30 September 2017

Premchand’s 1934 essay on communalism and culture is eerily relevant in the India of 2017

‘I do not understand what is this culture that communalism is trying so desperately to preserve.’

Sep 24, 2017

Vedica Kant

Premchand’s 1934 essay on communalism and culture is eerily relevant in the India of 2017

“Communalism is forever paying its respect to culture. Perhaps it is ashamed of being seen in its true form. Like the donkey that wears a lion’s skin and lords over the animals in a jungle, communalism wraps itself in the garb of culture.”

These lines are very appropriate for the current socio-political climate in India. The right wing has tightly tied its agenda to the appearance of preserving some idealised examples of Hindu culture and identity. A recent example of this has come from RSS ideologue Dinanath Batra.

Batra, the former head of Vidya Bharati, the education wing of the RSS, heads the RSS-affiliated Shiksha Sanskriti Utthan Nyas (Trust for the Upliftment of Education and Culture). The Trust has made news for its response to a call for suggestions on reviewing NCERT (National Council of Educational Research and Training) books. The Nyas’s suggestions included removing English, Urdu and Arabic words, a couplet by Mirza Ghalib, references to the thoughts of Rabindranath Tagore, and extracts from the painter MF Husain’s autobiography.

The more things change...

Given this context, readers might be surprised to learn that the lines quoted above weren’t written in response to the present situation. In fact, they were composed by the writer Premchand. Premchand’s essay “Communalism and Culture” was written in 1934 and is a reminder that rising communal tension is not new in Indian politics. Indeed, communalism always played an especially important role in the politics of the United Provinces, where Premchand lived.

In his book, Hindu Nationalism and the Language of Politics in Late Colonial India, the historian William Gould argues that the language of Hindu nationalism had slowly seeped into the Congress by the 1930s and this furthered the alienation of the region’s important Muslim community. Given this background, Premchand’s essay is remarkable for the relevance it still holds today.

Premchand wrote:

“Hindus want to preserve their culture till the end of time, Muslims theirs. Both still think of their culture as untouched, forgetting that now there is neither a Hindu culture, nor a Muslim culture.”

When it comes to religion, Premchand argued, there are plenty of differences even within Hinduism and within. If there is a sect of Muslims which considers bowing to even the greatest of prophets infidelity, then there are sects in Hinduism who give religious scriptures no more importance that written gossip. If there is a tradition of idol worship in Hinduism, do we not also see elements of that in Islamic shrine worship?

Premchand argued that communal cultural evangelists focussed on issues like language, food, dress and art. On food, he wrote:

“If Muslims eat meat, then eighty per cent of Hindus eat meat too…Yes, Muslims sacrifice the cow and eat the meat. However, amongst Hindus too there are castes that eat cow’s meat, so much so that they even eat the meat of a carcass…Hindus are the only community in the world that consider cow meat inedible and unholy. So, should Hindus start waging a religious war with the entire world for this reason?”

Portending some of the post-Partition problems Pakistan contended with when it came to language, Premchand contended that there was no common language for either Hindus or Muslims. Their linguistic loyalty was determined solely by the region they lived in:

“A Bengali Muslim might not be able to able to speak or understand Urdu, as might be the case with a Bengali Hindu and Hindi. A Hindu in the Frontier Provinces will speak Pashto, just as a Muslim from the area would.”

Even in matters of dress, music, dance and painting Premchand could not find any deep divisions between Hindus and Muslims, causing him to write:

“Then I do not understand what is this culture that communalism is trying so desperately to preserve. In actuality, this call of ‘culture’ is a mere pretence. It is a chant used to pull the unknowing towards communalism, nothing else. The protectors of Hindu and Muslim culture are those who have no faith in themselves, their countrymen or in the truth… It is beyond their intellectual capability to think of an issue that can bring Hindus and Muslims together for the cause of a nation.”

...the more they remain the same

Eventually, Premchand was disparaging of both cultures – hardly surprising for a writer who was scathing about the implications of cultural decadence in his story Shatranj Ke Khiladi (The Chess Players) – and communal groups.

“This is an economic age and today only that policy will be successful which solves the public’s economic difficulties and through which superstition, this game being played in the name of religion, and the milking of the poor in the name of policy can be stamped out. ‘Culture’ is the addiction of the rich and carefree…

After all, what was in that culture for it to be protected? When the public was unconscious a spell of religion and culture was cast on it. As it gains consciousness it has started to notice that this culture was a thief that had robbed it in the form of kings, scholars and merchants. The public today is more concerned about the protection of its life, and this is more necessary than the protection of culture.

There is no reason for any endearment towards that old culture. And communalism, blind to these economic problems of the public, is working according to a programme that will ensure its continued relevance.”

Premchand strikes a hopeful note that despite the naked ambitions behind communalism, a more aware and awakened citizenry will recognise the games being played in the name of culture and religion. It was perhaps a rather too hopeful expectation. With the hindsight of history, we know that communal tensions in India only worsened in the coming decades, culminating in the Partition.

Even more distressing is the fact that, seventy years after the Partition, not only is communalism in India working exactly as it was when Premchand was writing, but also that hopes of citizens shaking off the spell of communalism seem to have receded even further.

https://scroll.in/article/851660/premchands-1934-essay-on-communalism-and-culture-is-eerily-relevant-in-the-india-of-2017, 1 October 2017.

24 September 2017

The legacy of Jawaharlal Nehru will Endure the ravages of time forever


In the backdrop of reports streaming in of how the name of the architect of Modern India and her first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, has been missing from the chapter on the country’s freedom struggle in the new class VIII social science textbook of the Rajasthan government prepared under the aegis of Prof. K S Gupta, the ‘chief patron’ of the Chittor wing of the Akhil Bharatiya Itihas Sankalan Yojana, an RSS project on history, it becomes pertinent to question the attempts made by communal forces to sideline the legacy of Nehru by making him a social and political outcast. The reasons why that would prove lethal in the complex socio-political fabric of a pluralistic country like India are plenty and can be unearthed by revisiting Nehru’s idealistic vision of what constituted India.

Occupying a unique position in the history of India as a freedom fighter, writer, thinker and statesman of eminence, Nehru virtually built the foundation of Modern India. As the first Prime Minister of India, he laid down the basic features of Indian society and polity. According to Sudarshan Agarwal, Secretary-General, Rajya Sabha, 1981-93, in Jawaharlal Nehru and the Rajya Sabha, ‘A democrat by temperament and training, Nehru endeavoured to nurture parliamentary institutions in this country. He wanted that people must have their full say in the governance of the country. He wished to involve them in the formulation and implementation of policies and programmes aimed at alleviating poverty and ensuring social and economic justice to all irrespective of caste, creed, colour, sex or status. He held Parliament in high esteem because in his view it was through Parliament “alone that people’s will could be truly reflected. Not only that; he tried to build a system whose four main pillars were Socialism, Secularism, Democracy and Panchayati Raj - a system capable of ensuring justice and equality to all and carrying the message of democracy to grass-root levels.’

In a lecture delivered at the University of London on 12 November 1970, Vengalil K. Krishna Menon recalled how Nehru tried to mould the national movement of India into a socialist instrument. The attempt was worthwhile because there is no future for India except in a society which is socially developed, because you cannot have millions and millions of people without the means of survival, without opportunity Beating poverty, for Nehru, was possible only when there was the implementation of distributive justice. That is why, asserted V.K. Menon, we find Nehru not in 1947 or 1949, but in much earlier years, seeking a method for the development of the national movement where the base of it was the people and the people were mobilised to support it.

By people, Nehru meant individuals regardless of their religion, caste and gender. It is through this concept of people comprising a nation that we find Nehru’s ideas of nationalism constantly challenging the ideas put forth by the communal forces in both pre and post-independence, that of India being a nation based on religion, that Indian culture dominated by Hindu religion circumscribed a nation and therefore defined Indian Nationalism.

This aspect of Nehru’s thought acquires prominent significance in the current political scenario where attempts have been made increasingly to undermine the pluralistic character of the nation. Secularism, defined by Mahatma Gandhi’s insistence that the multiple faiths of India can and must coexist peaceably in a free nation, a belief shared by his most prominent follower, Nehru, underlay the very foundations of free India. The Indian national movement refused to define itself in religious terms. Nehru defined a ‘secular state’ thus:

‘In a country like India, which has many faiths and religions, no real nationalism can be built up except on the basis of secularity. Any narrower approach must exclude a section of the population and then nationalism itself will have a much more restricted meaning than it should possess ... We have not only to live upto the ideals proclaimed in our Constitution, but make them a part of our thinking and living and thus build up a really integrated nation. That ... does not mean absence of religion, but putting religion on a different plane from that of normal political and social life. Any other approach in India would mean the breaking up of India.’

