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Partitioned Freedom – 2

(Read “Partitioned Freedom – 1″ from this link – 1).

Part 2

The British had attempted their first partition of India four decades earlier in 1905. They decided to partition the Bengal province into two. The capital of British India, until 1911, was in Calcutta (today’s Kolkata) in the Bengal province. Bengal was the largest province in British India with over 80 million population in those days, almost 1/5th of the population of the entire country. Bengal was also home to a strong resistance movement against colonial rule. A large number of revolutionaries in India’s freedom movement came from Bengal. A strong Congress movement too flourished in the province. Poets, littérateurs, academics, and journalists – Bengal was home to many eminences who were at the forefront of the struggle against the British.

The British then decided to tackle this fledgling anti-Colonial movement in a different way. They partitioned the province of Bengal into two – East Bengal with Dhaka as the capital, that included Assam, and West Bengal with Kolkata as the capital that included Bihar and Orissa.

Lord Curzon, who was the British Viceroy of India when Bengal was partitioned, argued that it was only an administrative measure. But his own colleagues like Henry Cotton, the then Chief Commissioner of Assam, who was opposed to this move, openly stated that the act was intended to weaken the nationalist movement in the region. “There were no administrative reasons. Curzon’s plan was to oppress the rising force of a nationalist political movement”, Henry Cotton later wrote.

The Congress leadership and the revolutionaries sensed the British mischief behind this decision. Through this policy of divide et impera – Divide and Rule, the British had planned to secure two objectives. They wanted to weaken the freedom movement and also in the process sow seeds of mistrust and conflict between Hindus and Muslims. The partitioned East Bengal was to become almost 60% Muslim, while the residual West Bengal was to be 80% Hindu. The leaders of the independence movement decided to firmly reject London’s ploy.

Curzon travelled across the length and breadth of the province. Everywhere he encountered popular resistance to his move. Even the Muslims, including the brother of the Nawab of Dhaka, Khwaja Atiquallah, were opposing Bengal’s partition. But Curzon was adamant. He insisted that the partition of Bengal was a “settled fact”. October 16, 1905 was declared as the day of the partition.

People were furious. Agitations, protests, lockdowns, speeches, writings and posters started dominating the province. On the appointed day of the partition, a massive protest rally was organised at Barisal town in the then South Central Bengal, now in Bangladesh. Over fifty thousand people joined the protests. The slogan ‘Vande Mataram’, from the song authored by Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay, a Bengali scholar in his novel Anand Math, reverberated in the air. Gurudev Robindronath Tagore was present to administer an oath to the people for the reunification of Bengal. At another big meeting in Kolkata on August 7, 1905 a resolution was passed calling for the boycott of British products so long as the ‘Partition Resolution was not withdrawn’. Thus was born the famous ‘Swadeshi’ movement.

The agitation against the partition of Bengal had soon spread to the whole country. The Congress was in the forefront. Swaraj and Swadeshi became the twin mantras of the movement. It became popular as the Vande Mataram Movement or the Swadeshi Movement. Nationwide resistance was led by the trio popularly known as Lal-Bal-Pal – Lala Lajpat Rai in Punjab, Bal Gangadhar Tilak in Maharashtra, and Bipin Chandra Pal in Bengal.

The agitation intensified forcing the British Parliament to take cognisance. Finally, the British emperor, King George V had to rush to India in December 1911 and declare the annulment of Bengal’s partition. Bengal became united again, unsettling Curzon’s and his successor Viceroy Lord Minto’s ‘settled fact’. It was a great victory for the nationalist forces led by the Congress although a large section of the Muslims of Bengal was thoroughly disheartened.

The resistance movement and its subsequent victory signified a major shift in the policies and programs of the Congress, which until then had been a political body limited to filing complaints and petitions before the British administration. The Vande Mataram movement had given the hardliners, led by Tilak, an upper hand in the Congress. The latter had now transformed into a vehicle of popular resistance through public agitations. Tilak’s historic exhortation – ‘Freedom is my Birth Right’ – became the new mantra of Indian politics.

