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Witness the human consequences of forced migration through the Chakmas

How the fault lines of partition and nationhood in South Asia accompanied by the callous and apathetic attitudes of the ‘modern’ nation-states have proved unbridgeable, leading to the unending saga of despair and dejection among the displaced populace.

15 Feb 2020

Chakma refugees

As a consequence of partition of the subcontinent, (according to the 1951 Census of displaces persons), an estimated 72.49 lakh (7.24 million) Hindus and Sikhs had moved from western Punjab (Pakistan) to the Indian side and 72.26 lakh (7.26 million) Muslims had similarly moved from eastern Punjab (India) to the Pakistani. A new dimension was further added to this some 24 years later when an outburst of ethno-cultural contradictions in East Pakistan led to its dismemberment from Pakistan and the subsequent creation of Bangladesh in 1971. An estimated 10 million (10 lakh) Bengalis had crossed over to India as refugees to escape Pakistani repression during 1970–71.

In addition to these, several streams of refugees including Tibetans, the Chakmas from East Pakistan and later Bangladesh, Afghans, Mayanmarese, Sri Lankan Tamils, Bhutanese, Chinese, etc., have sought and been granted refuge in India at different points of time.

 

The case of the Chakmas:

In the 1960s, over one lakh Chakmas and Hajong refugees, Buddhists and Hindus, fled to India from the Chittagong Hill Tract area in the then East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), facing religious persecution. The areas where the Chakma-Hajongs lived was submerged following the construction of the Kaptai Dam. They were made to settle in the Tirap division of Arunachal Pradesh, then known as the North East Frontier Agency, administered by the Ministry of External Affairs through the Governor of Assam. Arunachal Pradesh became a Union Territory in 1972, which coincided with the formation of Bangladesh, and soon local political parties began protesting against the settlement of outsiders in the State. The agitation gained momentum in 1987 when Arunachal Pradesh became a State. (The Hindu, September 23, 2017)

While the above continues to be the dominant perspective, it is only half the truth. The persecution of Chakmas from erstwhile East Pakistan was more political than developmental. After India-Pakistan partition and the formation of East Pakistan, the Chakmas were subdued and disempowered progressively. Their ‘special status’ as a ‘Totally Excluded Area’ was lifted first, following it was an intentional settling of Muslims in the CHT carried out by the Pakistani Regime, they accomplished their aim of converting the majorly Hindu area, into an overwhelmingly Muslim dominated area. There were often violent religious conflicts for control over resources, with the toll taken by the indigenous Chakmas always. The Bengali speaking Muslims enjoyed the support of the Pakistani Government.

“I can now boldly say that I am also one of the freedom fighters. When Gandhiji visited CHT in 1947, I was a national volunteer of Indian National Congress. At that time I was a student of Class IX. Gandhiji and other leaders like Prafulla Ghose and J.P. [Jaiprakash Narayan] assured us that the CHT would be included in India in case it was partitioned. On 14 August 1947 we convened a meeting at Anand Vihar regarding the hoisting of the Indian national flag, which we actually did on 15th August 1947, assuming that we have been included in India. Within a week however, the Pakistani forces came to Rangamati and captured our area by declaring us to be Pakistani nationals instead. We did express our displeasure over this to Nehru and other leaders during several visits to Delhi. Suspecting our loyalty, the newly formed East Pakistan government started torturing us in order to drive us away from our land. We were forewarned that if we wished to stay on in CHT, we would have to embrace Islam or else there was no place for us there. Being Buddhists for generations together, how could we do that? On refusing to give up our religion, they forcibly started abducting and physically abusing our women and converted several of them into Islam. We were frankly told that they were not interested in us, but our land. Our problems got further aggravated with the completion of Karnafuli multipurpose power-project, which inundated a massive chunk of our arable land leaving us with no option, but to seek refuge in India. Even after more than fifty years of the partition, we belong to nowhere. We have become forgotten people.”

Sumoti Ranjan Talukdar

(Chakma Rufugee)

 

The facilities provided to the Chakmas for basic sustenance under the NEFA gave them hope of a better future. They were all issued valid identity certificates as well. However, When NEFA was made into Arunachal Pradesh, the State government insidiously started withdrawing these amenities and procurement of even essential services through PDS, public employment, land rights etc became extremely problematic. What is also revealed by their accounts is that they suspect it to be a multi-pronged strategy of the State Government since even procuring Birth Certificates is a problem for their community. This will adversely affect their claims to citizenship in the future.

It becomes clear thus, that the issue may have more facets than just their legal status. After Arunachal Pradesh was given its Assembly, the financial onus of wellbeing of the citizens shifted to the State Government from the Centre (as was under NEFA). The majority in the region did not want the scarce resources being shared amongst an increasing number of people. This helps explain how the Chakmas were gradually being out-casted from the public benefits they have entitlement to.

The Chakmas have been in Arunachal Pradesh for over 6 decades now, however, they continue to face hostility from the State Government and the locals. Looking at the situation from the perspective of the Chakmas (Deepak Singh, 2010), they do not regard themselves as refugees, firmly believing themselves to be Indians. The reasons for the same are twofold: the older generation insists upon the fact that they were issued valid migration documents, while the younger asserts its Indianness by the fact of their birth in India.  The Supreme Court had in its 2015 ruling asked the Government of India to grant them citizenship, since their claim to it was completely valid and legitimate.

However, their struggle continues as the order gained some traction in 2017, but was never complied with. The Narendra-Modi lead governments agenda to favour Non-Muslim Migrants was prevented by the State Government, which categorically refused to comply with the directive. The concerns sighted were natural, limited resources and a danger to ethnic orientation of the sparsely populated Hilly State.

“Will anybody tell us how much more suffering and humiliation do we need to undergo before we are made Indian citizens? We do not want to go to Bangladesh, for we would continue to be called refugees there as well, as we were born here in India. Moreover, we never feel attached to Bangladesh, as we have grown up here.”

Maya Shanti Chakma

(A Chakma Youth)

[Deepak Singh, 2010]

Stuck between hostilities at the local level, and lip service favours at the national level, the Chakma community’s plight seems never ending.

This points to an observation that the immigrants and refugees continue to live in fear and insecurity regardless of how long they have been in the country, or how socially and ethnically similar they are to its locals.

