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Gandhi Kept On …

Independence Day Mournings

A vast nation split

for the hunger of power

the players long gone

yet the tragedy lingers …

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi returned from Africa to India in 1915. Mohammad Ali Jinnah, a member of the Indian National Congress party and Indian Muslim League (since 1913) welcomed Gandhi in a gathering arranged by the Gujar Sabha, The Gujarat Society. Jinnah joined Congress in 1906 but was associated with since its 1904 annual session.

Gandhi kept on …

He said:

“[I’m] glad to find a Mahomedan [that is, Muslim] not only belonging to his own region’s Sabha, but chairing it“.

This was Gandhi’s way of reminding Jinnah and the audience that Jinnah belonged to the minority Muslim community, whereas he himself, was a part of the majority Hindus. The general unwritten rule everywhere was and is the majority owns the country and could call the shots.

Jinnah was not a practicing Muslim. He was dressed in elegant Western clothing that gave no sign of any religion. He wanted to be the “Muslim Gokhale.” Gopal Krishna Gokhale was a liberal Hindu leader of the Congress Party. Gokhale observed this about Jinnah:

“He has true stuff in him and that freedom from all sectarian prejudice which will make him the best ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity.”

Gandhi kept on …

In June 1917, the colonial British government of India arrested Annie Besant, an Irish activist who had settled in India and joined Indians fighting for independence from Britain. In 1916, she had founded All India Home Rule League for this purpose. Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Jinnah and other politicians worked with her. The Home Rule League’s objective was self-rule for India but being a part of the empire. The goal was to achieve this “by peaceful and legitimate means.” She asked Jinnah to look after the Bombay branch in her absence. Jinnah invited Gandhi to join him.

In September 1920, Gandhi announced his program of non-cooperation. Jinnah didn’t agree with the program. Next month, Gandhi, who had become the Home Rule Leagues’ president in March, changed its constitution. It now read as full Swaraj (self-rule). It also called for cutting off all ties with the British. Gandhi had promised Mukund Ramrao Jayakar that he wouldn’t change the constitution. Jinnah protested but to no avail. He and 18 other members resigned from the Home Rule League.

Gandhi asked Jinnah to come back. Jinnah refused to join saying:

“I thank you for your kind suggestion offering me `to take my share in the new life that has opened up before the country’. If by `new life’ you mean your methods and your programme, I am afraid I cannot accept them; for I am fully convinced that it must lead to disaster. … All this means complete disorganisation and chaos. What the consequence of this may be, I shudder to contemplate…”

Gandhi kept on …

At the Nagpur Congress session in December 1920, Jinnah’s speech was interrupted, when he referred to Gandhi as “Mr. Gandhi,” with heckles and shouts of “shame,” shame” by the people demanding that he be addressed as “Mahatma Gandhi” as by then, this shrewd, sly politician had become “Mahatma” or great soul. Gandhi did not intervene. He let the shouts continue. So Jinnah addressed Gandhi as “Mahatma Gandhi.” Jinnah’s reasoning for opposition of the non-cooperation movement was the resolution sounded like Congress was declaring independence; but India lacked the means then to be an independent nation. Jinnah then continued to explain,

“it is not the right step to take at this moment… you are committing the Indian National Congress to a programme which you will not be able to carry out’.

Maulana Mohammad Ali Jouhar was an Indian Muslim leader associated with the Khilafat Movement. His purpose was to save the Turkish Caliph (head of the Sunni Muslims world wide) as many Muslims in India feared the end of caliphate because Turkey was one of the losers of World War I. It was feared that Britain would preside over its end. His brother Maulana Shoukat Ali Jauhar, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and Gandhi were also part of the movement. Gandhi was a devout Hindu but had joined hands with Muslims to save the Caliph in Turkey. For Gandhi religion and politics were intertwined:

“I do not believe that religion has nothing to do with politics. The latter divorced from religion is like a corpse only fit to be buried.”

