The Hidden Agenda

RSS, Freedom Movement and the Tricolour

Sankara Narayanan

Muslim Rashtriya Manch (MRM) is a wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). The Manch is holding talks with madrasas nationwide to hoist the Tricolour and sing the national anthem on Republic Day. It wants the Muslim seminaries to make their students remember the martyrs of the Freedom Struggle from 1857 to 1947.

A day after an RSS body asked all madrasas in the country to hoist the national flag on Republic Day, Darul Uloom Deoband asked the RSS if it "believed" in the Constitution of India and in the national flag. A spokesperson of the seminary told that even though the decision to hoist national flag is individual choice of madrasas, almost all of them not only hoist national flag but also celebrate Independence and Republic days. He also bluntly asked the RSS what its contribution in the freedom struggle was.

RSS has zero contribution in the struggle for the independence. Rather they opposed the freedom movement and ridiculed many a martyr like Bhagat Singh. It is an indisputable fact that the ideological forefathers of the group which is now asking Muslims for the nationalist credentials, were on the sides of British. Their ideological associate killed Mahatma Gandhi after all.

M S Golwalkar (Guruji), second chief of the RSS and the most prominent ideologue of the organization till date told, "Hindus, don't waste your energy fighting the British. Save your energy to fight our internal enemies that are Muslims, Christians and Communists".

Guruji while addressing a group of 1,350 top level cadres of the RSS in 1940 said, "RSS inspired by one flag, one leader and one ideology is lighting the flame of Hindutva in each and every corner of this great land. I would like to bring it to your notice that this decree of 'one flag, one leader and one ideology' was also the battle cry of Fascist and Nazi parties of Europe in the first half of 20th century. What they did to democracy is well-known to this world".

When the Constituent Assembly of India had finalized the Constitution of India, the RSS was not happy. Organizer, in an editorial on November 30,1949, complained: "But in our constitution there is no mention of the unique constitutional development in ancient Bharat. Manu's Laws were written long before Lycurgus of Sparta or Solon of Persia. To this day his laws as enunciated in the Manusmriti excite the admiration of the world and elicit spontaneous obedience and conformity. But to our constitutional pundits that means nothing".

Organizer, on the very eve of Independence (August 14,1947), editorially underlined its belief in the two-nation theory once again in the following words: "Let us no longer allow ourselves to be influenced by false notions of nationhood. Much of the mental confusion and the present and future troubles can be removed by the ready recognition of the simple fact that in Hindusthan only the Hindus form the nation and the national structure must be built on that safe and sound foundation... the nation itself must be built up of Hindus, on Hindu traditions, culture, ideas and aspirations".

After the 1942 Movement Guruji admitted, "In 1942 also there was a strong sentiment in the hearts of many. At that time too the routine work of Sangh continued. Sangh vowed not to do anything directly. However, upheaval (uthal-puthal) in the minds of Sangh volunteers continued. Sangh is an organization of inactive persons, their talks are useless, not only outsiders but also many of our volunteers did talk like this. They were greatly disgusted too".

There is not a single publication or document of the RSS which throws light on what the RSS did indirectly for the Quit India Movement. During this period, in fact, its mentor, 'Veer' Savarkar, ran coalition governments with the Muslim League. Because the RSS did nothing, directly or indirectly, for the Quit India Movement, and indeed acted against it, that titanic movement was, for the Bhakts, the opposite of patriotic.

Guruji decried and denigrated martyrs like Bhagat Singh, Chandrashekar Azad, Ashfaqullah Khan. Here is a passage from the chapter, 'Martyr, Great But Not Ideal' from Bunch Of Thoughts, a veritable Gita for RSS cadres : 'There is no doubt that such men who embrace martyrdom are great heroes and their philosophy too is pre-eminently manly. They are far above the average men who meekly submit to fate and remain in fear and inaction. All the same, such persons are not held up as ideals in our society. We have not looked upon their martyrdom as the highest point of greatness to which men should aspire. For, after all, they failed in achieving their ideal, and failure implies some fatal flaw in them".

The founder of the RSS, Dr Hedgewar, went one step further: "Patriotism is not only going to prison. It is not correct to be carried away by such superficial patriotism". This also must be the reason why RSS leaders or cadres did not face repression during British rule and the RSS did not produce any martyr during the Freedom Movement.

