14 March 2019, Thursday

When the RSS Teaches Nationalism

K A Venugopalan

If one were to ask what the role of the RSS was in the freedom struggle, the only name coming forth from them would be that of Savarkar. Has Savarkar played any part in the freedom struggle after the formation of the Hindu Mahasabha? The answer is undoubtedly 'No'. In Savarkar's view, the biggest enemies of the Hindus were the Muslims and the Mughals. For this reason, Savarkar allied with the British, as they had defeated their enemies, the Mughals. 

During the Quit India movement in 1942, Savarkar had exhorted the Hindu Mahasabha members serving in the law making bodies and in local self Governments to continue in their positions, carrying out their normal duties. Also, Savarkar, who had taken the path of co-operation with the British, had during that time unleashed anti-Muslim propaganda to Hindutva-ise the polity and to militarise the Hindutva camp. In the case of RSS founder Hedgewar, he was a member of the Congress until the founding of the Sangh, and he disocciated from the freedom movement soon afterwards. 

It was the non co-operation movement in the 1920s which successfully brought in all sections of people to be a part of the freedom struggle. But Hedgewar held dismissive and negative views on that glowing chapter of the freedom struggle. His view on the movement is evident in this particular quote - "Due to Gandhi's non co-operation movement, the upbeat mood in the nation had frozen and forces of evil awakened by that movement created a threat to our social life. The snakes which grew up drinking the milk of non co-operation unleashed riots in the country with their poisonous hisses." (Bhishikar, C. P., 1979, Page 7).

In 1927, the freedom movement got a fresh impetus with the agitation against the Simon commission. But RSS stayed away from the protests and even organised a training camp for its activists during that time in Nagpur. They also organised communal riots in Nagpur in 1927.

The RSS was again nowhere to be seen in the civil disobedience movement organised in the backdrop of the declaration of Purna Swaraj in 1930. When the Congress asked the people of India to observe 26 January 1930 as Independence Day, Hedgewar gave a directive to all RSS shakhas to hoist the saffron flag. Though the participants in the freedom struggle clashed with the colonial police at many places, the lathi-wielding RSS activists were nowhere to be seen. 

In 1940, M.S. Golwalkar took over as the Sarsanghchalak from Hedgewar. Following this, the Sangh's anti-Muslim and pro-British stand was strengthened. "The theories of territorial nationalism and of common danger, which formed the basis for our concept of nation, 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. Anti-Britishism was equated with patriotism and nationalism. This reactionary view has had disastrous effects upon the entire course of the freedom movement, its leaders and the common people."(Golwalkar, 'Bunch of Thoughts' (1966), pages 142-143) These words make clear the RSS's viewpoint regarding nationalism and patriotism. These opinions were made at a time when the freedom struggle to overthrow colonial rule was at its peak.

The RSS's spear in all nationalistic struggle is pointed at the memories of the Islamic Mughal rule in india. Their history ends with the war waged by Shivaji against Mughal ruler Aurangazeb. The RSS is thankful to the British for ending Mughal rule, and saw them as an "ally of the Hindus". Due to this reason, their attempt was to create divisions between Hindus and Muslims to impress the British. So, the RSS was never a part of the Civil Disobedience movement or the Quit India movement or the Naval mutiny or the struggle to free the INA fighters. Post independence, they were opposed to the adoption of the tricolour as the National flag. They were even against the Indian constitution.

These are the kind of people who are teaching us nationalism these days!