Behind every successful Jinnah there is a Gandhi – 3
by Radha Rajan on 18 Sep 2009 9 Comments

Gandhi’s INC: tap-dancing to nowhere
The contrast between Jinnah’s Muslim League and Gandhi’s INC could not have been more glaring. In August 1947, Jinnah, the Muslims and the Muslim League were not only free from colonial rule, but had also successfully torn the Indian nation apart; while Gandhi’s INC watched the British leave India at the time and manner of their choosing, a torn and bleeding nation in which the sense of nation and nationhood of Gandhi’s Hindus had been perverted beyond belief by Gandhi’s satyagraha and non-violence, while the pride, dignity and valour of Hindu nationalists lay in ruins.

At the Surat Congress in December 1907, the Indian National Congress split into two distinct ideological groups, the Moderates and Nationalists. The Nationalist group headed by Tilak, Lajpat Rai and Aurobindo set complete political freedom as its objective. The INC split exactly one year after the creation of the Muslim League in December 1906. 

- “The ‘Moderate’ Indian politician aspires to be an Imperial citizen. His ambition has at last been screwed up to the point of seeking equality with his ‘colonial brother’. His loyalty draws him towards the Empire and his politics draws him towards self-government and the resultant is self-government within the Empire. Colonies have been granted self-government within the Empire and it logically follows that if the Indians try, try and try again, they too will gain their end because nothing is impossible to perseverance. Thus two birds will be killed with one stone. The ruling people, whose immense power can be turned against us any moment if they happen to be irritated, will be pleased with our desire not to break away from the Empire and, at the same time the spirit of independence which is constantly urging us to demand a greater and greater measure of self-government will have its full play. Such a compromise, such a smooth scheme of accommodating comprehensiveness is being welcomed everywhere as suddenly revealed to a political prophet who is going the round of the country with the inviting message: ‘Come to me, all ye that are heavy-laden, and I shall give rest unto you’.” (Aurobindo, Yet there is Method in It, Bande Mataram, February 25, 1907)

Aurobindo had summed up succinctly the political objectives that Gokhale, Naoroji, Surendranath Bannerjea and the dominant Parsees in India and London had set for the INC – greater participation in government but within the Empire; that is, while the English educated Indians would become ministers in the Viceroy’s Council or the Governor’s Council, the nation would remain enslaved under British colonial rule. 

Gandhi returned from South Africa to fill the vacuum in the INC intentionally created by the British by removing Tilak and Aurobindo from public life. It is worth repeating that when Gandhi came back to India his ‘Mahatma’ halo was waiting for him. He climbed to the highest position in the INC with the assurance that the halo gave him, facilitated by the absence of Gokhale who had passed away, Tilak who was weakened by age and colonial persecution, and Aurobindo who had removed himself to Pondicherry for the safe pastures of spiritual practice.  

From 1917, the INC was under the effective and despotic control of Gandhi and Gandhi only; all other leaders came a distant second and played at best only second fiddle. Subhash Bose, KM Munshi and Rajaji who had serious differences with Gandhi’s policies and the direction in which he was leading the INC, were summarily thrown out of the party by Gandhi with harsh and insulting words as in the case of Bose, or with sweet reasonableness as with KM Munshi and Rajaji. But the fact remains Gandhi did not tolerate dissent or differences of opinion when the opinion was his. If Jinnah was successful, he owed his success in no mean measure to Gandhi’s leadership of the INC.

British colonial rule of India ended with the vivisection of the Hindu bhumi. Hindu nationalists reject the projection of August 15, 1947 as Independence Day; not the least because it was only self-rule day as the British monarch continued to remain Head of the State until January 1950, but primarily because ending colonial rule was predicated on vivisection. This is the truth that our stalwarts in Nehruvian-secular academe, and the Hindu stalwarts in the Congress and the BJP do not want to see, much less articulatethat the British, tactically using the Cabinet Mission proposals, made their leaving India conditional upon vivisection.

