(It’s a reprint from NewsBred).
There is a reason for prime minister Narendra Modi to have an extra cup of tea which he loves so much in the morning. There are breakthroughs in Telangana and Manipur; a reaffirmation in Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh; and Madhya Pradesh sealed for years to come. And then there is Bihar.
And he could afford to smell roses too in his garden now that the foul air of Covid-19, migrants trek, China-at-gate, economic tsunami, engineered anti-CAA etc harnessed by the devil siblings of Opposition and prepaid media has blown back on their faces. Even Hathras didn’t work.
This morning though the tea won’t be the same for regional satraps of Bengal, Kerala, Assam and Tamil Nadu who have an assembly election to defend in next few months. A couple of them are allies who suspect they would be soon out of breath in keeping pace with such a driven partner. They don’t have to speak to Uddhav Thackeray or Nitish Kumar. They know it in heart.
It brings us to two existential questions in India’s political landscape: Are BJP and allies actually enemies sleeping in the same bed?
The basic premise of this puzzle of course is whether the two need each other. BJP didn’t concede to Shiv Sena in Maharashtra and I am sure there must be second thoughts within if it was judicious. Hindu vote is divided in any case, if not stupid. Why fragment it further? It has allowed the Pawars and Gandhis a stroll in the power corridors. Shiromani Akal Dal (SAD) was better to be without since it was cohabiting with farmer mafia while BJP is committed to rid India of weeds on the ground.
Politics is vision. But it’s also about staying in the present. BJP need to be both pragmatic and principled with allies. Only a fool can’t see that the Rest are coming together en masse: It doesn’t matter if they were enemies (BSP-SP; NCP-Congress, JD (S)-Congress, PDP-NC) only till recently. They are sinking and would hold on to any straw. They would get wiser—if not by 2017 UP then surely by 2020 Bihar–that caste piper isn’t quite belting out the chartbusters. They would band aid the pockmarks of corruption. They would woo the masses which so far were not even worthy of their contempt. They would rely less on media and friends-in-courtrooms now that it no longer is cutting the ice.
They of course are on the pitch of anarchy for some time. To their minds, they have already dispensed with umpires, third umpires and DRS etc. It has helped them in paralyzing the Centre, bound as it is by its Constitutional vows. What voters can’t deliver, villains might.
All those who stand with you, matter
It ought to be BJP’s goal to be in power, state after state. It can’t do without allies. It would have to allay their reasonable fears. Like it can’t afford to let go both Chirag Paswan and Nitish Kumar in Bihar. BJP might have a vision for India and its friends might suffer from cataract but then who said it’s an ideal world. You need every that voice, every that whiff, every that ray which could brighten your cause. Most have baser instincts, shallow interests, malleable emotions. But even those who just stand with you, matter.
So instead of a mere blinkered vision, BJP needs to look around and greet those who could say hello in return. It must account for inadequacies of others. It’s too straight-jacket and regimented with its friends. It can’t be that BJP is afraid of criticisms. If it was so, Yogi Adityanath wouldn’t have become CM of Uttar Pradesh; Article 370 would still have been a thorn, CAA-NRC would have gone into files by now. But BJP only harps on development. It doesn’t on discourse. They need to cultivate allies; they need to empower voices rooting for them to do good to Mother India.
It’s a seminal moment in India’s history. In millenniums. BJP can’t let it go only because its rulebook is cast in stone. It has to take every single voice along. And it has to stamp the hood of serpent into ground. It would be a Prithviraj Chauhan if it lets go the moment against Muhammad Ghori. It would be a mistake to think that chorus is not contributing to the melody. Keep them in the background but keep them on the dais. Rise to their defence even if it’s unsavoury to your style. Men like Arnab Goswami, for instance, need you now. Niceties could wait.
So take your time as you finish your tea, Mr Modi. But open your gates a little wider, your drawing room a little more spacious, and summon extra chairs in the garden. There are more hues in the painting than just winning elections on the plank of bettering masses. There are independent voices, perhaps too stray and too disparate to matter to you or BJP. But they are helping the wider discourse. It would matter to you and India in longer run. Embrace them as you go forward.
