Lost Years of the RSS
Publication Year: 2011
Lost Years of the RSS is a historical analysis of the events that have shaped the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in its 85 years of existence. Written from an insider's perspective, this in-depth work critically analyzes the major turning points in the history of RSS from the viewpoint of both a follower and an opponent, while digging deep into its socio-political history.
Beginning with the political ethnography of the RSS, the book charts the organization's growth over time—from the Partition, the first ban, the Golwalkar and Deoras periods, the demolition of Babri Masjid, to the present, when the original principles of the Sangh have been forgotten, leading to the current decadence within the organization.
The author concludes with suggestions for a way forward for the RSS, wherein ...
- Front Matter
- Back Matter
- Subject Index
- Chapter 1: Original Design of the RSS: An Analysis
- Chapter 2: Political Ethnography of the RSS
- Chapter 3: Dominant Tendencies of the Golwalkar Era
- Chapter 4: Withdrawal, Return and Ascent of Deoras
- Chapter 5: The Emergency and Post-Emergency
- Chapter 6: The BJP, the Parivar and Deoras: 1980–85
- Chapter 7: Catapulting the Hindu to the Centre Stage
- Chapter 8: Road to Political Power and Its Aftermath
- Chapter 9: The Unipolar World and the RSS' Response
- Chapter 10: The Future, If Any
- Chapter 11: The New Hindutva (Violent) Forces
The RSS Branch is not just a place to play games or parade, but an unsaid promise of the protection of the good citizenry, an acculturation forum to keep the young away from undesirable addictions; it is a centre of hope, for rapid action and undemanding help in case of emergencies and crisis that affect the people. It is a guaranty of the unafraid movement of women and a powerful deterrent to the indecent behaviour towards them, also a powerful threat to the brutal and anti national forces. But the most important aspect is it is a University for training the appropriate workers to be made available for the requirements of the various fields of life of the nation. And the medium to achieve all this is the Games we play of the grounds of RSS branch.— Shri Balasaheb Deoras
Copyright © Sanjeev Kelkar, 2011
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or utilised in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
First published in 2011 by
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Lost years of the RSS/Sanjeev Kelkar.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
1. Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh — History. 2. India — Politics and government — 1947–. 3. Hinduism — Relations — Islam. 4. Hinduism and politics — India. 5. Hindutva. 6. Hedgewar, Keshav Baliram, 1889–1940 — Political and social views. I. Title.
320.540954 — dc22
ISBN: 978-81-321-0590-9 (PB)
The SAGE Team: Elina Majumdar, Aniruddha De and Deepti Saxena
To Shri Balasaheb Deoras,
Chief of RSS, 1973–1994,
The misunderstood giant,
The balance wheel of RSS and Parivar.
To the followers of the RSS, in the hope that they regain, through his thinking, the need to rediscover and represent the RSS of the original,
and destroy the unacceptable rabidness, inconsistencies, imbalances and distortions it has become a victim of.
To all my friends adhering to other ideologies to introspect, to reach the truths about themselves and to shed the obsolescence pervading therein.[Page vi]
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List of Abbreviations[Page ix]
ABPS Akhil Bharatiya Pratinidhi Sabha or All India Representatives' Council, the highest decision making and ratifying body of RSS ABVKA Akhil Bharatiya Vanavasi Kalyan Ashram or All India Tribal Welfare Organisation ABVP Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad or All India (College) Students Organisation BJP Bharatiya Janata Party BJS Bharatiya Jan Sangh BMS Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh or Indian Labour Organisation CWC Congress Working Committee KKM Kendriya Karyakari Mandal or Central Executive Committee of RSS OTC Officers Training Camp, held every year since 1929 or so during summer in about 50 places in the country to train swayamsevaks in leadership qualities. A few years after Golwalkar took over as the chief of the RSS, the same was called Sangh Shiksha Varga or camp for teaching the RSS way of thinking[Page x] RSS Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh or National Volunteer Corps VHP Vishwa Hindu Parishad
This is not just a book. It is a ‘treatise’ with a difference. It is not a doctoral dissertation, yet it has all the elements of objective analysis and interpretation. It is research based and substantially documented. Though it has an autobiographical dimension, it has no personal bias, no predilection, nor rancour! Indeed, it has a strong purpose to make us introspect and examine all the premises which we hold closely, even passionately, often prejudicially and sometimes possessively!!
We frequently encounter people, particularly in this country, who refuse to inquire. They feel it is a betrayal to the ‘cause’ they held so dearly. They think it is immoral. Even blasphemous! The result is—we do not grow, neither individually nor collectively. This intellectual and emotional stagnation results in inertia. Finally, this inertia destroys our life at personal, social as well as national level.
The title of the book, The Lost Years of RSS, may sound to some as provocative. Actually, it is inquisitive, but our intelligentsia regards being inquisitive as provocative. Also [Page xii]it must be stated that the title is also slightly, but inevitably, misleading. The book is about the RSS, from its concept and foundation to its today's predicament. A similar exercise could be undertaken by any Communist, Socialist or a Gandhian. In fact, by anyone who regards his conviction is superior to the ‘reality’ he is in.
The author of this book is not just a medical consultant. He is a highly experienced Management Expert and Strategic Consultant, a grassroots worker and also an institution builder. A social activist and a nationalist, without any chauvinism, religious or cultural! Compassion and commitment have been his driving forces. That is why he chose to work in totally poor and backward rural area for long years. He could have given up and settled in a cosy metro city or settled abroad. Yet, he chose to change the world around him.
Born in Nagpur and educated in Mumbai, he has lectured and taught in many places world over. He has travelled all over the world and interacted with a vast range of people. His career spans from his rural stint to highly complex medicine to multinational pharma industry to professional education for doctors. He has seen medicine from a 360-degree perspective. It is necessary to know these aspects of Dr Kelkar's personality.
Though well known in his field, he is not known as an author in the area of Humanities. He has written professional papers and monographs, but not anything like this treatise. I must add that this book is truly profound and written in an extremely elegant language. Without pretensions of erudition, the book delves into philosophy and science. The author knows that any discourse or debate is not possible without that perspective. One cannot, similarly, discuss the RSS without the current global scene. And the global scene cannot be understood without the process of globalisation. In turn, economics, technology, sociology and psychology become relevant.
Dr Kelkar is very well read and has a sound understanding of the fundamentals. He does not get bogged down by these [Page xiii]dimensions. He refers and elaborates on them only when necessary and strictly in context. Sure, his personal as well as political association has been with the RSS and the BJP. But it is obvious that he did not get trapped psychologically, ideologically or politically. Without an open mind and global perspective such a book could not have been written.
For whom is it written? What was the motivation? The title might wrongly suggest that it is addressed to the rank and file of the RSS, its sympathisers, supporters or those curious, but neutral about the RSS. Well, it is addressed for them. But actually its audience is much larger. Indeed, this thesis would be relevant to all schools of thought—Left, Right and Centre. The sweep of his argument can be seen right in the table of contents itself.
The Epilogue is titled ‘The Problem of Ideologies’. He begins by raising a very fundamental question—of ‘ideology’. How do people get into ideological traps? And what keeps them happy there? If ideology is an abstraction of reality, then why are there so many of them, when the reality around is the same? Of course, the reality is not absolutely same to Indians and Africans, Americans and Arabs. But that is more because of geography and history. Fundamentally, all are human beings, with almost entirely similar characteristics. Colour of the skin or hair may differ; external body features too could be different. But the processes and functions within the body and even mind are not.
Why do people need an ideology? Why do they prefer some and hate other ideologies? He goes deep into genetics, neurology, biology and psychology to understand this. He discusses the ideas of religion and faith, and their socio-psychological function, the notion of God and the practice of worship. Then he tackles the complex question of ideology and human behaviour. The author clearly feels that to comprehend RSS, one must know the mindsets. Not only of the Sangh Parivar, but of all those who embrace ideologies—anyone![Page xiv]
It is only after that he comes to the idea of Hindu. I do not want to argue with the author about the very term ‘Hindu’ and its origin, or the misnomer ‘Hindu religion’. There are some ‘accepted’ but ahistorical ideas about Hindu religion, and also about ‘Hindu civilisation’ as separate from Indian civilization. Even the idea of Hindu nation or Hindu Rashtra is not shared by various followers. Most RSS followers, activists and sympathisers too are confused about the idea. Hindu Mahasabha, Arya Samaj, Ram Rajya Parishad, Jan Sangh, BJP, etc. add to the confusion. The author discusses the idea of Hindu Rashtra and its origin. Naturally he also deals with the most divisive idea of Hindu and Muslim nationalism. He traces the history of founding of the RSS and the canvas in the early 20th century, the legacy of Lokamanya Tilak and the arrival of Gandhiji on the national scene. Then he tackles the Marxist ideology and the idea of revolution that came to India from Europe.
It is obvious that the author has taken a lot of trouble in collecting rare references that are highly relevant to the theme. Many important instances in the history of the RSS that he quotes are not known to most. Even the observations of Dr Keshavrao Hedgewar and his real ‘line’ are thickly shrouded. Dr Hedgewar founded the RSS in 1925, but continued to work for Congress till 1937. He believed that the ‘Hindu’ society was divided, weak and totally disorganised. Hindus are individualistic, not ‘nationalistic’ in their temperament. The early 20th century in India was a melting pot of ideologies. It is in that period that Lokamanya Tilak and social reformers like Gopal Ganesh Agarkar clashed. Gopal Krishna Gokhale appealed Gandhiji to come to India and lead people.
There was already a conflict between Gokhale and Tilak on the way in which to approach Indian independence. Gandhiji arrived on the scene even as Lokamanya was released from Mandalay. Slowly the baton was handed over to Gandhiji. In the same decade, Russian Revolution took place. Tilak was inspired by that revolution. Veer Savarkar as well as Comrade S.A. Dange both regarded Tilak as their source [Page xv]of inspiration. Vinoba Bhave, N.C. Kelkar as well as Dr Hedgewar trace their legacy to Tilak. Communist nucleus was formed in 1921, and Communist Party in 1926. Gandhiji was in full command by 1920–21. It is just around that time that Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar emerged as the voice of the Dalits. The movement for Chavdar Tale, the symbol of Dalit emancipation, commenced in 1927, that is just two years after the RSS was founded. Briefly, this was the politico-ideological backdrop, each ideology influencing the other.
The RSS acquired ‘Brahminical’ character and seemed to defend Chaturvarna. But in its foundational theory, Hedgewar was opposed to the discriminatory caste system. So was Savarkar. Both worked hard to erase the caste inequality from the Hindu society. So did Gandhiji, who was the Congress leader, for the party Hedgewar worked. The Communists, of course, regarded caste as an evil and class war as real agenda. The Indian people were thus brought under multiple ideological streams. Often they overlapped and equally frequently they clashed.
The defining differences emerged on the so-called Muslim question. Though Hedgewar believed in the Indian plurality, his goal was Hindu consolidation. He never advocated hatred of Muslims and urged inclusive approach. But he clearly distinguished between ‘appeasement’ and ‘inclusive approach’. Slowly the streams began to flow separately. When Pandit Nehru became a second line of command, another dimension evolved—that of modern (European) secularism. But Indian philosophical and intellectual tradition also had great secular ethos, from Ashoka to Akbar. The Congress managed to bring together, even integrate all streams, and with it all kinds of people from all castes, classes, creeds and religions. That was a challenge before the RSS. And it continues to be. Coincidentally, the militant movement for Pakistan started taking shape from 1940.
