NEW DELHI: The secret letter (No.454), written by the then Home Secretary H V R Ienger to the states on December 12, 1948, is the brutal reminder of a different Nehru regime when newspapers were asked not to publish the RSS stories, quite similar to what Indira Gandhi replicated 27 years later.
Sardar Patel, who is said to have a sympathetic approach towards the RSS, had to toe the government line when a unanimous decision to ban the RSS was taken. Patel had held a meeting with Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar, the legendary Sarsanghchalak of the Hindu organisation who had requested for a meeting with Nehru which the latter refused. The Government of Kolhapur through a letter dated December 22, 1948, informed the Central government that it caught “RSS volunteer Sidheshwar Sharma Ashtekar red-handed while distributing leaflets in Marathi entitled “Our View Point”, purported to be published by M P B 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 could 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 Opposition in the 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 Gandhiji’s assassination “under pressure from Jawaharlal Nehru”.
H V R 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 were found to be watching an RSS procession on the street.
“We suggest that immediate steps be taken by persuasion to see that any news relating to the RSS activities, arrests, etc., is not published under bold or prominent headlines and is consigned to unimportant portion of newspapers,” he wrote to all the states.
Ienger further directed, “In the event of any 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 the 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 scrutinised strictly.
“Careful watch should be kept on suspected RSS members amongst government servants to prevent or detect cases of leakages of information and to find out if they were actually members. Drastic departmental action should be taken immediately in the event of breaches of office discipline or confirmation that a person is member.”
The diktat issued by the government clearly stated that “government servants found participating in the RSS activities or convicted of any offence connected therewith should be immediately suspended and dealt with departmentally, and in the cases of conviction in court, (they should be) dismissed immediately”.
The Hit List
A month after the ban on the RSS was imposed, Deputy Director of IB G K Handoo wrote to all police chiefs on December 30, 1948, providing a list of 19 suspected RSS sympathisers, who might have gone underground. “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 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 the 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 was Vishnu Parashram Mahajan. Handoo wrote, “He is an active 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 IB dated May 8, 1948, about the arrest of seven RSS members also gave a further list of suspected RSS members, who were aged between 22 and 35.
“Attached is a further list of the RSS workers, together with short notes on some of them, who are reported by Poona CID, East Punjab CID, SB Bihar and SB UP to have gone underground to evade arrest,” it read.
The government through letter No. 56/D.G./48 (2) II, dated June 2, 1948, signed by Assistant Director of IB D K Krishna, 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.” R N Kao, then serving as Assistant Director in IB, 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.
The crackdown on the RSS, which continued since Gandhiji’s death in January 1948, was intensified in December. Telegram No. 28/23/48-Poll, dated December 7, 1948, signed by Deputy Secretary in the Home Ministry G V Bedekar, told the states to mount surveillance on suspected RSS members.
The telegram, quoting Sardar Patel, said, “While demonstrations, if staged, might enable us to get at people who are real RSS sympathisers and workers, 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 RSS meetings and gatherings and over active workers to facilitate both preventive and punitive action. Measures taken, arrests made, etc., should be reported to the Central government as soon as possible, particularly arrests of important workers, which should be reported by telegram. Further, the organisation being illegal, all activities in whatever forms -- press, public or private gatherings, etc., -- should be rigorously suppressed.”
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 possession of Express reveals that 81 employees were suspended and students arrested for suspected links with the banned organisation. “Up to December, 21, 1948, 1,960 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 (five of Class X and about 8 or 10 of Lower Classes) have sympathies with the organisation 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.”
After the Supreme Court acquitted the RSS leaders of involvement in any conspiracy in the Gandhiji’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 the RSS was no longer necessary and was lifted unconditionally; even though the RSS gave no undertaking. Indira banned it again during the Emergency, and lifted it after she declared elections in 1977.
Excerpts from official files
Surveillance on Students
“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
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 is not published under bold or prominent headlines and is consigned to unimportant portion of newspapers,” HVR Ienger, Home Secy, Dec 12, 1948
“81 government servants and 247 students arrested. Orders for suspension have been issued,” V Vishwanathan, Chief Secretary Madhya Bharat to the Centre, 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