In this series of articles, we are introducing the book ‘How I Became Hindu’ by Shri Sita Ram Goel, to readers old and new. Late SR Goel is one of the leading intellectuals & writers of Independent Bharat, whose work was subsequently marginalised & suppressed by the left-leaning academic establishment. We are grateful to VoiceOfDharma.org for making this treasure trove of books/articles available for the common public.
9. Nightmare Of Nehruism (Part c)
It was inevitable that as I tended to become more and more of a convinced and conscious Hindu, I felt drawn towards the RSS and to its political platform, the BJS, both of which had the reputation of being “Hindu communalist organizations”. I assumed that what was being described as “Hindu communalism” by the Nehruvians must be Bharatiya nationalism. I must confess that I was in for great disillusionment.
I discovered before long that except for some differences on the cow question, the character of Muslim invaders, and the status of Hindu heroes who fought those invaders, these organizations shared the Nehruvian consensus on all important issues, domestic and foreign. The BJS was fast moving towards an all out Nehruvian stance under the leadership of a pompous windbag who saw no reason to hide that he enjoyed the company of Communists far more than that of his party colleagues.
When I expressed for the first time a desire to meet him, the secretary of the BJS told me, in all seriousness, that if I dropped in the Communist Party office in Windsor Place any afternoon, I would not miss him provided he was not out of Delhi. What was worse, the RSS and the BJS stalwarts spent almost all their time and energy in proving that they were not Hindu communalists but honest secularists.
My first contact with the RSS had developed when I was a second year student in college and a devout Gandhian. One fine morning two of my classmates had descended on me in my room in the hostel. Both of them were science students, and I knew them only by their faces. They mentioned my short story in Hindi which had appeared in the college magazine and won a prize, and harangued me to write on Hindu Rashtra. They told me that they were members of the RSS, and promised to elect me as the next editor of the magazine as they had the majority among the students. I had never heard of the RSS so far, and knew nothing about Hindu Rashtra. The ideal for me was the Rama Rajya as expounded by Mahatma Gandhi.
We met quite often thereafter. I drew a blank when I asked them for some literature which their movement had produced. Instead, they took me to the Vijayadashami show which I have already mentioned. And the contact broke down when I found my new friends telling me, day after day, fantastic stories about Mahatma Gandhi. They were trying to prove that the Mahatma was nothing but a stooge of the Muslim League and an agent of the Amir of Afghanistan. I had never heard or read such stories before.
I am happy to note that, in recent years, the RSS has revised its evaluation of Mahatma Gandhi and his role. I can also see it now that those old stories originated in an agonized consciousness which had witnessed for years Mahatma Gandhi and the Indian National Congress refusing to be identified as Hindu but having no qualms about bargaining with the Muslim League on behalf of the Hindus. It had become a habit with the Mahatma and the Congress to take the Hindus for granted. But at that time, and in that state of my total ignorance about national politics, those stories sounded more than repulsive.
My next contact with the RSS developed during the course of my participation in the anti communist work in Calcutta. Our group had waited on leaders of the Congress and the Praja Socialist Party (PSP) for seeking their cooperation in what we thought was a non party national platform. Some of these leaders were impatient with our point of view, and advised us to fight Hindu communalism instead. Others were nice, listened to us, and promised to call upon us in our office for further discussion. But none of them kept the promise.
One day, a friend chided me for going to the wrong leaders, and took me to an RSS camp in Howrah. The leader I met there was more than sympathetic, and promised to visit our office as soon as the camp was over. He kept his promise, although our office had shifted to new premises in the meanwhile. He had gone to the old office, and found out our new address.
It was around this time that an Englishman who wrote regularly in the Calcutta weekly, Capital, characterised the RSS as a fascist organization. I knew him personally and as friendly towards our work. But I wrote to the weekly a letter saying that “those who call the RSS a fascist organization are fascists themselves“. The letter was published.
