Congress’ anti-Modi politics continues its anti-Tilak/Aurobindo Legacy - V
Indian National Congress turns anti-Hindu: Unlike Gokhale, Ranade, Bhandarkar and Gandhi who readily followed the lead of the British government on the need for Hindu social reform, Tilak and Aurobindo considered the move a piece of great impertinence and unwarranted interference by an alien government in the internal dynamics of Hindu society. They also understood the Machiavellian intent to transform a political vehicle into a social reformist instrument.
Political freedom is the life breath of a nation; to attempt social reform, educational reform, industrial expansion, the moral improvement of the race without aiming first and foremost at political freedom, is the very height of ignorance and futility. (Aurobindo, The Doctrine of Passive Resistance, Bande Mataram, April 11-23, 1906, pp 85-86)
And if I were not fully confident that this fixed idea of ours is a snare and a delusion, likely to have the most pernicious effects, I should simply have suppressed my own doubts and remained silent.
I say of the Congress then this – that its aims are mistaken, that the spirit in which it proceeds towards their accomplishments is not a spirit of sincerity and whole heartedness, and that the methods it has chosen are not the right methods, and the leaders in whom it trusts, not the right sort of men to be leaders; in brief, that we are at present the blind led, if not by the blind, at any rate by the one-eyed. (Aurobindo, New Lamps for Old, Indu Prakash, Augus 28, 1893, page 15, Radha Rajan, Eclipse of the Hindu Nation: Gandhi and his Freedom Struggle, Chapter 1, A Hindu Nation but not a Hindu State, page 15)
Notwithstanding the touching scene in Richard Attenborough’s hagiographic film on the man, where Gandhi sits cross legged watching the crowd making a bonfire of foreign cloth, Tilak and Aurobindo’s Swaraj, Swadeshi and Boycott movement was a sustained and intense people’s movement for total rejection of anything and everything British – British goods, British courts, British jobs and British education; this, needless to say included British yarn and cloth.
The Swadeshi movement threatened British trade and immediately an unholy alliance was formed between the magistracy, the non-officials and the pious missionaries of Christ, to crush the new movement by every form of persecution and harassment. (Aurobindo, Lessons from Jamalpur, Bande Mataram, September 1, 1906, page 21; Radha Rajan Eclipse of the Hindu Nation, chapter 1, page 16)
Tilak who was arrested for sedition in 1898 and sentenced to 18 months imprisonment was revered and worshipped across the length and breadth of the country. Tilak was arrested for sedition on the ground that it was his writings which inspired the three Chapekar brothers Damodar, Balakrishna and Vasudev and their close associate Ranade to kill the much disliked British ICS officer Walter Rand in Pune on 22nd June 1897. People worshipped Tilak because they saw him as a fearless Hindu nationalist who wanted total independence from alien rule using all and every means.
The rage and outrage over Partition of Bengal in 1905 and the resulting Swaraj, Swadeshi and Boycott movement driven by Aurobindo and Tilak spread to other cities and provinces – Bombay, Poona, Madras, Central Provinces and even the Punjab. Tilak’s and Aurobindo’s writings fuelled immense and all-pervasive anger against British rule in India; the desire to forcefully end British Rule in India and achieve total independence influenced a significant section of the Indian National Congress too. The issue of who would be President of the 1906 Calcutta Congress exploded within the party at this juncture.
Even before the split in December 1907, the INC was sharply polarized into two ideological camps – one headed by empire loyalists Ranade, Gokhale and Dadabhai Naoroji and the other led by those who desired total political freedom - Tilak, Aurobindo, Bipin Chandra Pal and VO Chidambaram Pillai. When Gokhale’s empire loyalists’ camp realized that Tilak was the Nationalists’ choice for President, they decided to bring Dadabhai Naoroji from London to contest the post. Gokhale had made himself widely unpopular among the people for apologizing to the British government for the Swaraj, Swadeshi and Boycott movement; it had to be someone else and a person with enough stature to challenge Tilak’s nomination. Aurobindo cried foul and mercilessly lampooned The Indian Mirror, the Congress organ in Bengal and an ally of the government.
The Indian Mirror has chosen naturally enough to fall foul of Mr. Tilak. Mr. Tilak we learn, has seriously offended our contemporary by giving honour to Mr. Bhopatkar on his release from jail: his speeches on the Shivaji festival were displeasing to the thoughtful and enlightened men who congregate in the office of the Indian Mirror; and to sum up the whole matter, “he is a man of extreme views and without tact”. Ergo he is no fit man for the presidential chair of the Congress.
