In the last Lok Sabha elections (2014) Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi made allegations on RSS. There is often a false criticism that the Sangh did not take part in the freedom struggle. They must not be knowing the reality, hence this article. After the establishment of the RSS, Dr Hedgewar had told the Sangh swayamsewaks that after giving 1 hour to the Sangh shakha, there is no harm in doing work of any party according to their wish. Continuing the same principle, Golwalkar Guruji told to take part in the freedom struggle which was inspired by Mahatma Gandhi.But not by taking the banner of the RSS in hand, but by wearing Khadi-topi andKurta-Pyjama.
Note here that the RSS was founded in 1925. It was barely in its infancy and very small in those days. The focus needed to be on strengthening and growing the RSS as it could have been easily crushed by the many Opponents- British, Congress and Muslim League in those days. And yet, the RSS partiticpated in the freedom struggle. Compare this with the Congress founded in 1885. The Congress first demanded full Independence (Poorna Swarajya) for India in December 1929, a full 44 years after its foundation. Its demand in the 1920s, till the 1929 Lahore Session was only dominion status for India. And in its initial years, in the 1880s and 1890s, the Congress leaders openly stated the British Rule in India as the Providential Gift. It took the Congress many years (at least 20 years) to raise a strong foundation, though it was formed with merger of many regional conferences, unlike RSS which was founded from zero. And yet, the Congress (which ceased to be same since 1969 when it became Congress (I) with a split in the party) has lied about true patriots i.e. RSS and hid its own record of its first 44 years, particularly, the first 22 years.
More than half the Sangh swayamsewaks had taken part in the freedom struggle. Very few people know this truth. Because publicity is not in the Sangh’s nature at all.Khadi-clad swayamsewaks suffered the British Police’s bullets as well as lathis.
If RSS did not participate in the freedom struggle, what were the Communists and others were doing? The RSS and Communist party of India came in existence almost at the same time (in 1925). While the RSS busied itself in organizing the Hindu society to achieve freedom, the Communists continued to support the British and defame leaders like Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose. It is on record that during the World War II so long as the Russians were not cooperating with the Allied forces, the Communists in India were against them. For them, the British and Americans were ‘imperialist forces’. But the moment Stalin joined hands with the Allies; the same Communists shamelessly started singing praises for the British.
When Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose went out of India and launched anti-British movement of Azad Hind Fauz, these communists made a volte face and abused Netaji as “agent of Hitler” and “Lapdog of Tojo”. They even opposed the 1942 movement and spied on the freedom fighters by providing information to the British rulers. And now they question the role of RSS in the freedom struggle? The Communists had also supported the Muslim League’s demand for Pakistan.
Dr Hedgewar a born patriot
The founder of RSS Dr Keshav Baliram Hedgewar was a born patriot. When he was a primary student in the Neil City School, he refused to accept the sweets distributed in the schools on the 60th coronation day of Queen Victoria and when his elder brother asked he replied: “Our Bhonsla dynasty was liquidated by these Britishers. How can we participate in these imperial celebrations?” This instinctive patriotism was in his personality blossomed further with full radiance and formed the bedrock of the RSS. In High school, Dr Hedgewar was expelled from the school for making all students say ‘Vande Mataram’ in school during an Inspection visit by a British authority. He refused to apologize, and instead preferred rustication. At the age of 18, in 1907, he made and threw a bomb on a local police station also.
Dr Hedgewar was very closely associated with the revolutionaries when he was at Kolkata for his degree in medical education. His deep contacts with the members of the Anusheelan Samiti were well described by one of his colleagues Ramlal Vajpayee in his autobiography: “With the financial help from Sri Dajisaheb Buty, Keshavrao Hedgewar, founder of RSS, was sent to Calcutta more with the object of receiving training for revolutionary work under the supervision of Sri Pulin Bihari Das, rather than prosecuting higher studies”.
