Zafar Irshad, a Lucknow-based journalist narrates that how his views on Sangh and Swayamsevaks changed overnight
As a journalist, I’ve covered many events of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). However, I never knew about their ideology and activities much. After the visit of the former President Pranab Mukherjee, as we witness a media storm now, I find it surprising that people do not know about the social works and selfless service of the Sangh at all. I didn’t know about that as well. But, I am a witness to the same and the story must be told.
In those days, I was with a newspaper agency and was posted in Kanpur as their principal correspondent. On July 10, 2011, my phone rang and my editor informed me that a serious train accident has taken place at Malwa near Fatehpur. I called my sources, got confirmed and left for the ground to report the mishap.
What I Saw, Changed my Views Forever
When I reached the spot, I was taken aback by the horror of that accident. I was trying to calm me down before I start reporting, and then I saw something. Men dressed in white shirts and khaki shorts were volunteering in taking the corpses out of the train and then covering the dead bodies by a white sheet- the kafan. It took me a while to figure out that who these men were? I went ahead and inquired. They didn’t reply and continued with their work.
After a while, the same men started serving tea and biscuits to the passengers and the families of those who were killed and injured. The same was also offered to me. While busy in my reporting, I took a sip. Now, I was fixed! I so wanted to find out about these men who were endlessly serving without doing much talking.
I chased one of the volunteers. I asked him about his identity. With a very calm face, he turned towards me and said, “If you need more tea, please come near that peepal tree.” I didn’t need more tea. I needed to find out about these selfless volunteers. I went near the tree to find a kurta-pyjama clad old man who was giving directions to men and women under the tree. I asked him about the volunteers. He smiled, didn’t reply and got busy with his work.
I left without my answers and started reporting again. At dusk, the same old man appeared from somewhere and he handed a plastic bag to me. I asked him about its contents. He calmly replied, “It has some four chapattis and vegetables. You are reporting for a long time. Eat your food first.” This time I became adamant. I replied that until he doesn’t share his identity with me, I won’t eat the food. I introduced myself as Zafar Irshad. The man said they were Swayamsevaks of the Sangh (RSS). I was taken aback. I had never realised that those who are affiliated with Sangh can have such humanely faces as well. It was new for me!
I requested the elderly person to tell me more about their work so that their social service can become a part of my news story. He sternly said no. When I insisted he told me about their arrangements but on the condition that I won’t ever tell people about it. He informed me that women who were making tea and who cooked food are from their families only. And the kafan which was taken here for the dead bodies was contributed by a Swayamsevak who owns a cloth shop. He reminded me of the promise again that I must not report it, and he left.
After almost seven years, I remember that incident which showed the human and loving face of the Swayamsevaks, not as a report but as another human being. Yes! Selfless service is what the Swayamsevaks do.