 

Formulating a National Refugee Law

As per generally accepted international norms, refugees are people who leave their country of origin to take shelter in any other country because of persecution against them on religious, ethnic, political, or other grounds. Leaving a country for economic reasons, as in the case of most Bangladeshis in India, does not qualify under this definition of a refugee. Hence this category of people needs to be treated differently. That is one reason the problem of illegal immigrants from Bangladesh requires the adoption and implementation of national legislation on refugees.


To assist South Asian countries in the development of domestic refugee laws, the UNHCR set up a five-member Eminent Persons Group (EPG) in 1994, headed by P. N. Bhagwati, a former chief justice of India, and comprising Justice Dorab Patel of Pakistan; Kamal Hossain of Bangladesh, a jurist and former minister of law; Rishikesh Shah of Nepal, a human rights activist; and Bradman Weerakoon of Sri Lanka, a senior bureaucrat. The EPG proposed model refugee laws in 1997 and subsequently came out with the South Asia Declaration on Refugees, which also incorporated the model refugee laws, at its meeting in Islamabad on January 24, 2004. In addition, in India the Asylum Bill, 2015 was introduced in the Lok Sabha on December 18, 2015, as a private member bill by Shashi Tharoor, who had earlier also worked in the UNHCR office in Geneva.


The model refugee laws suggested by the EPG, together with the asylum bill proposed in India’s parliament, could form the basis for the enactment of a national refugee law. A moot point, though, is that these draft laws seem to have been formulated from an activist’s point of view, where the focus is more on the rights and privileges of refugees and asylum seekers than on a country’s national security or the interests of local populations. Care needs to be also taken to ensure that concerns about these ‘illegal economic immigrants’ and their overall rights are balanced with domestic concerns. Identity cards and temporary work  permits are methods that have been devised by western countries. Furthermore, some reasonable restrictions should be placed on immigrants’ movement in sensitive areas, which the government may designate. Jammu and Kashmir, north-eastern states, and areas close to India’s border may, for instance, be declared out of bounds for refugees at least until they are fully integrated.


When domestic refugee laws are in place it will be easier to distinguish between genuine refugees and illegal immigrants. The two categories could, thereafter, be dealt with by separate sets of rules and procedures. In the case of refugees, there could be three possibilities: temporary work permits and identity cards if not voluntary repatriation to the country of origin, the granting of Indian citizenship, or resettlement in a third country. Illegal immigrants—a category that would include asylum seekers whose request for refugee status is rejected after due consideration—would then fall under the provisions of the 1946 Foreigners Act, which will need to be suitably amended to meet the new requirements.[1]

 

[1] Illegal Immigration From Bangladesh to India: Toward a Comprehensive Solution, Carnegie India (2016)

Witness the human consequences of forced migration through the Chakmas

How the fault lines of partition and nationhood in South Asia accompanied by the callous and apathetic attitudes of the ‘modern’ nation-states have proved unbridgeable, leading to the unending saga of despair and dejection among the displaced populace.

Chakma refugees

As a consequence of partition of the subcontinent, (according to the 1951 Census of displaces persons), an estimated 72.49 lakh (7.24 million) Hindus and Sikhs had moved from western Punjab (Pakistan) to the Indian side and 72.26 lakh (7.26 million) Muslims had similarly moved from eastern Punjab (India) to the Pakistani. A new dimension was further added to this some 24 years later when an outburst of ethno-cultural contradictions in East Pakistan led to its dismemberment from Pakistan and the subsequent creation of Bangladesh in 1971. An estimated 10 million (10 lakh) Bengalis had crossed over to India as refugees to escape Pakistani repression during 1970–71.

In addition to these, several streams of refugees including Tibetans, the Chakmas from East Pakistan and later Bangladesh, Afghans, Mayanmarese, Sri Lankan Tamils, Bhutanese, Chinese, etc., have sought and been granted refuge in India at different points of time.

 

The case of the Chakmas:

In the 1960s, over one lakh Chakmas and Hajong refugees, Buddhists and Hindus, fled to India from the Chittagong Hill Tract area in the then East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), facing religious persecution. The areas where the Chakma-Hajongs lived was submerged following the construction of the Kaptai Dam. They were made to settle in the Tirap division of Arunachal Pradesh, then known as the North East Frontier Agency, administered by the Ministry of External Affairs through the Governor of Assam. Arunachal Pradesh became a Union Territory in 1972, which coincided with the formation of Bangladesh, and soon local political parties began protesting against the settlement of outsiders in the State. The agitation gained momentum in 1987 when Arunachal Pradesh became a State. (The Hindu, September 23, 2017)

While the above continues to be the dominant perspective, it is only half the truth. The persecution of Chakmas from erstwhile East Pakistan was more political than developmental. After India-Pakistan partition and the formation of East Pakistan, the Chakmas were subdued and disempowered progressively. Their ‘special status’ as a ‘Totally Excluded Area’ was lifted first, following it was an intentional settling of Muslims in the CHT carried out by the Pakistani Regime, they accomplished their aim of converting the majorly Hindu area, into an overwhelmingly Muslim dominated area. There were often violent religious conflicts for control over resources, with the toll taken by the indigenous Chakmas always. The Bengali speaking Muslims enjoyed the support of the Pakistani Government.

“I can now boldly say that I am also one of the freedom fighters. When Gandhiji visited CHT in 1947, I was a national volunteer of Indian National Congress. At that time I was a student of Class IX. Gandhiji and other leaders like Prafulla Ghose and J.P. [Jaiprakash Narayan] assured us that the CHT would be included in India in case it was partitioned. On 14 August 1947 we convened a meeting at Anand Vihar regarding the hoisting of the Indian national flag, which we actually did on 15th August 1947, assuming that we have been included in India. Within a week however, the Pakistani forces came to Rangamati and captured our area by declaring us to be Pakistani nationals instead. We did express our displeasure over this to Nehru and other leaders during several visits to Delhi. Suspecting our loyalty, the newly formed East Pakistan government started torturing us in order to drive us away from our land. We were forewarned that if we wished to stay on in CHT, we would have to embrace Islam or else there was no place for us there. Being Buddhists for generations together, how could we do that? On refusing to give up our religion, they forcibly started abducting and physically abusing our women and converted several of them into Islam. We were frankly told that they were not interested in us, but our land. Our problems got further aggravated with the completion of Karnafuli multipurpose power-project, which inundated a massive chunk of our arable land leaving us with no option, but to seek refuge in India. Even after more than fifty years of the partition, we belong to nowhere. We have become forgotten people.”