That was 1905. A massive 6-year nation-wide agitation was launched when just one Indian province of Bengal was partitioned and the British were forced to annul it. Fast forward four decades. The entire country, including Bengal, was partitioned and the same nation remained a mute witness. Why?

The answer lies in the history of the freedom movement during those fateful four decades. It is a tragic and revealing history, spanning the period between 1911 and 1947, which holds many startling facts and staggering lessons for India. What happened during those years must be revisited to understand those facts and learn from them.

One of the critical fallouts of the partition of Bengal was a meeting held at Dacca (Today’s Dhaka) on December 27-31, 1906. Ishrat Manzil, a well-known Nawab family mansion, was hosting the annual meeting of the All India Muhammadan Educational Conference. The Nawab of Dhaka, Khwaja Salimullah was playing host to over 3000 delegates who came from all over the country. Nawab Salimullah presented a proposal at the conference on December 30 for establishing a political party to safeguard the interests of the Muslims of British India.

Thus was born the All India Muslim League, headquartered in Lucknow. Renowned Iranian Shia princely cleric, Sir Muhammad Aga Khan, hereditary Imam of the Ismaili sect was elected as its first president. The objectives of the Muslim League were to create loyal Muslims to the British Raj and to advance the political rights of the community.

On the horizon of the Indian political firmament, a new player had emerged, with the tacit blessing of the Viceroy Lord Minto. This new player would change the course of India’s independence movement in the next four decades substantively.

(Read Next: “Partitioned Freedom – 3” from this link – 3)

(Courtesy: The article was originally published in Chintan, India Foundation on August 13, 2020)

Partitioned Freedom – 1

Partitioned Freedom” (a four-part series of articles authored by Sri Ram Madhav) is an account of the preceding events that led to the tragic partition of Bhārat in 1947; revisiting the political haste, the wanting leadership, and the sordid consequences of the partition. AriseBharat is documenting these articles giving the links of the previous articles along with the Video talk delivered by the author on the same topic (Video Courtesy : “Disha Bharat“).

The author has earlier written a book on the same topic in Telugu (“మాతృభూమి ముక్కలైంది – 1947 విషాద గాథ ”), giving an account of the events and conditions leading to the partition, the failure of the leadership, the heart-wrenching public crisis and the carnage. This book is available for purchase at HindueShop.

Among the contributed texts in writing of this book was a well-known book titled “The Tragic Story of Partition” authored by Sri H.V. Seshadri; a comprehensive treatise that gives episodic perspective of all the facts leading to the partition.  This book is also available for purchase at HindueShop and the summary of which is available in AriseBharat. 

Part I

On the night of August 14-15, 1947, when India was celebrating its independence, the architect of the independence movement, Mahatma Gandhi was not among the revellers. When his protégé Jawahar Lal Nehru was making that epochal speech about ‘India’s tryst with destiny’, and the ministers of his new cabinet were taking the oath of office, Gandhi was not rejoicing.    A 1000 miles away in Kolkata, he was in a sombre mood, tired of the day-long fasting and prayers.

I cannot rejoice on August 15. I do not want to deceive you. But at the same time I shall not ask you not to rejoice. Unfortunately, the kind of freedom we have got today contains also the seeds of future conflict between India and Pakistan”, he had told his colleagues in July that year.

Gandhi no doubt was prophetic about the future conflict. But what was the ‘kind of freedom’ that put him off? The proclamation of India’s independence was to be a moment of jubilation and pride for over 350 million Indians. But it became a moment of sorrow and suffering for several million among them. While granting independence, the British had partitioned India into two in a hurried manner creating Pakistan as a separate nation. Overnight, the land under their feet, on which they had lived for generations, became foreign to those millions who found themselves on the wrong side of what was to be their future home. Not unexpectedly, massive violence broke out on both sides of the clumsily carved out frontiers.

India’s partition was not a smooth and peaceful affair. It happened over the dead bodies of hundreds of thousands of innocents. Historians wrote poignantly that the Sindhu river flowed not with water but with the blood of tens of thousands of Hindus and Muslims. Millions were uprooted, and leaving everything behind, were forced to undertake an arduous and often hazardous trek of hundreds of miles seeking a new home and meaning for lives. “It was the world’s largest and rarest exodus”, wrote Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre in ‘Freedom at Midnight’.

