Tag Archives: Bipin Chandra Pal

Partitioned Freedom – 4

(Read “Partitioned Freedom – 1” from this link – 1)
(Read “Partitioned Freedom – 2” from this link – 2)
(Read “Partitioned Freedom – 3” from this link – 3)

Part 4

Khilafat Movement: Congress’ turn towards communal politics

What began as a tactical move to wean away the League from the British soon became a conviction within the Congress, that – without Muslim League coming along, there would be no freedom. For the British, the League not joining hands with Congress meant no united resistance. Hence, both started patronizing the League. The last three decades of the independence movement were a saga of this competitive bargaining with the Muslim League.

There were many Muslim leaders in Congress at that time. Even Jinnah was a Congress leader and was seen as the ambassador of Hindu – Muslim unity. Sadly, in its competitive bargaining for the League’s support, the Congress leadership gave up on those saner and secular Muslim leaders and leaned more towards the communal and fundamentalist elements of the community.

Khilafat Movement:

The first milestone in the race of appeasement of the Muslim League was the Khilafat movement of 1919-1924. Khilafat was a religio-political movement launched by a section of the Muslim League for the preservation of the Ottoman Empire under Sultan Mehmed V as he was regarded as the Khalifa (leader) of the entire Muslim Ummah (religious community). It should be clear from the description that, one, it was a religious movement; and two, it had nothing to do with India’s independence. More importantly, the myth of the Ottoman Emperor as the Khalifa of world Muslims had been shattered by the dismantling of the empire by the British and the French after World War I, and subsequently when Mustafa Kemal Pasha, the newly elected leader of Turkey, abolished the title of Khalifa in 1924.

That was what even Jinnah told the Muslim League convention held in Delhi in 1918. Jinnah called Khilafat a ‘false religious frenzy of which no good will come out for India.’ When some members objected to his views and the League decided to form a Khilafat Committee to launch an agitation for the cause, Jinnah, along with some others, walked out of the session.

However, where Jinnah had walked out, Gandhi walked in a year later. Gandhi had returned to India in 1915 and was a relatively new figure in the Congress. But certain historical events paved the way for his easy rise in the Congress hierarchy. His mentor and a senior Congress leader Gopal Krishna Gokhale passed away in February 1915. Feroz Shah Mehta, too died in the same year. Lokmanya Tilak left for London to sue the British journalist, Valentine Chirol for defamation in 1919, and he too passed away a year later.

Gandhi walked into the space vacated by several illustrious seniors. Yet he needed an anchor which he found in the issue of Hindu-Muslim unity. In South Africa, during his struggle against the British, Gandhi was regarded as the leader of both the Hindu and Muslim migrants. Gandhi looked at the native situation too from the South African prism. By then, winning over the Muslim League became a zealous conviction for many in the Congress. Gandhi decided to use the Khilafat for Hindu-Muslim unity as well as for establishing his own credentials as the leader with the power to achieve that.

Several Congress leaders participated in the Khilafat Day protests organized by the Muslim League on October 17, 1919. Swami Shraddhananda, a renowned Arya Samaj leader and a senior Congress leader, was one among them, standing on the steps of the Jama Masjid in Delhi and exhorting the Muslims to fight for the Khilafat. Gandhi, along with Motilal Nehru, Madan Mohan Malviya, and others, was present at the Muslim League convention in December 1919. He described Khilafat as the “holy cow” of the Muslim community. Gandhi viewed Khilafat as the best opportunity for Hindu – Muslim unity and exhorted the Hindus to join the struggle for preserving Islam’s honour if they really want Muslims’ friendship. “Arise! Awake! Or be fallen forever”, was Gandhi’s call to the Muslims.

However, a section of the Congressmen started raising concerns over this gamble. Sardar Patel was unconvinced about a slave country fighting for the maintainence of a foreign Muslim Empire. Many were aghast when they heard that Khilafat leaders like Shaukat Ali and Hasrat Mohani were inviting the King of Afghanistan to invade India to achieve the Khilafat. Gandhi’s good friend Barrister Henry Pollack had warned that on the Khilafat question, Gandhi was behaving in an “ill-informed and dangerous manner”. On the other hand, the Khilafat leaders like Maula Abdul Bari started threatening Gandhi that if he failed to deliver on the promise of the Congress’ support, they would end their relations with it.