Jawaharlal Nehru saw communalism of all hues as a divisive force that posed a great danger to the unity of independent India and a betrayal to the cause of India’s freedom. In his introduction to The Discovery of India, Sunil Khilnani observes, ‘Nehru resisted the argument in which nationalist intellectuals in India and elsewhere commonly indulged: the rebuttal of colonial views through evocations of mystical commonalities among Indians, and assertions of age-old ties to land and place. Nehru never proposed anything like, say, V.D. Savarkar’s views of a Hindu race joined by blood kinship.’ He told the All India Congress Committee in July 1951, ‘Let us be clear about it without a shadow of doubt in any Congressman’s mind, we stand till death for a secular state.’

Nehru carried forward the secular ethos by rejecting an exclusivist approach and to safeguard this he was willing to dismantle the idea of a single national identity through a minoritarian perspective. In one of his letters, he warned against an insidious form of nationalism that makes the majority think of itself as the entire nation and in its attempt to absorb the minority actually separates them. He highlighted the need for the psychological integration of our people and said it was the obligation of the majority to safeguard the interests of minorities.

During the late 1930s and 1940s, Nehru had begun to discern the close resemblance of communalism to contemporary fascism particularly in the application of same methods and techniques of hatred and violence through the use of blatant lies and similar organisational structure and style of leadership. He said in 1939, ‘Definitely fascist ides [sic] are spreading not only in the Muslim League but also in the Hindu Mahasabha’. Referring to the Muslim League and Jinnah, he wrote in October 1940 that theirs was ‘a negative programme of hatred and violence reminiscent of Nazi methods’. For Nehru, Muslim communalism was in its nature as bad as Hindu communalism, ‘But Muslim communalism cannot dominate Indian society and introduce fascism. That only Hindu communalism can.’ This old warning of Nehru’s sounds particularly appropriate today when attempts are being made to convert India into a Hindu Rashtra. His insistence on secularism presented serious challenges to the competing claims to nationalism made by communal forces which further renders an explanation to the deliberate attempts to derecognize him by certain sections of the society today.

From 1947 on, Nehru began to describe the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh with its Hindu majoritarian exclusivist approach as a fascist organization. Eminent historian Aditya Mukherjee explains, ‘It was a threat to the very ‘idea of India’ as a secular country and Nehru was not about to let it succeed. With the full support of his Home Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Sardar Patel, he banned the RSS and put 25,000 of its activists in jail. Even when the ban on the RSS was removed in July 1949, after it gave written assurances that henceforth it would function only as a cultural organisation and have nothing to do with politics, he warned the Chief Ministers of the fascist nature of the RSS and the threat of their renewing their activities.’8 (Jawaharlal Nehru: Letters to Chief Ministers, July 20, 1949 and August 1, 1949, vol. 1, pp. 412-13, 428)

Jawaharlal Nehru was a statesman of the tallest order and this is evident from his thoughts on international relations. V.K. Menon recalled how Nehru envisioned a world order based on the doctrine of coexistence. For Nehru, ‘However long it takes, if the world is to survive, then they have got to learn to live together’. Yet, for Menon, Nehru did not take a romantic view: ‘If you are a Good Samaritan you should also have the base of selfinterest’. Mutuality of interest was another basis of international co-operation. But in all this, in the twentieth century world, he was dominated by the conception that without world peace it was not possible to accomplish anything, and peace to him, as to Mahatma Gandhi also, was not the peace of the grave nor the absence of war, but the establishment of equilibrium inside communities and between communities.

Nehru was a prolific writer. The long periods of imprisonment to which he was subjected by the British colonial government, monumental works like the Glimpses of World History, Autobiography and The Discovery of India were accomplished. Apart from these, he wrote several letters to his fellow nationalists and contemporary functionaries of the Indian state throwing light on his ideas of India. To read these is to know Nehru and to know Nehru is to be educated on what real India or Bharat should be all about.

http://inc.in/CongressSandesh/379/The-legacy-of-Jawaharlal-Nehru-will-Endure-the-ravages-of-time-forever, 24 September 2017.

- Richa Raj is Assistant Professor of History at Jesus and Mary College, Delhi, and is the President of National Movement Front.

16 September 2017

Past Continuous: Those Who Think Nehru Was Power Hungry Should Review Events Leading to Independence


A fortnightly column reflecting on chapters of India’s political past that are relevant today.

Partition of Punjab, 1947. Credit: Wikimedia

Some days ago, I came across an accusative headline ‘Jawaharlal Nehru partitioned the country to become the Prime Minister’. The assertion was attributed to BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra. In the pecking order of party hierarchies, a spokesperson is not high on the ladder and consequently this claim should not merit attention. But this particular statement cannot be dismissed as yet another impertinent accusation that enables the bellicose surgeon to earn scorn of his rivals and kudos from party bosses. This incrimination, in fact, provides the kernel of the anti-Nehru campaign that has been waged for long.

The allegation is also indicative, as India heads into celebrating its 70th anniversary of independence, of the nature of attack that would be mounted on him in the coming weeks. Demeaning and demonising Nehru and holding him responsible for partition has been a favourite pastime of the proponents of Hindutva for long. Seven decades after partition, it remains a festering sore on the average Indian psyche and what better strategy can there be than holding an arch rival responsible for this?

Independence and the tragic accompaniment of partition were long-drawn processes. August 15, 1947, would not have dawned on India if it had not been preceded by a series of developments that must be deliberated in totality. The dramatic Quit India resolution by the Congress, Mahatma Gandhi’s electrifying speech and the ensuing nationwide stir, conveyed a clear message to the British government, that its days in the country were numbered. The only issues that remained unsettled during the final years of the Second World War were the logistics of handing over power. Another vexed concern was whether the sub-continent was to be partitioned on the lines that the Muslim League demanded.

While the Cripps Mission in 1942 and the Cabinet Mission in 1946 were explorations to find means to hand over power, the decision to partition India was dramatically announced on June 3, 1947, by the last viceroy, Lord Mountbatten. For long, the evaluation of what resulted in partition has been conducted as historical autopsy with the clear attempt to apportion responsibility to a leader or a group of them.

Gandhi viewed most issues, and adopted his stance, from a moral framework. In contrast, other Congress stalwarts of the time, particularly Nehru and Sardar Patel, paid greater emphasis to necessities of realpolitik. As a consequence, it has been rather easy to paint the duo as power-hungry men impatient to grab political power. For people holding this viewpoint, it has been easy to hold Nehru as much responsible for partition, or maybe to a lesser degree, as Mohammed Ali Jinnah. In fact, barely do a few years go by without a new author or historian coming up with ‘new facts’ to establish Nehru’s complicity, or the absence of it.

Yet, Nehru’s first response to the Mountbatten Plan, which galvanised the process to independence, cannot be ignored. “It is with no joy in my heart that I commend these proposals,” he stated to his party colleagues. In fact, like on most occasions, one cannot but be moved by the tone and tenor of his acceptance of the inevitable. He began on a sombre note reminding party leaders of nine months (beginning with the formation of the Interim Government in September 1946) of “trial and difficulty, of anxiety and sometimes even of heartbreak.”

Nehru further drew attention to the Mountbatten Plan as “an announcement on behalf of the British government” and explained it bluntly as one which lays down “a procedure of self-determination in certain areas of India.” Yet Nehru also emphasised the positive side of the development by highlighting that the Viceroy’s declaration “promises a big advance towards complete independence”.

Without mincing his words, Nehru said he had “no doubt” in his mind “that this is the right course.” Yet he did not hide his grief because “for generations we have dreamt and struggled for a free and independent united India. The proposal to allow certain parts to cede, if they so will, is painful for any of us to contemplate… The united India we have laboured for was not one of compulsion and coercion but a fee and willing association of a free people… We are little men serving great causes, but because the cause is great something of that greatness falls upon us also.”

The last Viceroy’s Plan was the third British initiative within twelve months. The first had been the Cabinet Mission Plan that was in India between March-June 1946. The delegation to India followed the decision taken by the Labour government which assumed power in July 1945 at the end of the Second World War. Aimed at evolving ways to devolve political power, the deputation was mandated to hold negotiations with Indian leaders on the transfer of power. It was also tasked with the objective of forming an Interim Government and examine ways for the drafting of a new constitution.

From the onset the Muslim League was disruptive and exactly one month after the cabinet mission’s return, it called for Direct Action Day, which resulted in the worst ever communal carnage in Calcutta on August 15, 1946. The second plan was Clement Attlee Declaration of February 1947, under which the British government set the deadline of June 1948 for transferring power to the new regime. Simultaneously, the government also appointed Mountbatten as viceroy.

The riots in Noakhali followed by the large scale movement of population worsened the communal situation, and when Mountbatten assumed charge in March, preventing partition of united India appeared a formidable task. The government realised that the Muslim League was just using growing violence as ruse to stay away from accepting any responsibility that would come by joining the process of power devolution. Attlee’s exasperation was expressed even before Mountbatten’s arrival: “Minority will not be allowed to place a veto on the progress of the majority.”

