New Delhi, April 7: Weeks after Veer Sarvarkar joined the pantheon of freedom fighters in Parliament’s Central Hall, the Sangh’s Hindutva today entered the annals of the Establishment with A.B. Vajpayee releasing a book on the RSS founder Keshav Baliram Hedgewar.
For Prime Minister Vajpayee, it was one of those rare occasions when he shared the dais with closet-critic and Sangh sarsanghachalak K.S. Sudarshan. For the BJP, the civility between them was crucial to reassure cadre in an election-dominated year that all was well.
But for the swayamsevaks who thronged the Vigyan Bhavan hall, the occasion put the stamp of respectability on an organisation that was a political outcast in the ‘liberal’ Left-Nehruvian era. So each time Vajpayee said something flattering about Hedgewar, the hall resounded with applause.
Ironically, Vajpayee sounded defensive through his speech as though he were hankering for endorsement for his old school by the Left-liberals. Saying the book — written by Delhi University academic Rakesh Sinha —was only the second on Hedgewar, he praised the I&B ministry’s Publications Division for making the “anhonee honee” (impossible possible).
The author, he said, had met a “long-felt” demand for a book on Hedgewar which was “well-researched and factual instead of emotional”. “Indeed on the RSS, more myths have been propagated than truths. I don’t blame the swayamsevaks for this because they do not yearn for fame….”
Hedgewar, he said, had been in touch with insurrectionists during Independence though he did not believe in violence. “But all this was done transparently because he knew no organisation could function clandestinely for long.”
Vajpayee took the opportunity to criticise the Congress, quoting an excerpt on Hedgewar attending a 1921 regional unit meeting — when the RSS founder was briefly in the Congress — which passed a resolution condemning those who took to arms to fight the British colonisers.
“But how can they be ignored' We did injustice to Netaji, too. When I was Opposition leader and there was a meeting on Netaji at Red Fort… I said he left the Congress because it was not fair to him. The function was telecast live but to my surprise I found that those remarks were expunged,” he said.
Vajpayee also spoke out on Mahatma Gandhi and the controversy about the Sangh’s alleged hand in his killing.
“I also met Gandhi in 1942. I had attended a meeting in Nagpur and was coming back. I was told he was on the same train. I went to him… Kasturba said you can’t meet him because you are not wearing khadi. But as it happened, Gandhi had observed a maun vrat (vow of silence) on that day but I’m sure he would have spoken to me.”