How radical is RSS

Government in India - Hindu radicals want political power

India's Hindu stormtroopers have mobilized. Up to ten million volunteers went out in this election campaign and knocked on millions and millions of doors - in the desert of Rajasthan as well as in the megacities, in remote villages and on the thousands of kilometers of coastline. Everywhere the men of the “National Volunteer Corps” (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh / RSS) proclaimed that people should choose “change”.

And “change” means Narendra Modi for them. The 63-year-old is running as the most promising prime ministerial candidate for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the political arm of the huge family of Hindu organizations, including the RSS. For decades the actually apolitical RSS has not used its armies to support a candidate. Until now.

"It was time to intervene on a large scale," says RSS spokesman Ram Madhav. India is in danger because the current government does not take care of internal or external security. The economy is also in crisis and society is degenerating. “This choice could be a turning point,” he says. The fact that voter turnout will probably reach a record this time is also thanks to the RSS.

For 88 years the RSS, a fascist-style volunteer organization, has been the foundation of Hindu nationalism in India. The almost exclusively male members meet every morning in 45,000 public places across the country. There they go through an hour of military drill, do yoga and listen to the teachings. "We teach them history, talk about our heroes, instill patriotism in them and create respect for India's ancient culture," says Madhav.

BJP candidate Modi, like many others, took part in these Shakhas as a child. After graduating from school, he then left his newly married wife and parents alone to devote himself to RSS work, as Modi's biographer Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay explains. There he worked his way up from the cleaning man to the highest levels before he was sent into politics by the organization.

"With RSS, I got the inspiration to live for the nation," Modi said recently in an interview with the ETV broadcasting group. “I owe everything to RSS.” This career is not an exception; there are many former RSS cadres in the party, including former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

The probable seizure of power by a group promoting the dominance of Hinduism over all other religions in the vast empire fills the minorities with fear. At least 13 percent of Indians are Muslims; in addition there are Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains and countless religions of tribal peoples. “Modi creates hatred among people. That's why there is bloody rioting, ”says the Muslim Asif Khan, headmaster in Ahmedabad in Gujarat.

There, in 2002, Hindus and Muslims fought each other for weeks. More than a thousand people died and more than 100,000 - mostly Muslims - fled to camps. Modi was then the head of government in Gujarat - but the police were often nowhere to be seen when the mobs raged.

The sociologist Raheel Dhattiwala found that the violence broke out wherever the BJP could politically benefit most from the hatred of Muslims. That worked: after the unrest, the party won comfortably. "That was a research laboratory here, now Modi will do it at the national level," says Headmaster Khan.

So does Rajiv Dubey, an RSS volunteer in the small north Indian town of Tundla. "If Narendra Modi gets a majority, he can do anything: build the Ram Temple in Ayodhya (where radical Hindus destroyed a mosque), kick the immigrants from Bangladesh and give Pakistan its place."