August 17, 2022
Good morning. In today’s either/view, we discuss whether the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh contributed to India’s independence. We also look at the cases of caste violence in Tamil Nadu, among other news.
📰 FEATURE STORY
Did RSS Contribute To India’s Independence?
There has been substantial controversy surrounding the role of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in India’s fight for freedom. While some argue that the RSS actively took part in all the freedom movements, many others believe that the party was subservient to the British.
In light of this, we thought it would be a good idea to take a peek at the history of the party and its contribution to the freedom movement.
When and why was RSS formed? In order to understand its origins, we need to get familiar with the founder, Keshav Baliram Hedgewar. Before founding the RSS, he was a freedom fighter and a Congressman. But he later became disillusioned by the policies of the Congress party and quit.
Founded in 1925, the RSS was formed as a response to riots between Hindus and Muslims in addition to being a part of the movement against British rule. Hedgewar formed the group, drawing heavily from Vinayak Damodar Savarkar’s rhetoric of creating a ‘Hindu nation.’ While the RSS portrays itself as a cultural and not a political group, it nevertheless propagates a Hindu nationalistic agenda, placing a major emphasis on discipline and dedication in order to restore courage in Hindu youth.
However, an article written by Rakesh Sinha spelt out the apparent heavy involvement of the RSS in India’s struggle for independence. His primary source for this proclamation was the intelligence reports made by the British. This piece sparked a fierce debate on the extent of the contribution of RSS to the freedom struggle. Did they fight for independence or merely further their own agenda?
VIEW: RSS was detached from the freedom fight
In response to the then Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s issuing of a postage stamp commemorating Hedgewar, Shamshul Islam openly proclaimed that the RSS was never a part of the anti-imperialist struggle. It was also observed that ever since the inception of the RSS in 1925, the organisation was subservient to British rule and opposed the mass movements carried out for India’s freedom.
The biography of Hedgewar published by the RSS clearly states that when Gandhi launched the Salt Satyagraha, the RSS leader stated that “the Sangh will not participate in the Satyagraha.” He also said that any “responsible worker” of the organisation could not participate in the freedom movement.
Even during the Quit India movement, it was noted by the British Raj in Bombay that the RSS refrained from taking part in the movement which broke out in 1942. It further stated that the Sangh did not surpass the laws. Hedgewar’s successor, M. S. Golwalkar, had a curious reason for refusing to participate in the freedom movement. He said, “It is futile to blame the strong for the injustice done to the weak…”
He also issued instructions to all RSS workers in 1942 that nothing should be done to “annoy” the British. It was evident that fighting against them was not on the agenda as their pledge outlined freedom by defining religion and culture and not by fighting the British. Despite many of the RSS workers aching to take part in the movements, the leadership of the organisation was adamant about staying away from the struggle.
In addition to removing the British from India, the freedom movement also had an agenda for the future of the country in terms of social reforms and liberation from inequality and poverty. The foremost ideology in this regard was represented by Mahatma Gandhi embedded in the policies of the Congress party, the communist and socialists. Against this backdrop, the RSS frowned upon the idea of moving forward with representative democracy.
COUNTERVIEW: RSS contributed to the freedom struggle
Although the leaders of the RSS stated non-involvement in political movements directly, they contributed indirectly by supplying its cadre and allowing the usage of their facilities under the condition that they worked for the cause of India’s welfare. It should also be noted that while Gandhi asked for the non-cooperation of Indians with the British, Hedgewar demanded complete independence as early as 1921.
When World War II broke out in 1939, the RSS refused to participate in any kind of recruitment drive with the intention of gaining soldiers to assist Britain. The organisation, in fact, believed that against the backdrop of the war, it was the right time to put pressure on the British government, as they were under attack from the Axis powers.
While the RSS disagreed with Gandhi’s methods to obtain freedom, they continued to set up camps and conduct drills in different parts of the country. On August 5, 1940, the British released an ordinance prohibiting the activities carried out by the organisation, making it evident that the RSS was a threat to the empire.
As Rakesh Sinha in his article suggested, the reason for the country not knowing about the involvement of RSS in the freedom struggle was due to the “lack of intellectual rigour among its own academics.”
