Monday, 16 May, 2022
HomeIndiaHow RSS was impacted by the ban after Mahatma Gandhi's assassination

How RSS was impacted by the ban after Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination

The ban on the RSS after Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination in 1948 played a significant role in shaping the organisation’s future.

Text Size:

New Delhi: On 30 January 1948, Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated in New Delhi. 

The second sarsanghchalak of the RSS, M.S. Golwalkar was in Chennai on that day and passed instructions to all shakhas

“To express our grief due to the sad demise of respected Mahatmaji, shakhas will observe a condolence period for 13 days and all daily programmes will be put on hold,” the instruction stated.

He left by air for Nagpur on 31 January. 

In Delhi, the prant (state) sanghchalak Lala Hansraj Gupta and the prant pracharak Vasantrao Oke went to Birla Bhavan and met many Congress leaders to express their grief and offer condolences.

But a section of Congress, which was  getting uncomfortable about the growing influence of the RSS, saw an opportunity to finish off the organisation. 

The then Prime Minister, Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru, declared in Amritsar, “RSS is responsible for the murder of the Father of the Nation.” 

Guruji, as Golwalkar was popularly known, was arrested on 2 February and the RSS was banned on 4 February through a central government notification. 

The sarsanghchalak while being arrested in Nagpur said, “The cloud of suspicion will melt away and we shall come out of this unblemished. Until that time, there will be lots of atrocities but we should bear them with fortitude. I firmly believe that sangh swayamsevaks will pass this test successfully.” 

He was sent to the Nagpur Central Jail.

Dwarika Prasad Mishra, who was the Home Minister of Central Provinces at that time, writes in his autobiography, Living in An Era, “That Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination gave a handle to unscrupulous politicians to defame and, if possible, to pull down their rivals is difficult to deny.” (Page 59 of the original English version). 

The ban on the RSS was finally lifted on the midnight of 11 July 1949. Guruji was released on 13 July 1949 from Baitul prison. He went straight to Nagpur from there.

During the ban, the government had confiscated the RSS headquarters, Dr Hedgewar Bhavan. It was given back to the RSS on 17 July 1949.

The RSS shakha at Mohite Ground was started the next day. Guruji, while addressing the swayamsevaks on the occasion, said, “Our work is beginning again today. A person waking up from sleep feels refreshed and energetic. We too have to start our work with the same enthusiasm.” 

Also read: Pracharaks and informal groups — How BJP and its ideological mentor, RSS, coordinate

RSS and politics

As soon as the ban was lifted, a discussion ensued within the organisation on RSS’ role in independent India. 

A section of the organisation’s functionaries wanted the RSS to be converted into a political party and get involved in electoral politics. The other section wanted RSS to stay away from active politics.

A middle path was found by Guruji. 

Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee had then resigned from Pandit Nehru’s cabinet in protest against his policies. He was thinking of setting up a new political party. 

Mookerjee met Guruji, Balasaheb Deoras and Bhaurao Deoras in early 1951 at the home of Nagpur sanghchalak Babasaheb Ghatate. It was decided to launch Bharatiya Jan Sangh after the discussions.

The RSS loaned out some of its pracharaks to help the cause of setting up a nationalist party while making it clear that the RSS would not be involved directly in any political activity. 

So pracharaks such as Deendayal Upadhyaya, Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Nanaji Deshmukh got associated with the Bharatiya Jan Sangh with Dr. Mookerjee at the helm of affairs. 

Vajpayee later became the Prime Minister of India. Many of the RSS functionaries loaned out to the newly formed outfit such as Lal Krishna Advani, Sunder Singh Bhandari among others played an important role in shaping up the present day Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

The BJP was a new avatar of Bharatiya Jana Sangh after the latter was merged into the Janata Party in 1977. However, the Janata Party disintegrated and the BJP was set up in 1980.

The RSS stand until date remains the same that it would stay away from active politics and would be an ideological mentor only. Some of its pracharaks are loaned out to the BJP whenever the latter seeks help. 

This template of coordination evolved as early as the 1950s. 

Also read: Mohan Bhagwat to release ‘first-of-its-kind’ book detailing violence against RSS in Kerala 

Communication strategy

Another key impact of this ban on the RSS was that it realised that it should help build mass media platforms where its voice is also carried. 

