RSS distributed sweets though not guilty, Patel said on Gandhi's killing

Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel conferring with Mahatma Gandhi at an AICC meeting in New Delhi.   | Photo Credit: HINDU PHOTO ARCHIVES

The RSS was not involved in Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination but was guilty of “distributing sweets” after the incident, India’s first Home Minister Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel believed.

The Sardar — whose 140th birth anniversary was celebrated last weekend — had a nuanced take on the Sangh and the Muslim question after Partition.

He accused the RSS of spreading “communal poison” but also suspected that sections of Muslims were not “loyal” to India.

Patel wrote to Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru on February 27, 1948, less than a month after Gandhi’s assassination, “…The RSS was not involved at all. It was a fanatical wing of the Hindu Mahasabha directly under Savarkar that hatched the conspiracy...”

But he added, “His assassination was welcomed by those of the RSS and the Mahasabha who were strongly opposed to his way of thinking...But beyond this, I do not think it is possible…to implicate any other members of the RSS or the Hindu Mahasabha. The RSS have other sins and crimes to answer for, but not this one.”

However, Patel remained stern towards the banned RSS for months.

When Syama Prasad Mookerjee — who later founded BJP predecessor Jana Sangh with RSS help — wrote to him in July 1948 regarding the ban on the RSS and the “disloyalty” of some Muslims, Patel criticised the RSS but agreed with him on the other point.

“The activities of the RSS constituted a clear threat to the existence of the government and the state,” the Sardar wrote.

But he agreed on the Muslim issue: “As for Muslims, I entirely agree with you as to the dangerous possibilities inherent in the presence in India of a section of disloyal elements.”

The then RSS chief M.S. Golwalkar wrote to Patel in September 1948 that the government and the Sangh could collaborate to counter communism if the ban was removed.

The Sardar’s reply of September 11, 1948, was terse. While admitting that ‘RSS did service to the Hindu society’, he added, “The objectionable part arose when they (RSS), burning with revenge, began attacking Mussalmans. All their speeches were full of communal poison … As a final result of that poison, the country had to suffer the sacrifice of Gandhiji … RSS men expressed joy and distributed sweets after Gandhiji’s death. It became inevitable for the government to take action against the RSS.”

The letters are available in The Collected Works of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, edited by P.N. Chopra and Prabha Chopra. Delhi historian Neerja Singh has also compiled them in her work on Patel.

After acerbic correspondence with the government — which demanded a ‘written constitution’ and ‘open activity’ of the RSS — the Sangh chief met Patel on August 16, 1949. Patel wrote to Nehru that he had told Golwalkar “what the pitfalls were which the RSS should avoid ... I particularly emphasised completely eschewing destructive methods and adopting a constructive role.”

Months before this, Patel had attacked the RSS in Jaipur: “We will not allow the RSS or any other communal organisation to throw the country back on the path of slavery or disintegration … I am a soldier, and in my time I have fought against formidable forces … If I feel that such a fight is necessitated for the country’s good, I shall not hesitate to fight even my own son.”

But he was equally blunt while addressing Lucknow Muslims on January 6, 1948, asking why they had not condemned Pakistan’s Kashmir attack. “You cannot ride two horses. Select one horse … Those who want to go to Pakistan can go there and live in peace,” he said.

After the removal of the ban on the Sangh, Patel said in July 1949: “I was myself keen to remove the ban and I issued instructions the very day I received Shri Golwalkar’s final letter agreeing to some of the suggestions we made.” He, however, added that “the only alternative to the Congress is chaos” and that he had advised the Sangh “to reform the Congress from within, if they think the Congress is going the wrong way.”

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Printable version | Jun 19, 2021 2:06:54 PM |

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