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45th anniversary of Emergency: How RSS leaders 'kowtowed' to Indira Gandhi

Ram Madhav
By Shamsul Islam* 
RSS is a Hindutva gurukul (university) which appears to be specializing in training cadres in speaking lies and manufacturing history. As a latest proof, we find on the 45th anniversary of the Emergency, an ideologue of RSS, Ram Madhav, a prominent graduate of the above gurukul, to claim that Indian democracy survives due to "leaders in the government who fought for that very freedom and are committed to liberal democratic values, not just as a matter of compulsion but as an article of faith."
His take is that RSS-BJP leaders fought against the Emergency not due to any compulsion but as article of faith in democracy. Both the claims are while lies, not because many of the critics claim but even as per the contemporary RSS documents available.
Let us take first the claim that the RSS-BJP rulers are/have been committed to the liberal democratic values as a faith. The most prominent ideologue of the RSS, MS Golwalkar (whom Prime Minister Narendra Modi credits for grooming him into a political leader while addressing the 1,350 top level cadres of the RSS in 1940 declared, "RSS inspired by one flag, one leader and one ideology is lighting the flame of Hindutva in each and every corner of this great land."(Golwalkar, MS, “Shri Guruji Samagar Darshan” [collected works of Golwalkar in Hindi], Bhartiya Vichar Sadhna, Nagpur, vol I, p 11.)
With such a philosophical liking for totalitarianism the RSS hated sharing of power. It could be seen in its strong opposition to the federal structure of the constitution, a ‘Basic’ feature of the India polity. Golwalkar declared in 1961, "Today’s federal form of government not only gives birth but also nourishes the feelings of separatism, in a way refuses to recognize the fact of one nation and destroys it. It must be completely uprooted, constitution purified and unitary form of government be established."(Ibid, vol III, p 128.)
So far Emergency is concerned the RSS claim of fighting against it needs to be evaluated in the light of contemporary narratives including the RSS documents. In this connection two narratives one by a veteran thinker and journalist of India, Prabhash Joshi and the other by TV Rajeswar, former Intelligence Bureau (IB) chief who was the deputy chief of IB during the Emergency are of immense importance.
They recounted the days of Emergency (or state terrorism) when RSS surrendered to the repressive regime of Indira Gandhi, assured her and her son, Sanjay Gandhi to enforce faithfully the draconian 20-point programme announced by the Emergency regime. Large number of RSS cadres came out of jails by submitting maafinamaas (mercy petitions).
The narrative by Prabhash Joshi appeared in the English weekly “Tehelka” on the 25th anniversary of the Emergency. According to him even during the Emergency "there was always a lurking sense of suspicion, a distance, a discreet lack of trust" about RSS joining the anti-Emergency struggle. He went on to say that:
"Balasaheb Deoras, then RSS chief, wrote a letter to Indira Gandhi pledging to help implement the notorious 20-point programme of Sanjay Gandhi. This is the real character of the RSS...You can decipher a line of action, a pattern. Even during the Emergency, many among the RSS and Jana Sangh who came out of the jails, gave mafinamas. They were the first to apologise. Only their leaders remained in jail: Atal Behari Vajpayee (most of time in hospital), LK Advani, even Arun Jaitley. But the RSS did not fight the Emergency. So why is the BJP trying to appropriate that memory?"
Prabhash Joshi's conclusion was that "they are not a fighting force and they are never keen to fight. They are basically a compromising lot. They are never genuinely against the government". 
There was always a lurking sense of suspicion, a distance, a discreet lack of trust about RSS joining the anti-Emergency struggle
TV Rajeswar, who served as Governor of Uttar Pradesh and Sikkim penned a book, 'India: The Crucial Years” [Harper Collins] corroborated the fact that "Not only they (RSS) were supportive of this [Emergency], they wanted to establish contact apart from Mrs Gandhi, with Sanjay Gandhi also".
Rajeswar in an interview with Karan Thapar disclosed that Deoras "quietly established a link with the PM's house and expressed strong support for several steps taken to enforce order and discipline in the country. Deoras was keen to meet Mrs. Gandhi and Sanjay. But Mrs. Gandhi refused.
