- Makarand Paranjpe
“Hindutva,” as both term and concept, is usually identified with VD Savarkar (1883-1966). His 1923 essay, originally titled, “Essentials of Hindutva” and retitled, “Hindutva: Who is a Hindu” in its 1928 reprint is the most frequently, often the only, cited text in this regard. Even the ever-popular Wikipedia has it wrong in saying that the word was “coined in the early 20th century.” A respected commentator from the right, offering a corrective to such views, wrote a recent article on how “the Hindu nationalist tradition is not alien to West Bengal.”
He is absolutely right. Like most modern ideas in India, “Hindutva,” too, was born in Bengal in the 19th century. But even he fails to mention its probable progenitor. A Bangla tract by that name was published in 1892 by a bhadralok man of letters we have forgotten today. His name is Chandranath Basu (1844-1910). Like many other leading figures of that time, he too studied at the Presidency College, getting a BA in 1865. Hoping to make a lucrative career in law, he also picked up a BL degree a couple of years later. However, he never practised law. He worked for a while in the education department, before being appointed as Deputy Magistrate, like Bankim Chandra Chattopadyaya, the leading literary figure of the times. But that didn’t suit Chandranath either. He returned to education, becoming the Principal of Jaipur College, Calcutta. After a while, he worked for the Bengal (later National) Library, finally being appointed as a translator in the Bengal Government in 1887. Though this may not seem like such an illustrious career move today, in those days it was a Class I officer’s post and quite important to the colonial regime. Chandranath occupied it till his retirement from service in 1904.
Chandranath’s forte, however, was literature. He started, as many young aspirants of his time, in English. He even founded a monthly called Calcutta University Magazine. It was Bankim who urged him to switch to Bangla as he himself had done after his own false start, Rajmohan’s Wife (1864), an incomplete, some say, first Indian novel in English. Chandranath began to publish in Bangadarshan, Bankim’s journal, the preeminent literary periodical of the day. He soon made a name for himself, publishing in other leading magazines including Girish Chandra Ghosh’s Bengalee, Akshaychandra’s Nabajiban, and so on. Rabindranath Tagore knew him well and mentions him in his reminiscences. An index of his importance is his election as the Vice chairman of the Bangia Sahitya Parishad in 1896 and Chairman in 1897. Earlier incumbents included its founding Chairman, Romesh Chandra Dutta (1848-1909), ICS, economic historian, and translator of the Ramayana and Mahabharata into English verse. Tagore himself had served as the co-Vice-Chairman of the Parishad with Nabinchandra Sen.
Chandranath wrote several books including Shakuntala Tattva (1881). Note his use of “tattva” (reality or essence), long before he used it to coin “Hindutva.” The rediscovery and translation of Kalidas’ Shakuntala in 1789 led to a lively discussion of its greatness among the Bangla intelligentsia. Kalidas’s play became central to the conceptualisation of a modern Indian aesthetic tradition. Not only Chandranath, but Tagore also wrote on this key text. Later, Acharya Hazariprasad Dwivedi would also discuss Chandranath’s Shakuntala Tattva. Chandranath went on to write a historical novel, Pashupati Sambad (1884), a critical survey of the newly emergent Bangla literature, a product of the Renaissance in which he himself was an important actor, Bartaman Babgala Sahityer Prokriti (1899), and several other books, some of which also tried to define Hindu traditions and practices. Of these, the most important, of course, was Hindutva (1892). He was to resort to the same principle of going to the fundamentals (tattva) in his last major book, Savitri Tattva (1901) too.
Unfortunately, no one I know has read Chandranath’s Hindutva. Though it is referred to in several scholarly studies of 19th century Hindu reform movements, not a single scholar offers a detailed study or analysis. It is neither available in English translation nor, it would seem, easy to get in Bangla. The longest reference to it in English that I could find was in this “Critical Notice” in the Calcutta Review of July 1894:
“Babu Chandra Nath’s is the first work which treats of the Hindu articles of faith. It aims at being an exposition of the deepest and abstrusest doctrines of Hinduism, not in a spirit of apology, not in a spirit of bombast, but in a calm and dispassionate spirit. The work is a difficult one. The Hindus are notorious for the diversity of their transcendental doctrines, every individual school having a complete set of doctrines of its own. Babu Chandra Nath has selected the noblest doctrines of Hinduism, but he has not followed any one of the ancient schools. Yet he does not aim at establishing a school of doctrine himself. His sole object is to compare, so far as lies in his power, the leading doctrines of Hindu faith with those of other of other religions.”
