Hindu Vivek Kendra
"Manu, Sangh and I"

Chapter IV

In 1974, I was in no way connected with any social or literary movement in Maharashtra. I did not think beyond 'The Sangh is Shakha and the Shakha means the programme'. It was difficult for me to fathom the reasons behind the disruption of P. B. Bhave's literary convention. I was not able to comprehend what happened there, what was the social context of the disruption. Why was there so much social and literary opposition to Hindutva? These questions did not so much as occur to me. I first became aware of them only in 1980. By that time, I had read the autobiographical book "Athvaninchya Gandharesha" (fragrant lines of memories) by Gangadhar Gadgil, a famous writer in Marathi, become familiar with P. B. Bhave's writings, and had grown conversant with the socialist ideology or at least I had some inkling of it. I could now understand the bases for the disruption of the 1974 Marathi literary convention. Intellectual and ideological intolerance, rancour and hatred of opponents, blinkered intellect, and phony superiority complex together make up Manuism. Today, I realised that this Manuism is ingrained in progressives. I find it difficult to control my ire against their efforts to suppress P. B. Bhave's right to air his views.

During this period, I was also becoming acquainted with the conceptual framework of the blinkered Outlook, which besieged us to muffle our voices. Leftist thinkers along with the progressives had evolved an ideology, a philosophy of anti-hindutva. Their technique is to draw the inference first, and then search for arguments to prove it. Their hypotheses are:-

-  There cannot be social justice in Hindutva.

-  Hindutva means inequality, the hierarchy or the Chaturvarnya, and vindication of untouchability. In short, Manuism.

-  Hindutva means domination based on Varna, and domination by Brahmins over others.

- Hindutva means reactionary fundamentalism and intolerance.

- Hindutva means fascist mentality

- Hindutva means hating people of other religions, especially Muslims and Christians.

- Hindutva means a theocratic state

- Hindutva means something which is against the Constitution and its social, political and economic ideology.

This list can be easily enlarged. So called scholars have written books on these points. 'Sanghachi Dhongbaji' (The Sangh's Hypocrisy) by Baba Adhav, 'Zoat' (Flashlight) by Raosaheb Kasbe, a leftist thinker and bitter opponent of RSS, 'Khaki Shorts And the Saffron Flag' by Tapan Basu and others are some of the books which come to mind. 

Progressives have also made a grand effort to devalue Hindutva's protagonists. According to them, Lokmanya Tilak was a reactionary political leader, and Veer Savarkar, an eminent freedom fighter, Hindu ideologue and social reformer came next. Guruji Golwalkar of course, was the Chief of the reactionaries who were "gone cases". The true social reformists and thinkers were Agarkar,(a great social reformer in the early part of 20th century), Sane Guruji, Acharya Javdekar, a Congress leader of high repute and an editor of Congress newspaper, Lokmanya, Acharya Narendra Deo, Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia, both eminent socialist leader and Madhu Limaye, also a socialist political leader. Mahatma Phule and Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar were not leftist thinkers. These two great men were social saints in the real sense of the term. Saint would be their most appropriate description as they possessed, and clearly manifested in their lives, all the criteria of sainthood. Their compassion for and identification with their co-religionists, were absolutely authentic. They both lived the immortal commandment put forth by Saint Tukaram, "He alone should be identified with God and treated as a Saint who calls the oppressed and miserable people his own" (Je ka ranjale Ganjale, tyaasi mhanne jo apule; tochi sadhu olakhava, Deva tethechi Janava).

Progressives have conveniently hijacked Phule and Ambedkar. These very people who parodied and pooh-poohed religion, and fomented communal hatred, became spokesmen of Phule and Ambedkar. And why should they have not been? No Hindutva protagonist had felt it necessary to analyse and interpret the teachings of Phule and Ambedkar from the Hindutva point of view before the commencement of the activities of the Samarasata Manch. The people took into account only the vitriolic language of Phule, and the renunciation of Hinduism by Dr. Ambedkar. What was required was to accept these two great visionaries from the Hindutva point of view. If someone were to ask me as to what is the biggest achievement of the Sandesh yatra of the Manch, I would unhesitatingly reply that an emphatic declaration of the acceptance of Phule and Ambedkar by the Hindutva protagonists from the depth of their hearts was the most glittering success and achievement of the yatra.

The celebrations of the birth centenary of Dr. Ambedkar started in Bombay on April 12, 1991. The idea of the programme was mooted in our meeting by Mukundrao Panshikar (Prant Pracharak of the Sangh). This was indicative of the decision that the Sangh alone should organise the programme of the centenary. Rajju Bhaiyya was then the Sarkaryawah. He and Atal Behari Vajpayee were both present at the programme. This mammoth meeting took place at Shivaji Park.

Shantaram Nandgaokar's lyric "Ghe Mantra Nawa" - create a new slogan, was set to tune by the Maestro Sudhir Phadke and he sang it too. More than a lakh of people attended the meeting. The occasion has historic significance in the social history of Maharashtra. The tradition of rejection of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar was buried here. The Hindu society acknowledged its debt to the great man. He was greeted, he was saluted. The day brought immeasurable joy to me, Bhiku Idate, Damuanna Date, and hundreds of other workers were extremely happy. Bhikhu Idate made a beautiful speech at the meeting. I experienced a vision of Dr. Ambedkar performing Satyagraha at the Chawdar Lake of Mahad and in front of the Kalaram Temple (a temple of Lord Rama the idol being black) at Nasik. At that time, there was no power which could articulate the voice of the disorganized Hindu society. Whatever power there was belonged to the orthodox sections of Hindus. In 1991, the thinking power of the Hindu society was finding an outlet through the medium of the Sangh. This social change came rather late. But it did come. And it was brought about by the RSS. This was a fitting tribute to the religious soul who had burnt the Manusmriti in 1927.

