Lessons of History
India gained independence in 1947. The nation was partitioned into two parts based on religion. While Pakistan had no hesitation in declaring itself an Islamic republic, India chose to be secular. The word secularism was not a part of the original constitution. This word was introduced when Indira Gandhi took away civil liberties and famously called emergency a festival of discipline.
Pakistan was clear from the day one that it was the land of Muslims and minorities had no place in it. The way it treated its minorities made it impossible for them to live a life of dignity in that nation. The exodus of minorities from Pakistan to India continues till date starting before 1947.
Muslims in India have prospered over the last seventy-two years. A new Muslim middle class has emerged. They enjoy equal rights and religious freedom in India. There has been much talk about Muslim backwardness in India but Muslims in India live a better life than tribals and Dalits despite reservations and special provisions for tribals and Dalits. Indian taxpayers pay for religion based central government-funded Universities where Muslims have fifty per cent reservations. Kashmiri Muslim students get scholarships to study all over India.
Manmohan Singh the silent, accidental prime minister was eloquent when he had famously said that the Muslims had the first right on the resources of India. A member of Parliament who is declared land mafia claims that Muslims are paying the price of partition. He claims that the Muslims had the choice to go to Pakistan but did not. He has in the past threatened to go to the UN to complain about the ill-treatment of Muslims in India.
Much has been written about the lynching of Muslims in India. It is claimed that certain right-wing organizations are encouraging it. News headlines scream a Muslim was beaten and forced to shout Hindu religious slogans. It has been found out in many cases that it was not true.
We know that in India lawlessness is not a new phenomenon. People fight over trivial matters. Many times road rage incidents happen. Those who have used public transport know how crowded buses and trains are in India. The heat, the overcrowding and general lawlessness contribute to civil and criminal strife. Minor incidents become major conflagrations because in many places criminals are not afraid of law enforcement agencies. There are competing claims of different religious and caste groups for limited resources. No wonder it finds expression in incidents of violence. These incidents of lynching, mob violence and targeting of groups is not a new phenomenon.
All of a sudden the liberal media is screaming democracy in India is under threat. Fascism is loosely used to describe isolated incidents of religious strife. We know such incidents happen all over the world.
Often during debates on national TV, Congress and non-BJP parties claim that RSS & Hindu Mahasabha played no role in the freedom struggle. These two groups were British stooges and collaborators. Such claims are not actively contested by the spokespersons of BJP. Their silence implies that they have no counter to this charge. The Congress, leftists and liberals smugly claim victory. The communists collaborated with the British is a known fact.
Let us for argument sake accept the charge that the right-wing collaborated with the British during the freedom struggle. RSS and Hindu Mahasabha were minor players in those days. Congress had giants like Gandhi, Nehru and Patel. The Indian masses followed them. Savarkar asserted that it took congress more than fifty years to reach national recognition. He optimistically predicted that it would take the right-wing the same time to reach acceptability amongst the masses.
The question that the nation should be asking who was responsible for welcoming the British to India before RSS and Mahasabha started helping the British? Did RSS invite the British? Did the Muslim League and the Muslim masses not wholeheartedly collaborate with the British?
My humble submission is almost all sections of Indian society collaborated with the British. They used different excuses but all shades of political opinion and classes of Indians helped the British stay in India. The lower ranks of the British Indian army, navy, and police were all manned by native Indians. The Indians took pride in serving the British. The Sikhs, the Marathas, the Gorkhas, the Mahars and the Muslims served the British faithfully and gratefully. The British were fair but hard taskmasters who paid the Indians their wages in time. Bhima Koregaon war where a Dalit regiment under British command defeated the high caste Hindu Peshawar forces is an illustration about how the Indians collaborated with the British against fellow Indians.
Syed Ahmed encouraged the Muslims to cooperate with the British. He claimed that the British followed a religion that was similar to Islam. He said it was the duty of all Muslims to serve the British Queen. Why do we celebrate Syed Ahmed? He is the man who claimed that Hindus and Muslims were two different cultures and civilizations.
We worship our national heroes. Do we have a right to question their acts and misjudgments that cost the nation dearly?
Did Gandhi ji at any time in his life collaborate with the British and give a call to Indian youth to join the British Indian army?
I quote Wolpert’s book on Jinnah where he asserts Gandhi sought and won British confidence by urging all Indians to enlist in the British army in 1917 and 1918. Gandhi on his support for war recruitment and his folly later wrote “As soon as I set about my task my eyes were opened. My optimism received a rude shock. We had meetings wherever we went. People did attend but hardly one or two of them would offer themselves as recruits. You are a votary of Ahimsa how can you ask us to take up arms? What good has the government done for India to deserve our cooperation?”