Vivisection of the Hindu bhumi became a certainty because –

- Gandhi and the Hindus in the INC did not understand the political objectives of Islam, or if they did, they had no objections 

- Gandhi did not understand that colonialism (in this case the British government) was only a derivative of the White Church and had the same political objective as Islam with regard to non-Christian nations and peoples 

- Gandhi carried back to India in 1915 the conviction from his years in South Africa that British colonialism civilized the Empire’s enslaved people and lifted them up from sloth, superstition and barbarity 

- Gandhi did not understand in the critical 1940s decade that western nations – America and the nations of Europe, were confronted by anti-Christian and anti-capital Soviet Union and that this intra-Western nations’ conflict and inter-play was impacting the enslaved nations in Africa and Asia in a manner that would determine post-colonial world order 

- In spite of knowing what was happening in Indonesia and Mountbatten’s role in aborting Indonesia’s fledgling independence from colonial rule, Gandhi not only allowed Louis Mountbatten to come to India as the last Viceroy, but had such faith in Mountbatten’s British sense of justice and fair-play that he asked Mountbatten to be the “umpire” (Gandhi’s words) between himself and Jinnah, “not as Viceroy, but as a man” (whatever in God’s name that meant) 

- Gandhi did not choose to correct the gross misconception that Satyagraha - a political instrument, and non-violence - a personal choice, were one and the same 

- Gandhi inflicted upon the INC his personal articles of faith, Satyagraha and non-violence as uncompromising, non-negotiable Congress Creed; and finally, 

- Gandhi had only one tool of engagement with the British – first Satyagraha and then dialogue, and only one strategy to deal with the Muslims – chasing the holy grail of Hindu-Muslim unity 

It was Gandhi, Gandhi all the way. Let us start at the beginning – what was the ultimate objective of Gandhi’s INC between 1915 when Gandhi came back from South Africa and 1947 when the Hindu nation was vivisected by Islam? We must first rid our minds of all hagiographic accounts of Gandhi and Gandhi’s life and go back to the Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi (CWMG) for the truth. 

The INC from 1910, when all the Nationalist leaders had been either exiled or imprisoned, until 1917 when Gandhi assumed leadership, and even after 1917 and until 1946, did not move decisively or proactively towards freedom. From 1910 the INC was either in limbo for protracted lengths in time or was tap-dancing in the same place. Notwithstanding the frenzied energy with which the dancer shakes his legs while tap-dancing, we know he is not moving from place to place. He is dancing on the same spot. Gandhi’s INC was similarly tap-dancing in the so-called freedom movement even as the Muslims used the Khilafat Committee and then the Muslim League to move decisively towards creating the Islamic state of Pakistan from the body of the Hindu nation. 

Was there a freedom struggle?

Gandhi began his political career in India with the much touted Champaran and Kaira (Kheda) Satyagraha which allegedly put the British government on the back-foot and compelled them to concede to Gandhi’s demands. The fact is, Gandhi struck a deal with the Viceroy – grant me my demands with regard to the farmers of Champaran and Kaira and not only will it be seen as a victory for non-violent satyagraha, but I will go back to Kaira and get every able-bodied man to recruit in the army to fight World War 1 for Britain. Gandhi also assured the Viceroy that this concession was being sought only as a “war measure” and that he would ensure such demands would not be made again, and that these concessions would not set a precedent for the future.

- “I would make India offer all her able-bodied sons as a sacrifice to the Empire at its critical moment; and I know that India by this very act would become the most favoured partner in the Empire and racial distinctions would become a thing of the past”. 

Unnerving echoes from Aurobindo’s “The ‘Moderate’ Indian politician aspires to be an Imperial citizen! His ambition has at last been screwed up to the point of seeking equality with his ‘colonial brother”. What Aurobindo said in 1907 of Gokhale, Naoroji and other Moderates turned out to be just as true of Gandhi in 1918. It is clear now why the British government had no objections, and in fact may have secretly welcomed it, when Gokhale passed on the mantle of leadership to Gandhi, and not to Tilak or Lajpat Rai.
- “In Champaran, by resisting an age-long tyranny, I have shown the ultimate sovereignty of British justice.
Thus, Champaran and Kaira affairs are my direct, definite and special contribution to the war.
I write this because I love the English nation, and I wish to evoke in every Indian the loyalty of the Englishman
”. (Excerpts from Letter to Viceroy, Delhi, April 29, 1918, CWMG, Vol. 17, pp 7-10)

- “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 relief being regarded as a precedent
”. (Letter to JL Maffey (Secretary to the Viceroy), Nadiad, April 30, 1918, CWMG, Vol. 17, pp 10-12)   

It is doubtful if any Indian of the times knew of this deal. This secret deal between Gandhi and the Viceroy (much like the little-known letter that Gandhi wrote to Lord Ampthill in October 1909) which saw the British government responding positively to Gandhi’s demands, achieved two things for Gandhi – it projected his satyagraha and non-violence (falsely as we now know) as the best tool of engagement with the British because (or so the ordinary people thought) it succeeded in getting the government to retreat; it also gave Gandhi’s ‘mahatma’ halo an additional coat of polish and gave him the status of undisputed leader with the ordinary people of India.