During the ban, the RSS was demonised by its detractors and there were very few voices who would publish the counter view.  

Following the lifting of the ban, the RSS encouraged its volunteers to run newspapers, periodicals, magazines in English and other Indian languages. 

In addition to strengthening its weekly Panchjanya and Organiser, many other newspapers were launched in years to come such as Tarun Bharat, Swadesh etc. 

Today there are dozens of publications brought out by the RSS’ ideological mentees who help the organisation to share its ideological perspective in almost every nook and corner of the nation.

The art of satyagraha

The third impact of the ban was that the RSS learnt the effectiveness of satyagraha, a non-violent tool of protest first used by Mahatma Gandhi during the freedom struggle. More than 77,000 RSS volunteers courted arrest by launching the first satyagraha after independence to protest this ban. 

This played a major role in compelling the government to lift the ban. Satyagraha was used by the RSS effectively during the Emergency (195-1977) again when it was banned for the second time.       

Expansion and galvanisation

The fourth impact was that the RSS made a major effort to expand its reach and galvanise its organisation. The year 1952 saw the RSS inspiring its swayamsevaks to move into the field of education by setting up a model of Swadeshi education. 

There were detailed discussions between Guruji and Professor Rajendra Singh, Nanaji Deshmukh, Pandit Deendayal Upadhyay and Bhaurao Deoras on this issue.

As a result, the first Saraswati Shishu Mandir came into existence under the leadership of Nanaji Deshmukh at Gorakhpur. 

All its teachers were graduates who had retired from their pracharak life. Guruji laid the foundation stone of the building. Today, this movement has the largest number of schools in the country educating millions of students.

In 1952, the RSS also launched the Cow protection movement. The Akhil Bharatiya Pratinidhi Sabha (the highest decision-making body of the RSS) passed a resolution in Nagpur in September 1952 about banning cow slaughter across the country.

A massive nationwide campaign was launched. “The main objective of this signature collection is to submit a gigantic request containing crores of signatures to the President,” Guruji said in a statement. “This is an act of fiery patriotism. It is my request that each citizen of this country should rise above the differences of religion, sect, caste, party, etc. and participate in this sacred work.”

He wrote letters to political leaders, editors and religious heads individually. The signature campaign was formally launched by Sarkaryavah Bhayyaji Dani and by Guruji in Mumbai. 

RSS volunteers collected signatures from 94,459 villages and towns. The total count of signatures was 1,79,89,332. 

On 8 December 1952, Guruji met the president to hand him over the signatures with an appeal to ban cow slaughter across the country.

One of the key impacts of the cow protection campaign was that it galvanised the RSS at an organisational level and increased its reach significantly.

The RSS was now getting increasingly involved in the relief and rehabilitation efforts wherever a disaster or calamity struck in the country. 

This resulted in the setting up of the ‘Sewa Vibhag (a wing for Social Services). Guided by the ‘Sewa Vibhag’, at present RSS and organisations inspired by it are running around two lakh social welfare projects across the country.

Also read: 31 years on, 19 January still a dark day for Kashmiri Pandits as they wait for exile to end


 (The above information has been sourced from Shri Guruji Samgra(Vol.1 to 12), ‘The Saffron Surge: Untold Story of RSS leadership’ and RSS archives)

 (The writer is research director with Delhi based think tank Vichar Vinimay Kendra. He has authored two books on the RSS)


Subscribe to our channels on YouTube & Telegram

Why news media is in crisis & How you can fix it

India needs free, fair, non-hyphenated and questioning journalism even more as it faces multiple crises.

But the news media is in a crisis of its own. There have been brutal layoffs and pay-cuts. The best of journalism is shrinking, yielding to crude prime-time spectacle.

ThePrint has the finest young reporters, columnists and editors working for it. Sustaining journalism of this quality needs smart and thinking people like you to pay for it. Whether you live in India or overseas, you can do it here.

Support Our Journalism


  1. With out RSS , congress and Communists and Leftists must have converted India in to another Islamic nation and Christian state , Hindus remained as majority in India due to RSS

Comments are closed.

Most Popular