The Madhya Pradesh government's removing the ban on RSS membership for its employees violates the Constitution.
ON August 27, 2006, the Bharatiya Janata Party-run Government of Madhya Pradesh made an order revoking the long established ban on civil servants' participation in the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh's (RSS) activities. If this is allowed to pass muster, there would be nothing to prevent a government from inducting RSS men into the civil services. Congress president Sonia Gandhi has asked President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam to intervene, reminding him that his predecessor, President K.R. Narayanan, had taken up the matter with the BJP government at the Centre when, in January 2000, the BJP government of Gujarat made a similar order. It was revoked.
The Madhya Pradesh case is far worse. It is sought to be covered up with brazen falsehood. As a matter of fact, the State government's order "only formalised what it [the State government] has been practising for close to three years. RSS men have been appointed to several key positions and all BJP leaders, including Ministers, openly attend RSS functions" (Milind Ghatwal in The Indian Express, September 15; emphasis added throughout). RSS leader Kantilal Chhatar exclaimed, "What ban? There was no restriction on taking part in RSS activities. We never felt the ban. In any case, the RSS inculcates cultural values."
Formally the ban was imposed in 1981 and was revived in 2000. But similar laws have long been in place in several States. Rule 5(1) of the Madhya Pradesh Civil Service (Classification, Control and Appeal) Rules of 1966 bars government employees from becoming members of any political party or organisation which takes part in political activities. They are also barred from participating in political agitations or fund-raising. The order revoking this ban was made by Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan on August 28, but became known only on September 14. He issued a one-line order, which simply said that the ban was not applicable to the RSS. This alone suffices to render his order unconstitutional, as being violative of the constitutional guarantee of equality before the law embodied in Article 14 of the Constitution. It is not open to a government to make exceptions to a ban imposed by law, arbitrarily at its whim; still less for political reasons.
Former Chief Minister Uma Bharati said that the order was "very immature and stupid". The reason she cited reveals a lot. In actual practice, the ban was not observed, she said. "But by issuing a formal order", the government has ensured that it could be revoked by the next government.
However, even Arun Jaitley of the BJP conceded on September 28, while defending the order, that "affiliation to any organisation is restricted only when it is engaged in unlawful activities or is political in conduct" (The Telegraph; September 29). His implied claim that the RSS is not "political in conduct" is untrue to his own knowledge. He knows fully well how the BJP regime at the Centre, headed by A.B. Vajpayee, had to bow to the RSS' dictates even on appointments to the Cabinet.
We have the RSS' own word for its true character. It asserted before the Charity Commissioner of Maharashtra that the "RSS is not a charitable but a political institution under S. 2(13) of the Bombay Public Trusts Act, 1950", and therefore it was not liable to be registered as a "public trust". It is another matter that it said the direct opposite before the tax authorities and in proceedings that reached the High Court where it said that it is "a charitable institution under S.10 (22) Income Tax Act, 1961".
The proceedings were launched by Dr. M.D. Kamdar of Nagpur, who was himself a member of the RSS for 30 years. On February 7, 1972 he filed an application before the Charity Commissioner, Nagpur Division, under the Bombay Public Trusts Act, 1948, seeking to get it registered as a public trust.
On May 22, 1974, V.P. Behere, Deputy Charity Commissioner, held that the RSS was not liable to registration as its objects "are akin to political objects, as distinguished from religious or charitable objects". Kamdar appealed against the order on July 17, 1974 and won. On January 1, 1978, M.S. Vaidya, Joint Charity Commissioner, held: "RSS is proved to be a public religious and charitable trust. It be registered as such." In his judgment he recorded, "It was contended at the stage of arguments before the Deputy Charity Commissioner that the organisation had all along aimed at patriotic activities that were akin to the political activities." So, the RSS' stand before the public trust authorities was that it was a political party.
An appeal against this order was filed by Rajendra Singh and Bhaurao Deoras on March 6, 1978, before the District Judge, Nagpur. It claimed that "the work of the RSS is neither religious nor charitable but its objects are cultural and patriotic as contra-distinguished from religious or charitable. It is akin to political purposes though RSS is not at present a political party inasmuch as the RSS constitution quoted above bars active political participation by RSS as such as a policy".
