RSS the parent organization of ruling BJP is quiet often being discussed in the public domain. While it has grown tremendously during last few years, there are attempts by many ideologues from its stable to prove that it was a major player in the freedom struggle. Rakesh Sinha, known as RSS ideologue and currently BJP MP in Rajya Sabha claims that the Civil Disobedience movement was invigorated due to participation of RSS founder Hedgewar in that. There are other claims which go farther. One Saji Narayan, goes to state that RSS was in the thick of freedom movement. One also recalls that the onetime RSS pracharak and Ex Prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee himself had claimed to have participated I in the freedom movement.

The debate came to the fore once again when Maharashtra Chief Minster Uddhav Thackeray while replying to the motion of Governor said that RSS never participated in the freedom movement and that merely chanting Bharat mata ki jai does not make you patriotic. In response to Thackeray’s statement the RSS groomed ex-Chief Minister of Maharashtra Devendra Fadanvis went to say that RSS founder (Dr/. K. B. Hedgewar) was a freedom fighter.

The deeper analysis of the issue reveals that Muslim and Hindu nationalists (Hindu Mahasabha and RSS) did not participate in the struggle for India’s Independence. India’s struggle against the British was led by Mahatma Gandhi, it was all inclusive, and it cut along linguistic and religious boundaries and gave an overarching Indian Identity to the majority of the people. The communal streams remained aloof from this as their major agenda was Nationalism in the name of their religion. Each of them believed that they should cooperate with British to oppose the ‘Other’ Nationalism. Like Muslim Nationalism aimed to have their way to oppose the Hindu nationalism by cooperating with British and vice versa.

As far as Hindu nationalists are concerned there are stray exceptions when they were part of National movement. At most of the times they either remained aloof from it or cooperated with British. Savarkar in his pre Andaman days did struggle against British rule but once he apologized to British to get released he never participated in the anti British movement, on the contrary he supported British war efforts by recruiting soldiers for British. That was at a time when Subhash Bose formed Azad Hind Fauz to fight against British.

Fadanvis is partly correct when he says that RSS Fonder Hedgewar was a freedom fighter. Hedgewar did participate in the 1920’s Non Cooperation Movement and was sentenced to jail for one year. After the formation of RSS in 1925 there two occasions when he partly aligned with the Indian national movement. But at both these occasions his differences with Indian nationalism were apparent as he flaunted his Hindu nationalism.

Shamsul Islam points out that “We are told that Hedgewar joined the call of the 1929 Lahore Congress that called for a public unfurling of the Tricolor on every January 26. RSS, under the command of Hedgewar, refused to follow it. Instead on 21 January, 1930, he ordered all the RSS shakhas to worship “Rashtriya dhwaj arthat bhagwa dhwaj, national flag i.e. saffron flag.” So the difference in the approach is very obvious despite partly showing support for celebrating 26th January as the day of complete Independence. The national Call of hoisting tricolor is replaced by hoisting of Saffron flag, symbol of Hindu nationalism for that.

It is also true that Dr. Hedgewar joined the Civil Disobedience movement in 1930. This incidence makes it clear that as an organization RSS was instructed to remain aloof from this movement. Hedgewar made it clear that he is joining the movement in his individual capacity and for this he handed over the post of Sarsanghchalak (The Supreme Chief) to his friend and colleague Dr Paranjape till he was in jail. His biography by CP Bhishikar points out that Hedgewar gave the instruction that ““Sangh will not participate in the [Salt] Satyagrah.”  Again his motive for joining the movement is stated by Bhishikar, it was not to lend strength to the national movement but, ““With a freedom loving, self-sacrificing, and reputed group of people [of the Congress] inside with him there, he would discuss the Sangh with them and win them over for its work.”

The biggest movement against British also saw RSS obeying the British dictates. Golwalkar instructed the Shakhas of RSS to continue with their routine work and not to do anything with will annoy the British.  In Guruji Samgra Darshan (Vol 4, page 39) Golwalkar points out “There was some unrest in the mind due to the situation developing in the country from time to time. There was such unrest in 1942. Before that there was the movement of 1930-31. At that time many other people had gone to Doctorji (Hedgewar). The delegation requested Doctorji that this movement will give independence and the Sangh should not lag behind. At that time, when a gentleman told Doctorji that he was ready to go to jail, Doctorji said ‘definitely go, but who will take care of your family then?’ The gentleman replied, ‘I have sufficiently arranged resources not only to run the family expenses for two years but also to pay fines according to requirement’. Then Doctorji told him, ‘If you have fully arranged for the resources then come out to work for Sangh for two years’. After returning home, that gentleman neither went to jail nor came out to work for the Sangh.”

This again is related to RSS ideology of Hindu nationalism. In Bunch of thoughts Golwalkar denounces the freedom struggle  as “territorial nationalism” which “…had deprived us of the positive and inspiring content of our real Hindu Nationhood and made many of the ‘freedom movements’ virtually anti-British movements”. It was this ideological commitment to building Hindu rashtr in India that, apart from Hedgewar, who went to jail as Congressman not as a part of RSS. Which all through remained aloof and there by opposed to freedom movement which had the goal of Indian Nationalism?

The instruction of British Golwalkar instructed RSS to military drill and uniform. On 29th April 1943 he issued a circular “We have to remain the bounds of law and do our work’. A year-and-a-half after the Quit India movement was launched, the Bombay government of the British Raj noted in a memo, with considerable satisfaction, that “the Sangh has scrupulously kept itself within the law, and in particular, has refrained from taking part in the disturbances that broke out in August 1942.”