Why did this tragedy take place? Who was responsible?

None of the leading lights of India’s independence movement wanted India to be divided. Neither did the majority of the people of India – both Muslim and Hindu.

Vivisect me before vivisecting India”, Gandhi warned firmly, when he was informed about the Muslim League’s Lahore Resolution of March 24, 1940 in which the League demanded that the “areas in which the Muslims are numerically in a majority as in the North Western and Eastern Zones of India should be grouped to constitute ‘independent states’ in which the constituent units should be autonomous and sovereign”. Although the word ‘Pakistan’ was not used, the reference to ‘autonomous and sovereign independent states’ made the intentions of the League amply clear. They were demanding a separate country. This resolution became popular later in history as the ‘Pakistan Resolution’. For Gandhi, the Pakistan resolution was a ‘moral sin’. It militated against all his lifelong convictions, especially his dearest idea of Hindu-Muslim unity. It was totally unacceptable to him. “The step of Mr. Jinnah is like that two brothers have a fight on same cow and they cut it and divide it”, Gandhi lamented. Yet the country was divided before his eyes.

Jawahar Lal Nehru, in his typical romantic way, proclaimed that the idea of partition was “fantastic nonsense”, a fantasy of some mad people. Yet he became one of the enthusiastic supporters of the ‘June 3rd Plan’ for the country’s partition. Sardar Patel went one step further and declared in his typical style “Talwar se talwar bhidegi” (sword will clash with sword), meaning that the countrymen would fight till the end against partition. But even he became a mute witness to the passing of the ‘June 3rd Plan’.

Dr Rajendra Prasad, who was in jail during the Quit India Movement, went on to write the book India Divided, in which he spoke of the ills of partition and how illogical the thought was. The book was published in early 1946. Even before the ink on the pages of that book could dry up, India was partitioned.

Not just the Indian leaders, many British leaders too did not support the idea of partitioning India. Lord Wavell, who was the British viceroy during 1943-47, had opposed it in 1944, stating, “India is a God-made triangle, you cannot divide it”. Even Clement Atlee’s original mandate as Britain’s Prime Minister to Mountbatten, who was sent to Delhi to replace Lord Wavell in February 1947, was not to partition India. “Keep it united if possible. Save a bit from the wreck. Bring the British out in any case”, were Attlee’s instructions to Mountbatten.

Yet the country was partitioned.

Mountbatten presented the final plan for India’s partition to the leaders of the Congress and the Muslim League in a meeting on June 3, 1947. Thus it began to be famously called as the ‘June 3rd Plan’. Jawahar Lal Nehru, Sardar Patel, and Acharya Kripalani were present from the Congress while the League was represented by Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Liaqat Ali and Abdur Nishtar. Mountbatten later claimed that “the Indian leaders agreed unanimously, without any sort of reservation, to the choice of 15th August”.

When the partition plan was brought before the Congress Working Committee on June 14, 1947 there was vocal resistance. Gandhi, who declared six years earlier that it should happen over his dead body, intervened to ask the members to support the partition. Acknowledging that he was one of those who steadfastly opposed the division of India, Gandhi, nevertheless, urged the members to accept the resolution as “sometimes certain decisions, however unpalatable they might be, had to be taken”. Gandhi also indicated that if the resolution was rejected, they would have to find a “new set of leaders”. He also insisted that it was essential for peace in the country.

While nobody wanted the partition of India, nobody was there to stand up against it when the moment came. It needed people to come on to the streets to fight the forces of vivisection, and leaders to lead that resistance. Unfortunately, at that momentous juncture, people were not ready for the fight to save India’s integrity, and the leaders too were not ready.. ‘We became old’ one of them confessed later. Why?

