Prakashbhai N. Shah paying floral tributes at the memorial of Vasant - Rajab in Ahmedabad on 1st July 12013


The decision of partition of India had its echo in Ahmedabad too. There were many Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthis to sacrifice their lives for the cause of communal harmony through out India. Vasant Rao Hegishte and Rajab Ali Lakhani were one of them. It was 1st of July, 1946 and the day of RathYatra.. The people of Ahmedabad had experienced worst kinds of riots during the RathYatra. In Ahmedabad it starts from Jamalpur The day of Rath Yatra atmosphere was communally charged due to the politics of partition. The whole Ahmedabad was up in flame. 

The entire city was engulfed in arson, looting, killings, burnings. The riot was beyond control. The law and order situation was in disarray. The concerned people were trying their best to calm down the communal passion. Vasant - Rajab were engaged in saving Hindu and Muslim families and their houses and properties through out the day of the Rath Yatra. They saved a Muslim driver from the rioting Hindu mob and a Hindu owner of a Washing Company from the Muslim mob. The Seva Dal workers in Congress Office were working round the clock. They were trying to do their best to pacify the people. In the meanwhile, a disturbing news from Jamalpur arrived that at Khand–Ni- Sheri, of Jamalpur area that a Dalit family was being surrounded by the frenzied mob. It was evening. As soon as the news came, Vasant - Rajab rushed to the spot on foot as quickly as possible because they did not have any conveyance. They reached the spot and tried their best to pacify the mob. Nevertheless, the mob was a frenzied one and was in no mood to listen them ... Instead, the mob threatened them to kill. But Vasant - Rajab did not budge an inch and said that they would prefer to die and slept on the road to prevent the mob. Their courageous acts moved many hearts but the die-hards killed Vasant-Rajab and then moved away sparing the Dalit family and the Basti (locality). Their sacrifice could finally put off the flame of communal fire. 

Therefore, the Vasant - Rajab became the martyr and an icon of communal harmony. The people of the area still remember them dearly. 

Now there is a memorial in Khand Ni Sheri where Vasant Rajab laid down their Lives for the cause of communal Harmony and amity. It is known as Vasant - Rajab Chowk. 

For last several years the Movement for Secular Democracy (MSD) has been paying rich tributes to Vasant Rajab at Vasant - Rajab Chowk, Khand Ni Sheri every year on 1st of July . Day by day 1st. of July is recognized as the day of communal harmony in Ahmedabad, and Vasant – Rajab are becoming the icon and heroes. 

It is going to be 67th years of their martyrdom and they have become the symbol of communal harmony, amity and peace. Recalling and popularising Vasant - Rajab has become more relevant now, when the fascism is spreading its tentacles through cultural regimentation. 

Vasant – Rajab were the products of the freedom movement of India. They were the dreamers of the Indian Freedom and prepared for any kind of supreme sacrifice. They were inspired by the glorious tradition of highest sacrifice heralded by Chauphekar Brothers, Khudiram Bose, Ramprasad Bismil, Ashfaqullah, Shaheed Bhagat Singh and hundreds known and unknown martyrs. 

Here is a brief sketch about them 


Vasantrao Hegishte was born on 16th May 1906 at Ahmedabad. Education can wait but not Swaraj was the call of the 1921 Non–CoOperation movement in the country. Responding to the call Vasant Rao at the of age of 15 left school and joined Gujarat Vidyapeeth which was started by Gandhiji. Gujarat Vidyapeeth was tempered in the spirit of patriotism and social service, which became the credo in his life. He joined in Dandi March up to Aslali (outskirt of Ahmedabad) with Gandhiji & was active participatant in Salt Satyagrah in 1930 and was jailed. There after he joined Sevadal .He took active participation in 1932, 1940 and 1942 movements for Freedom As he considered himself wedded to the country and society he decided not to marry. He gave utmost importance to physical exercises, a tradition of Akhadas that was created by Swami Vivekananda to keep fit and strong for the cause of the country. He never lagged behind in joining the struggle for freedom. As a youth, he was a disciplined volunteer ready for the utmost sacrifice. His youthful zest, cheerfulness, readiness to act was always a source of inspiration to all . He was fondly addressed by all as ‘Dada’. 


