RSS in Indian freedom movement
Hedgewar went to Kolkata for studying medicine where he become the member of revolutionary secret group called Anusilan Samiti and gradually rise to the inner core of the organisation which has Aurobindo Ghosh and Rash Bihari Bose as their mentors.
In 1915 after returning to Nagpur he joined INC and engaged in anti British activity through the Kranti Dal. He was imprisoned for sedition in 1921 for 1 year and again for 9 months in 1930.
Hedgewar was a senior Congress leader in the Vidarbha region, he was in the organising committee when the National Convention of Congress was organised in Nagpur. Hedgewar was jailed for one year during the Non Cooperation Movement.
Hedgewar organised and participated in the Forest Satyagraha 1930. A serious time journal by David Baker throw light on the positive impact of Jungle Satyagraha. Same type of revolution was started by Alluri Sitaram Raju in Godavari district of Andhra.
Hedgewar supported Indian National Congress when it decided the Poorna Swaraj to be its ultimate goal. He wrote a letter to his organisation cadres. He wrote,
“The Congress had declared “independence” to be its goal and the CWC has announced that 26 /01/1930 be celebrated as “independence day” throughout the country. It is but natural that all of us should feel heartened that this all India party has come close to its goal of independence. It is therefore our duty to cooperate with any organisation , that work keeping this purpose foremost. Therefore all the Saakhas should organise the gathering of all the Swayamsewaks at 6’o clock in the evening and salute our guru and national flag which is saffron flag. The true meaning of independence and how to preserve it must be the essence of talk. Since we accepted the goal of the congress, the party must be congratulated. The report of this program must be sent to us.
-Dr. Hedgewar’s letter 21/01/1930
It has been evident that now everyone will have reservations on the choice of saffron flag by Dr. Hedgewar, this could be tackled by INC’s stand. Official stand of INC also certified saffron as national flag.
“We felt that the flag must be distinctive, artistic, rectangular and non communal. Opinion has been unanimous that our national flag should be of singular colour except for the colour of device. If there is one colour that is more acceptable to Indian as a whole, even as it is more distinctive then another, one that is associated with this country by long tradition, it is kesari or saffron colour.
- Flag Commitee INC , 1931
Sangh not only kept away from agitation of Congress but it also kept away from that of Hindu Mahasabha . When Sangh refrained from Bhaganagar Satyagraha the ex. member of Sangh accused the RSS of frittering away the Hindu energy and said that, “I pit this organisation and it will die soon.” Dr. Hedgewar’s organisation is not the tail of Hindu Mahasabha, his descision to join the Civil Disobedience Movement erased the government’s dillusion about this. Central Province Home Department reported,”Hedgewar’s participation has invigorated the movement. He led thousands of Satyagrahis and suffered a year rigorous imprisonment”.
He started huge agitation against the British in April 1940 in Poona. All activists of K. B. Hedgewar were Maharastra centric as his organisation was not at national level it was limited to few districts of Maharastra.
“First of all . I wish to tell the malicious mind that RSS is neither a military force of Hindus nor the military wing of the Hindu Mahasabha. The Sangh’s endevour is to make Hindus nationalist in true sense.”
– K.B Hedgewar (Poona Agitation) 8/04/1940
Congress and Hindu Mahasabha wanted Hedgewar to be both the political parties. The Hindu Mahasabha and INC accused RSS for being anti-Hindu and communal respectively.