The excerpts from Gandhi’s letters to the Viceroy and the Viceroy’s secretary at the time of the Champaran and Kaira satyagrahas have been reproduced for a purpose. This article was necessitated by the dishonest public debate where one side blames Jinnah alone for Partition, while the other side holds Nehru and Patel also, besides Jinnah, guilty for Partition. No one in post-independence India, no one in public life, has asked if partition could have been averted and if yes, how could it have been averted.

It suits the nation to hold Jinnah and the Muslim League (not the Muslims; now that is an intellectual tight-rope walk) alone to blame for partition. But the guilt attached to the Muslims, Muslim League and Jinnah is only a very small portion of the whole truth. Jinnah is not all. Which brings us back to the most important question – what was the political objective of the Gandhi-led INC?

This article is not intended to add dead weight to the sterile academic debate about Jinnah, Gandhi and partition, but aims to correct our political discourse by inextricably linking vivisection with independence, and also intends to reassess Gandhi’s role in the freedom movement to better understand why Hindus lost and are continuing to lose territory to the two genocidal and predatory Abrahamic monotheisms even sixty years after ending colonial rule in 1947. The article is an attempt to break the conventional silence about Gandhi’s catastrophic-for-Hindus political activism which led to vivisection.

If there was indeed a freedom struggle movement under Gandhi’s leadership as state-funded history writers have been telling us, then freedom can only be understood as ending colonial rule and achieving total political freedom, accompanied by the British quitting India lock, stock and barrel. But Gandhi in 1918, in sharp contrast to Tilak and Aurobindo, is writing to the Viceroy about how he loves the English nation and how he wishes to invoke in every Indian the same love and loyalty for the Empire as that of an Englishman! Now this is not the language or the sentiment of a man leading a political party towards freedom from colonial rule. This was in 1918.

In 1920, the Gandhi-led INC issued the call for Swaraj. But between 1918 when Gandhi wrote gushingly to the Viceroy about his love for the English nation, offering his services to the Viceroy as recruiting agent for the war, and the 1920 Nagpur Congress where Gandhi called for Swaraj, the British government demonstrated the full might of the power of the state. In spite of Gandhi’s sycophantic recruiting agent act, the British government slapped the Anarchical and Revolutionary Crimes Act or the Rowlatt Act on Indians with one hand, while with the other it passed the Government of India Act 1919.

The draconian Rowlatt Act gave the government sweeping powers to imprison without trial any individual who picked up arms against the British government and people or conspired against the colonial state. Brigadier-General Reginald Dyer, with the full knowledge of Michael O’Dwyer, Lieutenant-Governor of the Punjab, also issued the infamous and humiliating ‘crawling order’ against the people of the province; 1919 was also the year of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre.

The GoI Act 1919 gave Indians some measure of participation in government, a sop for the Rowlatt Act, “crawling order” and the massacre at Jallianwala Bagh. Gandhi’s declaration of love for the English nation must have sent the comforting signal to the British government that under Gandhi’s leadership the INC would not make any demand for complete political freedom. Thus, even as the British government was using the stick of the Rowlatt Act against us and turning the full military might of the state against ordinary people, it also dangled the carrot of self-government before us. 

- “The ruling people, whose immense power can be turned against us any moment if they happen to be irritated, will be pleased with our desire not to break away from the Empire and, at the same time the spirit of independence which is constantly urging us to demand a greater and greater measure of self-government will have its full play. Such a compromise, such a smooth scheme of accommodating comprehensiveness is being welcomed everywhere as suddenly revealed to a political prophet who is going the round of the country with the inviting message: ‘Come to me, all ye that are heavy-laden, and I shall give rest unto you’.” 

