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Published in the 16-30 Apr 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

India's freedom struggle & the RSS
By Shamsul Islam

With 'Swayamsevaks' like Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Lal Krishan Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi ruling this country, courtesy National Democratic Alliance, the RSS has accelerated its old favourite pastime of minority bashing and playing havoc with a democratic-secular India. This trend got further strengthened and crystallized with KS Sudershan becoming Sarsanghchalak or the sole leader of the RSS in the year 2000. He has been a diehard believer in the Savarkar-Golwalkar model of Hindu Rashtra where minorities specially Muslims and Christians will have no space for physical, political and cultural existence. It was he who on the eve of 75th founding day of the RSS in Nagpur, called upon Muslims and Christians of the country to prove their patriotism. Again at the end of Bangalore session of the RSS on March 7,2002, he came out with the warning to Muslims, "Let the Muslims understand that their real safety lies in the good-will of the majority." This statement came in the aftermath of carnage of Muslims organized by the cadres of RSS in Gujarat. Now at the end of Jaipur conclave of the RSS (March 12-15, 2004) he has added a new dimension to his old theory of cleansing of minorities in India by declaring that "India has no minorities." According to his latest sermon the concept of "minority" and "majority" was borrowed from the west "which has been forcing its ways on our countrymen all these days." He emphasized that any individual who accepted the "soul" of India was a Hindu. Sudarshan went to the extent of declaring that "now the world will have to follow our ways and not the other way round." He also went on to claim that Hindutva as is being practiced by the RSS was dear to Mahatma Gandhi too.

There is ample proof in the documents of the RSS which conclusively establishes the fact that RSS denounced movements led by revolutionaries like Bhagat Singh, Chandrashekar Azad and their associates. Not only that, they hated even the reformist and moderate movements conducted by leaders like Gandhi against the British rulers.

The RSS has been claiming to be the fountainhead and repository of Indian nationalism. It may be interesting to evaluate this claim of the RSS especially in context of the Freedom Movement against British rule which was led by Hindus like MK Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Vallabhai Patel and supported by the vast majority of Hindus. It is true that the Indian freedom struggle attracted leaders and cadres from all religious communities but naturally the predominant participation continued to be of Hindus as they constituted more than 70 percent of the Indian population. If freedom struggle was part of "Hindu" urge to be liberated from the clutches of foreign British rule then RSS will have to do a lot of explaining. The historical facts about freedom struggle vouch that the RSS simply betrayed the Freedom Movement of India. And this is the truth.

The people of this country would like to know which movements were launched by the RSS before 1947, to free India from the clutches of British imperialism? Who amongst its leaders and cadres suffered repression under colonial rule? Who amongst them went to jail or became martyrs for the cause of the freedom of the country?

There is a vast amount of archival source material and other documentation that provide detailed information about the activities of the Congress, the revolutionary terrorists and various other groups, which were engaged in the anti-imperialist struggle. This source material is corroborated by official and semi-official records, and can be easily verified and cross-checked. However no similar documentation has been forthcoming from the RSS. Nor is it possible to locate material in contemporary records which would shed light on the anti-British role of the organization. Is the RSS not in a position to produce a volume containing documents that have a bearing on the role of the organization in the freedom struggle?

The contemporary writings and speeches of RSS leaders have a very different story to tell. These leaders showed little enthusiasm for the anti-British struggle. Golwalkar as an ideologue of the RSS himself admitted that his outfit kept aloof from the freedom struggle. "There is another reason for the need of always remaining involved in routine work. There is 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 in 1930-31. At that time many other people had gone to Doctorji [Hedgewar].

This 'delegation' requested Doctorji that this movement will give independence and 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? That gentleman told-'he has sufficiently arranged resources not only to run the family expenses for two years but also to pay fines according to the requirements'. Then Doctorji said to him 'if you have fully arranged for the resources then come out to work for the Sangh for two years'. After returning home that gentleman neither went to jail nor came out to work for the Sangh." This incident clearly shows that the RSS leadership was bent upon demoralising honest patriotic persons to run away from the struggle of the Freedom Movement.

At the time of the Quit India Movement Golwalkar echoing the thought of British masters stated: "There are bad results of struggle. The boys became militant after the 1920-21 movement. It is not an attempt to throw mud at the leaders. But these are inevitable products after the struggle. The matter is that we could not properly control these results. After 1942, people often started thinking that there was no need to think of the law." There was great resentment amongst the RSS cadres against this indifferent attitude of the RSS leadership towards the Quit India Movement which is thus described without any remorse by Golwalkar. "In 1942 also there was a strong sentiment in the hearts of many. At that time too the routine work of Sangh continued. Sangh decided not to do anything directly. But swayamsevaks of Sangh were greatly puzzled. Sangh is the organization of inactive people, their talks have no substance was the opinion uttered not only by outsiders but also our own swayamsevaks. They were terribly angry also." However, there is not a single publication or document of the Sangh which could throw some light on the great work the RSS did indirectly for the Quit India Movement.