As a result of the prevailing situation, it made little sense for Mountbatten to wait till October 1947 to advise the government on the next step. He realised that the Cabinet Mission Plan of British India remaining united, but categorised into three parts or territories, would never be acceptable to the League. Jinnah had in any case led a hasty departure from the Interim government after delaying joining it. Jinnah had made it clear that he would settle for nothing but a sovereign nation.

Consequent to this, Mountbatten decided to present a proposal that would accept both demands of the League and the Congress. To Jinnah, he granted the idea of a new nation, Pakistan partitioned out of India. To Nehru and other Congress leaders, Mountbatten presented a plan that respected its insistence for unity.

While all of British India was not to be part of independent India, Pakistan was made as small as possible, and Punjab and Bengal were partitioned. Mountbatten also did not accept Jinnah’s insistence for an eight hundred mile corridor across. Jinnah realised the ploy, for he declared: “We cannot say or feel that we are satisfied or that we agree with some of the matters dealt with by the plan.” But there was little he could do for Mountbatten had made an offer he could refuse only with immense risk to his political future.

Moreover, Mountbatten was also unwilling to hang on to power because of worsening of communal violence. On its last legs in office in India, the British were eager to dodge the responsibility of having contributed to the aggravated communal situation. Congress leaders accepted the plan and even if they baulked at the short time-frame of just seventy two days between June 3 and August 15, it would have been difficult to seek pushing the date back and explain their reluctance to the people.

Once Mountbatten had come up with the proposal to dissect united India, there was no looking back. The orgy of violence in Punjab especially, which occurred alongside independence, and the delay in announcing the award of the Boundary Commission, added to the tragedy which was unfolding. August 15 was as much a day of great joy as of immense suffering. India’s independence was as much a success of Nehru’s foresight, as much as it was of his limitations. Accusing him of acquiescing to partition because he aimed for political power demonstrates that the Sangh Parivar’s understanding of the complexities of the period have not progressed since 1947.

Even after India became independent, its Sarsanghchalak, Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar remained delusional. To a query by a swayamsevak at an RSS meeting he stated: “Do you believe that the British will quit? The nincompoops in whose hands they are giving the reins of government will not be able to hold on even for two months. They will go crawling on their knees to the British and ask them to kindly return.”

If the seventieth anniversary of India’s independence becomes an occasion to paint India’s national leaders as power hungry and facilitators of partition, it would be worthy to examine how historical icons of these accusers looked the other way when the Indian people were confronting British might.

Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay is a Delhi-based writer and journalist, and the author of Narendra Modi: The Man, The Times and Sikhs: The Untold Agony of 1984. He tweets @NilanjanUdwin

https://thewire.in/144312/past-continuous-nehru-independence/, 17 September 2017.

Bhagat Singh Is Not the Man the Right Wants You to Think He Is


An excerpt from Revolutionary Passions shows that Bhagat Singh – who the Hindu Right tends to project as an antidote to the Congress and Gandhi – not only had close relations with Congress leaders, but was also critical of Hinduism.

Bhagat Singh. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

In the mid 1920s, the Kakori Conspiracy Case left the revolutionary movement headless, as all its front-ranking leaders were arrested and sent to the gallows or to jail. The following generation of militants – who were to revive the movement – was of a different kind. The strongest personality in this group, Bhagat Singh, is proof of this. Born in Lyallpur, Punjab, to a Sikh family that came under the influence of the Arya Samaj and the Ghadr Party – his uncle Ajit Singh had been deported to Mandalay along with Lajpat Rai when he was a child – Bhagat Singh was trained at the National College of Lahore. He was particularly shocked by the Jallianwallah Bagh massacre in Amritsar in 1919, where General Dyer killed hundreds of people. He then took part in the non-cooperation movement and like many others, joined the revolutionary movement after Mahatma Gandhi suspended the non-cooperation struggle. In 1926, he started the Naujawan Bharat Sabha and tried to draw the youth from the province into its fold, in order to develop a socialist and non-religious organisation. If the British were naturally the chosen target of Bhagat Singh, he also put the blame on his compatriots, paralysed by superstitions:

“A branch of peepal tree is cut and religious feelings of the Hindus are injured. A corner of a paper idol, tazia of the idol-breaker Mohammedans is broken, and ‘Allah’ gets enraged, who cannot be satisfied with anything less than the blood of the infidel Hindus. Man should receive more attention than the beasts and yet, in India, people break their heads in the name of ‘sacred beasts’.”

The combination of socialism, humanism and nationalism that was the trademark of Bhagat Singh was going to become even stronger after the launch of the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association (HRSA) in September 1928. While Bhagat Singh remained the key figure of the HSRA, among its leaders were other outstanding men, including Sukhdev, a great admirer of communism, Vijay Kumar Sinha, an avid reader, Shiv Verma and Chandrashekhar Azad, who was in charge of the Association’s “military” operations. These men formed a Central Committee, which included two representatives of each province where the movement was well established – Punjab, the United Provinces and Bihar. The organisation was immediately divided into two branches, the ideological and the military. Bhagat Singh was at the helm of the former but took part in the latter too. Indeed, he was directly involved in the assassination of J.P. Saunders, a policeman who had been mistaken for the police chief J. A. Scott, whom Bhagat Singh held responsible for the death of Lala Lajpat Rai. An Arya Samaji and a Congress leader, Lajpat Rai had been killed after a lathi charge while he and others demonstrated against the Simon Commission’s Lahore visit. Like terrorists of the 19th century, the HRSA thought – expressed in an “official” communiqué – that by killing Saunders, it could  “let the world know that India still lives; that the blood of youths has not been totally cooled down and that they can still risk their lives if the honour of their nation is at stake”.

Hamit Bozarslan, Gilles Bataillon, Christophe Jaffrelot, Revolutionary Passions: Latin America, Middle East and India, Social Science Press, 2017

But Bhagat Singh transitioned from terrorism to revolution. In his last piece of writing – drafted in February 1931 – he refers to his past action in a very telling manner:

“Apparently I have acted as a terrorist. But I am not a terrorist. I am a revolutionary who has got such definite ideas of a lengthy programme (…) Let me announce with all the strength at my command, that I am not a terrorist and never was, (except) perhaps at the beginning of my revolutionary career.”

Bhagat Singh’s worldview had been reshaped in the meantime by some rare readings. The list of authors in his library shows many books by various Western authors. One finds there Marx, Engels, Trotsky, Thomas Paine, Upton Sinclair, Morris Hillquit, Jack London,  Victor Hugo, Dostoevsky, Spinoza, Bertrand Russell, John Stuart Mill, Thomas Jefferson, Kautsky, Bukharin, Burke, Lenin, Thomas d’Aquin, Danton, Omar Khayyam, Tagore, N.A. Morozov, Herbert Spencer, Henry Maine and Rousseau.

These books, that Bhagat Singh read in jail as much as before being arrested, contributed to making him a rationalist and a socialist. He was the first revolutionary to express clearly his rejection of religion in Why I am an atheist, written in prison – just when he was condemned to death. In this text, Bhagat Singh states lucidly how he awaits death without hoping for a life beyond:

“A God-believing Hindu might be expecting to be reborn as a king, a Muslim or a Christian, might dream of the luxuries to be enjoyed in paradise and the reward he is to get for his sufferings and sacrifices. But what am I to expect? I know the moment the rope is fitted round my neck and rafters removed, from under my feet. That will be the final moment – that will be the last moment. I, or to be more precise, my soul, as interpreted in the metaphysical terminology, shall all be finished there. Nothing further. A short life of struggle with no such magnificent end, shall in itself be the reward if I have the courage to take it in that light. That is all. With no selfish motive, or desire to be awarded here or hereafter, quite disinterestedly have I devoted my life to the cause of independence, because I could not do otherwise. The day we find a great number of men and women with this psychology who cannot devote themselves to anything else than the service of mankind and emancipation of the suffering humanity; that day shall inaugurate the era of liberty.”

Bhagat Singh’s rejection of religion, which alienates the masses, complemented his socialist criticism of two systems of oppression – capitalism and casteism. Before that, Indian revolutionaries had only targeted capitalism and colonialism.

In February 1931, Bhagat Singh, inviting the youth to embrace Marxism, pointed out that 

“Revolution means the complete overthrow of the existing social order and its replacement with the socialist order. For that purpose our immediate aim is the achievement of power. As a matter of fact, the state, the government machinery is just a weapon in the hands of the ruling class to further safeguard its interest. We want to snatch and handle it to utilise it for the consummation of our ideal, i.e., social reconstruction on new, i. e. Marxist basis.”

