Intro: The Nehruites and Communists have manipulated the truth, distorted facts and misinterpreted incidents of the Freedom Struggle to defame the RSS.
There has been a propaganda against the RSS claiming that it remained aloof from the Freedom Struggle. Apart from some Left leaning academicians some politicians like Sitaram Yechuri, CPI ideologue KL Malhotra raised such questions. However a Marxist bites another Marxist. Veteran Communist leader EMS Namboodiripad (in his one of the most critical booklet BJP-RSS: In the service of the Right Reaction) reveals: “One of those who were highly impressed and inspired by the Savarkar thesis was Dr. Hedgewar, the founder of the RSS. 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 Satyagrah.” (p.8).
The Nehruites and Communists have manipulated the truth, distorted facts and misinterpreted incidents for their gains in the past too but what is conspicuous is the level the brain is being exercised to malign the face of the RSS by those who betrayed the most crucial struggle (Quit India Movement) for India’s Independence in 1942.
At no stage of the Freedom Struggle either the RSS as an organisation or any individual member of it cooperated or integrated with the colonial regime and administration. Even Bipin Chandra, a Marxist historian, conceded, however in a distorted manner, this truth when he says Hedgewar never integrated with the colonial regime. (Communalism in Modern India. P. 332). Both before and after the formation of the RSS, Hedgewar missed no opportunity to strengthen the anti-colonial struggle. To him, “there is no politics for a dependent nation other than the politics of Freedom Struggle. It is a sine qua non for it.”
Mahatma Gandhi’s call for Civil Disobedience Movement was responded by Hedgewar to such an extent that he transferred the responsibility of the Sarsanghachalak of the RSS to Dr Paranjape, and along with prominent leaders of the infant organisation, including Appaji Joshi, jumped into the movement. He was arrested in Yeotmal, while breaking the “Forest Law” and was sentenced to nine months prison. Can anyone imagine what would have been the reaction of the followers whose leader jumped into the movement and was imprisoned? In fact Hedgewar did not want to create another political centre by using the banner and platform of the RSS. They were already divisions in the Congress. Besides the Communists, Hindu Mahasabha, Muslim League, etc. had differences with the Congress not only on ideological plank but also in tactics, strategy and programmes too. It was on ominous sign for the Freedom Struggle. The need of the day was to accept the strategy and programmes of the Indian National Congress instead of beating drums separately under different banners what Hedgewar actually did.
Hedgewar’s political career begins from 1905 and ends with his death in 1940. In the first phase (1905 – 1918) of his political life, he was ‘an unalloyed Tilakite. Maharashtra witnessed two simultaneous lines in the public life one, propagated by Agarkar, emphasised the necessity of social radicalism as precondition of political change. But, Tilak emphasised on political activities as the first priority. Hedgewar endorsed Tilak’s approach.
Pandurao’s Khankhaje, leader of Swadesh Bandhav, a revolutionary organisation, wrote in Kesari, “Hedgewar and the other young men were in the forefront of Swadeshi propaganda and delivering speeches”. After joining the National Medical College in Calcutta in 1910 with the sole aim to participate in revolutionary activities, he became active member of “Anushilan Samiti” with his code name “Koken”. He was closely associated with revolutionaries like Nalini Kishor Guha (who provides authentic account of Hedgewar’s revolutionary activities in Calcutta during his stay from 1910 – 1916). After his return from Calcutta to Nagpur, he used his contacts to organise revolutionaries with a plan of “armed revolt” which, according to PL Joshi (in his article “Mobilisation in Vidharba by Tilak in Political thought and leadership of Tilak” edited by NR Inamdar P. 370) was dropped on the advice of Tilak. Hedgewar’s revolutionary group was the biggest one and consisted of 150 hard core revolutionaries. GM Huddar says Hedgewar’s revolutionary group resembled a secret “conspiratorial group” of young men. (GM Huddar in—RSS and Netaji in the Illustrated Weekly of India, Oct. 7, 1 1979). His plan of armed revolt was not an isolated case of adventurism but it was coincided by his manifesto for India’s Independence which was to be declared from many countries. He postponed his plan on the advice of Dr BS Moonje.
The second phase of his political career begins with his active participation in the Amritsar Congress in 1919 and soon he was elected the secretary of the Central Provinces Congress Committee. His differences with Tilak and Moonje came on the surface on the question of World War—I and Non Co-operation Movement respectively. He refused to toe Tilak’s line of “passive co-operation” during the war period (1914-1919) and separated himself from the political forum of Tilakites i.e. Rashtriya Mandal and formed Nagpur National Union to campaign for Complete Independence. Thus he foresaw the Congress resolution of Complete Independence in 1930. Moreover, the most conspicuous political action of Hedgewar was his voice against both imperialism and capitalism. He moved a parallel resolution in the subject committee of Nagpur session of the Congress in 1920 stating—“the goal of the Congress is to establish a republic in India and free the countries of the world from exploitation by capitalist countries.”
Another important incident is revealed by Sri Aurobindo’s biography (Published by Publication Division in the series of Builders of Modern India, by MP Pandit 1983 P.270) that Hedgewar the then secretary of CP Provincial Congress went to Pondicherry to draw back Aurobindo, who had been living sequesteral life since 1910 and was considered by Hedgewar as only alternative to fill the lull created by Tilak’s death before the Nagpur Congress, in to politics. Hedgewar requested him to accept the Presidentship of the Congress in that hour of great crisis of leadership. Being a pioneer of cultural renaissance and a man of non-compromising character, Aurobindo was fittest person to lead the Congress and Freedom Struggle. However Aurobindo moderately declined. (Explanatory letter of Shri. Aurobindo dated August 30, 1920, Sri Aurobindo himself Vol.26, P.432-34, Sri Aurobindo birth centenary library).
Hedgewar’s vision for declaring Complete Independence was transformed into action with Congress decision to observe January 26, 1930 as Independence Day. His circular to RSS shakhas reads, “that the Indian National Congress too has adopted a goal of Independence naturally gives us immense joy. It is our duty to co-operate with any orgainsation working for the cause… Therefore on the evening of 26.1.1930 all the shakhas of the RSS should hold rallies of Swayamsevaks at their respective places and worship national flag i.e. the Bhagwa Dhwaj. Through speeches it should be explained what is the meaning of Independence and why we should work with the end in view. The rallies should conclude by complementing the Congress for accepting the goal of Independence.” This fact is accepted by even the worst RSS critics like Sumit Sarkar in his tract “khaki shirt and saffron flag”.
Anti-imperialist struggle was complemented by RSS activities and despite the ideological commonality between the RSS and the Hindu Mahasabha on the question of Hindu nationalism, Hedgewar preferred Congress to Hindu Mahasabha. He and the RSS did not lend support to the strategy and tactics of the Mahasabha and instead accepted the hegemony of the Congress as the only prime platform to lead the freedom struggle.
Rakesh Sinha (The writer is a honorary Director of Indian Policy Foundation)