I have quoted at length to show how such a comment certainly whets, but satisfies neither our intellectual curiosity nor scholarly appetite.
I have often argued, as in my book Making India (2015), that the 19th century offers the key to our understanding of what transpired afterwards, how we ended up becoming what we are today. With the renewed interest in the pre-history of Hindutva, I hope some institution or scholar will assume the much-needed commission of republishing Chandranath’s pioneering treatise. It will be one more step in the direction of creating an alternative narrative of recent Indian history.
The author is a poet and Professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi.
Source : DNA India
August 2021 marks the completion of a hundred years of the brutal episode in human history – The Moplah Genocide of the Malabar Hindus.
A recent news report that a three-member committee of the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR), which was formed to review the names of “freedom fighters” from 1857 to 1947, is said to have considered removing the names of ‘Moplah martyrs‘ of 1921 from the Dictionary of Martyrs of India’s Freedom Struggle. Along with Variamkunnath Kunhamed Haji and Ali Musaliar, the Moplah Rebellion leaders responsible for the Moplah Massacre of Hindus, 387 others who died during the Moplah Massacre will also be removed. The dictionary is jointly published by the Ministry of Culture and the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR).
A three-member panel, set up the ICHR which reviewed the entries in the fifth volume of the dictionary, has reportedly stated that the 1921 rebellion was never part of the independence struggle but a fundamentalist movement focused on religious conversion. None of the slogans raised by the rioters were in favour of nationalism and anti-British in content, it noted. According to the report, the panel has noted that the rebellion was an attempt to establish a Caliphate. “Had it succeeded, a Caliphate would have been established in the region too and India would have ended up losing that part from its territory”, The Hindu quoted sources as saying.
Further, the panel concluded that Haji was a rioter who established a Sharia court and beheaded a large number of Hindus. Those who died at the hands of the rioters were non-believers. The committee also stated that a large number of alleged ‘Moplah martyrs’, who were under-trial prisoners, died due to diseases such as cholera and natural causes hence cannot be treated as martyrs. Only a handful of them were executed by the government after court trial, the panel noted.
In this context, it is worth recalling eyewitness accounts of the Mopla Rebellion by Annie Besant and Madhavan Nair.
Eyewitness accounts of the Mopla Rebellion by Annie Besant and Madhavan Nair.
The following account signed by Annie Besant, under the title ‘Malabar’s Agony’, appeared in New India dated 29 November 1921. It is one of the literally hundreds of similar reports that appeared in the press at the time. The account given here is the slightly abridged, with some non- relevant history about the Zamorins removed. It has also been organised into smaller paragraphs to smooth the somewhat hurried writing. Of particular interest is Besant’s charge that by making Non-Cooperation part of the Khilafat movement, his Gandhism was also part of the violence that gave rise to, and he could not escape responsibility. It is interesting to note the contemporary accounts see the Non-Coorperation Movement as part of the Khilafat, and not as something on its own as modern history books tend to do. Here is Besant’s report. – N.S.R]
Annie Beasant: New India, 29 November 1921 :
It would be well if Mr. Gandhi could be taken into Malabar to see with his own eyes the ghastly horrors which have been created by the preaching of himself and his “loved brothers,” Muhommad and Shaukat Ali. The Khilafat Raj is established there; on August 1, 1921, sharp to the date first announced by Mr. Gandhi for the beginning of Swaraj and the vanishing of British Rule, a Police Inspector was surrounded by Moplas, revolting against that Rule. From that date onwards thousands of the forbidden war-knives ware secretly made and hidden away, and on August 20, the rebellion broke out, Khilafat flags were hoisted on Police Stations and Government offices…
Our correspondent has sent accounts of the public functions connected with my hurried visit to Calicut and Palghat, and that which I wish to put on record here is the ghastly misery which prevails, the heart-breaking wretchedness which has been caused by the Mopla outbreak, directly due to the violent and unscrupulous attacks on the Government made by the Non-Co-operators and the Khilafatists and the statements scattered broadcast, predicting the speedy disappearance of British Rule, and the establishment of Swaraj, as proclaimed by the N.C.O. and Khilafat Raj as understood by the Moplas from the declarations of the Khilafatists. On that, there is no doubt whatever, so far as Malabar is concerned. The message of the Khilafats, of England as the enemy of Islam, of her coming downfall, and the triumph of the Muslims, had spread, to every Mopla home. The harangues in the Mosques spread it everywhere, and Muslim hearts were glad. They saw the N.C.O. preachers appealing for help to their religious leaders, naturally identified the two. The Government was Satanic, and Eblis, to the good Muslim, is to be fought to the death.