Sumoti Ranjan Talukdar

(Chakma Rufugee)

 

The facilities provided to the Chakmas for basic sustenance under the NEFA gave them hope of a better future. They were all issued valid identity certificates as well. However, When NEFA was made into Arunachal Pradesh, the State government insidiously started withdrawing these amenities and procurement of even essential services through PDS, public employment, land rights etc became extremely problematic. What is also revealed by their accounts is that they suspect it to be a multi-pronged strategy of the State Government since even procuring Birth Certificates is a problem for their community. This will adversely affect their claims to citizenship in the future.

It becomes clear thus, that the issue may have more facets than just their legal status. After Arunachal Pradesh was given its Assembly, the financial onus of wellbeing of the citizens shifted to the State Government from the Centre (as was under NEFA). The majority in the region did not want the scarce resources being shared amongst an increasing number of people. This helps explain how the Chakmas were gradually being out-casted from the public benefits they have entitlement to.

The Chakmas have been in Arunachal Pradesh for over 6 decades now, however, they continue to face hostility from the State Government and the locals. Looking at the situation from the perspective of the Chakmas (Deepak Singh, 2010), they do not regard themselves as refugees, firmly believing themselves to be Indians. The reasons for the same are twofold: the older generation insists upon the fact that they were issued valid migration documents, while the younger asserts its Indianness by the fact of their birth in India.  The Supreme Court had in its 2015 ruling asked the Government of India to grant them citizenship, since their claim to it was completely valid and legitimate.

However, their struggle continues as the order gained some traction in 2017, but was never complied with. The Narendra-Modi lead governments agenda to favour Non-Muslim Migrants was prevented by the State Government, which categorically refused to comply with the directive. The concerns sighted were natural, limited resources and a danger to ethnic orientation of the sparsely populated Hilly State.

“Will anybody tell us how much more suffering and humiliation do we need to undergo before we are made Indian citizens? We do not want to go to Bangladesh, for we would continue to be called refugees there as well, as we were born here in India. Moreover, we never feel attached to Bangladesh, as we have grown up here.”

Maya Shanti Chakma

(A Chakma Youth)

[Deepak Singh, 2010]

Stuck between hostilities at the local level, and lip service favours at the national level, the Chakma community’s plight seems never ending.

This points to an observation that the immigrants and refugees continue to live in fear and insecurity regardless of how long they have been in the country, or how socially and ethnically similar they are to its locals.

 

Formulating a National Refugee Law

As per generally accepted international norms, refugees are people who leave their country of origin to take shelter in any other country because of persecution against them on religious, ethnic, political, or other grounds. Leaving a country for economic reasons, as in the case of most Bangladeshis in India, does not qualify under this definition of a refugee. Hence this category of people needs to be treated differently. That is one reason the problem of illegal immigrants from Bangladesh requires the adoption and implementation of national legislation on refugees.


To assist South Asian countries in the development of domestic refugee laws, the UNHCR set up a five-member Eminent Persons Group (EPG) in 1994, headed by P. N. Bhagwati, a former chief justice of India, and comprising Justice Dorab Patel of Pakistan; Kamal Hossain of Bangladesh, a jurist and former minister of law; Rishikesh Shah of Nepal, a human rights activist; and Bradman Weerakoon of Sri Lanka, a senior bureaucrat. The EPG proposed model refugee laws in 1997 and subsequently came out with the South Asia Declaration on Refugees, which also incorporated the model refugee laws, at its meeting in Islamabad on January 24, 2004. In addition, in India the Asylum Bill, 2015 was introduced in the Lok Sabha on December 18, 2015, as a private member bill by Shashi Tharoor, who had earlier also worked in the UNHCR office in Geneva.


The model refugee laws suggested by the EPG, together with the asylum bill proposed in India’s parliament, could form the basis for the enactment of a national refugee law. A moot point, though, is that these draft laws seem to have been formulated from an activist’s point of view, where the focus is more on the rights and privileges of refugees and asylum seekers than on a country’s national security or the interests of local populations. Care needs to be also taken to ensure that concerns about these ‘illegal economic immigrants’ and their overall rights are balanced with domestic concerns. Identity cards and temporary work  permits are methods that have been devised by western countries. Furthermore, some reasonable restrictions should be placed on immigrants’ movement in sensitive areas, which the government may designate. Jammu and Kashmir, north-eastern states, and areas close to India’s border may, for instance, be declared out of bounds for refugees at least until they are fully integrated.


When domestic refugee laws are in place it will be easier to distinguish between genuine refugees and illegal immigrants. The two categories could, thereafter, be dealt with by separate sets of rules and procedures. In the case of refugees, there could be three possibilities: temporary work permits and identity cards if not voluntary repatriation to the country of origin, the granting of Indian citizenship, or resettlement in a third country. Illegal immigrants—a category that would include asylum seekers whose request for refugee status is rejected after due consideration—would then fall under the provisions of the 1946 Foreigners Act, which will need to be suitably amended to meet the new requirements.[1]

 

[1] Illegal Immigration From Bangladesh to India: Toward a Comprehensive Solution, Carnegie India (2016)

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Rein'state'ed - The case of the 'exchanged' women at Partition

The paradigm of the “recovery” and “restoration” of women was a form of biological citizenship, as it entailed not only determining the religion (at birth) of a woman, almost as if it were a biological characteristic, but also her biological status as a woman whose body had been violated, impregnated, or otherwise defiled by union with a male of another religious community

13 Feb 2020

India pakistan partition

At the time of India-Pakistan partition, both the newly formed States were yearning for legitimacy and the moral support from its citizens. Trapped between the clashing egos of these countries, abducted women of different communities) became the biggest sufferers.

Three weeks after India and Pakistan achieved their independence as separate states, representatives of both dominions met on September 3, 1947, and agreed that steps should be taken to ‘recover’ and ‘restore’ abducted persons. Both sides pronounced themselves against the recognition of forced marriages.

The partition of the sub-continent was an immensely harrowing tragedy for people on both sides of the border. During this process, thousands of women were abducted, sexually violated, raped, and in many cases married to their abductors. This fact did not go down easy down the throat of the patriarchal leaders of the States. Therefore, in a bid to regain some of their legitimacy lost during the loss of life and dignity during partition, India and Pakistan entered into an agreement to mutually ‘restore’ their daughters to their home countries. The Hindu and Sikh women and girls from Pakistan and their Muslim counterparts in India, would be literally exchanged.

