The purpose of my article was to show how the RSS has incrementally increased its hold on the BJP — in breach of its 1949 commitment to Home Minister Sardar Patel and the written constitution that followed. That a written constitution with specific undertakings was a pre-condition for lifting the ban is fully established by the government of India’s July 11, 1949 notification lifting the ban. The conditions imposed and agreed to included: rejection of secrecy and violence, respect to the Indian flag and adoption of a non-political, cultural role. The preamble of the RSS constitution is self-explanatory: It states that “till now” the RSS had “no written constitution” whose writing had become “expedient” in “the present changed conditions.” Article 4(b) states that the Sangh “as such, has no politics.”

Patel’s relationship with the RSS was complex. He praised it in some forums and was convinced it was not involved in Gandhiji’s assassination. But Patel was emphatic that the RSS had created a climate in which Gandhiji’s murder became possible. The ban was handled entirely by the Home ministry which in its November 14, 1948 press note accused RSS members of a tendency to be “anti-national and often subversive.” Patel’s letters to S.P. Mookherjee and M.S. Golwalkar (cited in my article) reiterated this point in stronger words. So the ban was far from being a product of flimsy reasoning.

Patel did want the RSS to join the Congress but that was to subsume and contain its political ambitions within the larger umbrella of the Congress (Patel supporter A.G. Kher said as much at the October 7, 1949 meeting of the Congress working committee).

The fear of what an unfettered Sangh could do is the reason why Patel compelled Golwalkar to write a constitution undertaking, among other things, to abjure politics. Golwalkar and the Home Ministry exchanged bitter words over the writing of the constitution, and as Anderson and Damle, note in their authoritative and largely empathetic work, The Brotherhood in Saffron: “RSS writers exaggerate Patel’s pro-RSS sympathies … (but) Patel did not exactly deal gently with the RSS during the ban period and extracted some hard terms from them before he agreed to lift the ban.”

Just what the hard terms were can be seen from the July 11, 1949 notification and news reports from The Hindu from that period.

vidya.s@thehindu.co.in

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