(Read Next: “Partitioned Freedom – 2” from this link – 2)

(Courtesy: The article was originally published in Chintan, India Foundation on August 13, 2020)

A lecture delivered by Sri Ram Madhav on the tragic story of partition
(Video Courtesy: “Disha Bharat”):

Somnath to Ayodhya : Journey of an Awakened Civilisation

It is not a time for chest-thumping or triumphalism. But isn’t it time to rejoice?

What the Ayodhya movement overcame was not just the opposition of certain Muslim groups, but countless hurdles put up by the courts as well as overzealous secular shenanigans. Not a small thing, given the fact that Hagia Sofia cathedral in Istanbul, in contrast, has been turned once again into a mosque, and Jerusalem is still struggling to decide which history to accept.

Somnath to Ayodhya is journey of an awakened civilisation. It was a struggle of five centuries. Hindus never accepted Babur’s commander Mir Baqi’s vandalism of the temple at the sacred site in Ayodhya, considered the birthplace of Bhagwan Ram. As happened in parts of Europe during the crusades, the site kept changing from temple to mosque to temple. The last time was in 1949 when idols of Ram durbar appeared under the domes of the dysfunctional mosque. Since then it once again became a functioning temple. Another seven decades of wait has finally resulted in the dream of millions of Hindus coming true. The abode of Shri Ram is again springing to life with majesty and magnificence.

It is not a time for chest-thumping or triumphalism. But isn’t it time to rejoice? What the Ayodhya movement overcame was not just the opposition of certain Muslim groups, but countless hurdles put up by the courts as well as overzealous secular shenanigans. Not a small thing, given the fact that Hagia Sofia cathedral in Istanbul, in contrast, has been turned once again into a mosque, and Jerusalem is still struggling to decide which history to accept.

Certainly, the construction of the Ram Janmaboomi temple is a glorious epitome of a civilisational reassertion. “So, new people come up and they begin to look at their world and from being great acceptors, they have become questioners. And I think we should simply try to understand this passion. It is not an ignoble passion at all. It is men trying to understand themselves. Do not dismiss them. Treat them seriously”, warned Sir Vidia Naipaul, the Nobel laureate talking about this reassertion in the mid-1990s.

Renowned British historian Arnold Toynbee had taunted the Hindus four decades before Naipaul commended them. “Aurangzeb’s purpose in building those three mosques (Ayodhya, Kashi and Mathura) was the same intentionally offensive political purpose that moved the Russians to build their Orthodox cathedral in the city centre at Warsaw. Those mosques were intended to signify that an Islamic government was reigning supreme, even over Hinduism’s holiest of holy places. Perhaps the Poles were really kinder in destroying the Russians’ self-discrediting monument in Warsaw than you have been in sparing Aurangzeb’s mosques”, said Toynbee in a speech at Delhi.

The Orthodox cathedral that Toynbee referred to was Alexander Nevsky Cathedral built by the Russians in the Polish capital Warsaw. When Poland unshackled itself from Czarist Russia after the First World War, the cathedral was demolished by the Polish authorities in the mid-1920s. It took 18 years to complete the cathedral for the Russians – built between 1894 and 1912, but it didn’t survive even 15 years. Intense debate preceded the demolition. Poles saw it not as a religious monument but as a symbol of Russian domination. Like the pseudo-secularists in India, there were a few voices opposing the demolition, mostly from the Orthodox community. They were contemptuously dismissed as ‘Cathedralists’. Not that the Poles were against Orthodox Christianity. There were several other Orthodox churches in Poland. Many remnants of the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral were later shifted to the Mary Magdalene Orthodox Cathedral in the Warsaw suburb.

Poles took less than 10 years after their freedom to remove the Orthodox cathedral. Indians had to wait much longer in the case of Ayodhya. There was a precedent though. The Somnath temple in Gujarat, that was looted and destroyed by Mahmud of Ghazni in 1024, had been restored in 1951 immediately after India’s independence. Its restoration had Gandhi’s blessings and the initiative came from Sardar Patel and K M Munshi. Gandhi’s only suggestion to Patel was that the reconstruction of the temple should happen with the funds collected from the people, not from the public exchequer.