Dr. Hedgewar always supported the freedom struggle movement of other organisations also. There are some instances where he provided the ground cadre to different organisations which are actively fighting for the independence of Bharat. Satyavrath Ghosh and Kanchanmoy Majumdar wrote about this. To quote two such instances-
“Despite , strict non – involvement of Sangh in political movement directly, the Sangh was ready to help any political movement by supplying its cadres and allowing it to give their faculties and facilities provided it works for the cause of India’s welfare. Trilokynath Chakrborthy (1889-1970) was a Bengali revolutionary and freedom fighter. He met Dr. Hedgewar who promised him that Sangh would provide him with cadres for future revolution, he was planning”. -Satyavrath Ghose, Remembering our Revolutionaries (Marxist Study Forum, 1994 . Page 57)
“Those in the Congress who could not rise above the pettiness of politics had passed the resolution in 1934 that their members could not join the RSS. Four years after the rsolution,”Bose repeatedly sent emissaries to Hedgewar in 1939, perhaps seeking his help for an armed uprising”. ‘Modern Review'(March 1941) reviews that ,”Dr. Hedgewar died in Nagpur at the age of 51. S.C Bose went to see him in Nagpur”. – Dr. Kanchanmoy Majumdar (Eminent Historian)
Guruji Golwalkar was different in his approach, he was not of revolutionary character like Dr. Hedgewar, he was the disciple of Swami Akhandanand of Ramkrishna Mission and was into spirituality.
In 1940s there were several reports by the British Home Department which held RSS and Golwalkar suspicion of their anti-British activity. To cite a reports-
“Golwalkar condemned those who were selfishly helping the British Government. He declared that his organisations has resolved to do its duty even if the whole world turn against them, and they are ready to sacrifice their lives for the cause of country even after the partition”.- No. 28, Section F, Home Dept (27/04/1942)
British anxiety had good reasons. A report warned that, “Cadres had infiltrated into Army, Navy, Post & Telegraphs, railway and administrative services, so that there may be no difficulty in capturing administrative department when time comes”. It further stated.”the organisation is intensely anti-British and its tone is incresingly becoming militant”. – 13/10/1943, Home Department (G.A Ahmed)
Central Province matter – Central province government reported that, “Of late sangh has started taking interest in the political movement of the country, government servants should not participate in program of this communal organisation”. – Circular Letter No. 2352-2158(4) , 15/16 December 1932
After two day discussion on ideology and organisation on March 7-8, 1934. The government was isolated and failed to prove role of Sangh in communal activity. House leader Raghvendra Rao failed to answer M.S Rehman’s query on any Muslim organisation against Sangh or, of any evidence government has to prove organisation as communal. Government has to withdraw the circular on March 8,1934. – State Legislature Central Province.
All the RSS camps were destroyed, arms and literature were seized, besides the arrest of cadres under the rule ‘Defence of India Rules’. Participation in Gandhian movement did not instinct and annihilate to overthrow colonial rule by armed revolution.
Many freedom fighter got vital assistance too –
⦁ 1.ArunaAsafAlitookasyluminhouseofHansRaj Gupta.
Bhausaheb Deshmukh and Babasaheb Apte
On 16 August 1942 at Chimur(Maharastra) many RSS workers participated directly into Quit India Movement. Dada Naik was sentenced to death and Ramdas Rampure was shot dead by the British. Dada Naik is largely behind the recent uprising and Tukodoji Maharaj conspired the whole disturbance in the Chimur quoted the Confidential report of State Police.
During Bengal Faminine the relief camps were opened and operated by Shyama Prasad Mokherjee, all the services were provided by Mokherjee, where many Bose supporters also worked. It is quoted in Madhushree Mukherjee’s book Churchill’s Secret War.
The threat of partition become real and fate of Hindus in regions of Western Punjab and Eastern Bengal become worrisome. This community needs to be safeguarded, Golwalkar focussed more into the organisation building, he sent many organisational men (Pracharak) to these regions. SEWA BHARTHI camps were setup in the today’s Pakistan region to provide assistance and safeguarding people after the partition. Pracharaks were sent to establish camps and projects in Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar, Chittagong, Dhaka etc.
Sangh’s weakness is not its complete absence from freedom movement but its the bias of the certain intellectuals who didn’t talked on this. We have these responsibilities on our shoulders to not allow the nation’s history to be circumscribed by ideological dogmas any longer. The youth of this time should have rigour to research and read about Rashtriye Swayamsewak Sangh and its role during and after the independence of Bharat.
Student of Civil Engineering, Jamia Millia Islamia (New Delhi). Attended short term course on Indian Strategic Thinking at Vivekananda International Foundation, New Delhi.
Follower of History, Politics and Society.