In the recently held Karnataka elections, Narendra Modi made statements which are not true, and which are made to raise the emotive pitch against his opponents. In a blatant lie, in a rally in Bidar, he asked “When Shaheed Bhagat Singh, Batukeshwar Dutt, Veer Savarkar, greats like them were jailed fighting for the country’s independence, did any Congress leader went to meet them?...” One is surprised as to how this can be an electoral issue today? The central tactic of BJP and communal organizations is to bypass the issues related to people’s needs and to distract the attention towards one’s related to emotive issues. Issues which can put his opponents in a bad light have been regularly resorted to by Modi. For creating this Modi can go to the extent of saying untruths with great amount of confidence. In this statement-question raised; he is speaking a lie on one side and is also trying to glorify his icon Savarkar on the other.

As a matter of fact, INC, while it had differences with the revolutionaries like Bhagat Singh, they respected the high level of commitment and dedication of these young men. There are reports in the Tribune  about Nehru visiting the jail to meet Bhagat Sing and his comrades, The reports in Tribune on August 9 and 10 of 1929, tell us about Nehru’s meeting the jailed revolutionaries, inquiring on them. Motilal Nehru had even formed a committee to demand the humane treatment for the revolutionaries on fast unto death. In his autobiography, ‘Towards Freedom’, Jawaharlal Nehru gives a very touching account of his meeting Bhagat Singh, Jatin Das and other young men, “I happened to be in Lahore when the hunger strike was already a month old. I was given permission to visit some of the prisoners in the prison, and I availed myself of this. I saw Bhagat Singh for the first time, and Jatindranath Das and a few others. They were all very weak and bedridden, and it was hardly possible to talk to them much. Bhagat Singh had an attractive, intellectual face, remarkably calm and peaceful. There seemed to be no anger in it. He looked and talked with great gentleness, but then I suppose that anyone who has been fasting for a month will look spiritual and gentle Jatin Das looked milder still, soft and gentle like a young girl. He was in considerable pain when I saw him. He died later, as a result of fasting, on the sixty-first day of the hunger strike.”

The other aspect of the statement by Modi is to equate Savarkar with the dedicated young revolutionaries like Bhagat Singh. This seems to be a clever ploy to elevate Savarkar to the level to which he did not belong. While Bhagat was in jail, pending death penalty, he was requested by his family to seek clemency, which Bhagat refused. On the contrary he wrote to the British Government that since he and his comrades have been sentenced to death for waging war against the empire, he should be made to face the firing squad not just death by hanging. On the contrary Savarkar, after being sentenced for his role in the case of murder of a British officer; totally changed his stance in jail. From an anti British role he wrote series of apology letters, he surrendered to British and promised them to be of their help in future! He did remain loyal to British after his release from jail.

As a matter of fact Congress in recognition of Savarkar’s initial role was trying to put pressure on British Government for his release, but Savarkar was already writing petition after petition to British to release him. From 1920 INC was asking for his unconditional release, but due to reasons best known to him Savarkar preferred to give a written undertaking, which in a way was the total surrender. “I hereby acknowledge that I had a fair trial and just sentence. I heartily abhor methods of violence resorted to in days gone by and I feel myself duty bound to uphold law and constitution (British, added) to the best of my powers and am willing to make the 'reform' a success in so far as I may be allowed to do so in future” (from facsimile of Savarkar’s letter to British authorities). There are many such letters and British did grant him clemency.

This act of his seeking pardon from British was a betrayal of freedom movement; his followers present it as a tactical ploy to get released so that he can struggle against British rule. As matter of fact after his release Savarkar, floated the concept of Hindu nationalism, brought to fore the word Hindutva, (total Hinduness) and stated that there are two nations in the country, Hindu national and Muslim nation! This was precisely the equal and opposite of the politics of Muslim nationalism being brought up by Muslim league. This is what also contributed to partition tragedy.

So Mr. Modi on one hand speaks a lie about Congress leaders ignoring those struggling for freedom. On the other he puts Savarkar in the same category as Bhagat Singh. Congress was trying to get Savarkar released. Bhagat Singh remained firm on his ideology and path of resistance against British power. For his principles he undertook a hunger strike in jail. Savarkar on the other side buckled under the jail conditions and surrendered to the British. The methods like that of Goebbels methods being resorted by Modi need to be opposed.

