Website authored by
Dr. Ram Puniyani
Issues in Secular Politics  •  Issues in Democracy and Fundamentalism  •  Secular Actions  •  Useful Links

Book Withdrawal Game: For RSS History is a political weapon
By Ram Puniyani

RSS combine has been spreading a version of History which has its roots in communal historiography first introduced by British. According to this the events and phenomenon of history are understood according to the religion of the Kings. Also it was British again who first demonized the Muslim rulers to wean win over loyalty of the subjects ruled by them. As per this, RSS shakhas, right from the beginning have been propagating against Muslims in particular, and what they have been propagating by now has become a part of the social common sense, uncritically accepted by many social sections. This social common sense in turn forms the base of Hindu Communal politics, anti-minority violence. The latter being the most visible part of this phenomenon. When BJP led coalition came to power the RSS swaymasevak, who lorded over the Ministry of Human Resource ministry, Murali Manohar Joshi, scrapped the books of NCERT, which were based on rational historiography, which attempted to understand the historical events and phenomenon in a broad manner, as being the outcome of multiple factors, religion being one of those, and not being the and only factor. With Congress led UPA coalition coming back to power an attempt is underway to put sanity and reason in the understanding of the history and there by to defuse the major raison de tre of communal politics and violence.

During NDA regime one Makhan Lal of Hindutva brigade, was commissioned to write the history books for class VI and XI. Same Makhanlal also coauthored the tenth volume of a 16 volume series on RSS history, this volume being titled RSS Aur Bharatiya Jana Sangh Ki Sthapana Ka Itihas (The History of Creation of the RSS and Bharatiya Jana Sangh). brought out by the BJP during the party's silver jubilee celebrations in December last year. This volume co authored by the favorite of RSS happened to put the history without and cosmetic effects and frankly puts forward the truth that RSS was formed to 'counter the Muslims', and that Gandhi was appeasing Muslims. It also has strong anti Muslim references. Incidentally Mr. Lal Krishna Advani wrote the foreword for this volume. All these are true and gospel understanding of RSS, an understanding percolated through RSS shakhas, but for electoral purposes this sounded too strong to digest for RSS and its electoral wing the BJP. Seeing the implications of putting forward what it really believes, the volume has been withdrawn. Same Makhan Lal's books being withdrawn first for spreading hate ideology and then for speaking the truth about RSS. Poor Fellow!

RSS claims that contrary to what has been put in the volume coauthored by Makhan Lal it is not Anti Muslim and it will avoid strong anti Muslim references in today's context and will prefer to hide its real face, one of the expression of which was Godse, the murderer of Mahatma Gandhi. Through word of mouth in Shakhas, RSS propagates that Gandhi was the real appeaser of Muslims, and it is due to Gandhi's appeasement of Muslims that partition took place!

On the face of it, one of the reasons cited for withdrawal of the book is that RSS was/is not against Muslim, it was formed just to oppose the partition of the country. Apart from the work of RSS historians, many a valuable books have come out on RSS, which also delve in depth on the causes for the formation of RSS. Most of the scholars, based on the study of the documents available and the functioning of RSS through its own documents, elaborate that the roots of its formation lie in the phenomenon around the non cooperation movement launched by Gandhi, the one which for the first time brought Hindus and Muslims together at a mass level. This mass movement, also began to spread the Indian identity to the broad layers of Indian people. This process and this movement was not looked at favorably by the Hindu elite. Hedgewar, the founder of RSS felt disturbed by this movement. Hedgewar and his cohorts started playing an active role in the street violence, many a times inciting the same by deliberately playing music in front of mosques. The documents, few and far in between, which are available from that time highlight the as to how Hedgewar led the band of Music players in front of a mosque and when the music players stopped playing music in front of a mosque, he himself started playing the drum and asked others to follow suit. His participation in the street violence against Muslims is also recorded.

It was a time when the Muslim communalism and Hindu communalism were in the formative phase and the talk of partition of the country was no where in sight. The first ideological salvo in this direction was fired by Savarkar, when he articulated that religion is the basis of nation and that Hindus are a nation. The Muslim League which was formed already had also assumed that Muslims are a nation, Punjab Hindu Sabha and Hindu Mahsabha were also formed with the implicit understanding of Religious nationalism. The word Pakistan was conceived much later by Choudhary Rahmat Ali in 1930 and the Pakistan resolution was passed in 1940. The back drop of RSS formation did not have the threat of partition, though the elite of both communities already were putting forward Hindu and Muslim identity as the main identity, in contrast to the Indian identity, which was central to Gandhi and National movement. The participation of broad layers of Muslims and Hindus in joint struggle against British was not to the liking of elite of those communities who were harping on the communal identity being the main. These political streams, which led to the formation of Muslim League and Hindu Mahasabha were focusing on the threat of the 'other' community, Muslims elite thought Hindus will deprive them of their due while Hindu elite felt Muslims are out to seize the country. Anti 'other' and not anti British was the central point for both these political streams.

The little material which is available shows the 'anti Muslim core' of the activities of RSS. It also presented Gandhi as culprit who is leading the struggle for united India, taking Muslims along and appeasing them. It is from nowhere that Godse, picked up the concept of Hindu rashtra and perceived Gandhi as the villain-in-chief, the main obstacle in the direction of Hindu Rashtra. For Hedgewar, the RSS founder the dislike for non cooperation movement and Muslims was very intense, "As a result of the non-cooperation movement of Mahatma Gandhi the enthusiasm (for nationalism) in the country was cooling down and the evils in social life which that movement generated were menacingly raising their head. As the tide of national struggle came to ebb mutual ill will and jealousies came to surface…Conflicts between various communities had started. Brahmin-non Brahmin conflict was nakedly on view. No organization was integrated or united. The yavan snakes (Muslims, added) reared on the milk of non-cooperation were provoking riots in the nation with their poisonous hissing."(Bhishikar, 1979)   Hedgewar ideologised that Hindu Muslim unity was a misnomer, Muslims are enemy of Hindu and so of Hindu Rashtra which was to be the goal of RSS. This was the fodder of the RSS and it constructed the past in the same light projecting Muslim enmity from the time of invasion of Muslim Kings. Just as an aside, National movement constructed the idea of India based on the plurality and syncretism contributed by different religious communities and Muslims communalism constructed the nation based on the victory and rule of the Muslim kings.

These aspects of RSS cannot be overlooked even if one gives a cursory glance at the RSS history. Probably Makhan La might not have been briefed in advance to suppress this aspect of RSS history, as currently RSS being in the electoral arena through its electoral child BJP requires wooing the Muslim votes as well. Its founder Hedgewar who derived the idea of Hindutva from Savarkar went on to conceptualize the Hindu Rashtra. Bhishikars', who was another die hard RSS follower, biography and the documents available at that time are full of strong and blatant anti Muslim formulations.

Gandhi was never a favorite of RSS; though it went on to declare a mourning period after his assassination. He was accused of appeasing Muslims, and Godse just took the same cue to blame the 56 crore incident, the Pakistan's share from the treasury, and partition too, as acts due to Gandhi's appeasement policy. RSS and Gandhi were on the opposite poles of the political spectrum. Today for other reasons same Gandhi, finds his name in the Pratah Smaraniya, (revered figures) worth remembering in the early morning, list of RSS. RSS has to do lot of acrobatics Vis a Vis other tall giants of freedom movement. These are just compulsions of a society where still some democratic space is left. It is interesting that same RSS which stopped the two volumes on the History of India of the period of 1940s, because RSS does not find any mention in the freedom movement has to withdraw the books coming from its own stable, by the followers of Hindutva since they portray its politics and ideology a bit honestly!