Category Archives: History

Philosophies of Gandhi and Deendayal

– Dr. Walter K. Anderson (American scholar, author of “Brotherhood in Saffron”).

After Mohandas Gandhi’s emergence as the major figure in India’s freedom movement in the 1920’s his life, thought and program became benchmarks against which other Indian political and social figures were compared. There has been a marked revival of interest in Gandhi since the electoral victory of the Janata Party, many of whose leaders trace the Party’s ideological roots to him.

Simultaneously, there has been a developing interest in the life of Deendayal Upadhyaya. Until recently, he was not widely known outside the confines of the Jan Sangh.

It was almost inevitable, both for intellectual and ideological reasons, that the two men would be compared. However, there are major difficulties in any effort to do so. The political environment in which they worked was different; their own social backgrounds were not the same; their most immediate political objectives were not the same. Perhaps, the most difficult problem is the lack of available material on Upadhyaya. Unlike Gandhi, who was among the most public of private men, Upadhyaya was a quiet man who preferred to operate out of the spotlight. The published compendium on his life and thought is still very thin. Research is now in progress in India to rectify the situation and the time may be near when we will get a more complete picture of his contribution to the social and political thought of India. Consequently, any attempt to compare Upadhayaya and Gandhi will have to be very preliminary and subject to much revision as more information comes to light. Those best qualified to speak on him are people who worked closely with Upadhayaya and hopefully they will contribute to the efforts of those who are collecting material on him.

Gandhi and Upadhayaya were primarily organisers and only secondarily interested in philosophic speculation. Indeed neither were intellectuals in the conventional sense of the term – that is erudite and sophisticated men with academic qualifications and long lists of books to their credit. Neither wrote systematic treaties on morals and politics, nor was either a philosopher, in the sense that they were not particularly interested in abstract theoretical formulations. Gandhi, for example, told a scholar researching the concept of *Satyagraha*: “but satyagraha is not a subject of research – you must experience it, use it, live by it” (Joan Bandurant, Conquest of Violence – Pg 146). I suspect similar anecdotes could be repeated of Upadhayaya.

Both men were charismatic figures, though Gandhi had the larger impact, in part because so many considered him a saintly figure, if not a saint. His asceticism convinced many that he was able to realize ideals which many held, but which few could realize. (See study in Lloyd and Susanne Rudolph, Modernity of Tradition, pt. 2). Gandhi transformed the Indian National Congress from a rather staid debating forum of the anglicized upper class into a rationalized organization that encompassed a wide range of activities that touched on the lives of the masses. His organizational skills, combined with his charismatic appeal as a Mahatma, transformed the Congress into the effective action arm of the independence movement.
Upadhayaya also possessed the characteristic of the saintly. He gave up the calling of a profession and a family to dedicate himself to the Motherland. His life was Spartan and his adherence to moral standards was of an unusually high order. These traits brought him the respect, if nor devotion, of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) Swayamsevaks in the United Provinces where he served as a Pracharak (full time worker) from 1942-51, the latter few years as assistant state organizer of the RSS in the now-renamed Uttar Pradesh. He has a similar effect on the cadre of the Jan Sangh where he was one of the two All-India Secretaries after the formation of the party in 1951 and from 1952-67 the All-India Secretary, Dr. Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, president of the newly founded party for a few years before his untimely death., commented that were he to have several more men like Upadhyaya he could transform India. Upadhyaya certainly transformed the Jan Sangh. He took over the management of the party at the death of Dr. Mukherjee in mid-1953 at a time when many questioned whether it could survive without a towering figure such as Mukherjee to lead it. There was strife in the small party over control of the executive and confusion over its program. He instilled discipline, broadened participation, recruited a dedicated cadre and shaped its program to espouse the interests of those with little money, power or status. While there were a few minor defections during his life, the Jan Sangh was the one major India party which suffered no significant fissure. That is a testimony to the cohesive organization that he mulled.