During 1990, I happened to read the book "Christie Mahar", a Marathi book on treatment by Christians particularly priests to converted Hindus from the backward community of Mahar) written by Advocate Balasaheb Gaikwad. I did a cover story on that book for "Vivek". Balasaheb Gaikawad's book is based on his personal experiences and it tells us very effectively that even after a Mahar's conversion to Christianity, he remains a Mahar. The conversion to Christianity does not bring him any relief or solace. His caste does not change, nor does his social status. His economic conditions also remain the same. Balasaheb Gaikwad has had a first hand, personal experience of all this. He belongs to the district of Ahmednagar, and he has given detailed information of the misdeeds of Christian clergy of Ahmednagar in his books.

The feature on the book in "Vivek" and introduction to Balasaheb Gaikwad offered a new topic to the 'Hindutava' people. Political Hindutva protagonists too were happy. A good stick was now available to thrash the Christians.

Later, I met Balasaheb Gaikwad at Pune. Sangh Pracharak (Full time worker), Shirish Bhedasgaokar had brought him to Pune. He met Balasaheb Gaikwad while he was on a Sangh tour. I had a talk with him. Balasaheb Gaikwad was fed up with the Christian religion. He wanted to be reconverted to Hinduism. Balasaheb Gaikwad declared that he was going to become a Hindu after giving up Christianity. It was his guess that thousands of Christians would like to be reconverted with him.

From the information I gathered from Shirish Bhadasgaokar and Girish Prabhune, it was clear that Balasaheb Gaikwad had no place whatever in the Christian society of Ahmednagar. He did not have a single soul following him, and we came to realise sadly that no one would join him in reconversion.

The Hindutva protagonists were happy that a Mahar was getting reconverted to Hinduism. Many Hindus harbour latent anger in their minds against Dr. Ambedkar for his renunciation of Hinduism and the conversion of Mahars. At least one Mahar now was turning the wheel the other way round by coming back to Hinduism, with the likelihood of thousands of Mahars following him. This was the revenge of time on Dr. Ambedkar, they felt.

What to do about Balasaheb Gaikwad was a problem before us. We had seen that conversion does not end untouchability. It only means a change in one's name. The problem would not be over by Balasaheb reconverting to Hinduism. Instead of being a Christian Mahar, he would be a Hindu Mahar. That would create many other social difficulties.

In Maharashtra, the number of Hindu Mahars is negligible. Most of them have embraced Buddhism. If Gaikawad were to be reconverted, where would he find a place in the Hindu social structure? Buddhists would not only not accept him but regard him as an enemy of Dr. Ambedkar's thought. The Hindu society will not immediately accept a convert. The Hindutava protagonists, who were eager to bring Gaikwad back to the Hindu fold, did not feel themselves concerned with these social questions. They yearned for publicity for themselves, and for the credit of the conversion.

After taking into account all pros and cons, we decided that Balasaheb Gaikwad may give up the Christian faith and be converted to Buddhism instead of getting reconverted to Hinduism. I spoke about it to Balasaheb as did a few other Sangh workers.

Gaikwad did not appreciate my decision. "Why are you telling me to be a Buddhist" he asked. "What is the point in my going to Buddhism"? "I will be a Hindu only". He stuck to his stand. He also started announcing that though he wanted to be a Hindu, the Sangh people asked him to be a Buddhist.

Once a senior Swayamsevak of the Sangh called on me at the Vivek Office. He was older to me in age. He was annoyed at our advice to Balasaheb Gaikwad to be a Buddhist. He asked "I have come to know that you have been telling Gaikwad not to be a Hindu". "Yes", I said. "But why? When he craves to be a Hindu, why are you pushing him to Buddhism?"

"You attend Prabhat (morning) Shakha daily, isn't it?" I asked. "Yes" he replied. He did not understand the thrust of my question.

"Then you are conversant with the Ekatmata Mantra (unity hymn) which we recite in the morning Shakha. A line in that hymn describing the criteria of Hindu says, 'Bhudhdhastatha arhant, boudhdha jainaha.' You know it, I suppose."

"Yes, I recite it." he answered.

"It means Jains, Buddhists, Sikhs, Vedics, Vaishnavs all are one, all are Hindus. We also hear in the Sangh that Jainism, Buddhism, Sikhism are not alien religions. They are all branches of the Sanatana Dharma (oldest religion). If someone becomes a Jain or a Buddhist or a Sikh, he does not become a non-Hindu" I said. 

I further told him that even if Balasaheb became a Buddhist, he by our tenets would be deemed Hindu.

Slowly he understood what I was saying. Still, he asked, "Hindu or Buddhist if it is only a nominal difference why not allow him to be a Hindu? At least that will not create any confusion."

In response, I said, "Balasaheb Gaikwad is a Dalit. His social and economic problems are extensive. They pertain to the Dalit movement in Maharashtra which is not a pro-Hindu affair. Gaikawad's problems would best be tackled by the Dalit movement. While recognizing that his problems are also ours, the Hindu society may not be in a situation to really help. 

I told him other similar things, and he appeared convinced. But we could not convince Balasaheb Gaikwad of our viewpoint. Perhaps he had decided not to be convinced.

Balasaheb expected his conversion to be a grand affair like Dr. Ambedkar's conversion. He would get wide publicity and monetary benefits. He would get awards as well as social prestige, and embellished with these, he would spend the rest of his life in comfort and happiness. Some people might have cajoled him to believe that. He met Balasaheb Thackeray, the supreme leader of Shiv Sena. Dr. Vijay Bedekar of Thane, an eminent scholar of Indian archeology and history invited him to stay with him for a few days. All of them insisted that Balasaheb Gaikwad should again be a Hindu.

Even as we in the Samarasata Manch were trying to dissuade him from doing so, Balasaheb Gaikwad made a public announcement of his conversion programme. The conversion was to take place under the leadership of Balasaheb Thackeray. The conversion programme was well publicised. We all kept aloof from the programme.

Balasaheb Gaikwad alone was re-converted. No other Christian Mahar joined him. His dream of being another Dr. Ambedkar was shattered. From the point of view of Shiv Sena and other Hindutva protagonists, Gaikwad was no longer of any use. They left him high and dry. He did not have a job nor any social status. Being shy and diffident, he could not have the will and ability to stand on his own feet. He felt that since he had obliged the Hindu society by his reconversion, he should be looked after by it.

