Skip to main content

Truth behind RSS claim: Did Hegdewar, Vajpayee participate in freedom movement?

By Ram Puniyani* 

As RSS, the parent organization of the ruling BJP, has grown tremendously during the last few years, attempts are being made by ideologues from its stable to prove that it was a major player in the freedom struggle. Rakesh Sinha, a well-known RSS ideologue and currently BJP MP in Rajya Sabha, claims that the Civil Disobedience Movement was “invigorated” due to the participation of RSS founder KB Hedgewar.
There are other claims which go farther. One Saji Narayan states that RSS was in the thick the of freedom movement. Someone has also recalled that the onetime RSS pracharak and ex-Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had claimed to have participated in the freedom movement.
The debate came to the fore once again, when Maharashtra chief minster Uddhav Thackeray while replying to the motion of the governor said that RSS never participated in the freedom movement and that merely chanting Bharat Mata Ki Jai does not make one patriotic. In response to Thackeray’s statement, former Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadanvis said Hedgewar was a freedom fighter.
A deeper analysis reveals that Muslim and Hindu nationalists (Hindu Mahasabha and RSS) did not participate in the struggle for India’s Independence. India’s struggle against the British was led by Mahatma Gandhi, it was all inclusive, and it cut along linguistic and religious boundaries and gave an overarching Indian Identity to the majority of the people.
The communal streams remained aloof from this as their major agenda was nationalism in the name of their religion. Each of them believed that they should cooperate with the British to oppose the ‘other’ nationalism. Muslim nationalism aimed to oppose Hindu nationalism by cooperating with British, and vice versa.
As far as Hindu nationalists are concerned, there are stray exceptions when they were part of the national movement. At most of the times they either remained aloof from it or cooperated with the British. Vinayak Savarkar in his pre-Andaman days did struggle against the British rule, but after he apologized to the British to get released, he never participated in the anti-British movement. In fact, he supported the British war efforts by recruiting soldiers for the British. That was at a time when Subhash Bose formed Azad Hind Fauz to fight the British.
Fadanvis is partly correct when he says that Hedgewar was a freedom fighter. Hedgewar did participate in the 1920s in the Non-cooperation Movement, and was sentenced to jail for a year. After the formation of RSS in 1925, on two occasions he partly aligned with the Indian national movement. But at both these occasions, his differences with Indian nationalism were apparent as he flaunted his Hindu nationalism.
As Prof Shamsul Islam points out: 
“We are told that Hedgewar joined the call of the 1929 Lahore Congress that called for a public unfurling of the Tricolor on every January 26. RSS, under the command of Hedgewar, refused to follow it. Instead on January 21, 1930, he ordered all the RSS shakhas to worship ‘Rashtriya dhwaj arthat bhagwa dhwaj, national flag i.e. saffron flag’.”
So the difference in the approach is very obvious despite RSS people partly showing support for celebrating January 26 as the day of complete Independence. In fact, they replaced the national call of hoisting Tricolor by hoisting of the saffron flag, symbol of Hindu nationalism.
It was ideological commitment to build Hindurashtra that led Hedgewar and others to go jail as Congressmen
It is also true that Hedgewar joined the Civil Disobedience movement in 1930. But Hedgewar made it clear that he was joining the movement in his individual capacity, and for this he handed over the post of sarsanghchalak (the supreme chief) to his friend and colleague Dr Paranjape till he was in jail.
Hedgewar’s biography by CP Bhishikar points out that the RSS founder gave instructions that “the Sangh will not participate in the [Salt] Satyagrah.” Referring to his motive to join the freedom movement, Bhishikar says, it was not to lend strength to the national movement but, “with a freedom loving, self-sacrificing, and reputed group of people (of the Congress) inside with him there, he would discuss the Sangh with them and win them over for its work.”
The biggest movement against the British also saw RSS obeying the British dictates. Golwalkar instructed the shakhas of RSS to continue with their routine work and not to do anything that would annoy the British. In “Guruji Samgra Darshan” (Vol 4, page 39), Golwalkar says:
“There was some unrest in the mind due to the situation developing in the country from time to time. There was such unrest in 1942. Before that there was the movement of 1930-31. At that time many other people had gone to Doctorji (Hedgewar). The delegation requested Doctorji that this movement will give independence and the Sangh should not lag behind.
“At that time, when a gentleman told Doctorji that he was ready to go to jail, Doctorji said ‘definitely go, but who will take care of your family then?’ The gentleman replied, ‘I have sufficiently arranged resources not only to run the family expenses for two years but also to pay fines according to requirement’. Then Doctorji told him, ‘If you have fully arranged for the resources then come out to work for Sangh for two years’. After returning home, that gentleman neither went to jail nor came out to work for the Sangh.”

