The RSS led the fight against Emergency - Just look up its archival history

Arun Anand
Arun AnandJun 30, 2018 | 14:32

The RSS led the fight against Emergency - Just look up its archival history

An impression has been sought to be created that Balasaheb Deoras asked the Prime Minister for clemency.

When Prime Minister Indira Gandhi imposed the state of emergency in the country on the night of June 25, 1975, one of the first organisations to be banned was the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).

The central government banned the RSS on July 4, 1975. The RSS chief (Sarsanghchalak) Balasaheb Deoras had been taken into custody on June 30, 1975 at Nagpur railway station.  


Balasaheb Deoras (on the wheelchair) was kept in jail throughout the Emergency.
Balasaheb Deoras (on the wheelchair) was kept in jail throughout the Emergency. Photo: RSS.org

Deoras was kept at Yerwada jail in Pune. A number of top leaders of the RSS were arrested, along with thousands of Swayamsevaks.  The RSS is known to have played a stellar role in the movement against emergency.

The Economist wrote on December 12, 1976:

“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. 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.”

Deoras, who led this movement from the front even when in jail, wrote twice to Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. In both the letters, he mounted a strong attack on the misinformation campaign against the RSS being run at the behest of Gandhi.

In his first letter, dated August 12, 1975, Deoras counters all the allegations against the RSS in detail and clearly indicates that the RSS would not buckle down under the government’s pressure.


The RSS chief begins the letter saying, “I listened attentively in jail to the radio broadcast of your address to the nation from the Red Fort on Aug. 15, 1975. On July 4 1975, the Central government issued a special ordinance to ban the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh(RSS). From press reports about the ban it appears that it has been imposed on the ground that the activities of its swayamsevaks and senior workers are prejudicial to the security of the country and public law and order.”

Then Deoras lucidly counters the false propaganda against the RSS. He writes, “The ban order does not give a specific reason for the ban.The RSS has never done anything that would endanger the country’s internal security and public law and order. The objective of the Sangh is to organize the whole Hindu Society and make it homogeneous and self-respecting. …Sometimes people level charges against the Sangh. It is not possible to answer them all in this letter. Still it is necessary to make it clear that Sangh had never indulged in violence. Neither has it ever taught violence. The Sangh does not believe in such things.”


“There is not a single instance during the past 50 years of Sangh swayamsevaks indulging in violence and subversion. There were many riots and incidents of violence in the country but no court verdict and no report of any commission appointed by the government shows that Sangh swayamsevaks had a hand in it.”

“The Sangh is engaged selflessly in the work making every Hindu an excellent citizen and a patriot of noble character. It is tragic that our own government should impose ban on it.”

Prime Minister Indira Gandhi imposed the state of emergency in the country on the night of June 25, 1975.
Prime Minister Indira Gandhi imposed Emergency in the country on the night of June 25, 1975.

Asking Gandhi to lift the ban, Deoras ends the letter by saying, “I appeal to you to rise above prejudices against Sangh. In view of the fundamental right of freedom of assembly in a democratic country, I request you to remove the ban on the RSS.”

In the second later, dated November 10, 1975, the RSS chief asked the Prime Minister not to call Jai Prakash Narayan an anti-national. “It is not appropriate for you to repeatedly call Shri Jai Prakash ji a CIA agent, pro-capitalist and anti-national. He (Jai Prakash Narayan) is also a patriot.”

Deoras castigates Indira Gandhi by saying, “Your actions have lost complete touch with reality and they based on wrong feedback from the ground level. Your perception about the Sangh is an outcome of your biased  thinking. Probably you have been fed wrong information by the political people surrounding you.”

He then again asks Gandhi to lift the ban on the RSS so that its swayamsevaks could go back to the organisational work that would ultimately benefit the nation.

Thus, two letters written by Deoras to Gandhi clearly indicate the RSS’ clear stand of opposing the emergency, and not seeking any clemency, as alleged by some of its detractors.

In fact, in two more letters written to Sarvodayi leader Vinoba Bhave in 1976, Deoras urges him to give the right advice to Gandhi so that democracy could be restored in the country.

The first letter was written on January 12, 1976, where the RSS chief rejects all the allegations made against the Sangh. In the second letter, Deoras requests Bhave to clear the misconceptions about the RSS and to lift the ban on it when he meets Indira Gandhi. This letter was written when Deoras came to know through newspaper reports that Gandhi would be meeting Bhave.

Some of the senior RSS pracharaks, including Nanaji Deshmukh (who played a major role in bringing Opposition together under the banner of Janata Party in 1977) and KS Sudarshan (who later became the fifth RSS chief) also communicated to the outside world as well as within the organisation through letters.

Nanaji Deshmukh wrote to film artistes, urging them to join the movement for restoring democracy during emergency.  “…..You have a special position the society. You are a model for the youth. They imitate you, You entertain huge crowds. You lift the spirits. The question is, will you confine yourself to mere entertainment in these difficult times? Will you teach them only to escape from the problems of life?  The call of the hour is that you replace the despair of today with hope born of thought. I request you to participate in people’s struggle.”

Sudarshan wrote an open letter to RSS swayamsevaks, giving a clarion call to continue to fight as “This is an ideological battle.” He did not stop at that but went on to challenge the Prime Minister.

Sudarshan told his fellow swayamsevaks through this letter, “As seen from her statements from time to time, she expects that the opposition should abjectly surrender before her, ask her forgiveness for deeds it has never committed, stand aside from her way forever and give her way for absolute rule….No one among us will be ready for such a surrender. So without any expecting any quarters from the powers that we have to courageously wait for the right moment with the faith that ultimately truth and Dharma will triumph.”

In his letters to Indira, Deoras had urged her to revoke the ban on the RSS.
In his letters to Indira, Deoras had urged her to revoke the ban on the RSS.

It is clear from these letters that the negative impression being sought to be created about the Sangh’s role during the Emergency by its detractors is nothing but a misinformation campaign.

At least 87 swayamsevaks  sacrificed their lives during the Emergency (a list with names and details is available in The People Vs Emergency: A saga of struggle by PG Sahasrabuddhe and Manikchandra Vajpayee).

Thousands of swayamsevaks were arrested while many more stayed outside and ran an underground campaign.

The Sangh’s functionaries suffered the most during the Emergency, but yet, Deoras, who himself was in jail throughout the period, said after the victory of Janata Party that it was time to “forgive and forget” and not be vindictive against anyone.

But the Janata Party leaders didn’t act on this advice and resurrected Indira Gandhi by hounding her. The rest we all know is history.

(The information given in the article is based on the documents available in the RSS archives.)

Last updated: June 30, 2018 | 16:58
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