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MS Golwalkar, the RSS chief who remains ‘Guruji’ to some, a ‘bigot’ to others

On his 46th death anniversary, ThePrint recalls RSS chief MS Golwalkar, whose 'Bunch of Thoughts' were the foundation of the concept of 'Hindu Rashtra'.

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New Delhi: ‘Guruji’. For members of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the larger Sangh Parivar, this word refers to just one person — M.S. Golwalkar.

The second sarsanghchalak (chief) of the RSS after K.B. Hedgewar, Golwalkar remained the ideological guru of the Right-wing organisation for 33 years, from 1940 until his death in 1973. He took the RSS to great institutional strength after independence.

He wrote a book in 1966 on nationalism and the idea of a nation, called Bunch of Thoughts. Historian Ramachandra Guha once equated the value of Bunch of Thoughts for believers in the political ideology of Hindutva to that of the Bible for Christians, or the Quran for Muslims.

On his 46th death anniversary, ThePrint looks back at Golwalkar’s life, his idea of India, and how relevant his ideas are today.

From Golwalkar to ‘Guruji’

Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar was born on 19 February 1906 at Ramtek near Nagpur to a Brahmin family. He was the only surviving son out of nine children.

In 1927, Golwalkar earned an M.Sc. from the Banaras Hindu University. He was greatly influenced by Madan Mohan Malaviya, the nationalist leader and founder of the university. Later, he taught zoology at BHU, which is when he earned the moniker ‘Guruji’.

The founder of the RSS, Keshav Baliram Hedgewar or ‘Doctorji’ as he was fondly called, came to know about Golwalkar through a student from BHU. He met Hedgewar in 1932 and appointed him sanghchalak at BHU.

A year later, Golwalkar returned to Nagpur to secure a law degree. In a search for spirituality, he left for Sargachi in Bengal in 1936, and spent two years in the service of Swami Akhandananda of Ramakrishna Math.

Upon his return, Hedgewar convinced him to dedicate his life to the Sangh. In 1940, when the RSS chief passed away, Golwalkar took over as sarsanghchalak at the age of 34.

Gandhi, Golwalkar and the ban on RSS

In the long history of the RSS, the most controversial chapter was its run-ins with Mahatma Gandhi, and later, his assassination.

The RSS has constantly faced criticism over non-participation in the Indian freedom struggle. In 1942, Golwalkar is said to have forbade RSS volunteers from taking part in the Gandhi-led Quit India Movement. He said that fighting against the British was not a part of RSS’s mission.

“We should remember that in our pledge we have talked of freedom of the country through defending religion and culture, there is no mention of departure of British from here,” he is reported to have said.

However, the RSS has maintained over the years that it played its part during the struggle.

In September 1947, as India was going through Partition, Gandhi met Golwalkar and told him he had been hearing about the RSS’s hands being covered in the blood of the riots. However, Golwalkar assured him this wasn’t the case, and that the RSS didn’t stand for the killing of Muslims; it only wanted to protect Hindustan. Later, in a letter to Sardar Patel, India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru said Gandhi told him he didn’t find Golwalkar convincing, a piece in The Indian Express said.

Months later, Gandhi, the father of the nation, was assassinated on 30 January 1948 by Nathuram Godse, a radical Hindu nationalist who is said to have been an RSS member. The RSS maintains that he had quit before committing the assassination.

In the aftermath of the event, Golwalkar and RSS members were arrested in February 1948. The RSS was also banned by home minister Patel.

Golwalkar decided to challenge the ban on RSS with a satyagraha, launched on 9 December 1948 in Delhi. The ban was finally revoked only in July 1949 after the RSS pledged allegiance to the Indian Constitution.

His idea of India

Bunch of Thoughts, which has become Golwalkar’s most cited work, is a collection of talks and lectures by him around RSS shakhas in India.

Published in 1966 in Bangalore (now Bengaluru), the book is divided into four parts: The Mission, The Nation and Its Problems, The Path to Glory and Moulding Men.

Golwalkar wrote about the glories of the motherland, or punyabhoomi, and its chief religion, Hinduism. The RSS chief wrote of Hindu society as the only one that could fulfil the grand mission of salvation of mankind. He also wrote about the caste system, defending it by saying that it kept Hindus organised and united through centuries.

Further, Golwalkar wrote about nationalism and what his idea of a nation was. He wrote that hostile elements within the country pose a far greater menace to national security than aggressors from outside. He saw three major internal threats to India: Muslims, Christians and Communists.

Talking about Muslims and Christians, he wrote that while they were born in the land, they were not true to its salt, and also didn’t feel a duty to serve ‘her’.

Further, his aversion to Muslims was such that he wrote that whatever the Hindu believed in, the Muslim wholly despised it, wrote Guha.

“If we (Hindus) worship in the temple, he (the Muslim) would desecrate it. If we carry on bhajans and car festivals (rath yatras), that would irritate him. If we worship cow, he would like to eat it. If we glorify woman as a symbol of sacred motherhood, he would like to molest her,” Guha quoted Golwakar in an article for The Hindu.

“He was tooth and nail opposed to our way of life in all aspects-religious, cultural, social, etc. He had imbibed that hostility to the very core.”

Golwalkar also rejected the concept of democracy because it gave too much freedom to the individual, and condemned Communism as a menace. He wrote that the “framers of our present Constitution also were not firmly rooted in the conviction of our single homogeneous nationhood”.