The approach taken led to, on the Indian side the ‘Abducted Persons (Recovery and Restoration) Act, 1949’ that was passed by the Indian Government. The act would treat all mixed marital unions between Hindus and Muslims as forced unions in which abducted women were married off against their wishes. A method was prescribed for the rescue of such women and their subsequent restoration to their homes in India or Pakistan. The aim was to locate all the “abducted persons” in the territory of India, and detain them in temporary camps. For this, police officers designated by the government were empowered to locate and capture such persons which he believed or had the suspicion, were abducted. No warrant was required and complete immunity was offered by the law, to such officers in searching premises, conducting inquiries and detaining such persons. The job was assigned to the local police, assisted by one AIG, two DSPS, 5 inspectors, 10 SIs, 6 ASIS and social workers.

Under the act, "abducted person" meant a male child under the age of sixteen years or a female of whatever age who is, or immediately before the day, March 1, 1947, was, a Muslim and who, on or after that day and before the day, January 1, 1949, has become separated from his or her family and is found to be living with or under the control of any other individual or family, and in the latter case included a child born to any such female after the said date.

In their article “An exchange of Women”, Scholars Ritu Menon and Kamla Bhasin discuss that tracing such women was a near impossible task, and to accomplish it, Ads were placed in papers, giving details of missing women. These were then taken up by social workers on both sides of the border in Punjab, and verifications made. Social workers used all sorts of ruses to find out where the abducted women were, sometimes disguising themselves as bangle-sellers, or fruit-vendors. No captor was willing to give up his claims: they heard that women were spirited away, hidden in tandoors, disguised as sisters and mothers--but never voluntarily given up. One liaison officer, who worked in Lyallpur for nine months before formal treaties were drawn up by India and Pakistan, told them: "I would slap the women and tell them I'd shoot them if they didn't tell me whether there was a Hindu woman in the neighbourhood. They would tell me because they were helpless their men were not around at the time." He claimed to have 'recovered' 800-900 women from Lyallpur alone this way.

These arrangements not only denied women any agency in determining where they chose to live, or who they chose to marry, but also ignored the contingent nature of individual predicaments and the diverse and complex tapestries of human relationships. Thus, there were cases where women had married their “abductors,” had children, and preferred to live with these men instead of being sent back to their families. There were Hindu families who were reluctant to accept women who had had ‘sex with’, or ‘been impregnated’ or worse still had children by, men of the other religion. Chastity and purity were considerations that surfaced frequently, so pregnant women were more likely to be shunned, while women who had children would be taken back only on condition that they gave up these children of mixed unions to orphanages. Older women were vulnerable in other ways. If they owned property, younger men would force these women to “adopt” them, in order to inherit their property. (Niraj-Gopal-Jayal, ‘Citizenship and its Discontents’)

The paradigm of the “recovery” and “restoration” of women was a form of biological citizenship, as it entailed not only determining the religion (at birth) of a woman, almost as if it were a biological characteristic, but also her biological status as a woman whose body had been violated, impregnated, or otherwise defiled by union with a male of another religious community.

Women’s citizenship was thus produced by three concentric circles: first, the citizenship of her father or husband, second, religious identity, and—on the basis of both of these—her imputed national identity. This mapping of religious difference onto citizenship of the nation meant that not only could abducted women not choose their citizenship, as men theoretically could, the assumption was that India was the natural home for Hindu and Sikh women, while Muslim women were naturally Pakistani.

By the time the Abducted Persons Act was repealed in 1957, approximately 20,000 women had been so “recovered” and “restored” to the biological citizenship of their respective “natural” nations.

The above analyses leads to a number of observations. First, the aspect of the State claiming a ‘lien’ over these women in a patriarchal backdrop. This is in a way, an imposition of nationality and by itself, an act of claiming dominion over these women, regardless of their preference or choice. The State in this case became an abductor itself. Comparing this, to the situation of various migrants or refugee groups which ‘seek’ and beg the State for inclusion and citizenship, asserting their nationality and belonging towards it, and yet are denied the privilege of citizenship.

Secondly, the aspect of a ‘natural citizen’ is expanded and includes into its folds the ‘natural’ characteristics of persons which become the deal makers (or breakers) when it comes to deciding their citizenship. In this case, even though India had proclaimed itself to be secular, it was deemed natural that the Hindu and Sikh women were to belong to India and the Muslim women were to be sent to Pakistan. This kind of an approach blatantly violates secularism as well as logic. The ties to the ‘nation’ were deemed as stronger and superior even to the marital ties and individual agency in hierarchy of the various markers of citizenship an individual possesses.

Thirdly, there is an important provision in the Abducted Persons Act – the provision which decides that the children out of these marriages should be considered as citizens of the country their mother has been held a citizen of.

The Constituent Assembly discussed the following question: If only one parent was entitled in these cases to transmit filiation as a basis for establishing citizenship, was the relationship with the mother or with the father to be considered relevant for creating the necessary credentials for citizenship?

It was argued by Shrimati Durgabai in the Constituent Assembly, that it was not the joint labour of the man and the woman but the plunder by men of women’s bodies that had created these children. Hence, ‘‘What right has the abductor to keep the child? The child has to go with the mother.’’

This is in itself a new paradigm approach. Consider the question of the legality of the children born to the union of an illegal immigrant and a citizen. As per the India’s Citizenship Act, such a child is not to be given citizenship regardless of which of the parent is a citizen, and the fact that the child was born in India. It proves thus, that a marker of citizenship is not the alleged illegality of one of the parents, but the colour in which the State looks at the child thus born, based on the ‘natural’ characteristic of that child which may or may not be sufficient in establishing the child’s claim over citizenship. A child which is more ‘Indian’ is thus one which pleases the political State’s agenda. This kind of an approach is necessarily a departure from the Jus Soli approach and an embracing of a Jus Sanguinis approach, which itself suffers from moral defects and arbitrariness as a preeminent marker of citizenship.

