His testing-time began within a few years after he assumed the charge of Sarsanghachalak, when serious issues cropped up one after the other. Throughout the country, there were violent attacks on the Hindus by Muslims. Directly or indirectly, the Muslims had the backing of the British government. Although the British forces were losing all the fronts in the World War II, unfortunately, there was no country-wide powerful organization to reap the benefit from it. On 9th August 1942, the Congress, without having this required strength announced the Quit Bharat Movement. The movement started with a big bang in the country. But the disorganized and disoriented followers and people took to destructive activities. The British government cracked down very heavily on the movement and within a couple of months, the movement fizzled out. All the leaders of the Congress were imprisoned and there was no hope of their release. There was despair and disorientation all across the country. The Muslim League tried to en-cash this opportunity and sharpened its attacks on the Hindus.
The onset of Quit Bharat Movement posed a question to the Sangh as to whether or not it should participate in it. Taking into consideration all the dimensions of the matter, Shri Guruji concluded that instead of involving the entire Sangh, it would be better to encourage the Swayamsevaks on an individual basis.
His decision was in accordance with the policy of Doctorji, and the Sangh focussed its attention towards the expeditious building up a unified Hindu society at the earliest. With this background, Shri Guruji travelled all over the country and appealed to the Hindus to be prepared for self-defence. Even as the situation worsened, Shri Guruji gave an impassioned call to the Swayamsevaks, “it is our good fortune that we are born in this era of national crisis. It gives us an opportunity to show our true responsibilities, spirit of sacrifice and bravery many times more than in the times when the life of the nation is prosperous and happy.”
Mohammad Ali Jinnah, under the Muslim League’s plan of dividing the country, declared 16th August, 1946 as the day of Direct Action. This resulted in merciless massacre of the Hindus especially in Kolkata. But within a couple of days, the Hindus retaliated and gave befitting reply to Muslims. The Muslim aggression was punctured. Those days Shri Guruji constantly appealed to the Hindu people to stand up against the partition. But the Congress leadership had already lost the will to fight for an undivided Bharat. They had been mentally defeated. Pandit Nehru had also confessed to it very clearly. In those times, there was no source of protection for the Hindus except the Swayamsevaks.
1947: Leadership Par Excellence in That Terrible Crisis
Ultimately, the Congress leadership gave in to partition; and accordingly, the same was announced on 3rd July, 1947. All of a sudden, the scenario in the country changed drastically. The Swayamsevaks were instructed to oversee and ensure the safe retrieval of the Hindus from the areas which were to emerge as Pakistan. They were to stay steadfast and not to leave until the last Hindu was thus rescued. Those terrible days posed many a moving and blood-soaked incident for the Swayamsevaks. Their incomparable battle strategies, valour, courage and sacrifice are worth recording in the history of Bharat in golden letters.
The example set forth by Shri Guruji in those days was also extremely inspiring. In those times, he continued to tour those tense areas. In August 1947, when he entered Punjab, after his one week’s stay at Sindh, there was terror and tension in the air. In spite of this, he reached out to the people in different places and boosted the morale of the anxious Hindu brethren, even putting his own life at stake.
He visited all the districts from Amritsar to Ambala. During this period, he would travel on damaged railway tracks, on goods trains or sometimes in the train engine. There was a bridge at Chahedu on way, and it seemed impossible to proceed any further, as the railway-track was hanging down from the bridge and below the bridge, flood-waters were gushing in tremendous speed. The Swayamsevaks were clueless as to how to proceed further, but when Shri Guruji reached there he unhesitatingly briskly walked over the broken track and crossed the bridge in no time. The rest of the Swayamsevaks also gathered courage and followed him. People were wonder-struck to receive them at the other end (Ludhiana).
The Swayamsevaks also accomplished another tough task in that nerve-raking situation of partition. They had to arrange for the food and shelter for lakhs of brothers and sisters migrating from Pakistan. Unparalleled forbearance, sympathy and sensitivity were the high-points of the service rendered by the Sangh in those days. Shri Guruji did not accept the partition as the ultimate truth. He nursed the dream of restoration of the divided idol of the Motherland to a unified one. He fervently hoped that every patriot would always nurture the same dream.
An Appeal for Harmony
The popularity of the Sangh grew by leaps and bounds due to the addresses and visits of Shri Guruji throughout the country. But after a few months the Sangh was put to trial by fire once again. There was a lot of unrest and anger amongst the swayamsevaks and the masses with regard to those who agreed to the partition. Shri Guruji appealed to the masses saying, “People with difference of opinion are also part and parcel of our society. They, surely, have done some good deeds and have sacrificed for the cause of the society and the nation. Hence, we should be compassionate and affectionate so as to consider them as our own brethren.” The entire organization and the Swayamsevaks drank the nectar of his appeal of brotherhood and tried to follow his example. On 14th of January 1948, in Mumbai, he gave the same message of harmony to a congregation of lakhs of people. However, the leaders of the Congress began fearing the ever-growing popularity of the Sangh. They apprehended that later on the Sangh would be a potent rival in the political arena. They started oppressing the Sangh on every front. The government banned the camp of one lakh Swayamsevaks in Maharashtra. They had already, in a secret meeting of the Central Committee in October 1947, taken the decision to impose a ban on Sangh on some pretext.
