‘The Sangh is my Soul’; writes Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the First swayamsevak who became Prime Minister
by Sri Atal Bihari Vajpayee, The First RSS Swayamsevak to become the Prime Minister of India.
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I came in contact with the RSS in 1939 through Arya Kumar Sabha, a youth branch of Arya Samaj, in Gwalior-then a princely state which was not part of any province. I came from a strong ‘sanatani’ family. But I used to be at the weekly ‘satsang’ of Arya Kumar Sabha. Once Shri Bhoodev Shastri who was a senior worker of Arya kumar Sabha, and a great thinker and an expert organiser, asked us: “What do you do in the evenings?” “Nothing”, we said, because the Arya Kumar Sabha used to meet in the morning on every Sunday. Then he recommended us to go to the shakha. Thus I started going to the Shakha in Gwalior. It was my first association with the RSS. At that time the shakha in Gwalior had just begun. It had only Maharashtrian boys, and naturally all the swayamsevaks used to speak only Marathi. I started going to the shakha regularly. I liked the games played in the shakha as well as the weekly ‘bauddhiks’ (intellectual discourses).
A pracharak, Shri Narayanrao Tarte had come from Nagpur to start the shakha. He was indeed a superb human being; a very simple man, a thinker and an expert organiser. What I am today is the making of Shri Tarte. Next to him I was inspired by Deendayal Upadhyaya and Bhaurao Deoras. Gwalior was then not within the field of Bhauraoji. But once he had come to Gwalior with Shri Balasaheb Apte who was the then Bauddhik Pramukh. Apteji was very soft-spoken. We were soon drawn towards him. I had talked with him for only a few minutes. But the same year (1940) when I went to see the first year Officers’ Training Camp (OTC), I came in close contact with him. I went there just to attend the valedictory function of the camp, not for training. Dr. Hedgewar had also come there for the some time. I first saw him there. When Doctorji was ill I went to see him. In 1941 when I was in High School I did my first year OTC. In 1942 when I was in Intermediate class I did my second year OTC, and I did my third year in 1944 when I was doing my B.A.
When I wrote ‘Hindu Tan-man Hindu Jeevan’ I was a student of class X. After completing my graduation from Gwalior I did my M.A. from the DAV College in Kanpur, because there was no post-graduate college in Gwalior. I then got State Government’s scholarship also. Owing to Partition, I could not complete my Law. And then in 1947, I decided to give up my studies to come out as a whole-time worker of the RSS. Till 1947 I did the RSS work at the shakha level and carried on my studies. I also participated in the Quit India Movement in 1942 and was jailed. I was then studying for my Intermediate examination. I was arrested from my native village Bhateshwar in Agra district. I was then 16.
My father was not attached to the RSS, but my elder brother was. He would go to the shakha. Once he went to the winter camp where he created a problem. He said: “I cannot take my food with the other swayamsevaks. I shall prepare my food myself.” And see how deftly the RSS handled the situation. The ‘sarvadhikari’ (superintendent) of the camp complied with his request and provided him all the necessary thing for preparing his food. After taking his bath and properly adjusting his sacred thread, etc., he started cooking his food. On the first day he prepared the food for himself. the next day, however, he could not prepare it and joined the queue of all swayamsevaks for partaking of the food. Within 44 hours he was changed.
The RSS does not change only individuals. It changes also the collective mind. This is the beauty of the RSS ethos. In our spiritual tradition an individual can attain a great height. Even self-realisation is possible if one undertakes the right ‘sadhana’ and also attain ‘nirvana.’ But what about the society? Nobody thinks about his obligation to the society in general. Now for the first time the RSS thought about it and concluded that by changing individuals we shall change the society. Had the sarvadhikari at the camp scolded him and not allowed him to prepare his food himself his spiritual development would have been thwarted, whereas in the RSS within 44 hours he was a changed boy. This is the “secret method” of the RSS. That is how society is changed. It is true that it is a long process but then there are no short-cuts, no instant recipes.