Mr. Gandhi may talk as he pleases about N.C.O.s accepting no responsibility. It is not what they accept; it is what facts demonstrate. He accepted responsibility for the trifling bloodshed of Bombay. The slaughter in Malabar cries out his responsibility. N.C.O. is dead in Malabar. But bitter hatred has arisen there, as fighting men from the dragon’s teeth of Theseus. That is the ghastly result of the preaching of Gandhism, of N.C.O. of Khilafatism. Every one speaks of the Khilafat Raj, and the one hope of the masses is in its crushing by the strong arm of the Government. Mr. Gandhi asks the Moderates to compel the Government to suspend hostilities, i.e., to let loose the wolves to destroy what lives are left. The sympathy of the Moderates is not, I make bold to “with the murderers, the looters, the ravishers, who have put into practice the teachings of paralysing the Government of the N.C.O.’s, who have made “war on the Government” in their own way.
How does Mr. Gandhi like the Mopla spirit, as shown by one of the prisoners in the Hospital, who was dying from the results of asphyxiation? He asked the surgeon, if he was going to die, and surgeon answered that he feared he would not recover. “Well, I’m glad I killed fourteen infidels,” said the Brave, God-fearing Mopla, whom Mr. Gandhi so much admires, who “are fighting for what they consider as religion, and in a manner, they consider as religious.” Men who consider it “religious” to murder, rape, loot, to kill women and little children, cutting down whole families, have to be put under restraint in any civilised society.
“Mr. Gandhi was shocked when some Parsi ladies had their saries torn off, and very properly, yet the God-fearing hooligans had been taught that it was sinful to wear foreign cloth, and doubtless felt they were doing a religious act; can he not feel a little sympathy for thousands of “women left with only rags, driven from home, for little children born of the flying mothers on roads in refugee camps? The misery is beyond description. Girl wives, pretty and sweet, with eyes half blind with weeping, distraught with terror; women who have seen their husbands hacked to pieces before their eye, in the way “Moplas consider as religious”; old women tottering, whose faces become written with anguish and who cry at a gentle touch and a kind look waking out of a stupor of misery only to weep, men who have lost all, hopeless, crushed, desperate.
I have walked among thousands of them in the refugee camps, and sometimes heavy eyes would lift as a cloth was laid gently on the bare shoulder, and a faint watery smile of surprise would make the face even more piteous than the stupor. Eyes full of appeal, of agonised despair, of hopeless entreaty of helpless anguish, thousands of them camp after camp. “Shameful inhumanity proceeding in Malabar,” says Mr. Gandhi. Shameful inhumanity indeed, wrought by the Moplas, and these are the victims, saved from extermination by British and Indian swords; For be it remembered the Moplas began the whole horrible business; the Government intervened to save their victims and these thousands have been saved. Mr. Gandhi would have hostilities suspended—so that the Moplas may sweep down on the refugee camps, and finish their work?”
I visited in Calicut three huge Committee camps, two Christian, and the Congress building and compound where doles of rice are given daily from 7 A.M. to noon. In all, the arrangements were good. Big thatched sheds, and some buildings shelter the women and children, the men sleep outside. They are all managed by Indians, the Zamorini’s Committee distributing cloths and money to all, except the Congress committee, which work independently and gives food from its own resource. At Palghat, similar arrangements are made by the Zamorini’s Committee, and the order and care in feeding are good to see.
