Date: 04 Dec 2006



1.     "It was the summer of 1959, I was working as the secretary of an
organization of which the late SHRI JAYAPRAKASH NARAYAN (J.P.) was the
President. One day an RSS leader walked into my office. I had known him
for a number of years. After some small talk, he suggested that I should
request J.P. to visit an RSS camp which was being held in New Delhi at
that time. J.P also happened to be in town. I was diffident about the
proposition. Having worked with J.P. for more than a year, I sensed his
preferences and prejudices. But I said to the RSS leader that I would do
my best."

2.     "I broached the subject to J.P. next day as soon as I found him
alone, which was a rare event. J.P. seemed to be stunned as if I had
uttered an obscenity. There was an expression of disapproval on his face
which made me too feel uncomfortable. He was a gentle person who seldom
lost his temper. But now he seemed to be on the verge of exploding. The
atmosphere became tense. For a few moments none of us could find words
to break the spell of silence."

3.      "At last J.P. controlled himself and said: 'Do you know what you
are talking about, and to whom'? There was a touch of temper in his
voice. By now I had managed to collect my wits to a certain extent. I
said: 'I knew the proposition would be annoying to you. Even so, I took
a chance.' He relaxed. I also heaved a sigh of relief. He said: 'You
know that I have a certain standing in the country and a certain
reputation in public life. You should not expect me to get mixed up with
an organization which is known for its communal, reactionary, and
revivalist character.' I said: 'It is precisely because of your standing
in the country and your reputation in public life that I have conveyed
their invitation to you'. He said: 'I do not understand. Could you make
yourself a little more clear'? I explained: 'Your standing in the
country is that of a man of reason, and your reputation rests upon the
keenness of your moral sense. I am sure that you will live upto that
standard in this instance as well.' He said: 'I try to do my best
according to my understanding and strength of will. Tell me where and
how I have failed.' This encouraged me and I said: 'You have been
practicing untouchability towards a section of your own people. You have
never met the RSS people face to face. You have never listened to their
side of the story. Yet you have formed an unsavoury opinion about them.
This does not sound reasonable to me, nor just.'

4.     "He became thoughtful. I continued, 'Your status today is not
that of a party politician seeking power, and fomenting partisan strife.
You have been a father figure for the nation as a whole, almost the
conscience keeper of our people. You raise your voice whenever you feel
that an injustice has been done, or that justice is being denied. That
is why people of all persuasions- Congressites, Socialists, Communists,
Akalis, National Conference people and who not- come to you for
consultation, for registering their complaints, for presenting their
point of view, and for seeking your advice. You do not always agree with
them. Yet you listen to them patiently, and give them your point of
view. They do not always agree with your view of men and matters, nor
always follow your advice. The point is that you are always accessible
to them. You always go out and meet them whenever they invite you. It is
only the RSS and allied people whom you avoid, so much so that one of
their leaders could not come to you directly and had to convey an
invitation through a small fry like myself. Tell me if this is not
tantamount to practicing untouchability?'

5.       "He closed his eyes and shook his head several times. He seemed
to be engaged in some inner struggle. I pressed the point, 'I am not
inviting you to get mixed up with the RSS. Nor is it their intention to
spread some snare for you. What they expect from a man like you is that
you should try to know them first-hand rather than through hearsay or
gossip in a partisan press controlled almost entirely by people who are
hostile to them. Maybe you find that you have been mistaken about them.
Maybe they benefit from the advice you give them. But all this can
happen only when you meet them, listen to what they have to say, tell
them frankly what you feel about them, and thus open the door for a
fruitful dialogue in days to come. In any case, heavens are not going to
fall simply because you go and visit one of their camps. That is all I
have to say. Rest is for you to decide.'

6.     "He opened his eyes, smiled somewhat sadly, and said, 'You have
put me in a rather awkward position. But I see the point in what you
have said. I cannot easily refute your accusation. I can really be held
guilty of practicing untouchability.' I kept quiet and waited for him to
make up his mind. He did it in a moment, and said, 'Okay, you win. I am
willing to visit the RSS camp. Make an appointment with them, and let me
know. I hope tomorrow evening will suit them. Day after I am leaving

7.      "Next day he spent nearly two hours in the RSS camp, witnessing
their mass drill, moved by the songs of devotion to the motherland,
meeting and talking to their leaders, asking all sorts of questions, and
offering his own comments. Finally, he sat on a chair facing a group of
about hundred RSS workers from several parts of the country. The workers
sat on the ground in row after row, stood up one by one to introduce
themselves to their honoured guest of the evening. Each one of them told
his name without mentioning any surname indicative of caste or
community, his educational qualifications, the province from which he
came, and years he had spent as a Swayamsevaka. I could see that J.P.
was impressed. His face which had been grim so far softened suddenly,
and visibly. Most of the Swayamsevakas held graduate and post-graduate
degrees in arts, commerce, or science. All of them were between the ages
of 20 and 35."

8.       "At the end J.P. was requested to say a few words, and bless
the quite confused, and did not know really what to say. I conveyed his
feelings to the RSS leaders, who showed immediate understanding and did
not press him anymore. As he was taking leave, J.P. looked at the BHAGVA
DHVAJA, and observed, 'That I suppose is the Maratha Flag'. The RSS
leader explained, 'The Marathas did not invent it. They borrowed it from
an age-old national tradition. The saffron colour has always been the
colour par-excellence of Indian spirituality as well as of Indian
nationalism.' J.P. said, 'I do not know. I have not been a student of
History. But that is what a well known historian told me.' The RSS
leader smiled, and remained silent. The parting was rather warm on both

9.      "On our way back, J.P. muttered as if talking to himself, 'They
have a lot of young and disciplined workers. The workers are also highly
educated. I NEVER KNEW THAT. In our socialist movement, most of our
workers are not even matriculates.' I kept quiet and waited for him to
say something more. He made one more comment as we got out of the car at
the end of our journey. He said, 'Sitaramji, I am grateful to you for
helping me break down what looked like an insurmountable wall. But I am
not at all satisfied that it is not an attempt to revive the Maratha

10.   "I could have asked him as to what was wrong with the Maratha
Empire. I could also have told him that the Maratha Empire represented
the triumph of a tough and long drawn struggle against Islamic
Imperialism. But I was not prepared for some more frowns on his face. I
had no status as a historian. Nor was my version of Indian History being
taught in school and college text-books. J.P. was only repeating what
most of our historians were saying from their august seats in
universities and research institutes.

11.  - - - --. "J.P. had at last visited an RSS camp. He had been
positively impressed by the quality of workers whom the RSS had
mobilized in service of the nation. And yet he had retained his earlier
reservations about the RSS. He could not visualize that the RSS was not
a miracle that materialized out of thin air. He could not see that there
was something in a society and a culture and a historical tradition
which had created such a splendid band of selfless workers without the
benefit of any patronage from the powers that be, and in the face of
much malicious propoganda in the national and the international media."