The Assassination of Gandhi: A Pretext for Ban
30th January, 1948 proved to be a black day for Bharat. At five in the evening, revered Gandhiji was assassinated. Immediately, Shri Guruji cancelled all his tour engagements and rushed to Nagpur and sent wires to Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Patel. In his message of condolence he expressed his reverence to Mahatma Gandhi’s unique personality stating that Gandhiji was - “a deft helmsman, who held together people of different natures in a single strong movement, bringing them to the right path....” He also condemned his assassination in no uncertain terms. On the night of 1st of February 1948, Shri Guruji was arrested and put in Shivani jail near Nagpur and on the 4th of February a ban was imposed on the Sangh. Shri Guruji immediately dissolved the Sangh and wrote letters to Pt. Nehru and Sardar Patel demanding that the ban on the Sangh be lifted.
The government order accused the Sangh of a number of serious crimes, apart from the assassination of Gandhiji. Thousands of Swayamsevaks were jailed throughout the country and their houses and the offices of the Sangh were looted and ransacked by the Congressmen, the Socialists and the Communists. The government machinery incessantly spewed venom against the Sangh. As Godse, the assassin of Gandhiji was a Brahmin, the Brahmins of Maharashtra and neighboring areas were targeted and arson and looting followed. In northern Karnataka, in a village named Terdaal nine people were burnt alive in one such incident. A violent mob also attacked the house of Shri Guruji. Although, the Swayamsevaks could very well have taught a lesson or two to the mob, but in order to maintain harmony throughout the country in such testing times, the Sangh appealed to all the Swayamsevaks to “be calm, at all costs.” Shri Guruji also issued a detailed statement, directing how things were to be taken in a composed, rational and sublime spirit. He also asked the alert and armed (with lathis) Swayamsevaks outside his office, who had come to disperse the attacking mob, to go back peacefully and retired for his evening prayers. He told the Swayamsevaks nearby, “the service of the society has been my life-motto and I would never allow myself to be the cause of shedding of a single drop of its blood."
Successful in Testing Times
From his prison cell, Shri Guruji repeated his demand to Pt. Nehru and Sardar Patel for lifting the ban on the Sangh. But these leaders were unmoved and every time they indulged in new allegations in response. Meanwhile, Shri Guruji was set free and he went to Delhi for negotiations but he was again imprisoned and sent to the Betul jail in the Central Provinces. His health deteriorated here because of bad food and hostile living conditions. During his stay in Delhi, Shri Guruji had sent a detailed statement to the press. In the statement, he gave a befitting reply to the accusations made by the government. He reiterated his demand for truth and justice and challenged the government to ‘either prove the charges or lift the ban.’ The whole country was resonant with these words.
Satyagraha: A New Record
The government paid little heed to the loving and respectful pleas and remained deaf and blind. Shri. Guruji therefore gave a call to the Swayamsevaks to restart the Shakha with a view to establishing truth and justice in the national life. In his spirited appeal, he said, “This is a battle between the right and the wrong, justice and injustice, generosity and meanness and love and crookedness. Our victory is definite as God is always with the righteous and the victory is on His side. So arise and trumpet the victory call for the Motherland, from the bottom of your hearts to the frontiers of the skies and accomplish your task. Bharat Mata ki jai.”
This movement named Satyagraha began on December 9, 1948. In the beginning the leaders made fun of this as a child's play. On the contrary, no movement initiated by the Congress had ever such a huge number of participants. 77,090 Swayamsevaks offered Satyagraha and were jailed in different prisons. Also, the people witnessed an unprecedented example of non-violence of the Swayamsevaks, as they remained incomparably calm in the face of barbaric atrocities by the police.
An Example Second to None
Some impartial and prominent persons who were watching all these happenings, approached Shri Guruji, and requested him to stop the movement so that the atmosphere becomes congenial for negotiations with the government. Shri Guruji consented and instructed the Swayamsevaks accordingly. Mr. T.R. Venkatram Shastri from Chennai, a famous legal expert of liberal outlook was amongst the mediators. When he felt that all the efforts of mediation were failing, he sent a detailed statement to the newspapers, which ended thus, “The ban is neither just nor wise or expedient” and hoped that the ban would be lifted.
Ultimately, the government realized that now it was no longer possible to hype the validity of an otherwise illegal ban and on the pretext of the presentation of a written constitution by the Sangh, it lifted the ban on 12th of July 1949. It may be noted here that this pretext was not in the least connected, with regard to all the heinous accusations including the Gandhi assassination, which were stated to be the reasons for the imposition of the ban. All the Swayamsevaks along with Shri Guruji were released. Sardar Patel wrote to Shri Guruji on this occasion, “Only the people near me know as to how happy I was when the ban on Sangh was lifted. I wish you all the best.”
