How the RSS leadership bowed to Indira Gandhi: 45th anniv of the Emergency

June 25, 2020:  Evidence from contemporary documents


RSS is the Hindutva gurukul, (university) which specialises in training it’s cadres in the internalising of half-truths and lies, based on the manufacturing of history. A recent proof of this is evidenced in Ram Madhav’s claim that, Indian democracy survives due to “leaders in the government who fought for that very freedom and are committed to liberal democratic values, not just as a matter of compulsion but as an article of faith.”[i] Described as an ‘RSS ideologue by commercial television channels, Madhav was speaking on the 45th anniversary of the Emergency. His falsified claim is that RSS-BJP leaders fought against the Emergency, not out of compulsion but as an article of faith in democracy. Both claims are while lies. This can be seen not just from the claims of critics of the RSS, but from all contemporary RSS documents available.

Let us take first, address the claim that the RSS-BJP rulers are/have been committed to the liberal democratic values, as an article of faith. The most prominent ideologue of the RSS, MS Golwalkar, also known as the ‘Guru of Hate’ [whom PM Modi credits for grooming him into a political leader] while addressing as many as 1350 top level cadres of the RSS, in 1940, declared, “RSS inspired by one flag, one leader and one ideology is lighting the flame of Hindutva in each and every corner of this great land.”[ii]

With such a philosophical liking for totalitarianism the RSS has hated the sharing of power. This can be seen from the outfit’s strong opposition to the federal structure of the constitution, a ‘Basic’ feature of the Indian republic. Golwalkar, declared in 1961, “Today’s federal form of government not only gives birth but also nourishes the feelings of separatism, in a way refuses to recognise the fact of one nation, and destroys it. It must be completely uprooted, the constitution purified and (a) unitary form of government be established.”[iii]

As far as the Emergency is concerned, the RSS claim of fighting against it, needs also to be evaluated in the light of contemporary narratives as also from RSS’ own documents. In this connection two narratives, one by a veteran thinker and journalist of India, Prabhash Joshi and the other, by TV Rajeswar, former Intelligence Bureau [IB] chief, who was the deputy chief of IB during the Emergency, are of immense importance. They recounted the days of Emergency (or state authoritarianism) when the RSS surrendered to the repressive regime of Indira Gandhi, assured both her and her son, Sanjay Gandhi, of their cooperation to enforce faithfully the draconian 20-point programme, announced by the Emergency regime. Large number of RSS cadres came out of jails by submitting maafinaamas (mercy petitions).
This contemporary, historical narrative by Prabhash Joshi, appeared in the English weekly, Tehelka on the 25th anniversary of the Emergency.[iv] According to Joshi, even during the Emergency “there was always a lurking sense of suspicion, a distance, a discreet lack of trust” about the RSS’ joining the anti-Emergency struggle. He went on to write, that

“Balasaheb Deoras, the then RSS chief, wrote a letter to Indira Gandhi pledging to help implement the notorious 20-point programme of Sanjay Gandhi. This is the real character of the RSS…You can decipher a line of action, a pattern. Even during the Emergency, many among the RSS and Jana Sangh who came out of the jails, gave maafinamas. They were the first to apologise. Only their leaders remained in jail: Atal Behari Vajpayee [most of the time, in hospital], LK Advani, even Arun Jaitley. But the RSS did not fight the Emergency. So why is the BJP trying to appropriate that memory?”

Prabhash Joshi’s conclusion was that “they are not a fighting force and they are never keen to fight. They are basically a compromising lot. They are never genuinely against the government”.

TV Rajeswar, who served as Governor of Uttar Pradesh and Sikkim penned a book, ‘India: The Crucial Years” [Harper Collins], in which, he corroborated the fact, that, “Not only they (RSS) were supportive of this [Emergency], they wanted to establish contact apart from Mrs Gandhi, with Sanjay Gandhi also”.[v] Rajeswar in an interview with Karan Thapar disclosed that, Deoras,

“quietly established a link with the PM’s house and expressed strong support for several steps taken to enforce order and discipline in the country. Deoras was keen to meet Mrs. Gandhi and Sanjay. But Mrs. Gandhi refused.”[vi]

According to Rajeswar’s book,

“RSS, a right-wing Hindu nationalist organisation, was banned in the wake of the Emergency. But its chief, Balasaheb Deoras, quietly established a link with the PM’s house and expressed strong support to several steps taken to enforce order and discipline in the country. Sanjay Gandhi’s concerted drive to enforce family planning, particularly among Muslims, had earned Deoras’s approbation.”[vii]

