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Dr. Mohan ji Bhagwat’s address on the occasion of Vijayadashami Yugabdi 5122 ( 2020)

Address by Param Poojaniya Sarsanghchalak Dr. Shri Mohan ji Bhagwat on the occasion of Sri Vijayadashami Utsav 2020 (Sunday, October 25, 2020).

We are all aware that this Vijayadashami the celebrations are restrained in terms of numbers. We are also aware of the cause. To prevent community spread of Corona virus social gatherings are restricted .

Since March the talk about Corona pandemic has shadowed all other talk about developments across the world. Many noteworthy incidents took place between the last Vijayadashami and now. With due observance of parliamentary procedure Article 370 was abrogated well before the Vijayadashami 2019.

After Diwali, on November 9, 2019, the Hon. Supreme Court passed an unambiguous, verdict in the Ram Janmabhoomi case, thereby making a historical judgment. The exemplary patience and understanding of Bharatiya people regarding this judgment became evident in the restraint along with piety and festive fervour displayed on August 5 in Ayodhya at the bhoomipujan and shilanyas samaroh of the soon-to-be constructed Ram Mandir there.

The Citizenship Amendment Act was lawfully passed in the Parliament as per the due constitutional process. This law envisaged expediting the process of granting citizenship to our brothers and sisters who face discrimination and persecution in some of the neighbouring countries and are displaced to seek refuge in our country. These countries have a history of religious persecution against minorities. This amendment in the Citizenship Act does not oppose any particular religious community. The constitutional provisions for granting citizenship to foreigners who come to Bharat continue to be the same. But those who wanted to oppose this new law misled our Muslim brothers by propagating a false notion that it was aimed at restricting the Muslim population. Opportunists took advantage of this delicate situation by unleashing organised violence and causing social unrest in the name of protests. As a consequence, a tense atmosphere was created in the country that put our communal harmony at stake. Even before something could be thought out and done to resolve the situation the Corona pandemic crept in and gradually took hold. In the background, the efforts by rioters and opportunists to reignite the conflict still continue. It is not making a mark on the collective consciousness or garnering headlines in publications other than the ones that fuel such activities because of the overwhelming discussions of Corona in the media.

The scenario is common throughout the world. In comparison to many countries, Bharat stood strong in the face of adversity and dealt with the calamity effectively. There are some reasons why we escaped Corona debilitation that few countries could not. Our governing and administrative agencies promptly sprung up in action. They cautioned citizens, created emergency task forces and efficiently implemented control measures. The media monotonously aired news on just this issue. While this exercise created an atmosphere of disproportionate fear among the common man it also compelled the society to exercise caution and restrain by obeying rules. Government officials, medical practitioners practising different forms of medicine, police officers, municipality workers and cleaners displayed an extraordinary sense of responsibility by dedicatedly serving the infected patients. Maintaining social distance with their own family members, these warriors, risking their lives, embraced the death-scare posed by the virus and bravely stood at the frontline in this war round the clock. Citizens of the country too mobilised private resources and left no stone unturned in offering all possible help their fellow beings needed. While even in these testing times, the tendency to exploit the drawback of the needy to one’s own advantage surfaced here and there, the larger picture was that of sensitivity, cooperation and mutual trust between governmental administrative agencies and society. The women-folk also propelled in action with self-motivation. Those who were displaced owing to the pandemic or the ones who lost jobs and faced misfortune and hunger faced difficulties while remaining patient and tolerant all along. In fact, many anecdotes of people ignoring their own troubles and stepping up to help others came to the fore. Ferrying the state migrants back to their homelands, arranging for food and resting spots on the way, delivering food and medicines at the doorstep of the sick or needy, great efforts were jointly made by the entire society to cater to such critical needs. By setting the example of unity and sensitivity, our society displayed a larger set of service activities in response to the quantum of the Herculean problem. Many of our traditional habits pertaining to cleanliness and hygiene, healthy lifestyle and strengthening immunity with the science of Ayurveda also proved to be useful in this period. Homogeneity and unity of the society, deep compassion and cooperation during difficult times- all aspects that make up for what is called the social capital were experienced during this time, reflecting our centuries-old cultural ethos. For many, the kind of patience, collectivism and self-confidence experienced was a first since Independence. I respectfully bow to all the volunteers who are known and unknown, those who are alive and who laid their lives for service, medical practitioners, municipality workers and all other agents of service from different sections of the society. They are all admirable. Our sincere homage in the holy remembrance of all those who sacrificed their lives.To emerge from the current scenario a different kind of Sewa initiative is required. Restarting educational institutions, compensating teachers, resending students to their schools and colleges while paying a fee for the same, these tasks are arduous. Schools that stopped receiving funds cannot afford to pay their teachers. Guardians who lost their jobs or shut businesses are in a fix as they do not have funds for their ward’s fee. We will have to devise service assistance to ensure the opening of schools, paying teachers’ salaries and students’ education. Displacement left many unemployed. Failing to find alternate sources of employment they are compelled to explore other sectors. Getting employment in a new sector mandates prior training. These are the problems facing the displaced today. Finding a replacement for the migrant workers to complete the pending tasks that were abandoned halfway is becoming a challenge too. Therefore creating employment opportunities and providing training to the unskilled is essential. In cases where families are facing such deprivation, stress creeps up in the households. To prevent negative dispositions like crime, depression and suicide there is an extensive need of counselling and support services at this time.

Since March Sangh swayamsevaks are working to fill the gaps wherever needed in this difficult backdrop. They will also make wholehearted contributions in the new Sewa initiatives enumerated above. I am hopeful that other members of the society will also decipher the need for persistent long-term efforts and make needful contributions.The world does not have a complete understanding of the virus. It is a transmutable pathogen that is rapidly communicable, but its virulence is low – this much we have come to understand. Therefore, safeguarding oneself from this pathogen for a longer time is essential. At the same time, while working to find the remedy to the social and economic challenges posed by it on our fellow beings will be the long-term focus. While we must not let fear cripple us, we need to proceed cautiously and strategically. With the social life nearing normalcy, complying with the rules and motivating others to do the same is our moral responsibility.Many other facets of our society became apparent during the battle against this pandemic. A shift in favour of introspective thinking is trending across the world. The phrase “new-normal” often comes up in conversations. The corona pandemic has brought lives to a total and complete standstill, forcing curtailment of several activities that man went about mechanically earlier. An evaluation of the merits of those activities made it apparent that the superficial practices that had invaded human life were unnecessary, while the essential ones comprised the heart of life in these times. Some activities though watered down did not fully fade. Within one week of lockdown, we noticed a marked difference in the quality of the air we breathe. Water bodies like rivers, springs and ponds cleared up and clean waters began flowing out. Bird songs tinkled human memory again as the birds and other creatures were audible in neighbourhood parks and open urban spaces. In the rush towards amassing wealth and consuming more, we alienated ourselves from certain basic life functions which during this time of need fell back on our plate and added meaning and joy to life. We have become mindful of the value of some virtues. The corona pandemic has bestowed the wisdom to differentiate regular from irregular and eternal from temporary upon all of humanity. With many families actively deliberating sustainable lifestyles compatible with the time and space and the ways to transition into those, people have become acutely aware of the merit of cultural ethos. Humans have once again realised the importance of family systems and the need for harmonious coexistence with nature.Whether these realisations are merely side effects of the pandemic breakout or has humanity actually shifted its stance in these matters, will be answered in time. However, one thing is clear that this calamity has played the role of that magnet which has attracted all human consciousness to the vital life values.Until recently the philosophy of integrating the world on the basis of the market forces dominated human imagination but with the latest turn of events, the idea of safeguarding life and exercising international cooperation by promoting unique strengths and assets of each country is an idea that has started to take shape in the global mind. The philosophy of ‘Swadeshi’ has trumped once again. It is time to redefine these adages in view of the current Bhartiya context and to rebuild paths that will lead us back to our time-tested values and traditions.

