It is a well-known fact that the RSS founder, Dr K.B. Hedgewar, was a senior Congress leader of Vidarbha region. After his return to Nagpur from Calcutta in 1916, Dr Hedgewar dedicated his life to the freedom movement. Methods never mattered to him. He moved closely with the revolutionaries, often acting as their guardian.
Simultaneously he joined and worked for the provincial Congress committee of the Central Province (CP). He also maintained active contacts with and extended cooperation to other organisations too, especially the Hindu Mahasabha.
Dr Hedgewar functioned as a Member of the Reception Committee when the Congress held its annual conference at Nagpur in 1921. He came in close contact with Gandhiji at that time and freely discussed his views on ?Total Independence? (Poorna Swaraj) with him.
He founded the RSS in 1925 with a long-term objective of uniting Hindus. He wanted the RSS to remain a non-political cultural movement. However he knew that Independence was the first pre-requisite for any society to progress and prosper. Hence he encouraged the members of the RSS to actively participate in all the movements of Independence including Congress and Hindu Mahasabha. He himself participated in all the major movements. He evolved the convention by which RSS cadres could join hands with the Congress and sometimes with the Mahasabha against the British in their ?individual capacity?.
The anti-Simon Commission movement in the CP was led virtually by RSS leaders. 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 Congress in its Lahore session (1929) passed a resolution for ?Total Independence? (Poorna Swaraj). The RSS extended uninhibited support to the Congress resolution. It issued a circular to all the 37 shakhas, which stated: ?This year the Congress has passed a resolution declaring complete Indepe-ndence 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 Sanghastans. 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 civil disobedience movement was launched in the CP in the form of the Forest Satyagraha in which the RSS participated on a massive scale notwithstanding their ideological differences with the Congress. One of the RSS leaders, Martandarao Jog, designated as Sir Senapati (commander-in-chief), was made the head of the volunteers? group. He violated the law by reading proscribed literature at a public meeting in Nagpur. Dr Hedgewar gave up the responsibility of Sarsanghchalak to participate in the movement and so did the other central office-bearers. Maharashtra,
a popular Marathi daily of Nagpur, reported that when Dr Hedgewar pro-ceeded to Pusad on July 12, 1930 to inaugurate the Satyagraha he was accom-panied by thousands of people includ-ing seven to eight hundred women. He and other RSS workers were arrested. Dr Hedgewar spent nine months in jail.
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 CP 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'scircular. 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.?
Many RSS workers took active part in the Quit India Movement. At Asthi-Chimur in Maharastra, the Swayamsevaks formed a parallel Government. The British struck back with fiendish fury over them. For two months the Delhi-Mujaffar Nagar railway line was put out of action by the young men of Delhi, most of whom were Swayamsevaks. Many eminent freedom fighters like Jayaprakash Narayan, Aruna Asaf Ali, Sane Guruji, Nana Patil and others were provided asylum by the RSS functionaries.
The history of the RSS, spanning over more than two decades before India'sindependence, is one of active participation in the anti-colonial struggle and unconditional cooperation not only with the Congress but also with any other group committed to the liberation of the motherland. The pratijna (pledge) of the RSS used to contain words ?desh ko swatantra kar? till Independence.