The Second World War had started just a year before, in 1939. In the same year, Subhash Chandra Bose broke away from the Congress. Despite Gandhiji's appeal across the [Page xvi]country, Bose emerged as an icon. In the initial years, Adolf Hitler was on a winning spree in Europe. The struggle against British imperialism was partly inspired by the Nazi victories. But liberal, secular and socialistic in outlook, Pandit Nehru chose even to confront Bose. The Congress was divided internally, with a section sympathising even with the RSS. But as the war progressed and the Red Army began to fight back, the mood changed.
The ‘Quit India’ movement was launched in 1942. The timing for this movement was important. Congress under Gandhiji and Nehru consolidated the freedom movement. The other political forces, from the Hindu mobilisers right down to the Communists, got marginalised. Almost all the paradigms of politics underwent change by the ‘1942’ movement. It is since then that the RSS is accused of keeping away from the freedom struggle. So are the Communists, who are accused of being ‘traitors’ to the cause. Really speaking, the ‘Quit India’ movement evaporated rather soon. But it had captured the imagination of people. The countdown for Independence, and also Partition, began with that movement.
The author has concentrated on the period after Dr Hedgewar's death in 1940. He only traces the ideological debates of the 1920s, but does not elaborate. That is because he perhaps believes that with Hedgewar's death, the RSS changed course. The Golwalkar era begins in those turbulent times, precisely, from 1940. The RSS from 1940 to 1948 is one phase. The RSS after Gandhiji's assassination in 1948 is a different entity, particularly after the ban. The author has drawn a vivid picture of these most difficult years. There was no pragmatism in it. There was no enthusiasm in those years. The Jan Sangh was launched in 1951 with the full blessings and support systems of the RSS. The RSS–Jan Sangh relationship was evolving. The RSS was a backseat driver and the Jan Sangh with a ‘learner's’ license. But the new recruits to the Jan Sangh, with no background of the RSS, were different. Yet the authority of the RSS continued to exert its influence through Jan Sangh.[Page xvii]
Golwalkar kept the RSS insulated from the reality. He allowed it to function in its own imagination, taking itself too seriously. The uncanny thing was to keep the RSS out of any activity that had day-to-day relevance and importance to the life of people. More and more ‘front’ organisations came into existence. The ‘Parivar’ began to expand. But they were the stepchildren of the RSS work, neither of importance nor sanctity. As a result, throughout the Golwalkar era nothing nationally significant happened at the hands of the RSS. Barring the slow numerical progress of the RSS and the Parivar, nothing much changed. The RSS became increasingly distant to people. Inertia of this nature saps the strength. Creativity dies. It does not release energy for big projects. That is what happened. The RSS inertly aged by 23 years after the ban was lifted.
The original idea of the RSS was to have just a small band of activists/leaders—about 3 per cent urban and 1 per cent rural. The idea was to control, coordinate and guide the Hindu society by this dedicated band. But India was too plural—culturally, linguistically and religiously—to be ‘guided’. The RSS could neither understand this plurality nor its Indian secular ethos. Also, it could not comprehend the growing influence of the West on the new middle class.
The political incarnations of the RSS, namely Jan Sangh and the BJP, are still struggling. It was inevitable that there would be internal ideological turmoil within the RSS. Those outside the RSS regard it as a monolithic and mono-ideological organisation. The critics treat all the Sarsanghachalaks in the same manner. Many commentators even consider all Hindu politics as one entity. They cannot and do not distinguish between Hindu Mahasabha and the RSS and even the BJP. There is indeed a symbiotic relationship among them, but also sharp contradictions. This monograph will clear some of the bitter truths about this complexity.
Guru Golwalkar died in 1973. Deoras succeeded him. Deoras and Golwalkar had two different approaches, especially after the 1948 ban. Their differences reached [Page xviii]such a level that Deoras virtually left RSS for 10 years of sanyasa. He came on the scene fully in charge only after Guru Golwalkar died. Deoras crafted a different strategy. The year 1973 was when Indira Gandhi had emerged as the supreme leader. Under her leadership, Pakistan had partitioned and Bangladesh was born. The ‘Two-Nation Theory’, based on religion-based nationalism, was exposed as hollow. It was a Bengali language- and culture-based national identity that split Pakistan. With that one stroke, the Islamic as well as Hindu Rashtra concepts were proved bankrupt. Again, India was at a turning point. On the one hand, there was towering leadership of Indira Gandhi, while on the other was a challenge posed by Jay Prakash Narayan. With the glory of new powerful India, a parallel tendency of decay had also set in.
The international economic crisis, fueled by oil price rise, had brought India to its knees. The global drought, known as the ‘Drought of the Century’, further intensified the crisis. Scarcity, price rise, corruption, bureaucratic indifference added to the discontent. Jay Prakash Narayan, with the halo of great freedom struggle, consolidated that mood. The entire opposition, which was wary and defeated since 1971, smelled an opportunity. In the year 1973, Balasaheb Deoras succeeded as Sarsanghachalak. Deoras decided to take a plunge.
And with that plunge, he changed the class character of the RSS to a mass character. Purely from the ‘nationalist’ point of view, Deoras could have joined forces with Indira. But he chose JP, to fill the rapidly expanding opposition space. The Jan Sangh and the socialists, the CPM and the Swatantraites joined the JP movement. Indira was cornered, but perceived her continuation as an absolute essential born out of the egomaniacal impression of herself that no one else is suited to rule the country. She was forced to declare emergency to prevent what she believed would be political chaos. The entire top leadership of the opposition was arrested. It is at that point that Deoras also established contact with Indira [Page xix]Gandhi. There is surely a contradiction in this strategy. Yet there is a sort of commonality in approach. Balasaheb Deoras was trying to reach out to masses. His effort was to bring the RSS in the national mainstream. If not JP, it would be Indira Gandhi. From 1973, the RSS was at the crossroads.
The crisis of 1973 was followed by anarchy brought about by the railway strike in 1974. The emergency brought order, but the discontent went underground. When Indira Gandhi called for election, the discontent surfaced. That was how the Janata Party came into existence. But for Deoras, the Jan Sangh would never have merged in the Janata Party. For the first time Jan Sangh dissolved its identity. But the RSS chains remained. Some may call it as the RSS bond. Depends on perspective and perception. The socialists and liberals in the Janata Party questioned the ‘dual membership’. It was not membership that was questioned. It was the ‘loyalty’. The schizophrenia was too much for the RSS to bear. The Janata Party went into oblivion, never to emerge, except in splintered forms. Under the RSS guidance, that is, under the leadership of Deoras, the JS became the BJP. One wonders why like others they did not go back to their original form. Would it have made a difference? Would it have retained its original character of a cadre-based party? Was that essential? But the principle of remaining in the national mainstream remained. It took almost two decades for the BJP to form and lead NDA to come to power. The author has extensively analysed the travel of BJP in a hard-hitting manner. BJP may learn from it even now. Indira's second coming, and her assassination four years later, reduced the BJP to just two seats in 1985, as Rajiv wave swept the country. But the Deoras strategy remained on course.
Yet again, the RSS was faced with the dilemma. Now it surfaced in the form of Ayodhya Movement, which brought in the idea of militant Hinduism. The BJP-led NDA would not have come to power without the Ayodhya–Babri Syndrome. Nor would it have been able to spread the net of political allies without the Deoras strategy. But in the 50 years [Page xx]since the founding of the Jan Sangh, the RSS had travelled a lot. Not in linear manner, but searching, exploring and experimenting. It was during this phase, after 1991, that the world changed and with it India.
It was a great coincidence and also a consequence that the socialist world collapsed. Along with that came globalisation, liberalisation and privatisation. The Jan Sangh and the BJP were initially the champions of free market, and opposed to the idea of socialism and state control. And yet they got totally confused by the pace of global events! RSS and Parivar minus BJP opposed the new world. The RSS could not decide whether it stood for swadeshi or globalisation; Whether it wanted control or liberal economy? It could not decide whether the new economy and new technology should be welcome. The RSS had not just missed the bus. It had missed the flight.
One of the significant contributions the author has made comes here. He has drawn a precise picture of the processes of globalisation—of what it did to India. He has squarely placed the RSS or the overall right wing in this context. He has exposed the stereotype and bankrupt thinking of them. This has never been done before.
Today, the RSS and its Parivar does not know how to deal with the new world. The setbacks the BJP is suffering are actually hard blows in the face of the RSS. That some members should ask the RSS to take over the BJP and run is anachronism. Any organisation can grow only by adapting to the environment. Organisations are like organisms. Organisations are socio-political corporate organisms. The RSS must leave the political entity, the BJP, to evolve and adapt to the new world. By keeping the BJP on a leash, even the RSS is losing credibility and relevance. After the death of Deoras, the RSS is yet again in a sort of identity crisis. BJP's identity crisis is merely a shadow of that. The intellectual bankruptcy, egoism, and morbid attraction to power politics has come to the fore. One question will always be asked by the political pundits and historians. And also by the old RSS [Page xxi]leaders, activists and sympathisers: Why, after achieving power, the BJP could not grow? Why could the power that the BJP had acquired not help the RSS spread its tentacles? Just as the CPM failed to expand, the BJP and the RSS too failed. Are there similar reasons? Perhaps yes, though both will resent the comparison. The similarity is that both the groups/organisations/parties failed to see the changes. Both the organisations were out to change the world, as per their vision. Both did not understand that the world was changing already. In fact, the world was changing much more rapidly than they could cope with. Or even imagine. The forces of technology, the decline of ideology or more precisely the decline of demagogy were the features of the new world. There is nothing wrong in having an ideological base. Surely it helps to comprehend the world. But ideology is not a prison. It is a construct. It is a structure. It must be flexible, open and ready to absorb the new ideas. Just as openness does not mean wilderness, having a structure does not mean closing windows. Indeed, to have windows, you must have structure. But with open windows!
Jaswant Singh was expelled in the most undemocratic manner. Missile hurling from Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie left a bad taste. For the first time the coterie of big D 4 emerged. No one in the BJP felt ashamed of it.
Everyone else other than the BJP is pained to see the debacle of the main opposition party. It is not the ideology of which all other political parties are in opposition. Yet they recognise the necessity of a strong opposition, especially the right of centre. Of a strong and vibrant, alert opposition for the sake of democracy. And BJP is completely unaware of this sentiment and the duty it has to do. Could there be a greater state of degeneracy? The loser in the process is India, the magnificent Indian society, with all its glory and great civilisation.
It is no small wonder. The author has used such a long and eventful canvass of the country and the world so well. And against that he has put forward his thesis in just one monograph. He has discussed his ideas about a large number [Page xxii]of issues quite commendably. The main theorems he has argued can be summarised as follows: Under the name of ‘cultural orientation’ Golwalkar made the RSS a sect. This was never intended in the original design. That also made RSS irrelevant to the time and to the masses. This alienation began with 1942. It continued till Golwalkar passed away. These are the ‘Lost Years of the RSS’ in failing to make its full impact. Deoras attempted to reverse it; he succeeded till he was in charge.
All the dominant tendencies of the Golwalkar era returned with Deoras passing away. The tendencies of militant Hinduism, rabid chauvinism and publicity craze got added. The new, hitherto unknown tendencies to create controversies went fundamentally against one prime Hedgewar principle. It was—‘by opposition from none’ style of working—‘Sarvesham Avirodhena’!
RSS must redefine its role, its idea of India, its understanding of being Hindu! A question can be legitimately asked: What is the future of the RSS? Or more precisely, is there future for the RSS? But then ‘future’ is ‘when’? In politics, ‘future’ is often till the next election. The really patient and long-distance runners look for a decade. So, let us say, the future of the RSS in 2020. The year 2020 has acquired an aura of sorts. The former President of India, APJ Kalam, expects India to be a superpower in that year. That was also the RSS dream. Indeed, most of its followers dreamt of that status, even at an earlier date. They blamed Gandhiji and Pandit Nehru for keeping India behind in the race.
