The RSS: The Force Behind Nanakshahi Change
It was Sardar Patel of the Congress who had written that “I am thoroughly convinced that the RSS men can carry on their patriotic endeavour only by joining the Congress and not by keeping separate or opposing.” It is Prakash Singh Badal who has written that "I have always maintained that the SAD-BJP alliance in Punjab and at the Centre is more than a political arrangement. It represents the social and emotional harmony of Punjab.” At a time when Akal Takht has already declared RSS as the Enemy Number One of the Sikh Nation, with what face does Prakash Singh Badal have an alliance with the RSS-BJP? Clearly, the deeply entrenched RSS-backed forces have succeeded in depriving the Quom of its distinctive Nanakshahi Calendar.
Sardar Parkash Singh Badal is very proud of his relationship with the BJP. It is something he defines as more than a political alliance. His favorite phrase for this is "brotherly alliance": "Bharawan Di Saanjh". He has never written a single article about Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, or a single lament about Operation Bluestar. He never picked up a pen to write about denial of justice to victims of the 1984 genocide of the Sikhs, but as the World Sikh News brought out in its last edition, he has written an article in praise of a man who takes pride in being a lifelong member of the RSS -- AB Vajpayee.
As per Badal, “If I have to pick one national leader as the ultimate embodiment of the widest political consensus in the country, it will have to be Atalji.”
Since Prakash Singh Badal's Akali Dal has a brute majority in the SGPC and has ensured earlier this week that the Sikh Nation buckles before the demands being orchestrated by deep RSS lobbies within the panthic ranks and has changed the Nanakshahi Calendar, it is the best time to engage with how the RSS past has been, and how such an organization managed to stay lawful and accepted in India despite leading an explicitly hatred-filled agenda.
Twice in India the RSS was banned. Once, on February 4, 1948, after the murder of Mahatma Gandhi, and second time during the Emergency on July 4, 1975.
Here is what the government communique of February 4, 1948, announcing the ban, said:
“The professed aims and objects of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh are to promote the physical, intellectual and moral well-being of the Hindus and also to foster feelings of the brotherhood, love and service amongst them. Government themselves are most anxious to approve the general material and intellectual well-being of all sections of the people and have got schemes on hand which are designed to carry out the objects, particularly the provision of physical training and education in military matters to the youth of the country. Government have, however, noticed with regret that in practice members of Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh have not adhered to their professed ideals.
“Undesirable and even dangerous activities have been carried on by the members of the Sangh. It has been found that in several parts of the country individual members of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh have indulged in acts of violence involving arson, robbery, dacoity and murder and have collected illicit arms and ammunitions. They have been found circulating leaflets, exhorting people to resort to terrorist methods, to collect firearms, to create disaffection against the government and suborn the police and military.”
Read vintage Golwalker, the then chief of the RSS: “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 Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh in the cultural field, …there be no bad blood, there be only everlasting mutual love, one supplementing and complementing the other, both meeting in a sacred confluence.” Of course today they meet in a “confluence”, sacred or not, and also joining this confluence is the Akali Dal of Badals.
Golwalkar claimed that the RSS was law-abiding and would “carry on its activities within the bounds of law”. He was arrested on February 1 and was released on August 6, 1948, but his movements were restricted to Nagpur. Five days later he wrote to Nehru and Patel complaining against the restrictions.
On September 27, A.V. Pai replied from the Prime Minister’s Secretariat that “Government have a great deal of evidence in their possession to show that the RSS were engaged in activities which were anti-national and prejudicial from the point of view of public good. Just before the banning of the RSS he (Mr. Nehru) is informed that the U.P. government sent you a note on some of the evidence they have collected about such activities of the RSS in U.P. Other provinces have also such evidence in their possession. Even after the ban we have received information about the undesirable activities of the old members of the RSS. This information continues to come to us even now. You will appreciate that in view of this, the government cannot consider the RSS as such a harmless organisation from the public point of view.”
