Open your eyes, your Lordship (retired)

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As a Malayalee who was also a judge of the Supreme Court of India, Justice Kallupurackal Thomas Thomas occupies an enviable place in the Kerala Christian social pantheon. No one in his right mind will dare say he is turning senile. Far from it. That man of justice, and of peace, remains as sharp as when he was on the highest Bench in the land. It, therefore, remains a mystery why Justice Thomas, invited often by right wing forums in his twin identity as jurist and Christian, always ends up praising the Hindutva lunatic fringe and denouncing the conversions of new people turning to Christ.

In an address in Kochi on 1 August 2011, Justice Thomas praised the RSS for its discipline and said the propaganda that the organisation was anti-minority was “baseless”. The Press Trust of India reported that speaking at a function there, attended by RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat, he also said the “smear campaign” against RSS that it was responsible for the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi must end. “There is a smear campaign that RSS was responsible for Gandhi’s assassination just because the assassin was once an RSS worker,” he said, adding that the organisation had been “completely exonerated” by the court. This smear campaign must end against RSS,” he said.

Gratuitously, Justice Thomas sought to expand his personal views to make them seem he spoke for the entire Christian community. “I am a Christian. I was born as a Christian and practise that religion. I am a church-going Christian. But I have also learnt many things about RSS,” he said. He said he became an admirer of the RSS in 1979 when he was posted as district judge of Kozhikode, adding that simple living and high thinking was its hallmark. During the Emergency, RSS was the only non-political organisation which fought against it. “We owe very much to RSS for sacrificing many lives for regaining our fundamental rights...”. “The propaganda that RSS was anti-minority was also baseless,” he said, adding that he is a great admirer of the organisation as discipline is given importance.

This writer shares some qualifications with the venerable justice. Like him, “I too am a Christian, a Catholic as a matter of fact. I was born as Christian and practice that religion. I am a church-going Christian. But I have also learnt many things about the RSS.”

One may, in fact, have learnt many more things about the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, for when Justice Thomas was rapidly going up the ladder of jurisprudence, this writer was reporting on the RSS forty years ago, visiting their shakhas, recording what their leaders said, and documenting their written statements and literature. One saw the training of youngsters and college students, and the excesses of fat pot-bellied middle agenda traders in khaki shorts and white shirts, an hour before they went back to their shops in Chandni Chowk and Chawri Bazaar, the wholesale market of Old Delhi.

It was perhaps too early in the day, because one did not see what crowds in Jhansi saw decades later -- the frightening scene of RSS cadres practicing with mock and real rifles and double barrelled guns down the main thoroughfares of town, or of RSS chief ministers themselves firing military hardware while posing for photographs. But one did see how RSS cadres were trained in meetings early morning in public parks as much as in closed door vyayamshalas, their “boudhiki” intellectual brain washing, and their war games. “Exercises” no less frightening? elaborate handwork with thick lathis, or staves, the sort policemen carry at night. One also saw “children’s games” in which boys formed a string holding hands, and then swapped down on a rival group, trying to “abduct” or capture persons, presumably women. The “boudhikis” were given to reading the editorials and main articles in those poison-pen official mouthpieces of the Sangh, the Organiser in English, not read at the Shakhas, and the Hindi language Panchjanya, the mainstay of the morning discourses. They would then discuss what damage the Muslims had done to India. It would all conclude with another salute not to India, but to a mythical “Mother India”, more goddess than a symbol of the land which they shared with practitioners of many other religions.

And, therefore, it is quite obvious that Justice Thomas, as is his right, looked only at the pretty saffron flowers, and forgot to look at the blood which sullies the earth on which the RSS flag is hoist.

First things first. Let us get the Gandhi murder out of the way, so to say. And I am indebted to Professor Shamsul Islam, the global authority on the Sangh Parivar, for once again giving me this documentary evidence. He remains a source, with Communalism Combat, Anhad, Sahmat and the All India Christian Council, the national libraries on this fascist organisation.

