HSS – International Wing Of Indian Paramilitary RSS
RSS has presence in at least 39 countries world-wide. The strongest presence is in Nepal, US, UK and Australia. While Nepal has the largest number of shakhas outside of India, the US comes in second with 172 (in 2016), a number that reportedly is growing rapidly.
The Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) which was a part of Babri Masjid demolition and Gujarat massacre was the first RSS affiliate to enter the US in 1970, six years after its formation in India. Changes to US immigration laws in 1965 led to a substantial migration of Indians, including swayamsevaks (RSS Volunteers) to the States, and this presented a wealth of opportunities for the VHP to engage in its traditional ‘mission work’.
Mahesh Mehta, a former pracharak, established the first VHP chapters focused on youth work (bal vihar) to build a cadre for the group’s future expansion.
The regular attendance for the US Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS), the overseas counterpart of the RSS, in shakhas as of 2017 is between 5000 and 7000 but that number would increase several times if participation in HSS programmes and parivar-supported projects is counted.
The HSS in the US runs its own week-long training camps on the proper organization of shakhas. Those who successfully complete three of these training camps (referred to as Sangha Shiksha Varg) can either attend the RSS’s second-year training programme in India or newly launched second-year training camps in Trinidad and Kenya, two countries with a large Indian minority. Those who complete the second-year camp can attend the longer third-year camp at the RSS headquarters in Nagpur.
The administration of the American Hindu Swayemsevak Sangh (HSS) is divided into five regions. Shakhas of Washington DC area form part of the East Coast region. Each shakha is an autonomous unit.
The general secretary of the national Hindu Swayemsevak Sangh (HSS) in consultation with other central, regional and local officers selects the local shakha leaders. Each region has also rented facilities for residential camps (which usually last a week); these camps are critically important in engendering loyalty to the Hindu Swayemsevak Sangh and support for its Hindutva ideology, which aims to establish a Hindu Rashtra, among new volunteers and young people.
The Indian American community, totalling over 3 million people, is the largest and wealthiest stratum of the Indian diaspora. According to the Pew Research Center’s 2014 study of religion in the US, the American Hindu community is relatively religious, with 79% of those polled reporting that religion is ‘very important’ or ‘somewhat important’ in their lives.
This makes them a promising recruitment pool for the Sangh Parivar.
(The Sangh Parivar refers, as an umbrella term, to the collection of Hindu nationalist organisations spawned by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and remain affiliated to it)