China’s role in the breakout of this pandemic may be disputable but its misuse of their riches by unleashing terror on the borders of Bharat and boisterous efforts to invade our territories are well-known to the whole world. Bharatiya defence forces, government and the people remained unfazed and responded sharply to this attack. This example of a strong resolution, exercising self-respect and bravery has stunned China. Going further we must be watchful and remain firm. Even in the past, the world has time and again witnessed China’s expansionist attitude. Rising above China economically, strategically, in securing cooperative ties with our neighbours and at international relations is the only way to neutralise those demonic aspirations. The policies proposed by our leaders seem to be charting those very horizons. Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal and Myanmar (Bhramadesh)- such neighbouring countries have shared a friendly bond with us and are more or less aligned over issues of values and ethical code with us. We must now pace up our efforts to secure cooperative bonds with these countries. The impediments in this journey like the differences of opinions, conflicted issues and old grouses must be settled sooner than later.We intend to be friendly with all. This is our nature. But mistaking our benevolence for weakness and attempts to disintegrate or weaken us by sheer brute force is unacceptable. Our reckless detractors should know this by now. The indestructible patriots of Bharat Mata and their formidable valour, leaders with a sense of self-respect and the indomitable ethical-patience of the citizens should have sent a loud and clear message to China. This must compel it to reform its attitude but if push comes to shove we will not fall short of alertness, firmness and readiness, this resolve is clear among our countrymen. External threats to the country’s safety and sovereignty is not the only call for our vigilance. A careful analysis of many of last year’s internal events also demand alertness, understanding and harmony in the society and preparedness of governmental agencies and national leadership. Push and pull for power on the part of those out of it is intrinsic to the democratic political process, however, exercising discretion to see political competition for what it is and not as a bloody battle between enemies is pivotal. Healthy competition is always welcome, but the competition that morphs into hatred, bitterness and animosity that weakens the social fabric is unwarranted. Forces that see opportunity in rifts among competitors, that wish to weaken and fragment Bharat, that have long projected our diversity as differences and insinuated people into unfortunate scrimmages over old disagreements resulting in formidable struggles are very much prevalent in the world and active in Bharat. They should not be given that opportunity by us. The government agencies should seek cooperation of people to immediately nab and severely punish the culprits if incidents of crime and violence continue to occur in the society despite measures to curtail those and attempts of total restrain on criminal and violent tendencies. We must see to it that our actions do not create any opportunities for them. To ensure this, our reactions to government decisions or expressions of discontent must heed national integrity. We should be sensitive towards people of all religions, regions, castes and linguistic backgrounds and conduct ourselves within constitutionally warranted limits. Unfortunately, those misaligned with or opposed to our socio-cultural values have, while professing to be the champions of democracy, constitution and secularism, continued to fool and confuse the people of our country. In his August 29, 1949 address to the Constituent Assembly, Revered Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar used the phrase “grammar of anarchy” to describe the actions of such elements. We have to learn to identify such disguised elements and defuse their conspiracies by alarming and alerting our brothers and sisters so that they can not be shepherded away by such predators.To avoid this type of confusion about the Sangh, realising Sangh’s preference for a specific vocabulary and how it interprets certain popular terms is crucial. Hindutva is one such term. Its meaning has been distorted by appending a ritualistic connotation to it. Sangh does not use it to refer to this misconception. To us, it is the word expressing our identity along with the continuity of its spirituality based traditions and its entire wealth of value system in the land of Bharat. Therefore Sangh believes that it is the word applicable to all the 1.3 billion people who call themselves the sons and daughters of Bharatvarsh, whose everyday life is a striving toward an alignment with its moral and ethical code and who are proud of the heritage of their ancestors who successfully traversed the same spiritual landscape since time immemorial. Being oblivious to the true meaning of this term weakens the thread that integrates us with this country and society. It is for this reason that this term is the first target of castigation by those who instigate intergroup conflicts, who are bent on splitting our country and society. They by presenting as separate, our diversities which are traditionally accepted, respected and are a part of larger scope of Hindu philosophy in reality, try to convert them into a source of alienation or separatism. ‘Hindu’ is not the name of some sect or denomination, it is not a provincial conceptualisation, it is neither a single caste’s lineage nor the privilege of the speakers of a specific language. It is that psychological common denominator whose vast courtyard cradled human civilisation, that which honours and encompasses innumerable distinct identities. There may be some who have an objection in accepting this term. We do not object their using other words if the content in their mind is the same. However, in the interest of the country’s integrity and security Sangh has over the years humbly assimilated the colloquial and the global interpretations of the term Hindu. When Sangh says Hindusthan is Hindu Rashtra it does not have any political or power centered concept in its mind. Hindutva is the essence of this Rashtra’s ‘Swa’(self-hood). We are plainly acknowledging the selfhood of the country as Hindu because all our socio-cultural practices are directed by its principles with their spirit percolating in the personal, familial, professional and social life of each one of us. Circumambulating the emotional ambit of this view of life does not require giving up one’s faith, language, land or any other identity marker. It only mandates an abandonment of the quest for supremacy. One has only to be alert and keep away from the selfish and hateful forces who confuse and instigate people by showing them false dreams of supremacy, encourage radicalism and foster separatism.The deplorable attempts to disintegrate the unity that has perpetually remained an inextricable part of the diversity of Bharat by making false promises and by creating hate amongst scheduled-castes, scheduled-tribes and the so called minorities of our country are underway. Members of this conspiratorial gang instigate and promote slogans like “Bharat tere tukde honge” (Bharat will be disintegrated). An unusual blend of political interest, separatist and fundamentalist tendencies, a hatred of Bharat and a quest for global domination is working to dampen Bharatiya unity. We will have to patiently proceed with a deep understanding of the matter. While remaining free from the influence of these forces we must focus on integrating our society through peaceful means, in obeisance of our constitution. If we exercise self-control, remain balanced and keep each other’s best interest in mind then an environment of mutual trust can prevail which will aid in the resolution of old conflicts; while the mistrust that stems from contradictory behaviours would make the solutions seem unattainable and problems unfathomable. Reactionary and fearful stance and unreasonable opposition lead to uncontrolled violence and the gulf separating the people widens.To be able to increase the atmosphere of faith in each other and friendliness, restraint and patience we all need to accept and embrace the truth of our larger and shared identity. Our actions cannot waver in time following a political cost-benefit calibration. Bharatiya cannot be extricated from Bharat. All attempts at doing this have always failed, we have many testaments before us to prove so. It is the time to realise that our instinct for emancipation is nudging us all to integrate with a single sentiment. Acknowledgement of the fact that the emotional spirit of Bharat, its acceptance for and support to multiple belief systems and faiths, is a byproduct of the Hindu culture, traditions and Hindu practice of not just tolerance but acceptance and respect of all, is the need of the hour.

 The word ‘Hindu,’ features in almost every statement of Sangh, yet it is being discussed here because several related terms have gained popularity in the recent past. ‘Swadeshi’ is one such word which is oft-discussed nowadays. The ‘Swa’ or ‘self’ here refers to the same Hindutva. That very eternal philosophy underlying our tolerant and accepting nature which was hailed by Swami Vivekananda on the land of America referring to all people as brothers and sisters, meaning parts of a single unit or family. Poet laureate, Shri Rabindra Nath Thakur also clearly emphasised a philosophical foundation for the Bharatiya revival based on this very concept in his essay ‘Swadeshi Samaj.’ Shri Aurobindo proclaimed it in his Uttarpara address. The introspections and contemplations conducted by our society after 1857 and the experiences of the exercises conducted by several national bodies are encased in the Preamble to our Constitution which embodies the same spirit of Bharat. That spirit or ‘swa’ should be the compass directing our intellectual brainstorming and plans of action. It should be the light that illuminates the directions, aspirations and expectations of our country’s collective consciousness.