A passage in the appeal memo reveals the RSS' outlook with brutal clarity: "The functions or festivals of `Hindu Sam Rajya Din', `Mahotsava', `Dashera' or `Vijaya Dashmi' and `Padava' or `Varsha Pratipada' have a political and social connotation for inspiring in the Swayamsewaks the dream of Hindu Rashtra on (sic.) the fact that in historical past such a dream was visualised and fulfilled and as such one could do so again by organising the Hindu Society... The festival of `Guru Poornima' is also a political function in the sense that the flag as mentioned in the Constitution is just before the society a symbol of RSS and symbol of age-old culture and as such should be dear to the society as God and everybody should be prepared even to die for the respect and dignity of the said flag. The word puja in the said festival has no religious connotation whatsoever but a connotation that we should work for the flag, which stands as symbol of Hindu Rashtra and be ready to sacrifice not only body and mind but also financially."
Deoras formally verified the appeal memo on February 26, 1979. Kamdar filed an application on July 5, 1980, calling for the RSS' income-tax records for the assessment years 1962-63, 1970-71, 1971-72 and 1972-73. The income-tax proceedings had begun a decade earlier.
The Income-Tax Office rejected the RSS' claim to being a purely educational and cultural body whose income was to be exempted. "If the assessee has to work for the rejuvenation of the Hindu Society arising from political differences, the political purpose cannot be avoided. As it is not possible to divorce the political element in toto from the aims and objects of this assessee, it will not be possible to say that the assessee is a charitable organisation. The activities of the assessee, therefore, are not covered under the head `Educational/Charitable' purpose defined in Section 2(15) of the Act."
The subsequent tortuous course of the litigation, while instructive in itself, is less relevant to the issue than the fact that the RSS' top leaders asserted repeatedly, on solemn affirmation if not on oath, that the RSS is a political body.
As mentioned earlier, the Miscellaneous Application No.17 of 1978 filed before the District Judge, Nagpur by Rajendra Singh, who succeeded Balasaheb Deoras as supremo, and by the supremo's brother, Bhaurao Deoras, defined the RSS' ideology: "The concept of `Hindu nation' of the founder RSS was on the basis of cultural unity of the entire people living in the Bharat Varsh." Lest any imagine that "the entire people" of India were included, they emphasised: "It is significant to note that the name was not chosen as `Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh' though the Sangh is open to Hindus only. This is because of the faith of the Sangh that in India `Rashtriya' (national) means `of Hindus' which are the mainstream of the Nation." Another reason for the name was "to reflect the political ideology of the organisation, though the Sangh as such never had politics of its own as of policy."
The application set out some other important features of RSS ideology. Paragraph 13 noted: "The first feature is that the terms used have special significance and meaning as understood by the organisation in view of its philosophy as distinct from the ordinary meaning." It added that "one has to look as to how [the said terms] are understood by the organisation and not how such terms are commonly used or interpreted by others. Such terms are Rashtriya, Dharma [religion], Sanskriti [culture], Hindu Dharma, etc." This enables the RSS to practise duplicity freely. Words mean what it wants them to mean at any given time.
Secondly, the chief (Sarsanghchalak) is "the guide and philosopher", and his writings and speeches are important. The "written Constitution came into existence for the first time in June 1949". The third feature of the Constitution "is its flexibility... [The] fourth feature is the aims and objects are distinguished from policy ... policy is not a permanent feature and changes or is changed from time to time." The RSS does not participate in "day to day politics though the Sangh has a political philosophy within its wide sweep of cultural work. It is possible for Sangh to change this policy and even participate in politics."
The document concluded that "the work of the RSS is neither religious nor charitable but its objects are cultural and patriotic as contra-distinguished from religious or charitable. It is akin to political purposes though RSS is not at present a political party inasmuch as the RSS Constitution quoted above bars active political participation by RSS, as such, as a policy... . Tomorrow the policy could be changed and RSS could participate in even day to day political activity as a political party because policy is not a permanent or irrevocable thing" (paragraphs 18 and 19).
Individual members were, however, free to join any political party (Article 4). The document boldly asserted that the RSS was free to proclaim itself a political party some day. This stand has never been altered. It has been reaffirmed repeatedly; including by Deoras, the supremo, on November 15 and 16, 1987.
The character of this "cultural body" is fully explained by the definition which the Sangh assigns to culture: "[It] does not mean the popular or governmental limited meaning as pertaining to art, drama, music, dance, etc. The word `Sanskritik' or cultural used in the Sangh work has a very wide sweep and has to be understood as expounded by the Guide and Philosopher of the RSS Shri Golwalkar in his speeches and writings. These include all aspects of society or nation; viz. political, social, economic, customary, morality, language, script and in general the Hindu way of life, inclusive of faiths of various groups in distinct tenets, practices, etc." Contrast this assertion in paragraph 26 of the document with that in Article 4 (b) of the RSS Constitution - "The Sangh as such, has no politics and is devoted purely to cultural work."
