The forgotten promise of 1949
The RSS wrote a non-political role for itself as part of an undertaking it gave Sardar Patel. The overt political role it has assumed in 2013 is a breach of that agreement and its own constitution
The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s constitution explicitly states that it will stay clear of politics. The constitution itself was written, in 1949, because Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel would have it no other way.
The events of 2013 have comprehensively erased that part of India’s history. The RSS has taken full control of the Bharatiya Janata Party. It has overridden internal opposition to name the party’s prime ministerial candidate. No act can be politically more overt than this.
The RSS has always been to the BJP, earlier the Jan Sangh, a mentor the latter could not disobey — because the Jan Sangh was seeded by the RSS whose top pracharaks (propagandists) formed the new party’s intellectual and political capital. In its constitution, the RSS abjures a political role for itself but permits individual swayamsevaks to join any political party.
The RSS has used this caveat to place its representatives in the JS/BJP. From Lal Krishna Advani to Narendra Modi, every BJP leader of consequence has been from the Sangh’s deep bosom and each has had to mandatorily follow a curriculum involving pilgrimages to the Sangh offices in Delhi and Nagpur and deferring to the patriarch’s wisdom.
The unstated part of the BJP-RSS relationship was that the Sangh chief, Sarsanghchalak in RSS parlance, himself would not show his hand. The behind-the-scenes role for the minder was necessitated both by the 1949 undertaking to Patel and to overcome the strong political opposition to Hindutva. The governments of 1977-1979 and 1998-2004 became possible only because the RSS agreed to keep out of sight.
The events of 2013 are remarkable for the reason that the BJP’s need for allies has not translated into the Sangh taking a backseat. Instead, today more than ever before, the mentor is in a frontal, commanding role.
A look at recent history will show that the Sangh’s takeover bid started in real earnest in 2005, following Mr. Advani’s visit to Pakistan and his apocalyptical praise of Mohammad Ali Jinnah delivered straight from the latter’s mausoleum in Karachi. So livid was the Sangh at the transgression that it ordered Mr. Advani removed from the presidentship of the BJP. And though Mr. Advani did become the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate in 2009, his unique place in the Sangh was lost forever. The marginalisation of the ideologue started at that point and has ended today in his complete isolation.
The epic clash of 2005, and Mr. Advani’s barely controlled anger at his public sacking by the minder, are best captured in Mr. Advani’s own words. Addressing the concluding session of the party’s September 2005 Chennai national executive, Mr. Advani said an “impression had gained ground” that his party could take “no decision” without the consent of the RSS : “This perception, we hold, will do no good either to the Party or to the RSS. The RSS must be concerned that such a perception will dwarf its greater mission of man making and nation-building. Both the RSS and the BJP must consciously exert to dispel this impression.”
Lesser players had clashed with the Sangh earlier, and paid the price too, but Mr. Advani was beloved of the Sangh, and among the early pracharaks sent to the Jan Sangh. The BJP veteran was blunt when he called the RSS a busybody; in truth, it had always been so. What was unprecedented was the Sangh divesting a leader of Mr. Advani’s stature and vintage of his presidency.
Seven years on, the Sangh has issued another decree — this time to give a leader a double promotion executed in two stages. Narendra Modi’s June 2013 elevation to the BJP’s campaign committee chief, since relinquished by him, was followed in September 2013 by his appointment as the party’s prime ministerial candidate. In 2005, the RSS’s role was inferred, with the evidence coming from Mr. Advani. In 2013, the fig leaf has been cast away.
Mr. Advani, who had resigned from key party posts protesting Mr. Modi’s June 2013 elevation to campaign panel chief, climbed down on the Sangh’s orders — a fact acknowledged in writing by BJP chief Rajnath Singh. This was a first in RSS-BJP history. Mr. Singh’s June 11, 2013 statement to the media said, “Shri Mohan Bhagwat (current Sarsanghchalak) spoke to Shri Advani and asked him to respect the BJP Parliamentary Board (PB) decision and continue to guide the party in national interest.” The BJP’s PB did indeed make a request to Mr. Advani but from Mr. Bhagwat it was a command. The words were gentle but the message was not.
Thus, the takeover bid which started in 2005 was full and final with Mr. Modi’s projection as Prime Minister in September 2013. In June 2013, Mr. Advani wanted that Mr. Modi should not head the campaign panel. That has happened today, proving that the first-stage elevation was a ploy aimed at wearing down internal opposition to Mr. Modi.
Cut to 1949 and the RSS’s undertaking to Patel to write a constitution, which, among other things, would specify that the Sangh had “no politics” and would remain “devoted purely to cultural work” (Article 4(b) of the RSS constitution; D.R. Goyal, 1979). The written constitution was Patel’s pre-condition for lifting the ban imposed on the RSS in the wake of Mahatma Gandhi’s January 30, 1948 assassination.
Then Sarsanghchalak Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar pleaded not guilty and Patel himself was clear that the RSS was not involved in the assassination. He said this in his February 27, 1948 letter to Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and reiterated it later too. However, Patel was strong in the belief that the Sangh’s “violent” ways contributed to the climate in which Gandhiji was killed. Golwalkar’s telegrams to Nehru and Patel expressing shock at the murder did not mitigate the situation.