Vajpayee story has another twist. In the context of elections (1998) he issued a statement saying that he had participated in freedom movement. As matter was investigated it came out that he was a mere onlooker in one of the processions in Bateshwar (His native village). He was following the agitators and as police did lathi charge etc., it arrested the protestors. As per Vajpayee he was also arrested. Immediately he wrote to letter seeking apology and disowning the protestors while naming the leaders of the protest.

While the intent of RSS is Hindu Rashtra, its current efforts to somehow show that RSS was a part of freedom struggle which was for Indian Nationalism, are for electoral purpose and far away from truth.

(Edited version of this article appeared in the Madras Courier https://madrascourier.com/opinion/did-rss-participate-in-the-indian-freedom-struggle/ )

Category :- English Bazaar Patrika / OPED

India’s partition was one of the major tragedies of South Asian region. The causes for this are to be seen in the triangle formed by ‘British Policy of Divide and rule, Hindu Communalism believing in Primacy of Hindu nation and Muslim Communalism demanding formation of Pakistan. The falsehood of theory of ‘religion as the basis of Nation state’ was demonstrated by the breakaway of East Pakistan from Pakistan leading to formation of Bangladesh. Majority of Hindus and Muslims stood rock solid against this theory of ‘religion as the basis of nation state’. Just two representative names should suffice Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi.

Hindu communalism held that this is a Hindu nation. Since partition many Hindu communalists have been holding that the breakaways from United India, Pakistan and Bangla Desh, in particular should be brought back to Indian fold. This concept is being called as ‘Akhand Bharat’ (Unbroken India) based on ‘Hindu Dharma’. This was articulated in the speech of RSS Sarsanghachalak, Mohan Bhagwat, he stated “there is a need to become united again, not through force, but by ‘Hindu Dharma’ ”. He has also stated, “They (separated countries) did all they could, but did not find any remedy. And remedy is reunification (with Bharat) only and all their problems will get resolved,” he said. He, however, said the reunification should be done through Hindu dharma.

As such RSS holds that its idea of “Akhand Bharat” includes not only Pakistan and Bangladesh, but also Afghanistan, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Tibet. It terms the combined region as a “Rashtra” (Nation) based on “Hindu cultural” similarities.

At yet at another level Tripura’s Chief Minster Biplab Dev told a party meeting at Rabindra Satabarshiki Bhavan, during his visit to Tripura, that BJP wanted to establish the party and form governments in neighbouring countries after winning all states in India.

This is in a way fall back on the ideology of Hindu communalism that this whole region was a Hindu nation from times immemorial. The reference to ‘Hindu Dharma as the basis of unification’ shows their real colors. They hold that Dharma can’t be translated as religion. They state that Dharma is different from religion. What is Dharma, it is religiously ordained duties. It does include words like Khstriya dharma, Stree dharma etc. hinting to the caste and gender roles as assigned by tradition. It is true that Hinduism is different from other religions but it a religion all the same. It has deities (Brahma, Vishnu Mahesh), it has rituals, it has holy books, clergy and holy places. In practice we have seen that most of the campaigns launched by Hindu nationalists have been around places of worship (Ram Temple), holy symbols (Cow) and Hindu identity related issues like love jihad and what have you.

There are also claims that Hindutva is a way of life. That way all religions also have a way of life. Here the confusion between Hindutva and Hinduism needs to be understood. Hindutva is a politics while Hinduism is a religion with multiple tendencies within itself.

The concept of Akhand bharat sounds hegemonic as its base is projected to be Hindu dharma. We know the effort to base on the politics around religion that India got partitioned. Today different countries which are aimed to be brought in Akhand Bharat have different religions. Will they accept Hindu Dharma as the basis of uniting with India? India itself in theory is a secular state, Hindu dharma is not its base. The present articulations of Bhagwat and company sound more like being expansionist rather than collaborative.

The other pattern which human society has seen definitely needs to be emulated. The attempt to have global bodies trying to establish peace and sorting out problems between different nations like United Nations, European Union and SAARC are the one’s based on collaboration and are most welcome. The concept here is to respect the sovereignty of others’ and deal with them on equal basis. European Union saw a great collaboration between European countries. 

Closer home, the SAARC experiment was also a great initiative to bring the neighbors together in collaboration in areas of trade, commerce, education and health. None of these moves kept religion as its base and so could take some baby steps in bringing in peace and enhancements of economic and social progress. Unfortunately most of these initiatives are comparatively weak in current times. But one thing which human society can learn from these experiments is that when the issues are taken up on concrete grounds of material cooperation, countries can come together and have more amicable relations.

The other method is to claim that those territories belonged to us either due to racial similarities or because of our religion. This path had disastrous effects on geo political scene.

The claim that those countries which separated are in distress is a lopsided statement. We know that at many places like Pakistan and Afghanistan, the imperialist policies of control over oil wealth wrecked havoc there. It was not due to religion. The other country which separated, Bangala Desh, is currently progressing better; leaving India behind in many development indices.

In South Asian region, the countries named as part of Akhand Bharat can definitely form a stronger federation on the basis of equality and mutual respect for each other’s sovereignty. Mutual respect for each other’s traditions and cultures has to be the basis. This can pave the way for better economic and political atmosphere. To say that these countries should come back and become part of India sounds hegemonic. To make Hindu dharma as the basis of this unification is domineering. What is needed is to strengthen democratic ethos within the country, to treat neighbors as friends and to sort out problems by peaceful negotiations. The need for collaboration, cooperation in field of commerce, trade, education and health cannot be overemphasized. That is the crux and core of the association with neighboring countries, and the union of these countries on these lines will definitely enhance the prosperity and peace in the region.

Category :- English Bazaar Patrika / OPED