June 18, 2024

Ranga Hari Ji’ – Who put up a fight against Kerala communists

Dr. Manmohan Vaidya

On 29 September 2023, at 7 a.m., Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s senior pracharak, former Akhil Bharatiya Bauddhik Pramukh (in-charge for intellectual training), Shri Ranga Hari ji, breathed his last. A towering intellectual warrior of the Hindu intelligentsia, a heartwarming conversationalist, an out-of-the-box thinker and a rashtra-devoted Sangh rishi’s life journey on this plane ended. He was 93 years old. From the age of 13, when he became a Sangh swayamsevak, he actively participated in Sangh activities for 80 years. Between 1983 and 1993 he served as the prant pracharak of Kerala and from 1991 to 2005 he was the Akhil Bharatiya Bauddhik Pramukh. Even after getting relieved from Sangh responsibilities, true to Robin Sharma’s book title – The Leader Who Had No Title – Shri Ranga Hari ji remained creatively active as a swayamsevak.

Among the wise and driven karyakartas who sowed the seeds of Sangh’s national thought in communist-infested Kerala, those who confronted the on-ground challenges posed by the exclusivist and bloody leftist ideology, while establishing the holistic and national thought espoused by Hindutva, Shri Ranga Hari was an important person. 298 Sangh karyakartas have succumbed to death in bloody strife with the brutal communists, with 70% karyakartas being former communist followers turned swayamsevaks. Supporting the families and households of all those swayamsevaks, assuaging their grief and ensuring that they feel like they are still within Sangh’s fold were challenging tasks in the aftermath of those shocks. Once, when I asked Shri Ranga Hari ji how one cultivates the heart to bear such weight, he sobbed bitterly. In the midst of conflict and tough decisions, one stands a good chance of getting hardened. However, it was on that day that I got a glimmer of the tenderness and sensitivity that Shri Ranga Hari ji’s heart was abundant with.

While the struggle with the communist goons in Kerala was still advancing, Shri Ranga Hari ji initiated dialogues with the Communist Party leaders. Sangh luminary Shri Dattopant Thengadi ji was party to one such dialogue. When a Malayalam weekly titled “Kesari” invited write-ups for a new series, contemplating ways to usher in peace in the conflict-ridden state of Kerala, Shri Ranga Hari ji wrote to the editor personally, congratulating him for the ingenuity.

To explain serious and obscure topics with examples in a characteristic amusing theatrical style was his peculiar idiosyncrasy. He was a gatherer of Sanskrit shlokas (verses) and subhashitas (epigrammatic poems) and amassed a rich collection of the same. The subhashitas that he read, absorbed and later quoted in his writings and speeches were published. The title of that book is also extremely pertinent, “Sudhi Vaani Sudha Vaani (Intelligent Words, Elixir Words)”. His remarkable language-learning zeal shone during his initial visit to Gujarat when he learned to read and write Gujarati in a brief time. Committed to consistent reading and profound reflection, he authored 62 books covering a wide range of subjects. On the occasion of the birth centenary (2005-2006) of RSS’ second Sarsanghchalak, Shri Guruji Golwalkar, Shri Ranga Hari ji made a prodigious contribution by collecting and classifying numerous lectures spanning 33 years (1940-1973) into 12 volumes. Similarly, the essence of Shri Guruji’s time-tested thoughts, “Shri Guruji: Vision and Mission” and the biography of Shri Guruji are a testament to his intellectual mastery.

Shri Hari ji was adept at thinking out-of-the-box and he encouraged many associates to venture off the beaten track and think beyond their usual limits. He would nurture novel ideas by consistently encouraging individuals to think differently and study deeply.

Deepti Verma, an emerging novelist, penned a beautiful book by the title “Panchakanyas”, with the intent to highlight the life lessons for millennial girls from the lives of Ahalya, Draupadi, Kunti, Tara and Mandodari. Deepti sent the first chapter of the book, titled “Ahalya”, to Shri Hari ji for his feedback. To which his response reads as follows –

“Su. Shri Deeptiji,

Namaskars. Yesterday I read your write-up on Ahalya. In short, it is very fine. I very much enjoyed the original approach and elucidation.

I very much liked the interpretation of yours satisfying the thirst and temperament of sisters and mothers of these times tempered by science. Through your good self.