Christophe Jaffrelot
Christophe Jaffrelot. Credit: Twitter

In fact, Bhagat Singh is a Janus-like figure, combining different sources of inspiration, some of them Marxist, others harking back to the anarchists’ “propaganda by action”. This is evident from his last deed. On April 8, 1929, along with B.K. Dutt, he threw two bombs in the Central Legislative Assembly “to make the deaf hear”, as written on the tracts they distributed in the assembly after their lightening coup. This formula was borrowed from Auguste Vaillant, a French anarchist. But Bhagat Singh also presented this action as being part of a larger game plan. First, it was aimed at dissuading the assembly from voting for a law – the Public Safety and Trade Disputes Bill – whose implementation would have penalised Indian workers.

Second, it was also meant to denounce the manner in which this so-called Indian parliament projected itself – as an accomplice of the British. Finally, it aimed at avenging the death of Lajpat Rai. All these explanations relate this act as much to the anarchist as to the socialist agenda. The latter side of the coin shows that Bhagat Singh did not valorise violence. To get a proper understanding of his political philosophy, one must read till the end the leaflet that Bhagat Singh and Dutt threw in the assembly after hurling their bombs. Its concluding words are remarkable:

“We are sorry to admit that we who attach so great a sanctity to human life, who dream of a glorious future, when man will be enjoying perfect peace and full liberty, have been forced to shed human blood.”

These words reveal a denial of violence, a denial that would take a more systematic form in the declaration of Singh and Dutt made before the judges. There, they would emphasise that the two bombs had been thrown at the unoccupied rows and that their composition – the details of which they provide, like great chemists – made them inoffensive: had they been loaded with some other high explosive, with destructive pellets or darts, they could have wiped out a majority of the members of the legislative assembly.

Singh and Dutt even defended themselves against their recourse to violence – they merely speak of “force”:

“We are next to none in our love for humanity. Far from having any malice against any individual, we hold human life sacred beyond words (…) Our sole purpose was ‘to make the deaf hear’ and to give the heedless a timely warning (…) Force when aggressively applied is ‘violence’ and is therefore, morally unjustifiable, but when it is used in the furtherance of a legitimate cause, it has its moral justification.”

Interestingly, Bhagat Singh regarded Jesus Christ as one of his role models, like Gandhi: “If we set aside motive, then Jesus Christ will appear a man responsible for breaking peace and preaching revolt, and a dangerous personality in the language of the law. But we worship him. He commands great respect and a place in our hearts; the sight of his image fills us with spiritual energy”.

Not only did Bhagat Singh, a truly exceptional revolutionary, never pay allegiance to Hinduism, but he also actually valued non-violence.

Christophe Jaffrelot is Senior Research Fellow at CERI-Sciences Po/CNRS, Paris.

https://thewire.in/175034/bhagat-singh-christophe-jaffrelot-revolutionary-passions/, 17 September 2017.

9 September 2017

ऐसे 'बहादुर’, 'चरित्रवान’ और 'देशभक्त’ थे गांधी के हत्यारे

ऐसे 'बहादुर’, 'चरित्रवान’ और 'देशभक्त’ थे गांधी के हत्यारे

नाथूराम एक टपोरी किस्म का व्यक्ति था जिसे कतिपय हिंदू उग्रवादियों ने गांधी की हत्या के लिए भाडे पर रखा हुआ था। जेल में उसकी चिकित्सा रपटों से पता चलता है कि उसका मस्तिष्क अधसीसी के रोग से ग्रस्त था...

अनिल जैन, वरिष्ठ पत्रकार

महात्मा गांधी के हत्यारे गिरोह के सरगना नाथूराम गोडसे को महिमामंडित करने के जो प्रयास इन दिनों किए जा रहे हैं, वे नए नहीं हैं। गोडसे का संबंध राष्ट्रीय स्वयंसेवक संघ से बताया जाता रहा है और इसीलिए गांधीजी की हत्या के बाद देश के तत्कालीन गृह मंत्री सरदार वल्लभभाई पटेल ने संघ पर प्रतिबंध लगा दिया था।

हालांकि संघ गोडसे से अपने संबंधों को हमेशा नकारता रहा है और अपनी इस सफाई को पुख्ता करने के लिए वह गोडसे को गांधी का हत्यारा भी मानता है और उसके कृत्य को निंदनीय करार भी देता है। लेकिन सवाल उठता है कि आखिर क्या वजह है कि केंद्र में भारतीय जनता पार्टी के सत्तारूढ होने के बाद ही गोडसे को महिमामंडित करने का सिलसिला तेज हो गया?

इस सिलसिले में एकाएक उसका मंदिर बनाने के प्रयास शुरू हो गए। उसकी 'जयंती’ और 'पुण्यतिथि’ मनाई जाने लगी। उसे 'चिंतक’ और यहां तक कि 'स्वतंत्रता सेनानी’ और 'शहीद’ भी बताया जाने लगा। सवाल है कि तीन साल पहले केंद्र में नरेंद्र मोदी की सरकार बनने के साथ ही गोडसे भक्तों के इस पूरे उपक्रम के शुरू होने को क्या महज संयोग माना जाए या कि यह सबकुछ किसी सुविचारित योजना के तहत हो रहा है?

गांधी के जिस हत्यारे को इस तरह महिमामंडित किया जा रहा है, उसके बारे में यह जानना दिलचस्प है कि वह गांधी की हत्या से पहले तक क्या था? क्या वह चिंतक था, ख्याति प्राप्त राजनेता था, हिंदू महासभा का जिम्मेदार पदाधिकारी या स्वतंत्रता सेनानी था?

दरअसल नाथूराम गोडसे कभी भी इतनी ऊचाइयों के दूर-दूर तक भी नहीं पहुंच पाया था। पुणे शहर के उसके मोहल्ले सदाशिव पेठ के बाहर उसे कोई नहीं जानता था, जबकि तब वह चालीस वर्ष की आयु के समीप था। नाथूराम स्कूल से भागा हुआ छात्र था। नूतन मराठी विद्यालय में मिडिल की परीक्षा में फेल हो जाने पर उसने पढ़ाई छोड दी थी। उसका मराठी भाषा का ज्ञान कामचलाऊ था। अंग्रेजी का ज्ञान होने का तो सवाल ही नहीं उठता।

उसके पिता विनायक गोडसे डाकखाने में बाबू थे, जिनकी मासिक आय पांच रुपए थी। नाथूराम अपने पिता का लाडला था क्योंकि उसके पहले जन्मे उनके सभी पुत्र मर गए थे। इसीलिए अंधविश्वास के वशीभूत होकर मां ने नाथूराम की परवरिश बेटी की तरह की। उसे नाक में नथ पहनाई जिससे उसका नाम नाथूराम हो गया। उसकी आदतें और हरकतें भी लडकियों जैसी हो गई।

नाथूराम के बाद उसके माता-पिता को तीन और पुत्र पैदा हुए थे जिनमें एक था गोपाल, जो नाथूराम के साथ गांधी-हत्या में सह अभियुक्त था। नाथूराम की युवावस्था किसी खास घटना अथवा विचार के लिए नहीं जानी जाती। उस समय उसके हमउम्र लोग भारत में क्रांति का अलख जगा रहे थे, जेल जा रहे थे, शहीद हो रहे थे। स्वाधीनता संग्राम की इस हलचल से नाथूराम का जरा भी सरोकार नहीं था।

अपने नगर पुणे में वह रोजी-रोटी के ही जुगाड में लगा रहता था। इस सिलसिले में उसने सांगली शहर में दर्जी की दुकान खोल ली थी। उसके पहले वह बढ़ई का काम भी कर चुका था और फलों का ठेला भी लगा चुका था।

पुणे में मई 191० में जन्मे नाथूराम के जीवन की पहली खास घटना थी सितम्बर 1944 में जब हिंदू महासभा के नेता लक्ष्मण गणेश थट्टे ने सेवाग्राम में धरना दिया था। उस समय महात्मा गांधी भारत के विभाजन को रोकने के लिए मोहम्मद अली जिन्ना से वार्ता करने मुंबई जाने वाले थे। चौतीस वर्षीय नाथूराम थट्टे के सहयोगी प्रदर्शनकारियों में शरीक था। उसका इरादा खंजर से बापू पर हमला करने का था, लेकिन आश्रमवासियों ने उसे पकड लिया था।

उसके जीवन की दूसरी बडी घटना थी एक वर्ष बाद यानी 1945 की, जब ब्रिटिश वायसराय ने भारत की स्वतंत्रता पर चर्चा के लिए राजनेताओं को शिमला आमंत्रित किया था। तब नाथूराम पुणे की किसी अनजान पत्रिका के संवाददाता के रूप मे वहां उपस्थित था।