After the murder of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi on 30 January, 1948, the RSS was banned on 4 February, 1948. It was banned for anti-national activities and the government communiqué banning the RSS was self-explanatory: “In their resolution of February 2, 1948 the Government of India declared their determination to root out the forces of hate and violence that are at work in our country and imperil the freedom of the Nation and darken her fair name. In pursuance of this policy the Government of India have decided to declare unlawful the RSS.” (Cited in Justice on Trial, RSS, Bangalore, 1962, p. 64.)

The communiqué went on to disclose that the ban on the RSS was imposed because, “undesirable and even dangerous activities have been carried on by members of the Sangh. It has been found that in several parts of the country individual members of the RSS have indulged in acts of violence involving arson, robbery, dacoity, and murder and have collected illicit arms and ammunition. They have been found circulating leaflets exhorting people to resort to terrorist methods, to collect firearms, to create disaffection against the government and suborn the police and the military.” (Ibid, pp. 65-66.)

Prof. Islam points out that the then Home Minister, Sardar Patel, reputedly had a soft-corner for the RSS. Patel continues to be a favourite with the RSS. However, even Sardar Patel found it difficult to defend the RSS in the aftermath of Gandhiji’s assassination. In a letter written to the head of the RSS, Golwalkar, dated 11 September, 1948, Sardar Patel stated: “Organizing the Hindus and helping them is one thing but going in for revenge for its sufferings on innocent and helpless men, women and children is quite another thing…Apart from this, their opposition to the Congress, that too of such virulence, disregarding all considerations of personality, decency or decorum, created a kind of unrest among the people. All their speeches were full of communal poison. It was not necessary to spread poison in order to enthuse the Hindus and organize for their protection. As a final result of the poison, the country had to suffer the sacrifice of the invaluable life of Gandhiji. Even an iota of the sympathy of the Government, or of the people, no more remained for the RSS. In fact, opposition grew. Opposition turned more severe when the RSS men expressed joy and distributed sweets after Gandhiji’s death.

“Under these conditions, it became inevitable for the Government to take action against the RSS… Since then, over six months have elapsed. We had hoped that after this lapse of time, with full and proper consideration the RSS persons would come to the right path. But from the reports that come to me, it is evident that attempts to put fresh life into their same old activities are afoot.” (Ibid., pp. 26-28.)

Hindu Mahasabha and RSS were jointly responsible for the murder of Father of Nation, Mahatma Gandhi. This fact was further corroborated by Sardar Patel in a letter to a prominent leader of Hindu Mahasabha, Shyama Prasad Mookerjee on 18 July, 1948. Sardar wrote: “As regards the RSS and the Hindu Mahasabha, the case relating to Gandhiji’s murder is sub judice and I should not like to say anything about the participation of the two organizations, but our reports do confirm that, as a result of the activities of these two bodies, particularly the former, an atmosphere was created in the country in which such a ghastly tragedy became possible. There is no doubt in my mind that the extreme section of the Hindu Mahasabha was involved in the conspiracy.

“The activities of the RSS constituted a clear threat to the existence of Government and the State. Our reports show that those activities, despite the ban, have not died down. Indeed, as time has marched on, the RSS circles are becoming more defiant and are indulging in their subversive activities in an increasing measure.” (Letter 64 in Sardar Patel: Select Correspondence 1945-1950, vol. 2, Navjiwan Publishing House, Ahmedabad, 1977, pp. 276-277.)

Congress secretary general Digvijay Singh, who was for ten years chief minister of Madhya Pradesh, and Union Home minister P Chidambaram are supported by historical data when they called for a focus on right-wing terror groups, especially the progeny of the RSS.

Chidambaram recently has favoured a proper research and study of the phenomenon, asking the security forces to deal with the right-wing terror groups “sternly and fearlessly.” He said that these groups were also radicalising the youth in the same manner as was done by banned SIMI or Indian Mujahideen. There was no difference between Indian Mujahideen and Hindu terror groups and both were enemies of the country… So actually, we do not have one enemy within today, we have two enemies within and hope there will not be a third or a fourth or fifth,” Chidambaram said.

Digvijay Singh has repeatedly said, “I do not rule out anything. If they want evidence about Sangh’s involvement in terror activity, I have got evidence.”

