Letters to the Sardar
All the initial letters, exchanged between Shri Guruji and the Deputy PM Sardar Patel, exhibit a different strain and different texture. As already indicated, these letters are in Hindi. The substance of Shri Guruji’s letters is almost the same as those of written to Pandit Nehru.
In his letter of September 24, 1948, written from Nagpur, Shri Guruji heartily congratulates the Sardar for successfully tackling the Hyderabad issue. He continues, “I am quite certain that you have not the least doubt regarding the innocence of the Sangh. There have been countrywide searches and investigations. Now no more proof is needed to show that all the charges levelled against the Sangh were baseless even though the Government at that time thought otherwise. It now behoves the Government to withdraw all these charges and thus express their love of justice.”
In this letter, without specifically mentioning the spread of Communist ideology among young students, Shri Guruji points out his uneasiness in sitting idle and “be a mere spectator of the growth of foreign ‘isms’, when I feel confident that if Sangh is allowed to come out without the least stigma and function normally, the youth can be saved to a very large extent. I for one feel that if you with Government power and we with organised cultural force combine, can soon eliminate this menace.”
To this letter of September 24, Shri Guruji got a prompt reply. The Deputy Prime Minister’s letter starts with “Bhai Golwalkar” (i.e. brother Golwalkar). Sardar’s intention appears to be to make Sangh join the Congress. Sardar says that the Provincial Governments are against lifting the ban. Then he writes, “My only suggestion to you is that the Sangh should be brought to adopt fresh lines of technique and policy. That new technique and new policy can be only according to the rules of the Congress.”
Before this letter, Sardar Patel had also replied to Shri Guruji’s letter of August 11. It is dated September 11. Here too, he makes the same point. The Deputy Prime Minister is more specific here. He says, “In this delicate hour there is no place for party conflicts and old quarrels. I am thoroughly convinced that the RSS men can carry on their patriotic endeavour only by joining the Congress… I hope that you will arrive at a proper decision after due consideration of what I have said above.”
Hand of Co-operation
It is obvious that Sardar Patel too had no correct appreciation of the RSS. The RSS was not founded to merge it in any political party. After this letter of September 11, restrictions on the movement of Shri Guruji were removed and he went to Delhi. He met Sardar Patel. But nothing came out of that meeting. It can be inferred that Shri Guruji must not have accepted Sardar’s suggestion. This also becomes evident from Shri Guruji’s letter dated November 5. He was in Delhi at that time. Sardar Patel, before leaving Delhi for Bombay, had sent some instructions to Shri Guruji. The purport of those instructions was that Shri Guruji’s purpose of coming to Delhi was over and that he should go back to Nagpur. Shri Guruji also came to know that the Deputy Prime Minister would not meet him again. Shri Guruji refers to these instructions in the beginning of the letter (November 5, 1948) and states unequivocally: “So far as all of us are aware, when the ban was imposed, it was the Central Government which took initiative in promulgating the order. On the next day, the other provinces, and a few days later the States (i.e. kingly states) only enforced that order. To my co-workers, who had approached the ministers of various provinces, the ministers declared that they were not concerned… And now for the Provincial Governments to point their finger to the Central Government and the Central Government in their turn to point to the Provincial Governments is something which will only result in evading the issue and can never lead to any satisfactory solution.” Shri Guruji reminds, “Once again, I want to submit that the charges levelled against the Sangh are, one and all, baseless, fictitious and false. It appears that due to the virulence of their propaganda, even the mind of such a balanced person, as yourself has been disturbed.” Shri Guruji adds, “Keeping in mind the delicate situation in the country and with a view to removing dissensions for the sake of a glorious future, I had instructed all my swayamsevak brothers to be peaceful and I strove for a peaceful settlement. I tried my utmost to see that between the Congress, which is capable of delivering goods in the political field and is at present the ruling party, and the RSS in the cultural field, which has achieved success in creating a matchless spirit of patriotism, brotherhood and selflessness among the people, there be no bad blood, there be only ever-lasting love, one supplementing and complementing the other, both meeting in a sacred confluence. I extended my hand of cooperation. With utmost regrets, I have to say that you have chosen to ignore my best intentions.”
On November 12, Shri Guruji received a communication from the Secretary, Home Department, to immediately leave Delhi. Shri Guruji refused to obey it. On November 13, he wrote to the then Home Minister: “I came to Delhi to get justice to my work. In its place I have an arbitrary decision unbecoming of a civilized government, which professes to uphold the fundamental rights of the people. Since the case has been entrusted solely to the Home Ministry, there are only two courses left open to them.
“To limit their attention to the charges mentioned in the communiqué of the Government of India dated February 4, 1948, declaring the RSS an illegal body and prove those charges by incontrovertible evidence. Mere assertions of information, which are not so proved, and arbitrary decisions based upon such information, which have been kept a jealously-guarded secret, will not help.
