Special Feature
India At 75 : Hindu-Supremacists Vs India’s Freedom Struggle: A Brief History

(Today, Hindu-supremacist fascists are in power in India, and are busy trying to write themselves into the history of India’s freedom movement; while distorting the role of the movement’s actual key actors. In this feature we examine the trajectory of the two foremost Hindu-supremacist organisations, the Hindu Mahasabha and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, from their birth until India’s freedom and soon after.   

The Punjab Hindu Mahasabha was formed in 1909, and the Hindu Mahasabha was formed in 1915. The RSS was formed in 1925. What did these respective formations and their leaders do, when India fought for freedom; when freedom fighters spent long years in prison and sacrificed their lives?

The leaders of the HM and RSS stated their aims quite clearly. So we will rely on their own writings, as well as the assessments of these outfits by other participants in the freedom struggle. - ed/-)

Did Hindu Mahasabha and RSS Ever Support The Fight Against The British Raj?

Leaders of the RSS and Hindu Mahasabha repeatedly displayed their contempt for the anti-British freedom movement.
Golwalkar Condemning The Freedom Struggle As “Disastrous”

  • “Anti-Britishism was equated with patriotism and nationalism. This reactionary view has had disastrous effects upon the entire course of the freedom movement, its leaders and the common people”.
  • M. S. Golwalkar, Bunch of Thoughts,1996, p. 138
  • “There are bad results of struggle. The boys became militant after the 1920-21 movement…After 1942, people often started thinking that there was no need to think of the law…”
  • Golwalkar on the impact of the Non Co-operation

Movement of 1920-21 and Quit India Movement of 1942,

Shri Guruji Samagra Darshan, (S.G.S.D.), Vol. IV, p.41

“In 1942 also there was a strong sentiment in the hearts of many. At that time too the routine work of Sangh continued. Sangh decided not to do anything directly.”

  • Golwalkar on the Quit India Movement of 1942, S.G.S.D.,Vol. IV, p.40

Shyama Prasad Mookerjee Helped The British Crush Quit India Movement

Mookerjee refused to resign from the Ministry in Bengal during the Quit India Movement. Not only that, as a Minister in the Bengal Government in 1942, he actively offered help and advice to the British administrators to crush the Quit India Movement. In 1942, he wrote:

“The question is how to combat this movement in Bengal? The administration of the province should be carried out in such a manner that in spite of the best efforts ... this movement will fail to take root in the province.”

“As regards India’s attitude towards England, the struggle between them, if any, should not take place at this juncture. ...Anybody who plans to stir up mass feelings resulting in internal disturbances or insecurity, must be resisted by any Government...” (Shyama Prasad Mookerjee, Leaves from a Diary, OUP, 1993, pp 175-190)

Golwalkar Felt Martyrs Were “Failures” Whose Sacrifice Did Not Serve “Complete National Interest.

Golwalkar asked us to question “whether complete national interest is accomplished by that (martyrdom)?” (Bunch of Thoughts, p. 61-62)

He wrote about martyrs of the freedom struggle: “there is no doubt that such man who embrace martyrdom are great heroes ...All the same, such persons are not held up as ideals in our society. We have not looked upon their martyrdom as the highest point of greatness to which men should aspire. For, after all, they failed in achieving their ideal, and failure implies some fatal flaw in them…” (Bunch of Thoughts, p. 283.)

What About Savarkar? Did He Write Mercy Petitions?

VD resisted the British long before he joined the Hindu Mahasabha and before was imprisoned. Soon after his re-arrest and trial, when he was taken to the Andamans in 1911, he began pledging loyalty to the British and begging for release in a series of “mercy petitions”. He has the shameful record of writing no less than seven mercy petitions promising to serve the British loyally in exchange for his release.

In a letter dated November 24, 1913, he repeated this petition pleading for release, promising to mend his ways, and become “the staunchest advocate … of loyalty to the Government … where else can the prodigal son return but to the parental doors of the Government?”

To obtain his release in Jan 1924, Savarkar accepted without any compunction the conditions set out in his release order “that he will not engage publicly or privately in any manner of political activities without the consent of Government.”

But Rajnath Singh Says Gandhi Advised Savarkar To Seek Mercy?

In a recent speech, Rajnath Singh said that Savarkar wrote his mercy petitions only because Gandhi advised him to do so. Is this true?

