Congress’ anti-Modi politics continues its anti-Tilak/Aurobindo legacy – IV
by Radha Rajan on 27 Dec 2013 4 Comments

The anti-Hindu ways of the Indian National Congress first manifested itself in August 1906 over the issue of who should be nominated for President-ship of the Calcutta Congress in December. Exactly one year later, in December 1907, the INC would split in Surat on the same issue! And it was on the same issue of who would be President, Nehru or Sardar Patel, that Gandhi in 1946 drove his anti-Hindu sword fatally into the Hindu body.


It was generally accepted in the CWC that the person who would be elected President in 1946 would become the Prime Minister of the country after independence. Gandhi in typical manner of all despots overruled the will of the majority Pradesh Congress Committees who wanted Sardar Patel as President and instead unilaterally chose his blue-eyed boy Nehru for the post; but instead of communicating his preference directly to Patel, Gandhi asked JB Kripalani to order Patel to withdraw his nomination.


It is besides the point that Patel did not nominate himself and Gandhi was not even a half-anna member of the INC. Therefore if Gandhi did not have the organizational locus standi to ask Patel to step aside ignoring the clearly laid-down democratic procedure for selecting the President and in the process undermining the authority of the Pradesh Congress Committees, then Patel too did not have the right to unilaterally withdraw his nomination just because the Mahatma asked him to; but that was the Mahatma, that was the spineless Congress and that was Patel and other luminaries of the INC who like Bhishma failed to make the critical distinction between national interest and the Mahatma’s self-interest.


The tussle for President-ship in 1906 came at a time following Lord Curzon’s Partition of Bengal in October 1905. Aurobindo with his brother Barin Ghosh, Bhupendranath Datta, younger brother of Swami Vivekananda, and other revolutionaries of Jugantar, an off-shoot of Anusilan Samiti, launched the Swaraj, Swadeshi and Boycott movement which was hailed and supported by Lokmanya Tilak, the most towering political leader at that time, with an unsurpassed mass following across provinces.


It is not mere coincidence that both Aurobindo and Tilak embarked upon their mission to Hindu-ise the INC in 1893 – Aurobindo with his merciless and brilliant political writings which began in 1893 through Old Lamps for New in Indu Prakash and Bande Mataram and Tilak through his blistering political commentary in Kesri and Mahratta and also by galvanizing Hindus in a ten day long public celebration of Ganesh Utsav – the Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav which also began in September 1893. Both Aurobindo and Tilak used Hindu religious symbols and metaphors to awaken in the people a passionate desire for political freedom; the British government considered Tilak and Aurobindo the two most dangerous threats to continuing British rule because they were infusing Hindu nationalism into the INC and thus subverting the very purpose for which the INC was created.


The Age of Consent Bill in 1891, moved by Sir Andrew Scoble, seeking to raise the marriageable age of Hindu girls from 10 to 12 years, and violent Muslim protests to Ganesh Utsav in August 1893 in Mumbai, and the ensuing Hindu-Muslim riots which left 80 people dead and over 500 people injured, goaded Tilak and Aurobindo to mobilize and organize Hindus into a cohesive social and political force and to transform the INC into a political vehicle to serve Indian interests.


The British government, sensing the dangers of heightened political consciousness and growing voices for independence from colonial rule resulting from the First War of Independence in 1857, got AO Hume, a retired ICS officer, to manufacture the Indian National Congress in 1885. The British Empire wanted to re-direct political consciousness among Indians to serve the cause of the Empire.


English-educated Indians - rich and influential Hindus (MG Ranade, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Aurobindo Ghosh, Gopalkrishna Gokhale, MK Gandhi, Surendranath Bannerjea) and rich and influential Parsis (Pherozeshah Mehta, Dadabhai Naoroji, Dinshaw Wacha and Mancherjee Bhownagree) who were educated in London or in Europe and in the best British educational institutions in India, (Elphinstone College, Fergusson College, Deccan College, Bombay University, Presidency College in Madras and Calcutta and the Kumbakonam College), were given leadership positions in the INC.


The President-ship of the INC remained with white British citizens and the rich and influential English educated Hindus and Parsis; and this group of empire loyalists including Gandhi who by 1905 was already quite vocal in his political views, and which perceived both Tilak and Aurobindo as being obstacles to their own rise within the British administration, did nothing to challenge or stop the British government when it removed Tilak and Aurobindo forcibly from political public life.