During the forties also the RSS aggressively campaigned for Hindu Rashtra, but stayed aloof from the anti-British struggle. Golwalkar in fact made it clear that the variety of nationalism which the RSS espoused had no anti-British or anti-imperialist content whatsoever as we have seen above. The RSS thus can be seen as having played an extremely dubious role throughout the freedom struggle. All evidence points towards its disruptiveness and the fact that the organization and its leadership was not a part of the freedom struggle. The single most important 'contribution' of the RSS was to consistently disrupt the unified struggle of the Indian people against British imperialism through its extreme exclusivist slogan of Hindu Rashtra.

Moreover there is ample proof in the documents of the RSS which conclusively establishes the fact that RSS denounced movements led by revolutionaries like Bhagat Singh, Chandrashekar Azad and their associates. Not only that, they hated even the reformist and moderate movements conducted by leaders like Gandhi against the British rulers.

Here is a passage from Bunch Of Thoughts [collection of the writings/speeches of Golwalkar published by the RSS which is treated as Geeta by its cadres]decrying the whole tradition of martyrs: "There is no doubt that such men who embrace martyrdom are great heroes and their philosophy too is pre-eminently manly. They are far above the average men who meekly submit to fate and remain in fear and inaction. All the same, such persons are not held up as ideals in our society. We have not looked upon their martyrdom as the highest point of greatness to which men should aspire. For, after all, they failed in achieving their ideal, and failure implies some fatal flaw in them." Could there be a statement more insulting and denigrating to the martyrs than this?

In all fairness to Guru Golwalkar, he did not claim that the RSS had been opposed to the British. During the course of a speech at Indore in 1960 he said, "Many people worked with the inspiration to free the country by throwing the British out. After formal departure of the British this inspiration slackened. In fact there was no need to have this much inspiration. We should remember that in our pledge we have talked of the freedom of the country through defending religion and culture. There is no mention of departure of the British in that."

The RSS was not even willing to regard colonial domination as an injustice. In a speech of June 8, 1942, Golwalkar declared: "Sangh does not want to blame anybody else for the present degraded state of the society. When the people start blaming others, then there is weakness in them. It is futile to blame the strong for the injustice done to the weak... Sangh does not want to waste its invaluable time in abusing or criticizing others. If we know that large fish eat the smaller ones, it is outright madness to blame the big fish. Law of nature whether good or bad is true all the time. This rule does not change by terming it unjust."

It will be shocking for any Indian who loves the martyrs of the freedom movement to know what Dr. Hedgewar and the RSS felt about the revolutionaries fighting against the British. According to his biography published by the RSS, "Patriotism is not only going to prison. It is not correct to be carried away by such superficial patriotism. He used to urge that while remaining prepared to die for the country when the time came, it is very necessary to have a desire to live while organizing for the freedom of the country." It is indeed a pity that 'fools' like Bhagat Singh, Rajguru, Sukhdev, Ashfaqullah, Chandrashekhar Azad did not come into contact with this 'great patriotic thinker'. If they had the great opportunity to meet him, these martyrs could have been saved from giving their lives for "superficial patriotism". This also must be the reason why the RSS produced no martyrs during the freedom movement.
Even the word 'shameful' is not appropriate to describe the attitude of the RSS leadership towards those who had sacrificed everything in the struggle against the British rulers. The last Mughal ruler of India, Bahadur Shah Zafar, had emerged as the rallying point and symbol of the Great War of Independence of 1857. Golwalkar wrote thus while making fun of him: "In 1857, the so-called last emperor of India had given the clarion call-Gazio mein bu rahegi jub talak eeman ki/takhte London tak chalegi tegh Hindustan ki (Till the warriors remain faithful to their task/Indian swords will reach London.) But ultimately what happened? Everybody knows that." What Golwalkar thought of the people sacrificing their life for the country is obvious from the following words also. He had the temerity to ask the great revolutionaries who wished to lay down their lives for the freedom of the motherland the following question as if he was a representative of the British: "One should think whether complete national interest is accomplished by that? Sacrifice does not lead to increase in the thinking of the society of giving all for the interest of the nation. It is borne by the experience up to now that this fire in the heart is unbearable to the common people."

What did the British rule mean to an average patriotic Indian? It symbolized repression, plunder, and pauperization of the people of this country. It meant the divide and rule policy of the foreign rulers by which they encouraged communal and sectarian divisions in Indian society. And what could be the moving spirit behind any struggle against such a British rule? What could have been the essence of the freedom movement against British rule? It could not have been anything other than a call to throw the British out.

The reality which emerges out of this study is that the RSS was not even sincere and loyal to the cause of a free India which was desired by the vast majority of Hindus of this country together with the common masses belonging to other religious communities. Its claim to be the flag bearer of Indian nationalism is one of the greatest hoaxes which the Hindutva brigade has been indulging in since its birth. 

See Also: V D Savarkar mercy petition

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