- The Truth Behind the Mahatma Gandhi Assassination
- HEY RAM!
- RSS is banned
- Sardar’s tight leash on Sangh chief Guru Golwalkar’s pledge of good conduct fails to impress government
- ‘Godse’s intention was good’: Rajju Bhaiya
- Murder of the greatest Hindu
- Resurrecting Godse: The Hindutva continuum
- Gopal Godse: ‘Nathuram did not leave the RSS’
- At last they got him, after five unsuccessful attempts
- The RSS and the Freedom Struggle
- ‘Teach them a lesson’
- The Sangh’s bloody trail
- Hubli hungama, Hindutva’s hypocrisy
- Blood for blood: An extract from Tamas
In an open letter to the RSS, parliamentarian RK Anand asks them to refute his conclusions based on hard facts that the RSS was implicated in Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination, that the RSS is a political, not a cultural, body which along with the Hindu Mahasabha staunchly opposed the Quit India movement and whose activists have been indicted by several commissions of inquiry for their role in major communal riots
Shri KS Sudershan
DB Gupta Road, New Delhi
Shri Ram Madhav
DB Gupta Road, New Delhi
Alot of hue and cry is being raised and threat of legal action is being extended by the RSS for various allegations made against them that their members were involved in the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi.
As a citizen of the country, after reading various periodicals, books and documents, I wish to form the following opinion:
(1) That the RSS and its workers/activists were involved in the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi;
(2) The RSS is no longer a cultural organisation, its activities are political in nature;
(3) The RSS and its activists have been involved in various riots committed in various parts of the country;
(4) The RSS and the Hindu Mahasabha opposed the Quit India Movement which was launched by Mahatma Gandhi in August 1942.
My point–wise viewpoint and conclusions on the above are based on the following facts:
Killing of Mahatma Gandhi
a) Shyama Prasad Mookherjee was the prominent minister for Industry and Supply in the then Congress government in 1948 while Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel was the minister of Home. Mookherjee was a leader and a member of the Hindu Mahasabha. Mookherjee was the person who later founded the Jana Sangh (now called Bharatiya Janata Party). In his reply dated July 18, 1948 to a letter from Mookherjee, Patel said:
"As regards the RSS and the Hindu Mahasabha, the case relating to Gandhiji’s murder is sub judice and I should not like to say anything about the participation of the two organisations, but our reports do confirm that, as a result of the activities of these two bodies, particularly the former, an atmosphere was created in the country in which such a ghastly tragedy became possible. There is no doubt in my mind that the extreme section of the Hindu Mahasabha was involved in this conspiracy. The activities of the RSS constituted a clear threat to the existence of Government and the State. Our reports show that those activities, despite the ban, have not died down. Indeed, as time has marched on, the RSS circles are becoming more defiant and are indulging in their subversive activities in an increasing measure."
In a conspiracy, a person may not be a direct killer, but the very fact that an atmosphere was created in the country which led to the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi squarely comes within the mischief of conspiracy to assassinate Mahatma Gandhi.
b) It is a historical fact that on February 4, 1948, the RSS was banned as an unlawful organisation by the Govt. of India, which ban was lifted on July 12, 1949. As mentioned above, Shyama Prasad Mookherjee was a cabinet colleague of Vallabhbhai Patel. He did not raise any protest on the banning of the RSS, nor did he resign from the ministry. He was convinced that the RSS and its activists created an atmosphere which led one of its activists to assassinate Mahatma Gandhi. On the other hand, Mookherjee, in his letter dated July 17, 1948, categorically denounced aggressive communalism. I quote below from his letter:
It is an admitted historical fact that Nathuram Godse joined the RSS in 1930 and became a prominent speaker and organiser of the RSS. Godse accompanied Hedgewar (the then RSS chief) and Baburao Savarkar (brother of VD Savarkar) in an extended tour of western Maharashtra in 1932.
"Regarding the future, I do feel that the time has now come when leaders of all Hindu organisations should be contacted and efforts should be made to canalise their activities into lines which will best serve our national interest. Aggressive communalism which denies elementary rights to classes of Indian citizens merely on consideration of religion is certainly disastrous."
c) The Govt. of India appointed a commission of inquiry under the Commission of Inquiry Act headed by a senior Supreme Court judge, Justice Jeevan Lal Kapoor, to head its probe on the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi.
In Vol. V Chapter 21 at page 303 in paragraphs 25.105 and 25.106 of the report, a finding was given which is as under:-
"25.105 No doubt, the Commission is viewing this matter twenty-one years after, when all the facts for and against both theories are before it and Mr. Nagarvala was on a search for and collection of these facts and had to work out the clues and had to piece many bits of all kinds of information together like a jig–saw puzzle, but still on the following facts amongst others the proper conclusion, in the opinion of the Commission, was a conspiracy to murder and not a conspiracy to kidnap:
(1) The information which had been given by Mr. Morarji Desai to Mr. Nagarvala;
(2) The explosion of gun cotton slab at the prayer meeting;
(3) The mention of the association of Savarkar, and Madanlal and Karkare having interviewed Savarkar before they left for Delhi;
(4) The mention of a dump of arms guarded by a Maratha with a Sikh–like appearance.
"25.106: All these facts taken together were destructive of any theory other than the conspiracy to murder by Savarkar and his group and…"
d) It is also a historical fact that while Nathuram Godse was the person who killed Mahatma Gandhi, he was not the only person involved in the conspiracy; there were several other accused persons including VD Savarkar. The question is who was Nathuram Godse – was he a member of the RSS, was he connected with the activities of the RSS, was he following the ideologies of the RSS; how did the RSS come into being and who was the mentor of the RSS?
I have come across the following facts which would prove that Nathuram Godse was in the RSS and was a part and parcel of the RSS. Godse’s mentor was Savarkar, even LK Advani admitted that his mentor was Savarkar and took steps to name an airport after Savarkar in 2002 and was instrumental in installing Savarkar’s portrait in Parliament. Savarkar was implicated for conspiracy in the case leading to the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi. Although he was acquitted, the evidence which was brought to light in the report of the Commission by Justice Kapoor indicated that Savarkar was involved in the conspiracy to murder Mahatma Gandhi. I have already mentioned a portion of the finding in para 25.105 and 25.106 referred to above.
It is an admitted historical fact that Nathuram Godse joined the RSS in 1930 and became a prominent speaker and organiser of the RSS. Godse accompanied Hedgewar (the then RSS chief) and Baburao Savarkar (brother of VD Savarkar) in an extended tour of western Maharashtra in 1932.
In 1931, Baburao who had founded the ‘Tarun Hindu Sabha’, a youth wing of the Mahasabha, merged his organisation with the RSS. Lacking trained cadres of its own, the Mahasabha, too, had started regarding the RSS as an extension of its politics in the sphere of the youth. The Delhi session of the Hindu Mahasabha (1932) passed a resolution commending the activities of the RSS and emphasising the need to spread its network all over the country. In the same year, Mahasabha leader Bhai Permanand extended a special invitation to Hedgewar to attend the Karachi session of the Hindu Yuvak Parishad, and the RSS leader was thus able to establish contacts with youth groups in Sind and Punjab.
Baburao Savarkar brought the RSS in touch with Mahasabha activists in Banaras and Delhi and the great prestige of the Savarkar family among the upper castes of western Maharashtra enabled a major expansion of the RSS into that region. Pune developed into a kind of second headquarters for the RSS and an additional training camp was started there from 1935 along with the main Nagpur camp. VD Savarkar, after his release from jail in 1937, also helped to enhance RSS prestige in Maharashtra by demonstratively visiting and speaking at shakha meetings. In 1940, Shyama Prasad Mookherjee, prominent Mahasabha leader, addressed a Lahore RSS shakha and declared that the organisation was the one silver lining in the cloudy sky of India. Above all, it was the Mahasabha connection which enabled the RSS to start penetrating in Hindi speaking northern India, today the principal base for itself and its affiliated organisations.
All the above facts point only to one direction, that there was no difference between the Hindu Mahasabha and RSS. The Hindu Mahasabha had been in politics whereas the RSS was not directly in politics at that time. But the policies, ideologies of both were the same.
As to whether Nathuram Godse was in the RSS or not, who is the best person to disclose that historical fact? His brother Gopal Godse, who was also involved in the conspiracy to murder Mahatma Gandhi and who clearly revealed that all the brothers (Godse brothers) were in the RSS – Nathuram Godse, Dattatreya, Gopal Godse and Govind did not leave the RSS.
A reference is to be made to an article titled "Godse–RSS link reflected Cowardice" (Frontline, January 28, 1994). The whole truth emerged 46 years later, in December 1993, with the publication of the book, Why I assassinated Mahatma Gandhi by the brother of Gandhi’s assassin Nathuram. Gopal Godse, speaking in New Delhi on the occasion of the release said that he and his brother had been active members of the RSS.
Godse also said:
"All the brothers were in the RSS. Nathuram, Dattatreya, myself and Govind. You can say we grew up in the RSS rather than in our home. It was like a family to us… Nathuram had become a baudhik karyavah (intellectual worker) in the RSS."
When Godse was asked about Advani’s claim that Nathuram had nothing to do with the RSS, Godse replied: "I have countered him, saying it is cowardice to say that. You can say that RSS did not pass a resolution, saying that, ‘go and assassinate Gandhi.’ But you do not disown him (Nathuram). The Hindu Mahasabha did not disown him. In 1944 Nathuram started doing Hindu Mahasabha work when he had been a baudhik karyavah in the RSS."
Savarkar and Golwalkar shared a number of platforms. Photographs are available showing both of them sharing platforms in Pune in 1952.
All these aforesaid historical facts lead only to one conclusion: that Nathuram Godse and Savarkar were a part and parcel of the RSS; the Hindu Mahasabha and the RSS were inter-linked in policies and ideologies and they were involved in the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi.
RSS is a political, not cultural, organisation
a) Shyama Prasad Mookherjee founded the Jana Sangh (now BJP). The RSS has categorically admitted that the BJP is its political wing. The RSS has for several years had a total grip over its political wing, i.e., BJP. The RSS has floated various organisations to propagate its ideology of Hindutva such as the VHP and Bajrang Dal. The word "Hindutva" was coined by Savarkar who openly declared that Hindutva is not Hinduism; it meant Hindustan for Hindus and Pakistan for Muslims. This was his two–nation theory which was further raised by RSS chief, Guru Golwalkar.
By the appointment of staunch RSS pracharaks in five states, the RSS has further tightened its grip over the BJP. This step has been taken by the RSS because the "Five star culture" initiated by people like Arun Jaitley into the BJP is not liked by the parent body. The RSS installed its supreme leaders as governors/chief ministers, home minister and Prime Minister. The very fact that top leaders of the RSS have been installed in the BJP to capture power clearly establishes that the RSS is nothing but a political organisation. In fact, the RSS acts as a springboard to fulfil the needs of the BJP.
b) It would be pertinent to mention here that in paragraphs No. 18 and 19 of the application submitted in the court of the district judge at Nagpur in connection with a case, Prof. Rajendra Singh clearly points out the mind of RSS. The relevant excerpt is as under:
"That the work of the RSS is neither religious nor charitable but its objects are cultural and patriotic as contra–distinguished from religious or charitable. It is akin to political purposes though RSS is not at present a political party inasmuch as the RSS constitution quoted above bars active political participation by RSS, as such, as a policy… Tomorrow the policy could be changed and RSS could participate in even day to day political activity as a political party because policy is not a permanent or irrevocable thing."
c) It is a historical fact that in the year 1979, during the Janata government rule under the leadership of Jai Prakash Narain, the question of dual membership arose, of the Jana Sangh and RSS. In a letter dated April 8, 1979, written by Jai Prakash Narain to the then Prime Minister Morarji Desai during the Janata regime in which BJP was a coalition partner, he clearly points to the direction that the RSS is a political organisation. He stated:
"Some friends have repeatedly complained that the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh is making efforts to grab the leadership in the Government. Like other political parties the RSS is free to influence politics and it is doing so. But my only objection is that the RSS people are trying to influence politics under the garb of a cultural organisation. I have advised the leaders of the RSS to merge themselves with organisations sympathetic to them or get affiliated with the Janata Party. But, they declined my advice on the plea that they have nothing to do with politics. I absolutely do not agree with this logic of the RSS. I still feel that the RSS should merge itself with the pro-Janata organisations.
"But if it is bent upon retaining its own distinct identity I would then repeat that it should include in it non–Hindus – Muslims, Christians, etc. I have always condemned Hindu nationalism of the RSS. For it is a dangerous doctrine and is against the ideal of composite Indian nationalism. In democracy every organisation has a right to propagate its philosophy or ideology – this is essence of democracy. But when it aspires to dominate politics, we would have to be careful to see whether such philosophy or ideology threatens the basic philosophy of Indian nationalism. I have no quarrel with the association of the RSS with the Janata Party. But it will have to give up its Hindu image and become completely secular. If it does not do so, it should keep its hands off politics, and snap its ties with every faction of the Janata Party.
"But as Prime Minister of India, it is your duty to make efforts to improve the RSS or make it a secular force. Its efforts to upset the secular basis of Indian nationalism and the Government should be opposed by all thinking individuals.
"Every time the RSS people assure me that they would internally improve. But I do not know what do they do after going from here. It is continuing like this for the last four years. After all there is a limit to everything."
RSS activists have been involved in riots in various parts of the country
a) Rajeshwar Dayal, an IAS officer who was home secretary in the year 1948 wrote a book titled, A Life Of Our times. At pages 93 and 94, the book mentions serious allegations against the RSS and their involvement in riots in the year 1948:
"I must record an episode of a very grave nature when the procrastination and indecision of the UP cabinet led to dire consequences. When communal tension was still at fever–pitch, the deputy inspector–general of police of the Western Range, a very seasoned and capable officer, BBL Jaitley, arrived at my house in great secrecy. He was accompanied by two of his officers who brought with them two large steel trunks securely locked. When the trunks were opened, they revealed incontrovertible evidence of a dastardly conspiracy to create a communal holocaust throughout the western districts of the province. The trunks were crammed with blueprints of great accuracy and professionalism of every town and village in that vast area, prominently marking out the Muslim localities and habitations. There were also detailed instructions regarding access to the various locations, and other matters which amply revealed their sinister purport.
"Greatly alarmed by those revelations, I immediately took the police party to the Premier’s House. There, in a closed room, Jaitley gave a full report of his discovery, backed by all the evidence contained in the steel trunks. Timely raids conducted on the premises of the RSS (Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh) had brought the massive conspiracy to light. The whole plot had been concerted under the direction and supervision of the Supremo of the organisation himself. Both Jaitley and I pressed for the immediate arrest of the prime accused, Shri Golwalkar, who was still in the area.
"Pantji could not but accept the evidence of his eyes and ears and expressed deep concern. But instead of agreeing to the immediate arrest of the ring leader as we had hoped, and as Kidwai would have done, he asked for the matter to be placed for consideration by the cabinet at its next meeting. It was no doubt a matter of political delicacy as the roots of the RSS had gone deep into the body politic. There were also other political compulsions as RSS sympathisers, both covert and overt, were to be found in the Congress Party itself and even in the cabinet. It was no secret that the presiding officer of the Upper House, Atma Govind Kher, was himself an adherent and his sons were openly members of the RSS.
"At the cabinet meeting there was the usual procrastination and much irrelevant talk. The fact that the police had unearthed a conspiracy which would have set the whole province in flames and that the officers concerned deserved warm commendation hardly seemed to figure in the discussion. What ultimately emerged was that a letter should be issued to Shri Golwalkar pointing out the contents and nature of the evidence which had been gathered and demanding an explanation thereof. At my insistence, such a letter if it were to be sent, should be issued by the Premier himself to carry greater weight. Pantji asked me to prepare a draft, which I did in imitation of his own characteristic style. The letter was to be delivered forthwith and two police officers were assigned for the purpose.
"Golwalkar, however, had been tipped off and he was nowhere to be found in the area. He was tracked down southwards but he managed to elude the couriers in pursuit. This infructuous chase continued from place to place and weeks passed.
