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Why Rahul Gandhi & cohorts should not target RSS – it will boomerang

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There was a huge outrage against Mallikarjun Kharge for saying, “Not even a dog of RSS people lost their lives in independence struggle”. I have named Rahul Gandhi because he is the President of Congress (I), and it is not an isolated incident. The current Congress is not the Congress of the independence struggle. It was split in 1969 by his grandmother and all the veterans of freedom struggle were thrown out. Many towering figures had already been thrown out by Nehru as he ‘purged’ Congress of nationalists and non-conformists who didn’t believe in his wonky idea of Communism dressed and fed as Nehruvian Socialism to gullible Indians.

Beginning from Dr Ambedkar, who refused to add ‘socialist’ in the preamble of Constitution and was never allowed to win any election to Purshotttamdas Tandon, of Hindu nationalism stream, Acharya Kripalani, Socialist group of Lohia Ji, Chaudhary Charan Singh and so on. Sardar Patel, of course, went unsung for decades before public memory and Modi brought him back into the limelight. The list is too long. Next round of de-Congressification and another Left turn began with induction of ex-card holders like Mohan Kumarmangalam. But, that’s another story for another day. Presently, the point I make is that it is not the Congress party of the Independence struggle.

Incidentally, I have just completed a book on RSS and Freedom Struggle. I can end up writing a long essay, but I must hold back. I will talk about RSS contribution very briefly later. This urge of owning up entire independence struggle as a Nehru story or at the most Nehru-Gandhi story is an insult to 1000s of revolutionaries and unnamed citizens who lost their lives and their livelihoods in the struggle. It is an insult to the memory of Netaji, Savarkar, Subramania Bharati, Chandrashekhar Azad, Bhagat Singh et al who waged an armed struggle against British in which 100s of Indians including Netaji lost their lives. Reasons for keeping Netaji files in wraps are not clear. But, this shows how he was sought to be sidelined. It is a strong public sentiment that didn’t allow this memory loss. That he had to resign from the post of Congress president due to adverse pressure built by Gandhi ji and Nehru ji is a blot on Congress history.

It is a travesty of history that Congress keeps talking about 1942 Quit India agitation as if that movement was the biggest cause of independence. Just to refresh the current history, earlier agitations were in 1920-21 and 1931. With all due respect and humility, the idea that such non-violent agitations in gaps of 10 years were the cause of our freedom is an overreaching argument. As noted earlier, 1000s of Indians didn’t allow British to rule in peace during these years. 1947 was a culmination of multiple movements – violent and non-violent that ran simultaneously, including the spiritual movements of saints like Swami Vivekananda, Aurobindo etc. After historic admission by Attlee (under whose premiership, Independence of India was declared) that it was not Gandhiji or Quit India movement that forced British to depart, but Netaji’s INA war that saw trials of INA soldiers after WWII, snowballed into angry rebellion by Navy in Mumbai in 1946 that made British leave India as they were already too enfeebled by WWII.

Even more serious question is – did a declaration of Independence mean Congress leaders abandon the orphans of partition – a violent partition? When violence erupted in East Punjab and Sindh, it was RSS and its brave swayamsevaks, as also sevikas of Rashtra Sevika Samiti who stood up to the Muslim League goons. It was RSS that directed 12 of its top karyakartas to stay back and take care of their community till they migrated properly from Sindh. There were young swayamsevaks who stood shoulder to shoulder with Dogra and later Indian army to fight back Pakistani attack that Jinnah believed would allow him to spend searing summers in cool climes of Srinagar. It was same organisation that arranged relief committees for Sindh, Punjab, Jammu & Kashmir and Bengal. Special rehabilitation camps were created and whatever could be managed within scarce resources, was done. Truth be told that RSS selflessly escorted even Congress leaders, saved their families without any discrimination; helped Muslim women return back to their families on Pakistan side, fought on streets where required and paid a heavy price in personal and family life. As a Punjabi, I have heard personal anecdotes of depraved violence at that time and sacrifices by RSS swayamsevaks from within my extended family.

Fact is entire nation was working under the banner of Congress as the representative of Indian people. It had leaders of all shades of political views. When ‘Direct Action’ or communal attack took place in 1946, Congress capitulated and agreed to partition. Was it wise? What was the charge against RSS? That it was communal – first called communal by British then faithfully copy-pasted by Congress for standing up for Hindu-Sikh brethren. There is a book in Hindi – Jyoti Jala Nij Pran Ki in Hindi that captures the year of turbulence and heartbreaking stories with well-referred accounts in over 550 pages of testimonials.

Rather than being busy with the resettlement of displaced brethren and serious issues of communal tensions since the Direct Action of August 1946, Congress wasted its energies on suppressing RSS, just as it is happening now. At that time Muslim League paper ‘Dawn’ demanded a ban on RSS and was very happy when RSS was banned in 1948. We see a similar convergence of views today too.

There are too many questions that beg answers. Why were a lakh or more of refugees from Lyllpur who crossed over in 1947, mostly SC/ST left in the lurch at that very critical juncture when Sheikh Abdullah would have agreed to absorb them as he too was desperate for power? That these, now, 10 lakh people are still languishing in worse conditions with no citizenship rights, no right to admission in educational institutes or jobs is a reflection on our short-sighted politics. It is ironic that one Lyallpur resident luckily chose to migrate to Punjab side and went on to become the PM of this nation for 10 years while his brethren chose Jammu and they are still at the mercy of fate, not governance. But, for the sacrifice of Dr Shyama Prasad Mukherjee who was allegedly medically murdered by total neglect and wrong medicines, we would have literally seen Jammu & Kashmir a separate nation with just a nominal link with India then itself.

Someone may ask what was the compulsion in not liberating Goa, Daman, Diu, Nagar Haveli and Pudhucherry after 1947? Why did our own citizens remain slaves at the mercy Portuguese colonialists and French respectively? Why was it done only when some brave hearts including RSS satyagrahis liberated the enclaves in Gujarat and fought hard in Goa? 14 years lost! Was it in search of international glory as an ambassador of peace? Why were revolutionary fighters of Goa like Mohan Ranade and his friend had to languish in jails in solitary confinement, including jails of Portugal till 1969?

Let me also tell readers that the foundation of the conflict was laid way back in the 1960s when Congress refused to accede to Punjabi Suba demand of Akalis for the fear of losing elections there, though all other regions of India had been re-organised by the Central government already in 1950s. The anger simmered on.

There are too many questions that Congress will need to answer when it unnecessarily tries to corner RSS though it is not a competition to Congress. Its opponent is BJP. Congress knows that RSS has done enough for a young organisation that had only ‘chhokras’ or urchins as Nehru put it than many other worthy organisations. Whether it was 1921 (RSS founder was a member of Congress at that time) or post RSS birth in 1925 in 1931 and in 1942, RSS played its role well. In fact, what it did in 1946-1947 should be celebrated as a golden chapter in Indian freedom history. RSS has no reasons to feel embarrassed by Rahul Gandhi cheerleaders, it is Congress that will need to respond to more embarrassing questions that have been brushed under the carpet for many years.

By Ratan Sharda

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