Hindu Vivek Kendra
"Manu, Sangh and I"

Chapter II

I spent fourteen months in Thane (a district place near Mumbai) jail. This period proved to be momentous in my life.

Dr Balasaheb Ghatate, then Prant Sanghchalak (Divisional Chief) of Nagpur and I were in the same ward. Dr Hedgewar had breathed his last in Dr Ghatate's bungalow. His company and conversation both were a source of great inspiration for me. The chief of Nagpur Prant karyalaya (office), Pandurang Kshirsagar was also with us. He died later in the Thane Prison. A great number of Sangha workers from Vidarbha (Eastern part of Maharashtra) were brought to the Thane Prison.

A large group of socialists was with us. Datta Tamhane, an eminent Socialist leader, too was among them. We came to know there the political orientation of socialists. Rancour about the Sangh was ingrained in their system. If anti-Sanghism is taken away the ground will slip from under their feet. Their rancour and hatred were noticeable even in ordinary events.

We all had come to the prison as the workers of the Janasangharsha Samiti. We had to fight together against the Emergency. Efforts were made to organise some joint programmes. Since the number of swayamsevakas in the prison was very large, we used to be in a stronger position. Once before a programme commenced, a song was to be chorused as per the routine in the Sangh. I was the singer. As I got up for the purpose, some socialists rose to take objection to the song and insisted that singing should have no place in the programme. The programme took place without a song. The socialists staged their protest as if they had rehearsed it in advance.

Every ward in the prison was equipped with a separate kitchen. We all used to have our meals together. We used to say the vedic prayer, Saha nau Bhunaktu, before we started eating. However, the socialists would start eating from the moment the salt was served on the plate. Perhaps they felt desecrated by the utterance of "saha nau bhunaktu"(meaning "we shall eat together"-part of a stanza regularly cited in RSS before meals). Such small incidents were frequently repeated and inevitably produced tensions between the two groups. Pandurang Kshirsagar, the Manager of RSS HQs and Confidant of Shri Guruji, Balasaheb Ghatate, Prant Sanghchalak (Director) of RSS, Datta Tamhane and Ravindra Verma tried their best to maintain amity, and promote a spirit of mutual understanding. Soon the joint programmes were discontinued, and the socialists and Sangh workers organised their respective programmes separately. The reason why the socialists broke up the Janata Party could have been found in the Thane Prison, (a famous prison in a Mumbai suburb - Thane) even before the Party came into existence.

Why socialists bear such excessive hatred for the Sangh can be the subject of an indepth study. At the philosophical level, the socialist is a humanist, respects all religions, and wants to conquer the world with love. However, for then Sangh is a fascist organisation, and they desperately want to finish off the Sangh. Why this contradiction in their attitude to the Sangh?

On my own, I have tried to find an explanation for this. Socialists in Maharashtra have great respect for Sane Guruji, a socialist leader and literateur. There is a whole generation which has grown on the teachings of Sane Guruji. His literature, life, and philosophy have made a tremendous impact on socialists. However, Sane Guruji did not have good things to say about the Sangh. 

"The Sangh does not admit Muslims in its fold. Therefore it is anti-Muslim."

"Since the Sangh works only for Hindus, it is a communal organisation."

"The Sangh was a party to Mahatma Gandhi's assassination."

"The Sangh has fascist tendencies".

"The Sangh wants to capture power by resorting to intrigues and conspiracies."

"The Sangh is anti-democratic and anti-socialist."

"The Sangh does not believe in individual liberty."

"The Sangh teaches hatred to children".

"The Sangh projects a distorted version of Hinduism before the people."

These views of Sane Guruji are frequently found in his books. As examples, I reproduce here some paragraphs from his book, "Kartavyachi Hank" (Call of Duty). Sane Guruji edited and published an evening paper of that name from Bombay. The paragraphs appear in the political section of the book.

"Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh is now functioning for over 25 years. The Sangh have never participated in politics. People therefore felt secure to join the Sangh. People in government service used to send their children to the Sangh only. Middle class white-collar people harbour distorted and perverse ideas about culture, and they cherish artificial pride about them. Hitler used to say 'We Germans are the greatest people in the world and therefore we alone are fit to rule the world'. The same is true of the RSS. Their main emphasis is on spreading rancour. All Muslims are bad, they say. They keep lists of misdeeds of Muslims and use it for their hateful propaganda. Organisations based on hatred and rancour grow very fast. They appeal to the beastliness in man. They ferociously seek to swallow and destroy other people. German Nazis nursed boundless hatred for the Czech people. 'Hang the Czechs. We don't want the Czechs,' they said. Thus extreme hatred was spread about whosoever are unwanted, whosoever is to be destroyed. Man still loves hatred and rancour.

"During the last 25-26 years, hate for Muslims as well as aloofness from politics earned for the Sangh the favours of the British. Government servants therefore not only felt secure in sending their sons in the Sangh but also could make a show of their pride in culture and religion. Those were the reasons why the Sangh grew up.

"Parents encouraged their kids to join the Sangh. Go to the Samiti (Rashtra Sevika Samiti, an organization of women on the lines of Sangh), go to the Sangh, they said. They hardly had any idea of the objectives which the Sangh had kept before itself. What would the people in villages know? They only had an idea that it has something to do with religion, there is the traditional saffron flag, there are physical exercises and Bajrang Bali ki jay (Vive Le Bajarang i.e. Lord Maruti). So why not the boys go there? That's how the parents thought.