May God bless us all,

 

Yours sincerely

Ranga Hari”

Deepti’s age is equivalent to that of Shri Hari ji’s granddaughter. Yet, instead of merely extending his blessings as a gesture to welcome the modern take on those lives, he wrote “May God bless us all.” This reflects his humility. Humour was an inseparable companion of Shri Hari ji’s life. At Sangh Akhil Bharatiya Baithak (meetings), if a gathering of swayamsevaks, with passersby karyakartas, burst into laughter, you could be sure Shri Ranga Hari ji was there. Though his short stature (a little less than about 5 feet), made it impossible to spot him from a distance in such gatherings, the sudden bursts of laughter were an unfailing indicator of his presence. I often referenced Khalil Gibran’s poem “Your Children”, but it was at a gathering with Hari ji that I learned I only knew part of it as he revealed there was more to the poem. Ranga Hari ji, then stationed in Mumbai, thoughtfully sent me the complete poem in a letter after returning from travels following a long hiatus of two months. In his signature humorous style, he added, “Dear Manmohan, sending ‘Your Children’ to one who has none by one who also has none. – R. Hari.” (For those unfamiliar with Sangh cadre, we were both pracharaks and pracharaks do not get married.)

A pracharak is “aniket” (one who doesn’t have a niket or abode). However, they are assigned a base city as per organisational needs. As mentioned earlier, Shri Ranga Hari ji’s base was Mumbai. While stationed there he once happened to visit Gujarat and together we visited a well-known industrialist’s house. The industrialist asked when he would return. Hari ji, quick-witted, replied, “I am leaving for Delhi in three days, not returning. My official base is Mumbai; I say ‘return’ when I go to Mumbai.” Witnessing such presence of mind in casual conversation was both astounding and impressive.

Shri Ranga Hari ji was an institution. Through his life, conduct and behaviour, he imparted much to many people. Moreover, the content he penned about his death is equally inspiring and profound. Sealed letters addressed to the functionaries of the Kerala region were handed over to the prant pracharak with an instruction to open those sealed letters after his departure from the body. In the letters, he wrote, “While still alive a man can do things as he wills but the tasks that must be done once when he dies, he cannot do on his own. He relies on others to do it for him.

Therefore, it is my prayer that – Do not cremate my body in a caste-specific crematorium. Instead, cremate my body where anybody can be cremated. I did not practise caste-based discrimination throughout my life, I wish to maintain the same even after my death. The historic Aiyvaram Matham where the Pandavas performed pinda danam (Hindu ritual of giving homage to the body of the deceased) is located on the banks of the Bharat River in Kerala. My last rite should be performed there. And let my remains be immersed in a local waterbody nearby, instead of spreading those across two-three places like that of a celebrity. I have performed my shraadha and pinda danam in Brahmakapal (a holy place in the Himalayas close to the sacred Badrinath shrine), therefore there is no need for anyone to perform these rituals for me. I rest the proprietary rights of all my intellectual works and publications in Sangh. The practice of wrapping the bodies of communist workers in a red cloth before cremating them is prevalent in Kerala. In response to that the practice of wrapping the dead bodies of Sangh swayamsevaks in saffron cloth before cremating may have gained steam in Kerala. But it is inappropriate. Saffron is the representative of our Guru (the guiding light). Kindly do not wrap my body in a saffron cloth.” These were the last wishes which Ranga Hari ji penned down. He led a life that was worth emulating and even in the process of dying, he illuminated many minds and lit the path for the seeker.

Shri Ranga Hari ji worded his last prayer in the following three Sanskrit shlokas.

मामिकान्तिम प्रार्थना

करणीयं कृतं सर्वम् तज्जन्म सुकृतं मम

धन्योस्मि कृतकृत्योस्मि गच्छाम्यद्य चिरं गृहम् ॥ १ ॥

कार्यार्थं पुनरायातुम् तथाप्याशास्ति मे हृदि

मित्रै सह कर्म कुर्वन् स्वान्त: सुखमवाप्नुयाम् ॥ २ ॥

एषा चेत् प्रार्थना धृष्टा क्षमस्व करुणानिधे

कार्यमिदं तवैवास्ति तावकेच्छा बलीयसी ॥ ३ ॥

Meaning: “Having completed the tasks assigned to me I am thankful and grateful and today I proceed to my eternal abode. Also, I wish to come back to engage in the same task all over again. I am certain I will feel self-satisfied in doing more of this work along with my co-workers. If I have displayed impudence with this prayer of mine, then, Oh treasure of all mercy! Do forgive me. This ‘work’ is also yours and your wish is paramount.”

These measured and hopeful words spoken at the time of one’s passing to another realm stir up my consciousness with the poetry of the gifted Marathi poet Shri B. B. Borkar.

If the words were to be translated, they would read as:

“That death is beautiful too, like the last glimmers of the ocean-sun,

That bequeaths a trail of Fire, to the dark womb of the ascendant.”

A man who scaled heights like that of the mighty Himalayas walked in our midst. We had the opportunity to converse with him as his coworkers. Ordinary humans like us have been graced with the shower of his affection-all this feels like a dream. My humble obeisance and glories to the great man, resourceful mentor and guide who developed an array of Sangh workers who are single-mindedly dedicated to putting up the fight against the violent communist ideology at the seat of communism, Kerala.

Glorious are those feet, that march to the goal,

On the shifting sands of time, blaze the imprints of a spirited soul.

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