Privately they eulogised Adolph Hitler for building a ‘superpowerful nation’. They forgot that the Nazi icon had to shoot himself in head. And he also brought Germany on its knees! They also did not realise that Hitler stands condemned in Germany itself. Except of course among some lunatic neo-Nazi groups; or among some scattered nostalgic groups. But, by and large, Germany wants to rise beyond the Hitler era. Even beyond the militaristic ambitions. Can we imagine what would have been Germany without Hitler? [Page xxiii]Which means, can we imagine recent history without the Second World War?
These questions in history, with their ‘ifs’ and ‘huts’, could appear frivolous. But they are not. In algebra or even geometry, we play on imaginary numbers and lines. That is useful to underscore and establish a formula, a point or a statement. We can do that even in sociology or politics, of course, with caution and moderation. So to repeat the question: What does future hold for the RSS?
The author has raised many fundamental questions in this regard. All the RSS tenets have to be defined. The context is that of the constitution, state and the modern times. A positive resynthesis and expansion should be thought of. Or slowly it would lose its relevance. Like the hardcore comrades, the swayamsevaks would look like ghosts from the past. I do not know how the readers would react to Lost Years of the RSS. If, however, the activists and supporters take a hard look, it could make a difference. I think that is the purpose of this book. The author wants Perestroika in the RSS. He is all praise for Mikhail Gorbachev, for he changed the world. RSS too can. But will it?Loksatta, Mumbai, firstname.lastname@example.org 4 March 2010Chief Editor, [Page xxiv]
My good fortune is to have as friends many free-thinking men, who were willing to give me information, an inside as well as ringside view of the organisations concerned, joining me in arguments to lead to the correct interpretations of events. Each represented a special shade of thought, of character, but the same loyalty and readiness for sacrifice. Late Bhaskar Kalambi, Late Damodar Date, Late Prof. G.B. Kanitkar, Late Shivray Telang, Late Prof. Yeshwantrao Kelkar, Late Gajananrao Gokhale, Wamanrao Parab, Madhu Chavan, Madhu Deolekar, Balasaheb Dixit, Ram Kulkarni, Aravind Sakhalkar, Anandrao Bhagavat, Rajabhau and Sadanand Damle, Ramesh Patange, Bal and Mohan Apte, Vikas Mahashabde, Vinaya Khadpekar, Sulabbha Kanitkar, Neena Patel, Vijay, Sudha and Kamal Patwardhan, Yashwant Thorat and Patwardhan, Mrudula Lad, Madan Das Devi, Sudhir Joglekar, Ganesh Joshi, Satish Marathe, Nana Junagade, Late Sadanand and Arun Vaidya, Bal Chitale, Rambhau Naik, Bimal Kedia, Suren Thatte, Madhukar Moghe, Manohar Mujumdar, Dada Naik, Ved Prakash Goyal, the Kocharekar [Page xxvi]brothers, Ajit Pandit, Shekhar, Kishore Oak family, Aravind Navare, Gokhales Subhash and others, Chandu Mendhe, Suresh Babar, Vidyadhar Tamhankar, Mahendra Mhatre, Aravind Joshi, Satish Risbud, Aravind Bhave, Dr V.K., P.K. and Manohar Kunte, all from the Mumbai unit of the RSS, were people I grew up with in the RSS.
Late Babarao Bhide, long-time chief of Maharashtra; Sureshrao Ketkar, Late Rambhau Mhalgi, Dr B.G. Muley, Late C.P. Bhishikar, Late Nana Dhobale, Late N.H. Palkar and Dr Swarnalata Bhishikar, from Pune, have left lasting impressions. Late Dr Ram Aloorkar and Dr Ashok Kukade from Vivekananda Hospital, Latur; Dr R.S. and Vibhavari Dandavate; Pramod Kulkarni from Udgir; Sukhdeo alias Nana Navale and Dr Satish Kulkarni and the doctors from the Dr Hedgewar Hospital from Aurangabad have been of great help to understand the society and RSS, and have had positive influences on me.
My friends and co-workers from Karnataka, in a manner my second home state, H.V. Seshadri, N. Krishnappa, S. Ramanna, Sitaram Kedlay, Rajgopal, Dr V.V. and Veena Bapat, all from the RSS, were witness to many matters of great revelations and enormous educational value. Chandrashekhar Bhandari and Late Ajitkumar, both full-timers from RSS Karnataka; B.S. Seshadri, retired Income Tax Commissioner, Bangalore, whose ideas matched mine; B.G. Vasant, T.K. Muthanna, N.S. Ponnappa, Shivkumar, M.C. Gokhale, K. Thimmappa, K.G. Uthappa, A.P. Suresh from Coorg with whom I worked for long years under the umbrella of the organisation; Raghavendra Rao, B.N. Murthy, M.N. Nagaraj, Sadanand Kakade, Baburao Desai, all from Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Bangalore, Karnataka unit, the shared experience of working with whom led me to my thesis.
Late Dr Sujit Dhar from Kolkata, with his subtleties of expression, indicated to me many a truths. Dr Dhanakar Thakur from Ranchi, whose fast-paced activism gave me a balance of action. Ashok Singhal, of VHP, during our travels [Page xxvii]together in 1989, occasioned lot of discussion. I received help from Mr Arun Shourie; Retd Prof. Imtiaz Ahmad of JNU; Dr Rajput, Retd Chief of NCERT; Raja Javalikar, a retired Air Force Officer; Anil Bal of Flywell Industries; Jay Nair from Dr Reddy's; Abhijit Sane, my nephew; Arnab Sadhu; all from New Delhi.
Among my socialist friends, it was with Prakash Bal that the idea of this book arose first and was vindicated by many others in all the different circles I move. Kumar alias Prof. J.K. Joshi from Ahmedabad, the lifelong friends and ideological adversaries from the Lohia socialist group, mainly from Goregaon, Mumbai, composed of Mrinal Gore, P.B. Samant, Damodar Samant, D.G. Prabhu, my teacher, Vasudha Patil, Kamal Desai and many others, were a constant counterpoise who made me think that their ideas as well should be mentioned. My other close friends who hold positively different views were Nanda and Vidyagouri Khare, strongly opposed to the RSS ideas; Sudhir and Aparna Deo, having different views of the matter have discussed with me. Profs Usha Gadkari, Vivek Gokhale, Suresh Despande, Leela Deshpande, Vijay Bhagadikar, P.G. Borawar, Dr Vijay Chouthaiwale and Ajay Dhakras have been my discussants and listeners, genuinely interested in the outcome of this book.
Among my lifelong and close Muslim friends, Dr Qais and Dr Mrs Tasneem Contractor and Asgar Ali Contractor gave me a good idea of how the Muslim mind thinks generally and about the RSS, which was of value in order to balance things. Dr Shaukat Sadikot and Dr Nadeem Rais, the quintessential modern, liberal Muslims, close friends, have made my life richer. Mr and Mrs Mohammad, Mrs Afzal, Tanweer Ahmad, Shakil Ahmad, Latif Magdum, Prof. Nafeesa, Khadim Chhote Miyan and many others from Rashtriya Muslim Manch have been friends who do not leave any doubt in my mind that Muslims will welcome Hindus to come close to each other.
It is the Nagpur circle that finally shaped and firmed up the ideas, and a coherent structure emerged. Many who [Page xxviii]helped me have seen the RSS for more than 70 years. Dr M.K. Salpekar, a veteran who grew up with Deoras, as did Late Krishnarao Bapat, Late Dattopant Thengadi and Late Moropant Pingale, M.G. alias Baburao Vaidya, Digambar B alias Mama Ghumare, both former editors of Tarun Bharat, have shared important viewpoints. Late Prof. Krishnarao Bhagadikar, Late Adv. P.S. Badhiye and Prof. Rambhau Tupkary had a lot to say for the RSS and Deoras. Rambhau Bondale was helpful in providing quite a lot of original material from the RSS archives; a couple of dialogues with Mohanrao Bhagwat helped. Prof. Bachhuji Yvavahare, Sudhir Pathak of Tarun Bharat, Nagpur, Dr Jayant Deopujari and Jagadish Sukalikar have helped me with materials and ideas. Shripad and Sanjay Dani, Manohar Deshkar, Baba Gulkari were deep and early influences.
The seeds of my rebellion found an ally in Virag Pachpore as early as 1997. The most frequent interaction was with Dilip Deodhar, the outspoken futurologist and extremely well-informed writer on the RSS deserves special mention. Virag Pachpore read through the chapters several times, giving his critique. Much that has been possible and achieved in these pages is because of these two.
I grew up in a diehard RSS but radical and freethinking family. The paramount influence was my father, Late Kesheo Kelkar. My uncles, Raghunath, Madhav and Late Anil, influenced me deeply and early, largely shaping my character, along with my mother, Pramila, and my aunts, Mangala, Meena and Sudha. My wife, Dr Sanjeevanee, and my children, Nachiket and Tejaswinee, never subscribed to my ideological moorings but were a constant support.
Many may feel surprised about the Foreword by Mr Kumar Ketkar, who describes himself as from ‘Comrade School’, a strong critic of the RSS, for agreeing to write it, or my choice to ask him to do it. Mr Ketkar is a veteran journalist of over 35 years' experience, presently the Chief Editor of the prestigious Marathi daily Dainik Lokasatta. He did not even know me. From the word go, we hit it off well, underlining [Page xxix]the power of transparent and non-motivated dialogue. I am immensely grateful to him for the good words he has for me and also for the Introduction that explains some of the key issues of the monograph even more forcefully.
Finally, I must thank wholeheartedly and gratefully Ms Elina Majumdar, the Commissioning Editor from SAGE Publications, for taking this first-time author through all the stages of publishing a book with patience, empathy, encouragement and support, and Aniruddha De.
I also thank SAGE Publications for accepting this work for publication.[Page xxx]
The only prophet not let down by his disciples would be the Paigambar. Across a millennium, his disciples have continued without dilution all the acts the Prophet Mohammad had asked them to do, without doubt and without rebellion. The founder prophet of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) is no Paigambar, but it is the same story—the Apostle Paul and Jesus Christ, a Prophet let down by his own chosen immediate successor. The pilot only brought about a small change in direction, but his ship went astray from the original path. Then there was a brief period of reverting to the original, only to give way to a return of the lost years, this time losing the original to a shameful decadence. This book is an attempt to prove this thesis.
Thematically, this monograph is constructed around the analysis of the important overarching issues which have never left the RSS and its critiques. It is not a coherent, chronologically written history—rather, it discusses the major turning points in the 82-year-old history of the RSS, from the point of view of the believer as well as the opponent. I begin [Page xxxii]this monograph with the original ideological conception of the RSS, its political ethnography and the growth of the organisation with it. The monograph then goes on to discuss the Partition era: the first ban imposed upon the RSS, the subsequent demoralisation and the turn the RSS took under Golwalkar for the next 20 years. The Deoras era, beginning in 1973, ends with the demolition of the Babri Masjid. This era, I argue, saw partial, and at times considerable, negation of traits from the Golwalkar era, leading to an RSS that had to be counted in every aspect of the nation's life. The monograph then points out where the original lessons have been forgotten and the decadence rising out of it. Having dissected the problem, finally, the monograph offers concrete solutions for the same and for the future of the RSS.