Young Keshavrao was introduced to Anusheelan Samiti and soon he became one of its inner circle members. When he came back to Nagpur after obtaining a degree in medicine in 1917, he plunged himself into organizing the revolutionary activities in the Central Indian region with his close associates like Bhauji Kawre and Appaji Joshi of Wardha.
However, the eventual collapse of the revolutionary movement Dr Hedgewar was forced to take recourse to other means of achieving freedom and since the Indian National Congress was the most powerful public movement, he joined it. Within the Congress he along with his friends formed Nagpur National Union. During the 1920 AICC session at Nagpur he was in charge of the volunteer force. The Nagpur National Union submitted a resolution to the subjects committee which besides demanding the Congress to declare “complete independence as it sole objective” said: “It is the aim of the Congress to strive to establish democracy in India and to liberate all nations from the grip of capitalist countries”. Almost 10 years before the Congress first demanded Full Independence in December 1929, RSS founder Dr Hedgewar had urged the party to do so in 1920 itself.
The steering committee that deliberated on the resolution did not find it worthy of presenting to the AICC and eventually rejected the same. But the Modern Review of Calcutta in its March 21 issue commented on this resolution: “This resolution merited greater attention in the steering committee”. Dr Hedgewar actively participated in the non-cooperation movement launched by Mahatma Gandhi in 1921 along with his friends and suffered incarceration for the same. His defense in the court of Judge Smelly was described as the ‘more seditious than his earlier speeches’. He was given 1 year Rigorous Imprisonment by Judge Smelly. Such a strong freedom-fighter he was, that his defense in court was described as ‘More seditious than his earlier speeches’ for which he was undergoing trial.
Jungle Satyagraha :
Dr Hedgewar founded the RSS on Vijayadashami Day in 1925 with an objective of injecting the spirit of nationalism, patriotism and creating a strong, vibrant organized India that would lead the world community once again. Freeing the motherland from the foreign yoke was reflected in the oath of RSS members. But he did not dissociate himself from the freedom movement. When Gandhiji launched ‘Salt Satyagraha’ or Dandi March on April 6, 1930, the RSS also did not stay aloof from it. By then Dr Hedgewar was unanimously named as ‘Sarsanghchalak’ of RSS. He volunteered to participate in this movement and before taking a plunge into it he delegated his authority to Dr L V Paranjape. This, when the Sangh was in its infancy. The Sangh started from hardly 10-15 members in 1925 and was hardly a force in 1930 having very few shakhas and members, and yet Dr Hedgewar preferred to be jailed in the Jungle Satyagraha for 9 months leaving the task of expanding the Sangh.
In the Central Provinces it was decided to break the forest laws to voice opposition to the British rule. A batch of RSS activists and Congress workers under the leadership of Dr Hedgewar proceeded towards the jungles of Yavatmal, some 150 km from Nagpur. On way at Pusad he gave a speech stating his philosophy of freedom. He said: “From polishing the boots of the Englishmen to hitting them hard on their heads with the same boots till they leave this country, all ways are equally logical in my view”. Later he offered ‘Jungle Satyagraha’ and sentenced to nine month jail term in Akola Jail.
On December 31, 1929 on the banks of Ravi River the Congress at its historical Lahore session adopted a resolution demanding “Total Independence” and decided to observe January 26, 1930 as Independence Day. Dr Hedgewar had expected the same a decade ago from the Congress. He was naturally very happy and directed all the RSS shakhas to celebrate this day by hoisting the national flag and spreading the message of freedom.
By 1928 the RSS had 18 shakhas mostly confined to Nagpur and Wardha. The CP Congress (Marathi) was headed by Harekrishna (Appaji) Joshi who was the General Secretary of the provincial committee and was also the Sanghchalak of the Wardha unit of the RSS.
