M. S. Golwalkar

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M. S. Golwalkar
Golwalkar.jpg
Native name एम एस गोळवलकर
Born 19 February 1906
Ramtek, Maharashtra, India
Died 5 June 1973(1973-06-05) (aged 67)
Nagpur, Maharashtra, India
Occupation Former chief of RSS

Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar (19 February 1906 – 5 June 1973), also known as Shri Guruji,[1] was the second Sarsanghchalak (supreme leader) of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. Golwalkar wrote Bunch of Thoughts[2] and We, or Our Nationhood Defined.[3][4][5]

Early life[edit]

Golwalkar was born on 19 February 1906 to a Marathi family: Sadashivrao and Lakshmibai at Ramtek, near Nagpur in Maharashtra. His family was prosperous and close-knit. Sadashivrao, a former clerk in the Posts and Telegraphs Department, became a teacher in the Central Provinces and ended his career as headmaster of a high school. Golwalkar was the only surviving son of nine children. Since his father was frequently transferred around the country, he attended a number of schools. Golwalkar studied science and was a good, apolitical student. As an adolescent, he developed a deep interest in religion and spiritual meditation.[6][7][8]

In 1922, Golwalkar enrolled in the missionary-run Hislop College in Nagpur. At the college, he was reportedly incensed at the "open advocacy" of Christianity and the disparagement of Hinduism; much of his concern for the defence of Hinduism is traceable to this experience.[9] In 1924 Golwalkar left Hislop College for Benaras Hindu University (BHU) in Varanasi, receiving a Bachelor of Science degree in 1925 and a master's degree in biology in 1927.[9][6] He was influenced by Madan Mohan Malaviya, a nationalist leader and founder of the university.[10] Golwalkar went to Madras to pursue a doctorate in marine biology, but could not complete it because of his father's retirement;[8] he later taught zoology for three years at BHU. His students called him "Guruji" because of his beard, long hair and simple robe, a practice later continued in a reverential manner by his RSS followers. Golwalkar returned to Nagpur, and obtained a law degree by 1935.[11][6]

While he was lecturing at BHU Bhaiyaji Dani, a student and close associate of RSS Sarsanghchalak K. B. Hedgewar, founded an RSS shakha in Varanasi.[12] Although Golwalkar attended meetings and was esteemed by its members, there is "no indication that Golwalkar took a keen interest" in the organisation.[6] In 1931, Hedgewar visited Benares and was drawn to the ascetic Golwalkar.[6]

After returning to Nagpur, Hedgewar exerted greater influence on Golwalkar. According to RSS sources, Hedgewar encouraged him to pursue a law degree because it would give him the reputation required of an RSS leader. In 1934, Hedgewar made him secretary (karyavah) of the main Nagpur branch. After he began practising law, Hedgewar tasked him with the management of the Akola Officers' Training Camp.[9][13]

In October 1936, Golwalkar abandoned his law practice and RSS work for the Sargachi Ramakrishna Mission ashram in West Bengal to renounce the world and become a sanyasi. He became a disciple of Swami Akhandananda, who was a disciple of Ramakrishna and a colleague of Vivekananda.[13] On 13 January 1937 Golwalkar reportedly received his diksha, but left the ashram soon afterwards.[14] He returned to Nagpur in a state of depression and indecision to seek Hedgewar's advice after his guru died in 1937, and Hedgewar convinced him that his obligation to society could best be fulfilled by working for the RSS.[15]

RSS leadership[edit]

After Golwalkar rejoined the RSS, Hedgewar apparently began grooming him for leadership and he was placed in charge of the All-India Officers' Training Camp from 1937 to 1939. Golwalkar's abilities (managing complex details of the large camp, public speaking, reading and writing) were appreciated. In 1938, he was asked to translate G. D. Savarkar's 1934 Marathi language Rashtra Mimansa (Nationalism) into Hindi and English. The resulting book, We, or Our Nationhood Defined, was published in Golwalkar's name and regarded as a systematic treatment of RSS ideology;[16] the fact that it was an abridged translation did not come to light until 1963.[17]

In 1939, at a Gurudakshina festival, Hedgewar announced that Golwalkar would be the next general secretary (sarkaryavah, the second-most-important position in the RSS).[16] A day before he died on 21 June 1940, he gave Golwalkar a sheet of paper asking him to be the RSS leader. On 3 July, five state-level sanghchalak (directors) in Nagpur announced Hedgewar's decision.[6]