Let me finish with a beautiful story told to me. Two Pulayas, the lowest of the submerged classes, were captured with others, and given the choice between Islam and Death. These, the outcaste of Hinduism, the untouchables, so loved the Hinduism which had been so unkind a step- mother to them, that they chose to die Hindus rather than to live Muslim. May the God of both, Muslim and Hindus send His messengers to these heroic souls, and give them rebirth into the Faith for which they died.
Report by Madhavan Nair, Secretary, Calicut District Congress Committee :
Maulana Mohani justified the looting of Hindus by the Moplas as lawful by way of commandeering in a war between the latter and the Government of as a matter of necessity when the Moplas were forced to live in jungles. The Maulana perhaps does not know that the majority of the cases, the almost wholesale looting of Hindu houses in portions of Ernad, Valluvand and Ponani Taluques [counties] was perpetrated on the 21st, 22nd, and the 23rd of August  before the military had arrived in the affected area to arrest or to fight the rebels even before Martial Law had been declared (in Malabar). The Moplas had not be taken themselves to the jungles as the Maulana supposes nor had the Hindus as a class done anything to them to deserve their hostility. The outbreak commenced on the 20th of August , the police and the District Magistrate withdrew from Tirunangadi to Calicut on the 21st and the policemen throughout the affected area has taken to their heels. There was no adversary to the Moplas as the time whom the Hindus could possibly have helped or invited, and the attack on them was most wanton and unprovoked.
Comment added: Maulana Mohani, like a hundred other Khilafat leaders, well knew the truth but arrogantly justified the Mopla atrocities as a ‘military necessity’ drive by self-defence. But these reports clearly show that the Mopla Rebellion was a planned uprising that began immediately after the expiry of Gandhi’s promise of ‘swaraj within the year’ and not a sporadic outbreak.
According to Annie Besant, it began on the day of expiry, and soon spread to the whole region – becoming a full-blown rebellion on or about August 20. The district authorities, including the police, were caught unaware and also not equipped to handle a large-scale rebellion. Chaos reigned in Malabar for several months, forcing the Government to declare Martial Law. The Army had to be called in and it was months before the rebellion was out down after the loss of several thousand lives and unspeakable atrocities. The Congress historians like to pretend that all this never happened, while the Marxists glorify the Moplas as ‘freedom fighters’ !
Madhavan Nair sent several other reports, a few of which are included in the Appendix to Sankaran Nair’s Gandhi and Anarchy. Murders, rapes and forcible conversions were the order of the day. I find most of them too gruesome to be included here, but the following excerpt should give an idea:
“Can you conceive of a more ghastly and inhuman crime than the murder of babies and pregnant women? … A pregnant woman carrying 7 months was cut through the abdomen by a rebel and she was seen lying dead on the way with the dead child projecting out … Another baby of six months was snatched away from the breast of the mother and cut into two pieces … Are these rebels human beings or monsters? These are by no means the most gruesome of the accounts described. But enough to give an idea of the atrocities committed by the ‘God-fearing’ plus acting ‘in a manner they consider as religious’ as Gandhi praised them. To those familiar with the history, the barbarism of their modern counter parts in Afghanistan – the Taliban also following the dictates of their ‘religion’ – will come as no surprise.
In this context, it is worth recalling the book on Khilafat by N.S Rajaram, who wrote about the Khilafat advocacy undertaken by Mahatma Gandhi in the 1920s and its corollary, the Mopla Rebellion. It is a sad tale of how the chimerical and short-sighted actions of a handful of leaders resulted in human misery on a horrendous scale. Navratna Srinivasa Rajaram (Dr N S Rajaram) was a renowned researcher, prolific writer and mathematician turned Hindutva-scholar. Refer Swarajya to know more about him and his works.
