Mahatma Gandhi and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh
Shanti Prasad Agrawal
Rahul Gandhi has most childishly, but intentionally and most mischievously, opened the lid of a long closed casket just in the false hope of garnering votes for the Congress in the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections. About a month back, I was sitting with a displaced Punjabi gentleman whose sister with her six-month old son was hidden in a pit and thus protected by an RSS Swayamsevak in September-October 1947, at the end of our long conversation lamented that if Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) had not been falsely implicated of the murder of Gandhiji, it would have risen quite high by now.
Keshav Baliram Hedgewar, born and brought up in Nagpur in 1989 who had lost both of his parents in the plague epidemic of at his age of 13, graduated from National College of Medicine, Calcutta in 1914. Although, there were only 75 private doctors in whole of Central Bharat, Dr Hedgewar did not go for practice and opted to do service to the nation, without tying the nuptial knot. He joined Congress and volunteered in many sessions of Congress alongwith Mahatma Gandhi. He participated in Non-cooperation movement of 1921 and went to jail. On return, he pondered over the root cause of India’s subjugation and came to the conclusion that India came under invaders and alien businessmen only because of her divisions on the count of caste, creed, etc. In order to unite Hindus and to inculcate goodsamskars in them, he founded Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in 1925.
On December 25, Gandhiji visited the four day camp in Wardha alongwith Mahadev Bhai Desai, Mira Ben and other inmates of Gandhiji’s ashram. Gandhiji saw various activities there and was greatly impressed by the things. Dr Hedgewar came to Wardha the next day and went to see Gandhiji in his ashram. Gandhi conveyed him his pleasure of visiting the camp and wanted to know how in a very short time.
In 1936, Vasant Lal Oak, an RSS pracharak was sent from Nagpur to Delhi to initiate Sangh shakhas there. He stayed in Hindu Mahasabha Bhawan on Mandir Marg near Birla Mandir in New Delhi. Soon he mingled with young boys of 20-22 years of age playing daily in the adjacent maidan. The first RSS shakha in Delhi was held adjacent to Valmiki Basti situated at the point where Mandir Marg makes a T-point with the present Panchkuian Road. Sometime between 1940 and 1945, city office of RSS also started functioning. In the very same maidan, RSS shakha was held in the morning, RSS swayamsevaks played and practiced danda and other sports/games whole day, Gandhiji held his evening prayer meetings when he was there.
Umpteen number of Sangh swayamsevaks took part in the Quit India movement of 1942, initiated by Mahatma Gandhi. Many of these swayamsevaks were arrested and some of them were even awarded death sentences.
Although Mahatma Gandhi accepted partition, he was never in favour of it, as is evident from the fact that he did not take part in any festivity of Independence. RSS was totally against partition and, therefore, there was no question of any Sangh swayamsevak celebrating Independence. Sangh has always fought for ‘Akhand Bharat’ and even today it cherishes such a goal. Even many reputed Muslims were not in favour of partition. The leader of the Muslim League party in the Orissa Assembly had observed: “The Muslims of the Indian Union now realise that they have committed a blunder in supporting the movement for Pakistan. The sponsors of Pakistan forgot the pledge given to us, minorities, and in the exuberance of joy committed overt acts which led the non-Muslim minorities to apprehend danger at the hands of the Muslim majority.”
Gandhiji reached Delhi from Calcutta on September 9, 1947. On the September 12 he visited the Jama Masjid. In the afternoon a prominent Muslim League leader came to see him. Same day Guruji M S Golwalkar called upon him.
Tuesday, September 1947 16, early morning Gandhiji’s desire to meet ground level Sangh karyakartas (workers) was conveyed to Sangh adhikaris. Vijayji was RSS Vibhag Pracharak, Vasant Rao Oak, Prant Pracharak and Damleji, Saha-vibhag-pracharak.
About 1000 (500 reported by Hindi Hindustan in its report of the meeting in the issue dated September 17, 1947) RSS gatanayaks gathered in the Sanghasthan in Valmiki Basti. Damleji was Mukhya Shikshak of that congregation.