Incidentally in Sep 2015, the RSS conducted a seminar of columnists in Chennai which was attended by 80 renowned writers in the southern belt. At the event, RSS' All India Prachar Pramukh Manmohan Vaidya raised objections over the tricolour of the Indian flag. "A saffron flag would have been the best representation of Indian ethos," he added.

The RSS since its inception in 1925 hated anything, which symbolised the united struggle of the Indian people against British rule. The case of the Indian tricolour is the most pertinent one. It was in December 1929 that the Indian National Congress at its LahoreĀ  session adopted 'Purna Swaraj' or complete self-rule as the national goal and called upon the people to observe January 26, 1930 as Independence Day by displaying and honouring the Tricolour (the Tricolour was by consensus considered the flag of the national movement by this time). In response to this Dr Hedgewar as Sarsanghchalak issued a circular to all the RSS shakhais to worship the bhagwa jhanda (saffron flag) as the national flag.

Organizer in its third issue (July 17, 1947) disturbed by the Constituent Assembly's decision to select the Tricolour as the National Flag, carried an editorial titled 'National Flag', demanding that the saffron flag be chosen instead.

The same demand continued to be raised in Organizer's editorials on the eve of Independence (July 31 editorial titled 'Hindusthan' and August 14 editorial titled 'Whither') simultaneously rejecting the whole concept of a composite nation. The August 14 issue also carried 'Mystery behind the Bhagwa Dhawaj' (saffron flag) which while demanding hoisting of saffron flag at the ramparts of Red Fort in Delhi, openly denigrated the choice of the Tri-colour as the National Flag in the following words: "The people who have come to power by the kick of fate may give in our hands the Tricolour but it will never be respected and owned by Hindus. The word three is in itself an evil, and a flag having three colours will certainly produce a very bad psychological effect and is injurious to a country".

Guruji while addressing a gathering in Nagpur on July 14, 1946, stated that it was the saffron flag which in totality represented their great culture. It was the embodiment of God: "We firmly believe that in the end the whole nation will bow before this saffron flag".

Shortly after Mahatma Gandhi's assassination, there were widespread reports of RSS activists trampling upon the tricolour. This greatly upset the Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru. In a speech on February 24, 1948, Nehru spoke sorrowfully of how "at some places, members of the RSS dishonoured the National Flag. They know well that by disgracing the flag they are proving themselves as traitors".

Even after independence when the Tricolour became the National Flag, it was the RSS which refused to accept it as the National Flag. Golwalkar, while discussing the issue of the National Flag in an essay entitled 'Drifting and Drifting' in the book 'Bunch of Thoughts' (treated as Bible for the RSS cadres), has the following to say: "Our leaders have set up a new flag for our country. Why did they do so? It is just a case of drifting and imitating. Ours is an ancient and great nation with a glorious past. Then, had we no flag of our own? Had we no national emblem at all these thousands of years? Undoubtedly we had. Then why this utter void, this utter vacuum in our minds?"

Importantly, nowhere in the functioning of the RSS is the Tricolour or National Flag used even today. The RSS headquarters at Reshambaugh, Nagpur does not fly it nor do the RSS shakhas display it in daily parades. It seems the National Flag is meant only to whip up frenzy against Muslims. In 1991, (Ekta Yatra) it was Murli Manohar Joshi, another favourite in the RSS hierarchy, who went to unfurl the Tricolour at Lal Chowk of Srinagar, Kashmir. Uma Bharti carried a Tri-colour because it was an Idgah which was being targeted by Hindutva outfits. On the other hand, it is important to note that the Hindutva cadres who went to demolish Babri mosque in 1992 did not carry the Tricolour. They carried only saffron flags which were subsequently hoisted there. The RSS is faced with a peculiar dilemma. For Hindus it has saffron flag and for Muslims Tricolour.

Like the Holy Cow, invoking Tricolour and the martyrs of the Freedom Struggle from 1857 to 1947 is one sure shot of 'Muslim Bashing' that remains the favourite pastime of the saffron industry.

PS : Thanks to Prof Shamsul Islam & Prof Anil Sadgopal (formerly of Delhi University), G C Parekh (Editor of Janta weekly), celebrated columnist Kuldip Nayyar, noted jurist Rajinder Sachar and late Madhu Limaye, socialist ideologue and parliamentarian for very many points incorporated in the article.

Vol. 48, No. 31, Feb 7 - 13, 2016