Friday, September 9, 2011

Ma. Balasaheb Deoras' shining legacy

BY H V Seshadri


 The name and person Ma. Balasaheb Deoras brings up the picture of the consistent march of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh covering three generations : partly of the times of Ma. Doctorji, of Ma. Guruji and the present one. On the strength of his upbringing in Sangh under the founder of Sangh-the master man-maker-coupled with his own remarkable qualities of head and heart-Shri Balasaheb began matching his role with the all round growth of the Sangh and rising expectations of the people from the organisation.

Courting martyrdom

Even as Guruji's assumption of Sarsanghchalak's responsibility came during the forties-the crucial period of the nation's struggle for freedom-Shri Balasaheb's assuming charge of the Sangh also happened to be under trying circumstances. Within just a couple of years of his stewardship of the Sangh, Smt Indira Gandhi cramped Internal Emergency. Many, including Shri Jayaprakash Narayan felt that the dark night of internal slavery would never end, that the country would never be able to see the dawn of freedom and democracy in their life-time. Just as Guru Teg Bahadur had offered himself for martyrdom at the hands of Aurangzeb to save the Hindus of Kashmir from the Islamic frenzy of conversion, Balasaheb too sent a brief note to the underground Sangh leaders intimating them of his decision to go on an indefinite fast (in jail) to save the rashtra-dharma of democratic values from the strangehold of the Emergency; which in his diabetic condition would not have lasted for more than a few days and would have claimed his life. However, the underground leaders felt that in view of the total blocking out of all communication channels with the people and the nearly deadened conscience of Smt Gandhi, even that supreme sacrifice would not have the desired impact. Accordingly, Shri Balasaheb was informed that his decision was unacceptable. However, the inspiring saga of how the entire Sangh brotherhood rose to the occasion staking their all reflected the same spirit of martyrdom. The most crucial and dominant role they played in the successful anti-Emergency struggle forms a unique and unparalleled page in the annals of peaceful democratic revolutions in the world.

Enriching the tradition

The Sangh leadership also set up yet another record in refusing to be tempted by power in the post-Emergency era. Swayamsevaks stood true to the Hindus vision of an ideal social set-up in which there would be millions of workers who would keep themselves aloof from every kind of material inducement and rewards-power, pelf or even name and fame-solely dedicated to the cause of all round national rejuvenation.

New thrust to social transformation

The social transformation initiated by the Sangh long back also received further thrust during Shri Balasaheb's leadership. Dr Hedgewar's inbuilt mechanism in the Sangh technique had ensured the elimination of every kind of discrimination and dissension arising out of a parochial approach to one's own caste, sect, class, language or province. Later on, Shri Guruji strove successfully to involve the leading Shankaracharyas, Madhvacharyas, Ramanujacharya and other important religious heads of Varkaris, Lingayats, Sikhs, etc. to take up leading roles in washing off the blot of untouchability. Thus a new smriti came into being with the new mantra of Hindvah sodarah sarve. This energised a two-fold process of bringing together all our diverse denominational faiths under a single, all-embracing Hindu fold and also of their joining hands in re-charging the spirit of unity in diversity and of self-reformation and self-renewal of the Sanatana Dharma in tune with the call of the time, i.e., the yugadharma.

Setting a personal example

Speaking at the celebrated Vasant-Vyakhyanmala at Pune, Balasaheb declared unequivocally that "if untouchability is not a sin, nothing else is. It must go lock stock and barrle" The emphasis on social harmony and equality was not merely an academic principle for him. The spirit had seeped into him right from his young days while learning at the feet of the founder. As karyavaha of Nagpur shakha, it was natural that swayamsevaks from all sections of society should be visiting his house. Balasaheb's parents, were, however, strictly adhering to the orthodox caste restrictions, including untouchability. Balasaheb told his mother that there should absolutely be no discrimination, no queries, regarding the caste of the visiting swayamsevaks, When invited for meals. they will sit with him and their plates will be removed and washed by family members just as his own. Otherwise, he would stop asking swayamsevaks to come to his house. Such was the extremely loving bond between the parents and Balasaheb that the former agreed and there was no hitch whatsoever thereafter.

Revising reservation policy

Sushil Kumar shinde with Ma. Deoras
Balasaheb followed by this approach while formulating the Sangh's policy towards the ticklish issue of reservation. When some years ago, a draft resolution on that subject was placed before the Akhil Bharatiya Pratinidhi Sabha a hot discussion followed-both for and against it. At one stage, when there appeared to be no chance of reaching a consensus Balasaheb intervened and remarked. "Just for a moment, think of yourself as having been born in such a neglected, scheduled caste family and then decide." This appeal went home and soon the resolution was passed unanimously with a few minor changes. In a nutshell the resolution. even while it deprecated the vote-bank politics of several parties which has left the scheduled caste brethren mostly backward, it felt the need for the support of reservation necessary for some more time. A national committee should be formed comprising non- partisan, seasoned administrators, educationists, sociologists, jurists and other leading public figures; it should go into the entire question of ensuring social justice to scheduled castes in all respects in a time- bound manner so that those sections could compete with others on an equal footing and reservations would become redundant. This was the genius of Shri Balasaheb in thrashing out a balanced solution even amidst divergent viewpoints.

Initiating Ekatmata Mantra

For strengthening the essential bond thread of unity and harmony among our various faiths and sects. Balasaheb requested Shri Shripad Bhaskar Varnekarji a reputed Sanskrit scholar to compose a shloka highlighting it. Nor did he stop at that. He made it a practice of repeating the whole shloka in his public speeches. Known as Ekatmata Mantra it has now become a part of the daily Pratahsmaranam, being recited by lakhs of swayamsevaks and in schools and at religious-cum-social functions. Doctorji's birth-centenary celebrations afforded yet another occasion to expand the social transformation activities of the Sangh specially among the poor and neglected sections like slum-dwellers, the rural poor and vanavasis. The spontaneous offerings towards the Seva Nidhi by lakhs of countrymen reflected the unsullied credibility of swayamsevaks in the public mind.

Enriching Intellectual conviction

Gifted with a profoundly critical intellect. Balasaheb gave a much-needed fillip to the process of a direct dialogue with workers at different levels by having question-answer sessions with them. He himself had inherited this style from Doctorsaheb with whom he and his shakha peers would sit for long hours seeking answers to a number of doubts arising in their minds even at the early stage of the Sangh. This two-way intellectual feedback has proved very useful in firming up the conviction of the rank and file and workers. Such an organisational direction was particularly needed in view of the fast-changing intellectual agenda at the national level, what with the phenomenal rise of Hindu awareness and Hindutva come up to centre stage. Before he retired from his post Balasaheb left behind a shining legacy. The Sangh offers its homage and prays to the Almighty to grant his soul moksha.

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