The debate over the culpability of the ‘Hindu’ nationalists vis-à-vis Islamic consolidation leading to the partition of India can never cease to fascinate intellectuals across the ideological spectrum.
Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh chief Mohan Bhagwat has recently reaffirmed his organization’s commitment to an inclusive Hinduism, saying that the Hindu Rashtra envisaged by the RSS is an all-embracing concept with the Muslims having a place in it.
This reminds me of an article on the tricky matter of Hindu consolidation attempt made during the anti-colonial struggle I wrote long ago which deals with whether the attempt contributed to the partition of the land on Hindu-Muslim lines. The article remained unpublished. I am now presenting it here though in an abridged form.
The debate over the culpability of the ‘Hindu’ nationalists vis-à-vis Islamic consolidation leading to the partition of India can never cease to fascinate intellectuals across the ideological spectrum. This is despite the fact- as the intellectuals aver- that it is futile to quibble over spilled milk.
It is intellectually stimulating to view the matter from the Leftist point of view and particularly so, as the Leftist intellectuals seem divided over the quantum of culpability of ‘Hindu’ nationalism for the partition. We have here selected two scholars who represent two schools, though belonging to the same ideological camp; one the mainstream hardline view as represented by the CPI-M and the other, the softer one, as propounded by the CPI. Both the schools are convinced of the roles played by two types of communalism-Hindu and Muslim- in the gory episode. But the tones are differently modulated. One is late Ashok Mitra, a CPI-M leader, and theoretician and the other is late Hiren Mukherjee, a CPI stalwart and a much-respected member of Parliament.
Mitra wrote in an article published in a daily, “Should the culpability of the original sin be pinned exclusively on Mahatma Gandhi? He, of course, chose the easy way out and used the religious metaphor to rouse the passion of millions of patently listless countrymen … Before sending Mahatma Gandhi to, so to speak, the gallows, should we not consider the curious case of the first contingent of Bengali terrorists at the dawn of the last century? Was their culpability for the juxtaposition of political and religious issues any less? Before proceeding on a secret operation, it was obligatory for them to observe a standard ritual. They would seek the blessings of the goddess Kali and, at the same time, swear by the Gita or read evocative passages from Bankim Chandra Chatterjee’s Anandamath… the choice of Anandamath, as an object of reverence by these dedicated groups of revolutionary youth plotting a fiery uprising against the British, appears to be altogether odd. The message this historical fiction attempts to put across is that the British had arrived in India to deliver the Hindus from the tyrannical rule of the detestable Muslims; it was the sacred duty of all Hindus to welcome with open arms the benign foreigners from European shores…The ideological position of the Congress on the issue of secularism acquired a fuzziness that was never shaken off subsequently.”
Now let us see what Mukherjee wrote on the subject. “There is no denying that the Indian struggle in the first decade of this century (20thcentury) was colored largely by a renascent Hindu ideology. It was romantic, mystical, aggressive riddled with fallacies, but sound enough to restore the self-respect of the middle classes. Intellectuals of high caliber like Tilak and Aurobindo Ghosh were convinced that a mystical, quasi-religious appeal, even if it was Hindu, would fortify nationalism…To an extent perhaps, the link of national feeling with Hindu mysticism was unavoidable; even later, this was to continue in Gandhi’s spiritualization of politics. Perhaps on account of this notable phenomenon that from Rammohan Roy to Gandhi and Tagore and from Shahir Waliullah to Iqbal and Azad, India in nearly two hundred years had not produced a single outstanding atheist, materialist or skeptical philosopher, certain necessary correctives to revivalist exuberance were not easily forthcoming.” He continued: “It will be remembered how the fathers of Marxism had found religion in Europe to have been, till at least the 17th century, the catalyst of mass discontent with societal direction…”
Now let us see how the stalwarts of the ‘Swadeshi’ movement viewed the matter-the ascendency of Hindu nationalism vis-à-vis the Muslims acquiring self-consciousness. They were for simultaneous growth of each community in tune with what they defined as ‘federation of religious movements representing respective communities’. Bipin Chandra Pal, a leading light of the movement, was convinced that there was nothing amiss in the growth of Hindu nationalism. He was aware though that such manifestation would give rise to the manifestation of Muslim pride in its history, culture, and legacy and that they would view the Hindu ascendency as a threat to their own political future. He was ready to welcome it to the certain extent until it bred communal antagonism. “For the realisation of this federal ideal of nationalism, it is necessary that the different Indian communities, representing different world cultures, must evolve in their own way, along their own lines, preserving and developing to the full their respective personalities, be autonomous social units themselves, and then join the others, as members of a great federation…” he wrote.
This is why he refused to be perturbed by the Muslims keeping away from the movement. “…this Hindu emphasis on what in the nature of things was bound to be dominantly a Hindu movement. I do not regret that our Mohammedan friends practically kept away from it. But what I regret is their spirit of antagonism. What the situation really required of them was the initiation of a real Moslem national movement, along parallel lines, moved by the same spirit, working for the same ultimate end, but organized in Islamic forms, with the symbols and sacraments familiar to higher Islamic thought and culture,” Pal wrote.
While welcoming the formation of Muslim League, Aurobindo Ghosh wrote in Vande Mataram, “We do not fear Mohammedan opposition so long as it is the honest Swadeshi article and not manufactured in Shillong or Simla. We welcome it as the sign of life and aspiration…In that faith, we are ready, when the time comes to us to meet in the political field, to exchange with the Musalman, just as he chooses, the firm clasp of the brother or the resolute grip of the wrestler. India’s new nationalism is not afraid of Pan-Islamism or any sign of the growth of a special Mohammedan self-consciousness, but rather welcomes them.” Read more post…
Saturday, 29 September 2018 | Romit Bagchi | in View Point–
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