A tribute to PujaniyaDrHedgewar on his Janmatithi -Ugadi
Dr. Keshav Baliram Hedgewar was founder of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). Due to its unique organizational technique Sangh has become world famous, so has the name of its founder Dr. Hedgewar. At present, RSS work is going on in at least 35 countries.
Chaitra Shukla Pratipada (First Day of the Hindu Calendar) is the birthday of Doctorji. As per the English calendar, the date was 1st April 1889. He was a staunch patriot since his childhood. At the age of 9-10 years also his thinking and mindset was different from other children of his age. He was studying in the third standard of a primary school. The British Queen, who also headed the British Empire in Bharat, completed 60 years of her coronation. On this occasion, the diamond jubilee celebrations were organized in Britain and its colonies, including India. As a part of celebrations, sweets were distributed in each school. Little Keshav Hedgewar also got the sweets but instead of consuming, he threw those sweets in the dustbin. For him those sweets were a symbol of celebrating foreign rule in Bharat.
Vande Mataram Episode
It is very difficult to elaborate the thinking of that little boy. I feel that it was not an innocent and sudden reaction. There was a particular thinking behind the action, which was reflected again after some years when Keshav Hedgewar was doing his matriculation. A school inspector was supposed to visit his school. Head Master informed all the students regarding the same and instructed them to be disciplined and with proper uniform. But Keshav Hedgewar thought of a different plan. He gathered all his classmates and convinced them that they would welcome the school inspector with the slogans of “Vande Mataram”. The year was 1908. Bengal was partitioned in 1905 by the British Viceroy Lord Curzon. All patriotic Indians got together against that decision. The slogan for this anti-partition movement was “Vande Mataram”. Whole nation was excited with this slogan. The British government had banned the clarion call of “Vande Mataram”.
Rustication from School
When inspector entered in Keshav’s classroom along with the school principal, the entire class stood up and greeted him with a loud “Vande Mataram”. The inspector was furious for this act of defiance. He immediately got out of the class, reprimanded the principal and angrily left the school. The principal came back to the 11th class, grilled the students in order to find out the name of the conspirator. As nobody from the class revealed any name, the whole class was rusticated from school. Parents came to know about the incident after some days. They met the principal but he, with a very stern stand, asked all the students to apologize in writing for reentry in the school. The students were not ready for this. Then as an acceptable middle path, it was decided that the principal would stand at the class entrance and ask each student whether he accepts his mistake, to which the student would reply with a nod and enter the class. Except Keshav, who refused to accept this compromising posture, all the students were readmitted in the school. Later, he took admission in a school at Yawatmal, 150 kilometers from Nagpur, which was free from all governmental restrictions. He comfortably cleared his matriculation exam and received certificate signed by the president of “The National Council of Bengal” and eminent revolutionary Dr. Rasbihari Ghosh.
For his further studies, Keshav chose Kolkata for two reasons. Firstly, his matriculation certificate was from Bengal and secondly, Kolkata was the base of revolutionaries. His mind was a complete revolutionary at the age of 19. After going to Kolkata, he enthusiastically participated in revolutionary activities. He became a member of “Anushilan Samiti”, which was a central committee of revolutionaries. Simultaneously, he cleared his medical examination and after completing the internship came back to Nagpur in 1915. Now he was Dr. Keshav Baliram Hedgewar.
Understanding Limitations of Revolutionary Activities
Dr. Hedgewar was not born for entering into government services or earning money through private practice. Independence of India was his ultimate goal of life. While thinking about the goal, he realistically assessed and understood the limitations of revolutionary activities in attaining independence. He realized that British are not going to go away with the killing of British officers and there is need for extensive mass support for any movement to be successful. The mass base was completely missing from the revolutionary movement. Unless there is a burning desire for independence among common masses, we cannot attain independence and even if we do, it will not last for a long, was his firm conviction. Therefore, after coming back to Nagpur, he desisted himself from the revolutionary zeal and entered the mass movement of Congress with full devotion. In the year 1916, Lokmanya Tilak was released from the six years of solitary confinement from Mandale and his call that “Freedom is my birth right and I shall have it” had fuelled masses with the renewed rigor. Dr Keshavrao Hedgewar became integral part of this new wave and started giving inflammatory speeches against the British government. The British imposed a prohibition on his public speeches by invoking various acts against him. However, this did not deter him from continuing his cause of awakening the masses through his speeches. He was booked under various sections and sentenced for 1-year rigorous imprisonment. He was released on 22nd July 1922.
The Birth of Sangh
With a year of mental churning in imprisonment, he came out with a concrete plan. He realized that for rousing burning desire for independence among common masses, a sustainable struggle against the British rule is required. He also apprehended that mere public emotions will not suffice but an organization of people, full of patriotic zeal, should lead the nation. ‘Haste will yield no result’ was the conclusion of his thinking process and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) was the outcome.
