Guruji’s Lie

The RSS and MS Golwalkar’s undeniable links to Nazism

Illustration by Sukruti Anah Staneley
Illustration by Sukruti Anah Staneley
31 July, 2021

IT HAS REMAINED a long-standing puzzle whether the controversial book We or Our Nationhood Defined was authored by MS Golwalkar or was just his translation of a Marathi book written by Ganesh Damodar Savarkar, the elder brother of the famous Hindutva ideologue Vinayak Damodar Savarkar. This is no ordinary authorship dispute. Golwalkar, the second sarsanghchalak—chief—of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, who held the post between 1940 and 1973, remains one of the most influential figures in the Sangh’s history. We, published in 1939 under his name, played a key part in making him a prominent figure within the RSS and was considered the first systematic explication of the Sangh’s ideology. Taking inspiration from Adolf Hitler, it asserted that India belongs to Hindus and that the country’s minorities should be treated along the lines of the Nazis’ treatment of the Jews. The book inextricably tied the RSS to the fascist ideology of Nazi Germany.

On 15 May 1963, while addressing a crowd during a celebration of VD Savarkar’s eightieth birth anniversary—which the ideologue’s followers in Mumbai commemorated with a “militarisation week”—Golwalkar claimed that the book was in fact an abridged translation of Ganesh Savarkar’s Rashtramimansa va Hindustanchen Rashtraswarup. Ganesh Savarkar, also known as Babarao Savarkar, was one of the five founding members of the RSS. Rashtramimansa, whose title translates to “Theory of Nations and the Transformation of Hindustan,” was published under the pseudonym “Durgatanay” in 1934, five years before the publication of We.

Golwalkar’s disclosure was not considered newsworthy at the time, and this part of his speech did not appear in any newspaper, according to DR Goyal’s history of the Sangh. But after the Bharatiya Janata Party, the RSS’s political outfit, came to national power in the late 1990s, it was dusted off and held up as a shield against uncomfortable questions that began to be raised about the Sangh’s affinity with Nazism. Ever since, the BJP, the RSS and their supporters have tried to use the claim to distance themselves, and Golwalkar, from the ideology.

Golwalkar’s claim has never met any serious scrutiny. The primary reason is that Babarao’s Marathi book went out of circulation soon after its publication, was never reprinted and has long been forgotten. Babarao himself died in 1945, almost two decades before Golwalkar’s claim. As a result, no contemporary researcher or critic has attempted comparing the two texts.