The monograph has as its backdrop the socio-political situations of India from the early years of the 20th century, beginning with the end of the Tilak era, with its belief in the great tradition of the country. It takes a detailed note of the rise of a parallel and somewhat alien Communist ideology at that time, posing an intellectual challenge by interpreting history in terms of dialectical materialism and the economic root of all problems. It discusses the rise of—and fascination with—socialism, the influence of M.N. Roy and his radical Humanism, as well as the rise of the Scheduled Castes Federation of Dr Ambedkar and its concern with the downtrodden populace of free India. Furthermore, it takes into consideration the beginning of the Gandhi era. The conception and creation of the RSS cannot be understood without taking into account these developments, which will make their appearance, time and again, in various places in this monograph.
I have attempted to place the beginnings of the RSS in its context, amidst the constant flux and upheavals that the nation was undergoing at that time. To this end, I have had to narrate, in considerable detail, the early development of the RSS. I have dealt with the economic, political and cultural thought of the RSS, as well as its views on minorities and [Page xxxiii]the influences it bore in the first 15 years of its existence. It was necessary, as I have already mentioned, to take into account issues which were integrally related to the shaping of the RSS. Dr Hedgewar, the founder of the RSS, passed away in 1940. A most turbulent epoch, beginning with the ‘Chale Jao’ (Quit India) movement in August 1942, followed, ultimately leading to the vivisection of the Motherland. This was a trying period for the RSS. I have used the considerable material available in the RSS archives on this period to show how the RSS' behaviour started changing. Tendencies alien to the Hedgewar era started creeping in, becoming subtly—at times, strongly—manifest. This, I believe, is the most important achievement of this monograph, offering a highly original and radically different interpretation of the era: no one inside or outside of the RSS has sought to do the same. This radically different interpretation is supplemented by an attempt to view it in today's context, which is sufficiently distant from the time of the events under consideration. This distance provides us with a better opportunity to view the topic at hand with greater impartiality.
My quest to reinterpret this era led me to that period between 1952 and 1962, 10 odd years in the course of which a person as significant as Deoras stayed away from the RSS. It is a period most tenaciously guarded by the RSS hierarchy, and it has taken considerable time and effort on my part to unearth the details concerning the era. As I learned more about it, I was further convinced that my thesis on the Lost Years has its roots in the Deoras' thinking at that time.
Golwalkar's thought, meanwhile, offered me an opportunity to compare Hindu thought and Communist thought, and to show how close some of their basic tenets were. Indeed, the parallels continue till this date. It is one of the major discoveries of this work. In large tracts of discussion in this monograph, several different ideological/fundamental tenets—from that of the left and the extreme left to the right and ultra right, as well as the centrists, leaning either way—come together in seamless juxtaposition. I would consider [Page xxxiv]myself rewarded if the provincial and national leadership following ideologies other than that of the RSS also peruse this treatise.
The Golwalkar era and his persona have overshadowed the Hedgewar and the Deoras eras. Deoras and Hedgewar, in contrast with Golwalkar, were built differently, thought and acted differently. For a more holistic and balanced perspective on the RSS, more information on the former two should be available, which is what I have sought to do here. This is an open-minded interpretation of the ways of Hedgewar, Deoras and Golwalkar, a critical analysis of their contributions to the RSS as well as the effect they left upon the organisation and polity. This, in my opinion, is one of the major strengths of this book. Once these varied elements and nuances become clearer, the RSS and its history can be seen in a different light in the present day context. I, therefore, beseech the reader to peruse this account with tabula rasa, a clean slate.
The last, and a rather considerable, segment of this book contains accounts of events from 1998. This section, as far as I am concerned, consists of the crux of the narrative, as it depicts the difficulties faced by the RSS to understand and interpret the unipolar world that came about after the collapse of Communism in 1989, and every other development that followed. I am pleased to be able to draw a good picture of the tremendous social, political, and particularly, economic impact of globalisation on the Indian society, as well as ways of handing these changes, which is in sharp contrast to the way the RSS thinks.
I was raised in, and worked for, RSS for 25 years. I have worked in and travelled all over the modern corporate world. Having had this rare opportunity, I could address the issues plaguing the RSS about understanding the present and the immediate future, as well as the issues about the organisational structure of the RSS, its function and future impact. I am happy that I am able to talk of the many possible solutions while delineating the difficulties plaguing the RSS and its future existence and growth.[Page xxxv]
In the Postscript The New (Violent) Hindutva Forces', I had a further opportunity to reiterate and clarify many issues which may not have had adequate space in the flow of narrative earlier. I have included as Appendix 1 an article I wrote on Dr Ambedkar's birthday in 1997, ‘The Dashera of Dalits and The Dashera of RSS’. This will help the reader to know where I come from. The second appendix is the latest and revised version of the constitution of the RSS. This will help the reader understand how the RSS is organised and how it functions.
The originality of the monograph, if any, may lie in three elements. Firstly, as I have already mentioned, it is a completely different interpretation of the RSS and its Parivar, especially in comparison to the received and accepted conventional wisdom, both from within and outside the RSS. It puts forward an alternative thesis in the name of truth and justice. The second is that it takes into consideration the many broad as well as subtle similarities between the political ideologies of the left, the right and the centre. It may help stop the unjustifiable sniping across fences and help people to understand their own internal milieu. This could help them to come together for a larger cause more openly. The third and final element is the biological basis I have given to human behaviour in matter related to ideology. A long career in medicine helped me find explanations for hitherto unexplained aspects of human behaviour, which has been the cause of considerable discord.
The accretions over the RSS stone are a mile deep. Myriad beliefs and counter beliefs, accusations and counter accusations, assumptions made from a distance and inferences drawn from close quarters prevail in the observation of behaviour of the RSS and its members. The print and electronic media, with their constitutionally embedded biases and prejudices, have persistently and relentlessly reinforced a particular image of the organisation. It has resulted in the distortion of the original beyond recognition. Not all of these processes have been rooted in truth and honesty, [Page xxxvi]or attempted to do justice to the RSS. There are surprising levels of naivety, myopia and unwillingness to accept the truth when confronted with one. This is an attempt to clear the accretions thus accumulated, to go back to the roots, the essence of the RSS, for the reader to get a clearer picture of the RSS. It is an attempt similar to the one Martin Luther undertook to go back to the fundamentals of Christianity. Having brought the essence in clear view, I will discuss the lost years of the RSS and the corrupted version that came into being. This will form the backdrop of my reinterpretation of everything that happened from the year of the death of Dr Hedgewar, the founder, in 1940, till date.
Wishing to peel off all accretions in a small monograph is an arrogant claim, and I wish to make this claim with as much arrogance as I can summon, because I believe that we, as a nation, stand to gain by it. Those who have an in-depth understanding of the RSS do not wish to be vocal—there is a certain amount of terror associated with it. Therefore, I consider it an ordained duty on my part to record that which I believe is the essence of the RSS, that which has been corrupted. I have to risk the possibilities of being labelled a renegade or a believer, with both camps rejecting the contents of my monograph as untrustworthy. All I can say in support of this work is that it is a product of 20 years of study, and of a lifetime as an insider activist, with first-hand information and experience of the RSS.
Epilogue: The Problem of Ideologies[Page 303]
Why do people need an ideology? Above everything else, this is the question that intrigued me. The ideologies themselves as well as the reasons why people choose particular ones was the second issue I was intrigued by. Why do they not, or why—even more importantly—can they not choose any other? Despite possessing intelligence and the best of reasoning power, why do they fail to see something worthwhile in ideologies other than their own? After all, making these choices results in behaviour that leads to division and acrimony, bitterly opposed sentiments, strife and violence, which is evident in the history of the last ten thousand years of civilised life. Vinoba Bhave once said, ‘To understand is to forgive.’ This attribute seems to be singularly lacking today in anybody who swears by a particular ideology.
Allegiance to an ideology runs counter to the basic instincts of human beings—the perpetual quest for pleasure, leisure, avoidance of hardships and the need to maximise fulfilment. It is the principle of unlimited, non-restricted pleasure and [Page 304]freedom that human beings want, without bothering about consequences or its effects on others. Contrarily, swearing by an ideology only brings severe hardships on oneself, demands hard work, sacrifice and monetary losses. Why make this choice, then?
Perhaps the answer is that an ideology gives us something larger than life to stay with. An individual gets a powerful sense of fulfilment when he follows an ideology—a sense that he is answering a higher call or fulfilling an obligation to society. At other times, it could even be a mechanism for atonement of sins one has perpetrated. Sometimes it is a cultural imposition. Most frequently, it gives the sense of belonging by making an individual a part of something larger. It is thus a more primal need (Kandel 1991, Brodal 2004, Kruk 1991).
An ideology also provides the best opportunity for self-actualisation. This is the ‘most selfish act’, giving immense pleasure, and is a great need—the pinnacle of the positivism of Maslow's psychology. Deoras, the RSS chief, was a living example of this intense self-actualisation among the thousands of RSS followers I know. Deoras himself found its best resonance in the founder of the Sangh, and his ways and thinking.
What happens to the ideologies in the long run? People adhere over long years to the name and the core of the ideology, even when the external situation changes so much that it makes the core irrelevant. Adherence is also an aspect of the pleasure principle. The other question that remains is: why do people refuse to change? An ideology attracts people of a similar make-up, who react similarly, emphasising the validity of the idea. Hence they stay for long years and often rise in the organisational hierarchy.
An intellectual endogamy, giving rise to inbreeding of ideas therefore inevitably begins. The thinking is no longer productive, nor vigorous or outward-looking, but more and more inward-looking. This is the beginning of the loss of contact of the organisation heads with their cadre and [Page 305]their frontline grassroots workers. The larger implication of inward-looking, unproductive thinking is the organisation's inevitable loss of contact with society and reality. Any one who is familiar with FedEx couriers will know how important they consider keeping in touch with their frontline managers. It is a common malady in industries, where the loss of this contact starts spelling doom for a company. The vitality with which the race began starts fading. This loss is best reflected in the ever-increasing unwillingness of those at the core of the organisation to stir themselves up, mix and be one with people. With the loss of contact with society, they lose the strength and the energy required for that.
These ivory towers are the breeding ground of politicking that typically leads to the failure to expand and broaden the ideological moorings. Instead, it spells ruin. With increased cerebration, not just the decisions but also the pattern of thinking or the quality of arguments, if any, tends more and more to arise from obsolete concepts, viewpoints and situations. The cerebration is either based on the data the organisation collects or ignores. Most organisations or companies talk of using it as a feedback, even feed-forward, but few actually work in a timely fashion on the data. The time lag that occurs between the generation, analysis and a ruling on the data makes the conclusions inappropriate as well as irrelevant to the changed situation. Working with figures or basing decisions on evidence is talked of, but many key decisions still continue to arise from the biases and from the ‘gut feeling’.
The core of the organisation is conscious of this change, but does not face it fully or rectify it. They simply project the old routine thinking, more generally without any basis. There is neither emotional nor intellectual appeal, nor pleasure. It is reflexive and recursive. Having thus enshrined obsolescence as the eternal unalterable truth, the defence of obsolescence becomes the biggest pastime of the organisation, leading to the rise of rationalisation as one of the major mechanisms—a crime in psychology—used to the point of ridiculousness.[Page 306]
A colossal fraud like this can be sustained only by those who have stayed in the organisation for long and have vested interests—the need to somehow perpetuate themselves is dominant—and hence no other path is open. In social and political organisations, the members do not have to earn their own keep. It either comes from the followers outside the hierarchy or through corruption in politics. Thus, defence of a repetitious status quo becomes a need in itself. It serves the purpose of all. Add to that the lures of leisure and habits of luxury which the followers of the organisation or acts of corruption have provided. Who then would ever be ready to displease people by breaking new grounds or subject oneself to hard work?
