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IN THE SANGH scheme of regeneration and consolidation of Hindu society, cultivating character and moral values is given a pride of place. Without this ennobling aspect of samskara, the other arenas of transformation like social harmony, social justice and improvement in living conditions are bound to remain unwholesome and often bereft of real benefit. A major focus of the man-making process of Sangh is on this aspect of character moulding.

Swami Chidbhavananda, a leading light of Hindu religious renaissance of yester-years in Tamil Nadu, addressing the trainees at the Sangh Shiksha Varga, once said: "The manmaking training you are receiving in Sangh is exactly the one that Swami Vivekananda had conceived of for our young men."

One who observes closely the Shakha-technique can easily understand how and in how many ways this man-making process at work in the Shakha manifests itself.

A Force for Moral Upliftment

It was a backward locality in Belgaum in Karnataka, where a Swayamsevak, with his mother and brother, was residing. The boys of the locality were all in tattered and soiled clothes. During the day time, they would go out for begging and at night would indulge in petty thefts. When the Shakha was started by the Swayamsevak, these boys began attending the Shakha. The Swayamsevak knew all about their doings, but never preached any do's and don'ts. However, gradually, people in the neighbourhood began to notice a change. The boys had stopped coming to their doors for begging. Thefts also had ceased. The same boys had now begun to move about with a sense of self respect. The reason was simple. The Swayamsevak, in their eyes, belonged to the 'high caste' of Brahmins. He was studying in B.A., and yet he played and prayed with them; he sat and sang with them. He came to their huts and they too began going to his house, in a spirit of equality. All this had naturally made them feel ashamed to parade themselves before the Swayamsevak and others in a degrading manner.

The secret of man-making lies precisely in this process of awakening the dormant spark of self-respect present in even the so-called 'lower' sections of society. Such awakening is the only solution for beggary and such other parasitic tendencies.

The story of a Shakha in a backward locality in Bombay is interesting. A worker from another locality had started the Shakha. Within a few days, he realised that many of the boys attending the Shakha were, at other times, engaged in not-so worthy activities. A few of them were experts in picking others' pockets! But the worker did not speak a word about it. He carried on the various character-building activities of the Shakha, and at other times maintained informal contacts with them and their families. After a time, the officers of the nearby police station were surprised that complaints of pick-pocketing in the region had practically stopped. They caught hold of a couple of those old 'friends' and enquired what the matter was. They replied, in all dignity: "Now, we are attending the Sangh Shakha and have become good Swayamsevaks." The police needed no more explanation.

In Malda, West Bengal, a night Shakha began attracting all sorts of young men because of its novel programmes. The Mukhya Shikshak too knew that several of them were on the 'wanted' list of the police, and one of them was strongly suspected of having been involved in some crimes. The police were waiting for a chance to book him. After a year or so, one day he straightway went to the police station and frankly told the officers: "Please don't waste your time and energy over me any more. I have now joined the Sangh and become a changed man. I will do nothing which can bring disgrace to the great organisation."

Here is what the Jilla Sanghachalak of Nasik in Maharashtra has to say about his own metamorphosis because of Sangh: "I was born among Beldars, a nomadic tribe. Our family profession is contract in stone-quarries. Soon after joining the Sangh, maintaining high quality and punctuality in work became a passion with me. More than money, I began valuing human relationships with other workers and management. The credit for keeping myself and my family aloof from vices - common among our tribe - must entirely go to Sangh-samskars.

"By nature, I had no interest in politics. But I felt it my duty to put an end to the stranglehold of muscle-power in Nandgaon municipality. I fought for the councillorship and won. During elections, I did not indulge in any malpractice nor did I allow the opposing candidate to do so. His efforts to wean the votes of Muslims away from me also failed. The reason was simple: the Muslims had implicit faith in me because of my genuine feelings of love for them, that again being a quality ingrained in me by the Sangh.

"When some Socialists tried to tell me that the Sangh was a Brahmin affair, I just laughed. Now they know better. Seeing the deplorable conditions of my nomadic brethren, I directed my efforts specially towards bringing stability in their life. I also succeeded in bringing home to them the importance of education. Words fail me in expressing my gratitude to Sangh, which has brought about all these changes in me.

