1925-1947 The Organisation : Innovative still Eternal
Dr Hedgewar combined eternal values of our our nation with innovative techniques of organisation building. Due to his imagination and vision RSS Shakhas reached in all the provices of Bharat in his life time
The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh was founded in 1925 by Dr Keshav Baliram Hedgewar on the auspicious occasion of Vijayadashmi is a well known fact now. But who was Dr Hedgewar and why he started this organisation is not known to many of us.
The resident of Nagpur Dr Hedgewar was a born patriot. From childhood itself, he had a strong desire to overthrow the British rule from Bharat. At the age of 9-10, he was studying in third standard. On the occasion of the diamond jubilee of Queen Victoria’s coronation, celebrations were planned. Keshav threw the sweets distributed in a dustbin. This trait of young Keshav further evolved with the time. While he was studying for matriculation, a school inspection was expected. He decided to welcome the inspector with the slogan of ‘Vande Mataram’ as it was an act of treason from British point of view. He got students of both the divisions of matriculation together and explained them the plan. After listening the chanting of Vande Mataram class after class, the inspector was obviously furious. Annoyingly he asked headmaster to enquire about the incident and find the brain behind this. Headmaster thoroughly enquired about the leader but failed to get any clue. Finally, he decided to rusticate all the students of matriculation. Obviously worried parents approached the headmaster. He asked for a written apology from students which they refused. After persistent afforts from parents he came up with a solution. It was decided that the headmaster will ask each student ‘whether he made a mistake’ and he has to accept with nodding his head. All students ensured re-admission in the school with this nodding; again the only exception was Keshav.
Around same time, stalwart called Babasaheb Paranjape started a school for national education at Yavatmal. Dr Hedgewar joined the school with the recommendation from Dr Munje. This school was soon banned by the British government. Then Keshav Hedgewar went to Pune with his friends to join a school affiliated to National University, Calcutta. After studying there for two months, they opted for Amaravati as the exam centre. Keshav cleared the examination successfully. He got a certificate with a signature of none other than Dr Ras Bihari Bose, the great revolutionary.
5 Key Developments
Born Patriot RSS founder Dr Hedgewar was a born patriot. He deliberately went to Calcutta for medical education so that he could participate in revolutionary activities
From the beginning, Keshav was attracted towards revolutionary activities. Then the real fort of revolutionaries was Calcutta. He deliberately chose Calcutta to pursue his medical education in 1910 and established cordial relations with the revolutionaries. He eventually became an active member of the Anusheelan Samiti, the topmost body of the revolutionaries. In 1914, he completed his degree in medical called Licentiate in Medicine and Surgery (LMS). After spending one year in Calcutta for apprenticeship and he came back to Nagpur in 1916.
Entry in the Congress
While working with the revolutionaries in Calcutta he realised that independence cannot be attained by killing a couple of British officers.Therefore, departing from revolutionary path he started participating in Congress activities. Lokmanya Tilak with his slogan of “Swaraj is my birth right” was the tallest leader of Congress then and his action and conviction energised the youth. Dr Hedgewar wholeheartedly joined the Congress movement. He started giving aggressive speeches at many places. Finally, British government imposed ban on his speeches which could not stop the Doctor. At last, British registered a case against him under sedition laws. Doctor Ji defended himself in court. Pronouncing judgement in the case, the court considered his acts to be seditious and ordered one year rigorous imprisonment as the punishment. The date was August 19, 1921. After his release on July 12, 1922, a felicitation programme was organised in Vyankatesh Theatre which was attended by national level Congress leaders like Pt Motilal Nehru and Hakim Ajmal Khan.
Lokmanya Tilak passed away in 1920 and the reigns of Congress came in the hands of Mahatma Gandhi. After the World War I, the customary ‘Caliph’ position of the King of Turkestan was dissolved. This led to an eruption of Muslim anger world over. To channelise this anger for the independence movement through participation of Muslims, Mahatma Ji initiated the Khilaphat Movemnet. Instead of showing the anger against the British rule, Muslims started attacking their Hindu neighbours. The Moplah revolt of Malabar is a classic example of this. They slaughtered Hindus; those who prayed for mercy were converted to Islam and Hindu women were tortured.
And the RSS was born
Dr Hedgewar discussed with Matma Gandhi regarding the Khilaphat Movement but Gandhi ji could not satisfy him. This led to a new wave of thinking in Dr Hedgewar’s mind. He realised that the future of Hindustan is linked to the Hindu society. Therefore, the thought of Hindu organisation started haunting his mind which resulted into formation of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh in 1925.
There were some experienced people with him. But he started a daily Shakha for children from the age group of 12-14. This daily Shakha is the unique feature of RSS. This resulted into many miracles. There were many differences among Hindus. The daily Shakha eradicated all of them. Some of the social reformers tried to focus on differences to eradicate them. Doctor deliberately decided to draw a bigger line of ‘Hindu’ to minimise them.