Unfortunately, by the time the consecration happened, both Gandhi and Patel were no more. Prime Minister Nehru was opposed to the idea of the reconstruction of the Somnath temple. He first tried to dissuade Munshi. Munshi refused to heed. Nehru then tried to discourage President Rajendra Prasad from attending the consecration ceremony. “I believe in my religion and cannot cut myself away from it”, Rajendra Prasad bluntly told Nehru. Nehru then wrote to all the Chief Ministers stating that his government had nothing to do with the Somnath reconstruction and they too shouldn’t have anything to do with it.

The Somnath temple returned to its past glory on May 11, 1951, when it was inaugurated in a grand function. Dr Rajendra Prasad was present in person to witness the making of history. “The Somnath temple signifies that the power of reconstruction is always greater than the power of destruction”, he told in his address, adding “By rising from its ashes again, this temple of Somnath will proclaim to the world that no man and no power in the world can destroy that for which people have boundless faith and love in their hearts…

Seventy years after Somnath, the same spirit is bringing Ayodhya to life. Sardar Patel was the prime mover of Somnath reconstruction. But he was not there when it finally happened. Ayodhya owes a lot to Ashok Singhal, but it will miss him on this historic occasion.

When Prime Minister Modi stands at Ayodhya, laying the first brick for the temple, it would be a symbolic reiteration of what Dr Rajendra Prasad had said at Somnath some 69 years ago: “Today, our attempt is not to rectify history. Our only aim is to proclaim anew our attachment to the faith, convictions and to the values on which our religion has rested since immemorial ages.

Courtesy: Shri Ram Madhav
(The article was originally published in Chintan – India Foundation blogs on August 5, 2020. Views expressed are personal.)

Jayostute – Victory to You

Bharat Mata Photo without quote

Jayostute (Victory to You) by Swatantrya Veer Vinayak Damodar Savarkar in the cellular jail of Andamans.

 

ज्योस्तु ते श्रीमहन्मंगले Iशिवास्पदे शुभदे

स्वतंत्रते भगवतिIत्वामहं यशोयुतां वंदे II धृII

Victory to you, O Auspicious One,

O Holy Abode, Eternal Delight!

O Goddess of Freedom, Victorious One, we salute you!

राष्ट्राचे चैतन्य मूर्त तूं नीतिसंपदांची

स्वतंत्रते भगवति I श्रीमती राज्ञी तू त्यांची

Epitome of our National Soul, Goddess of Freedom O,

Of Virtue and Prosperity supreme Queen you are, lo!

परवशतेच्या नभांत तूंची आकाशी होशी

स्वतंत्रते भगवती I चांदणी चमचम लखलखशी II

O Goddess of Freedom, you are a star shining

In this darkness of slavery, alone in the sky gleaming!

गालावरच्या कुसुमी किंवा कुसुमांच्या गाली

स्वतंत्रते भगवती I तूच जी विलसतसे लाली

तूं सूर्याचे तेज उदधिचे गांभीर्यहि तूंची

स्वतंत्रते भगवतीIअन्यथा ग्रहण नष्ट तेंची II

O Goddess of Freedom, you are the blush that prospers,

On flowers as soft as cheeks, on cheeks as soft as flowers!

You are the depth of the ocean, the radiance of the sun,

O Goddess of Freedom, without you their worth is none!

मोक्ष मुक्ति ही तुझीच रूपें तुलाच वेदांती

स्वतंत्रते भगवतीIयोगिजन परब्रह्म वदती

जे जे उत्तम उदात्त उन्नत महन्मधुर तेंतें

स्वतंत्रते भगवतीI सर्व तव सहचारी होते II

You are moksh-liberation and by the Yogis esteemed

Hailed you’re, O Goddess, as the Soul Supreme,

O Goddess of Freedom, all your companions are elite

Noble, magnificent, and oh so very sweet!

हे अधम रक्त रंजिते I सुजन-पुजिते ! श्रीस्वतंत्रते

तुजसाठिं मरण तें जनन

तुजविण जनन ते मरण

तुज सकल चराचर शरण

भरतभूमीला दृढालिंगना कधिं देशिल वरदे

स्वतंत्रते भगवतीIत्वामहं यशोयुतां वंदे II

Soaked in the villain’s blood—you are!