Eliminating Conflicts and Vices

Examples are galore all over the country where age-old internal rivalries and conflicts among castes, groups and personalities in villages, the bane of our rural life, have been resolved by Shakhas.

Pesoda, in the district Buldana of Vidarbha nestling in the lap of Satpura ranges, has a population of just 1,300. The region is rich with nature's bounty. This was in sharp contrast to the allround backwardness and ignorance of its inhabitants. Drinking and other vices were rampant. Petty quarrels led to open clashes and sometimes even to murder. Physical amenities like drinking water were scarce. Poverty stalked the village.

However, starting of the Shakha changed all that. Bickerings have given place to mutual cooperation. Religious programmes and social functions have added sanctity and gaiety to the village life. Untouchability and casteism have disappeared. Liquor finds no place in the social life. Even during elections, the spectre of mutual acrimony and ill-will no more haunts the people. Few go to courts; all their mutual problems are solved by the village elders themselves. The village youth are busy in bringing physical amenities to their village. Electricity having been brought, lift irrigation has made their fields rich with crops.

A trip to Pesoda is now a delightful experience not only because of its natural beauty but also because of the social cohesion added to the village life through Sangh samskars.

The instance of Keshavpura, Sahrod and Jerod villages in Kota district in Rajasthan is similar. Within a couple of years of the starting of the Shakha, except very few families all the rest have given up drinking, gambling and ganja (hashish). The resulting healthy atmosphere has given rise to several constructive activities in the village life. Even the womenfolk in home sing, while engaged in their daily chores, patriotic songs taught to their children in the Shakha.

Moulding Character Through Service

The social transformation that takes place through the various service activities being carried on by Swayamsevaks is many faceted. Service, in the eyes of Swayamsevaks, is not merely fulfilling the physical necessities. Of course, several projects for that purpose are also taken up. For example, the Seva Bharati of Delhi has over 200 such projects, with balwadis, balsamskar kendras' tailoring classes, coaching centres, medicare centres, night schools, kirtan mandalis, reading-rooms and a hostel. In all, 75 slum-areas are covered by these activities. But the uniqueness of Seva Bharati's achievement lies elsewhere. The following instances may be said to be typical.

The most neglected among those residing in slums are the children. They are literally left on the streets. A Sangh pracharak started his work with the children themselves. The parents never took cognisance when balsamskar-kendras and balwadis were started. But surprise awaited them when the children started touching their feet in the early mornings. They did not know what it all meant. Some of them even rebuked the children, "What is all this that you have newly picked up? Who has told you to do all this?" The children proudly replied, "Our teacher. He has told us that our parents are our first gods. And we have to make obeisance to them as soon as we wake up in the morning." The answer put the parents in a fix. They felt ashamed of their vices like drinking, as it ill-fitted the image of 'gods' in the minds of their children! With the result, many of them avoided drinking in homes, especially in the presence of children. Their conscience was aroused.

Once a boy attending a sarbskar kendra refused to go back to his house. He told his teacher that he could not tolerate the sight of his father getting drunk and indulging in foul language and often beating his mother. "I cannot stand even for a moment that repulsive odour. I have told my mother that I will not step into the house and I have come away", he said. It was only after his father came, expressed his regret and assured his son that he would gradually give up drinking that the boy agreed to return home. However, the son did not forget to touch his father's feet the next morning!

When chanting of Gayatri Mantra was started in the kendras and the children went home and recited the same, the parents did not even know what it was. But when they did, their surprise and joy knew no bounds. "What?" they exclaimed, "the holy mantra which was the exclusive monopoly of Brahmins is now taught to our children! How wonderful are your teachers in Seva Bharati! "

The teachers in the corporation schools in those backward areas could not also at first understand how some of their boys had started taking such deep interest in studies, how their writing of words and numbers had become perceptibly legible, how their performance in class tests also had remarkably improved, and how even the general behaviour of those boys had become more refined and courteous. The overall percentage of success in such schools also improved. Some boys started achieving first class also, a thing unheard of in those schools earlier.