(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
Is that what India has come to?
Most Indians are battling this conundrum.
This perceived breakdown, internal, is largely at two levels: (a) harmony between Hindus-Muslims; (b) Centre and state relations.
Both are interlinked. A power seemingly in perpetuity loses an election. And another. Both by a landslide. The winners are identified with majority. The losers with minority. The turfs have exchanged hands. It’s an existential moment for losers; like those countless in history where Czars and Caliphs came to rest in tomes and tombs.
Losers now rally their forces. It joins hands with those it was in fight with all these years. All the parts must matter in sum. It doesn’t. Those who made a meal out of caste politics in India’s heartland are uprooted; those who swore by Maratha identity sound like a hag’s croon; elsewhere in volatile Bengal, the monster-slayer Didi stomps ground, flashes eyes and fingers, yet barely keeps her head above the surging water.
The Winners are surer after second win. They know they have come to stay. They won on planks of development and incorruptibility. On keeping India First. So out goes Jammu and Kashmir and its armour of special status. Minority wakes up to post-Shah Bano world in Triple Talaq Act; Ram Janmabhoomi arrived at an opportune time; and then the long-standing Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) is approved by India’s chosen representatives.
So Losers can’t win people’s confidence. The judiciary too doesn’t fall to their mechanisms. Prepaid media is doing its best but little is changing on the ground. Their Samaritans in movies, culture, academics have little traction. The echo-chamber in West is drowning in its own noise.
Anarchy thus is the last resort. It’s always two-faced: One is led by the system. The other by the people. As I mentioned at the start: Break it down at (a) people; and (b) governance level.
Anarchy at the people’s level is your anti-CAA protests, Hathras, Farms Bills, Reservation stirs etc, etc. Anarchy at the governance level is passing resolutions against the Central Acts in your State’s assemblies; refusing CBI a peek into your vice-dens; protecting your favourite police officers even against the judiciary’s strictures; and ridiculing Governors every alternate day.
Uddhav’s Maharashtra is taking it to the next level. Mamata’s police was bad on cartoons on their leader (Uddhav’s too as ex-navy officer Madan Sharma would testify); it would land on doors at different States; a journalist here and there; but Uddhav’s is booking the entire Republic TV network—claimed 1000 of them ! Kangana Ranaut was just a teaser it would seem. What next?
Some fundamental issues are stake in India. How far could this anarchy be allowed? The ruling BJP apparently has two choices. Let the masses know who are their enemies. It would teach them a lesson in due course. The other option is to exercise the power that the Constitution empowers it with: Dismiss state governments. The long rope which BJP has extended to Mamata Banerjee in the last six years conveys they would rather not do it and leave it in people’s hands.
BJP also knows what is noise and what’s substance. The noise is the ant-Farm Acts stir in Punjab led by its Congress chief minister Capt. Amarinder Singh. It could pass assembly resolutions but nothing would come out of it. The Punjab government is saddled with enormous debts and in the era of GST, you can’t trot your own horse when the whip is with someone else. You need Centre at every stage: Disasters and finances are one thing; telecommunications and security is another. More so in a border State.
It doesn’t mean that BJP ought to be at peace with anarchy. Mandate comes with responsibility. Anti-CAA protests led to Delhi Riots. They didn’t see Shaheen Bagh become what it did in the end. It made even Supreme Court helpless. The State must never be seen soft. India can’t afford it. All societies run on larger good. Those sloganeering “freedom”, “democracy” and “Constitution” don’t mean a bit of it. This chimera must yield to rule of law. Or it would persist in our lifetimes; and in our children’s. To horrific consequences if a malleable power was to come to Centre.
