Bharatiya Jana Sangh members had in 1980 broken off from the Janata Party when they were told to end their dual membership by virtue of which they continued to be members of both the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the Janata Party. The faction that chose to not sever its ties with the RSS formed the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) the same year.
In 2021, the BJP-led Haryana government has allowed its employees to join RSS and Jamaat-e-Islami, organisations that are banned in Jammu and Kashmir. On October 11, the ML Khattar government lifted the 54-year-old ban that forbade its employees from joining these organisations. The ban was first imposed in 1967.
Khattar became the chief minister in 2014 when the BJP, for the first time, formed a government of its own strength in Haryana. The order restraining government employees from taking part in RSS activities, however, remained in force until now.
Incidentally, the Centre had lifted the ban in 1975.
On Monday, Haryana chief secretary Vijai Vardhan issued the instructions via a letter to all department heads lifting the ban imposed in 1967. The letter, however, added that “no government employee shall join or continue to be a member of an association, the objects or activities of which are prejudicial to the interest of the sovereignty and integrity of India or public order or morality”.
Back in January 11, 1967 the office of then chief secretary had issued a letter to all heads of the departments on the subject of “Association of Government employees with the activities of R.S.S./Jamaat-e-Islami”.
What does the order say
In the order issued on October 11, the Haryana government has said, “Implementation of Haryana Civil Services (Government Employees’ Conduct) Rules, 2016”, regarding “taking part in politics and elections” and “joining of associations” to all the administrative secretaries; heads of departments, managing directors/ chief administrators of the boards/ corporations; all the divisional commissioners; deputy commissioners, registrars of universities and The Registrar (General), Punjab and Haryana High Court.
The order also said that “the earlier issued letters… in 1967, 1970 and 1980 are hereby withdrawn with immediate effect as they are no longer relevant”.
History of the ban
Government employees were first barred from joining these organisations under Service (Conduct) Rules on November 30, 1966, when Indira Gandhi was the prime minister. The ban was briefly lifted in 1975 but it was reimposed in 1980.
A Ministry of Home Affairs order issued on November 30, 1966, said: “The attention of the Ministry of Finance etc., is invited to the provisions of sub-rule (1) of Rule 5 of the Central Civil Services (Conduct) Rules, 1964 under which no government servant shall be a member of, or be otherwise associated with, any political party or any organisation which takes part in politics nor shall he take part in, subscribe in aid of, or assist in any other manner, any political movement or activity. As certain doubts have been raised about government’s policy with respect to the membership of any participation in the activities of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and the Jamaat-e-Islami by government servants, it is clarified that the government have always held the activities of these two organisations to be of such a nature that participation in them by Government servants would attract the provisions of sub-rule (1) of Rule 5 of the Central Civil Services (Conduct) Rule, 1964. Any government servant, who is a member of or is otherwise associated with the aforesaid organisations or with their activities is liable to disciplinary action.”
On July 25, 1970, the MHA reiterated its 1966 order and reiterated the same on October 28, 1980. The 1980 order also added: “In the context of the current situation in the country, the need to ensure a secular outlook on the part of government servants is all the more important. The need to eradicate communal feelings and communal bias cannot be over-emphasised…The Ministry of Finance etc., are, therefore, requested to specially bring once again to the notice of all government employees, working in or under them, the above-quoted provisions in para 1 (regarding ban on joining RSS or Jamaat-e-Islami) on the subject. It is emphasised that any disregard of these instructions should be considered as a serious act of indiscipline and suitable action initiated against the erring employees”.
The Congress has asked if the Haryana government is running a BJP-RSS school.
The All India Congress Committee general secretary Randeep Surjewala took to Twitter saying, “Now the employees of Haryana have the freedom to participate in the branches of ‘Union’. Is running the government or the school of BJP-RSS!”
Surjewala’s specific grievance was pertaining to the withdrawal of the letter dated January 11, 1967, whereby the chief secretary threatened action against employees associated with RSS and Jamaat-e-Islami. The letter read, “It is clarified that the Government have always held the activities of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and the Jamaat-e-Islami to be of such a nature that participation in them by Government employees would attract the provisions of sub-rule (1) of Rule 5 of the Punjab Government Employees (Conduct) Rules, 1966. Any Government Employee who is a member of or is otherwise associated with the aforesaid organisations or with their activities is thus liable to disciplinary action.”
What’s happening in other states
In J&K, the government employee can even be sacked from service if they join or are found to be associated with these organisations. According to the Union Home Ministry’s February 28, 2019 notification, Jamaat-e-Islami is banned for five years under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act because the outfit was in “close touch” with militant outfits. The Ministry of Home Affairs issued the ban order a few days after the Jammu and Kashmir police arrested around 100 people, including the Jamaat-e-Islami chief, and claimed that the outfit was involved in activities intended at threatening India’s integrity.
An order that followed even mentioned that a government employee can be dismissed even if he/she is found sharing the same roof with a person associated with any banned group.
In Rajasthan, membership of RSS, Jamaat-e-Islami and 17 other organisations is prohibited for government officials. The government can also initiate disciplinary action if any government official posts in favour of any of these organisations on social media.
In Himachal Pradesh, the BJP government withdrew the restriction to join these organisations in 2008. In Madhya Pradesh, Shivraj Singh Chouhan lifted the ban in 2006 soon after he became chief minister.
In 2015, the Chhattisgarh government had issued a notification that allowed government servants to join RSS and participate in its activities.
Knowing Jamaat-e-Islami and RSS
Jamaat-e-Islami was an Islamic movement founded in British India in 1941 by the Islamic theologian and socio-political philosopher Syed Abul Ala Maududi. Along with the Muslim Brotherhood, founded in 1928, Jamaat-e-Islami was one of the original and most influential Islamist organisations. The group split into separate independent organisations in India and Pakistan—Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan and Jamaat-e-Islami Hind—following the Partition of India in 1947.
The Jamaat-e-Islami parties maintain ties internationally with other Muslim groups.
The RSS, on the other hand, is an Indian right-wing, Hindu nationalist volunteer organisation. The RSS is the progenitor of a large body of organisations that together form the Sangh Parivar.
RSS was founded on 27 September 1925 by Keshav Baliram Hedgewar.