Gandhi, Ali Brothers and others had misread the internal dynamics of Turkey and the evolution of its political system during the nineteenth century. Turkey had gradually reduced the dependence on the Muslim sharia law and had come to depend more and more on the civil and criminal courts. In 1924, the new Turkish leader Mustafa Kemal Ataturk abolished the caliphate.

At the above session, Gandhi announced the non-cooperation movement and offered his support to Muslim leaders in their efforts to save the Khilafat. Jinnah was not involved in the Khilafat Movement.

Gandhi had Ram Rajya’s trident in one hand

and the Khilafat Movement’s sword in another

He was using both communities to his advantage and to increase his power so he could assert his force on both these issues.

While Jinnah was being humiliated by a large crowd on the stage, “Mahatma,” the first modern South Asian dictator was quietly enjoying the spectacle. He did not try to silence the crowd or offer his apology to Jinnah. He reveled in Jinnah’s humiliation and showed no humility. Gandhi could have risen and told the audience that Mr. Jinnah is younger than me in age but he is my senior in Indian politics. He wouldn’t because his aim was to get rid of Jinnah so the control of the Congress Party would be absolutely Gandhi’s. He succeeded. Gokhale died in February 1915, Pherozeshah Mehta in November 1915, Dadabhai Naoroji in June 1917 and Tilak on 1 August 1920. When all these stalwarts were gone, only Motilal Nehru remained in opposition to Gandhi. However, his son Jawaharlal Nehru supported Gandhi and forced Motilal to do an about turn under pressure. Although Motilal and Jinnah were good friends and often socialized over a drink of wine in the evenings at Jinnah’s place, Motilal gave in to his son’s pressure and so Jinnah was left alone.

At the “Parsi Circle” flood relief gathering, Dwarkadas addressed Gandhi as Mr. Gandhi. This time Gandhi did not object:

“The word ‘Mahatma’ stinks in my nostrils; and, in addition to that, when somebody insists that everyone must call me ‘Mahatma’ I get nausea, I do not wish to live. …”

One of Jinnah’s biographers, Stanley Wolpert wrote,

“It was the closest he [Gandhi] came to a public apology to Jinnah … [knowing well] that Kanji would report what he said to Mr. and Mrs. “J.”

The humiliation Jinnah was subjected to at the Nagpur session was a golden opportunity for him to try to become a supreme leader of the Indian Muslims. Jinnah was a member in the Imperial Legislative Council where he represented Bombay’s Muslims. The total percentage of Muslims in India was over 20%. In the economic and social sphere, they were backward compared to their Hindu compatriots. He could have invoked their misery and his Muslim-ness to his advantage, the way Gandhi was using his Hindu-ness. Another simple tool: the slogan of “Islam is in danger” could have been used by him to incite the masses and build a huge support for himself. The British would have supported him wholeheartedly, albeit, for their own motives.

Jinnah didn’t because he was totally opposed to mixing religion with politics.

“… Religion should not be allowed to come into politics….”

While speaking at a college in Bombay, he said:

“Religion is strictly a matter between God and man.”

To his liberal friend and a politician, Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru, Jinnah said:

“I think I have a solution for the Hindu-Muslim problem. You destroy your orthodox priestly class and we will destroy our Mullas and there will be communal peace.”

After the Nagpur humiliation, Jinnah told journalist Durga Das that he was leaving the Congress Party:

“Well, young man. I will have nothing to do with this pseudo-religious approach to politics. I part company with the Congress and Gandhi. I do not believe in working up mob hysteria.”

***

Gandhi kept on …. pissing on Jinnah

Gandhi kept on pissing on Jinnah

Jinnah kept on objecting

while maintaining restraint

but Gandhi kept on pissing on him

 

when it became too much for Jinnah

Jinnah pissed on Gandhi’s face

lo and behold!

the liquid froze on Gandhi’s face

it became the map of Pakistan!