Yet, it must be recognized that he was never a mahatma, nor is there any indication that he aspired to such a status. Indeed, he even tried to avoid public attention. From both his writings and talking with people who knew him, I get the image of a man who felt uncomfortable in the limelight, who believed that the organization and its goals were incomparably more important than personal recognition.

So self-effacing was he that, for example, he often would not sign articles that he wrote for Panchajanya, a journal which he edited from Lucknow in the late 1940’s. Consistent with the RSS tradition from which he came, he viewed personal publicity as a detriment to the cause – and the cause was organizing Indians to overcome the internal divisions that, he felt, had historically exposed the country to outside subversion and that has undermined the willing ness to make the sacrifices necessary for economic and cultural revival.

Unlike Gandhi, Upadhyaya was not a religious man in conventional sense of the term. While he was stepped in the Hindu traditions, particularly Vedant, he was not a wordly sadhu and he was not moved to act by religious precepts. However, like Gandhi, he rejected post-Machiavellian trend of western thought that posited the separation of religious and political ideals. In their attempt to fuse the two concepts, Gandhi and Upadhyaya drew on the traditional Hindu concept of Karma Yoga, or spiritual realization through social work. Both accepted the traditional notion that Dharma (individual and social duty) is the legitimate guide for shaping Artha (interest) and Karma (pleasure).

Yet, their approach to the determination of dharma was quite different. Gandhi stressed the individual’s quest of satya (truth) to inform him of the ethical rules that govern man’s behavior. This approach stands out in his oft-quoted assertion that “I would reject all authority if it is in conflict with sober reason or the dictates of the heart. Authority sustains and ennobles the weak when it supplants reason (that is) sanctioned by the small voice within”. Gandhi’s focus on individual effort has led some to conclude that he was a moral anarchist, if not also a social anarchist. For example, he wrote in Young India (March 1931), “there is no freedom for India so long as one man, no matter how highly placed he may be, holds in the hollow of his hands the life, property and honor of millions of human beings. It is artificial, unnatural and uncivilized institution”. Gandhi of course, was not an anarchist in either sense, for he also accepted the Vedantist notion that there is an underlying truth potentially open to all. Moreover, he had a respect for traditional institutions such as the Panchayata and the varna system, both of which specified special social duties and responsibilities.

Upadhyaya on the other hand, emphasized the collective wisdom of the nation as the authoritative voice of Dharma. However, he was also apprehensive that the majority might not always properly understand the laws of Dharma. “But even the people are not sovereign because people too have no right to act against Dharma” (Integral Humanism, page -56). Furthermore, “the truth cannot be decided by the majority; what the government will do will be decided by Dharma (Ibid – page -58). He does not define who the legitimate interpreter of dharma is. It is not unreasonable to conclude from his writings that he thought democracy the system most likely to approximate dharma since it provides an opportunity to detached men dedicated to national well-being to shape and correct public opinion.
The centrality of the nation in his thought rests on notion that it has a soul (i.e, “chiti”), shaped by experiences within a given geographical space and motivated by an over-arching ideal ( Integral Humanism – page 36-37). In describing the nation, he often drew on the metaphor of an organism, in particular the human body, in which each part has its true reality only in the particular function it fulfills within the whole.

“A system based on the recognition of this mutually complementary nature of the different ideals of mankind, their essential harmony, a system which devises laws which removes the disharmony and enhances their mutual usefulness and cooperation, alone can being peace and happiness to mankind; can ensure steady development” (Integral Humanism – page 39). Indeed, it is this organic concept of the nation that, it his view, has been the ideal that kept alive the Indian nation through the vicissitudes of time. It is its unique contribution to political philosophy. His major philosophic argument against the ruling political elite of his time was his conviction that they advocated western notions of society and, in the process, undermined the integral unity that has sustained Bharatiya civilization.

He was far less committed to traditional institutions than Gandhi. His writings are sprinkled with attacks on the caste system, as practiced. In his view, all institutions are derivative and, when they cease to fulfill the integrating function, they should be revised or abandoned. It is not surprising that orthodox Hindus were among the major critics of the Jan Sangh.

