10 things to know about Rashtra Sevika Samiti, the women wing of RSS

Rashtra Sevika Samiti, the women wing of RSS, has over 2700 shakhas across the country

Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi stoked up a fresh controversy after he asked a gathering of students in Vadodara if they have “ever seen women in shorts at RSS shakhas?”. With this statement, Rahul was referring to the khakhi shorts members wore during drills, suggesting that the right-wing organisation discriminates against women. The Gandhi scion’s comment irked Union information and broadcasting minister Smriti Irani who allegedly slammed the Congress leader for making ‘indecent’ comment against ‘sisters connected with the Sangh‘.

However, contrary to Rahul Gandhi’s belief, RSS does have a women-only group, Rashtriya Sevika Samitithat, more or less, shares the same ideology. Rashtriya Sevika Samiti believes in re-establishing the ‘Hindu Rashtra’ by nurturing and maintaining the purity of the Hindu culture.

1) Founded on 25 October 1936 by Laxmibai Kelkar, Rashtra Sevika Samiti is country’s largest women-only nationalist group that works to preserve Indian culture and traditions.

2) The women outfit was conceptualised on the notion that “the Indian society is woven by the divine element a woman carries within her”.

3) Much like RSS, the women wing has fulltime members who shun family life and become pracharikas or sevikas.

4) According to Indian Express, the women’s organisation’s shakhas have increased from 2,130 in 2011 to 2,784 in 2016.

5) Organisation’s shakhas organise events, play sports and learn self-defense.

6) In its 81 years, the organisation has only witnessed five pramukh sanchalika. V Shantha Kumari has held the post since 2012.

7) Samiti’s objective is based on three principles: 1) Matrutva (Universal Motherhood) 2) Kartrutva (Efficiency and Social Activism) 3) Netrutva (Leadership).

8) The organisation trains the girls to fight while also stressing on the need of becoming a good mother and a good wife as it’s part of a woman’s identity. “Jo bachiyan hain, unko yasasvi kis prakar banana hai, parivar ko kaise rakhna hai – jo kami dikhti hai parivaron ke andar, jo parivar tooth rahein hain humare — usko jordhne ki kala yeh rashtriya sevika samiti sikhati hai.” (Rashtriya Sevika Samiti trains the girls the skillful art of uniting and keeping the family together. How to be victorious, how to maintain peace in families which are weak or broken – this is what is taught), Rashtriya Sevika Samiti’s Uttar Shetra Karyavahika, Chandrakantha told Indian Express.

9) Shakha also tells the women that becoming good mothers is important since it is the woman who is responsible for sculpting the nature of her child. “Maata nirmata bhaviti hai, ma chahe toh nar se Narayan bana sakti hai, ma chahe toh vidhwansak bana sakti hai.” (A mother is the ultimate creator. If she wants, she can bring up her child to be a saint or a destroyer).

10) The organisation has controversial views on issues like marital rape and role of women in society. “There is nothing called marital rape. Marriage is a sacred bond. Coexistence should lead to bliss. If we are able to understand the concept of this bliss, then everything runs smooth,” Samiti general secretary Seetha Annadanam told Indian Express.