The government’s ban notification, dated February 4, 1948, did not implicate the RSS in Gandhiji’s murder; it in fact made no mention of the murder. The charge in the text was of violent subversion: “… in practice members of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh have not adhered to their professed ideals (fostering feelings of brotherhood, love and service among Hindus). Undesirable and even dangerous activities have been carried on by members of the Sangh … individual members of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh 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. These activities have been carried on under a cloak of secrecy …”
On November 14, 1948, the Home Ministry held by Patel issued a press note which said Golwalkar wanted the ban lifted without agreeing to the government’s demand that the RSS reform itself. Further, the note quoted information received from the provincial governments, which showed “that the activities carried on in various forms and ways by the people associated with the RSS tend to be anti-national and often subversive and violent and that persistent attempts are being made by the RSS to revive an atmosphere in the country which was productive of such disastrous consequences in the past…”
Prior to this, Patel wrote two significant letters. On July 18, 1948, he wrote to Shyama Prasad Mookherjee, rejecting his defence of the RSS: “The activities of the RSS constituted a clear threat to the existence of the Government and State … as time has marched on, the RSS circles are becoming more defiant and are indulging in their subversive activities … in an increasing measure…”
The letter of September 11, 1948, was to Golwalkar himself. In this Patel lauded the RSS for its service to Hindu society even as he outlined the “objectionable part” which “arose when they, burning with revenge, began attacking Mussalmaans …” Further, “As a final result of the (communal) poison, the country had to suffer the sacrifice of the invaluable life of Gandhiji …” Patel said people’s opposition to the RSS grew when “the RSS men expressed joy and distributed sweets after Gandhiji’s death.”
So, the charge that led to the ban was not that the RSS was involved in Gandhiji’s murder. The charge was of violence and subversion. (The Sangh was later formally cleared of any connection in the murder). This is what led to Patel’s pre-condition that the RSS write a constitution specifying, among other things, its respect for the Indian flag (the Sangh swears by the Bhagwa flag), its commitment both to function as an open and peaceful organisation and to stay clear of politics. It was a prolonged battle. Golwalkar resisted writing the constitution but Patel won out and the ban was lifted on July 11, 1949.
The RSS has gone back on the promise to keep off politics.
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Today, I saw twitter trending #NationalistRSS in India. Social media has been a powerful medium in exposing the sinister campaign against RSS.
While reviewing some of the tweets by anti RSS propagandists, I felt it is necessary to expose some of the popular myths about RSS. A lot of people are blindly ranting against Rastriya Swayamsevak Sangh, without getting proper information. You can’t change everyone, but at least you can put some facts on the table. So here we go.. Note that these are not the official statements of RSS, but that of general social media population in India today. Full credit to the original thinkers and the original photographers, for the information presented here onwards.
Myth 1: RSS Killed Gandhi.
Fact 1: Nathuram Godse killed Mahatma Gandhi in 1948. Godse had left RSS in 1930s itself. This has been reiterated countless number of times by RSS, and the recent one is from December 2010, when Ram Madhav of RSS claimed court records clearly showing RSS had nothing to do with Gandhi’s murder. Justice Kapur Commission Report clearly says: “RSS as such were not responsible for the murder of Mahatma Gandhi, meaning thereby that one could not name the organisation as such as being responsible for that most diabolical crime, the murder of the apostle of peace. It has not been proved that they (the accused) were members of the RSS”
Also, Nathuram, the convict was hanged within months, bringing justice to the whole incident. Blaming RSS for Gandhi’s murder just because Godse was a former member of RSS, is like blaming Congress for Muslim League’s mass murder and atrocities during Partition, because Jinnah was a member of Congress earlier. Jinnah was a member of Congress party between 1906 and 1920. So someone who was a member of Congress for long 14 years, was instrumental in inciting Direct Action Day and other mass atrocities against Hindus, resulting in 1000s of deaths. Will today’s Sonia Gandhi’s Congress claim responsibility for all the wrong doings of Jinnah, including breaking up an age old civilization resulting in millions of deaths?
Myth 2: Sardar Patel disliked RSS.
Fact 2: Sardar Patel had to take action in 1948 due to political pressure from “secular” Nehru and group. But when the ban on RSS was lifted, read Sardar’s letters to Guruji, the RSS chief. Patel was the happiest man then! All the bans till date on RSS, including the ones after Sardar’s death, are purely the hate that Congress party nurturers for RSS. Everyone knows that RSS does not negotiate with vote bank politics, corruption or country’s soverignty. If the same yard stick was used against Congress, SP or other parties, they all should have been banned for the violence of their cadres, or the deadly riots their governments failed to stop (and in some cases helped rioters like in 1984) over the years. Here is a partial list of nearly 150 incidents of Congress violence. If for each riot or disturbance Congress party was banned, that number would have easily gone beyond Sachin Tendulkar’s international century count!
Myth 3: RSS is anti national.
