Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh abbreviated as RSS (IPA:Rāṣṭrīya Svayansēvaka Saṅgha) (pronunciation: [rɑːʂˈʈriːj(ə) swəjəmˈseːvək ˈsəŋɡʱ], lit. “National Volunteer Organisation” or National Patriotic Organisation) is a right-wing charitable, educational, volunteer, Hindu nationalist, non-governmental organisation. It is the world’s largest voluntary non-governmental organisation. RSS states that its ideology is based on the principle of selfless service to India.
The RSS was founded on Vijayadasami on 27 September 1925 as a social organisation to provide character training through Hindu discipline and to unite the Hindu community. It proclaims its ideal as upholding Indian culture and civilizational values more than anything else. It was set up as an alternative to the politics of mass anti-colonial struggle. However, RSS volunteers participated in various political and social movements including the Indian independence movement. The organisation initially drew inspiration from European right-wing groups during World War II. Gradually RSS has grown into an extremely prominent Hindu nationalist umbrella organisation and by the 1990s, allied organisations had established numerous schools, charities and clubs to spread its ideological beliefs.
It has been criticised as an extremist organisation and as a paramilitary group. It has also been criticised when its members participated in anti-Muslim violence and has since formed militant wing Bajrang Dal. Along with other extremist organisations the RSS was involved in a wide range of riots, often inciting and organising violence against Christians and Muslims.
It was banned during the British rule, and then thrice by the post-independence Indian government — first in 1948 when Nathuram Godse, a former RSS member, assassinated Mahatma Gandhi; then during the emergency (1975–77); and after the demolition of Babri Masjid in 1992. The ban imposed in February 1948 was withdrawn unconditionally in July 1948. The ban during 1975-77 was a part of the illegal suspension of individual and collective human rights during the emergency. After Indira Gandhi lost the elections, the new government withdrew restrictions on human rights. The ban in 1992 was lifted in the absence of material evidence for supporting a ban.