Following the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi on 30 January 1948, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) was banned on 4 February 1948. The man who took the decision, as the then home minister, was none other than Sardar Vallabhai Patel, whom the Sangh Parivar now eulogises and whose statue the government is building overlooking the Sardar Sarovar dam.
Following discussions, the RSS gave an undertaking to Sardar Patel that it would write a constitution specifying that the RSS has “no politics” and would remain “devoted purely to cultural work”.
In this context, the files related to the banning of the RSS would be illuminating: they would shed light on not just an embarassing part of history for the RSS, but also the attitude of Patel, whom its leaders are fond of invoking, towards the organisation.
Tehelka has come to know that as per the available records with the Central Public Information Officers (CPIO) of the RTI wing of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), there is no information on the ban of the RSS.
In the reply to a Right to Information (RTI) filed to the MHA filed by one PP Kapoor, the CPIO clearly states: “It is reiterated that the information is nil as per available records with the undersigned CPIO as no record/document/ file/ are available with the CPIO regarding banning of RSS soon after the death of Mahatma Gandhi.” The CPIO added that reasonable efforts were made to look for the information.
According to the RTI rules, if one is not satisfied with the reply, one may appeal to the Joint Secretary in the MHA. When Tehelka contacted the present incumbent Rashmi Goel, she simply said, “I am not the right person to answer and I am in a meeting now.”
The reply opens a pandora’s box of possibilities. Is the MHA withholding such information? Or are the files really missing? If so, who is responsible? The Congress or the BJP?
RTI activist Kapoor, who hails from Haryana, had first written to the mha in 2014, then in January and again in August 2015. However, the reply was always the same — they did not have the information in their existing records.
Kapoor says, “The government is hiding the information in order to save their Patel agenda and brand, because if they release the information about the ban on the RSS during Patel’s time, they will be embarassed to promote it.”
The BJP government’s Patel agenda extends to building the world’s tallest statue called the Statue of Unity, which will measure 182 metres from head to toe. In the run-up to the 2014 general election, Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid rich tributes to the Iron Man.
Aditya Mukherjee from the Centre for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, is of the opinion that Sardar Patel never gave clean chit to the RSS in 1948. “If he had, how did he allow the arrest of 25,000 RSS workers after Gandhi’s death?” he asks.
Salman Khurshid, senior leader of Indian National Congress, tells Tehelka, “If the RSS got the clean chit, then why don’t they disclose all the documents publicly?”
“The BJP and the RSS do not have respectable historical figures tied with the freedom movement. They are trying to incorporate Congress leaders to fill the void. It is possible that the BJP and the RSS has banned the CPIO from sharing the information in public domain because this might land their brand Patel campaign in trouble.