Saturday, September 10, 2011

Balasaheb Deoras and Indian Muslims - Muzaffar Hussain

The man who could persuade the Muslims to change their perception of Hindutva - Balasaheb Deoras & Indian Muslims

By Muzaffar Hussain

Publication Date : July 5, 1996 

Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh has always been a subject of controversy for its perception of the Indian Muslim. It has been persistently dubbed communalist and describing its style of functioning as Fascist, no efforts are spared to bring it a bad name. Dr K.B.Hedgewar laid the foundation of the RSS in 1925 on the Vijyadashmi day for organising Hindus. Just because it primarily aims at protecting the interests of Hindus it is not logical to conclude that it poses a threat to non-Hindus. The RSS founder Dr. Hedgewar himself used to say that organinsing the Hindus was like weighing frogs in a balance. Hindus have a long tradition of social reformers and thinkers and Hedgewar can as well be regarded as a nucleus in the chain, because the number of his followers went on growing and the RSS work continued to expand. As the Sangh grew from strength to strength winning recognition in society its opponents also continued to make it a target of their criticism from time to time. It is not that the criticism came only from Muslims and Christians, a number of Hindu leaders themselves spared no pains to run down the Sangh in popular perception, besides religious heads and various organisers of people and social philosophers. As time passed all the allegations levelled against the RSS turned out to be baseless and hollow. But the charge of being anti-minorities continues to be repeated to date. All the three Sarsanghchalaks tried to refute the charge with their noble deeds and acts of service but the wily political operators would not let it be.

Dr. Hedgewar was deeply impressed by Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyaya's renowed world classic Anandmath. It should not be surprising if Doctorji had designed the RSS structure and its working by drawing inspiration from this classic. A writers hits at the establishment that gives rise to evil tendencies. It is but natural if the breaking up of Bengal in 1905 and the founding of the Muslim League in 1996 by the ruler of Dhaka had its impact on Bankim Babu. Anandmath not only sent out a singal of revolution but also elaborated how to go about it. Therefore when he returned to Nagpur he had Anandmath for his model when he set about forming the RSS. Bengal was then under Muslim rule. The British were trying to gobble up the rich area but the reigning Nawab was no match for them. Naturally opposition to the prevailing state of affairs cannot be construed as opposition to Muslims. Vande Mataram too is a gift from Anandmath. This is one reason why Muslims did not wholeheartedly accept Vande Mataram even though it was adopted as the national song by the Constituent Assembly. By 1925 the Khilafat movement had already had its impact. Thus in spite of being a staunch follower of Mahatma Gandhi Dr. Hedgewar felt that in this particular matter Gandhiji was not being fair to the Hindus. Accepting every demand of the Muslims was likely to later degenerate into political appeasement. Muslim could blackmail the Hindus to have their demands accepted. Hedgewar therefore stressed that the entire Indian population should be regarded as one. Gandhiji did not accept this position yet Doctorji continued to be his follower, actively participating in every one of his agitations. His was a historic contribution to the Nagpur session of the Congress.
Balasaheb Deoras

On the other hand although he sincerely believed in Gandhiji's creed of non-violence he had a nagging fear that after the country was independent or after the British quit what was the guarantee that a Taimur or a Babur, a Duplex or a Clove might not come marauding. He therefore wanted the Hindus to be militarity equipped to defend the Motherland in case of an eventuality. Dr. Hedgewar passed away in 1940.The events that followed were witnessed by Guruji Golwalker in his capacity as Sarsanghchalak. Partition, classification/categorisation of minorities in the Constitution and Gandhiji's assassination. The Congress party, particularly Jawaharlal Nehru, sought to implicate the RSS in the Gandhi murder case. They even appointed a commission to inquire into it. A through investigation was carried out. The charges made against the Sangh were refuted once by Sardar Patel and twice by Morarji Desai. But those indulging in politics of separatism by consolidating a vote-bank of Muslim votes with a view to monopolising power would not accept the truth and persisted in their obduracy. They constantly held before the Muslims the threat of their liquidation at the hands of those who did not spare even Gandhiji, So, if they want to live in India with guaranteed security they should vote for the Congress. In order to sustain this argument they engineered communal riots throughout the country at the smallest opportunity so that the Muslim live in perpetual fear and stick to the Congress. With every riot the charge would be repeated that the RSS was at the root of it. And the report of the occasional commission to investigate the riots would invariably absolve the RSS of any involvement. A number of reports categorically stated that the riots were started by the minority community. Meanwhile with its limited means the RSS too endeavoured to disabuse the Muslim mind of this unfounded fear. Whether there are floods in Assam or Gujarat, the havoc wrought by cyclones along the eastem coastline all the way from Calcutta to Madras or may be scarcity conditions in some part of the country the Sangh would be the first to arrive at the sight of the calamity to render all possible relief. The RSS volunteers of course serve all irrespective of religion, sect, language, creed or caste. As result the Muslims had first-hand experience of what the Sangh is and what it can do. This dispelled their fears and the preconceived view that the Sangh was their enemy. At the time of the Machchhu dam burst in Morvi (Gujarat) the RSS volunters helped the Muslims without any reservations and then for the first time the press too had to editorially acknowledge the bitter truth that the old canard against the Sangh was nothing but malice.