 

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Rein'state'ed - The case of the 'exchanged' women at Partition

The paradigm of the “recovery” and “restoration” of women was a form of biological citizenship, as it entailed not only determining the religion (at birth) of a woman, almost as if it were a biological characteristic, but also her biological status as a woman whose body had been violated, impregnated, or otherwise defiled by union with a male of another religious community

India pakistan partition

At the time of India-Pakistan partition, both the newly formed States were yearning for legitimacy and the moral support from its citizens. Trapped between the clashing egos of these countries, abducted women of different communities) became the biggest sufferers.

Three weeks after India and Pakistan achieved their independence as separate states, representatives of both dominions met on September 3, 1947, and agreed that steps should be taken to ‘recover’ and ‘restore’ abducted persons. Both sides pronounced themselves against the recognition of forced marriages.

The partition of the sub-continent was an immensely harrowing tragedy for people on both sides of the border. During this process, thousands of women were abducted, sexually violated, raped, and in many cases married to their abductors. This fact did not go down easy down the throat of the patriarchal leaders of the States. Therefore, in a bid to regain some of their legitimacy lost during the loss of life and dignity during partition, India and Pakistan entered into an agreement to mutually ‘restore’ their daughters to their home countries. The Hindu and Sikh women and girls from Pakistan and their Muslim counterparts in India, would be literally exchanged.

The approach taken led to, on the Indian side the ‘Abducted Persons (Recovery and Restoration) Act, 1949’ that was passed by the Indian Government. The act would treat all mixed marital unions between Hindus and Muslims as forced unions in which abducted women were married off against their wishes. A method was prescribed for the rescue of such women and their subsequent restoration to their homes in India or Pakistan. The aim was to locate all the “abducted persons” in the territory of India, and detain them in temporary camps. For this, police officers designated by the government were empowered to locate and capture such persons which he believed or had the suspicion, were abducted. No warrant was required and complete immunity was offered by the law, to such officers in searching premises, conducting inquiries and detaining such persons. The job was assigned to the local police, assisted by one AIG, two DSPS, 5 inspectors, 10 SIs, 6 ASIS and social workers.

Under the act, "abducted person" meant a male child under the age of sixteen years or a female of whatever age who is, or immediately before the day, March 1, 1947, was, a Muslim and who, on or after that day and before the day, January 1, 1949, has become separated from his or her family and is found to be living with or under the control of any other individual or family, and in the latter case included a child born to any such female after the said date.

In their article “An exchange of Women”, Scholars Ritu Menon and Kamla Bhasin discuss that tracing such women was a near impossible task, and to accomplish it, Ads were placed in papers, giving details of missing women. These were then taken up by social workers on both sides of the border in Punjab, and verifications made. Social workers used all sorts of ruses to find out where the abducted women were, sometimes disguising themselves as bangle-sellers, or fruit-vendors. No captor was willing to give up his claims: they heard that women were spirited away, hidden in tandoors, disguised as sisters and mothers--but never voluntarily given up. One liaison officer, who worked in Lyallpur for nine months before formal treaties were drawn up by India and Pakistan, told them: "I would slap the women and tell them I'd shoot them if they didn't tell me whether there was a Hindu woman in the neighbourhood. They would tell me because they were helpless their men were not around at the time." He claimed to have 'recovered' 800-900 women from Lyallpur alone this way.

These arrangements not only denied women any agency in determining where they chose to live, or who they chose to marry, but also ignored the contingent nature of individual predicaments and the diverse and complex tapestries of human relationships. Thus, there were cases where women had married their “abductors,” had children, and preferred to live with these men instead of being sent back to their families. There were Hindu families who were reluctant to accept women who had had ‘sex with’, or ‘been impregnated’ or worse still had children by, men of the other religion. Chastity and purity were considerations that surfaced frequently, so pregnant women were more likely to be shunned, while women who had children would be taken back only on condition that they gave up these children of mixed unions to orphanages. Older women were vulnerable in other ways. If they owned property, younger men would force these women to “adopt” them, in order to inherit their property. (Niraj-Gopal-Jayal, ‘Citizenship and its Discontents’)

The paradigm of the “recovery” and “restoration” of women was a form of biological citizenship, as it entailed not only determining the religion (at birth) of a woman, almost as if it were a biological characteristic, but also her biological status as a woman whose body had been violated, impregnated, or otherwise defiled by union with a male of another religious community.

Women’s citizenship was thus produced by three concentric circles: first, the citizenship of her father or husband, second, religious identity, and—on the basis of both of these—her imputed national identity. This mapping of religious difference onto citizenship of the nation meant that not only could abducted women not choose their citizenship, as men theoretically could, the assumption was that India was the natural home for Hindu and Sikh women, while Muslim women were naturally Pakistani.

By the time the Abducted Persons Act was repealed in 1957, approximately 20,000 women had been so “recovered” and “restored” to the biological citizenship of their respective “natural” nations.

The above analyses leads to a number of observations. First, the aspect of the State claiming a ‘lien’ over these women in a patriarchal backdrop. This is in a way, an imposition of nationality and by itself, an act of claiming dominion over these women, regardless of their preference or choice. The State in this case became an abductor itself. Comparing this, to the situation of various migrants or refugee groups which ‘seek’ and beg the State for inclusion and citizenship, asserting their nationality and belonging towards it, and yet are denied the privilege of citizenship.

Secondly, the aspect of a ‘natural citizen’ is expanded and includes into its folds the ‘natural’ characteristics of persons which become the deal makers (or breakers) when it comes to deciding their citizenship. In this case, even though India had proclaimed itself to be secular, it was deemed natural that the Hindu and Sikh women were to belong to India and the Muslim women were to be sent to Pakistan. This kind of an approach blatantly violates secularism as well as logic. The ties to the ‘nation’ were deemed as stronger and superior even to the marital ties and individual agency in hierarchy of the various markers of citizenship an individual possesses.

Thirdly, there is an important provision in the Abducted Persons Act – the provision which decides that the children out of these marriages should be considered as citizens of the country their mother has been held a citizen of.

The Constituent Assembly discussed the following question: If only one parent was entitled in these cases to transmit filiation as a basis for establishing citizenship, was the relationship with the mother or with the father to be considered relevant for creating the necessary credentials for citizenship?

It was argued by Shrimati Durgabai in the Constituent Assembly, that it was not the joint labour of the man and the woman but the plunder by men of women’s bodies that had created these children. Hence, ‘‘What right has the abductor to keep the child? The child has to go with the mother.’’

