‘The Sangh is My Soul’: An Article by Atal Bihari Vajpayee from Organiser Archives
"The simple reason for my long association with the RSS is that I like the Sangh. I like its ideology, and above all, I like the RSS attitude towards people, towards one another which is found only in the RSS..."
Atal Bihari Vajpayee
I came in contact with the RSS in 1939 through Arya Kumar Sabha, a youth branch of Arya Samaj, in Gwalior-then a princely state which was not part of any province. I came from a strong ‘sanatani’ family. But I used to be at the weekly ‘satsang’ of Arya Kumar Sabha. Once Shri Bhoodev Shastri who was a senior worker of Arya Kumar Sabha, and a great thinker and an expert organiser, asked us: “What do you do in the evenings?” “Nothing”, we said, because the Arya Kumar Sabha used to meet in the morning on every Sunday. Then he recommended us to go to the shakha. Thus I started going to the Shakha in Gwalior. It was my first association with the RSS. At that time the shakha in Gwalior had just begun. It had only Maharashtrian boys, and naturally, all the swayamsevaks used to speak only Marathi. I started going to the shakha regularly. I liked the games played in the shakha as well as the weekly ‘bauddhiks’ (intellectual discourses).
A pracharak, Shri Narayanrao Tarte had come from Nagpur to start the shakha. He was indeed a superb human being; a very simple man, a thinker and an expert organiser. What I am today is the making of Shri Tarte. Next to him, I was inspired by Deendayal Upadhyaya and Bhaurao Deoras. Gwalior was then not within the field of Bhauraoji. But once he had come to Gwalior with Shri Balasaheb Apte who was the then Bauddhik Pramukh. Apteji was very soft-spoken. We were soon drawn towards him. I had talked with him for only a few minutes. But the same year (1940) when I went to see the first year Officers’ Training Camp (OTC), I came in close contact with him. I went there just to attend the valedictory function of the camp, not for training. Dr Hedgewar had also come there for some time. I first saw him there. When Doctorji was ill, I went to see him. In 1941 when I was in High School, I did my first year OTC. In 1942 when I was in Intermediate class, I did my second year OTC, and I did my third year in 1944 when I was doing my B.A.
When I wrote ‘Hindu Tan-man Hindu Jeevan’ I was a student of class X. After completing my graduation from Gwalior I did my M.A. from the DAV College in Kanpur, because there was no post-graduate college in Gwalior. I then got the State Government’s scholarship also. Owing to Partition, I could not complete my Law. And then in 1947, I decided to give up my studies to come out as a whole-time worker of the RSS. Till 1947 I did the RSS work at the shakha level and carried on my studies. I also participated in the Quit India Movement in 1942 and was jailed. I was then studying for my Intermediate examination. I was arrested from my native village Bhateshwar in Agra district. I was then 16.
My father was not attached to the RSS, but my elder brother was. He would go to the shakha. Once he went to the winter camp where he created a problem. He said: “I cannot take my food with the other swayamsevaks. I shall prepare my food myself.” And see how deftly the RSS handled the situation. The ‘sarvadhikari’ (superintendent) of the camp complied with his request and provided him with all the necessary thing for preparing his food. After taking his bath and properly adjusting his sacred thread, etc., he started cooking his food. On the first day, he prepared the food for himself. The next day, however, he could not prepare it and joined the queue of all swayamsevaks for partaking of the food. Within 44 hours he was changed.
The RSS does not change only individuals. It also changes the collective mind. This is the beauty of the RSS ethos. In our spiritual tradition, an individual can attain great height. Even self-realisation is possible if one undertakes the right ‘sadhana’ and also attain ‘nirvana.’ But what about the society? Nobody thinks about his obligation to the society in general. Now for the first time, the RSS thought about it and concluded that by changing individuals we should change the society. Had the sarvadhikari at the camp scolded him and not allowed him to prepare his food himself his spiritual development would have been thwarted, whereas in the RSS within 44 hours he was a changed boy. This is the “secret method” of the RSS. That is how society is changed. It is true that it is a long process, but then there are no short-cuts, no instant recipes.
Gandhiji had praised the RSS for the absence of untouchability in the organisation. Only the RSS organises the society. Other movements only divide the society by emphasising distinct ‘identity’, different ‘interests’, special ‘status’, etc. They only encourage untouchability by constantly reminding the so-called untouchables of their “separateness.” “You are being insulted. You have no place in society.”