The Englishman telephoned to me next day. He said that he really did not know anything about the RSS, and that he had only followed the prevalent fashion. He was apologetic. Meanwhile, I had given a cutting of my printed letter to the RSS leader. He asked for a few more copies in print, which also I supplied. I came to know that he had circulated those copies in RSS circles in order to present me as a defender of the RSS against undeserved calumny. I did not know that it was an act of courage at that time to have a good opinion about the RSS. The opinion had come to me spontaneously as I started taking up a nationalist stand.
The help which this RSS leader provided to us in our anti communist work was commendable. Some RSS young men managed our bookstalls in the Puja and other exhibitions, in the face of repeated threats from the Communists that they would allow no such “sacrilege in the heart of Calcutta”. We came out with flying colours and sold a large number of our publications.
Meanwhile, several RSS and BJS leaders visited our office and commanded our work when they came to or passed through Calcutta in course their personal or party work. I came to know some of them quite well. But my greatest satisfaction was that the Congress and Socialist members of our group had met the “Hindu communalists” as comrades in a common battle, and shed some of their secularist self righteousness.
One of the sequels of my contact with the RSS-BJS was that after we had to close down our anti communist work, I was offered a BJS ticket for contesting from the Khajuraho parliamentary constituency in Madhya Pradesh during the Second General Elections in 1956-57. The local RSS worker, who was the manager of my campaign, had secured an assurance for support from the PSP. In the event, however, all arrangements broke down when that worker met an accident, and became bedridden.
Yet I could see the functioning of the RSS-BJS organization from close quarters. It had dedicated workers, and powerful speakers. The only thing the organization lacked was material resources. It was difficult for me to believe that a patriotic organization could be so poor. I had not yet met the Hindu Mahasabha people and did not know what poverty could really mean.
There were some revealing episodes during this election. The wall posters which the BJS had got printed in Delhi, announced that one of the main BJS aims was to abolish untouchability. The field workers were against putting up these posters because they thought that the considerable conservative section in the electorate was likely to go against me in that event. But I stuck to my guns, and insisted that the posters be put up. I do not know if they were used.
Secondly, I observed that the organizers of my public meetings did not relish my talk about principles involved between the Congress policies on the one hand, and the BJS policies on the other. They asked me, again and again, to go for the Congress men as dishonest Socialists and Secularists while presenting the BJS as an honest adherent of Socialism and Secularism.
Thirdly, the organizers warned me not to plead for a ban on cow slaughter, and not to say anything against Pakistan whenever the meeting happened to be in a Muslim locality. Lastly, they asked to use English words and phrases quite frequently in my speeches lest people concluded that I was uneducated. I did not relish these advices.
That was the background of my contact with the RSS BJS when I returned to Delhi in 1957. The contact deepened in due course. I wrote quite often in the Organiser, and met RSS-BJS people more often. Most of them were quite friendly. The only unfriendly man I met was the windbag I have mentioned. His face showed a frown whenever he saw me, which was not unoften.
The one suggestion which I made to every RSS and BJS leader I met, was that the movement should have a full blooded Hindu ideology of its own and process all events, movements, parties, and public figures in terms of that ideology, rather than live on borrowed slogans or hand to mouth ideas invoked on the spur of the moment. They heard me patiently, and hardly ever contradicted me. But over a time, I realized that they did not take me seriously. Most of them were convinced that organization was all that mattered, and ideology was of little use.
I was sure that they were greatly mistaken. I could see their plight quite clearly as they tried to operate according to ground rules laid down by their opponents. But they thought that my preoccupation with ideology had something to do with my Communist background. I felt helpless. I also felt annoyed when I heard speaker after speaker in RSS gatherings pouring contempt on “intellectuals” who had read the books but who knew nothing about practical problems. One of their pet stories was about a pandit who frowned upon a boatman for not knowing Panini, but whom the boatman pitied for not knowing swimming when the boat was in trouble.