We took care of him for a long time out of humanitarian considerations. We secured for him a job in Dnyan-Prabodhini, an institute for understanding of knowledge, at Pune, and an opportunity to work with Prof. S. H. Deshpande, a famous professor on politic. Earlier we had also tried to place him in the office of the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, an organization of workers led by RSS people and now number 1 in India, from where he could pursue his legal practice. Gaikwad, however, could not settle down anywhere. Even after the reconversion, he could never forget his Dalithood. He regarded his Dalithood as the legacy of his life.

Balasaheb Gaikwad's story makes a good case study. I had carefully watched the entire course of conversion. I wonder how Girish Prabhune looked after him, and gave him shelter in his house. This is most surprising considering Gaikwad's disposition. Prabhune did it from his sense of duty as a Sangh Swayamsevak.

Another development is worth recalling here. Maharashtra is divided into three provinces for the Sangh activities (1) Nagpur city, (2) the rest of Vidarbha (except Nagpur), and (3) the rest of Maharashtra with Goa. The activities of the Samarasata Manch started in the Maharashtra Prant. There was a proposal to start these activities in the other two Prants as well. Laxmanrao Bhide, now in charge of World RSS organizations was very keen on it. Laxmanrao Bhide is a senior Sangh Pracharak. He was then Kshetra Pracharak for the four Prants, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Vidarbha and Nagpur. He is a man of few words, quiet disposition, slenderly built, and with a pleasant personality. He would carefully read whatever I wrote. Every time we met, he had a word of appreciation for my writings. He felt strongly that someone from among us should make a tour of Vidarbha to place before Vidarbha's Swayamsevaks the social content of our activities, and appoint workers for the Samarasata Manch. Vidarbha needed the Manch activities very much, he said.

I was unanimously selected to go to Vidarbha. I completed the tour in two phases. The Sangh activities in Vidarbha date back to the late twenties. There are a large number of Swayamsevaks fortunate enough to have had personal guidance from Dr. Hedgewar and Guruji Golwalkar. I had to place before them my subject in the form of a bouddhika (intellectual discourse). This presentation was to be different from the traditional one.

I felt challenged, I was expected to convey the Sangh philosophy, in a region from where the Sangh had first blossomed, to spread throughout the length and breadth of the country. Naturally, I was apprehensive whether I would prove equal to the task. Though the Sangh bouddhikas are not public speeches, Swayamsevaks listen to them as the official line of thought. Precisely for this reason the responsibility of the speaker grows manifold. He has to be highly balanced and circumspect in his discourse. I doubted my ability to do it.

An incident soon dispelled my doubts. The venue of the bouddhik classes was located near the Sangh Office in Nagpur. The first ever Sangh Shakha took place in the open compound of the dilapidated mansion of the Mohites. The Maidan, ground was sanctified by the touch of the footsteps of venerable Dr. Hedgewar. A person like me, belonging to a very common family, Shudra by caste, with no tradition of education in the family, and without any monetary power, was going to give a discourse in the Maidan of the mansion of the Mohite (an old important family from Nagpur). According to the logic of the progressive high priests in Maharashtra, I should have been a very negligible entity in the Sangh. According to what they called 'Manuism' of the Sangh, I should have been positioned below the lowest rung. And here I was to expound the social ideology of the Sangh from the very birthplace of the Sangh.

There were senior Swayamsevaks in the audience. Pracharaks and Sarsanghachalak Balasaheb Deoras also graced the event. He knew me by name since 1975. The man who is often described as the second Hedgewar, from whom we learnt the Sangh ideology, who taught us to think along the right liners, and in whose life we perceived Hindutva - that great man was present to listen to what I had to say! This was the most crucial, testing time in my life.

On that occasion, I remembered my highest deity, Dr. Hedgewar, and prayed to him to give my tongue his intellect, to give me the wisdom to express his thoughts alone. I spoke for an hour or so. What is Samarasata? What was the social content of Dr. Ambedkar's philosophy? What is the logical conclusion of Dr. Ambedkar's thought? What is social nationalism? These were the points I dealt with in my discourse. We said the prayer after my speech was over and the Shakha closed for the day. 

That day, I experienced a different type of atmosphere. Mama Muthal, an old Sangh Pracharak, said, "Ramesh, the Sarsanghchalak told me he liked your lecture." He said, "This boy writes well and also speaks well!" He paused for a moment and then said, "We have been with him for a long time. But he never said these words about us. You have won this accolade from him."

I said to him, "Mama, it is the small people like me who need a pat on the back." Mama laughed heartily. If viewed only from the Sangh Swayamsevak's perspective, the incident did not have any special significance. In the Sangh, we do not make much fuss over such incidents. To be treated fairly with equity is looked upon as a matter of course and natural. But when, after the fashion of the progressives, I think of what transpired from the casteist angle, I realise the magnitude of the social transformation inherent in such incidents. And the Sangh which brings about this wonderful transformation is called "Manuist". Only a man stricken with mental complexes can think this way.

One of the resolutions passed in the social conference held under the aegis of the Samarasata Manch in 1988, related to the change in the name of the Marathwada University. The Resolution regarding the change in the name, which is generally referred to as "Namaantar", was passed by the Maharashtra Assembly in 1978 and was followed by agitations. I had not given a serious thought to the Naamaantar issue in those days. It was not so with Bhiku Idate, Sukhadev Navale, and Damuanna Date, some of the prominent Sangh workers in Marathwada. Sukhadev Navale was involved in the Naamaantar agitation for a long time even before 1978. He was also well versed in the social environment in Marathwada. In contrast, I was a novice. But gradually I started reading about the subject, and began to see the issue in a clear perspective.

The anti-Naamaantar people had developed a careful rationale their opposition to the change in the name of the Marathwada University. I have referred to it earlier in this book. Dalits had quite a different stand on the issue. What should be our stand vis-a-vis the Naamaantar problem? What should be the points for the justification for the change in the name? I set my thinking apparatus in motion.