"Came January 30, 1948 when the Mahatma, that supreme apostle of peace, fell to a bullet fired by an RSS fanatic. The whole tragic episode left me sick at heart."
b) The Govt. of India has appointed six commissions under the Commission of Inquiry Act in the last 50 years to enquire into the incidents leading to the riots in various parts of the country. These commissions were headed by senior Supreme Court and high court judges. Details of these are as under:
i) Justice Jagmohan Reddy Commission: Communal disturbance in Ahmedabad and other places of Gujarat in September 1969.
ii) Justice DP Madon: Bhiwandi and Jalgaon riots in 1970.
iii) Justice Vithayathil: Tellicherry riots in December 1971.
iv) Justice Jitender Narayan: Jamshedpur riots in December 1971.
v) Justice Venugopal Commission: Kanyakumari riots in 1982.
vi) Justice RC Sinha and Shamshul Hasan: Bhagalpur riots, 1989.
All the reports of the above commissions of inquiries are available in Parliament and you can confirm from the records that the findings given by the above commissions led to one conclusion – that a number of activists of the RSS have been found to be indulging in riots. They were creating an atmosphere of disharmony between the two communities in India.
c) I am in possession of a copy of the letter dated May 14, 1948 written by Dr. Rajendra Prasad to Sardar Patel who headed the Constituent Assembly in the year 1948; the relevant portion of the letter is given below:
"There is a persistent rumour that June 15 is fixed as a date for something big happening and panic is growing. It is feared that RSS might do something on that date. I am told that RSS people have a plan of creating trouble. They have got a number of men dressed as Muslims and looking like Muslims who are to create trouble with the Hindus by attacking them and thus inciting the Hindus. Similarly there will be some Hindus among them who will attack the Muslims and thus incite the Muslims. The result of this kind of trouble amongst the Hindus and Muslims will be to create a conflagration."
d) Govind Sahai, a bureaucrat, in his book The Genesis of RSS, states:
"The worst stunt in this direction was that the writer of ‘The Nazi Technique and RSS’ should be prosecuted in a court of law, which a person in my position would naturally welcome. He would be failing in his duty who would avoid such an occasion of putting the facts of the case before the jury and having the unique pleasure of facing the verdict. Such a judgement and verdict would surely help all those to come to an independent judgement who want to know about the mystery of the RSS. The Sangh, however, I knew was too shrewd to commit any such foolish blunder. The talk of legal action, therefore, was a piece of their policy of creating stunts and causing a camouflage to cover their real intentions and designs. To say the least, the threat of legal action, if carried to its logical consequences, would have proved too dangerous a device for the RSS Its leadership knew it so well."
All the facts referred to above clearly indicate that the RSS and its activists were found to be involved in fomenting and creating ill will between various communities and were found to be involved as found in the reports of the commissions.
RSS and the Hindu Mahasabha opposed the Quit India Movement
Shyama Prasad Mookherjee (the founder of BJP) was the finance minister in the Bengal government headed by a member of the Muslim League, Fazal Haque. When Mahatma Gandhi raised the slogan of "Quit India", Mookherjee did not think fit to resign on August 9, 1942. On the contrary, he opposed the Quit India Movement in Bengal and made the following proposal:
"The question is how to combat this movement (Quit India) in Bengal? The administration of the province should be carried on in such a manner that inspite of the best efforts of the Congress, this movement will fail to take root in the province. It should be possible for us, especially responsible ministers, to be able to tell the public that the freedom for which the Congress has started the movement, already belongs to the representatives of the people. In some spheres, it might be limited during the emergency. Indians have to trust the British, not for the sake of Britain, not for any advantage that the British might gain, but for the maintenance of the defence and freedom of the province itself. You, as governor, will function as the constitutional head of the province and will be guided entirely on the advice of your ministers."
It is also a matter of history that the Hindu Mahasabha was in a coalition government with the Muslim League in Sind and the Sind Assembly passed a resolution endorsing the demand for the creation of Pakistan. Mookherjee and other Mahasabha leaders did not think fit to resign from the government. Mahasabha president Savarkar, mentor of LK Advani, issued a directive that they should stick to the government position and continue to perform their regular duties and not resign and, in fact, they went ahead and passed a resolution on August 31, 1942 asking all Mahasabhaites to remain at their jobs and oppose the Quit India Movement.
Looking into all the above historical facts and the correspondence/books, I would like to know from you why a man of common prudence should not come to the following conclusions:
i) That there was no difference between the Hindu Mahasabha and the RSS especially with Mookherjee being a founder member of the Hindu Mahasabha who founded the Jana Sangh (now BJP);
ii) That Nathuram Godse, assassin of Mahatma Gandhi, was an RSS activist and he was a baudhik karyavah (intellectual worker) in the RSS and, admittedly, he was directly involved in the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi.
iii) That VD Savarkar was also a conspirator in the Mahatma Gandhi murder case. The acquittal of Savarkar and his indictment in the report of Justice Jeevan Lal Kapoor clearly points out his involvement in the crime of the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi; he had also been taking active part in RSS organisations. It is only because of Savarkar that RSS organisations have made their base.
iv) That the facts referred to above clearly point only in one direction: that the RSS is not a cultural organisation but a political organisation.
v) That various facts referred to above clearly indicate that the RSS and its activists were involved in creating an atmosphere of riots in various parts of the country over the past 50 years as has been held by various commissions.
vi) That the RSS and Hindu Mahasabha opposed the Quit India Movement launched by Mahatma Gandhi in August 1942.
I would be grateful if you, being the head of the RSS organisation, could present your point of view and reply to the public at large to the facts mentioned above.
Hoping to receive an early reply.
Annexure A: Letter dated July 18, 1948 from Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel to Shyama Prasad Mookherjee.
Annexure B: Letter dated July 17, 1948 from Shyama Prasad Mookherjee to Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel.
Annexure C: Kapoor Commission Report, Vol. V, Ch. 21, p. 303, paras 25.105 and 25.106.
Annexure D: Application submitted in the court of the district judge, Nagpur, by Prof. Rajendra Singh, paras 18 and 19.
Annexure E: Letter dated April 8, 1979 from Jai Prakash Narain to Morarji Desai.
Annexure F: A Life of Our Times, Rajeshwar Dayal, pp. 93-94.
Annexure G: Letter dated May 14, 1948 from Dr. Rajendra Prasad to Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel.
Annexure H: From The Genesis of RSS, Govind Sahai
Archived from Communalism Combat, August 2004 Anniversary Issue (11th), Year 11, No.100, Cover Story 1,
Action taken by the GoI following Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination
In their resolution of February 2, 1948, the Government of India declared their determination to root out the forces of hate and violence that are at work in our country and imperil the freedom of the Nation and darken her fair name. In pursuance of this policy the Government of India have decided to declare unlawful the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh in the Chief Commissioner’s Provinces. Similar action is also being taken in the Governor’s Provinces.
As democratic governments, the Government of India and the provincial governments have always been anxious to allow reasonable scope for genuine political, social and economic activities to all parties and organisations including those whose policies and purposes differ from, or even run counter to their own, subject to the consideration that such activities should not transgress certain commonly recognised limits of propriety or law. The professed aims and objects of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh are to promote the physical, intellectual and moral well–being of the Hindus and also to foster feelings of brotherhood, love and service amongst them. Government themselves are most anxious to improve the general material and intellectual well–being of all sections of the people and have got schemes on hand which are designed to carry out these objects, particularly the provision of physical training and education in military matters to the youth of the country. Government have, however, noticed with regret that in practice members of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh have not adhered to their professed ideals.
Undesirable and even dangerous activities have been carried on by members of the Sangh. It has been found that in several parts of the country individual members of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh have indulged in acts of violence involving arson, robbery, dacoity, and murder and have collected illicit arms and ammunition. They have been found circulating leaflets exhorting people to resort to terrorist methods, to collect firearms, to create disaffection against the government and suborn the police and the military. These activities have been carried on under a cloak of secrecy, and the government have considered from time to time how far these activities rendered it incumbent on them to deal with the Sangh in its corporate capacity. The last occasion when the government defined this attitude was when the Premiers and the Home Ministers of provinces met in Delhi in conference towards the end of November.
It was then unanimously agreed that the stage when the Sangh should be dealt with as an association had not yet arrived and that individuals should continue to be dealt with sternly as hitherto. The objectionable and harmful activities of the Sangh have, however, continued unabated and the cult of violence sponsored and inspired by the activities of the Sangh has claimed many victims. The latest and the most precious to fall was Gandhiji himself.
In these circumstances it is the bounden duty of the government to take effective measures to curb this reappearance of violence in a virulent form and as a first step to this end, they have decided to declare the Sangh as an unlawful association. Government have no doubt that in taking this measure they have the support of all law–abiding citizens, of all those who have the welfare of the country at heart.
(From the archives of the home ministry, government of India).
Archived from Communalism Combat, August 2004, Anniversary Issue (11th), Year 11 No.100, Cover Story 2
Soon after his release from prison in Nagpur after the statutory period of six months, Mr. Golwalkar, head of the RSS organisation, made approaches to the government which indicated a possibility that the activities of that organisation might be diverted and confined to channels which would have no harmful effect on the communal situation in the country. He also expressed a desire to interview the Home Minister. In order to enable him to do so, the Government of India requested the CP government to cancel an order issued by them under which Mr. Golwalkar’s movements had been restricted to the city of Nagpur and to facilitate his departure for Delhi for the specific purpose of seeing the Home Minister.
Mr. Golwalkar accordingly came to Delhi and had his first interview with the Home Minister soon after his arrival. There was an exchange of views and Mr. Golwalkar wanted some time to consult his followers in an attempt to influence them on the right lines. Some days later he had his second interview during which he expressed his inability to bind himself to any change until the ban was lifted. He felt that the lifting of the ban would strengthen his hands in dealing with his followers. Simultaneously, however, the Government of India had got in touch with provincial governments to acquaint themselves with their views and the latest information about the activities of the RSS. The information received by the Government of India shows that the activities carried on in various forms and ways by the people associated with the RSS tend to be anti–national and often subversive and violent and that persistent attempts are being made by the RSS to revive an atmosphere in the country which was productive of such disastrous consequences in the past. For these reasons, the provincial governments have declared themselves opposed to the withdrawal of the ban and the Government of India have concurred with the view of the provincial governments.
This position was conveyed to Mr. Golwalkar towards the end of the last month and he was told that since the purpose for which he had been allowed to come to Delhi had been served, he should now return to Nagpur. Mr. Golwalkar was not prepared to accept this position and expressed a desire to see the Home Minister and the Prime Minister on their return to Delhi. The Home Minister declined to grant a further interview, but in order to give him a chance to interview the Prime Minister on his return, if the latter so desired, he was allowed to remain in Delhi under certain restrictive orders issued by the District Magistrate of Delhi. Mr. Golwalkar declined to accept the orders of restrictions, but has made no attempts to contravene the restrictions imposed on him. He has written letters both to the Prime Minister and Home Minster explaining inter alia that the RSS agrees entirely in the conception of a secular state for India and that it accepts the National Flag of the country and requesting that the ban imposed on the organisation in February should now be lifted. These professions of the RSS leader are, however, quite inconsistent with the practice of his followers and for the reasons already explained above, the Government of India find themselves unable to advise provincial governments to lift the ban. The Prime Minister has, therefore, declined the interview which Mr. Golwalkar had sought.
Mr. Golwalkar is accordingly being informed that he should make immediate arrangements to return to Nagpur. The Government of India are also taking appropriate steps to ensure that Mr. Golwalkar complies with these instructions.
(From the archives of the home ministry, government of India).
Archived from Communalism Combat, August 2004, Anniversary Issue (11th), Year 11 No.100, Cover Story 3
Do you approve of the BJP forging an alliance with Jayalalitha who is facing criminal charges?
The BJP might have alliances but each party has a different manifesto and they are fighting on their own agenda. It’s only a question of seat adjustments to make sure that their votes don’t get divided and the third party doesn’t win. And the BJP has not done anything which we don’t approve of.
Despite your assertion that Kashi and Mathura are very much on the agenda of the RSS, the BJP has always shied away from the issue. Why do the different organisations of the sangh speak different languages?
Being a political party, the BJP thinks and talks about the immediate issues. They need not think about the questions of the future. At present we cannot do anything about Ram Janmabhoomi because the land surrounding it has been taken over by the government.
Your ideal of good governance?
By good governance I mean our MLAs and MPs should be honest. I feel that had the government followed the Indian culture we would have accomplished our dream.
But didn’t Kalyan Singh induct people with criminal links in his cabinet?
He did it to show that the BJP was not an untouchable. To show that you can’t make a fool of us every time and topple our governments. For abnormal times we have to adopt abnormal policies.
The BJP is ruling in at least four states. Are you satisfied with their performance?
Their performance hasn’t been good, as the bureaucracy is the same. It takes five to seven years to change them. Also, because of a fear that the Centre will use Article 356 to dismiss them.
What is your opinion about Nathuram Godse who killed Gandhi?
Godse was motivated by (the philosophy of) Akhanda Bharat. Uske mantavya achhe thhe par usne achhe uddeshya ke liye galat method istemal kiya (His intention was good but he used the wrong methods). Initially, he was a member of the Congress, later he joined the RSS and left it subsequently, saying that it was a slow organisation. Then he formed his own group. He was shocked to see crores of people migrate (from Pakistan) and wanted to kill all the leaders.
(Outlook magazine, January 19, 1998).
Archived from Communalism Combat, August 2004, Anniversary Issue (11th), Year 11 No.100, Cover Story 4
The name of the RSS has been associated with the murder of Gandhi ever since the ghastly deed was done, the vehement protestations of the RSS to the contrary notwithstanding
"On 30th January, 1948 while Bapu was on his way to a prayer meeting three shots were fired at him from a revolver. Bapu fell and died soon after. Nathuram Godse was the man responsible for the murder. He had been a worker of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh in Poona and also the editor of a paper,"1 wrote Morarji Desai in his autobiography published in 1974.
The name of the RSS has been associated with the murder of Gandhi ever since the ghastly deed was done, the vehement protestations of the RSS to the contrary notwithstanding. The charge has stuck in spite of the fact that the RSS chief, who had been arrested and put in the dock along with the other accused, had been cleared of the charge at an early stage of the trial. It was recalled by the then vice–president KR Narayanan when he commented that the demolition of Babri Masjid (at Ayodhya) was the most heinous crime after the assassination of Gandhi.
According to the protagonists of the RSS it is the result of ‘a communist conspiracy’ to defame and demoralise ‘a nationalist organisation’, a political gimmick employed by those who are afraid of its growing popularity and influence. Even if that were true it could be said that they are getting a taste of their own medicine in the sense that their chief weapon in public controversies and political battles is character assassination. They would attribute the worst kind of criminal motives to a person who dares to differ from them or criticise their theories and practices.
I recall an incident of 1946. In a newspaper a photograph of Jawaharlal Nehru had appeared which showed somebody lighting his cigarette. That photograph was cut out and kept by a number of Sangh workers in that area of Hoshiarpur (where I was also a minor functionary of the RSS) to be shown to simple–minded, credulous small–town folk as an evidence of the personal degradation of the man. It was presented as a kind of obscenity. While showing that to people the RSS men would comment: "Look, if this man is not ashamed of being photographed with a cigarette between his lips what would he not be doing in private?" One has only to imagine the reaction, particularly of the middle class (the petit bourgeoisie as they are called) in the social milieu of a mofussil town. Other photographs in this repertoire were those of Nehru shaking hands with Lady Mountbatten and his sister Vijayalaxmi Pandit wearing a sleeveless blouse and sitting, bare–headed, around a table in all–male company of Indians and foreigners.
This incident is only the tip of the iceberg that is their arsenal of character assassination; the morbid details which they give are such that no civilised person would like to repeat. For obvious reasons these things do not appear in the press, except as innuendoes and insinuations and that too only in the house journals of the RSS like Organiser. But that is heard every day in the streets so that the uncommitted and the uninitiated feel exasperated and, on hearing such charges, only say: ‘Damn it, don’t they say all kinds of things about other people.’ This atmosphere, in a way, helps the RSS because the contention becomes pro– and anti– and nobody bothers about going into the facts of the case and understand the validity of the charge or the lack of it.