Golwalkar demanded (November 3) an inquiry. By now the restriction had been lifted for the sole purpose of permitting him to visit Delhi and lay his case before the government. However, his request for an interview with Nehru was refused. While declining the interview, Nehru (November 10) made a telling point: “It would appear that the declared objectives have little to do with the real ones and with the activities carried on in various forms and ways by people associated with the RSS. These real objectives appear to be completely opposed to the decisions of the Indian Parliament and the provisions of the proposed Constitution, anti-national and often subversive and violent.”
Mark the words. "Declared objectives have little to do with the real ones". Which part of it is not true today? The BJP's newly appointed president Nitin Gadkari has taken upon himself to defend Narendra Modi. He is going all out to project Modi, under whose watch the killings of the Muslims in Gujarat took place, as the Vikas Purash of India. It is with such a party that Prakash Singh Badal is proud of his association.
Even after the ban, Patel was keen to absorb the RSS within the Congress. Yet, he was not too forthcoming when his Hindu Mahasabhaite colleague in the Cabinet, Shyama Prasad Mookerjee, began pestering him to be soft on the RSS and the Mahasabha. Patel wrote to Mookerjee on July 18 that “our reports do confirm that, as a result of the activities of these two bodies, particularly the former (the RSS), an atmosphere was created in the country in which such a ghastly tragedy (Gandhi’s assassination) became possible. There is no doubt in my mind that the extreme section of the Hindu Mahasabha was involved in this conspiracy. The activities of the RSS constituted a clear threat to the existence of government and the state. Our reports show that those activities, despite the ban, have not died down. Indeed, as time has marched on, the RSS circles are becoming more defiant and are indulging in their subversive activities in an increasing measure.”
Clearly, this was the compromise between the Congress and the RSS. Both catered to the radicalised, communal Hindu sentiments and did not want to lose this important chunk of Indian electorate. With Congress assuming a left of Centre position and leaving the right of centre to the RSS-Janasangh or the modern day BJP, the entire Hindutva flank can be covered. It is his cooperation, collusion and teaming up with such a flank that Prakash Singh Badal is so proud of.
That there is a deeply entrenched soft Hindutva forever etched inside the Congress is clear from Patel’s reply to Golwalkar less than two months later, on September 11.
Addressing him as “Brother Golwalkar” (the latter’s letter was addressed to “Hon’ble Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel”), the Sardar recalled his speech at Jaipur in December 1947 in which he had spoken very gently of the RSS (“patriots who love their country”). He regretted that this had no effect on the Sangh: “There can be no doubt that the RSS did service to the Hindu Society.... But the objectionable part arose when they, burning with revenge, began attacking Musalmans. Organising the Hindus and helping them is one thing, but going in for revenge for its sufferings on innocent and helpless men, women and children is quite another thing.” He added: “All their speeches were full of communal poison.” Patel reminded Golwalkar that RSS men expressed joy and distributed sweets after Gandhi’s death. He squarely charged that “as a final result of the poison the country had to suffer the sacrifice of the invaluable life of Gandhi”.
But the Sardar, nonetheless, made a strange proposal for reasons of his own: “I am thoroughly convinced that the RSS men can carry on their patriotic endeavour only by joining the Congress and not by keeping separate or opposing.” He had the restriction lifted and Golwalkar came to Delhi.
Prakash Singh Badal finds it easy to look for an enemy in the Congress and a friend in the RSS-BJP. Why he cannot see what is visible to even the political novices is beyond any understanding unless Badal is being a hypocrite. Clearly, he is being one.
When the talks did not succeed, on November 2, 1948, Golwalkar announced the failure in public statements outlining his stand. Three days later he replied to Sardar Patel’s proposal in terms which are very significant. They were the basis on which he later supported the creation of the Jan Sangh, the ancestor of the BJP: “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 Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh 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 everlasting mutual love, one supplementing and complementing the other, both meeting in a sacred confluence.”
So, even though the talks had failed and Golwalkar was ordered to go back to Nagpur, the intentions have come on record for the posterity. The Congress till date has been delivering goods in the political field and the RSS has been polluting the cultural field. The recent changes effected in the Nanakshahi Calendar are the latest proof of this cultural pollution.