Rajab Ali Lakhani was born in Karachi in 1919. Their family hailed from Limbdi of Saurashtra. The Lakhani family came to Limbdi in1935. Rajab Ali matriculated in 1936 and joined Shyamaldas College at Bhavnagar and studied B.A. However, he refused to appear at the examination; because he was convinced that mere degree in life was of no use and that may lead to service under the British, which was not palatable to the independent minded youth like Rajab Ali. He jumped in the stream of freedom struggle and was imprisoned several times. He was a devout reader and his thirst for knowledge was unquenchable. He was always in search of opportunities to share his ideas and opinions. There was an audience ready to listen to him. He was taking classes on various subjects. He adhered to progressive views and was known as Marxist in the Sevadal and Congress circle He belonged to Khoja community of Muslim religion but as he was growing he was more attracted towards social reforms and as a result he was often in conflict with his father and their religious –priest. He wanted to be known as a Man and not by any religion or caste. In later years, he was shocked to observe that the top leaders of Congress and freedom fighters were not free from conservatism... He joined the Rajkot Satyagrah led by Gandhiji and did not appear his B.A. examination. In the college, he formed a Democratic group with the students. He joined the famous Limbdi Satyagrah HIJARAT (Exodus) against the Darbars (The then powerful landed gentry). That was the time of people’s uprisings in Saurashtra against the Kings in Princely States. Rajab Ali joined the movement in full spirit in his brief period of his life; he was imprisoned in 1938, 1941 and 1942. 

There are sweet memories of friendship between Vasant Rao and Rajab Ali. 

A befitting tribute was paid soon after their death. 

A Vasant-Rajab Smarak Grantha was published in the same year edited by no less a person than poet Jhaverchand Meghani on dated. 17-12 - 46. The initiative in this direction was taken by Jayanti Dalal. Rich tributes were paid by Dadasaheb Ganesh Mavalankar, Ratilali Adani (Rajab’s associate), Manubhai Pancholi, Vasant - Rajab’s jailmates, co- workers, friends, and family members. 

Vasant Rao was cremated at in Dhudheswar burning ghat whereas RajabAli was cremated at Gomatipur Kabrastan. Lamented the sister of Vasantrao Hegishte, Hemalata Hegishte that both Vasant and Rajab lived together, breathed together and died together for a noble cause but death separated them.But they will never be separated. The spirit of both Vasant -Rajab will remain with us. 

As Shaheed Bhagat Singh said: 




Category :- English Bazaar Patrika / Features

A tale of two BJPs

Christophe Jaffrelot

Today, Advani and Modi represent two visions of the party and its possibilities

The Jana Sangh and then the BJP have always oscillated between a strategy of ethno-religious mobilisation and a more moderate approach to politics. Deendayal Upadhyaya had shown the way when he tried to combine a militant anti-cow slaughter movement in 1966-67 and a new kind of association with opponents of the Congress (including some leftists), with whom the Jana Sangh formed coalition governments (the famous Samyukta Vidhayak Dal governments) in 1967. That was the golden age of Lohia's "non-Congressism".

This tension is in the DNA of the BJP: on the one hand, as an offshoot of the RSS, it has to promote a Hindu nationalist agenda, on the other hand, as a political party, it has to broaden its base by diluting its ideology. After more than six decades (the Jana Sangh had been founded in 1951), the trajectory of the party remains a zigzag. Certainly, the Jana Sangh had given up its Hindi-only policy as early as the 1960s in order to expand southwards. But the Hindutva agenda has surfaced repeatedly, largely because its architects did not see any contradiction between ethno-religious mobilisations and the electoral process: after all, the polarisation of voters along religious lines could only help the BJP in a country where Hindus were in a majority.

Indeed, the Ayodhya movement and its long list of yatras and riots (culminating in the 1989 Bhagalpur violence, when around 1,000 people died) catapulted the BJP from 2 to 85 MPs. And the man on the rath, soon after, was L.K. Advani himself. Is he now preaching moderation only to differentiate himself from Narendra Modi?

