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90 years on, RSS goes for an image makeover |Hindustan Times

After 90 years of existence, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has decided to go for an image makeover, and much of that exercise will focus on changing the perception about itself.

The decision comes on the heels of the Supreme Court’s ticking off Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi for his comments holding the RSS responsible for Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination. The Congress leader may have to stand trial for defamation.

What role did the RSS play during India’s fight for freedom? Why was the ban on the RSS imposed and later lifted? Why is the RSS accused of involvement in Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination? Answers to questions such as these will now be compressed into books and publications and distributed among its cadres.

Publications detailing the Sangh’s history have been available for long, but the RSS will now actively pursue an “image correction exercise”. It wants its cadres to be armed with “facts” to counter what it calls “propaganda” against it and will intensify outreach through the internet and e-books.

On Tuesday, hearing a petition to quash a defamation case against Rahul for blaming the RSS for Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination, the SC observed, “You can’t make wholesale denunciation of an organisation. There is a difference between Nathuram Godse killing Mahatma Gandhi and RSS killing him,” a bench said, referring to the ideological parent of the BJP.

Senior RSS functionaries told HT that efforts are underway to fight such a “misinformation campaign” against the organisation. The SC ruling has come as a shot in the arm for the saffron ideological fountainhead.

“The Congress had been consistently trying to spread lies and baseless allegations about the RSS. The SC observation has exposed the Congress,” Manmohan Vaidya, all India prachar pramukh of RSS, said on Tuesday.

The RSS also claims it has identified a pattern by which its members are baited on social media.

Booklets detailing the 1969 Report of Jeevan Lal Kapur Commission of Inquiry into the Conspiracy to Murder Mahatma Gandhi are being distributed among cadres to implement the “perception correction” exercise, an RSS functionary said. On the basis of that report, cadres will be able to counter anyone who accuses the Sangh of being complicit in Gandhi’s assassination.

Similarly, ahead of Independence Day, cadres will be trained to respond to accusations that question the RSS’ role during the freedom struggle. “The younger generation needs to be told that RSS has been politically and legally exonerated. It has been proved legally that RSS had no role in Gandhiji’s assassination, yet Congress has been spreading wrong information about the ban and its subsequent lifting,” said Rakesh Sinha, head of India Policy Foundation.

All 39 state units of Vishwa Samvad Kendra, an internal news agency of the Sangh, have been asked to bring out publications tracing the history of RSS and profiles of its senior leaders.

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