In 1932, 8 to 10 Swayamsevaks from so-called untouchable castes came to the RSS winter camp. Some of the Swayamsevaks from other castes in the camp expressed their reservation and told the Doctor that they cannot have food with these Swayamsevaks. Doctor did not react harshly. He just said, “You can have your food separately. I will have food together with everyone.” 10-12 Swayamsevaks who had issues in having food with the so-called untouchables themselves became sort of untouchables. Eventually they also joined everyone for dining together.
There is an instruction in Sangh Shakha called “Ekashah Samapt”, which means “Fall in Line”. This simple instruction has a revolutionary effect. This makes everyone stand in one row, educated-illiterate, rich-poor, this caste or that caste etc. Then they walk together, eating together. He inculcated the value of unity and integration through simple means.
Dr Hedgewar evolved another innovative method that is ‘Guru-Dakshina’. Sangh decided that it will not ask donation from anybody. Nor there is any membership fee. Each Swayamsevak once in a year would pay back to the Guru (preceptor) with the sense of gratitude. The Guru is also not any individual but the symbol of purity, sacrifice and valour, Bhagwa Dhwaj (Saffron Flag). No individual is considered as Guru nor there any sloganeering in anyone’s name. Sangh decided to say “Bharat Mata Ki Jai” (Let there be Glory of mother Bharat) after the daily prayer in Shakha. This is the only slogan that is chanted in RSS Shakhas for the last 91 years. Money contributed with sense of gratitude was really beneficial for Sangh functioning as RSS remained self-reliant and autonomous. Today there are many Swayamsevaks who can contribute Lacs of rupees, no one except Shakha level office bearer comes to know about these amounts.
National Spread of Sangh
Sangh has a unique method of propagation also. RSS never grew through advertisement or giving sermons but through incessant efforts Sangh Karyakartas. There were no offices then. In Nagpur itself, RSS managed to have own national level office only in 1946. Till then Sangh was functioning from a rented house. But the message of Sangh had to be carried throughout India. For the purpose, Doctorji encouraged youth from a relatively well to do families to go to other provinces for higher studies. Accordingly, Rajabhau Paturkar went to Lahor for joining a college. Babakalyani from Vardha went to Siyalkot or Rawalpindi. Munje from Pawanar went to Punjab. Bhaiyya ji Dani went to Banaras. Bhaurao Deoras completed his BA from University of Nagpur, he was encouraged to pursue a commerce degree. He went to Lucknow where he completed his BCom and LLB. All these people were working for spreading the message of Sangh. The greatness of people like Bhaurao Deoras is such that he made people like Deendayal Upadhyay and Atal Behari Vajpayee as Swayamsevaks. While Sri Guruji, the Second Sarsanghachalak of RSS was Bhaiyyaji’s find at Banaras. After completing education in Nagpur, some Swayamsevaks were encouraged to take up some job in other provinces. So Gopal Yelkuntwar went to Mumbai, Dadarav Parmarth to Madras (present Chennai). Bapurao Diwakar went to Bengal and Bihar respectively. Bapusaheb Bhishikar, who later became the chief editor of Tarun Bharat, went to Karachi. Some of them came back after few years, while others remained Pracharaks throughout their lives. This is how the Sangh grew leaps and bounds all over Bharat.
Doctor Hedgewar breathed his last on June 21, 1940. Even after his poor health, he visited the camp on June 9, 1940. In a private closing ceremony, he said, “I can see a mini-Bharat in front of me”. From 1937, people who went to various provinces started Sangh Shakhas in all the provinces except Assam. Resultantly, in 1940, all these regions were represented in the RSS camp of 1940.
Doctor Hedgewar had a vision for national spread of Sangh work. Till 1939, the Sangh Prayer was half in Marathi and half in Hindi. Most of the orders in Shakha were the same. To discuss this issue a special meeting was called at Sindi near Nagpur and key 7-8 members brainstormed together for nearly 10 days. Along with the Doctor, Shri Guruji, Shri Appaji Joshi, Shri Balasaheb Deoras etc were there. After deliberating for 8 hours a day, a Marathi structure of the Sanskrit prayer was prepared. All orders were also Sanskritised. Later Shri Narhari Narayan Bhide from Nagpur translated that prayer in Sanskrit, the mother of all Bhartiya Languages and that is how Sangh Prarthana started in 1940.
Shri Guruji takes Over
After the death of Doctor on June 21, 1940, Shri MS Golwalkar alias Sri Guruji, assumed the responsibility as the Sarsanghachalak, as per the wish of Doctor Hedgewar. A day before his death, on June 20, 1940 he himself conveyed Sri Guruji, “Hereafter, you have to take the responsibility of the Sangh”. Krishnarao Moharil and Yadavrao Joshi were witness to this. They conveyed the news to everybody. On July 3, 1940 after the thirteenth day ceremony of Doctor Hedgewar, Babasaheb Padhye, Sanghachalak of Vidarbha Province officially announced the name of Shri Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar as the Sarsanghachalak. Shree Guruji carried on this responsibility for the next 33 years.
Quit India Movement
In this period of 33 years, Sangh made its mark in many spheres of national life. As this section is confined till 1947, we will consider only two critical situations Sri Guruji had to respond to as the Sarsanghchalak of RSS. The first one was pertaining to Quit India Movement in 1942 and the other one was of Partition.
