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 taken on February 4, 1948, when Nehru was the prime minister and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel was 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 The Sunday Standard 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.
A secret file (No. F-74(1)-P/48) reveals government employees were under surveillance from 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 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 were arrested as well as 8,000 satyagrahis who demonstrated against the draconian laws of the time. The secret file includes a letter trail from states informing that spy agency 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.
Sardar Patel, who is said to have a sympathetic approach towards the RSS, had to toe the line of the government when a unanimous decision to ban RSS was taken by the government. Patel had held a meeting with Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar, the legendary Sarsanghchalak of the Hindu organisation who had requested for a meeting with Nehru but the latter had 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 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 can 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 the Opposition in 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 Gandhi’s assassination “under pressure from Jawaharlal Nehru.”
SCORCHED 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 are found to be watching a procession of RSS on the street.
Excerpts From Official Files
Surveillance on Children
“It has been reported that a few students of the local school (five of Class X and eight-10 of lower classes) have sympathies with the organisation and are found absent from school,” a letter from Deputy Chief Commissioner Office, Bilaspur, Dec 21, 1948 on the outcome of surveillance
Action Against Officials
“Watching RSS demonstration amounts to expression of sympathy with RSS and would render them (government officials) liable to departmental action.” HVR Ienger, Home Secretary, Dec 12, 1948
Gag Order on Media
“Immediate steps be taken by persuasion to see that news relating to RSS activities, arrests etc is not published under bold or prominent headlines and is consigned to unimportant portion of newspapers,” HVR Ienger, Home Secretary, Dec 12, 1948
“81 government servants and 247 students arrested. Orders for suspension have been issued,” V Vishwanathan, Chief Secretary Madhya Bharat to Central Government, Dec 24, 1948
“Two government servants (1) Prabhakar Ganesh Pujari alias Rajopadhye, clerk in the city post office, and (2) Ganesh Shankar Kulkarni, clerk in the office of the secretary, were arrested and detained,” Administrator Kolhapur state letter, Dec 24, 1948
Intelligence Bureau’s Most Wanted
“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,” Intelligence Bureau Deputy Director G K Handoo to states, March 30, 1948
“In continuation of this Bureau’s circular memorandum No. 56/D.G/48 (2), dated 8.5.48, enclosed is a further list of RSS workers, who are reported to have gone underground,” D K Krishna, Intelligence Bureau’s Assistant Director, June 2, 1948
PM Refused to Meet Golwalkar
A leaflet ‘Our View Point’, seized from Kolhapur, claimed M S Golwalkar met Sardar Patel to discuss the “RSS ban” issue. During the meeting, he requested Patel if he could meet Prime Minister Nehru. It claimed that Nehru refused to meet Golwalkar saying that “nothing will come out of the meeting”.