India ceased to be India

became Pakistan and India

Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs were not regarded human

but were seen as religious beings

hence for Muslims, the blood of Hindus and Sikhs was halal

and for Hindus and Sikhs, killing Muslims became their dharma

over a million died – Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs

countless women of all religions were violated

over ten million migrated across the borders

 

presiding over this great tragedy was Lord Mountbatten

the last British Viceroy of colonial India

who, in the final moments of independence

(14 August 1947 for Pakistan

15 August 1947 for India)

gloated:

“for still a few minutes

I am the most powerful man on earth.”

 

it was not true: that honor belonged to another white gentleman

(Harry Truman)

7,500 miles away …

Gandhi wanted a Ramrajya:

Rule of Lord Ram, Hindu utopia

instead he got “Jawahar’s Raj”*

and was murdered by a Hindu terrorist

 

Jinnah wanted a Secularistan

but was awarded Islamistan

he died just a year later

sickness had claimed his life

***

Jinnah had refrained from a religious lifestyle all his life. He drank liquor, ate pork and gave full freedom to his wife. Other Muslim leaders drink too. From the Mughal rulers in India, Pakistan’s rulers, Saudi princes all have consumed alcohol, and continue to do so. The difference was that Jinnah did it openly.

(In the 1980s the Pakistani authorities attempted to deny history when they tried to intimidate Jinnah’s daughter Dina:

(“Dina, living in New York, was secretly asked to deny that her father ever drank alcohol or ate ham. When she refused to oblige, she was threatened with ´disclosures´ about her private life if she ever made it public that she had been approached.”)

Jinnah’s views were very clearly advanced and modern regarding the role of women.

“No nation can rise to the height of glory unless your women are side by side with you. We are the victims of evil customs. It is a crime against humanity that our women are shut up within the four walls of houses as prisoners. There is no sanction anywhere for the deplorable condition in which our women have to live.”

Such a secular and progressive person could not be accommodated in the Congress Party.

Gandhi was called “Bapu” (Father) by many people, including his political son Jawaharlal Nehru, whose eyes were fixed on the top post. He knew the only way to reach there was on Bapu’s tail. Nehru reminded Jinnah of his power when in 1937 he thundered:

There are only two forces in the country, the Congress and the government… To vote against the Congress candidate is to vote for the continuance of British domination.”

Jinnah roared back:

“There is a third party in this country and that is Muslim India.”

The irreligious Jinnah had been forced into this position. Religion was the only alternative left for him. And he used it vehemently. He started wearing sherwanis, a cap (came to be known as Jinnah cap), shalwars and churidars. He started quoting from the Qur’an and Prophet Muhammad. He claimed he represented all Muslims of the subcontinent. Culturally, within the state, Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims had more in common as they spoke the same language and were neighbors compared to their coreligionists who lived in distant states, spoke different languages and had differing habits. Although Jinnah claimed to be the leader for all Muslims, he remained an irreligious and secular person till his death. However, because he was fighting in name of Islam, he had to observe certain rules and perform rituals.

Congress’s biggest blunder was to put Gandhi in the driver’s seat on India’s freedom movement bus. Even when he was not at the helm, many a time he would take the steering wheel with him and so the freedom movement’s bus couldn’t go anywhere. Sometime he would claim that he was representing Congress and at other times that he was discussing and negotiating in personal capacity. This was frustrating for Jinnah.

Gandhi was a good organizer and a rouser, but not a good negotiator or a compromiser. In South Asia, anybody who uses religion can be a good rouser. Gandhi had become a god to millions of people. People would just come to have his “darshan” (divine glimpse). When people were not allowed to be in his presence, they would substitute the need by a glimpse of the goat whose milk Gandhi drank. He craved attention and displayed self centered and narcissist behavior.

Alice Lee Roosevelt Longworth‘s description of her father Theodore Roosevelt (1858 – 1919)(the 26th US President), fits perfectly with Gandhi’s personality.

“My father wants to be the corpse at every funeral, the bride at every wedding and the baby at every christening.”

