Thursday, 17 May 2018


I am very often asked a question, both in public fora and in private conversation: what was RSS's contribution to India's freedom struggle? Someone was even stupid enough to ask, what was BJP's contribution to the freedom struggle? To this I asked the counter-question, because I knew that the person asking was a Leftist, "What was the Communist Party's contribution to the Battle of Plassey? The man saw that he had made a gaffe and fell silent. 

But to take the question seriously, what indeed was the contribution? I have formulated an answer to this question, but before that, a caveat: this is based on my private perception as an informed and devout Swayamsevak, not the official view of the RSS or anywhere near it.

As I see it, this question can be answered in two ways, depending on the view one takes. I shall discuss both, briefly of course. Both are my views, not anyone else's.

According to one view that I have taken, the question just does not arise. Freedom struggle was fought, could be fought, only by political outfits, not just any old organisation, not any organisation other than a political one. Schools, colleges or universities did not fight for freedom. Nor did hospitals, athletic clubs, hotels, bar associations, ashrams, madarsahs, churches, the Tablighi Jamaat, even trade unions. Most certainly not social welfare organizations. The struggle was fought by the Congress, the Hindu Mahasabha, Forward Bloc, Azad Hind Fauj, revolutionary organisations like the Anushilan Samity, Jugantar, Indian Republican Army (the people who stormed the Chittagong Armoury), Sri Sangha, Dipali Sangha Ghaddar Party of Punjab, individual revolutionaries like Bhagat Singh, the Chapekar brothers, the Binoy-Badal-Dinesh trio, and so on. Whether the Communist Party and Muslim League, both very much political outfits, had any role (or even had a negative role) in the struggle is open to question, but that we shall debate elsewhere. But why should the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangha, whose sole and declared aim was to awaken and organize Hindu society as Hindus, and build human beings on this ideal, and whose professed policy was to stay away from politics, be expected to be any different from any other social welfare organization?

Take concrete cases. Did the Arya Samaj, which was a religious and educational reform movement founded by Dayanand Saraswatiji, have any significant role in fighting the British? No, because it  stayed away from politics. Did the Ramakrishna Mission founded by Swami Vivekananda, Bharat Sevashram Sangha founded by Swami Pranavananda, Gaudiya Math, Brahmo Samaj founded by Raja Ram Mohun Roy, Theosophical Society founded by Madame Blavatsky  have any such role? No, because ditto ditto. Rabindranath Tagore established the Visva-Bharati, an educational and cultural institution, which drew great men of learning like Stella Kramrisch, Sten Konow and Bogdanov from all over the world and brought forth a school of learning quite distinct from that devised and put into effect by Macaulay. Did he go out to the streets and fight with the British police? Of course not, although Tagore made his extreme disapproval of British tyranny manifest by returning his knighthood post the massacre at Jallianwalabagh. Sir Asutosh Mookerjee elevated Calcutta University to such a level of learning that it could turn out the first Asian Nobel laureate in science in C.V.Raman and a world-famous philosopher like Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan. But he advised students to apply themselves to their studies before participating in any nationalist movement. Did they lead any processions, flag in hand? No, of course not! But does that mean that any of these people or organisation were lacking in patriotism compared to known freedom fighters like, say, Gandhiji or Nehru? No, of course not!

Therefore, where does the question of  the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangha doing any of these arise? In a declared and explicit manner it stayed away from politics. If it had been into politics it would not have needed to help Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee's newborn Jana Sangh with its Swayamsevaks like Sundar Singh Bhandari, Deen Dayal Upadhyay and Jagannathrao Joshi -- it could have straightaway plunged into the 1952 elections! But it did not, because it reasoned that politics will adulterate its professed objectives of Hindu samaj ko Hindu ke nate jagrat aur sangathit karna, and Manushya Nirman, the cardinal principle enunciated by its founder, Dr. Keshav Baliram Hedgewar. 

There is, therefore, no question of the RSS participating in the freedom struggle. The question simply does not arise. It is the result of a Leftist construct -- the example and results of which have been observed in Leftist-ruled states in India, where there is politics in everything, from research in quantum mechanics to poultry farming. In fact Anil Biswas, the secretary and ideologue of the West Bengal CPI(M) had said so once in so many words: Rajneetir baire kichhu hoy na, nothing is outside politics.

However, another view is possible. Paraphrasing Milton's immortal line, "They also serve who only stand and wait", fight against an oppressor is not done only by taking a flag and fighting on the streets, but also by those who serve society and create public opinion by their efforts in culture, education, science, religion and the like. In that view, Swami Dayanand, Swami Vivekananda, Rabindranath Tagore, Swami Pranavananda and the rest -- they were all freedom fighters. Dr Hedgewar and Guruji Golwalkar kindled in the Hindu mind a spirit of freedom that was all but extinguished by eight hundred years of Turkish-Afghan and two hundred years of British subjugation. They were, therefore, no less freedom fighters than the rest. Nor was their organization, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangha.      

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