"Sangh officers also used to say that the Sangh kept aloof from political activities. But eventually it came to the notice that they were trying to seize power by military type conspiracies and cabals. Our governments were blind. The warning signals given by socialists and Sevadals were ridiculed. Then came the martyrdom of the Mahatma. In great atonement for that martyrdom, the entire South Maharashtra today is subjected to small and big acts of atonement. I am sipping here my sweet lime juice. "Mothers, sisters and kids, you are atoning for the sins committed by our other brethren in the past. This is a rule of history that such sins have to be atoned for. It is our good fortune that such an ordeal is ordained for us. Go through that ordeal and give back to Maharashtra its stainless glory".

Sane Guruji's thoughts have made a deep impact on the socialists. Sane Guruji's literature produces confused impressions on mind. His love for India, compassion for fellow beings, steadfast attachment to principles, devotion to Gandhiji are attractive, magnetic features. However his opposition to the Congress, his dislike for a few Congress leaders, his hostility to communists despite his being a socialist and to add to these, his extreme opposition to protagonists of Hindutva,(a Sanskrit word coined for Hinduness which has acquired wide socio-political significance and identified with Hindu movements particularly RSS) are contradictions in his thinking which I have not been able to comprehend. The followers of Sane Guruji later joined the congress or worked with Communists but Guruji's dislike for the Hindutva protagonists never ebbed.

Sane Guruji has written a beautiful lyric "There is only one genuine religion". Whenever I hear the recital of this poem, I feel Sane Guruji is standing before me. This bitter opponent of the Sangh, this man who harboured endless animosity against the Sangh, had set out to preach universal love to mankind. Unfortunately, however, Sangh Swayamsevaks had no place whatever in his world.

Despite Sane Guruji's intense rancour against the Sangh, the Sangh never taught its Swayamsevaks to bear any malice towards him. I was astonished when I come to know that the poem, "Balasagar Bharat Howo, Vishwant Shobhooni Raho" (Let India be an ocean of strength and be an ornament to the world) which I had committed to memory was composed by Sane Guruji. Vasantrao Kelkar himself once had advised me to go through Sane Guruji's book "Bharatiya Sanskriti" (Indian culture). Accordingly, I read that book.

Guruji Golwalkar never liked Swayamsevaks talking ill of Pandit Nehru (famous congress leader and first Prime Minister of India) and if they did so, he used to get angry with them. The comparison of the attitudes of the two Gurujis is inevitable. Sane Guruji's fascist reaction to the Sangh has passed away with him. We should only remember his literary contributions which will continue to be read for a long time.

Since there was little else to do, I had a lot of time on hand in the prison, which I utilised to expand my reading. I had read books about the French, the American, and the Russian Revolutions, in college. Now I started reading books about them afresh gave a close look to these historic events. I was also curious to know how they affected the thinking in India. I even encouraged myself to give speeches on these subjects in the jail. I was accustomed to telling stories in the Shakha. That experience stood me in good stead in delivering lectures. Soon I became well-versed in taking notes on a given subject and arranging my thoughts systematically. Elderly people were in plenty to give a pat on the back which strengthened my confidence and enthusiasm. It was not long before I began to be counted as an intellectual in the jail.

In the prison, I began my reading with a biography of Dr.Babasaheb Ambedkar. Till then, I had never felt drawn to this remarkable leader. Why would a blueblooded Hindutva protagonist feel any interest in Dr.Babasaheb Ambedkar, who had renounced his Hindu religion? Dhananjay Kheer's biography of Dr.Ambedkar, however, shook me to the core. It was the life story of Dr. Ambedkar which acquainted me with the Hindu society for whose integration I was working. The book awakened the thinker in me in the true sense of the word. I never before had a deep insight into the affairs of the Hindu Society. I was made conscious of this deficiency by the biography of Dr.Ambedkar.

I came to realise the frightful dimensions of untouchability in Dr. Ambedkar's life. I grew up in a slum. The struggle for mere survival there renders considerations like caste totally superfluous. I had a friend named Shankar Bhagwan Pawale. Pawale means 'blessed with his presence'. The complete name meant in Marathi "Lord Shankar blessed with his presence". My friend Shankar was a Mahar. We used to go to his house and many a time would eat there. We were never flogged for it, nor taunted or teased, let alone excommunicated from our caste.

I spent my public life in the Sangh. Where caste or untouchability are totally irrelevant. 'What is a Swayamsevak's Caste' is a meaningless question in the Sangh. Working together for several years Swayamsevaks hardly knew about each other's caste. 

Disunity or lack of integration in the Hindu society is projected as a major weakness by the Sangh. This weakness was responsible for the domination of this country first by Muslims and then by the British. Our glory and affluence faded and poverty set in. Our compatriots were converted to other religions. That is why there is a great need for unity and cohesive organisation in the Hindu Society. Unity means strength. Strength helps us to win freedom and defend it after it is won. We can recapture the lost splendour. That is how the Sangh puts it.

Dr. Ambedkar's biography illumined me about the Hindu Society. Why Hindu Society became disorganised and fragmented into castes? What is the magnitude of the terrible loss inflicted on society by untouchability? How caste pride came in the way of resplendent nationalism? How are caste divisions conceptualized? How is that provisions were made in the Dharmashastra itself to safeguard the interests of the higher castes? It is difficult to get answers to these questions without reading Dr. Ambedkar's biography. 