It is interesting to learn on this unimpeachable authority, what are the qualifications which the moderate and loyalist mind demands in a President of the ‘national’ Congress.
- It is not the great protagonist and champion of swadeshi in Western India.
- It is not the one man whom the whole Indian community in Western India delights to honour, from Peshawar to Kolhapur and from Bombay to our own borders; but
- It is one who will not talk about Shivaji and Bhavani – but only about Mahatmas.
His social and religious views may not agree with those of the “enlightened”, but we have yet to learn that the Congress platform is sacred to advanced social reformers, that the profession of the Hindu religion is a bar to leadership in its ranks.
It follows therefore that the Presidentship was unconstitutionally offered to Mr. Naoroji by one or two individuals behind the back of the Reception Committee. It is now explained that Mr. Naoroji simply wired his willingness to accept the Presidentship offered to him.
The plea that it had long been known Mr. Naoroji was coming to India and it was therefore thought fit to ask him to preside at the Congress, is one which will command no credit. Not until Mr. Tilak’s name was before the country and they saw that none of their mediocrities they had suggested could weigh in the scale with the great Maratha leader. (A Disingenuous Defense, September 14, 1906, Bande Mataram, Eclipse of the Hindu Nation, pp 155-57)
The Bhopatkar to whom Aurobindo makes reference was Bhaskar Balwant Bhopatkar, elder brother of Laxman Balwant Bhopatkar, President of Hindu Mahasabha, Gorakhpur, 1946 who would defend Savarkar in 1948 after he was arrested and jailed for Gandhi’s assassination. BB Bhopatkar was editor of the political journalBhala (Marathi for spear) who was jailed for six months on charges of sedition. http://indiankanoon.org/doc/1226739/
A similar coup d’etat was attempted in October 1911 when a private suggestion was made to Gandhi after his personally gratifying London visit in 1909 and now the author of the “banned” Hind Swaraj, to accept the Presidentship of the INC; with no Tilak and Aurobindo to contend with, Gandhi was impatient to return to India for a more ambitious political role within the INC and wired his acceptance with alacrity. He had to withdraw his acceptance when it was communicated to him that it was merely an enquiry and not an offer.
It was because Tilak met BB Bhopatkar, imprisoned for anti-empire actions, after his release from jail in August that the empire loyalists in the INC did not want him as President of the INC and invited Dadabhai Naoroji from London to preside over the 1906 Calcutta Congress. Gopalkrishna Gokhale did not want the unapologetic Hindu nationalist Tilak as President of the INC in 1906. In 1914 when Tilak returned to India after six years’ imprisonment in Mandalay, and Gandhi was still in London, Gokhale was so afraid that the INC would turn to Tilak for leadership, that Gokhale told Tilak that he was not welcome into the INC and added gratuitously that Tilak should do whatever he wanted to do by staying outside the INC.
Years later just so would Gandhi expel Hindu nationalists NB Khare and KM Munshi from the Congress – both for the same reason. They were Hindus.
In 1938 Gandhi forced the Congress Working Committee to expel NB Khare, the Prime Minister of the Central Provinces on the pretext that Khare as Prime Minister had dared to deal directly with the Governor of the province by-passing and without consulting the Working Committee or Parliamentary Board (read Gandhi). What this actually meant was Khare refused to allow Gandhi to play puppet master. After his expulsion from the Congress Khare remained in active politics in very high positions and later became a prominent leader of the Hindu Mahasabha. This gives rise to the suspicion that Gandhi expelled NB Khare from the INC because of Khare’s latent Hindu nationalism.
Just how vicious Gandhi could be in words and action when his despotism was challenged is demonstrated by what Gandhi said after expelling NB Khare from the Congress:
Dr. Khare was not only guilty of gross indiscipline in flouting the warnings of the Parliamentary Board, but he betrayed incompetence as a leader by allowing himself to be fooled by the Governor, or not knowing that by his precipitate action he was compromising the Congress. He heightened the measure of indiscipline by refusing the advice of the Working Committee to make a frank confession of his guilt and withdraw from leadership.
And this is how Gandhi justified his role as circus ring-master, puppet-master and remote control:
Let us understand the functions of the Congress. For internal growth and administration, it is as good a democratic organization as any to be found in the world. But this democratic organization has been brought into being to fight the greatest imperial power living. For this external work, therefore, it has to be like an army. As such it ceases to be democratic. The central authority possesses plenary powers enabling it to impose and enforce discipline on the various units working under it. Provincial organizations and Provincial Parliamentary Boards are subject to the central authority (meaning Gandhi).