Shiv Sena had started growing very fast after the Sambhajinagar elections of 1985. Anti-Ambedkar policy was a big weapon in their hands. The non-Dalit people in Marathwada were not in favour of the Naamaantar There would be considerable political advantage if the Naamaantar were to be opposed. Purely with a view to reaping political advantage, Shiv Sena adopted a rabid anti-Naamaantar posture. Under no circumstances will we allow the change in the name to take place, declared Thackeray. The statement that "Dr. Ambedkar was Nizam's agent" was also attributed to the Sena Supremo (Shiv Sena Chief Shri Balasaheb Thackeray). This statement enraged the Ambedkarite people and once more, processions, threats and counter processions became the order of the day. The atmosphere was heated up in the same way as was witnessed at the time of the Riddles affair. This happened in July/August, 1992.

We were holding our meeting during that period, and realized that the time had come when a decisive stand on the Naamaantar issue was inescapable.

Socialist comrades had already asked Marathwada to oppose the Naamaantar on the grounds that a change in name would compromise its honour and autonomy. They termed our Hindu identity communalist and fundamentalist and at the same time viewed the regional ego of Marathwada as a progressive affair. Shiv Sena too had taken up this issue of egoism. We had already decided to support the change in the name of the university from the Hindutva point of view. I now started writing on the subject. I wrote a number of articles supporting the Naamaantar in the various journals I was associated with. I made efforts to propel the need to support the Naamaantar from the Hindutva standpoint on the basis of cogency and logic. Although I did the writing, I always had prior consultations with Bhiku Idate, Sukhadev Navale, and Damuanna Date. Whenever I wrote from the policy standpoint, these consultations gave appropriate direction to my thought and writings. 

Some thing occurred to me at that time. The Sangh had not been able to do anything at the time of the Satyagraha of the Chawdar lake at Mahad in 1927, and or the Satyagraha for opening to untouchables the Kalaram Temple of Nasik. In 1927, the RSS was two years old, with no shakha in Mahad. The Sangh was a negligible entity. More or less, the same was the case in 1930 when the Sangh was viewed as a kid's affair. Their leader was Dr. Hedgewar, whose influence on the Hindu society was as good as nil then. The Sangh therefore was not in a position to do much. In 1992, however the situation was altogether different. The Sangh was now a centre of power. It had tremendous influence in the Hindu society. Its political, social and religious power was enormous. Our stand would have great significance. I put forward this thought in my writings and also in my discourses to the workers.

There are many Karyakartas in the Sangh who hail from the Ambedkarite people. They felt keenly that the Sangh should join the Marathwada Naamaantar agitation, and its efforts should be organised on the pattern of the 1992 Kar-seva in Ayodhya. Madhu Jadhav was one such worker. I remember a dialogue with him. "Why are we not launching Kar-seva for the Namaantar?" he asked.

"I feel it is difficult to stage Kar-seva in today's circumstances", I replied. "Why?" he questioned. "Because Rama is recognised by the entire Hindu society, whereas Dr. Ambedkar has influence only among Dalits", I explained.

"Will we never espouse the Namantar problem?" Jadhav queried. "That's not true. We will join the issue when we are well prepared for it. The preparations are afoot", I replied. Thanks to the continuous writings and speeches of workers, particularly Navale and Damuanna, the opposition to the Namantar among Sangh people was fading away. In Marathwada itself, Sukhadev Navale changed the outlook of the RSS workers in favour of changing University's name. The workers decided to oppose the opponents of the Naamaantar.

Many Sangh workers did not favour a stand in opposition to the Shiv Sena. Workers in the political arena of course, were particularly cautious. According to them, it was rather risky to take up the Naamaantar issue when elections were round the corner. The Shiv Sena and the Sangh were with Hindutva protagonists. Confrontation between the two would be politically harmful, they felt. Considered politically, there was nothing amiss in this view. It is very natural for a political party to keep an eye on votes, and to indulge in political calculation about how many votes were Ambedkarite and how many would supply Hindutva.

We did not agree with this political calculation. The social angle is more important to the Sangh than the political one. It was particularly so in the case of the Naamaantar issue. I was of the view that the Naamaantar problem had raised an important question before the Hindu society. What place does Dr. Ambedkar occupy in the emotive world of the Hindu society? Does the Hindu society regard the Ambedkarite people as its own people? A time had come now when it was required to respond to these questions in the form of action. This time a big section of the RSS people had grasped the nuances of the subject. The Sangh had decided firmly to support the change in the name of the University.

The final phase of the Namaantar problem commenced in the latter half of 1993. The Maharashtra Assembly elections were to take place in 1995. The Ambedkarite people had decided to thrash out the Naamaantar issue before the election. Extreme actions like self-immolation were being resorted to. Supporters of Sharad Pawar like Ramdas Athavale were caught on the horns of a dilemma. They had offered support to the Congress on the basis of the assurance that the Naamaantar would take place. Mr. Athavale was appointed a Minister in the State Cabinet. The Ambedkarite people now started asking them, "What are you doing about the Namaantar?". Sharad Pawar wanted Ambedkarite votes, but not in exchange for the change in the name of the University. It would have affected the traditional voter of the Congress. Sharad Pawar was not prepared to take that risk. At such a juncture, a clever politician plays for time. Pawar decided to do the same.

Pawar counted on Ambedkarite votes without conceding the Namaantar. Shiv Sena's opposition could be denounced as Hindutva opposition to the Namaantar, he calculated. On the basis of that calculation, he thought of raising the Hindutva bogey to overawe the Dalits. The RSS would not oppose the Shiv Sena, and the Sangh could then be made a sacrificial goat. The verbal ammunition to attack the Sangh was handy - Manuists, communalists, Brahminists, Peshwaists, enemies of equality, and so on. However, Pawar's judgment about the Sangh attitude to the Naamaantar was totally wrong. The RSS had decided to give steadfast support to the Naamaantar. Pawar was not aware of the decision. We, however, knew since we were part of the process which had taken us to that decision. 

Although it was finalized, the Sangh cannot foist its decision on the constituent organisations. An impression is harbored by many that only two or three people take the RSS decisions, and the rest mutely accept it. This impression is utterly wrong. Though the Namaantar decision had been taken, there was need to muster support for it. The Sangh has systems and procedures to make its decision acceptable to all. The Development Council meeting is one such method. Development Council (Vikas Mandal) is the co-ordinating body for activities in different fields. A meeting was held of decision-makers in the different spheres of activities of the Sangh. The important issue of Naamaantar came up for discussion at one of its meetings. I was present at the meeting.

