Swayamsevaks of RSS displayed an intense spirit of national consciousness and devotion to duty during this very critical juncture of independent India. Right from the then Sarsanghchalak Balasaheb Deoras to the last Swayamsevak in a small town had vowed to fight against a fascist regime that had forced emergency on the entire country. During emergency Rajju Bhaiyya went underground and toured the whole of India. He was also responsible for organizing human rights convention presided by Justice VM Tarkunde in Delhi in 1976. He was also responsible for setting up friends of India Society International.
The RSS and its Swayamsevaks displayed great spirit in defence of freedom and democracy during the emergency. They very ably played the role of a vigilant and conscious citizenry by carrying forward the struggle remaining unshaken under the most cruel barrage of falsehood and vilification. Few facts the RSS and Swayamsevaks had to endure provides a glimpse into the draconian regime that imposed emergency on the country and way the RSS fought against it.
- Out of the 1356 Pracharaks the Sangh then had, 189 of them were arrested. Thousands of Swayamsevaks were arrested including Sarsanghchalak Shri Balasaheb Deoras
- Lok Sangharsh Samiti was established by the Sangh. The Sangharsh Samiti undertook Satyagraha against Emergency. More than 1 lakh Swayamsevaks were imprisoned under MISA for taking part in Satyagraha and protesting against emergency.
- Sarsanghchalak Balasaheb Deoras was arrested on June 30 from the Nagpur railway station. He appealed before his arrest, "In this extraordinary situation, the Swayamsevaks have the responsibility to not lose their composure. They should continue to be engaged in Sangh work as per the instructions of Sarkaryavaha Madhavrao and those appointed by him and continue to be in contact with common people, make them aware and educate them and thus fulfil your national duty to build a capable and aware society"
• During the Emergency, more than 1,00,000 out of the 1,30,000 satyagrahis who were part of the satyagraha were the Swayamsevaks of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.
• Among the 30,000 who were arrested under MISA, more than 25,000 were Sangh swayamsevaks
• More than 100 RSS Karyakartas died in prison during the Emergency and many outside too. Among them was Shri Pandurang Kshirsagar, Akhil Bharateeya Vyavasta Parmukh (H.V. Sheshadri, Kratiroop Sangh Darshan, p.492)
Few facts about the Satyagraha organised by Sangh Swayamsevaks
• Satyagraha was held on 9th August, 1975 in Meerut town. On the same day, loud crackers were burst at several locations of Mujjafarpur.
• On August 15, 1975, when Prime Minister Indira Gandhi approached the mike to deliver a speech at the Red Fort, at least 50 Satyagrahis started shouting slogans and distributed pamphelts decrying emergency.
• Satyagraha was undertaken in front of the Prime Minister on October 2 at Mahatma Gandhi's Samadhi
• On October 28, 1975, Satyagrahis distributed anti-Emergency literature to a group of MPs from Commonwealth nations who came to Delhi
• On November 14, 1975, slogans were raised in front of the Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in protest of the Emergency near Nehru's Samadhi.
• On November 24, 1975, at the All India Teachers Conference, the Satyagrahis protested right in front of Indira Gandhi, shouted slogans against her dictatorship and distributed pamphelts.
• On December 7, 1975, a massive satyagraha was undertaken at the samadhi of the great musician Tansen in Gwalior. On the same day, Silver Jubilee event was also organized.
• on December 12, 1975, a Satyagraha was organised by a large group of women under the leadership of Sardar Patel's daughter Maniben Patel in front of the statue of Swami Shraddhananda in Delhi.
• Satyagrah was undertaken by workers of Bombay mills. (Mohanlal Rustagi, Emergency Conflict Saga, pages 35-36)
Struggles of RSS during Emergency
All types of communication medium, such as newsletters, magazines, forums, postal services and elected legislative assembly were stopped. Then the question arose as to who should organize the mass movement in this situation. It was obvious that nobody else could do it except the RSS. The Sangh had its own network of Shakhas throughout the country and only it could play the role.
