1947-1977 From Organisation to Movement : Spreading the Wings
Eminent thinker and ideologue explains the process of transformation in the second phase in which Sangh reshaped its objective from Indepndence to national reconstruction through unleashing organisational srength in various walks of life
It can be said that three decades from 1947 to 1977 form the second phase of the growth of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) from an organisation to a movement. 1947 marks the dawn of the Nation’s freedom whereas 1977 stands for the regaining of usurped liberty of free citizens. The hero of the first was the father and ironically the villain of the latter was the daughter.
The new role of Sangh was brought home to me in 1950. I vividly remember, I had gone to Chennai in the Sangh Training Camp in May, 1947. Every Trainee was expected to take an oath with the most important words ‘to liberate my motherland’. The next training classes were in 1950 after a gap of two years due to the intermediate ban upon Sangh. After joining the classes for my second year training, I learnt from my colleagues in the first year that there was a variance in the oath. The most important words now were ‘for the all round development of my motherland’ replacing the earlier ones ‘to liberate the motherland.’ Immediately after India attained freedom the script in the Sangh oath underwent a change. Now that the country has become free everyone individually, collectively and organisationally was expected to work for the all-round progress of the motherland. The change in the direction of Sangh oath meant precisely that.
These three decades presented before the swayamsevaks of Sangh the unexpected ban upon their organisation in 1948, the Goa Liberation Movement in 1955, the formation of linguistic states in 1956, the Chinese aggression in 1962, the birth centenary of Swami Vivekananda in 1963, the Pakistani war in 1965, the second Pakistani war in 1971, the development of dictatorial tendencies in the ruling political group resulting in the imposition of emergency all over the land in 1975 and finally the regain of the deprived individual liberty and resurrecting the democracy in 1977.
At the organisational level the swayamsevaks had to witness a change of guard from Shri Guruji Golwalkar to revered Balasaheb Deoras due to the death of the former in 1973. Organisationally Sangh was virtually an all Indik,m7a body having spread its work to all the boundaries of the nation. It reached overseas also. It had within its wide embrace thousands of self-thinking dedicated youths and there was no hierarchy of leadership. Sarsanghachalak was first among equals. The entire structure of the organisation was that of an extended Hindu joint family, wherein everyone thought of the well-being of all. None missed any opportunity to explore new direction or dimension. Every swayamsevak at individual, organisational and social level comprehended and responded to the above-mentioned happenings. Challenges were changed into opportunities resulting in accomplishments.
Many think that the ideal has to be updated. But for an idealist, it is not the ideal that has to be updated but the response in view of the ideal. To bring home to every member, the relevance of the ideal in the changed circumstances is the dexterous duty of the leadership. On this score, the Sangh was and is ever vigilant. Soon after the removal of the ban on July 12, 1949, within three months Shri Guruji gave three to five lectures in series in all the provinces to the key workers. As he wrote to Balasheb Khaparde, ‘to put the work back on rails’. At all India level there were three such reorientation classes for the district level workers, the first one in 1954 in Sindi near Nagpur from March 9 to 16, the second one in Indore in 1960 from March 6 to 13 and the third one in Thane, Mumbai in 1972 from October 28 to November 3.
In the very first series Shri Guruji, on December 23, 1949, said in his opening remarks “Two years earlier we had a similar meeting in Anand Parvat in Delhi to discuss, deliberate and decide the course of activities in the light of new circumstances. But unfortunately we were barred from working and put behind bars….”1 This clearly proves that Sangh leadership was thinking to condition its work to the post-freedom times. In the 1954 Sindi reorientation, the Sarsanghachalak exhorted, “Our workers deployed in various fields are like our ambassadors or field-marshals. With their wit and wisdom, by their hard work and sacrifice they have to bring about the desirable transformation in those fields and see that the Sangh ideal is fulfilled.”2
In the 1960 Indore Chintan Shibir he made it crystal clear that a well organised, disciplined, value-oriented dynamic society is our beau ideal. From this point of view, Sangh is not an organisation in the society, on the other hand, a model of organised society. Creation of workers through Sangh Shakha is but a step in that direction.3
In 1972 Thane shibir the final of the series Shri Guruji stressed,“The work is very vast. Fields of societal work are many. Demand for dedicated and competent workers is progressively increasing. To mould such workers is the need of times. There should be a core group to pay attention to the contingency.”4 In all these reorientation retreats his uncompromising emphasis was on day to day Shakha which has been unfailingly paying rich dividends to us to meet any situation, that enabled Sangh to sail safely through the rough seas towards its cherished goal.