“To withdraw unconditionally all the charges as being baseless and lift the ban.” He affirmed that he intends to stay in the capital till either of these two courses is taken and “justice done to my cause”.
Satyagraha Begins
Shri HVR Iyengar, Secretary in the Ministry of Home Affairs, directed Shri Guruji “to make immediate arrangements to return to Nagpur”. He asked Shri Guruji as to what arrangements he was making, that too, “not later than tomorrow evening”. Shri Guruji did not oblige. Therefore, he was arrested, sent to Nagpur and then locked in a jail in Seoni, which is about two hundred kilometres from Nagpur.
The RSS had no option but to disregard the ban and start its Shakha-work again. This satyagraha started from December 9, 1948 and continued till January 22, 1949. The nature of satyagraha was to start a Shakha in a public place. The police would come and arrest the swayamsevaks, who would be produced next day before a magistrate, and the magistrate would sentence them to rigorous punishment for various lengths of time. Generally, the behaviour of the police used to be in accordance with law. However, in some cases, the satyagrahis were carried to long distance solitary places, dropped there and were therefore required to trek the long distance on foot. The Madras Police, however, were more cruel. They brutally beat up the satyagrahis by their sticks, smashed their heads and there was bloodshed. The Hindu newspaper, published from Madras, published these inhuman atrocities of the Police. Shri T.R. Venkat Ram Shastri, a former Advocate General, was moved by these reports and he publicly condemned the Police behaviour.
The Congress Governments at the Centre and in the Provinces thought that two to three thousand teenagers, at the most, would participate in the satyagraha and that it would fizzle out in about a week’s time. But the RSS proved the Government wrong. More than seventy-seven thousand satyagrahis courted arrest. Satyagraha was carried in all the Provinces. As the Satyagraha was in full swing, Shri G.V. Ketkar, Chief Editor of Kesari, a Marathi newspaper, founded by the late Lokmanya Tilak, came on the scene as an intermediary. It is reported that he was prompted by the Deputy PM Sardar Patel. He met Shri Guruji in jail and advised him to suspend the satyagraha so that meaningful negotiations could take place. Shri Guruji acceded to the request of Shri Ketkar and suspended the satyagraha from January 22, 1949. But there appeared no sign of lifting the ban.
Venkat Ram Shastri
Then came Shri Venkat Ram Shastri on the scene. He met Sardar Patel and other officers in the Home Ministry and then Shri Guruji who was in jail. Now the Government invented a new reason. The Government said the RSS is a secret association, because it had no written Constitution. This was conveyed to Shri Guruji by Shri Shastri. Shri Guruji replied that the RSS was not banned because it had no written Constitution. It was banned because of its alleged complicity in a conspiracy to kill Mahatma Gandhi. Now that the things are cleared, the Government must lift the ban and allow the RSS to function freely. Shri TRV Shastri was of the age of Shri Guruji’s father and therefore to respect his persistent request, Shri Guruji sent the written Constitution of the RSS. For the first time, a provision to elect the General Secretary of the RSS was incorporated in the Constitution. Shri Shastri took this Constitution to the Home Department, but the Government stood on false prestige and wanted the Constitution sent by Shri Guruji. So it was sent back to the Seoni jail and Shri Guruji sent it under his signature.
The Government thought that Shri Guruji was bending. They did not know what stuff he was made of. They tried to prick holes in the Constitution. Shri HVR Iyengar’s letter, written to Shri Guruji on May 3, 1949, is a specimen of the Government’s typical pig-headedness. Iyengar writes: “The gravamen of the charges against the RSS was that it functioned in secrecy, that whatever the professions of its organisers might have been, it derived its main inspiration in the minds of the people from the doctrine of communal hatred, that it exalted a communal party above State, and that in practice its followers indulged systematically in violence. The Government of India feel that the Constitution as drafted does not fully safeguard the organisation against these defects.”
Then Iyengar enumerates the following defects:
Positive and explicit declaration in the Constitution for the abjuration of violence is necessary.
The charge of surreptitious functioning of the organisation cannot be adequately met without a provision that all rules and instructions shall be written and published and all its activities shall be open.
The various committees at all levels seem to contain a substantial element of persons, who are virtually nominated from above. The Government of India consider that the democratic elective principle should be unequivocally recognised and acted upon. In particular, the functions of Sarsanghachalak have not been defined with any degree of precision. Iyengar then stoops down and makes a mean communal charge: “You are doubtless aware of the general criticism that in positions of importance the RSS has persons belonging to a particular community from a certain area”.
In regard to the pledge, the acceptance of a life obligation in connection with membership of an association is more common with secret societies than with democratic groups functioning in full public view. To this extent, the pledge is retrograde.
A provision to the effect that minors can be enrolled as members, only with written consent of their parents or guardians is necessary.