The RSS has a two-fold task before it. One is to organise the Hindus. To build a strong Hindu society, well-knit and rising above caste and other artificial differences. Some differences will persist but then variety is the spice of life. Like, we have the differences of the language. We don’t want to destroy this diversity. The other task is to assimilate the non-Hindus, like Muslims and Christians in the mainstream. They can follow the faith of their own conviction. No one can object to it. We worship trees, animals, stones, and what not. We have hundreds of ways of worshipping God. They can go where they want. But this country must be looked upon as the Motherland for them. They must have a feeling of patriotism for this country. But the Islamic division of the world into ‘Darul Harab’ and ‘Darul Islam’ comes in the way. Islam has yet to learn the art of existing and flourishing in a country where Muslims are a minority. They cannot convert the whole of India to Islam. After all, they have to live here. So they have to recognise this fact. And today it has become a matter of grave concern and deep thinking in the Muslim countries. Because the Quran offers no guidance in this regard. It only talks of killing kafirs or converting them to Islam. But they cannot do it always and everywhere. How can they do it where they are a minority? If they try to do it, a major clash will take place, and only the members of the minority will be killed. But Muslims themselves have to change this state of affairs. We cannot change it for them.
Congress has not correctly understood the Muslim problem. They continue to carry on their policy of appeasement. But to what effect? The Muslims of this country can be treated in three ways. One is ‘tiraskar’ which means if they will not themselves change leave them alone, reject them as our compatriots. Second is ‘puruskar’ which is appeasement, i.e., bribe them to behave, which is being done by the Congress and others of their ilk. The third way is ‘parishkar’ meaning to change them, that is, restore them to the mainstream by providing them samskaras. We want to change them by offering them the right samskaras. Their religion will not be changed. They can follow their own religion. Mecca can continue to be holy for the Muslims but India should be holier than the holy for them. You can go to a mosque and offer namaz, you can keep the roza. We have no problem. But if you have to choose between Mecca or Islam and India, you must choose India. All the Muslims should have this feeling: we will live and die only for this country.
I wrote “Hindu Tan-man Hindu Jeevan” when I was studying in the tenth class. I had then said, “koi batlaye Kabul mein jaakar kitni masjiden todin.” I still stand by my words. But we (Hindus) did pull down the structure in Ayodhya. It was the first incident in history when the Hindus demolished their worship place themselves. In fact it was a reaction to the Muslim vote-bank. We wanted to solve this problem through negotiation and legislation. But there was no puraskar for burai (evil act). We change burai also with parishkar. Now I think, the Hindu society has been regenerated which was the prime task of the RSS. Earlier Hindus used to bend before an invasion but not now. This change in Hindu society is worthy of welcome. So much change must have come with the new-found self-assertion. This is a question of self-preservation. If the Hindu society does not expand itself, it will face the crisis of survival. We have to expand ourselves. We have to take others along with. Now the Yadavs and the so-called Harijans are going with us. After all, we have to live as Hindus. Once a Yadav leader came to me and said: “Don’t condemn all Yadavs. All Yadavs are not with Mulayam Singh and Laloo Prasad. A ‘samskrit’ (cultured) Yadav does not like them. There can be sections of Rajput, Kurmi and Gujjar Muslims but you cannot find any Yadav Muslim anywhere. The Yadavs never accepted Islam. This talk of “Yadav-Muslim” Unity – MY card – is nothing more than an empty slogan for votes.”
The simple reason for my long association with the RSS is that I like the Sangh. I like its ideology, and above all, I like the RSS attitude towards people, towards one another which is found only in the RSS. I remember an incident, when I was in Lucknow. The Socialist movement was its peak. Suddenly a senior socialist activist fell ill. He was lying alone in his house, and nobody went to enquire after his well-being. Then Acharya Narendra Deo came to know and he went to his house to see him. The Acharya then said, “What fraternity is this in the Socialist Party? Nobody has come to see you. It can never happen in the RSS. If a swayamsevak does not go to the shakha only for one day, the same day friends will promptly reach his house to inquire about his well-being.”
When I was ill during the Emergency, my family members did not turn up to see me. They were afraid of being arrested for any such action. Only the RSS workers helped me. See, how much living contact and the fraternal feeling is in the RSS. Actually, the Sangh is our family. We are all one.
In the beginning, we could not spread our work in all sections of the society because we did not have enough workers. “Man-making” is the prime job of the RSS. As we now have more workers, we are covering all sections of the society in all fields of life. Changes are taking place in all spheres. But the work of man-making will not be discontinued, it will go on. It must go on. That is what the RSS movement is. (This article was originally published in the Varsh Pratipada issue of Organiser Weekly in 1995)