Guha wrote: “No one who reads Bunch of Thoughts can reach a conclusion other than the one that its author was a reactionary bigot, whose ideas and prejudices have no place in a modern, liberal democracy.”

‘Hindu Rashtra misconstrued’

However, the Sangh Parivar has argued that Golwalkar’s concept of ‘Hindu Rashtra’ has been misconstrued and vilified.

“Golwalkar believed that the values which the government adopted at the time of independence were from Russia in the form of Socialism, and Britain through the 1935 Government of India Act. And he believed that India should adopt its own culture and values. Hindu Rashtra had a broader meaning, which could be used to refer to faith as well as Indian society,” said Alok Kumar, international working president, Vishva Hindu Parishad.

“He believed that Bharat or India’s way of life, its culture and dharma were that of a Hindu Rashtra. The Hindu Rashtra encompassed enlightened nationalism and acceptance and tolerance of diversity.”

Later years

As his health started deteriorating, Golwalkar made one last tour across the country in 1972-73. It came just after India’s victory over Pakistan in the Bangladesh Liberation War, for which Golwalkar congratulated then-PM Indira Gandhi.

In March 1973, he returned to Nagpur for the last time. He died three months later on 5 June.

But by then, Golwalkar had already established the RSS as a socio-cultural organisation with political ambitions. Today, its offshoot, the Bharatiya Janata Party, stands as India’s pre-eminent national party.

Also read: Vigilantism is central to RSS’ mission of organising Hindus & defending their interests


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  1. Impression conveyed by words, e. g., Motherland, or punyabhoomi seems at odds with simple logic even. They are many who would go about sloganeering “mother and moterland are superior to heave,” or “bande mataram” etc. But in effect the same poeple or their ancestors, sadly, did not find anything wrong in gory practice of sati, ow widow burning. ***
    My own argument is that could a man or group or community of men who burnt their mother alive with the dead body of their father, really have motherland? I say he could have a homeland, not, repeat not motherland.
    Such son is a curse to his mother womb.
    The slogan was coined by clever men to apply balm to the repentant heart and soul of the son, who burnt his mother alive. The slogan is like a colourful tapestry to cover from public eye the crime committed against one’s mother under garb of scriptural ordinances which are nothing but fabrication or figment of imagination to justify crime against mother by her son.

  2. The ultimate aim of the RSS is to establish the Himdu rashtra. If atleast 1% starving hindus life gets improved , on establishment of such hindu rashtra , then we are ready to be with RSS. Unfortunately RSS works to establish pride, not to establish prosperity of the under privileged hindus . We don’t want pride unless we are sufficiently feeded. So the idea of hindu rashtra will suit the higher class . Hence it’s an idea of fantasy.think and open ur eyes.

  3. The commentor Sri RAM Chandra Guha never thought in the way Guruji written his ideology. Guha is a hater to RSS. I suggest people to read the book Bunch of thoughts and then you will start hating Me Guha for his thoughts on Guruji.
    A true intellectual should rely on first hand experience rather then believing a thoughts from hater.

  4. The religion itself is an Pandora’s box. It started to enhance it’s tentacles Right from the start with pagan religion , Christianity , Islam and Hinduism and I consider no exception of any religion which has both sides. You can’t blame all Christian’s for converting natives ( whole of Aztec and other pagan indigenous ppl were converted ) where in countries like Nicaragua and central American women is jailed if she loses pregnancy even without her fault like accidental call and hundreds are jailed for that , Lord’s army in Africa is another designated terrorist organization to defend against Islamic fighters from North in central African region. Coming to islam there is a wahabi sect , sufi and sunni sect apart from shia islam which were in constant fight throughout history. The religious sect often forbids it’s adherent’s from listening music , equality with other religions , encourages polygamy , and strict code of religiousness such as full veil for women and compulsory namaz for men. While hinduism is divided right from basis i.e caste and sect . So tell me which is better religion , islam , Christianity or Hinduism ?
    When you read the books written by Templar knights you wud come across horrible things done to Jews and Muslims under crusades , when jihad was issued against kafirs many innocent men were either converted or terminated right from battle of rashidan khalifate to recent division of indo- pak . I think in Hinduism it’s wrong to acknowledge the people on caste rather than themselves and apart from it , the presence of religiousness is obselete if it can’t protect itself from being exterminated. One would wonder why and how it may happen ? Let’s take classic cases of Pakistan and Bangladesh where around 22 percentage of population was Hindu while division but according to current statistics it’s less than 2.5 % in Pakistan and around 10% in Bangladesh which clearly certifies Hindus were either converted or killed . While in India Hindus were around 93% while partition and now 78% while Muslims population swelled from 5% to 18 percentage and Christian’s from less than 1 % to around 5 percentage . I don’t think according to statistics they are being exterminated or being frightened as the gowlikar’s view is being perceived by author which is quite in contrast with publisher’s opinion

  5. This piece of writing lost its integrity as soon as it starts quotes from Guha’s (a known RSS hater) writing. There is no originality and bigot a word best suited without argument to Gunha proved in ample cases.

  6. If RSS wants to be accepted by many in India, it must write a new Bunch of Thoughts for the 21st century. It must accept casteless society, admit women in the organisation, define Hindutva and Hindu nationalism etc. It can’t take adverserial stance against Muslims and Christians but treat them as equal citizens. RSS has great organisational skills and has done very good work over the years for the country but it leaves itself open for criticism due to irrelevant ideas. And of course, they should change their dress and stop using lathis n giving so called military training. Instead they can have yoga, sports and other exercises.

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