"Is untouchability still prevalent in our villages?" That was the question I put to Dr. Balasaheb Dixit, a Sangh Pracharak in Marathwada who was with us in the jail, after reading Dr. Ambedkar's life. He explained to me how untouchability still prevailed in our rural areas, how meticulously it is observed there, how even separate tea cups are kept in restaurants and so on. I asked him, then what was the Sangh doing for untouchables. Did we make special efforts to bring them to the Shakhas? Does the Sangh do anything to change the society's attitude to them? We were really not doing anything to eradicate this social evil.

The reading of Dr. Ambedkar's biography made me restless on one more account. By the time I went to the prison, I had become a leading worker (Karyakarta) of the Sangh. I was the Karyawah of a big division. If a leading worker like me was not aware of Dr. Ambedkar's mission, what about the average Swayamsevak? This was a disquieting thought. The disquiet did not arise from not understanding the problem. But from the fact that the problem had not been referred to at all. When there are no problems, there is obviously no need to seek answers to them. Absence of problems creates complacence. Dr. Ambedkar's life inspired me to think about various social problems.

The biography also made me realise the significance of Manusmriti. I began to grasp the meaning of such words Chaturvarnya, inequality, social equality, social justice, and Brahminism. I could also sense the inseparable link between Hindu Society and Manusmriti. Similarly, the historical context of Brahminism began to dawn on me. I could not read the entire work of Dr. Ambedkar while in prison. I completed the task after I came out of jail. Only then could I understand the contextual meaning of these words.

I have a habit of comparing every biography I read with the life of Dr. Hedgewar, founder and first Sarsanghchalak of RSS. Dr. Hedgewar's life is the ultimate source of inspiration for the Sangh followers. Needless to say, the same is true for me also. I continually think of his life and mission. In the words of the great saint of Maharashtra, Tukaram - "You keep me company wherever I go and you guide me along the path holding my hand in yours".

Dr. Ambedkar's biography gave me deep insight in to the meaning of Dr. Hedgewar's life what he stood for. The lives of Dr. Ambedkar and Dr. Hedgewar reflect an important stage in the process of Hindu social renaissance. They reveal how destiny shapes history. Dr. Hedgewar founded the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh in 1925, with the primary objective of organising and unifying the Hindu Society. The most important episode in Dr. Ambedkar's public life was the Satyagrah at the 'Chawdar' lake at Mahad (a place in West Maharashtra where he had offered a Satyagraha against untouchability) in 1927. It was there that he first announced the manifesto of the birthright of every Hindu. Dr. Hedgewar opted to reawaken Hindus to their duty towards their society. Dr. Ambedkar aimed at reawakening Hindus to their birthright.

The objective of both these great men was identical - that of creating a healthy, flawless, egalitarian and integrated Hindu Society. Their ways were different. Dr. Hedgewar opted for the traditional road for the transformation of the society. Our work is ancient and time honoured. I have really nothing new to say. We should take pride in our traditions, our history and our culture," Dr. Hedgewar insisted. However, programmes that he initiated in the Sangh had a touch of novelty.

To live in unity is not in the nature of Hindus. Nor is it their tradition. The Hindu is born in a caste, lives in the caste and finally dies in the caste. The precondition of unification of the Hindu society is to "decaste" the minds of the Hindus, and eliminate caste from their mental make-up. The Hindus total thinking in respect of need caste needs reorientation. Dr. Hedgewar initiated that process. The uniform of the Sangh Swayamsevaks, their band, drill in the Shakhas, were entirely modern devices, not traceable to the Indian tradition. It was Dr. Hedgewar who introduced them in the Sangh.

Dr. Hedgewar never discussed or denounced religion in public. He never brought into the Sangh religious rituals based on inequality. Nor did he ever claim that the Sangh's objective is to revive the religion based on Chaturvarnyashram. He never brought such ideology to the Sangh. I have also not found in his writings any reference to the Manusmriti. "We are all brothers. We have to build up an integrated and united society. We have to become strong", he used to say, and he shaped the organisation of the Sangh accordingly. I had not realised the real meaning and essence of Dr. Hedgewar's mantra of Hindu unification till I read Dr. Ambedkar's biography. 

Dr. Ambedkar too, wanted a Hindu society based on one varna. His approach was, however, different. His thoughts are woven round the concept of the free individual, with an autonomous existence and the right to self-development, along with a constitutional guarantee and protection of the individual's rights. Dr. Ambedkar subjected the Hindu religion to the most stringent scrutiny. He ruthlessly analysed the Hindu scriptures. He unfurled a flag of revolt against the philosophy of inequity which sought to concentrate all power and privileges in coteries of a minuscule section of the society and to impose misery, injustice, poverty and denial of basic rights upon the teeming majority. Dr. Ambedkar's was an ideological revolt of tremendous social dimensions.

Dr. Hedgewar "activised" the Hindu, sought to make him action-oriented. Dr. Ambedkar sought to stimulate and expand his critical faculties. He taught him to think and articulate his thoughts ably. These are only my contentions. I do not expect everybody to subscribe to them. Some people may counter me with the question "How do you say Dr. Hedgewar did not teach us to think?" Others may ask "Has Dr. Ambedkar done nothing to activise the Hindu?"

