Whenever an honest evaluation of the contribution and impact of the social vision of Madhav Sadashivrao Golwalkar (Shri Guruji) will be attempted by even his worst critics seething with inveterate hatred and prejudice, they will be simply stunned by the sublimity of his concern and devotion for the cause of the poor and the deprived, the socially neglected and shunned part of the society, the industrial worker and even the helpless women working as domestic help.
This side of his personality and thought has never been brought out by the intellectuals who have always tended to assess and present him only within the frame of the Hindu-Muslim question or the much-maligned so-called ?Hindu conservatism.?
Shri Guruji'stireless pursuit for social integration and harmony by invoking and applying the fundamental Indian philosophy of oneness of the humankind and instilling a sense of pride in the greatness of the whole Indian society will also be found to have a little parallel in contemporary history. In this pursuit, he covered the whole of India more than 60 times in the 33 years he served as the Sar Sanghchalak of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS).
When the BJP swept the polls in the tribal areas of Chhatisgarh, Madhya Pradesh or Orissa, its opponents and the country'sself-styled ?expert? political analysts were shell-shocked with disbelief. They were at a loss to find a radical reason for this and interpreted it as an event caused by some immediate political factors rather than the result of a process initiated in the mould of the social vision and guidance of Shri Guruji to selflessly serve the Vanvasis.
He said it was our bounden duty to go and work among our deprived brethren and do our best to lift their standards of life. We should plan and implement schemes that would provide them with minimum needs of life. We should open schools, hostels and training centers for them. We should mix with them, eat with them, treat them with natural affection
Thousands of different kinds of service projects run by the Bharatiya Vanavasi Kalyan Ashram, Sewa Bharati, Vidya Bharati, Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, Bharat Vikas Parishad, Vishwa Hindu Parishad etc. keep reinforcing this process. All of these serve the poor and needy people in remote villages, tribal and hilly areas, and urban slums.
What is this social vision of Shri Guruji? Shri Guruji believed that the answer to social problems was available in the Indian concept of society. This concept is fundamentally different from that prevailing in the West, where society is a collective of individual interests and their relationship is of a social contract with it. But, in the ancient Indian thought, the whole society was perceived as one living body. The society was the manifestation of the divine. It was a virat samaj purush. The individuals were asked to worship it. It was said that a common consciousness of oneness runs through all members of the society. All individuals are imbibed fully with this consciousness being part of one big body. All have one common existence. Hence, each individual must care for the other.
Shri Guruji said it was our duty to awaken this inner feeling of oneness in every human being. In such a situation everyone will think of the good of the other along with or before his own good. Each one should accept that what is left with him after fulfilling his legitimate needs belongs to the whole society. If today we see poverty all over the country, it is the result of our having abandoned in practice this basic Hindu thought about the society. But, we must now prove by our conduct this great concept true for progress in all walks of life.
He said it was our bounden duty to go and work among our deprived brethren and do our best to lift their standards of living. We should plan and implement schemes that would provide them with minimum needs of life. We should open schools, hostels and training centers for them. We should mix with them, eat with them, treat them with natural affection and display unalloyed feeling of oneness with them. We should offer prayers to God together with them, without consideration of social status. In serving the people, there should be no discrimination whatsoever. All the needy whether they are Hindus or Muslims or Christians, must be served equally well?more particularly during natural calamities that make no distinction among their victims.
The basic tenet of this essentially Hindu philosophy about society is that we are all sons and daughters of the society and, therefore, we cannot but have the natural sentiment and instinct of total social harmony. Consequently, Shri Guruji'sfundamental approach to all social questions?be it the question of the linguistic differences in Punjab till the sixties, the problem of untouchability, exploitation of labour and other aspects of industrial relations, or even economic and political ideologies?was based on this philosophy.
It is this that made him to guide the Hindus of Punjab before the Census of 1961 in a manner that many of them felt deeply frustrated and in the first flush of emotions expressed their resentment over it. This was in the midst of a serious situation of social strife in the State when sentiments were running high due to the Akali Dal'sagitation for carving out of a Punjabi Suba on the one hand and the Hindu bodies? agitation for Maha Punjab on the other.
To many thinkers, it was being bold and courageous on the part of Shri Guruji to do so. But to him, it was the natural and the only right approach to the vexatious question as to what language should the Hindus of Punjab register as their mother tongue in the census. Shri Guruji not only asked the Hindus to declare Punjabi as their mother tongue, but also advised the Sikhs to write Hindu as their religion, as they shared the same religious, cultural and social traditions and ethos.
On the question of untouchability, he brought the dharmacharyas of all Hindu sects together, first at the Vishwa Hindu Parishad'sconference in Udupi (Karnataka) in 1969 and later at Prayag (Allahabad), where they pledged to eliminate the ills of untouchability and divisive tendencies of casteism and classism and work for promoting the complete harmony in the Hindu society. The founding of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad under his initiative and guidance was itself a kind of a marvel that brought all religious leaders including one of the strongest Akali leaders Master Tara Singh on one platform.
He once referred to the treatment being meted out by the Indian plantation owners to workers in their tea gardens and stressed the need for human approach towards them besides paying them the right wages. He had no hesitation in approvingly giving the example of the personal approach that some of the foreign plantation owners had been displaying towards their workers.
It was time, he said, that the tea producers and other industrialists realized their duty towards their large work force. To wipe out the tears from the eyes of these economically and socially exploited brethren, the feeling of caring affection and sense of belonging to one human community was essential on the part of the employers.
Shri Guruji disagreed with those owners who thought that leniency towards the employees makes them take undue advantage of it. This idea was misplaced and counter-productive. On the contrary, the worker would put his best foot forward for them if he got the feeling of being genuinely cared for.
On another occasion, Shri Guruji depicted the scene of a female domestic help having to continue to work while her little child keeps crying due to neglect but the man and the lady of the house do not ask her even to take a short break to sooth the child. He said it is our first duty to the nation to make our social life healthy in all respects, even in these little details.
Shri Guruji'sapproach on corruption and moral integrity may appear unconventional, but how humane it was, can be seen from what he said about it. Once a Sadhu met him who had taken upon himself the good job of preaching peons and clerks in government offices against the evil of taking bribe. Shri Guruji told him bribery was bad, but why tell only the poor peon who is economically weak and may have to feed a big family with his small earning? Why not peach the higher ups also? ?Go to them and see if they can be reformed.?
He believed that if the people higher up were moral and honest, then integrity and morality would progressively percolate down to the lowest level. Character building should start from the above and the provision of the physical needs should begin from below. ? I do not care if the people at the top remain hungry, but those who sweat day and night simply to survive, must be fed and nourished.?
No doubt, then Shri Guruji'ssocial contribution and impact, when assessed properly and impartially, will be considered unprecedented and legendary. There must be something out of the ordinary in his thought and action that he was able to move millions and millions of Indians behind him and built the world'slargest organisation of dedicated voluntary workers, the RSS.
(The writer is a veteran journalist and former editor, Nav Bharat Times.)