This is in itself a new paradigm approach. Consider the question of the legality of the children born to the union of an illegal immigrant and a citizen. As per the India’s Citizenship Act, such a child is not to be given citizenship regardless of which of the parent is a citizen, and the fact that the child was born in India. It proves thus, that a marker of citizenship is not the alleged illegality of one of the parents, but the colour in which the State looks at the child thus born, based on the ‘natural’ characteristic of that child which may or may not be sufficient in establishing the child’s claim over citizenship. A child which is more ‘Indian’ is thus one which pleases the political State’s agenda. This kind of an approach is necessarily a departure from the Jus Soli approach and an embracing of a Jus Sanguinis approach, which itself suffers from moral defects and arbitrariness as a preeminent marker of citizenship.

 

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Guru Ravidas Jayanti- The dream of Be-Gham-Pura

On the occasion of Guru Ravidas Jayanti on February 9, 2020, we remember the patron saint of the Dalit community, the man who inspired love, grace, Bhakti, and revolution.

09 Feb 2020

ravidas

Guru Ravidas ji was one of the most prominent poets of the Bhakti Movement in 15th century. Born into an Untouchable Chamar caste family, he retained his caste occupation as a cobbler and inspired social reform through his Bhakti poetry, using it as a middle path of social protest against caste-based exclusion and oppression. His protest was novel, understated, yet dangerous, as he challenged upper caste Hindus even in the way he dressed- wearing dhoti, janeu, and tilak- which were forbidden for the Untouchables.

According to the Hindu Calendar, Guru Ravidas ji was born in Govardhanpur near Varanasi, on the full moon (Purnima) of the month of Magh in the late 14th century. There is no consensus on the exact year of his birth. Even as a child, he was inclined towards Bhakti and spiritualism, but at the same time he was a firm believer in dignity of labour. As dictated by social and caste norms, the Chamar caste would work with leather and animal hide. This was considered “dirty work” as the Chamar caste would work with animal carcasses. Unfazed, Guru Ravidas ji maintained a small shop making and repairing shoes, and is said to have built an idol out of leather to pray to. 

It was this knack for subverting caste norms that placed him in a position where he was revered by people of all castes and religions, and made the upper caste enforcers of caste oppression decidedly uncomfortable and jealous.

He challenged Brahminical hegemony with his poetry and one of his most popular dohas states- 

रैदास बांभन मत पूजिए जो होवे गुन हीन.

पूजिए चरन चंडाल के जो हो ज्ञान प्रवीन.

Loosely translated, it appeals to the people to stop worshipping Brahmins who have no enlightenment/knowledge, but rather worship a Chandaal who is enlightened. In these two simple lines he questioned the entire logic of caste system and how people were treated by the virtue of the coincidence of birth rather than their intellectual abilities. 

His doha- 'रैदास जन्म के कारने होत कोई नीच, नर कूं नीच कर डारि है, ओछे करम की नीच', was a direct attack on the caste system as he expounded that no one could be born “low”, what makes anyone a lowly person are their lowly deeds. 

Guru Ravidas’s devotional songs and poems were included Guru Granth Saheb (Sikhism) and PanchVani (Dadupanthi tradition- Hinduism). In addition, hagiographers over the centuries following his death have contributed to connecting the dots of his poetry and protest, his life and legacy. 

Modern-day followers of Guru Ravidas ji are known as Ravidasias (est. 21st century) and have made a distinct cultural and religious identity with their own temples and practices. Though they revere the Guru Granth Saheb of Sikhs as it contains 40 poems by Guru Ravidas ji, Ravidasias do not consider themselves as Sikhs or Hindus, but rather a separate religion. Most of them are residents of Punjab or have migrated to countries like Canada and USA. Even today, in Punjab, the word “Ravidasi” has caste undertones and discrimination is rampant, perpetrated by both Hindus and Sikhs. The caste system is so ingrained in our history that neither logic, nor modernization, seem to shake the centuries of suppression. 

With political and communal turmoil reaching a boiling point in present day India, Guru Ravidas’s vision of an equal and just land called Be-Gham-Pura (the city without sorrows) seems like a point on the horizon- visible, yet just out of reach-

“Where there is no affliction or suffering

Neither anxiety nor fear, taxes nor capital

No menace, no terror, no humiliation…

Says Ravidas the emancipated Chamar:

One who shares with me that city is my friend.” *

 

*(This unpublished translation by Joel Lee appears in Arundhati Roy’s “The Doctor and The Saint”)

Guru Ravidas ji pictured a world free of caste oppression, of divisions, of communal hatred. This is the world we want to leave behind for our future generations. Whatever steps we take in this life, they must all lead to Be-Gham-Pura, in honour of Guru Ravidas, for the sake of humanity.

**Note: The use of the words “Chamar”, “Untouchables”, and “Untouchability” in this article is in a historical context of the self-identified terminology pertaining to the time when these events took place. 

Guru Ravidas Jayanti- The dream of Be-Gham-Pura

On the occasion of Guru Ravidas Jayanti on February 9, 2020, we remember the patron saint of the Dalit community, the man who inspired love, grace, Bhakti, and revolution.

ravidas

Guru Ravidas ji was one of the most prominent poets of the Bhakti Movement in 15th century. Born into an Untouchable Chamar caste family, he retained his caste occupation as a cobbler and inspired social reform through his Bhakti poetry, using it as a middle path of social protest against caste-based exclusion and oppression. His protest was novel, understated, yet dangerous, as he challenged upper caste Hindus even in the way he dressed- wearing dhoti, janeu, and tilak- which were forbidden for the Untouchables.

According to the Hindu Calendar, Guru Ravidas ji was born in Govardhanpur near Varanasi, on the full moon (Purnima) of the month of Magh in the late 14th century. There is no consensus on the exact year of his birth. Even as a child, he was inclined towards Bhakti and spiritualism, but at the same time he was a firm believer in dignity of labour. As dictated by social and caste norms, the Chamar caste would work with leather and animal hide. This was considered “dirty work” as the Chamar caste would work with animal carcasses. Unfazed, Guru Ravidas ji maintained a small shop making and repairing shoes, and is said to have built an idol out of leather to pray to. 

It was this knack for subverting caste norms that placed him in a position where he was revered by people of all castes and religions, and made the upper caste enforcers of caste oppression decidedly uncomfortable and jealous.