The INC, both leaders and members, until the advent of Gandhi, was limited to English educated Indians; after Gandhi returned to India from South Africa wearing around his head the halo of “the saint” donated by Gen. Smuts, membership of the INC included all sections of Indian society but the leadership remained with Gandhi and Gandhi alone until vivisection of the Hindu nation in 1947. After Gandhi the leadership of the INC, as manipulated by the Mahatma, passed on to Nehru and has since remained almost exclusively with Nehru’s family.  


Many influential Hindus and Parsis were also co-opted into the British government and administration – as Judges, advocates in the Bar and as members of the Governor-General’s Council and Viceroy’s Council. One such Parsi judge was Dinshaw Davar who sentenced Tilak in 1909 for seditious speech and writing to six years transportation to Mandalay. Judge Davar, the empire loyalist, at the time of sentencing, observed –

The two articles are seething with sedition, they preach violence and only a diseased mind, a most perverted mind can think that the articles that you (Tilak) have written are legitimate articles to write in political agitation.


Soon after Justice Davar sentenced Tilak to six years imprisonment in Mandalay, Imperial Britain rewarded Justice Davar with knighthood; Dinshaw Davar, as reward for services rendered to the British government, became Sir Dinshaw Davar.


Gandhi echoed Justice Davar’s observations about Tilak’s and Aurobindo’s writings when he was asked to comment on Madanlal Dhingra’s assassination of Sir Curzon Wyllie, Private Secretary to Lord Morley in London, in July 1909. Not daring to name Tilak, Aurobindo or Savarkar, Gandhi remarked –

Mr. Dhingra’s defense is inadmissible. In my view he has acted like a coward. He was egged on to do this act by ill-digested reading of worthless writings. It is those who incited him to do this that deserve to be punished. In my view Mr. Dhingra himself is innocent. The murder was committed in a state of intoxication. It is not merely wine or bhang that makes one drunk; a mad idea also can do so.  (CWMG Vol.9 pp 428-29; Radha Rajan, Eclipse of the Hindu Nation, pp 117-118)


What Gandhi called a “mad idea” was total independence from alien rule by any and all means. Tilak summed it up in one sentence – Swaraj is my birthright and I shall have it. Aurobindo expressed the urgent need for political freedom no less brilliantly:

Liberty is the life breath of a nation, and when that life is attacked, when it is sought to suppress all chance of breathing by violent pressure, then any and every means of self-preservation becomes right and justifiable – just as it is lawful for a man who is being strangled, to rid himself of the pressure on his throat by any means in his power. It is the nature of the pressure that determines the nature of the resistance. (The Doctrine of Passive Resistance, part 3, Its Necessity, Bande Mataram, April 11-27, 1907, pp 97-98)


During his years in South Africa, because he had already positioned himself as fawning empire loyalist and had also positioned himself against those desiring to redirect the INC towards political freedom, Gandhi was promoted by other powerful empire loyalists, the rich and influential Hindus and Parsis of the INC and by Imperial London as the rising leader of the INC who would one day inherit the mantle from Gopalkrishna Gokhale and Dadabhai Naoroji. Gandhi, emboldened by this support, arrogated to himself the status to comment upon towering Hindu nationalists of the time although he had little to show for himself except motivated propaganda about his saintliness which included a biography penned by Joseph Doke, a Christian priest in South Africa.


Another timely biography on Gandhi, The Christ of the Indian Road by another Christian missionary, Stanley Jones was published in 1925. According to Wikipedia, Eli Stanley Jones (1884–1973) was a 20th-century Methodist Christian missionary and theologian. He is remembered chiefly for his inter-religious lectures to the educated classes in India, thousands of which were held across the Indian subcontinent during the first decades of the 20th century. According to his and other contemporary reports, his friendship for the cause of Indian self-determination allowed him to become a friend of leaders of the up-and-coming Indian National Congress. He spent much time with Mohandas K. Gandhi, and the Nehru family. He is also the founder of the Christian Ashram movement.