Non-Cooperation Movement

An emergency session of the Congress was called in August 1920 at Kolkata, in which Gandhi proposed to launch a nationwide Non-Cooperation Movement in support of the Khilafat.         “I would, in order to achieve success in the Khilafat issue, even postpone the issue of Swaraj,” Gandhi declared. Leaders like Chittaranjan Das, Bipin Chandra Pal, and Annie Besant were against this bargain. Finally, issues like Swaraj and Jallianwala Bagh massacre were also included to make it look like an agitation for the Indian cause.

Jinnah, who was until then midwifing the Congress-League friendship, got disillusioned. He was particularly upset with his own sidelining and promotion of rank fundamentalists like Mohammad Ali and Shaukat Ali – the ‘Ali Brothers’ – by Gandhi. At the Nagpur session of the Congress later that year, Jinnah resigned, highlighting his opposition to the Khilafat. “I will have nothing to do with this pseudo-religious approach to politics. I do not believe in working up mob hysteria, politics is a gentleman’s game”, Jinnah told while quitting.

Khilafat failed

Khilafat failed. The Non-Cooperation Movement was abruptly called off by Gandhi when a violent incident took place at Chauri Chaura in the Gorakhpur district of the United Provinces in which 22 policemen were killed by the agitators. However, the damage to the fabric of national unity was already done. After the Khilafat, the voices of the nationalist Muslims became further subdued. Condoned by the Congress leadership, Muslim communalism became the order of the day. For example, when Shaukat Ali and others were arrested by the British on sedition charges for inviting the King of Afghanistan to invade India, Gandhi reacted by arguing that he couldn’t understand why the Ali brothers should be in jail when he was outside.

This was the only religious cause that Gandhi ever espoused during the independence movement. He probably had his reasons for doing so.

The passions he had helped rouse, which were now turned against him and the Congress, meant that the Congress haemorrhaged Muslims ever afterwards. Gandhi returned to the secular straight-and-narrow with the Salt Satyagraha ten years later and strove manfully to secure the moderate aim of a pluralist nationalism in the age of mass politics, but opportunism of the Khilafat movement haunted the Congress and helped alienate the one constituency it prized above all others: India’s Muslims”, wrote historian Mukul Kesavan.

The Khilafat misadventure of the Congress had demonstrated that the seeds of communal separatism sown by the British a decade earlier were sprouting up actively, nurtured by the misplaced convictions of the Congress leadership. Later events led the process further along resulting in the blossoming of Muslim communal politics as the Congress continued its appeasement policies.

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

(Courtesy: The article was originally published in Chintan, India Foundation on August 16, 2020)

Vivekananda and Communist propaganda

Visions of a Hindu India
Author: Dina Nath Mishra; Publication: Sunday
Date: May 2-8, 1993

Shocked by the events in Ayodhya on 6 December last year and the subsequent political developments, both the communist parties demonstratingly came out lecturing the Sangh Parivar about the real Hinduism through booklets, one by Sitaram Yechury, the CPI(M) Politburo
member, and another by the CPI secretary, A. B. Bardhan.

It is a case of traditional Hindu-haters turning to be real Hindus and pushing Hindus to the category of pseudo-Hindus. Two booklets provided the basis to the left media brigade to shout the same propaganda all over India through print and other media again and again. The whole
edifice of propaganda was demolished by two well- researched articles by Arun Shourie in SUNDAY (Myths about the Swami, 31 January – 6 February, 1993 and Quotable quotes, 7 – 13 February, 1993). The burden of Shourie’s pieces were, as put by Shourie himself in conclusion:
“…lessons upon lessons for friends who suddenly find Swami Vivekanand so quotable. Stray quotations cannot be set up to counter the entire life and work of such a man; as that life and work is the exact opposite of what you have been propagating, the more you lean on Vivekananda, the more he will recoil on you; never forget what you have been saying about a man when you suddenly find him handy, other are not likely to have forgotten; and finally, never proclaim your intention to quote a man before you have read him.”

Shourie’s pieces were too powerful and aggressive to be ignored by the communist parties and hence a laboured rebuttal in SUNDAY (Of Shourie and Vivekananda, 28 March – 3 April 1993) by A. B. Bardhan, who has made the following points:

That they have not jumped suddenly but their approach to Swami’s role and world view are very much positive. In his effort to prove that the communists have not suddenly jumped to quote Vivekananda, but have been doing so for long, Bardhan quotes from a book published by the CPI
titled. Socio-political views of Vivekananda by Benoy Roy in 1970. BenoyRoy was profusely quoted to clarify the party’s assessment of Vivekananda.