Worshipped by noble men—you are!

Life is to die for You,

Death is to live without You,

All creation surrenders unto you!

O Giver of Boons, clasp our motherland to your bosom, do!

O Goddess of Freedom, Victorious One, we salute you!

हिमालयाच्या हिमसौधाचा लोभ शंकराला

क्रिडा येथे करण्याचा कां तुला वीट आला?

होय आरसा अप्सरांनासरसे करण्याला

सुधाधवल जान्हवीस्त्रोत तो कां गे त्वां त्यजिला? II

E’en Shankar covets our mighty Himalayas of terraced snow,

Oh why does it not please you to sport here anymo’?

Her brilliant waters an Apsara’s mirror verily make

Why oh why, the bountiful Ganges you did forsake?

स्वतंत्रतेIह्या सुवर्णभूमीत कमती काय तुला?

कोहिनूरचे पुष्प रोज घे ताजें वेणीला

ही सकल-श्री-संयुता I आमची माताभारती असतां

कां तुवां ढकलुनी दिधली

पूर्वीची ममता सरली

परक्यांची दासी झाली

जीव तळमळे, कांतूं त्यजिले उत्तर ह्याचें दे

स्वतंत्रते भगवतीIत्वामहं यशोयुतां वंदे IIधृ II

O Freedom! What did you lack in this GoldenLand?

Each day find a fresh Kohinoor bloom for your strands!

Here she is the Bounteous One, our very own motherland,

So why, oh why did you push her away?

Why did your Motherly love of old wither away?

Over her strangers now hold sway!

Anguished is my soul!

Why, oh why, did you abandon her so, answer me, I pray!

O Goddess of Freedom, O Triumphant One,

We salute you!

*ये नव वर्ष हमे स्वीकार नहीं*

*–राष्ट्रकवि रामधारीसिंह दिनकर*

ये नव वर्ष हमे स्वीकार नहीं, है अपना ये त्यौहार नहीं।

है अपनी ये तो रीत नहीं, है अपना ये व्यवहार नहीं।।

धरा ठिठुरती है सर्दी से आकाश में कोहरा गहरा है।

बाग़ बाज़ारों की सरहद पर सर्द हवा का पहरा है।।

सूना है प्रकृति का आँगन, कुछ रंग नहीं, उमंग नहीं।

हर कोई है घर में दुबका हुआ, नव वर्ष का ये कोई ढंग नहीं।।

चंद मास अभी इंतज़ार करो, निज मन में तनिक विचार करो।

नये साल नया कुछ हो तो सही, क्यों नक़ल में सारी अक्ल बही।।

उल्लास मंद है जन -मन का, आयी है अभी बहार नहीं।

ये नव वर्ष हमे स्वीकार नहीं, है अपना ये त्यौहार नहीं।।

ये धुंध कुहासा छंटने दो, रातों का राज्य सिमटने दो।

प्रकृति का रूप निखरने दो, फागुन का रंग बिखरने दो।।

प्रकृति दुल्हन का रूप धार, जब स्नेह – सुधा बरसायेगी।

शस्य – श्यामला धरती माता, घर -घर खुशहाली लायेगी।।

तब चैत्र शुक्ल की प्रथम तिथि, नव वर्ष मनाया जायेगा।

आर्यावर्त की पुण्य भूमि पर, जय गान सुनाया जायेगा।।

युक्ति – प्रमाण से स्वयंसिद्ध, नव वर्ष हमारा हो प्रसिद्ध।

आर्यों की कीर्ति सदा -सदा, नव वर्ष चैत्र शुक्ल प्रतिपदा।।

अनमोल विरासत के धनिकों को, चाहिये कोई उधार नहीं।

ये नव वर्ष हमे स्वीकार नहीं, है अपना ये त्यौहार नहीं।।

है अपनी ये तो रीत नहीं, है अपना ये त्यौहार नहीं।।

-राष्ट्रकवि रामधारीसिंह दिनकर