Gandhiji had praised the RSS for the absence of untouchability in the organisation. Only the RSS organises the society. Other movements only divide the society by emphasising distinct ‘identity’, different ‘interests’, special ‘status’, etc. They only encourage untouchability by constantly reminding the so-called untouchables of their “separateness.” “You are being insulted. You have no place in society.”
The RSS has a two-fold task before it. One is to organise the Hindus. To build a strong Hindu society, well-knit and rising above caste and other artificial differences. Some differences will persist but then variety is the spice of life. Like, we have the differences of the language. We don’t want to destroy this diversity. The other task is to assimilate the non Hindus, like Muslims and Christians in the mainstream. They can follow the faith of their own conviction. No one can object to it. We worship trees, animals, stones, and what not. We have hundreds of ways of worshipping God. They can go where they want. But this country must be looked upon as the Motherland for them. They must have a feeling of patriotism for this country. But the Islamic division of the world into ‘Darul Harab’ and ‘Darul Islam’ comes in the way. Islam has yet to learn the art of existing and flourishing in a country where Muslims are in a minority. They cannot convert the whole of India to Islam. After all, they have to live here. So they have to recognise this fact. And today it has become a matter of grave concern and deep thinking in the Muslim countries. Because Quran offers no guidance in this regard. It only talks of killing kafirs or converting them to Islam. But they cannot do it always and everywhere. How can they do it where they are in a minority? If they try to do it, a major clash will take place and only the members of the minority will be killed. But Muslims themselves have to change this state of affairs. We cannot change it for them.
- L.K. Advani, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, K.S. Sudarshan salute the RSS flag.
Congress has not correctly understood the Muslim problem. They continue to carry on their policy of appeasement. But to what effect? The Muslims of this country can be treated in three ways. One is ‘tiraskar’ which means if they will not themselves change leave them alone, reject them as out compatriots. Second is ‘puruskar’ which is appeasement, i.e., bribe them to behave, which is being done by the Congress and others of their ilk. The third way is ‘parishkar’ meaning to change them, that is, restore them to the mainstream by providing them samskaras. We want to change them by offering them the right samskaras. Their religion will not be changed. They can follow their own religion. Mecca can continue to be holy for the Muslims but India should be holier than the holy for them. You can go to a mosque and offer namaz, you can keep the roza. We have no problem. But if you have to choose between Mecca or Islam and India you must choose India. All the muslims should have this feeling: we will live and die only for this country.
- Atal Bihari Vajpayee with senior RSS pracharak K Suryanarayan Rao
I wrote “Hindu Tan-man Hindu Jeevan” when I was studying in the tenth class. I had then said, “koi batlaye Kabul mein jaakar kitni masjiden todin.” I still stand by my words. But we (Hindus) did pull down the structure in Ayodhya. In fact it was a reaction to the Muslim vote-bank. We wanted to solve this problem through negotiation and legislation. But there was no puraskar for burai (evil act). We change burai also with parishkar. Now I think, the Hindu society has been regenerated which was the prime task of the RSS. Earlier Hindus used to bend before an invasion but not now. This change in Hindu society is worthy of welcome. So much change must have come with the new-found self-assertion. This is a question of self preservation. If the Hindu society does not expand itself it will face the crisis of survival. We have to expand ourselves. We have to take others along with. Now the Yadavs and the so-called Harijans are going with us. After all we have to live as Hindus. Once a Yadav leader came to me and said: “Don’t condemn all Yadavs. All Yadavs are not with Mulayam Singh and Laloo Prasad. A ‘samskrit’ (cultured) Yadav does not like them. There can be sections of Rajput, Kurmi and Gujjar Muslims but you cannot find any Yadav Muslim anywhere. The Yadavs never accepted Islam. This talk of “Yadav-Muslim” Unity – MY card – is nothing more than an empty slogan for votes.”
