Faced with a shrinking support base — the number of its shakhas (branches) has fallen from 43,905 in 2008-09 to to 39,823 in 2009-10 — the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has decided to organise its own version of the Kumbh. At the mela, named Samajik Samrasta Kumbh, to be held near Mandla in Madhya Pradesh on February 10-12, the Sangh plans to gather 30-35 lakh people from across India.
The idea is taken from the famous Kumbh melas — mammoth gatherings of devout Hindus — but it has been given a social spin: this Kumbh will mark the coming together of social groups, from the upper caste Hindu to the tribals.
The Sangh will mobilise people through biradaris and community leaders of different castes and tribes, and believes that those who attend the meet can be ideologically indoctrinated into becoming shakha-attending Swayamsevaks.
"Forty-five tent cities will be set up near Mandla, each capable of housing 5,000 people," a Sangh functionary told HT.
"Sarsanghchalak (RSS chief) Mohan Bhagwat and BJP leaders like Gujarat CM Narendra Modi, MP CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Chhattisgarh CM Raman Singh will be present, besides prominent sants (seers," he added.
Three mandaps will be set up for the event, named after Lord Hanuman, Rani Lakshmibai, and Swami Lakshmanananda, who was killed in Kandhamal by alleged Maoists, leading to anti-Christian riots. Lakshmana-nanda's name is being seen as a symbol of an agenda to counter Christian missionaries.
The 3500-acre venue is named after Rani Durgavati. The meet will have exhibitions on themes like cow protection, Sikh gurus, women warriors and environment.