Guwahati: Sankar Das, spokesperson for the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), calls the organisation's mega rally on Sunday a "test". "This is the largest-ever congregation organised by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). More than an event, this is actually a test for us," Das said.
He was speaking to Firstpost on the eve of a grand rally at the Khanapara field in Guwahati. RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat will preside over the meeting, and Sangh stalwarts like Sunil Kulkarni were on the sidelines on Saturday to inspect the preparations.
On 24 May, 2016, Sarbananda Sonowal took oath as the first Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) chief minister of Assam at the very same venue, a ceremony also attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his senior Cabinet colleagues.
Das spent most of Saturday morning giving interviews to several TV news channels. He said preparations for the event had started two years ago. "For the last six months, starting from the registration process, every zilla unit in Assam has been hard at work. And since three months, some 1,500 karyakartas in Guwahati have been toiling consistently for this show," he said.
Behind Das, a group of men were practicing moving a large saffron flag up and down a pole. "The task of hoisting the flag has to be completed in exactly 58 seconds, corresponding to the National Anthem that will be playing simultaneously. We need to get it done right on time," Das explained.
Miniature versions of the saffron flag could be seen on every pillar and post on the field, even on the walls leading up to the rally ground, making it impossible to miss the venue.
Organisers set up canopy booths at all corners of the ground, with senior volunteers seated in each of them. Khagen Saikia, one such senior RSS volunteer, behind the desk, was busy asking his colleagues if they had had their lunch, aside from responding to various queries. When asked about the kind of attendance expected on Sunday, Saikia said they were expecting over one lakh people in total. Das later confirmed that the number was actually closer to 75,000 with around 35,000 RSS karyakartas in uniform and 40,000 people as part of the audience.
To feed so many mouths, Saikia said two-fold arrangements were made to ensure nobody goes hungry. "In the morning, the RSS men who are attending the event from outside the state will be taken to Sarusajai Stadium, and will be fed khichdi prepared by our own volunteers. Later in the afternoon, everybody in the audience at the Khanapara ground will be given a food packet prepared by the residents of Guwahati," he said.
The second arrangement involves an ambitious endeavour where RSS workers visited 35,000 Guwahati households, asking for gastronomic donations for the event instead of monetary. About 25,000 such households have agreed to cook and provide five portions of puris and dry aloo bhaji each.
"We received an unprecedented support from people here. We have now run short of food packets. We thank and are grateful to the residents of Guwahati," Das said.
In addition to the thousands of spectators, the event will also be attended by big names from regional politics. Former Assam chief ministers Prafulla Kumar Mahanta of the Asom Gana Parishad and Congress' Tarun Gogoi have also been invited, but Das said the organisers are not sure if they will be present.
"Apart from the top names in the Sangh, 15 tribal kings will be in attendance along with representatives from every autonomous council in the North East," Ranjib Kumar Sarma, a senior official from the local RSS chapter, said.
Sarma went on to explain the thousands of white markings laid down on the rally ground. "Some 8,000 karyakartas will perform the standard exercises tomorrow, and these marking are to indicate where they will stand," he said, extending his hands to demonstrate the carefully calculated distance between the markings.
Sarma said the ground will be cleared by RSS volunteers themselves right after the event. "If you want to report on how the RSS has dirtied the Khanapara field, come at 11 pm tomorrow; you'll not see even these tiny markings on the ground," Sarma joked, pointing again at the pointers below.
The main attraction of the congregation, however, will be RSS chief Bhagwat's speech. Das insisted that the address, which is expected to last an hour, will have two non-political objectives related to the expansion of the RSS: Karya Vistar and Swayamsevak Nirman.
Below the stage from where Bhagwat will deliver his speech to thousands of RSS subscribers from across the country on Sunday stood wide framed paintings of very local subjects; from the one-horned rhinoceros and tea-garden workers to traditional jewellery and ethnic sculptures. "Eibur sob mur porikolpona (this is all my planning)," Das said as the Sangh Parivar prepares truly to make inroads into the North East.
Updated Date: Jan 21, 2018 08:37 AM