All eyes will be on former president Pranab Mukherjee on Thursday when he will address the concluding ceremony of the RSS’s Tritiya Varsh Training programme, which has generated much political heat. This will be Mukherjee’s first speech from the RSS platform and one of his most important since the address on his last day as president.
The Congress veteran is scheduled to arrive at the RSS headquarters at 5.30 pm, where he will be welcomed by its chief Mohan Bhagwat. The 82-year-old will then visit the memorial of RSS founder KB Hedgewar, offer floral tributes and reach the function venue at 6.30 pm, where he will address the RSS activists. The programme will be broadcast live on Facebook at RSSorg.
Accepting the invitation from the Hindutva group has sparked controversy, with some of his Congress colleagues and Left leaders expressing their reservations over his participation in the RSS meeting. On Wednesday, Mukherjee’s daughter Sharmistha added fuel to the fire by reminding her father that “by going to Nagpur, you are giving BJP/RSS full handle to plant false stories…but the speech will be forgotten, visuals will remain and those will be circulated with fake statements”.
A day in the life of an RSS swayamsewak
The 25-day camp during April-May has a strict routine. Swayamsewaks have to rise at 4 am and go to bed at 10.30 pm, with just one break — about an hour after lunch. Normally, they take physical training for two hours in the morning and another two hours in the evening. The physical training includes various drills, unarmed combat including in judo, karate and dandayuddha (stick fight). The daily programme also includes two meetings among different groups based on age, education, field of work etc, and a joint session for participants, called bauddhik.
RSS has been known to invite people not ascribing to its ideology
While Pranab Mukherjee's acceptance of the RSS invite has generated much controversy, the Hindutva group has been known to invite people not ascribing to its ideology. One of the earliest examples was former Central Provinces Home Minister Sir Moropant Joshi in 1933, during Hedgewar’s time. The RSS often refers to a voluntary visit to the Wardha RSS camp by Mahatma Gandhi on December 25, 1934.
These camps are for age group 18-45
In 2017, 5,716 swayamsewaks attended first-year camps, 3,796 attended second-year camps and 899 attended the third-year camp. Participants travel at their own cost, and pay fees. The trainers of camps at all three levels must themselves have been trained up to the third year. These camps are for age group 18-45; those over 45 years are trained in special camps.
Here is a background of the event to which Pranab Mukherjee has been invited
The event to which the RSS has invited former President Pranab Mukherjee, Sangh Shiksha Varg, is an annual training camp, meant for recruits in their third year in the organisation. The RSS holds training camps for first-, second- and third-year swayamsewaks. The first-year camp, for beginners, is a 20-day event held in each of the 42 state units (prants).
The second-year camp, again of 20 days, is organised at the level of kshetra, with each kshetra comprising a number of prants. The RSS has 11 kshetras. The third-year camp, to which Mukherjee has been invited, is always held on the Smruti Mandir premises at the RSS headquarters in Nagpur. It is a 25-day event, having initially started as one of 40 days before successive reductions.
Mukherjee won't say anything which isn't in favour of the nation, says Virbhadra Singh
Welcome to our live blog. The first reaction of the day comes from former Himachal Pradesh chief minister Virbhadra Singh, who says that Pranab Mukherjee's speech in Nagpur will be in favour of the nation. "I'm sure that Pranab Mukherjee won't say anything in Nagpur which isn't in favour of the nation. In fact, whatever he says, will be in favour of country. I've no issues with him attending that event. He's free to go wherever he wants to," the senior Congress leader said.
Pranab Mukherjee's acceptance of the RSS invite has left the Congress divided. While former finance minister P Chidambaram urged Mukherjee to tell the RSS what was wrong with their ideology, Jairam Ramesh requested the former president to not attend the event. Kerala Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala, in a letter to the former president, wrote that his decision had come as a “rude shock” to “secular minds” in the country, while Abhishek Manu Singhvi defended Mukherjee.