If the tall and strapping Hedgewar was energy and passion, his chosen successor was a diminutive man of learning and scholarship. But for his long flowing hair, he would barely be noticed till he spoke and then all eyes would be on him. In fact, the two complemented each other’s strengths almost perfectly. While Hedgewar was an entrepreneur who could build from scratch, Golwalkar fancied himself as a social scientist.was a visionary.
Golwalkar was the ninth born to Lakshmibai and Sadashivrao in Nagpur in 1906. All his siblings died young and he was left to grow up alone. He did his schooling from Nagpur and graduation and post-graduation from BHU and after an aborted attempt to pursue a course in Marine Biology in Madras, he started teaching at BHU in 1931. His initial contact with the RSS happened around this time.
He eventually settled for a degree in Law from Nagpur and then proceeded to Bengal to serve his guru Swami Akhandanand where he wrote the book ‘We or Our Nationhood Defined’ which for long served as the RSS bible but has recently been disowned by them out of embarrassment and shame.
Hedgewar had been impressed by the quiet confidence of this young man who shunned the limelight and in all likelihood, had always wanted him to join the RSS as a full-time worker. And that finally happened in 1939; he would take over the organisation the very next year after the death of its founder.
Unlike Hedgewar, Golwalkar did not see the role of the RSS being only to transform the Hindu into a fighting force but as an instrument to script a new India more socially than politically. Presence or absence of the British made little difference to him. The RSS under him took no part in the Quit India movement of 1942 as his priorities lay elsewhere.
He came into his own in 1949 once he was released from incarceration in the wake of Gandhiji’s assassination and unleashed his plan of growth for the RSS. The Bharatiya Jana Sangh was formed In 1951, the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh in 1955, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad in 1964 and the ABVP in 1972. With these four entities the RSS had spread its wings into every possible domain of public affairs.
While his expansion of the RSS footprint was laudable, Golwalkar will be remembered for the vision he created for the Sangh before and after independence. The decades of the twenties and thirties which were growing-up years for Golwalkar were a period of intense religious turmoil. He was fourteen when the Mopallah riots happened and after that for almost two decades there was sustained communal conflict in cities, towns and villages across the country. Riots would be sparked off by religious processions, cow protection, minor altercations and sometimes for no reason at all. This was not a good period to be young and impressionable. Bigotry was an easy option.
This was also the period when Hitler was creating an alternative narrative which must have appeared tempting to people struggling with religious conflict day after day. Like Bose and his own predecessor, Golwalkar was an unabashed admirer of Hitler’s brand of nationalism that would subsume differences. In fact his book We.., was to quote the German example "To keep up with the purity of the race, 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 use in Hindusthan to learn and profit by.”
In other words if India is to progress differences cannot be tolerated. But Hitler was cleverer. While he spoke of a purer race, he wisely stopped short of adopting its philosophic baggage. Golwalkar on the other hand, felt obliged to draw his authority from the Vedas written a few thousand years ago. This and the self-imposed need to always be anti-Nehru pushed him into such an corner that his intellectual prescriptions for India started looking more and more like a mish-mash of ram-rajya, Gandhiji, the local khap leader, pujari from the mandir and a class 8 student of a less than the best school.
To begin with, he genuinely believed that Hinduism is superior to other religions. "It is the Hindu alone in this vast mass of humanity who holds aloft this torch of hope and confidence...it is the grand world-unifying thought of Hindus alone that can supply the abiding basis for human brotherhood.” It is one thing to preach this kind of stuff to the converted in a temple and quite another to make it the heart of your narrative in a country with considerable religious diversity.
To make this arrogance appear even worse, he declared that Christianity and Islam were "India’s biggest internal threats”. Adherents of these two ‘foreign’ religions "must either adopt the Hindu culture and language, must learn to respect and hold in reverence Hindu religion, must entertain no idea but those of the glorification of the Hindu race and culture and must lose their separate existence to merge in the Hindu race, or may stay in the country, wholly subordinated to the Hindu Nation, claiming nothing, deserving no privileges, far less any preferential treatment-not even citizen's rights.’ In other words, either willingly be a Hindu or be forced to be one.
Tough to believe any person claiming sanity would do so but after the 1965 war he regretted that China and Pakistan had not invaded us together thereby giving us an opportunity to defeat them together and let the world see the supreme heights of Bhartiya heroism as it is ‘no fun fighting a petty power like Pakistan’.
If his views on religion were regressive and guaranteed to spread hatred, his lifestyle prescriptions were worse. In fact it appears the Taliban and the Khaps had actually borrowed his words. He hated ‘permissiveness’ and found films and fashionable clothes unacceptable in a country that boasted of Sita and Vivekananda. Songs and dances were nothing but moral depravity. He believed that only decadent western men and women show their love through kisses and embraces. The true Hindu wife does not do so as Indian culture has taught her restraint. He felt that sooner or later America would self-implode as American men wore fashionable garments, kept combs in their pockets and so were effeminate. He wanted Sanskrit not English to be the national language. He believed that plastic surgery was invented by ancient Hindus.
He refused to accept that the caste system had ever hindered our social development. On the contrary he thought it had helped to preserve our unity quoting the example of the Mohammedans managing to win over the Gandhara area in the North West because Buddhism had shattered the pattern of caste system in that region.
He disagreed with both the flag and the constitution adopted by India. He felt the tricolor was inspired by flags of other countries and three colors suggested a compromise with purity of Indian heritage better expressed in saffron. He disagreed also with the Constitution as it was also inspired by several other countries and did not reflect the Indian ethos.
If his social perspectives were embarrassing for their antiquity, his views on the economy suggested comedy. Economics was obviously not an area of strength for him and it showed. To begin with he felt that raising the standard of living was by itself a wrong dream as it would lead to accumulation wealth and pursuit of pleasure. He envisioned a kind of ram rajya meets austerity meets socialism, even though the last of the three was a concept he publicly hated. In his system, basic needs would miraculously be met, everyone would earn just enough for their needs, there would be no profiteering as no true Hindu had the right to exploit another person’s labour for personal profit. Everyone would have the right to own property but there would be a ceiling on individual income. Vulgar and ostentatious expenditure would be curbed and above all, there would be no concept at all of consumerism as that is not compatible with Hindu culture.
But sweetly, very sweetly, all this would happen only if "people are imbued with the right philosophy of life and are able to check their self-centred propensities...”. Ideal prescriptions coming from someone who knew he had not the faintest of a chance to ever be in a position to implement what he gratuitously preached.
As it happens, over four decades after his second book we know that almost everything he preached was has proved inappropriate. Or simply wrong. America certainly hasn’t imploded. And despite having taken a secular path against his poison, India prospers.