On the auspicious day of Vijaya Dashami in 1925, some 25 closed friends proud of their Hindu heritage met at Nagpur under the leadership of a Congressman Dr. Keshav Baliram Hedgewar (1 April 1889-1 June 1940) and launched an organization which was to be named Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh(RSS) the very next year on 17 April 1926. Before this meeting Dr. Hedgewar had gone to Ratnagiri to consult Barrister Vinayak Damodar Savarkar.He established the organization with the intention of promoting the concept of the Hindu Nation and drew upon influences from social and spiritual Hindu reformers such as Swami Vivekananda and Aurobindo to develop the core philosophy of the RSS. Some of the friends who attended the meeting at Hedgewar’s residence to establish RSS included Bhauji Kaware, Anna Sohani, Vishwasrao Kelkar, Balaji Huddar and Bapurao Bhide. The Indian National Congress(INC) was a movement to fight for the rights of the people of British India. One of the prominent Congress leaders of Central Province(CP), Dr. B. S. Moonje, who later became a firebrand leader of Hindu Mahasabha, saw young Keshav as a prospective leader and a supporter of Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak of Pune like him in 1904. Dr. Hedgewar had a dream of seeing the Hindun Nation become invincibly powerful and shine in its full and effulgent glory; and this, he was convince, could be achieved only by nurturing the RSS to its full stature, according to his official biography, “Dr. Hedgewar, the Epoch Maker”.
As a student of Kolkata’s National Medical College, Hedgewar had come in close contacts with the revolutionaries and had joined the secret organization, Anushilan Samiti apart from becoming instrumental in bringing weapons for Vidarbha revolutionaries, according to his biographer and RSS ideologue Rakesh Sinha. Prof. Sinha, in the biography published by the Publication Division of the Government of India, gives description of Hedgewar joining other revolutionaries in preparing bombs at Dr. Moonje’s residence. Hedgewar was arrested for throwing a bomb at a Police
station in August 1908 but was released due to lack of evidence. He was a link between the revolutionaries of Bengal and CP during 1910 and 19145 and brought weapons secretly whenever he came to Nagpur, records Sinha. Hedgewar’s code name in the secret revolutionary organization was “Cocaine” and the code word for the weapons he was bringing was “Anatomy”.
The Congress Convention was to be held in 1920 at Nagpur. The Central Province Congress leaders including Dr. Moonje were keen to have Lokmanya Tilak to preside over but unfortunately Tilak died on 1 August 1920. It shocked most of the Tilakites since Tilak was an icon for all the revolutionaries in the Congress. Dr. Moonje along with Dr. Hedgewar, the then joint secretary of Nagpur city Congress, were involved in organizing the Congress Convention at Nagpur gave a thought to who be invited to preside and they zeroed down the name of Aurobindo Ghosh. Both went to Pondicherry (now Puducherry) where Aurobindo had settled down since 1910. Aurobindo turned down the invitation to return to active politics and preside over the Nagpur Congress. Gradually Mahatma Gandhi replaced Tilak in the Congress which was not liked by the revolutionaries and pro Hindu leaders since Gandhi was a moderate like Gopal Krishna Gokhale.
Hedgewar was to be the first Sarsanghachalak (Supremo) and Huddar the first Sarkaryavah(General Secretary) of RSS. The first chief of RSS refused to be the Guru but he preferred Bhagva Dhvaja(Saffron Flag) to be the Guru for RSS. Not many people would know that RSS founder had praised the Congress President Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru for the Purna Swaraj resolution in December 1929 Congress at Lahore and given a call to celebrate 26 January 1930 as Purna Swaraj Day in all RSS Shakhas ! Doctorji did participate in two Satyagrahas following the calls given by the Congress and was imprisoned twice. But he never involved RSS in the Satyagrahas. He expected the Swayamsevakas to participate as an individual. When Moonje insisted the participation of RSS as an organization in the Bhaganagar(Hyderabad) Satyagraha organized by the Hindu Mahasabha, Dr. Hedgewar turned down his request but allowed the Swayamsevaks to participate in their individual capacity.
At a later stage, one of the founders of RSS, Balaji Huddar, turned to Marxist ideology and became the leader of the Communist Party of India. Despite the ideological differences, Dr. Hedgewar continued to maintain not only friendship with Huddar but he even invited him to address the Shit Shibir of RSS at Nagpur in 1938! The year 1938 was important in the life of Doctorji since the Congress leadership was at loggerheads with him. His official biographer, N. H. Palkar writes in “Dr. Hedgewar Charitra” that Dr. Hedgewar was furious since the organization he had selflessly worked for last so many decades was expressing doubts in his integrity and the functioning of RSS. When he received a letter from the Central Province Congress on 10 November 1937, asking him to give clarifications about certain issues on RSS, he wrote back saying: “ Now it is not my age of a student to appear for an exam and reply the questionnaire you have sent. Since you are trying to brand us as anti-Congress in the name of public, I would like to state that we appreciate your guts to accuse us of and clarify that the Sangh was never anti-Congress and not anti-Congress even now.”
The RSS founder attended the Congress Convention at Kolkata in 1928 and had met Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, when Vallabhbhai Patel shined up as the Sardar at the national level after the Bardoli
Satyagraha. In 1938 itself, Hedgewar sent invitation to Bose, the Congress President, to be the chief guest for the Pune RSS Camp, but Netaji wrote back to express his inability to join him since the local Marathi Congress leaders were against accepting the invitation. Unfortunately, Dr. Hedgewar died in 1940 but before his death he had nominated Prof. Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar ( Guruji) as his successor. Now that the front organization of RSS, BJP, is ruling over India and many Indian states, the new generation of Swayamsevakas and BJP rulers must remember the words of the founder Sarsanghchalak, recorded by Palkar in the biography of Dr. Hedgewar in conversation with Mahatma Gandhi at Wardha in 1934 : “The Congress leaders keep the name of the residence as Parna-Kuti ( Hut made of Leaves) but inside the Parna- Kuti the arrangements are royal. In RSS we follow simplicity and do things ourselves with involvement.” None should forget the contribution by those who laid the foundation stone of the organization some nine decades ago.
Next Column: Muslim League and Hindu Mahasabha in Coalitions
( The writer is a Socio-political Historian. E-mail : [email protected] )