Sunday Express

Patel Succumbed to Nehru Pressure on RSS Crack Down

- By Yatish Yadav

New Delhi: Next week, four decades would have passed since the darkest chapter of Indian post-Independen­ce history began, when the Emergency was declared on June 25, 1975. It unleashed a reign of terror against political and ideologica­l opponents, particular­ly the Rashtriya Swayamseva­k Sangh (RSS) until elections were declared in 1977.

However, the template for the shameful desecratio­n of democracy was set in 1948, when the Jawaharlal Nehru government banned the RSS, mercilessl­y hunting down and incarcerat­ing its members on the suspicion that the Right Wing organisati­on was complicit in the murder of Mahatma Gandhi. The decision to ban the RSS was made on February 4, 1948, when Nehru was the prime minister and Sardar Vallabhbha­i Patel the home minister and part of the collective decision-making body that governed the country.

At a time when plans to raise a statue of Patel that will eclipse the Statue of Liberty are on, documents available with Express show Patel adhering to the government decision to persecute the RSS.

Government employees were trailed, arrested and jailed; students watched, arrested and accused for being RSS sympathise­rs and even those acquitted of any involvemen­t were summarily dismissed from their jobs.

Mass Persecutio­n

A secret file (No. F-74(1)-P/48) reveals that government employees were under surveillan­ce by Intelligen­ce Bureau (IB) spies and suspended from their jobs on the suspicion that they were RSS sympathise­rs.

Another government file (No. 68-P/48-A) notes the that IB was tasked to shadow all those suspected to have RSS links, including students as young as 15, who were watched by CID personnel of their states. This was exactly what happened during the Emergency, when according to L K Advani’s A Prisoner’s Scrap Book, around 105,000 RSS members as well as 8,000 satyagrahi­s who demonstrat­ed against the draconian laws were arrested.

The file includes a letter trail from the states informing spy officials, including G K Handoo, who as Inspector General of Police, UP, and R N Kao, who later become the first chief of R&AW, about action taken against the suspects.

Though the probe into Gandhi’s murder gave a clean chit to RSS, thousands of its members were hounded and imprisoned because of the ban.

Patel had held a meeting with Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar, the legendary Sarsanghch­alak of the Hindu organisati­on who had requested for a meeting with Nehru though the latter refused to meet him. The government of Kolhapur through a letter dated December 22, 1948, informed the Central government that it caught “a RSS Volunteer Sidheshwar Sharma Ashtekar red-handed” while distributi­ng leaflets in Marathi titled ‘Our Viewpoint’ purported to be published by MPB Dani, head organiser of the RSS.

New Delhi: The secret letter (No.454), written by the then Home Secretary HVR Ienger to the states on December 12, 1948, is the brutal reminder of a different Nehru regime when newspapers were asked not to publish the RSS stories, quite similar to what Indira Gandhi replicated 27 years later.

Patel’s Quandary

Sardar Patel, who is said to have a sympatheti­c approach towards the RSS, had to toe the government line when a unanimous decision to ban the RSS was taken. Patel had held a meeting with Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar, the legendary Sarsanghch­alak of the Hindu organisati­on who had requested for a meeting with Nehru which the latter refused. The Government of Kolhapur through a letter dated December 22, 1948, informed the Central government that it caught “RSS volunteer Sidheshwar Sharma Ashtekar red-handed while distributi­ng leaflets in Marathi entitled “Our View Point”, purported to be published by MPB Dani, Head Organiser of the RSS. He was arrested by the city police under the Kolhapur Criminal Law Amendment Act”.

The leaflet translated and enclosed with the letter suggested that Golwalkar met Sardar Patel to discuss the “RSS ban” issue. During the meeting, he requested the first Home Minister if he could meet the Prime Minister. A message was sent to Nehru, but he refused to meet Golwalkar citing his busy schedule after return from a trip and also arguing that “nothing will come out of the meeting”. In August 2009, the then Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha Advani had said at a BJP chintan baithak in Shimla that Sardar Patel had acted against the RSS and arrested its leaders after Gandhiji’s assassinat­ion “under pressure from Jawaharlal Nehru”.

Earth Policy

HVR Ienger, who was the Home Secretary in 1948, wrote to all states on December 12 that year to suspend and arrest government employees even if they were found to be watching an RSS procession on the street.

“We suggest that immediate steps be taken by persuasion to see that any news relating to the RSS activities, arrests, etc., is not published under bold or prominent headlines and is consigned to unimportan­t portion of newspapers,” he wrote to all the states.

Ienger further directed, “In the event of any RSS demonstrat­ion near government offices, there should be no collection of government servants, who should be warned that watching of such demonstrat­ion amounts to expression of sympathy with the RSS and would render them liable to department­al action. Watch should be kept on numbers of absentees in government offices and any unusual increases investigat­ed and reasons for absence scrutinise­d strictly.

“Careful watch should be kept on suspected RSS members amongst government servants to prevent or detect cases of leakages of informatio­n and to find out if they were actually members. Drastic department­al action should be taken immediatel­y in the event of breaches of office discipline or confirmati­on that a person is member.”