In the first phase, the growth of Sangh was just like the coconut tree without any offshoot. But the very seed of it was like that of the proverbial Banyan tree with the inherent potential to ramify. The ban gave the first opportunity. A close observer will never fail to observe that the Sangh everywhere grew as a student movement, so much so Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru during ban derisively called it ‘body of urchins.” Some other high-up had said, “The cream of youth in Central Province is in RSS.” So to overcome the ban in a legal way in very many places students had formed their own groups under different names. Prominent were the groups of Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Central Province. Balasaheb Deoras brought them all together and prompted them to start Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP). It was born on July 9, 1949. The first offshoot of the Sangh movement. But earlier there was another offshoot that was formed in 1946; an institution legally formed called Bharat Prakashan, Delhi. It published Organiser as a weekly magazine.
‘Nation First’ Organisations
Sangh believes even today that the right mechanism to mould a right swayamsevak is the shakha and no newspaper can substitute it. Still swayamsevaks of Pranteeya stature started Organiser. Here there is no dichotomy. The leadership had forethought, ‘the dawn of freedom is fast nearing, India would in another few days will be a free democratic republic, India’s son or daughter will be the sovereign of India at individual level; he or she has to be educated nationally and politically; for that effective medium is newspaper; Organiser was born. The trend was taken up by every part of the land and by 1950 weeklies and monthlies appeared in almost all the major languages of India. In Nagpur Balasaheb Deoras and his chosen colleagues under the aegis of Narkesari Prakashan Trust had taken over the daily called Tarun Bharat. The resurrected first issue appeared on January 1, 1950. By 1975 even Kerala had a daily named Rashtra Varta. Delhi had started The Motherland as a daily in English only to be stifled by Emergency in 1975.
The second organisational offshoot of the great Hindu movement was Bharatiya Jana Sangh. India became a democratic republic and accepted adult franchise. Under the wide umbrella of Sangh lakhs of swayamsevaks were there. They too had become voters. Sangh had charged them with the mission off all-round progress of the nation. They could not afford to be apolitical. The national duty enjoined upon them was to cast their vote rightly according to their conscience. Now whom to vote was the question. To the partitionist of the sacred Motherland? No. To the traitorous communists? Never. Organised opinion alone does matter in a democracy. The connivance of it shall be a civic sin. So create an appropriate political body that was the only way. The lion of Bengal Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee was also thinking the same way. As a result in the residence of Nagpur Sanghachalak MN Ghatate, there was a sitting of Dr Mookerjee, Shri Guruji, Balasaheb Deoras and Bhaurao Deoras. The deliberation resulted in the formation of Bharatiya Jan Sangh.5 Fastidiously keeping up the distinct identity of the Sangh Shri Guruji cooperated with Dr Mookerjee by giving him tried workers like Nanaji Deshmukh and Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya. Bharatiya Jan Sangh became the first political party born in India with an Indian ideology fathered by an Indian to be contrasted with the Indian National Congress started by the British bureaucrat AO Hume as a petitioning body to the British rulers and the Communist Party of India as the sepoy party of Russia formed in the foreign land of Tashkent with a handful of persons who deserted India dubbing her as Dar-ul-harab.
