NEW DELHI:The secret letter (No.454), written by the then Home Secretary HVR Ienger to the states on December 12, 1948, is the brute reminder of a different Nehru regime when newspapers were asked not to publish RSS stories, quite similar to what Indira Gandhi replicated 27 years later. “We suggest that 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,” wrote to all the states.
He further directed: “In event of RSS demonstration near government offices, there should be no collection of government servants who should be warned that watching of such demonstration amounts to expression of sympathy with RSS and would render them liable to departmental action.
“Watch should be kept on numbers of absentees in Government Offices and any unusual increases investigated and reasons for absence scrutinized strictly.”
“Careful watch should be kept on suspected members of RSS amongst government servants to prevent or detect cases of leakages of information and to find out if they are actually members. Drastic departmental action should be taken immediately in event of breaches of office discipline or confirmation that a person is member.”
The diktat issued by the government cleared stated that “Government servants found participating in RSS activities or convicted of any offence connected therewith should be immediately suspended and dealt with departmentally, and in cases of conviction in court dismissed immediately.”
Iengar told the states that police authorities should be asked to communicate any information regarding arrest or conviction of government servants to departmental heads concerned without delay.
THE HIT LIST IS READY
A month after the ban on RSS was imposed, G K Handoo, Deputy Director (IB), wrote to all Police Chiefs on December 30, 1948, providing a list of 19 suspected RSS sympathisers who may have gone underground. “Attached is a list of RSSS workers who are reported to-date to have gone ‘underground’. It is requested that a watch may kindly be kept for them and, if traced they be arrested and this bureau, as well as the province concerned, informed immediately,” Handoo wrote in the secret memorandum. Some descriptions of activists were surprisingly accurate, showing the extent of the surveillance. Sample this: Krishnamurti, Native of Masula (Masulipatnam) Brahim, age 22 years clean-shaven, wears half shirts and dhoti and at times wears khaki shorts. Another suspect described in the file is Vishnu Parashram Mahajan. IB Deputy Director Handoo wrote: “He is an active RSS Sangh Propagandist. He is Brahmin, aged 26 years, black complexion, flat face, medium built, height about 5’4’ and originally belongs to Poona (Narayan Peth, in front of Kesari Wada). He is MA and has average hold over the RSS members.” Subsequently, another secret letter (No. 56/D.G./48 (2)) from the Intelligence Bureau dated May 8, 1948 about the arrest of 7 RSS members also gave a further list of suspected RSS members who were aged between 22 and 35.
“Attached is a further list of RSS workers, together with short notes on some of them, who are reported by Poona C.I.D., East Punjab CID, SB Bihar and SB UP to have gone ‘Underground’ to evade arrest.”
The government through a letter No. 56/D.G./48 (2) II, dated June 2, 1948, signed by D K Krishna, Assistant Director, IB, provided a further list of 20 RSS members. One such example: “Padam Parshad S/O Mani Ram, Mahajan of Karnal. Wheat Complexion: Stout Build; Medium Height; Age About 20 Years. Matriculated last year. Then joined College at Lahore. After partition had to discontinue studies. Father a Congressite who is running an arthi’s shop in New Mandi Karnal. On his arrival from Lahore joined the Sangh activities. After the ban he is reported to be responsible for distributing and circulating Sangh literature at Karnal.”
RN Kao, then serving as Assistant Director in IB wrote on June 9, 1948, told the state police chiefs to delete the names of 32 suspected members from the “Wanted List” as they have been already put behind bars.
RUTHLESS MODUS OPERANDI
The crackdown against RSS, which continued since Gandhi’s death in January 1948, was intensified in December. Telegram No. 28/23/48-Poll, dated December 7, 1948 signed by G V Bedekar, Deputy Secretary in the Home Ministry, told the states to mount surveillance on suspected RSS members. The telegram quoting Sardar Patel noted: “While demonstrations, if staged, might enable us to get at people who are real sympathizers and workers of RSS, we must provide against prominent workers going underground and directing activities secretly. I would advise you to apprehend and detain such persons in advance. Careful watch should be kept over likely places of meetings and gathering of RSS and over active workers to facilitate both preventive and punitive action. Measures taken, arrests made etc should be reported to Central government as soon as possible, particularly arrests of important workers, which should be reported by telegram. Further the organization being illegal, all activities in whatever form as Press, Public or Private gatherings etc should be rigorously suppressed.”