The results of our efforts in the physical plane and their consequences should be in accordance with this principle. Then and only then will Bharat qualify as self – reliant. Places for production, the workforce that is involved in the production process, economic benefits emanating from sales of the production and the rights of production must be in our national control. But this alone does not qualify as Swadeshi methodology. Shri Vinoba Bhave ji identified a combination of self-reliance and non-violence as Swadeshi. Late Shri Dattopant Thengadi ji claimed Swadeshi cuts beyond goods and services and stands for attaining a position of international cooperation by achieving national self-reliance, sovereignty and parity. So to achieve financial independence in the future and attain a position of international cooperation we are open to foreign investors and give relaxations to companies offering newer technologies, provided they engage on our terms and mutually agreeable conditions. But such a decision has to be based on mutual consensus.In self-reliance, dependence on self is intended.

Our vision decides our destination and our path. Even we attain a prime position by following the same wasteful exertions that the rest of the world is after, that will certainly be a courageous victory. But it will be in the absence of the spirit and participation of the ‘Swa’(Self). For instance, while designing our agricultural policy we should empower our farmer to control his seed banks, create manure, fertilisers and pesticides on his own or procure these from areas neighbouring his village. He should be educated about the art of storing and processing his produce and have access to such facilities. We have a deep, extensive and ancient history of agriculture. Therefore the newer policies should aim to make our farmer aware of modern agricultural science and also enable him to blend that knowledge with time-tested, contextually relevant traditional knowledge. The policies should be such that a farmer should be able to use these research findings and sell his produce without getting trapped, either in the profit aimed interpretations of those findings or sponsored research by the corporate sector or under the pressure of the market forces and middlemen, only then such a policy will be compatible with the Bharatiya view and be a truly Swadeshi agrarian policy. It is likely that incorporating these changes immediately within the present agrarian and economic system might not be possible. In that case, the policies should focus on creating a conducive environment to translate the suggested changes into reality. Some positive steps in the direction of assimilating this ‘swa’ in our economic, agriculture, labour, manufacturing and education policy have been taken. A new education policy formed on the basis of extensive deliberations and dialogue has been declared and launched. Along with the entire educational field, the Sangh has also welcomed it. “Vocal for local” is a great start in the exploration of the possibilities of Swadeshi. But, for these initiatives to be successfully implemented the process will have to be watched and monitored keenly to the finish. Therefore given these wide-ranging perspectives we will have to imbibe this spirit of ‘swa’ or self, only then we can move forward in the right direction. Our Bharatiya thought does not endorse struggle as an essential ingredient of progress. Struggle is considered as a last resort for the elimination of injustice. The conceptualisation of progress here is based on cooperation and coordination. Therefore, the spirit of oneness is critical to actualising self-reliance in various aspects of life. Self-reliance then essentially implies overall well-being and upliftment of the whole nation through coordinated efforts and cooperation with each other, akin to interdependent organs of one body. A policy-making process where all concerned people and parties discuss and deliberate extensively and draw consentient conclusions fosters the spirit of oneness and trust among all.

Open dialogue with all, drawing consensus through discussion, ensuring cooperation and resultant trust – this is the prescribed method for securing credibility and eminence among one’s family and community.समानो मन्त्रः समितिः समानी समानं मनः सहचित्तमेषाम् |समानं मन्त्रमभिमन्त्रये वः समानेन वो हविषा जुहोमि ||Samaano mantrah samitih samaneeSamaanam manah sahachittameshaamSamaanam mantramabhimantraye vahSameenena vo havisha juhomi( Let our speech be one; united our voices. May our minds be in union with the thoughts of the Wise. Sharing a common purpose; we worship as one.) Fortunately, we can rely on and expect from the prevailing political leadership to engender the feeling of oneness and trust with regards to matters small and big among all the people. An administrative system connecting the society with the government has to be more sensitive and transparent to facilitate and accomplish this task in a better fashion. Prompt implementation of mutually agreed policies does not require massive changes and boosts the environment of cooperation and coordination. Remaining alert and exercising total control over the implementation of proposed policies till the end-point is significant. Besides policy-formation promptness and transparency at execution also optimise policy rewards. The need to decentralise agriculture and manufacturing sectors by supporting small and medium scale enterprises, creating employment opportunities, aiding the self-employed, initiating eco-friendly businesses and self-sufficient production units aiming to bolster the economic progress has drawn the attention of many intellectuals alongside the policy-makers of the country in this time of Corona. Those employed in these sectors from small-time and seasoned entrepreneurs to farmers are all eager to taste entrepreneurial success for our nation. The government will need to provide extra cover for them so they can attain world-class standards that will allow them to stand a competitive chance alongside other economic giants of the world. Along with the allocation of funds, its actual disbursement on the ground has to be ensured so that they can restart again after six months of the corona crisis. With a progress-oriented mindset, the developmental path of the country whose destination complies with the culture and aspirations of our people will have to be delineated. After establishing consensus with a positive contribution from all views we must freeze the execution plans in letter and spirit. If it is ensured that the rewards of the developmental achievements percolate down to the most disadvantaged; if exploitation and extortion by middlemen and touts are eliminated; the producers and manufacturers have direct interface with the markets and the developmental schemes, only then our dreams can come true, otherwise dangers that cause failure are lurking around. 

While all the suggestions made above are highly significant the collective resolve of a society is the preceptor and the foundation of the nation’s development. The consciousness that has prevailed in the aftermath of corona, viz, realisation of the true meaning of ‘self,’ spirit of oneness with all the people, the importance of cultural values and environmental awareness plus the need for remedial actions to restore its balance should not be disregarded by our society. We must not drop the momentum, lose sight of these indispensable values and fall back in a pattern of insensitive behaviour. Gradual and consistent practice of right conduct and responsible behaviours of an entire society alone can bring rewards. Starting with small incremental changes, conducting regular awareness initiatives can cause this behavioural shift. Each family can be a part of this movement. Once a week all family members can get together to jointly do some prayer and have homemade food followed by two to three hours of informal discussion. The above-mentioned subjects can be deliberated in those discussions as actionable items and small family level resolutions can be taken, which can further be reviewed in the next week’s discussion. The act of discussion in the family is paramount, newness or oldness of the subject/object notwithstanding, the outcomes of an investigation alone decide the usefulness and relevance of the issue.