The delusion and the imaginary terror resulting in perpectual political enmity continued for a long time. The Sangh for its part remained charateristically quiet and went on with its mission with a firm resolve and full faith in itself. In 1973 the leadership of the RSS devolved upon Balasaheb Deoras. In 1967 the Congress suffered its first electoral reverse and the RSS role in the 1971 war answered most of the doubts of its detractors. During the 1962 India China war the Sangh had rendered signal service to the armed force all along the strife torn area from Bomadila to the interior parts of Arunachal Pradesh, which has been duly acknowledged by several Generals, including Gen. Thimayya in their respective works. Gen. Jacob the them C-in-C of the Eastern Command proudly mentions in his speeches that the Army received its first congratulatory message after their conquest of Dhaka from the RSS.

Indian politics experienced its first internal upheaval with the declaration of the Emergency in June 1975. This was the second time to RSS was banned during Deoras's career and the first for him to face in his capacity as the Sarsanghchalak. The whole of India was turned into a veritable jail. I need not repeat what the Sangh had to go through. Balasaheb however gave it a positive turn. While in jail he had the opportunity to react with the leaders and activists of many banned Muslim organisations including the Jamaat-e-Islami. As a result the two parties came closer not only in their thinking and responces but also in their day-to-day dealings. By their conduct the RSS adhikaris dispelled the Muslims' apprehension that the RSS was their enemy. It was the first miracle Balasaheb achieved by giving a positive turn to the Muslim perception of the Sangh. After being acquainted with the ideology of the RSS, hitherto dubbed a body of militant Hindus, leaders of the Jama'at-e-Islami came to conclusion that barring image-worship there was no fundamental difference in Islam and Sanatan Dharma.The jail during the Emergency became a turning point where the impasse between the two communities came to an end and paved the way for a dialogue. The change brought about two major gains. One, the Congress got a serve drubbing, two, there was an instant awakening among the country's masses. At this point Balasaheb realised
that the Sangh has to exercise responsibility also at the Government level. Just to teach a lesson to the Congress party he even agreed to merge his brain-child the Jana Sangh with the Janata Party. It cleared the misapprehension that the RSS was a die-hard inflexible body which will never countenance a compromise. Aver the Meenakshipuram incident the Shankaracharyas had to come out of the temples and mix with the people, Imaam Abdulah Bukhari of Delhi's Jama Masjid was already in thick of a popular uprising. The performance of Atal Behari Vajpayee as the Minister for External Affairs and L.K.Advani as the Minister for Information and Broadcasting demonstrated to the Muslim people that the RSS swayamevaks would not say one thing and do something else. In the 80s and the 90s several States had BJP Governments or BJP as a coalition parther. These States remained free from comunal riots and further strenghened the Muslims' faith that the RSS is never responsible for Hindu-Muslim riots.The Meenakshipuram incident thoroughly shook the nationalist Muslim and those who worked for harmony. They were displeased with the mischief. Like the Shah Bano case which moved the enlightened muslims to think afresh on their personal law in the context on their personal law in the context of the changed circumstances of the modern age, the Meenakshipuram incident too initiated the Muslims to realise that such activities do not help in putting into practice principle of co-existence. This kind of opening of the minds began with the coming of Balasaheb.

Some Muslims had gone to the RSS central office in Nagpur for discussion in the course of which it was time of offer namaz for which they sought leave. Balasaheb asked them if they could not offer namaz in the RSS office. Why not, said the Muslims visitors. Balasaheb then prompty had arrangements made in the office for the guests to offer namaz and for wuzoo the ceremonial washing of hands and feet prepratory to offering namaz. Presently the RSS office resounded with azan, the call to the faithful to pray. The Muslims wondered at the RSS doing all this. Balasaheb however found nothing novel or surprising about it. He believed that the day both the communities rid themselves of mutal misgivings and mistrust most of the country's problems would be solved. Saints bind the people together, Governments and politics rend them asunder. This liberal attitude of the Sangh was openly appreciated by the press. Rarely there appears in the world a historic figure who actually translates his words into deeds.
As of now there are countless Muslim boys attending the shakka, some of whom are even office bearers like gata pramukh (group leaders) or mukhya shikshak (chief instructor.) The boys never feel that the shakha has two different sets of people, namely, Muslims and Hindus. On December 31 last year Mangalore held a special rally of some 1.5 lakh people among which 68 Muslim youth attended it in their capacity as swayamsevaks. It indeed was a unique feature of the grand function.

Balasaheb's concept of Hindutva has greatly influenced the Muslim perception. It has utterly non-plussed the currently fashionable expression ``secular''. The concept of cultural nationalism as propounded by Deoras is not at all unpalatable either to those who subscribe to Dr Iqbal's ideology or those who believe in the philosophy of the erudite Maulana Abul Kalam Azad. By the sheer force of his liberal attitude this great thinker has shaken the foundations of bigotry and obscuratism, replacing it with the truest from of nationalism which can only be described as Hindusthaniyat.

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