"More and more I have come to the conclusion that Bapu’s murder was not an isolated business but part of a much wider campaign organised chiefly by the RSS": Jawaharlal Nehru
The loss of Gandhi to India at a crucial juncture of Indian history should not, and cannot, be treated so lightly. On the understanding of the phenomenon depends quite a lot of the future of at least this part of the world because the developments of India–Pakistan relations and Hindu–Muslim relations would certainly have been significantly different but for the removal of Gandhi from the scene. The destruction of what Mountbatten described as a ‘one–man peace–keeping force’ is not something to be treated as a mere allegation going round in a political maelstrom.
In his broadcast to the nation after the murder on January 30, 1948 Jawaharlal Nehru said: "A mad man has put an end to his life, for I can only call him mad who did it, and yet there has been enough poison spread in this country during the past years and months, and this poison has had an effect on people’s minds. We must face this poison, and we must face all the perils that encompass us, and face them not madly or badly but rather in the way that our beloved teacher taught us to face them."2 Later in a meeting in Ramlila Grounds, Delhi, he again pointed out: "What we have to see is how and why even one man among 400 millions could cause this terrible wound on our country. How an atmosphere was created in which people like him could act in that manner and yet dare to call themselves Indians."3
Facing the poison and getting rid of it implies spotting its source and treating it. Jawaharlal had traced the source to the RSS. In a letter to Sardar Patel on February 26, 1948 he wrote: "More and more I have come to the conclusion that Bapu’s murder was not an isolated business but part of a much wider campaign organised chiefly by the RSS."4
If the conclusion or diagnosis of the ailment, whatever you call it, arrived at by Jawaharlal is unfounded, the sooner it is rejected the better because then only would it be possible to look for the source of poison elsewhere and deal with it adequately. And if one goes through the newspapers of the period one finds that he was not alone to have come to that conclusion; Ram Manohar Lohia, JP Narayan and several other people concurred with him and, in fact, criticised the then home minister for showing leniency towards the RSS. We know that several of these gentlemen, in later years, thought it fit to act in alliance with the RSS and tended to curb their earlier anti–RSS ferocity. But that can be clearly seen as more a concession to political expediency than concern for truth. The case of Morarji Desai in this regard is very pertinent.
We have quoted his firm opinion in this matter, particularly the relationship between the RSS and the assassin, as expressed in his autobiography. This quotation used to be read out by a guide at the New Delhi Gandhi Smriti, PN Damodaran Nayar by name. It was a part of the narration of the story of martyrdom and no objections had ever been raised till the coming of Janata Party to power. On October 8, 1977 when Morarji, the Prime Minister, accompanied by his colleague Sikandar Bakht, the minister of Housing, paid a visit to Gandhi Smriti, this part of the guide’s narration was brought to his notice, apparently by some RSS members and sympathisers, as something objectionable. "The Prime Minister’s spontaneous reaction," reports the guide who was a witness to it, "was that these were facts of history and that nobody can change history."5 Thereafter the guide was beaten up by some Vidyarthi Parishad boys and was unceremoniously dismissed by the management under the control and influence of the Housing ministry. When this question was raised in Parliament, Morarji declared on the floor of the House that he no longer held the opinion which he had expressed in his autobiography. The reason for this somersault on the part of the octogenarian Prime Minister is too obvious to bear repetition. It however provides a glaring instance of the defence of the RSS being motivated by considerations of political expediency.
And yet, objectivity demands that we have a full look at the case of the RSS. We quote in full, including the emphasis on points, what has been issued for public by the publication department of the RSS, Suruchi Sahitya:
"RSS AND GANDHI MURDER
"In a number of speeches during the emergency and earlier, Smt. Indira Gandhi condemned RSS elements as the assassins of Mahatma Gandhi. We are really amazed to read it. This is very grave and heinous charge and no responsible person is expected to make it, for it is totally false in view of the following facts.
"In the first place, it is noteworthy that in his letter to Shri Jawaharlal Nehru (dated 27th February 1948) Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, the then Home Minister, Government of India, wrote:
"Sardar Patel’s Testimony: "I have kept myself almost in daily touch with the progress of the investigations regarding Bapu’s assassination case. I devoted a large part of my evening to discussing with Sanjivi the day’s progress and giving instructions to him on any points that arise. All the main accused have given long and detailed statements of their activities. In one case, the statement extends to ninety typed pages. From their statements it is quite clear that no part of the conspiracy took place in Delhi. The centres of activities were Poona, Bombay, Ahmednagar and Gwalior. Delhi was of course the terminating point of their activity, but by no means its centre; nor do they seem to have spent more than a day or two at a time, and that only twice between 19 and 30 January. It also clearly emerges from the statements that the RSS was not involved in it at all. It was a fanatical wing of the Hindu Mahasabha — that hatched the conspiracy and saw it through. It also appears that the conspiracy was limited to some ten men of whom all except two have been got hold of. Every bit of these statements is being carefully checked up and verified and scrutinised and, where necessary, followed up. Sanjivi devotes a considerable time every day to it. Senior officers of Bombay and CP are in charge of investigation. Delhi police hardly comes in the picture" (Sarder Patel’s Correspondence, Vol. 6, 1945–50, edited by Durga Das).
"Thereafter the Gandhi Murder Trial commenced on June 22, 1948 in the historic Red Fort in Delhi before Shri Atmacharan, who was specially appointed for the purpose. Appeal was heard by a full bench of East Punjab High Court, at Shimla from May 2, 1949. Final judgement was delivered on June 21, 1949 and the guilty punished.
"Many persons who are educated and old enough have followed the proceedings of the trial as they appeared in papers in those days. Sri C.K. Daphtary, the then Advocate General, Bombay, was in charge of the prosecution. The prosecution in putting its case before the learned judge did not try to involve the RSS in the conspiracy. It did not even hint, much less prove, even the remotest connection of the RSS with the murder of Mahatma Gandhi. The RSS is not blamed anywhere in the judgement delivered in the case.
"Kapoor Commission: In November 1966, the Government of India again instituted another inquiry into Gandhi murder. A commission was set up under Shri J.L. Kapoor, a retired judge of the Supreme Court, to make a fresh and thorough inquiry into the conspiracy to murder Mahatma Gandhi, though in a different context. The commission sat at different places and examined 101 witnesses and 407 documents before it published its report in 1969. The commission also cleared the RSS of any connection with the crime.
"One of the important witnesses was Shri R.N. Banerjee, I.C.S., (witness 19) who was the Home Secretary of the Central Government at the time of the murder. The evidence of Shri R.N. Banerjee was:
"It has not been proved that they (the accused) were members of the RSS" - (Kapoor Commission Report, Part I, p. 165).
"The witness further says that even if the RSS had been banned earlier, it would not have affected the conspirators or the course of events, "because they (the accused) have not been proved to have been members of the RSS nor has that organisation been shown to have a hand in the murder" (Ibid., p. 186).
Shri R.N. Banerjee further stated, "Although RSS was banned it should not be taken to be an acceptance by the Government of the allegation that the murder of Mahatma Gandhi was by the members of RSS as such" (Ibid., Part II, p. 62).
The Commission comments:
"In Delhi also there is no evidence that the RSS as such was indulging in violent activities against Mahatma Gandhi or the top Congress leaders" (Ibid, p. 66).
"The facts are self–evident and more eloquent than all the mispropaganda by the interested parties."
If there had ever been a simple statement that the RSS denounces and repudiates the action of Godse as also the reasons he gave for it, the charge could be cleared. It would at least have been possible to believe that a change of heart had taken place after the shocking manifestation of their ‘culture’. But no! The defence is based on what they think are the chinks in the argument of the other side. And that makes the defence worse because the whole argument suffers from suggestio falsi, suppressio veri. A tendency to politicise the issue and take advantage of the present political atmosphere has been betrayed in picking on Indira Gandhi as the accuser. The period of Emergency has also been hinted at to vitiate thinking by wrapping it in the haze of strong sentiments about the Emergency days. It should not however be forgotten that the charge had been made and maintained by even those whom the RSS may not find it easy to dismiss as irresponsible.
Coming to the substantial part, take what they call Sardar Patel’s testimony, which is a letter that the Sardar had written in reply to the above–mentioned letter by Jawaharlal Nehru. One would like to know why they have not cared to look at another letter, in the same volume, which the Sardar had sent to Dr. SP Mookherjee in reply to his entreaty on behalf of the RSS and the Mahasabha. There is a very significant passage in it which reads:
"As regards the RSS and the Hindu Mahasabha, the case relating to Gandhiji’s murder is sub judice and I should not like to say anything about the participation of the two organisations, but our reports do confirm that, as a result of the activities of these two bodies, particularly the former, an atmosphere was created in the country in which such a ghastly tragedy became possible. There is no doubt in my mind that the extreme section of the Hindu Mahasabha was involved in this conspiracy. The activities of the RSS constituted a clear threat to the existence of Government and the State. Our reports show that those activities, despite the ban, have not died down. Indeed, as time has marched on, the RSS circles are becoming more defiant and are indulging in their subversive activities in an increasing measure."6
All their speeches were full of communal poison. It was not necessary to spread poison in order to enthuse the Hindus and organise for their protection. As a final result of the poison, the country had to suffer the sacrifice of the invaluable life of Gandhiji: Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel
The letter of February 27 written to Jawaharlal is quoted but the letter of July 18 written to Dr. Mookherjee is not quoted. Why? And a subsequent one of September 11, 1948 addressed to the RSS chief Golwalkar himself is also forgotten although it is part of a publication issued by the Prakashan Vibhag of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh, Karnataka. We quote it, both in the interest of fair argument and for correcting the distortion of Sardar’s image that the enlistment as defence witness by the RSS entails. Lest we be charged of misquotation or partial quotation we quote in full without making any changes:-
Date: 11th Sept. 1948
Brother Sri Golwalkar,
Received your letter dated 11th August. Jawaharlal has also sent me your letter of the same date.
You are very well aware of my views about the RSS. I have expressed those thoughts at Jaipur in December last and at Lucknow in January. The people had welcomed those views. I had hoped that your people also would accept them. But they appear to have had no effect on RSS persons, nor was there any change in their programmes. There can be no doubt that the RSS did service to the Hindu Society. In the areas where there was the need for help and organisation, the young men of the RSS protected women and children and strove much for their sake. No person of understanding could have a word of objection regarding that. But the objectionable part arose when they, burning with revenge, began attacking Mussalmans. Organising the Hindus and helping them is one thing but going in for revenge for its sufferings on innocent and helpless men, women and children is quite another thing.
Apart from this, their opposition to the Congress, that too of such virulence, disregarding all considerations of personality, decency or decorum, created a kind of unrest among the people. All their speeches were full of communal poison. It was not necessary to spread poison in order to enthuse the Hindus and organise for their protection. As a final result of the poison, the country had to suffer the sacrifice of the invaluable life of Gandhiji. Even an iota of the sympathy of the Government or of the people no more remained for the RSS. In fact opposition grew. Opposition turned more severe, when the RSS men expressed joy and distributed sweets after Gandhiji’s death. Under these conditions it became inevitable for the Government to take action against the RSS.
Since then, over six months have elapsed. We had hoped that after this lapse of time, with full and proper consideration the RSS persons would come to the right path. But from the reports that come to me, it is evident that attempts to put fresh life into their same old activities are afoot. I once again ask you to give your thought to my Jaipur and Lucknow speeches and accept the path I had indicated for the RSS. I am quite certain that therein lies the good of the RSS and of the country and moving on that path we can join hands in achieving the welfare of our country. Of course, you are aware that we are passing through delicate times. It is the duty of every one from the highest to the lowliest in the country to contribute his mite, in whatever way possible, to the service of the country. In this delicate hour there is no place for party conflicts and old quarrels. I am thoroughly convinced that the RSS men can carry on their patriotic endeavour only by joining the Congress and not by keeping separate or by opposing. I am glad that you have been released. I hope that you will arrive at proper decision after due consideration of what I have said above. With regard to the restrictions imposed upon you I am in correspondence with the CP Government. I shall let you know after receiving their reply.
(Sd.) VALLABH BHAI PATEL
(Rendered from the original in Hindi)7
The next argument is based upon the voluminous report of the Kapoor Commission. With regard to that the first thing to be kept in mind is that the question of direct involvement of the RSS was not written in the terms of reference of the inquiry. Yet because it has been referred to it is better that we examine the report. For obvious reasons it has been thought fit to quote the evidence of only one witness8 and omit other evidence which is no less relevant. For example the deposition of JN Sahni which the Commission sums up as follows:
"19.56 Mr. J.N. Sahni (witness No. 95) has deposed to a secret organisation but did not directly mention it as RSS. He said that it was being openly discussed in those days, i.e., about the time of the Birla House bomb, that there was a secret organisation with about 6 lakh volunteers which would stage a coup d’etat and the organisation had secret cells in different parts of India including the Punjab, Maharashtra, etc. It was then being rumoured that its leader was Golwalkar, Bhopatkar or Dr. Khare and that its volunteers were being trained in Alwar, Bharatpur and some other places with the objective of overthrowing the government after killing the top leaders and when Mahatma Gandhi was murdered it was considered to be a part of the plan and stringent measures were taken. He also said that there was a secret political movement helped by some princes through their chieftains, creating a fifth column in India to take over when the British power withdrew, at least in their respective states. The princes named by him were Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, Alwar, Bharatpur, Baroda and Bhopal. This movement was led by Golwalkar from Nagpur, and Bhopatkar from Poona, and the concentration of leadership was there."
On this the Commission comments in the next para:
"19.57 As far as the Commission is aware, Guruji Golwalkar was and is the head of the RSS movement. Mr. Sahni did not ascribe these activities to the RSS but just mentioned a secret movement."
Sahni’s reference to the secret movement helped by some princes through chieftains gets elaborated in the evidence of Hooja and connects it with the RSS:
"19.60 Mr. Hooja’s reports, Ex. 95, show that at Alwar there was a training camp of RSS in May-June 1947 which received the patronage of the Prime Minister Dr. Khare and the Home Minister with the knowledge of the ruler. It was also reported that both these Ministers took a prominent part in helping the RSS activities and the Prime Minister extended it the fullest patronage. They received military training in the beginning of February and were put up in one of the military barracks. They did firing practice with muzzle loaders and also secret training in rifle and revolver practice."
There was also the evidence of BBL Jaitley, a senior intelligence officer, who had prepared 600–700 cases against the RSS and had told Sardar Patel that ‘something terrible may happen’. The Commission reports: "When he told Sardar Patel that something serious would happen he did not mean murder of Mahatma Gandhi but it might have happened to Sardar Patel or to Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru." It surely does not absolve the RSS but indicates wider dimensions of a possible conspiracy in which the organisation was involved.9
Now we come to the question involved in the assertion that although a legal luminary like CK Daphtary, the then advocate general, was prosecuting the case in the court he "did not even hint, much less prove, even the remotest connection of RSS". That, dear friends, does not vouch for the innocence of the RSS or that it was not an agency which created the atmosphere in which one man dared to act the way he did. He certainly was not a mad man as was the first impression of Jawaharlal Nehru immediately after the murder. If it proves anything it is that those at the helm of affairs thought it fit to stick to the letter of the law. The assassin had confessed to the crime and denied the charge of conspiracy at the instance of any party or person. In fact he asserted: "The prosecution’s attempt to make out that I was a mere tool in some one else’s hands is an aspersion which is far from the truth. Indeed, it is a perversion of it."1 0
The advocate general had the brief to bring to book the person who had committed the crime and his associates, if any.
The jurisprudence that India followed then, and does even now, does not treat a philosophy, an organisation or a group liable to punishment even when a crime of such momentous import is involved. Even if it were proved that assassin Godse was a member of the RSS at that point of time it would not legally prove the culpability of the RSS unless it could be established that a responsible body of the organisation had formally met, taken the decision to assassinate Gandhi and duly assigned the task to Nathuram Godse. It was obviously not there on record and the advocate general would have only chased a mirage if he had taken the line of proving that Godse was only a tool in the hands of the RSS. Like a good criminal lawyer and advocate he concentrated on the person of Godse and his immediate associates whose complicity and abetment was beyond reasonable doubt.