Our scriptures describe this method as-सन्तः परीक्ष्यान्यतरद् भजन्ते मूढः परप्रत्ययनेय बुद्धिः |Santah pareekshyanyatarad bhajaate mudhah parapratyaneya buddhih If we examine the subject matter holistically in the informal family setting, exercise discretion as to the relevance of the issue and by choice accept or reject a view, then the resulting behavioural changes will more likely be permanent. In the beginning, matters of common concern like domestic arrangements, design of the dwellings, our family culture, long-standing customs and traditions can be discussed. Owing to everyone’s familiarity with environmental concerns, ways for total boycott of plastic, water conservation, increasing green cover by planting saplings of flowering plants, fruit trees and vegetables in our courtyards and terraces can be discussed and actionable plans jointly created. According to the time available and the needs, all of us spend money over personal and familial requirements every day. We can contemplate what amount of money and time we spend for our society on a day-to-day basis and how to go about doing it? Do we have friendly associations with people and families that belong to different castes and regions and speak varied languages? Have we mingled deeply- sharing meals and visiting homes of those acquaintances? To promote societal harmony these are vital discussion topics. Emphasis can be laid upon participation of our family in actual programs and initiatives, e.g. our family can contribute in Blood Donation, Eye Donation or help create awareness about its importance. Through these minute undertakings, harmony, uprightness, patience, discipline and values-driven personal conduct can be cultivated. Consequently, our collective behaviour while in keeping with the civic discipline becomes that which augments mutual cooperation and harmony. If we work to raise the general level of consciousness of a common man and nurture his intrinsic spirit of oneness with Hindutva as the guiding force, if we make individual efforts for developmental progress with a deeper understanding of the structure of our country and acknowledge our interdependence to cooperate with other members of the society, if we have confidence in our collective strength to achieve any dream and set developmental goals rooted in our values then in the near future Bharatvarsh will emerge as the torchbearer for the rest of the world and come to be known as the Bharatvarsh that showed the path of peaceful and congenial progress to humanity- freedom and equality in the true sense of the word. Behavioural conduct of such individuals and families will create an overall atmosphere of fraternity, meaningful action and lawful order in the whole country. Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh has been working to effect these changes directly in the society since 1925. Such an organised state is the natural state of a healthy society. Such an organised society is the precondition for the resurrection of this country that has become independent after the centuries-long darkness of invasions. Many great personalities have worked to build such a society. After independence, with this very goal in mind, our constitution was crafted in age-relevant codes of desired conduct and passed on to us. Sangh work only will ensure inculcating a clear vision to realise the objectives of our constitution, and the conduct of mutual harmony, the spirit of oneness and the sentiment of national interest are paramount. Swayamsevaks are sincerely, selflessly and dedicatedly involved in realising this goal. With an invitation that you all to be their fellow-workers in this campaign for upstart reconstruction, I end my address here.

प्रश्न बहुत से उत्तर एक कदम मिलाकर बढे अनेक |वैभव के उत्तुङ्ग शिखर पर सभी दिशा से बढे अनेक |||| भारत माता की जय ||

The Place of Mahatma Gandhi

  • By Sri Sita Ram Goel

The Gandhians present a very curious case. They claim to have inherited the message of the Mahatma. But the only people with whom they feel at home are Hindu-baiters. They avoid all those who are not ashamed of being Hindus or who take pride in Hindu history and heritage. They suspect that “Hindu communalism” has been and remains India’s major malady. The only point to which they never refer is that Mahatma Gandhi was a proud Hindu with a profound faith in Sanatana Dharma and that a reawakening and rejuvenation of Hindu society was his most important preoccupation.

Introduction

The language of British and Christian imperialism had stood fully exposed for what they were in essence by the time the Swadeshi Movement swept forward after the Partition of Bengal in 1905. The language of Islamic imperialism had revived but was not resounding enough as yet to ring bells in the minds of national leaders. And the language of Communist imperialism had not yet appeared on the scene.

The last two languages came into their own by the end of the twenties. The freedom movement had to feel their full blast by the middle of the thirties. The leader who had emerged in complete command of the freedom movement by that time was Mahatma Gandhi. And his role vis-a-vis these two languages has been a matter of controversy.

Mahatma Gandhi showed the same understanding of the languages of British and Christian imperialism as had been shown earlier by the leaders of the Swadeshi Movement. There were indications in his writings and statements that he suspected the language of Communist imperialism as something sinister, though he started faltering when this language became the language of Leftism in the mouths of Pandit Nehru and the Congress Socialists. But his response to the language of Islamic imperialism was not at all what could be expected from a man of his instinctive perceptions.

His failure vis-a-vis the language of Islamic imperialism can be explained in various ways. But the fact remains that this failure made the Muslims more and more aggressive and created a lot of resentment in a section of Indian nationalists. These anti-Gandhi nationalists have not been able to get reconciled to his role even after his death in very tragic circumstances. On the other hand, all sorts of Hindu-baiters have been invoking his name and fame to put Hindu society in the wrong.

Mahatma Gandhi in hostile lands

The Leftists had no use for Mahatma Gandhi during his life time. They had hurled their choicest swear words at him. But the Mahatma dead seems to have become an asset for them. Not that they have revised their estimate of his role in the past or acquired any respect for him in the present. They are only using him as a stick to beat Hindu society into shame.

Muslims, too, have staged a similar volte-face. They had opposed him tooth and nail during his life-time. The language which their press had used for him provides a study in pornography. But after his death, they have been holding him up in order to harangue Hindu society. Not that they have changed their opinion about him or imbibed any of his teachings. They are only using him as a device to put Hindu society on the defensive.

The Gandhians present a very curious case. They claim to have inherited the message of the Mahatma. But the only people with whom they feel at home are Hindu-baiters. They avoid all those who are not ashamed of being Hindus or who take pride in Hindu history and heritage. They suspect that “Hindu communalism” has been and remains India’s major malady. The only point to which they never refer is that Mahatma Gandhi was a proud Hindu with a profound faith in Sanatana Dharma and that a reawakening and rejuvenation of Hindu society was his most important preoccupation.

The Hindu-baiters highlight the fact that the Mahatma was murdered by a Hindu. But they hide the fact that it was the Hindus who had always rallied round Mahatma Gandhi, who had adored him throughout his life, who had followed him as their leader and who had stood by him through thick and thin. It is tantamount to insinuating that Hindus have done nothing in the whole of their history except murdering the Mahatma. The only parallel is provided by the Catholic Church which has known the Jews only as murderers of Jesus.

This exercise in employing the name of a great Hindu to malign Hindu society has succeeded because whatever nationalists have come forward to lead Hindu society in the post-independence period have chosen to ignore all facets of the Mahatma’s life and teachings except one, namely, his handling of the Muslim problem. They have meditated, one must say rather morbidly, on the one mistake he made in his life, namely, his understanding of Islam. They have never taken into account the sterling services he rendered to Hinduism and Hindu society in so many spheres. The only thing they remember with resentment is his failure in one field, namely, his final inability to prevent partition.

Two significant facts

The anti-Gandhi nationalists have never tried honestly to face the fact that it was he and not they who had stirred the minds and hearts of Hindu masses. It was he and not they who had mobilized Hindu society to make sacrifices in the service of the motherland. Nor have the denunciations of anti-Gandhi nationalists succeeded in doing the slightest damage to his stature. In fact, his stature has risen higher with the passing of time. He continues to be cherished by Hindu masses as one of the greatest in their history. Reverence for him in the world at large has also continued to grow. He is now regarded as a profound thinker on problems created by an industrial civilisation and a hedonistic culture. Hinduism has gained abroad because Gandhi is known as a great Hindu.

On the other hand, it must be admitted that the failure which the Mahatma met vis-a-vis the Muslims was truly of startling proportions. Hindu-Muslim unity was a goal which he had pursued with great dedication throughout his life. He had paid high tributes to Islam, its prophet, its caliphs and its scriptures. He had espoused the cause of Khilafat in order to win Muslim hearts. He had befriended even questionable characters like Mohammad Ali {Jinnah] because the latter enjoyed the confidence of Muslim masses. He had gone out of his way to humour Jinnah who was always cold and quite often nasty in his manners. He had ignored the invectives that were hurled at him by the Muslim press and politicians. He had even advised the British to hand over power to Muslims and quit. he had always frowned at all efforts to organise Hindus in order to call the Muslim bluff. In short, his policy towards Muslims had been full of appeasement at the cost of Hindu society. But nothing had helped. Muslims had continued to grow more and more hostile.

