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