What was most revealing to me about the RSS people was that, by and large, they did not react to expression of any opinion on any subject except that about their organization (sangha) and their leaders (adhikaris). One could say anything one chose about Hindu Dharma, or Hindu culture, or Hindu society, or Hindu history, without drawing any reaction from an average RSS man. He became warm or cold only when something favourable or unfavourable was said about his organization, or his leaders, or both. I wondered what sort of a Hindu organization it was. I expected the RSS to be alive to Hindu causes rather than to the reputation of its organization or its leaders.
One day, a BJS leader asked me to write a book presenting the BJS to the West. I said that I knew very little about the BJS, and that it would be better if the job was undertaken by one of their own scholars. He said that the problem was that they had no scholars in their organization. I agreed to write the book but warned him that it would be pretty critical on the score of their policies. He showed surprise. He told me in a tone full of pity for me that I was a talented man, and could move up high in their organization provided I wrote the book and removed from his people’s minds the lingering suspicion about me.
I asked him, “What suspicion?” He smiled and said, “You ought to know. Most of our people think that you are…” He did not complete the sentence. I completed it for him, “……an American agent.” I had to control myself. I told him that if any of his people needed a certificate for patriotism any day, he could come and get it from me. That was the end of my dalliance with the BJS.
My disillusionment with the RSS took some more time. The country was moving towards a clash with Red China. People had become dissatisfied with Pandit Nehru’s foreign policy. But they believed that the Prime Minister had been misled by his Defence Minister and close confidant, Shri V.K. Krishna Menon. Few people were prepared to accept that the real architect of the nation’s tragedy was Pandit Nehru himself.
Menon was no more than Nehru’s minion, with no standing of his own either in the Congress Party or in the country at large. By now I had read almost all published writings and speeches of Pandit Nehru, and come to know him as a committed Communist. He had credited Red China with the work of “socialist construction” at home, and had been going about proclaiming that a “Socialist country can harbour no hostile designs towards its neighbours”.
My problem was how to share my perception with my people. The press in Bharat was more or less completely under the control of Communists, or fellow travellers, or self seeking sycophants.
I was, therefore, very happy when the RSS leader whom I had met in Calcutta and who had now moved very high in his organization, invited me to document Nehru’s ideology in a series of articles in the Organiser. Starting with its issue of June 5, 1961, I wrote 17 articles under the general caption, in defence of Comrade Krishna Menon. I was writing under a pseudonym, Ekaki. Not many people knew who was the writer. At least my boss was completely unaware that I had violated the pledge I had given to him. The articles were read widely in circles which normally never read the Organiser.
I was, therefore, surprised when I was collared one day by the windbag of the BJS, and rebuked roundly for writing “all that nonsense about the leader of the nation”. I talked to the editor, who told me that he could not keep the secret from a man who was the topmost leader of the BJS. He also told me that the man had asked him not to have anything to do with “that notorious man (badnam admi)”.
I wanted to go to the windbag and ask him what crime I had committed except exposing the character of Communism and its instruments. But I did not care so long as I had the support of the RSS leader, whom I met every week. He was full of praise for my series.
My sixteenth article had just appeared. The RSS leader told me to go on, and not to stop till I reach “Nehru’s policy in the present situation”. He added that my series “had brought about a revolution in the thought of our people”, that they were planning to publish the series in a book form as soon as it was finished, and that they would make it available to the people in lakhs of copies in all Bharatiya languages. I felt satisfied with my work. My seventeenth article was already in the press. And I was preparing to move over to Pandit Nehru’s policy vis-a-vis Red China.
But I was fated not to finish the series. When I met the RSS leader next week, I heard something which was just the opposite of what I expected. As I entered his room, he said in a cold and calculated tone, “Sitaramji, apko Nehru ke sivay kya koi kam nahin hai? Akhir Nehru ne aise kya kar diya jo ap hath dhokar uske pichhe pad gaye? (Mr. Sitaram, do you have nothing to occupy you except Nehru? What has Nehru done to make you run after him with hammer and tongs?)”
I was taken aback, and did not know what to say. The editor of the Organiser happened to drop in just at that moment. The leader barked at him, “Yeh kya Nehru Nehru laga rakkha hai? Apne paper ka yeh kya bana dala tumne? Band karo yeh Nehru Nehru. Kya aur koi topic nahin bacha? (what is this cant about Nehru? What have you made of your paper? Stop this Nehru business. Is there no other topic left?)”
