Facing a decline in the number of people joining its branches (shakhas) over the past few years, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) launched an online membership drive a month ago in the hope of reversing this trend.
The number of its branches went down from 51,000 in 2005-06 to 44,000 in 2006-07, according to an internal report. The number of cities covered also came down from 35,000 to 30,000.
This is also the first time in 83 years of its existence that the will have a formal database of new members. The online form can be accessed on the RSS website www.rssonnet.org.
The RSS was formed in 1925 by K.B. Hedgewar in Nagpur with the aim of establishing a Hindu rashtra or Hindu nation. The RSS is often accused of having an anti-Muslim bias. It has many affiliated organisations and outfits, including the BJP, which is its political arm.
In about a month, the organisation has received about 450 online applications. Three months later, it will analyse the data to figure out which regions have shown more enthusiasm to enroll online.
However, so novel is the initiative that some important Sangh functionaries in the capital are unaware of it.
Vagish Issar of the RSS said that once a person submits a form, information is passed to the local shakha that can directly
contact him. He added that one aim was to tap the youth. “Seventy per cent of internet users are between 18 and 30. The organisation hopes to engage them,” he told HT.
“The Sangh has an informal network. The local shakha head coordinates personally with swayamsevaks in the area,” said Ravi Bansal, adding that he was unaware of the online initiative. The organisation connects at the city, regional and national levels through coordination between those occupying responsible positions.
Fund-raising also takes place informally: on Guru Dakshina day, swayamsevaks at the shakhas across the country gather locally and make voluntary contributions in unnamed envelopes before the saffron flag (dhwaj).
Technology, however, is gradually altering this informal network. When you log in, you have to register your e-mail address and choose a login name and password. You then receive a mail that not only gives you access to the online discussion forum but also allows you to fill a membership.