Reacting to Dhingra’s assassination of Curzon Wyllie, when Gandhi remarked that those who incited Dhingra to pick up arms against the British government deserved to be punished, he was referring to Savarkar. Tilak was imprisoned in Mandalay and Aurobindo who was arrested in 1908 in the Alipore Bomb Case (not for planting the bomb, but like Tilak for his passionate writings demanding political freedom), was released in May 1909 and had retreated to Pondicherry to safely pursue spirituality. Only Savarkar remained and Gandhi wanted him removed too.


But Gandhi could not speak contemptuously of Tilak, not when he was already plotting to come back to India to lead the INC. So the Mahatma, like Brutus, spoke from both sides of his mouth soon after Tilak was sentenced to six years in prison and was transported out of his homeland. In perfect imitation of Brutus who praised Caesar from one side of his mouth and damned him with the other side, Gandhi made laudatory remarks about Tilak in one breath and damned him in another.


The original Brutus


Romans, countrymen and lovers! Hear me for the cause and be silent that you may hear.

Believe me for mine honour and have respect to mine honour that you may believe.

Censure me in your wisdom and awake your senses that you may the better judge.

If there be any in this assembly, any dear friend of Caesar’s, to him I say,

That Brutus’ love to Caesar was no less than his.

If then that friend demand why Brutus rose against Caesar, this is my answer:

Not that I loved Caesar less but that I loved Rome more.

As Caesar loved me, I weep for him; as he was fortunate I rejoice at it;

As he was valiant, I honour him; but as he was ambitious, I slew him.


Mahatma Brutus about Tilak and Bhagat Singh


The sentence passed on Tilak, the great patriot, is terrible. The few days’ imprisonment which the Transvaal Indians suffer is as nothing compared to transportation for six years. The sentence is not so much surprising as terrible. At the same time it is nothing to be unhappy about. It is not surprising that the government we seek to defy should inflict oppressive measures on us. Mr. Tilak is so great a man and scholar that it would be impertinent in this country to write about his work. He deserves to be adored for his work in the service of the motherland.


Yet we should not blindly follow the policies of those whom we regard as great. It would be casting a reflection on Mr. Tilak’s greatness to argue that his writings had no bitterness in them or to offer some such defense. Pungent, bitter and penetrating writing was his objective. He aimed at inciting Indians against British rule. To attempt to minimize this would be to detract from Mr. Tilak’s greatness.


The rulers are justified from their point of view in taking action against such a man. We would do the same in their place. If we look at the matter thus, we realize that we need not feel bitter towards them. Mr. Tilak however deserves our congratulations.


What we need to consider is whether Indians should accept the views of Mr. Tilak and his party. We submit, after great deliberation, that Mr. Tilak’s views should be rejected. It will be harmful, even useless, to use force or violence for uprooting that rule.


If the same workers who went on strike in protest against the sentence on Mr. Tilak were to become satyagrahis, they would be able to get the government to agree to any reasonable demands. (Indian Opinion, 1-8-1908, CWMG Vol. 9, pp 28-29, Eclipse of the Hindu Nation, pp 138-139)


Reasonable demands. Not total political freedom. Gandhi was faithfully parroting the lines given to him by the same powerful clique of empire loyalists in the INC who were promoting him and grooming him as future leader. “Reasonable demands” was greater participation within the government and gradual movement towards Home Rule. Total political freedom, by inference was an unreasonable demand.  


Gandhi about Bhagat Singh privately to Lord Irwin


What Gandhi told Lord Irwin privately, during backroom negotiations with the Viceroy before signing the Gandhi-Irwin Pact, and as recorded by Gandhi’s private secretary Mahadev Desai and which was not known to the INC and to the ordinary people of the country:

I said about Bhagat Singh: “He is undoubtedly a brave man but I would certainly say that he is not in his right mind. However, this is the evil of capital punishment, that it gives no opportunity to such a man to reform himself. I am putting this matter before you as a humanitarian issue and desire suspension of sentence in order that there may not be unnecessary turmoil in the country. I myself would release him, but I cannot expect any government to do so. I would not take it ill even if you do not give any reply to this issue. (Eclipse of the Hindu Nation, page 273)


And this is what Gandhi said publicly from the other side of his mouth:


Brave Bhagat Singh and his two associates have been hanged. Many attempts were made to save their lives, and even some hopes were entertained, but all was in vain. Bhagat Singh did not wish to live. He refused to apologize; declined to file an appeal.