According to Rajeswar's book:
“RSS, a right-wing Hindu nationalist organisation, was banned in the wake of the Emergency. But its chief, Balasaheb Deoras, quietly established a link with the PM’s house and expressed strong support to several steps taken to enforce order and discipline in the country. Sanjay Gandhi’s concerted drive to enforce family planning, particularly among Muslims, had earned Deoras’s approbation.”
Rajeswar also shared the fact that even after Emergency the "organization (RSS) had specifically conveyed its support to the Congress in the post-emergency elections." It will be interesting to note that even according to Subramanian Swamy during the Emergency period, most of the senior leaders of RSS had betrayed the struggle against the Emergency.
Indira Gandhi, Balasaheb Deoras
The contemporary documents in the RSS archives prove the narratives of Prabhash Joshi and Rajeswar truthful. The 3rd Supremo of RSS, Madhukar Dattatraya Deoras wrote the first letter to Indira Gandhi within two months of the imposition of Emergency. It was the time when state terror was running amok. In letter dated, August 22, 1975 he began with the following praise of Indira:
"I heard your address to the nation which you delivered on August 15, 1975 from Red Fort on radio in jail (Yervada jail) with attention. your address was timely and balanced so I decided to write to you". (Madhukar Dattatraya Deoras, “Hindu Sangathan aur Sattavaadi Rajneeti”, Jagriti Prkashan, Noida, 1997, p 270.)
Indira Gandhi did not respond to it. So Deoras wrote another letter to Indira on November 10, 1975. He began his letter with congratulating her on being cleared by the Supreme Court of disqualification which was ordered by the Allahabad High Court:
"All the five Justices of the Supreme Court have declared your election constitutional, heartiest greetings for it." It is to be noted that opposition was firmly of the opinion that this judgment was 'managed' by the Congress. In the course of the letter he declared that "RSS has been named in context of Jaiprakash Narayan's movement. The government has also connected RSS with Gujarat movement and Bihar movement without any reason...Sangh has no relation with these movements..."(Ibid, p 272-73)
Since Indira Gandhi did not respond to this letter also, RSS chief got hold of Vinoba Bhave who supported the Emergency religiously and was a favourite of Indira Gandhi. In a letter dated January 12, 1976, he begged that Acharya should suggest the way that ban on RSS was removed.(Ibid. 275-77.)
Since Acharya too did not respond to Deoras letter, the latter in another letter without date wrote in desperation:
"According to press reports respected PM (Indira Gandhi) is going to meet you at Pavnar Ashram on January 24. At that time there will be discussion about the present condition of the country. I beg you to try to remove the wrong assumptions of PM about RSS so that ban on RSS is lifted and RSS members are released from jails. We are looking forward for the times when RSS and its members are able to contribute to the plans of progress which are being run in all the fields under the leadership of PM." (Ibid, p 278. Click here for letters in Hindi, reproduced from a publication of RSS.)
It is to be noted that former President of the Indian Republic, Pranab Mukherjee was invited by the RSS chief, Mohan Bhagwat as the chief guest at the graduation ceremony of its new recruits must be working over-time to convert India into a Hindu state. Pranab Mukherjee was indicted as one of the top leaders of Congress for Emergency excesses. The tragedy of RSS is that India continues to be run under a democratic polity so its love for brazen power has to be balanced by playing double-game.
Despite these facts thousands of RSS cadres continue to get monthly pension for the persecution during Emergency. The BJP-ruled states like Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Maharashtra decided to award a monthly pension of Rs 20,000 to those who were jailed during the Emergency period for less than two month and Rs 100,00 to those who were jailed for less than a month.
This rule took care of the financial interest of those RSS cadres who submitted mercy letters completing only one or two months' jail term. For securing such a fat pension there was no such condition that the beneficiary should have been in jail for the whole period of the Emergency.
Interestingly, in the case of anti-British freedom struggle there has not been even a single RSS cadre to claim the freedom fighter pension. It may be noted that nobody remembers hundreds of Communist youth, branded as Naxals who were killed in fake encounters during the Emergency. Interestingly, Shiv Sena, the Hindutva co-traveler of the RSS openly supported the Emergency.
---
*Formerly with Delhi University, Prof Islam’s writings can be read here. Twitter: @shamsforjustice

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