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January 26 – Purna Swarajya Diwas/Republic Day and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh Part Two

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Dr. Shreerang Godbole

After years of pleas, petitions and toying with the idea of Dominion Status, the Indian National Congress (INC) finally came around to the idea of Complete Independence at its Lahore session in December 1929. The Congress decided that 26 January 1930 be observed as Purna Swaraj Day (Day of Complete Self-rule). This news was heartwarming to all patriots who had espoused this goal. One such patriot was the maker of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (hereafter Sangh) Dr. Keshav Baliram Hedgewar.

Sangh’s first tryst with 26 January

From his formative years, Hedgewar had been a vigorous champion of Complete Independence. After walking down the revolutionary path and working in the ABHM and INC, he had resolved to do nation-building through the medium of Hindu consolidation. With this end in view, he had founded the Sangh in 1925. He was beside himself with joy when the INC finally adopted Complete Independence as its creed. It was Hedgewar’s conviction that Sangh swayamsevaks should engage in any national activity in their individual capacity, shorn of organizational ego. He conceived the Sangh as an organization of the Hindu society rather than within it.  This conviction precluded him from entering the Sangh organizationally in any national activity. Such was his joy at the CWC resolution; however that he made a solitary exception to this cardinal rule.

In a letter written in Marathi and dated 21 January 1930 to all Sangh swayamsevaks, Hedgewar wrote, “This year’s Congress has decided ‘Independence’ to be its goal and the Congress Working Committee has announced that Sunday, 26-1-30 be celebrated as ‘Independence Day’ throughout Hindusthan. It is but natural that we should feel overjoyed that the All Bharatiya National Congress has reached our goal of Independence. It is our duty to cooperate with any organization that works with this goal in mind. Therefore, all shakhas of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh should organize the gathering of all their swayamsevaks at their respective Sanghasthans at six ‘o clock sharp in the evening and salute the national flag, that is the Bhagwa flag. The meaning of Independence and how keeping this as our goal is the duty of every resident of Hind may be explained through a lecture and the function may be concluded by congratulating the Congress for supporting the goal of Independence” (Sangh archives, Hedgewar papers, A Patrak by Dr. Hedgewar to the swayamsevak – 21 Jan 1930).

The ever-methodical Hedgewar added a foot-note seeking immediate dispatch of reports of such functions to him. Thanks to this foot-note, reports of such functions exist in the registers maintained in the Sangh archives! It may be mentioned that the nascent Sangh of the time existed largely in the Marathi-speaking districts of the Central Provinces namely Nagpur, Wardha, Chanda (present-day Chandrapur) and Bhandara. It had negligible presence in the Berar districts of Amravati, Buldhana, Akola and Yavatmal.

As per Hedgewar’s directive, Sangh shakhas in different places organized functions to mark ‘Independence Day’ and passed resolutions congratulating the Congress. The Independence Day function in Nagpur was held from 6 to 7.30 am on 26 January 1930 at the Sanghasthan with Adv. Vishwanath Vinayak Kelkar in the Chair. The main speech was given by Narayan Vaidya. Notable attendees included Hedgewar, Laxman Vasudeo Paranjpe (who later became Provisional Sarsanghachalak when Hedgewar went to jail in 1930), Navathe, Bhandara Sanghachalak Adv. Deo, Sakoli Sanghachalak Adv. Pathak and Saoner Sanghachalak Ambokar.

The Chanda function

Some details of the Independence Day function organized by the Sangh in Chanda give a glimpse of the larger picture (Sangh archives, Hedgewar papers, registers\Register 3 DSC_0044,DSC_0045). On 29 January 1930, the Secretary of the Chanda Sangh Ramchandra Rajeshwar alias Tatyaji Deshmukh sent the following report to Hedgewar, “The shakha here had spontaneously decided the function on 26.1.30. Your letter arrived after that. Accordingly, the following function was held to mark Independence Day. 1) As per the request of the Congress Secretary, the procession of the Sangh started at 8.45 am from Gandhi Chowk in military discipline and swayamsevaks accorded a military salute to the tricolor after it was unfurled. After the procession returned to the Sanghasthan, military salute was accorded to the Bhagwa flag. The morning function concluded thereafter. 2) The Sangh had been requested to take part in the Congress procession in the evening and be present with the Congress when the resolution was to be passed. However, as the Sangh programme at the Sanghasthan had been decided earlier, the Secretary of the Sangh informed the Taluka Congress Secretary the inability of the Sangh to take part in the Congress programme 3) The Independence Day function started at 4.30 in the evening at a site that has been bought by the Sangh. Keshavrao Bodake gave a display of arms, sticks and military drill. Then on orders of the (Sangh) Chalak, Adv. Deshmukh (Secretary) made a crisp speech after moving the resolution. That resolution was seconded by Adv. Bhagwat who gave a small but nice speech. Both speakers stressed that supporting Independence made sense only if discipline, method and commitment was fully inculcated in the youth and if they gained capacity to act accordingly and that the Sangh was indeed making such preparedness from before. While moving the resolution, Deshmukh narrated how the Congress had now arrived at the goal of Independence from (its earlier goals of) pleas, petitions and Dominion Status. The Sangh had decided on the goal of ‘Independence’ much before this idea took birth in the Congress. The Sangh does not find anything novel in that Congress resolution. However, the Sangh is naturally pleased that this national organization has arrived at the goal of the Sangh and hence the Sangh is sympathetically congratulating the National Congress. After this speech to the above effect was made, the Chairman made a concluding speech. The function was concluded at 6 pm sharp after the Sangh prayer. A total of 110 swayamsevaks were present. The resolution read thus – “The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh heartily congratulates the National Congress for arriving at the goal of Independence and desires to cooperate with the Congress, if such is possible within the confines of the goals and discipline of the Sangh.” As an aside, the Adv. Bhagwat mentioned in the report is Narayan Pandurang alias Nanasaheb Bhagwat, the grand-father of the present Sarsanghachalak Mohan Bhagwat!