Therefore the Congress conceived as a fighting machine has to centralize control and guide every department and every Congressman, however highly placed and expect unquestioned obedience. That fight cannot be fought on any other terms. They say this is fascism pure and simple. But they forget fascism is the naked sword. Under it Dr. Khare should lose his head. (Excerpts from Functions of the Working Committee, August 6, 1938, CWMG Vol. 73, pp 344-49, Eclipse of the Hindu Nation, page 499-504)
Contemporary experts and exponents of swadeshi should face up to the fact that Gandhi the despot controlling the INC declared in no uncertain language that even for purposes of administration the central committee of the INC was authoritarian, had to be authoritarian in character, in the interest of better administration! And refusing to acknowledge that he was being fascist in his work culture, Gandhi retorts that under fascism Khare would have lost his head; but being the Mahatma, all that he did was expel him from the Congress.
There was no Central or Provincial Congress Working Committee or any Parliamentary Board; there was only Gandhi. Gandhi, as has been demonstrated all through the monograph, controlled the Congress with an iron hand. Gandhi emasculated the INC and the Hindus of the country with the same iron hand and while this iron hand never lifted a finger against the British government or the Muslim League, it struck with force anyone who challenged him, his power or expressed dissent. With Gandhi dissent was equal to disloyalty.
Shri KM Munshi came to me as soon as it was possible after his return to Bombay. In the course of the discussion, I discovered that whilst he accepted in the abstract the principle of ahimsa with all its implications he felt the greatest difficulty in acting upon it, the more so as with his intimate knowledge of Bombay he was sure he could not carry the Hindus with him, much less the Muslims. He knew that the numerous Hindus who were under his influence would look to him for guidance and would seek his advice. He saw no way of convincing them that they could defend themselves through ahimsa….I advised him that the only dignified and brave course for him was to resign from the Congress and attain freedom of action unhampered by restrictions entailed by the Congress non-violence. (Statement to the Press, Sevagram, June 15, 1941, CWMG Vol. 80 page 311)
In the end when Bengal and the whole of North India was burning in jihadi fire, and when Bengal under the rule of the Muslim League demonstrated what Muslim rule was in content and in action, Gandhi was forced to confess that his ahimsa, his non-violence, his passive resistance had failed; that he had failed. The Congress Creed of non-violence which he imposed upon the entire Hindu nation stood by helplessly and watched Gandhi wring his hands as the Muslim League walked away with Pakistan.
Have been awake since 2 AM. God’s grace alone is sustaining me. I can see there is some grave defect in me somewhere which is the cause for all this. All around me is utter darkness. When will God take me out of this darkness into His light?
There must be some serious flaw deep down in me which I am unable to discover. Where could I have missed my way? There must be something terribly lacking in my ahimsa and faith which is responsible for all this. (Extract from Diary, January 2, 1947, CWMG Vol. 93, page 227)
Gandhi lost a few nights’ sleep but the Hindu Nation lost territory and Hindus were politically disempowered. Gandhi’s political principles of satyagraha and ahimsa had absolutely no impact on the Muslim League as was proved repeatedly from 1893 to 1948; That it had no effect on the British Government too was known to Gandhi from the beginning. Gandhi began his official political career in India two years after his return in 1915 with satyagraha or passive resistance campaign he undertook in Champaran and Khera.
Gandhi had to replace Tilak as leader of INC, Aurobindo as thinker and replace armed resistance with passive resistance. That the British Government was hand-in-glove with Gandhi and Gandhi’s empire loyalist supporters in the INC is now known. What was claimed as a resounding success of Gandhi’s first passive resistance against the British on Indian soil proved to be just a backroom deal between Gandhi and the Viceroy: Grant me my demands in Kheda and I will be your recruiting agent for putting together an Indian army for the First World War, said Gandhi.
In pursuance of my declaration at the Conference yesterday, I wish to respectfully state that I place my services at the disposal of the authorities to be utilized by them in any manner they choose, save that I personally will not kill or injure anybody friend or foe. But it would be better perhaps if I were to state how in my opinion my services may best be used.