Gandhi’s political object was Swaraj (self-rule). But he interpreted Swaraj as more than mere independence from the British; it carried the meaning of an all-embracing self-sufficiency down to the village level. Self-sufficiency translated into a concrete program of action that led him to espouse Swadeshi (self-reliance) and the central effort during the years of the nationalist struggle for Swaraj lay in the propagation of Khadi (hand-spun cloth). Swadeshi served not only an economic function in actual supply of cloth; it also carried significant ideological implications. It was the central piece of his elaborate constructive work program. It was the symbolic representative of his effort against centralized industry and urbanization which he thought degraded the worker. (These products of modernization were attacked vigorously in his tract – Hind Swaraj, written in 1909). His condemnation of western materialism led him inevitably to support the concept of self-governing village communities and a simple low-technology system of production.

Upadhyaya’s writings demonstrate a comparable outrage against the effects of westen models of development. In a series of lectures in Poona in 1964 on Integral Humanism, later adopted as the official ideological statement of the Jan Sangh, he lashed out at both Socialism and Capitalism. “Democracy and Capitalism join hands to give a free reign to exploitation. Socialism replaced Capitalism and brought with it an end to democracy and individual freedom” (Integral Humanism – page 10). In their place, he proposes a model that takes into consideration all aspects of the human condition, “body, mind, intelligence and soul – these four make up an individual”. (Ibid – page 24). In practical terms,, the notion translated into a decentralized economy and political system in which citizens have a meaningful voice in the production process and in their own governance. This populist conception assumes a leveling in both economic and political power. Marked differences in access to power or economic resources would undermine the harmony he believed to be the essential cement of the good society.

Upadhayaya was not, however, adverse to the selective adoption of science, technology or even urbanization. (Ibid –page 8). He thought that they should be adapted to local conditions to improve the economic well-being of the population. Societies must produce enough to feed, cloth, house, educate and employ those within it. To do less would result in misery and strife, thus disrupting the harmony necessary for well-being of the collective. At the same time, however, he felt that consumption should not degenerate into consumerism (Ibid – page 65). “From this point of view, it must be realized that the object of our economic system should be, not extravagant use of available resources, but a well regulated use. The physical objects necessary for a purposeful happy and progressive life must be obtained. The Almighty has provided as much. It will not be wise, however, to engage into a blind rat-race of consumption and production as if man is created for the sole purpose of consumption.”

Finally, both (Gandhi and Deendayal) were suspicious of political power and its corrupting effect on public figures. Neither held a political office and neither aspired to do so. (Upadhyaya once ran, unsuccessfully, for parliamentary, but I strongly suspect that he did so with no great enthusiasm). Gandhi a few months after India attained independence told his closest colleagues, “By adjuring power and by devoting ourselves to pure and selfless service of voters, we can guide and influence them. It would give us far more real power than we shall have by going into government… Today politics has become corrupt. Anybody who goes into it is contaminated. Let us keep out of it altogether. Our influence will grow thereby.” (D.G. Tendulkar, Mahatma, Volume-8-pages 278-80). His advise, of course, was rejected by most of his Congress colleagues. Ironically, Upadhyaya, the leader of a political party, would probably have subscribed to his view of politics. He wrote, “Today politics ceased to be a means. It has become an end in itself. We have today people who are engaged in power with a view to achieving certain social and national objectives” (Political Dairy – page 115). Nevertheless, he thought it important, if not crucial, for the detached man of good will to remain in the political arena to help shape public opinion in the path of “Truth” (or Dharma). Consequently, he placed great stress on recruiting to politics men of high moral rectitude.

Despite the many differences between the two men, both came to the conclusion that it is the quality of men in society who will ultimately determine the nature of the state. This is at variance with most contemporary western political though (both speculative and empirical) which argues that conflicting interests are the major forces that shape the state and its policies. Whatever the merits of Gandhi’s and Upadhyaya’s views on the issue, their intense interests in the types of people who worked around them were of fundamental importance in their successful organization-building efforts.