Let it be clear that the brief of Daphtary was not political but personal. And the handicaps in going after the RSS were too many. In the first place the RSS maintains no register of membership, issues no membership cards, charges no fee against receipt and there is no way of establishing before a court of law that a certain person is a member and invariably acts according to its discipline or diktat. Secondly, the RSS is not an organisation of bold revolutionaries who would declare their intentions in advance. In fact that is the basic difference between revolutionary or communist violence and counter–revolutionary or fascist violence of the RSS kind. Those like Bhagat Singh who take to the former are not apologetic about it, they keep secrecy about an action only in order to ensure its success; the latter are ashamed of owning their deed and try to keep it secret even after it has been accomplished. One is never in doubt about the moral justification of the deed while the other is never sure of it, rather, does it as a crime.
What is the truth about Godse’s RSS connection? The RSS has been at pains for years to deny that he was ever a member of the RSS. Although Curran had discovered it in 1950–511 1 the information remained buried in the files of the Institute of Pacific Relations1 2 till it was referred to by a writer on the Jana Sangh, Craig Baxter, in 1968. Godse himself had stated before the Court: "I have worked for several years in RSS and subsequently joined the Hindu Mahasabha…"1 3 The most significant is the revelation by his brother about the last moments of his life: "On reaching the platform they recited a verse of devotion to the Motherland:
Namaste sada vatsale Matrubhume, tvayaa Hindubhume, sukhamvardhito-hum,
Mahamangale punya bhume tvadarthe, patitvesh kaaya namaste namaste."
This is the opening verse of the RSS prayer sung in every shakha and outsiders are not acquainted with it, except for academic reasons. At the time of Godse’s membership of the RSS, around 1932 – as admitted in these statements – this prayer was not sung even in the RSS. As we have already indicated, in those days the Marathi–Hindi prayer was in currency. The Sanskrit prayer, of which this verse forms a part, was adopted only in 1940. How did Godse take it up as a kind of epitaph on his life? The denial of connection surrounds the whole affair with an air of suspicion.
Having scrutinised the arguments of the RSS we would like to assert once again that it was nobody’s case that the RSS provided the pistol and the other means with which Godse murdered Gandhi. Everybody, from Jawaharlal Nehru downward, has been talking of the kind of atmosphere and the culture that induces thoughts and sentiments which lead to such a heinous act. Before we proceed to analyse the attitude of the RSS towards Gandhi it may be relevant to ask whether there was grief or jubilation in the RSS circles. The RSS chief had issued a formal condemnation and also declared that they would observe mourning for 13 days. But what was happening in the shakhas? Gandhi’s private secretary Pyarelal writes:
"A letter which Sardar Patel received after the assassination from a young man, who according to his own statement had been gulled into joining the RSS organisation but was later disillusioned, described how members of the RSS at some places had been instructed beforehand to tune in their radio sets on the fateful Friday for the ‘good news’. After the news, sweets were distributed in RSS circles at several places, including Delhi. When the RSS was later banned by an order of the government, the local police chief in one of the Indian states, according to the Sardar’s correspondent, sent word to the organisers to close their office ‘for thirteen days’ as a sign of mourning, and disperse but not to disband. The rot was so insidious and widespread that only the supreme sacrifice could arrest or remove it,"1 4
Pyarelal’s book has been cited as one of the evidences by the Kapoor Commission (paras 19.64 and 19.65) and it reads:
"19.64 At page 687 of his book Pyarelal had said the following:
"The RSS was a communalist, para–military, fascist organisation, controlled from Maharashtra. The key positions were held almost exclusively by the Maharashtrians. Their declared object was to set up Hindu Raj. They had adopted the slogan, Muslims clear out of India. At the time they were not very active, at least overtly, but it was being darkly hinted that they were only waiting for all the Hindus and Sikhs in West Pakistan to be evacuated. They would then wreak full vengeance on the Indian Muslims for what Pakistan had done.
"Gandhiji was determined not to be a living witness to such a tragedy. The Muslims were in a minority in the Indian Union. Why should they feel insecure as to their future as equal citizens in the Indian Union? There was much they had to answer for and correct. But it was up to the majority community to be magnanimous and to forgive and forget."
"19.65 At page 751 Pyarelal has written that there was a vast network of an organisation under the direct encouragement, direction and control of RSS with the object of planning and carrying out pogroms against Muslims as a part of the cruel war of brutality and counter–brutality, reprisals and counter reprisals… their activities including collection and distribution of arms and ammunition."
Pyarelal, in fact, provides the clue to the soil and the seed which yielded the mind that issued itself in the crime:
"Maharashtra has a strong tradition of militant Hindu nationalism. It is the citadel of Brahmin orthodoxy of a most exclusive and rigid type. In self–dedication, patriotism, sacrifice and renunciation, it has produced exemplars which it would be difficult to excel. But its idealism has very often been mixed with a rugged pragmatism and cynical view of life and politics which was diametrically opposed to that of Gandhiji. Some of the proponents of this outlook had somehow come to feel, quite unwarrantably, that the rise of Gandhiji’s philosophy was the cause of the memory of that great leader of Maharashtra, the late Lokamanya Tilak, and the premier position that Maharashtra had in the country’s politics during his lifetime, being eclipsed. They regarded Gandhiji’s political leadership and movement of non–violence with a strong, concentrated feeling of antipathy and frustration which found expression in a sustained campaign of calumny against Gandhiji for over a quarter of a century. The fact that in spite of it a growing section in Maharashtra rallied to Gandhiji’s movement further exasperated them and deepened their sense of frustration. It was this section that had tried to bomb Gandhiji in 1934 at Poona while he was engaged in his anti–untouchability campaign. Their plans this time were far more systematic and thorough, and included such refinements as conditioning the minds of the youth for their prospective task by making them wear, as a part of their training, photos of Congress leaders like Pandit Nehru and others besides Gandhiji inside their shoes, and using the same for target practice with fire-arms etc.
"Angered by Gandhiji’s peace mission in Delhi, this group decided to remove him from the scene. Gandhiji’s fast and subsequent release by the Indian government of 55 crores to Pakistan enraged them still further. On top of it, atrocity stories and tales of unimaginable crimes against Hindu womanhood kept pouring in from Kashmir. Popular sentiment was systematically worked up by deliberately concocted propaganda."1 5
We have already gone into the Gandhi–RSS relationship at some length earlier. It is enough to point out that every RSS man, from Hedgewar downwards, castigated Gandhi as the harbinger of the policy of appeasement while they were also all the time keen to make peace with him on terms that he should only bless them and not go into ideological questions. Hedgewar made the first major attempt in 1934 when the first signs of manifest estrangement between the RSS and the Congress came on surface. But he found Gandhi too firmly rooted in reason for the beliefs he held and propagated to be converted to the ideas of Hindu nationalism and maintaining status quo in caste etc.
The tragic happenings in 1947 again brought them in open, direct confrontation – perhaps more bitter than the earlier one. The language of Golwalkar became extraordinarily strident. He thought the Congress tradition of Gandhi and Nehru was making Hindu society ‘impotent’ and ‘imbecile’. To adequately communicate the quality of Golwalkar’s utterances of that period one has to quote at length because otherwise the reader is likely to doubt the very veracity of the statement, so astounding is the quality of pronouncements. Here is what he says about the policy of communal unity:
"Thus, due to the utter lack of will and conviction on the part of our leaders to face the Muslim intransigence squarely from the standpoint of undiluted nationalism, were sown the seeds of Muslim appeasement. In their phantom chase of achieving new unity and new nationality, our leaders raised the slogan of ‘Hindu–Muslim unity’ and declared that anything that stood in its way should be forgotten. As they dared not tell the Muslim to forget his separatism, they pitched upon the docile Hindu for all their preachings. The first thing they preached was that our nationality could not be called Hindu, that even our land could not be called by its traditional name Hindustan, as that would have offended the Muslim. The name ‘India’ given by the British was accepted. Taking that name, the ‘new nation’ was called the ‘Indian Nation’. And the Hindu was asked to rename himself ‘Indian’."1 6
Thenceforward he comes to downright obscenity and abuse:
"The exhortation of the leaders did not stop at that. The Hindu was asked to ignore, even submit meekly to the vandalism and atrocities of the Muslims. In effect, he was told: Forget all that the Muslims have done in the past and all that they are now doing to you. If your worshipping in the temple, your taking out gods in procession in the streets irritates the Muslims, then don’t do it. If they carry away your wives and daughters, let them. Do not obstruct them. That would be violence. To cite an instance, in those days, a Hindu girl was abducted by a Muslim in NWFP and the problem was posed before the Central Assembly where our prominent leaders were present. A Muslim Congress leader lightly brushed aside the incident saying: ‘After all boys are boys and girls and girls’. At that insulting remark not one of the Hindu leaders present there raised a voice of protest. None dared to ask why, if it was just a case of boys and girls, it always happened that the Muslim boys kidnapped only Hindu girls and not Muslim girls? On the other hand, they enjoyed it as a piece of humour!
"Whenever the Muslims slaughtered cows to insult Hindu feelings, the Hindus were told that it was the religious right of Muslims and that, being tolerant to other religions, they should not object to it. Although there is not a word of sanction in Quran for cow–slaughter, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru had given the Muslims a written assurance that on the advent of swaraj cow–slaughter would not be banned keeping in view their ‘religious sentiments’.
"Once a notable Hindu personality of those days, in a largely attended public meeting, declared: ‘There is no swaraj without Hindu–Muslim unity and the simplest way in which this unity can be achieved is for all Hindus to become Muslims’! He did not even realise that then it would not be Hindu–Muslim unity but only Muslim unity as there would be no Hindus at all!"1 7
The reference to Jawaharlal is clearly made but to Gandhi it is by implication; it is however unmistakable for any discerning reader. And the peroration goes on so that a little further we read:
"In other words, the Hindu was told that he was imbecile, that he had no spirit, no stamina to stand on his own legs and fight for the independence of his motherland and all this had to be injected into him in the form of Muslim blood. What a shame, what a misfortune that our own leaders should have come forward to knock out the ancient and indomitable faith in ourselves and destroy our spirit of self confidence and self–reliance, which is the very life–breath of a people! Those who declared ‘No swaraj without Hindu-Muslim unity’ have thus perpetrated the greatest treason to our society. They have committed the most heinous sin of killing the life-spirit of a great and ancient people. To preach impotency to a society which gave rise to a Shivaji who, in the words of the great historian Jadunath Sarkar, ‘proved to the whole world that the Hindu has drunk the elixir of immortality’ and to break the self–confident and proud spirit of such a great and virile society has no parallel in the history of the world for sheer magnitude of its betrayal."1 8
And after this so–called RSS view of the historical process preceding Partition he makes the pronouncement: "The direct result was that Hindus were defeated at the hands of Muslims in 1947."1 9
These views were projected through the RSS media in the form of articles, stories, cartoons etc.
The RSS is not, according to its votaries, an active agent. In a sense it is true; the RSS never decides to do anything nor does it ever put on record any orders or instructions given to its members. If a deed finds approval of the public it comes forth to claim the credit, if it is otherwise it is promptly disavowed without as much as batting an eyelid.
In 1947–48 while the RSS men were being fed on the diet a specimen of which is given above, the leaders were keen to convince Gandhi that they were not anti–Muslim and were prepared to co–operate with his peace–keeping efforts. Golwalkar met Gandhi in New Delhi and tried to convince him that all the latter had heard about the RSS men killing Muslims was wrong and that their organisation was ‘for protecting Hinduism, not for killing Muslims’. Gandhi used to keep himself posted with the happenings in the city and yet as Pyarelal says, "Gandhiji, with his boundless faith in human nature and in the redemptive power of truth, felt he must give everybody a chance to make good his bona fides. It was something that they did not glory in wrong doing." Gandhi asked Golwalkar and his colleagues to issue a statement repudiating the allegations and condemning the loot and violence. They wanted to wriggle out by saying that it could be done on their behalf by Gandhi himself. He told them if what they said was sincerely meant the public should know it from their lips. They must have been convinced of the failure of their mission when during the meeting, in response to somebody’s praise for the good work by the RSS at Wah refugee camp and showing discipline, courage and capacity for hard work, Gandhi remarked: "But don’t forget even so had Hitler’s Nazis and the Fascists under Mussolini."2 0
Then the old Hedgewar technique was used and they invited Gandhi to an RSS rally in the Bhangi colony of New Delhi. RSS leaders prefer to say that he had himself expressed a desire to visit the shakha. Whatever be the truth, the fact remains that they failed to change his attitude. What transpired at the rally is reported by Pyarelal thus:
"In welcoming Gandhiji to their rally, the leader described him as ‘a great man that Hinduism has produced’. Gandhiji in his reply observed that while he was certainly proud of being a Hindu, his Hinduism was neither intolerant nor exclusive. The beauty of Hinduism as he understood it was that it absorbed the best that was in all faiths. If Hindus believed that in India there was no place for non–Hindus on equal and honourable terms and Muslims, if they wanted to live in India, must be content with an inferior status, or if the Muslims thought that in Pakistan Hindus could live only as a subject race on the sufferance of the Muslims, it would mean an eclipse of Hinduism and an eclipse of Islam. He was glad, therefore, he said, to have their assurance that their policy was not antagonism towards Islam. He warned them that if the charge against them that their organisation was behind the killing of the Muslims was correct it would come to a bad end. In the course of questions and answers that followed Gandhiji was asked whether Hinduism did not permit the killing of evil–doers. If not, how did he explain the exhortation by Lord Krishna in the second chapter of the Gita to destroy the Kauravas?
"The reply to the first question, said Gandhiji, was both ‘yes’ and ‘no’. One had to be an infallible judge as to who was the evil–doer before the question of killing could arise. In other words one had to be completely faultless before such a right could accrue to one. How could a sinner claim the right to judge or execute another sinner? As for the second question, granting that the right to punish the evil–doer was recognised by the Gita, it could be exercised by the properly constituted government only. Both the Sardar and Pandit Nehru will be rendered powerless if you become judge and executioner in one. They are tried servants of the nation. Give them a chance to serve you. Do not sabotage their efforts by taking the law into your own hands."2 1
Gandhi was steadfast on his principles, which was frustrating for the RSS, and too shrewd to be taken in by the glib talk of the RSS men. They may have included Gandhi in the Pratah–Smaran (their morning prayer) but it certainly is not because any change of attitude towards him has come about. This was done in 1965 and a few years later the RSS members in the Delhi Municipal Corporation objected to a resolution referring to Gandhi as ‘Father of the Nation’.
If the RSS can demonstrate a change in its basic attitude the charge of Gandhi’s murder would get washed away. Otherwise it would stick, no matter what ritualistic cosmetics they employ. Such an opportunity was there in 1995–96 when a play based on Godse’s explanation justifying the crime was sought to be staged. The Congress government in Maharashtra banned the play but the BJP government in neighbouring Gujarat allowed it. Later when the Shiv Sena–BJP alliance came to power in Maharashtra the play was revived in that state. There were protests against it. The RSS chief, Prof. Rajendra Singh alias Rajju Bhaiya commented that Godse was not wrong in opposing Gandhi, only his method was not correct. n
(Excerpted from the book, Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh, by DR Goyal, Radhakrishna Prakashan (P) Ltd., 2/38, Ansari Road, Darya Ganj, New Delhi – 110 002. The writer was formerly with the RSS).
1Morarji Desai, Story of My Life, p. 248.
2 Jawaharlal Nehru, Independence and After (1946-49), p. 17.
3 The Hindustan Times, February 3, 1948.
4 Durga Das (ed.), Sardar Patel’s Correspondence (1945-50), Vol. 6, p. 55.
5 PN Damodaran Nayar, Editor’s Note to Curran, op. cit., p. xiii.
6 Durga Das, op. cit., p. 323.
7 Justice on Trial: Historic Document of Guruji–Government Correspondence, pp. 26-28;
N.B. This letter also, incidentally, clarifies the misunderstanding created that the Sardar had invited them to join the Congress; the invitation is for rethinking and change of heart and then giving it a concrete shape by merger into the Congress. The same thing JP tried to accomplish later and failed.