* That as Marxists we hail his revolutionary and humanist teachings as inspiring message to the people of India and the world.

* That communists are not alienated and keep themselves aloof from our culture. To substantiate this, Mr Bardhan has marshalled names of communist and other writers including Rahul Sanskrityayan, S.A. Dange, Ram Bilas Sharma and has reminded us of their contributions.

* That Vivekananda was a revolutionary, a socialist and a secular person.

* That Arun Shourie has made a Muslim crusader out of Vivekananda and Shourie’s and she Sangh Parivar’s views are just opposite to that of Vivekananda.

* That there is enough food and ammunition in Vivekananda’s works to last all who are searching for India’s social, cultural and spiritual development. Let no one try to appropriate him for oneself.” Vivekananda is not the monopoly of the Sangh Parivar and Arun Shourie.

* That the communist approach to Vivekananda underlines the enlightenment of the downtrodden, dumb millions, his revolutionary approach to the problem of liquidating the privileges of the propertied classes and giving the toilers their due share in the national wealth,
his preachings against untouchability. and. above all, his teachings purification of the soul – they were all later adopted by different political and social organisations of this country, including the Indian National Congress led by M.K. Gandhi.

Now let us face the facts. On pages 391-392 of the Documents of history of the CPI published in 1971, there is an assessment of Vivekananda by the party. “Although its political philosopher and leader were found subsequently in the persons of Aurobindo Ghose and Bipin Chandra Pal
respectively, its fundamental ideology was conceived by a young intellectual of petit-bourgeoisie origin. He was Narendra Nath Dutt, subsequently, known by the religious nomenclature of Swami Vivekananda. Like Tilak, Dutt was also a prophet of Hindu nationalism. He was also a believer in the cultural superiority of the Indian people, and held that on this cultural basis should be built the future Indian nation’ He preached that Hinduism, not Indian nationalism, should be
aggressive. His nationalism was spiritual imperialism.”

Now Mr Bardhan, please tell me: Was Vivekananda a believer of Hindu nationalism or was he a secular person of your variety? Were you right then or now? Was he an intellectual of petit bourgeoisie origin, or were his ideas food and ammunition for various developments of the nation as claimed by Benoy Roy and which was quoted in your rebuttal? Was Shourie not right in accusing you and your colleagues for suddenly alighting upon Swami Vivekananda?

I will give you yet another instance. Please turn to page 393 of the party document, where the following appears. “Thus an intelligently rebellious element which otherwise would have been the vanguard of the exploited class in a social struggle had to give in to national preoccupations and contribute itself to a movement for the immediate overthrow of foreign rule, not for progress forward, but in order to go back to an imaginary golden age the fountain-head of India’s spiritual
heritage … In their religiousness and wild spiritual’ imperialism they embodied the reactionary social forces.”

Mr Bardhan. my simple question is: Was Vivekananda a revolutionary or a reactionary as your party document says? Do you stand by your party document or a single comrade’s view expressed in Socio-political views of Vivekananda:” …his revolutionary approach to the problem of liquidating the privileges of the propertied classes and giving the toilers their due share in the national wealth… ” Where do you stand? Did he overlook the immediate overthrow of foreign rule or has he a very special position in inspiring the freedom fighters of the Freedom Movement as mentioned in your rebuttal?

You quoted Mahatma Gandhi in defence of your new-found love for Vivekananda. I am quoting your party document: “The extremists, now called non-cooperators. have had better success than moderates in drawing the masses under the influence of nationalism … But they could not develop the potentiality of the mass movement by leading it in accordance with its economic urges and social tendencies. Their tactics was to strengthen the nationalist movement by the questionable method of exploiting the ignorance of the masses. And the best way of exploiting
tire ignorance of the masses was to make a religion of nationalism. This tactics led to the appearance of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi on the political horizon, and the eclipse of all other politico- social tendencies in the shade of Gandhism.”

So, is it not the same as the charge you are levelling: that Shourie and the Sangh Parivar are making a religion of nationalism? And mixing religion with politics, the “crime” which Mahatma Gandhi also committed?

Veteran communist leader R. Palme Dutt wrote in 1931 that “to all that is young and generous in India the name of Gandhi is an object of cursing and contempt, the name of Judas”. This must be strongly combatted by the communists.

