Three days ago, former Indian National Congress (INC) chief Rahul Gandhi had in an interview with Kaushik Basu alleged that the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) was attacking the higher education institutions in the country through their schools and likened them to “madrasas used by radical Islamists in Pakistan”, several political leaders across political parties have reacted to his remark. A student of a Saraswati Shishu Mandir — a network of these schools is run across India under the aegis of the RSS — has posted this VIDEO message of protest against the statement. The video has gone viral over social networking sites and messaging applications.
Vidya Bharati (short for Vidya Bharati Akhil Bharatiya Shiksha Sansthan) is the educational wing of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). It runs one of the largest private school networks in India, operating 12,000 schools with over 32,00,000 students, as of 2016 and has its registered headquarters in Lucknow with a functional headquarters in Delhi and a sub-office in Kurukshetra.
In the year 2020, the million lives club selected Vidya Bharati as an official member of Vanguard cohort for its significant contribution to school education by empowering lives of millions of children who are deprived of quality school education.
The RSS, under the tutelage of MS Golwalkar, had established its first Gita school at Kurukshetra in 1946. But, the ban on RSS in 1948 put a damper on the spread of the Gita school model. After the ban was lifted, the first Saraswati Shishu Mandir brand school was established in Gorakhpur in 1952, by Nanaji Deshmukh.
The Saraswati Shishu Mandir model was quickly replicated across several locations and as the number of schools increased, there arose the need of a definite management structure. Accordingly, the Shishu Shiksha Prabandak Samiti was set up to coordinate activities between these schools at the state level. Such committees were set up in Delhi, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh.
In 1977-78, an all-India apex body, Vidya Bharati was set up to coordinate the activities between these state committees and was headquartered in Delhi. This coincided with the Bharatiya Jan Sangh (the political arm of the RSS) winning the national elections, as a member of the Janata Party. Incidentally, Vidya Bharati used to have an associated National Academic Council with educationists, which enjoyed the trust of the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT).