Tag Archives: Jallianwala Bagh

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)

APRIL 13 – Atmanirikshan Divas

APRIL 13 – Atmanirikshan Divas

Exactly 100years back on this very day more than 1000 innocent, unarmed men, women and children were brutally massacred.

1650 rounds were fired at them but many died in miserable pain just lying on the ground as their families were not given permission to pick up their bodies and the Government hospital run by Lt Colonel Smith turned the injured away calling them “rabid dogs.”

April 13, 1919 is a day no Bharatiya should forget. This was the day when the “Butcher of Amritsar” Brigadier General Reginald Dyer unleashed his barbarism on us Bharatiya.

Let us all pay homage to those martyrs.

Let us also ask how did a handful of people from far off lands and a little history (relative to Bharat’s over 8000years old) bleed us for almost 1000years?

How did the Hindu civilisation – which was born on the banks of Sindhu and Saraswati rivers (Indus valley, Pakistan), spread right from Gandhar (Kandahar, Afghanistan) to Kamboj (Cambodia), including Singapore,
Indonesia, Brunei and culturally dominating China and Japan (through Buddhism) – shrink so rapidly?

World’s oldest universities which attracted students from across the world, just like today’s American universities do, were from Bharat – Takshashila (today Pakistan) and Nalanda (Bihar). These two universities imparted education for free including stay and food. How did we lose this pioneering status in the field of education?

How did Alexander, Ghouris, Ghaznis, Khiljis, Tughlaqs, Mughals, Dutch, Portuguese, British and their ‘agents’ manage to unleash their brutality on us repeatedly?

Does the challenge lie within us Bharatiya? Does this call for introspection?

Should we observe April 13
as “Atmanirikshan Divas” or Introspection Day?

Leave you to decide.

Uttishtha Bharat🙏🏻🇮🇳

Some facts on Jalianwala Baug massacre

Date – April 13, 1919*

Day – Festival of Baisakhi

Rounds fired – 1650

Innocent, unarmed dead – more than 1000 (Source: renowned educationist Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya who was Congress Party President for 4 terms)

Age of youngest shot dead: Seven-month baby

Age of oldest shot dead: 80years old

Brigadier General Reginald Dyer’s reaction after all the ammunition (1650 rounds) was over – “Good shooting. We have done a jolly good thing.” (Source: Midnight’s Children a novel by Salman Rushdie page 36)

The reaction of Lt Colonel Smith, Government Doctor – turned away the injured from the government hospital and called them “rabid dogs”

The reaction of Rudyard Kipling (Jungle Book fame) – Gen Dyer was “the man who saved India”

Reaction to a massacre in Britain – “Thanks to the munificence of Morning Post newspaper, a conservative pro-Imperialistic newspaper, which later merged with the Daily Telegraph. To raise funds for the hero of Jallianwalla Bagh, the celebrated newspaper made an appeal for a generous donation from the public, eventually, they received enough funds. Gen. Dyer was given warm reception on his return to England, where he was received like a victorious war hero and awarded a purse of £26,000.00 (approximately £1,000,000 in terms of 2013 PPP) for his patriotic service to the nation” (Source: The Butcher of Amritsar, General Reginald Dyer by Nigel Collett)

August 15, 1947 – “When the British hastily retreated in 1947, their rapacious administrators were replaced by a class of Indians derisively described as Macaulayites – Indians only in name but who were otherwise disconnected from Indian culture and thought. These Indians had inherited all the biases that the British rulers harboured towards Indians. They were the product of Thomas Macaulay’s English Education Act of 1835 whose sole purpose was to create a class of people who would assist the British in administering India.” (Source: Rakesh Krishnan Simha, Demography – Persecution and Proselytisation)

Udham Singh – A Lion With Perseverance

Jallianwalla Bagh Massacre : On Baiskahi day in 1919, Michael O Dwyer who was the Lieutenant Governor of Punjab approved General Reginald Dyer massacre of the peaceful gathering. In a telegram sent to Dyer, British Lieutenant-Governor of Punjab, Sir Michael O’Dwyer wrote: “Your action is correct. Lieutenant Governor approves.”
( Disorder Inquiry Committee Report, Vol II, p 197).

Udham Singh was 20 years at that point of time and he resolved that he would avenge the massacre . He primarily held Lt.Governor Michael O Dwyer to be responsible for the massacre of Jallianwala Bagh.

The Lion moves around the world : Udham moved around the world including US and Italy and also worked closely with the legendary Sohan Singh Bhakna, the founder of the Gadar Party in the US. India’s freedom movement abroad, viz building a voice around the world was primarily the handiwork of people like Udham Singh.

He was finally able to reach London in 1934 via Italy, France, Switzerland and Austria.

The Lion Strikes : Despite numerous opportunities to strike, Singh awaited a right time when he could make more impact with the killing and internationalize the event. A joint meeting of the East India Association and the Royal Central Asian Society was scheduled at Caxton Hall and among the speakers was Michael O’Dwyer. Singh concealed his revolver in a book specially cut for the purpose and managed to enter Caxton Hall. He took up his position against the wall. At the end of the meeting, the gathering stood up, and O’Dwyer moved towards the platform to talk to Lord Zetland. Singh pulled his revolver and fired. O’Dwyer was hit twice and died immediately. This was on 13th March 1940, 21 years after the massacre.

Living Upto A Pledge : He lived up to his pledge made 21 years back. Many of us take pledges during times of distress but then lack the patience to see it fulfil through our toil and sweat. Udham Singh lived upto the tradition of the Sri Rama who took a pledge at the age of 13 to free the earth of Rakshasas and lived upto it.

His last words were equally inspirational as was his commitment to a pledge.
” ‘I don’t care, I don’t mind dying. What Is the use of waiting till you get old? This Is no good. You want to die when you are young. That is good, that Is what I am doing’.

After a pause he added:

‘I am dying for my country’.

In a statement given on March 13th, 1940 be said:

‘I just shot to make protest. I have seen people starving In India under British Imperialism. I done it, the pistol went off three or four times. I am not sorry for protesting. It was my duty to do so. Put some more. Just for the sake of my country to protest. I do not mind my sentence. Ten, twenty, or fifty years or to be hanged. I done my duty.’

In a letter from Brixton Prison of 30th March, 1940, Udham Singh refers to Bhagat Singh in the following terms:

‘I never afraid of dying so soon I will be getting married with execution. I am not sorry as I am a soldier of my country it is since 10 years when my friend has left me behind and I am sure after my death I will see him as he is waiting for me it was 23rd and I hope they will hang me on the same date as he was.’

On 31 July 1940, Udham Singh was hanged at Pentonville Prison and his body buried in the prison grounds inspite of his request that his ashes be sent to Bharat. It was only in July 1974 that Udham Singh’s remains were exhumed and repatriated to Bharat at the persistent request of S. Sadhu Singh Thind, an MLA. His ashes received a tumultous welcome.

31st July is Udham Singh’s Balidaan Divas.