Rajeswar also shared the fact, that, even after Emergency, the “organisation, (RSS) had specifically conveyed its support to the Congress in the post-emergency elections.”[viii] It will be interesting to note that even according to Subramanian Swamy during the Emergency period, most of the senior leaders of RSS had betrayed the struggle against the Emergency.[ix]

Contemporary documents in the RSS archives corroborate the narratives proffered by Prabhash Joshi and Rajeswar. The 3rd Supremo of RSS, Madhukar Dattatraya Deoras wrote the first letter to Indira Gandhi within two months of the imposition of Emergency. It was the time when state terror was running amok. In a letter dated, August 22, 1975 he began with the following praise of Indira:

“I heard your address to the nation which you delivered on August 15, 1975 from Red Fort on radio in jail [Yervada jail] with attention. Your address was timely and balanced so I decided to write to you”.[x]

Indira Gandhi did not respond to it. So Deoras wrote another letter to Indira on November 10, 1975. He began his letter with congratulating her on being cleared by the Supreme Court of disqualification (in the elections) which was ordered by the Allahabad High Court, All the five Justices of the Supreme Court have declared your election constitutional, heartiest greetings for it.” It is to be noted that opposition was firmly of the opinion that this judgment was ‘influenced’ by the Congress. In the course of the letter, he declared that “RSS has been named in the context of Jaiprakash Narayan’s movement. The government has also connected RSS with the Gujarat movement and the Bihar movement without any reason…Sangh has no relation with these movements…”[xi]

Since Indira Gandhi did not respond to this letter also, RSS chief got hold of Vinoba Bhave who supported the Emergency religiously and was a favourite of Indira Gandhi. In a letter dated January 12, 1976, he begged that the Acharya should suggest a way to ensure that the ban on the RSS was removed.[xii]  Since the Acharya, too, did not respond to Deoras letter, the latter in another letter without date wrote in desperation,

According to press reports, respected PM [Indira Gandhi] is going to meet you at Pavnar Ashram on January 24. At that time there will be discussion about the present condition of the country. I beg you to try to remove the wrong assumptions of PM about RSS so that ban on RSS is lifted and RSS members are released from jails. We are looking forward to the time when RSS and its members are able to contribute to the plans of progress which are being run in all the fields under the leadership of PM.”[xiii]

All these letters in Hindi are being reproduced from a publication of the RSS at the end of this article.

Significantly, former President of the Indian Republic, Pranab Mukherjee was invited by the RSS chief, Mohan Bhagwat as the chief guest at the graduation ceremony of its new recruits. These recruits are trained to work over-time (on social and political steps) to convert India into a theocratic (Hindu) state. Pranab Mukherjee has been known, and held responsible too, as one of the top leaders of Congress, responsible, for Emergency excesses. The tragedy of the RSS in power at the Centre is that India, while a constitutional democracy, is governed by a love of power, which compels its spokespersons to indulge in doublespeak.

Despite these facts, it is shameful, that thousands of RSS cadres continue to get monthly pension for ‘persecution’ during Emergency. BJP ruled states like Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Maharashtra have decided to award a monthly pension of Rs 20,000 to those who were jailed during the Emergency period for less than 2 months and Rs 10,000 to those who were jailed for less than a month. This rule took care of the financial interest of those RSS cadres who submitted mercy letters completing only one or two months’ jail term. For securing such a significant pension, there is no condition that the beneficiary should have been in jail for the whole period of the Emergency.

Interestingly, in the case of anti-British freedom struggle, not a single person from RSS cadres is fit to claim a freedom fighters pension. Neither does India remember hundreds of Communist youth, branded as Naxals, who were killed in brute extra-judicial killings (“fake encounters”) during the Emergency. Interestingly, the Shiv Sena too, a former Hindutva co-traveler of the RSS openly supported the Emergency.


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    [ii] Golwalkar, MS, Shri Guruji Samagar Darshan (collected works of Golwalkar in Hindi), Bhartiya Vichar Sadhna, Nagpur, nd., vol. I, p. 11.

    [iii] Ibid. vol. III, p. 128.



    [vi] Ibid.




    [x] Madhukar Dattatraya Deoras, Hindu Sangathan aur Sattavaadi Rajneeti, Jagriti Prkashan, Noida, 1997, 270.

    [xi] Ibid., 272-73

    [xii] Ibid. 275-77.



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