Closely succeeding was the birth of another mass organisation in the trade-union field named Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh. In the post-freedom, post-ban conducive atmosphere the Sangh leadership was not averse to enter the trade-union field, but the opportunity was God-sent. Incidentally in 1950 PY Deshpande of INTUC extended an invitation to DB Thengadi, Sangh Pracharak to work for them. With Deorasji’s timely consent Thengadi avatarred as trade unionist and in due course on July 23, 1955 in Bhopal Bharatheeya Mazdoor Sangh was born.6
From factories to forest is a long way, a bit incredible! But for an organisation determined to ramify, everything is possible. Simultaneously almost Vanavasi Kalyan Ashram the organisation for the forest dwellers came into existence on the December 26, 1952. Ramakant Keshav Deshpande, was the Regional Development Officer among the tribals of the Central Province. Zealously diligent as he was, at the behest of the inconvenienced proselytising Christian missionaries he was on and often shuttled here and there by the corrupt political powers. Shri Guruji advised him to resign the job and practice as an independent lawyer to continue his mission. He readily agreed and later started Vanavasi Kalyan Ashram. Guruji sent young Pracharak Moreswar Ketkar to stand by him through thick and thin. They both with the active support of the Prince of Jesspur native state Vijay Bhushan Sing Judev launched the work in full steam.7
The last in the series of mass organisations to take shape in this period is Viswa Hindu Parishad (VHP). Here a wait up by a decade was necessary. To organise Sanyasins and religious heads especially in Hinduism is a steeply uphill task. But due to the cooperative efforts of Swami Chinmayanand, Shri Guruji and SS Apte the apparently impossible became virtually possible and VHP saw the light of the day, on the Sacred Janmashtami, August 29, 1964.
To cross the seas is to lose Hinduism said the old sterile Hindu. To cross the seas and establish is to energise Hinduism said the new virile Hindu. In September 1946, Jagadish Chandra Sharda Shastri of Punjab was sailing to Mombassa in the ship SS Vasna. On the deck he gained acquaintance of Manek Lal Rughani of Gujarat. Instinctively as if, both recognised each other as swayamsevaks and after a hearty long chit chat they sang Sangh Prarthana. They continued it for the rest of ten days of the voyage. By the time the strength of the team had increased to 17. That was the beginning of Sangh work overseas. Sangh work was literally crossing the seas! Later in Kenya regular Sakha was started.
In 1950 Dr Mangal Sen of Punjab had settled down in Burma (Myanmar). Being a swayamsevak he started Sangh in that country. Later after due consultation, in Kenya the work was named ‘Bharatiya Swayamsevak Sangh’ and in Burma Sanathan Dharma Swayamsevak Sangh. This was the beginning of Viswa Vibhag of Sangh and Ramprakashji Dheer was sent there as pracharak. The point to be remembered here is, it was not as a decision of the central leadership of Sangh that the sakha overseas was started but because the common swayamsevak thought of Sangh as an inseparable part of his very being. In this organisation, the most ordinary member is as much concerned as the top most leaders for its growth. Here the leadership happily concedes and subsequently recognises the dutiful efforts of the devoted swayamsevak. The proverbial ‘Go-Vatsa Nyaya’ – cow-calf maxim, namely the cow following the calf comes into operation.
During this three decade period, swayamsevaks started various institutions to meet the demands of their work-area. To mention only two of them, the first is the starting of Saraswati Vidyalay in 1952 in Gorakhpur. In a very short time such schools came up in thousands in UP and MP and today under the apex body of Vidya Bharati the work has spread all over Bharat and even in Nepal and Srilanka. It is the right antidote to the toxin of Macaulay.
