RSS Role in Freedom Struggle
History of independence struggle is a partial narration of the period. It cannot be out of ignorance, because lot of what is coming out now was known to the chroniclers. With passage of time, more documents are emerging and slowly we will see the complete picture. For example I recently reviewed a book Netaji by Shri Kalyan Kumar De where he has produced only the documents from British archives with hardly any comments or opinion of his own. These documents tell us that the major cause of British leaving India was the rising tide of belligerence against the British as seen by popular reaction to cases against the INA soldiers in Red Fort. This followed by Naval mutiny in Mumbai and a few other centres sealed the fate of British and they officially decided to leave India. The partition plans were unleashed after this decision.
Most of us are not aware that the first banner of revolt for independence against the British was raised in amazing Maruthu Pandiyar brothers in 1801 in Sivagangai in Tamil Nadu. We hardly hear about Subramanya Bharathi, VO Chidambaram Pillai, KumarswamyMudaliar, Birsa Munda, U Tirot Sing Syiemlieh et al in our history books. Children only know of Gandhi ji and Nehru ji. A few others have survived because of popular public memory.
If this is the way history has been presented so far, there is no chance of RSS getting a fair mention in the history of freedom struggle. What RSS did after it was founded in 1925, was a continuation of struggle based on spiritual element of patriotism for motherland and its deep rooted Hindu culture, represented by Bankimchandra, Lokmanya Tilak and Savarkar. Dr. Hedgewar was a product of this spirit. This spirit was of nationalism based on cultural and geographical elements of nationhood of Bharat.
Dr K B Hedgewar
Dr K B Hedgewar, the founder of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, was a product of freedom struggle. Even in school days he raised a banner of revolt against British and paid for it with expulsion from school. He went to Kolkata to study medicine, but the people who sponsored his expenses wished him to learn the ropes of revolutionary activities. So, he joined Anusheelan Samiti there. Not only was he active there, he successfully conducted a stir to change a British law of not allowing qualified Doctors from the Indian medical college to practice medicine fully.
On return Dr Hedgewar joined Congress and worked hard to make a success of national session of Indian National Congress in 1920 as a joint secretary of the organising committee. He also presented a resolution for ‘complete freedom’ with an aim to support other countries oppressed by ‘imperialism’. His resolution was rejected by the committee because Congress was still looking for limited self-rule under Dominion status. He heeded to the call for non-cooperation movement and suffered rigorous imprisonment for 9 months.
Many incidents from 1921 to 1924 made him realise that though Bharat had a glorious past, it lost because of Hindu society’s own weaknesses. A society divided on caste lines, rigorous orthodoxy, a society fighting on parochialism, languages and every possible real or imaginary fault line could not fight any enemy. To throw out British, a strong organised society with pride in its nation and culture was required. He realised that it could not be done through politics because of its limited world view. After talking to various leaders of Hindu Mahasabha and Congress, he realised that he had to take up the task of uniting Hindu society and reform it on his own and create a new organisation away from politics. Thus, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh was born.
After founding RSS, he kept his relations alive with all the parties and leaders as he carried no ill-will against anybody, and sought co-operation from all. When Congress called for full freedom in December 1930 and asked people to celebrate Independence Day on 26th January, 1931, he directed all the shakhas to celebrate the day and explain to people the importance of complete freedom. When Salt satyagrah was launched from Dandi, Congress decided to adopt it to local conditions in Vidarbh called Jungle satyagrah. Dr. Hedgewar led hundreds of swayamsevaks in this Satyagrah after resigning as the RSS Chief as he believed that Congress represented the freedom struggle so everyone must fight under single banner. He was jailed again for 10 months alongwith hundreds of RSS satyagrahis.
People are not aware that the original RSS oath contained the words, “I have become a part of RSS to work with complete commitment for ‘freedom of Hindu Rashtra” that is , Bharat. His idea was to raise an all-India organisation that would be ready to fight for freedom when British would be weakened after WWII. His regret before he left this world was that he couldn’t complete the task by 1940 to take advantage of this historic moment. We can understand his vision when we see that Quit India movement was launched in 1942 and INA was also formed in the same period.
RSS work under Shri Guruji
His job was taken up vigorously by second RSS Sarsanghchaalak Shri Guruji. He worked hard to make RSS a strong all India organisation. The work was going full strength when Quit India came to fore. Considering all the pros and cons, RSS decided to allow RSS swayamsevaks to take part in the movement as citizens, just as directed by Dr Hedgewar.
Since, RSS was strong in Central Province, the biggest and most powerful participation happened in Vidarbha. Infact, two towns Chimur and Ashti saw takeover of government with ‘Patri Sarkar’. One swayamsevak died in police firing. One was sentenced to death, but saved later by a Hindu Mahasabha member who interceded with British government to change it to imprisonment. In Patna two swayamsevaks were shot dead while hoisting the flag on state secretariat. A swayamsevak was hanged to death in Sindh. Hundreds of swayamsevaks were imprisoned. These are on-record. There will be so many others whose sacrifice couldn’t be recorded as RSS was against any felicitation or mentions for work done for motherland. Nearly all the big underground leaders of Quit India movement took shelter in RSS homes. RSS lawyers fought the cases of satyagrahis and these leaders.
Tragedy of Partition and Guruji leading the charge
When independence was declared at the cost of amputation of motherland, Congress leaders got busy with ministry making. Many escaped from the newly marked Pakistan with the help of RSS volunteers to join the celebrations in Delhi. Many of them were protected within Punjab and Sindh by RSS volunteers. Guruji was touring Punjab and Sindh till one week before 15th August 1947 while political leaders had disappeared.
Independence did not mean independence for millions of unfortunate citizens who were left on the other side of the partition. For them it was a dark night, not the rise of a Sun of freedom. Hundreds of swayamsevaks sacrificed their lives, family, businesses to save lacs of people in Sindh and Punjab. They worked ceaselessly for their rehabilitation too. While government left this job to army and police and Sarkari babus, RSS that played a huge role.
Before army came to Jammu and Kashmir after signing of treaty of accession, it was again RSS that stood with Dogra army and later Indian army to provide local logistic support, support for construction of roads, bridges, and runway;and pick up ammunition dropped by air force planes. Hundreds perished. Some have been traced and some have remained unnamed.
While Muslim League, even after independence was trying to disturb governance by various violent means, it was RSS that exposed their conspiracies and saved the national integrity.
Lead role in liberating colonies post-Independence
New generation would not believe that there were small colonies in India even after independence till 1960s where millions lived as slaves of Portuguese. Pondicherry was liberated with a treaty with French in 1954. Dadra Nagar Haveli was liberated by RSS swayamsevaks and handed over to GOI in 1954. Thousands of swayamsevaks marched to Goa to liberate Goa. A swayamsevak was shot through the eye and lost his life. Hundreds were imprisoned. Finally Goa and other small colonies were liberated by India in 1961!
I have not given names of balidani swayamsevaks and many details as it is not possible in such a small article. I would request readers to refer to my book “Sangh & Swaraj” for more details. There are other books like “Now It can be told”, “Jammu Kashmir ki Ankahi Kahani”, “Jyoti Jala Nij Pran ki” that need to be read to understand the kind of work that RSS did before and after freedom. We remember the unparalleled sacrifice of unnamed brave swayamsevaks and pay homage to them.