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Sanitising The Supremo

By Subhash Gatade

23 February, 2006

In George Orwell’s prophetic novel 1984 the Rulers of Oceania, by their language of newthink and process of doublethink, convinced the masses that statements formerly considered irrational were rational. In other words, virtual reality became actual reality. The Party’s slogans, accepted by the ruled, were “War is Peace”, “Freedom is Slavery”, and “Ignorance is Strength” . Our US Rulers seem to have us well along these same paths, with new realities surfacing each year. ..
Luis Posada Carriles: When Injustice is Justice , Tom Crumpacker , Monday, 17 October 2005

RSS, the biggest 'cultural' organisation on the face of the earth has had five supremos 'Sarsanghchalaks' since its inception. Starting from founder member Hedgewar and leading upto KS Sudarshan the present incumbent, the interregnum was filled by Golwalkar, Deoras and Rajendra Singh. If one takes a synoptic view of each of these periods then one can definitely discern the definitive impact each of them has had on the organisation. Ofcourse none of them proved as controversial as the second incumbent namely Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar whose birth centenary is being celebrated by his followers this year.

Plans are afoot to have year long activities which would begin from February 24 with a grand inaugural function in Nagpur. And the concluding ceremony of the celebration has been planned in New Delhi on February 18, 2007. A team of 122 members, belonging to different spheres of social life, besides 53 prominent saints and spiritual leaders of the country as patrons, has been constituted for the birth-centenary year celebrations.

It has been decided to have 'social harmony' (samajik samrasta) as central theme of the year long celebrations during which “Hindu rallies will be organised at the block level all over the country. Meetings of caste and religious leaders will also be held with the objective of promoting social harmony. Seminars, symposia, lectures, etc. will also be organised to propagate the ideas and vision of Shri Guruji.”(Organiser 29, 2006) Reports coming in from MP tell us that a film on the life and times of Golwalkar is also under preparation which would be ready by the end of March. Recently a children's magazine coming out of the same state which has a vast network also published a special issue of the same which was released by vice president Shekhawat.

Coming to Golwalkar, his biographers tell us that Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar got the alias Guruji for his brief stint in the zoology department of Banaras Hindu University in the early thirties as a teacher. We are also told that he was a latecomer to the RSS, as he was more keen to undertake a spiritual journey via the Ramakrishna Mission.Despite his late entry to the organisation, he earned the confidence of the founder-member Hedgewar in a very short time supposedly because of his brilliance and sharpness of logic. It was logical that when the supremo breathed his last, he left a note asking his followers to make him the next Supremo.(1940) Golwalkar carried on with this responsibilities for a span of 33 years till his death, a period which saw lot of turmoil within the organisation and also witnessed a consolidation and expansion of the same via a network of organisations.

Insiders to the organisation as well as many external wathchers agree to the fact that he could be considered the key figure who provided a theoretical background to the project of Hindutva and laid down the seeds of the vast organisational network. As of now the plethora of anushangik ( affiliated) organisations which owe allegiance to the ideology of Hindutva would run in hundreds, each catering to a section of society. Scholars as well as activists, who may posit themselves diametrically opposite vis-a-vis the weltanshauung of this Hindu Supremacist organisation , also need to study in detail the way an organisation which was on the margins of Indian society for a long time could reach the centrestage of Indian politics. One still remembers how RSS people were made a butt of jokes in popular culture in Maharashtra especially --Marathi dramas in late sixties-early seventies - mainly because of their remaining limited to Brahmins or their insistence on mechanical style discipline. It is true that this era in RSS history it is long passe.

Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar spanned a period in world history which could be said to be unique in many ways. It was a period when Nazism-Fascism was ready to swamp the whole of Western Europe, a period when national liberation struggles in many of the third world countries were near culmination and the great experiments of Socialist construction undertaken in Soviet Russia coupled with the rising tide of communist led militant movements were proving to be a defining characteristics of the era.

Retrospectively one can say that it was such a juncture in world history when the old world of feudalism, colonialism, was crumbling down and a new world was emerging. And it would not be incorrect to state that due to his peculiar weltanshauung which yearned for building a Hindu Rashtra based on the ‘glorious traditions of Hinduism’ and which looked towards Muslims as bigger adversary vis-a-vis British colonialism and which sought inspiration from the experiments in ‘social engineering’ undertaken by Nazism-Fascism, he completely failed to have a pulse on the march of history. In fact due to his intrasigence he not only kept himself personally aloof from the surging anti-colonial struggle but also did not chalk out any positive programme for his organisation to participate in it.

As already mentioned the first of his theoretical contributions for the cause of Hindutva appeared in the form of a pamphlette called ‘We or Our Nationhood Defined’ ( 1938). It was so straightforward in its appreciation of the ‘ethnic cleansing’ of Jews undertaken by Hitler and such an unashamed proponent of the submergence of ‘foreign races’ in the Hindu race that later day RSS leaders have tried to create an impression that the said book was not written by Golwalkar but it was merely a translation of a book ‘Rashtra Meemansa’ by Babarao Savarkar.

