Much before emerging as the perpetrators of terror in the name of cow protection, gau rakshaks, the core cultural operatives of Hindutva, had once toyed with the idea of “a mutiny” that would mark hundred years of 1857 uprising.
However, cow protectionists and Hindu revivalists, despite finding Jawaharlal Nehru’s regime insufferable, eventually did not try to execute the plan.
According to police intelligence records, the plan was discussed in a series of meetings at Delhi in 1955 – two years before the centenary of 1857 uprising – by “high level leaders” of Hindu Maha Sabha, Ram Raj Parishad, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and its political outfit, the Bharatiya Jana Sangh.
A confidential report filed by the Superintendent of Police, Special Branch, Criminal Investigation Department, Patna spelt out the plan:
“One of the leaders said that 1657, 1757, 1857 are famous for mutiny in the history of India, and therefore a mutiny must come in 1957. He openly said that Ram Rajya will be established in 1857 [read 1957] but not that Ram Rajya which was dreamt of by Mahatma Gandhi. Staunch Hindus will be the rulers of this Ram Rajya.”
The report did not identify the leader, nor did it specify the dates when these meetings were held in Delhi in 1955.
According to the report, the participants, including Ramchandra Sharma Veer, Prabhudatta Brahmachari, Dindayal Upadhyay, VD Savarkar, and “other registered communalists” who were “either personally or through their representatives present there”, also agreed to form a united front of like-minded parties to contest the second Lok Sabha election in 1957.
“It is reported that the evil elements of the communalists were at work behind the communal riots which took place at Calcutta, Bihar, UP and other places after the meeting came to a close.”
By and large, however, the gau-rakshaks and Hindu revivalists sensed the mood of the nation and refrained from displaying their passion on the street while Jawaharlal Nahru was alive.
As per the police intelligence records, the meetings of 1955 had followed a series of token protests from gau-rakshaks, starting with early 1953, in their attempt to force the government to impose a ban on cow slaughter.
These records of 1953 and 1954 are, in fact, full of incidents of small groups of protestors getting intercepted outside the residence of Nehru as they carried milk and butter for the first prime minister of India, and held placards that said: “Gau Hatya Band Ho, Panditji Dudh Makhan Khao” [Cow slaughter should stop. Panditji have milk and butter].
The intelligence records also reveal that a series of joint meetings were held in 1953 by leaders of the Hindu Maha Sabha, Ram Raj Parishad, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh as they tried desperately to launch “a country-wide satyagrah movement to secure a ban on cow slaughter”.
No such satyagrah took place while Nehru was the Prime Minister.
After the meetings of 1955, in which the idea of a mutiny was discussed, there are no major activities of gau-rakshaks recorded in police intelligence reports until Indira Gandhi became the Prime Minister in 1966.
That year on November 7, amidst growing impression that Indira Gandhi could be toppled, gau-rakshaks and Hindu revivalists tried to capture the Parliament House building, demanding that the Union government impose a national ban on cow slaughter.
In the ensuing violence, the protestors killed one policeman, while police firing left seven gau rakshaks dead. For several decades thereafter, gau-rakshaks remained in a state of withdrawal, regaining courage to show their passion on the street only when their cohorts sat in the government – between 1998 and 2004 and after 2014.