Further I desire relief regarding the Kaira (Kheda) trouble. Relief will entirely disengage me from that preoccupation which I may not entirely set aside. It will also enable me to fall back for war purposes upon my co-workers in Kaira and it may enable me to get recruits from the district. I suggest that action in this matter be taken as war measure. This will obviate the fear of the relief being regarded as precedent. (Excerpt from Letter to the Viceroy, Delhi April 29, 1918, CWMG Vol. 17, pp7-10)
The last sentence is significant and exposes Gandhi’s first satyagraha in India for what it was. Gandhi wrote to the Viceroy saying that the Viceroy should grant the demands being made in the Kheda satyagraha as a war measure and that he (the Viceroy) therefore need not think the relief which the Viceroy will give now will set a precedent – that the British government will concede to any demand if people undertake satyagraha.
(For the full text of how Gandhi went about asking the people of Kheda to enlist in large numbers to prove to the British that “you bear no hostility to government”, please read Appeal for Enlistment, Nadiad, June 22, 1918, CWMG Vo. 17, pp 83-87)
The other enclosure contains my offer. You will do with it what you like. I would like to do something which Lord Chelmsford would consider to be real war work. I have an idea, that if I became your recruiting agent-in-chief, I might rain men on you. Forgive me for the impertinence. (Letter to JL Maffey, Secretary to the Viceroy, October 1918, CWMG Vol. 17, pp 12-13)
So Gandhi knew from as early as 1918 that his passive resistance will not work with the British. Much later, in 1931 Viceroy Irwin would confirm how the British manipulated empire loyalist Gandhi to attain their objectives.
In the course of the short discussion we had about this (calling off civil disobedience as part of Gandhi-Irwin pact), he revealed what I have by now discovered as the right method of dealing with him. He said: “When you or Mr. Emerson use your best arguments it does not always have much effect on me, but when you tell me that your Government is in difficulty, and cannot do what I want, then I am inclined to capitulate to you. - SD. Irwin, 4-3-31. (Interview with Viceroy, March 3, 1931, CWMG vol. 51, page 201)
While Dadabhai Naoroji was nominated President of the Calcutta Congress in 1906 after a bitter public battle over the issue, the empire loyalists came better prepared for the Surat Congress in December 1907. The INC split in Surat and the empire loyalists promptly disbarred and evicted all Hindu nationalists from the Indian National Congress. Reacting promptly, and as if on cue, and rightly interpreting the split to mean that the Nationalists had no organizational support and backing, the British government arrested Aurobindo and sent him to prison in May 1908 and a month later, Tilak was arrested on June 24 and transported to Mandalay. The Hindu nationalist faction of the INC did not survive the brutal crackdown and empire loyalist Gopalkrishna Gokhale regained full control of the INC by the end of 1908.
Gandhi had to return in 1915
Gandhi left for London in 1888 to pursue his higher education, returned to India in 1891, and instead of establishing himself as lawyer in India set sail for South Africa in 1893. Gandhi returned again to India in 1901 and once again inexplicably went back to South Africa in 1902. The grooming of Gandhi for Mahatmahood would soon begin.
Gandhi was in South Africa for twenty-one years between 1893 and 1914 – period when racial segregation under Dutch and British colonial rule was putting down deep roots; this segregation would become ‘apartheid’ – the virulent and entrenched official policy of social and political enslavement of the native black people. And yet when Gandhi returned to India in January 1915, the country was told that his non-violent passive resistance in South Africa had yielded spectacular results for rights of Indian migrants – a fiction that has largely remained unexamined and disproved.
Gen. Smuts helped in the development of the fiction by arresting Gandhi on a few occasions to provide the empire loyalists in India an opportunity to speak about Gandhi’s saintliness and the success of non-violence. The South African government, Imperial London, the British government in India and the empire loyalists prepared the ground for Gandhi to take over the INC. They were in hurry because Tilak’s imprisonment would end in 1914 and he would return home. The INC after the exit of Tilak and Aurobindo was rudderless, without direction and purpose. So, pinning the halo of “the saint” around his head Gen. Smuts pushed Gandhi out of South Africa.
Gandhi left the shores of South Africa on July 18, 1914 but he did not sail to India. He traveled to England where he remained for the next six months. It is not clear why Gandhi chose not to return to India directly from South Africa but spent six months in Britain unless he had to meet important Hindus and Parsis in London and important British government officials to reassure them about his commitment of loyalty to the empire and his unflinching commitment to non-violence.
This alone would re-direct the INC which under Tilak and Aurobindo had become a militant political vehicle not averse to advocating picking up arms for total political freedom, into a pacifist, wimpish, de-Hinduised and de-politicised body to gather under its fold the majority Hindu populace with false promises of ‘swaraj’.
