Gandhi and RSS: Diverse Nationalisms

Ram Puniyani

There are continuous attempts from RSS camp to show that Mahatma Gandhi looked up to RSS with respect. The latest in this direction is the piece by RSS joint General Secretary Shri Man Mohan Vaidya. (The Mahatma and the Sangh, IE, 12 April 2019). Vaidya first tries to dissociate from Godse by stating that in the many discussions which he has attended on Gandhi within Sangh, Godse is not mentioned. Does that mean Godse had nothing to do with RSS? He was a Pracharak of RSS who later joined Hindu Mahasabha as its Secretary of Pune Branch. His brother Gopal Godse, Nathuram’s younger sibling and a co-conspirator in the assassination plot, in 1994, disclosed that his elder brother was anxious to protect the RSS, which had been "like a family to us" "[Nathuram] said in his statement that he left the RSS", Gopal continued. "He said it because... the RSS were in a lot of trouble after the murder of Gandhi. But he did not leave the RSS". Gopal denounced the "cowardice" of those disputing his brother's unbroken membership of the RSS. Corroborating Gopal's statement is the influential pro-RSS scholar Dr Koenrad Elst who, in his 2001 book Gandhi and Godse, wrote that "Nathuram contrived to create the impression that the RSS had little to do with him, simply to avoid creating more trouble for the RSS in the difficult post-assassination months."

Right in the beginning of the article Mr. Vaidya is forthright to point out his opposition to Gandhi, “…despite disagreeing with him and his surrender to the extremist and jihadi elements among Muslim community RSS had admired… (Gandhi)” This distortion of history is deliberate in keeping with Hindu nationalism espoused by Vaidya and his RSS While from within Muslims there were Muslim Nationalists, whom Gandhi abhorred, he wooed over large section of Muslims to Indian Nationalism. To call the Muslims who participated in freedom movement under the leadership of Gandhi extremist or jihadi is not only a travesty of truth; it is more a revelation of RSS worldview where Muslim is seen as alien, foreigner, aggressor and terrorist. It is this root of RSS ideology which prompted Godse to put three bullets in the chest of Mahatma.

Viadya does try to present as if RSS was part of freedom movement, by showing that RSS founder Dr. K. B. Hedgewar participated in 1921 non cooperation and 1930 civil disobedience movement.  On one side Hedgewar participated in Non cooperation movement on the other he is critical of the impact of the same,  ‘As a result of non cooperation movement of Mahatma Gandhi, the enthusiasm in the country was cooling down and the evils of social life, which that movement generated, were menacingly raising their head. ‘As per him ‘it is due to this movement that Brahmin–non Brahmin conflict was nakedly on view’. (C.P.Bhishikar in Keshav Sangh Nirmata, Pune 1979, p 7) Surely these participations by the RSS founder were purely in personal capacity and RSS never participated in any anti British movement as an organization. In 1930, (RSS was formed in 1925) Hedgewar discouraged those who wanted to participate in anti British Movement. And in 1942, his successor also forbade RSS volunteers to take part in 1942 Quit India movement. Golwalkar reminded the RSS that fighting against British is not a part of their agenda. This RSS ideologue clearly spells out that fighting against the British has not been part of their agenda, “We should remember that in our pledge we have talked of freedom of the country through defending religion and culture, there is no mention of departure of British from here.” (taken from Shri Guruji Samagra Darshan, vol. IV, page 40)

As far as Gandhi’s views on RSS are concerned there are some scattered observations, but these give an apt understanding of what he thought of about RSS. As far as Gandhi’s understandings about RSS is concerned there are authentic sources to tell us the real story. In Harijan on 9th August 1942, Gandhi writes, “I had heard of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and its activities; and also know that it was a communal organization”, this was in response to the slogans and some speech against ‘other’ community, about which a complaint was made. In this Gandhi is referring to the drill of RSS volunteers, who shouted that this Nation belongs to Hindus alone and once the British leave we will subjugate the non Hindus. In response to the rowdyism indulged by communal organizations he writes, “I hear many things about RSS. I have heard it said the Sangh is at the root of all this mischief.”(Gandhi, xcviii, 320-322)

Amongst the recorded opinions about Gandhi’s evaluation of RSS, the most authentic is the one of his secretary Pyarelal. Pyarelal narrates an event in the wake of 1946 riots. A member of Gandhi’s entourage had praised the efficiency, discipline, courage and capacity for hard work shown by RSS cadres at Wagah, a major transit camp for Punjab refugees. Gandhi quipped back, ‘but don’t forget, even so had Hitler’s Nazis and Fascists under Mussolini’ Gandhi characterized RSS as a communal body with a totalitarian outlook’ (Pyarelal, Mahatma Gandhi: The Last Phase, Ahmadabad, page 440)

After independence, in the context of Delhi violence (Rajmohan Gandhi, Mohandas, page 642), Gandhi confronted the RSS chief Golwalkar, with reports of the RSS hand in Delhi violence, Denying the allegations Golwalkar also said that RSS did not stand for killing the Muslims. Gandhi asked him to say so publically. Golwalkar said Gandhi could quote him on this. Gandhi did this in his prayer talk that evening, but he told Golwalkar that statement ought to come from him. Later he told Nehru that he did not find Golwalkar convincing.’