गांधीजी की हत्या के बाद जब नाथूराम के पुणे स्थित आवास तथा मुंबई में उसके के घर पर छापे पडे थे तो मारक अस्त्रों का भंडार पकडा गया था जिसे उसने हैदराबाद के निजाम पर हमला करने के नाम पर बटोरा था। यह अलग बात है कि इन असलहों का उपयोग कभी नहीं किया गया। मुंबई और पुणे के व्यापारियों से अपने हिंदू राष्ट्र संगठन के नाम पर नाथूराम ने बेशुमार पैसा जुटाया था जिसका उसने कभी कोई लेखा-जोखा किसी को नहीं दिया।

उपरोक्त सभी तथ्यों का बारीकी से परीक्षण करने पर निष्कर्ष यही निकलता है कि अत्यंत कम पढा-लिखा नाथूराम एक टपोरी किस्म का व्यक्ति था जिसे कतिपय हिंदू उग्रवादियों ने गांधी की हत्या के लिए भाडे पर रखा हुआ था। जेल में उसकी चिकित्सा रपटों से पता चलता है कि उसका मस्तिष्क अधसीसी के रोग से ग्रस्त था। यह अडतीस वर्षीय बेरोजगार, अविवाहित और दिमागी बीमारी से त्रस्त नाथूराम किसी भी मायने में सामान्य मन:स्थिति वाला व्यक्ति नहीं था।

उसने गांधीजी की हत्या का पहला प्रयास 2०जनवरी, 1948 को किया था। अपने सहयोगी मदनलाल पाहवा के साथ मिलकर नई दिल्ली के बिडला भवन पर बम फेंका था, जहां गांधीजी दैनिक प्रार्थना सभा कर रहे थे। बम का निशाना चूक गया था। पाहवा पकड़ा गया था, मगर नाथूराम भागने में सफल होकर मुंबई में छिप गया था।

दस दिन बाद वह अपने अधूरे काम को पूरा करने करने के लिए फिर दिल्ली आया था। नाथूराम को उसके प्रशंसक एक धर्मनिष्ठ हिंदू के तौर पर भी प्रचारित करते रहे हैं लेकिन तीस जनवरी की ही शाम की एक घटना से साबित होता कि नाथूराम कैसा और कितना धर्मनिष्ठ था। गांधीजी पर पर तीन गोलियां दागने के पूर्व वह उनका रास्ता रोककर खडा हो गया था।

पोती मनु ने नाथूराम से एक तरफ हटने का आग्रह किया था क्योंकि गांधीजी को प्रार्थना के लिए देरी हो गई थी। धक्का-मुक्की में मनु के हाथ से पूजा वाली माला और आश्रम भजनावाली जमीन पर गिर गई थी। लेकिन नाथूराम उसे रौंदता हुआ ही आगे बढ गया था 2०वीं सदी का जघन्यतम अपराध करने।

जो लोग नाथूराम गोडसे से जरा भी सहानुभूति रखते हैं उन्हें इस निष्ठुर हत्यारे के बारे में एक और प्रमाणित तथ्य पर गौर करना चाहिए। गांधीजी को मारने के दो सप्ताह पहले नाथूराम ने काफी बडी राशि का अपने जीवन के लिए बीमा करवा लिया था ताकि उसके पकडे और मारे जाने पर उसका परिवार आर्थिक रूप से लाभान्वित हो सके।

एक कथित ऐतिहासिक मिशन को लेकर चलने वाला व्यक्ति बीमा कंपनी से हर्जाना कमाना चाहता था। अदालत में मृत्युदंड से बचने के लिए नाथूराम के वकील ने दो चश्मदीद गवाहों के बयानों में विरोधाभास का सहारा लिया था। उनमें से एक ने कहा था कि पिस्तौल से धुआं नहीं निकला था। दूसरे ने कहा था कि गोलियां दगी थी और धुआं निकला था। नाथूराम के वकील ने दलील दी थी कि धुआं नाथूराम की पिस्तौल से नहीं निकला, अत: हत्या किसी और की पिस्तौल से हो सकती है। माजरा कुछ मुंबइयां फिल्मों जैसा रचने का एक भौंडा प्रयास था। मकसद था कि नाथूराम संदेह का लाभ पाकर छूट जाए।

नाथूराम का मकसद कितना पैशाचिक रहा होगा, इसका अनुमान इस बात से लगाया जा सकता है कि गांधीजी की हत्या के बाद पकडे जाने पर खाकी निकर पहने नाथूराम ने अपने को मुसलमान बताने की कोशिश की थी। इसके पीछे उसका मकसद देशवासियों के रोष का निशाना मुसलमानों को बनाना और उनके खिलाफ हिंसा भडकाना था।

ठीक उसी तरह जैसे इंदिरा गांधी की हत्या के बाद सिखों के साथ हुआ था। पता नहीं किन कारणों से राष्ट्र के नाम अपने संबोधन में तत्कालीन प्रधानमंत्री जवाहरलाल नेहरू ने हत्यारे के नाम का उल्लेख नहीं किया लेकिन उनके संबोधन के तुरंत बाद गृह मंत्री सरदार वल्लभभाई पटेल ने आकाशवाणी भवन जाकर रेडियो पर देशवासियों को बताया कि बापू का हत्यारा एक हिंदू है। ऐसा करके सरदार पटेल ने मुसलमानों को अकारण ही देशवासियों का कोपभाजन बनने से बचा लिया।

कोई भी सच्चा क्रांतिकारी या आंदोलनकारी जेल में अपने लिए सुविधाओं की मांग नहीं करता है। लेकिन नाथूराम ने गांधीजी को मारने के बाद अंबाला जेल के भीतर भी अपने लिए सुविधाओं की मांग की थी, जिसका कि वह किसी भी तरह से हकदार नहीं था। वैसे भी उसे स्नातक या पर्याप्त शिक्षित न होने के कारण पंजाब जेल नियमावली के मुताबिक साधारण कैदी की तरह ही रखा जाना था।

नाथूराम और उसके सह अभियुक्तों की देशभक्ति के पाखंड की एक और बानगी देखिए: वह आजाद भारत का बाशिंदा था और उसे भारतीय कानून के तहत ही उसके अपराध के लिए मृत्युदंड की सजा सुनाई गई थी। फिर भी उसने अपने मृत्युदंड के फैसले के खिलाफ लंदन की प्रिवी कांउसिल में अपील की थी। उसका अंग्रेज वकील था जान मेगा। अंग्रेज जजों ने उसकी अपील को खारिज कर दिया था। गांधीजी की हत्या का षडयंत्र रचने में नाथूराम का भाई गोपाल गोडसे भी शामिल था, जो अदालत में जिरह के दौरान खुद को गांधी-हत्या की योजना से अनजान और बेगुनाह बताता रहा।

अदालत ने उसे आजीवन कारावास की सजा सुनाई थी। गोपाल जेल में हर साल गांधी जयंती के कार्यक्रम में बढ-चढकर शिरकत करता था। ऐसा वह प्रायश्चित के तौर पर नहीं बल्कि अपनी सजा की अवधि में छूट पाने के लिए करता था, क्योंकि जेल के नियमों के मुताबिक ऐसा करने पर सजा की अवधि में छूट मिलती है। तो इस तरह गोपाल गोडसे अपनी सजा की पूरी अवधि के पहले ही रिहाई पा गया था।

महात्मा गांधी को मुस्लिम परस्त मानने वाले इस तथाकथित हिंदू ह्दय सम्राट के पुणे में सदाशिव पेठ स्थित घर का नंबर 786 था जिसके मायने होते हैं : बिस्मिल्लाहिर रहमानिर्रहीम। सदाशिव पेठ में वह अक्सर गुर्राता था कि उसका भाई नाथूराम शहीद है। वह खुद को भी एक राष्ट्रभक्त आंदोलनकारी बताता था और बेझिझक कहा करता था कि एक अधनंगे और कमजोर बूढे की हत्या पर उसे कोई पश्चाताप अथवा अफसोस नहीं है।

नाथूराम के साथ जिस दूसरे अभियुक्त को फांसी दी गई थी वह था नारायण आप्टे। नाथूराम का सबसे घनिष्ठ दोस्त और सहधर्मी। ब्रिटिश वायुसेना में नौकरी कर चुका आप्टे पहले पहले गणित का अध्यापक था और उसने अपनी एक ईसाई छात्रा मनोरमा सालवी को कुंवारी माँ बनाने का दुष्कर्म किया था। हालांकि उसकी पत्नी और एक विकलांग पुत्र भी था। शराबप्रेमी आप्टे ने गांधी हत्या से एक दिन पूर्व यानी 29 जनवरी, 1948 की रात पुरानी दिल्ली के एक वेश्यालय में गुजारी थी और उस रात को उसने अपने जीवन की यादगार रात बताया था। यह तथ्य उससे संबंधित अदालती दस्तावेजों में दर्ज है।