If we put these two facts together, we can perhaps draw some worthwhile conclusions. First, it follows that Hindu society responds only to a call which is deeply religious and cultural. Anti-Gandhi nationalists have failed to move Hindu masses because their appeal has been purely political. These nationalists have drawn most of their inspiration from the modern West and not from India’s own great past. Secondly, there must be something very hard in the heart of Islam so that even a man of an oceanic goodwill like Mahatma Gandhi failed to move it. He succeeded with the British by making them feel morally in the wrong. He succeeded with such sections of Hindu society as had nourished some grievances of their own and had tried to turn away from the freedom movement. It was only the Muslims with whom he failed miserably.

In justice to Mahatma Gandhi

There is no doubt that Mahatma Gandhi’s failure vis-a-vis Muslims was great and has had grievous consequences. But the failure can be attributed to him only in so for as he was at the helm of affairs during that particular period of Indian history. It is highly doubtful if Hindu society would have been able to prevent partition even if there had been no Mahatma Gandhi. On the other hand, there is ample evidence that Hindu society would have failed in any case. In fact, the seeds of that failure had been sown long before Mahatma Gandhi appeared on the scene.

The first thing to be done in this context is to put straight the record of the freedom movement and find out how Hindu leaders who preceded Mahatma Gandhi had functioned vis-a-vis the Muslim problem. For, although the Mahatma dominated the freedom movement for more than twenty-five years, he had appeared on the scene when thirty-five years had already passed since the founding of the Indian National Congress in 1885.

Sir Syed Ahmed Khan was the first leader to start sabre-rattling on behalf of his community. That was a year or two after the Congress came into existence. There is no evidence that any Hindu leader called his bluff at that time or at a subsequent stage. On the other hand, there is ample evidence of how Hindu leaders tried to appease the bully. To top it all, Hindus contributed quite a lot of money towards the establishment of his Anglo-Oriental Mohammedan College at Aligarh which was to become the main seat of Muslim separatism at a subsequent stage. Mahatma Gandhi was nowhere near the scene.

The Swadeshi Movement was the next step in the struggle for freedom. It was immediately followed by the founding of the Muslim League. Muslims not only boycotted the movement but also let loose an orgy of riots which were particularly violent and beastly in Bengal. But there is no record of Hindu leaders coming forward to beat back the aggression. The only Hindu response to this Muslim mayhem was to hail Siraj ud-Daulah, Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan as national heroes. Again, Mahatma Gandhi was not on the scene.

Then came the Lucknow Pact of 1916. Muslim leaders had made no secret that pan-Islamic causes rather than patriotism had made them move towards a joint front with the Congress. But no Hindu leader cared to look into the motivation of Muslims. Only a slight gesture from the Muslim League was enough to elicit an enthusiastic response from the Congress. Hindu leaders conceded not only separate electorates to Muslims but also one-third representation in the Central Assembly to a less than one-fourth of the total Indian population. It was Lokmanya Tilak and not Mahatma Gandhi who was the leader of the Congress at that time.

Once the legitimacy of the pan-Islamic cause was recognised by the national leadership, it was only a short step to the Khilafat agitation. The meeting that was held on June 1, 1920, under the auspices of the Central Khilafat Committee, in order to solicit Congress support for the Sultan of Turkey, was not attended by Mahatma Gandhi alone. Leaving aside Motilal Nehru. Tej Bahadur Sapru and Jawaharlal Nehru, whose support for all Islamic causes was always a bygone conclusion, the others who sat by the side of Mahatma Gandhi in that crucial meeting were Lala Lajpat Rai, Bipin Chandra Pal, Madan Mohan Malaviya, Satyamurti, C. Rajagopalachari, and Chintamani. The proceedings of that meeting exist in cold print. Some of these Hindu leaders did oppose the proposal for a Non-Cooperation Movement to be launched simultaneously with the Khilafat agitation. But no one pointed out that the national movement should have nothing to do with a pan-Islamic platform. The same story was repeated at the Special Session of the Congress at Calcutta in September that year and at its Annual Session at Nagpur in December. Later on, Swami Shraddhananda was to be lionised for lambasting the British Government from the steps of the Jama Masjid at Delhi. He was speaking in support of the Khilafat agitation.

The Congress and the Muslim League never came together again at an all-Indian level after this brief period of six years which ended with the suspension of the Non-Cooperation Movement in February 1922. Muslims made no secret of their belief that they had been betrayed by Mahatma Gandhi. They let loose another orgy of riots all over the country. It was in the midst of this bloodshed, and while Mahatma Gandhi was behind prison bars that Deshbandhu C.R. Das led the Bengal Provincial Congress into signing a Hindu-Muslim Pact which permitted Muslims to kill cows during their festivals but forbade Hindus from playing music before the mosques!

Justice demands that anti-Gandhi nationalists review Hindu history vis-a-vis Islam and lay the blame where it belongs. They will soon find out that Mahatma Gandhi was neither the first nor the last to accord the status of a religion to Islam, the dignity of a deity to Allah, the aura of an avatar to Muhammad, the sanctity of a scripture to the Quran, the holiness of saints to the Sufis, the majesty of a place of worship to the mosque and the rights of a minority to the Muslim millat. Most Hindus are still chanting sarva dharma sama bhava vis-a-vis Islam in the face of Muslim fanaticism, though over three decades have passed since the death of Mahatma Gandhi.

The Mahatma’s Failure: A failure of Hindu society

There is ample evidence in the Mahatma’s writings that he could see quite clearly the pattern of perverse behaviour on the part of Muslims. That was at the back of his statement repeated several times, that an average Muslim was a bully and an average Hindu a coward. But he refused to believe that this pattern was derived directly from the teachings of the prophet.

That, however, is the story of Hindu society in its centuries-old encounter with Islam. Hindu society has always viewed Islam through the eyes of its own spirituality. Islam had shown its full face to Hindu society quite early not only in the devil dance of its swordsmen but also in the pronouncements and prolific writings of its mullahs, sufis and historians. But Hindu society had all along failed to draw the right conclusions. It had continued to regard Islam as a religion. The folly has persisted till the present time.

Modern Hindu and Sikh scholars have done something worse. They have presented Islam not only as a superior religion but also as a superior social system. This is obvious in hundreds of books written by them about the nirguna saints like Kabir and Nanak. These saints alone had the courage to question the exclusive claims of Islam while they sang in the advaitic tunes set by ancient Hindu spirituality. Islam had no impact on their teachings. But modern scholars have paraded these saints as monotheists who were in revolt against the multiplicity of Hindu gods and goddesses, as iconoclasts who were against image worship in Hindu temples and as social reformers who denounced the so-called caste system under the “influence of an equalitarian Muslim society.” The saints have thus been turned into tawdry social reformers. Falsehood can go no farther.

The relevant in Mahatma Gandhi

Sri Aurobindo has said in his Uttarpara Speech that India rises with the rise of Sanatana Dharma. Mahatma Gandhi proved the aptness of this observation. What is relevant in Mahatma Gandhi, therefore, is not his failure in solving the Muslim problem but his success in re-affirming the language of Sanatana Dharma which had been revived during the Swadeshi Movement. I give below a few specimens.