While my mind was caught up in the fascinating complexities about the numerous social issues and contradictions, it was also ruminating over the problems of the Sangh. Why did the discourses (bouddhikas) in the Sangh did not take cognizance of the thoughts and deeds of Mahatma Phule and Dr. Ambedkar? Why do we not embellish our discussions with examples from their statements? Why do we not acquaint the Swayamsevaks with their life and mission? Why do we turn a blind eye on them? In jail, these questions remained confined to me. Although I was not senior in age, I was a senior officer of the Sangh, and wielded important responsibilities. It would not have been proper for me to openly raise these questions. As a senior officer, I was expected to find the right answers on my own.

The Sangh has its own particular style of thinking and operating. The Sangh means 'us'. No Sangh member can think critically about the Sangh by disassociating himself from it. While no individual is held responsible for any deficiency in the work of the Sangh, any one who perceives a deficiency or flaw is expected to make efforts to remove it.

Although I felt that the questions in my mind were confined to me, I found that many other workers too, were seized with similar doubts. Sukhadev Navale and Bhiku Idate were conspicuous among them. Before going to prison I had not come into close contact with them. The jail brought us close. Afterwards, the deficiency in the Sangh Organisation was removed, but that was yet to come.

Before going to prison, I had become familiar with such assertions as 'the Sangh belongs to Brahmins', 'The Sangh is against social equality, it champions the Chaturvarnya' etc. But I had never realised the intensity and the venom of there comments. I came to comprehend them through discussions with socialists and their writings.

Brahmin-non-Brahmin difference form one of the darkest chapters in the history of Maharashtra. The controversy has a long historical background. At the time of Shivaji's coronation, contemporary Brahmins in Maharashtra raised an objection to Shivaji being anointed on the basis that Shivaji Maharaj was a shudra. This prompted the Chhatrapati to call Gagabhatta from Kashi to preside over the religious ceremonies of the coronation. Brahmins also plotted against Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj and later Chhatrapatis became only titular heads, and the Peshwas became the real masters. The Peshwas were brahmins. Brahmins were spiritual gurus. Now they also became political supremos. In the later period of the Peshwas, Brahmins misused their power. It was Mahatma Phule who first raised a revolt against this misuse.

Mahatma Phule's writings against Brahmins are full of venom. Brahmins came from outside the country, they subjected the shudras and atishudras to abject slavery, Brahmins are crooks and deceitful, they ruthlessly exploited the shudras and atishudras by fabricating fraudulent religious scriptures. These are the arguments against Brahmins which we come across in Mahatma Phule's writings. Mahatma Phule was a great man who was a seeker of truth, a rationalist, an extremely critical analyst of religious scriptures, champion of equalities, firm believer in true religion, and an ardent advocate of brotherhood. He did not want to create mutual hatred among castes. He yearned to see that even the lowest man in the Hindu society stood with an erect spine and lived with self-respect.

It was a grave misfortune for Maharashtra that his followers relegated to the background the Mahatma's philosophy of Sarvajanik Satyadharma (true religion of the society), and promoted hatred of Brahmins in its stead. To call these people his followers is an affront to Mahatma Phule. His noble philosophy was exploited for Brahmin-baiting to justify and sustain the Brahmin-non-Brahmin controversy, and to promote the politics of caste hatred.

Followers of the socialist thought were at the forefront in promoting policies of caste hatred. Generally speaking, the Hindutva politics started gathering strength from the time of Tilak, a great Congress leader and whom the British used to call as "The father of Indian unrest". Gandhiji, too, organised his politics according to the tents of Hindutva. But his constant appeasement of Muslims was inimical to the followers of Hindutva. His constant courting of Muslims earned him the epithet "secularist". Lokmanya Tilak who had never indulged in appeasement of Muslims at the cost of national interest, was stigmatized as "communalist". On top of it all, Tilak was a Brahmin, not an ordinary one, but a Chitpavan of the caste of the Peshwas (Peshwa was a post of the Prime Minister in the Cabinet of Maratha Kings, which was always given to a Brahmin). Even today socialists and other continue to hark on these points for their attacks on Tilak.

Tilak was on the side of orthodox Brahmins in the famous 'Vedokta'(quoted in Vedas) affair. He had accepted the religious verdict that Shahu Maharaj (King) of Kolhapur did not have the right of "Vedokta" (recital of vedic mantras). The Lokmanya was not willing to ignore the scriptural prescription that the shudras had no right to the Vedas. Shivaji Maharaj was a shudra and therefore, had no right to the Vedas. A shudra cannot be anointed a king. After 300 years, the same situation had cropped up, albeit in a different context. A Sthitapradnya, learned national leader like Lokmanya Tilak did not view the problem in the light of the changed perspective of the times. A lapse committed by a common man remains limited to him, but the lapse committed by a great leader results in unpleasant consequences for the entire society. Generation after generation is affected by him and by miseries wrought by him.

Dr Hedgewar had tremendous respect for the Lokmanya. He had great faith in his leadership. Whatever politics he pursued he did so as the Lokmanya's disciple. But when he started the Sangh, he rejected Tilak's social thought lock, stock and barrel. He gave recognition to the Chhaatra Jagadguru Shankaracharya, one of the Chief Priests of Four Hindu Monasteries established by first Shankarcharya and with whom he was closely associated at the Hindu Unity Conference. Dr Hedgewar declined to accept the rule that the shudras had no right to the Vedas. Today, we see Dr Hedgewar's followers teaching Sanskrit to the shudras (lowest caste in Hindus as laid down in Manusmriti) and atishudras (atishudras - still lower caste). They also offer them lessons in recitals of the vedas. They convey to the society through their conduct that all Hindus irrespective of caste have a right to the chanting of the Vedic hymns.