(Meanwhile, don’t fret on the welfare of Republic TV. Nothing would come out of it. Indians don’t like or even see somebody being browbeaten. More so by Powers. Brazenly. Mumbai Police has taken a bigger bite than it could chew. So, enjoy the drama but don’t miss your routine. The Karma would catch up with Mumbai Police and the rulers in Maharashtra).
(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
I conversed with Mahatma Gandhi in dreams last night. I was in heaven with a collection of his thoughts and words—“India Of My Dreams”—and spotted the Bapu in a corner spinning khadi wheel. He looked healthy, probably because the sinful Indian Express and The Hindu are barred from heavens. I touched his feet, squatted in front and opened the book which, truth to tell, pleased him. My subject was his views on Hindi language and I had bookmarked his specific utterances on the matter. I read on:
“I have the greatest faith in the Dravidians someday taking up Hindi study seriously. If an eighth of the industry that they put in mastering English were to be devoted to learning Hindi, instead of the rest of India, remaining a sealed book to them, they will be one with us as never before…The Dravidians being in a minority, national economy suggests that they should learn the common language of the rest of India than that the rest should learn Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malyalam in order to be able to converse with Dravidian India” (Young India 16-6-’20)
Bapu, do you realize the folly of your words? That how profitable it is for local forces to keep the rest of India a sealed book for its audience? Sure, the Commie rags play their part: They never mention that Adi Shankracharya was a Dravidian; that a host of CBSE schools which teach Hindi are run by DMK/AIDMK leaders. If I was to make your words known to them, your statutes or framed images would be blackened or put to fire.
“Little does anyone know that almost all the Tamils and the Telugus living in South Africa can carry on an intelligent conversation in Hindi.” Young India (16-6-’20).
Again Bapu, how does it matter? Even Latin is compulsory in schools in England. But this is whataboutery. The ground reality is, a famous actor (Kamal Haasan) promises burning fields in his state if Hindi was introduced in the curriculum.
“Bengal and Madras are the two provinces that are cut off from the rest of India for want of knowledge of Hindustani on their part. Bengal, because of its prejudice against learning any other language of India…” (Young India 2-2-’21)
Sure Bapu, Bengal and Madras remain cut off from rest of India to this day. Sure, Mamata Banerjee cries “Bengali pride” from rooftops. Sure, DMK leader Stalin (never mind he has a European and not a Dravidian name) has given a call for agitation against Hindi later this week. I only hope you were more discreet. Just imagine if Prime Minister Narendra Modi was to quote you on the subject?
“A knowledge of English opens up intercourse only with the comparatively few English-knowing Indians, whereas a possible knowledge of Hindustani enables us to hold intercourse with the largest number of our countrymen. (Young India 2-2’-21)
Bapu, they are doing well as it is. They pay income-tax for rest of India. It’s another matter most of it is recovered with interest from the Centre when Chennai drowns in flood once every two years. Most of its population reaps the benefit of Centre’s SC/ST schemes. Why bother?
“If we were not living in artificial conditions, the people living in the South will not consider the learning of Hindi as a strain on them, much less a superfluity…. If it is to be for and of the starving millions, of the illiterate millions, of the illiterate women, of the suppressed ‘untouchables’, Hindi is the only possible common language.” (Young India, 18-6-31)
Sorry Bapu, they do speak for starving millions and “untouchables” when the Elections are around. They also speak about illiteracy admittedly though only of Muslims. I am afraid it’s nothing less than “imposition” you are suggesting. All you would do is to produce South Indian versions of Nathuram Godse.
“The cry of “mother tongue in danger” is either ignorant or hypocritical. And where it is sincere it speaks little for the patriotism of those who will grudge our children an hour per day for Hindustani. We must break through the provincial crust if we are to reach the core of all- Indian nationalism. Is India one country and one national or countries and many nations.” (Harijan, 10-9-’38)
Bapu do you realize the monstrosity of your outreach? Do you realize you echo every syllable of BJP/RSS on nationalism? Who would now celebrate October 2 as your 150th birth anniversary in Dravidian India? How long do you think Congress would keep owning you up?
