(Edited excerpts from an article to be published in CPI(M)’s upcoming booklet on the RSS )
Article 14 of the Indian Constitution says: “The state shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India.”
But, here is what M.S Golwalkar, ideologue in chief of the RSS, writes in his book ‘We, Or Our Nationhood Defined’ (1938): “The non-Hindu in Hindustan must either adopt the Hindu religion…. or may stay in the country wholly subordinate to the Hindu nation claiming nothing, deserving no privileges, far less an preferential treatment, not even citizen’s right..” This book is the ideological fountainhead for RSS members and followers.
This perversion of the concept of India as a secular democratic republic defined in our Constitution to a theocratic and supremacist one is what is straining to tear apart India today. To counter this grave threat, we need to understand what the RSS is and what its history has been.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is only the parliamentary wing of the RSS. Most of its leaders, who are now occupying Constitutional posts as Prime Minister or other Ministers, pledge their allegiance to the RSS. Although it poses as a cultural organisation, the RSS is actually the core political outfit from where the notion of a ‘Hindu Nation’ flows, directing its various arms like the BJP etc. to act for this goal.
The Nation, according to RSS
While giving a distorted definition of the ‘nation’, the RSS seeks to build an all-Hindu label on a social and economic order legitimised by scripture that excludes a section of its own people (the sudras and atisudra castes) from fundamental rights.
And, while doing so, it usurps for itself, an exclusive claim to nation-building and patriotism. India is to become a Hindu nation, governed by laws laid down in ancient Hindu scriptures – and the RSS (along with its parivar) will lead this change.
The germ and essence of this perspective is summed up in Golwalkar’s book cited above.
RSS and the Struggle for India’s Freedom
Although RSS was founded in 1925, it has no heroes from the national movement because they were not in any way involved in fighting the British colonial powers.
One of their icons is VD Savarkar, founder of Hindu Mahasabha, from which RSS split. In 2002, two months after the genocidal carnage in Gujarat, the first NDA government named the Andaman airport after him. Unlike other patriots like Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Ashfaqullah, who refused to ask the British Raj for mercy even at the cost of their lives, Savarkar had actually sought clemency while lodged in Andamans' Cellular Jail. In his letter asking for forgiveness dated November 14, 1913, he described himself as a ''prodigal son'' longing to return to the ''parental doors of the government''….
Like all communal organisations, including Jinnah’s Muslim league, RSS grew after the communal holocaust of 1946-47 ignited by Jinnah’s call for direct action. The Calcutta killings of August 1946 that drove Gandhiji to despair, was described as its ‘finest hour’ by the RSS.
RSS and the Hindu Mahasabha opposed the Quit India Movement. Shyama Prasad Mookherjee (the founder of Jan Sangh, the precursor to BJP) was the finance minister in the Bengal government headed by a member of the Muslim League, Fazal Haque. When Gandhi raised the slogan of "Quit India", Mookherjee did not think fit to resign on August 9, 1942. On the contrary, he made the following proposal:
"The question is how to combat this movement (Quit India) in Bengal? The administration of the province should be carried on in such a manner that in spite of the best efforts of the Congress, this movement will fail to take root in the province….. Indians have to trust the British, not for the sake of Britain, not for any advantage that the British might gain, but for the maintenance of the defence and freedom of the province itself."
The Hindu Mahasabha was in a coalition government with the Muslim League in Sind and the Sind Assembly passed a resolution endorsing the demand for the creation of Pakistan. Mookherjee and other Mahasabha leaders did not think fit to resign from the government. Mahasabha president Savarkar, mentor of LK Advani, issued a directive that they should stick to the government position and continue to perform their regular duties and not resign. In fact, they even passed a resolution on August 31, 1942 asking all Mahasabha members to remain at their jobs and oppose the Quit India movement.
RSS and Godse, the killer of Gandhi
Within months of NDA II coming to power in May 2014, this time headed by a man who began his political life as a pracharak, the RSS and the Hindu Mahasabha began to clamour for the valorisation of Nathuram Godse, the killer of Mahatma Gandhi. The Global Hindu Foundation had urged the HRD ministry to ensure that Godse is treated as a ‘national hero’ who must be represented as such in Indian school text books. The letter, completely distorting history, states that Godse “fought for independence from the British.” The letter was posted on the home page of savetemples.org, the website of the “Mission to Save Hinduism and Hindu Temples”.
Touted as a ‘Project of Global Hindu Heritage Foundation, USA’, the mission operates out of the ‘Save Temple Office’ opened in Hyderabad in June 2012.
RSS opposed the Tricolour
‘Organiser’, the RSS English organ, in its third issue (July 17, 1947) was highly disturbed by the Constituent Assembly’s decision to select the Tricolour as the National Flag. It carried an editorial titled 'National Flag', demanding that the saffron flag be chosen instead. The same demand continued to be raised in editorials on the eve of Independence of India (July 31 editorial titled 'Hindusthan' and August 14, 1947 editorial titled 'Whither') simultaneously rejecting the whole concept of a composite nation. The August 14 issue also carried 'Mystery behind the Bhagwa Dhawaj' (saffron flag) which, while demanding hoisting of saffron flag at the ramparts of Red Fort in Delhi, openly denigrated the choice of the Tricolour as the National Flag in the following words:
"The people who have come to power by the kick of fate may give in our hands the tricolour but it will never be respected and owned by Hindus. The word three is in itself an evil and a flag having three colours will certainly produce a psychological effect and is injurious to a country.”
RSS was always opposed to any recognition of India’s vast and rich diversity, be it diversity of language, faith or culture. Golwalkar, while addressing a gathering in Nagpur on July 14, 1946, stated that it was the saffron flag which in totality represented their great culture. It was the embodiment of God: "We firmly believe that in the end the whole nation will bow before this saffron flag," he declared.
The first time that the National Tricolour was unfurled at the RSS Headquarters was in 2000 after NDA I came to power.