After Tilak’s demise in 1920, like other followers of Tilak, Keshav Baliram Hedgewar, a doctor of Nagpur city was opposed to some of the programmes adopted by Gandhi.
In 1921, Hedgewar delivered a series of lectures in Maharashtra with slogans such as “Freedom within a year” and “boycott”. He deliberately broke the law, for which he was imprisoned for a year.
After being released in 1922, Hedgewar was distressed at the lack of organisation among the Congress volunteers for the independence struggle. Subsequently, he felt the need to create an independent organisation that was based on the country’s traditions and history.
He was a political protege of B. S. Moonje, a Tilakite Congressman, Hindu Mahasabha politician and social activist from Nagpur. He had been a part of the Anushilan Samiti and Yugantar. He became a member of Indian National Congress initially but left it soon.
After reading V. D. Savarkar’s Hindutva, published in Nagpur in 1923, and meeting Savarkar in the Ratnagiri prison in 1925, Hedgewar was extremely influenced by him, and he founded the Rastriya Swayamsevak Sangh with the objective of strengthening Hindu society in Nagpur.
It drew initial inspiration from European right-wing groups during World War II. Gradually, RSS grew into a prominent Hindu nationalist umbrella organisation, spawning several affiliated organisations that established numerous schools, charities, and clubs to spread its ideological beliefs.
The idea was to train the Hindu youths so that they united the Hindu Community and make India an Independent undivided country. He was much influenced by V D Savarkar and adopted his ideals.
The RSS was banned once during British rule, and then thrice by the post-independence Indian government, first in 1948 when Nathuram Godse, who claimed to have left RSS in 1946 over ideological differences, assassinated Mahatma Gandhi, then during The Emergency (1975–1977) and for a third time after the demolition of Babri Masjid in 1992.
With over 5 million active members (swayamsevaks) and over 100 affiliates, RSS is the world’s biggest NGO.
BJP is regarded as the political wing of the RSS, and the party’s dependence on the RSS has always been present. In fact, at least 60% of the BJP cadre is proud of their Sangh background. The percentage is even higher in the Hindi hinterland and states like Maharashtra.