Summary of Sangh functions

The following is a summary of the Independence Day functions organized by the Sangh at various places (Sangh archives, Hedgewar papers, registers\Register 3 DSC_0043 to DSC_0047)

Place and time Number of attendees Main speaker Miscelleneous
Rajeshwar Mandir grounds, Akola, 9 pm 35 Gopal Krishna Chitale (Sanghachalak), Adv. Sadashiv Kelkar Salute to the Bhagwa flag
Arvi (dist. Wardha) Sanghasthan 4 pm 55 (nearly full attendance) Parsharam Thatte Collective singing of ballads, main points in lecture included use of indigenous goods, prohibiting students from participating in Civil Disobedience but to rather participate in any agitation after imbibing knowledge and strength. As per request of Baliram Jalit (Secretary, Taluka Congress Committee) and N.S. Deshmukh (President, Taluka Congress Committee, Arvi), after the lecture, swayamsevaks joined the Congress procession as it came to Gandhi Chowk in military style.
Bhandara Sanghasthan 6 pm 55-60 Bawaji Kolte Ten attendees excluding swayamsevaks
Bilaspur gymnasium, Chatapara, 5 pm Not available Ramchandra Anant Nulkar (Sanghachalak) In addition to swayamsevaks, some Sangh sympathizers present; meeting organized by local Congress Committee at 5.30 pm
Brahmapuri (dist. Chanda) Sanghasthan 102 (of these 10 were newcomers in the Sangh) Nilkanth Krishna Sadafal (Sanghachalak) Fifteen other villagers took part in the Sangh function; reading of the Congress President’s message, main point in the lecture was that  Sangh work is national work; golden garland offered to the Bhagwa flag amidst roars of Vande Mataram, military salute, singing and one mile-long route-march
Chanda Sanghasthan 110 Adv. Ramchandra Rajeshwar Deshmukh, Adv. Narayan Pandurang Bhagwat As described above
Chimur (dist.Chanda) Sanghasthan, 6 pm Not available Baburao Bedage (Commander) Lecture, congratulatory resolution, prayer, procession of youngsters to Shri Vyankatesh Mandir, flag-salute and slogans of victory to the nation
Hinganghat (dist. Wardha) Sanghasthan, 6 pm 100 Dr. Shivajirao Ganesh Patwardhan (Amravati), Dr. Kunte (Sanghachalak) Total 200 listeners, lecture followed by singing of ballad, slogans of Vande Mataram, prayer and salute to the Bhagwa flag
Ladki (dist. Wardha) Sanghasthan, 6 pm Not available Shankar Dajiba Anandkar, Pundalik Govind Shirpure President Shirpure agreed to donate a bugle to the Sangh
Nachangaon (dist. Wardha), 6 pm Not available Vishwanath Rangnath alias Bhau Dadaji Puranik (Sanghachalak) Sangh procession from 8.30 to 10.30 am; flag-salute at Sanghasthan at 6 pm and public lecture on ‘Independence and duty towards the Nation’at District Council School from 9 to 10.30 pm
Paunar (dist. Wardha) Not available Prominent Sangh workers Flag-salute, prayer followed by meeting in the school
Seloo (dist. Wardha) Sanghasthan Not available Ganesh Bapuji Joshi (Sanghachalak) Bhagwa flag-salute and prayer at Sanghasthan followed by lecture at Sharada Mandir Library
       
Wardha Sanghasthan, 6 pm Not available Motichandra Jayachandra Shravane, Dattatraya Deshmukh Explanation of an article in Shraddhanand weekly and summary of material in Vageeshwari paper

Critics of the Sangh are clearly wrong when they accuse it of staying away from 26 January festivities. The Sangh has had a long tryst with 26 January, irrespective of whether it has been observed as  Independence Day or Republic Day.

(The author has written books on Islam, Christianity, contemporary Buddhist-Muslim relations and religious demography. He has edited volumes on Dr. Hedgewar and Balasaheb Deoras and researches history of the Sangh)

 

 

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