Functioning of the RSS
As the fate and future of this nation is tied with the Hindu society, Hindu organization became his prime motto. Other constituents would join but for the resilient organization, Hindus should be the basic unit. Doctorji knew very well that the British rulers were cunning and successful in implementing the policy of ‘divide and rule’. Therefore, he decided to build a Hindu organization, where Sikhs, Jains and Budhdhists were considered as part and parcel of the larger Hindu ethos. He was well aware that the Hindu is not a society but a nation. In consultation with his colleagues, he named the organization as Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). Building a Hindu organization was a gigantic task as Hindus were divided on lines of castes, linguistic and sectarian identities. The internal groupings were not only proud of their caste, language and sect, but there was a deep-rooted sense of inequality arising from the differential caste system. There was a practice of untouchability as well. Considering all these hurdles, with his uncommon persona, he evolved an organization with innovative style of functioning that is daily Shakha. He insisted that if somebody wants to work for society and nation, on daily basis he should dedicate an hour for the Sangh (organization). We should speak only of unity and not of differences was another important mantra of organization building. Many social reformers were working for eradication of caste inequalities and untouchability by attacking the caste system. Doctorji chose the new path of not considering castes but only insisting on the unifying factor of Hindutva (Hinduness). The unique order “Ekshah Sampat” (Fall in One Line) symbolize the profound thinking of Doctorji through which he not only made everybody to walk together but also eat together, which was quite revolutionary at that time. The whole RSS functioning is in tandem with this line of thinking.
On the same issue, I remember an incident of year 1932. Swayamsevaks from the communities that were considered ‘untouchables’ by society in general participated for the first time in the winter camp held at Nagpur. Some Swayamsevaks of other castes that lived in the vicinity, refused to have food with them. Doctorji did not reprimand them or expel them from the camp but instead allowed them to have food separately, while he himself chose to dine with the so-called ‘untouchables’. On the given day, all the Swayamsevaks dined together with Doctorji, except 10-12 swayamsevaks belonging to a particular caste. Next day those swayamsevaks also realized their mistake and fell in line. There are two ways of shortening a line – one, erasing a part of it and two, drawing a bigger line, automatically making the former look smaller. Doctorji believed in the second method. He drew a bigger and unifying line of Hindutva on the age old small and divisive line of caste system. The success of this practice set by Doctorji resonates in the fact that even today nobody is asked about their caste or class, there by eroding the caste divisions among the sangh swayamsevaks. Even Mahatma Gandhi personally experienced and appreciated this unifying aspect of the Sangh in a camp held near his ashram in 1934. Thus, Sangh succeeded in unifying the divided Hindus across caste, linguistic and sectarian considerations.
Another unique feature of the Sangh functioning is the insistence on self-sufficiency. Every need, including financial, is fulfilled by the Swayamsevaks themselves. The Sangh does not accept donations or sponsorships from anybody. The Swayamsevaks contribute as per their ability, in the spirit of self-less sacrifice in the form of Gurudakshina, rather than any egoistic practice of philanthropy. This practice of Gurudakshina completely frees the Sangh from any kind of external pulls and pressures.
Who is the Guru?
The practice of Gurudakshina started but the question of who is the Guru was unanswered. Doctorji preached that no individual is Guru in Sangh, instead Bhagva Dwaj (Saffron Flag), symbolizing sacrifice, purity and valour, is the Guru. Because of this impersonal nature Gurupujan and Gurudakshina, there is no personality worship in the Sangh, not even for Doctorji. There is only one slogan in Sangh and that is “Bharat Mata Ki Jai”.
In order for any organization to function smoothly, a dedicated lot of karyakartas (volunteers) are required. Doctorji created this dedicated force of Karyakartas from within the Sangh itself by instilling a feeling of intense patriotism and selfless social commitment. The inexperienced youths of 18-20 years of age travelled to the distant places like Ravalpindi, Lahore, Delhi, Lucknow, Chennai, Calicut, Bangalore etc. Though the pretext of the travel was education, the prime cause was to start Sangh Shakhas there. These youths played a key role in bringing people of similar age group from the area into the Sangh fold. They carried on with this mission ever after completing their education. Their tireless efforts saw a pan Bharat presence of the Sangh. Though the term ‘Pracharak’ (Preacher) was not coined and institutionalized in those days, these youths were pioneering Pracharaks. Many highly qualified youths still dedicate their lives for the ‘Sangh’ cause as Pracharaks even today. The efforts of the Karyakartas achieved unprecedented success. The Sangh Shiksha Varg (Officers Training Camp) of 1940, held at Nagpur was represented by all the regions of Bharat, except Assam. In the Varg, Doctorji got a glimpse of miniature Bharat. Just 11 days after this Varg, on 21st June 1940, he left this mortal world. He led a short but fulfilling life of 51 years. The mission of Sangh started by Doctorji has spread in every district of Bharat and 35 countries across the globe. The overseas functioning is known as the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS). In the present deteriorating social context, Sangh stands a beacon of hope. Our humble salutation to Doctorji on his birth anniversary.