The Liberation of Hyderabad State from the Nizam

While the rest of Bharat was celebrating Independence on 15th of August, 1947, Hyderabad state ( current Telangana, parts of Maharashtra & Karnataka ) under the Nizam was witnessing a different scenario: those who tried to celebrate were being caned, fired upon and arrested by Nizam’s Police. Razakaars (private militia of Nizam) were attacking the people and the Indian National Flag was being torn apart. It was amply evident that the rulers of the erstwhile Hyderabad state and their cohorts, were not inclined to celebrate Indian Freedom. The reason is not difficult to fathom: Nizam and his ilk neither considered themselves Bharatiyas nor wanted to be so.

In his book Pilgrimage to Freedom, Dr. KM Munshi, India’s Agent General in Hyderabad before the Police Action in Hyderabad, had written that the Nizam of Hyderabad had set his heart on becoming a third Dominion of the British Commonwealth. When Nizam saw that Clause 7 of the Indian Independence Bill did not permit the grant of Dominion Status to an Indian State, he had lamented against the “way in which my state is being abandoned by its old ally, the British Government, and the ties which have bound me in loyal devotion to the King Emperor are being severed.”

Some of the ‘hallmarks’ of Nizam’s regime were suppression of Bharatiya Culture and followers of Sanatana Dharma, victimization of Indian Nationalists, banning symbols of Indian civilization, forced conversions, promotion of Urdu at the cost of local languages like Telugu, Kannada and Marathi and above all, elimination of vocal voices against the Islamist tyranny through rape and day light assassinations.
 
In addition to the Islamist zealots Razakaars, the Communists were also a menace. In his book The Story of Integration of Indian States, author VP Menon writes the following regarding the Communists in the erstwhile state:
“…people went to the extent of saying that the Razakars ruled by day, while the Communists ruled by night…subsequently the Communists allied themselves with the Razakars who, for a time, had become the virtual masters of Hyderabad…the Razakars and the Communists were truly an ill-assorted pair, for whereas the former wanted to establish a Muslim oligarchy in the State, the latter’s purpose was to exploit the turmoil and confusion so that they could take possession of the State and ultimately spread their tentacles to the rest of India”
 
All efforts of GoI bore no fruit and Hyderabad State continued to dodge efforts aimed to bring it into the Indian Union. Nizam’s government started divesting itself of its Indian securities, banning the Indian currency, halting the export of precious metals and ground nuts, organising illegal gun-running from Pakistan, and inviting new recruits to its army and to its private Militia – the Razakaars.
 
These developments alarmed the then Home Minister Sardar Patel who had famously described an independent Hyderabad as “an ulcer in the heart of India which needed to be removed surgically.”
These events culminated in Sardar Patel instructing and authorizing Indian Army to execute Operation Polo – the code name for a brief 5-day Police Action which liberated Hyderabad from the clutches of Nizam. It commenced on 13th of September 1948 and ended swiftly on 17th of September, 1948 with the surrender of Nizam and the liberation of the erstwhile Hyderabad State. #HyderabadLiberationDay
Anant Seth

July 25, 1947; When Mountbatten addressed The Chamber of Princes to choose either of the 2 dominions; India or Pakistan, there was NO THIRD OPTION

The Indian Independence Act was passed by the British Parliament on June 17, 1947 and received Royal assent on July 18, 1947; but the fate of the Princely States was largely decided on May 12, 1946 when the Memorandum on State Treaties and Paramountcy was presented to the Nawab of Bhopal and Chancellor of the Chamber of Princes in India by the Cabinet Mission. There was no pre-condition for accession except the decision of the rulers, though the importance of geographical contiguity was emphasized by Mountbatten to the rulers. The Mountbatten Plan of June 3, 1947 discussed the partition of India and advised the rulers of the states to join either of the two dominions in their own interest. On July 25, 1947 Mountbatten addressed a special meeting of the Chamber of Princes and reiterated the need to use the Instrument of Accession to accede to either of the two dominions. Maharaja Hari Singh joined India through this instrument, like the other Princely States.
There was no third option, Read the the address speech of  Crown Representative Lord Louis Mountbatten’s Address to A Special Full Meeting of The Chamber of Princes on July 25, 1947
 