8 The said witness, RN Banerjee, was a member of the ICS and we have known, on unimpeachable authority of Shri KR Malkani, that there was an RSS shakha consisting of ICS members. Mr. Banerjee could have been influenced by that shakha, if not its actual member.
9 See Secular Democracy, October 1970.
10 Gopal Godse, May It Please Your Honour: Statement of Nathuram Godse, p. 39.
11 Referring to the organisational tour of Hedgewar in Maharashtra in 1932 Curran writes, "One of his advisers on this tour was Nathuram Godse, who sixteen years later was to fire the pistol that killed Mahatma Gandhi. Godse had joined the RSS in 1930 winning prominence as a speaker and organiser; he left the Sangh in 1934 because Hedgewar refused to make the RSS a political organisation" (op. cit., pp. 18–19).
12 The non–publication of Curran’s study may be altogether innocent but it is intriguing. The Institute sponsored after this a study by Minoo R. Masani on the communist movement in modern India. The later work was promptly published as The Communist Party of India in 1954 by Derek Verschoyle in association with the Institute. Why?
13 Godse, ibid., p. 46.
14 Pyarelal, Mahatma Gandhi: The Last Phase, p. 756.
15 Ibid., p. 751.
16 Golwalkar, Bunch of Thoughts, pp. 149-50.
17 Golwalkar, ibid., pp. 150-51.
18 Ibid., pp. 151-152.
19 Ibid., p. 152.
20 Quoted by Pyarelal, op.cit., p. 440.
21 Ibid., pp. 440-41.
Archived from Communalism Combat, August 2004, Anniversary Issue (11th), Year 11 No.100, Cover Story 5
THE publicity given to the Nathuram Godse memorial meeting, held in Bombay on November 17 (1993), has been extremely embarrassing to the Bharatiya Janata Party, which would like to disown all connections with Mahatma Gandhi’s killer. The meeting, unusually for this annual event, was widely reported, and saw several inflammatory speeches eulogising Godse and vilifying Gandhiji. On November 21, BJP president LK Advani issued a statement denying that his party had anything to do with the recent attempts to glorify Nathuram. "Nathuram Godse was a bitter critic of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh," he said. "His charge was that the RSS had made Hindus impotent. We have had nothing to do with Godse. The Congress is in the habit of reviving this allegation against us when it finds nothing else." (The Times of India, November 22, 1993).
In fact, Nathuram Godse was a life-long member of the RSS, attaining the position of baudhik karyavah (intellectual worker). His statement at the murder trial (originally published in 1977, in a volume entitled May It Please Your Honour) says, "I am one of those volunteers who joined the Sangha in its initial stage" (p. 142). He says he left it to do more directly political work in the Hindu Mahasabha (he does not say when). But his brother Gopal Godse suggests that he never really left the RSS (see interview), and that the statement at his trial was meant to alleviate the pressure on the Sangh, which was banned following Gandhiji’s murder. A leader of the Hindu Mahasabha, Shyama Prasad Mookherjee, went on to found the Jana Sangh, forerunner of the BJP.
Mere membership does not, of course, mean responsibility: the BJP does not necessarily have to answer for the actions of each person ever associated with the sangh parivar. But in this case, the chickens have come home to roost. Gopal Godse reacts to Advani’s statement angrily, and calls it the response of a coward. The politics of swayamsevaks like the Godses does not differ too greatly from that of the RSS and the BJP today. The BJP’s campaign slogan in the recent elections: Hum ne jo kaha, so kiye (What we said, we did), boasting of an event that consumed thousands of lives, denotes an implacability of resolve at least equal to Nathuram’s.
Meeting Gopal Godse himself is helpful in uncovering any affinities that might exist between his politics and that of the sangh parivar. He lives in the heart of old Pune, in Sadashiv Peth, in a new apartment building called Vinayak. His flat shares a landing with a bank, and, in that busy space, it is startling to see the names in Devanagari script in prominent red on the door: "Shri Gopal Godse. Sow. Sunita Godse."
He opens the door. Gandhiji’s murderer, you think, but there he is, a tall, slightly bent man in pyjamas and an old yellow sleeveless sweater. You scan his appearance for signs of what might make him different. But as in most scandals, one experiences the shock of banality on meeting its perpetrator. He looks, for all purposes, like any other Chitpavan Brahmin one sees in Sadashiv Peth – a frail old man, albeit with hooded eyes. He remains proud of his Chitpavan heritage. He smiles slightly and lowers his gaze – the half-conscious reaction, perhaps, to a lifetime of notoriety.
A large glass case dominates the drawing room decorations. It contains a small silver urn surrounded by photographs. In the urn are the ashes of Nathuram Godse and Narayan Apte. The pictures are of them and of VD Savarkar. Just below the case is a porcelain plate with Savarkar’s portrait. His motto, "Hinduise all politics and militarise Hindudom", encircles the picture. Although, "honourably acquitted" of conspiring to kill Gandhi, Savarkar was nevertheless a close associate of Nathuram Godse. Gopal Godse’s daughter Asilata has married Ashok Savarkar, son of Savarkar’s younger brother Narayan. Both families are still close to the Hindu Mahasabha (the party Nathuram belonged to and Savarkar was president of for several years); Gopal Godse was until recently its general secretary.
He is eager to talk. "Greedy to spread his message," as he puts it – to justify his brother’s act, and to propagate the concept of Hindu Rashtra which, he feels, is the only answer to the country’s political problems. He is polite and courteous; though his views may be offensive in the extreme, he tries not to let his manners impede the reception of his ideas. It is hard for most people to conceive of Gandhiji’s killers as other than demented or demonic. This is obviously a matter very much on his own mind. He is constrained to refute the myth that Nathuram was a madman or a fanatic. "You may disagree with his views, but you must first consider his arguments," Gopal says.
He rejects all existing political parties except the Hindu Mahasabha. Every other party, he says, is guilty of pandering to the Muslims and consequently endangering the nation. Similar criticisms of the BJP, however, are made by several within the RSS itself. Godse’s views themselves have much in common with those of the BJP. India is nothing if not Hindu – this is the theme he tirelessly stresses, in one variation after another. Muslims do not have their original place of worship within this country, and it is essential, in his view (derived from Savarkar), that one’s place of birth is also one’s holy land. Muslims can be loyal only to Pakistan; every Muslim in India is a Pakistani agent, he says. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad slogan "Babar ki santaan – jao Pakistan ya kabristan (Children of Babar – go to Pakistan or else to the grave!)" dramatises this sentiment.
He has spent much time in the last few years studying texts on Hindu architecture. His object is to demonstrate that, while Hinduism provided the sanskriti, or culture, of India, Islamic influence was nothing but vikruti, destruction. The Taj Mahal was a Siva temple – this is proven by the fact that Siva temples have four doorways. The Taj, like many other Mughal structures of its kind, has four doorways. All those other Mughal structures, therefore, are also Siva temples, Godse argues. The Qutb Minar is a particular preoccupation of his – another Hindu structure usurped and defaced by invaders, and originally called the Dwija Sthamba, he maintains. He has even convinced an M. Phil student to do his thesis on the subject. The Muslims did not build a single structure in India, he asserts, astonishingly. All they did was to efface Hindu icons and ornamentation from existing structures, and often incompletely. He has memorised many Sanskrit and Arabic verses for dramatic effect, and urges visitors to test his memory. He recites the verses, which few visitors understand in any case, in support of his arguments. He cites Sitaram Goel, author of What Happened to the Hindu Temples? which gave the rhetorical foundation to the VHP’s long list of mosques to be demolished. Most of his ideas with respect to architecture and culture, however, derive from PN Oak, the ex-Indian National Army volunteer and "scholar" who claims all of world culture for Hinduism’s province. Rome was named after Ram, Christianity is actually Krishna-niti, and so on; an entire history is swiftly fabricated by manipulating the syllables of proper nouns.
What unites these ideas is an insistence on the unity of history, geography, culture, religion and nation, extending to every object or individual within the region. He follows fearlessly the implications of this monistic political theology. No displacements, no articulations of different but related parts are allowed; every artefact and every text forever reduplicates the immutable truth that is ‘Hindu’. Just what this truth is, is in itself less important than its endless proliferation under the same category. All his theorising is then ultimately a process of renaming. The etymology of "category" is categorein, to accuse; "Hindu" functions not as a neutral name but in sharp opposition to its "others", notably Muslims. For Godse, Hindus and Muslims can never be part of the same nation without disastrous results, Islam is an inherently fanatic, aggressive religion, and its adherents will always take advantage of the tolerance and catholicity of Hindus. The opposition to Muslims only serves to render Hindus more like their demonic "others", the Muslims, but that seems secondary to the imperative of survival.
When questioned on the need for aggression, he demonstrates a deft ability at sophistry. Carrying through the assumption of the unity of the individual, religion and nation, he declares the concept of aggression to be inapplicable in the case of action against Muslims. "I cannot be violent in my own country," he says, comparing Muslims to a "foreign attack" of virus.
Godse’s ideas are in a continuum with Hindu right-wing thought today. They draw from and reflect its characteristics. They have the trait of candour, of fleshing out the implications of what an Advani or a Vajpayee would be more likely to obscure with assurances of moderation and democratic process that are routinely violated. They have a great deal in common with, for instance, Uma Bharati, an "extremist" who was, however, always seen by the side of the moderate Advani after the demolition of the Babri Masjid. Muslims are the main target of her wrath: "Muslims are like Sudras – dirty, filthy people," she said in a conversation with this writer last year. "We must tyrannise them. If any one of them creates any kind of fuss, they should simply be killed. Even her reassurances were alarming: "I am not a Hitler," she said. "I am not going to build gas chambers."
Others, like journalist Arun Shourie, concentrate their attacks on the enemy within, namely pseudo-secularists. In a November 25 lecture in Pune under the auspices of the Lok Swaraj Andolan (to promote his new book A Secular Agenda), he reminded his audience that Abraham Lincoln had fought a civil war to keep his country from splitting into two. The war killed two per cent of the country’s population, but no one questioned the necessity of the war – it was redeemed by the nobility of its purpose. Two per cent of India’s population amounted to 18 million, but Shourie made it clear that India too should be prepared for such a war.
If you turn to MS Golwalkar, the RSS leader, the confirmation of a continuity with Godse’s views is even more emphatic: "When we say ‘This is the Hindu Nation,’ there are some who immediately come up with the question, ‘What about the Muslims and Christians…?’ They are born in this land, no doubt. But are they true to their salt? … Do they feel a duty to serve her? No!… They look to some foreign lands as their holy places… They have cut off their ancestral moorings of this land (sic) and mentally merged themselves with the aggressors. They still think that they have come here only to conquer and establish their kingdoms. So we see that it is not merely a case of change of faith, but a change even in national identity. What else is it, if not treason, to join the camp of the enemy leaving their mother-nation in the lurch?" (Bunch of Thoughts, pp. 166-167).
Every Muslim, for Golwalkar as for Godse, is a foreign agent with little to do but engage in anti-national activities, usually of a violent kind: "…The Muslims are busy hatching a dangerous plot, piling up arms and mobilising their men and probably biding their time to strike from within when Pakistan decides upon an armed conflict with our country… Not that our leaders do not know it. The secret intelligence reports reach them all right. But it seems they have in view only elections. Elections means vote catching, which means appeasing certain sections… And the Muslims are one such solid bloc. Therein lies the root of all this appeasement and consequent disastrous effects." (Bunch of Thoughts, pp. 239-240).
Compare this with Gopal Godse: "They make bomb blasts in Bombay in the name of the Koran. They will continue because the Koran is very clear. They want to Islamise their complete world. And the secularism is the most fertile ground for them to do it… Outside, what happens today, for Haj, a Muslim who is a smuggler goes there. And a Pakistani minister goes there. They join there together under the name of Islam. They dictate what is to be done in India… So all conspiracies go on in the name of Islam. And we allow it." (Godse, personal interview).
The true Hindu patriot has two enemies: the Muslim and the "secular" (nowadays pseudo-secular) government. The Muslim’s danger is well known and unambivalent, whereas that of the secularists is much less so. Parading itself as tolerant and pluralistic, the secular government is actually calculating and selfish, and will lead the nation to disaster. Only in Hindutva is such narrow selfishness overcome, as individual identity merges with the nation. In these ideas, Godse and the RSS "guru", Golwalkar, are unanimous.
It must be conceded that the BJP and the RSS are more sensitive to public opinion, to the practicality of actually getting something done, as opposed to landing up behind bars or in the gallows after having made a "statement" of some kind. Especially with the BJP, a party primarily seeking power, the ideas its leaders express are often serviceable means to an end rather than deep convictions. In this respect, the saying goes, BJP minus RSS equals Congress (a witticism that says as much about the Congress as about the BJP). It is the RSS which is the backbone of the Hindutva party and which makes the BJP different from other parties.
The habit of seeing dangerous conspiracies everywhere, of calling for rooting out a scourge that threatens the nation, is itself sign of a paranoid mentality that in the US, for instance, was called McCarthyism. Perhaps we should cease calling a paranoid and violent politics by its own preferred name of ‘Hindutva’, and thereby deny it any respectable cover. Advani’s disavowal of Nathuram Godse’s connection with the RSS flies in the face of the well-documented connections between them and the essential similarity of their ideas, as suggested by Nathuram’s published statements, as well as Gopal Godse’s own words (see interview). The Janata Dal slogan against the BJP in the recent elections summed it up: "Muh me Ram aur dil me Nathuram (Ram on their lips and Nathuram in their hearts)".
(Frontline, January 28, 1994).
Archived from Communalism Combat, August 2004, Anniversary Issue (11th), Year 11 No.100, Cover Story
One trait that seems common to rabid advocates of Hindutva – be it the demolishers of the Babri Masjid or the murderers of the Mahatma — is lack of remorse at what they do in furthering their cause, despite the sense of shock and anger their act sends across the nation, and beyond. Gopal Godse, younger brother of Nathuram Godse and one of those convicted in the Gandhi murder case, comes across as one such stereotype fundamentalist in this interview he gave Arvind Rajagopal, Frontline, January 1994. Excerpts:
Were you a part of the RSS?
All the brothers were in the RSS. Nathuram, Dattatreya, myself and Govind. You can say we grew up in the RSS rather than in our home. It was like a family to us.
Nathuram stayed in the RSS? He did not leave it?
Nathuram had become a baudhik karyavah (intellectual worker) in the RSS. He has said in his statement that he left the RSS. He said it because Golwalkar and the RSS were in a lot of trouble after the murder of Gandhi. But he did not leave the RSS.
Advani has recently said that Nathuram had nothing to do with the RSS.
I have countered him, saying it is cowardice to say that. You can say that RSS did not pass a resolution, saying that, ‘go and assassinate Gandhi.’ But you do not disown him (Nathuram). The Hindu Mahasabha did not disown him. In 1944 Nathuram started doing Hindu Mahasabha work when he had been a baudhik karyavah in the RSS.
When was the plan to kill Gandhi made?
Nathuram had a teleprinter, as editor of the Hindu Rashtra, a daily. On the teleprinter, he saw that Gandhi has decided to undertake a fast on the next day. (The fast was to demand that the amount of Rs. 55 crore not be withheld from Pakistan, against the Government’s decision to withhold payment until Pakistan’s aggression in Kashmir had been resolved. The Rs. 55 crore was part of the settling of post-Partition accounts between India and Pakistan). Immediately it must have struck Nathuram – now put a fullstop. So that was the turning point.
But there were many occasions on which people may have thought of killing Gandhi. In the refugee camps. That he is the person who brought us disaster, so why not kill him? It many times happens… that the clouds gather in the skies and we assume that in the next 15 minutes it will be a rainfall – and a heavy one. But the things are otherwise. Winds blow, don’t know from which side, and take away all the clouds… So what is required for that rainfall? That particular atmosphere, the particular degree of temperature to be connected with the particles of water in the cloud. And then they take the shape of water to drop on the earth… So there might have been conspiracies and conspiracies, and the wind might have come and blown them away. But when everything was just in order, this conspiracy proved to be fruitful. So far as the conspirators were concerned. Fruitful in the sense, materialised. Their aim was achieved.
What was your involvement with (VD) Savarkar?
