A history of the freedom struggle crafted by Ram Madhav, the RSS national general secretary of the current ruling party, starts off trying to be a classic case of a fascist recreation of the past but ends up becoming a fairly comic piece of fiction [`Coming full circle at 70’,The Indian Express, August 15, 2017]Madhavargues that the Hindutva Right was truly representative of the anti-imperialist impulse, not because it did anything to contribute to the freedom struggle since its leaders openly collaborated with their colonial masters,but because “in a way India, like America,” is “essentially a nation with a conservative ethos”. Hence they must be accepted as natural heirs to the courageous struggle extending over more than a century in which other forces and sections of Indians sacrificed their lives for the cause andidea of freedom.
Madhav’s statements are like declarations made to a fawning shakha gathering where no one would contest or question his ill-informed and unsubstantiated pronouncements.He claims thateminent leaders of the `humble’ Indian, “from Swami Vivekananda to Annie Besant to Mahatma Gandhi”, (the latest, one presumes, would beNarendraModi), were always enamoured of the “genius of our country, which is rooted in its religio-social institutions like state, family, caste, guru and festival. . . .Naturally at the advent of independence we ought to have had a leadership that understood and appreciated the value of this Indian genius. . . .Unfortunatelyat the dawn of our independence”, we had Jawaharlal Nehru who represented “the colonisers view while Gandhi became the voice of native wisdom”.
After this claim one wonders why the Hindu Mahasabha’s V.D. Savarkar masterminded and organised, as then Home Minister Sardar Patel officially stated, a group including RSS cadre like Nathu Ram Godse, to systematically plan the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi. They succeeded at the sixth attempt.The RSS is known to have distributed sweets to celebrate the silencing of this `voice of native wisdom’.
Even in these days of “post-truth” and fake news, Ram Madhav’s version of the role oftwo leading figures of the nationalmovement is hard to swallow. Accusing Nehru of adhering to the `colonizers views’ isindeed astonishing.For Nehru, a prominent leader of thefreedom struggle, had a perspicacious understanding of the role of colonialism not just in the national arena in India but as an international system that was an instrument for the exploitation of the entire Asian and African region.His role in utilising the contradictions between international capital, the erstwhile colonial powers, and the rising socialist states in order to forge ties with the latter and chart a path of relatively independent development in India, building up a public sector at the `commanding heights’ of the economy, is part of modern India’s history. Ram Madhav’s attempt to divert from the significant influence exerted by this revolutionary ideology in determining the course and content of India’s freedom struggle, not just in Nehru’s conception of an independent India but in Gandhi’s perspective which was deeply inspired by Russian anarchist thinkers like Tolstoy, is a hopelessly prejudiced ideological construct.
With a select group of nationalist leaders from other countries, Nehru’s international contribution to uniting and strengthening the newly independent nation-states of Asia, Africa and parts of Europe in the non-aligned movement prevented their being absorbed in either the imperialist or the socialist camps,thereby allowing them to play an important progressive role in world affairs.The anti-colonial impact of this movement, initiatedand sustained by the political leadership of independent India, is too well-known to be dismissed by the canards now being spread by RSS functionaries.
Gandhi and Nehru often disagreed but had enormous respect and confidence in each other’s opinions and abilities to further the anti-colonial struggle. In fact, at crucial phases when the leadership question came to the forefront, Gandhi unequivocally expressed his support for Jawaharlal Nehru. This might seem incomprehensible toRam Madhavwhose entire experience of politics has been within the doctrinal confines of the `shakha’, and the non-transparent coterie functioning of Nagpur’s circle of RSS leaders, but it comes as no surprise to those who are familiar with the free exchanges between the plurality of views and ideologies united within the coalition of anti-colonial patriotic forces represented by the Indian National Congress at the time.
Ram Madhav prominently lists`caste’ as evidence of the` genius’ of the country. In that case, he must certainly regard Dr. BhimRaoAmbedkar as being, in his opinion, yet another leader that we were `unfortunate’ enough to have at the `dawn’ of independence. Dr. Ambedkar views on caste are crystal clear and the Annihilation of Caste, the title of one of his major writings, was always his goal. Like Nehru, Ambedkar too rejected the village as the basic unit of India’s future democratic structure. A leading architect of the Indian Constitution he insisted that the individual must be the basic unit of Indian democracy, the true holder and recipient of its rights and benefits, as the village was itself the site of the worst form of oppression, caste oppression. Of course since the RSS-led Modi government is currently trying to appropriate BabasahebAmbedkar to attract a Dalit vote-bank, one cannot expect Madhav to embark on an honest expression of his fundamental conflict with Ambedkar’s ideas. Nothing along the lines of the open Gandhi-Nehru debates.
A post script on Ram Mahdav’s use of terms like `advent’ and `dawn’ for independence having `arrived’ like a natural phenomenon, justas day follows night. No doubt it happened that way for the RSS which only sought to obstruct but never to participate in the anti-colonial struggle against British rule.
However, those who fought for independence, risking life, limb and personal comforts; who spent years in British jails at the cost of their health; who were hanged at the infamous Kala Panicentral jail in the Andaman’s (unlike Savarkar who slavishly bowed before the foreign rulers and bought his freedom with servile letters of apology); the youthful Bhagat Singh, Raj Guru and Chandrashekhar Azad who went to the gallows with revolutionary slogans of `InquilabZindabad’ on their lips; they knew the price of the freedom they helped secure for their countrymen, women and children. Freedom from British imperialism demanded agency and they willingly sacrificed themselves to become catalysts of the struggles that brought about India’s independence.