Here is an extract from his book “Gandhi, Khilafat & The National Movement ” (First published in 1999 and then in 2009) : “When we compare the situation in India today with what it was in 1920, we find both similarities and differences. The Muslim masses today are no more enlightened and no less under the grip of reactionary forces than they were at the time of the Khilafat eighty years ago. But they are much weaker relative to the Hindu majority. Also, there are no Muslims leaders on the horizon that command the kind of influence and authority that the Ali brothers did. Neither is there a Hindu leader of the stature of Mahatma Gandhi willing to stake all for the sake of ‘unity’ and carry the people with him. At the same time, there is no shortage of secondary leaders willing to take the side of any Muslim demand regardless of its merit. The Congress Party – as well as the Communist – is practically in their hands. Only future will tell if Indians have learnt any lessons from their history – from the Khilafat to the Partition to Kashmir to the Bangladesh War. Of one thing one can be certain: if there is any upheaval in the name of Islam in the neighboring Pakistan, Indian Muslims will not remain unaffected by it. The real question is whether Indian leaders will act with the national interest foremost, or display the same kind of sophistry and equivocation as in the past. The postures of the Congress Party – and the machinations of the Communists inspire little confidence in this regard.
The world also has an important lesson to learn: religion can act as a cover for committing the most unspeakable atrocities, as the Appendixes to this document record. But for reasons that this writer finds incomprehensible, the world does not want to learn this basic truth. To those familiar with the history reported here, the atrocities in the name of religion by the Taliban in Afghanistan come as no surprise. But if we fail to learn from this history, the pattern will only repeat itself somewhere else. The more things change, the more they remain same”. – N.S. RAJARAM
Communist treachery, ‘sophists with sponges’ (Excerpts from N.S Rajaram’s book : Gandhi, Khilafat & The National Movement.
Beyond Rampage by Harishankar BS: Get it here
The Moplah Rebellion 1921 by Gopalan Nair C – Get it here
Attempt to whitewash Moplah atrocities is latest case of Communist schizofascism (Article by Ram Madhav).
Shri Kalyan Singh as Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh played a crucial role in the Ram Janmbhoomi movement. He always takes pride in the fact that the disputed structure was demolished during his tenure. Excerpts from an interview Shri Singh gave to Organiser on July 14, 1991.
Q. How do you plan to deal with the Ram Janmbhoomi issue ?
I am committed to allow the construction of the temple at Ayodhya. I declared this at Ayodhya on July 13, in the presence of a number of people present there, including some senior leaders of BJP.
I have also appealed to Muslim leaders of the State to support the Government for this cause. Their response is positive. I am confident ; a way will be found, keeping in view the sentiments of all concerned.
Q. How can you succeed in your effort where the previous Governments have failed?
The previous Governments were not sincere in fact, they did not want the construction of Ram Temple. Their approach was negative. They were creating all sorts of hurdles in the way. My Governments will clear the way for VHP to construct the temple.
Q. Do you intend to acquire the land for this purpose ?
All steps necessary for this purpose will be taken. I have already talked to senior BJP leaders in this regard. I have also appealed to Muslim leaders of State to support the Government for this cause. Their response is positive. I am confident; a way will be found, keeping in view the sentiments of all concerned.
Q. Do you propose to take away action against guilty officers in respect of atrocities against Karsevaks ?
The inquiry commission set up by the previous Government was only an eyewash. A new commission will be set up to enquire into the questions as to what led to the tragic events of October 30 and november 2. Suitable actions will be taken against the quilty officers who exceed their jurisdiction in committing atrocities on the innocent people. The commission will also enquire into the riots which broke out in UP after these events.
By Arihant Pawariya for Swarajya
- The narrative the media are trying to build — that Savarkar was somehow against cow protection itself and would’ve admonished gau-rakshaks — will fall flat because nothing can be farther from the truth. He was a vocal advocate of gau-raksha. ___________________________________________________________________________________________
Last month witnessed the release of two back-to-back biographies of Savarkar by Vikram Sampath and Vaibhav Purandare.
The fact that it took almost half a century for an English biography of a nationalistic icon to come out speaks volumes about our national apathy towards revolutionary anti-colonial heroes.
Perhaps it is a manifestation of the changing times that we are finally ready to stop demonising them and regurgitating the colonial propaganda, and stop insulting our martyrs by calling them misguided patriots or terrorists.