Astonishing how Aurobindo’s discerning analysis of and scathing attack against the leaders of the INC in 1907 was just as true in 1919. Little had changed in the INC’s objectives and even less had changed in the character of its leaders. 

We cannot help but think that Gandhi was just such a political prophet who had worked out “a smooth scheme of accommodating comprehensiveness” with the British Indian government.

At the Amritsar Congress, 27 December 1919 – January 1 1920, Tilak and CR Das expressed sharp criticism of the Montague-Chelmsford reforms report which formed the basis for the GoI Act 1919, calling it “inadequate, unsatisfactory and disappointing”. In what would be the precursor to 1946, when Gandhi would once again hastily welcome the Cabinet Mission proposals, Gandhi took exception to Tilak’s criticism of the report and after perfunctorily appealing to Tilak to withdraw his amendment, actually threatened to undertake a tour of the country to explain to the people of India why he disagreed with Tilak and why he wanted to place on record the INC’s gratitude to Montague for the reforms report!

Exactly one year after placing on record his gratitude to Montague for enabling the GoI Act 1919, Gandhi issued the cry for Swaraj at the Nagpur Congress. People have the right to know why, if Gandhi thought the Montague-Chelmsford reforms report and the GoI Act 1919 were marvellous things for Indians, did he demand Swaraj in Nagpur and what did his Swaraj mean? Gandhi also declared at Nagpur that he wanted Swaraj within a year. This is 1920.

Ten years later, at the Lahore Congress in 1929, Gandhi demanded Purna Swaraj. Gandhi’s Purna Swaraj was a significant improvement on Tilak’s simple Swaraj, although the nation does not know why Gandhi issued the call for ‘Swaraj within a year’ at Nagpur and then issued a call for Purna Swaraj nine years later. Either there is Swaraj or no Swaraj. Purna Swaraj inter-alia implies something called Apurna Swaraj, which is like half a hole. After Nehru hoisted the flag of complete political independence on the eve of New Year, 1930, Gandhi entered into the infamous Gandhi-Irwin Pact. Gandhi had presented to the nation his version of passive resistance and non-violence as the only instruments for engagement with the British. But with the Gandhi-Irwin Pact, Gandhi also surrendered the right to Satyagraha and even non-violent protest.

From Swaraj to Purna Swaraj, from the Gandhi-Irwin Pact to the second GoI Act – that is, from 1919 to 1929 to 1931 to 1935, Gandhi’s INC was tap-dancing without moving the nation even a fraction forward towards freedom. The British government used the carrot and stick effectively against the Hindus in 1935 just as effectively as it had used it in 1919; and knowing full well from past experience that the INC will suffer the stick in shameless inaction and silence as long as the carrot is visibly shown to the ordinary Indians, the British government proclaimed the GoI Act 1935 by which Indians were allowed to contest elections in the Provinces to constitute provincial governments. The GoI Act 1935 was the carrot being dangled before the INC as a palliative measure for hanging Bhagat Singh. 

The British government sensed the anger of ordinary Indians against Gandhi and his INC for failing to save Bhagat Singh from the gallows, and knowing that discrediting Gandhi at this stage may render him ineffective, thus paving the way for triggering the volcano of seething dissatisfaction among the ordinary people, the British government’s propaganda machinery successfully promoted the idea that the GoI Act 1935 was in response to Gandhi’s non-violent Dandi March which allegedly shook the Empire. If the INC had been serious about Swaraj in 1920, then it ought to have followed Tilak when he expressed disquiet over the reforms report; it was expected that if Swaraj meant total political freedom, then the GoI Act 1919 was only clever temptation to divert the INC away from the road to freedom and trap the slaves in the honey-pot of sharing political power with their masters.

The trap was set enticingly again in 1935 and the INC demonstrated its willingness to bite the bait yet again. Sharing power, self-government within the Empire, self-rule – these were the colonial catch-words to keep India firmly enslaved and keep the INC going round and round in circles. Aurobindo’s “political prophet” was conducting the INC’s tap-dance to nowhere with “accommodating comprehensiveness”. The Muslim League and the British government had good reasons to feel delighted. Gandhi’s INC was going nowhere and the freedom movement led by Hindu nationalists for a brief while between 1907-1909 had been effectively aborted.

(To be continued)
The author is editor,

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