Golwalkar's choice was said to have "stunned" the RSS volunteers,[6] since Hedgewar passed over several senior activists. Golwalkar's background, training and interests made him an unlikely successor, and Balasaheb Deoras said that several RSS leaders were sceptical about Golwalkar's ability as a sarsanghchalak.[6] In retrospect, Hedgewar's grooming (including encouragement to obtain a Law degree and the authorship of We, or Our Nationhood Defined, regarded as a bible by RSS cadres) is seen as key to Golwalkar's later success. One reason advanced for his choice is that he was thought likely to maintain RSS independence, otherwise liable to be regarded as a youth front of the Hindu Mahasabha.[18]

RSS supreme leader for more than 30 years, Golwalkar made it one of strongest religious-political organisations in India; its membership expanded from 100,000 to over one million, and it branched out into the political, social, religious, educational and labour fields through 50 front organisations. The RSS extended to foreign countries, where Hindus were recruited into organisations such as the Bharatiya Swayamsevak Sangh or the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh.[19] There was a subtle, important shift in the RSS worldview. One of Golwalkar's major innovations was an anti-communist, anti-socialist ideology, with the slogan "Not socialism but Hinduism." According to D. R. Goyal, the RSS' anti-Marxist tinge made it popular with the wealthy sections of society who generously supported it.[20]

The RSS expanded into Kashmir and Jammu in 1940, when Balraj Madhok was sent as a pracharak to Jammu with Prem Nath Dogra as director. A shakha was founded in Srinagar in 1944, and Golwalkar visited the city in 1946. On 18 October 1947 he, RSS Delhi pracharak Vasantrao Oak and RSS United Provinces sanghchalak Narendrajit Singh met Maharaja Hari Singh at the request of India's Home Minister Vallabhbhai Patel to persuade the maharaja to accede to India. Although it is believed that the maharaja agreed to the proposal, the accession was not signed until 26 October (after the invasion by Pakistan).[21][22][23]

Reorientation[edit]

Golwalkar's religiousity and apparent disinterest in politics convinced some RSS members that the organisation was no longer relevant to the nationalist struggle. It remained aloof from the freedom movement, and connections with the Hindu Mahasabha were severed. The RSS membership in the Marathi-speaking districts of Bombay became disillusioned and the Bombay sanghchalak, K. B. Limaye, resigned. Several swayamsevaks defected and formed the Hindu Rashtra Dal in 1943, with an agenda of a paramilitary struggle against British rule; Nathuram Godse (Gandhi's assassin) was a leader of that group.[16]

However, Golwalkar moved quickly to consolidate his position. He created a network of prant pracharaks (provincial organisers), who would report to him rather than to the sanghchalaks. Golwalkar recruited local Congress leaders to preside over RSS functions, demonstrating the organisation's independence from the Hindu Mahasabha.[24] The RSS continued to expand during the Second World War, especially in North India and present-day Pakistan. Many new members were religious, small-scale entrepreneurs interested in consolidating their caste positions with the RSS' Hindu symbols.[25]

Organisation policy during the war years was influenced by potential threats to Hinduism, with the RSS expected to be prepared to defend Hindu interests in the event of a Japanese invasion. It also expected a renewed Hindu-Muslim struggle after the war. Golwalkar did not want to give the British government an excuse to ban the RSS. He complied with all governmental instructions, disbanding the RSS military department and avoiding the Quit India movement. The British acknowledged that the organisation "scrupulously kept itself within the law, and refrained from taking part in the disturbances that broke out in August, 1942".[24][26][27]

In addition to pragmatism, Golwalkar appeared ideologically opposed to an anti-British struggle; the RSS pledged to defend India's freedom by defending religion and culture, and there was "no mention of the departure of the British".[28][29][30] He called the conflation of anti-Britishism with patriotism and nationalism a "reactionary view", which would have "disastrous effects upon the entire course of the freedom struggle".[31][32] Golwalkar acknowledged that his attitude confused people (including many swayamsevaks in the RSS), leading them to distrust the Sangh.[33][34]

Independence and partition[edit]