The RSS extended uninhibited support to the 1929 Congress resolution. It issued a circular to all the 37 shakhas, which stated: “This year the Congress has passed a resolution declaring complete Independence as its goal. The CWC has called upon the entire nation to celebrate Sunday the 26th of January 1930 as Independence Day. We of the Sangh are naturally immensely happy that the All India Congress has endorsed our goal of complete Independence. It is our duty to cooperate with any organisation working for this objective. It is therefore suggested that all Swayamsevaks of each shakha meet at 6 p.m. on Sunday the January 26, 1930 at respective Sanghasthans. After offering salutation to the Bhagwa Dhwaj, the concept of Independence and the reason why this ideal alone should be kept before every one should be explained. The function should conclude with an expression of congratulations to the Congress for having accepted the ideal of complete Independence.”
The Government in Central Provinces issued a circular prohibiting the government and local self government bodies servants to take part in RSS activities. The circular was based on the report of the intelligence department. Dr Hedgewar with his communicating and influencing skills created a mass opinion against the government move. Editorials were published in ‘Kesri’ of Pune, ‘Maharashtra’ and ‘The Hitavada’ of Nagpur criticizing the government. In the Assembly, this issue was discussed during the budget session and the government was defeated on the floor. Members of all political parties, including a Muslim Member M S Rehman, defended the RSS.
The anti-imperialist character of the RSS and its unconditional support to the Congress movement appalled the British administration which made the first serious attempt to suppress it soon after the civil disobedience movement died out.
At the end of 1932 the Chief Minister of Central Province government, E. Gordan issued a circular prohibiting government employees and their wards from participating in or associating with the RSS on the plea that it was ‘political and communal organisation’.
In December 1933 its scope was extended to the employees and teachers of local bodies. The Government wanted to give it a communal colour since the Local Self-Government Minister was a Muslim. However, the Sangh did not make it a communal issue and targeted the colonial rule. During the budget session in March 1934, a member of the Council, V. D. Kolte, put up a cut motion against the government’s circular. This led to a four-hour discussion during which all the speakers appreciated the work and ideology of the RSS.
Shri Vithalbhai Patel presided over the RSS function at Nagpur in 1928. Shri Madan Mohan Malaviya visited the RSS shakha at Nagpur in 1929. Mahatma Gandhi himself visited a Sangh camp on December 25, 1934, at Wardha. He joined Shri Appaji Joshi, a renowned Congress leader of CP, in offering Pranam to the RSS flag. He held a lengthy conversation with Dr Hedgewar the next day and was impressed by the vision of the RSS.Subhash Chandra Bose and Syama Prasad Mookerjee visited Dr Hedgewar in 1940 and discussed plans for Independence.
A home department report in 1940 said: ‘The organisation is intensely anti-British and its tone is increasingly becoming militant.’ The CID report revealed that RSS volunteers were ‘introduced into various departments of government such as the army, navy, postal, telegraph, railway and administrative services in order that there may be no difficulty in capturing administrative departments when the time comes.’
The RSS Sarsanghchalak, Shri M. S. Golwalkar, who succeeded Shri Hedgewar after his death in 1940, suggested indoctrination of government employees and his speech in the Poona Officers Training Camp (OTC) of the RSS on May 3, 1942, was reported by the CID saying: ‘The Sangh resolved to stand on its own legs, not minding any opposition. It was not possible to get swaraj by begging it from foreigners and this could only be achieved by strength.’
RSS & 1942 Movement :
Unfortunately Dr Hedgewar passed away in June 1940 handing over the baton of leadership to a relatively young M S Golwalkar, popularly known as Shri Guruji. It was during his tenure that the RSS was face to face with the famous 1942 “Quit India” movement and the later day events that led to the partition of the country and finally independence. Allegations are even now hurled at RSS for “assuming a passive role” or not participating in the 1942 movement. But the reality is altogether different and the detractors of RSS either do not know it or they don’t want to understand it.