Many would be surprised to know that Mahatma Gandhi did not intend to start the Quit India Movement in 1942 but in February 1943. Therefore, he had given six months time to the British to leave Bharat. The intelligence department of the British came to know about this plan. The governor of then United Province (present day Uttar Pradesh) informed the Viceroy by writing a letter that, “Gandhi is going to initiate a big movement in February 1943; simultaneously Subhash Chandra Bose is planning to attack with the help of Japan.” (Transfer of Power, British Archives declassified in 1972) British realised that Gandhi is not giving them time but buying time for building a nationwide movement. As all Congress leaders were expected to be in Mumbai on August 9, British took advantage of it and kept the warrants and possible destinations after arrest ready for them.
The nation was psychologically ready for the last struggle. Arrest of all the prominent leaders further aggravated the anger. But there was no coordination and planning. Resultantly, at some places it was very aggressive, while other places it was very silent. If there would have been a six months time as expected by Mahatma ji, then such planning would have been possible. He would have consulted everybody. External aggression on the Eastern front by Azad Hind Fauj and internal agitation collectively would have certainly cornered the British in which Sangh would have played its role.
Though Sangh did not take part in the movement as an organisation but Swayamsevaks certainly participated in the movement. Then Sangh did not have strength to initiate a movement on own. Some people feel that if Dr Hedgewar would have been alive, he would have put Sangh strength behind the movement. I can only say about them is they could understand either Doctor ji or the Sangh. In 1942, Ma Dattopant Thengadi had a discussion with Sri Guruji about the role of Sangh in 1942 movement. Sri Guruji told him that people have unrealistic perception about the Sangh strength. Sangh strength is limited from Gondia to Belgaum. This is mostly in central Bharat. In rest of the provinces, Sangh is not that strong. British would have cornered any such attempt by sangh and would have crushed the movement. This story was told to me by Ma Sudarshan Ji. [Ref: Sangh: Kal Aaj aani Udya (RSS: Past, Present and Future), appendix 1] Still, Sri Guruji conveyed the message to Swayamsevaks to support the movement as far as possible and they did it.
Sangh had a firm belief that Gandhi would not accept partition at any cost. There were concrete reasons for the same. In 1946 elections for the Assembly, Congress fought with the slogan of ‘Akhand Bharat’ while for the Muslim League separate Pakistan was the sole agenda. Congress won in all the provinces except Bengal, even in Muslim majority provinces like North-West Frontier Province. Therefore, there was no reason to believe that Congress would accept partition.
In November 1946, when Shri Guruji was staying at the place of Multana Sanghachalak Shri Baldev Barman, he asked Shri Guruji, “There is a lot of noise about Pakistan. Will it be reality?” Shri Guruji candidly replied, “I have a full faith in Mahatma Gandhi. He will never accept proposal of creating Pakistan. It is possible that he may accept the conditions put forth by Jinnah as a policy of Muslim appeasement for ensuring unity of the nation. But he will never accept for partition.” (Ref: Ranga Hari: Guruji Jeevan Charitra, P 124)
Jinnah had called for a direct action on August 16, 1946 to pressurise the Congress for partition. Calcutta witnessed brutal killings of Hindus. The same trend continued in Noukhali. The same situation was there in Punjab and Sindh. Hindus were not ready to face the brutalities of Muslims. Gandhiji even went ahead and proposed Lord Mountbatten, “ to dissolve the Nehru led government and let there be government as per Jinnah’s wish.” But other leaders of the Congress did not agree with this suggestion; they had made up their mind for partition.
Even during the times of direct action, Hindus fought back with great valour in Muslim dominated Punjab. RSS activist from Nagpur was a Pracharak at Montgomery district (present day Sahiwal in Pakistan). He has written an 80 pages booklet on the bravery of Swayamsevaks during the tragedy of partition. In Muslim dominated areas, Sangh Swayamsevaks brought Hindus and Sikhs together. In Multan and Montgomery districts, they travelled throughout the city secretly and passed on the information about the possible attacks. RSS dissolved the regular camps prematurely .
Acceptance of Partition
At last, Congress accepted the partition of the nation in the Congress session held on June 14-15, 1947. Govind Vallabh Pant proposed the resolution which was strongly opposed by Purushottam Das Tondon. Then Gandhi only came forward and explained the necessity of accepting the resolution. To avoid further referendum on partition, the date was advanced to August 14, 1947. This led to
further devastation. Thousands of dead bodies of Hindus started coming from Punjab. Lacs of people started
coming as refugees. Sangh started working for these
people. Punjab Relief Committee was formed. Sangh became very popular and all the refugees started saying that we were saved by Swayamsevaks. The power hungry Congressmen were jealous about this trend and started talking about banning the organisation. In fact, one day before Gandhiji’s murder, on 29 Jan 1948 Nehru was reported to have said that: “I will crush the RSS”. Gandhi assassination provided him with that opportunity. Sarsanghachalak Shri Guruji was arrested and RSS
This was a big blow to the Sangh working. It also proves the fact in the period of first 22 years, RSS expanded its work all over Bharat and the necessity
of organising the Hindu society was getting
The writer is a RSS idelogue and senior journalist