The second one is the Kushta Nivarak Sangh of Chamba in Madhya Pradesh. Sadasiv Govind Katre a devoted swayamsevak employed in Railways fell a victim to leprosy. He took asylum in a Christian missionary leprosy home. He sorrowfully found that the missionaries were more interested in religious conversions than human service. He rebelled and turned an agitator. When he meet Shri Guruji in that turbulent mood, Guruji consoled him with a suggestive question “you are a swayamsevak. Why can’t you think that The All-Merciful God has given you this disease in order to work among such unfortunates?” Katre got light and he started leprosy home on May 5, 1962. During his last days, he was adored as Babaji in the entire area, now known as ‘Katre Nagar’. Today there are about 10 such asylums all over India.8
Balm to the Battered Souls
Many times organisations also like individuals are drawn to activities unthought of earlier. Here the commitment on one side and the events on the other join hands. That was what happened when Sangh had to start Punjab Relief Committee to give succour to the deprived millions during the days of partition. Since then Sangh has been in the forefront and in 1950 it had to constitute Basthuhara Sahaya Samiti in Bengal to help the Hindu refugees from East Pakistan. In the same year, Assam was reeling under the shock of the earthquake and the Sangh throughout the country came forward as one man to help the unfortunate brethren of the east. Since then it has become a practice of Sangh to rush up whenever and wherever natural or manmade calamities occur.
In this wake comes up to the role of Sangh during wars. Our Motherland was attacked four times since independence in 1947, 1965, 1971 by Pakistan, and in 1962 by Communist China. During all these attacks Sangh was in the forefront to give active civilian support to the nation’s military. It received the invitation of the Hon Prime Minister in 1963 to participate in the Republican Parade of the year in uniform. During the 1965 war, Hon Prime Minister, on September 5, invited the Sarsangahachalak of Sangh over phone to join all-party meeting of March 6 to discuss national defence. Shri Guruji was the only non-political leader there. It was in this meeting that he urged the Communist leader to say ‘our army’, instead of ‘your army’ which he was oft repeating. During this war, Guruji was even requested to address the Indian forces in Ambala, which he dutifully did.
The ban on Sangh in 1948 was a great blow to Sangh. The Congress was successful to a large extend to damage the image and prestige of Sangh. Swayamsevaks of those days had to bear the brunt with patience and fortitude. That they did. The great consoling change came due to the anti-cow slaughter campaign undertaken by Sangh just after three years. It was a 32 days Yagna from October 22 to November 22. Signatures of those who oppose cow–slaughter were to be collected by house to house visit and man to man contact. Right cause in the right country by the right group was the equation and secret of success. The number of signatures collected was 1,74,89,352, a world record. This grand campaign was the reinforcement of the cultural ethos nationally, the reawakening of the dormant identity socially and a psychological boost to every Sangh worker organisationally.
Four years rolled on. Sangh went a step ahead. Now it was a direct appeal of Sangh ideology. It decided to celebrate the 51st birthday of Shri Guruji, an unusual exercise in Sangh. It was 51 days long house to house campaign from January 18 to March 8, 1956. The public support and the acclamation by the luminaries in the nation once again proved that the organisation was on the right track.
Birth Centenary of Swami Vivekanada
Seven years over. Came 1963. Sangh decided to celebrate Swami Vivekanada’s birth centenary. To be very candid it was a tough campaign. The purpose was to awaken Indians to India’s immortal identity. Initially there was no agenda to erect a memorial for Swamiji. So as an item of the central decision Eknath Ranade had compiled the thoughts of Swamiji under the meaningful title of ‘Swami Vivekananda's Rousing Call to Hindu Nation.’ Two hundred paged English original was simultaneously translated in all the Indian major languages and almost one lakh copies were sold out. There was no town in India which did not hold a commemorative meeting.
Regarding the erection of the Vivekananda Rock Memorial circumstances in Kanyakumari so developed that Sangh had to take up the burden on its shoulders and a Hercules at that, Eknath Ranade was deputed. Swayamsevaks all over collected money at the rate of one rupee a person. The amount speaks out the number of donors. It was more than one crore! Many a broken temple may have been resurrected in India since the dawn of freedom. But The Rock Memorial is unique that it rose upon the bare rock brand new. It is the first one of its kind constructed by Hindus in the 20th century.
