Ram Puniyani’s article (‘Truth about RSS’, IE, April 18) contains less truth and more of scattered suspicion that needs to be rebutted.
To establish Nathuram Godse’s link to the RSS, Puniyani draws from Sardar Patel’s biography written by Rajmohan Gandhi, grandson of Mahatma Gandhi. He quotes a letter dated 27.02.1948 written by Patel to Jawaharlal Nehru. The relevant paragraph is reproduced below: “I have kept myself almost in daily touch with the progress of the investigation regarding Bapu’s assassination case. I devote a large part of my evening to discussing with Sanjeevi (head of intelligence and IG of Police, Delhi) the day’s progress and giving instructions to him on any points that arise. All the accused have given long and detailed statements. It emerges clearly from these statements that the RSS was not involved in it at all.”
This understanding of Patel’s forms the bedrock of why the ban on the RSS was lifted in 1949, that too unconditionally. This is further corroborated by a written statement given by then home minister of Bombay state, Morarji Desai, in the Bombay Legislative Assembly on September 14, 1949, which apprised the nation that the ban on the RSS was no longer needed, and was therefore being lifted unconditionally. Additionally, the RSS gave no undertaking to lift the same.
Puniyani also chooses to be selective in his response to Manmohan Vaidya (‘The Mahatma and the Sangh’, IE, April 12). Vaidya never called “all” Muslims who fought under Gandhi’s leadership as “extremist” or “jihadi”.
Puniyani would know, better than most, that RSS founder K B Hedgewar was not the only one to criticise the withdrawal of Non-Cooperation Movement after the Chauri Chaura incident. It is a part of documented history that after the untimely suspension of the movement, a faction within the Congress was disillusioned, including the likes of Motilal Nehru, C R Das, Subhash Chandra Bose, and Vithal Bhai Patel. However, questioning their patriotism and participation in the freedom struggle in light of their well-recorded critique of the Non-Cooperation Movement won’t suit a vested narrative.
In fact, in 1930, K B Hedgewar gave full support to the Congress resolution of “Poorna Swaraj” as documented by his letter (dated January 21, 1930) written to all swayamsewaks:
“The Congress has declared ‘independence’ to be its goal and the Congress Working Committee has announced that 26 January 1930 be celebrated as ‘independence day’ throughout the country. It is but natural that all of us should feel heartened that this all-India national body has come close to its goal of independence. It is, therefore, our duty to cooperate with any organisation that works keeping this purpose foremost. Therefore all shakas of the RSS should organise the gathering of all the Swayam Sevaks at six ‘o clock in the evening and salute the national flag which is the saffron flag. The true meaning of independence and how to present its goal must form the essence of the talk. Since we have accepted this goal of the Congress, the party must be congratulated for it. The report of this programme must be sent to us.”
(Note: As per AICC recommendations — a rectangular Bhagwa Flag with a Charkha in the left corner was a recognised flag)
As for the Quit India Movement, the report of the CID, Home Department and British intelligence describes the Sangh’s members as “anti-British volunteers who were ready to sacrifice their lives for the cause of the country”. Another British intelligence report in 1943 states that “the ulterior objective of the RSS is to drive the British away from India and free the country”. Further, Swayamsevak Hemu Kalani and RSS leader Dada Naik were hanged in 1943 by the British. It was during Quit India Movement that the RSS provided shelter to Aruna Asaf Ali, Achyutrao Patwardhan and Nana Patil, protecting them from the ire of the British.
Not in the words of his associate Pyarelal, but of Mahatma himself, who paid a visit to RSS in 1934, and commented: “When I visited the RSS Camp, I was very much surprised by your discipline and absence of untouchability.” In one of his documented interactions with RSS workers in 1947, Gandhi recounted that visit by saying, “Years ago, I went to a camp of the RSS in Wardha. At the time, its founder, Mr Hedgewar was alive. Mr. Jamnalal Bajaj took me to the camp and I was very impressed by the strict discipline, the simplicity of those people.”
It is understood that a historical narrative concocted around suspicion will require time to fade away. However, the wholehearted acceptance of RSS’s role in freedom struggle will only pave the way for an understanding that the India independence cannot be credited to just one party or ideology alone.
This article first appeared in the print edition on April 25, 2019, under the title ‘Denial by distortion’. Dev is a practicing advocate at Delhi High Court. He is also United Nations Global School Ambassador from India. Views are personal.