Today, October 11 is the 115th Birth Anniversary of Jayaprakash Narayan, inspiration behind the Sampoorna Kranti (total revolution) movement that preceded India's first brush with authoritarianism, the Emergency. Much has been said and written about how this movement and even JP, was 'soft on the RSS.' RSS workers as part of the wider Janata Party were also imprisoned during the anti-emergency mobilisations. The writings and speeches of JP as he is fondly remembered and called tell a different, and more nuances story. What is clear is this: while JP and others tried to bring the RSS 'into the mainstream' of politics, the RSS remained true to form and divisive.
Here's a read from JP's writings and speeches as also the work of AK Subbaiah from Karnataka, once a staunch RSS man, who left the organisation after he witnessed close hand, its degenerative politics.
The anti-emergency movement is often accused of giving legitimacy to the RSS. While RSS men (and some women) put behind bars definitely emerged as 'heroes', Lokanayak Jayaprakash Narayan (JP) had a clear position on majoritarian communalism. Both his address to a national conference against communalism in 1968, and when he addressed RSS workers at a camp in 1977 make his positions on majoritarian communalism and cow slaughter abundantly clear
Words of Jayaparaksh Narayan:
"Although almost every religious community had its own brand of communalism, Hindu communalism was more pernicious than the others because Hindu communalism can easily masquerade as Indian nationalism and denounce all opposition to it as being anti-national”.
On the RSS
“Some like the RSS might do it openly by identifying the Indian nation with Hindu Rashtra, others might do it more subtly,” he said. “But it every case, such identification is pregnant with national disintegration, because members of other communities can never accept the position of second class citizens. Such a situation, therefore, has in it the seeds of perpetual conflict and ultimate disruption.”
India is not Hindu : JP
“..those who attempt to equate India with Hindus and Indian history with Hindu history are only detracting from the greatness of India and the glory of Indian history and civilization. Such person, paradoxical though this may seem, are in reality the enemies of Hinduism itself and the Hindus. Not only do they degrade the noble religion and destroy its catholicity and spirit of tolerance and harmony, but they also weaken and sunder the fabric of the nation, of which Hindus form such a vast majority.”
(Speech, originally delivered in Hindi at the Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh Training Camp in Patna on November 3, 1977.)
On the Jana Sangh, JP said,
“The secular protestations of the Jana Sangh will never be taken seriously unless it cuts the bonds which tie it so firmly to the RSS machine. Nor can the RSS be treated as a cultural organization so long as it remains the mentor and effective manipulator of a political party.”
On Cow Slaughter
JP’s stance on cow slaughter too has immense relevance today. In a statement issued in the aftermath of violence in Sitamarhi, he said;
“I do not think that Hinduism has ever thought that the life of any animal, no matter how sacred, is more sacred than human life. All life is sacred, but the most sacred of all is human life.” He then contextualized the emergence of the cow as a sacred animal: “The Hindu concept that a cow’s life is inviolate is the outcome not of any primitive taboo, because beef was a common food of Hindu society at one time, but of the gradual moral and spiritual development of the Indian people in which non-Vedic Hindu religions such as Jainism and Buddhism perhaps took the lead. In course of time, respect for human life grew and non-violence came to be more and more emphasized in human relations”.
How the RSS was Responsible for the 'Destruction' of the Janata Party: AK Subbaiah
"When the Janata Party was in power at the Centre, the RSS was making secret attempts to establish a hold on the party and implement its divisive agenda on the country. In this direction the old Jan Sangh --the earlier avatar of the BJP--was conducting parallel meetings and discussions. Such secret meetings of the RSS in Bangalore were being held at the residence of a person called Gopinath who was a close associate of the RSS.
I was invited to two such secret meetings. I attended one meeting and in very clear cut terms questioned the appropriateness of conducting separate meetings while still being within the Janata Party. From that day onwards I was not invited to such secret meetings. Naturally anti-RSS group within the Janata party panicked when they came to know of such secret meetings and the efforts to pull the Janata Party into its fold. The RSS is an organisation which is expert at scheming against others. Therefore it was difficult to face them from within. It is no wonder that the founders of the Janata Party thought that instead of handing over their party to the RSS, it was better to dissolve it.
Madhu Limaye, a senior leader of the Janata Party, said that breaking the Janata Party was a historical necessity. He said that because he knew how the RSS was expert scheming.
What Veteran Socialist Madhu Limaye had to say about the RSS after the Split of the Janata Party in 1979
What Is The RSS: Madhu Limaye on the Age-Old Enemy
After the BJP was formed it was declared that “Bharatiya Janata Party” did not intend to go back to what the Jan Sangh had been. Instead it was declared that the BJP would take the movement started by the Janata Party forwarded. Indeed, the ideals and ideologies of the BJP were very similar to that of the Janata Party. It was also claimed that different rules and regulations would be formed for the BJP. Most importantly, it was argued that there would be no link between the BJP and the RSS. During the initial years, even the RSS. Perhaps, the reason for this was that the RSS probably felt that the BJP would not grow.
After the BJP convention at Mumbai, people began to believe that BJP was different from the Jana Sangh. As a result of that, BJP grew very fast. Atal Behari Vajpayee was projected as the Prime Ministerial candidate. The RSS noticed these developments and began to interfere with the affairs of the BJP. It decided to control the BJP. As a consequence, the process of reforms that had been started within the BJP were nipped in the bud. The wings of the reformists who were quite powerful in the BJP were clipped as per the instructions of the RSS.
Thus BJP started its journey back to being the Jan Sangh. Now BJP has already gone back to the position of ‘1962 Jana Sangh’. Now no one considers the BJP as an alternative to the Jan Sangh. Even Vajpayee is not taken seriously. In this way, the fast growing BJP was hijacked by the RSS. If the RSS is allowed to grow without any hindrance one day our country will be divided once again. Those who can think clearly must consider this problem seriously."
From Hidden Face of RSS by AK Subbaiah first published in Kannada in 1985 and published in translation by Lankesh Prakashana in 2015. Translation is by Dr Hayavadana Moodusagri
About the author (AK Subbaiah) : Ajjikuttira Kariappa Subbaiah is a prominent politician of Karnataka. For over six decades he has been active in many pro-people movements across the state. Staunchly secular in his political stand he has been raising his voice against the communal nature of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). This book is a compilation of articles he had written about the RSS. Originally written in Kannada this book was first published in 1985.
About the translator (Dr Hayavadana Moodusagri): The translator of this book, Dr. Hayavadana Moodusagri, is a lecturer. He has been an active member of Karnataka Communal Harmony Forum.