Does the RSS need good conduct certificates from others? Suppose it does. What better certificate can be there than one conferred on you by your adversary? E.M.S. Namboodiripad, Marxist politician and ideologue, was as staunch an opponent of the RSS as you would wish to find. But even he rejected any questioning of the patriotic credentials of K.B. Hedgewar, founder of RSS. In his critique BJP-RSS: In the Service of the Right Reaction, he wrote thus on Dr Hedgewar: “…a nationalist who participated in the Gandhi-led movement, he continued to be a Congressman for a decade more and participated in the 1930 Salt Satyagraha”. Bipan Chandra, a leading light of the Marxist brigade of historians, also had to reluctantly admit in his book Communalism in Modern India that “Dr Hedgewar never integrated with the colonial regime”.
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Many Socialist leaders and others who remained opposed to the RSS also could not forget their past—the days they spent underground in 1942, when they were provided safe shelters by RSS activists. Aruna Asaf Ali and Jayaprakash Narayan were housed in Delhi sanghchalak Lala Hansraj Gupta’s residence; Achyut Patwardhan and Sane Guruji were sheltered at the residence of Pune sanghchalak Bhausaheb Deshmukh; and Krantiveer Nana Patil at Aundh sanghchalak Pt S.D. Satwalekar’s house. Aruna Asaf Ali reminisced in Hindi daily Hindustan in 1967: “After the 1942 movement became directionless with the arrest of the top leaders, I was underground at the house of RSS’s Delhi prant sanghchalak Lala Hansraj Gupta. He gave me shelter for 10-15 days....” This interview was given before she became a Communist leader.
RSS founder K.B. Hedgewar joined Satyagraha stirs
RSS in the Freedom Struggle
Dr Hedgewar was a born patriot and this was evident from his early days. He was expelled from school for leading students to chant Vande Mataram at the time of school inspection. When he went to Calcutta in 1910 to study medicine, he became an active member of the revolutionary organisation Anusheelan Samiti there. After returning to Nagpur, he joined the Indian National Congress, and was given a year’s rigorous imprisonment on August 21, 1921, for participating in the non-cooperation movement launched by Mahatma Gandhi.
About nine years before the Congress demanded complete freedom for India, the Nagpur National Union, formed by Dr Hedgewar, submitted a resolution to the INC’s Subjects Committee demanding that the Congress declare “complete independence as its sole objective”. The resolution also demanded the “liberation of all nations from the grip of capitalist countries.” This is why he directed all RSS shakhas to celebrate the Congress’s 1929 resolution on “total independence” by hoisting the national flag on January 26, 1930, and spreading the message of freedom.
Aruna Asaf Ali and J.P. Narayan got RSS shelter in 1942
A biography of Sri Aurobindo says Dr Hedgewar went to Pondicherry to draw him back from spiritual pursuits into nationalist politics, to lead the freedom movement after Tilak’s demise, as a worthy successor. Dr Hedgewar, Appaji Joshi and other RSS leaders were jailed in 1930 during the Salt Sayagraha—in response to Gandhi’s call, Dr Hedgewar participated in the ‘Jungle Satyagraha’ (a parallel series of protests by adivasis and others where forest laws were broken) and spent nine months in Akola jail. During Quit India, RSS volunteers also gave their lives in the Chimur agitation in Vidarbha—while unfurling the freedom flag, an RSS volunteer was shot dead by the police. Dada Naik, head of the Chimur RSS branch, was sentenced to death by the British. The fourth sarsanghchalak, Prof Rajendra Singh, too is known for having taken part in Quit India. Till independence, every swayamsevak had to take a pledge with the words “Desh ko swatantra kar” (free the country). This, at a time when Communists in India were busy sabotaging the Quit India movement and freedom struggle on the instructions of the Soviet Union.
At one stage, there were several reports of the CID that the RSS had incited their cadre to participate actively in the freedom struggle. The British government, angered by the reports, started banning RSS activities. Central Provinces issued a circular prohibiting servants of government and local self-government bodies from taking part in RSS activities. This was opposed by leading newspapers and in the State Assembly, where protests were voiced by Muslim member M.S. Rehman. On August 5, 1940, under Defence of India Rules, the central government promulgated an ordinance prohibiting drills, use of uniforms and exercises. Many RSS workers courted arrest against this. Bharat Ratna Dr Bhagwan Das writes about RSS volunteers, who informed Nehru and Patel about the Muslim League’s secret plot to annihilate Congress leaders and unfurl the Pakistani flag atop Red Fort in 1947. He writes: “Had these patriotic and sincere youths not informed Nehru and Patel in time, the entire country today would have become Pakistan…our government must utilise the nationalist power of lakhs of RSS swayamsevaks instead of subordinating it”.