“It is a Great pleasure and a great privilege for me to address so many Rulers, Dewans and Representatives of the States of India in this historic Chamber of Princes. It is the first and last occasion that I have the privilege of addressing you as crown Representative.
 
I would like to begin by giving you a very brief history of the negotiations I had conducted since I have been out here and the line that I have taken up about the States. There were two distinct problems that faced me. The first was how to transfer power to British India and the Second how to fit Indian States into the picture in a manner which would be fair and just to all concerned.
I dealt first with the problem of British India, because you will realize that until that problem was solved it was quite useless to try to start on a solution of the problem of the States. So I addressed my mind to the former. There had been universal acceptance among the States of the Cabinet Mission’s Memorandum of 12th May and when the political parties accepted the Statement of 3rd June they fully realized and accepted that withdrawal of Paramountcy would enable the States to regain complete sovereignty. That gave me a starting point from which to try and deal fairly with the states.
But before I got down to dealing with the States there was one other thing that I clearly had to do. I had to address myself to the problem of the mechanics of partition- a plan against my personal desires. As you all know, It took three years to separate Burma from India, in spite of the fact (as I can testify, as also His Highness of Bundi and other who fought in Burma) that there are no roads running between Indian and Burma. Nevertheless, it took three years to arrange that partition. It took two years to separate the province of Sind from Bombay. It took two years to separate the province of Orrissa from Bihar.
Gentlemen, we decided that in less than two and a half months we shall have to go through the partitioning of one of the biggest countries in the world with 400 million in habitants. There was a reason for the speed. I was quite certain that while the British overlordship remained no satisfactory conclusions could be reached psychologically between the parties. So once we got the two Governments set up and separated they would be able to try and finish off the details in an atmosphere of goodwill. Now, the Indian Independence Act releases all the States from all their obligations to the crown. The States will have complete freedom- technically and legally they become independent. Presently I will discuss the degree of Independence which we ourselves feel is best in the interests of your own states. But there has grown up during the period of British Administration, owing to the fact that the crown Representative and the Viceroy are one and the same person, a system of coordinated administration on all matters of common concern which meant that the sub-continent of India acted as an economic entity. That link is now to be broken. If nothing can be put in its place, only chaos can result, and that chaos, I submit will hurt the States first, the bigger the States the less the hurt and longer it will take to feel it-but even the biggest of the States will feel the hurt just the same as any small state. The first step was to set up some machinery by which it was possible to put the two future Governments of India- the Dominions of India and Pakistan-into direct touch with the States. So I conceived the scheme of setting up two states Departments within the future Governments. Please note that these States are not the successors of Political Departments. They have been set up simultaneously and side by side. While the Political department exercised functions relating to paramountcy on behalf of the Crown Representative, the States Departments are to take over those subjects gradually which have nothing to do with paramountcy but which will be concerned with relations with neighboring States and also provide the Machinery to negotiate in such matters. In India the States Department is under admirable guidance of Sardar Vallabhhai Patel with my own reforms Commissioner, Mr. VP Menon as Secretary. In Pakistan the Department is under Sardar Abdur Rab NIshtar with Mr. Ikramullah as the Secretary.
It was necessary to set up two States Departments, one in each Government, because States are theoretically free to link their future with whichever dominion they may care. But when I say that they are at liberty to link up with either of the Dominions, may I point that there are certain geographical compulsions which cannot be evaded. Out of something like 565 states the vast majority irretrievably linked geographically with the dominion of India. The problem therefore is of far greater magnitude with the dominion of India than it is with Pakistan. In the case of Pakistan the States although important, are not so numerous, and Mr. Jinnah, the future Governor-general of Pakistan, is prepared to negotiate the case of each State separately and individually. But in the case of India, where the overwhelming majority of the states are involved, clearly separate negotiation with each State is out the question.