Numerous Congress leaders went to jail during the freedom struggle. The nation showed its gratitude after 1947 by worshipping them and putting them on a pedestal. The nation gave them pensions, medals and recognition. Congress enjoyed fruits of office for sixty plus years. The Congress party has benefited the most from ruling India for more than sixty years. Indian masses paid for the luxuries of office, the congressmen enjoyed. The taxpayers paid for their free bungalows, free cars, their servants, their salaries, their security, their red beacon cars, their medical treatment abroad and of course their corruption.
Coming back to collaboration did Jinnah or any big leader of Muslim League ever go to jail during the years of freedom struggle? To the best of my knowledge, Jinnah did not go to jail for a minute. If the Muslim League leaders did not go to jail what entitled them to demand a separate nation-state out of India and why did Gandhi ji keep wooing Jinnah when he did not go to jail? Why did Gandhi ji call Jinnah Quaid- E- Azam? Maulana Azad has an interesting anecdote in his autobiography about Jinnah and how Gandhi ji ended up calling him Quaid.
Savarkar went to Britain to study law like Gandhi, Nehru and Jinnah. However, unlike Jinnah, he participated in revolutionary writings and activities. Savarkar was arrested and sentenced to 50 years of jail time in Andaman. He allegedly supplied a pistol to a member of the Abhinav Bharat Society. This pistol was used to kill the collector of Nasik, Jackson, in 1909.
Savarkar served ten years of rigorous imprisonment in Andaman. He wrote several mercy petitions for his early release. Savarkar & his brother were shifted to a prison in Ratnagiri in 192. He was released in 1924. He was not allowed to move out of Ratnagiri district. He was barred from political activities. These restrictions were lifted only in 1937. These facts were ably pointed out by Kulkarni in an article written for the Wire.
Since these are historical facts there is no reason to dispute them. Let us accept these facts.
Savarkar suffered ten years of imprisonment including solitary confinement where he was declared a dangerous prisoner and not given the privileges accorded to a political prisoner. It is possible that the solitary confinement and the sufferings weakened his resolve to stay in prison for fifty years.
I would draw the attention of my readers to the antics of a recent revolutionary Arvind Kejriwal. Kejriwal used to call every politician in India corrupt. He talked about Purna Swaraj. The masses believed that they had found their messiah who would deliver them from these cesspools of corruption.
Kejriwal was sent to judicial custody by a metropolitan magistrate after he refused to furnish a bail bond in a defamation case filed by BJP’s Nitin Gadkari. Kejriwal had called Gadkari corrupt. He told the court that he would not furnish a bail bond in the case as it was a political case. He agreed to give the undertaking to appear before the court at every hearing. Afterwards, he moved the high court for his immediate release. He spent six days in Tihar jail and was subsequently released on furnishing personal bond as required by law. At that time our revolutionary Kejriwal was an ex-chief minister.
Three years later he apologized to former Punjab minister Bikram Singh Majithia for calling him a drug lord. He apologized to Kapil Sibal’s son, Nitin Gadkari and several other people.
PS Jha writing for The Wire wrote: “After three years of relentless effort, India’s democracy has finally succeeded in breaking Arvind Kejriwal’s back”. Here is my poser to all Congressmen and other revolutionaries who call Savarkar a weak man, an apologist and collaborator of the British.
Kejriwal the revolutionary had access to the best lawyers of Delhi. He is the chief minister of Delhi. If six days of jail and some alleged harassment in the form of legal cases could break his back. If despite being in the exalted position of the chief minister of Delhi in the capital of Independent India he could not face some inconveniences what moral right does he or anyone have to call Savarkar a weak man for asking for pardon from the British after suffering many indignities in a British jail in Andaman for ten years?
This brings me to another equally instructive episode in the history of Congress party. Congress party was by and large a Hindu party because the Muslims from 1857 onwards refused to oppose the British. The Muslims leaders like Syed Ahmed exhorted the Muslims not to join Congress and asked them to cooperate with the British. Jinnah referred to Congress party as a Hindu party. He called Gandhi ji a leader of the Hindus.
This brings me to an interesting episode that Maulana Azad describes in his autobiography. Azad writing about the formation of Congress ministries in the provinces after the 1935 provincial autonomy act writes “Dr Syed Mahmud was the top leader of Congress in Bihar. He was a general secretary of the All India Congress Committee. When the Congress secured an absolute majority in Bihar it was expected that Dr Syed Mahmud would be elected the leader and become the first chief minister of Bihar under the provincial autonomy act. Sri Krishna Sinha was made the chief minister and Dr Mahmud was made a cabinet minister. Dr Rajendra Prasad prevented Dr Mahmud from becoming the chief minister. Azad blames Sardar Patel for a similar situation in Bombay where Nariman a Parsi was the most deserving candidate for the post of the chief minister. Azad wrote, “We all knew the truth had been sacrificed in order to satisfy Sardar Patel’s communal demand”.
