Stern Retort

Shri Guruji, instead of replying to Shri Iyengar, directly wrote to the “Home Minister”, Government of India. This suggests a change in his attitude. His earlier correspondence was with “Hon’ble Sardarji”. Now he was writing to the “Hon’ble Home Minister”. This tough letter is dated May 17 and it is from the Seoni jail. Shri Guruji writes:

  1. It would have been advisable for the Government not to have referred to the charges levelled against the RSS. This letter takes us back to the February ’48 days, an unhappy retrogression. If the Government believed that the information on which they had based these charges was reliable, they should have in response to my request to the Hon’ble Prime Minister and yourself, come forward to prove them before any impartial tribunal. This would have given us a chance to know what stuff the information was made of. It is over 16 months that the charges were levelled and over six months I asked for proof. But no such proof has been forthcoming and now it is too late. Under the circumstances it is unbecoming of a Government, claiming to be civilised, to continue to reiterate the so-called charges even at this late stage and does not derive any respect for the truth, justice, or due process of law on the part of the Government.
  2. I am not aware of any general criticism that the RSS has “in all positions of importance persons belonging to a particular community from a particular area”. The Government have before them a substantial portion of members of the RSS whom they have been pleased to put in jails. Even a cursory glance will suffice to show that this remark has been made without due consideration.
  3. As regards “appointments from above” let me with all humility point out that this does not indicate any want of “democratic element”, since in all provinces and the centre, the bodies laying down the policy, guiding and controlling the work, are composed of elected members. Only the day-to-day routine is in charge of persons “appointed from above”. This ought to satisfy the Government’s solicitude for the “democratic elective principle”, seeing that the Government themselves are composed of a small elective body—the Assembly—whereas the great bulk is all “appointed from above”—right from H.E. the Governor General to the last peon. And yet no one can say that the Government of India is undemocratic.
  4. About the functions of the Sarsanghachalak I have not been able to see what “vestiges of dictatorship” there are in the Constitution. The central elected body is the sole authority and has alone the responsibility of discharging all necessary functions regarding the work. There seems to be only two rights which the Sarsanghachalak possesses: (1) of nominating his successor (2) of calling and addressing meetings of members in any locality. For the rest he is a general guide.
  5. The minors are not members. The Government have not carefully read the provision. Regarding the necessity of the written permission of the parents are minor details, which can be worked out later.
  6. Let me state that the RSS has always functioned in the open. The charge of surreptitious functioning is untrue and born out of misunderstanding.
  7. Regarding the pledge: The RSS bases its work upon Hindu culture. In Hindu culture, a pledge is always a life obligation and not a temporary contract. If the life pledge is the quality of secret societies only and retrograde, then in the opinion of the Government the whole Hindu society must be akin to a secret society and the Hindu culture retrograde. Do the Government think it will be right or creditable to accept this conclusion seeing that you, the Hon’ble Home Minister, have declared in your recent speeches that you know and respected Hindu culture?
  8. I have always believed and with all the emphasis at my command maintain that these “charges” are wholly untrue and that violence, secrecy, communal hatred etc. had never any place in the RSS in the past and can have no place in the future. As for the somewhat new and original charge of “exalting a communal party over State”, I can only say that the expression is meaningless and in the present set-up such a condition can never arise, whatever party be in question.”

Vanity Touched

The Government had not expected such straightforward, stern response from a person languishing in a jail. Its vanity was touched. In this mood Iyengar replies on May 24. He says, “The Government of India regret that you should have used phrases like ‘meaningless expression’ and charged the Government with indulging in ‘unbecoming behaviour and lack of respect for truth, justice or due process of law’ such language constitutes a complete disregard of the ordinary rules of courtesy and propriety, more particularly in reply to the Government.

“In regard to your argument that an impartial tribunal should judge the charges made against the RSS, the Government of India would like you to understand that they are and must be the final judge whether the activities of an organisation or an individual are prejudicial to or subversive of the State and they cannot share that judgement with any tribunal. Indeed, any suggestion that a matter like this be referred to an impartial tribunal can only come from an unrealistic appreciation of the very elements of Public Administration.” The letter ends with the repetition of the same old charges.

End of Correspondence

Shri Guruji finally replies to this letter on June 1, 1949. The reply is again addressed to the “Home Minister”. As to the ignorance of the basic elements of Public Administration, Shri Guruji says, “I admit my ignorance in this behalf which I have the honour of sharing with no less a personality than Mahatma Gandhi. If this is meant to be an abiding principle of administration—well it is dangerous.”