The Congress under the Mahatma’s leadership announced the launch of 1942 Quit India movement on August 9 without making enough preparations for the same. The British knew of it and arrested all the top Congress leaders in one place before the agitation could be launched. Naturally, the absence of any leadership took the wind out of the sails of this movement. Still, following the footsteps of RSS founder in regards to such mass movements, many RSS swayamsevaks plunged into the agitation. To cite an example, some of the swayamsevaks succeeded in establishing a parallel government at Chimur-Ashti in Vidarbha region. Some of them later faced the gallows for this rebellion. Some RSS workers damaged the Delhi-Muzafarnagar railway line while some faced bullets trying to unfurl the tricolor atop the tehsil office in Mewan in Meerut district in UP.
Many of the prominent underground leaders of the 1942 movement were provided safe shelters by the RSS activists. Aruna Asaf Ali, Jay Prakash Narayan were housed in Delhi Sanghchalak Lala Hansraj Gupta; Achyut Patwardhan and Sane Guruji were closeted at the residence of Pune Sanghchalak Bhausaheb Deshmukh. Krantiveer Nana Patil was sheltered at Aundh Sanghchalak Pt. S D Satvalekar’s house.
The 1943 report of the intelligence department on RSS said in most clear terms: “The ulterior objective of the RSS is to drive away the British from India and free the country”.
Dr Bhagwan Das’ Observation :
It is surprising that a foreign power was able to assess and understand the objective of RSS and the role it played towards its fulfillment clearly. But our secular leaders and their leftist co-passengers failed to do so. I cannot resist myself from quoting Bharat Ratna Dr Bhawan Das who wrote about the role of RSS swayamsevaks in thwarting the plan of the Muslim League. The League planned to annihilate all the prominent Congress leaders in one go. Dr Bhagwan Das wrote on October 1, 1948: “I know for sure that RSS volunteers have informed Jawahar Lal Nehru and Sardar Patel well in advance about the plan of Muslim League under which the League had planned for armed rebellion and annihilating the Ministers of the Government of India and the senior officers, unfurl the Pakistani flag atop Lal Quilla, and establish their government in India.
“Had these patriotic and sincere youths not informed Nehru and Patel in time, the entire country today would have become Pakistan; lakhs of Hindus would have been butchered and more than that would have been converted to Islam forcibly and India would have become slave once again. What does it indicate? Clearly, it suggests that our government must utilize the nationalist power of lakhs of RSS swayamsevaks instead of subordinating it”.
It was again irony of fate that Dr Bhagwandas wrote these words at a time when thousands of RSS workers were languishing in jails of independent India for the crime they never dreamt of committing in their wildest ever dreams—the assassination of the Mahatma. The charge was never proved any court of law, and by any of the enquiry commission set up by the government. But it is still used widely by these seculars, leftists and their likes to malign the RSS.
The incident of Chimur
When an agitation was on in Chimur, a place in Vidarbha, during the hoisting of the flag, the tricolour stopped mid-way. A youth with khadicame forward. He raised the flag to the top. At that moment the police resorted to ruthless firing on him. His body was pierced. He collapsed life-less on the ground. He was a Sangh swayamsewak.
The agitation of Mahatma Gandhi had started with a lot of energy. But by 8th August 1942 Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Patel and all other top leaders were arrested and imprisoned in jail, and as a result the movement became directionless. What should workers remaining outside (the jail) do? Where should they go underground? Shri Guruji had made this facility as well, with foresight.
Aruna Asaf Ali, who was honoured with the title “Bayalis ki Bijli” (Literally, ‘Lightning of 1942’) in an interview to Delhi’s Hindi daily ‘Hindusthan’ in 1967 said: “After the 1942 movement became directionless after the arrest of the top leaders, I was underground at the house of RSS’s Delhi Prant Sanghachalak Lala Hansraj Gupta. He gave me shelter for 10-15 days and made excellent arrangement for my security. Lalaji did not let the servants and guards of his house get any idea about this. An underground worker should not stay at one place for long, so I took theghagra and chunari given by Lalaji’s wife on my head, covering my face so that no one would recognize me, went away from there to another place doing Bhangra in a procession (Baraat).” Aruna Asaf Ali further said: “All top leaders were in jail. There was no arrangement of giving direction to those who were outside jail. Hence everyone took his independent decision. Hence it will be wrong to say that Hindusthan got freedom due to the 1942 movement.”