गांधी हत्याकांड का चौथा अभियुक्त विष्णु रामकृष्ण करकरे हथियारों का तस्कर था। उसने अनाथालय में परवरिश पाई थी। गोडसे से उसका परिचय हिंदू महासभा के कार्यालय में हुआ था। एक अन्य अभियुक्त दिगम्बर रामचंद्र बडगे जो सरकारी गवाह बना और क्षमा पा गया, पुणे में शस्त्र भण्डार नामक दुकान चलाता था। नाटे, सांवले और भेंगी आंखों बडगे ने अपनी गवाही में विनायक दामोदर सावरकर को हत्या की साजिश का सूत्रधार बताया था लेकिन पर्याप्त सबूतों के अभाव में सावरकर बरी हो गए थे।

इन दिनों कुछ सिरफिरे और अज्ञानी लोग योजनाबद्ध तरीके से नाथूराम गोडसे को उच्चकोटि का चिंतक, देशभक्त और अदम्य नैतिक ऊर्जा से भरा व्यक्ति प्रचारित करने में जुटे हुए हैं। यह प्रचार सोशल मीडिया के माध्यम से चलाया जा रहा है। उनके इस प्रचार का आधार नाथूराम का वह दस पृष्ठीय वक्तव्य है जो बडे ही युक्तिसंगत, भावुक और ओजस्वी शब्दों में तैयार किया गया था और जिसे नाथूराम ने अदालत में पढा था। इस वक्तव्य में उसने बताया था कि उसने गांधीजी को क्यों मारा। कई तरह के झूठ से भरे इस वक्तव्य में दो बडे और हास्यास्पद झूठ थे।

एक यह कि गांधीजी गोहत्या का विरोध नहीं करते थे और दूसरा यह कि वे राष्ट्रभाषा के नहीं, अंग्रेजी के पक्षधर थे। दरअसल, यह वक्तव्य खुद गोडसे का तैयार किया हुआ नहीं था। वह कर भी नहीं सकता था, क्योंकि न तो उसे मराठी का भलीभांति ज्ञान था, न ही हिंदी का, अंग्रेजी का तो बिल्कुल भी नहीं।

अलबत्ता उस समय दिल्ली में ऐसे कई हिंदूवादी थे जिनका हिंदी और अंग्रेजी पर समान अधिकार और प्रवाहमयी शैली का अच्छा अभ्यास था। इसके अलावा वे वैचारिक तार्किकता में भी पारंगत थे। माना जा सकता है कि उनमें से ही किसी ने नाथूराम की ओर से यह वक्तव्य तैयार कर जेल में उसके पास भिजवाया होगा और जिसे नाथूराम ने अदालत में पढा होगा।

आप्टे की फांसी के दिन (15 नवम्बर 1949) अम्बाला जेल के दृश्य का आंखों देखा हाल न्यायमूर्ति जीडी खोसला ने अपने संस्मरणों में लिखा है, जिसके मुताबिक गोडसे तथा आप्टे को उनके हाथ पीछे बांधकर फांसी के तख्ते पर ले जाया जाने लगा तो गोडसे लड़खड़ा रहा था। उसका गला रूधा था और वह भयभीत और विक्षिप्त दिख रहा था। आप्टे उसके पीछे चल रहा था।

उसके भी माथे पर डर और शिकन साफ दिख रही थी। तो ऐसे 'बहादुर’, 'चरित्रवान’ और 'देशभक्त’ थे ये हिंदू राष्ट्र के स्वप्नदृष्टा, जिन्होंने एक निहत्थे बूढे, परम सनातनी हिंदू और राम के अनन्य-आजीवन भक्त का सीना गोलियों से छलनी कर दिया। ऐसे हत्यारों को प्रतिष्ठित करने के प्रयास तो शर्मनाक हैं ही, ऐसे प्रयासों पर सत्ता में बैठे लोगों की चुप्पी भी कम शर्मनाक और खतरनाक नहीं।

http://www.janjwar.com/post/nathuram-godase-and-gandhi-murderers-by-anil-jain, 10 September 2017.

Why Hindutva Ideologues, and Some Liberals, Love to Hate Nehru

Why Hindutva Ideologues, and Some Liberals, Love to Hate Nehru


Analysts and scholars who refuse to see the discontinuity between Hinduism and Hindutva have contributed to the success of Hindutva in no small measure.

Jawaharlal Nehru at the Temple of Angkor Vat on November 1, 1954. According to the original Photo Division caption, “The Prime Minister is here studying a carved (Apsaras’ (Celestial Dancer) on the walls of the Temple.” Credit: Photo Division, GOI

Spreading hatred against Jawaharlal Nehru and pitying Gandhi for the “dreadful mistake” of choosing him as his political heir has been an integral part of the disinformation campaign by the cultural and economic Right in India, mainly the RSS and its affiliates. Given the RSS’s understanding of the Indian cultural experience, it is quite natural that Golwalkar in his Bunch of Thoughts sees Muslims and Christians as ‘internal threats’; and ridicules the Indian freedom struggle which Gandhi and Nehru led for ‘reducing itself merely to being anti-British’.

On the other hand, there has been a trend in western academia that insists on denying the devastating effects of colonialism, and locates the causes of all problems facing India in its own tradition and culture. In this project, the terrible man-made famines that accompanied colonialism are normalised as a natural calamity recurrent in Indian history; the deliberate de-industrialisation and de-urbanisation which took place is projected as an eternal characteristic of the Indian landscape and ruthless economic exploitation shown as some kind of ‘service charge’ for the civilising mission.

Belittling the leaders of the Indian freedom movement is necessary for both these projects. Gandhi, who has grown too big to be easily maligned, has to be projected as a politically harmless saint; even as a brand ambassador for the fantastical ‘Swachhta Abhiyan’. But his ‘protégé’ Nehru has to be portrayed as a power hungry hypocrite. Some writers love to negatively contrast the ‘compromising’ Nehru with the ‘revolutionary’ Subhash Bose; while others prefer pitting the ‘anglophile’ Nehru against the ‘authentically Indian’ Sardar Patel. Whatever be the ideological impetus – Hindutva, colonial, ultra left or even liberal – targeting Nehru has become something of a cottage industry for analysts trying to explain what has gone wrong in India.

An attack from liberal quarters

Writing for the New York Times last month, Pankaj Mishra recalls the African-American writer W.E.B. Du Bois describing August 15, 1947 “as the greatest historical date” of modern history. Mishra tells us, “Du Bois believed the event was of “greater significance” than even the establishment of democracy in Britain, the emancipation of slaves in the United States or the Russian Revolution. The time ‘when the white man, by reason of the colour of his skin, can lord it over coloured people’ was finally drawing to a close.”

According to Mishra, something then went terribly wrong. “Gandhi was determined not to let postcolonial India replicate the injustices built into modern civilisation or, as he put it, ‘English rule without the Englishman.’ From that perspective, Gandhi may seem to have chosen his protégé unwisely: Nehru was the scion of a family of rich Brahmin Anglophiles.”

Mishra gives not even the slightest hint of the gigantic problems – social, political and economic – left behind by colonial rule, which the leaders of independent India had to face. We are told that “Nehru never let go of the British-created colonial state and its well-oiled machinery of repression. The brute power of the Indian police and army was used in 1948 to corral the princely state of Hyderabad into the Indian Union. Up to 40,000 Muslims were killed, and the episode remains the single-largest massacre in the history of independent India.”

This recitation takes no note of the Nizam’s and Jinnah’s intrigues and the activities of the Razakars in Hyderabad. He also keeps quiet about the repression of the communists both by the Nizam and the Indian state. Other aspects of the record that don’t fit well with his thesis – the Nehru-Liaquat pact, for example – are simply ignored.

To be sure, nobody is beyond valid criticism. Nehru himself, writing under the pen-name ‘Chanakya’ in the 1930s, cautioned against the ‘hero-worship of Jawaharlal’, telling fellow Indians bluntly, ‘We don’t need any Caesars’.  Naturally, many of his acts and policies have been criticised by serious scholars as well. But serious criticism must take note of the historical context and challenges the nascent nation-state faced. In a multi-religious country like India, no ruler not confident of the support of the majority community can ensure democratic rights for the minorities. The basic reason the Hindutva ideologues hate Nehru lies precisely here – he, the ‘anglophile’, ‘irreligious’ one, had earned this support the hard way, refusing to cater to baser instincts, insisting that ‘politics be conducted on the basis of political principles, not on the basis of religious sentiments.’

Different ways of valorising the past

Ironically, Mishra chooses to bracket Nehru with the Hindu nationalists because he had faith in “the essential continuity of India from ancient civilisation to modern nation.”