Take another token of recognition. Many Congress leaders attended or visited RSS shakhas, like Vithalbhai Patel and Madan Mohan Malviya. Mahatma Gandhi himself visited Sangh camps on December 25, 1934, at Wardha and on September 16, 1947, at Delhi. Subhas Chandra Bose and Jan Sangh founder Syama Prasad Mookerjee visited Dr Hedgewar in 1940 and discussed plans for Independence. It is a part of history that in 1947 the Congress itself had requested the RSS to merge with it.
Gandhi interacts with an RSS delegation in 1944
After ’47: The Last Resort
After independence, the patriotic ventures of the RSS continued. It was chiefly Shri Guruji Golwalkar who, at the request of Sardar Patel on October 17, 1947, successfully persuaded Maharaja Hari Singh of Kashmir to accede to India. He was assisted by RSS leaders like Balraj Madhok, Pandit Prem Nath Dogra and Badri Dasji. Many RSS volunteers lost their lives while assisting the Indian military in defending Jammu and Kashmir from Pakistan invasion and also while saving the lives of lakhs of Kashmiri people, especially the honour of women. On many occasions, in the absence of the military, young men of RSS had to fill in for it. In an inspiring story, a local Sangh worker, Krishnalal, and 20 other swayamsevaks brought back 20 chests of ammunition wrongly dropped in the Pakistan artillery’s range. Former sarkaryavah Shri H.V. Seshadri writes in his book RSS, Vision in Action: “But for the swayamsevaks’ valiant efforts, Jammu could never have been saved; and without Jammu, there was not the ghost of a chance to save Srinagar even by Indian forces”. Syama Prasad Mookerji had to sacrifice his life for entering Kashmir without a ‘permit’ in 1953.
In 1954, many RSS volunteers sacrificed their lives as part of the Azad Gomantak Dal when they captured Dadra and Nagar Haveli from the Portuguese. RSS leader Jagannath Rao Joshi led the team that entered Goa without ‘permit’ on June 23, 1955. Many RSS cadre lost their lives in the struggle to free Goa. When China attacked India in 1962, the RSS played a great role in helping the Nehru government defend the nation. It is estimated that no less than 43 RSS members lost their lives on the border. As a token of recognition, Nehru invited the RSS to participate in the Republic Day parade in 1963 in full uniform. At the same time, Communist leaders were put in jail for their anti-India stance of supporting China.
In the 1970s, EMS, at a seminar in Kerala University on why Communism could not establish its roots in India, explained that Communists failed to understand the phenomenon called Mahatma Gandhi and Communism did not recast itself to fit within India’s cultural landscape. Communism created its own roots in different countries—Lenin created a Russian Communism, Mao a Chinese Communism, Ho Chi Minh a Vietnamese one and Fidel Castro a Cuban avatar. This didn’t happen in India, thanks to the perversities of its local leadership.
On February 9, 2016, shocking slogans were raised on the JNU campus—‘Bharat ki barbadi tak, Kashmir ki azadi tak jang rahegi’ (We will fight till India is destroyed and Kashmir is freed). The next day, anti-India slogans were raised even at Delhi’s Press Club with photos of Afzal Guru and Maqbool Butt displayed—when a mere 8 km away, martyred soldier K. Hanumanthappa was being given his last rites. They take the patience of Indians for granted. Those who support such activities should think: if similar slogans are raised in China, what fate would await the sloganeers? No Indian can be neutral to slogans that call for India’s destruction. Anyway, there is now an end to the long chain of such events: the timing was wrong for them since India is now not ruled by the Congress or Communists, but by an RSS prime minister. Quite a far cry from the suspicions fostered for decades, the RSS emerges as the solace, the saviour in such times. As Justice K.T. Thomas, retired Supreme Court judge, said recently: “After the army, the RSS keeps Indians safe”.