The editor did not say a word. He was under RSS discipline. I fell from the skies. It was very difficult for me to believe that the man sitting in front of me with a grim face and unfriendly eyes was the same man who had praised my series so highly only a week ago. But that was the stark truth.
The country was at war with Red China soon after my seventeenth article appeared. I was being harassed by the Government. As soon as the first shots were fired on the northern border, I discovered that an intelligence man was following me wherever I went. He stood outside my office when I was there, and outside my home fill late in the nights.
One day, a friend informed me that I might get arrested very soon. He said that a rabid Nehruite had seen me sitting in the Coffee House, and wondered why an “anti government person like Goel” was going scot-free. He was a minor fry at that time but quite close to the establishment. Later on, he became a Minister in Indira Gandhi’s Government, and our ambassador in Moscow. He was an important Minister in the Janata Dal Government of Shri V.P. Singh. I had been told by one of his classmates in Lahore that he was a card carrying Communist in pre Partition days.
I could very well understand why he felt annoyed with me. He was one of that mob which had been riding on Mao’s bandwagon when I was writing against the monster. I reminded the likes of him of their traitorous ways, and they felt uncomfortable whenever they saw me. But they were still in power, and I was nobody. I thought it wise not to annoy him. I stopped going to the Coffee House. I did not want to be in jail.
Eventually, I was not arrested for a rather strange reason. My name happened to be not only in the list of “arid Government elements” but also in the list of patriots who were expected to wage a guerrilla war against China. It was November, 23, 1962. There was a strong rumour that Bharat was going to be air bombed by China very soon. I received a telephone from a Congress NW. She was a member of the Rajya Sabha. I hardly knew her, having met her briefly in Calcutta where she was staying with a friend of mine on her return from Red China in 1954.
She had seen the wonderland as a member of the parliamentary delegation led by Renu Chakravarty, the Communist MP in the Lok Sabha. She had seen my books on China at my friend’s place, and invited me for a talk. She had said, “The horror that you have depicted in your books is nothing compared to what I have seen with my own eyes.”
My friend had asked her to take the country into confidence as people were being misled by Communist propaganda. She had barked back, “What are your intentions, young man? Do you want me to be a persona non grate with the Prime Minister?” Next morning her name was second in the joint statement saying that everything was wonderful in China. I had never met her again. Now she asked me to see her immediately.
As soon as I entered her drawing room, she asked me to accompany her to see the Home Minister, Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri. She told me that she had seen my name in the list of those who were likely recruits for the forthcoming guerrilla force, and taken the responsibility of producing me as soon as she could find me.
According to her, the Government feared that the Chinese would occupy the whole of Eastern Bharat, and estimated that it would take us years to liberate the land. As I had lived in that area and knew its people as well as its languages, I had been selected as excellent guerrilla material. I told her that on the one hand there was a move to put me behind the bars, and on the other I was being viewed as a soldier in the service of the nation.
She laughed and said that most of the time the right hand of the Government did not know what its left hand did, and that I should not mind such pinpricks. But I minded, and walked out, saying that so long as Pandit Nehru was the Prime Minister of the country, I could be only a traitor to it. Years later I learnt that there was actually a move to organize a guerrilla force under the leadership of Shri Biju Patnaik.
Months passed and the vigil on me was withdrawn. I must confess that I was frightened all the while. I had a large family, and I was the only bread earner. My old parents understood no politics. My children were still in school and college. I kept lying low. But the conviction that the truth about Pandit Nehru should be made known was still quite strong. So I thought of publishing my series as a book. It was far from finished.
Still the facts it revealed about the Prime Minister went quite far. After a whole year had passed, I approached Vaidya Gurudatta who had read my series and liked it. He got it published in December, 1963.
(to be continued…)
Book: How I Became Hindu
Author: Sita Ram Goel
Published by: Voice of India
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