Just in case Justice Thomas, and his friends such as Karnataka Minority commission member P N Benjamin, whose organisation BIRD provides occasional platform for the former judge’s fulminations and homilies, require judicial evidence, here is a brief summary of extracts from a series of judicial commissions that have investigated the role of the RSS in anti-Muslim violence since the Ahmedabad riots of 1969. That is over forty years of history:

* “Here was not only a failure of intelligence and culpable failure to suppress the outbreak of violence but (also) deliberate attempts to suppress the truth from the Commission, especially the active participation in the riots of some RSS and Jana Sangh leaders.”
- Report of the Justice Jagmohan Reddy Commission on the Ahmedabad riots of 1969

* “The organisation responsible for bringing communal tension in Bhiwandi to a pitch is the Rashtriya Utsav Mandal. The majority of the leaders and workers of the Rashtriya Utsav Mandal belonged to the Jan Sangh (the predecessor of the BJP) or were pro-Jan Sangh and the rest, apart from a few exceptions, belonged to the Shiv Sena.”
- Report of the Justice D. P. Madon Commission on the Bhiwandi, Jalgaon and Mahad of 1970

* “In Tellicherry, the Hindus and Muslims were living as brothers for centuries. The “Mopla riots” did not affect the cordial relationship that existed between the two communities in Tellicherry. It was only after the RSS and the Jana Sangh set up their units and began activities in Tellicherry that there came a change in the situation. Their anti-Muslim propaganda, its reaction on the Muslims who rallied round their communal organisation, the Muslim League which championed their cause, and the communal tension that followed prepared the background for their disturbances.... That is what the rioters who attacked the house of Muhammad asked him to do. “If you want to save your life you should go round the house three times repeating the words, “Rama, Rama”. Muhammad did that. But you cannot expect the 70 million Muslims of India to do that as a condition for maintaining communal harmony in the country. This attitude of the RSS can only help to compel the Muslims to take shelter under their own communal organisation.”
- Report of the Justice Joseph Vithyathil Commission on the Tellicherry riots, 1971

* “The RSS adopts a militant and aggressive attitude and sets itself up as the champion of what it considers to be the rights of Hindus against minorities. It has taken upon itself to teach the minorities their place and, if they are not willing to learn their place, to teach them a lesson. The RSS methodology for provoking communal violence is: a) rousing communal feelings in the majority community by the propaganda that Christians are not loyal citizens of this country; b) deepening the fear in the majority community by a clever propaganda that the population of the minorities is increasing and that of the Hindus is decreasing; c) infiltrating into the administration and inducing the members of the civil and police services by adopting and developing communal attitudes; d) training young people of the majority community in the use of weapons like daggers, swords and spears; e) spreading rumours to widen the communal cleavage and deepen communal feelings by giving a communal colour to any trivial incident.”
- Report of the Justice Venugopal Commission on the Kanyakumari riots of 1982 between Hindus and Christians

* “The dispute on the route of the procession became sharp and agitated reactions from a group of persons calling themselves the Sanyukt Bajrang Bali Akhara Samiti who systematically distributed pamphlets to heighten communal feelings and had organisational links with the RSS.

“A call for the defiance of the authority and the administration when it refused permission for one of the routes led to a violent mob protesting and raising anti-Muslim slogans and, thereafter, an incendiary leaflet doing the rounds of Jamshedpur that is nothing short of an attempt to rouse the sentiments of Hindus to a high pitch and to distort events and show some actions as attacks on Hindus that appear to be part of a design. A survey had already established that all policemen, havaldars, home guards etc. were at heart ready to give support to them (Hindu communalist organisations).”
- Report of the Commission of Inquiry into the Communal Disturbances at Jamshedpur, April 1979

* “Even after it became apparent that the leaders of the Shiv Sena were active in stoking the fire of the communal riots, the police dragged their feet on the facile and exaggerated assumption that if such leaders were arrested the communal situation would further flare up, or to put it in the words of then Chief Minister, Sudhakarrao Naik, “Bombay would burn”; not that Bombay did not even burn otherwise.”
- Report of the Justice B. N. Srikrishna Commission on the Mumbai riots of 1992-1993

Justice Thomas is invited to look up the full reports, if he wishes too. It would help the Church leadership, too, if they were to read those reports.

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 September 2011 on page no. 12

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