This meeting took place sometime in September, 1993. I don't remember the exact date. The main agenda before the meeting was the Naamaantar issue. Some workers in the meeting opposed the proposal which said that we should join the Naamaantar agitation on the side of the Pro-Naamaantar people. They felt that we should not take a decision like that, it would be too hasty, and would lead to political disadvantage. The workers present at the meeting were state level officers, and senior decision makers. Bhiku Idate conducted the meeting. He was to give the decision after hearing all the views expressed in the meeting. Concluding the meeting, he said, "For the present, we will leave the subject here. No decision will be taken right now. The Maharashtra tour of Sarkaryawah (the Chief Executive of RSS) Sheshadri is starting soon. A meeting of all workers in Marathwada with him is to take place at Jalna. A decision will be taken after a thorough discussion with them."

The meeting was over. The Karyakartas left. I was still there. Idate took me aside, and said, "I am sure my decision today must have saddened you. I too was extremely unhappy while giving this ruling. But we just can't impose our views on such leading activists." After a moment's pause he said, "We have, however, no option but to support the Naamaantar We will take the final decision in the Jalna meeting."

What could I say? I was sorely disappointed. But I continued to have faith in the RSS leadership. I was also sure that Damuanna would not leave the subject halfway.

In the context of the Naamaantar issue, the Jalna meeting in October proved to be of historic importance. A worker asked Sheshadriji to spell out the Sangh standpoint on the Naamaantar issue. Sheshadri replied in clear and unambiguous terms, "The Sangh is not opposed to the change in the name of the university. The Naamaantar should be made, and the Marathwada University should be named after Dr B R Ambedkar." This clear stand on the part of the central Sangh leadership clarified the future course for us.

That night, a meeting of all workers was held at Jalna. The meeting lasted a long time. District karyawahahs, sarkaryawahs, pracharaks, and activists from various RSS fields attended the marathon meeting. In the meeting some argued that "the Naamaantar was an imposition; it is a demand from leaders from Pune and Bombay; it is an appeasement of Dalits, politically, we will be finished." The objections were forcefully presented. The counter-arguments were "the Naamaantar is a must for social reasons, the Ambedkarite people should develop confidence in us and supporting Naamaantar is a way to win their trust; we should give a rejoinder to the Shiv Sena's arguments: support to the Naamaantar will not lead to political damage" were also vigorously put forward. Concluding the meeting, Damuanna propounded the Sangh standpoint to support the Naamaantar. The debate was over. The RSS had taken a historic decision. Designated as the Manuists in the progressive parlance, the RSS had taken one more step forward.

In implementing this decision, we were certain to encounter difficulties, though not entirely insurmountable. Sukhdev Navale and Sharad Kulkarni, the organising secretary of the BJP in Marathwada, had already undertaken a joint tour of Marathwada. All local workers were expected to be present at their meetings. Navale would pose a question to them, "Is there anybody here who is opposed to the Namaantar?" A few workers, influenced by the Shiv Sena, would say that they were opposed. To them, Sharad Kulkarni would say, "You are free to oppose the Naamaantar but not from the party platform. Those who want to oppose the Naamaantar should tender their resignations from the party here and now." The Sangh had completed the democratic process before arriving at the decision, but once the decision was finalized, it was enforced stringently.

On December 10, 1993, Bhiku Idate, the prant karyawah of the Sangh released a statement explaining the RSS stand on the Namaantar issue. The statement read as follows :

RSS (Maharashtra)
Moti Baug, 309, Shanwar Peth
Pune 411 030. Tel: 458080

"Namantar should be effected urgently"

The problem of the change in the name of the Marathwada University has taken a decisive turn. The Amberkarite people have become emotionally high-strung on the issue. It is very unfortunate that Gautam Waghmare had to resort to self-immolation on the issue of the Namaantar. The resolution passed unanimously in the legislature should have been implemented promptly. Now I suggest that the Maharashtra Government should take a decision to change the name of the University without any further delay.

The RSS extends total and unconditional support to the Namaantar. The problem is one of national pride. Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar was a great patriot. He served the nation to the best of his ability and with total dedication. Crores of people in the country revere and adore him. The RSS holds the view that the Maharashtra Government and the entire society should pay respects to him.

The Namaantar issue should not be made a bone of social conflict and contention. Rather, the issue should be used as an opportunity to promote social unity. It should not be viewed in terms of victory of one class and defeat of another. That would be too dangerous.

We appeal to the Shiv Sena Pramukh Balasaheb Thackeray that he should not oppose the Namaantar in the overall interest of the entire Hindu society. Amberkarite people are our blood relations. We should not adopt an attitude of hostility towards them. 

I appeal to all Hindus to stand firm in favour of the Namaantar and to ensure that there will be no social conflagration on the issue. Swayamsevaks in Marathwada also are advised to be extremely alert and firm in their support to the Namantar, and take all care that there will be no social conflict on the issue.
Prant Karyawah
19th December 1993

(Published in Navakal, Sakal, Maharashtra Times, Loksatta and Tarun Bharat, Bombay) (Leading dailies in Marathi).

It did not take much time for the people to realise that the RSS and BJP workers actively supported the Naamaantar. Devgiri "Tarun Bharat" opened a journalistic front in support of the Naamaantar My articles on the theme, "The Naamaantar issue should be socialized" was published at about this time. The RSS support to the Naamaantar cautioned the intellectual class in our society. People have always known that any RSS action can not but be in the interest of, and for the welfare of, the society, and the Sangh would never do anything to jeopardize the interests of the Hindu society. This limited the Shiv Sena opposition only to verbal fireworks. They did not resort to riots and burning the houses of Dalits.

The Sharad Pawar Government was obliged to take a decision in favour of the Naamaantar on January 14, 1994. They had no option. In the context of the Naamaantar a situation had arisen when there was nobody except the Shiv Sena to oppose the Naamaantar. The failure to change the name of the University would have deprived the Congress of all political advantages. Whether he liked it or not, Sharad Pawar had to decide in favour of the Naamaantar. A very small action on the part of the RSS went a long way in amicably settling the issue which was hanging fire for fourteen long years.