The story is as true of the RSS as it is for the Communists, the Socialists and the Congress. Some movements like Sarvodaya have lived through the cycle and are dead, dying or moribund. Rigid religious organisations or sects are no exceptions. Imagine the terrible state of affairs in a group where now even the pleasure principle has died. To an extent, this progression will lead us to understand the basis of irreconcilability between ideologies and the men who follow them. The original tends to become more sacrosanct (read rigid) or gets corrupted; the defence of it becomes more foul smelling and farther from moderation and reasonable appeal. The effects these processes have had on all ideologies in general, on their travel, progress, unfolding and deterioration, and the factors responsible for this over years have been the same.
It is the behaviour of the followers which becomes the final determinant of the way ideology is received by society. Ideology demands a lot in terms of the quality of behaviour and utterances by the followers of the same. Such a psychological conglomerate also shapes and governs its expression. The individual finds it difficult to consistently live on an egalitarian, exalted plain all the time. An individual almost always falls short of living up to one's ideology. This discrepancy is a major factor in the discordance people feel [Page 307]towards an ideology they do not subscribe to. The preached and the professed do not match with the practised. The viewer believes that if this is the practice, then the thesis itself has got to be at fault. The world has neither the time nor the wish to think of the proposed as the pure thesis to consider, even if it is not practised; it also is generous or forgiving enough to do the same. Ideologies thus come to be blamed. The distorted behavioural versions get entrenched in minds of the warring factions, further reinforced in debates in the electronic and the print media. The pleasure principle dictates the actions of the defenders and the critics of the ideology, whether there is a rational call for it or not. Accretions of false beliefs occur, making it impossible to reach the truth. Any attempts at different or differing interpretations then are scorned, blamed and considered fake; they become unacceptable to the majority, and are not believed even if they are true. Truth thus becomes the casualty, and with that any hope for doing justice is gone forever.Truth and Otherwise of These Warring Perceptions
Despite the vehemence of differences over an ideology, the truth is that there is more common ground for acceptance that can, if considered, submerge the differences that are there. This fact has been the driving force behind writing this book. A number of examples that illustrate the necessity of each warring faction to look at others objectively, without biases clouding their vision, are listed below.
Mr Balasaheb Deoras, the former chief of the RSS, had said openly that Marx indelibly imprinted in the minds of people that economic inequality and exploitation of masses are unacceptable.1 Deoras, in the early days of the RSS, was called ‘the Communist in RSS’, and he never really gave up many of his ways of thinking. Again, years ago, P.L. Deshpande, a great Marathi litterateur and no sympathiser [Page 308]of the RSS, wrote a long foreword to one of the anthologies of Dr Ram Manohar Lohia's writings (P.L. Deshpande 1968). A dominant part of this foreword was spent on elaborating the mechanisms put in place by Lohia to impart nationalism, character and strong cultural influences, including religious and social, in the Hindu culture prevailing then in suburban Bombay in the 1930s and 1940s. His account seems so close to the ideas of the RSS that it is as if he was interpreting the mechanisms of the RSS shakhas and its acculturation methods.
There are people within the RSS who can understand the Naxalites and are not prepared to call them anti-national or traitors. They recognise the emotion, but disagree with the methods. Meanwhile, Hiren Mukherjee, the Communist Trade Unionist, read the Mahamrityunjay Japa in the bitter cold of Moscow early in the morning, confessing, ‘We cannot but have to do this.’ Many of the Communists of Bengal are, surprisingly, enthusiastic supporters of Durga Puja. And there are a fair number of atheists within the RSS, who, though in minority, do not like the religiosity of the RSS cadre. Then there is the fact that the speeches of Mr Jay Prakash Narayan in 1975 and later, on the RSS, sound more like the speeches of Golwalkar, in contrast to his earlier speeches. The Socialists might call these speeches wayward, but the fact remains that he delivered them.
People believe that there could not be anyone who hates Muslims more than the RSS. Let me present a little-known fact: the most sacred monument for the RSS is the one erected in honour of Dr Hedgewar, the founder, in Nagpur; the chief stone dresser of that monument and his 20 subordinates were all Muslims. Hakim Bhai, the chief stone dresser, was honoured by Golwalkar in a public ceremony by wrapping a shawl around him. No purification ceremony was performed, then or ever.
Did the Socialists and the Congressmen not decide to submerge the differences among themselves and with the RSS, and come together in order to restore democracy in [Page 309]1977? Was there not then mutual respect and admiration, even when they agreed to differ? Did the Muslims not vote against the Congress, at least in the north? Meanwhile, in the south—as Mr Shrikant Joshi, who had been Deoras' personal assistant for long years, pointed out—Muslims as well as the remaining polity stayed with Mrs Gandhi by and large. Did the Jamat-e-Islami shy away from meeting Deoras wherever he went, including visiting the RSS offices and offering Namaz there at the appointed time so that the dialogue could continue?
My appeal therefore is to accept (without necessarily agreeing) that ideologies, behaviour and human needs are not watertight, not specific to particular groups and are neither inexplicable nor unintelligible. There is a common ground that we should be aware of, and we need to make an effort in order to see the commonalities. As Ayn Rand famously said, ‘Contradictions do not exist. Check your premises’ (1956).Note
1. The occasion was a general body meeting of the daily Tarun Bharat in Nagpur, when the editor came under bitter criticism for writing an article hailing Marx on his 100th death anniversary. Defending him, Deoras praised Marx, also saying that Tarun Bharat should not sit out when the whole world would be writing about their debt to Marx. Deoras repeated this opinion of his later as well.
Postscript: Ayodhya Judgement and Bihar Assembly Elections[Page 310]
This is the best of times to write a postscript to this book. The outcomes of the Ayodhya judgement and the Bihar assembly elections strongly underline the thesis of this book.
The nation had watched with baited breath the Ayodhya verdict, which, rather unsettlingly, could have gone either way. Nitish Kumar's victory in Bihar, on the other hand, was more predictable, though there are always uncertainties. On one side, there was the huge divide and emotional estrangement of the two major communities in India, for which no solution was in sight. On the other side, a new way of demonstrated governance in Bihar was pitted against many undesirable elements of history. In case of the Ayodhya decision, the apex court manifested the age-old Indian wisdom. In Bihar, the lowliest and the commonest demonstrated the same wisdom in returning to power the Nitish Kumar–BJP alliance a second time.
The Ayodhya verdict can be looked at in many ways. It stands taller than the other two major ones—the [Page 311]disqualification of Mrs Indira Gandhi's election and the Shah Bano verdict. Like the other two, prima facie it was an independent judgement, not interfered with by any forces, though we will never know if it was actually so. It has brought glory to the Indian judicial system, its competence, integrity and its ability to stand against pressure and deliver correctly. It was politically astute and wise. Socially, it diffused a likely explosive outbreak of unrest to an almost extinguished level. It respected the majority community's traditional strong feelings without cowing down to that. At the same time, it emphatically underlined the view that Muslims also have a place in this country side by side with Hindus. It opened many avenues for rapprochement between the two communities even as it disqualified the locus standi of some of the Muslim litigants. If one of the basic and major functions of law is to foster progress in a society, this judgement has achieved it effectively. It made religious extremism on any side incapable of conflagration while pushing it aside to create a sane atmosphere.
The days preceding and following the verdict also threw up healthy indicators. There were appeals for peace and respect for the judgement from all quarters: political, social, religious. The VHP and the Sangh Parivar, who had maintained for years that this was a matter of faith that law could not decide, spoke for peace and respect just as many Muslim bodies did. When all the litigant bodies were called to make an out-of-court settlement one day prior to the judgement, each one left it to the court to decide. This was wisdom.
The tone was set no doubt by Dr Mohan Bhagawat, the RSS Sarsanghachalak, which others followed. Bhagawat said, ‘It is not an issue of victory for one party and the defeat of another. A Ram temple can now and will be built but with the cooperation of the Muslim community in an amicable way. This is an opportunity for both to come closer and work together. The way forward can be discussed’ (Tarun Bharat 2010). A long-standing suggestion to build a mosque nearby had been talked about. There were a few who waxed eloquent [Page 312]over going to the Supreme Court but those, evidently, were patently hollow, being devoid of any conviction, and being merely habitual utterances that no one paid any attention to.
The nation had to wait a few more months to feel the full impact of the atmosphere created. It was the thumping, unprecedented majority vote the JD(U)-BJP alliance in the Bihar elections received. The alliance had focused totally on developmental issues, vikas, which came to be identified as BIPAS—Bijli, Pani, Sadak (Electricity, Water, Roads). In the preceding five years it had decriminalised society as well as politics with 54,000 convictions of criminals, over 10,000 of them imprisoned for life and 1,600 sentenced to death (Dani and Patna 2010). Measures for the upliftment of young girls and women were symbolised in the bicycles the girls received. Good governance brought investments and money to Bihar with a double-digit growth rate five times that of what earlier regimens had recorded. Corruption declined.
All the downtrodden, oppressed and suffering classes were brought into a grand alliance, of which Muslims became a major part. All of them voted for the alliance, leading it to win 84 per cent of the seats. Another outcome that came as a complete surprise was the BJP winning 30 more seats than the previous election. It sent an emphatic message that development, decriminalisation and good governance will make people united while religion and caste questions will unalterably divide, which they do not want.
The Bihar elections completed the process which the Ayodhya verdict had began. It de-religionised politics and democracy at one go. The rendezvous with Ram for both Hindus and Muslims was over, something which should have happened 19 years ago. The aspirations of the people are clear to all political parties. It has, after a long time, ushered a new, strong and stabilising paradigm to the Indian nation and its politics. In all political processes hereafter, it will (hopefully) change the tenor and the timbre of the discourse.[Page 313]
The disastrous, divisive, fissiparous and secessionist movements that threatened the integrity of this nation from 1980 onwards, as we have seen, led Deoras to found a movement that would unite at least the majority community of Hindus of all denominations. It led the BJP to power. Liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation were wisely continued by the BJP, but the convincing economic fruits were not manifest till the middle of the first decade of the 21st century. The religious card worked for some time. Now, with people aspiring for development, economic upliftment, containment of corruption, better governance and decriminalisation of social political life as a logical fallout of the new era, it will not work anymore. Even a Narendra Modi can win hands down if he is committed to development. These are the new values. Those who uphold them will flourish and do well to the nation. Those who do not will perish.
Now it is the farsightedness of leaders, their wisdom, their ability to see beyond elections, at least from decade to decade as statesmen, beyond dynastic continuation, that is on the anvil. Let us hope they will succeed. If they do not, let us hope that the nation has the potential to throw up such leaders and displace the old guard.
Appendix 1: The ‘Dashera’ of Dalits and the Dashera of RSS∗[Page 314]Byand
∗ Published in the English daily, The Hitavada, Nagpur, on 13 April 1997.1992
It is a milling crowd, of half a million people. It is in the large ground of a few acres in the heart of Nagpur, a city at the heart of this country. The ground is bound by roads on three sides, no great compound wall to talk of, therefore innumerable sites of influx and efflux of people. The people are simply moving forward, in groups and in families, coming in all the possible directions. They are talking little among them. There are no slogans, no shouts and no hurray. They are just moving, moving and moving.