In his memoirs, United Provinces chief secretary Rajeshwar Dayal described an RSS plot to carry out large-scale attacks on Muslim communities throughout the state's western districts.[35] The plot was said to have been uncovered by United Provinces police in raids of the organisation, with evidence filling two large steel trunks. Plans for the attack were reportedly masterminded by Golwalkar. Although Dayal and the chief of police urged his arrest, Gobind Ballabh Pant's government hesitated and Golwalkar (apparently tipped off) left the state.[36][37][38]

Ban and arrest[edit]

When Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated in January 1948 by Nathuram Godse, there was widespread apprehension (despite Golwalkar's condemnation of the murderers) that the RSS was involved.[39] Golwalkar and 20,000 swayamsevaks were arrested on 4 February, and the RSS was banned for promoting "violence" and "subversion".[40] Godse said that he acted on his own initiative, and no official connection between the RSS and Gandhi's assassination has ever been made. However, Nathuram Godse's brother Gopal Godse—also accused in the assassination plot—said that Nathuram never left the RSS and his statement was designed to protect the RSS and Golwalkar (who were "in deep trouble" after the assassination).[41] Golwalkar was released on 5 August, after the six-month statutory limit expired.[39]

The RSS ban continued, and Golwalkar tried to negotiate with Home Minister Vallabhbhai Patel about having it lifted. The mass arrests, violence against members and the ban by an independent Indian government of what was understood as a patriotic organisation was a shock to the RSS membership.[39]

Although Patel asked the RSS to join the Congress, Golwalkar disapproved. Patel then demanded, as a precondition, that the RSS adopt a written constitution. Golwalkar responded by beginning a satyagraha on 9 December 1948, and he and 60,000 RSS volunteers were arrested. RSS leaders Eknath Ranade, Bhaiyaji Dani and Balasaheb Deoras suspended the satyagraha in January 1949 and, in collaboration with liberal leader T. R. Venkatarama Sastri,[42] wrote an RSS constitution of which Patel approved. The ban was lifted on 11 July 1949.[43] The government of India issued a statement that the decision to lift the ban had been made in view of Golwalkar's promise to make loyalty to the Constitution of India and acceptance of (and respect for) India's national flag explicit in the RSS' democratically-drafted constitution.[44][45] Organisations founded and supported by RSS volunteers became collectively known as Sangh Parivar.

Political views and reception[edit]

Golwalkar decried the anti-British nationalism of pre-independence India. In We, or our Nationhood Defined he criticised the anti-British character of the Indian freedom movement, equating anti-Britishism with patriotism and nationalism: "This reactionary view has had disastrous effects upon the entire course of the freedom struggle, its leaders and the common people".[31][32]

Golwalkar has been accused of fascist beliefs because of the extreme right-wing views expressed in the 1939 book, We, or Our Nationhood Defined:

To keep up the purity of the Race and its culture, Germany shocked the world by her purging the country of the Semitic Races - the Jews. Race pride at its highest has been manifested here. Germany has also shown how well nigh impossible it is for Races and cultures, having differences going to the root, to be assimilated into one united whole, a good lesson for us in Hindustan to learn and profit by.[46] Ever since that evil day, when Moslems first landed in Hindustan, right up to the present moment, the Hindu Nation has been gallantly fighting on to take on these despoilers. The Race Spirit has been awakening.[47]

Christophe Jaffrelot wrote that despite his use of the word "race", Golwalkar's main purpose was not racial homogeneity but cultural unity. Jaffrelot noted Golwalkar's racism in his view that a national language (such as Sanskrit) would be an expression of the race spirit; the German parallel would be volksgeist. Jaffrelot characterised Golwalkar's racism as a form of socio-cultural domination rather than one based on notions of racial purity.[48] According to Jaffrelot, to Golwalkar the "racial factor" was a nation's most important ingredient; in this respect, Golwalkar was inspired by Hitler. Golwalkar applied this nationalist ethnic reasoning to Indian Muslims, whom Golwalkar saw as a "foreign body" embedded in (and destabilising) Hindu society.[46] The minorities were meant to be "assimilated" by the removal of their signs of adherence to particular communities. This is an asymmetrical relationship; although Hindu symbols are "national", those of the religious minorities are "foreign". The Indian nation of Golwalkar and other RSS leaders is a "hierarchy dominated by the Hindus".[49]


Golwalkar vehemently opposed a secular Indian state.[50] In We, or Our Nation defined, he wrote:

The non-Hindu people of Hindustan must either adopt Hindu culture and language, must learn and respect and hold in reverence the Hindu religion, must entertain no idea but of those of glorification of the Hindu race and culture ... In a word they must cease to be foreigners, or may stay in the country, wholly subordinated to the Hindu nation, claiming nothing, deserving no privileges, far less any preferential treatment—not even citizens' rights.