Bapu had long stopped spinning his wheels. He was staring me, long and hard. His spectacles had cracked. The poor goat of his had started bleating. He looked around—none of his favourites, Nehru or Azad, were in heaven. Sardar Patel was a neighbour but had long disowned him for betraying him with India’s prime ministership. The likes of Subhas Bose and Bhagat Singh were never enamoured of him. Gurudev Tagore had long turned sceptical of him. I felt sorry for the great man. The entire Congress party rode on his shoulders for close to a century. They mouthed platitudes on his every birth anniversary. Political leaders made a beeline for Rajghat on his death anniversary. His beaming face adorns nation’s currency. Yet they have shunned his ideology. Gandhi is not for defending; he is an ATM to encash for the dynasty.
(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
Millions of Indians mourn such tragedies. But those vocal, be it on print, web or TV, view it from religious prisms: The divide is between Muslims-unsafe vs. Hindus- wronged. Politicians and media profit, not the nation.
The question today is: Can India afford to be divided along the communal lines? If it comes to pass, who should be held responsible? Could India as a nation then survive?
We have a prototype answer to all these questions. India was divided along the communal lines in 1947; Those who created divisions, in this case British, were responsible; India lost its’ eastern and western limbs in its quest for survival.
Do we want a repeat of it in the near future? If not, how this slide need be stopped? Should another round of Partition, at the cost of millions killed, raped and displaced, must happen again?
It all begins from those who set the narrative. British did it in decades leading to the independence: Assembly elections were held along the communal lines: Muslim candidate for Muslim constituency. Then began the chorus: what would happen to minority Muslims once we leave the Indian shores. Muslim League and Mohammad Ali Jinnah were thus armed to severe India of its limbs. The resultant tragedy of Partition has few parallels in human history.
India has survived another Partition thus far. But the same narrative is reappearing: Muslims are insecure; their culture, language and religion is in danger; majority Hindus would be the oppressors.
If it were the British who fed this narrative in pre-independence era, its media and break-India forces which is fanning the fire in our times. As oppressor Hindus was the theme before the Partition, so is the theme in our times.
Occasionally, the likes of Sadhvi Pragya and Giriraj Singh play into the hands of such forces. At times, “saffron terror” is cooked up like it nearly did in the tragic 26/11 in Mumbai. Lynchings become part of leitmotif to stoke fears of oppressive Hindu majority.
Celebrities and cinestars jump in to serve their eternal desire of being in news. Writers and scientists sign petitions in orchestrated campaigns. Data, like Lokniti-CSDN, survey how many Muslims and Christians have voted for BJP; Castes are divided into sub-castes and further sub-castes as Mayawatis, Akhilesh Yadavs and Lallu Prasads feed themselves fat on its harvests. Important magnets, like Western media and prized economists, all are part of the ecosystem which want India to go up in flames.
Hindus and Muslims do have different language and culture. But both are Indians. And a majority do see themselves as Indians. The minority are Asaduddin Owaisi who incites with the call of Karbala or Niranjan Jyoti who divides with “ramzada” vs “haramzada” quip. Hang them out to dry. As you do with the despicable dozen English journalists and at least two English national dailies who are at the beck and call of divisive forces (read casteist, Left and dynastic parties); and foreign-funded NGOs
Let this be a checklist for Muslims:
- We have always been made to feel insecure even as more people greet us on Eid than those who abuse us; (b) That there is no word as “minority” in Indian constitution, all are Indians; (c) That if “secularism” means denying a Muslim destitute woman (Shah Bano) her rights and reversing the judgment of Supreme Court, then such secularism must be exposed; (d) That if Hindu consolidation has happened around emotive Ram Temple issue, it was stoked by Congress and not BJP/RSS; (e) That for every Akhlaq, Pehlu and Junaid, there are tens and dozens of Hindu victims at the hands of Muslims which go unreported; (f) That if BJP doesn’t opt for a Muslim candidate, it doesn’t matter as long as the elected representative is fair to everyone in his constituency: be it roads, electricity, toilets, gas, health, education, all is available to Muslims as it is to Hindus; (g) That if Muslims are economically backward, it’s not because of Hindus but perhaps the reason lies in lack of scientific temper in Madarsa education; and less than fair freedom to women.