Both the works of Sampath and Purandare provide ample ammunition in helping understand the Savarkar phenomenon.
There is a lot to be learnt and celebrated about him — the difficult but inspiring childhood of a precocious boy, his role in the revolutionary movement for independence, him enduring inhuman incarceration in the Andamans with great fortitude, his Himalayan contribution to Indian political philosophy, his works as a social reformer and what not.
However, the usual suspects in the media, the intellectual heirs of those who have ignored or demonised Savarkar for decades, are not interested in highlighting any of these aspects.
Most of them are instead publishing excerpts from the books where Savarkar makes a case to not treat the bovine as divine. In the interviews with authors, leading questions about his views on cow worship are asked so that Savarkar can be used to run down present day gau-rakshaks.
The narrative they are trying to build — that Savarkar was somehow against cow protection itself and would’ve admonished gau-rakshaks — will fall flat because nothing can be farther from the truth. He was a vocal advocate of gau-raksha.
In fact, Savarkar’s first brush with communal riots as a 11-year old boy in his hometown Bhagur, was also precipitated by cow-related violence among other things. As Sampath writes, ‘these experiences taught him how poorly organized and disunited the Hindu community was’ and ‘this made Hindus doubly vulnerable to attacks.’
Yes, Savarkar didn’t want Hindu society to treat the cow as a divine creature. “The cow eats at one end and expels urine and dung at the other end. When it is tired it lies down in its own filth. Then it uses its tail (which we call beautiful) to spread this filth all over its body. How can a creature which does not understand cleanliness be considered divine?,” he reasoned.
“Why are cow’s urine and dung purifying while even the shadow of a man like Ambedkar is defiling?” Savarkar raised a pertinent question to Hindu society.
When it came to cows, his approach was utilitarian. He believed the cow was meant for the man and not the other way around, hence, it must be looked after well to maximise her usefulness. After all, the Hindus treated the cow as holy only because she was so useful to them.
Today, some vested interests are quoting aforementioned arguments of Savarkar to run down gau-rakshaks but his intention was exactly the opposite. “I criticized the false notions involved in cow worship with the aim of removing the chaff and preserving the essence so that cow protection may be better achieved,” he said.
Clearly he was making a case that worshiping the cow was of no use if it is prioritized over its protection. He said,
A worshipful attitude is necessary for protection. But it is improper to forget the duty of cow protection and indulging only in worship. The word ‘only’ used here is important. First protect the cow and then worship it if you so desire.
This is a far cry from what the trigger-happy Hindutva-baiters want us to believe by quoting Savarkar out of context, exactly the same modus operandi they have employed in painting him as a British stooge based on the mercy petitions written by him during his incarceration in the Andamans.
In any case, Savarkar’s appeal to Hindus to not consider the bovine as divine was in no way a nod for non-Hindus to go ahead with killing cows as if it was their religious duty.
As Purandare writes, “Savarkar wrote that Hindus might be naive but they weren’t cruel” unlike those who kill the cow as part of their “dharma”’ and thus had “no right to ridicule cow worshippers for their beliefs”.
Savarkar charged cow killers with possessing an ‘asuric instinct’ and urged all non-Hindus to “discard their religious cow hatred and consider cow protection done for economic reasons to be their duty.”
Some too-clever-by-half agenda-peddlers have even said that Savarkar advocated eating beef, conveniently throwing the context again in the dustbin. He was talking of extreme situations.
If a fortified city of the Hindu nation was under siege and was running out of rations, then rather than dying of starvation and surrendering, he believes it would be better to slaughter cows, use their flesh as food, to fight and defeat the enemy.
According to Savarkar, sacrificing the cow was acceptable in national interest. He cited examples of Indians kings who would capitulate in front of foreign invaders whenever the latter threatened to harm the cows, temples or Brahmins.
“Foolishness led to the sacrifice of the nation for the sake of a few cows and Brahmins and temples,” he said.
Savarkar was forthright and unwavering in his views. It will serve us all well if we attempt to understand why he said the things that are being gleefully misused by the media. Quoting him without context is a disservice to his memory and will not work in this day of social media awareness.
Arihant Pawariya is Senior Editor, Swarajya.