No question – we were all taking him to be our guru – a political guru. We read all his writings. So if we say we have understood Savarkar to the fullest, it will be a folly on our part to ask him whether we should do it. A guru’s blessings are required for a weak-hearted person. Supposing the guru ties your hands (saying) – ‘You fools don’t do any such thing,’ and some third person of his own does it, can we say, ‘Oh, we would also have done the same thing, but the guru tied our hands?’ That would be shielding our own fear and defaming the guru.
What was Savarkar’s response to the murder?
The same as that of the general leaders. "I was aghast at the news of the communication which reached me here" and so on. That was his public response.
Many writers have argued that Gandhi was responsible for bringing Hindu culture into the national movement and thereby giving the movement a broader, more popular base. What do you think?
Had it really been the case, Gandhi should have helped our government to declare this a Hindu state. But he did not want it. And this story that Gandhi died saying He Ram is a fabrication of the Congress. He said no such thing. The story that Gandhi died saying He Ram is the first use of Ram by the Congress for political purposes.
One criticism some people have made of Gandhi is that his interpretation of Hinduism was "effeminate" and that he did not emphasise the "more manly, virile" aspect of Hinduism. What do you think about this criticism?
You see, this is very much an ambiguity. For instance, he sent telegrams to Roosevelt, Churchill, Hitler, all the warlords – to stop war. And when Pandit Nehru asked him, "Shall I send the army to defend the place?" he said yes, Why didn’t he send troops with charkhas? What is the sense then? You only teach others – you don’t adhere to your principles.
When Uma Bharati or Sadhvi Ritambara says that "we must be more aggressive," that Hindus have been cowards for too long, that ahimsa is actually weakening the Hindus…
I disagree. In my country I am never said to be aggressive. Let us take the case – I have been attacked by malaria. The doctor gives me some injections. The foreign attack of malaria has been diminished or wiped out. Should I say that I should be aggressive against malaria, that imposition of malaria is itself an aggression? So wiping it out can be a retaliation. In my country if I want to remove every germ of malaria from my body, I cannot be called aggressive.
In what ways do you find a continuity between the Hindu Mahasabha and the BJP?
All of them have to come to the way of a Hindu Rashtra. All of them. There is no alternative. There is going to be polarisation as Hindus and Muslims mingle. And the stage will come like Bosnia.
There will be a civil war?
It is bound to be. And these people only will bring it. Because of the appeasement and infiltration of the Muslims – for the sake of the votes. The BJP is not bold enough to play the Hindu card straightforwardly. They are not. Whatever you do, you cannot count on Muslim votes. One time you are doing this Ayodhya Ram Mandir. And then you are begging votes from the Muslims. These things will not do.
What do you think of the cultural background of the people involved in the social reform and nationalist movements? Many of them seem to have come from the Chitpavan Brahmin community.
This Brahminical class – Peshwas – right from the top, you will find the revolutionaries – the link is all Brahminical. Mangal Pandey, for instance, the first hero of the War of Independence, was a Brahmin. Then you go to Maharashtra, Vasudev Balwant Phadke, who led a revolt, and died after transportation to Aden in 1883. Then came the Chapekar brothers, who killed (Walter Charles) Rand (authoritarian chairman of the Plague Committee in Poona in 1897). Then Lokamanya Tilak was a Brahmin. Vishnu Shastri Chiplunkar, Ranade…
How do you explain that?
They were the thinkers and with a feeling of sacrifice to do something for the nation. So one who has integrity does it. Maharashtra was not directly affected by Partition and yet it was Maharashtra which had sympathy for the provinces that were cut and the atrocities that were going on… Why should a Maharashtrian go to a place 2,000 miles away? It is called national integrity. This tradition has moved with that spirit, that idea behind it. These papers – you can call it yellow journalism – they use the name Peshwai to defame, to put them in the class of Brahmins and Brahminism. That is the tradition because they want to appease the so-called weaker sections, or Bahujan Samaj as they call it.
You do not see any validity in those distinctions?
As I explained, at the time of Partition, no person was spared. All were slaughtered. Whoever comes as a target of the Muslim dagger is the proved definition of Hindu. So we come together in the graveyard. But while alive, we say, ‘No, I’m not a Hindu.’ The Muslim determines who is a Hindu. It so happens – to give a simile, one who gets some ancestral property without any trouble for himself just becomes spendthrift, goes in for some vices – because he does not know the value of it. Hindudom has come to these people like that.
All these people who criticise Hindutva. And, therefore, they do not know the value of it.
(Frontline, January 28, 1994).
Archived from Communalism Combat, August 2004, Anniversary Issue (11th), Year 11 No.100, Cover Story 7
If Nagpur, in Maharashtra in western India is the physical seat of birth of the ideology that killed the Mahatma and Pune in the same state is the intellectual seat of the self-same Brahminical tradition, Maharashtra is also the state that has through its historians, investigated in-depth into five failed attempts on the Mahatma’s life before the final and tragically successful one
First Attempt: June 1934
Bomb thrown at Pune
During the Harijan Yatra in 1934, the Mahatma visited Pune. On June 25, he was to deliver a speech at the corporation auditorium. The Mahatma and Kasturba were travelling in a motorcade consisting of two similar cars. At one place en route, the car in which the Gandhis were travelling was detained at a railway level crossing.
The first car arrived at the auditorium and the welcoming committee assumed that the Gandhis had arrived and stepped forward to welcome them; just then a bomb was thrown at the car, which exploded, grievously injuring the chief officer of the municipal corporation, two policemen and seven others. The bomb was reportedly hurled by anti-Gandhi Hindu extremists as mentioned by Mahatma’s secretary Pyarelal in his book Mahatma Gandhi: The Last Phase and by his biographer BG Tendulkar. Pyarelal has written that "This time their attempt was very well planned and executed to perfection…" implying that the attempts before June 25, 1934 failed due to lack of planning and co-ordination. And also that the murderers were getting better with each attempt.
Pyarelal has said, "These people kept photographs of Gandhi, Nehru and other Congress leaders in their shoes. They were trained to shoot by using Gandhiji’s photograph as a target, these were the same people who later murdered the Mahatma while he was striving to bring peace to a riot ravaged Delhi, in 1948."
After the attack, speaking at the function to felicitate him, the Mahatma said, "It is sad that this happened while I am working for the uplift of the Harijans. I have no desire for martyrdom as yet, but if it is to happen, I am prepared to face it. It is easy to kill me. But in trying to kill me why are they inconsiderate to the innocents who are likely to be killed or injured along with me? My wife and three young girls who are like daughters to me were travelling in the car with me. How have they angered you?"
The attacker escaped and there is no record of investigations or arrests. This was the first documented attempt in India on the life of the Mahatma. Many historians have alleged that this was the work of the Nathuram Godse and Narayan Apte gang.
Second Attempt: July 1944
Nathuram Attacks the Mahatma, Panchgani
After his release from the Aga Khan Palace imprisonment in May 1944, Mahatma Gandhi contracted malaria and was advised rest by his physician. Gandhi retired to Panchgani, a mountain resort near Pune famous for its pure air and Parsi boarding schools. He stayed at the Dilkhush Bungalow in Panchgani. A group of 18-20 men reached Panchgani by a chartered bus from Pune and held a day-long protest against the Mahatma and shouted anti-Gandhi slogans. When the Mahatma was told about this he invited the leader of this group, Nathuram Vinayak Godse, for a discussion. Nathuram rejected the invitation and continued with the demonstration.
During the prayer meeting that evening, Nathuram Godse, dressed in a Nehru shirt, pyjama (loose Indian pants) and jacket, rushed towards the Mahatma. He was brandishing a dagger in his hand and shouting anti-Gandhi slogans. Nathuram was overpowered by Manishankar Purohit, proprietor of the Surti Lodge of Pune and D. Bhillare Guruji of Satara, who later became a Congress legislator from Mahabaleshwar. Both swore under oath about the veracity of this attack while deposing before the Kapoor Commission, which was set up to investigate the conspiracy angle behind the murder of the Mahatma. The other youth accompanying Godse ran away. This led to a panic in the prayer meeting but Gandhiji remained calm. He asked Godse to spend eight days with him so that he could understand Godse’s point of view. Godse rejected this invitation and was allowed to go by a magnanimous Mahatma.
Before leaving Pune, Godse had boasted to his journalist friends that some important news concerning Gandhi would soon reach them from Panchgani and it did. Joglekar, a reporter with a Marathi newspaper Agrani, published and edited by Nathuram Godse from Pune, corroborated this fact. A. David, the then editor of Pune Herald swore on oath while deposing before the Kapoor Commission that an attempt to murder the Mahatma was carried out by Nathuram Godse at Panchgani that day. The Kapoor Commission rejected this theory because some close associates of the Mahatma who were not present at the said prayer meeting could not corroborate the facts.
The police record shows that there were demonstrations against Gandhiji and that Nathuram Godse was held for trying to rush at the Mahatma shouting anti-Gandhi slogans but does not state whether he was armed. Dr. Sushila Nayyar, the Mahatma’s physician and close associate, testified that one of the protestors was found to be carrying a dagger but could not confirm whether it was Nathuram Godse. But the two men who overpowered Nathuram and later went on to hold very responsible posts were clear in their recollection of the incident at separate instances that they caught and disarmed Nathuram Godse.
The fact also remains undisputed that Nathuram Godse was part of an armed gang of protestors and it is very likely that the gang consisted of Narayan Apte, Karkare and Gopal Godse, the eventual killers of the Mahatma and fanatical followers of Savarkar, a leader of the right-wing Hindu extremists.
Third Attempt: September 1944
Threat to life at Sevagram, Godse involved
Mahatma Gandhi was preparing to hold talks with Mohammed Ali Jinnah, the leader of the Muslim League. The Hindu Mahasabha was opposed to this, Nathuram Godse and LG Thatte openly campaigned against this and threatened to stop Gandhiji from meeting Jinnah by any means publicly. The Mahatma began his talks with Jinnah in Bombay on September 9, 1944; the talks lasted for 18 days.
The Mahatma travelled from Sevagram to Bombay for the talks. Godse and Thatte led a gang of men to stop Gandhi and were joined by some from Bengal. This gang picketed the Ashram to ensure that the Mahatma did not leave for Bombay. Dr. Sushila Nayyar testified at the Kapoor Commission inquiry that Nathuram Godse was stopped and detained by ashramites as he tried to reach the Mahatma and a dagger was found on his person. The police report of the assault also placed before the Kapoor Commission says that a jambiya (Indian curved half sword akin to the machete) was confiscated from one of the group consisting of Nathuram Godse, LG Thatte and other unnamed protestors who were arrested while trying to prevent the Mahatma leaving the Ashram. The police report says it wasn’t certain that they meant to harm the Mahatma but they were armed and determined to stop the Mahatma from meeting Jinnah at any cost as evident from their recorded statements.
Pyarelal, in his letter to Tej Bahadur Sapru says, "The leader of the protestors at Sevagram, an extremely bitter and fanatical die-hard, was ready to go to any lengths to stop Gandhiji from meeting Jinnah. The arresting officer who recovered the dagger from the leader of the band asked him mockingly, ‘whether he wanted to become a martyr?’ The leader replied that when Gandhi was eventually killed one of them would become a martyr. The officer again asked him why they were wasting their time and lives in the fight between their leaders and Gandhi. If Gandhi was to be stopped, why didn’t they leave it to Savarkar, their leader? The leader of the gang said, ‘If Savarkar talks with Gandhi it will be an honour for Gandhi. The time will not come for Savarkar to talk to Gandhi. Gandhi will be dealt with by our lowly orderly’." Pyarelal said that the person indicated by the group leader was Nathuram Godse.
No clarification is given about the others in the gang. This was the third time that members of the Hindu Mahasabha from Pune were involved in an untoward incident; Godse was actually named in two of them and in all likelihood the other unnamed persons were the same as the gang which finally succeeded in murdering the Mahatma.
The Fourth Attempt: June 1946
Train sabotaged en route to Pune
On the way to Pune, the train carrying Gandhiji known as the Gandhi Special met with an accident between the Nerul and Karjat stations. The engine driver in his report claimed that boulders were placed on the tracks of the train with the intention to derail it. The train crashed into the boulders but a tragedy was averted because the engine driver was alert and slowed down the train before impact. The Pune police claimed that the boulders were placed to stop goods trains by looters. There were no goods trains on that section before or after the train known as the Gandhi Special carrying Gandhiji and his entourage. The police had not disclaimed sabotage and since the Gandhi Special was the only train on that route at that time it must have been the target.
On June 30, speaking at a prayer meeting in Pune, the Mahatma said, "By the grace of God I have escaped from the jaws of death seven times. I have not hurt anybody nor do I consider anybody to be my enemy, I can’t understand why there are so many attempts on my life. Yesterday’s attempt on my life has failed. I will not die just yet, I aim to live till the age of 125." "But who will allow you to live that long?" was the retort from Nathuram Vinayak Godse, the man who eventually murdered the Mahatma.
The Fifth Attempt: January 20, 1948
Madanlal explodes a bomb, New Delhi
Today the Mahatma was late in starting his prayer meeting, the public address system had failed and thus the delay. The Mahatma had just a couple of days previously ended his fast, after he had been assured about the establishment of peace between the communities in Delhi. It was the period after Partition and also in the immediate aftermath of the cabinet’s decision to give Rs. 55 million to Pakistan.
Madanlal Kashmirilal Pahwa, Nathuram Vinayak Godse, Narayan Dattatreya Apte, Vishnu Ramkrishna Karkare, Digambar Ramchandra Badge, Gopal Godse and Shankar Kistaiya congregated at the Birla Bhavan. Madanlal Pahwa and Vishnu Karkare were at the Birla Bhavan and the others reached the prayer meeting via the rear entrance by a taxi driven by Surjeet Singh who was the 14th witness for the prosecution in the Mahatma Gandhi murder trial. Nathuram Godse was the last to reach Birla Bhavan. Madanlal Pahwa tried to bribe Choturam, a driver staying in the Birla Bhavan servant’s quarters, to allow him to approach the podium where the Mahatma was sitting, ostensibly to take a photograph of him. When questioned by Choturam about the need for photographing the Mahatma from the back and also when queried about the lack of a camera, Madanlal walked off as if he was returning to the taxi, but instead went up to the wall behind the podium and placed the gun cotton slab on the wall and ignited the fuse. The others saw that the plan was not succeeding so they rushed towards the waiting taxi and left, leaving Madanlal Pahwa, Karkare, Badge and Shankar Kistaiya behind. The bomb went off, failing to create a panic.
Madanlal was identified by Sulochana Devi, the 15th witness in the Mahatma Gandhi murder trial, who lived less than 100 metres from Birla Bhavan and who had come looking for her three-year-old son Mahendra, who used to play with other children in the servant’s quarters of Birla Bhavan. Sulochana Devi had seen the gang of eventual murderers coming to Birla Bhavan, Madanlal talking to Choturam, placing the bomb on the wall, the others rushing towards the car, Madanlal lighting the fuse, the bomb exploding and the taxi speeding off without Madanlal. She identified Madanlal as the bomber to Fulsingh, watchman at Birla Bhavan, an armed policeman and a soldier, who were the first to reach the spot where the bomb went off and who grabbed a fleeing Madanlal. On frisking Madanlal at the police camp nearby it was discovered that he was also carrying a hand grenade on his person. The last unsuccessful attempt on the Mahatma’s life thus ended in a fiasco.
On interrogation, Madanlal admitted that he was part of a seven-member gang who wanted to kill the Mahatma. The plan was that Madanlal would explode the bomb as close to the podium as possible and Badge or Kistaiya would shoot the Mahatma in the ensuing panic and stampede and use the chaotic situation to effect an escape. Karkare was to compound the chaos by hurling hand grenades. Badge panicked at the last minute because he saw through the ruse of Godse and Apte. It would have been impossible for him to escape. Without letting the others know, Badge left his revolver in the taxi and told his servant Kistaiya to do the same and also forbade him from doing anything unless specifically ordered by Badge. But the late start to the prayer meeting, Choturam’s cross-questioning of Madanlal and Madanlal’s inability to explode the bomb near the podium panicked the gang of murderers. They abandoned the murder plan, and Madanlal Pahwa. Karkare made good his escape, Badge and Kistaiya merged with the crowd and made their way to the Hindu Mahasabha office where he had a showdown with Godse and Apte and was told to go.
