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Why Mahatma Gandhi was ‘impressed’ by the RSS, and how the Sangh reciprocated that

The RSS respected Mahatma Gandhi to the extent that his name was included in their morning chants and all shakhas were closed for the first time ever to mourn his death in 1948.

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New Delhi: Mahatma Gandhi and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) not only enjoyed a cordial relationship with each other, but they had mutual respect too.

More than five decades ago, the RSS included Gandhi’s name in its morning chants, called the ‘Pratah Smarniya’. These are couplets or ‘mantras’, which have names of great Indian personalities and are recited in every RSS shakha in the morning.

Gandhi was all praise for the RSS when he visited its camp in Wardha, Maharashtra, in 1934. Later, he addressed an RSS meeting on 16 September 1947 in the sweepers’ colony in Delhi.

A report regarding the same was published in ‘Harijan’, a weekly newspaper that Gandhi used to publish, on 28 September 1947.

The report said: “Gandhi ji said that he had visited the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh camp years ago at Wardha, when the founder Shri Hedgewar was alive. The late Shri Jamnalal Bajaj had taken him to the camp and he (Gandhi) had been very well impressed by their discipline, complete absence of untouchability and rigorous simplicity.”

“Since then, the Sangh had grown. Gandhi ji was convinced that any organisation, which was inspired by the ideal of service and self-sacrifice, was bound to grow in strength. But in order to be truly useful, self-sacrifice had to be combined with purity of motive and true knowledge. Sacrifice without these two had been known to prove ruinous to society,” the report added.

“The (RSS) prayer that was recited at the beginning was in praise of Mother India, Hindu culture and Hindu religion. He claimed to be a sanatani (eternal) Hindu,” it said.

Also read: Mahatma Gandhi is arriving shortly

RSS shakhas closed for first time after Gandhi assassination

After Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination in 1948, in an unprecedented move, all RSS shakhas were asked to close for 13 days as a mark of respect. It has never happened in the history of the RSS since its inception in 1925 as the daily shakhas are held everyday, come what may.

When the news of Gandhi’s assassination reached RSS Sarsanghchalak M.S. Golwalkar, he was attending a meeting of prominent citizens of Madras (now Chennai) organised by the local RSS unit. 

According to eyewitnesses, as tea was being served and the RSS chief was about to take the first sip, someone interrupted and broke the news about Gandhi’s death.

As soon as he heard the news, he put down his cup and a few moments later came his first spontaneous reaction in anguished voice: “What a misfortune for the country!” 

He then immediately sent telegrams of condolences to then Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Union Home Minister Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel and Devdas Gandhi, the fourth and youngest son of Mahatma Gandhi. 

The RSS chief also cancelled his countrywide tour, flew back to the RSS headquarters in Nagpur. 

RSS banned for a brief period

Following Gandhi’s assassination, the RSS was banned for a brief period by the Nehru government from 4 February 1948 to 11 July 1949. 

In 1966, the Congress government headed by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had set up a commission to thoroughly probe the assassination. 

Justice J.L. Kapur, a retired judge of the Supreme Court, headed it. The commission examined 101 witnesses and 407 documents. The panel’s report was published in 1969, absolving the RSS of any role in Gandhi’s assassination

Its key findings were, firstly, “they (the accused) have not been proved to have been members of the RSS, nor has that organisation been shown to have had a hand in the murder”. Secondly, “there is no evidence that the RSS as such was indulging in violent activities against Mahatma Gandhi or the top Congress leaders”.

(All information above has been sourced from ‘Mahatma Gandhi Collected Works’, ‘The Saffron Surge’ and RSS archives)

The writer has authored two books on the RSS. He is a research director at Delhi-based think tank Vichar Vinimay Kendra.

Also read: Two occasions when Gandhi identified himself as a farmer


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  1. This is strange that you have so much time to spend on this topic while there are more pressing issues. Check out this site for more details to understand how toxic they were and how they still remain the same. These RSS thugs will take down India the drain while taking all the Indians along with them. They do not understand and are completely blindsided by their hatred towards others and a word or two from Gandhi does not constitute anything. So stop playing sympathetic to these and do not waste your time and resource Shaker Gupta. Stop being like the Godi Media if you will. Remember I say this coz a negative publicity is also a publicity.

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