I was now getting well acquainted with the genesis of the Brahmin-non-Brahmin controversy. I also came to grips with the thinking of the people who called themselves socialists. The people who believed in the philosophy of socialism and drew inspiration from it also called themselves progressives. They claim to be leftist thinkers. It is said that progressives are humanists who do not think in terms of casteism and communalism, and materialists, who lay emphasis on mundane things, and rationalists who regard religion as a private and personal affair, and hold the view that all religions are equal.

As per the reasoning of socialists, all Hindutva protagonists are communalists, harbouring fascist tendencies. According to the socialists, they have medieval mentalities, seek to provoke religious hysteria, believe in violence, and therefore are the enemies of the society and mankind. Moreover, they charge that Brahmins are in the majority and occupy all senior positions in the Sangh. To them, Brahminism is horrendous! As Brahmins are against equality, and they dominate the Sangh, it follows that the Sangh too, believes in inequality. Also, Brahmins seek to perpetuate their elitist position and since they are in the Sangh, the Sangh is communalist, against the interests of the shudras and atishudras, and seeks to keep them in serfdom. This leftist logic can effectively dazzle dunces and dunderheads.

The leftists are dexterously using the names of Mahatma Phule and Dr. Ambedkar to prop up their perverse logic. Whether it is Mahatma Phule or Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar, both have ferociously attacked Brahminism. I started becoming aware that leftists were exploiting the names of these two great men to malign Hindutva and to bring about disintegration of the Hindu society. As I became more and more familiar with the writings of Phule and Ambedkar, I was convinced that the progressives have confined these two towering personalities in the progressive prison. Socialists have distorted their teachings and view points to use them as ammunition against the Sangh. We in the Sangh have not reacted to this calumny at all. We have been tolerating all their antics passively.

The socialists and leftists did another clever thing as part of their policy to malign the Sangh. They foisted Manu on the Sangh. They exhumed his ghost and released it on the Sangh. The Manusmriti is one of the religious books of the Hindus and an important one too. I read the Manusmriti for the first time in the Thane jail. I was shocked and stunned at the social thought of the Manusmriti. The special rights and privileges Manu confered on Brahmins, and his denial of rights to women and shudras, made painful reading. It was after reading the Manusmriti that I came to realise why Dr. Ambedkar burnt it in the Mahad satyagraha. Manu strengthened the differences in our society and prescribed social and economic enslavement for millions of people. And he destroyed the drive, initiative and creativity of the common man. On top of everything, he gave religious sanction to social injustice. That was too bad.

Anybody who wants to bring about social renaissance in the Hindu society will not accept the social discourse in the Manusmriti. When Dr. Ambedkar burnt the Manusmriti in 1927, he must have been prompted to do so by these or similar thoughts.

I remember an incident concerning the Manusmriti which occurred in the prison. Bhimsen Rane was with me in the jail. We read the Manusmriti together. The memories of the controversies created by Shri Guruji's interview in 'Nawakal' were still fresh. Some people had burnt copies of the Manusmriti while reacting to the interview.

Bhimsen Rane had prepared a speech on the Manusmriti explaining that many of the thoughts in the Manusmriti were commendable. He wanted to say in his speech that Manusmriti does not lay stress on social inequality. Every day in' the prison, speech programmes were held in the evening. A pracharak from Vidarbha, eastern part of Maharashtra, Rambhau Bondale, RSS Pracharak for a very long time, was in charge of these programmes. He read Bhimsen Rane's speech and told him, "You can not deliver a speech on the Manusmriti from the platform of the Sangh." His refusal to allow the speech incensed Bhimsen Rane. He argued a lot but Rambhau remained firm in his decision.

As a matter of fact, the Sangh was under a ban during those days, and therefore, the Sangh platform simply did not exist. Still, a Sangh Pracharak declared in no uncertain terms, 'No Manusmriti from the Sangh platform.'

It is an indisputable fact that the Manusmriti is never referred to in the Sangh. As mentioned earlier, I have been a shishu swayamsevak and completed my training in the Sangh. In the Sangh parlance, I am a third year trained swayamsevak. I heard hundreds of Bouddhikas (lectures) before I went to the jail. I heard Bouddhikas from frontline Sangh leaders like Shri Guruji Golwalkar, Madhavraoji Muley, Bhayyaji Dani, All India Karvah of RSS, Babasaheb Apte, a close associate of Dr Hedgewar who dedicated his life to RSS work and Eknathji Ranade, then Sarkaryavah of RSS who successfully created the Vivekanand Rock Memorial at Kanya Kumari. None of them ever said in any of their lectures that the Manusmriti is "the" religious book and we have to organise the Hindu society on the basis of this book.

The Bouddhika sessions of the Sangh are held in a specific style. The essence of the discourses is "This is our Hindu society. It is very ancient. There are numerous differences and divisions which make the Hindu society disunited. Disunity has made it weak. Because of this weakness, it became a victim of foreign aggression, not only political but also, cultural and economic. The Hindu society should be made strong and affluent. Every Hindu should dutifully contribute his energies and time towards this end. Self centredness and thinking only about selfish ends should be kept out." Every speaker put this message across in his speech in the light of his own reading, thinking and experiences.

