RSS and Hindu Mahasabha were never nationalists

The Rashtriya Swayamesvak Sangh (RSS) and the Hindu Mahasabha (HMS) were never nationalists they are only communalists” said professor Irfan Habib in this interview to Teesta Setalvad of Communalism Combat. “Hence they have no heroes.

They (the RSS and the HMS) did not in any way participate in the national movement against the British. Hence they lay claim to three, Bhagat Singh, Subhash Chandra Bose and Sardar Patel. Bhagat Singh and Bose because of their differences with Gandhi and Patel because of some differences with Nehru.

During the national movement it was common to have differences in approach but be united in the struggle against colonial rule. This the RSS and HMS cannot understand.

In the 1990s (as the Hindu communalists grew in political power)  they attacked Gandhi saying that he was not a Rashtrapita (father of the nation) as the nation was as old as the Rig Veda.”

Ms Golwalkar, the RSS ideologue, delivered poisonous speeches in December 1947. One such, reported in the Hindustan Times was virulently against Gandhiji practically calling for his death.

Gandhiji’s clear views and ideas on tolerance, non-violence, goodwill towards all especially the poor (he was a man who drew out the poor into the struggle for freedom making it a mass movement) are anathema to the RSS and HMS who have always reviled him and what he stood for.

Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) was the centre for the Muslim League but there was a strong and significant presence of Congress nationalists and communists as well.

When Pakistan began offering posts, many left Aligarh but on August 15, 1947 the National Tricolour proudly flew everwhere on campus. We also welcomed the sharnathis (refugees) and one third of the university students’s hostel was host to them.

I was 16 years old when Independence happened. December 1947 was fraught. The hate filled speech of Golwalkar in Delhi, reported in the newspapers. Pandit Nehru sent the army, I think it was the Kumaon Regiment to protect AMU. AMU was well protected  from the kind of massacres unleasged in Pubjab and Haryana. Gandhiji stood between this disaster and us. Through his fast.

The interview is a joint production of Communalism Combat, Newsclick and Hilleletv, the interview took place at Aligarh on October 31, 2015