But, if "cultural" means what the RSS application solemnly said it does, is not Article 4 (b) of its Constitution calculated to deceive? On September 16, 1979, United News India reported that Deoras "said... that his organisation would in ten years gain the popularity needed to form a government at the Centre. `Nobody can grudge such an eventuality in a democratic set up,' he told a closed-door meeting attended by nearly 100 people [in Bhopal]." Three days later, Deoras rushed back to Bhopal to contradict the report. The RSS mouthpiece Organiser angrily denied the report and quoted Deoras as saying that it was not a closed-door meeting at all and the entire proceedings had been taped and played back "a few days back to local correspondents and they were all satisfied". UNI, however, carried another story on September 20, which said that Deoras "refused to oblige newsmen who insisted on listening to the taped version" despite the RSS local unit's promise to play the tapes at Deoras' press conference.
RSS supremo Golwalkar held that politics is to be conducted "as one of the commands of Religion, of our normal cultural activities and accept the responsibility". Asked point blank "Is it a fact that the Sangh plans to capture power?" Golwalkar replied: "We have kept before ourselves the ideal of Bhagwan Shri Krishna who held a big empire under his thumb but refused to become an emperor himself." The Jan Sangh and later the BJP were the RSS' political tools. The RSS kept the NDA regime under its thumb. As Rajendra Singh and Bhaurao Deoras said in paragraph 38 of their application, "The RSS desires to dominate the world by cultural conquest by a great process of true national regeneration."
The British had, after careful deliberation, made a sound assessment of the RSS. A circular sent by the Home Department of the Government of India to the Bihar government (No. F201/44 Ests, dated March 16, 1944) said: "After a protracted consideration of the question in which the governments of the C.P. [Central Provinces] and Berar [now Madhya Pradesh] and Bombay were also consulted, as the organisation was strongest there, it was decided that the RSS was a politico-commercial organisation which concentrated on the formation of a militant body on fascist lines... "
Yet Vajpayee said on February 5, 2000: "Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh is not a political outfit. It is a cultural and social organisation and I do not think objections should be raised on anybody joining it." This was in defence of the Gujarat government's order permitting civil servants to become members of the RSS. President Narayanan objected to this amendment. Predictably, Union Home Minister L.K. Advani not only defended the move, but proceeded to declare that the Central government would review the ban on its employees from participating in RSS activities.
It was left to the former Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, Kalyan Singh, to spill the beans. He said at Aligarh on February 8, 2000: "I have spent a greater part of my life in this organisation [RSS] and I can say that right from the distribution of election tickets [to candidates] in BJP to selecting Cabinet Ministers, it is only the RSS which calls the shots. What else is political activity?"
The RSS has been censured for its involvement in communal riots in at least six reports by Judges who presided over commissions of inquiry; to wit, the Jaganmohan Reddy report on the Ahmedabad riots 1969; the D.P. Madon report on the Bhiwandi riots in 1970; the Vithayathil report on the Tellicherry riots in 1971; the Jitendra Narain report on the Jamshedpur riots in 1979; the P. Venugopal report on the Kanyakumari riots of 1982; and the report on the Bhagalpur riots in 1989.
But the most damning exposure was made by a civil servant of sterling integrity and courage, Rajeshwar Dayal, who rose to become Foreign Secretary. He was Chief Secretary of the United Provinces (Uttar Pradesh, now) at the time of Partition. It bears quotation in extenso: "I must record an episode of a very grave nature when the procrastination and indecision of the U.P. Cabinet led to dire consequences. When communal tension was still at fever-pitch, the Deputy Inspector-General of Police of the Western Range, a very seasoned and capable Officer, B.B.L. Jaitley, arrived at my house in great secrecy. He was accompanied by two of his officers who brought with them two large steel trunks securely locked. When the trunks were opened, they revealed incontrovertible evidence of a dastardly conspiracy to create a communal holocaust throughout the western districts of the province. The trunks were crammed with blueprints of great accuracy and professionalism of every town and village in that vast area, prominently marking out the Muslim localities and habitations. There were also detailed instructions regarding access to the various locations, and other matters which amply revealed their sinister purport.
"Greatly alarmed by those revelations, I immediately took the police party to the Premier's [Govind Ballabh Pant] house. There, in a closed room, Jaitley gave a full report of his discovery, backed by all the evidence contained in the steel trunks. Timely raids conducted on the premises of the RSS had brought the massive conspiracy to light. The whole plot had been concerted under the direction and supervision of the supremo of the organisation himself [M.S. Golwalkar]. Both Jaitley and I pressed for the immediate arrest of the prime accused, Shri Golwalkar, who was still in the area.