Right from its inception the Sangh spread only by people to people contact. It was never dependent on the press or other forums to stay in contact with the common people. Hence, the muzzling of the media did not affect the Sangh and its work as it did the political parties. A decision made at the centre, reaches all provinces, departments, districts, tehsils and villages through its network.
From the declaration of emergency to the day it was lifted, this communication network of the Sangh ran smoothly. The homes of the Swayamsevaks proved to be the greatest blessing for the underground activities during the anti-Emergency movement. It was due to this the government and its intelligence officers could not trace the location of Swayamsevaks and their underground activists. (H. V. Sheshadri, Kratiroop Sangh Darshan, pp. 486-87)
Before his arrest, Shri Jai Prakash Narayan had given responsibility to run a movement of Lok Sangharsh Samiti to Shri Nanaji Deshmukh, who was a full time Pracharak of the RSS. When Nanaji Deshmukh was arrested, the responsibility of the leadership was accorded to Shri. Sunder Singh Bhandari. In order to keep the country conscious of the situation arising out of emergency and to maintain public morale, the following Karyakartas of the Sangh were given various responsibilities for the underground work:
- Shri Rajju Bhaiyya, Front for organising people for freedom
- Dr. Abaji for the convening the meeting of Acharyas
- Bala Saheb Bhide, Chamanlal ji, Jagdish Mitra Sood and Kedarnath Sahni for establishing contact in foreign countries
- Rambhau Godbole, Sunder Singh Bhandari, Om Prakash Tyagi and Uttam Rao Patil to keep contact in political circles
- Jagannath Rao Joshi for the Common Wealth Conference
- Dr. Appa Ghatate for legal front, Dr Appa decreased
- Bhanupratap Shukla and Ved Prakash Bhatia in Delhi for generation of literature.
- Bapuo Moghe for publicity and contact for Delhi
- Dadasaheb Apte for the contact of Dharmacharyas
- Jagdish Prasad Mathur for maintaining contact with papers
- Lakshmibai 'Mousie Ji' Kelkar for contact with women (Mohanlal Rustagi, Emergency Conflict Saga, page 24)
Media on the role of RSS in Emergency
The Economist wrote this in its edition dated 12 December, 1976. RSS played a major role against the draconian emergency,“The underground campaign against Mrs Gandhi claims to be the only non-left wing revolutionary force in the world, disavowing both bloodshed and class struggle. Indeed, it might even be called right wing since it is dominated by the Hindu communalist party, Jan Sangh and its ‘cultural’ (some say paramilitary) affiliate the RSS. But its platform at the moment has only one non-ideological plank; to bring democracy back to India. The ground troops of this operation (the underground movement), consist of tens of thousands of cadres who are organized to the village level into four men cells. Most of them are RSS regulars, though more and more new young recruits are coming in. The other underground parties which started out as partners in the underground have effectively abandoned the field to Jan Sangh and RSS.”
Achyut Patwardhan writes in Indian Express dt. June 9, 1979, "I was happy to know that the workers of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh readily worked with enthusiasm and dedication with anyone who were against a draconian regime which was based on lies. Even though they were political opponents, the RSS openly cooperated and worked alongside them. Seeing the courage and bravery of the people who were running the vountary movement despite facing atrocities and police brutality, the Marxist member of Parliament A.K. Gopalan, was also impressed. He had said, "They surely have a higher goal which gives them the immense courage for such selfless work and sacrifice".
MC Subramanyam writes in Indian Review of April 1977, "Among those who worked without fear and perseverance in this task (against Emergency), the work of RSS is most notable. It organised the Satyagraha and maintained a pan-Indian communication system. It collected money silently for the movement. Distribution of literature went on in a systematic manner without any hindrance. It extended its support to all the prisoners even if they were of other parties and religion. In this way, the RSS has proved that it is the closest to the force which Swami Vivekananda wished to create for the social and political work in the country. The RSS is a traditional and revolutionary force"