PROF SHAMSUL ISLAM | Caravan Daily
23RD March 2019 is the 88th anniversary of the martyrdom of three great revolutionaries, Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev, who were hanged at Lahore for working to overthrow the British rule in India. The British government like any other colonial power thought that with the physical elimination of these freedom fighters their ideas and dreams of a secular and egalitarian independent India would also dissipate. The rulers were patently wrong as these revolutionaries and heir ideals continued to be an integral part of the people’s collective memory even today.
However, on this anniversary of the martyrdom of these 3 great young men we should not overlook the fact, that though these were the British, who hanged them but there were organizations like the Hindu Mahasabha, the RSS and the Muslim League in pre-1947 India which not only remained alien to the ideals of these revolutionaries but also maintained a criminal silence on their hanging. Out of these the ideologues and the first two bosses of the RSS, KB Hedgewar (1889-1940) and MS Golwalkar (1906-1973) who were alive at the time of the martyrdom showed open hostility towards the cause and spirit of the martyrdom of these freedom fighters.
Shamelessly, RSS which consciously kept aloof completely from the anti-colonial struggle, lately, has been churning out literature to claim that it had linkages with these revolutionaries. During the NDA regime (1999-2004) when its two senior Swyamsewaks, Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Lal Krishan Advani ruled the country, it made the astonishing claim that Keshav Baliram Hedgewar, founder of the RSS met Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev in 1925 and continued attending meetings with these revolutionaries and even provided shelter to Rajguru in 1927 when he was underground after killing Sanders. First time in the history of independent India the Hindi organ of the RSS, Panchjanya published a special issue on Bhagat Singh.
We need to compare these claims of the RSS with its own contemporary documents. Madhukar Dattatreya Deoras, known as Balasahab Deoras, the third chief of the RSS, narrated an incident when Hedgewar saved him and others from following the path of Bhagat Singh and his comrades. Interestingly this appeared in a publication of the RSS itself:
“While studying in college (we) youth were generally attracted towards the ideals of revolutionaries like Bhagat Singh. Emulating Bhagat Singh we should do some or other act of bravery, this came to our mind often. We were less attracted towards Sangh (RSS) since current politics, revolution etc. that attracted the hearts of youth were generally less discussed in the Sangh. When Bhagat Singh and his companions were awarded death sentence, at that time our hearts were so excited that some friends together [we] vowed to do something directly and planned something terrible and in order to make it succeed decided to run away from homes. But to run away without informing our Doctorji [Hedgewar] will not be proper, considering it we decided to inform Doctorji about our decision. To inform this fact to Doctorji was assigned to me by the group of friends.
“We together went to Doctorji and with great courage, I explained my feelings before him. After listening to our plan Doctorji took a meeting of ours for discarding this foolish plan and making us realize the superiority of the work of Sangh. This meeting continued for seven days and in the night from ten to three. The brilliant ideas of Doctorji and his valuable leadership brought fundamental change in our ideas and ideals of life. Since that day we took leave of mindlessly made plans and our lives got new direction and our mind got stabilized in the work of Sangh.”(i)
Moreover, there is ample proof available in the documents of the RSS that establish that the RSS denounced movements led by revolutionaries like Bhagat Singh, Chandrashekar Azad, and their associates. Here is a passage from Bunch of Thoughts [collection of speeches and writings of Golwalkar treated as a holy book by the RSS cadres] decrying the whole tradition of martyrs:
“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.” (ii)
Golwalkar goes on to tell the RSS cadres that only those people should be adored who have been successful in their lives.
“It is obvious that those who were failures in life must have had some serious drawback in them. How can one, who is defeated, give light and lead others to success?” (iii)
So according to Golwalkar’s philosophy of life since Bhagat Singh and his companions did not succeed in achieving their goal they did not deserve any respect. According to his formula the British rulers would be the natural object of worship as they were able to kill revolutionaries like Bhagat Singh. It is difficult to find a statement more insulting and denigrating to the martyrs of the Indian Freedom Movement than this. It will be shocking for any Indian who loves and respects the martyrs of the Freedom Movement to know what Dr. Hedgewar and the RSS felt about the revolutionaries fighting against the British. According to his biography published by the RSS,
“Patriotism is not only going to prison. It is not correct to be carried away by such superficial patriotism. He used to urge that while remaining prepared to die for the country when the time came, it is very necessary to have a desire to live while organizing for the freedom of the country.” (iv)
Even the word shameful is not appropriate to describe the attitude of the RSS leadership towards those who had sacrificed everything in the struggle against the British rulers. The last Mughal ruler of India, Bahadurshah Zafar, had emerged as the rallying point and symbol of the Great War of Independence of 1857. Golwalkar while making fun of him said:
“In 1857, the so-called last emperor of India had given the clarion call— Ghazio mein bu rahegi jub talak eeman ki/Takhte London tak chalegi tegh Hindustan ki (As long as there remains the least trace of love of faith in the hearts of our heroes, so long, the sword of Hindustan will reach the throne of London.) But ultimately what happened? Everybody knows that.” (v)
What Golwalkar thought of the people sacrificing their lot for the country is obvious from the following statement as well. He had the temerity to ask the great revolutionaries who wished to lay down their lives for the freedom of the motherland the following question as if he was representing the British masters:
“But one should think whether complete national interest is accomplished by that? Sacrifice does not lead to an increase in the thinking of the society of giving all for the interest of the nation. It is borne by the experience up to now that this fire in the heart is unbearable to the common people.” (vi)
Perhaps this was the reason that RSS produced no freedom fighter what to talk of a martyr against the colonial rule. Not surprisingly, there is not a single line challenging, exposing, criticizing or confronting the inhuman rule of the British masters in the entire literature of the RSS from 1925 to 1947. It seems it had only one task to accomplish and that was minority-bashing. The RSS literature of the pre-Independent India is totally silent about the British rulers who were then plundering the Indian people and nation. It outlines only one programme, namely, to subjugate the minorities who neither controlled the state nor shared any political or economic power. More than 95 per cent of them were artisans, poor peasants, landless agricultural labour or wage earners.
RSS’ Super Hindu Race seemed to have no antagonism towards the British rulers who in fact were foreigners in the real sense of the term and who had given only misery, hunger, poverty, and death to multitudes of Indians, the vast majority of whom were Hindus. The democratic-secular India must challenge this evil appropriation of its heroes by the Hindutva gang. We should not allow this communal gang to kill Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev once again who lived and died for a democratic-secular India which RSS abhors and decried all attempts to establish Hindu state in India unequivocally.
i. H.V. Pingle (ed.), Smritikan-Param Pujiye Dr. Hedgewar Ke Jeewan Kee Vibhin Gahtnaon Ka Sankalan, (In Hindi a collection of memoirs of persons close to Hedgewar), RSS Prakashan Vibhag, Nagpur, 1962, pp. 47-48.
ii. M.S. Golwalkar, Bunch of Thoughts, Sahitya Sindhu, Bangalore, 1996, p. 283.
iii. Ibid, p. 282.
iv. C. P. Bhishikar, Sangh-Viraksh ke Beej: Dr. Keshavvrao Hedgewar, Suruch Prakashan, Delhi, 1994. p. 21.
v. M.S. Golwalkar, Shri Guruji Samagr Darshan, (Collected works of Golwalkar in Hindi) Vol. 1, Bhartiya Vichar Sadhna, Nagpur, 1981, p. 121.
vi. Ibid, pp. 61-62.
(Shamsul Islam is a retired Professor of University of Delhi. The views are personal and Caravan does not necessarily share or subscribe to them.)