“The English have taught us that we were not one nation before and that it will require centuries before we become one nation. This is without foundation. We were one nation before they came to India. One thought inspired us. Our mode of life was the same. It was because we were one nation that they were able to establish one kingdom.” (Hind Swaraj, Chapter IX)

“I believe that the civilisation India has evolved is not to be beaten in the world. Nothing can equal the seeds sown by our ancestry. Rome went; Greece shared the same fate; the might of the Pharaohs was broken; Japan has become westernised; of China nothing can be said; but India is still, somehow or other, sound at the foundation.” (Ibid., Chapter XIII)

“Hinduism is a relentless pursuit after truth and if today it has become moribund, inactive, irresponsive to growth, it is because we are fatigued. As soon as the fatigue is over, Hinduism will burst forth upon the world with a brilliance perhaps never known before.” (Young India, 24-4-1924)

“What the divine author of the Mahabharata said of his great creation is equally true of Hinduism. Whatever of substance is contained in any other religion is always to be found in Hinduism, and what is not contained in it is insubstantial or unnecessary.” (Ibid., 27-9-1925)

“Hinduism is like the Ganga, pure and unsullied at its source but taking in its course the impurities in the way. Even like the Ganga it is beneficent in its total effect. It takes a provincial form in every province, but the inner substance is retained everywhere.” (Ibid., 8-4-1926)

“Our sages have taught us to learn one thing: ‘As in the Self, so in the Universe.’ It is not possible to scan the universe as it is to scan the self. Know the self and you know the universe.” (Ibid.)

“Now when we talk of brotherhood of men, we stop there and feel that all other life is there for man to exploit for his own purposes. But Hinduism excludes all exploitation.” (Ibid., 26-12-1926)

“Hinduism insists on the brotherhood of not only all mankind but of all that lives.” (Harijan, 28-3-1936).

Such sayings of Mahatma Gandhi about Hinduism can be multiplied. He affirmed, again, and again not only the fundamentals of Hindu spirituality but also the framework of Hindu culture and social life. He valued “the spirit behind idol worship” and declared his determination “to defend with my life the thousands of holy temples which sanctify this land of ours.” For him cow protection was “the dearest possession of the Hindu heart” and “no one who does not believe in cow protection can possibly be a Hindu.” The sacred thread had a deep meaning for him because it was “the sign of the second birth, that is spiritual.” He believed that varnashrama was “inherent in human nature, and Hinduism had simply reduced it to a science.” He wrote several articles in defence of the “much-maligned Brahmin” and had not a shadow of doubt in his mind that “if Brahmanism does not revive, Hinduism must perish.” There was no symbol of Sanatana Dharma which did not stir him to the depths and which he did not trace back to its inner and eternal spirit.

And he served Hinduism not by words alone. His whole life was an uninterrupted hymn to Hinduism. He rendered many sterling services to Hindu society. He staked his life in order to free Hindu society from the stigma of untouchability. He wanted the Hindus to shed fear and be brave. By all accounts, his place should be secure in the mainstream of Indian nationalism.

There was no lack of Hindu leaders during the Mahatma’s life-time who appealed in the name of political patriotism. They left Hindu society cold and unresponsive. Nor has a purely political approach to Hindu society succeeded after the passing away of the Mahatma. The one lesson we learn from the freedom movement as a whole is that a religious and cultural awakening in Hindu society has to precede political awakening. The language of Indian nationalism has to be the language of Sanatana Dharma before it can challenge and defeat the various languages of imperialism. The more clearly Hindu society sees the universal truth of Hindu spirituality and culture, the more readily it will reject political ideologies masquerading as religion or promising a paradise on this earth.

Mahatma Gandhi stands squarely with Maharshi Dayananda, Bankim Chandra, Swami Vivekananda, Lokamanya Tilak and Sri Aurobindo in developing the language of Indian nationalism. His mistake about Islam does not diminish the lustre of that language which he spoke with full faith and confidence. On the contrary, his mistake carries a message of its own. – Pragyata, 1 October 2019

› This excerpt is taken from Perversion of India’s Political Parlance by Sita Ram Goel 

Partitioned freedom : The Conclusion

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(Read “Partitioned Freedom – 5” from this link – 5)
(Read “Partitioned Freedom – 6” from this link – 6)

The final years and the lessons:

A decade of appeasement had only helped the Muslim League gain greater legitimacy. When the Second Round Table Conference came in September 1931, the League leadership played an even more divisive role.

Jinnah and the Aga Khan were present in London for the Conference on behalf of the League. Gandhi was the lone Congress representative. Dr. B R Ambedkar was there representing the Depressed Classes. There were envoys from several communities including the Sikhs, the Parsis, the Anglo-Indians, and the Concord of Princes. Behind Gandhi’s back, the Aga Khan held secret meetings with the leaders of various groups and put forward a proposal before the British for enhanced separate representation for all of them in the Indian legislature. Gandhi firmly rejected this fragmentation of the Indian society in the name of creating separate electorates. Already, the Muslims and a few other minorities enjoyed separate electorates under the Government of India Act 1919.

Communal Award 1932:

British Prime Minister Ramsay McDonald went ahead with a modified version of the League’s recommendations and announced the famous Communal Award 1932. It came as a rude shock to the Congress leadership. They were especially aghast at the British decision to provide exclusive electorates for the Depressed Classes by separating them from other Hindus.

Gandhi viewed the Communal Award as the negation of his years of toil. He rightly believed that the separate electorates would eventually perpetuate social evils like untouchability as they excluded the depressed classes from the rest of Hindu society. Disheartened and back in India, Gandhi announced an indefinite fast against the Award on September 20, 1932.

Poona Pact:

The Congress command persuaded the leader of the depressed classes, Dr. Ambedkar to engage in negotiations with Gandhi at the Yerawada prison. The negotiations led to the Poona Pact, which was signed by Dr. Ambedkar from the depressed classes and Madan Mohan Malaviya from the Congress. Under the pact, Dr. Ambedkar agreed to give up the demand for exclusive electorates for the depressed classes and secured instead a larger number of seats for the community from 71 to 147 under the Hindu quota. The Communal Award was accordingly amended in 1933. Gandhi thus prevented the Hindu society from further fragmentation.

However, regarding the rest of the Award, Congress continued its politics of ambiguity and appeasement. Though it opposed the Communal Award in principle, the consent of the minorities was needed to take a final position, the Congress leaders argued. The Muslim leaders in Congress like Dr. Ansari started supporting the Award. Finally, Congress took a bizarre stand of “neither accepting nor rejecting” the Communal Award. This new concession irked leaders like Madan Mohan Malaviya and Loknayak Aney, who resigned and started the Congress Nationalist Party.

The Communal Award came as a significant setback to Gandhi’s efforts for Hindu-Muslim unity and it gave greater teeth to Jinnah and the Muslim League. The stridency of the League’s separatist rhetoric increased. Jinnah now insisted that the Congress should represent Hindus only.

Provincial Elections:

The provincial elections of 1937 provided an excellent opportunity to the Congress. Despite its separatist rhetoric, the Muslim League was decisively rejected in all the Muslim majority provinces in the country. Out of the 482 exclusive Muslim constituencies, the League could hardly win 109 seats. While the Congress was able to form governments in eight provinces, the League could not form even in one. The Muslim voters preferred other Muslim parties like the Unionists in Punjab, the Krishak Praja Party in Bengal, and the Assam Valley Muslim Party in Assam. Several of those regional Muslim outfits were keen to join hands with the Congress.

The Muslim League was in utter disarray, and Jinnah demoralised. But two steps taken by the Congress leadership helped Jinnah revive his fortunes once again:

First was the Congress’s decision to reach out to Jinnah instead of talking to the leaders of the regional Muslim parties. Gandhi, Nehru, and Bose approached Jinnah once again with a proposal to work together. This gave Jinnah a fresh lease of life. While the League refused the Congress’s offer, Jinnah succeeded in attracting smaller Muslim parties into his fold.