One such 'first class' boy, however, had to face a peculiar problem in his home. The boy reported his success and showed his marks card with pride to his father. The father became furious. "Don't bluff. I know what you are. Don't compound your dull-headedness with the vice of falsehood." The father also beat him severely. The next day, the father went to the school to know the truth. The teacher paid hearty compliments to the boy and assured the father of the boy's honesty. Now it was the turn of the father to shed tears of joy as well as of repentance.

Once a boy of a samskar kendra took ill and was admitted to the hospital. When his teacher went to enquire about his condition, the doctor and nurse were all praise for the boy's winning manners and concern for other patients: "He goes and mingles with others here with great affection and warmth. More than his own sickness, he is concerned about others' condition. He also offers them whatever little help is possible." The doctor enquired of the teacher, "How is the boy related to you?" The teacher replied that he was a boy attending a samskar kendra in the Bhangi Colony run by Seva Bharati. The doctor was amazed. "Really? Is your Seva Bharati capable of bringing about such transformation among those children?"

In response to the desire of the people, a Valmiki Mandir and a Hanuman Mandir were built in the midst of the Harijan locality. "For the first time in our life we have the opportunity of offering worship ourselves!" - they exclaimed.

By March 1988, persons covered by one or the other of the 252 prakalpas of Seva Bharati numbered 106,763.

Imparting Social Dignity

The remarkable response that the Seva Bharati workers have received in the slums of Agra in Uttar Pradesh over the last few years was beyond their fondest expectations. Work was started in the form of samskar kendras for the children. One of the first programmes to be undertaken in the slums was Vivekananda Jayanti. Along with the kendra children, the parents, teachers and the Seva Bharati fraternity from the Agra city had all joined the programme. After yajna, home and haven, games and cultural programmes followed. And then, all of them partook of congregational meals.

The tradition continued. In every programme, some elite of the city doctors, engineers, advocates, professors, businessmen and others would participate. Eating from the hands of their slum-dwelling brethren was, for all of them, a new and rewarding experience.

The process of demolishing mental barriers was then taken right into the homes. Batches of children from the samskar kendras were sent to homes in other localities for meals. When the children reached there and touched the feet of the mothers, the latter felt overwhelmed and showered their affectionate blessings on them. Not only were the children fed sumptuously, the family members too sat with them for meals.

The tricycle trip by 50 boys from the kendras to Mathura proved a memorable experience for them. After completing the darshan of the various temples, the kendra boys were blessed by Sant Prabhudutt Brahmachari and the Mahamandaleshwar of Ramana Reti Ashram. The thrill of joy and sanctity that the boys felt on receiving prasad from the hands of those great acharyas was beyond words.

On their way back, the cyclists reached the village, Agayigaon. An old gentleman who happened to see the new young faces asked them: "Who are you?" The children replied: "We are Hindus. We are from Agra returning from a pilgrimage to Mathura." The old man persisted: "Of course, you are Hindus, but to which caste do you belong?" The boys also persisted in replying: "We know only one caste and that is Hindu." The old man was so much impressed by this answer that he invited them to his home and fed them with curds.

Neiraich is a village near Agra with a population of 3 to 4 thousand. For many years, the place had not partaken of any religious programmes like home, haven, katha or kirtan. With the entry of the Seva Bharati, the villagers came forward to conduct haven followed by the Ramayana screened on the VCR. And now the village life has become enlivened with religious fervour and community life.

In terms of numbers, the following figures may give a glimpse of the rapid strides the Seva Bharati has made over a period of just two and a half years after it started its work. There are, in all, about 200 slums m Agra city, out of which so far 50 have come under the Seva Bharati contact. Samskar kendras have been started in 25 slums in which about a thousand children have participated. Over 100 programmes have so far taken place in 30 slums and 26 teachers have shouldered the responsibility of conducting the samskar kendras.

'Matru Shakti' to the Fore

Rashtrasya sudridha shaktih, samajasya cha dharinee
Bhdrate samskrite naree, matd nardyanee sada

"The womanhood of Bharat is the fountainhead of strength that fortifies, sustains, enlightens and elevates - nourishing the nation for ever as the Mother Goddess."