William Dalrymple wrote that Golwalkar "broke with conventional views" on a number of issues in many senses, including the mainstream view of Indo-Aryan migration. Golwalkar believed that the Aryan ancestors of the Hindus were indigenous to India (in contrast to India's Muslims, who were invaders and saw Mecca as the centre of their faith.[51]

According to Rohan Oberoi, both of Golwalkar's books (Bunch of Thoughts and We, or Our Nationhood Defined espouse egregiously-racist views. Oberoi wrote that in Bunch of Thoughts, Golwalkar considers Indian Muslims and Christians unpatriotic but his hatred is not limited to them; Golwalkar described the Chinese, "They eat rats, pigs, dogs, serpents, cockroaches, and everything. Such men cannot be expected to have human qualities". In "We", Oberoi wrote, Golwalkar called the 1930s Nazi campaign against Jews and Gypsies "a good lesson for us in Hindusthan to learn and profit by". "There are only two courses open to these foreign elements", Oberoi quoted Golwalkar, "either to merge themselves in the national race and adopt its culture or to live at its mercy so long as the national race may allow them to do so and quit the country at the sweet will of the national race".[52]

According to Ramachandra Guha, Golwalkar wrote: "In this land Hindus have been the owners, Parsis and Jews the guests, and Muslims and Christians the dacoits". Guha called him the "guru of Hate."[53]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Eleanor Zelliot, Maxine Berntsen (1988), "The Experience of Hinduism: Essays on Religion in Maharashtra", SUNY, p.197: "M.S. Golwalkar, who later came to be known as Guruji".
  2. ^ "The guru of hate". 
  3. ^ Jaffrelot, Hindu Nationalist Movement 1996, p. 52-58.
  4. ^ Noorani, The RSS and the BJP 2000, p. 18-23.
  5. ^ "Narendra Modi on MS Golwalkar, translated by Aakar Patel - Part 1". Retrieved 20 June 2015. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h Andersen & Damle 1987, p. 41.
  7. ^ Jaffrelot, Hindu Nationalist Movement 1996, p. 46.
  8. ^ a b V. Sundaram (9 January 2006). "Salutations to Golwalkar - I". News Today. Retrieved 10 October 2014. 
  9. ^ a b c Andersen 1972a, p. 594.
  10. ^ Sheshadri, H. V., Shri Guruji - Biography, golwalkarguruji.org.
  11. ^ Jaffrelot, Hindu Nationalist Movement 1996, p. 40.
  12. ^ Jaffrelot, Hindu Nationalist Movement 1996, pp. 65-66.
  13. ^ a b Andersen & Damle 1987, p. 42.
  14. ^ Swami Bhaskarananda (2004). "Life in Indian Monasteries". Viveka Press. pp. 16–19. 
  15. ^ D. R. Goyal, RSS 1979, p. 78.
  16. ^ a b c Andersen & Damle 1987, p. 43.
  17. ^ D. R. Goyal, RSS (1979, pp. 80–81): According to Keer"s report, "Golwalkar... said that the book We which was read by the RSS was the abridgement done by him (Golwalkar) of the work Rashtra Mimansa of Babarao Savarkar. He added that he had translated Babarao Savarkar's book into Hindi and handed it over to a certain man. He said that it was most befitting on his part to acknowledge publicly the debt of gratitude."
  18. ^ D. R. Goyal, RSS 1979, pp. 78-82.
  19. ^ D. R. Goyal, RSS 1979, p. 84.
  20. ^ D. R. Goyal, RSS 1979, pp. 82-84.
  21. ^ Chitkara, RSS National Upsurge 2004, p. 263.
  22. ^ Mahesh Sharma, Shri Guruji Golwalkar 2006, p. 44.
