In his own words, Mahatma Gandhi’s assassin separated himself and his crime from the RSS. He did not do so alone, even the government approver, Digambar Badge, who was pardoned and corroborated the government's version didn’t point a finger at the RSS. There is little motivation for Godse to have parked himself with the HMS and not the RSS.

At the time of this testimony, Godse was a dead man walking; his fate was already sealed, as the law took ‘its course’. Godse was then the editor of a pro-Hindu Mahasabha newspaper in Pune and this statement was just a statement of fact, part of a longer testimony. It stands out because of the sustained campaign to link the RSS to the assassination of the Mahatma. This anti-RSS narrative was already set in motion; as early as November 1947, when the Sangh was criticised during a meeting of Premiers and Home Ministers of provinces in New Delhi.

Just a few months after the bloody partition, what passed without comment were the deaths of Sangh workers whilst they helped Hindu refugees make their passage to India and the security cover they provided for Congress leaders in Delhi, standing guard outside their homes. A few days after the murder, news reports called Godse an RSS man, ignoring his move to the HMS and his disenchantment with the RSS. In fact, Godse in the last few years of his life had been a staunch critic of the RSS.

The HMS and RSS relationship has been a complicated one. Right from the 20’s onwards, a close study of the Hindu Nationalist Movement at the time will reveal the dissonance. It exists to this day with the much diminished HMS making routine statements about the Sangh not doing enough for the Hindu society.

However, back in the day, the Mahasabha was the big brother and the Sangh a smaller entity. Although the founder of the Sangh, Dr Hedgewar maintained good relations with everyone, be it in the HMS or the Congress, counting many members in both groups as his friends, the acrimony used to spill out on public forums. The RSS was always circumspect; refusing to comment, but the HMS was known to make public speeches in Nagpur ridiculing the Sangh. There had been some hope that the Sangh would evolve into the cadre of the HMS and serve its political interests but Dr Hedgewar, with his characteristic politeness resisted this, even dodging a suggestion from none other than Savarkar himself.

Dr Hedgewar remained firm that the Sangh’s work was in the sphere of organising Hindu society and nothing more. This frustrated quite a few individuals and there were departures, but none that felled the Sangh or its appeal, which continued on its path.

Guruji Gowalkar’s letter to Sardar Patel and Pandit Nehru following Gandhiji’s assassination is seldom quoted. In this letter, he referred to the ‘heinous’ act and described the perpetrator as a ‘perverted soul’. On 30th January 1948, Guruji declared a period of mourning for 13 days for the RSS and a suspension of normal routine. This has never been repeated, not even when Sarsanghchalaks have passed away, the shakhas continue as normal. A few days after these missives, Guruji was arrested.

In the months that followed, RSS sources state that as many as 20,000 swayamsevaks were arrested. The cycle of persecution was set in motion and even children were not spared. In April of this year, I met with an 84 years old swayamsevak in Kerala who was a boy when Gandhi ji was assassinated. He shared with me that even at that time, when they were in school, the children were accosted in shakhas, their homes searched, and accused of being Gandhi’s killers. During these difficult months post-Gandhiji’s assassination there were many such stories of persecution. A national tragedy and a grieving public were led to believe that the RSS was behind the murder. Sardar Patel in a letter addressed to Pandit Nehru, dated February 27th, 1948, exonerated the RSS based on investigations that he had been personally following. However, the ban was not lifted.

And with the passage of time, this situation became a political opportunity, a time to bring the uncompromising RSS to heel. An often quoted letter is one from 11th September 1948 written by Sardar Patel in response to Guruji, where he speaks of the ‘virulent opposition’ of the RSS to the Congress–this was the time when Guruji was trying to negotiate the lifting of the ban on the RSS. However, what remains unquoted from this letter is Sardar Patel's suggestion that the “RSS men carry on their patriotic endeavour only by joining the Congress and not by keeping separate and by opposing”.

To the keen political observer, what is evident from this exchange is the arm-twisting at play. By now the RSS cadre was already known for its discipline and would be an asset to any political party. Congress’ own Seva Dal had greatly frustrated Sardar Patel because of its indiscipline. Patel was trying to find an honourable exit from this ban situation for all involved. However, various political interests insisted on the ban and he stopped communicating with Guruji.

For his part, Guruji was not going to deviate from the path set by Dr Hedgewar. He held on to the RSS identity as a cultural organisation and stated, “This position (of RSS becoming a political entity) is unbearable and does no credit to those who may hold it”.

The tension intensified, the ban remained, and Guruji was re-arrested on November 15th, 1948. However, this time, the RSS responded with a satyagraha on 9th December 1948. RSS sources estimate that as many as 60,000 swayamsevaks (a tenth of its membership at the time) participated.

In five weeks the government returned to the discussion table. Many accusations were made but when asked by Guruji to substantiate or bring to book, there was silence. Eventually, the absence of a constitution became the point of contention. Secret and public negotiations, stand offs on the draft constitution, the power play between power centres within the Congress shadowed the discussions but eventually the draft was accepted by Patel and the ban was lifted in July 1949.

Remaining unchanged were two essential aspects–the participation of pre-adolescents in Sangh activities and the selection of the Sarsanghchalak. The young Deendayal Upadhyay (Integral Humanism) was one of the drafters of this constitution. The accusation of Gandhiji’s assassination failing to be backed by proof was further lost in the power tussle and the shifting agenda of the government. However, it lived on in propaganda.

Most recently, Rahul Gandhi who was taken to court for repeating this discredited charge has been advised by the Supreme Court to either apologise or face trial. Mr Gandhi in eternal search of his Kejriwal moment and stab at heroism, has decided to stand by false propaganda disregarding the enquiry commission report, Patel’s statement on record, subsequent court verdicts rejecting RSS involvement in Gandhiji's assassination, or even the unconditional apology published by the Statesman newspaper (2003) for repeating the same discredited charge.

Since Mr Gandhi is never to be blamed, it can only be said that he is being advised wrongly and that there are only two sets of people who are delighted at the prospect of this case going to trial; his team of lawyers and the RSS, who have for long awaited a decisive rebuttal.

Author: Advaita Kala
(Screenwriter. Columnist)

Twitter: @AdvaitaKala  

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of Jagran Post and Jagran Post does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.

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