Besides, Bouddhikas are continuously held on the methodology of work, and organising programmes to promote efficiency in the Sangh activities. Nearly 80 per cent of the Sangh energy is spent on moulding efficient workers. Therefore there is hardly any time left to think about the Manusmriti.

Every swayamsevak has to take an oath in respect of the work of the Sangh. This oath is: 

"I swear by Almighty God and by my forefathers that I will defend the Hindu religion, the Hindu culture and the Hindu society. I am joining the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh towards this end and with the objective of strengthening the Hindu nation. I will do the work of the Sangh sincerely, devotedly and with selfless dedication, of body, mind and wealth. I will continue to do so throughout my life. Bharat Mata ki jai! (Viva la Mother India)

This oath nowhere says that I am becoming a swayamsevak to produce a social structure as expounded by Manu. The text of the oath nowhere contains any reference to Manu.

The Sangh has a printed constitution. The objectives of the Sangh are clearly indicated in this constitution. The objectives four stated in the preamble are:

In the present state of disintegration - 

a) To remove the differences and divisions wrought among Hindus by sects, viewpoints and movements and to eliminate the divisive forces which are produced by economic, linguistic and regional diversity.

b) To remind them (the Hindus) of their splendid and glorious past.

c) To promote among Hindus a spirit of service, sacrifice and selfless devotion.

d) In this way, to promote a spirit of commitment to a well organised and well governed social life.

e) A need was felt for an organisation to work for the total uplift and prosperity of the Hindu society and accordingly, Dr Keshav Baliram Hedgewar founded the illustrious, well-known organisation called the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh on the auspicious day of Vijayadashami (tenth day of month Ashwin according to Hindu Calendar and considered to be a great festival)in 1925.

Article (3) The objective of the Sangh is to eliminate the differences in class from the Hindu society and to strengthen it on the basis of its culture and religion and to bring about its rejuvenation so that the Hindu society may be able to achieve all round prosperity of Bharat.

In short, Manu has no place whatever in the structure, the oath or the constitution of the Sangh. It is therefore most surprising that the Sangh is called 'Manuist'. We don't see Manu, i.e. social inequality, anywhere in the Sangh. Whatever glimpses of Manu we get, are outside the Sangh. When we step into the social life outside the Sangh, we are reminded of our caste at every moment.

In 1995, I have completed 42 years in the Sangh. During this long period of my Sangh life, nobody in the Sangh has ever asked me about my caste. I have, however, met any number of socialists and Congressmen who inquired about my caste. Once in 1978 or 1979, I had been to Gargoti to attend a Sangh programme. Since the programme was to take place in the evening, the daytime was spent for meeting some local people. Among them was a prominent Congressman. When the Sangh workers took me to his place, his darbar was already crowded. The swayamsevaks introduced me to him. "He is Ramesh Patange, a prominent Sangh worker in Bombay". Then we all joined his Darbar (Court).

I do not remember the name of this Congressman, but I vividly remember his comments. He said "Our society is stricken with the terrible disease of communalism and casteism. We all should forget our castes. We should change our surnames too. Mr Patange, are you a Bhavsar Shimpi or Namdeo Shimpi (another caste in tailor community - Shimpi = Tailor)?"

I replied, "I am a Bhavsar Shimpi."

Thereupon he said, "Pawar, who is seated here, is a Maratha, (A powerful caste considered next only to Brahmins), Patankar is a Brahmin, Kamble is a Matang (a caste of executioners). All of them should change their surnames to Bharatiya".

He talked about many other things, but my attention had flagged. I was thinking about only one thing. How could this gentleman know a person's caste from his surname? The question lingered in my mind for quite a few months. Later, I got myself acquainted with this charade of connecting castes and surnames. However, ironically, I had my first lesson of this technique from a 'progressive'.

I was extremely annoyed over the fact that the progressives who think of society in terms of castes describe the Sangh as "Manuist". It was the height of hypocrisy to deny Hindutva to Hindus, encourage caste egos, and let loose harangues on social equality all in the same breath. I used to feel that a revolt should be staged against such crooked postures. But in the Sangh, it was not enough that I alone should feel that way. Other workers too, needed to think in the same way.

The Emergency was over and we were released from prison. But as soon as I came out, I was involved in the Sangh's work again. It was imperative that I earn some money. My two sisters were to be married. Arranging their marriages would require money. My father was beyond all these worries. He was not bothered about his daughters' marriages. If any family responsibility presented itself before him, his stock, reply used to be "You look after it yourself. I have no money". While it is true that he had no money, it is equally true that he lacked the will to raise money. 

Domestic anxieties plagued me while I was engaged heart and soul in the Sangh's work. One day, while I was engrossed in these thoughts, Vimal Kedia asked me, "Why are you looking so worried today?"

"My two sisters are to be married, and even if I decided to minimize the expenditure, I would not be able to raise the requisite money. I am worried."

"Why do you unnecessarily brood over that, my dear friend? Your sisters are my sisters. I will foot the expenses of one of your sisters' marriage."

Vimal Kedia's assurance removed a heavy load from my mind. Younger to me in age, Vimal now had to play the role of the elder brother. But for Vimal Kedia, I would never have attained the position I hold today as the Sangh karyakarta.