"Pantji could not but accept the evidence of his eyes and ears and expressed deep concern. But instead of agreeing to the immediate arrest of the ring leader as we had hoped, and as Rafi Ahmed Kidwai would have done, he asked for the matter to be placed for consideration by the Cabinet at its next meeting. It was no doubt a matter of political delicacy as the roots of the RSS had gone deep into the body politic. There were also other political compulsions as RSS sympathisers, both covert and overt, were to be found in the Congress party itself and even in the Cabinet. It was no secret that the presiding officer of the Upper House, Atma Govind Kher, was himself an adherent and his sons were openly members of the RSS.
"At the Cabinet meeting there was the usual procrastination and much irrelevant talk. The fact that the police had unearthed a conspiracy which would have set the whole province in flames and that the officers concerned deserved warm commendation hardly seemed to figure in the discussion. What ultimately emerged was that a letter should be issued to Shri Golwalkar pointing out the contents and nature of the evidence which had been gathered and demanding an explanation thereof. At my insistence, such a letter if it were to be sent, should be issued by the Premier himself to carry greater weight. Pantji asked me to prepare a draft, which I did in imitation of his own characteristic style. The letter was to be delivered forthwith and two police officers were assigned for the purpose.
"Golwalkar, however, had been tipped off and he was nowhere to be found in the area. He was tracked down southwards but he managed to elude the couriers in pursuit. This infructuous chase continued from place to place and weeks passed.
"Came January 30, 1948 when the Mahatma, that supreme apostle of peace, fell to a bullet fired by an RSS fanatic. The whole tragic episode left me sick at heart" (A Life of Our Times by Rajeshwar Dayal; Orient Longman; pages 93-94). It was this very G.B. Pant who deftly avoided removal of idols from the Babri Masjid in December 1949 flouting Nehru's wishes.
Given the RSS' consistent and formidable record of "cultural" activities, the Madhya Pradesh order is nothing short of an assault on the fundamentals of the Constitution. Vallabhbhai Patel informed the Constituent Assembly on July 15, 1947 that a joint meeting of the Union and Provincial Constitution Committees (held on June 7, 1947) had opted for "the parliamentary system of Constitution, the British type of Constitution with which we are familiar". He was President of the Provincial Constitution Committee, Jawaharlal Nehru was President of the Union Constitution Committee. Every work on British constitutional law emphasises the political neutrality of the civil service.
So did the Founding Fathers of our Constitution. Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, Chairman of the Drafting Committee, held that subversion of the administration is subversion of the Constitution.
On November 4, 1948, while introducing the draft Constitution in the Constituent Assembly, he expounded the fundamentals underlying it: "The form of the administration must be appropriate and in the same sense as the form of the Constitution." Thus, an RSS-ridden civil service cannot work a secular Constitution. For, "it is perfectly possible to pervert the Constitution without changing its form, by merely changing the form of the administration and to (sic) make it inconsistent and opposed to the spirit of the constitution".
On October 10, 1949, Patel told the Assembly: "If you do not adopt this course (ensure safeguards for civil servants), then do not follow the present Constitution. Put in a Congress Constitution or some other Constitution or put in the RSS Constitution - whatever you like - but not this Constitution. This Constitution is meant to be worked by a ring of service which will keep the country intact." Earlier, on April 27, 1948, he had written to Nehru: "I need hardly emphasise that an efficient, disciplined and contented service, assured of its prospect as a result of diligent and honest work, is a sine qua non of sound administration under a democratic regime even more than under an authoritarian rule. The service must be above party and we should ensure that political considerations, either in its recruitment or in its discipline and control, are reduced to the minimum, if not eliminated altogether."
Ever since Independence, governments at the Centre and in the States banned members of certain organisations from recruitment to their respective services. Additionally, they forbade personnel of the services from membership of those bodies. The list was prepared by the Centre and revised periodically; the last time, in 1986. Accordingly, the Gujarat Civil Servants Conduct Rules, 1971, forbade them to have any connection with the RSS. Among the other 16 organisations on that list were the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, the Hindu Mahasabha, the Anand Marg, the All-India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushwawarat, the Sati Pati Creed and the Mass Movement (Madhok faction). The Madhya Pradesh Rules were similar.
Sonia Gandhi has rightly sought the President's intervention. However, it would be perfectly open to the Opposition parties in Madhya Pradesh or, for that matter, any citizen to ask the Supreme Court to quash the Madhya Pradesh government's order and have the mischief ended once and for all.