These heroes had conquered the fear of death. Let us bow to them a thousand times for their heroism. But we should not imitate their act. I am not prepared to believe that the country has benefitted from their action. I can see only the harm that has been done. We could have won swaraj long ago if that line of action had not been pursued and we could have waged a purely non-violent struggle.


By making a dharma of violence, we shall be reaping the fruit of our own actions. Hence though we praise the courage of these brave men, we should never countenance their activities.


And what Gandhi said at the Karachi Congress in March 1931


There can be therefore no excuse for suspicion that I did not want to save Bhagat Singh. But I want you also to realize Bhagat Singh’s error.


I declare that we cannot win swaraj for our famishing millions, for our deaf and dumb, for our lame and crippled, by the way of the sword.


A political culture of fawning sycophancy which equates dissent with disloyalty has not enquired why political freedom won for the whole country by the sword should not include the famishing millions, the deaf and the dumb, the lame and the crippled unless Gandhi’s swaraj was not political freedom but something else, something that was different from what Tilak and Aurobindo wanted for us.


Now contrast this to what Aurobindo said in 1906 almost as if in response to Gandhi’s determined attempts to disarm and incapacitate the INC:

Justice and righteousness are the atmosphere of political morality; but the justice and righteousness of a fighter, not of the priest. Aggression is unjust only when unprovoked; violence unrighteous when used wantonly for unrighteous ends. It is barren philosophy which applies a mechanical rule to all actions, or takes a word (in this case non-violence or Gandhi’s ahimsa) and tries to fit all human life into it. The sword of the warrior is as necessary to the fulfillment of justice and righteousness as the holiness of the saint. Therefore says Srikrishna in the Mahabharata, God created battle and armour, the sword, the bow and the dagger.  


Indian National Congress turns away from political freedom and towards social reform      


RG Bhandarkar was another English-educated Hindu who obtained his Ph.D from the Gottingen University in Germany. He was also a member of the Governor-General’s Council and like Judge Dinshaw Davar was knighted by Imperial Britain; Bhandarkar was knighted Companion of the Indian Empire (CIE) by King George V in 1911 for his significant role in turning the INC away from the political objective of total independence so radically and clearly laid out by Tilak and Aurobindo and towards non-political goals; specifically towards social reform of Hindus and Hindu society.


RG Bhandarkar besides being an Indologist was also a social reformer, a marvelous new species of Hindus, exemplified by Raja Ram Mohan Roy, emerging from the womb of English education in the 19th century. Bhandarkar and MG Ranade were both among the first batch of graduates to pass out of Bombay University. Bhandarkar’s connection to the Congress and the power to influence the Congress to take up social reform issues was through Pherozeshah Mehta who was also an alumnus of Elphinstone College and through Ranade because of their years together in the Bombay University.


In short, all English educated Hindus in the INC with the exception of Tilak and Aurobindo, were empire loyalists (and Gandhi the most adoringly loyal of them all) and therefore independence from colonial rule was not the objective of the INC. The only political objective of these Hindus and Parsis (and also Gandhi’s objective until 1942) was greater Indian participation in the colonial government with some degree of self-rule. In a farsighted move which plagued the INC during the Gandhi years, and which weakened the political character of the INC vis-à-vis the Muslim League, Imperial London persuaded the Hindu leaders of the INC to push for social reforms in Hindu society.


As if to prove that Gandhi was being groomed to take over the leadership of the INC from Gopalkrishna Gokhale and Dadabhai Naoroji and also proving the point that integral to this grooming was positioning Gandhi against Tilak and Aurobindo, when Gandhi came to India from South Africa in 1896, he traveled to Bombay, Pune, Madras, Calcutta and Nagpur and the people he met were MG Ranade, Gokhale, Badruddin Tyabji, Pherozeshah Mehta, RG Bhandarkar and Surendranath Banerjea!  


The far-sighted move to turn the INC away from political objectives and towards social reform began with the Age of Consent Bill, 1891. London hoped that after the major breakthrough achieved with the passing of the Age of Consent Bill, the new breed of Hindu social reformers would keep the INC preoccupied with reforming their society with other issues – child marriage, widow re-marriage, and fighting the “evil of caste system”; the list was long and hopefully the INC would have little time for politics. Imperial London created the Indian National Congress which was political enough to serve the British Empire but which was fast becoming a social reformist vehicle.