The step that I took was to suggest that in the Bill Parliament- the Indian Independence Act- a clause should be put in which would enable certain essential agreement continue until renounced by either side. That was only done to ensure that there should be some continuity if in the short time available it was not possible to get the agreement through with every State representative. It does not replace the need for Standstill agreements; it gives a very slight breathing space. Now, I think it is no exaggeration to say that most Rulers and Dewans were apprehensive as to what their future would be when Paramountcy lapsed. At one time it appeared that unless they joined the Constituent Assembly and accepted the constitution when it was framed, they would be outside the organization and left in a position which, I submit, no state could view with equanimity -left out and having no satisfactory relations or contacts with either Dominion Government. You can imagine how relived I was , and I am sure you will yourselves have been equally relived when Sardar Vallabh bhai Patel on taking over the States Department made , if I may say so, a most Statesman like Statement of what he considered were the essentials towards agreement between the States and the Dominion of India. Let us turn for one moment to the Cabinet Mission Plan of 16 May 1946. In this Plan the proposal was that the States should surrender to Central Governments three subjects Defence, External Affairs and Communications. That was a plan which to the best of my belief, every Ruler and every State accepted as reasonable, fair and Just. I talked with so many Rulers and everyone felt that Defence was a matter that a State could not conduct itself. I am not talking of internal security but of defence against external aggression. I submit what if you do not link up with one or other of the Dominions; you may be cut off from any source of supplies of up-to-date arms or weapons.
“External Affairs” is inextricably linked up with Defence. “External Affairs” is something again which is outside the boundaries of India in which not even the greatest state can operate effectively. You can hardly want to go to the expense of having ambassadors or ministers or consuls in all foreign countries; surely you want to be able to use those of India or Pakistan. Once more I suggest that “External Affairs” is something that you have not dealt with since the formation of East India Company. It would be difficult to operate and will also be a source of embarrassment for you to have to take it up and it can only be managed by those who manage the Defence of the Country. I submit that if you take it up it will be a liability and not an asset.
The third subject is communications. “Communications” is really a means of maintaining the life-blood of the whole sub-continent. I imagine everybody agrees that the life of the country has got to go on. The continuity of communications is already has got to go on. The continuity of communications is already provided for to a certain extent in the Indian Independence Act; Therefore, I am sure you will agree that these three subjects have got to be handled for you for your convenience and advantage by a larger organization. This seems so obvious I was at loss to understand why some Rulers were reluctant to accept the position. One explanation probably was that some you were apprehensive that the Central Government would attempt to impose a financial liability on the States or encroach in other ways on their sovereignty. If I am right in this assumption, at any rate so far as some Prim concerned, I think I can dispel their apprehension misgivings. The Draft Instrument of Accession which I caused to be circulated as a basis for discussion (and not for publication) to the representatives of the States provides that the States accede to the appropriate Dominion on the three subjects only without any financial liability. Further, that Instrument contains an explicit provision that in no other matters has the Central Government any authority to encroach of the internal autonomy or the sovereignty of the States. This would, in my view, be a tremendous achievement for the States. But I must make it clear that I have still to persuade the Government of India to accept it. If all of you will co-operate with me and are ready to accede, I am confident that I can succeed in my efforts. Remember that the day of the transfer of power is very close at hand and, if you are prepared to come, you must come before 15 August.
I have no doubt that this is in the best interests of the States, and every wise Ruler and wise Government would desire to link up with the Great Dominion of India on a basis which leaves you great internal autonomy and which at the same time gets rid of your worries and cares over External Affairs, Defence and Communications. The whole country is passing through a critical period. I am not asking any State to make any intolerable sacrifice of either its internal autonomy or independence. My scheme leaves you with all the practical independence that you can possibly use and makes you free of all those subjects which you cannot possibly manage on your own. You cannot run away from the Dominion Government which is your neighbor any more than you can run away from the subjects for whose welfare you are responsible. Whatever may be your decision, I hope you feel that I have at least done my duty by the States.”
Source : JKNow

