How a veteran Communist saw Guruji Golwalkar? CPM leader and former Finance Minister of West Bengal Ashok Mitra, who passed away on May 1, 2018, wrote a pen portrait of the second Sarsanghchalak of RSS, Guruji Golwalkar in Bengali newspaper "Aajkal" on June 9, 1991. Paying tribute to Ashok Mitra, Organiser reproduces the English translation of his original article in Bengali.
The year 1966 was almost over. The condition of the country was deteriorating day by day. It was Smt. Gandhi’s first year in Prime Minister’s office. The very beginning of her regime witnessed a serious crisis. Peoples’ anger was turning severe. An anxiety came up concerning the peoples’ anger forming the shape of a popular agitation. The sannyasins who were worried about the cow protection were trying to make use of the situation. It looked like the protests of the starving population was increasing in every nook and corner of the country. One of those days, a large crowd of sannyasins took to the streets of New Delhi during mid-day. Their eyes were flaring with anger. They were about 2000 strong. They carried tridents. Their hairs were long and tufty. They attacked the parliament house. At last, police had to resort to tear gas for dispersing the crowd. The whole surroundings of the parliament house were infested with gas. I had to suffer it even sitting in my room in Krishi Bhavan.
The country was in the midst of a famine; prices were excessively hiked; the first Indira Gandhi government was in a shaking state. The reason for the anger of the sannyasins was the failure of the weak government in giving deserving respect to the Gaumata and for insulting the Bharatiya tradition. Even the country’s constitution was abused. The Article 48 of the Constitution reads lock, stock and barrel that cow and calf should not be killed. Still, this thankless government does not do anything to protect the cows. Cows are slaughtered in large scale in West Bengal, Keralam, Goa and two other states of South India; beef is sold in public. To tolerate this sort of corruption was beyond the tolerance of the sannyasins. So, they had no other alternative than attacking the parliament house.
Gulzari Lal Nanda was the home minister in the shaking government of Indira Gandhi. He was the chief patron of Bharat Sadhu Samaj too. Two – three sannyasins were beaten on their back with police batons. Several sannyasins sustained injuries in the confusions arose from tear gas.
"The moment he met me he hugged me so tight. Golwalkar was an embodiment of modesty. I was younger to him. The love and affection he showered on me were several times warmer than what we can expect from an elderly person in our society."
The situation in New Delhi was too serious. The young workers of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) encouraged the sannyasins. Suddenly Rashtriya Goraksha Samiti, an organisation of Sangh workers, created troubles in Delhi. Indira was very much perplexed, she was shaken. Since she was a novice in the hot seat she did not have a grip on the administration. She had not attained the capacity or efficiency to run the government. Some sort of conspiracies and secret moves had taken place against her here and there. General elections were expected to take place in two to three months. A compromise at any cost with the trident-wielding sannyasins was a must. Prime Minister declared a high power committee to discuss the demands of the sannyasins. The committee would advise government what steps it should take for cow protection and increase in the cow population, in view of the agitation unleashed by the Rashtriya Cow Protection Samiti, after adequate discussion. Justice Amalkumar Sarkar, the veteran legal expert who retired from the service recently was appointed the chairman of the committee. Jagadguru Sankaracharya of Puri, Justice Rema Prasad Mukhopadhyaya and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh Sarsanghchalak Guru Golwalkar were also in the committee as the representatives of Cow Protection Samiti. Other four members were the agriculture & animal husbandry ministers of Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Keralam. Priyavratha Bhattacharya, the then Animal Protection Commissioner of the GOI, famous Verghese Kurien of Anand and me as an economist were the expert members.
This rare sort of committee had to have strange and diverse experiences. Justice Sarkar, Amal da for Bag Bazar Mohalla natives like us, was at the helm of the committee. He was a rendezvous of simplicity, humbleness, sweet behaviour, nice mannerism suiting the dignity of a supreme court judge, etc. He tried his level best to keep all in good humour during the discussions. But, he did not succeed in this endeavour, thanks to Puri Sankaracharya. He did not miss any chance to create an impression that he was sitting with inferior people like us only because of his ardent wish to fulfil the holy and divine goal of cow protection; otherwise, it would have been detrimental to his dignity and position! He expressed aversion, hatred, sympathy and anger towards the committee. There was a specific reason for his anger. The committee used to meet at Krishi Bhavan. By the time he reaches Krishi Bhavan lot of devotees used to congregate at the entrance and in the corridors. Most of the people used to prostrate, at the Krishi Bhavan itself, to pay their respects. He used to enter the room showering blessing by raising the hand. But, ‘arrogant and naughty‘ people like us used to hold fast to the chairs. He would look at us with anger. His disciple would spread the tiger skin on the ‘unholy’ chair. It looked like sitting on his seat Acharya was blessing all. He did not give deserving consideration or respect to the gentleman who used to be the chief justice of the supreme court. “I am great; since the matter is of cow protection things must move according to my will and pleasure” was his stand. But, it was impossible.
I have to admit, Golwalkar’s behaviour did really conquer me like anything. But, how could I know at that time that a lot of things were yet to happen for tempting me?
Rema Prasad Mukhopadyaya, the son of Sir Ashutosh Mookerjee and elder brother of Dr Shyamaprasad Mookerjee, the representative of the Cow Protection Samiti, used to ask several questions. But, he never crossed the limit of humbleness and modesty. He never hurt others with harsh words. Whenever he had a difference of opinion (we could hardly have unity in opinions), he used to express it with a smile and gesture of a gentle shake of his neck. But the most surprising presence was of the third member in the committee – the most talked about member – Guru Golwalkar. A lot of stories had been doing the rounds regarding his adamant and sharp character. ‘Blind respect as the undisputed leader of RSS and fear about the leader of the ultra-extremists’ was the impression we had in mind regarding him. But, as the most silent member of the committee, Guru Golwalkar decimated our prejudices. He talked only when it was absolutely essential. When it was necessary he talked in a humble manner. Even though he did not like other’s opinion it did not reflect in his behaviour. He knew almost all Indian languages. Most of the times he spoke to me in Bengali. My words and opinions might have been unacceptable to him like poison. Still his behaviour to me remained unchanged. Whenever he participated in the committee’s proceedings his words did not turn harsh. His character was diametrically opposite to that of Jagadguru. I have to admit, Golwalkar’s behaviour did really conquer me like anything. But, how could I know at that time that a lot of things were yet to happen for tempting me?
Two years were over since the dissolution of the committee. Once I caught a train from Delhi, probably for going to Bhopal. After a while my co-traveler came in – none other than Guru Golwalkar. I think, he was heading to Jhansi. The moment he met me he hugged me so tight. I enquired about his health. Then we discussed the incomplete procedures of the committee and general matters prevailed in the country. Golwalkar was an embodiment of modesty. I was younger to him. The love and affection he showered on me were several times warmer than what we can expect from an elderly person in our society. The train started. It was getting dark. I took a reading material from the bag and started to read. Golwalkar started reading too. I thought that RSS chief, the vanguard of Dharma, would pick up a religious text or a hardcore Vedantha text. But, I got one more surprise: He was reading an American novel, the latest one by Henry Miller. I do not hide, that moment my respects to Golwalkar increased manyfold. Perhaps a die-hard swayamsevak might take me to killing field for revealing this.
(Ashok Mitra was Former MP (RS), former Finance Minister of West Bengal, former Economic Advisor to GOI, former GOI representative to Cow Protection Council & CPM leader. )
Translation by T Satisan, Keralam