Eventually my sisters were married. So was I. All this while, my responsibilities in the Sangh grew. During 1980-81, I became assistant (saha) karyawah of Greater Mumbai. The responsibility of Sangh work in the vast region of the Mumbai devolved on me. I was always busy visiting the various shakhas, meeting with workers, organising festivals, study classes and other countless activities. Mukundrao Panshikar, now the Chief Pracharak of Maharashtra Vibhag, was then the Pracharak of the metropolis. Vasantrao Marathe was its karyawah. The team of our workers was considerably senior to me in age and experience. I carried out my duties as saha karyawah of Mumbai for five years.

Mukundrao Panshikar or Vasantrao Marathe never interfered in my work. Nor did they ever oppose the schemes worked out by me. In a way they gave me a free hand. At the time our team had some talented workers like Sheshadri Chari and Sharad Kulkarni, now BJP State General Secretary of Maharashtra. Sheshadri later became the editor of Organiser and Sharad Kulkarni rose to be the Pradesh Sanghatan Mantri (Divisional Organising Secretary) of the Bharatiya Janata Party.

The regional camp (shibir) of Talajai, a small place close to Pune city, near took place when I was Sahkaryawah. The plan was to organise a camp of 30,000 to 40,000 fully uniformed swayamsevaks. Vigorous preparations were launched for this camp. Swayamsevaks belonging to all castes and socio- economic strata were expected to attend this camp. It was an unprecedented manifestation of Hindu unity. At least I thought so.

The publicity for the camp gained momentum. On my initiative, we organised the publication of "Shibir Varta" (camp news) to ensure that the message of the shibir reached all swayamsevaks. Five or six four-page issues of the journal were issued. All of us wrote small features in it on various aspects such as, preparations for the camp, swayamsevaks who would attend it, the social message of the camp etc. The publication helped generate an enthusiastic response. Five thousand swayamsevaks from Mumbai attended the camp at Talajai.

The expected social impact of the camp was felt at all levels in Maharashtra. The reaction of the socialists and progressives, however, was full of hatred, venom, and sarcasm. N G Goray said, "The swayamsevaks have gathered there in large numbers. What is surprising about it? When water stagnates in a pool, worms are bound to writhe in it."

After seeing a parade of 35,000 swayamsevaks, he said, "Let not the lathis of these 35,000 swayamsevaks fall on the head of dalits". That a senior, elderly, learned socialist leader could react this way, sent my blood boiling. Swayamsevaks like me (in the socialist parlance, a shudra), bit their lips in anger. Only a man with a stagnant, closed mind could speak as N. G. Goray had done.

Nanasaheb Goray carved a permanent place for himself in my mind for one more reason. 1988 was the birth centenary year of Dr Hedgewar. A committee called Hedgewar Birth Centenary Committee was set up in Maharashtra. Dr Shivajirao Bhosale, chancellor of the Marathwada University (now Dr Ambedkar Marathwada University), gladly agreed to be the chairman of the committee. Socialists are adept at creating obstacles in any big programme organised by the Sangh, and naturally, Nanasaheb Goray, was the high priest of socialists in this respect. He opened a front against Shivajirao Bhosale. A meeting of the birth centenary committee was to take place in Pune. Dr Bhide, Vice-Chancellor of the Pune University agreed to chair the meeting. This incensed Nanasaheb Goray. According to him it was not proper for the vice-chancellor to accept the chairmanship of a committee of the Sangh, since the Sangh is wedded to the concept of Hindu Rashtra, which is against the spirit and ideology of our constitution, which is secular and socialist. Since the Sangh work is unconstitutional, those in government positions should not be chairmen of the committees of the Sangh. Prof. Bhide did not come to the meeting. Prof. Navalgundakar, now Pune Zone Sanghchalak, spoke in his place. In his speech, Prof. Shivajirao Bhosale said that Hindutva and nationalism are the two sides of the same coin.

The socialist front started the controversy in Maharashtra. Madhav Gadkari, editor of Loksatta, a Marathi daily wrote a long article supporting Nanasaheb Goray. Hundreds of letters were received by Loksatta in response to this article. Gadkari, who day in and day out gives harangues on freedom of expression, did not publish one single letter from the protesters. Even a letter written by Dr Ashok Modak, Sr RSS leader and ABVP ideologoue, was 'killed.' I call this tendency 'secular Khomenism'. Although socialists are small in number, their nuisance value is great. They started harassing Dr Shivajirao Bhosale and create obstacles in his programmes. Dr Bhosale was fed up. He was in a quandary whether to keep the Vice-Chancellorship or the chairmanship of Dr Hedgewar Birth Centenary Committee. Finally, he renounced his position with the Dr Hedgewar Birth Centenary Committee of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh which was trying to realise the dream of Shivaji and Shahaji Bhosale. Nanasaheb Goray's destructive rancour and hatred won the day. Dr Shivajirao Bhosale's courage deserted him.

When Janata Party government (a party which was combine of 4 main opposition parties largest among being the Jan Sangh) was in power at the centre, there were 93 MPs committed to the Hindu Rashtra (nation). Leaders like L K Advani were holding Cabinet Ministership. Nanasaheb Goray was India's High Commissioner in London as representative of this Cabinet. He was well aware that he became the High Commissioner with the backing of those who were committed to Hindu Rashtra. But he was holding a position of power, and was not prepared to give it up for the sake of principle. I was getting acquainted with this type of shameless hypocrisy in our public life.

