Suppliant to the Strong, but Formidable for the Feeble
“Oh coward, you don’t have the burden of the world in your hands.” We, the Indians who worship heroes, are out to disprove this world-conquering sentence of Rabindranath Tagore. Otherwise, why should we feel safe by voting for a Mahaviru to power, who poses to be a hero? We are fascinated by the heroism and patriotism of our democratic king who bombards a weak Pakistan with a couple of bombs in the dark of night. On the contrary, when the same hero tries to play hide and seek as he gets a befitting armed reply from the mighty China which eventually compels him to surrender our land, we tend to give a blind eye to his failure and willingly give him, to put it mildly, a benefit of doubt. The cynics will, however, say that the man is ‘suppliant to the strong, but formidable for the feeble’.
In fact, we have witnessed such people and their show of strength all over the world. When they are not in power, they bow to the strong, and when in power, they assert their might by suppressing the common people, political opponents, even the mildest critics. In the film ‘The Great Dictator’, Charlie Chaplin shows Hitler’s helplessness. History has shown us that the all powerful Hitler committed suicide fearing a defeat in the World War II and subsequent prosecution.
Intolerance to criticism is no sign of strength. Our king has come to power using our constitution written by the best minds of our country and the institutions conceived and created by our national leaders using their talents, experience and commitments for the welfare of our people and country. The moment he sat on the throne, he became busy in dismantling those institutions and diluting the fundamentals of our constitution. If someone criticizes him, even mildly, he shows red eyes and tries hard to brand him as traitor and anti-national. Apparently, our king is afraid of criticism. He does not realize that criticism helps correct the mistakes and, in the end, benefits him, the country and the nation, benefits the 1.3 billion fellow citizens and eventually the administration.
Such a behavior of our present ruler or his councilors is nothing new. They have inherited this knowledge from their gurus. Our ruler proudly said that the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) is his guru. And the guru of his guru, i.e. Mahaguru Binayak Damodar Savarkar or ‘Veer’ Savarkar has shown the way how to beg forgiveness to the powerful. Evidence of this can be found in the secret documents of the then British-ruled Government of India and of the British Government as well as in the reports published in the newspapers on Savarkar’s trial in the court.
The government put Savarkar in the Andaman Cellular Jail on July 4, 1911. He was accused of killing A T M Jackson, the District Collector of Nashik in 1909.
Cellular prisoners were subjected to unbearable tortures. Despite that the revolutionaries endured all those tortures, they could not even think of signing any bond for release. But ‘Veer’ Savarkar apologized within six months of his imprisonment in Cellular Jail. Evidence of this can be found in his second petition for clemency to the district magistrate on November 14, 1913: “In the end, may I remind your honour to be so good as to go through the petition for clemency, that I had sent in 1911, and to sanction it for being forwarded to the Indian government?” Just before that, in October 1913, Reginald Cardak, Minister of the Interior of the Viceroy’s Executive Council, visited the Cellular Prison. There he met Savarkar. In his note of November 23, 1913, Cardak recorded Savarkar’s begging for mercy on 14 November.
In the second petition, Savarkar openly wrote: “I am ready to serve the government in any capacity they like….Where else can the prodigal son return but to the parental doors of the Government?”
Concluding the petition, Savarkar wrote: “The latest development of the Indian politics and the conciliating policy of the Government have thrown open the constitutional line once more. Now no man having the good of India and Humanity at Heart will blindly step on the thorny paths which, in the excited and hopeless situation of India in 1906-1907, beguiled us from the path of peace and progress. Therefore, if the Government in their manifold beneficence and mercy release me, I for one cannot but be the staunchest advocate of constitutional progress and loyalty to the English Government which is the foremost condition of that progress.”
On March 22, 1920, the then Home Minister, Sir William Vincent, stated that he had received two petitions from Savarkar through the Port Blair superintendent — one in 1914 and the other in 1917. Prominent lawyer and author AG Noorani wrote in his book ‘The RSS’ (p. 94): “There is one in 1917 besides that of 1913 which perhaps is the one Vincent referred to as one of 1914.”
