Madhukar Dathathreya Deoras aka Balasaheb Deoras is commonly known as the third Sarsanghchalak of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). But, that he was a social reformer par excellence is not much talked about by the self-styled elite. Deorasji took over as the Sarsanghchalak when Poojaneeya Guruji Golwalker passed away on June 5, 1973. The author still remembers the way the media of those days had compared Deorasji with his predecessor. They wrote Golwalker was a spiritual genius and his successor had neither any interest nor any sort of touch in spirituality hence RSS was heading towards an identity crisis!
But those who were swayamsevaks or close fellow travelers of Sangh mentioned something else. Reference is to those who did not see or meet Dr. Keshav Baliram Hedgewar, the revered founder of the organization. Guruji, the terrific personality of the pinnacle of spirituality, was the Sarsanghchalak they had seen. So their anxiety was quite natural: “Will the new Sarsanghchalak be a match for his predecessor “? Deorasji answered this question through his relentless, pro-active, exemplary, and sharp leadership until he relinquished the position, owing to ill health, when the Akhil Bharatiya Pratinidhi Sabha met him in March 1994. He took over the leadership in August on the occasion of the monthly shrardha of Poojaneeya Guruji in July 1973. During the customary speech, he gave a clear-cut hint of the modus operandi he was going to practice. He clarified that his focus would be on social service activities and reforms.
His organizational activities and leadership thereafter proved that he meant what he said. He made social fraternity and social reformation the inseparable organs of the organization. When this matter undergoes discussion, one has to study the chronological continuation of the office of the Sarsanghchalak. Poojaneeya Dr. Hedgewar was an unparalleled organizer. He studied the capacity of every swayamsevak in its entirety. Naturally, he learned the extraordinary intelligence and ideological might of Poojaneeya Guruji. Guruji studied Deorasji’s meritorious organizational skills and the tenacity to lead the organization under any sort of crisis. Deorasji’s leadership vindicated Guruji’s estimation.
Deorasji included social fraternity and social reformation in his activities using the powerful organization which was even ‘Gods’ envy’ as Guruji had rightly described. In another word, the stress Deorasji gave for the social fraternity and reformation was the practical continuation of the organizational expansion achieved by his predecessor. His historic statement “If untouchability is not wrong, nothing in this world is wrong” during the Vasanthamala Lecture Series, Poona, was the pragmatic statement of the lessons Sangh had been teaching its swayamsevaks until then.
Deorasji’s stand towards community ‘reservations,’ a matter paving the way for even street fights, was robust too. Akhil Bharathiya Pratinidhi Sabha of RSS was meeting in Nagpur in March 1981. Some delegates expressed their strong opinions against the indefinite conduct of the reservations. Sangh has a tradition of conducting the Akhil Bharathiya biattakks; It is always conducted by Sarkaryavah (general secretary). Deorasji did not deviate from that system started by Poojaneeya Guruji. Swarg. P. Madhavji (senior RSS Pracharak, Keralam) had once mentioned to this correspondent that Guruji and Deorasji used to sit like statues in such biattaks while they were in the august office of Sarsanghchalak. Former Akhil Bharathiya Boudhik Pramukh Ranga Hariji recently told this to the writer that Deorasji used to interfere in discussions only when he felt it was “absolutely necessary;” and it was confined to a couple of sentences. The aforementioned belonged to the class on such rare occasions. He said: “If you belonged to the communities entitled of such reservations, you would not have said like this”. The delegates got wind of his thoughts. The chapter was obviously closed.
He had no confusion concerning the necessity to keep the community reservations intact; because despite having some social progress among dalits in the country, he was very much aware of untouchability prevailing in several places. This single incident is ample proof of his caliber befitting the office of RSS Sarsanghchalak. Once Sarsanghchalak was touring Kerala. A tall leader of BJP took his newly wedded son and his bride to Deorasji. Idea was to seek his blessings for the couple. The girl belonged to a caste said to be inferior to that of the leader. The leader had proudly told Deorasji about it. He expressed his extreme joy to hear it.
Deorasji ardently believed that inter-caste marriages could play a significant role to eradicate casteism. A senior swayamsevak in Kerala found out a suitable match for his daughter. He did not bother about the caste of the groom (even though it was a so-called inferior one compared to his caste). His only concern was the ‘merit.’ It was a purely arranged marriage; the bride and groom had no contact at all. It was very much beyond one’s imagination two-and-a-half decades ago! These days lot of such weddings take place in Sangh families in Kerala. A similar incident took place in Kerala in the recent past. Groom is the son of a senior Sangh functionary. Groom found out a suitable bride who was again belonging to a so-called inferior caste. There was not even an iota of resistance or opposition from the part of the Sangh worker and his family members and relatives. Bride’s caste was not even an issue for anybody; a replay of the wedding of the above BJP leader’s son. Several senior leaders of Sangh and Sangh-oriented organizations and hundreds of workers and prominent citizens took part in the functions and blessed the couple. These parents proved they are the real disciples of their late leader, revered Deorasji.