The simple reason for my long association with the RSS is that I like the Sangh. I like its ideology, and above all I like the RSS attitude towards people, towards one another which is found only in the RSS. I remember an incident, when I was in Lucknow. The Socialist movement was its peak. Suddenly a senior socialist activist fell ill. He was lying alone in his house, and nobody went to enquire after his well-being. Then Acharya Narendra Deo came to know and he went to his house to see him. The Acharya then said, “What fraternity is this in the Socialist Party? Nobody has come to see you. It can never happen in the RSS. If a swayamsevak does not go to the shakha only for one day the same day friends will promptly reach his house to enquire about his well-being.”
When I was ill during the Emergency, my family members did not turn up to see me. They were afraid of being arrested for any such action. Only the RSS workers helped me. See, how much living contact and fraternal feeling is in the RSS. Actually the Sangh is our family. We are all one.
In the beginning we could not spread our work in all sections of the society because we did not have enough workers. “Man-making” is the prime job of the RSS. As we now have more workers, we are covering all sections of the society in all fields of life. Changes are taking place in all spheres. But the work of man-making will not be discontinued, it will go on. It must go on. That is what the RSS movement is.
(This is an article from archive of www.samvada.org)
About Sri Atal Bihari Vajpayee:
Atal Bihari Vajpayee (born 25 December 1924 in Gwalior) is an Indian statesman who was the 10th Prime Minister of India, first for 13 days in 1996 and then from 1998 to 2004. A leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), he is the only Prime Minister from outside the Indian National Congressparty to serve a full five-year term.
A parliamentarian for over four decades, Vajpayee was elected to the Lok Sabha (the lower house of India’s Parliament) nine times, and twice to theRajya Sabha (upper house). He also served as the Member of Parliament from Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, until 2009, when he retired from active politics due to health concerns. Vajpayee was one amongst the founder members of the erstwhile Jana Sangh and had also been its president. He was also the Minister of External Affairs in the cabinet of Morarji Desai. When the Janata government collapsed, Vajpayee renamed his former party Jana Sangh as Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Atal Bihari Vajpayee was born to Krishna Devi and Krishna Bihari Vajpayee on 25 December 1924 in a middle-class ,Brahmin family. His grandfather, Pandit Shyam Lal Vajpayee, had migrated to Gwalior from his ancestral village of Bateshwar, Uttar Pradesh and his father, Krishna Bihari Vajpayee, was a poet and a schoolmaster in his hometown. Vajpayee did his schooling from the Saraswati Shishu Mandir, Gorkhi, Bara, Gwalior. Vajpayee attended Gwalior’s Victoria College (now Laxmi Bai College) and graduated with distinction in Hindi, English and Sanskrit. He completed his post-graduation with an M.A. in Political Science from DAV College, Kanpur, in first-class. Later he became a full-time worker of the Hindu organisationRashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). For a while Vajpayee studied law, but midstream he chose to become a journalist. This choice was largely influenced by the fact that as a student he had been an activist in India’s struggle for freedom. He edited Rashtradharma (a Hindi monthly), Panchjanya(a Hindi weekly) and the dailies Swadesh and Veer Arjun. Like other full-time workers of the Sangh, Vajpayee never married and remained a bachelor his entire life.
Vajpayee’s first tryst with politics was in August 1942, when he and his elder brother Prem were arrested for 23 days during the Quit Indiamovement.
In 1951, he was deputed to work for the newly formed Bharatiya Jana Sangh, a right-wing political party associated with the RSS that espoused the Hindu cause. He soon became a follower and aide of party leader Syama Prasad Mookerjee. In 1954, Vajpayee was with Mookerjee when he went on a fast-unto-death in Kashmir to protest against perceived inferior treatment of non-Kashmiri Indian visitors to the state. Mookerjee died in prison during this strike. In 1957, Vajpayee was elected to the Lok Sabha, the lower house of India’s Parliament, where his oratorial skills so impressed Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru that he predicted that Vajpayee would someday become India’s Prime Minister. By virtue of his oratorial and organizational skills, he became the face of the Jana Sangh. After the tragic death of Deendayal Upadhyaya, the mantle of the leadership of Jana Sangh fell on the shoulders of a young Vajpayee. He became the national president of the Jana Sangh in 1968 and, along with Nanaji Deshmukh,Balraj Madhok and Lal Krishna Advani, led the Jana Sangh to national prominence.