The facts are as follows:

Savarkar submitted seven mercy petitions, the first one in 1911. At the time Gandhi was in South Africa. Gandhi returned to India only in 1915. So he had no contact with Savarkar when the latter wrote his mercy petitions.

In 1920, Gandhiji responded to Savarkar’s younger brother Narayan Rao who had asked for his advice. Gandhiji wrote a letter saying, “It is difficult to advise you. I suggest, however, framing a brief petition setting forth facts of the case, bringing out in clear relief that the fact that the offence committed by your brother was purely political.” So Gandhiji advised Savarkar to accept his offence but point out that its motive was political rather than criminal. He did not advise Savarkar to beg for mercy!

Historian Rajmohan Gandhi, who is also Gandhiji’s grandson, says, “Rajnath Singh is asking us to believe that a letter that Gandhi writes in January 1920 to a request from the Savarkar brothers should be interpreted as advice given by Gandhi nine years earlier that Savarkar should send a mercy petition. The suggestion is absurd beyond description. It is laughable.”

Gandhiji did write in Young India in May 1920 seeking the release of the Savarkar brothers as well as the Ali brothers – Maulana Shaukat Ali and Maulana Mohammed Ali. But he is not “begging for mercy” for them – he is demanding the release of all political prisoners including those with whose ideas and methods he disagreed.

Maybe Savarkar Just Asked For Mercy Tactically? Did He Not Fight The British After He Was Free?

Here, let us consider what opinion two freedom fighters - Gandhiji and Subhash Bose – had about Savarkar and the Hindu Mahasabha.

In his May 1920 Young India piece, Gandhiji made it clear that while he felt the Savarkar brothers’ imprisonment was unjust, they were not freedom fighters. He wrote, “The Savarkar brothers state unequivocally that they do not desire independence from the British connection. On the contrary, they feel that India’s destiny can be best worked out in association with the British.”

Subhash Bose met Savarkar in June 1940. His wrote about the meeting: “Mr Savarkar seemed to be oblivious of the international situation and was only thinking how Hindus could ...secure military training by entering Britain’s army in India.” He also found that neither Jinnah and Savarkar was interested in the freedom struggle, writing “nothing could be expected either from either the Muslim League or the Hindu Mahasabha.” (Netaji Collected Works, Vol 2, The Indian Struggle)

Syama Prasad Mookerjee, writing in his diary, noted that Subhash Bose told him that if the Hindu Mahasabha tried to build itself as a political body in Bengal, “He [Bose] would see to it, by force if need be, that it was broken before it was really born.” (Shyama Prasad Mookerjee, Leaves from a Diary, OUP, 1993)

But Vikram Sampath Claims That Bose Praised Savarkar?

Journalist Ayush Tiwari tried to verify a quote attributed by Savarkar’s latest biographer Vikram Sampath to Subhash Bose, containing fulsome praise for Savarkar. He traced the quote to Dhananjay Keer’s biography of Savarkar – but Keer provides no source for his quote. As Tiwari adds, “In fact, there is no primary source than can be attributed to this quote.” So Sampath uses an unsourced quote from Keer’s hagiographic account without making any attempt to verify it! As we saw above, Netaji’s own writings carry a very negative assessment of Savarkar and of the Hindu Mahasabha.

Tiwari adds that “It has been a quite old trend to credit Netaji’s struggle to Savarkar. In fact the trend was started by Savarkar himself as he wrote in his ‘Tajasvi Tare’ book, published after independence.”

Did Rajaji Author The 1926 Biography of Savarkar, As Sampath Claims?

Journalist Ashutosh Bharadwaj did a fact check on a sensational quote attributed by Sampath to C Rajagopalachari (Rajaji), claiming to have “penned” Savarkar’s 1926 “biography” which had been published under the pseudonym “Chitragupta.”  

But this quote was nowhere to be found in Rajaji’s collected works. Bharadwaj finds that Sampath’s “source” for this quote is Hindu Mahabhasha Parva, a book by Savarkar’s brother Babarao Savarkar. There is no primary source for that quote either.  

Note that the 1986 reprint of the 1926 biography, published by Veer Savarkar Prakashan, has a preface that clearly states, “Chitragupta is none other than Veer Savarkar.”   

Why These Attempts To Claim Gandhi or Bose or Rajaji Endorsed Savarkar?