After the Naamaantar took place, the Dalits took cognizance of the role played by the RSS. Prof. Jogendra Kawade a flamboyant backward class leader, organised a felicitation function in the honour of Gopinath Munde at Shivaji Park. R S Gawai came to Sambhaji Nagar for the publication ceremony of the book on the Naamaantar This brochure was brought out by the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (a student organization led by RSS workers). Progressive luminaries however kept mum. They could not show even the simple courtesy of taking cognizance of the RSS role in the Naamaantar They felt completely outwitted at the intellectual level. Their opposition to the Naamaantar cost them considerable ideological prestige, and since the Naamaantar ultimately occurred, they suffered loss of face too. Even before the Naamaantar took place, we had published a 100-page book on "Naamaantar, Sangh and the Samarasata Manch". I sent a copy of the book to all leading newspapers in Bombay. Predictably, they did not take any notice of it.

Today the Naamaantar has become a historic event. The response, of the Hindu society leaders in 1927 and in 1994 showed striking difference. The transformation in the social psyche was brought about by the RSS only on the basis of Hindutva. In 1927, the resolution that 'all places of water supply be open to all people' was being put into action. The orthodox and the conservatives did not like the resolution. In 1978, the resolution for the change in the name of the Marathwada University was passed in the Legislative Assembly. The socialists had now taken the place of the orthodox of 1927. The same arguments, the same craftiness, continued to prevail.

The main difference was that while equally committed to Hindu unity and welfare, the RSS in 1927 was small. But by 1994 it had grown into a powerful organisation. It was now capable of giving a decisive turn to a situation. Making a comparative study of 1927 and 1994, the visible enhancement in the RSS stature made me very happy.

While the Naamaantar movement was in full swing, a world-shaking event occurred in Ayodhya on 6 December, 92. The Babri structure (a mosque like structure imposed on the destroyed temple of Lord Rama) standing on the site of Rama's birth was demolished after 400 years. This occurrence was so sudden and unexpected that we were thoroughly shaken by it. Even in his wildest imagination, no one had dreamt of it. In 1990 Bhiku Idate was not able to join the Kar-Seva. In 1992, however, he had gone to Ayodhya. He was the Sangh Sahkaryawah from Maharashtra at that time. On his return from Ayodhya, I asked him, 

"Was there any plan on our part to destroy the Babri Structure?"

"Not at all", he asserted.

"Then, without instructions, how could the Karsevaks topple the structure?".

"The whole episode was so sudden and incomprehensible that no single explanation would suffice. The Karsevaks were so enraged that they smashed the structure to smithereens in four hours. Ordinarily, it should have taken at least four days to destroy it."

The Ayodhya episode attracted my attention to an altogether different line of thought. The Hindu society had reawakened through a cultural medium. Rama had become the cultural symbol of our nationalism. It was clear that social nationalism was as important as cultural nationalism. Hindu nationalism would not be complete without social nationalism. The combination of social and cultural nationalism would alone take nationalism across to the people.

A question arose, what could be the symbol of our social nationalism? Rama was fittingly the symbol of our cultural nationalism. Who could be his counterpart in social nationalism? So far as I was concerned the answer was obvious Dr.Babasaheb Ambedkar. I felt that we should take up the subject of Babasaheb Ambedkar with the same passionate intensity with which we had taken up the issue of Rama's birthplace. I expressed my thoughts in my article 'Social significance of the Rama Revolution'. The article was highly appreciated in the Sangh circles. The article was also published in the Organiser weekly of Delhi. That was proof of the acceptability of my thinking at more general level. 

In the wake of the Ayodhya episode the Marathi daily, Navakal, wrote an editorial on the subject of Hindutva. A number of readers responded to the editorial. Socialist P.B.Samant's and the BJP's Prakash Javadekar's responses too appeared in the paper. Many Sangh workers also wrote on the subject. The Navakal's editor, Nilubhau Khadilkar sent a word to us to send the official reaction of the Sangh to the editorial. Bhiku Idate sent an article covering the entire discussion. Navakal published it in the format of news featuring it on the front page, with an eight-column heading. Which stated, "Dr. Ambedkar has a venerable place in the Sangh Bhiku Idate, Sahakaryawah". The theme of the article was that Dr. Ambedkar has a very respectable position in Hindutva, and his trio of principles, social equality, liberty, and fraternity are totally acceptable to us.

The Sangh's opponents were taken aback by our declaration. Sharad Pawar who is a clever politician, stated in a public speech that the happenings in Ayodhya were pre-planned by the RSS, and further, that the RSS had selected 6 December as its action date deliberately, to insult Dr. Ambedkar. In Maharashtra, Pawar was the chief spokesman of the progressives, and they merely parroted what he said. Now that they had some ammunition to fire at the Sangh, Sharad Pawar's followers launched a massive propaganda campaign to malign it. They went to each and every Ambedkarite locality to make propaganda about the selection of December 6, which was Dr. Ambedkar's Nirvana (demise) day. That date a holy, sacred day for the Ambedkarite people, who have a deep and abiding faith in Dr. Ambedkar. An ugly social conspiracy was now hatched to exploit their sensitivity to their faith.

We took a serious note of this propaganda. December 6, 1992, was selected because it was the Gita Jayanti Day (the day the holy book of Hindus Geeta was told to Arjuna by Lord Krishna). It was the first day of the Mahabharata war. According to Hindu religious custom, a death anniversary is not regarded as an auspicious day. Not that the progressive propagandists did not know this. But many of them had spent their entire life in spreading canards about the RSS. Why should they feel any shame in spreading one more untruth about the Sangh? I wrote on the subject. This time it was not liked by all workers. One of my friends who is also a Sangh worker in Mumbai, called on me and said, "Rameshji, we do not agree with your bringing Dr. Ambedkar unnecessarily in to the context of the happenings of December 6".