That night Madanlal took the police to the two hotels where the gang members were staying, Nathuram Godse and Apte at the Marina Hotel and the rest of them at the Sharief Hotel. His panicked co-conspirators had flown the coop. The police confiscated a letter and some laundry from the hotel, which corroborated the involvement of people from Maharashtra. Although there were so many previous attempts on the Mahatma’s life by the gang led by Nathuram and Apte and although the laundry confiscated from Hotel Marina bore the initials NVG (Nathuram Vinayak Godse), the police did not act on the evidence.
The gang members returned to their hometowns. Nathuram Godse and Narayan Apte, after returning to Pune via Bombay, continued with their intention to kill the Mahatma. They embarked for Gwalior where they purchased a Beretta automatic and eleven bullets with the help of Dr. Parchure and Dandavate. They reached Delhi on January 29 and stayed at the retiring rooms at the station.
The Final Attempt: January 30, 1948
The Mahatma is no more
At 5.10 p.m., Nathuram Vinayak Godse, the murderer, got close to the Mahatma and shot him thrice in the chest from point-blank range and succeeded in finally snuffing out the life of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, the Mahatma.
The Hindu Mahasabha and its followers celebrated the murder of the Mahatma by distributing sweets. More than one million people congregated in Delhi on January 31, 1948 to bid a tearful adieu to the Father of the Nation. A sea of humanity followed the funeral cortege of the Mahatma from Birla Bhavan to Raj Ghat.
(From mahatma.org; information based on the books Mahatmey Chi Akher (The End of the Mahatma) by Jagan Phadnis, Gandhi-Hatyakand (The Story of Gandhi Murder), Nathuramayana by YD Phadke, English translation by Mukta Rajadhyaksha for Communalism Combat, October 2000).
Archived from Communalism Combat, August 2004, Anniversary Issue (11th), Year 11 No.100, Cover Story 8
-- The RSS kept totally aloof from the many anti-British movements of the 1940s: the individual Civil Disobedience of 1940-41, the Quit India struggle of 1942, Azad Hind Fauj, the 1945-46 upsurges around the INA trials and the Bombay Naval Mutiny.
-- Yet the early and mid-1940s remained a period of rapid growth, with the number of shakhas doubling between 1940-42, and with 10,000 swayamsevaks being trained by 1945 in Officers Training Camps (set up in nearly every province).
-- Similar to the Muslim League and the other Hindu communal groups, the RSS, too, benefited from the fact that it was never a target of British wartime repression.
-- But much more important was the way in which Hindu and Muslim communalism were feeding into each other, with the drive for Pakistan making more and more Hindus feel that the RSS was their best and perhaps only defender. Such sentiments spread particularly among the Hindus of the Muslim-majority province of Punjab as well UP, where there was a highly articulate and aggressive Muslim leadership. A section of the Congress, too, had come to consider the RSS a useful bulwark against the increasing intransigence of the Muslim League.
-- In Bengal, the other major Muslim-majority area, in contrast, the already powerful progressive and Left traditions were able to block large scale RSS inroads. Taking the country as a whole, however, recruits were trooping into shakhas, and money, too, was pouring in.
-- It was a time of prosperity for trading groups, with ample opportunities for war contracts and profiteering, and traders have always provided the major social bases for the RSS. Significant inroads seemed to have been made during these years into government services also.
-- The communal holocaust of 1946-47, ushered in by Jinnah’s call for direct action and the Great Calcutta Killings of August 1946, was regarded as its ‘finest hour’ by the RSS.
-- Through active participation in riots, relief work in Hindu refugee camps and virulent propaganda, the RSS contributed vastly to the development of a massive fear psychosis among large sections of Hindus about the ‘foreign’ Muslims.
-- Even a section of the Congress high command, particularly Vallabhbhai Patel, had become fairly sympathetic towards the RSS, although Nehru remained bitterly hostile. In the interviews they gave us, GL Sudarshan kept discreetly quiet about these bloodstained years; BL Sharma, however, boasted openly about his active role in the Punjab riots. (Authors of Khaki Shorts and Saffron Flags).
-- The onward march of the RSS was abruptly halted by the impact of the murder of Mahatma Gandhi.
(Source: Khaki Shorts and Saffron Flags, Orient Longman, 1993).
Archived from Communalism Combat, August 2004, Anniversary Issue (11th), Year 11 No.100, Cover Story 10
This has been going on for centuries now. Bharat’s northern borders have always been assaulted by Islamic invaders. The cause for the long chain of evil deeds from Mohammed Bin Qasim to Nawaz Sharif were never that we had occupied their land, attacked or looted them. The only reason for the animosity has always been that Bharat has always been a peace–loving land, wealthy and loyal to its faith. This was intolerable for them. To loot our land of its wealth, to change our faith and to shatter our peace — that is why these attacks have always taken place.
These people have always come under the garb of looters and barbarians. From the story of Raja Dahit to squadron leader Ajay Ahuja and lieutenant Saurabh Kaliya, we can see the imprint of the same barbarism and inhumanity of these invaders. These invaders have always been ruthless and devious. They have always attacked us stealthily in the dark of the night.
They have always fought in the name of religion and given their deception the name of jehad. Even when they kill animals, they bleed it to a tortuous death and then call it halaal. Forget granting life to men, how can one expect from them even a dignified death? This is their way, this is their nature. And they never change their ways except when the hands of brave soldiers go for their jugular.
This inhuman lot can never forget 1971! Like bleating goats, 94,000 jehadis had then stood, their heads bowed in abject surrender before our brave soldiers. Had it been some Islamic country in our place, it would have beheaded the entire lot and dispatched 94,000 skulls to Islamabad. But true to our own civilised values and culture, we even fed milk to these 94,000 snakes. Fed on our generosity, they all returned, well fattened, to their homeland.
Look at them now! So "brave" are they that when they encountered six of our soldiers on patrol, they would not fight them like men would. Instead, they were encircled, disarmed and then, crossing all limits of bestiality, tortured in such inhuman ways that even hearing or reading about it is intolerable. The blood of every Indian is on the boil today. From Ladakh to Kanyakumari, the entire nation is raising only one demand — Revenge! Revenge!
The time has come again for India’s Bheema to tear open the breasts of these infidels and purify the soiled tresses of Draupadi with blood. Pakistan will not listen just like that. We have a centuries’ old debt to settle with this mindset. It is the same demon that has been throwing a challenge at Durga since the time of Mohammed Bin Qasim. Arise, Atal Behari! Who knows if fate has destined you to be the author of the final chapter of this long story.
For what have we manufactured bombs? For what have we exercised the nuclear option? The courageous give their enemy time to retreat. In the beginning, they even forgive. But if the perverse and incorrigible are bent on inviting his own death, the brave never disappoint them.
Just recall, with what crookedness and violence Pakistan has responded to our magnanimity since 1947. Enough is enough. To tolerate any more would be sheer cowardice. To teach them a lesson is the only dharma now.
(Excerpted from an English translation of the editorial in the June 20, 1999 issue of the RSS mouthpiece Panchjanya).
The over 1,000 years of our struggle with barbarians and religious bigots and their vandalism is written with the blood of martyrs who were subjected to the most inhuman torture unparalleled in history. The terrorist state of Pakistan is the continuation of that gory past.
(Seshadri Chari, editor, in a signed article in Organiser, June 20, 1999)
The barbaric and cruel behaviour of Pakistan with Indian soldiers is a good indicator of their mindset and their ‘civilisation’. The same mindset was at work during the time of Guru Tegh Bahadur, his colleagues, too, were martyred in the same cruel way. Killing a person in the normal fashion is alien to their culture. By behaving with Indian soldiers today with the same bestiality as in case of Bhai Matidas, Bhai Satidas, Bhai Dayala etc., Pakistan clearly shows that even today its outlook is anything but humanitarian.
(Rajendra Singh, RSS sarsanghchalak (chief), in Organiser, June 20, 1999).
Archived from Communalism Combat, August 2004, Anniversary Issue (11th), Year 11 No.100, Cover Story 11
Report of the Justice Jagmohan Reddy Commission of Inquiry investigating the Ahmedabad riots of 1969:
"There was not only a failure of intelligence and culpable failure to suppress the outbreak of violence but (also) deliberate attempts to suppress the truth from the Commission, especially the active participation in the riots of some RSS and Jana Sangh leaders."
Report of the Justice DP Madon Commission of Inquiry into the Communal Disturbances at Bhiwandi, Jalgaon and Mahad of 1970:
"If the events surrounding the Shiv Jayanti procession in Bhiwandi, Jalgaon and Mahad are looked at more closely, the start of the riot was not with the simplistic reaction of the procession being attacked by a group of Muslims. Tension did not begin with the Shiv Jayanti celebrations of that year but began in 1964, the first year that the practice of publicly celebrating Shiv Jayanti had been started and had seen an annual build up in tensions since.
This practice did not only introduce the poison of communalism in Bhiwandi indirectly, but through the years, the organisers did not make any attempt to disguise the real motive and anti-Muslim slogans and provocative floats were part of the celebrations from the very beginning, the first year. In spite of police opposition, the organisers made every attempt to incite rioting by insisting on taking their procession through Muslim-dominated areas, throwing gulal (coloured powder) at mosques and shouting incendiary slogans like "we will grind any one who opposes us into dust".
In his report to his superiors, the SP, Thane district has stated, "I found that a section of Hindu elements, particularly the RSS and some PSP men, were bent upon creating mischief. Their idea in accompanying the procession was not so much to pay respects to the Great Shivaji but to establish their right and, if possible, to provoke and humiliate Muslims."
It was in 1970 that for the first time propaganda was carried on in villages exhorting villagers to participate in the Shiv Jayanti procession in Bhiwandi and this was the first year when villagers were mobilised to participate by the Rashtriya Utsav Mandal, an offshoot of the Jana Sangh, and the SS and the object of these organisations in bringing villagers to participate was ‘to intimidate the Muslims’, the participants carried lathis to which bhagwa (saffron) flags were tied, banners of the three organisations, the Jana Sangh, the RUM and the SS, were displayed by processionists.
The villagers shouted provocative, anti-Muslim slogans, behaved aggressively, threw gulal on the Moti Masjid at Bangad Galli and Hyderi mosque situated at the junction of Dargah Road and Sutar Galli aided by a passive police."
Report of the Commission of Inquiry, Tellicherry Disturbance, 1971, Justice Joseph Vithyathil:
"In Tellicherry the Hindus and Muslims were living as brothers for centuries. The ‘Mopla riots’ did not affect the cordial relationship that existed between the two communities in Tellicherry. It was only after the RSS and the Jana Sangh set up their units and began activities in Tellicherry that there came a change in the situation. Their anti-Muslim propaganda, its reaction on the Muslims who rallied round their communal organisation, the Muslim League, which championed their cause, and the communal tension that followed prepared the background for their disturbances.
According to the RSS, until the Muslims give up their separatist attitude and join the mainstream of Indian National Life there will be no communal harmony in this country. Guruji Golwalkar is said to have a very simple remedy for communal riots in India. He said: "Let Muslims look upon Rama as their hero and the communal problems will be over" (Organiser, June 20, 1971). That is what the rioters who attacked the house of Kunhammad asked him to do. "If you want to save your life you should go round the house three times repeating the words ‘Rama, Rama’. Kunhammad did that. But you cannot expect the 70 million Muslims of India to do that as a condition for maintaining communal harmony in the country. This attitude of the RSS can only help to compel the Muslims to take shelter under their own communal organisation."
Report of the Commission of Inquiry into the Communal Disturbances at Jamshedpur, April 1979:
"The evidence of government officials shows that after the communal riots of 1964, the Ram Navmi Festival, like other festivals, became the occasion for greater vigilance and alertness for the law and order authorities; simultaneously, the number of Ram Navmi processions kept on increasing till it had risen to 79 in the year 1979.
In the run up to the communal build up before the elections prepared by the Intelligence Branch, Jamshedpur (dated March 23, 1979) there was special mention made to the Divisional Conference of the RSS scheduled to be held on March 31 and April 1 in which, among others, the RSS sarsanghchalak was to participate.
The dispute on the route of the procession (the administration after consideration had denied permission for the route to pass through Muslim areas) became sharp and agitated reactions from a group of persons calling themselves the "Sanyukt Bajrang Bali Akhara Samiti" who systematically distributed pamphlets to heighten communal feelings and had organisational links with the RSS. A call for the defiance of the authority and the administration when it refused permission for one of the routes led to a violent mob protesting and raising anti-Muslim slogans and thereafter an incendiary leaflet doing the rounds of Jamshedpur (issued on behalf of the "Sri Ramnavmi Kendriya Akhara Samity") that is nothing short of an attempt to rouse the sentiments of Hindus to a high pitch and to distort events and show some actions as attacks on Hindus that appear to be part of a design.
A survey had already established that all policemen, havaldars, home guards etc. were at heart ready to give support to them (Hindu communalist organisations). This not only shows the extent of the planning that had been going on, but also how the people in general were being assured of protection from punitive action by the police due to the alleged attitude of its subordinate formations."
Justice Venugopal Commission of Inquiry into the Kanyakumari riots of 1982 (prolonged confrontation between Hindus and Christians):
"The RSS adopts a militant and aggressive attitude and sets itself up as the champion of what it considers to be the rights of Hindus against minorities. It has taken upon itself to teach the minorities their place and if they are not willing to learn their place to teach them a lesson. The RSS methodology for provoking communal violence is:
a) rousing communal feelings in the majority community by the propaganda that Christians are not loyal citizens of this country;
b) deepening the fear in the majority community by clever propaganda that the population of the minorities is increasing and that of the Hindus is decreasing;
c) infiltrating into the administration and inducing the members of the civil and police services by adopting and developing communal attitudes;
d) training young people of the majority community in the use of weapons like daggers, swords and spears;
e) spreading rumours to widen the communal cleavage and deepen communal feelings by giving a communal colour to any trivial incident."
(‘Who is to blame?’, Communalism Combat, March 1998).
Archived from Communalism Combat, August 2004, Anniversary Issue (11th), Year 11 No.100, Cover Story 12
Citizens for Democracy, Karnataka (CFD-K) has just published a report titled The Controversy regarding the Raising of National Flag in the Idgah Maidan. The report is written by Dr. Sanjeev Kulkarni but is a collaborative effort of citizens from all walks of life, such as SR Hiremath, a scientist-turned-social worker, John Bellary, a teacher, Basava Prabhu Hoskeri, a lawyer, RA Nagamule, an engineer, Dr. AM Jamadar, a doctor, and several others. It is written in Kannada and an English version is being prepared.
I, as a citizen of Hubli-Dharwad, am keen that their findings be placed before the national press in view of the extensive coverage that the event has received this year as well as the escalating violence that has been accompanying it. Responsibility for phrasing of the following text as well as its tone of rendering and remarks within brackets are entirely mine.
There are two separate facets to the Idgah Maidan controversy. The first relates to the question of ownership of the Maidan, the second to the issue of hoisting the national flag in the Maidan. The two issues have to be understood separately if the whole sorry episode is to make sense.
The issue of ownership
The Idgah Maidan is an open plot of land of about 991 square yards (CTS No. 174 in Ward No. 3) near the main bus-stop in Hubli. The Muslim community of Hubli claims that the Idgah Maidan has been in their exclusive possession for over 200 years and that the prayer walls there are at least that old, a claim that has been contested by other parties.
The basic facts of the case are as follows:
The Hubli municipality was formed in 1920. On August 5, 1921, the municipality passed a resolution granting the Maidan on a 999-year lease to the Anjuman-e-Islam organisation for an annual rent of rupee one. (Among other provisions, it permitted the Anjuman to build a compound wall around the property, which in fact was never built). This grant was approved by the government of Bombay on January 11, 1922 and the lease deed was signed in May 1930.
In 1960, when the municipal borough was under suppression, the Anjuman sought the permission of the government administrator to build a building on the Maidan, the ground floor of which would be used for commercial purposes and the upper floors for an educational institution. This plan was approved by the divisional commissioner in Belgaum as well as by the then Mysore government. This is when the trouble started. The government’s approval of the plan proposed by the Anjuman was challenged by some citizens in a court of law.