“Protecting the Hindu Dharma, Hindu culture and Hindu society…..’’ are the beginning words of Sangh Oath. Obviously, protection of the Hindu society is the primary concern of Sangh. Looking inwards the founder of Sangh saw that our society was divided. So right from the inception building up a harmonious consolidated society without a feeling of high and low was the aim of Sangh. Samajik Samarasata is the term in vogue in Sangh. Success smiled on Sangh on this score right from the times of the founder. In the winter camp of 1936, in Vardha even Mahatmaji heartily appreciated that. That story passed on in the second face also. 1969 is a year never to be forgotten. In the VHP conference held at Udupi, all the Saints unanimously declared ‘all Hindus are brethren with none high or low. It was repeatedly resolved in the conferences that followed all over the land. And the grand finale was on May 18, 1974 when Poojaneeya Balasaheb Deoras declared in the Vasanth Lectures of Pune that “If untouchability is no sin there is no sin on the face of earth whatsoever.”
Recovering the Lost Sheep
Sangh from the very beginning is against the conversion of Hindus to other religions. Any honest lover of Hindu Society will be pained if its numerical strength dwindles. Even Swami Vivekananda had painfully expressed in an interview that “every man going out of the Hindu pale is not only a man less, but an enemy the more.” Here the interviewer was none other than Sister Nivedita for Prabuddha Bharata, the official magazine of the Ramakrishna Mutt.9 Eknath Ranade has reproduced this interview in his earlier mentioned combination. But Shri Guruji made a new point in this regard. In the Rashtra Shakti Weekly of Nagpur October 25, 1955 he wrote “If freedom is to be fully translated into life all the ethnical Hindus who had perforce left their ancient faith and got converted to Islam and Christianity should come back to their ancient faith and join the mainstream of national life. Then only freedom will be complete.” 10 In all the felicitation speeches in 1956, he repeated this point further explaining “If due to long passage of time they had become ardently faithful as to be disinclined to jettison their religious beliefs, Hindus can have no quarrel with them as their God’s will be only two additional ones in the existing many. What is expected is, they should not defy their cultural origins and thereby alienate themselves.’’ This was surely an attitudinal change from defensiveness to dynamism, from protective insulation to assimilative inclusion. Yet Guruji had to till the land for a full decade when in 1966 all the religious heads unanimously resolved for it in the famous Kumbhamela Plenum of VHP. Hindu society was now ready to accept the prodigal sons.
The third decade of the second phase was politically foreboding and organisationally forewarning. The monopoly of Congress was gone, Sangh was forging ahead on all fronts and apprehensively Guruji’s body was being corroded by cancer. Subsequently, Guruji passed away and Balasaheb Deoras succeeded him. Congress declared emergency stifling fundamental individual liberty. Also Sangh was banned only because it was growing unbearably for the powers-that-be. It was the finest hour of the Sangh to fight for the democratic rights of the nation. It was a second struggle for national Independence as it were. Finally, Sangh and the nation won. Under the new leadership in the new atmosphere, the entire Sangh buckled once again to carry forward its victorious flag. Brotherhood in saffron was to grow.
This, in short, is the story of Sangh in its second phase. If the Sangh was shaping itself in its first phase as an ‘organisation’ it was unfolding itself as a ‘movement’ in the second one. If it cared and caressed to nourish and strengthen the cells and sinews of the organisation in the first phase it hungered and strove to apply itself to the needs and demands of the vibrant society in the second. Dadarao Paramath used to say “Sanghasthan is Hindusthan and Hindusthan is Sanghathan.” The first phase of Sangh vindicates the first half of Dadarao’s dictum and the second phase guarantees the vindication of the second.
1. Shri Guruji Samagra (SGS) – II – 49.
2. SGS – II – 172
3. SGS – II – 220
4. SGS – II – 321
5. Guruji Golwalker Jeevan Charitra – 328
6. Avismaraneeya Guruji – 107
7. Guruji Golwalker Jeevan Charitra – 303
8. Paramanada Madavam of Sunil Kirwai
9. Complete Works of Nivedita – V – 79
10. SGS – VI – 32
(The Writer is a Sr Pracharak and former Boudhik Pramukh of RSS)