With regard to the “objectionable” language, used by him, Shri Guruji, taking a dig at the history of the Congress Party when the Congress had made many a humble submission to the then foreign British government, says: “I am a plain man brought up in an organisation wherein the sense of high or low does not predominate and wherein, therefore, there is no occasion to study and use a style of language suitable for addressing rulers and masters.” He adds, “I beg to be excused for not being able to persuade myself to confess to the charges which I know to be untrue, even to humour the Government, in spite of my regard for the persons, now in charge of the Government.” And he concludes: “Since my direct and truthful words seem to be unpalatable to the Government, I think it best to desist from writing any further for the present.”

A Mystery

This letter of Shri Guruji was acknowledged by Shri Iyengar on June 11, 1949. So there was a stalemate. Shri T.R. Venkat Ram Shastri’s statement was published in the morning editions of the newspaper in which he had expressed “the continuance of the ban and the detention of the chief men in jail, is, in my opinion, neither just, nor wise, nor expedient.” And surprisingly, the same day, in the evening the All India Radio announced that the ban on the RSS has been lifted. Naturally, the people were astonished. What happened in a month from June 11 (Iyengar’s letter) to July 11, appeared to be a mystery. But it was not a mystery. The Government was on back foot. It had failed to fathom the firmness, commitment and courage of the RSS leader. It had to find out a way to end the impasse. So, Shri Moulichandra Sharma, who then happened to be the president of Janadhikar Samiti (a body for protecting people’s fundamental rights) and was a close friend of D.P. Mishra, the then Home Minister of C.P. & Berar, and trusted follower of Sardar Patel, was asked to mediate. Shri Sharma met the RSS leaders who were not in jail and also Shri Guruji who was in jail. He was plainly told that Shri Guruji or anybody in the RSS will not give anything in writing to the Government. But the Government itself found out a fig leaf. Shri Guruji would be asked by Shri Moulichandra Sharma certain clarifications on the RSS position about vital topics of national interest and importance. And Shri Guruji would reply to Shri Moulichandra Sharma’s queries. So, Shri Guruji wrote a letter to Shri Sharma, who was present with him in jail, a personal letter which begins with “My dear Shri Moulichandraji”. This letter was written on July 10. Shri Sharma flew to Delhi with this letter and on July 12, the lifting of the ban was announced by the All India Radio. There was not a single new word in the letter to Shri Sharma. The same words and sentiments were used in a statement given in the press conference in Delhi and also communicated to the Government. But then the Government was not satisfied. Now it was satisfied by a letter written, not to them, but to a private individual.

Because of this sudden turn of events, many a people had surmised that there was some surrender on the part of the RSS or Shri Guruji. Shri Guruji nailed all these suspicions in a public speech at Nagpur, when he was accorded a public reception after his release. Shri A.D. Mani, the then Chief Editor of an English daily The Hitwad, was in the chair. Shri Mani publicly asked whether “Shri Golwalkar had given any undertaking or assurance to the government”. Shri Guruji observed, “I want to assure all concerned that in my negotiations I had not acted in my individual capacity. I would have preferred to lay down my life rather than do anything derogatory to the great organisation.” This is confirmed by the proceedings of the Bombay Legislative Assembly of October 14, 1949. The relevant extract is as follows:

Question No. 1503

Mr Lallubhai Makanji Patel

Will the Hon’ble Minister for Home and Revenue be pleased to state

  1. Whether it is a fact that the ban on RSS has been lifted?
  2. If so what are the reasons for lifting the ban?
  3. Whether the lifting of the ban is conditional or unconditional?
  4. If conditional, what are the conditions?
  5. Whether the leader of the RSS has given any undertaking to the government?
  6. If so, what is the undertaking?

Mr Dinkarrao Desai for Mr Morarji Desai replies

  1. Yes
  2. The ban has been lifted, as it was no longer considered necessary to continue it.
  3. It was unconditional.
  4. Does not arise.
  5. No.
  6. Does not arise.

It was due to the magnanimity of Shri Guruji that he did not utter a single word about his unjust incarceration or the prejudicial obstinacy of the Government. When pressed, he only said, “One does not pull out one’s teeth, if they by mistake bite the tongue and harm it.” Had the then Government shown a fraction of this type of large-heartedness and had abjured pettiness, the stalemate would have been resolved much earlier. But that was not, it can now be said, destined to happen.