Brindavana of Sri Vyasatirtha

Brindavana of Sri Vyasatirtha (Rajaguru of Krishnadevaraya) has been destroyed last night by miscreants. Nava Brundavana Kshetra, an island in Tungabhadra river, adjacent to Hampi. Outrageous!


Navabrundaavana (also known as Navavrundhaavana and Navabrindavan) ನವ ಬೃಂದಾವನ is located at Hampi, Karnataka. It contains the Brundaavanas of nine Hindu Acharyas, who belong to Uttaradi Mutt, Sri Raghavendra mutt, Sri Vyasaraja mutt and the Sri SriPadaraja mutt and other prominent Madhwa Mutts. It is located on an island in the Tungabhadra River. The nine Dharmacharyas are:

Shree Padmanabha Tirtha, direct Sishya of Jagadguru Shri Madhvacharya

Shree Kavindra Teertharu

Shree Vageesha Teertharu

Shree Raghuvarya Teertharu

Shree Vyaasa Teertharu or Vyasaraajaru

Shree Sudheendhra Teertharu (Guru of Mantralaya Shri Raghavendra Tirtha)

Shree Srinivaasa Teertharu

Shree Raama Teertharu

Shree Govinda Vodeyaru

Swarajya, Swadharma and Swadeshi – The Key Issues of 1857 War of Independence –

May 10th, 1857 War of Independence began in Meeruth.

This war was fought all over the country on the issues of Swarajya, Swadharma, Swadeshi and Goraksha. Kamal (lotus)—the symbol of Hindu Dharma—and roti (bread)—the symbol of the basic needs of common man—were used as war symbols and people participated in large numbers from urban, rural, forest and hill areas. Precisely for this reason, the then British government had perpetrated heinous atrocities on common people along with freedom fighters.

The British derided this war as an ordinary and localised ‘Sepoy mutiny’ and an attempt to protect kingdoms and feudal states, so that the ordinary masses would not get any inspiration from it. Unfortunately, a section of our countrymen joined this chorus and started describing it as merely a ‘Sepoy mutiny’. Even our history textbooks too present it in the same manner. In spite of all this, the scintillating image of this war as a glorious War of Independence remained intact in the hearts of the people.

Swatantryaveer Savarkar authored a well-researched treatise on this War of Independence and threw light on its popular and countrywide character and its impact on the freedom struggle that followed. It played a very important role during the Independence Movement despite the British imposing a ban even before its publication. The post-1857 history is a standing testimony to the fact that on one hand the revolutionaries and other freedom fighters drew inspiration from the narratives of sacrifices and valour of this great war until the time of Independence, while on the other hand, it provided a major source of inspiration in the struggle for the liberation of Goa and Puducherry (Pondicherry) after Independence.

Some people interpret this war as a symbol of Hindu-Muslim unity. While there is nothing objectionable about it, it cannot be kept in the category of the efforts for Hindu-Muslim unity based on mindless appeasement that took place in the latter part of our freedom struggle. It should be kept in mind that all these efforts had culminated in the tragic Partition of our country in 1947. The participation of the Muslims in the 1857 war was based on positive grounds rather than on religion-based separatist mindset. Honouring the Hindu sentiments, the then Muslim leadership agreed on matters like ban on cow-slaughter, death penalty to the slaughterers of cows, handing over the Ramjanmabhoomi in Ayodhya to Hindus etc. This dimension of Hindu-Muslim co-operation of 1857 should always be kept in mind.

Sacred memories of the freedom struggle and its martyrs are ever-inspiring.

  • From RSS ABPS 2007 

 

Related articles

1857 War – British Holocaust