He challenged Brahminical hegemony with his poetry and one of his most popular dohas states- 

रैदास बांभन मत पूजिए जो होवे गुन हीन.

पूजिए चरन चंडाल के जो हो ज्ञान प्रवीन.

Loosely translated, it appeals to the people to stop worshipping Brahmins who have no enlightenment/knowledge, but rather worship a Chandaal who is enlightened. In these two simple lines he questioned the entire logic of caste system and how people were treated by the virtue of the coincidence of birth rather than their intellectual abilities. 

His doha- 'रैदास जन्म के कारने होत कोई नीच, नर कूं नीच कर डारि है, ओछे करम की नीच', was a direct attack on the caste system as he expounded that no one could be born “low”, what makes anyone a lowly person are their lowly deeds. 

Guru Ravidas’s devotional songs and poems were included Guru Granth Saheb (Sikhism) and PanchVani (Dadupanthi tradition- Hinduism). In addition, hagiographers over the centuries following his death have contributed to connecting the dots of his poetry and protest, his life and legacy. 

Modern-day followers of Guru Ravidas ji are known as Ravidasias (est. 21st century) and have made a distinct cultural and religious identity with their own temples and practices. Though they revere the Guru Granth Saheb of Sikhs as it contains 40 poems by Guru Ravidas ji, Ravidasias do not consider themselves as Sikhs or Hindus, but rather a separate religion. Most of them are residents of Punjab or have migrated to countries like Canada and USA. Even today, in Punjab, the word “Ravidasi” has caste undertones and discrimination is rampant, perpetrated by both Hindus and Sikhs. The caste system is so ingrained in our history that neither logic, nor modernization, seem to shake the centuries of suppression. 

With political and communal turmoil reaching a boiling point in present day India, Guru Ravidas’s vision of an equal and just land called Be-Gham-Pura (the city without sorrows) seems like a point on the horizon- visible, yet just out of reach-

“Where there is no affliction or suffering

Neither anxiety nor fear, taxes nor capital

No menace, no terror, no humiliation…

Says Ravidas the emancipated Chamar:

One who shares with me that city is my friend.” *

 

*(This unpublished translation by Joel Lee appears in Arundhati Roy’s “The Doctor and The Saint”)

Guru Ravidas ji pictured a world free of caste oppression, of divisions, of communal hatred. This is the world we want to leave behind for our future generations. Whatever steps we take in this life, they must all lead to Be-Gham-Pura, in honour of Guru Ravidas, for the sake of humanity.

**Note: The use of the words “Chamar”, “Untouchables”, and “Untouchability” in this article is in a historical context of the self-identified terminology pertaining to the time when these events took place. 

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Modi misrepresenting historical facts: Debabrata Saikia

Assam Congress leaders condemns PM’s statement in Parliament distorting facts about Jawaharlal Nehru

08 Feb 2020

Narendra ModiImage Courtesy: sentinelassam.com

After Prime Minister Narendra Modi, allegedly distorted facts about the Nehru-Liyaqat agreement in Parliament, Debabrata Saikia, who serves as the leader of the Opposition in the Assam Legislative Assembly has issued a statement not only condemning the PM’s remarks, but also setting the record of history straight.

Saikia says, “Leaders of the BJP, led by Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Mr. Amit Shah, are continuing their effort to lead people astray by misrepresenting historical facts. The latest manifestation of this campaign was seen in the Lok Sabha yesterday, when Mr. Modi dragged in the name of former Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru in a bid to justify the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 (CAA).”

He further said, “Mr. Modi has referred to the agreement for safety of minorities and protection of their rights in both countries, which was signed in 1950 between Pandit Nehru and the then Prime Minister of Pakistan, Liaquat Ali Khan, and raised a question as to why the former Prime Minister of India had used the term ‘religious minorities’ in the pact. The answer is very simple. Barely three years had elapsed then since Partition of the country, and antagonism and violence along religious lines prevailed both in India and undivided Pakistan. It was precisely for the reason of ensuring safety of common people in either country that both Prime Ministers felt the need for the pact in question.”

Saikia added, “Anyone who has even minimal knowledge of undivided Pakistan and present-day Bangladesh knows that the concept of ‘linguistic minority’ is not relevant when it comes to these countries. For instance, in the western part of Pakistan Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs etc. spoke then, and still speak today, chiefly in Punjabi. The conflict between these communities was based on religion, and not language. Similarly, Hindus and Muslims in erstwhile East Pakistan and present-day Bangladesh shared/share the same mother tongue, i.e. Bengali. Consequently, it is irrelevant to use terms like ‘linguistic minority’ in the context of these countries.”

Referring to Modi’s remarks on the letter written by Nehru to the then Chief Minister of Assam, Saikai sheds further light on the context saying, “Mr. Modi has referred to a letter written by Pandit Nehru to the then Chief Minister of Assam, Lokapriya Gopinath Bordoloi, as also certain comments made by Pandit Nehru in Parliament in 1950, and asserted that the former Prime Minister was in favour of granting Indian citizenship to refugees from undivided Pakistan. It is true that being the great humanitarian that he was, Pandit Nehru spearheaded the Displaced Persons (Compensation and Rehabilitation) Rules, 1955 and created a category of East Pakistan Displaced Persons and re-settled them in what is now known as the C.R. Park area of New Delhi. On top of that, a ‘Dandakaranya Project’ was launched to rehabilitate them in undivided Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, undivided Andhra Pradesh and the Andaman Islands. However, this project was not successful mainly because the refugees were reluctant to leave states like West Bengal and Tripura, where they found linguistic affinity.”

He further clarifies, “It is to be noted that the policy of rehabilitating religious minorities in India was pursued by Pandit Nehru with reference to the situation created during Partition of the country and its immediate aftermath. This was not a perpetual policy.” He added, “Pandit Nehru and other leaders had adopted a short-term policy regarding refugees in view of the unique situation created by Partition. However, the situation in Pakistan or Bangladesh is not such today that hordes of religious minorities are fleeing en masse to India as refugees after facing atrocities.”

The entire statement may be read here:

 

Modi misrepresenting historical facts: Debabrata Saikia

Assam Congress leaders condemns PM’s statement in Parliament distorting facts about Jawaharlal Nehru

Narendra ModiImage Courtesy: sentinelassam.com

After Prime Minister Narendra Modi, allegedly distorted facts about the Nehru-Liyaqat agreement in Parliament, Debabrata Saikia, who serves as the leader of the Opposition in the Assam Legislative Assembly has issued a statement not only condemning the PM’s remarks, but also setting the record of history straight.