When Balasaheb Deorasji took over as Sarsanghchalak in 1973, Vanvasi Kalyanashram was not a massive organization as it is now. It became a significant force during his regime. When the activities scaled to a satisfactory height, he believed it needed powerful leadership. He zeroed in on former Kerala Pranth Pracharak, (late) Bhaskar Rao Kalambi aka K. Bhaskar Rao, who had proved his mettle in Kerala as a real follower of Doctorji. The deployment of such a senior leader like Bhaskar Raoji underlines his deep interest in the welfare of the vanvasis and in the necessity of assimilating them into the mainstream of national life. His stress on the activities among the fishermen community under the banner of Matsya Pravarthaka Sangham in Kerala carried the same spirit. (Now, Matsya Pravarthaka Sangham is part of an Akhil Bharatiya organization). He had two targets to achieve by engineering the activities among the weaker sections of the society. First, their industry and culture needed protection. Second, they all should join the mainstream of national life. Every day we come across vote bank politics of keeping the weak always weak; they are always being kept under somebody’s diktats. But, what a noble thought Deorasji had, and developed into action!
Deorasji realized the urgency of spreading Sangh in North-Eastern states, the citadel of fissiparous tendencies and activities where gunshots were the daily cup of tea. A lot of pracharaks were gone to Nagaland, Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Tripura, Assam, and Meghalaya. They worked in those hilly, tribal areas weathering the adverse climatic conditions and armed rebels. Several of them turned martyrs. Some went missing and has no clue even after decades. But Sangh’s activities went ahead. Sangh made satisfactory headways in bringing the people into the mainstream of national life. Vanvasi Kalyanashram, VHP, ABVP, and BJP made tremendous progress in their activities and achievements. One has to note the political development that took place in Assam recently. A good number of such pracharaks are from Kerala; the RSS workers of Kerala take pride in it. Kerala’s Asokan is the Manipur Pranth Pracharak of RSS; he was deployed to North-East over three decades before.
Deorasji always stuck to the style of social fraternity when he was deeply involved in the tough job of organizing the vast Hindu society. His dream was the harmonious life of all sections of the society together. The power politics method of “RSS at the top and others under its iron umbrella” was alien to him.
He envisaged the same fraternity mantra in the political field too; his ultimate aim was the param vaibahvam (the pinnacle of glory) of his motherland. He looks forward to the expansion, development, and achievements of Bharatiya Jana Sangh, Janata Party, and Bharatiya Janata Party, the political parties which used to swim together with Sangh, co-operate with Sangh, and still swimming together with Sangh, respectively. He did not hesitate to advise them whenever it was necessary. But he did not have the complex of highhandedness for keeping them always under the RSS clutches, nor he tried to be their spokesperson. The policies of the political party led by Sangh swayamsevaks did not prevent him from airing his views of national or social significance. When the Janata Party Government, which came to power after the dark months of Emergency, mooted the idea of forming a minority commission, Deorasji’s reaction was of utmost caution and farsightedness.
“What Bharath wants is a human rights commission,” was his prudent reaction. They were the words of a leader who stood for social harmony and social fraternity. It had two dimensions: First, when a section or few sections are declared as minorities, naturally they will psychologically deviate from the mainstream. Second, those were the days (1977) when the reminiscences of fascist autocracy, brutality, oppression, nepotism, inhuman police torture, human rights violation, suspension of fundamental rights, uncivilized press censorship, etc. were still in the country’s atmosphere; it was hardly few months since the lifting of Emergency; naturally first priority ringing the bell to a sensible leader would be human rights. Obviously, the common solution to the problems the society face will give impetus to social harmony. It is not the Constitution or statutory institutions that protect the minorities in Bharath, but the “sarva dharma sama bhavana” of the Hindu society.
Deorasji’s concern was in uniting the people politically. But appeasement was never his means to achieve this noble cause. He never called a spade a rose. He was the supreme leader of the organization which suffered much oppression and human rights violations during the Emergency. He was behind the wars during the whole Emergency days, from June 30, 1975, to March 22, 1977.
But, he did not lose his balance when mammoth rallies of thousands of people received him throughout the country when he was released from the jail after Emergency and the unjust ban on RSS was lifted. His advice to the people of Bharath and to the workers of Sangh and Sangh-oriented organizations, in particular, was to “Forget and Forgive” (the people who spearheaded anti-democratic measures during the Emergency). Some could not believe it. He ‘disappointed’ the people who expected the RSS chief shouting for revenge on Smt. Gandhi and Sanjay Gandhi, who unleashed much oppression against thousands of RSS workers causing the deaths of several people and physically invalid life to thousands of people. But the swayamsevaks who knew him and carried the noble Sangh ideologies in their inner hearts were not at all surprised. The then Home Minister Charan Singh told Deorasji that he would never forgive Indira. But, what Deorasji replied to them sans any blink of his eyelid was something a genuine social worker has to bear in his mind throughout his life: “See we are social workers. You are a ruling minister. We are bound to cultivate the noble quality of patience in the minds of the people.” All social workers have to keep this in mind. It was not a scream of a diffident person. On the other hand, it was the assertion of a champion.