I shall skip the tedious details. The decision delivered by the court of the munsiff in Hubli on December 7, 1972 went against the Anjuman-e-Islam. On appeal, the additional civil judge upheld a part of the verdict of the munsiff court. On further appeal, the high court of Karnataka, on June 8, 1992, upheld the judgement of the additional civil judge. The judgement of the high court may be summarised as follows:
1. The Idgah Maidan is not the exclusive property of the Anjuman-e-Islam but belongs to what was by then the Hubli-Dharwad municipal corporation.
2. The Maidan was licensed to the Anjuman for purely religious purposes, that is, to offer prayers on two days in the year, Bakri-Id and Ramzan.
3. The Anjuman may not use the property for any educational or commercial purpose.
4. The permanent structures already erected by the Anjuman may be demolished within 45 days.
5. The public (inclusive of the Muslim community) has no customary rights of the user on the property.
Following this judgement, the Anjuman made a special leave petition to the Supreme Court to appeal against the above judgement and sought a stay order against the demolition of the permanent structures. The stay was granted. Members of the sangh parivar also appealed to the Supreme Court seeking restoration of customary rights to the public. After condonation of delay, the petition was allowed by the Supreme Court on April 19, 1993. (This part is generally not known.)
What the Anjuman underlines is that from the beginning (in 1920), it has sought and received sanction from the requisite legal authority for every one of its actions. It has been scrupulous in remaining on the right side of the law.
The national flag issue
According to the statement made by the Rashtradhvaja Gowrava Samrakshana Samiti (The Committee for Protecting the Honour of the National Flag) to the Citizens for Democracy, Karnataka, when Dr. Murli Manohar Joshi declared that he would hoist the national flag in the Lal Chowk of Srinagar on January 26, 1992 as a part of the ‘Save Kashmir’ campaign, it was decided to hold similar functions all over India. In Hubli, neither the Nehru Maidan nor the Murusavira Matha Maidan was available. So the Samiti decided to hoist the flag in the ‘Chennamma Maidan’ of the corporation (the sangh parivar’s special name for the Idgah Maidan).
When they approached the police, the latter tried to dissuade them. But a group of about 50 volunteers decided to go ahead with their plan regardless. According to them, as they were raising the flag, the police rushed in and pulled the flag down in an insulting manner, which wounded their patriotic sentiments. Since in independent India a citizen has the right to fly the national flag in any place, they vowed to persist until they had succeeded in hoisting the flag in the Maidan. They wrote to all the political parties seeking support but only the BJP responded.
Two main points need to be noted here: The incident took place on January 26, 1992, when the case was still being considered by the high court and was therefore sub judice. The RGSS could not have been unaware of this fact. Secondly, as is clear from the above description, the dispute is between the RGSS and the police and therefore does not involve the Anjuman-e-Islam.
Since then, on every August 15 and January 25, the RGSS in association with the RSS and the BJP has attempted to hoist the flag in the Idgah Maidan. This year the BJP even gave their full support and treated it as an event of national importance by sending its leaders, like Uma Bharati, Sikander Bakht, and Abbas Ali Bohra, to participate in the event.
How lawful are these subsequent attempts? Apart from the fact that the high court has quite explicitly not conceded the customary rights of the user to the public and this has been challenged in the Supreme Court by the sangh parivar itself,
1. Before every August 15 and January 26, a certain Devendra Naik has been approaching the munsiff court in Hubli for permission to hoist the flag and has been refused permission.
2. In August 1993, several members of the RGSS approached the high court of Karnataka for permission to fly the flag and the high court left the decision to the government.
Neither the RGSS, nor the RSS nor the BJP is party to any of the lawsuits, preferring to fight them through individuals. (This enables them to claim victory when the verdict is in their favour and pretend ignorance when it is not.)
The Anjuman-e-Islam has refused to comment (or act) on the flag issue and has remained absolutely silent. The controversy thus involves only the RGSS and the state government and not the Anjuman. (I must point out here that the impression created in the press that the Muslim community is refusing to raise the flag in the Idgah Maidan because it does not want the national flag to fly on their prayer ground is totally baseless.
It is another instance of the deliberate misinformation that surrounds the issue. No question of flying the national flag on the Idgah Maidan had arisen until the problem was manufactured by the sangh parivar. The Muslim community sees no reasons to be pressurised into doing so now by parties obviously out to embarrass or harass them. The communal intent of the sangh parivar’s endeavour is clear in their insistence on calling the place ‘Chennamma Maidan’ after the statue of Queen Kittur Chennamma installed recently in the traffic circle nearby rather than by its official name, ‘Idgah Maidan’ – although the latter is used, by them, inevitably, in all court documents.)
The absolute refusal of the Muslim community to comment on the flag issue has foiled the sangh parivar’s hopes of communalising the issue. That the debate is now only between the sangh parivar and the state government is not of any obvious advantage to the former. So they have now started saying that they do not care who flies the flag as long as it is flown.
(What political advantage the parivar will try to gain from the unfortunate police firing on August 15, 1994, in which six bystanders were killed, remains to be seen. It is significant that the ABVP leaders were demanding that the six bodies be cremated on the Idgah Maidan itself.)
The Karnataka state elections are scheduled for November 1994. The BJP is perfectly aware that if elected to power its government will not be able to fly the flag in the Idgah Maidan without being guilty of contempt of court. They have therefore been declaring that the attempt on August 15, 1994 would be the last such attempt.
The RGSS and its allies have always claimed that their wish is to see the national flag fly on the Idgah Maidan properly just once. On the morning of August 15, 1994, the sangh parivar claimed that they had succeeded in hoisting the flag on the Idgah Maidan, unseen by the police. Whatever the veracity of this claim, now that they have done so to their own satisfaction, it is to be hoped there will be no further repetition of this unfortunate event, which has turned the two national days into sheer nightmares for the citizens of Hubli-Dharwad.
The Anjuman-e-Islam is an educational institution founded in 1905. It runs several schools, colleges and educational institutions. Only a third of its students are Muslim, the rest being mainly from the backward classes. It has a college named after Nehru. On every August 15 and January 26, the national flag is flown and the national anthem sung at all Anjuman institutions, which is more than can be said of the RSS!
Will the solution of the flag issue make life easier for the Muslims of Hubli-Dharwad? Since 1984, the Muslim community has stopped celebrating Mohurram as it invariably led to trouble. (In my childhood, Hindus also participated in the Mohurram celebration.) Several times in the past, and again this year, the massive procession on the day of the Id-e-Milad has been cancelled for fear of disturbances. Playing of music and the bursting of crackers at weddings have been stopped by the Muslim community.
The parivar’s next stop after the Idgah Maidan is the Dargah of a Sufi saint, Raja Bagh Sawar, which used to attract both Hindu and Muslim devotees. This Muslim shrine, which has traditionally had Hindu priests, has now been converted into a Hindu shrine. The saffron flag flies atop it. The Urs of the saint is now referred to as the Jatra of Changed Maharaja. When the Muslims registered a complaint with the police, they were asked to remain calm; the issue, they were told, would be sorted out by the authorities. Of course, nothing has been done so far. On the contrary, the converted shrine was quoted to bolster the case against the Anjuman in court documents.
The Muslim community allowed a highway to be built through its graveyard. But when, in order to protect its graves, they began to build a compound wall, a stay order was brought against the construction of the wall thus preventing them from enclosing their own exclusive property.
The flag-hoisting issue is only one example of the harassment and baiting to which the Muslim community in Karnataka has been continually subjected during the last two decades.
August 26, 1994.
Archived from Communalism Combat, August 2004, Anniversary Issue (11th), Year 11 No.100, Cover Story 13
A young man’s chilling initiation into the world of hate politics and violence. Extract from Tamas by Hindi writer Bhisham Sahni
Ranvir, the son of the president of the committee, followed Master Devbrat, the instructor of the gymnasium-cum-wrestling pit, the sound of Devbrat’s boots echoing in the cobbled lane. The fifteen-year-old Ranvir was bursting with excitement. Today he would undergo the test and if he made it, he would be taken into the fold.
No lane of the city ran straight. A lane would run straight for a few yards and would then be joined by another tortuous lane. The houses flanking the lanes almost seemed to topple over one another so packed together were they. The sound of Devbrat’s heavy boots was a familiar one in the lanes of the town.
Ranvir was still very young and his eyes had not lost their child-like curiosity. They even lacked that earnestness, so necessary when undergoing a supreme test. But in place of earnestness he had a sense of bravado, a blind determination to do or die at the behest of his mentor.
When Ranvir was very young, Master Devbrat would entertain him with stories of heroes of Indian history. There was an episode from Rana Pratap’s life, for instance, when the cat had stolen his food, leaving him famished and making him acutely aware of his total helplessness. Ranvir would have visions of Chetak, Rana Pratap’s favourite horse, as it went tramping over the hills overlooking the city. He would even see in his mind Shivaji watching a horde of approaching Muslims from the top of some hill. He also recalled the dramatic episode in Shivaji’s life when he had caught a Muslim ruler in a fatal embrace. Masterji had taught Ranvir the basic principles of knot tying and wall climbing. He had explained the characteristics of the ‘fire’ and the ‘rain’ producing arrows depicted in the ancient Hindu epics.
Ranvir was told by Masterji that the Vedas were the repository of all knowledge and held the secret of making the bomb and flying machines. Masterji talks of the marvels of yogic power had held Ranvir spellbound. ‘One having yogic power can achieve the impossible,’ Masterji would repeatedly impress upon Ranvir.
‘You know the story of that yogi, don’t you?’ he would ask his pupil, and then repeat a story he had often narrated. ‘A yogi had gone into a trance at the foot of the Himalayas. He achieved great occult powers. One day, when he had gone into meditation, a Muslim, an unclean man, came there with the mischievous intention of disrupting his meditation. You know these unclean people. They don’t bathe, nor do they wash their hands after shitting. They have no compunction in sharing each other’s spittled food. This ‘unclean’ person stood there glaring at the sadhu. As his polluted shadow fell over the sadhu, he opened his eyes. A gleam shot out of his eyes and singed the polluted man to death.’
These ‘unclean’ people would often revolve before Ranvir’s eyes. In his neighbourhood, the cobbler who sat by the roadside, mending shoes, was said to be an ‘unclean’ man. So was the tonga driver who lived in front of their house. Hamid, who studied with him at school in the same class, was also ‘unclean’. All the members of the family living next door were also considered to be ‘unclean’ and polluted. It must be some such person who had gone to the foot of the Himalayas to disrupt the sadhu’s meditation. Today, out of the eight boys he instructed, Master Devbrat had singled out Ranvir for the test. The boys were scared of Masterji. He wore khaki shorts and heavy black boots and spoke in a voice like thunder. His wrath was unpredictable and could fall on anybody without warning. The test which Ranvir was to undergo was secret and esoteric, only the initiates knew what it was.
The lanes looked desolate. At one place Ranvir felt as if they were walking along a thick web of darkness. As they drew nearer they discovered that the wall of a house had crumbled down and the darkness was seeping out of its debris.
Suddenly Devbrat stopped in his tracks. Although the desolate look of the lane had given Ranvir an eerie feeling, it had not been able to curb his exuberance. There was a narrow door framed against a long wall. Devbrat pushed it open. They stepped into a big courtyard at the end of which they saw the door of a narrow room across which hung a tarpaulin curtain. In the left corner of the courtyard lay two big heaps of rubble. The place looked deserted.
Walking across the courtyard, Master Devbrat pounded on the door. Ranvir heard the sound of coughing, followed by the shuffling of feet.
‘It’s I, Devbrat.’
The door was flung open. The old Gorkha chowkidar of the school stood in the door, peering at the visitors. He folded his hands in salutation and bowed his head.
It was dark inside the room. To one side lay a charpoy covered with a dirty bedsheet. A lathi stood against the right wall and by its side a chelum lay upside down. Over a wooden peg hung the chowkidar’s woollen overcoat and a long sword sheathed in a black scabbard.
Ranvir heard the crackling of hens and turned to look. About half-a-dozen white hens lay tied in a big basket in a corner of the room.
Holding Ranvir by the arm Master Devbrat led him into another courtyard, much smaller than the first and abruptly ending against the high wall of a neighbouring house. The Gorkha chowkidar followed them holding a hen in one hand and a knife in the other.
‘Ranvir, kill the hen,’ Master Devbrat said. The chowkidar handed Devbrat the knife. ‘Before you’re initiated into our fold you must prove that you possess a stout heart.’
Devbrat pushed Ranvir forward. ‘An Aryan youth must be strong in faith, resolute at heart, and determined in action. Take the knife and go and sit there!’ He gave Ranvir another shove forward.
Ranvir felt the place had suddenly turned sinister. He saw feathers of hens lying scattered all over. Near some rubble rested a slab of stone turned black with blood.
‘Sit down and put one leg of the hen under your right foot.’ Devbrat pressed the hen’s wings and twisted one wing under the other.
The hen cackled furiously. But its wings having been firmly tied together it could only struggle futilely. It did this for a while then lay still.
‘Hold it!’ Master Devbrat sat down by Ranvir’s side. ‘Go ahead. Let the knife do its job!’
Sweat broke out on Ranvir’s forehead and his face turned pale. Master Devbrat knew that the boy was feeling queasy.
‘Ranvir!’ he cried and slapped him hard on his cheek. Ranvir fell down in a heap on the ground. He felt like crying. The Gorkha standing behind him, watched him, a glitter of excitement in his eyes. Ranvir was still feeling unequal to the task but the slap seemed to have driven away his nausea.
‘Get up, Ranvir!’ Master Devbrat cried.
Ranvir slowly rose to his feet and looked at his mentor with heavy, dazed eyes.
‘There’s nothing difficult about it,’ Master Devbrat said. ‘Watch, I’ll show you how.’
He pressed one of the hen’s feet under his boot. The bird’s eyes became glazed and then slowly closed. He held the hen’s neck in his right hand and slit it. Blood spurted from the neck, some drops falling on Devbrat’s hand. But he did not let the hen go even though its head had been cut off. He firmly held the windpipe down till it turned white. The hen’s headless body kept quivering and then became still and its wings drenched with blood became limp. All that Ranvir saw was a handful of white feathers spattered with blood lying before him. Master Devbrat flung the remains of the dead bird to one side and got up.
‘Bring another hen!’ he told the Gorkha.
As he turned towards Ranvir, he saw that he had vomited on the ground and was sitting there, holding his head between his hands, and breathing heavily. Master Devbrat felt like slapping him again but he controlled himself and just stood there watching him in disgust.
‘I’m going to give you one more chance,’ he said at last. ‘A youth who can’t kill a hen – how can one expect him to deal with an enemy?’
Soon Ranvir’s breathing became normal and his stomach, which had knotted gradually, loosened up.
I’ll give you five more minutes,’ Devbrat said. ‘If you fail to kill the hen this time it’s all over with you. No initiation, no nothing.’ He turned on his heel and walked out of the courtyard.
When he returned after five minutes, he saw a hen writhing under the wall, drops of blood flying from it in all directions, Ranvir was sitting by the side of the bird, his right arm held between his knees. Devbrat guessed how things must have gone. While Ranvir was struggling with the hen, it must have pecked at his hand and he had only succeeded in wounding the bird instead of killing it outright.
Writhing in agony the bird kept jumping in the air and falling heavily on the ground, leaving more and more blood stains on the ground. Blood fountained from its neck.
‘Get up, Ranvir!’ Master Devbrat patted him on his back. Ranvir slowly rose to his feet. He had succeeded in the test.
‘Shabash!’ Master Devbrat said. ‘You’ve determination, you have will power. Though your arm still lacks strength, you’ve made the grade and won your reward.’ He bent to the ground and dipping his finger in the blood spattered on the stone slab, made a blood mark on Ranvir’s forehead.
(Extract from Tamas (Darkness) by Bhisham Sahni, translated from the Hindi by Jai Ratan, Penguin Books (India) Limited).
Archived from Communalism Combat, August 2004, Anniversary Issue (11th), Year 11 No.100, Cover Story 14