Let this be a checklist for Hindus:
- Indian constitution doesn’t favour Muslims; it allows them to run their institutions THEMSELVES not by the government; (b) If Muslims are subsidized for Haj, so are Hindu pilgrims provided for in magical Kumbh melas; (c) True, Indian history is distorted and neither Congress nor Left intellectuals have been fair to Hindus but it’s no excuse to substitute that anger against a common Muslim; (d) True, a dozen English journalists and at least two English national dailies only report crimes against Muslims, often hoax, but they have been left thoroughly exposed in the last five years; their credibility in tatters thanks to a vigorous social media; (e) Congress and Left, two parties who stoked fears in Muslims and Dalits, are today the outcasts of Indian political system; (f) That Hindu consolidation must not happen at the cost of Muslim alienation: that we don’t want new nations in Bengal or Kerala or Tamil Nadu and its’ attendant costs; (g) That for every Zakir Naik and Burhan Wani, there is also a Muslim boatman who gives up his life but saves tourists from drowning in Jhelum in Srinagar.
We have a choice to make if want to be Hindus or Muslims or Indians. We ought to ask ourselves if we don’t mind another Partition and its horrific cost. We ought to boycott a Naseeruddin Shah or a Kamal Haasan; A Javed Akhtar or a Shabana Azmi; A Swara Bhaskar or a Prakash Raj who are selective in their outrage. The same ought to happen to a Niranjan Jyoti or Asaduddin Owaisi. We ought to outcast a Shekhar Gupta or a Rajdeep Sardesai; a Sagarika Ghose or a Barkha Dutt if the only crime they see is against Muslims; We need to stop an Indian Express or The Hindu from entering into our drawing rooms if all they can see is crime against a Dalit or a Muslim.
These are small forces. Pygmies in front of a nation of 1.30 billion. Should these handful be allowed to decide if we stay together or apart? Would you blame them if tens and thousands of us are butchered and raped in Partition 2.0?
Muslims need be confident this is their India too. Before you blame others, you must ask if your education and matter of equality to women etc need a relook. As Maulana Azad once addressed them: You can’t be drowned and defeated by anyone else but yourself. Don’t hide behind the cloak of “minority” and “secularism”. Don’t seek privileges; you are no different than any other Indian. Rely on self. Those who speak for your safety and stoke your fears, couldn’t care less for you.
Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) wants a samwad and it would leave its opponents nowhere to run.
RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s clear position on Muslims, reservations, lynching, Indian constitution etc was like an elephant who just walked through the door of the corrupt in their own vice den.
All these years, Sangh grew and grew, preferring action for words, which allowed a cottage industry of dishonest politicians, academicians and journalists to grow fat on global agenda of fundamentalist Islamic and Christian forces—for these two religions alone want to prevail till the world comes to an end.
I deliberately ignore Left for unlike long-standing religions, the innocents are now wiser on them. The jackals who fed on the disaffected now appear flattened under their own tomes.
Earlier, RSS’ silence was seen as the proof of the guilt. Now, that they are behind mike, and on the podium, right in Lutyens’ living room, all we are hearing through the broken glass-panes is: Hey, listen, these are words, just words, for their actions won’t sync.
So, if you are silent, you are guilty. If you speak, a hypocrite. If you act, it’s only token and an eyewash.
RSS all these years had seen the futility of engaging with the rogues and its’
Republic of Propaganda. The game was so rigged, why even bother to be on their turf? This couplet more or less sums it up:
Wahi Qatil, Wahi Shahid, Wahi Munsif Thehre;
Agraba mere karen qatl ka daava kis par
(They are killers, witness and judge all rolled into one. Who do you think my relatives should appeal to on the murder?).