The “right people” grasped those words in the right spirit; “some others” did not! And we saw its result. Some in the Janata Party and its government, blind with the spirit of revenge, sans even going through the ‘rule books’ or not even having a glimpse of the Shah Commission reports, arrested Indira Gandhi and his son Sanjay. Indira, the shrewd politician, exploited the consequent sympathy efficiently. She turned stronger and engineered a split in the ruling Janata party. The government fell. Indira came back to power in January 1980 as a more powerful leader. Of course, Deorasji knew the strength and weakness of the Janata apparatus very well hence his warning well in advance!
Deorasji’s path was that of fraternity and consensus, without confrontation. He wanted the organization he led to move in the same direction. Khalistan or Independent Punjab Movement and related terrorism and terrorist activities of the 1980s are still fresh in our memory. It enjoyed the support of Pakistan. The idea was to convert it into a Hindu-Sikh riot and separate Punjab from Bharath. Pakistan and the Khalistan terrorists knew that their aim will be achieved only by provoking RSS and bring it into the path of violence and confrontation. Deorasji, the master of quick analysis of any sort of complex and complicated quandaries, realized the conspiracy behind it. As a part of the conspiracy, the terrorists attacked a Sangh sakha in Moga, Punjab, on June 25, 1989 and killed 27 swayamsevaks, including small boys, in the Sanghastan. The incident hurt the sentiments of swayamsevaks living all over the world. Former pracharak and father of the then Punjab Pranth Pracharak was one of the victims of the terrorists’ bullets.
But, all over the country, Sangh swayamsevaks followed self-restraint. The aim of Pakistan, Khalistan terrorists, and the global forces trying to destabilize Bharath was to invite a Hindu backlash; it was a prerequisite for them to go ahead with their sinister designs. But Deorasji’s sterling instruction to the swaymsevaks was not to go for tit for tat. A lot of swayamasevaks sacrificed their life in Punjab. But the dreams of the anti-national forces did not see any fruition. No Hindu-Sikh riot was reported. The conspirators failed miserably. Sikh terrorism turned a unilateral attack. Punjab is still an integral part of Bharath. But for RSS it would not have been possible. ‘Social fraternity at any cost and use it for the empowerment of the nation’ was the working style of Balasaheb Deorasji.
As a part of his excellent design, Deorasji sent Sangh pracharaks to Punjab from all over the country. They led the Sangh activities amidst the terror attacks and killings. Rashtriya Sikh Sangat was launched in 1986. It aimed at the fraternity between Hindus and Sikhs.
Those who drew inspiration from that organization later on formed Muslim Rashtriya Manch. This movement aims at bringing the Muslim brothers and sisters to the mainstream of national life while the vested interests are trying to separate them from the national stream; the culprits rake the issues of Ayodhya, Uniform Civil code, etc. to win their separatist games. This proves that even after twenty years after the sad demise of Deorasji, Sangh workers still cherish his dreams and work for them. That itself speaks out the ideological command he wielded in the hearts of Sangh workers.
And, it will be an injustice to Deorasji if a reference is not made to the historic struggle Sangh organized against the Emergency. After clamping Emergency on June 25 midnight, 1975, Deorasji was arrested on June 30 in Nagpur railway station. Sangh was banned on July 4. Deorasji was jailed in Yerwada Central Prison, Maharashtra. He was fully conscious about what was in store for his organization under emergency. So, he had written three different letters to the workers before his arrest. They told the workers what they were expected to do if Indira was going to take the autocratic path.
At least some senior swayamsevaks and functionaries were doubtful about the feasibility of peaceful reactions to the autocratic regime. By the end of July clever Sangh workers had devised ‘channels’ to communicate to the swayamsevaks and functionaries housed in the jails. It was done with the help of some swayamsevaks who were not in active work and through some officials who were dead against the fascist style of the establishment. The workers got a simple idea from Deorasji, through one of those channels, regarding the style of struggles they had to select.
That the people of Bharath will only accept absolute non-violent struggles was the idea he conveyed. Rest is history. Sangh organized non-violent satyagraha all over the country; lakhs of workers underwent, with no sort of violent retaliation, brutal police torture reminding the Nazi regime; several workers died: Deorasji’s prophetic farsightedness saved the country and the Sangh from large-scale holocaust and disasters. It is an interesting study matter for the students of history.
No room for doubt, political instability, and anarchy we witness in third-world countries like Pakistan is not happening in our great country, thanks to the dynamic leadership and farsighted leadership of Balasaheb Deoras.
Therefore, he was the befitting successor to Dr. Hedgewar and Guruji Golwalkar. The successful mission of Deorasji was the translation of the ideological thoughts of both Doctorji and Guruji into practice; in other words, an “applied RSS.”