NEW DELHI―The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) made contradictory claims during legal proceedings in multiple government institutions and courts in the 1970s, writes lawyer and political commentator AG Noorani in his soon-to-be-released book RSS: A Menace To India. Relying on documents of legal proceedings initiated by Nagpur resident and RSS follower Dr. Manoharkant Dayalji Kamdar, Noorani says that the RSS claimed before the Charity Commissioner of Maharashtra that it was not a charitable trust but a political institution. It, however, told the Bombay High Court that it is “a charitable institution under Section 10(22) of the Income-Tax Act, 1961”.
Noorani told HuffPost India in an interview that the organisation’s contradictory claims are relevant even today because of the “deceit” involved.
“They say one thing to the Charity Commissioner—that we are not a trust—and another thing to the tax authorities: that we are a trust,” he said. The constitutional expert also shares in the book an application filed by the RSS in a Nagpur court in which the organisation said, its policy could be changed in the future and it “could participate in even day to day political activity as a political party because policy is not a permanent or irrevocable thing.”
Some of Noorani’s revelations in the book, which has been published by Leftword Books, are also significant because the RSS has maintained for years that it is only a “cultural” organisation with no political ambitions. In fact, Article 4 (c) of the RSS’ written constitution clearly says, “The Sangh is aloof from politics and is devoted to social and cultural fields only.”
RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s lecture series last year to reach out to its critics could not persuade anybody, added Noorani, as the RSS could not be anything but communal in its philosophy.
“You can’t ask the Pope to become Protestant. This is their philosophy and outlook,” he said.
Edited excerpts from an interview:
Why have you called the RSS a menace in your book?
Because its whole outlook is undemocratic, (has a) fascist leadership principle. (It follows (a) hate ideology, secret working and deceit and (has) complicity in riots.
Late last year, the Sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat did what was billed as an outreach towards the sceptics and critics of the RSS through a three-day long series of lectures. What do you make of the initiative?
I think it was a PR campaign. That’s all.
It failed to persuade you?
It failed to persuade not only me but anybody. I can’t think of anybody who was persuaded. In fact the media ridiculed it. And on the last day he said just the thing for which he has been criticised.
Look, this is the party which floated the VHP in 1964, Jan Sangh in 1951 and the BJP in 1980. And it has since thrown out three party presidents―Mauli Chandra Sharma, Balraj Madhok and latest (LK) Advani. You see, people say, ‘let it become a conservative and non-communal party’. You can’t do that. You can’t ask the Pope to become Protestant. This is their philosophy and outlook.
You see, people say, ‘let it (the RSS) become a conservative and non-communal party’. You can’t do that. You can’t ask the Pope to become Protestant. This is their philosophy and outlook: A G Noorani
In the book you write that during the legal proceedings before the Charity Commissioner and Income Tax office in the 1970s, the RSS made contradictory claims about itself to the two authorities as well as amended its constitution, apart from disclosing the possibility that the organisation may take the form of a political party in the future. What prompted you to write about the proceedings at such length and why are they relevant today?
They are relevant today because of the deceit. Because they (the RSS) say one thing to the Charity Commissioner—that we are not a trust—and another thing to the tax authorities: that we are a trust. It’s all there in the book.
But there is one question left unanswered in the book which is, what happened eventually to the cases?
I have not got the material (about what happened to the cases) so I have to be honest. (Whatever material) I had from Dr (Manoharkant Dayalji) Kamdar (of the RSS), I have used it in the book. After that, I couldn’t follow it. It’s not fully reported.
You also mention that the RSS won its appeal in the Court of S.M. Mandika, ‘Extra Assistant Judge, Nagpur’, on 1 February 1987 in the matter and the Charity Commissioner appealed it in the Bombay High Court. So what is the argument you are trying to make in the book?
The argument is that the whole ideology is not of a trust but a political party.
You also wrote that the RSS expressed a possibility at one point during the legal proceedings that, in the future, it could become a political party.
Yes, it is there in Miscellaneous Application No. 17 of 1978 filed in the court of the District Judge, Nagpur.
So why do you find it problematic if it were to be a political entity, specifically a political party?
It has already got one political entity―the BJP.
Yes, but converting itself into a political entity is what was written in the application cited by you in the book.
Let it do it, it will be more honest.
Appended to the main text of the book are letters between MS Golwalkar and Jawaharlal Nehru in which the latter uses two rather strong adjectives to describe the RSS—“anti-national” and “violent”. This was in the first decade of the nascent Republic’s formation and now we are in the eighth decade. Has anything changed since then?
Things have not changed. On the contrary, RSS was involved in a lot of riots and all that.
Why do you believe Nehru’s contention that it was an anti-national force?
Nehru himself has given the reasons: secret working, fascist principle.
And the claim about the RSS being violent: do you believe it still exists?
I have given a whole chapter on the riots.