Published on Apr 27, 1998
Then RSS joint general secretary says the Sangh's first priority is character-building
IT is not new that every time the BJP comes into prominence, politically that is, the name of the RSS is brought in almost compulsively. For all its attempts to shun media attention, the RSS is again in the limelight. For those who would like to rush to a quick conclusion that the RSS has realised its goal with the BJP coming to power, the words of Guruji Golwalkar should be revealing.
"Our real national regeneration should start with the moulding of man, instilling in him the strength to overcome human frailties and stand up as a shining symbol of Hindu manhood embodying within himself all our traditional values of love, self-restraint, sacrifice, service and character. We should unfailingly keep this vision, this real essence of our glorious nationhood before our eyes, so that we can again rise to our original pedestal of world preceptor."
The Sangh's first priority is to strengthen its character-moulding programme—only to the extent to which such 'men with capital M' become available. The RSS is in no hurry. Over the years we have built many new institutions, some of which have outlived their relevance. But long-standing institutions and attitudes cannot change as if by the turn of a magic wand. As historian Will Durant put it: "After all, when one tries to change institutions without having changed the nature of men, that unchanged nature will soon resurrect those institutions."
The RSS feels that no material objective transformation can be successful if it is not accompanied by appropriate subjective and psychological transformation. The RSS, through its vast network of shakhas, service projects and the silent workers, the swayamsevaks, attempts to bring about such changes. The country missed an opportunity in 1947, when we could have promptly set about the task of social transformation. Instead we got mired in needless controversies and isms.
After 1947, a whole new generation was brought up on borrowed ideologies which naturally needed borrowed technology, capital and infrastructure. As a result, the creative ability of the country suffered. Economic prosperity and politics bereft of 'swadeshi, swabhasha and swatantra' will lead us nowhere. We must remind ourselves of our 'rajyadharma' and 'rashtradharma' and understand the subtle difference between rajya and rashtra. The concept of Hindu rashtra should not be confused with a theocratic Hindu rajya which is something absolutely nonexistent, like the proverbial flower-in-the-sky.
In an article written for Organiser (June 25, 1956) Shri Guruji wrote that after S.P. Mookerjee resigned from the government, he did not find any of the then existing political parties suitable. Deciding to found a new party he met Guruji and sought his counsel. "We met often.... Naturally, I had to warn him that the RSS could not be drawn into politics, that it could not play second fiddle to any political or other party, since no organisation, devoted to the wholesale regeneration of the real, that is cultural, life of the Nation, could ever function if it was to be used as a handmaid of political parties."
The issue of Hindus vis-a-vis non-Hindus has been dealt with by the late M.C. Chagla more emphatically than probably any other RSS sympathiser. "In the true sense, we are all Hindus although we may practise different religions. If the distinction (between Hindus and non-Hindus) were to go then there will be no conflict between Hindus and non-Hindus." (Bhawan's Journal, August 27-September 9, 1978).
The founder of the RSS, K.B. Hedgewar, realised the need for this distinction to go just as Gandhiji had concluded assimilation was a time-tested process by which society gained strength. But assimilation presupposes an accommodating philosophy and the real-isation of its inherent strength by society which is predominantly Hindu. The expression Hindu has a totally national aspect that takes in its stride the whole gamut of the traditional culture and other civilisational aspects of social behaviour as evolved on this soil through millennia. Hindu should not be seen in any context other than dharma, which not in the least means religion in the sense of an ecclesiastical order. Dharma is the Hindus' eternal point of reference.
Those who are allergic to the very word dharma and have therefore difficulty in understanding and appreciating it might find it useful to know what the champion secularist of our times, Jawah-arlal Nehru, had to say about it. In a foreword to a book by Shriman Narayan (May 25, 1964) Nehru writes: "In India it is important for us to profit by modern technical processes and increase our production both in agriculture and industry. But in doing so we must not forget that the essential objective to be aimed at is the quality of the individual and the concept of dharma underlying it."
It is this dharma that Hedgewar sought to project and perpetuate when he started the RSS in 1925 and later incorporated its principles in the RSS prayer revised in 1940. We should endeavour to protect this dharma—vidhaya asya dharmasya samakshanam, says the RSS prayer. Thus, he was not in favour of adopting any readymade ism as the Sangh's philosophy, no Hedgewarism, and certainly not Hinduism.
The Hindu thought and philosophy is truly universal in nature, content and character. It is not even in conflict with internationalism. It would be useful to recall here what Gandhiji said about Hinduism:
"Hinduism is a relentless pursuit after Truth, and if today it has become moribund, inactive and irresponsive to growth, it is because we are fatigued, and as soon as the fatigue is over, Hinduism will burst forth upon the world with a brilliance perhaps unknown before." Thus the path of nationalism along which the RSS proceeds in its task of reorganising the national life of Hindu is in conformity with the spirit of world unity and universal welfare.
Hedgewar firmly believed that before embarking upon the worldwide mission of krinvanto vishwam aryam, (let us make the world noble), we must put our own house in order.
Therefore, his emphasis was on creating a strong network of shakhas where Hindus would gather and refurbish the values of life. If India's glorious heritage was being condemned and divided, if attempts to recast Hindu society in the mould of one of the newfangled isms or religious orders seemed to succeed, if disorganised and diffident Hindus fell an easy prey to global predatory forces, how can we as a nation realise our world mission? Hedgewar forged the unique shakha with its auto-financing system and deep-rooted traditions as moorings to mould the Hindus so that we can stand before the world a mighty self-confident nation.
(As told to Seshadri Chari, editor, Organiser)