Government-owned broadcaster Lok Sabha TV on Wednesday aired a documentary on Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) founder KB Hedgewar, the content of which reflects the current government’s attempt to mainstream the RSS ideologue, who has often come under criticism for his dubious role in the freedom struggle.
While Hedgewar never let RSS participate in any anti-British agitation and in the Independence struggle, the documentary, based on a recent biographical account of Hedgewar by RSS thinker Narendra Sehgal, glorifies him as having contributed immensely to the freedom movement.
“Not once did the RSS give a call to its members to participate in any anti-British movement or agitation; not once did the RSS respond to the calls given by the Mahatma,” The Hindu had said in an opinion in 2000, citing various historians.
Sehgal’s book, Yugparvartak Swatantrata Sainani Dr Hedgewar Ka Antim Lakshya - Bharatvarsh ki Sarwang Swantantrata (The final goal of legendary freedom fighter Dr Hedgewar- India’s complete freedom), notes RSS’ founder Hedgewar’s apparent differences with Congress, Mahatma Gandhi and Muslims. The book also purports to show him to be a cultural nationalist, and claims this was the reason he didn’t find support in a secular Congress party, of which he was a member till early 1920s.
Sehgal says that the book is meant to “clear the air” around RSS’ role in India’s independence struggle.
The title says that the only reason the RSS’ role in freedom struggle is not documented is because the organisation didn’t claim credit for it. The foreword to the book, penned by RSS head Mohan Bhagwat, claims that some “vested interests” had been denying the Sangh the role in India’s independence struggle.
A Lok Sabha TV employee told National Herald that this wasn’t the first time that the government broadcaster was airing a documentary on KB Hedgewar. The employee noted that similar documentaries on Sangh’s so-called role in the freedom struggle had been broadcast on Doordarshan as well
In one of its other chapters, the book controversially claims that socialist revolutionary leader Rajguru, an associate of Bhagat Singh, was, in reality, an RSS worker who identified with the ideology of Hedgewar.
The claim has been squashed by historians as an attempt by the RSS to appropriate the socialist legacy of Rajguru.
Hedgewar is reviled by a large section of the public for promoting anti-Muslim sentiments in the country. According to an account, Hedgewar had opposed Gandhi’s proposal of allying with Muslim leaders in India. He is also quoted as having called Muslims as “yavana snakes.”
A Lok Sabha TV employee told National Herald that this wasn’t the first time that the government broadcaster was airing a documentary on KB Hedgewar. The employee noted that similar documentaries on Sangh’s so-called role in the freedom struggle had been broadcast on Doordarshan as well.
According to a version in India’s post-independent history, the push by the RSS to “popularise” Sangh’s so-called role in the freedom struggle was intensified after the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi in 1948. The assassin, Nathuram Godse, is said to have been inspired by RSS’ ideology. With the Bharatiya Janata Party in power at the Centre since 2014, critics say such apologist expressions towards Sangh have found their way on mainstream TV and other media.