I told him, "That is not right. Kindly take a round of the Dalit localities. That will help you appreciate my viewpoint". But my friend was not prepared to see the social aspect of the Ayodhya issue.

On one occasion, I referred the issue to Damuanna Date, Mukundrao Panashikar, and Bhiku Idate. I stressed the need to give a tough rejoinder. They favoured my line of thinking. Panashikar suggested a course of action. Let us prepare an eight page folder, he said, on the events of December 6, Dr. Ambedkar, and the constitution of Hindutva and distribute it widely. "On April 14, which is Dr. Ambedkar's birth anniversary, let us call a meeting at every nook and corner, and circulate these folders. Maximum contacts should be made with the Dalit localities," he continued. The programme of action suggested by him was agreed to. I took an interview of Bhiku Idate on the subject which was published in the Vivek, and all the editions of Tarun Bharat. The interview was also published in the form of a folder, with 1.5 lakh copies. On April 14, the RSS programme was organised in all districts of Maharashtra on an unprecedented scale. The worker of whom I spoke earlier, met me again in Bombay. He said "Rameshji, I have now realised the truth of what you said. In whatever Dalit localities we visited, we were asked the same questions which you put to Bhiku Idate. Had the folder not been handy with us, we would have been utterly confounded to answer the questions raised".

A Sangh worker is like that. He may not agree with something. Still, he gets on with it, on all cylinders, because it is a Sangh programme. After the programme is over, he understands that the Sangh's decision was right. And readily, he appreciates it.

After the events of December 6, the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) Governments ruling in four states were dismissed. Fresh elections were a certainty. A lot of thoughts were going through in my mind at this time. Like others, I know the meaning of such terms as social equality and social justice. These words, however, should not be interpreted only literally. The meanings of words keep changing according to circumstances. For instance the social and sentimental meaning of "social equality" which was current in 1927 or even earlier, was not the same as in 1992. Earlier, it meant co-education, equal treatment at public places, permission to learn Sanskrit, end of untouchability. Now, social equality meant equal participation in economic and political processes. Now it expressed the aspirations of Dalits and the oppressed in the Hindu society to participate in the country's political and economic life on an equal footing.

Whatever the reasons, I was doubtful if we, Hindutva people, were paying adequate attention to this fact of change in the meanings of some of these words. In 1989, when V. P. Singh announced acceptance of the Mandal Commission's recommendations, it was followed by a communal and casteist upheaval all over the country. Higher castes were opposed to the Mandal Commission. The majority was of course of the people recomended by Mandal Commission. Based on the arithmetic of votes, all political parties would support the Mandal commission for obvious reasons. Predictably, all, including the BJP, turned pro-Mandalists. The RSS had no reason whatever to oppose the social content of the Mandal recommendations. The very objective and ideal of the Sangh is that the standard of life of the common man should grow, he should actively participate in the task of national reconstruction, and he should draw self-respect from being an architect of this country. Therefore, we welcomed the social content of the Mandal Commission report promptly.

But we were well aware of the difference between supporting Mandal Commission purely for political advantages, and accepting its recommendations for their social import. The latter meant inviting Dalits to share in economic and political power. What was our concrete programme in this respect, was the question before me. Doubtless, it was the BJP's responsibility to chalk out such a programme. I am not even a primary member of the BJP; nor am I close to its policy-makers.

Still, in August, 1993, I wrote down my thoughts. "Hindutva and participation of castes in power" was the heading of my article. The thoughts expressed in the article were not routine, they were of different fiber. The structure and content of the article would have shaken the currently held beliefs. The sum and substance of the article was Forgetting caste identities, the Hindu society will come forward to participate in such emotional struggles as the liberation of the Ramjanmabhoomi. But we can not take for granted that all sections of the society will be with us in the political arena. The reason being that various castes are now awakened, and alive to their rights. They want a share in economic and political power. From the RSS and the Hindutva point of view, we can not accept caste identities and caste pride. But at the practical political level, we will have to accept caste identities as valid. Eradication of castes can not be a political ideology. It is a socio-cultural ideology. We have to find a way out of this labyrinth. We cannot deny the realities of caste consciousness in the Hindu society. How are we going to convince the submerged castes that they have equal place and status in the Hindu society? What action can we initiate in this regard? To whom should we trust our political leadership? These were the points which I felt deserve a serious thought.

Though the article questioned many current assumptions, I did not feel it proper to publish it straightaway. I was after all not a socialist who published what he wanted. I therefore showed the write up to Damuanna Date and Bhiku Idate. A discussion followed and it was decided to send the article to some leading workers for deliberation. Nobody suggested that my thoughts were garbage, out of line, against the spirit of the RSS ideology, or in proper from the standpoint of caste. The reason was that nobody doubted my Hindutva bonafides. I made about 60 copies of the article which were sent to leading workers for their comments.

A few workers did send their response. Many did not agree with what I had said in my article. It would not be proper to mention names here as the entire affair was a private one. However, I deem if fit to mention one reaction received from Shivrai Telang. The reasons being that he will not be annoyed at my mentioning his name, and the Sangh workers of my generation are highly influenced by Shivrai. Our relationship with him is that of sons with their father. Shivrai did not accept my views. He said "The entire society is Hindu, harmonized, and integrated. This feeling, this awareness, this experience, and this realisation alone will help us achieve Samarasata. Merely launching a Sangh shakha called the Manch will lead us nowhere. It will mean pretension, hypocrisy, or a platform from which to last out or give lectures only to pass time."

Later at the end of 1993, elections occurred in four states. The BJP lost power in three of the four-states Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and Uttar Pradesh. The defeat was shocking as it was utterly unexpected. Probes began into the reasons for the defeat. Why did the Hindus reject the BJP? The analyses revealed that the backward classes, Dalits, and Muslims had voted en masse against the BJP.

One day, the telephone rang. Shivrai Telang was on the line. He said,

"Ramesh, you had written an article some six months ago ."

"Yes, " I said.

"Today I gave your article to Dattopant Thengdi for his perusal. You had made some predictions in it about what has happened in Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and Uttar Pradesh. You have proved prophetic. Hearty congratulations! How did that occur to you?."

I said , "I have been in your company for a long time. That has made my mind keen!" 