In other words, due to communal actions of Sardar Patel and Dr Rajendra Prasad, Nariman a Parsi in Bombay and Syed Mahmud a Muslim in Bihar were prevented from becoming chief ministers of these states. Azad further claimed that Nariman complained to Gandhi and Nehru about this, but both of them did not do anything to correct the injustice. I am quoting Azad in this matter.
To give the subject a bit of context at that time based on the communal accord agreed upon by Congress and Muslim League only Muslim voters could vote for Muslim candidates in constituencies reserved for them in the provincial assemblies. Similarly, only Hindu voters could elect Hindu candidates from constituencies reserved for Hindus.
Dr Mahmud was a victim of communal machinations of Sardar Patel according to Azad. He deserved to be made chief minister but was deprived of this position. Sardar Patel and Dr Rajendra Prasad were communal leaders according to Azad.
Azad was imprisoned in Ahmadnagar jail with some other congressmen during 1942 quit India movement. He writes and I quote “Dinner was served to us soon after on iron platters. We did not like them and I told the jailer that we were accustomed to eating from china plates. The jailor apologized and said that he could not supply us with a dinner set then but it would be obtained the next day. A convict had been brought from Poona to serve as our cook. He could not prepare food according to our taste. He was soon changed and a better cook appointed”. Azad further writes that they were initially denied access to newspapers but subsequently they had daily access to newspapers. They were later on allowed to write letters to their families.
Pavan Kulkarni writing for the Wire in an article entitled How Did Savarkar, a Staunch Supporter of British Colonialism, Come to Be Known as ‘Veer’? gives us one of many examples of mercy petitions written by Savarkar. I quote “When I came here in 1911 June, I was along with the rest of the convicts of my party was taken to the office of the Chief Commissioner. There I was classed as “D” meaning dangerous prisoner; the rest of the convicts were not classed as “D”. Then I had to pass full 6 months in solitary confinement. The other convicts had not… Although my conduct during all the time was exceptionally good still at the end of these six months I was not sent out of the jail; though the other convicts who came with me were.
…For those who are term convicts the thing is different, but Sir, I have 50 years staring me in the face! How can I pull up moral energy enough to pass them in close confinement when even those concessions which the vilest of convicts can claim to smoothen their life are denied to me?”
Savarkar was demanding better living conditions as a political prisoner like Azad demanded China plates and a cook who could cook food as per his liking. Azad deserved to be treated better but not Savarkar?
Azad further writes about the imprisonment of the congressmen in Ahmadnagar jail. “Our life was disrupted by new development. Cheetah Khan said he had received orders for the release of Dr Syed Mahmud. We were all surprised for we could not understand why was he singled out for such treatment. When Dr Syed Ahmed reached Patna he was interviewed by the press. He hinted that it was not clear to him why he had been released. The Government released to the press the letter Dr Syed Mahmud had written to the Viceroy from Ahmadnagar jail. The Government said that it was on the basis of this letter he was released.
Azad writes “When we read the letter in the Ahmadnagar jail we felt angry and humiliated. In his letter, he had written that he did not take part in the meetings of the AICC when the quit India movement resolution was passed. Mahmud was under the impression that his letter to the Viceroy would remain unknown. When the Government released the letter Mahmud was very upset and went to meet Gandhi ji. In all such matters, Gandhi ji had a generous nature. Gandhi ji issued a statement that although it was not right for Mahmud to write such a letter to the Viceroy without informing his friends, the Indian people should take note of his repentance and not judge him too harshly.
Gandhi ji was obviously a saint who understood human weakness and forgave Syed Mahmud the congressman who begged Viceroy for mercy and who according to Azad deserved to be the chief minister of Bihar. This entire episode throws a few questions for all of us.
Are there many more such incidents of congressmen who begged for mercy but boasted otherwise? Since our history has been sanitized by the Nehru Left clique all such incidents must have been suppressed.
Why have the torch bearers of truth about Savarkar never told us about Syed Mahmud? We all know how a lie repeated multiple times becomes the truth. Mahmud who was a prisoner for a much shorter duration compared to Savarkar ate food served on China plates by a cook of his liking. Despite better facilities, he wrote a mercy petition and then lied about it.
Yet Savarkar’s mercy petitions despite ten years of imprisonment including solitary confinement and denial of political prisoner privileges are unforgivable? He does not deserve to be called Veer.
What would you call the actions of Syed Mahmud? Acts of bravery purified by going to Gandhi and invoking Koran and Allah? (this is what Azad wrote). What about the modern-day revolutionary Kejriwal? Gandhi ji could forgive Mahmud. Hence he deserved to become a minister.