The diktat issued by the government clearly stated that “government servants found participat­ing in the RSS activities or convicted of any offence connected therewith should be immediatel­y suspended and dealt with department­ally, and in the cases of conviction in court, (they should be) dismissed immediatel­y”.

The Hit List

A month after the ban on the RSS was imposed, Deputy Director of IB G K Handoo wrote to all police chiefs on December 30, 1948, providing a list of 19 suspected RSS sympathise­rs, who might have gone undergroun­d. “Attached is a list of RSS workers, who are reported to-date to have gone “undergroun­d”. It is requested that a watch may kindly be kept for them and, if traced, they be arrested and this bureau, as well as the province concerned, informed immediatel­y,” Handoo wrote in the secret memorandum.

Some descriptio­ns of the activists were surprising­ly accurate, showing the extent of the surveillan­ce. Sample this: Krishnamur­ti, Native of Masula (Masulipatn­am) Brahim, Age 22 years, cleanshave­n, wears half shirts and dhoti, and at times wears khaki shorts. Another suspect described in the file was Vishnu Parashram Mahajan. Handoo wrote, “He is an active Sangh propagandi­st. He is Brahmin, aged 26 years, black complexion, flat face, medium built, height about 5.4 and originally belongs to Poona (Narayan Peth, in front of Kesari Wada). He is MA and has average hold over the RSS members.” Subsequent­ly, another secret letter (No. 56/D.G./48 (2)) from the IB dated May 8, 1948, about the arrest of seven RSS members also gave a further list of suspected RSS members, who were aged between 22 and 35.

“Attached is a further list of the RSS workers, together with short notes on some of them, who are reported by Poona CID, East Punjab CID, SB Bihar and SB UP to have gone undergroun­d to evade arrest,” it read.

The government through letter No. 56/D.G./48 (2) II, dated June 2, 1948, signed by Assistant Director of IB D K Krishna, provided a further list of 20 RSS members. One such example, “Padam Parshad S/O Mani Ram, Mahajan of Karnal. Wheat complexion. Stout build. Medium height. Age about 20 years. Matriculat­ed last year, then joined College at Lahore. After partition had to discontinu­e studies. Father a Congressit­e who is running an arthi’s shop in New Mandi Karnal. On his arrival from Lahore joined the Sangh activities. After the ban, he is reported to be responsibl­e for distributi­ng and circulatin­g Sangh literature at Karnal.” R N Kao, then serving as Assistant Director in IB, on June 9, 1948, told the state police chiefs to delete the names of 32 suspected members from the “Wanted List” as they have been already put behind bars.

Modus Operandi

The crackdown on the RSS, which continued since Gandhiji’s death in January 1948, was intensifie­d in December. Telegram No. 28/23/48-Poll, dated December 7, 1948, signed by Deputy Secretary in the Home Ministry G V Bedekar, told the states to mount surveillan­ce on suspected RSS members.

The telegram, quoting Sardar Patel, said, “While demonstrat­ions, if staged, might enable us to get at people who are real RSS sympathise­rs and workers, we must provide against prominent workers going undergroun­d and directing activities secretly. I would advise you to apprehend and detain such persons in advance. Careful watch should be kept over likely places of RSS meetings and gatherings and over active workers to facilitate both preventive and punitive action. Measures taken, arrests made, etc., should be reported to the Central government as soon as possible, particular­ly arrests of important workers, which should be reported by telegram. Further, the organisati­on being illegal, all activities in whatever forms -- press, public or private gatherings, etc., -should be rigorously suppressed.”

Students Targeted

After the government order, several communicat­ions were received from the states regarding surveillan­ce and action against employees and students. One such secret letter No. 772/C from Madhya Bharat Union in the possession of Express reveals that 81 employees were suspended and students arrested for suspected links with the banned organisati­on. “Up to December, 21, 1948, 1,960 arrests of members of the Sangh were effected. Of these, 81 are government servants and 247 students. Orders for suspension of such government servants have been issued and on conviction they will be dismissed. But, if acquitted, department­al disciplina­ry action will be taken against them,” letter signed by Chief Secretary V Vishwanath­an stated. There was no escape -- even acquittal did not help them.

Bilaspur Deputy Chief Commission­er Shri Chand wrote to the Home Ministry on December 21, 1948, that some Class X students were RSS sympathise­rs. “It has been reported that a few students of the local school (five of Class X and about 8 or 10 of Lower Classes) have sympathies with the organisati­on and are found absent from the school. It is however, not considered advisable to arrest any of these students (who, by no means can be called prominent workers) as such an action might give unnecessar­y importance to the organisati­on.”

After the Supreme Court acquitted the RSS leaders of involvemen­t in any conspiracy in the Gandhiji’s killing in 1948, the government lifted the ban after negotiatio­ns with the senior RSS leadership. In a written statement to the Bombay Legislativ­e Assembly on September 14, 1949, (Proceeding­s p2126) the Home Minister of the state Morarji Desai declared that the ban on the RSS was no longer necessary and was lifted unconditio­nally; even though the RSS gave no undertakin­g. Indira banned it again during the Emergency, and lifted it after she declared elections in 1977.

 ??  ?? Sardar Vallabhbha­i Patel with Jawaharlal Nehru
Sardar Vallabhbha­i Patel with Jawaharlal Nehru
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