This what PM Nehru’s office wrote to the RSS chief: “Government have a great deal of evidence in their possession to show that the RSS were engaged in activities which were anti-national and prejudicial from the point of view of public good.”
Here is the Indian Home Ministry's statement of November 14, 1948 recording what had transpired in Golwalkar’s two interviews with Sardar Patel and the former’s refusal to alter the Sangh’s ways: “The information received by the Government of India shows that the activities carried on in various forms and ways by the people associated with the RSS tend to be antinational and often subversive and violent and that persistent attempts are being made by the RSS to revive an atmosphere in the country which was productive of such disastrous consequences in the past.” It added: “He has written letters both to the Prime Minister and Home Minister explaining inter alia that the RSS agrees entirely with the conception of a secular state for India and that it accepts the National Flag of the country and requesting that the ban imposed on the organisation in February should now be lifted. These professions of the RSS leader are, however, quite inconsistent with the practice of his followers and for the reason already explained above, the Government of India find themselves unable to advise Provincial Governments to lift the ban.”
The government issued a communique on July 11, 1949, announcing the lifting of the ban. It recorded the RSS leader’s clarifications and said: “In the light of the modifications made and clarifications given by the RSS leader, the Government of India have come to the conclusion that the RSS organisation should be given an opportunity to function as a democratic, cultural organisation owing loyalty to the Indian Constitution and recognising the National Flag eschewing secrecy and abjuring violence.”
Clearly, this was the compromise between the Congress and the RSS. Both catered to the radicalised, communal Hindu sentiments and did not want to lose this important chunk of Indian electorate. With Congress assuming a left of Centre position and leaving the right of centre to the RSS-Janasangh or the modern day BJP, the entire Hindutva flank can be covered.
It is his cooperation, collusion and teaming up with such a flank that Prakash Singh Badal is so proud of. Badal's words as a study in obsequousness:
"After the elections, a BJP-led government was to be formed at the Centre with Mr Vajpayee as Prime Minister. They were looking for allies. I realized that this was a crucial and even a historic moment to undo the feelings of mutual suspicion. The Shiromani Akali Dal had swept the polls in Punjab. We went over to Mr Vajpayee's residence and announced unconditional support to him. Vajpayeeji embraced me in front of a large gathering that had come to his residence to express solidarity with him. A picture of Vajpayeeji and me on Page 1 of a prominent national daily the next morning did more to bridge the emotional chasm that had been created between Hindus and Sikhs. It was an emotional moment... I can never adequately explain what our coming together has done for creating an atmosphere of mutual goodwill in Punjab."
If this was the Badals' turn for turning obsequous, they were only taking a leaf out of the RSS own book. When the RSS was banned for the second time, the letters that the then RSS chief Balasaheb Deoras had written to Indira Gandhi during the Emergency were cringing: “I have heard the speech you delivered on August 15, 1975, from the Red Fort, Delhi on AIR. The speech was balanced and befitting to the occasion and has prompted me to write this letter to you,” he wrote on August 22. He concluded: “I beseech you to rescind the ban imposed upon the RSS.” Deoras wrote to Indira Gandhi again on July 16, praising her foreign policy and renewing his plea on the ban. Both letters were ignored.
Deoras’ letters to S.B. Chavan were as abject. He wrote on June 6, 1976, asking Chavan for “release on parole with a view to clarifying certain issues directly to you”. The entreaty was repeated on July 12, 1976. None of the letters elicited a reply.
When the Emergency was over, and the RSS prospered during the Janata era, Prakash Singh Badal was among the key politicians that lent credibility to the Janasangh. When the Janasangh walked out of the Janata Party to form the Bharatiya Janata Party, Prakash Singh Badal did not lose a single opportunity to underline his close links with LK Advani or AB Vajpayee.
When the Akal Takht in recent past declared the RSS to be the Enemy Number One of the Sikh Nation, Prakash Singh Badal did his level best to get the hukumnama deferred or withdrawn. So far he has only succeeded in not letting this Hukumnama come to the forefront.