No, Mr Bardhan. the Sangh Parivar and Arun Shourie did not and do not monopolise Vivekananda. While you threw Vivekananda in the dust bin like a rotten egg, calling him a “wild spiritualist”, the Sangh Parivar found in him the biggest asset in the exercise of nation-building. The relationship of Vivekananda with the Sangh movement is very much like a mother-son relationship. Dr Hedgewar, the RSS founder, was a Tilakite.
The second Saranghchalak, Sri Guruji, was in Ram Krishna Mission for two or three years around 1935. One of the most revered central leaders of the RSS, Baba Saheb Apte’s life-long pet sentence was: “Vivekananda is like Gita for the RSS.”

Vivekananda’s literature has always been staple intellectual diet for swayamsewavaks since the early 40s. When the centenary year of Vivekananda was approaching, the RSS entrusted to Eknath Ranade the job of compiling Vivekananda’s thoughts into a handy volume. Ranade adopted it as a one-dimensional mission and brought out the vision of Vivekananda in a book titled, “Rousing call to Hindu nation”, first published in 1963. The 168-page book costs Rs 2. Since then, it has been translated into all Indian languages and underwent numerous reprints.
Over a million copies have been sold so far among the RSS people. Add to that booklets brought out by various publications. “Rousing call to Hindu nation” has been like a textbook and motivating vision for all swayamsevaks. Mr Bardhan, you have flaunted a quotation of lower caste
exploitation and taunted if Shouries and the Sangh Parivar agree to it. Let me add here that the textbook I just spoke about contains admonitions of the upper classes of India. There are numerous quotations like that you have quoted and is not tactical.

The study of Vivekananda convinced Eknath Ranade to build the Vivekananda Rock Memorial temple at Kanya Kumari – the rock where the Swami had meditated in 1893 before going to Chicago. This grand memorial came up only after crossing hundreds of hurdles set up by almost all political parties and many groups. Literally, crores of people contributed to the dream of the rock memorial. Should I remind you, Mr. Bardhan, that all the state government had contributed to that end, barring the one you had in Kerala led by E.M.S. Namboodiripad, despite the best efforts of Eknathji. Let me remind you that when Ranade approached Jyoti Basu for help, the latter questioned. “How dare you come to me for Vivekananda, I am a communist”. But finding Eknathji persuasive, Jyoti Basu told him, “Meet my wife, she had gone to Kanya Kumari when I went to the Ernakulam convention.” Comrade Kalyana Sundaram of Tamil Nadu greeted Eknathji thus: “You have defeated me by coming to me because I was telling my friends that you will not come to me as you know I am a communist. You know I am very much inspired by Vivekananda”. Eknathji had collected signatures of more than 50 per cent MPs to remove the hurdles in the construction work. In the process. The only enthusiastic support that came from “your camp”, was that of comrade Renu Chakravorty, MP, who got a few signatures of other communist MPs, too.

There is no need of reminding you from how many textbooks you removed Vivekananda in West Bengal when you came to power in that state. No, Mr.Bardhan, there is no intention of monopolising Vivekananda. He was not an RSS member. He was the finest Hindu model produced at the end of last century after waves and waves of Hindu awakening from Bhakti Movement to 19th Century renaissance in Bengal and other places. His vision was basically Hindu and was meant for the whole of humanity. You can very well quote Vivekananda provided you apologise for calling him names. Till then, you are just ineligible to quote him.

As to your challenge that Arun Shourie’s and the Sangh Parivar’s vision of Vivekananda is that of a crusader against Islam, etc. I can only say that you believe your own propaganda that the party’s reflexes do not work and are generally delayed by at least 50 yews. Did you concede your
mistake of 1942 before 1970? You were confused about Vivekananda as late as 1990. You started rethinking about him in the late Sixties In a half-hearted manner. It was under your pressure that many references of the word ‘Hindu’ were removed from the latest edition of the eight volumes on Vivekananda, though they existed in earlier editions. Let me remind you that the son of Bipin Chandra Pal substituted the word. “Hindu” with “Indian” in the works of his father. Even today, your acceptance of Vivekananda is not general in nature but partial and that is why you say: “We have never pretended to be Vedantists, and have remained Marxists … as Marxists….we hail his teachings (and) …..inspiring message….” There is a definite anti-Hindu trait in saying. “We are not Vedantists” and yet you quote Swami Vivekananda’s Chicago speech in
full, which is nothing but uniquely Vedantic. And that is Arun Shourie says: “Stray quotations cannot be set up to counter the entire life and work of such man.”