Ghaziabad: Vijaya Dashami is the day the organisation comes out in force, with its volunteers across the country marching up and down armed with lathis, sharp swords and – shockingly – even revolvers.
Men from all walks of life and ages, including boys, take part in these processions. They dress up in khaki shorts, white shirts, black caps with khaki socks and black leather shoes, a sartorial style borrowed from the colonial-era constabulary.
Built around the premise that the Hindus of India must unite, the RSS questions the Indianness of the country’s Muslims and Christians since their religions are not of ‘Bharatiya origin’.
The RSS was founded on Vijaya Dashami in 1926, celebrated symbolically as the day Ravana was killed by Rama, according to Hindu mythology. On this day every year, swayamsevaks pay their respects to the RSS’s founders KB Hedgewar and MS Golwalkar and take great pride in brandishing their weapons as a sign of the organisation’s potency.
At Indirapuram in Ghaziabad, the swayamsevaks marched noisily through several neighbourhoods, and were greeted at places by supporters with flower petals.
The demonstration of strength over, they returned to the park where they had first gathered. A pistol was unholstered and fired several times in the air. The RSS volunteers did not want that scene photographed. I managed to take a shot anyway.