Delhi’s Suruchi Prakashan has mentioned in the book “RSS and Freedom Movement” written by Chittaranjan that when Vedamurti Pandit Shripad Damodar Satwalekar was the Sanghachalak of Aundh, he had given shelter at his house for many days to the Father of the ‘Parallel Government’, Krantiveer Nana Patil. Nana Patil’s associate Kisanveer stayed at the house of the Sanghachalak of Wai, Dattopant Gokhale. Socialist leader Achyutrao Patwardhan had lived alternately at the houses of many swayamsewaks. A strong critic of RSS, Gandhian Sane Guruji had stayed secretly at the house of the Pune Sanghachalak of RSS, Bhausaheb Deshmukh.
Many workers of the Congress Committee of Solapur were given shelter by the Sanghachalak and other swayamsewaks. From calling doctor and taking utmost care when someone fell ill, to lawyer swayamsewaks fighting cases of underground activists fearlessly and free of charge in court, all things were done. It should be accepted that the Sangh swayamsewaks’ patriotism and morality-based, disciplined lifestyle is unquestionable.
The 1942 movement being directionless, strategy-less and lacking uniformity was crushed by the British Government. What Shri Guruji had told Sangh swayamsewaks and Sanghchalaks only proved that the Sangh considers opponents as also ‘Our people’. Foresightedness was also proven.
In 1947, the RSS had played a major role in Kashmir’s merger with India. The then RSS pracharak in Kashmir, Balraj Madhok had listened to Sheikh Abdullah’s speech in Srinagar in October 1947 and had met Sardar Patel and many others and given them vital information. The then RSS chief M S Golwalkar had played a major role in convincing Maharaja Harisingh to merge with India. Kedarnath Sahni also played a major role. The volunteers of RSS also played a part, they defended the Srinagar airport until the Army arrived to begin recapturing Kashmir from Pakistani infiltrators.They helped build Jammu airport and widened the Srinagar airport. They crossed the Ravi river at Madhopur, carrying ammunition on their backs to keep it dry. In some places they also helped the soldiers clear the mines laid by the Pakistanis.
In 1954, young men of the Azad Gomatak Dal attacked and directly captured Dadra and Nagar Haveli. RSS men were a large part of this Azad Gomantak Dal. Many RSS workers sacrificed their lives in this successful attack in 1954. RSS members Raja Wakankar and Nana Kajrekar played a major role. In 1955, RSS leaders demanded the end of Portuguese rule in Goa and its integration into India. When Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru refused to obtain it by armed intervention, RSS leader Jagannath Rao Joshi led the satyagraha agitation straight into Goa itself. He was imprisoned with his followers by the Portuguese police. The peaceful protests continued but met with severe repressions. On 15 August 1955, the Portuguese police opened fire on the satyagrahis, killing thirty or so people.
In 1962, China attacked India. The RSS played a major role in helping the government voluntarily for the sake of the nation. Some RSS members went to the border areas to fight with the Indian Army and gave their lives. Around 43 such men were martyred. The role of the RSS in this war and the sacrifice made by the martyrs melted the heart of even the most die-hard RSS critic, Jawaharlal Nehru. This is why Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru had also invited Sangh swayamsewaks to take part in the Republic Day Parade of 1963 in full uniform and the swayamsewaks had done a very disciplined route-march. Have the critics of the Sangh forgotten this? At least Congress people should read history and then use their brain.
The history of the RSS, spanning 22 years before India’s freedom is one of active participation in the anti-colonial struggle and unconditional co-operation not only with the Congress but also any other group committed to the liberation of the motherland. The ‘Pratigya’ (Pledge) of the RSS used to contain words ‘Desh ko swatantra kar‘ (Freeing the country) till Independence.