I was the executive editor of the weekly 'Vivek' when Nanasaheb Goray died. I had to do the utterly unpleasant task of writing the obituary editorial on him. I had carefully gone through his writings and speeches since 1976-77. Nanasaheb nursed more rancour in his heart for the Sangh than Shishupal, brother of Shri Krishna's wife - Rukmini and his self-proclaimed enemy, did for Shri Krishna (Krishna is considered to be the eighth incaranation of Lord Vishnu and greatly worshipped among Hindus). I am not aware even now of what transformation he has brought about in the society. It was very difficult to write anything positive about him. But as per the professional journalistic norm, I did write in his favour. Obviously, I was not being honest to myself. Compared to mine, the editorial in 'Saamana', a Marathi daily and mouth piece of a political party Shiv Sena, was scathingly forthright. 'No homage to a hypocrite', it said. I still remember the title. I was glad that 'Saamna' did what I did not dare to do.

While I was the Sahakaryawah of the Mumbai Mahanagar (Greater Mumbai), I used to meditate over the social and political situation around me as much as I could. Mumbai has a large number of fishermen. Why were so few in the Sangh? There are large Slums in Mumbai, I myself had grown up in a Slum. How far are the middle-class workers in the Sangh acquainted with the plight of the slum-dwellers? The Sangh means the Shakha (branch), and the Shakha means the programme that was the lesson given to us by Babarao Bhide. What is the social significance of the work of the Sangh? How are we related to the life around us? How are we linked to the life around us? What is being done to change the social environment around us? Why is the number of dalits in the Sangh so negligible? Hundreds of such questions used to crop up in my mind, and I used to place them before my colleagues.

The Sangh holds Diwali classes for imparting primary training to promising workers. In Mumbai, we used to plan these classes very carefully. The classes were conducted in a stereotyped framework with stereotyped programmes. I often felt that the framework and content of the programme deserved change. However, it is difficult to bring about alterations in the routine programmes of the Sangh. It involves persuading colleagues as well as the elderly, devoted and selfless workers to develop all aptitude for change. I placed before them my plea for educating the swayamsevaks, coming for the Diwali primary class, in the social environment instead of involving them only in the physical facets of the Boudhik programmes. My suggestion, and its pros and cons, were discussed at length. What should the revised class be called? Primary or something else? That was a key issue to resolve.

In the Sangh methodology, specific words bear specific meanings and connote specific programmes. Therefore, the stalwarts of the Sangh exercise extreme caution and vigilance in respect of the words they choose and the concepts which go with the words. New experiments are not taboo, but a lot of rope-walking is inescapable when attaching new experiments to old concepts.

The first such class ever was organised in Mumbai in October 1984. The swayamsevaks participating in the class were sent after 4 p.m. to the localities those of the dalits, backward class people and the Slums, all of them hitherto uncontacted by the Sangh. The objective was to convene Sangh Shakhas and build up relations with the people in those localities. At 9.30 p.m. there used to be a programme where the Swayamsevaks used to narrate their experiences. The Swayamsevaks were advised to eat their meals in the localities they visited.

Every thing went smoothly according to the plans. The programmes however had to be stopped because of the assassination of Smt. Indira Gandhi on October 31, 1984. The number of Sangh Shakhas in these areas went up as a consequence of these programmes.

After Emergency was over, the lives and mission of Mahatma Phule and D. Ambedkar began to find a place in the Sangh programmes. Bouddhika classes were held on the life and work of Mahatma Phule, Dr. Ambedkar and Shahu Maharaj. Starting in 1978, I too, started giving talks on these great men. My reading, thinking and study of the subjects 1began to grow. Hitherto I had not given too deep a thought to them, particularly in the context of the Sangh. Now I started doing it, and gradually, it became a habit.

I can give an instance of how limited was the social awareness of the Sangh worker. In 1978, the Maharashtra Assembly passed a resolution approving the change in the name of the Marathwada University. The approval produced sharp and bitter reactions in Marathawada. Dalit localities were set on fire. The issue of the changing the name of the University soon turned into an issue about the very identity of dalits. In those days, I used to read about these reactions in newspapers but they did not produce any specific response. I would not be very wrong if I said that I had not realised the social significance of the issue. The Sangh had also not taken any particular stand on it. When a problem tends to create divisions in society, it is very difficult to take a side. 

Later, I found that many Sangh activists in the Marathawada region wanted to support the change in the university's name. When I too became active in the change-of-name issue from the Samajik Samarasata Manch platform, Damu Anna told me a story. In 1978, Balasaheb Deoras was touring the Maharashtra Province. He had a programme in Sambhaji Nagar. In his discussion of the name issue, he said "I think the change in the name should be endorsed. Those who oppose it are not right in their thinking." Some workers in Marathawada, however, did not think that way. They were of the view that the Sangh should keep away from the controversy, for the time being.

While I was engrossed in the work of the Sangh, my reading, thinking, and the social circumstances and events around me made me introspective. Working as the Sahakaryawah of the Mumbai Metropolis, a thought often came to my mind, "Am I a worker of the Sangh or of the Sangh methodology? Is not my commitment as the Sangh Karyakarta to the entire Hindu society? Or is it limited to the style of work of the Sangh? I did not put this question to anybody because I knew it was not easy to get a reply. I had to find out the answer on my own.

I wrote down my thoughts on a paper and showed it to Mukundrao Panshikar. He told me, "Make copies of this and send them to our workers at the All India level and also to Sahkaryawahs." I followed his advice. A serious note was taken of my suggestions, as I could gather from the dialogue generated at various levels.

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