Arvind Ghosh’s brother Barin Ghosh and his associates were then imprisoned in the Cellular Jail. Mentioning the case against them, Savarkar once again apologized and applied for clemency on March 30, 1920. In it, he wrote: “They had even in Port Blair been suspected of a serious plot.” He is a loyalist. Concluding the petition, he wrote, “I and my brother are perfectly willing to give a pledge of not participating for a definite and reasonable period that the Government would indicate… This or any other pledge, e.g., of remaining in a particular province or reporting our movements to the police for a definite period after our release—any such reasonable conditions meant genuinely to ensure the safety of the State would be gladly accepted by me and my brother.”
The next example is the assassination of Gandhiji on January 30, 1948 and the subsequent banning of the RSS. Historian Ramchandra Guha writes that “although not directly involved in the assassination, the organisation (RSS) had been active in the Punjab violence, and had much support among disaffected refugees. Their world views were akin to Nathuram Godse’s, and it was widely rumoured that RSS men had privately celebrated his killing of the Mahatma.” (‘India After Gandhi’, p. 97) Within a couple of days of the killing of the Mahatma the RSS issued a statement denying that Godse was a member of this organization. The then Home Minister Vallabhbhai Patel commented in a letter to Prime Minister Jaharlal Nehru: “It is quite clear that no part of the (Gandhi assassination) conspiracy took place in Delhi. The centres of activity were Puna, Bombay, Ahmednagar and Gwalior. Delhi was, of course, the terminating point… the RSS was not involved in it at all. This was the fanatical wing of the Hindu Mahasabha directly under Savarkar that [hatched] the conspiracy and saw it through… ” At the same time, Patel wrote, “Of course, his assassination was welcomed by those of the RSS and the Hindu Mahasabha who were strongly opposed to his way of thinking and his policy.” Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, another member of Nehru’s cabinet, was not keen to bring the culprit to books. He wrote to Patel: “I understand that Savarkar’s name is being mentioned in this connection. I do not know what evidence has been found against him.” Nathuram’s brother Gopal Godse, however, later admitted the truth in an interview with the ‘Frontline’ (January 26, 1994): “All the brothers were in the RSS. Nathuram, Dattatreya, myself and Govinda. You can say we grew up in the RSS, rather than in our homes.”
Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, the then education minister in the Nehru cabinet, blamed the failure of home minister Patel and of the police controlled by him for the killing of Gandhiji by Godse. He wrote in ‘India Wins Freedom’ (pp. 243-44): “If the police had taken any action, he (the criminal) would have been discovered and disarmed. He came with a revolver without any check.” He further wrote: “What was noticeable in all these affairs was that Sardar Patel had turned against Gandhiji. He was indifferent when Gandhiji fasted on the issue of the security of muslims” in the riot-hit Delhi. Why was Patel, who owed his political status to Gandhiji, so indifferent about his patron? Azad explains, “Patel felt that the fast was directed against him. This is one of the reason why he (Patel) refused to stay (in Delhi) even when I asked him not to go to Bombay.” Gandhiji had also requested him not to leave the riot-hit Delhi for Bombay. And the impact was obvious. According to Azad, “His (Patel) attitude had a most unfortunate effect on the local police. Local officials looked at Sardar Patel and when they found that he issued no special orders for Gandhiji’s safety, they did not think it necessary to take any special measures.”
At a rally in Delhi, Jayprakash Narayan said in no uncertain terms that “the Home Minister of the Government of India could not escape the responsibility for this assassination.” He demanded an explanation from Sardar Patel as to why no special measures had been taken when there were open propaganda inciting people to murder Gandhiji and a bomb had actually been thrown at him. Prafulla Chandra Ghosh raised the same issue and condemned Patel and the Government of India and asked: “How could he (Patel) explain why no effort had been made to save Gandhiji’s life?” Azad wrote: “The nation as a whole was overwhelmed with grief and the wrath of the enemies. For two or three weeks after the tragedy, the leaders of the Hindu Mahasabha and the RSS could not come out and face the public.” (ibid., P. 245)
Two days after Gandhi’s assassination, on February 1, 1948, Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar, General Secretary of the RSS, was arrested and three days later, the RSS was banned. The ban was lifted on July 11, 1949. Golwalkar, however, was released earlier, on August 6, 1948. For that he had to announce in a statement from jail on February 8: “The organization was disbanded for as long as the RSS was banned.”