Another from the Madhya Bharat Union reproduced below shows the extent of the crackdown.
(Telegram enclosed with letter; No. 552/C)
ALL ADMINSITRATONS AND SUBAS
STRICT WATCH SHOULD BE KEPT ON ACTIVITIES OF RSS STOP LIST OF ALL MEMBERS SHOULD BE PREPARED BOTH GOVERNMENTSERVANTS AND OTHERS STOPIN MOST AREAS THEY ARE UNLAWFUL BODY BUT WHERE THEY ARE NOT ORDERS SHOULD BE MADE UNDER 144 CRIMINAL PROCEDURE CODE BANNING MEETING AND PROCESSION BY RSS STOP EVERYWHERE LEADING RSS MEN SHOULD BE ARRESTED AND DETAINED UNDER MAINTENANCE PUBLIC ORDER STOPNO REPEAT NO PROCESSIONS OR MEETINGS OR DEMONSTRATIONS BY RSS SHOULD BE ALLOWED AND WHERE ATTEMPT MADE TO HOLD MEETINGS OR PROCESSIONS OR DEMONSTRATIONS THEY SHOULD BE DISPERSED BY FORCE.
FOR CHIEF SECRETARY
10th December 1948
After the first directive of December 7 and a subsequent letter from Home Secretary Iengar seeking permission for surveillance of RSS members, the Home Ministry on December 16, 1948 wrote, “To obtain an idea of the occupational structure of people participating in the movement we should be grateful to be furnished with weekly telegraphic reports showing figures of arrests for detention and for trial by occupation such as students, government servants, businessman, refugees etc. First report for week ending 16th December be sent as soon as possible,” G V Bedekar’s Telegram “C” No. 28/23/48-Poll stated.
It also asked report on action taken against government servants including suspension and dismissal orders.
After the government order, several communications were received from the states regarding surveillance and action against employees and students. One such secret letter No. 772/C from Madhya Bharat Union in The Sunday Standard’s possession reveals 81 employees were suspended and students arrested for suspected links with the banned organization. “Up to 21st December, 1948, 1960 arrests of members of the Sangh were effected. Of these, 81 are government servants and 247 students. Orders for suspension of such government servants have been issued and on conviction they will be dismissed. But, if acquitted, departmental disciplinary action will be taken against them,” letter signed by Chief Secretary V Vishwanathan stated. There was no escape—even acquittal did not help them. Bilaspur Deputy Chief Commissioner, Shri Chand wrote to the Home ministry on December 21, 1948 that some Class X students were RSS sympathisers.
“It has been reported that a few students of the local school (5 of X class and about 8 or 10 of Lower classes) have sympathies with the organization and are found absent from the School. It is however, not considered advisable to arrest any of these students (who by no means can be called prominent workers) as such an action might give unnecessary importance to the organisation.” It was pure vendetta on a large scale, which was witnessed only between 1975 and 1977.
Another telegram, No. C-148, dated December 23, 1948 from the Dewan of Baroda informed the Home Ministry that suspension orders have been issued against 26 government employees.
A secret note No.H.70 (40-A)/48, dated December 24, 1948 from Capt. V Nanjappa, Administrator, Kolhapur State says, “Two government servants Viz (1) Prabhakar Ganesh Pujari alias Rajopadhye clerk in the city Post office, Kolhapur and (2) Ganesh Shankar Kulkarni Clerk in the office of the Secretary to government, local Self Government department, Kolhapur were arrested and detained under the Kolhapur Public Security Measures Act 1948 on 23/12/1948 for taking part in RSS activities. “ The government had also cracked down on all RSS samizdat. Intelligence officers routinely checked mail from post offices. The authorities seized pamphlets and brochures deemed propaganda items. A letter from Kolhapur, No. ADM/DH/1830, dated December 1948 informed the government that they have seized some posters and propaganda items from Post Office. During the time of the mass arrests, the formal accession of local states to the Indian union was still in process, though they came under the central government in Delhi.
After the Supreme Court acquitted RSS leaders of involvement in any conspiracy in the Mahatma’s killing in 1948, the government lifted the ban after negotiations with the senior RSS leadership. In a written statement to the Bombay Legislative Assembly on September 14, 1949 (Proceedings p2126) the Home Minister of the state Morarji Desai declared that the ban on RSS was no longer necessary and was lifted unconditionally; even though the RSS gave no undertaking. Indira Gandhi banned it again during the emergency, and lifted it after she declared elections in 1977.