Mohan Bhagwat defies restraint, hoists flag in Kerala school: Why RSS did not fly Tricolour for 52 years

Editor's note: This article was originally published on 22 February, 2016. It is being republished as RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat defied orders of the Palakkad district administration and hoisted the flag at a government school. The Palakkad district collector had objected to it saying it was inappropriate for a political leader to hoist the National Flag in an aided school and only a teacher or elected representative of the people was allowed to do so.

Those who do not want to respect the jhanda should get the danda, warned the twitterati on Thursday after imagining resistance to the BJP government's decision to fly the Tiranga at all central universities.

On Arnab Goswami's show, as the nation cheered the HRD ministry's decision taken on Thursday, General GD Bakshi was moved to tears. Moved by the spirit of the occasion, firebrand BJP leader Nupur Sharma immediately tweeted out character certificates, "Veteran (General GD Bakshi) made to cry on TV (Times Now) defending the Tricolour! Horrible scenes! The Cong+Commie+Left opportunists should be ashamed."

Here is a true story about the jhanda and the danda.

On 26 January, 2001, three activists of an organisation called Rashtrapremi Yuva Dal entered the premises of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) at Nagpur to pay homage to its founder Dr Keshav Hedgewar.

After a few minutes, the three activists — Baba Mendhe, Ramesh Kalambe and Dilip Chattani--started chanting patriotic slogans and took out the Tiranga. Guess what happened next?

First, the in charge of the RSS premises Sunil Kathle tried to prevent the activists from hoisting the national flag. But, when they succeeded in unfurling the Tiranga, the RSS took them to court for it.

For 12 long years, the three Rashtrapremis (those who love their country) were tried by a Nagpur court for hoisting the national flag in the Sangh premises under relevant sections of the Bombay Police Act and the IPC. They were set free just in time for Independence day in 2013 by the court of RR Lohia for lack of evidence.

In short, the Rashtrapremis got the danda for hoisting the jhanda.

 Mohan Bhagwat defies restraint, hoists flag in Kerala school: Why RSS did not fly Tricolour for 52 years

A file image of RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat. Reuters

RSS and the National Flag

The RSS and the Tricolour have had a fascinating history of resistance, rejection and acceptance. It may come as a rude surprise to neo recruits like Sharma that the RSS — not the Congis+Commies+Left-- did not hoist the National Flag at its headquarters for 52 years.

The National Flag was first hoisted at the Sangh headquarters on August 15, 1947 and then on January 26, 1950. The Tiranga was seen flying next time at the RSS premises in 2002, when it was hoisted at the HQ and Smruti Bhawan, the building that houses the memorials of its founder Hedgewar and Guru Golwalkar.

According to The Times of India, Chotu Bhaiyya Dhakras, nagar sangh chalak of Mohite Vibhagh and Shriramji Joshi of Dr Hedgewar Smarak Samiti hoisted the flags respectively at the HQ and Smruti Bhawan, according to RSS office. The National Flag was hoisted on previous occasions on 15 August, 1947 and on 26 January, 1950 and stopped since then, RSS sources said.

So, why was the Sangh averse to hoisting the Tiranga at its headquarters and shakhas? In 2002, when the Sangh decided to hoist the National Flag at its headquarters, its national executive member K Suryanarayana Rao told reporters in Bangalore the RSS did not biannually hoist the flag because till a few days ago, there were stringent rules restricting the hoisting of the flag only on government buildings. "Now that the rules have been relaxed, we will also hoist the flag," he said. Rao said the RSS had also been reluctant to hoist the flag at their shakas because the swayamsevaks wanted to participate in the general Republic Day and Independence Day functions with the mainstream. "If we hold the function at the shakas, naturally all of them have to be present there and will miss out the functions at schools and offices,'' he pointed out, according to The Times of India.

Sardar Patel, Sangh and Tiranga

In 1948, the RSS was banned by the government for its alleged role in the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi. When its leaders approached the then home minister Sardar Patel for revoking the ban, he put forward several conditions. One of them: the RSS accept the Tricolor as the National Flag.

His stand is outlined in the Collected Works of Sardar Patel (Volume XIII), edited by PN Chopra and Prabha Chopra.

According to this collection, Patel said at a Congress meet on 17 December, 1949, in Jaipur that any organisation seeking to supplant the National Flag by another would be sternly dealt with.

"Sardar Patel, who vehemently condemned the activities of the RSS, was loudly cheered at the conclusion of his speech," says a newspaper report of the event, reproduced in this collection.

Patel told Congressmen he had made his view very clear to M S Golwalkar, the leader of the banned RSS, when the latter met him, "… The National Flag must be universally accepted, and if anyone thought of having an alternative to the National Flag, there must be a fight. But that fight must be open and constitutional."

Home Secretary H V R Iyengar had written to Golwalkar in May 1949, stating, "An explicit acceptance of the National Flag (with the Bhagwa Dhwaj as the organisational flag of the Sangh) would be necessary for satisfying the country that there are no reservations in regard to allegiance to the State".

The RSS has disputed this. It claims that there was never any conflict between the bhagwa dhwaj, which it considers the organisation's Guru, and the tricolour. On August 22, 2000, when Prakash Ambedkar, grandson of BR Ambedkar, argued in Parliament that the RSS had signed an agreement with the government in 1949 for hoisting the tricolour at its headquarter, its leaders challenged the Parliamentarian to produce the agreement.

According to the Organiser (3 September, 2000), MG Vaidya, member of the national executive of the RSS, "marshalled facts to nail the canards being spread to malign the Sangh on the question of the National Flag."

Vaidya pointed out that on August 16, 2000, Shri Prakash Ambedkar, MP, while speaking in the Lok Sabha had stated that according to the Home Ministry's resolution dated 26 November, 1949, "There was an agreement between the RSS and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel which clearly states that RSS will hoist the National Flag on 26 January, 1950 at its Nagpur headquarters."

Vaidya said: "We will like to ask Shri Ambedkar to produce a copy of that agreement. He should not abuse MP's privileges to malign the RSS."

According to historian Ramachandra Guha, during the thirties and forties, few, if any, RSS workers were seen saluting the National Flag. Their allegiances were sectarian rather than national-indeed, they chose to elevate their own bhagwa dhwaj above the tiranga jhanda. Shortly after Mahatma Gandhi's assassination, there were widespread reports of RSS activists trampling upon the tricolour. This greatly upset the Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru. In a speech on the 24th of February 1948, Nehru spoke sorrowfully of how 'at some places members of the RSS dishonoured the National Flag. They know well that by disgracing the flag they are proving themselves as traitors…'.

It is good to know that the BJP wants the tricolor to fly at every central university and the country is celebrating, as it should.

Let us hope the Sangh is equally gung-ho about the decision. And the wise men resting in Nagpur's Smruti Bhawan are happy that Smriti Irani has achieved what Patel couldn't.

Because, exactly a year ago, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat had this to say about the Tricolour. "BR Ambedkar was also (emphasis added) of the view that bhagwa (the saffron flag of the RSS) should be adopted as the National Flag and Sanskrit should become the national language. Unfortunately, we couldn't propagate his views," the RSS chief said at a meeting in Kanpur.

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Updated Date: Aug 15, 2017 14:11:39 IST