Nehru indeed had faith in that continuity but unlike the Hindu nationalists, his was not rooted in ignorant fantasies and distorted imaginations of the past. As he wrote in Discovery of India, “A blind reverence for the past is bad and so also is a contempt for it, for no future can be founded on either of these.” Also, he was aware of the processes of change in this continuity due to which, “while forms often remained, the inner content continued to change.” The awareness of this dynamic of change, coupled with a futuristic perspective and acute sense of the “spirit of age, the Zeitgeist, the Yugadharma”, made Nehru realise the difficulties involved in the gigantic task of transforming an ancient civilisation into a modern nation-state.

Mere recognition of that continuity does not turn one into a believer in or fore-runner of Hindu nationalism, just as making an argument against Islamophobia does not necessarily turn one into an apologist for jihad.

Incidentally, Akbar can serve as a test case for telling the difference between the Nehruvian and Hindutva sense of continuity of Indian civilisation and history. Given the recent, renewed Hindutva attacks on Akbar, it will be in order here to remind ourselves that the Mughal-e-Azam is a villain in the version of the past constructed by ‘Pakistan Ideology’ as well. In fact, Maulana Shabbir Ahmad Usmani –  whose signature achievement was the ‘Objectives Resolution’ which foreclosed any attempts to create a secular, liberal state in Pakistan – was fond of condemning the ideas of ‘composite nationalism’ as the modern day form of Akbar’s ‘Sulah-Kul’, and glorifying Jinnah as the modern day Sheikh Ahmad Sirhindi leading the jihad against this infidelity.

Nehru’s historical role

Nehru not only had a sense of the civilisational continuity of India but he also could not countenance the idea of India playing second fiddle to any one. This meant nonalignment in foreign policy while domestically he created a strong public sector within the framework of the mixed economy and had a futuristic vision of scientific research and cultural development keeping in view both the continuities and discontinuities of Indian tradition. His policies, broadly speaking, were rooted in the wisdom coming out of the varied cultural experience and memories of the Indian people. The essence of this wisdom is avoidance of extremes—‘Madhyama Pratipada, as the Buddha put it. His policies are paying off today, though those in power in India today ignore this fact. The inclusive idea of India constantly underlined during the freedom movement had to be translated into a modern nation-state, and this is exactly what Nehru and his colleagues did by warding off the designs of those seeking India’s destruction either by its balkanisation or by reimagining the country as a ‘Hindu rashtra’.

The forces of Hindutva have always seen the Nehruvian idea of India and the ideals associated with it as the greatest hurdle in their way. They have been working hard to remove this hurdle and have met some success in recent years. The horrifying results are there for everyone to see. Analysts and scholars who refuse to see the discontinuity between Hinduism and Hindutva have contributed to the success of Hindutva in no small measure. By suggesting Nehru’s sense of India’s continuity has anything in common with the Hindutva reading of the past, Mishra has gone many steps ahead in the same direction.

It is partly irritating, partly amusing to see writers reducing everyone else to the primordial identities of race, ethnicity, caste, religion or gender, while reserving the privilege of individual agency for themselves. Nehru, the ‘scion of a family of rich brahmin Anglophiles” chose to discard the privileges of his caste and class and lead the freedom movement. He chose to spend a decade of his life in British prisons in India. His life is a reminder of the fact that he didn’t just write about democratic values from a safe and privileged perch but actually fought for them in the heat and dust of the times.

Purushottam Agrawal is a writer, academic and political commentator.

https://thewire.in/173956/hindutva-fanatics-liberals-love-hate-nehru/, 10 September 2017.

Did RSS Really Participate in the Freedom Movement?

Did RSS Really Participate in the Freedom Movement?


How could the RSS have been part of the movement for Indian nationalism when it stands for Hindu nationalism?

Since the last few decades, the Hindu nationalists have been claiming that they too participated in the freedom movement. Credit: PTI

The freedom movement was all inclusive with the participation of people from all religions and regions of the country. Its underlying premise was pluralism and the concept of a secular democratic India, which bound people in bonds of fraternity. Those who were for Muslim and Hindu nationalism kept aloof from this movement for ideological and political reasons.

For the last few years, Hindu nationalists have been claiming that they too participated in the freedom movement and that it is only the Congress-Left historians who are trying to paint them in a negative picture vis-à-vis the struggle for independence. In a recent article, Rakesh Sinha presents the fantasies of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) participation in the freedom movement. His major sources for this claim are from British intelligence reports. His claims that the RSS took part in the Civil Disobedience Movement of 1930 and that the movement was invigorated due to K.B. Hedgewar’s participation in it, are figments of imagination. It is true that Hedgewar did take part in this movement and was jailed for it, but that was purely at a personal level, to be able to meet people who might support his agenda of the Hindu rashtra. There is not a single piece of writing by Hedgewar or the RSS exhorting people to participate in the movement. On the contrary, there are authoritative references to him discouraging those who wanted to participate in the struggle for freedom.

The attitude of the RSS leadership to the freedom movement becomes clear from what M.S. Golwalkar, the second sarsanghchalak of RSS, said (taken from Shri Guruji Samagra Darshan, vol. IV, page 39):

There was some unrest in the mind due to the situation developing in the country from time to time. There was such unrest in 1942. Before that there was the movement of 1930-31. At that time many other people had gone to Doctorji (Hedgewar). The delegation requested Doctorji that this movement will give independence and the Sangh should not lag behind. At that time, when a gentleman told Doctorji that he was ready to go to jail, Doctorji said ‘definitely go, but who will take care of your family then?’ The gentleman replied, ‘I have sufficiently arranged resources not only to run the family expenses for two years but also to pay fines according to requirement’. Then Doctorji told him, ‘If you have fully arranged for the resources then come out to work for Sangh for two years’. After returning home, that gentleman neither went to jail nor came out to work for the Sangh.

On similar lines, during 1942, when the turmoil began, Golwalkar issued instructions that the RSS’s routine work should continue and nothing should be done to annoy the British: “In 1942 also there was a strong sentiment in the hearts of many. At that time too, routine work of Sangh continued. Sangh vowed not to do anything directly.”  This RSS ideologue clearly spells out that fighting against the British has not been part of their agenda, “We should remember that in our pledge we have talked of freedom of the country through defending religion and culture, there is no mention of departure of British from here.” (taken from Shri Guruji Samagra Darshan, vol. IV, page 40)

Now Sinha wants us to believe that lakhs of volunteers of the RSS participated in the freedom movement in 1942 and many of them were punished severely by British. The RSS is known for its disciplined volunteers, so did its volunteers defy their sarsanghchalak to be part of the movement led by Mahatma Gandhi? Even British intelligence – on which a British circular warning officers of the political nature of the RSS is based – needs to be taken with a pinch of salt, as that interpretation of the administration was contrary to what the RSS itself has always maintained – that is a cultural and not a political organisation.

There were no claims of participating in the struggle for India’s independence until much later. It was only once the RSS/BJP inched closer to political power that such claims started being made. One of the earliest attempts in this direction was made by former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Ahead of the 1998 general elections, he had issued an appeal seeking votes. He wrote that not only was he working for the RSS at the shakha level, but he also participated in the freedom movement. His claim was made around the time of the Bateshwar incident, where he was arrested. Soon after his arrest, he gave a confessional statement in court. The statement he made helped his release from jail and it also named the leaders of the Bateshwar campaign, which was part of the Quit India movement. In this confessional statement, Vajpayee says that he had nothing to do with the damages caused to property by the people who had gone to hoist the tricolour on the building. He confesses that he was not part of the procession and was a mere onlooker. Consequent to his apology he was released from the jail.

Sinha has a fertile imagination so he can claim that RSS’s participation in the Quit India movement was the proverbial last straw for British rulers. The fact is that that RSS’s routine work in the shakhas and camps continued as usual despite some not being comfortable with this. Followers of Gandhi and the Congress were on the streets and in jails.

Now the RSS is trying to insert itself into a space in history where it does not belong.

Ideologically, Hindutva political organisations, despite their inner differences, were mainly intent on undermining Muslim nationalism and to achieve that goal, had no problem in cooperating with the British. All their efforts were geared towards ignoring the diversity of the nation manifested in Gandhi’s central slogan of Hindu-Muslim unity. Today, a new construct is being brought to fore for electoral goals, by erasing the absence of the RSS from the freedom struggle. At a deeper level, how could the RSS have been part of the movement for Indian nationalism when it stands for Hindu nationalism?

Ram Puniyani is Chairman, Centre of Study of Society and Secularism and has written several books including Communal Politics: Facts Versus Myths (Sage, 2003), Deconstructing Terrorist Violence (Sage 2015), Indian Nationalism versus Hindu Nationalism (Pharos 2014) and Caste and Communalism (Olive 2013).

https://thewire.in/172208/did-rss-participate-in-the-freedom-movement/, 10 September 2017.