Gadhiji started with the mention of his visit to an RSS camp in Wardha years back. He said that, “Sangh is doing very good work. Placing his hand on his chest, he said that he was a Hindu, a Sanatani Hindu from there. He was not an enemy of Sikhs. Gandhiji recited the group song 'Hindubhoomi ka kana-kana ho shakti ka avatar…’. Full speech of Gandhiji is recorded at pages 193 to 195 of the eighty ninth issue of The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi.
I asked Damleji his reaction on Gandhiji's visit to RSS ekatrikaran. He said that Gandhiji was leading the nation but Sangh did not follow him. It was a Sangathan in which Gandhiji came some time. By visiting Sangh activities, he ended his Sanatani form.
RSS was totally absolved in 1949 itself of its any hand in the murder of Gandhiji after proper enquiry.
(The writer is former Controller of Programmes, Doordarshan)
On the evening of 30th Jan. 1948, Shri Guruji was present at a meeting of prominent citizens of Madras organised by the Sangh. Tea was being served and Shri Guruji was holding the cup in his hands. Suddenly, before he could take it to his lips, the evil tidings came – somebody had shot Gandhiji dead at the Birla Bhavan in Delhi during his prayer meeting.
On hearing the terrible news, Shri Guruji put down his cup, and sat still for a long moment, lost in thought. Then he exclaimed in anguish – ‘What a misfortune for the country!’ Cancelling the rest of his tour, he flew back to Nagpur. Before leaving Madras, he sent telegrams of condolence to Pt. Nehru, Sardar Patel and Shri Devdas Gandhi. At the same time he also issued a country-wide directive to keep all Sangh Shakhas closed for thirteen days as an expression of grief over the tragedy.
On returning to Nagpur, he immediately wrote letters to Pt. Nehru and Sardar Patel expressing his deep sense of anguish over Gandhiji’s tragic end. In his letter to Pandit Nehru, he wrote, in essence, “The attack on such a deft helmsman who held so many diverse natures in a single string bringing them to the right path, is indeed a treacherous act not merely to an individual but to the whole country. No doubt you, that is the Government authorities of the day, will deal suitably with that traitorous individual. But now is the testing time for all of us. The responsibility of safely steering the ship of our Nation ahead in the present troubled times with an unruffled sense of judgement, sweetness of speech and single-minded devotion to the Nation’s interest is upon all of us.”
In the letter to Sardar Patel, Shri Guruji wrote: “Let us shoulder the responsibility that has fallen upon us by the untimely passing away of that great unifier, keeping alive the sacred memories of that soul who had tied diverse natures in a single bond and was leading them all on a single path. And let us, with the right feelings, restrained tone and fraternal love, conserve our strength and cement the national life with everlasting oneness.”
Shri Guruji concluded both the letters by saying: “On behalf of the Organisation which is built on this faith and on this basis oneness, I pray at the Feet of the All-Merciful Lord to guide all the children of this Nation on the right path and inspire them for the building up of a pure and powerful national life.”
(Shri Guruji: Pioneer of A New Era CP Bhishikar, Translated into English by Sudhakar Raje, Sahitya Sindhu Prakashan, Bangalore, p 61-62)
Godse was a Member of Congress Too – Prof Rajendra Singh Ji
Prof. Rajendra Singh, 4th Sarsanghchalak of RSS in an interview to Outlook (Jan 1998) said regarding Godse “Initially, he was a member of the Congress, later he joined the RSS and left it subsequently, saying that it was a slow organisation. Then he formed his own group.” Godse left the RSS in 1934 and joined the HMS as per his own admission to the court. He then formed his own group. Gandhi was assassinated in 1948. Prof.Rajendra Singh had asked, “If investigations were done on whether RSS was involved in the assassination, why were there no investigations whether Congress was involved in allowing the assassination to happen” ? ( since he was a member of both the organizations and had left them).
The case was first heard at Red Fort by Justice Atmacharan who didn’t find any RSS link. Nor the bench headed by Justice Khosle. “Later, Nehru even ordered a probe which drew a blank. After this, in 1966 Indira Gandhi ordered judicial probe headed by Justice JL Kapoor who also couldn’t find any RSS connection”, Thomas revealed. When the whole judicial and democratic means had been expended, the country should put an end to the debate, he said. “It’s unjust and unfair to drag the RSS name again and again”, he said.