The center to which the crowd is moving is a large monument of six stories in the center of the ground, commandeering a 360-degree view of the ground from the top. The monument is illuminated, the ground is illuminated, the roads on all the three sides have jam packed juxtaposed shops—temporary stalls that sell from beads and rings and bunions to books and calendars and explosive, thought provoking literature. There are stalls titled of organisations, banks, credit societies and political parties of all colors and hues and creeds. There is dust everywhere, fine dust, dust that does not necessarily irritate, nor make you sneeze.[Page 315]
The people seem to have a uniform pattern. The children are in somewhat ragged clothes. Not torn, not pitiable, just a wee bit ragged. Older women have a big blob of a weight, wrapped in some kind of a chuddar that once had a good white or bright color. One of their hands is put to the weight on their heads. The other holds a child or a young man or a woman or her own old man. He also has some baggage. He is usually seen to wear a white dhoti and an old fashioned white shirt, somewhat altered in color, again poorish but not pitiable, torn but not ragged.
The young women have brighter saris, a round vermillion decoration on her forehead. A few rings, a black beaded string to show that they are married. Their clothes are much better than the old women. The younger men and the middle aged men are also somewhat better dressed. All of them are uniformly thin, not malnourished but not very well fed either. They are unmistakably not the city folks, but the villagers. The remaining 5 per cent are city dwellers. You can make them out even in the illumination of dust and lighted darkness that is present in the area.
The time is eight o'clock in the night. The day is Dashera. These are the Dalits, the untouchables, now converted to the Neo Buddhism by Dr Ambedkar, who assemble at Deeksha Bhoomi, the place where Dr Ambedkar was ordained in the Buddhist religion, in Nagpur, in great devotion, every year, in millions, move around, bow at the statue of Bodhisattva, listen to some lecture going on at the all-party podium erected for this day and go back.After Relinquishment
I am moving around in this crowd, among these millions of people. They are pushing me from the sides to get past me. They are pushing me from behind as they are themselves pushed forward. These are the untouchables the Hindu society has denigrated, caste out, ostracised into further, downward abyss of unkempt ugliness and poverty. They, according to the scriptures, are not worth pouring water on the hands of or by the Savarnas, even from a distance; even their shadows cannot touch and cross the Hindus of upper castes. I am in them. A so-called high class, high caste Brahmin. They are touching me. I am touching them. There is certainly no revulsion. This is a touch that is like any other if I were to attend a rally on Shivaji Park in Mumbai addressed by Vajpayee or Thackeray. I am moving around hour after hour.
I relinquished my allegiance to the organisation of RSS in 1991. Ideologically I gave it up in its substantiality in the next year that followed. These years also made me an avowed, declared atheist. It was then that I [Page 316]went to see the Dashera celebrations of the Dalits, about half a kilometer from where I stay in Nagpur.
The two doctors—Dr Ambedkar and Dr Hedgewar—lived for a mission: a mission to emancipate the society, to take the nation to the highest pinnacle of glory, by organising it. The movements launched by them—Dhammachakrapravartan— and the RSS have been going on parallel lines ever since their inception. Now the time has come for these two powerful streams of national life to come together and work for the betterment of the nation. The confluence of these two will alone rid the nation of many of its present day ills and attain the desired goal cherished by both the ‘Doctors of the Nation’.The Backdrop—1
In 1956, I was over 3 years old on the day of Dashera. Dr Ambedkar relinquished the Hindu fourfold system and a mass conversion to Buddhism took place. Streams and streams of people were heading for this Deeksha Bhoomi in thousands. As my father described it to me years later, tears were falling down all faces, because they were going to leave their ancient religion. Any man with even minuscule sensitivity would understand the poignancy of the situation and disturbing potential of the image that he created. The image has stayed with me till date. Why should they be crying? For a religion that gave them humiliation and torture?
In all my years in RSS datingback to 1967, the problem of untouchability and the solutions that the RSS ideology could offer remained a matter of constant concern, debate, doubt, assertion and need.The Backdrop—2
It was in 1964 that I first attended the two-day Dashera celebrations of the RSS in Nagpur, the citadel of the RSS. The clean sparkling disciplined atmosphere, the RSS dresses, the shining band, the tall flag mast, the well decorated dais, the military precision of route march, the months of preparations that had gone by. By 1969, we learnt that Dashera would set the theme of emphasis of the RSS for that year, depending upon the national situation. It would be repeated every year. The Nagpur Dashera became a central, focal point of our thinking.[Page 317]The Backdrop—3
Between 1992 and 1995, in the circles and strata in which I was moving always had very vocal comments that used to begin a few days before Dashera and the first week of December centering around 6th December, the Mahaparinirvan Din, the day of salvation of Dr Ambedkar. Everybody was irritated, train travels were impossible. Nagpur swelled. People said it became dirty and horrific because of those millions of people who came. There was overt contempt, disgust, but dead were the ‘sensibilities and sensitivities’ of people; about that I was very sure.The Backdrop—4
The history of the ‘Dashera of Dalits’, naturally dates back to 1956. It completed forty years in 1996. On 14 October, 1956 around half a million people abandoned their ancient religion and adopted Buddhism. The eyewitness accounts say there was enthusiasm and jubilation of a degree as had never in the past been witnessed by the city of Nagpur, in the people who were going to convert themselves. Such was the joy!
The event in its importance of multiple levels, dimensions and paradigms is great. Its consequences and long term effects may live up to the greatness, which will be a tribute to this land and its people. But by itself the event ranks equal to the Mahabharata war, Shankaracharya's victorious march, Shivaji Maharaj and his deeds, the Indian renaissance from 1820 to 1947, Tilak and Gandhi's freedom fight, the vivisection of India and the Ramajanmabhoomi movement, besides the birth of the RSS. It does not matter if people do not agree to this. But then it would be equally debatable if they understood what the event really meant! By and large the traivarniks, the upper castes, do not; if they do, they will neither recognise it, nor do will they want to react and if they do, they will put out the wrong foot first.
To say the least it was one of the major religious revolutions the kind of which the world has rarely seen. The revolution was akin to Adishankara's travails to win people over to Advaita philosophy by debate and persuasion. The world knows Jihads and Crusades, Jew-hatred and pogroms. Silent religious revolutions are not in its character.
The revolution had been preceded by the inevitable persuasion, debate, demand for justice, the desperate cry for humanity and compassion, an appeal to the adaptation of the modern values of equality and freedom, made by Dr Ambedkar. It fell on deaf ears. It could not persuade the [Page 318]hardened hearts, the frozen attitudes and dead sensitivity, born out of the terrible, diabolically effective ‘Chaturvarnya Vyavastha’, the fourfold Hindu system of organisation of the society.
All that the frozen attitude did was to persuade the Dalit leader not to get converted, without offering him a convincing alternative and proposal of equality, honour, miscibility or oneness. There was nothing for Dr Ambedkar to reconsider his decision in the efforts. In the heart of his hearts, he knew that the Savarna (or the touchable) Hindu will not want Dalits to be reckoned equal at any cost. Then, there was a question of choice of religion. I wonder if the Hindu society ever realised the debt that Dr Ambedkar has put them in, by adopting Buddhism, a religion and sect from this land.
Dr Ambedkar chose Dashera, a festival traditionally celebrated ‘to cross the frontiers’. He crossed the frontiers of a religion which keeps men unequal, views them as such, and has degenerated to such animalistic depths and abyss as to become loathful in its practice. Ambedkar used an old symbolism with far-telling effects. And yet, he choked in his throat, his eyes filled with tears when he said, ‘I relinquish this Hindu religion.’ Despite the millennia and generations of humiliations of extreme degrees on a moment to moment basis, Dr Ambedkar retained his sensitivity to his religion. He repeatedly referred to religion and its need for his poor people on that day when he spoke. He did not talk of equality, reservation, economics, but of Harijans and Dalits becoming educated, cultured and emancipated. What was his plea against Hinduism? It was the inability of the Hindu religious and social system to produce any enthusiasm in any individual for development, emancipation, rise and betterment. All he said was that the enshrined nature of inequality in Hinduism was unacceptable to him.
And yet, it did not move the people of the Hindu religion.
The account that Tarun Bharat from Nagpur gave of that day does itself some credit by calling it an ‘unprecedented event’, anticipating that ‘this will make Nagpur the new center of pilgrimage of the untouchables and that the world is watching its occurrence’. Singularly, it spared the Hindu society from pointing out that it was their doing.The Years of Dhammaparavartan Din
Over years this celebration has grown in its number and strength. The people around Deeksha Bhoomi and Nagpur have accommodated these millions of people. There has been no violence, no disruptions, none have been afraid of these people. Everything, houses, businesses, remain open, [Page 319]working. For years, the poor classes from all over have come. They use some facilities for an hour and a half of the localities, and go away. In one day everything is over. It is only in the last 2–3 years that more and better facilities are noticeable. It is only in the last few years that ‘the class’ of people attending has changed. It is emancipation at work! The number of places where it is held has also gone up as well!1996
In the evening despite the fact that it had rained and the roads would be muddy, I put on my shoes and walked out in to the milling Dashera crowds, of swelling millions in the night. In the intervening four years the facelift and constructions in and around Deeksha Bhoomi had made remarkable progress. The mud notwithstanding, the illumination was better, there were many more people, many more stalls and much less dust. Lo and behold! The people I had seen in 1992 looked changed.The Backdrop—5
I am at the airport, to pick my father, the day prior to Dashera. A pair of short, stocky, educated men are sitting by my side, waiting. Their talk makes it obvious that they have come to receive some Buddhist monk, whose name I forget, a Bhadant, along with other high ranking Dalits, not all of them political leaders, coming by flight from Bombay. The recipients are eager and proud. A group of tall young boys with sweaters and scarves around them have also come in. They are attempting not to slip into the crude Marathi that they have been brought up with. They are conversing in somewhat artificial looking Brahminical Poona Marathi. They are educated, confident and have tried to develop a style around them of behavior.The Backdrop—6
I am in the streets of Nagpur next day morning, the Dashera morning. I am loafing around the Deeksha Bhoomi area. There are numerous vehicles, fiats, traxes and jeeps. Many of these jeeps and traxes bear the names of [Page 320]the families that have rented them. Godbole, Phatak, Phadake and so on. They are specifically Chitpavan Brahmin surnames. There are also many buses around. Even the villagers are quick to point of which ones they want to pick. Many vehicles hold within them from young children to old people, a large united family or groups. Their clothes are not rich but they are new and of a good quality. The air of poorish quality is gone. The ornaments give an indication of education, culture and awareness. There is more confidence and less diffidence. There is more joy on their faces, a more secure one, in the surety of their station. The dresses of ladies and young girls show much remarkable aesthetic escalations. The villager crowd that I had seen four years ago is also moving around. Many of them appear better off, better dressed.
I look at the roadside, trying to pick out mounds of dirt, to be exact. I go round and round these areas and roads. I don't find anything disturbing.The Backdrop—7
In the night I am in the crowds again. I confirm my impression of a whole new generation, more affluent, better fed, better brought up and better oriented to aesthetics and manners. In the villagers again I confirm my impression—better than before.
A plethora of books and ideological literature bear a lot many more names. The change is neither drastic, fantastic, disproportionate nor of unlikely magnitude; it is substantial, noticeable, emphatic, stable, likeable, enchanting and desirable.
I move out; there is a dais on the left of the monument, large, long. Many leaders are perched on top. PWD Minister Nitin Gadkari, an arch Bharatiya Janata Party leader, is speaking in a Dalit Sammelan. I try to recollect. I have a feeling that in the ‘Yuti Raj’ more attention has been paid to the beautification of Deeksha Bhoomi premises—to enable people to participate in a smoother manner.A Tale of Two Cities
It was the best of times and it was the worst of times. It was a reign of light and there was a reign of darkness. There was a king on the throne of England and there was a king on the throne of France…[Page 321]
For last forty years, in one city there are two celebrations going on, the Dashera of the RSS and the ‘Dashera’ of Dalits. Their profiles, culture types, ethos and organisation are totally different. I decide to explore further.The Reactions
I am talking to an Andhrite Marketing Executive of a Danish Company.