All these events lead us to think about the meaning of nationalism, patriotism and attendant words. In my opinion, the fear psychosis over nationalism was created in the West when imperialism got mixed up with it. Patriotism generally appears as a war-time feeling while nationalism is a more enduring, positive and peace-time impulse. Since the release of Samuel Huntington’s Clash of Civilisations, the West has been debating these concepts, with some people distinguishing between Canadian nationalism and American patriotism. Nationalism and patriotism are not debatable. How can love for the mother be debatable?
Today, the Indian market is becoming virtually an extension of the Chinese market. The way the Chinese Oppo and Vivo mobile brands have reached the length and breadth of our country, even in remote areas, show how they know our market better than our own manufacturers. Once while I was travelling from Kerala to Delhi, I met a military officer working on the Chinese border. I asked him about the situation created by the Doklam standoff. He replied, there is nothing to worry, but as a citizen your job is to handle the Chinese invasion of India’s market!
A 3,500-strong contingent of Swayamsevaks in uniform, with band, take part in the parade in Delhi
How many have thought seriously about China not allowing US-based Facebook, Google, Gmail, Whatsapp, etc and instead using Chinese ‘swadeshi’ parallels? India badly needs economic patriotism. If there’s anything Indian Communists can learn from their “dreamland”, it’s the strong sense of patriotism that animates everyone—right from the rulers up to the common citizen. As a member of the 2nd National Commission of Labour, I was part of a delegation that visited China to learn about its rapid industrial progress. One day, amid heavy rainfall, the Chinese officials brought us some umbrellas. As we rushed to huddle into the vehicles, the umbrella cloth was blown inside out in the heavy wind. We commented on the low quality of Chinese products. The driver of our vehicle overheard us. He immediately went to a nearby shop, purchased umbrellas with money from his own pockets, and gave it to us saying China has quality products. This sense of patriotism in the minds of the average Chinese is what helped China advance—not its Communist past.
The same economic patriotism was the reason for Japan becoming an icon of industrial progress. Even though devastated by western military in the Second World War, it rose like a phoenix due to this deep impulse among its ordinary citizens. And for all the depredations of colonialism, this instinct underlay the imperial spread of Britain before the war. Long ago, it used to be said about Robert Clive that he was a rogue in England, but his patriotism led to the establishment of the British Empire in India. Patriotism, and specifically the economic impulse that’s part of it, is a major factor that gives countries like Germany and Israel too their unique place in world history. And when Soviet Russia faced military conquest by Hitler’s forces, Stalin had to incite the patriotic feelings of Russians to defend their country—setting aside their internationalism and class solidarity across the world. Of late, this feeling of patriotism is disappearing from the national discourse in India, which is a danger signal.
New Anti-Indian Discourses
The politics fashioned against the BJP advances the proposition that secularism means anti-Hindutva, human rights means being in support of terrorists and secessionists, and freedom of expression means shouting anti-national slogans, ridiculing Hindu goddesses, insulting our national traditions and culture, etc. Tolerance is absent in India, they say. The virus has infected many in our academia, and among our contemporary writers, artists, journalists and intelligentsia.
The survival politics of Communists is assuming anti-national dimensions. Leftists are glorifying Afzal Guru, Yakub Memon and Maqbool Butt (who ordered the hijacking of an Indian plane in 1971) as martyrs. This recalls the anti-national games they played by supporting the British during the Quit India movement in 1942, by passing a resolution supporting the division of India and Pakistan in 1945, and by supporting China when it attacked India in 1962. They are now supporting Pakistani/jehadi elements. The editorial of People’s Democracy, which has CPI(M) leader Prakash Karat as chief editor, flays the Indian military and says India should withdraw from the Doklam standoff. It also says India should not support Bhutan and that it’s up to Bhutan to talk directly to China. And that the Dalai Lama and Union ministers shouldn’t have visited Arunachal Pradesh. Such seditious politics is what has isloated Communists to Kerala. They are militating against the patriotic sentiments of the ordinary Indian. This is destined to bring the demise of leftist politics in India.
The Swadeshi Jagran Manch, the economic wing of the RSS, recently held a year-long drive against the “dumping” of Chinese goods in India. The campaign, which concluded in October 2017, featured street plays, rath yatras (that distributed pamphlets) and seminars—and claimed to have collected 2.5 crore signatures from sympathisers across the country.
Saji Narayanan C.K. is national president of the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh