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How & why the 1948 ban on the RSS was lifted

How & why the 1948 ban on the RSS was lifted

Author: MG Vaidya
Publication: The Statesman
Date: May 1, 2002

Reacting to a report in these columns, Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh spokesman MG Vaidya says there are misconceptions about the bans on the organisation. This is the RSS's interpretation of events in the past half century and more, and finds space in these columns because The Statesman does not wish to be accused of what the RSS is - of having tunnel vision.

My attention was drawn to news item entitled Sangh Parivar's tryst with the law of ban", appearing in The Statesman (1-2 April). The report relies solely on Dr Goyal's "well documented" book, Rashtriya Swayam Sewak. The article is unwarranted and has no basis in fact.

1948 ban

The news item states, "Such was the national outrage over the assassination that the RSS leaders did not challenge the ban."

This information is wrong. It is true that the RSS wanted to avoid the confrontation with the government and had believed that after the clouds of suspicion were cleared, the ban would be lifted. Shri MS Golwalkar wrote to Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, then Prime Minister of India, on 11 August 1948 saying: "I have tried to convince myself by the oft repeated argument that the times were extraordinary and hasty and unbalanced action (i.e. ban on the RSS) was its result. I do not wish to believe that persons occupying the places of highest importance can or should be susceptible to impatience, hastiness or loss of mental balance. But that is the only conclusion forced upon me when after six months' detention, when sufficient evidence has come to light and I and my work have been absolved from all the astounding allegations laid at our door, I have been served with an order interning me in Nagpur." A similar letter on the same date was written to Sardar Patel, then Home Minister, to r emove restrictions on him and allow him to go to Delhi and explain the RSS position.

When there was no response from the PM, Shri Golwalkar wrote another letter on 24 September 1948. He says, "I request you kindly to reconsider the question of ban imposed on the RSS. It is now almost eight months and nothing can remain to be investigated into. I am sure you are convinced that the allegations against the RSS have been found to be without foundation in facts."

This letter was replied to on 27 September by Shri A V Pai, Secretary to the PM. The reply states, "The question of continuing or not continuing the ban on the RSS is a matter for the Home Ministry to deal with. Your letter is, therefore, being forwarded to them." This letter also mentioned that the PM "is not prepared to accept your statement that the RSS are free from blame or that the charges against them are without foundation". The letter also emphasised that the government have in their possession "a great deal of evidence" to incriminate the RSS, saying that the then UP Government had sent a note (to Shri Golwalkar) on some evidence they had collected about such activities of the RSS in UP.

Shri Golwalkar wrote back on 3 November 1948 saying that "the Central Government is not fully informed by the provincial Government of UP in the matter of the note alleged to have been sent to me. Neither myself nor any of my former co-workers in UP ever received any such note. What must have happened to it, if at all it was dispatched, is a mystery to me!"

Presuming that the UP Government or the Central Government was in possession of "incriminating evidence against the RSS or certain of its members", Shri Golwalkar asks, "Is it not right to expect at least a few successful prosecutions against alleged wrong-doers?" He further said, "In a government by law in a free state, which propounds and maintains the fundamental rights of citizens and their right to associate and peacefully propagate their views, we claim it as a right to be placed that we may meet the charges."

In November itself, though the ban continued, restrictions put on Shri Golwalkar not to move out of Nagpur were removed. He went to Delhi to meet the PM and Home Minister. Shri Nehru declined to meet him, saying that the "matter is in the hands of the Home Ministry, (therefore) it is desirable that you should deal with them directly".

Similar letters were written to the Home Minister. Sardar Patel's letter's tone was different. On 26 September 1948, Sardar Patel wrote to Shri Golwalkar. The third para of the letter states, "After viewing all the things my only suggestion to you is that the Sangh should be brought to adopt fresh lines of technique and policy. The new technique and new policy can only be according to the rules of the Congress." What Sardar meant by the "rules of the Congress" is not clear.

Shri Golwalkar wrote to Sardar Patel on 5 November from Delhi, where he had come after the removal of the restrictions. He wrote, "Once again, I want to submit that the charges levelled against the Sangh are, one and all, baseless, fictitious and false. It appears that due to the virulence of their propaganda, even the mind of such a balanced person as yourself has been disturbed."

Now I come to the next point. After the failure of the Delhi meetings Shri Golwalkar did not return to Nagpur as asked by the Government. So he was arrested and sent to Seoni jail. Seeing that the Government was adamant in continuing the ban, the RSS started its Satyagraha from 9 December 1948. It continued for about a month and a half. Towards the end of January, the Satyagraha was withdrawn at the request of Shri G V Ketkar, then Chief Editor of the 'Kesari' of Pune who had assumed the role of a mediator between the RSS and the government, but no solution came out. Then came TR Venkatram Shastry, ex-Advocate General of Madras Presidency, who was moved by the Police atrocities on the peaceful RSS Satyagrahis. He was asked by the Government, that RSS must have a Constitution. The ban on the RSS was not imposed because of the alleged offence of not having a Constitution. The ban was imposed on the suspicion of RSS's alleged involvement in the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi. Shr i Shastry insisted that RSS give a written Constitution. Shri Golwalkar asked Shri Shastry to prepare one. The Constitution was prepared with the help of the RSS leaders who were then free. It was submitted to the government on 11 April 1949 from the Seoni Jail. Even after the submission of the written Constitution, the Government was not satisfied. Along with repeating the old charges it raised a few objections, as is clear from the letter of the Home Secretary, Shri HVR Iynger, ICS, dated 3 May 1949. The following were the main objections:

a) There is no positive and explicit declaration for the abjuration of violence.

b) A specific declaration of allegiance to the Constitution of India and the National Flag is necessary. The RSS pledge is retrograde, because the acceptance of a life obligation in connection with membership is more common with secret societies than with democratic groups.

c) The minors can be enrolled as members only with the written consent of their parents or guardians.

To this, Shri Golwalkar replied from the same jail on 17 May 1949:

i) "If the Government believed that the information on which they had based their charges was reliable, they should have come forward to prove them before any impartial tribunal. It is over 16 months that the charges were levelled and over six months I asked for proof. But no such proof is forthcoming and now it is too late... Under the circumstances, it is unbecoming of a Government, claiming to be civilised to continue to reiterate the so called charges even at this late stage."

ii) About the allegiance to the Constitution and the flag the reply stated, "The point has already been clarified in my statements of 2nd November, 1948".

iii) About the fife-long pledge, Shri Golwalkar stated, "The RSS bases its work upon Hindu Culture. In Hindu culture, a pledge is always a life obligation and not a temporary contract. If the life pledge is the quality of secret societies only and retrograde, then in the opinion of the Government, the whole Hindu society must be akin to a secret society and Hindu culture retrograde in its nature."

iv) About minors, Shri Golwalkar stated, "The minors are not members, therefore the question of Pratigya does not arise. Regarding permission of the parents, these are minor details which can be worked out later."

Shri Iynger was angered by this letter. His letter dated 24 May 1949 states, "The Government of India regret that you should have used in your reply phrases like meaningless expression' and charged the Government with indulging in 'unbecoming behaviour and lack of respect for truth, justice or due process of law'. Such language constitutes a complete disregard of the ordinary rules of courtesy and propriety more particularly in reply to the Government where letters are written, with a full sense of responsibility." In the end this letter of Shri Iynger states, "The policy of the Government in regard to the RSS is quite clear and unequivocal. They are and must be the custodian of public interest and it is their duty to safeguard those interests against the unhealthy and undesirable encroachments."

To this Shri Golwalkar replied on 1 June 1949 from his jail. He said, "I am a plain man brought up in an organization wherein the sense of high or low does not predominate and wherein, therefore, there is no occasion to study and use a style of language suitable for addressing rulers and masters." He adds, "Since my direct and truthful words seers to be unpalatable to the Government I think it best to desist from writing any further for the present."

This correspondence rested after Shri Iynger, acknowledging the receipt of the letter (11 June 1949) restated that the "Government position remains as stated in my two previous letters".

Is the tone and tenor of these letters indicative of "meekly" falling "at the feet of Patel and Nehru", as is made out to be by The Statesman News Agency report?

After that neither Shri Golwalkar nor anybody in the RSS wrote a single line to the Government. And yet the ban was lifted on 13 July 1949. Why was it lifted so hastily? The RSS did not give any promises to the government, except submitting its written Constitution.

1975 ban

The ban on the RSS in 1975 was imposed in the wake of emergency declared by Shrimati Indira Gandhi's government on the night of 25 June. But the RSS was not banned immediately. Shri MD Deoras, the then Sarsanghchalak, was arrested on 30 June and not on the morning of 26th June when most of the senior opposition leaders, including JP Narain, were arrested under MISA (Maintenance of Internal Security Act). Even on that date, the RSS was not banned.

Shri Deoras was put in the Yerwada Jail near Pune. It is true that he wrote a very conciliatory letter to Mrs Gandhi, welcoming her 20-point programme. This was due to a feeler sent to him that Mrs Gandhi was not against the RSS, because the RSS being out of the political arena had not demanded her resignation, and that she might think of removing the ban. That was the only letter sent by the RSS to any functionary of the Government.

During this period from 4 July 1975 to 22 July 1977, there was no correspondence with the Government on behalf of the RSS. The RSS worked through the Lok Sangharsh Samiti.

1992 ban

The 1992 ban was imposed on 10 December in the wake of the Ayodhya movement, when the Babri structure was demolished on 6 December 1992. The law demanded that the ban be ratified by a Tribunal. By a gazette notification dated 30 December 1992, Shri P K Bahri, a sitting judge of Delhi High Court, formed the one-man Tribunal. After hearing both the sides, he ordered, "For the reasons given above, I decide that there is not sufficient cause for declaring the RSS association as unlawful and I cancel the said declaration made in the aforesaid notification."

The news story refers to a judge, Shri Anshuman Singh, also. But he did not head the Tribunal as is said in the story. He had decided a writ petition about this ban, when he was a judge in Allahabad High Court. But his decision was challenged by the government, by SLP in the Supreme Court. As far as my information goes, the Supreme Court did not accept the SLP.

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