In fact, Advani realised soon after the demolition of the Babri Masjid that this kind of technique had its own limitations and would never take the party to power. He said it plainly after the BJP failed to form the government in 1996, in spite of its electoral victory. "Though we were the largest party, we failed to form a government. It was felt that on an ideological basis we couldn't go further. So we embarked on the course of alliance-based coalitions." (Interview of L.K. Advani in Outlook, October 25, 1999).
The NDA took shape in this context and the BJP and its partners evolved a "National Agenda for Governance", from which the mainstays of the Sangh Parivar's programme were removed, including the idea that a Ram temple had to be built in Ayodhya, the abolition of Article 370 of the Constitution granting some autonomy to Jammu and Kashmir, and the establishment of a uniform civil code aimed at depriving the religious minorities of certain features of their particular juridical identity. Most BJP allies did not appreciate their Hindu nationalist connotations. Not only did they not share the Hindutva ideology, they were also keen not to alienate their Muslim voters, and the BJP leaders acknowledged that, including Advani, in spite of the fact that he was supposed to be the radical face of the NDA when Vajpayee was supposed to be the moderate "mask" (as he was to say later).

Advani had been in a position to argue in favour of his approach to coalition politics till the NDA won and gave the RSS access to the corridors of power — and shielded Modi during the 2002 killings. But his position became untenable after he lost in 2004, and even more in 2009. In 2004, the RSS attributed the BJP's electoral defeat to the dilution of its ideology and Advani, as party president, was openly criticised by RSS chief K. Sudarshan. In an unprecedented move, the latter said during a TV interview that Advani and Vajpayee should make room for new faces. Advani, during the party's national executive meeting on September 18, 2005, declared: "an impression has gained ground that no political or organisational decision can be taken without the consent of the RSS functionaries. This perception will do no good to either the party or the RSS... the BJP as a political party is accountable to the people, its performance being periodically put to test in elections. So in a democratic, multi-party polity, an ideologically driven party like the BJP has to function in a manner that enables it to keep its basic ideological stances intact and at the same time expand itself to reach the large sections of the people outside the layers of all ideology."

At the end of 2005, Advani was removed from the BJP's presidency and Rajnath Singh took over from him. After the BJP's defeat in the 2009 general elections, when Advani had been projected by the party as its prime ministerial candidate, he was removed from the post of leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha and the RSS imposed Nitin Gadkari, a rather unknown figure, at the helm of the party. For many reasons, including allegations of corruption, Gadkari never seemed to be in a position to take the party to battle in 2014.

But by promoting Narendra Modi in spite of the recommendations of Advani, the new BJP president, Rajnath Singh, not only alienated the senior most figure of the Sangh Parivar, but also turned his back on the strategy that the party leaders had evolved in the 1990s. Indeed, he took the risk of breaking an NDA that was already shrinking. In 2004, the national executive committee of the JD(U) had reportedly issued a resolution declaring: "We joined the National Democratic Alliance only after the three controversial issues (construction of a Ram temple at Ayodhya, Article 370 and Uniform Civil Code) had been removed from the agenda of the NDA. If any effort is now made to revive them, we shall have to take another road."

The JD(U) has taken another road this month without waiting for these items to stage a comeback on the BJP's agenda. Incidentally, they may not come back at all. But that does not matter: the post-2002 image of Modi is enough to suggest that the BJP is back to its Hindutva agenda.

Why have Rajnath Singh and his colleagues taken the risk to break the NDA further? Probably because they had no other leader to fight the 2014 election effectively and because they thought that Modi was in a position to create a (mini) wave — with the financial support of the corporate sector — on a non-communal, development-oriented programme. Indeed, his "hat trick" in Gujarat has shown that he is an energetic (and rich) campaigner and a marketing master who may attract middle class voters across the country. But a Modi-led BJP — which has recently lost its only state in the south — will remain far from an absolute majority, even with the backing of the urban dwellers (who are much more numerous in Gujarat, at 44 per cent, than in the rest of the country, at about 30 per cent). By the way, the limitations of Imran Khan in Pakistan show that urban voters are not yet in a position to decide the fate of governments in South Asia.

If the BJP is to govern again, it will be in a coalition, as Advani keeps telling the Sangh Parivar — and Modi is not a coalition man. Not only are most of the potential allies of the BJP afraid of him, but he has never worked in a coalition and has alienated a large number of senior BJP members in Gujarat.

The BJP will probably continue to oscillate between two brands of politics for quite some time.

The writer is senior research fellow at CERI-Sciences Po/ CNRS (Paris), professor of Indian Politics and Sociology at King's India Institute, London, and non-resident scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

courtesy : Tue Jun 25 2013, "The Indian Express"

Category :- English Bazaar Patrika / Features