The Apex Court has directed Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi to express regret or face trial for publicly declaring that the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) was responsible for the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi. While addressing a public meeting at Bhiwandi in Thane in March 2014, Rahul had stated that the “RSS people killed Gandhi”. A criminal case was registered against him for making the accusations and the matter came before the Supreme Court when Rahul challenged the summoning orders by the Maharashtra High Court in a defamation case filed regarding his comments. The Court has observed that the collective denunciation of the RSS was not valid. The Congress, meanwhile, is determined to defend its leader and has already made it known that he would under no circumstances apologise for his remarks referring to the RSS and instead provide adequate material and historic facts to prove his point. During its over 90 years of existence, the RSS has been barred four times over. In January 1947, the first ban was imposed for a few days by Malik Khizr Hayat Tiwana, the Prime Minister of the ruling Unionist party in undivided India. However, after the gunning down of the Mahatma at the Birla House in New Delhi on 30 January 1948, the then Home Minister Sardar Patel again prohibited all activities by the RSS on 4 February. Several of its leaders including the Sarsanghchalak, Guru Golwalkar were arrested. Nevertheless, the charge of criminal conspiracy levelled against the outfit could not be proved even in the Apex Court and the government decided to lift the ban in July 1949. During its chequered history, the RSS was outlawed two more times—once during the Emergency and again for nearly seven months following the demolition of the disputed structure in Ayodhya in December 1992. It must be mentioned here, the RSS also received endorsement from its bitter critic and opponent Jawaharlal Nehru, who in the post Sino-Indian conflict, permitted an RSS contingent to participate in the Republic Day parade in 1963 in recognition of its selfless service and civil defence activities. In times of natural calamity, the RSS has always played a pivotal role in providing relief and has stood out for its extraordinary work. In fact, no other voluntary organisation has been able to match the contribution of the saffron outfit in being there at times of adversity.
However, one must add that there has also been a sinister side to the organisation and it has been accused on numerous occasions of fuelling communal trouble in various parts of the country, though it has escaped being indicted directly due to the absence of sufficient proof in the courts. For justifiable reasons, the RSS is viewed with extreme suspicion by the minorities, who perceive it as a Hindu fascist organisation, whose sole aim is to establish a Hindu dominated “Akhand Bharat” (Greater India that includes regions which were once part of the nation). The RSS has several wings and generously extends patronage to the Bharatiya Janata Party, which comprises like-minded people who repose full faith in its ideology. Therefore, it is a natural corollary that in every election, the Congress, which has been nurtured by its conviction in secularism, finds itself opposing forces represented by the BJP and the Sangh. Rahul Gandhi, it is evident, came out with his statement in Thane in this context. It is another matter that if the Apex Court insists, he may have to either apologise or face trial.
However, Rahul is perhaps unaware that his own grandmother Indira Gandhi had adopted a soft Hindutva approach during her second innings as Prime Minister and even his uncle, the late Sanjay Gandhi, who was her heir apparent, had cordial relations with top functionaries of the Sangh. His father Rajiv Gandhi inherited the soft Hindutva legacy of his mother and as a consequence enjoyed an excellent rapport with Bhaurao Deoras, the younger brother of the then RSS chief Balasaheb Deoras. Several key figures in the RSS, BJP and Congress have first hand information of Rajiv’s meetings with Bhaurao Deoras at different locations including 46, Pusa Road, the residence of family friend and industrialist Kapil Mohan. Amongst those who have confirmed the meetings of the RSS leader with Rajiv include Sangh ideologue Govindacharya, former South Delhi mayor, Subhash Arya, Anil Bali, who had unrestricted access to Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi and also those closely working with the late Prime Minister.
Rajiv is understood to have taken several key decisions in consultation with the RSS leadership. For instance, as mentioned in a front page report in The Sunday Guardian 14 months ago, the decision to get the locks opened at the disputed site in Ayodhya were taken by the Prime Minister in consultation with the RSS leadership in the aftermath of the Shah Bano controversy (Rajiv Gandhi had secret pact with RSS leaders, 28 June). On a couple of occasions, the two had met at the residence of Arun Singh, a close confidant of Rajiv at that time.
Bhaurao had advised Rajiv to hold elections in May 1989, as it would give little time to the opposition, which was uniting against him to organise itself. Unfortunately, the Prime Minister decided to go in for the polls six months later and the result was that the Congress lost the mandate it had secured in 1984.
It is obvious that Rahul is perhaps unaware of his father’s association with some RSS leaders and is swayed by those in his party who had contributed in creating a perception that the Congress had tilted towards the minorities and was thus against the majority community. This widespread belief was one of the factors for the Congress drubbing in the 2014 polls. Therefore, on the RSS issue, Rahul must tread with utmost caution. Between us.