Category :- English Bazaar Patrika / OPED

Recently (May 2018) Hamid Ansari, the ex-Vice President of India, was invited to Aligarh Muslim University to honor him with life membership of AMU Students Union (AMUSU). He had due security with him, still the Hindu Yuva Vahini-ABVP activists could reach near his place of stay. The pretext of the armed protesters was that Jinnah’s portrait has been put up to please Ansari and that they will not allow Jinnah’s portrait in AMU. The usual violence followed few arrests of Vahini volunteers, most of them let off. This has been followed by series of statements from Yogi Adityanath, who incidentally is also the founder of this Hindutva group, saying that portrait will not be allowed, Subramaniam Swami questioned as to who will teach a lesson to AMU! The students of AMU are on the protest against the violence unleashed by Vahini and ABVP.

Too many angles to the story! First of all how come the armed volunteers of Vahini and ABVP reach near the place where Hamdi Ansari was put up? One recalls that every occasion there has been an attempt to humiliate this distinguished scholar, diplomat who held the high office. His photo of not saluting the Republic day parade, hinting he is disrespecting, was made viral only to bring in the realization that he was following the rule book as only President takes the salute and no one else. When he was given farewell Modi hinted at his being a Muslim, being attached to issues related to Muslims in a very humiliating way. In this light he being targeted is just the continuation of what RSS combine has been doing to Ansari so far.

How come someone recalled that Jiannh’s portrait is there and on that pretext the armed volunteers sneaked into AMU campus? Has the portrait been put up yesterday? The portrait has been there from 1938, as AMU students Union conferred a rare honor on him by giving him life membership of AMUSU. The statement is that Jinnah divided the country, so how can be we celebrate, him was the slogan. The role played by Jinnah in the freedom movement is not a linear one and is not uniform. He began as a part of the movement and was part of it in the beginning. He has to his credit being the Chairman of Reception committee which welcomed Gandhi on his return from South Africa. He was the one who fought the case, in which Bal Gangadhar Tilak was given the death sentence and it is due to his legal brilliance that he could save the life of Tilak. He was also the lawyer for the young revolutionary, Sardar Bhagat Singh and to cap it all he entered Hindu Muslim unity pact with Tilak (Lucknow, 1916). India’s nightingale Sarojini Naidu called Jinnah as the ‘ambassador of Hindu Muslim unity’.

There is another side to the story also. He dissociated from national movement once Gandhi launched the non cooperation movement in 1920, in which for the first time average people of the country were involved. This movement laid the foundation of the biggest ever mass movement in the history of the World. Jinnah was a constitutionalist and he felt involving average people in the struggle against British is unwarranted. Similarly he opposed Gandhi’s role in Khilafat movement and gradually dissociated from active involvement and left for London to practice law. The second major flaw which transformed Jinnah, who was basically secular, was his associating with and leading of Muslim League. Muslim League was given the status of being the representative of Muslims by British. This is a basically motivated exercise by British as Muslim League began from the Nawabs and Landlords, with feudal values inherent in it down to the core. His role as a leader of Muslim League and his Lahore resolution of separate country for Muslims, Pakistan, is what made him a communal leader. To blame him alone for partition of the country is a distorted presentation of history of modern India. The process of partition was begun by the British who pursued the policy of ‘divide and rule’. This was supplemented by communalists from both Hindu and Muslim. Savarkar was the first one to articulate that there are two nations in the country, the Hindu and the Muslim. As per this understanding the country belongs to Hindus so Muslim nation will have to remain subordinate to Hindus. This is where Jinnah falls in the communal trap and the logic he puts forward is, if there are two nations in the country, so why not two countries? So why not Pakistan?

Jinnah that way has been the subject of various biographies and interpretations. His August 11 1947 speech in Pakistan Constituent Assembly , stated that people are free to follow their own religion, state will not interfere in that, elaborates his secular values. Advani quite late in his life after having launched biggest attack on secular values by demolishing Babri Mosque; realized that Jinnah was secular. He called Jinnah Secular and paid with his career as RSS combine has built on the understanding of ‘Hate Jinnah’, have presented Jinnah as a symbol of Indian Muslims, Jinnah as a symbol of India’s enemy Pakistan!

With this AMU episode Hindu nationalist politics is killing many birds with a single stone. First, to target Hamid Ansari, whom they can’t approve of as his credential is thoroughly secular. Second is to create yet another divisive issue in the form of portrait of Jinnah, to add on to other emotive issues manufactured so far. And thirdly to intimidate the AMU campus in line with what has been done in JNU, Hyderabad universities to name the few.

One can say the Ghost of Jinnah, who can be called as ‘Secular soul in Communal body’ will keep visiting us, and RSS combine through its efforts will keep propping up divisive issues one after the other!

Category :- English Bazaar Patrika / OPED