  23. ^ Tapan Bose (1 September 2014). "Modi's Kashmir Policy". Kashmir Times. Retrieved 2016-05-02. 
  24. ^ a b Andersen & Damle 1987, p. 44.
  25. ^ Andersen & Damle 1987, p. 45.
  26. ^ Śekhara Bandyopādhyāẏa (1 January 2004). From Plassey to Partition: A History of Modern India. Orient Blackswan. pp. 422–. ISBN 978-81-250-2596-2. 
  27. ^ Bipan Chandra, Communalism 2008, p. 140.
  28. ^ M.S. Golwalkar (1974). Shri Guruji Samagra Darshan, Volume 4. Bharatiya Vichar Sadhana. 
  29. ^ Shamsul Islam (2006). Religious Dimensions of Indian Nationalism: A Study of RSS. Media House. pp. 191–. ISBN 978-81-7495-236-3. 
  30. ^ Ram Puniyani (6 July 2005). Religion, Power and Violence: Expression of Politics in Contemporary Times. SAGE Publications. pp. 135–. ISBN 978-81-321-0206-9. 
  31. ^ a b Tapan Basu (1 January 1993). Khaki Shorts and Saffron Flags: A Critique of the Hindu Right. Orient Blackswan. pp. 29–. ISBN 978-0-86311-383-3. 
  32. ^ a b David Ludden (1 April 1996). Contesting the Nation: Religion, Community, and the Politics of Democracy in India. University of Pennsylvania Press. pp. 274–. ISBN 0-8122-1585-0. 
  33. ^ Shamsul Islam (2006). Religious Dimensions of Indian Nationalism: A Study of RSS. Media House. pp. 187–. ISBN 978-81-7495-236-3. 
  34. ^ Ram Puniyani (21 July 2005). Religion, Power and Violence: Expression of Politics in Contemporary Times. SAGE Publications. pp. 134–. ISBN 978-0-7619-3338-0. 
  35. ^ Dayal 1998, pp. 93-94.
  36. ^ Romesh Bhandari, Memories of another day (Book review: Rajeshwar Day's `A Life of Our Times', India Today, 31 August 1998.
  37. ^ Noorani, The RSS and the BJP 2000, pp. 11-12.
  38. ^ "Into the sunset". Frontline. Retrieved 25 June 2015. 
  39. ^ a b c Andersen 1972c, p. 675.
  40. ^ D. R. Goyal, RSS 1979, pp. 201-202.
  41. ^ "The BJP and Nathuram Godse". Frontline. 8 February 2013. Retrieved 25 June 2015. 
  42. ^ "RSS to abandon politics" (PDF). The Hindu. 24 May 1949. Retrieved 2014-10-14. 
  43. ^ Jaffrelot, Hindu Nationalist Movement 1996, p. 88-89.
  44. ^ Curran, Jean A. (17 May 1950), "The RSS: Militant Hinduism", Far Eastern Survey, 19 (10): 93–98, JSTOR 3023941 
  45. ^ Noorani, The RSS and the BJP 2000, p. 43.
  46. ^ a b Jaffrelot, Hindu Nationalist Movement 1996, p. 55.
  47. ^ Roy, Arundhati (13 December 2008). "The monster in the mirror". Guardian. Retrieved 2014-10-08. 
  48. ^ Jaffrelot, Hindu Nationalist Movement 1996, p. 57.
  49. ^ Jaffrelot, Hindu Nationalist Movement 1996, p. 83.
  50. ^ Guha 2008, p. 19
  51. ^ William Dalrymple. "India: The War Over History". New York Review of Books. April 7, 2005.
  52. ^ "Welcome To The BJP (Bharatiya Janata Pustakalaya)". Retrieved 18 June 2015. 
  53. ^ "The guru of hate". Retrieved 18 June 2015. 

Sources[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Raje, C.P. Bhishikar ; translated into English by Sudhakar (1999). Shri Guruji : pioneer of a new era (1st ed.). Bangalore: Sahitya Sindhu Prakashana. ISBN 81-86595-16-3. 
  • Islam, Shamsul (2006). Golwalkar's We or our nationhood defined : a critique (1st ed.). New Delhi: Pharos Media & Pub. ISBN 8172210302. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Keshav Baliram Hedgewar
Sarsanghchalak of the RSS
1940–1973
Succeeded by
Madhukar Dattatraya Deoras