The new RSS wants seminars, debates and discussions. It’s a tectonic shift. Their silence didn’t win them over the urbans whose eyes and ears were controlled by the Lutyens’ Media. RSS could’ve ignored it but the devils have wedged a divide. They wanted Muslims to be insecure, anxious, troubled, jittery and skittish and a narrative to be built which would’ve painted Hindutva as murderous, fascist and totalitarians. That’s not good for the Hindus, not for Muslims and certainly not for India.
Never is a more concerted effort needed than now to bridge the divide. Hindutva would lay beaten if a Muslim child is poisoned by the chalice of his parent’s fears and grows into an alienated branch of this country in the cusp of great things. RSS has sensed the danger inherent and hence Bhagwat’s words: “If-Muslims-are-unwanted-then-there’s-no-Hindutva” is a giant leap of faith which needs be repaid in faith.
We’ve seen in recent years how Dishonests are emerging out of their rat-holes. They are fighting for survival. They are dead if their narrative of polarization is given a noisy burial. And that’s the need of the hour. RSS just doesn’t need one Bhagwat; it needs thousands of Bhagwats. They are all out there but need a cohesive force to keep them together; grow and multiply. Their voices need be sustained and spread to every household.
So far most of it is private initiative. An OpIndia here; a Swarajya there; a Litfest in Pondicherry; it all needs a structure; an umbrella which keeps the cement of edifice dry. Only if this bull is taken by its horns, would we be able to stop Kerala and Bengal from becoming another Pakistan and Bangladesh. Polarization built the narrative of the Partition. History must not be allowed to repeat itself. Such a dragon must be slayed by stout hearts, clear heads and strong hands.
The All-India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) has plans to introduce Sharia Courts (Darul-Qaza) in all 640 districts of India.
Even though Sharia Courts have no locus standi in the precincts of India’s courts, and that individuals and not a religious group is an entity in the eyes of a “secular” state, the AIMPLB recommends itself to solve the personal conflicts of Muslims in this country, citing the inordinate time a case takes in legal courts and claiming the guardianship of interpreting “Quran” the holy book for its adherents.
It’s a dangerous, calculated ploy by the AIMPLB to present itself as the upholder of “Quran” and thus obtain a complete subservience from the Muslim population of India, preparing a ground of conflict with India’s legal system which has recently made a move on the “triple talaq” issue and which is at the cusp of making a “Ram Janmabhoomi” verdict.. It’s preparing a ground for “two-nation” theory and has seeds of another Partition, another Pakistan in it.
The threat is real due to the weak nature of Indian judiciary which, in the past, passed a Shah Bano judgement couched as its “interpretation” of Sharia laws. India’s rule of government is no better in cracking a whip on a body about whom 95.5% percent of Muslim women have not even heard of.
Prof. Mohammad Tahir, an international expert on Muslim law, and a former chairman of Minorities Commisson, has no doubt that the Muslim law board manipulates Quran to perpetuate regressive laws and that it needs to be abolished. A few of the instances he cites,are worth quoting: “There are two verses in Quran on talaq. One verse says, `Divorce is only twice.’ The other Quranic verse says a person can’t divorce his wife unless there is an arbitration or reconciliation process from both sides. The Maulvis prefer to choose the first verse as law and the second as a mere morality.
“Similarly there is no Quaranic sanction for a Muslim law which treats two female witnesses as equal to one male witness… Every sensible Hadith is declared false, every sensible verse of the Quran has been abrogated.”
“Frankly I want (Muslim law) board to be abolished. It’s members are paranoid and they speak rubbish. Everytime the Supreme Court delivers a judgement, the Board says it is interfering with the Shariat.”
We have the instances of Muslim women denied fair marriage, divorce, adoption and property rights. No women-in -dargahs; polygamy etc is practiced. Prohibition on child marriage is opposed by AIMPLB. Free voices, like Salman Rushdie, would continue to be muzzled.