‘Why did you go to see that celebration? It is too crowded. It is dirty, it smells.’
‘No, it does not smell. It is crowded, but it is not dirty. Have you ever seen it yourself, having been reared in Nagpur?’ I persist.
‘No, I have never been there.’
I am talking to two brilliant young computer engineers staying less than half a kilometer from Deeksha Bhoomi.
‘We see it every year from as far a distance as possible. For 2 to 3 days we cannot open our office on Jail Road. We have to take long detours.’
‘Have you ever been “in it”?’
‘No. We have not bothered to really feel the atmosphere by mixing in the crowd and going into the monument.’
I am talking to two young ladies; one of them is a dark, tall and elegant Marvari doctor.
‘Aap “wahanse” aa rahe ho? Are you coming from there? Why did you get into so much crowd, rain, dirt, smell and mud.’
‘It does not smell. It is not dirty. Have you ever seen it? Experienced it?’
‘No I have not.’
I ask the other young lady, also a doctor from the Tiral Kunbi community with an English-convent accent.
‘No. I have never been there.’ I ask a number of people. I ask a number of RSS workers.
‘No. I have never been there in last 30 years. I have rarely failed to attend the Reshimbagh Grounds for the RSS Dashera in last 30 years.’ This was the stock reply.The Recollections
All my recollections are of the Dashera of the Nagpur RSS, the highly organised celebrations. The RSS at least has a section of Hindu society [Page 322]which salutes Dr Ambedkar for being so magnanimous about the decision of conversion to Buddhism. The salute is in recognition of the fact that he retained the loyalty of millions of untouchables to this land, to this society by not embracing an alien religion and an alien philosophy like Marxism to which he had diehard opposition.
There are elements in the RSS that are disturbed over this obstruction of untouchability that prevents the society from being one and homogeneous. The founder of the RSS from the early years of the organisation had banished all notions of it in the working of RSS and its mind. He adopted a method of derecognition of untouchability. It took sometime before it was realised that the method falls short of its intended achievements and time moves more rapidly. It took time for the RSS to become vocal as regards untouchability. It was Late Mr Deoras who forcefully declared that ‘untouchability should go and go lock, stock, and barrel and that if untouchability is not wrong then nothing in the world is wrong’.
There is no point in hammering the RSS as the torch-bearer of orthodox lithic Hindus. It is not. It is ahead of Hindu society. But the condition and psyche of the society is so horrible that anyone trying to pull it out of abyss is bound to look inextricably entangled with it. Yet many an initiative has been developed within the RSS, over the issue.
The role of the RSS in the troubled period of Namantar of Maratthwada University (the change of name of the university to Dr Ambedkar University) is not insignificant. The emphatic thoughts expressed by Mr Deoras as regards reservations, in the highest body of Sangh, that is, the Pratinidhi Sabha, the establishment of Samajik Samarasata Manch, the inauguration of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Pratishthan Sanchalit Dr Hedgewar Hospital in Aurangabad and the need for a Human Rights Commission were the significant milestones. Had it not been for an inborn culture that the RSS has, Mr Kalyan Singh, a backward class worker, would not have been the natural choice for the chief-ministership of the largest state that the BJP won after 1977. It was an act of penance to have honorably placed ‘the first stone’ of Ram Mandir at Ayodhya by the hands of a Harijan. There is no point in ridiculing these events as misleading, deliberate or symbolic. In that case, it will become a moral imperative to all the Dalit leadership to denounce lethally the BSP-BJP coalition which has come to power in Uttar Pradesh. None of them have done it. Why?The Most Earnest Appeal
The times are changing. The unity of these two societies is essential. It is possible because right-thinking people are there on both the sides. The [Page 323]bridges can easily be built. I met people during the filming of Dhamma Pravartan Din on 30 March 1997 who think not very differently. The tale of two Dasheras in one city must become different.
Is it impossible that in one year the RSS celebrates its Dashera function on the grounds of Deeksha Bhoomi with the countless Buddhist brethren of theirs? Let the RSS pay its tributes to the debts that Dr Ambedkar has put on Hindu society by celebrating their most sacred function of their rebirth on Deeksha Bhoomi.
Is it impossible that the next year the same function is held on the Reshimbagh Grounds with all the Dalits, Buddhists, participating in the function with the RSS. Let them also recognize the founder of an organisation with so lofty a vision as to want to embrace the Hindu society on an ‘as is where is basis’, untouchables included. Let them recognise the organisation that was described by no less a person than Dr Ambedkar as follows—‘stands as a barrier between communism and the upper castes just as I stand as a barrier between the untouchables and the communism’.
Buddhists or Dalits or Harijans or anybody needs friends whom they can trust. Political vitriol is from election to election. But just as Lincoln said, we need statesmen (on both sides) who can see from generation to generation and maybe seers who see from century to century.
Dashera can be the beginning!
Mr Deoras did once say—‘Let us not spoil the future by continuing to fight the wars of past, in the present.’
Can this make sense?
Appendix 2: The RSS Constitution[Page 324]
During the Gandhi murder ban, the RSS continued to remain dispersed and the structure started loosening and becoming disorganised. The RSS withdrew the protests. Golwalkar stationed himself in New Delhi to get the ban lifted. There was no response from the government. Patel pressed for the RSS to merge with the Congress. When the deadlock continued, Dani and Deoras sent a veiled message to Patel that if the ban was lifted the RSS would enter politics. No one would want this parallel force to come into existence.
The absence of a written constitution has long been claimed as the most devastating evidence of the fascist nature of the RSS. At that rate, Britain should be considered the fountainhead of all fascism. The RSS had no written constitution. The government agreed to remove the ban if the RSS wrote a constitution, which they did. It could make interesting reading.Shri: The Constitution of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh
(Translated from the original in Hindi)
(As adopted on 1 August 1949 and amended up to 1 July 1972)
WHEREAS in the disintegrated condition of the country it was considered necessary to have an Organisation.[Page 325]
- to eradicate the fissiparous tendencies arising from diversities of sect, faith, caste and creed and from political, economic, linguistic and provincial differences, amongst Hindus;
- to make them realise the greatness of their past;
- to inculcate in them a spirit of service, sacrifice and selfless devotion to the Society.
- to build up an organised and well-disciplined corporate life; and
- to bring about an all-round regeneration of the Hindu Samaj on the basis of its Dharma and its Sanskriti;
AND WHEREAS the Organisation known as ‘RASHTRIYA SWAYAMSEVAK SANGH’ was started on the Vijaya Dashami day in the year 1982 Vikram Samvat (1925 A.D.) by the late Dr. Keshav Baliram Hedgewar;
AND WHEREAS Shri Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar was nominated by the said Dr. Hedgewar to succeed him in the year 1997 Vikram Samvat (1940 A.D.):
AND WHEREAS the Sangh had till now no written Constitution; AND WHEREAS in the present changed conditions, it is deemed desirable to reduce to writing the Constitution as also the Aims and Objects of the Sangh and its Method of Work,
THE RASHTRIYA SWAYAMSEVAK SANGH hereby adopts The following Constitution:Article 1 Name
The name of the Organisation is “RASHTRIYA SWAYAMSEVAK SANGH”.Article 2 Headquarters
The Headquarters of the Akhil Bharatiya Karyakari Mandal is at NAGPUR.Article 3 Aims and Objects
The Aims and Objects of the Sangh are to weld together the various diverse groups within the Hindu Samaj and to revitalise and rejuvenate the same on the basis of its Dharma and Sanskriti, that it may achieve an all-sided development of Bharatvarsha.Article 4 Policy
Article 5 Dhwaj
- The Sangh believes in the orderly evolution of society and adheres to peaceful and legitimate means for the realisation of its ideals.
- In consonance with the cultural heritage of the Hindu Samaj, the [Page 326]Sangh has abiding faith in the fundamental principle of respect towards all faiths, c) The Sangh is aloof from politics and is devoted to social and cultural fields only. However, the Swayamsevaks are free, as individuals, to join any party, institution or front, political or otherwise, except such parties, institutions or fronts which subscribe to or believe in extra-national loyalties, or resort to violent and/or secret activities to achieve their ends, or which promote or attempt to promote, or have the object of promoting any feeling of enmity or hatred towards any other community or creed or religious denomination. Persons owing allegiance to the above-mentioned undesirable elements and methods of working shall have no place in the Sangh.
While recognising the duty of every citizen to be loyal to and to respect The State Flag, the Sangh has as its flag, The ‘BHAGWADHWAJ’ the age-old symbol of Hindu Sanskriti which the Sangh regards as its ‘GURU’.Article 6 Swayamsevak
Article 7 Shakha
- Any male Hindu of 18 years or above, who subscribes to the Aims and Objects of the Sangh and conforms generally to its discipline and associates himself with the activities of the Shakha will be considered as a Swayamsevak.
- A swayamsevak shall be deemed to be an Active Swayamsevak if he pledges to devote himself for the furtherance of the Aims and Objects of the Sangh, and attends a Shakha regularly or performs any work duly assigned to him.
- A Swayamsevak shall cease to be a Swayamsevak if he resigns or is removed for any act prejudicial to the interests of the Shakha or the Sangh.
- Bal Swayamsevak—Any male Hindu below the age of 18 may be admitted and allowed to participate in The Shakha programmes as a Bal Swayamsevak.
Article 8 Programmes
- Swayamsevaks desirous of propagating the Aims and Objects of the Sangh coming together in the form of a regular assemblage will form a Centre. Each Centre shall be a self-contained unit receiving its finances and making its own financial disbursements and is herein referred to as a “SHAKHA”.[Page 327]
- Each such Shakha shall constitute the primary unit of the Sangh, which shall be an autonomous body in respect of its administration and finances.
- The Shakha shall function under the directions of its Karyakari Mandal.
For The fulfilment of the Aims and Objects as set out herein earlier, the Shakhas may undertake any or all of the following programmes:
“Arranging frequent discussions and lectures for imparting intellectual and moral education to Swayamsevaks and others and inculcating in them love for the Nation and the ideals of Hindu Dharma and Sanskriti.
“Establishing and running of Libraries and Reading Rooms for the benefit of the general public.
“Carrying on of activities or undertaking programmes for the welfare and benefit of the general public, such as extending medical care, propagation of literacy and improvement of living conditions of the poorer sections of the society; and flood and famine relief, study circles and free exhibition of educative films and advancement of other objects of general public utility, but not involving carrying on of activity for profit.
“Imparting physical education by means of exercise and games with a view of improving the physical and mental faculties of Swayamsevaks and others for the co-ordinated and disciplined development of The Society.
“Arranging periodical classes for Swayamsevaks to be trained as Instructors and Workers.
“Celebrating festivals of cultural importance with a view to providing opportunity for Swayamsevaks and others to imbibe the sublime cultural values of character, service and sacrifice to rededicate themselves to the cause of society.
“Adopting suitable means and establishing institutions to propagate the ideals and activities of the Sangh and to educate the people.
“Generally the Shakhas may do all such things as are considered necessary and are conducive directly or indirectly, to promoting and achieving any of the objects of the Sangh.”Article 9 Finances
Any voluntary offering made with devotion before The Bhagwa Dhwaj shall exclusively constitute the finances of the Shakha and shall belong to and be solely managed and disbursed by the Shakha for the promotion of the Aims and Objects of the Sangh and general advancement of Sangh work to be done by the Shakha according to the rules framed by it for that purpose.[Page 328]Article 10 Elections
Article 11 Qualification for Voters and Candidates for Elections and Appointees
- Elections shall be held after every three years.