Indian Democracy: Debt to Jawaharlal Nehru

Mainstream, VOL LII, No 23, May 31, 2014

Indian Democracy: Debt to Jawaharlal Nehru
Sunday 1 June 2014

by Mridula Mukherjee

The Nehru era ended half-a-century ago, bringing to a close the age of innocence and excitement marked by the epic struggle for freedom’s tryst with destiny and the first phase of independent India’s efforts to redeem that pledge. And yet, the strong roots sent down by the founders of the Indian nation have ensured that we just concluded our sixteenth general election with an electorate of over 800 million of whom a staggering 64 per cent cast their votes. And yet again, power has been transferred without any hiccups or hesitation from the outgoing government to the incoming one.

Indeed it is a measure of its success that we forget to notice how remarkable this achievement is, and celebrate it, for we are so used to taking it for granted. But we only have to look around us in South Asia, at Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Myanmar, and at South-East Asia, and East Asia, and West Asia and Africa, to see how exceptional it is. Scholars sometimes quibble over whether it is a formal or substantive democracy, forgetting that the very survival of democracy is an achievement.

We owe this undoubtedly to the millions who fought the battle for freedom from autocratic and undemocratic colonial state and the feudal and monarchical princely states to set up a republic in which they would be citizens and not subjects any more. They were led by a galaxy of leaders of such exceptional ability that it is indeed unfair to single out any one. And yet, the name of Jawaharlal Nehru cannot but be singled out since destiny chose him as the one who shouldered the major part of the task of building and shaping democratic institutions and democratic habits and demo-cratic culture in the newly independent India. Mahatma Gandhi was removed within six months on independence by the cruel hands of an assassin who did not want a secular democratic India. Sardar Patel, who had stood firmly by Nehru’s side in steering the republican Constitution to its goalpost through many winding paths, and had unhesitatingly cracked down on the forces responsible for the Mahatma’s murder—banning the RSS and sending 25,000 RSS workers to jail—had also died by 1951. So it was left to Nehru as the first Prime Minister and pre-eminent leader to nurture the infant of Indian democracy and bring it to maturity.

For Nehru, democracy and civil liberties were absolute values, ends in themselves, and not merely a means for bringing about economic and social development. There was in him what his biographer S. Gopal has called “a granite core of intellectual and moral commitment to democratic values”. “I would not,” Nehru said, “give up the democratic system for anything.”

Nehru was a firm believer in freedom of thought and expression, and particularly freedom of the press. He believed that even the demands of public safety should not normally encroach on these freedoms. During the days of the freedom struggle, he had founded the Civil Liberties Union. It was he who took up and popularised the demand for a Constituent Assembly to draft India’s Constitution since 1935-36. He was also the main campaigner for the Congress in the 1937 elections.

His commitment to parliamentary democracy is shown by the seriousness with which he treated the business of elections. He did not use the excuse of the partition of the country and the consequent communal violence and influx of refugees to postpone elections. On the contrary, he was impatient to go to the people and was unhappy that the elections could not be held earlier. He converted the election campaign into a referendum on ‘the idea of India’, challenging the communal forces responsible for the Mahatma’s assassination who had been demanding a Hindu Rashtra.

In the election campaign for the first General Elections of 1951-52, Nehru travelled some 25,000 miles and addressed in all about 35 million people or a tenth of India’s population. The following extract from a letter he wrote to Lady Mountbatten on December 3, 1951 shows how much he enjoyed this hard work:

Wherever I have been, vast multitudes gather at my meetings and I love to compare them, their faces, their dresses, their reactions to me and what I say. Scenes from past history of that very part of India rise up before me and my mind becomes a picture gallery of past events. But, more than the past, the present fills my mind and I try to probe into the minds and hearts of these multitudes. Having long been imprisoned in the Secretariat of Delhi, I rather enjoy these fresh contacts with the Indian people. It all becomes an exciting adventure....

In the first general elections, over a million officials were involved. One hundred and seventythree million voters were registered through a house-to-house survey. Three-quarters of those eligible were illiterate. Elections were spread out over six months, from October 1951 to March 1952, and candidates of 77 political parties, apart from some independents, contested in 3772 constituencies. All observers, Indian and foreign, were agreed that it was fair.

The Manchester Guardian wrote on February 2, 1952:

The Working Committee of the Indian National Congress can draw pleasure from the extra-ordinary demonstration which India has given. If ever a country took a leap in the dark towards democracy it was India. Contemplating these facts, the Congress Working Committee may purr with satisfaction.

It is a measure of his faith in the wisdom of the people that the communal forces were badly beaten, securing only around six per cent of the vote and 10 out of a total of 489 seats as against the Congress’ tally of 364 seats. And this barely four years after the partition in which an estimated 600,000 people lost their lives in communal violence and another six million were displaced from their homes.

In Nehru’s understanding, democracy was necessary for keeping India united as a nation. Given its diversity, and differences, it could only be held together by a non-violent, demo-cratic way of life, and not by force or coercion. Only a democratic structure which gave space to various cultural, political, and socio-economic trends to express themselves could hold India together. “This is too large a country with too many legitimate diversities to permit any so-called ‘strong man’ to trample over people and their ideas.”

Nehru through his actions helped root parlia-mentary democracy in India. Even though he enjoyed tremendous popularity and power, he did not fall prey to plebiscitary democracy or populism, but strengthened representative institutions. He used his popularity to push for civil liberties and democratic culture. He played a major role in framing a democratic Consti-tution with civil liberties and adult franchise.

He treated Parliament with great respect and was often seen sitting patiently through long and often boring debates as an example to his colleagues and young parliamentarians. He spoke frequently in Parliament, and used it as a forum to reach his ideas and views to the people of the country. Despite the majority enjoyed by the Congress party, he ensured that Parliament reflected the will of the entire people, and a very large number of non-official bills were passed during his tenure, a practice that has declined since. Even when he was quite ill during the last few months of his life, he did not miss any session and would even insist on rising to his feet whenever he had to speak to maintain the decorum of the House.

He helped institutionalise the Cabinet system of government, a crucial part of parliamentary democracy, by resisting the tendency among his Cabinet colleagues to leave all policy-making to him.

He said democracy is something deeper than voting, elections or a political form of govern-ment: “In the ultimate analysis, it is a manner of thinking, a manner of action, a manner of behaviour to your neighbour and to your adver-sary and opponent.” A quote from a letter Nehru wrote to Bidhan Chandra Roy, Chief Minister of Bengal, on December 25, 1949, shows his understanding of how to work in a democracy:

It is not good enough to work for the people, the only way is to work with the people and go ahead, and to give them a sense of working for themselves.

Nehru understood that at the heart of democracy lay a respect for difference of opinion, for opposition. He said on June 2 1950:

I am not afraid of the opposition in this country and I do not mind if opposition groups grow up on the basis of some theory, practice or constructive theme. I do not want India to be a country in which millions of people say “yes” to one man, I want a strong opposition.

He opposed the banning of the Communist Party even though he was against their policy of sabotage and violence. He wanted that they should be countered by normal legal processes, and urged Chief Ministers to respect civil liberties.

When the Congress lost a by-election in Calcutta, Nehru wrote to N.R. Sarkar, acting Chief Minister of Bengal, on July 2, 1949: “We as a government, whether at the Centre or in the Provinces, have no desire to continue governing people who do not want us. Ultimately, people should have the type of government they want, whether it is good or bad.”

The forms of limited representative govern-ment which the British had granted lacked substance and life. Nehru transformed them into vibrant institutions. The experience of other ex-colonial countries where the first generation of nationalist leaders concentrated over time all power in their own hands, or were succeeded by military rulers, throws into sharp relief Nehru’s achievement. The success of parlia-mentary democracy in India, which we tend to take for granted, was the exception and not the rule in newly independent nations. He chided Nkrumah, the leader of Ghana, for promoting a personality cult by asking him on his first meeting: “What the hell do you mean by putting your head on a stamp?”

Nehru, to his credit, did not permit his enor-mous personal position to be institutionalised; on the contrary, he showed great deference to institutions such as Parliament, the judiciary (even when he disagreed), the Cabinet, the party.

He constantly educated the people during his continuous travels about the value of adult suffrage and their duty to discharge their right to vote with responsibility. His tremendous faith, a Gandhian legacy no doubt, in the capacity of the poor, unlettered people to understand issues and exercise reasoned choices was at the heart of his democratic convictions.

To quote S. Gopal,

"Achieved against daunting odds, democracy in India—adult suffrage, a sovereign Parliament, a free press, an independent judiciary—is Nehru’s most lasting monument."

For the sake of the health and longevity of Indian democracy, it is to be hoped that the incoming Prime Minister will acknowledge the contribution of the chief architect of this edifice of democracy, before whose physical form he bowed his head while entering its portals, and pay homage to him on his fiftieth death anniversary.

Prof Mridula Mukherjee retired as a Professor of Modern Indian History, Centre for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. She was earlier the Director, Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, Teen Murti Bhawan, New Delhi.

http://www.mainstreamweekly.net/article4958.html, 10 September 2017.

अनुवाद करें