Vikram Sampath and Rajnath Singh now seek to somehow manufacture credibility for Savarkar, tainted by his multiple mercy petitions and his communal, pro-British politics. So they claim Gandhi advised him to beg for mercy; that Bose praised him and Rajaji wrote his biography. But the quotes or sentiments attributed to these leaders seem to be fake news produced by Savarkar himself or his brother!    

What Did Savarkar Do After Being Freed From Andaman Jail?

From the time he was freed from prison to the end of his life, it is clear that Savarkar kept the promises he made to the British in his mercy petitions. He never participated in the freedom struggle in any capacity. He wrote his hateful Hindu-supremacist manifesto Hindutva in 1923, and spent his life working solely for Hindu-supremacist politics.

As Bose noted, Savarkar was not interested in supporting the Quit India movement or building any armed resistance to the British. He was obsessed only with how Hindus could get into the British Army and get training that would help in fighting Muslims!

And can we forget that Savarkar was the mastermind behind the assassination of Gandhi?

But Savarkar Was Never Punished For Gandhi’s Assassination?

While Nathuram Godse was hanged for killing Gandhiji and his brother was jailed for his part in the conspiracy, the mastermind Savarkar escaped punishment, even though a Hindu Mahasabha member Badge turned informer and testified that Apte and Godse met Savarkar, came away with weapons, and that Savarkar blessed the duo telling them “Yashasvi houn ya” (May you be successful and return). Badge added that Apte told him that Savarkar was sure that “Gandhi’s 100 years are up” and so the assassination attempt would be successful. But in the absence of independent corroboration, Savarkar got the benefit of doubt and escaped punishment.

However, Home Minister Sardar Patel was sure of Savarkar’s guilt. In a letter to PM Nehru, dated 27 February 1948, Patel wrote, “It was a fanatical wing of the Hindu Mahasabha directly under Savarkar that [hatched] the conspiracy and saw it through.”

After Savarkar’s death, the Justice Kapur Commission enquiry found additional proof corroborating Badge’s account and confirming that Savarkar was the kingpin of the assassination conspiracy. In its 1969 report the Kapur Commission concluded that “people who were subsequently involved in the murder of Mahatma Gandhi were all congregating sometime or the other at Savarkar Sadan and sometimes had long interviews with Savarkar….All these facts taken together were destructive of any theory other than the conspiracy to murder by Savarkar and his group.”  

Patel Held The RSS To Be A Danger to India

In a letter to Hindu Mahasabha leader Syama Prasad Mookerjee on July 18, 1948, Patel wrote:

“There is no doubt in my mind that the extreme section of the Hindu Mahasabha was involved in the conspiracy [to kill Gandhi]. The activities of the RSS constituted a clear threat to the existence of Government and the State. Our reports show that those activities, despite the ban, have not died down. Indeed, as time has marched on, the RSS circles are becoming more defiant and are indulging in their subversive activities in an increasing measure.”

In a letter to Golwalkar in September 1948, Patel reiterated the reason for his decision to ban the RSS:

“All their speeches were fill of communal poison. ...As a final result of the poison, the country had to suffer the sacrifice of the invaluable life of Gandhiji. Even an iota of the sympathy of the Government, or of the people, no more remained for the RSS. ...Opposition turned more severe, when the RSS men expressed joy and distributed sweets after Gandhiji’s death.”


The RSS and BJP venerate Savarkar while their top leaders maintain “physical distance” from Godse. However that distance is narrowing, as the BJP gets more and more brazen and confident. Modi’s decision to field Pragya Thakur as an MP from Bhopal, declaring that “No Hindu can ever be a terrorist” is a case in point. Pragya Thakur was part of the terrorist plots by the Abhinav Bharat (run by Savarkar’s descendants). She openly and repeatedly declares that Godse – the terrorist who assassinated Gandhiji - was a patriot! And while Savarkar may have claimed that he did not bless Godse’s assassination attempt, today the Hindu Mahasabha declares its intention to build Godse temples!

It is clear enough, though, that the RSS and Hindu Mahasabha collaborated with the British and had nothing to do with the Indian freedom struggle. Instead they were involved in communal and terrorist conspiracies – the worst being the assassination of Gandhiji. And today, the same forces collaborate with imperialism and are involved in communal violence and conspiracies to assassinate people like Dabholkar, Pansare, Kalburgi and Gauri Lankesh.

India’s Freedom Struggle