Noorani writes: “The government did lift the ban as a gesture of clemency or mercy. The RSS had begged for it persistently. It was granted conditionally.” (‘The RSS’, p 124)
Golwalkar was also released on humiliating conditions imposed by the government: (1) not to leave Nagpur except with the previous consent of the district magistrate in writing; (2) not to address any public meeting; (3) not to publish ‘any matter’ in any newspaper, journal or magazine without the previous approval of the district magistrate; and (4) ‘not to engage himself or associate with any person engaged in any activity tending directly or indirectly to excite disaffection against or to embarrass the Provincial or Central Government or to promote a feeling of hatred or enmity between different classes and subjects of the Indian Dominion or to disturb public peace’.
Unfortunately, Jayprakash Narayan , who blamed the RSS for the assassination of Gandhi and was a staunch secularist, requested the RSS in 1973 to join the ‘Sampurna Kranti’ (Total Revolution) movement under his leadership well before the Emergency was declared. Lal Krishna Advani wrote in his book ‘My Country, My Life’ (p. 189): “One day he (Jayprakashji) called Atalji and me and said, ‘I need your cooperation. You should join me in my movement’. I convened a special meeting of senior leaders of the party in Hyderabad to consider Jayprakashji’s proposal. In fact, I saw an opportunity in the JP movement to significantly expand the Jana Sangh’s mass appeal and support base across the country.”
Advani further wrote, “Jayprakashji’s invitation to the Jana Sangh to join his movement, and our acceptance of it, drew a sharp reaction from both the CPI and the CPI(M).” (ibid., P. 190)
He wrote, “E.M.S. Namboodiripad, who was then the General Secretary of the CPI(M), went to meet Jayprakashji and said, ‘How can you invite a rightist and communal party like the Jana Sangh to join your movement? We least expected this from you. After all, don’t you remember that you were in the forefront of the campaign in 1948, soon after Gandhiji’s assassination, to demand a ban on the RSS? You had even led a demonstration against the RSS in front of the ‘Organizer’ (RSS mouthpiece) office! This is a betrayal. ” (ibid., p 191)
According to Advani, Jayprakashji, while addressing the Jana Sangh session on March 7, 1973, said, “I have come to this session to tell the country that the Jana Sangh is neither fascist nor reactionary. This I want to declare from the Jana Sangh platform itself. If the BJP is fascist, then Jayprakash Narayan is also a fascist. ” (ibid., P. 192)
The evidence that the Jana Sangh and the RSS were able to take full advantage of the JP movement can be found in a statement issued by the RSS chief Balasaheb Deoras published in the ‘Times of India’ on 25 February 1975. He claimed that the RSS had 10,000 branches and one million members across the country. Kerala had 1,000 branches and 100 full-time workers. And Uttar Pradesh had 2,500 branches.
A state of emergency was declared late at night on June 25, 1975. Deoras was arrested in MISA (Maintenance of Internal Security Act) on June 30 in Nagpur. He was kept as a first class prisoner in the Andheri Yard of Yerawada Central Jail in Pune (MISA Prisoner No. 306). In the wake of Bangladesh’s liberation struggle, the India Defense Act passed in Parliament on 4 July 1971 banned 26 organizations, including the RSS. Section 33 of the Act came into force on July 8. The RSS leadership then notified suspension of all activities of the organization.
Again, we see the same story of begging to the government for clemency. Madhu Limay, a prominent socialist leader and one of the ministers in the Janata Party-led government, wrote in his book ‘Janata Party Experiment: An Insider’s Account of Opposition Politics’ about how efforts were made to free Deoras from prison and lift the ban on the RSS.
