11th Anniversary
Year 11    No.100
Cover Story

Murder of the greatest Hindu

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.

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:


"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."

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:-

Aurangzeb Road

New Delhi

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.



Offers Vandematram.

(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.

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