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KS Sudarshan: A leader who broke barriers

September 17, 2012 11:40 IST
Former Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh chief KS Sudarshan, who passed away on Saturday, broke the barriers of past burdens, dogmas and ritualism and often faced severe criticism from various quarters. But once he took a stand, no one could make him go back on it, says Tarun Vijay in tribute

Sudarshanji was like a family member. Sharing the good times and bad, standing with us like a father figure and trying to help. For him scholarship, organisational burden and national policies came after human relations. An emotional person, he would often engage visitors in long chats, and it was a great experience to listen to his words of wisdom on science, spiritualism, metaphysics, environmental issues and almost anything under the sun.

Even when he was the global chief of the world's largest Hindu organisation, he remained the most accessible person on earth with whom we could discuss, criticise, vehemently oppose organisational decisions, even express disagreement on what he said or wrote, and yet be without the  fear of any 'disciplinary action'.

He was, after all, a father figure to us. A mentor who never got angry but who tried to shape us through love and persuasion.

He was us.

Yet he never trod the beaten path.

His first address to the nation, a press conference in Nagpur after assuming charge as Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh chief, was on the economic situation and the need to assertively follow a policy that would help indigenous industry grow, provide more employment to the skilled and unskilled labourers and blue collar workers. Contact Raman Singh (chief minister of Chhattisgarh) and get information on what he has done to produce bio-fuel and publish a detailed report, he would say.

His long discussions with the then petroleum minister Ram Naik resulted in the central government's policy on bio-fuel.

In RSS karyalayas (office cum residence), he made it an unwritten rule followed by all to only fill as much water in the glass as one is sure to drink. 'Don't waste water, don't fill up the glass only to throw it into the washbasin. Water is sacred and scarce,' he would urge.

He tried to persuade everyone he met to stop ostentatious marriages. Don't go in for such celebrations, it's a mockery of India's poor millions and a blot on Hindu society. And so was his mission to fight female foeticide. We worship Lakshmi, Durga and Saraswati as stone idols but kill them in the womb, he said in a speech.

He praised Indira Gandhi for her role in the 1971 war and invited a huge load of criticism from those who thought we ought to be hateful and hard-hitting on the Congress. He hated the hate element in Indian politics and tried to reach out to everyone as an Indian.

The business of enlisting, de-listing and blacklisting is a Communist preserve, he would tell us, why should a Hindu fall into that abyss and still hypocritically keep on chanting the story of Charvak, the atheist who was given an exalted position of rishi in spite of being an exponent of a philosophy that negated Vedic principles.

Very often, whenever he happened to be in Delhi, he would come to the offices of Panchjanya and Organiser and discuss several contemporary issues with the editors. His knowledge of global affairs and their likely impact on India was awesome. His friends' circle included diplomats, scientists, Vedic scholars, environmentalists and economists espousing the cause of Swadeshi.

He was fond of Atal Bihari Vajpayee's poems and would recite many of them verbatim at several meetings. So when a daily newspaper published his interview that created awkwardness between him and Vajpayeeji, he felt sad about it. And it goes to the credit of both leaders' maturity that the bad blood was removed and relations normalised.

His knowledge of Islam was so astounding and correct that he surprised the Islamic ulema and maulanas, whom he loved to engage in conversations. He wanted to reach out to Indian Muslims and inspired many such organisations and efforts. Perhaps he was the only Hindu leader of his stature who never forgot to send Eid greetings to his Muslim friends every year.

He would often come to our home, chat with the kids as if he was of their age and watch some interesting programmes, essentially non-political, on television. He was very happy when our daughter was born and came home to name her and be a part of the annaprashan ceremony.

At a later stage, when he relinquished the post of RSS chief, he would often feel sad and lonely and recite Atalji's poems -- on the resolve to face odd situations with firmness. About his failing health, he would say: 'I forget the names of my close associates, it's a terrible thing.' And would often go back in time, recalling his Jabalpur days, his roots in Tamil Nadu, and the plight of Hindus due to their own mistakes.

Once he told us that a great astrologer in Tirupati (now no more) had divined his past and said he was a Sri Lankan Tamil in his previous birth. We all laughed.

Sudarshanji wanted to restore the glory of Hindus the world over and would often say, 'The time is very near when Hindu society will unshackle the colonial mindset and acquire its destined place in the comity of nations. No one can keep Hindus subjugated and a slave of political expediency for long.'

An ardent devotee of Sri Aurobindo, he would declare with a great confidence -- a new India will rise, and soon. Happier, mightier and wealthier. Hindus are born with the divine gift of science and mathematics; no one can beat them in scientific pursuits. It's in our genes.

He would get enraged on seeing the plight of Hindus in Pakistan, Bangladesh and even in India due to political vote-banks and sham secularism. The leaders are spineless, they do not feel the pains and sorrows of Hindus, he would lament. Every party has a Hindu leadership, why don't they feel anguish on seeing how Hindus are being persecuted all over South Asia, he would ask. We must work with the Hindus of other political groups and shouldn't be confined to the Bharatiya Janata Party alone, but are other groups willing to receive us, he would question.

He broke the barriers of past burdens, dogmas and ritualism and often faced severe criticism from various quarters. But once he took a stand, no one could make him go back on it.

He was like a family member to us. And to many, many Swayamsevaks all over the nation. I regret not being able to have his best speeches and interviews published in his lifetime, although a publisher had made such an offer years before. But his memory will always keep us moving towards building a greater and happier Bharatvarsh that is India.

Tarun Vijay is a Bharatiya Janata Party member of the Rajya Sabha

Tarun Vijay