The second self-defeating move was the decision of the Congress on October 22, 1939, to ask all provincial governments to resign in response to Viceroy Linlithgow’s decision to involve India in the Second World War without committing to grant Self-rule after the War. The League seized this opportunity and declared its support to the British in return for enhanced protection to the League in the provinces. Jinnah appealed to the Muslims to celebrate December 22, 1939, as the ‘Day of Deliverance’ from the ‘unjust Congress regime.

Jinnah’s Demand for ‘Pakistan’:

At Lahore in 1940, when the League demanded Pakistan, Gandhi realised that it was time for a more decisive action. On August 8, 1942, at its Mumbai session, the Congress launched the Quit India movement. The Muslim League responded by asking the British to ‘Divide and Quit’. March 23, 1943, was observed by the League as Pakistan Day.

C Rajagopalachari approached Gandhi at Yerawada prison with a formula for a thaw between the Congress and the League. Known as the C R Formula, it proposed that if the League endorsed the demand for national independence, the Congress would agree to the demarcation of contiguous Muslim majority districts in the North-West and the North-East of India after the War. A plebiscite would be conducted on the basis of the adult franchise over the demand for Pakistan. Jinnah immediately dismissed the proposal as a “shadow and a husk, a maimed and moth-eaten Pakistan.” But he also expressed vicarious satisfaction that at last, Gandhi had accepted “the principle of Pakistan”.

Gandhi persisted. “Let us meet whenever you wish. Do not disappoint me,” he wrote to Jinnah. The two finally met at Mumbai. For full nineteen days, from 9th to 27th September 1944, Gandhi climbed up the steps of Jinnah’s place, ‘almost daily, and sometimes even twice in a day’. Gandhi would address Jinnah as ‘Quaid-e-Azam’ – Great leader, while Jinnah would reciprocate with ‘Mr. Gandhi’. On September 27, 1944, Jinnah announced the termination of the talks without any result.

In the provincial elections in 1946, the League secured convincing victories in Muslim seats but it fell short of a majority everywhere. In fact, the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), which became Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in 2010, gave a huge majority to the Congress. Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, the senior Congress leader of the NWFP, famous as the Frontier Gandhi, shed tears when his province became a part of Pakistan. In Punjab, the Congress and the Akalis together had an equal number of seats to that of the League. Eventually, those who did not vote for the League ended up in Pakistan, and those who voted for it remained in India.

The Direct Action ensued in 1946 and Partition followed a year later.

Partition saga has several lessons:

Why is this history relevant today? India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh are three sovereign nations. We respect the sovereignty of each of our neighbours and strive for cordial relations with them. But the partition saga has several lessons. Firstly, countries should never pander to separatist sentiments even with good intentions. Compulsions of time should not become convictions. Secondly, Jinnah’s notion of religion-based nationhood couldn’t stand the test of time. In less than 25 years, Pakistan was split into two.

But most importantly, as the Spanish writer-philosopher George Santayana said: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

(Courtesy: The article was originally published in Chintan, India Foundation on August 19, 2020).

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Partitioned Freedom – 6

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Part 6

When strategy became policy at Lucknow in 1916, and the Khilafat and Moplah lay bare the slide of the Congress, many leaders were genuinely worried. They realised that the appeasement policies of the Congress were helping the League in furthering its separatist agenda. Despite his best efforts at placating the League and striving for Hindu-Muslim unity, Gandhi could not achieve much. When attempts were made to pacify the Moplahs in the name of Gandhi’s non-violence, they bluntly replied that Gandhi was a Kafir, and he could never be their leader. In 1924, Maulana Mohammed Ali, to whom Gandhi gave more importance than he did to Jinnah, declared: “However pure Mr. Gandhi’s character may be, he must appear to me, from the point of religion, inferior to any Mussalman even though he be without character.” In 1925, he reiterated it saying, “Yes, according to my religion and creed, I do hold an adulterous and a fallen Mussalman to be better than Mr. Gandhi”.

Savarkar was one of the leaders who felt that Congress was making a colossal mistake by appeasing the fundamentalist Leaguers. Savarkar asked the Congress leadership to stop in the downward spiral of appeasement and be firm with the Muslim League leadership. “If you come, with you; if you do not, without you; if you oppose in spite of you” – this was the message he wanted the Congress to convey to the League. Yet the Congress leadership lacked that courage.

Shraddhananda’s Murder:
Swami Shraddhanand was a renowned Arya Samajist and a senior leader of the Congress. As a disciplined soldier of the movement, he had participated actively in the Khilafat movement too. Shraddhananda was a disciple of Swami Dayananda Saraswati, the founder of the Arya Samaj, and used to play an active role in reconversion activities. This angered some fanatical Muslims. One such young man called Abdul Rasheed visited Shraddhananda’s residence at Naya Bazar in Delhi on December 23, 1926, on the pretext of discussing “some problems of the Islamic religion”. Shraddhananda was unwell and lying on his bed. According to the Arya Samaj website: “
The visitor then asked for a glass of water, and while Dharm Singh (Shraddhanand’s attendant) was taking his glass away, he rushed up to the Swamiji and fired two bullets point-blank into his chest.

The annual session of the Congress was taking place from December 25, 1926, at Guwahati. All the senior leaders, including Gandhi, were present at the session when the news of the gruesome murder of Swami Shraddhananda came in. Gandhi called Abdul Rashid his own brother, but moved a condolence motion himself. “If you hold dear the memory of Swami Shraddhanandji, you would help in purging the atmosphere of mutual hatred and calumny. Now you will perhaps understand why I have called Abdul Rashid a brother and I repeat it. I do not even regard him as guilty of Swamiji’s murder. Guilty indeed are all those who excited feelings of hatred against one another”, Gandhi said to the shock of many in the audience. At the very same session, funds were collected for the legal defence of Rashid in the courts. When he was sentenced to capital punishment by the British, there were over fifty thousand people in his funeral procession at Kolkata. That was where the appeasement policy of the leaders had led the country.

National Flag – (National symbols compromised):

Gandhi had proposed in 1921 that Congress should design a national flag. Several models were presented to him, and the one with three colours – orange, white and green –proved to be popular However, its interpretation as orange for the Hindus, white for the Christians, and green for the Muslims did not go down well with the people. A flag committee was then appointed in 1931 to look into the controversy and recommend a national flag for India. Among others, the 7-member committee included Nehru, Patel, and Azad. The committee submitted its report to the Karachi Congress session in December 1931.

“Opinion has been unanimous that our National Flag should be of a single colour except for the colour of the device. If there is one colour that is more acceptable to the Indians as a whole, one that is associated with this ancient country by long tradition, it is the Kesari or saffron colour. Accordingly, it is felt that the flag should be of the Kesari colour except for the colour of the device. That the device should be the Charkha is unanimously agreed to. The Committee have come to the conclusion that the charka should be in blue. Accordingly we recommend that the National Flag should be of Kesari or saffron colour having on it at the left top quarter the Charkha in blue with the wheel towards the flagstaff, the proportions of the flag being fly to hoist as three to two”, the report, signed by all the seven members stated.

However, the Congress session at Karachi rejected it, saying that the saffron colour represented only Hindus. The tricolour flag designed by Pingali Venkayya was adopted. It featured three horizontal stripes of saffron, white and green, with a Charkha in the centre. The colours were given a new interpretation thus: saffron for courage; white for truth and peace; and green for faith and prosperity. After the national song came the compromise with the national flag.