This verse brings forth succinctly the role of women in the Bharatiya context.

Rashtra Sevika Samiti was started in 1936 in Wardha by Shrimati Lakshmibai Kelkar (lovingly called as 'Mauseeji'), with the blessings of Dr. Hedgewar, in order to inspire and mould the Hindu women for such a role. It was but natural that the womenfolk in the Swayamsevaks' families formed the initial batch of Sevikas in the Shakhas of the Samiti. So far, the Samiti has spread its work to 16 States. Sevikas who have gone abroad also have begun to organise Hindu women in countries like the United Kingdom.

The Sevikas assembling on the open ground and doing brisk physical exercises along with programmes for their intellectual and mental development show that they are no moreabalas (helpless), but are there to enlighten and ennoble the society through their organised stree-shakti (female power).

Here are some instances illustrative of the sterling character cultivated in the day-to-day training of the Samiti.

During the 1975-77 Emergency days, the residence in Pune of Thai Apte, the present Sanchalika of the Samiti, was the centre of solace for all the families of the detenu Swayamsevaks. She used to look after the children with the care of a grandmother whenever their parents had to go to prison gates to meet their detained relatives. This went on during the entire period of Emergency.

The Ujjain Shakha of the Samiti arranged a lecture series. They invited a renowned literary figure. He was a liquor addict and so usually preferred to stay in hotels. But in Ujjain his stay was arranged in the house of a Samiti worker. He used to remain closeted during the day. Gradually the pious atmosphere of the household cast its spell over him. After a few days' he asked the hostess: "Can I join the family in the Pratahsmaran and the drati?" The next day after attending the holy recitations he confessed, "Sister, only today have I come to realise what is real peace and happiness in life. The whole day I did not touch liquor even once. Everyone dubs me an addict, but you have successfully pulled me out of the mire, without uttering a single word. I will not forget this for all my life."

A devoted Sevika of Jabalpur was married to a dedicated worker of the Sangh. She not only rendered her husband's work easier by her spirit of adjustment and efficient management of the daily chores of the family but also managed to take time off for the Samiti work. Later, when her two sons decided to go out as Sangh pracharaks, both mother and father encouraged and blessed them to go ahead.

On a Raksha Bandhan day, the Jilla Pramukh of the Rashtra Sevika Samiti at Sholapur met the District Collector and tied the Rakhi on his wrist. He reciprocated the gesture in the traditional manner by offering her a token amount. But she refused it saying: "I would rather appreciate your help in the capacity of your high office." A bit surprised, the Collector asked, "Do you require employment for any of your relatives?" '`No, no, far from it. I am pained to see the modesty of womanhood being slighted by the manner in which they display the undergarments of women in the cloth-shops. It is so appalling. Kindly do something about it." That was the first time the Collector had come across an appeal not concerned with any personal benefit. Of course, he promised to do whatever was in his power.

During the 1971 Bangladesh War, the Samiti office in Nagpur received a phone call from the Association of Army Officers' Wives requesting the Samiti to shoulder the responsibility of serving refreshments to the Jawans, on the next morning at the Nagpur Railway Station. It was already 8.30 in the night. But the Association Secretary expressed her confidence that only the Samiti, of all women's organisations in the city, could respond to such an emergency call, as its cadres were highly disciplined and patriotic. Of course, the Sevikas of Nagpur proved their mettle the next morning by serving food to the brave jawans at the appointed time.

In Facing Injustice

The workers of the Samiti never fail to thwart attempts to slander the Bharatiya culture whenever any such incident comes to their notice. The book entitled Red Flows the Ganges published abroad depicted Jhansi Rani Lakshmi Bai in unedifying colours. Mauseeji led a delegation to the Central Government to express the Samiti's protest over the cultural outrage, and to demand proscribing of the book. The Government too sensed the mood of Bharatiya women and promptly banned the book in 1977.