- The date, method and venue of election shall be determined by the concerned K.M. in consultation with the A.B.K.M.
Article 12 Sarsanghachalak
Every Active Swayamsevak of at least one-year standing immediately prior to the date of preparation of the Electoral lists for the election, shall be entitled to vote in the election.
Candidates for Elections and Appointees
- A Swayamsevak, who is an office-bearer of a political party, shall not be eligible as a candidate for election or as an appointee to any post so long as he is such an office bearer.
- A candidate for election, or an appointee to any Akhil Bharatiya post, shall be an Active Swayamsevak of at least six years’ continuous standing.
- A candidate of appointee for Sanghachalakship shall be an Active Swayamsevak of at least one-year standing.
The late Dr Keshav Baliram Hedgewar, the founder of The Sangh, was the Adya (First) Sarsanghachalak. He, in consultation with the then K.K.M., nominated Shri Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar, who is the Sarsanghachalak since then. The Sarsanghachalak will nominate his successor as and when the necessity arises, with the consent of the then A.B.K.M.
The Sarsanghachalak is the Guide and Philosopher of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. He may attend, summon or address any assembly of the Swayamsevaks, A.B.P.S. and Karyakari Mandals severally or jointly.Article 13 Sarkaryavaha
[Page 329]Article 14 Akhil Bharatiya Karyakari Mandal
- The elected members of the Akhil Bharatiya Pratinidhi Sab ha (vide Article 15a) shall elect the Sarkaryavaha.
- The Sarkaryavaha shall act in consultation with the Sarsanghachalak.
- In case of death, incapacity or resignation of the Sarkaryavaha. The A.B.K.M. may appoint a person to discharge his duties until such time as his successor is elected.
Article 15 Akhil Bharatiya Pratinidhi Sabha
- The Sarkaryavaha shall form the Akhil Bharatiya Karyakari Mandal of which he shall be the Chairman with the following office bearers duly appointed by him.
- One or more Sah-Sarkaryavahas.
- Akhil Bharatiya Sharirik Shikshan Pramukh (Incharge of guidance in physical education),
- Akhil Bharatiya Bouddhik Shikshan Pramukh (Incharge of guidance in intellectual and moral instruction),
- Akhil Bharatiya Pracharak Pramukh (Incharge of propagation of Sangh work and guidance to Pracharaks).
- Akhil Bharatiya Vyavastha Pramukh (Incharge of general management), and not less than five members chosen from among the Prantiya Karyakari Mandals.
- The following will be The functions of The A.B.K.M.:
- The A. B. KM. is the co-ordinating body of all the Shakhas in the country to carry out the policy and programmes laid down by the AB.P.S.
- The A. B. KM. will frame rules and bye-laws in consonance with the constitution for the purpose of regulating its own affairs and for the general functioning of the Sangh.
Article 16 Delegates and Sanghchalaks
- The delegates elected in accordance with Article 16(a) (i) and (ii) in a Prant shall elect from amongst themselves one tenth of their number as representatives of the Shakhas on the Akhil Bharatiya Pratinidhi Sabha.
- The AB.P.S. shall consist of—
- Representatives of the Shakhas as elected in 15(a) above.
- Sanghachalak and Pracharaks of Vibhags and Prants.
- Members of the A.B.K.M.
- The Sarkaryavaha shall be the Chairman of The A.B.P.S.
- The A.B.P.S. shall meet at least once a year.
- The A.B.P.S. shall review the work and lay down policy and programmes of the Sangh:
Article 17 Pracharaks
- Fifty or more Swayamsevaks entitled to vote in Shakha will elect from among themselves one for every fifty such Swayamsevaks as delegates of the Shakha.[Page 330]
- Such of the Shakhas as are having less than fifty Swayamsevaks entitled to vote will come together to elect delegates. The delegates, as elected above, in a Jilla, in a Vibhag and in a Prant will elect the Jilla Sanghachalak, the Vibhag Sanghahalak and the Prant Sanghachalak, respectively.
- [Page 330]
- The Jilla Sanghachalak, in consultation with The Prant Sanghachalak and Prant Pracharak will nominate Sanghachalaks for the various Shakhas and groups of Shakhas within the Jilla.
- In case a suitable person is not available for the office of Sanghachalak, The Jilla Sanghachalak will appoint a Karyavaha.
- In case of death, incapacity or resignation of Prant, Vibhag or Jilla Sanghachalak the KM. of the larger area may appoint a person to discharge the duties of the respective Sanghachalak until such time as his successor is elected.
Article 18 Karyakari Mandals
- Pracharaks shall be full time workers selected from amongst those devoted workers of high integrity, whose mission is to serve The society through The Sangh and who, of Their own free will, dedicate Themselves to the Cause.
- They will receive no remuneration. However their expenses will be met by the Shakhas.
- Appointment of Pracharaks—
- The Sarkaryavaha will appoint Prant Pracharaks on the advice of the Akhil Bharatiya Pracharak Pramukh and in consultation with the Prant Sanghachalak concerned.
- The Prant Sanghachalak on the advice of Prant Pracharak will appoint Pracharaks for different areas in the Prant for the assistance and co-ordination of the Shakhas in their respective areas.
Article 19 Quorum
Sanghachalak of a Prant, Vibhag or Jilla elected in accordance with 16(b), or any groups of Shakhas within The Jilla appointed in accordance with 16(c), will form a Karyakari Mandal of the respective area, of which he shall be the Chairman, consisting of the following office bearers duly appointed by him—
- Pracharak (appointed under Article 17(b) (ii))
- Sharirik Shikshan Pramukh
- Bouddhik Shikshan Pramukh
- Vyavastha Pramukh
The Sanghachalak of a Shakha appointed in accordance with 16(c), will form a Karyakari Mandal, of which he shall be the Chairman, consisting of the following office-bearers duly appointed by him.
- Sharirik Shikshan Pramukh
- Bouddhik Shikshan Pramukh
- Prachar Pramukh
- Vyavastha Pramukh
- Nidhi Pramukh
NOTE: In case suitable person/s is/are not available for appointment to any one or more of the above posts the same may remain vacant until suitable person/s is/are available.
Each Karyakari Mandal shall also have in addition not less than three members chosen from amongst the other Karyakari Mandals within its area, if any.
K.M.S will be executive bodies in their respective areas, guided by the KM. of the immediate larger area for implementing the policy and carrying out the programme laid down by the A.B.P.S.
The KM. of a Shakha will have the power to take disciplinary action against any individual Swayamsevak for breach of discipline or behaviour prejudicial to the interests of the Shakha or the Sangh. Such an action will be subject to confirmation by the Karyakari Mandal of the immediate larger area.
One half of the total strength shall form the Quorum for the meetings of the various Karyakari Mandals, and one fifth for the A.B.P.S.Article 20 Undeveloped Prants
In case of prants in which the work has not yet developed to an appreciable level, The A. B. KM. may provide representation to them on the AB.P.S. in a manner it deems fit.Article 21 Interpretation and Amendments to Constitution
- The interpretation of the Constitution and its Articles by the A. B. KM. shall be final.
- An amendment to the Constitution not inconsistent with the Aims and Objects of the Sangh can be proposed at a convention specially convened for that purpose by the A. B. KM. on its own, or to, the A. B. KM. by any P.K.M., or by any other Karyakari Mandal with the recommendation of the respective P. KM. or by any twenty-five members of the A.B.P.S. The A. B. KM. after due consideration will [Page 332]put the proposal of such an amendment before the P. KMs and the amendment will be deemed carried if two-thirds of the P. K. Ms agree by a simple majority.
- The decisions of The P. KMs regarding such amendments may be brought for reconsideration before the A.B.P.S. on a requisition by any twenty-five members of that Sabha. The decision of the A.B.P.S. in this behalf, taken by a two thirds majority shall be final.
For the top key positions in the RSS hierarchy listed below see Appendix 2—RSS Constitution.
Some Technical Terms
- Boudhik Pramukh
- Sharirik Shikshan Pramukh
- Prachar Pramukh
- Vyavastha Pramukh
- Mukhya Shikshak
Dharma is not an individual's way of worship or that of a sect or religion. It is a way of life, a system that ‘sustains’ societies with peace, calm, wealth, [Page 334]etc., where all such relations are in essential harmony, and causes both the earthly and spiritual development. Hindu Dharma is a federation of religions.
Chakravartitwa of the Chakravartin may be regarded as a centre for coordination, helper, but even the large states who have allegiance to the Chakravartin (the Sovereign) would still be sovereign states. This concept is not the same as monarchy.
Samrats were similar to emperors.
Ashwamedha Yagnya is a ceremony wherein a powerful kingdom, desirous of establishing its hegemony by getting obedience from all other states, sets out a horse to go around the earth. The horse carries a charter on whether the kingdom whose boundaries it has entered wants to submit or challenge by war. If the kingdoms submit, there is a peaceful settlement. Otherwise, the challenger kingdom has to defeat the proclaimer. Once all the states are won or have submitted, the proclaimer performs a sacrificial fire ceremony in which the horse which has gone around is sacrificed.
Ekachalakanuvartitva means that there will be only one authority whose advice which will be followed unquestioned, one of the tenets of the RSS for long, also a ground for critics to accuse the RSS of being an undoubtedly fascist organisation.
Sahachalakanuvartitva, decision by consensus, is the idea Deoras mooted and implemented in the post-Emergency period. While injail, he declared that he as one Sarsanghachalak might be inside, but six others were moving outside free, and had a better idea of what was going on. He further said that whatever they decided would have his full support and sanction.
Chintan Baithak is a conclave of all important functionaries of the RSS to freely deliberate on the issues facing them. For the understanding of those who label the RSS as fascist, it is well to know that every 10 odd years, RSS conducts a review of the decade gone by where the representatives express themselves fearlessly. So far there have been eight major such conclaves, in 1939, 1954, 1960, 1972, 1981, 1987, 1989 and 1998.
Peethadheeshas or Mathadheeshas are the sectarian chiefs of the monasteries each sect builds for itself, usually in one or more places, around which the followers of that sect revolve as a great place for religious congregations.
Ekadashi, the 11th day of the first half of the lunar month, is an auspicious day for fasting.
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About the Author[Page 353]
Sanjeev Kelkar has seen the RSS at close quarters, and at all levels, for the last 43 years. He was brought up in a diehard RSS family in Nagpur. It had close connections with the founder of the RSS, Golwalkar, Deoras and many others.
As a part of his social commitment, he left Mumbai for a rural tribal area medical service project and worked there for 11 years.
He is best described as an institution builder, an excellent trainer, an educational technologist, a wizard at project management and a gambler with his life. The excellent second-level referral hospital that he created was for him a laboratory to develop models to address the numerous needs of rural health care.
He then made the unlikely leap from the rural to the highly complex tertiary care super-specialty practice in CIIMS Hospital, Nagpur. He won an award of200,000 for his short essay, ‘Program Proposal for Tuberculosis Control in India in 1995’.[Page 354]
Giving up his medical practice overnight, he joined a multinational pharma giant for the next six years. As their education director, he has trained numerous medical postgraduates in diabetes with extraordinary results.
Giving up medicine, for the last several years, he has engaged himself in political and literary writing. This book on the comparative study of the leftist-socialist, centrist and particularly the right-wing politics in India is an altogether different interpretation compared to the conventional wisdom.
He is presently working on his novel based on his experiences as a medical practitioner.