What’s your opinion on this?
(Only subscribers can participate in polls)
a) RSS actively participated in the freedom movement of India.
b) RSS did not actively participate in the freedom movement of India.
🕵️ BEYOND ECHO CHAMBERS
For the Right:
No Country For My Nationalism
For the Left:
Why Nitish Kumar Is Congress’ Best Bet For 2024 Elections, Despite A Predictable Outcome
🇮🇳 STATE OF THE STATES
Governance woes (Delhi) – The CAG report on the Delhi government doesn’t make for good reading it’s a reason why the AAP was not keen on its release. The report, covering 2017 to 2020, showed irregularities in the accounts and finances across various departments. Every PSU under the government incurred a loss in contrast to the government’s claims. A chunk of the money allocated for replacing sewer lines at the West Laxmi market was spent on advertisements for the foundation stone laying ceremony.
Why it matters: Among the departments that functioned poorly was the Delhi Transport Corporation. It incurred a loss of ₹29,143 crores. The Delhi Jal Board is another with losses amounting to ₹27,600 crores. It’s an indictment of the Jal Board and Raghav Chadha, who was the head of it for several years. The AAP and the Delhi Municipal Corporation have been at odds over an alleged tax scam as well.
Caste violence (Tamil Nadu) – An RTI filed by activist A Kathir revealed more than 1,200 cases of violence against scheduled castes were registered in the state last year. Madurai topped the list with 117. Activists have asked the state government to launch a dedicated helpline for reporting incidents of caste violence. Kathir’s NGO, Evidence, collects data on such incidents. Only 32 of the 37 districts of the state have published data in the RTI reply.
Why it matters: In 2019, the state recorded 1,144 incidents, and in 2020 it was 1,274. The conviction rate under the SC and ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act was only 5-7%. Despite the 2015 amendment to fast-track such cases, many are still under trial or take a long time to be investigated. Kathir wants the state to set up special courts for cases under the Act.
Back to school (Chhattisgarh) – The state government has appointed mentors to encourage students to return to school. These mentors, who include government officials and local public representatives, will talk to the parents or guardians of those who have dropped out and counsel them to return. Every dropout has been assigned a mentor. It has already yielded positive results. More than 94% of those who dropped out have returned.
Why it matters: Over the past couple of years, more than 27,000 students dropped out of school at the elementary level. In the 2022-23 academic calendar, more than 13,000 dropouts were identified, and almost 87% of them returned. Many of them struggled to adjust since they were older than their classmates. They’re being given training sessions for skill development.
Cheetah project (Madhya Pradesh) – At the state’s Kuno National Park, two elephants are being used to chase away four leopards from an enclosure meant to house cheetahs. These cheetahs are arriving from Africa as part of a reintroduction project. The elephants embarked on the 800-km journey from the Sitapur Tiger Reserve on trucks.
Why it matters: Such trained elephants are used for several tasks like encircling animals for tranquilization and driving away invasive animals. The cheetahs, arriving from South Africa next month, need time to get used to their new surroundings. Due to their long journey, they may be stressed so keeping them in a dedicated enclosure is necessary.
Steel slag road (Arunachal Pradesh) – The Border Road Organisation (BRO) is planning to build a stretch of road in the state using steel slag which can withstand heavy rains. Using steel slag not only helps in durability but is also cost-effective. Slag-based materials have better properties than natural aggregates. If successful, it could reduce the demand for perishable natural aggregates in road and rail projects. It’ll also help reduce greenhouse emissions and carbon footprint in road construction.
Why it matters: If this pilot is successful, it could help in building durable roads along strategic areas. While this is a first for the BRO, a six-lane highway connecting the port with the city was inaugurated in Surat last June. The National Highways Authority India (NHAI) will use steel slag to construct a portion of the Mumbai-Goa highway.
🔢 KEY NUMBER
$500 million – The amount invested by Saudi Arabia’s Kingdom Holding Co, controlled by Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal, in three Russian energy companies as Russian invaded Ukraine. Both countries head the OPEC+ group formed in 2017.