Under Gandhi the list of issues which needed ‘social reform’ grew longer and the Indian National Congress would take up handspun cloth symbolized by the charkha, untouchability, and temple entry too as its agenda; Gandhi would also use the INC to promote Hindi as national language. Gandhi’s swaraj, as early as the beginning of the 1920s decade was not Tilak’s and Aurobindo’s swaraj; it was certainly not political freedom. Gandhi’s swaraj was a mixed bag of social reform, self reform and mindboggling gobbledegook.


Real Home Rule is self-rule or self-control. The way to it is passive resistance: that is soul-force or love-force. If we bear in mind the above fact, we can see that, if we (the individual) become free, India is free. And in this thought you have a definition of swaraj. It is swaraj when we learn to rule ourselves.  


But such swaraj has to be experienced by each one for himself. Now you will have seen that it is not necessary for us to have as our goal the expulsion of the English. (Hind Swaraj, Chapter XVII, How can India become free, Eclipse of the Hindu Nation, page 196)


Much later Gandhi would exhort the Bengal revolutionaries and after Bose’s death the dispirited soldiers of the INA to become farmers and grow more food for the “famishing millions” just as he exhorted every member of the INC to spin cloth to clothe the naked. As Gandhi enmeshed the INC and ordinary Hindus of the country who had no other political vehicle other than the INC, deeper and deeper in social reform issues, the country’s sarkari historians never asked the question how many hours did Gandhi spend in the fields growing food, how much cloth did he weave on the charkha, how many toilets did he clean and which of his four sons married a harijan.


Gandhi sold ordinary Hindus the lemon that social reform and self-control alone would get us swaraj which ordinary Hindus thought was political freedom and while these mis-guided Hindus spun furiously on the charkha, and came to the streets for Gandhi’s swaraj and were killed or jailed for the freedom that never came, Gandhi alone in the INC did politics while other luminaries stood by silently in mindless admiration or utter helplessness.


In the light of Gandhi’s definition of swaraj, his call for swaraj during the Nagpur Congress in 1920 held in the wake of Tilak’s passing away and his farcical repeat call for “purna swaraj’ at the Lahore Congress in 1929, held in the wake of Bhagat Singh’s arrest for throwing a bomb into the Central Assembly where Gandhi declared he will have swaraj within one year exposed Gandhi for what he was - an empire loyalist until 1942. For three decades the INC under Gandhi’s leadership wanted to remain within the British Empire. Gandhi confused the nation by giving different names to Tilak’s swaraj – first self-rule, then Home-Rule and in the end Dominion Status; none of these was total political freedom as desired by Aurobindo and Tilak, the last of the Hindu nationalists.


Just as Gandhi undertook the meaningless Dandi March to distract the nation’s attention away from Bhagat Singh who was languishing in jail and almost certain to be hanged, Gandhi was forced to issue his “Quit India” call in August 1942 because he had expelled Subhash Bose from the INC and the Indian National Army was formed in February 1942. After 1942 both Gandhi and the INC became irrelevant to the course of events which overtook them. A determined Muslim League took the lead and pushed and manipulated Gandhi’s “freedom struggle” towards creation of Pakistan. The Muslim League succeeded in its objective because important Hindu leaders in the INC remained more loyal to Gandhi than to the Hindu Nation and ordinary Hindus inside and outside the Congress never knew where Gandhi was leading them – not until Pakistan became a reality.        


The so-called freedom struggle under Gandhi’s leadership, not surprisingly tap danced in the same spot from 1915 when Gandhi returned to India and until 1942. After the defeat of Imperial Japan in 1944 and consequently the defeat of Subhash Bose’s INA, the British Indian Mutiny and the Naval Mutiny of 1946 forced Imperial London to send the Cabinet Mission to India with the blueprint for transfer of power.


Contrary to popular rendition of history, Gandhi did not bring down the British Empire and he did not get India her independence; if anything he entangled the Indian National Congress in the web of social reform, and in the process unmanned and disarmed the Hindus in the INC forcing them to stand by and watch the Muslim League successfully tear the Hindu nation into three bleeding parts.


(To be continued...)

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