Now when the Justice Liberhan Commission also says that the BJP and the RSS are but one, and that there was no way the BJP can go out of the command and control structure of the RSS, one thing is very clear: Punjab's ruling Akali Dal of Parkash Singh Badal-Sukhbir Singh Badal has an alliance with a party that is an appendage of the RSS, described by the Akal Takht as Enemy Number One of the Sikhs.
So what is Akali Dal? Enemy Number Two of the Sikhs?
No wonder Mr Badal has written: "If I have to pick one national leader as the ultimate embodiment of the widest political consensus in the country, it will have to be Atalji." Whatever happened to a social construct called "Shame"?
RSS: The Agent Provocateur
RSS has been raising provocative issues every now and then, keeping up the pressure on India's minorities and sending signals that unless they agree tolive in a subdued manner with second class citizen status, there will be trouble.
Not so long ago, its leader K.S. Sudarshan said minority status for Muslims and Christians in India should be scrapped. "Ninety-nine per cent of Muslims and Christians in this country were born here. So why do they call themselves minorities?" he asked.
Every now and then, the right-wing umbrella saffron body of Rashtriya Swamsewak Sangh (RSS) considers it prudent to mention that the Sikhs are a part of the larger Hindu samaj.
Last year, the RSS had said it was putting to rest earlier controversies by redefining its stand on the Sikh faith, but merely reiterated that Sikhism is a separate religion but part of the larger Hindu samaj. The statement only complicated matters further with the Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) adopting a hard stance and objecting to this view, but not moving an inch to counter it.
“We regard the Sikh religion as a separate religion, but we regard the Sikh people as belonging to our samaj.When we say that they are a part of the one great Hindu samaj, we do not deny the existence of their separate religion and separate beliefs.The Hindu samaj is a commonwealth of many religions,” the RSS official website stated.
It also said that the RSS held the belief that the Hindu Code Bill is applicable to Sikhs, Jains and Buddhista alike and it should be applicable to others like Christians and Muslims too.
Sikhs have often reacted sharply and have asserted that they have their own separate identity and are not a part of the Hindu samaj. The Sikhs have also been demanding that they should not be covered under the Hindu Marriage Act and that the government should implement the Anand Marriage Act while accepting Sikhs as a separate Nation.
In what may not be to the liking ot the Akalis, allies of the BJP, the Sangh has also expressed the view that it sees a “problem” of minorities assume a political character.
“The majority-minority distinctions must be restricted to the bases on which the minority character is sought to be claimed ... The problem arises when a particular minority transgresses the basis of its minority character and assumes a political one,”it said.
Voices against the RSS have often emerged from among the Diaspora too. At a human rights conference in Southall last October, a number of communities came together as a front against Hindutva terrorism backed by organisations like the RSS in India. Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, Jain and Sikh community leaders included Lord Nazir Ahmed, Avtar Singh Sanghra(Babbar), Tarsem singh (British Sikh council), Gurcharan Singh (Dal Khalsa), Manmohan Singh Khalsa (World Muslim Sikh Federation), Nazar Lodhi (World Muslim Sikh Federation), Sonil (Buddhist community India), Dr Mokel Hazaraka (Assam watch) Hindu community leader, Amdad Husain (Star News) and Adran Chada (British Muslim Youth Federation UK).
All the leaders collectively wanted a ban on the RSS and said there was certainly no place for such an organisation in the UK which stood for human rights and tolerance for all communities.
In the light of the increased activities of the RSS in the United Kingdom in gathering funds, political backing and spreading their hate ideology, the World Muslim Sikh Federation even petitioned Prime Minister Gordon Brown to ban the group, freeze its assets and its funding.
The RSS influences the policies of every single political party in India, be it the Congress, BJP and so on. The RSS has recently increased its activities within the UK against Sikhs and other groups, such as Muslims. By creating tension between Sikhs and Muslims for no apparent reason, they have also tried to divide these two communities from within by causing internal conflict.