslims, it has been decided that instead of the saffron flag, the trademark flag of the RSS, we will have the national flag. This is an experiment. We are working out the modalities,” said a senior member of the RSS from its headquarters at Nagpur in the know about the development.
Among the things being worked out by the MRM and RSS are the songs that will be sung at the shakhas, the areas and cities to have them and the games to be played in these new gatherings.
“The MRM has a presence in at least 330 districts of the country. So, the first priority is to start such meetings in these districts and then expand the number as the membership of such gatherings increases,” the RSS leader from Nagpur told The Federal.
RSS members also suggested that these shakhas can act as a gateway for Muslims to learn about the work of the RSS and its 35 other affiliates. “These shakhas will have discussions on current affairs and important issues facing the country. This is done in other shakhas. It will help the Muslim community to understand the functioning of the RSS,” he added.
Members of MRM said this initiative was important because it will help talk about issues like a uniform civil code, instant triple talaq, population control, and ban on cow slaughter.
An attempt at dialogue?
“We have 10,000 active workers in MRM who will be involved in the outreach programmes in August and September. This outreach will be used to talk about UCC. So, the plan is to start the shakhas after the outreach concludes in September,” the RSS leader added.
Political analysts believe that senior RSS leaders have realized that at some point they have to start a dialogue with the second biggest religious population of the country and also use the exercise to change the perception of RSS and its affiliates in the minds of people.
“If we look at the statements of both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and RSS Sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat, they have talked about reaching out to people including Muslims. The plan to start shakhas is a step in this direction to start a conversation with Muslims,” said Yatindra Singh Sisodia, professor and director at the Madhya Pradesh Institute of Social Science Research, Ujjain.