A Hindu girl from Jammu, a victim of Partition, had fallen into the hands of Muslims and was married to one of them. But the Hindu spark in her could not be smothered. She waited long and patiently. When the time came for the marriage of her two daughters, she declared firmly that they would be given in marriage to Hindu youths only and that she herself would return to the Hindu fold. The Samiti and Sangh workers not only arranged for the home-coming of the ladies but also took up the responsibility of finding suitable bridegrooms for the girls. Now all the three, the mother and her two daughters, are staunch workers of the Samiti.

The Samiti which spread to Jammu in mid-forties soon became the fighting arm of the women's section in the political struggle led by the Praja Parishad in 1951-53. The Sevikas provided the network of underground communication channels for the movement. They also motivated, in particular, the womenfolk to join the processions, demonstrations and hunger strikes and even to court arrest. Some of its fiery orators moved the public as few others could do in those troubled days.

Emphasis on Duty Among Labour

The spirit of co-operation and duty-consciousness of Swayamsevaks have often come to the fore in the labour field also. There are a number of instances where the co-operation of BMS unions have helped the management to get over their troubles and run their industry efficiently. In Rajasthan, the Road Transport Corporation had always been in the red. Frequent strikes by the workers led by the AITUC union, corruption on the part of the officers and other factors had landed the Corporation in a heavy loss. When the BMS union established itself among the employees, it succeeded in rousing the duty consciousness among the workers. It also helped the authorities to run the services efficiently and prevent corruption. As a result, within three years, the Corporation began earning profits. In 1986, for the first time, the employees secured 10 per cent bonus - a little more than the statutory minimum - because of the overall progress.

Arlab Ltd. is a chemical factory situated near Pune. There were two unions among the workers, one of them affiliated to the BMS. The industry suffered huge losses owing to the cancellation of orders for its goods by a foreign country. Unions had to agree for wage-freeze to keep the factory going. Later, the other union became defunct and the management and the BMS union joined hands in putting the factory back on the rails. Soon the factory began earning profits. Today, the factory has expansion plans and new workers are being recruited.

In line with its emphasis on duty, the BMS encourages excellence in performance whether in production or in rendering service. Towards this end, some of the unions give away trophies or awards in recognition of good work. In BHEL, at Haridwar, a rolling shield by the BMS is awe deaf to the department whose performance is adjudged the best. Similarly, in Diesel Loco Works in Varanasi, the BMS union distributes prizes to individual workers every year on the Vishwa Karma Jayanti Day, for good performance.

A Force for Self-Inspired Discipline

The discipline instilled in the Sangh is basically a self imposed one. This is so because of the spirit of intense idealism nurtured in the Shakhas, and the examples set by the seniors which convey their own silent message. The profound impact of this training on the Swayamsevaks has been in evidence right from the inception of the Sangh.

The incident is of 1937. A 2000-strong Swayamsevaks camp was held in Nagpur. Dilawar Khan had given permission to the Swayamsevaks to bathe in the tank in hits adjoining orange orchard. But he was apprehensive about the fate of the rich orange crop. However, to his astonishment, he found that not a single orange was missing. He went to Dr. Hedgewar and presented several basketfuls of oranges for the Swayamsevaks as a token of his admiration for their exemplary discipline.

The real test for this quality of Swayamsevaks, however, came in the wake of the assassination of Gandhiji during 1948. The Government, the ruling Congress Party, the Communists and others joined hands in rousing mass frenzy against the Sangh. Sangh Karyalayas and houses of Swayamsevaks became the prime targets, especially in Maharashtra and the surrounding areas. In that hour of dire threat to the life, limb and property of countless Swayamsevaks, Shri Guruji's instruction was crisp and clear: "Be calm at all costs." When Shri Guruji's house in Nagpur was surrounded by an incensed mob, Swayamsevaks naturally felt it their duty to protect him. Bu. Shri Guruji said, "If our own Hindu brothers, for whose sake we have pledged our lives, choose to turn against us, be it so. But we shall not raise our hands against them. God's will be done."

