After the Popular Front of India (PFI) was declared unlawful on September 28, several political leaders, like Bihar’s Lalu Prasad and Kerala’s Ramesh Chennithala, said the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) should also be banned.
The RSS has been banned thrice in independent India. Government employees were not allowed to join the RSS, though several states have lifted this ban over the years.
Here is a short history of the imposing and revocation of bans on the RSS.
After Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination
Days after Mahatma Gandhi was killed by Nathuram Godse, the RSS was banned on February 4, 1948. In a statement, the government said the ban was being imposed to “root out the forces of hate and violence” at work in the country.
“It has been found that in several parts of the country individual members of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh have indulged in acts of violence involving arson, robbery, dacoity, and murder and have collected illicit arms and ammunitions. They have been found circulating leaflets exhorting people to resort to terrorist methods, to collect firearms, to create disaffection against the government and and suborn the police and military,” the statement said.
It added that while the government had earlier dealt with individual members and not banned the organisation, the “objectionable” activities continued, “and the cult of violence sponsored and inspired by the activities of the Sangh has claimed many victims. The latest and most precious to fall was Gandhiji himself. In these circumstances it is the bounden duty of the government to take effective measures to curb this re-appearance of violence in a virulent form and as a first step to this end, they have decided to declare the Sangh as an unlawful association.”
The RSS made several appeals for the ban to be revoked, with then Sarsanghchalak MS Golwalkar meeting Home Minister Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, and writing to both Patel and Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. The RSS’s website says, “After the failure of talks with government, Swayamsevaks launched satyagraha demanding the removal of ban on Sangh on December 9, 1948.”
The ban was lifted after a year, on July 11 1949. The government communique lifting the ban said, “The RSS leader has undertaken to make the loyalty to the Union Constitution and respect for the National Flag more explicit in the Constitution of the RSS and to provide clearly that persons believing or resorting to violent and secret methods will have no place in the Sangh. The RSS leader has also clarified that the Constitution will be worked on a democratic basis.”
The RSS website mentions that the Sangh constitution was drafted in 1949.
Ban on govt employees joining RSS
In 1966, the Home Ministry issued an order which barred government employees from participating in activities organised by the RSS or the Jamaat-e-Islami.
The order issued on November 30, 1966, said “As certain doubts have been raised about government’s policy with respect to the membership of any participation in the activities of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and the Jamaat-e-Islami by government servants, it is clarified that the government have always held the activities of these two organisations to be of such a nature that participation in them by Government servants would attract the provisions of sub-rule (1) of Rule 5 of the Central Civil Services (Conduct) Rule, 1964.”
This order was reiterated in 1970 and 1980.
Several states, such as Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh and Haryana, have, however, done away with this ban.
In 2016, then Minister of State in the PMO, Jitendra Singh, had said they would “review the old order” by the central government.
Ban during Emergency
After Indira Gandhi imposed a nationwide Emergency in June 25, 1975, the RSS was banned on July 4.
In response to a question on the Emergency, Indira had said that Jayaprakash Narayan had aligned himself with the RSS, the organisation that instigated Mahatma Gandhi’s murder and was “fanatically” Hindu.
Then Sarsanghchalak Balasaheb Deoras wrote to Indira to complain that “The ban order does not give a specific reason for the ban. The RSS has never done anything that would endanger the country’s internal security and public law and order. The objective of the Sangh is to organise the whole Hindu Society and make it homogeneous and self-respecting. …it is necessary to make it clear that Sangh had never indulged in violence. Neither has it ever taught violence. The Sangh does not believe in such things.”
After several rounds of negotiations, the ban was lifted on March 22, 1977, when the Emergency had ended.
Ban after the demolition of Babri Masjid
The Babri Masjid in Ayodhya was demolished on December 6, 1992, and the RSS was banned on December 10. This ban was lifted within months, on June 4,1993, after the Justice Bahri Commission found it “unjustified.”
In December 2009, BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad wrote in The Indian Express, “The notification declaring RSS unlawful was sent for adjudication by the tribunal headed by Justice PK Bahri, Delhi high court judge, as is the legal requirement. The adjudication by Justice Bahri was notified by the home ministry on June 18,1993 wherein, at page 71, the learned judge noted the evidence of PW-7,a very senior IB officer, that there was no material evidence to show that these associations (RSS) had pre-planned the destruction of the disputed structure [the Babri mosque]. The report also notes the white paper prepared by the Central government,which does not support the pre-planning theory. The tribunal accordingly held that there is no sufficient ground to declare the RSS unlawful.”