From the time when India’s struggle for freedom from British colonial rule started gaining momentum in the early 1920s, there was a confluence of different strands:
- a) the religious strand (which should include the various terrorist groups in their formative years)
- b) the Gandhian strand (from 1920 onwards the Gandhian ethos dominated the Indian National Congress with the Socialists coming within the Gandhian camp and
- c) the radical stream, viz. the Left spearheaded by the nascent communist groups sprouting in various regions of the country and organisations like HSRA and Bharat Naujavan Sabha led by Bhagat Singh
The forerunners of the present day Hindutvawadi Sangh Parivar – the RSS and Hindu Mahasabha – since their early beginnings in the 1920s, were not even part of the religious stream of anti-colonialism as they chose to pit themselves against the entire spectrum of the anti-colonial front; and this is evident from their writings, speeches and activities in the pre-Independence period. These outfits put themselves firmly on the side of the British colonial masters and the fact that they remained antagonistic towards reformist movements ranged against upper-caste hegemony, like the those led by Jyotiba Phule (in the then Bombay Presidency – now Maharashtra), starkly revealed their upper caste bias.
The very fact that the World War-II was fought and won on the slogan of democracy against militarism contributed to a great awakening in the minds of the common people and a better understanding of their rights leading to a global mass upsurge of sorts. The British saw the writing on the wall and chose to decolonize, i.e. grant independence to their colonies, in order to safeguard their future interests in the colonies and the region. The native elites in the colonies were eager to take hold of the reins of power and the British ‘divide and rule’ dictum flowered into the ‘divide and depart’ policy. In this scenario, the Muslim League led by MA Jinnah was handed over the control of randomly chosen Muslim majority areas in the West and East of the subcontinent, a moth-eaten Pakistan, as Jinnah himself chose to refer to it after the fate accompli. The right to rule the rest of British India minus the 500 odd princely states was ceded to the Indian National Congress led by Gandhi, who was averse to partition but could not overrule his colleagues in the Congress who were eager to accept this offer. This denouement caused untold suffering through massive displacement and relocation of population bartered like cattle as well as immense collateral damage in terms of human lives snuffed out in the ensuing rioting, arson and carnage.
Gandhi tried valiantly but in vain to stem the horrendous fratricide in the aftermath of partition and transfer of power and felled by an assassin’s bullet at point blank range. This was Gandhi’s last stand and here he remained true to the promises made to the people in the course of freedom struggle. The RSS openly flaunted their defiance and rejection of the ‘imagining of India as a nation’ implicit in the minds of the people participating in the independent struggle through their murder of Gandhi; and paid the political price of being pushed to near oblivion. Immediately after the assassination of Gandhi, the RSS was banned; the ban remained in force for a few years and from there on the RSS had to operate clandestinely from within the Congress, following the advice of Vallabhbhai Patel. The RSS slowly resurfaced in the 1960s as the Congress was losing its appeal in the minds of the people and celebrated their re-entry with a string of communal riots across the country.
Gandhi had chosen his successors well –Vallabhbhai Patel to unify the scattered princely states and the rest of British India, minus the Pakistan region, Jawaharlal Nehru to guide the destiny of India and BR Ambedkar to draw up the Constitution of Independent India. The aspirations of the people who had participated in the struggle against British rule, the promises that Indian National Congress – as the dominant force within the freedom movement – made to the people in the course of this struggle all came to enshrined in the Constitution, encapsulating the idea of India as a nation. The Republication Constitution of India ushered in a veritable ‘social revolution’ through universal adult suffrage and the principle of ‘one-person one vote’, and the promise to enable ‘one person one value’ as well in future, in the Directive Principles. Evidently, it was not the vision of the Sangh Parivar that shaped the writing of this Constitution and the Sangh Parivar did not share the perspective, the promises and the idea India, enshrined in our Constitution.