People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 15

April 11, 2004

                  Thinking Together


The RSS claims full credit for the restoration of democracy in 1977 and claims that the Communists supported the throttling of democracy through the internal emergency imposed by Indira Gandhi in 1975.  Is there any truth in this allegation? 


R S Krishna, Mumbai


ONLY the politically naïve or illiterate would cast such an aspersion against the CPI(M).  Thousands of its workers all over the country were arrested, many of them spending the full period of emergency under the draconian  Maintenance of Internal Security Act (MISA).  The underground resistance organised by the CPI(M) and mass organisations played a major role in  building the people's movement for the restoration of democracy. Even the most prejudiced and politically motivated adversary of the CPI(M) cannot deny this. The glorious role of people's movements against the Emergency are chronicled by various authors and these records show the pivotal role of the CPI(M) in these struggles.  It is one the basis of these struggles that the CPI(M) was able to earn the respect of the electorate which voted it to office in West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura in 1977, when the Emergency was lifted.


On the contrary, what has been the role of the RSS and the Saffron Brigade during the emergency?


They spared no efforts to arrive at a reconciliation with Mrs. Gandhi. The RSS chief, Deoras, had written to Mrs. Gandhi twice from jail requesting that the ban on the RSS be lifted. At a time when the entire country was up against Mrs. Gandhi for imposing the Emergency because of the Allahabad High Court setting aside her election, Balasaheb Deoras in a letter from the Yerwada central jail dated 10.11.1975 said, "Let me congratulate you as five judges of the Supreme Court have declared the validity of your election".  This was at a time when the entire country was protesting against the manner in which Indira Gandhi manipulated the law and amended the Constitution to legitimise her election. In another letter from jail to Acharya Vinoba Bhave, Balasaheb Deoras writes, "…this is my prayer to you that you kindly try to remove the wrong notion of the Prime Minister about the Sangh, and as a result of which the RSS volunteers will be set free, the ban on the Sangh will be lifted and such condition will prevail as to enable the volunteers of the Sangh to participate in the planned programme of action relating to country's progress and prosperity under the leadership of the Prime Minister."  This was an obvious reference to the notorious 20-point programme of Mrs. Gandhi during the Emergency.  While the democratic masses of India were decrying this, the RSS was willing to accept Mrs. Gandhi's leadership!


The late Madhu Limaye wrote in Secular Democracy, "The RSS people claimed that they spearheaded the anti-emergency struggle. Nothing can be farther from the truth.  The ban on the RSS frightened them. The morale of their detenues collapsed within a few days after the declaration of emergency. A vast majority of these detenues abjectly apologised to the authorities. Many deserted the RSS and Jan Sangh in order to escape arrest."


Such is the record of the RSS's genuflection towards authoritarianism and  Indira Gandhi's emergency.