Savarkar can not be forgiven despite suffering ten years of imprisonment? Only congressmen deserve to be called Veer and are worthy of our respect and veneration?
Since I am quoting Azad let me quote him some more. I will let the reader decide what to make of these statements.
Azad writes “Sardar Patel belonged to the inner circle of Gandhi ji and was very dear to him. In fact, Sardar Patel owed his entire political existence to Gandhi ji. Among the important leaders of Congress, many had a political life even before Gandhi ji appeared on the scene. There were however two – Sardar Patel and Rajendra Prasad who were entirely the creation of Gandhi ji.
I always thought that Sardar Patel and Rajendra Prasad were popular leaders. Azad thought otherwise. What do I know?
Are not most of the leaders of the Congress party creations of Nehru Gandhi parivar?
Is this an old Congress tradition to make non-entities big leaders?
Before I read Azad’s autobiography, I had a very different opinion of him. In my eyes, he was a tall man who was fiercely anti-partition and a true secular congressman. Little did I know that he too was just a politician with petty jealousies and grievances.
In one place he blames Patel for partition then regrets not supporting Patel for the presidentship of the Congress party in 1946. Azad calls not supporting Patel for Congress party presidentship in 1946 the biggest blunder of his life.
Azad is kind to Nehru but hints that Nehru messed up. Reading this book I came to the firm conclusion that the sanitized history that has been fed to us needs to be challenged and rewritten.
I conclude by quoting Gandhi’s response to a question posed to him by a reporter “when you agreed to meet Mr Jinnah did you meet him on the basis that he was the sole representative of the Muslims?
Gandhi replied ”I have never admitted that claim but I have said throughout that the Muslim League is by far the most representative Muslim organization. It would have been folly on my part not to recognize that but I am always aware that there is outside the League a large body of Muslims which does not see eye to eye with the League and which does not believe in two nations theory.
This body of Muslims outside the League was a small minority. Its opinion carried no weight with the Muslim masses. It was totally ineffective in countering the League. This group of Muslims stayed back in India of their own volition and were richly rewarded for their contribution after1947.
Muslims in Muslim minority states like UP vociferously demanded partition and stood with Jinnah. Most of them stayed back to protect their properties and avoid the turmoil of post-partition Pakistan. Some of them went to Pakistan and came running back to India after seeing the misery there. These Leaguers and their progeny have changed their tune but not their mentality.
I am reminded of Pakistan’s MQM leader Altaf Hussein’s famous quote ”partition was the biggest blunder in the history of mankind”.
It is true that India can be better than what it is today. We need to provide our masses with more amenities. They deserve better food, clean water, clean toilets, good jobs, and good education. They deserve the protection of their lives, livelihood and property. They need a nation that runs on rule of law.
However, we can not have a nation that mocks the sacrifices of its armed forces by saying that they get paid for their services. We can not have film performers justify their personal and professional visits to Pakistan while that nation covets Kashmir and sends terrorists to India.
How do you expect an army person to fulfil his duty on the border and during internal disturbances when some people think that his life is cheap while mere trolling on Twitter makes their blood boil?
You want the prime minister of India to drop everything because somebody threatens you or your family on Twitter. You very well know the first step is to register a police complaint and not flaunt your self entitled VIP biceps. The law takes its own course provided you believe in the law and are law-abiding. Flaunting your VIP connections or your fame shows you consider yourself above the law.
You want to eat beef while the slaughter of cow is illegal in many states and hurts the religious sentiments of your fellow citizens who happen to be a gentle and tolerant majority. You do not care about their sentiments? If you want your civil rights to be respected you have civic duties too. In 1947 the Hindu majority could have done to the Muslim minority in India what Pakistani Muslim majority did to its Hindu minority in Pakistan, but it did not.
You say your generations have lived in some part of India and so you are a part of this land called India. What right did your co-religionists have to uproot the Hindus and Sikhs from their lands of many generations? Did you ever shed a tear for the sufferings of Hindu and Sikh families due to partition? Your cousins and uncles and aunts went to Pakistan and occupied the lands of Hindus and Sikhs while you stayed in India and safeguarded their and your property. You had the privilege to visit Pakistan and your cousins had the privilege to visit India but no Hindu or Sikh who came from Pakistan had this privilege. Your heart bleeds for Bangladeshi and Rohingya Muslims but it does not bleed for Kashmiri Pandits and Pakistani Hindus whose daughters are abducted and forcibly converted. Your blood boils about communal utterances of BJP & RSS but what the Azam Khans & Owaisis say is all good.
The law of Karma applies to everything. You are what you deserve and what you sow.