Gandhi the fawning Empire Loyalist unto the last
About 11 English-speaking Indians of Durban met together at few hours’ notice on the 17th inst. to consider the desirability of unreservedly and unconditionally offering their services to the Government or the Imperial authorities in connection with the hostilities now pending between the Imperial government and the two Republics in South Africa. The motive underlying this humble offer is to endeavour to prove that, in common with other subjects of the Queen-Empress in South Africa, the Indians too are ready to do duty for their Sovereign on the battlefield. The offer is meant to be an earnest of the Indian loyalty.
I venture to trust that our prayer would be granted; a favour for which the petitioners will be ever grateful and which would, in my opinion, be a link to bind closer still the different parts of the mighty empire of which we are so proud.
I have the honour to be Sir, your obedient servant,
(The Indian Offer, Durban, October 19, 1899, CWMG Vol 2, pp 316-17)
On February 2, 1901 Gandhi laid a wreath on the pedestal of the statue of Queen Victoria in Durban and addressed a memorial meeting, paying tributes to the late Queen.
Mr. MK Gandhi dwelt on the noble virtues of the late Queen. He referred to the Indian Proclamation of 1858 and the Queen’s deep interest in Indian affairs – how she commenced the study of Hindusthani language at a ripe age, and how, although she herself could not go to India to be in the midst of her beloved people, she sent her sons and grandsons to represent her. (Mourning the Queen’s death, February 1, 1901, CWMG, Vol. 2, page 388)
On April 24, 1906, Gandhi offers to set up the Indian Ambulance Corps to serve the government in its war against the Zulu peoples in the Bambatha Uprising. The Natal government accepts Gandhi’s offer. Gandhi and the Indian Ambulance Corps take the pledge of allegiance:
We, the undersigned, solemnly and sincerely declare that we will be faithful and bear true allegiance to His Majesty King Edward the Seventh, His Heirs and Successors, and that we will faithfully serve in the supernumerary list of the Active Militia Force of the Colony of Natal as stretcher-bearers until we shall lawfully cease to be members thereof – SD. MK Gandhi, Um Sehlat, HI Joshi and sixteen others (CWMG Vol. 5 page 262)
Gandhi’s adulatory greetings to King George on his coronation on June 22, 1911 and his panegyric references to King George the man and to the nobility of the British constitution is too long and too cloyingly fawning to be reproduced here even as excerpts. Gandhi concluded his Ode to King George with these words:
The British constitution permits one to seek this freedom. The British Emperor must wish that all his subjects get such freedom, such is the British way. And there are Englishmen who sincerely strive to act on these principles according to their own lights. We can therefore and ought to remain loyal to the British Emperor, our grievances notwithstanding. (Indian Opinion, 24-6-1911, CWMG Vol. 11, pp 451-52)
The Hindu nation knows now to its everlasting dismay that Gandhi lived up to the pledge he made in 1906 as leader of the Indian Ambulance Corps to bear true allegiance to King Edward the Seventh and all His Heirs and Successors; but this knowledge came too late and only several decades after 1947.
The first thing which Gandhi did after he stopped over in London in 1914 for six months before returning to India in January 1915, was to pledge his loyalty to the empire again.
We, the undersigned, have after mature deliberation, decided for the sake of the Motherland and the Empire to place our services unconditionally, during this crisis, at the disposal of the Authorities. We advisedly use the word ‘unconditionally’ as we believe that, at a moment like this, no service that can be assigned to us can be considered to be beneath our dignity or inconsistent with our self-respect.
MK Gandhi, Kasturba Gandhi and Sarojini Naidu and fifty others (A Confidential Circular, CWMG Vol. 14, page 284)
Not just in South Africa and not just during the early years after his return to India in 1915, Gandhi remained an empire loyalist even in 1942 – all during the years when he led the freedom movement, even when he called for ‘Swaraj’ in Nagpur and when he called for Purna Swaraj in Lahore. Till 1942 when Gandhi knew that Subhash Bose’s ascent in political arena was unstoppable even after his expulsion from the INC and therefore made the dramatic Quit India proclamation, Gandhi remained an empire loyalist.
I mention it as an earnest of my desire to be true to the British nation, to be true to the Empire. I mention it to testify that when that Empire forfeited my trust, the Englishman who was its Viceroy came to know of it. (Gandhi’s Quit India speech in Bombay, August 8, 1942)
Gandhi’s eyes may have opened finally in 1942 to the truth that the Muslim League always knew, the truth that Tilak and Aurobindo saw as early as 1905; when in 1942 Gandhi finally accepted that the British cannot be trusted, it was already too late for the Hindu nation and the Muslim League succeeded in its political objective.
(To be continued...)
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