This would be an example - second to none, in the world, wherein on the one side, there was a powerful government, which had leaders riding the wave of popularity as the champions of the freedom movement; who had military and police forces; and who were hell bent on oppressing an ordinary looking person with all the backing of the media; and on the other side - the ordinary looking person; with no other means or resources except the dedication and devotion of a few thousand youngsters; who had firm belief in the victory of Truth and Justice, and his assigned task; who has unshakeable faith in the words of wise men - “Where there is righteousness, there is victory.”
And this ordinary looking man emerging victorious in such a conflict between the two is truly a unique episode!
On going through the entire episode, the readers might naturally want to know whether the leaders of the government really took the Sangh as the culprit. The words of then Home Minister Sardar Patel shed enough light, removing any shred of doubt on the subject. Within one month of the assassination of Gandhiji, on 27th February 1948, he wrote a letter to the Prime Minister Pandit Nehru stating, “I have personally looked into the assassination case and have complete information about it. All the culprits involved have been nabbed. None of them is associated with the Sangh.”
Uncommon Mental Fortitude
The Sangh came unscathed out of the trial by fire. The suppressed feelings of the reverence towards the Sangh could no longer be contained by the masses. The BBC while reporting about the huge welcome function arranged at Delhi for Shri Guruji, said, “Shri Guruji is a shining star on the Indian horizon. Pt. Nehru is the only other person in India who attracts such a huge crowd.” Shri Guruji traveled across Bharat from August 1949 to January, 1950. Before 20th of August, he got the information that Sardar Patel was unwell. He went to Mumbai to pay him a visit. In this meeting, Sardar Patel emphasized on the need for assimilating power of the Hindu society to counter the advent of activities of the Christian missionaries. About the problems and events of post-Pakistan era, he commented, “we have to forget about the past and take care of the future.”
Enthusiastic welcome - functions were being organized throughout the country for Shri Guruji; but his journey to Kolhapur-Sangli witnessed an altogether different scene. Hundreds of anti-Sangh rioters were hiding on both sides of the road. They intended to stop his car, attack and assault him as he passed through the place. But Shri Guruji’s car flashed past and the rogues panicked and scattered away. His car moved off safely. Even in such a tense atmosphere, Shri Guruji was the very picture of quietude.
Test by the ‘Lord-Society’
Shri Guruji mentioned the aforesaid event in an article thus, “God puts to test the faith of the devotee in joy as well as difficulty. Similarly, the Hindu society has put to us, its devotees, to test. Just as God is pleased when the devotee clears the test successfully, likewise, the society is about to bless us.” And it happened just like that, that a few years later, as Shri Guruji went to the same region of Sangli-Kolhapur, people who had once pelted stones on him, welcomed him with bouquets. But even at all such moments, his guidance to the Swayamsevaks and the masses was unparalleled in the annals of world history. During that transitional period of the newly-achieved freedom, he appealed for conciliation and harmony in the national life. At many places, he said. “The bitter memories should be erased from the mind; we do not pull out a tooth if it bites the tongue while eating.”
In conclusion, we witness that he demonstrated a rock like balance of mind in the most trying circumstances. And when it was victory and jubilation all around he remained equally unmoved. On both the occasions, it was the interest of the nation that occupied his attention. In these two mutually opposite trying moments Shri Guruji presented a unique example of a national leader, for whom the interest of the nation was supreme.
In Saving Kashmir
As a national leader Shri Guruji was very alert on matters concerning the security and the interest of the nation. In 1947, in the third week of October, Pakistan army intruded into Kashmir and began advancing. Its aim was annexation of Kashmir into Pakistan and it had the open support of the British officials, serving in high ranks of the Indian army. The people of Kashmir were terribly tortured. The Pakistani forces started capturing territories in Kashmir. Unfortunately, in those times of impending crisis, the king of Kashmir was in a dilemma. He was swayed by doubts and mistrust and was unable to decide on merging Kashmir with the Indian Union. Sardar Patel felt that the King had to be convinced to merge Kashmir with Bharat. And he thought that Shri Guruji was the right person to persuade the king. So, Shri Guruji deputed to Kashmir.
The King of Kashmir, Hari Singh and his Queen Tara welcomed Shri Guruji with a Kashmiri shawl. On 18th of October, 1947, Shri Guruji talked to him and finally succeeded in clearing the doubts of the Maharaja and convinced him to merge with Bharat. It was then that our army was sent to Kashmir. The Indian Army began pulverizing the Pakistani forces and began marching ahead setting the captured part of Kashmir free. But even before the forces were yet to liberate the entire land of Kashmir, Pt. Nehru announced a ceasefire and allowed a strategic part of Kashmir to remain occupied by Pakistan. Later, when the government of Bharat took the matter to the United Nations, Shri Guruji predicted, “This is a suicidal decision. Justice would never be dispensed to us, instead, they would be against India.” And that is exactly what happened. That land is still in the control of Pakistan, and from there, Pakistan is constantly waging a proxy war through its terrorists.
In 1949-50, lakhs of Hindus were uprooted from eastern Pakistan and they sought refuge in Bharat. Shri Guruji immediately constituted a relief committee - Vastuhara Sahayata Samiti - and appealed to all the countrymen for help and succour. Likewise, Shri Guruji through a detailed statement addressed the nation, when a terrible earthquake hit Assam.