One example: While in England for the Second Round Table Conference, instead of concentrating on the conference, Gandhi visited different neighborhoods and cities for publicity. He was the sole person to attend the Conference on behalf of Congress, despite 16 seats being allocated for the Congress members by the British government! So the whole attention was focused on him.

Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, who was born of low caste family and rose to become India’s first law minister, describes Gandhi’s arrogance in the following words:

A worse person could not have been chosen to guide India’s destiny. As a unifying force he was a failure. Mr Gandhi presents himself as a man full of humility. But his behaviour at the Round Table Conference showed that in the flush of victory, Mr Gandhi can be very petty, indeed. As a result of his successful compromise with the Government just before he came, Mr Gandhi treated the whole non-Congress delegation with contempt. He insulted them whenever an occasion furnished him with an excuse by openly telling them that they were nobodies and that he alone, as the delegate of the Congress, represented the country.”

Ambedkar wanted some safeguards for the Untouchables at the Conference.

“Everybody knows that the Muslims and the Sikhs are socially, politically, and economically more advanced than the Untouchables. The first session of the Round Table Conferences has given political recognition to the Muslim demands and has recommended political safeguards for them. The Congress has agreed to their demands. The first session has also given recognition to the political rights of the Depressed Classes and has recommended for them political safeguards and adequate representation. According to us that is beneficial to the Depressed Classes. What is your opinion? “

Gandhi’s response to this heartfelt plea was to disregard thus:

“I am against the political separation of the Untouchables from the Hindus. That would be absolutely suicidal.”

Why suicidal? Because the more votes you have, the more power you get. If Untouchables were allotted separate seats, the upper caste would have had lesser power.

Gandhi was against untouchability but was in favor of maintaining the caste system.

No doubt Gandhi’s words sent shivers down both groups spines:

“Untouchable hooligans will make common cause with Muslim hooligans and kill caste Hindus.”

By the way, the combined population of both the Untouchables and Muslims was less than the upper caste Hindus.

To deny Untouchables the safeguards demanded by Ambedkar and agreed to by the British, Gandhi went on a hunger strike. Ambedkar, fearing wholesale killing of his people, had no choice but to give in.

This was a classic example showing the cruelty Mahatma was capable of time and again. People rotting as subhumans for centuries were denied their rights because of the power he had to keep it so.

At the Round Table Conference, Gandhi had asked the Muslim delegation to not support the Untouchable’s claim. The eminent poet Mohammad Iqbal wrote:

“The truth, however, is that it was the Aga Khan himself who assured Mr Gandhi in the presence of several Indian delegates, including myself, that if the Hindus or the Congress agreed to Muslim demands, the entire Muslim community would be ready to serve as his (Mr Gandhi’s) camp-followers in the political struggle.

“Mr Gandhi weighed the Aga Khan’s words and his offer to accept Muslim demands came later and was hedged around with two conditions. The first condition was that Mr Gandhi would accept the Muslim demands in his personal capacity and would try to secure, but not guarantee, the acceptance of his position by the Congress.…

“Mr Gandhi’s second and most unrighteous condition was that Muslims should not support the special claims of Untouchables, particularly their claim to special representation. It was pointed out to him that it did not lie in the mouth of Muslims to oppose those very claim on the part of the Untouchables which they were advancing for themselves and that if Mr Gandhi could arrive at a mutual understanding with the Untouchables the Muslims would certainly not stand in their way. Mr Gandhi, however, insisted on this condition. I should like to know how far Pandit Jawaharlal with his well-known socialist views would sympathise with such an inhuman condition. This is the inner history of the negotiations between Mr Gandhi and Muslim delegates.”

(Speeches and Statements of Iqbal; ed. Shamloo; Al-Manav Academy, Lahore; 1944; pages 190-192, in Frontline.)

A vast nation split

for the hunger of power

the players long gone

yet the tragedy lingers …

*(Dwarkadas’s phrase he used while talking to Nehru’s sister Vijyalaxmi Pandit about Nehru’s government.)

More articles by:

B. R. Gowani can be reached at brgowani@hotmail.com

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