The fall-out and damage to India’s social fabric consequently has been massive. It has led to Muslims retreating themselves into “ghettos” and “no-go zones.” There is no assimilation and thus regressive mindset kicks in which fuels similar destructive forces of other minorities. In the name of “secularism”, the majority in India allows such self-appointed bodies to hijack and set the agenda for the minorities to the detriment of the nation.
Thus a “nation-within-nation” takes shape. It’s funded by forces which wants jihad for Muslim sovereignty across the globe. From US to Philippines, every society today is facing this challenge. First, an exclusive area is forged; it then develops into a zone which police has problem in accessing. Lawlessness emerges. Politicians fish in troubled waters. It’s not long before government loses control of such areas. Terrorism and drugs thus come to hold sway. Soon there is a call to declare them “Islamic zones.” Several European cities today are victims of such phenomenon. For example, a radical group in UK wants 12 British cities, including London, to turn into independent Islamic states.
Look at Bengal. It has hundreds and thousands of illegal infiltrators from Bangladesh, duly aided by ISI-modules. Consequently, there are 100s of villages in Bengal where police has no say, abetted of course by politicians. When fundamentalist Mullahs make a call for no-entry to the likes of Taslima Nasreen, neither police nor politicians are of any help.
Initially, the British judges in India were assisted by Muftis and Qazis. The Qazis Act of 1880 deprived the Qazis of their judicial powers. The British courts thereafter made judgment on Muslim Personal Law. There was a persistent demand in the first quarter of 20th century to have Sharia Courts. Muslims followed the Hindu Act till 1937 when the Muslim Personal Law Application Act was passed. The All India Muslim Personal Law Board came into being during Indira Gandhi’s rule in 1973.
The life around us could soon descend into chaos, anarchy, riots and who knows, civil war. That’s what happens in completely communally polarized societies with weak judiciary and appeasement politics. Similar was the situation during the final years of Raj when bigoted forces managed to vivisect India, slicing off its Eastern and Western arms. Appeasement lay at the root of it. History seems set to repeat itself and it would, unless it’s dealt with firmly and decisively. As citizens, we would be no less responsible for our indifference.
(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
The popular history has Indian National Congress-Mahatma Gandhi-Ahimsa-Independence as a sequential thread embedded in the mind of free Indians. The disruptive truth of 1905-1920 is hardly in circulation; the parallel flow of revolutionaries beginning with Lal-Bal-Pal and extending till Subhas Chandra Bose are like distant relatives we haven’t been keeping in touch with.
Between 1905-1920, India buzzed with the cry of Purna Swaraj, Swadeshi, boycott and the educational reforms. The triumvirate of Lala Lajpati Rai, Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Bipin Chandra Pal shook the conscience of the masses with oratory, vision and action. The Moderates, who had controlled the levers of Congress from its inception since 1885, became a side story in people’s mind for this decade and a half.
The years 1905-1920 are not just about Congress in modern India; these are years where you could trace back the roots of Muslim appeasement and the horrors of the Partition.
The birth anniversary of Bipin Chandra Pal (November 7, 1858) affords us an occasion to view these times through the prism of this man who for his magnificent oratory was called the “Burke of India” and whom Sri Aurobindo was apt to refer as one of the “Mightiest Prophets of Nationalism.” His wealthy background in his birthplace Sylhet (now in Bangladesh); the remarkable pen he wielded as an editor and author; and his commitment for improving the lot of women—Pal married widows twice—pale in significance to his role in India’s freedom struggle, beginning 1905.