Ali over the country, too, the same pattern prevailed. Everywhere the Swayamsevaks kept their cool. When the Government was not prepared to heed to the counsels of reason or justice, even after repeated appeals and efforts at negotiation, and remove the ban-on Sangh, Shri Guruji gave a call to restart the Shakhas and assert their rights to carry on their normal activities. But the Government once again resorted to repression to suppress the movement. Over 70,000 Swayamsevaks courted arrest and underwent endless hardships and torture. During the entire movement, there was not a single case of violence or destruction of public property anywhere - an unparalleled record in the peaceful and non-violent conduct of agitations.

The unique tradition of spontaneous discipline has continued to this day. It has been in ample evidence during the mammoth rallies, route marches and public functions involving tens of thousands of Swayamsevaks. These virtues of Swayamsevaks are not confined to the bounds of only Sangh programmes. The presence of even a few Swayamsevaks is sufficient to have a healthy impact on vast assemblies.

Commenting on the quiet efficiency and orderliness of the BMS conference held in Bangalore in December 1987, the local daily Kannada Prabha wrote: "It is a glowing example of how a labour conference is to be conducted."

Changing the Student Image

Students are supposed to be unruly and riotous these days. But Swami Ranganathananda of the Ramakrishna Mission who had come to inaugurate the 11,000-strong national conference of ABVP in 1985, the International Youth Year, at New Delhi, had an altogether different experience. The student-delegates were drawn from nearly 350 districts and from all the States. Having observed the pin drop silence of the vast assembly, the Swamiji exclaimed, "If I go and tell people outside that there was perfect silence and decorum in a meeting of over 10,000 students, they will not believe me. I dare say that this most disciplined and patriotic student body is the pride of our nation." The railway officials too were amazed that all the thousands of students travelling from the distant corners of the country had come with valid tickets.

Earlier, at the 1971 All-India Conference of ABVP at New Delhi too, M. C. Chagla who was the chief guest felt overwhelmed. Looking at the more than 4,000 student-delegates drawn from all over the country, brimming with enthusiasm but highly disciplined, he fell silent for a few seconds. He then started his speech saying, "You may not understand why I am so much moved on seeing you all. I see here a resurgent nation in miniature - a dynamic Yuva Bharat."

It is not only the high and the mighty that feel impressed in the presence of such rare sights. At the historic Delhi Conference in 1985, the pandal contractor could not believe his eyes when he found no signs of liquor bottles or cigarette butts! At the 1984 Patna Conference, even the sweepers exclaimed that it was their first experience in life to see the youths maintaining such absolute cleanliness and decorum on the camp-site and its surroundings. At the social service camp organised by the ABVP in Gujarat Gir forests, a maid servant employed for cooking quietly returned her wages. She said that it was a token of her love for all the selfless work done by the young boys and girls for the sake of poor villagers.

Impact on Multitudes

The colossal Hindu Unity Conferences, with participation, at times, of several lakhs of people have proved remarkable for their punctuality, orderliness and peaceful conduct. India Today (November 16-30, 1983) while describing the Ekatmata Yajna wrote: "The Yajna testifies to the well-known RSS penchant for organising shows, minding the details and mobilising trained workers. The 50,000 volunteers directly in charge of the Yatras, says Abhedanand, 'have undoubtedly had training in the RSS'; and that's their most important asset.... The caravans arrive at the appointed place on the dot, the prayers are over and the speeches made on the dot; then they pack up to reach the next destination strictly on schedule."

The very last incident at the Karnataka Provincial VHP Conference at Ujire in 1983 proved unforgettable for the 100,000 audience comprising delegates and invitees. At the closing function, even as the last item - 'Vande Mataram'—was over, and instructions given for dispersal, electricity went off and the whole area was plunged in darkness. Thousands of men, women and children thronging at one place and the lights going out all of a sudden! Many must have shuddered at the impending confusion - jostling, scurrying about, stampede, and what not! The darkness continued for some minutes. But when the lights came on, a miracle awaited all. There was absolute peace and order. All had stood at their places happily chit-chatting, with not a single untoward incident anywhere. At the sprawling camp-site too, there was not even a stray case of theft.