This again is related to RSS ideology of Hindu nationalism. In the “Bunch of Thoughts”, Golwalkar denounces the freedom struggle as “territorial nationalism” which “…had deprived us of the positive and inspiring content of our real Hindu nationhood and made many of the ‘freedom movements’ virtually anti-British movements”.
It was this ideological commitment to building Hindurashtra that led Hedgewar and others to go jail as Congressmen and not as a part of RSS, which all through remained aloof, even as opposing the freedom movement, whose goal was Indian nationalism.
On instruction of the British, Golwalkar instructed RSS to organise military drill and gave it a uniform too. On April 29, 1943 he issued a circular which said: 
“We have to remain the bounds of law and do our work.” A year-and-a-half after the Quit India movement was launched, the Bombay government of the British Raj noted in a memo, with considerable satisfaction, that “the Sangh has scrupulously kept itself within the law, and in particular, has refrained from taking part in the disturbances that broke out in August 1942.”
The Vajpayee story has also has a twist. In the context of elections (1998), he issued a statement saying that he had participated in the freedom movement. As the matter was investigated, it came out that he was a mere onlooker in one of the processions in Bateshwar (his native village). He was following the agitators, and as the police lathicharged, he was arrested with the protesters. As per Vajpayee, he was also arrested. Immediately he wrote to letter seeking apology and disowning the protesters. He even named leaders of the protest.
---
*Distributed by Peoples Media Advocacy & Resource Centre- PMARC. A version of this article was first published here

Comments

TRENDING

Ganga world's second most polluted river, Modi's Varanasi tops microplastics pollution

By Rajiv Shah  Will the new report by well-known elite NGO Toxics Link create a ripple in the powerful corridors of Delhi? Titled “Quantitative analysis of microplastics along River Ganga”, forwarded to Counterview, doesn’t just say that Ganga is the second most polluted river in the world, next only to Yangtze (China). It goes ahead to do a comparison of microplastics pollution in three cities shows Varanasi – the Lok Sabha constituency of Prime Minister Narendra Modi – is more polluted compared to Kanpur and Haridwar.

How real is Mamata challenge to Modi? Preparing for 2024 'khela hobey' moment

By Prof Ujjwal K Chowdhury*  Third time elected West Bengal Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee is on a whirlwind tour of Delhi, meeting everyone who matters within and beyond the government, the Prime Minister, the President, some Cabinet ministers, Sonia and Rahul Gandhi, several other opposition leaders, et al.

Did Modi promote Dholavira, a UNESCO site now, as Gujarat CM? Facts don't tally

By Rajiv Shah  As would generally happen, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s tweet – that not only was he “absolutely delighted” with the news of UNESCO tag to Dholavira, but he “ first visited ” the site during his “student days and was mesmerised by the place” – is being doubted by his detractors. None of the two tweets, strangely, even recalls once that it’s a Harappan site in Gujarat.

UP arrest of 'terrorists': Diverting attention from Covid goof-up, Ram temple land scam?

By Advocate Mohammad Shoaib, Sandeep Pandey* That corruption is rampant in police department is a common experience. However, there is another form of corruption which devastates lives of individuals and their families. It has now emerged as a common phenomenon that police more often than not register false cases because of which individuals have to spend number of years in jail.

If not Modi, then who? Why? I (an ordinary citizen) am there! Main hoon naa!

By Mansee Bal Bhargava*  The number of women ministers is doubled in early July from the first term after cabinet reshuffle by the present government led by Narendra Modi. While there were 06 women ministers in the previous term, this term there are 11. The previous two governments led by Dr Manmohan Singh had 10 women ministers in each tenure. Are these number of women ministers something to rejoice in the near 75 years of independence? Yes maybe, if we think that things are slowly improving in the patriarchal system. This change is less likely to achieve gender balance in the parliament otherwise we require more than 11 as per the 33% reservation . This change is also less likely because the men politicians’ inability to handle the country’s mess is becoming more and more evident and especially during the corona crisis. Seems, the addition of more women ministers may be a result of the recent assembly elections where women played a decisive role in the election results. For example

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Buddhist shrines massively destroyed by Brahmanical rulers in "pre-Islamic" era: Historian DN Jha's survey

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Effluent discharge into deep sea? Modi told to 'reconsider' Rs 2275 crore Gujarat project

Counterview Desk  In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, well-known Gujarat-based environmentalist, Mahesh Pandya of the Paryavaran Mitra, has protested against the manner in with the Gujarat government is continuing with its deep sea effluent disposal project despite environmental concerns.

Khorigaon demolition: People being 'brutally' evicted, cops 'restricting' food, water

By Ishita Chatterjee, Neelesh Kumar, Manju Menon, Vimal Bhai* On July 23, the Faridabad Municipal Corporation told the Supreme Court that they have cleared 74 acres out of 150 acres. Despite the affidavit of the Municipal Corporation, the court, on the complaint of various litigants, that the arrangements for living, food etc. have not been made for the people. 

Gujarat govt gender insensitive? Cyclone package for fisherfolk 'ignores' poor women

By Our Representative A memorandum submitted to the Gujarat government by various fisherfolk associations of the Saurashtra region of Gujarat under the leadership of Ahmedabad NGO Centre for Social Justice's senior activist Arvind Khuman, who is based in Amreli, has suggested that the relief package offered to the fishermen affected by the Tauktae cyclone is not only inadequate, it is also gender insensitive.