Top critical review
Fascinating though an incomplete treatise....
10 December 2018
RSS is a right of centre organization within India, with origins dating back to before the 2nd world war. Since 2014, its political affiliate, the BJP swept into power with substantial majority, and as I write this review (December 2018), their political capital seems to be in decline. My own motivation to pick up this book was to understand the origins, motivations and organizational levers, and from that point of view, the book is a superb treatise, and to an extent an eye opener in terms of RSS’s reach within various spectrums of Indian civil society. Full marks for its depth of research; 40% of the pages are devoted to notes and bibliography!
However, there are a few significant lapses in the writer’s approach to the subject. Most of the material is gleaned from interviews with the RSS membership and/or sources provided by them. This gives the book a one sided picture, which for the most part, is complimentary in its take. For example, the book is replete with progressive and inclusive ideas that make it seem like an organization that has been able to keep pace with the changing needs and demographics of modern India. Those promises and pronouncements also made its political affiliate BJP come to power in 2014. Now as I write this review, a lot of those promises have been forgotten and the core ideology has reverted to a majoritarian view of ‘hindutva’, much to the disillusionment and frustration of many parts of Indian society. Another major lapse in the book is omission of its financial structure, sources of funding, cost of running this massive outfit etc.
I am sure the author, should he choose to update this excellent book at some point in time, would include insights into the inherent tensions that exist within RSS that pull it in two opposite directions of ideology, economics and philosophy.
On balance, 3 stars.