Having observed all this, an elderly sannyasin called a young Swayamsevak on guard and told him: "What an unbelievable thing you have achieved! Even in small gatherings where we address, failure of lights causes so much confusion and disorder in the audience. But here, what a remarkable discipline and brotherly behaviour!" The Swamiji was so overwhelmed that he added: "Looking at the metamorphosis you have been able to bring about among our people, I would have touched your feet except that I am much older than you and I am a sannyasin!"

Among the Children Too

The Shishu Sangams organised by the Vidya Bharati for children of various small age-groups afford one more striking example of this all-pervading spirit of discipline. While the Sangam at Patna for the Eastern Zone drew 8,000, those at Hyderabad and Bhopal had 10,000 each. The Rajasthan camp at Jaipur had 5,000 campers. All these camps were acclaimed as models of discipline and cultured behaviour.

At the concluding public function in Bhopal the spectators were amazed to see not a single child moving from the seat when a paper kite came floating in the air and landed right in front of the children. The incident appeared so unique that the news formed a box-item in Nav-Bharat the next day.

The Sangam at Delhi, in November 1978, proved a highly colourful pageant by any reckoning. It was a mammoth affair with 15,000 children of 9-11 age-group drawn from Saraswati Shishu hiandirs running in a number of States in the North. Onethird of the participants were girls. There were 2,500 teachers. Inaugurated by Neelam Sanjiva Reddy, the President of Bharat, the camp was addressed by Jagjivan Ram, who was the chief guest. Looking at the remarkable discipline, orderly conduct and the impressive managing efficiency of the children who carried out many of the programmes themselves, the President observed, "I am overjoyed to see before me this huge gathering of lovely children whose radiant faces and sparkling eyes express hope and trust for thc future. These tender buds, I am sure, will blossom into colourful and fragrant flowers to adorn the India of our dreams.

Passing Through Tests

Probably in no field are qualities like discipline and moral integrity put to such a severe test as in politics. Even here, the Swayamsevaks have, by and large, remained head and shoulders above others in similarly-placed situations.

The instance is of early seventies, when a well-known industrialist was put up as a candidate by the Congress to Rajya Sabha from Uttar Pradesh Assembly Constituency. A regular underhand campaign for purchasing the, members' votes was on. The Bharatiya Jana Sangh members, most of them Swayamsevaks, too were tempted with ministerial and other posts, not to speak of enormous amounts of cash.

A Jana Sangh MLA - a poor Harijan - also was sought to be lured, and as a first instalment, an amount of Rs. 60,000 was sent to him in the night. The next morning, he went straight to that prominent henchman of the industrialist and threw the bundle of notes on his face in full public gaze. The entire city of Lucknow was flabbergasted. Later on, when such agents moved about in the MLAs' hostel on their 'purchasing mission', they would quickly pass over the Jana Sangh rooms saying, "Let us not waste our time here. These are knicker-wallahs' rooms."

An example of high political morality was set by Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya, when he was asked by the Jana Sangh to stand for election to Lok Sabha. When the opposing Congress candidate began indulging in immoral and illegal methods and some of the new entrants to the Jana Sangh felt that Panditji would be placed at a serious disadvantage if such manipulations went on. They went to Panditji and pleaded with him that they too should be allowed to take to the same methods such as appeal to caste, fake voting, etc. Thereupon, Panditji became very grave and said, "We in Jana Sangh look upon politics as an instrument for social transformation. I would prefer even losing my deposit to indulging in the sin of such corrupt practices." At the end, Panditji also issued a stern warning: "If any one of our party workers is found indulging in any such malpractices, I will at once withdraw from the contest." And that settled the issue.

The workers in BMS also had to face many a test when they had to choose between considerations of their commitment to principles and immediate benefit to themselves and to their unions. When the union for North-Eastern Railways, founded in 1962 and affiliated to BMS, began making rapid progress, the Central Railway Minister decided to break the backbone of BMS by dangling the carrot of governmental recognition, if the union were to dissociate itself from the BMS. But, the reply of the union leaders was categoric. They declared that they refused to succumb to such allurements. "We will accept governmental recognition only when our union is recognised as a BMS one and not otherwise. If not, we will sooner or later secure the same on our own strength," they said.

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