From 1975 to 1977, Vajpayee was arrested along with several other opposition leaders during the Internal Emergency imposed by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi of the Indian National Congress party. In 1977, heeding the call of social reformer Jayaprakash Narayan for all the opposition parties to unite against the Congress, Vajpayee merged the Jana Sangh into the newly formed grand-alliance, the Janata Party. Following Janata’s victory in the 1977 general elections, he became the Minister of External Affairs in Prime Minister Morarji Desai’s cabinet. As foreign minister, that year Vajpayee became the first person to deliver a speech to the United Nations General Assembly in Hindi. By the time the Janata government crumbled in 1979, Vajpayee had established himself as an experienced statesman and a respected political leader.
The Janata Party was dissolved soon after Morarji Desai resigned as Prime Minister in 1979. The Jana Sangh had devoted its political organisation to sustain the coalition and was left exhausted by the internecine political wars within the Janata Party.
Vajpayee joined many of his Bharatiya Jana Sangh and Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh colleagues, particularly his long-time friends Lal Krishna Advani and Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, to found the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in 1980. He became the BJP’s first President. He emerged as a strong critic of the Congress (I) government that followed the Janata[disambiguation needed] government.
While the BJP opposed the Sikh militancy that was rising in the state of Punjab, it also blamed Prime Minister Indira Gandhi for her divisive and corrupt politics that fostered such militancy at the expense of national unity and integrity. The BJP did not support Operation Bluestar and strongly protested against the violence towards Sikhs in Delhi that broke out in 1984 following the assassination of Indira Gandhi by two of her Sikh bodyguards. The BJP was left with only two parliamentary seats in the 1984 elections. During this period, Vajpayee remained at the centre-stage as party President and Leader of the Opposition in the Parliament.
The BJP became the political voice of the Ram Janmabhoomi Mandir Movement, which was led by activists of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and the RSS, and which sought to build a temple dedicated to Lord Rama at the site of the Babri mosque in Ayodhya.
Victory in the assembly elections in Gujarat and Maharashtra in March 1995, and a good performance in the elections to the Karnataka assembly in December 1994, propelled the BJP to greater political prominence. During a BJP conference in Mumbai in November 1995, BJP President L.K. Advani declared that Vajpayee would become the Prime Minister of India. The BJP won in the May 1996 parliamentary elections.
Vajpayee served as the Prime Minister of India from 1996 to 2004 in three non-consecutive terms.
In December 2005, Vajpayee announced his retirement from active politics, declaring that he would not contest in the next general election. In a famous statement at the BJP’s silver Jubilee rally at Mumbai’s historic Shivaji Park, Vajpayee announced that “Henceforth, Lal Krishna Advani and Pramod Mahajan will be the Ram-Laxman (the two godly brothers much revered and worshipped by Hindus) of the BJP.”
Vajpayee was referred to as the Bhishma Pitamah of Indian Politics by Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh during his speech in the Rajya Sabha.
Vajpayee was hospitalised at AIIMS for chest infection and fever on 6 February 2009. He was put on ventilator support as his condition worsened but he eventually recuperated and was later discharged. Unable to participate in the campaign for the 2009 general election due to his poor health, he wrote a letter urging voters to back the BJP. His protege Lalji Tandon was able to retain the Lucknow seat even though the NDA suffered electoral reverses all over the country. The tall apolitical image of Vajpayee was said to be the main reason behind Lalji’s success in Lucknow even though BJP’s performance was poor elsewhere in Uttar Pradesh