So today when point is being made about choice between Gandhi and Godse, what is being pleaded is that the choice is between inclusive Indian nationalism of Gandhi and exclusive Hindu nationalism being propounded by RSS progeny BJP, Godse is synonym of Hindu nationalism, the agenda of RSS Combine!

Category :- English Bazaar Patrika / OPED

BJP: Hiding Failures-Targeting Nehru

Ram Puniyani

As BJP releases its manifesto, what strikes one is absence of any mention of what their previous promises achieved, as same promises are being repeated with stronger dose of ultra-nationalism. In public speeches its’ leaders are attributing the failures of their Government to Jawaharlal Nehru, the first prime minster of India. While speaking in one of the public meetings the Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi, criticizing Narendra Modi said, “He has an obsession with our family. He says Nehru did this, Indira Gandhi did this, but Modiji what did you do, you must say what you did in five years?" In addition even in the matters of failure of their diplomacy and policy in relation to other countries, blame is squarely put on Nehru in some or the other way.

In the aftermath of Pulwama, Balakot strike, UN condemned the act of terror and there was a move to put international sanctions against Jaish-E-Mohammad Chief Masood Azar. China blocked the move. In response Rahul Gandhi went in to critique Modi for his failure to take the matters with China so that they could support the sanctions against this Pakistan based terrorist organization. Retaliating to this simple criticism, the BJP spokespersons Mr. Arun Jaitley and Mr. Ravishakar Prasad, asserted that it is due to Nehru that China is in United Nations Security Council. Prasad tweeted, “China wouldn’t be in UNSC had your great-grandfather not ‘gifted’ it to them at India’s cost,” and that that India’s first Prime Minister had offered the United Nations Security Council seat to China. He quoted Shashi Tharoor’s book, ‘Nehru: The Invention of India’ This was a distorted presentation of what Tharoor has argued in the book.

This is one of the methods of the BJP and affiliates; to distort the facts of history, even the recent one to make their political point. One knows how they have distorted the medieval history to demonize today's Muslims; one knows how they have twisted history of early India to show that Aryans were the original natives of this land. Now one sees even the contemporary history; hardly that of last few decades, stands mauled in their hands. It is not out of ignorance, it is out of deliberate designs that they indulge in these distortions. We know that when United Nations was formed at the end of Second World War, five big nations of the World, United States, Britain, Russia, France and China were to be the permanent members of the Security Council of the UN, endowed with Veto power. China was that time ruled by Chiang Kai Shek and was called Republic of China (RoC). With success of revolution of Mao Tse Tung, Chiang Kai Shek escaped to Taiwan and continued to call his regime as RoC. Meanwhile Communist Party established People’s Republic of China (PRC) on the mainland with all the population, barring the one in Taiwan occupied by Chian Kai Shek.

Shashi Tharoor in a series of tweets clarified the real chronology of the events. He pointed out due to change of regime in China Nehru called on the other Permanent Members to admit Communist China (PRC) to the UN and give it the Permanent seat held by Taiwan. US understood the objection to RoC but were unwilling to admit the Communist PRC. In this context it was suggested that India take over the Chinese permanent seat. Nehru felt this was wrong & would compound one injustice to China with another. He said the RoC seat should be given to PRC & India should one day get a permanent seat in its own right. As per Tharoor, and as facts bear out India could not have occupied this seat as it would require an amendment to UN Charter and US would not permit any such modification.

It was much larer that Communist China was accorded the permanent membership, replacing Chaing Kai Shek regime. The main issue for Nehru was to see that communist China becomes part of the World body. Also he knew of the diverse interests of United States on one hand and USSR on the other. Nehru was no one to offer the seat to PRC.

The latest on the scene of such distortions is Mr. Modi is saying that India’s partition took place due to Congress. This is most preposterous lie in many a decades. It not only shows the lack of knowledge of the dynamics of the partition tragedy of India on the part of Modi, it also shows how Modi associates are sharpening their biases to suit their world view. The tragedy of India’s partition was mainly due to the British policy of divide and rule, well assisted by Savarkar’s ‘Two Nation theory, which regarded that there are two nations in India, the Muslim nation and Hindu nation. This got its mirror image support from the ideology of Muslim League who regarded that the Muslim elite have been a Muslim nation from last many centuries.

The malicious propaganda against Nehru-Congress may strike cord with few unsuspecting elements but even a cursory glance at the contemporary history will tell us the massive all round progress achieved during last several decades. It may be in the field of education, science, technology, health, laying the foundations of modern industries or modern irrigation, Nehru’s leadership was a major point in transformation of India from a predominantly agricultural economy to the present industrial and Information technology era. All the IITs, AIIMS, CSIR, BARC and series of public sector industries are a testimony of the vision for the builder of modern India, Jawaharlal Nehru, who not only succeeded in locating our place in the global chessboard but also saw that modernization in various fields is the key to uplift of the country from the abysmal condition in which British had left us after their plunder project drained us of our valuable resources and riches. Since BJP knows Nehru is the axis of modern democratic India, as opposed to their agenda of sectarianism they are out to criticize him by distorting the facts.

Category :- English Bazaar Patrika / OPED