This catalyst of a year was when Bengal was partitioned between commercially rich but largely Hindu West Bengal and economically weak and largely Muslim East Bengal. British clearly had Hindu-Muslim divide in mind as Lord Curzon, Viceroy of India, wrote in a letter to the then Secretary of State for India, St. John Brodrick on February 2, 1905:
“Calcutta is the centre from which the Congress party is manipulated throughout the whole of Bengal; and indeed the whole of India. Its best wire-pullers and its most frothy orators all reside here. The perfection of their machinery…are truly remarkable.” Curzon further wrote in the letter that if Bengal was divided, it would dethrone Calcutta “from its place as the center of successful intrigue.” Curzon assured the secretary that Indians “always howl until a thing is settled; then they accept it.” (1)
Pal, along with Lalaji and Tilak, was instrumental in ensuring ruling British didn’t meet with their objective and were forced to reunite Bengal only six years later in 1911. He travelled around the country and unleashed a wave of resistance from the masses with his subliminal oratory. Boycott wasn’t limited to British goods alone; it extended to even British public institutions. Groups and committees, gatherings and demonstrations, mass pamphleteering and rousing speeches had the country inflamed. The more British tried to repress the wave; the more it gained in intensity. Its froth extended to expressions in culture, literature and science. Rabindranath Tagore wrote Banglar Mati Banglar Jolas, a rallying cry to advocates of annulment of Bengal Partition. (2)
The fervour of this national response evoked anxiety and not a little envy from the Moderates who still controlled the Congress and who had believed all along in the philosophy of “prayers, petitions and protests.” Most of the Moderates were on good terms with the high-ranking British officials in 1905 and had also held cushioned jobs.
Six months after the Bengal Partition, The Congress session was held in Banares in December 1905. The division between Moderates and Extremists was out in the open. The Extremists wanted the visit of Prince of Wales to be boycotted in protest to the Partition; the Moderates opposed this move. Moderates invited one of staunchest in its ranks, Dadabhai Naoroji, a founder of Congress, a former MP in British Parliament and then living in England, to come and preside over the session in 1906. However, Extremists prevailed in the session and “Swaraj” was declared the aim of the Congress (against the wishes of Moderates who still preferred Constitutional reforms).
The Surat Session in 1907 was a monumental moment for Congress and India’s future. Moderates stood in opposition to Purna Swaraj and Swadeshi; Bal Gangadhar Tilak was not even allowed to speak by none other than Pt. Madan Mohan Malviya. The Extremists thereafter were debarred and ruling British moved in for the kill. (3)
British unleashed a brutal crackdown on the Extremists. Their newspaper was closed; Tilak was banished to Mandalay Jail for six years; Pal was arrested for not giving evidence against Sri Aurobindo and compelled to opt out to England between 1908-1911. British followed up this measure by snuggling up to Muslims and the Moderates and took the wind out of India’s resistance.
Pal returned to Congress in 1916 but by then the stage was set for the advent of Mahatma Gandhi on another moderate Gopalkrishna Gokhale’s invitation. Gandhi’s subsequent movement of non-cooperation, as an allied action to Khilafat Movement, was seen as fanning the Pan-Islamism, and introducing the religious element in India’s politics by the likes of Pal. Khilafat Movement, to the uninitiated, was launched by Muslims in support of restoration of Ottoman Sultan in faraway Turkey, fully backed by Gandhi and Congress in a bid to promote Hindu-Muslim Unity.
The envisioned unity was a pipe-dream and start of Muslim appeasements by Gandhi-led Congress. It fanned the ambition of Mohammad Ali Jinnah for a separate Muslim state. The resultant Partition and rivers of blood which flowed in its wake still carries scars and repercussions for India’s future. As for the British, they were all too happy to introduce “separate electorates” and fan the communal divide between Hindu and Muslims.
Pal turned his back on Congress but not before he made a scathing attack on Gandhi in the 1921 session. “You wanted magic. I tried to give you logic. But logic is in bad odor when the popular mind is excited. You wanted mantaram, I am not a Rishi and cannot give mantaram…I have never spoken a half-truth when I know the truth…I have never tried to lead people in faith blind-folded.” He was critical of Gandhi for his “priestly, pontificating tendencies.” Comparing Gandhi with Leo Tolstoy, Pal noted that Tolstoy “was an honest philosophical anarchist,” while Gandhi to him was a “papal autocrat.” (4)
Pal, who kept out of public life between 1921-1932, died in a state of penury.