Fact 3: RSS is the most nationalistic organization in India. In fact, even the most bitter enemy of RSS, Jawaharlal Nehru, invited RSS to come participate in the 1963 Republic day parade. 3500 Swayamsevaks marched on that day, in their typical Gana Vesha. During his final years, Nehru realized the patriotic pulse of RSS, that too only when his Congress party’s foreign policy went seriously wrong resulting in a humiliating defeat at the hands of China. It was RSS that helped Indian soldiers and civilians greatly in 1962, for which even Nehru was forced to invite them to be a part of 1963 Republic Day parade. I am sure the icon of secularism, Nehru would not invite an anti national organization to march with Indian army during republic day. In fact, the so-called secular folks like members of Indian communist parties, were busy raising donations for India’s enemy China during 1962 war! During the 1965 Indo-Pak war PM Shastri requested nationalist RSS to help control traffic in Delhi so policemen could be freed for defence duties. When Pakistanis were trying to take over Jammu and Kashmir, it was swayamsevaks who cleared the snow, so that Indian air force could land their aircrafts.
Myth 4: RSS is fundamentalist.
Fact 4: RSS is pro India, pro Hindutva. RSS’ ideology says that there are only two kinds of Hindus in India. Those who are Hindu today and those who were Hindus yesterday. That makes every single human in India (and rest of Indian subcontinent), Hindus by culture, ancestry and tradition. That is the Hindut-va (Hindu essence). Tva in Sanskrit means characteristic, essence or hood – like Bhratrutva (brotherhood), Maatrutva (motherhood), Shatrutva (Enmity) and so on. RSS never preaches any religious doctrine using any sacred book with the eventual goal of converting everyone to that doctrine 100%. RSS does not believe in converting anyone to its “religion”. So calling such organization fundamentalist is silly. If at all RSS has any fundamentals, it is that of calling India as Bharat, and treating her as the mother of every single human in Indian subcontinent. In fact, RSS supports uniform civil code in India, meaning one type of marriage/divorce/inheritance laws for ALL citizen, which is opposed by so called progressive parties like Communists and Congress!
Myth 5: RSS is fascist and a terrorist organization.
Fact 5: When you show the long list of social service organizations that are a part of Sangh Parivar (family), the favourite line of Jihad supporters is that Jamat ud Da’wah also does social service. But they don’t understand the basics that RSS does not preach violence in any of its shakha. It only teaches people to be proud of India’s glorious 5000+ years culture and tradition. It teaches swayamsevaks (volunteers for the nation), self defence. Every human on this planet has the right to defend himself or herself. RSS never advocated for killing or converting “non-believers”, like Jihadi terrorists or radical evangelicals do. If any person who claims to be associated with RSS is convicted of any crime, RSS won’t play communal or victim card. RSS believes in law taking its own course and punishment for anyone who violates law, unlike Congress party that still supports a convict Lalu Yadav or those charged with mass murder like Sajjan Kumar, or those caught giving genocidal “15 minutes” hate speeches like Akbaruddin Owaisi. While Nehru was unable to stop the blood shed during partition, it was the RSS that organised over 3000 relief camps for the Hindu Refugees from Pakistan after the Partition. In short, every effort to frame RSS to a fictional “Hindutva terror” or “Saffron terror” has failed till date. Here is one such example.
Myth 6: RSS is only for Hindu males.
Fact 6: This is the favourite line of ignoramus feminists. There are two kinds of RSS setups. Rastriya Swayamsevak Sangh for males, and Rastra Sevika Samiti for females. Both are thriving in India for decades. Both take out marches, celebrate India’s heritage festivals and glorify India’s national Hindutva icons.
Myth 7: RSS is anti Muslim and RSS is anti Christian.
Fact 7: RSS treats Muslims, Christians and everyone else in India, irrespective of caste and creed as cultural Hindus. Hindutva is an all encompassing ideology of RSS. This is the reason why RSS never has RSS Muslim shakha (daily assembly) or RSS Christian shakha. Anyone can become a member of RSS as long as they are ready to respect Bharat Mata (Mother India). RSS is against only those whose work against India’s soverignty and heritage. In the famous Ranganathacharya Agnihotri case, “Primafacie the RSS is a non-political cultural organization without any hatred or ill will towards non-Hindus”, declared Karnataka High Court (then Mysore HC).
Myth 8: RSS is for Brahmins, Kshatriyas and other upper caste Hindus only.
Fact 8: Totally wrong. RSS has no caste system at all. It treats every single member, be it male or female, as equal. In fact, even Mahatma Gandhi had applauded RSS’ casteless setup 7 decades ago. All RSS requires from a volunteer, is respecting Bharat Mata (Mother India) as“vatsale, Maatru bhoome”.
Myth 9: RSS was anti Sikh in 1984 riots.
Fact 9: Even the most staunch Sikh supporters of 1984 time, won’t claim such things. Read Kushwant Singh’s writeup. In fact, RSS was instrumental in helping Sikhs in large numbers when Congress party’s murderers went on rampage to kill, and their leader Rajiv Gandhi failed to stop the mass killing.