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Gandhiji's visit to RSS camp



Here are some excerpts from the conversation betwen Gandhiji had with the
campers and Mr Appaji Joshi, the camp organiser who accompanied Gandhiji
during his camp-tour on Dec.25, 1934 in Wardha district.
 
After visiting several sections of the camp, Gandhiji visited hospital and dur-
ing his conversation with the patients he noticed that vilagers and labourers
were also swayamsevaks of the Sangh. After this Gandhiji moved around the liv-
ing quarters. He entered one of the tents and had the following conversations
with the swayamsevaks inside it:
 
"Who gives you this uniform?"
 
"We make it ourselves.."
 
"Who pays for it?"
 
"Our parents."
 
"Don't your parents feel it is a waste of money?"
 
"No, Even if by chance they feel that way they listen to us and pay for it, as
no one without uniform is allowed to attend the camp."
 
"What is so special about this camp that you should pay the entrance fee, incur
expenditure on travel and spend money on a uniform to attend it?"
 
"We won't be able to say exactly what it is. But it is a pleasure for us to
come here. We live together, play together, eat and sleep together. This gives
us happiness and it also gives us the noble pleasure of doing all this for the
nation."
 
     Gandhiji was pleased with these answers. He then asked a different type of
question, in reply to which one of the swayamsevaks said he was a Brahmin,
another said he was a Maratha, the third a Mahar and the fourth a Teli.
Then leaving out the Mahar he asked the other three, "You belong to higher
castes. Then how do you live with this Mahar, dine with him, sleep near him?
Don't you feel it is demeaning?"
 
"In the Sangh we do not observe such distinctions," the swayamsevak replied.
 
"We neither know, nor desire to know, to what caste the swayamsevak by our side
belongs. We are all Hindus, and so brothers. Therefore the feeling of higher-
lower does not touch us".
 
  Mahatma Gandhi was very much impressed with the answer and asked Appaji: "How
do you manage to make them forget caste distinctions? I and many organisations
are striving for it but people keep clinging to these distinctions. You know
how difficult it is to abolish untouchability, then how did you solve this
difficult problem at least within the orbit of your organisation?"
Appaji said: "We don't do anything special for it. We don't have lectures on
this subject, nor do we have specific programs like other organisations. We
just kindle the feeling of brotherhood among all Hindus. This has melted away
all caste barriers. The enrire credit for this goes to Dr Hedgewar."
 
  Gandhiji was greatly surprised at all this...and he expressed his desire to
meet Dr Hedgewar who was to arrive the next day for the closing ceremony of the
camp.
 
The RSS camp was located very near to the Satyagraha Ashram, in the centre of
which lived Mahatma Gandhi...At the appointed hour on Dec.26, 1934 Dr Hedgewar,
Shri Bhopatkar and Appaji Joshi went to the Ashram where Shri Mahadevbhai Desai
received them and took them to Gandhiji's room. Gandhji also came forward to
receive them and seated Doctor Sahib by his side. Then a discussion lasting
about an hour took place between the two. Here are some excerpts:
 
Gandhiji: Doctor Sahib, yesterday I visited your camp. I was very much pleased
to see the efficient arrangements.
 
Doctorji: Your visit to the camp was a matter of great good fortune for the
swayamsevaks. I'm sorry I was not there. You seem to have decided upon this
visit rather unexpectedly. Had I had some idea, I would have tried to be
present.
.....
....
 
Gandhiji: Yesterday, I saw Hindus of all castes, including Harijans, living
together. I was very happy to see this, what do you do to achieve this?
 
Doctorji: Nothing in special. We keep before them the positive thought that we
all Hindus are one. I think all this comes out of that feeling.
 
Gandhiji: I would be glad to know what particular program you undertake to
inculcate this feeling?
 
Doctorji: Certainly. There is nothing that needs to be kept back in the work of
the Sangh. We have a 'bouddhik varga' once a week, in which we put forth ideas
that can help national integration, character, and love for dharma, society,
culture and nation. We tell them historical stories and incidents from the Rama
yana and Mahabharat. This, in my opinion, creates noble sentiments and intense
idealism in the swayamsevaks. We do not do anything more than this.
 
Gandhiji: Your organisation is certainly very good. But I learn that for a long
time you were a Congress worker. Then why did you not start a volunteer organi-
sation under the auspicious of a popular party like the Congress?
 
Doctorji: I had first started this work within the Congress. In fact I was
secretary of the volunteer department at the Nagpur Congress in 1920 and my
friend Dr Paranjape was the president. Later we tried for such an organisation
under the leadership of the provincial Congress but we did not succeed in our
efforts. And so we have to start a separate independent organisation.
 
Gandhiji: Why did the efforts within Congress not succedd? Were funds lacking?
 
Doctorji: No,there was no difficulty about funds. Money may, make a quite a few
things easy, but nothing can succeed on the strength of money alone. It is not
a matter of money, it is a matter of feeling.
 
Gandhiji: Do you mean to say there were, or are, no noble-minded persons in C?
 
Doctorji: No. There are many good people in the Congress. I was myself in the
Congress. But the question is about the mentality. The Congress mentality is
oriented towards a certain political purpose. Congress programs are organised
with that purpose in view and volunteers are required to carry through those
programs. The Congress does not believe that all problems before the nation
could be solved by powerful organisation of those working under their own inspi
ration. People in the Congress believe that a volunteer is a labourer who helps
arrange tables and chairs in a meeting without charging for the labour. How can
dedicated workers in the cause of national progress be created by such a belief
That is why the project within the Congress could not succeed.
.......   (from Organiser 26 January 1969)