"Tell that to others." Shivrai said. 

Shivrai's personality is like that. He is never miserly or reserved in his appreciation and compliments. That is why I could not resist the temptation of quoting his views above.

In what way should the Sangh take cognizance of caste identities was a question which figured in all our discussions. Neither in the Sangh activities nor in the RSS programmes or thinking is there any place for caste considerations and caste identities. But the situation outside the Sangh was speedily taking a different turn. Just as it was necessary to tell the people that the Sangh programmes belong to all Hindus, it was also necessary for the Sangh, to be perceived that way. This was extremely difficult for the Sangh. But the process had begun. 

An extensive meeting of the Maharashtra Prant's co-ordination committee was held at Pune in January 1994. Between four to five hundred workers attended the meeting. On the first day, Damuanna said to me "Ramesh, we have fixed your discourse tomorrow morning at 8 o'clock."

I was stunned and simply stared at him. I was not such a senior worker as could give a discourse in an important meeting of leading Sangh workers. At least that is how I felt. Damuanna, however, felt otherwise. He said, "Atalji was to be with us full time for this meeting but because of some tragic event in his family, he would not be able to come. You have to deal with his subject."

I was developing cold feet by now. How could I deal with a subject on which, Atalji was to speak? For a moment, I thought Damuanna was making fun of me. But that is not, in his nature. 

"What is the subject?", I enquired. He said, "You have to speak on the social content of Hindutva. That is the subject of your discourse." Slowly I recovered from the shock. After all, the subject given was not new to me. In fact, it was my favourite subject and I used to think over it a lot.

"All right", I said to Damuanna. "But tell me one thing. What should be my standpoint while delivering this discourse? Should I speak as the Karyawah of Samarasata Manch or as a responsible swayamsevak of the Sangh?" 

Damuanna replied, "You have to give the discourse as a worker of the Sangh. But why are you putting this question to me?" 

"There will be some difference in the scope of the speech, depending on whether I speak as the Sangh representative or the Manch Karyawah. Let me do this. I will make a draft of my speech today, and will read it out to you. Then you tell me what to add or delete."

I wrote down the speech that night and read it out to Damuanna Date, Bhikuji Idate and Mukundrao Panshikar. There were some sentences which were unclear. I explained their meaning along with how they could be interpreted. Finally, the speech was approved by all.

As per the schedule, my discourse took place the following day. Bhikuji Idate introduced me to the audience. While introducing me, he singled out two things. First, Ramesh Patange is our spokesman on social matters, and secondly, he is going to speak today on the social meaning and content of Hindutva. My discourse was duly delivered. In a nutshell it said:

"The social content of Hindutva is not new to us. Caste differences, social inequality, and untouchability have no place in our activities. We live the social content. But our image is not true to what we are. Our image is that we believe in the Chaturvarnya, in social inequality, and in untouchability. We must change this image.

It is necessary for us to take clear and unambiguous stand on social issues. We can not say that we have no standpoint in this regard. While it is true that social equality and social justice could be brought about only on the basis of Hindutva, we will have to acquire an in-depth understanding of the problems of those who demand social justice. One hundred years ago, Swami Vivekanand said that the shudras will rule this country. That means the common man will stand up and demand his rights. Today we see that happening around us. It is necessary that the social content of Hindutva should be manifest at the level of both thought and action.

The social content of Hindutva cannot be complete without Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar. Dr. Ambedkar's thoughts are not opposed to Hindutva. We will have to accept his social thinking.

There are thousands of castes in the Hindu Society. We must see all these castes in the Sangh and the Sangh-sponsored associations. Representatives of various castes should be seen occupying important positions in Hindu organisations. They should be part of the decision-making processes.

It is difficult to find such people. We can not agree with the assumption that caste is quality. We must search for competent people and bring them forward."

After the discourse was over, Chittaranjan Pandit, then editor of Marathi daily Tarun Bharat, came to me and said "Your discourse today was excellent". Almost all the reactions were of this nature. Many seniors and elderly workers, however, did not like my speech. Some of them wrote to me conveying their displeasure, while a few of them did so on the spot. I apprised Damuanna of all these reactions. Damuanna was very pleased with my discourse. I was happy that I could justify his confidence in me.

That was not my first discourse in the Sangh. Nor was it the last. Then why its elaboration here, readers might ask. The explanation lies in the social context. Casteism, inequality, feelings of being high and low and the Manuism that is reflected through them is a social reality in the Hindu society, which we can not deny. The Sangh desires to put an end to this state of affairs in the Hindu society. However, the Sangh's style is not to burn the Manusmriti, or raise the ghost of Manu. The Sangh way is to bind all sections of the society by a feeling of brotherhood, of togetherness. The psyche of the Sangh swayamsevaks is consciously, and as a result of in-depth study, sought to be shaped towards this end. 

This type of thinking occurs in the Sangh at different levels. No two workers of the Sangh necessarily think alike about the same subject. I have had this experience many times. And it is not only mine but a universal experience of Sangh workers. In 1994, All India Seva Karyapramukh (Chief of Service Projects) Shri Suryanarayan Rao was on a tour of Maharashtra. He delivered a discourse at Dombivli, a Mumbai suburb. The subject of his speech was identical to my discourse at Pune. Suryanarayan said, "Our activities and work should not be confined to specific class, say the middle class. Those backward class people, who are pushed aside as untouchables, should be brought into the fold of the RSS. Without their participation, our work should be deemed incomplete".

This line of thought and perception now became manifest in all spheres of the RSS activity. When the Maharashtra BJP leadership issue came up, everybody insisted on the name of Gopinath Munde, (now Dy Chief Minister of Maharashtra). In Uttar Pradesh also, when there was a question of choosing between Mulayam Singh, the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh belonging to Samajwadi Party and Mayawati, leader of Bahujan Samajwadi Party, Mayawati was chosen. The Sangh Swayamsevaks made Mayawati, a Dalit, chamar woman, the Chief Minister in the largest state of Uttar Pradesh. Manu should not be rejected only at the verbal or theoretical level. He should also be rejected at the level of practical action. And only the Sangh can accomplish this task.

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