Language (concessions were made):

The Hindu Bhajans were modified. ‘Raghupati Raghava Rajaram – Patita Pavan Sitaram’ saw ‘Isvar Allah Tere Naam’ added to it. Even the national language was not spared. There were concerted efforts to discourage Muslims from learning Hindi right from the time of Syed Ahmad Khan. Syed Ahmad asked Muslims to prefer English to Hindi. Aligarh Muslim University taught only in English and Urdu. An effort was made to project Hindi as the language of the Hindus, and Urdu, that of the Muslims. In its eagerness to please the fundamentalists in the Muslim League, the Congress leadership decided at its 1925 Karachi session that Hindustania hybrid product from the mixture of Hindi and Urdu – should be the lingua franca of independent India. It even suggested that the script could either be Devnagari or Arabic.

Texts were rewritten. Special language classes were held for the Congress volunteers to familiarise them with the new hybrid language. Phrases like Badshah Ram, Begum Sita, and Maulvi Vasistha were promoted. Nevertheless, this one compromise did not go down well with the Congress and the nation. The protagonists of Hindi could succeed only after several years in making it the official language of the nation.

The Congress leadership continued to make these one-sided compromises without any reciprocal gestures being made by the League.

Cow slaughter was given free hand:

Even on a question as important to him as cow-slaughter, Gandhi was willing to compromise. “How can I force anyone not to slaughter cows unless he is himself so disposed? It is not as if there were only Hindus in the Indian Union. There are Muslims, Parsis, Christians, and other religious groups here”, he argued.

None of these concessions could move the League leadership. Instead, they only led to establishing the League and Jinnah, now its leader, as the ‘sole spokesmen’ for the Muslims, as Ayesha Jalal puts it. Emboldened, Jinnah went ahead ruthlessly, unmaking everything the Congress made, including, in the end, the geographical unity of the country.

(Final part to follow)


(Courtesy: The article was originally published in Chintan, India Foundation on August 18, 2020).

Partitioned Freedom – 5

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Part 5

The Khilafat misadventure was not without consequences. It had set a trend, both in the Congress as well as the League. For the League, it was more demands, and for the Congress, more capitulation.

Moplah Rebellion:

The Khilafat movement had led to massive violence in the Malabar Coast of Kerala when a local leader, Variankunnathu Kunjahammad Haji declared himself as the Khalifa and also designated two tehsils as ‘Khilafat Kingdoms’. He instigated his followers against the British. The rebellion, famously known as the Moplah Rebellion or the Malabar Rebellion, was launched on August 20, 1921, and continued for four months.

Taken aback initially by the unexpected aggression of the local Muslims called the Moplahs, the British returned with greater force and brutally suppressed the rebellion. All its leaders, including Haji were arrested. As the British were suppressing the rebellion, the Moplahs turned their ire against the local Hindus, blaming them for not fully supporting the Khilafat cause. Houses and temples were destroyed, women were dishonored, and people were forcefully converted or burnt alive. The atrocities committed by the Moplahs shook the conscience of many leaders, including Dr Ambedkar and Annie Besant. While Annie Besant vividly described the brutality against the Hindus, especially the women, Dr. Ambedkar minced no words in condemning the massacres by describing them as ‘blood-curdling’ and ‘indescribable’. Gandhi’s close confidant C. Rajagopalachari was so distraught by the cruelty of the Moplahs that he shot off a letter to Gandhi stating that “the atrocities of the Moplahs have made men, women, and children lose faith in the concept of Hindu-Muslim unity completely”.

However, strange was the Congress reaction. When the AICC met at Ahmedabad in December 1921, the entire effort seemed directed towards downplaying the atrocities by the Moplahs. While the Servants of India Society led by Annie Besant reported that over twenty thousand Hindus were forcefully converted to Islam, the Congress claimed that as per their information, only three people were converted. The Ahmedabad session of Congress witnessed intense tussle between the Congress and League members over the Moplah incidents. All that could be said in the resolution was that the Congress “…is of the opinion that the…disturbance in Malabar could have been prevented by the Government of Madras accepting the proffered assistance of Maulana Yakub Hassan”.

Describing the events at the session, Swami Shraddhanand, a senior leader, wrote: “The original resolution condemned the Moplas wholesale for the killing of Hindus and burning of Hindu homes and the forcible conversion to Islam. The Hindu members themselves proposed amendments until it was reduced to condemning only certain individuals who had been guilty of the above crimes. But some of the Muslim leaders could not bear this even. Maulana Fakir and other Maulanas, of course, opposed the resolution, and there was no wonder. Nevertheless, it was most surprising that an out-and-out Nationalist like Maulana Hasrat Mohani opposed the resolution on the ground that — the Mopla country no longer remained Dar-ul-Aman but became Dar-ul-Harab and they suspected the Hindus of collusion with the British enemies of the Moplas. Therefore, the Moplas were right in presenting the Quran or sword to the Hindus. Moreover, if the Hindus became Mussalmans to save themselves from death, it was a voluntary change of faith and not forcible conversion—Well, even the harmless resolution condemning some of the Moplas was not unanimously passed but had to be accepted by a majority of votes only”.

All this for the sake of keeping the League as a bed-fellow. When Gandhi too downplayed the incident by commenting that the Moplahs were ‘brave and God-fearing, and were fighting for what they considered as religion, in a manner which they consider as religious,’ even Dr Ambedkar could not help but express his despair. He decried saying ‘Mr. Gandhi was so much obsessed by the necessity of establishing Hindu-Muslim unity that he was prepared to make light of the doings of the Moplas and the Khilafats.’

Vande Mataram (‘Partitioned’):

After the Khilafat and the Moplah rebellion, the Muslim League’s price went up further. It started insisting on rejecting the essential symbols of national unity as a price for its support to the Congress. The first to come in the League’s crosshairs was the song Vande Mataram. It became a regular practice since 1905 to sing it at all the important Congress events. But the League members in the Congress started raising objections to it.

The AICC sessions were held in Kakinada in Andhra Pradesh in 1923. Maulana Mohammad Ali was presiding over the Congress. Senior leaders, including Motilal Nehru, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Sarojini Naidu, Sardar Patel, and Kasturba Gandhi, were present along with over twelve thousand delegates. Gandhi was in prison and hence could not attend.

Like in the past, Pt. Vishnu Digambar Puluskar, a Hindustani musician from Maharashtra, was there to sing the song at the inaugural. When Pt. Puluskar climbed the dais to sing Vande Mataram, Mohammad Ali raised objection saying that singing the song would hurt the sentiments of religious Muslims. Seeing the silence of the leaders present on the dais, Puluskar took it upon himself to challenge Mohammad Ali and went ahead with its rendition. Mohammad Ali, in protest, walked away while the song was being sung. It may be worthwhile to mention here that on many earlier occasions, the Ali Brothers and other League leaders used to rise together with other Hindu and Muslim members of the Congress when the song was sung. The objection at the Kakinada session was thus more a part of the enhanced bargaining than a genuinely religious issue. To placate the League members, Congress introduced Mohammad Iqbal’s famous song ‘Saare jahan se Acchha – Hindustan Hamara’ in its sessions. Yet, the opposition to Vande Mataram continued.

In 1937, when the elections were held for the Provincial Councils, the Congress formed governments in several of them. The controversy over Vande Mataram was raised once again when the proposal to sing the song at the commencement of the sessions was opposed. A ‘committee’ had to be constituted to review Vande Mataram. Rabindranath Tagore, Subhash Chandra Bose, and Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru were made its members. The committee recommended that the song be truncated and only the first two stanzas be sung.

The national song was partitioned in 1937 to appease the Muslim League. Ten years later, the nation was partitioned.

(To continue)

(Courtesy: The article was originally published in Chintan, India Foundation on August 17, 2020).