It is a different matter that in his Preface to We or Our Nationhood Defined dated March 22, 1939, Golwalkar himself described Rashtra Meemansa as ‘one of my chief sources of inspiration and help. The American scholar Jean A. Curran who did a full length study on RSS in early fifties, in his sympathetic book, Militant Hinduism in Indian Politics: A Study of the RSS (1951) confirms that Golwalkar’s 77-page book was written in 1938 when he was appointed RSS General Secretary by Hedgewar and he calls it as RSS’s ‘Bible’.A. G. Noorani in his famous book ' The RSS and the BJP: A Division of Labour, {Pgs. 18-39} Leftword Books) also tells us that :Rajendra Singh and Bhaurao Deoras made an authoritative statement on that book in Para 10 of their 1978 application: ‘With a view to give a scientific base to propagate the idea India being (sic) historically from time immemorial a Hindu Nation, late Shri M.S. Golwalkar had written a book entitled, “We or Our Nationhood Defined”,’ In Para 7 they ‘placed on record’ his book Bunch of Thoughts (1966) in order ‘to clarify and understand the true purpose, the exact nature, the ambit and scope of the RSS work… and its activities.’

A quote from the 77 paged book would be opportune at this moment.
“The foreign races in Hindusthan must either adopt the Hindu culture and language, must learn to respect and hold in reverence Hindu religion, must entertain no idea but those of the glorification of the Hindu race and culture, i.e., of the Hindu nation and must loose their separate existence to merge in the Hindu race, or may stay in the country, wholly subordinated to the Hindu Nation, claiming nothing, deserving no privileges, far less any preferential treatment — not even citizen’s rights. There is, at least, should be, no other course for them to adopt. We are an old nation; let us deal, as old nations ought to and do deal, with the foreign races, who have chosen to live in our country”.
( Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar’s, We or Our Nationhood Defined)

A third arena where Golwalkar proved much behind his times was his love for Manusmriti’s edicts. When leaders of newly independent India were struggling to have a constitution which was premised on the inviolability of individual rights with special provisions of positive discrimination for millions of Indians who had been denied any human rights quoting religious scriptures, it was Golwalkar again who espoused the same Manusmriti as independent India’s constitution.'Organiser' ( November 30, 1949, p.3) the organ of RSS complained :

But in our constitution there is no mention of the unique constitutional developments in ancient Bharat. Manu's laws were written long before Lycurgus of Sparta or Solon of Persia. To this day laws as enunciated in the Manusmriti excite the admiration of the world and elicit spontaneous obedience and conformity. But to our constitutional pundits that means nothing.

When attempts were made under the stewardship of Ambedkar and Nehru in late fourties to give limited rights to Hindu women in property and inheritance through the passage of the Hindu Code Bill , Golwalkar and his associates had no qualms in launching a movement opposing this historic empowerment of hindu women which was to take place for the first time in history. Their contention was simple : This step is inimical to Hindu traditions and culture.

One can go on innumerating instances to communicate the ideological limitations of the Golwalkarian project which acted as a hindrance to the building of modern India. It is clear to any impartial observer that, the way he tried to divide a wedge between the broad unity of the Indian people on the basis of religion , the way he lauded experiments in ethnic cleansing in Western Europe and the way he glorified Manusmriti till the end of his lfe, demonstrate that his project was essentially inimical to the cause of social harmony.

It is a different matter that despite espousing a sectarian agenda the Golwalkarian project of remaking of Indian society continued to move ahead albeit slowly. The 'success' of the Golwalkarian project in winning over a chunk of our society to its side definitely demands a separate treatment which is beyond the purview of this short note.

For the followers of Golwalkar the birth anniversary of one of their Pratasmaraniya ( worth remembering in the morning) icons has also been an occasion to revisit that period during which the second supremo held sway. And surprisingly they are not finding themselves much comfortable with it for various reasons. It is evident in the way in which on the one hand they are lauding him for his 'contributions' but are also simultaneously engaged in surreptiously sanitising him and presenting him before the guillible public under a more acceptable, humane face.

Of course not that they have second thoughts about the vision espoused by him, rather they have continued to show their adherence to it by organising the 'successful experiment' in Gujarat in 2002. The only problem they have is the presentation of the vision. Looking at his controversial pronouncements from time to time on various issues of social-political concern and his transcending the 'calculated ambiguity' on many a occasions which is a hallmark of the organisation which he built, it is not surprising that he has always come under barrage of attack from all those people/groups/organisations who differed with the weltanshaaung of the RSS or who oppose/d the project of Hindutva on various grounds.

The feverish and foolish attempts undertaken by the Swayamsevaks to show that Golwalkar was not the author but basically the translator of the controversial book , the way in which they are engaged in presenting concocted proofs to show that they did participate in the independence movement ( while their very own Golwalkar Guruji had the audacity to make a fun of the tremendous sacrifices made by the people in the anti colonial struggle)or the way they have dedicated the year long celebrations in his honour to the cause of 'social harmony' all goes to show their keenness to present the Second Supremo in a Sanitised form.

It was Ben Johnston, who divides history into three categories : Remembered history, recovered history and inverted history. Independent analysts have produced tonnes of literature to prove how the loyal soldiers of the Guruji were engaged in 'inverting history' during their six year tenure at the centre. Ofcourse nobody could have had the premonition then that a day would come when they would unashamedly 'invert their own history'. The way we are being presented with a repackaged Golwalkar just goes to show that their 'mission rewriting history' is really endless.












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