As many as eight letters were written on behalf of the RSS from 15 July 1975 to 18 July 1978. Among them, Deoras’s lawyer and a RSS activist VN Vide (who was also a prisoner in Yerawada jail) wrote three letters to the then Maharashtra Chief Minister Shankarrao Chavan begging clemency. Deoras himself wrote three letters to Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and two letters to Chavan. Deoras also wrote two letters to Binoba Bhave requesting him to “explain the matter to Indira Gandhi”.
Deoras wrote to Indira Gandhi on August 22, 1975 claiming that her Independence Day speech had “prompted me to write this letter to you…. The Sangh has never indulged in any activity which could be dangerous for the internal security of the country or for the law and order situation… I beseech you to rescind the ban imposed upon the RSS. I will be pleased to meet you if you so desire.” On June 16, 1986, Deoras wrote a letter to the Chief Minister of Maharashtra, asking him “to release him on parole” so that he could “explain to him” their position. Earlier, referring to the JP movements in Bihar and Gujarat, Deoras wrote a letter to Indira Gandhi on November 10, 1975, claiming that “The Sangh has no connection with these movements.”
The fact that there is no iota of truth in this claim can be found in Jaffrolet’s book, ‘The Hindu Nationalist Movement and Indian Politics’ (Pp. 256-26), quoted in Noorani’s ‘The RSS’. Jaffrolet wrote, “RSS members prided themselves for participating in the JP movement”. The backbone of the Lok Sangharsh Committee was the Chhatra Sangharsh Samiti which was virtually led by the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, the student wing of the RSS. Nanaji Deshmukh of the RSS and the Jana Sangh acted as ‘aide-de-camp’ to JP. Once the Emergency was over the RSS and the Jana Sangh sought fame and reward for their role.
However, it is difficult to overlook what Deoras had promised in a letter dated November 10, 1975 sent to the prime minister, whom they had once called fascist: “Set free thousands of RSS workers and remove the restrictions on the Sangh. If done so, power of selfless work on the part of lakhs of RSS volunteers will be utilised for national upliftment….” In fact, isn’t it a great proof that Deoras accepted Indira Gandhi’s leadership and practically begged for forgiveness?
There is more evidence. The Maharashtra government said the prisoners seeking release would have to sign an undertaking. The pro-forma of undertaking placed before these ‘freedom fighters’ was as follows: Shri ……….. Detenu Class I………….prisoner agrees on affidavit that in case of my release I shall not do anything which is detrimental to the internal security and public peace. Similarly, I shall not do anything which would hamper the distribution of essential goods. So also I shall not participate in any illegal activities. I shall not indulge in any activities which is prejudicial to the present emergency.
The directive of the ‘struggle committee’ outside jails was that the RSS and the Jana Sangh people should not sign such an undertaking. This was conveyed to them by S.M. Joshi. However, the directive was ignored….Most of the members of the RSS and the Jana Sangh in jails signed the undertaking. (Noorani, ‘The RSS’. P. 180)
If we look through the pages of Indian history, there are no dearth of inconsistencies between the words and deeds of the people in the RSS and its family-tree. They talk tall; make promises believing that memory of the people are short. They indulge in false propaganda to mislead the people and to suppress their opponents. Since coming to power, there has been a qualitative change in their behavior. They want to washout all our achievements in independent India. After independence, we were able to create a modern constitution based on democracy and secularism. We pursued a non-aligned and independent foreign policy. It would be a crime if we forget that we had to start from the scratch, forget the heard reality that we even had to import safety-pins! We could build various modern educational institutions, set up modern (including heavy) industries, increase food production and thus were able to alleviate the poverty of a large number of poor, backward people, irrespective of race or religion. Unfortunately, our present rulers–playing the numbers’ game–are working overtime to erase these achievements out from the pages of Indian history as well as from the mind of the Indian people.
Sunil Mukhopadhyay is a former journalist.and writerEmail: email@example.com