Saikia says, “Leaders of the BJP, led by Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Mr. Amit Shah, are continuing their effort to lead people astray by misrepresenting historical facts. The latest manifestation of this campaign was seen in the Lok Sabha yesterday, when Mr. Modi dragged in the name of former Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru in a bid to justify the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 (CAA).”

He further said, “Mr. Modi has referred to the agreement for safety of minorities and protection of their rights in both countries, which was signed in 1950 between Pandit Nehru and the then Prime Minister of Pakistan, Liaquat Ali Khan, and raised a question as to why the former Prime Minister of India had used the term ‘religious minorities’ in the pact. The answer is very simple. Barely three years had elapsed then since Partition of the country, and antagonism and violence along religious lines prevailed both in India and undivided Pakistan. It was precisely for the reason of ensuring safety of common people in either country that both Prime Ministers felt the need for the pact in question.”

Saikia added, “Anyone who has even minimal knowledge of undivided Pakistan and present-day Bangladesh knows that the concept of ‘linguistic minority’ is not relevant when it comes to these countries. For instance, in the western part of Pakistan Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs etc. spoke then, and still speak today, chiefly in Punjabi. The conflict between these communities was based on religion, and not language. Similarly, Hindus and Muslims in erstwhile East Pakistan and present-day Bangladesh shared/share the same mother tongue, i.e. Bengali. Consequently, it is irrelevant to use terms like ‘linguistic minority’ in the context of these countries.”

Referring to Modi’s remarks on the letter written by Nehru to the then Chief Minister of Assam, Saikai sheds further light on the context saying, “Mr. Modi has referred to a letter written by Pandit Nehru to the then Chief Minister of Assam, Lokapriya Gopinath Bordoloi, as also certain comments made by Pandit Nehru in Parliament in 1950, and asserted that the former Prime Minister was in favour of granting Indian citizenship to refugees from undivided Pakistan. It is true that being the great humanitarian that he was, Pandit Nehru spearheaded the Displaced Persons (Compensation and Rehabilitation) Rules, 1955 and created a category of East Pakistan Displaced Persons and re-settled them in what is now known as the C.R. Park area of New Delhi. On top of that, a ‘Dandakaranya Project’ was launched to rehabilitate them in undivided Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, undivided Andhra Pradesh and the Andaman Islands. However, this project was not successful mainly because the refugees were reluctant to leave states like West Bengal and Tripura, where they found linguistic affinity.”

He further clarifies, “It is to be noted that the policy of rehabilitating religious minorities in India was pursued by Pandit Nehru with reference to the situation created during Partition of the country and its immediate aftermath. This was not a perpetual policy.” He added, “Pandit Nehru and other leaders had adopted a short-term policy regarding refugees in view of the unique situation created by Partition. However, the situation in Pakistan or Bangladesh is not such today that hordes of religious minorities are fleeing en masse to India as refugees after facing atrocities.”

The entire statement may be read here:

 

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Century ago, Mook-Nayak beckons a new Ambedkarite movement today

Foster young and new Ambedkarites to lead the new age of knowledge and information for an enlightened media

01 Feb 2020

Ambedkar

Today marks the centenary of the publication of 'Mook-Nayak', founded by Baba Saheb Ambedkar. Exactly on January 31, 1920, Baba Saheb Ambedkar launched this fortnightly to give voice to the voiceless as reflected in its name. I won’t go into many details of the newspaper as many scholarly articles have already appeared on it commemorating its century run. What is more important is to reflect on the influence Baba Saheb Ambedkar had on the media in India. What emerged out of Baba Saheb’s influence was what we can safely call was the Ambedkarite media. People may differ but I write based on my experiences and interactions with whole lot of Ambedkarites and those who were part of Baba Saheb's mission. I feel extremely proud that I could interact and learn a lot from intellectual giants Bhagwan Das ji, NG Uke Saheb, L R Balley, V T Rajshekar, J V Pawar, Raja Dhale, Vijay Surwade and many more who had been regularly writing and contributing in different forms to strengthen mission Ambedkarism and its intellectual ethos. There are hundreds other unknown soldiers of the movement who in different nooks and corners of the country started various journals and periodicals to spread it in their impact domains and areas.

Photographs and quotes of Baba Saheb Ambekar today are visible in every protest and dharna everywhere. His bitter opponents, both the Congress and BJP quote him. The Left forces which portrayed him 'constitutionalist' and too narrow 'caste' focused are quoting him now too, but things were not the same when Dr. Ambedkar started his journey. We were a country in awe of Gandhi as he represented the Savarna power of India even when he played patron saint for Muslims. No 'Manustream' media would focus on Ambedkar's work and thought. All his life, Baba Saheb fought not with Gandhi or Gandhians but the dishonest brahminical intellectual class too which felt threatened and had no keen interest that his thought and vision reach to the people of India. But his  mission of Ambedkarism was carried forward by his dedicated followers who started publishing periodicals and magazines everywhere and it is because of their work and dedication that Ambedkarites today are one of the most enlightened and intellectual class. It is these dedicated icons who took immense pain to make this literature available to us.

Today, we have a hugely powerful Ambedkarite opinion making class, a majority of who, would not like to get legitimised or justified by the brahminical intellectual of media yet many of those who are active and visible on social media and have made their way into the ‘Manustream’ media. The difference is that in the yesteryears, no brahminical intellectual had the capacity to publish the roar of an L R Balley or Bhagwan Das or V T Rajshekar or Raja Dhale. Today, they have started publishing the new young which is a good sign but for me, I would still appreciate and respect those more who don’t care for the brahminical mainstream media and continue to do their work of spreading Ambedkarite enlightenment through their own network. It is a fact that Ambedkarism is the most potent weapon against brahminism and it has survived despite India's power elite never wanting it to. Such was the power of the movement, which never got any good 'press' or review by the 'nationalists' and who always blamed Ambedkarites as Casteists.

Today, in the one hundred years of Mook Nayak, it is important to continue with autonomous publications. Let more flowers bloom and young Ambedkarites take charge of new media, use social media and engage in constructive debates. Dr Ambedkar was an intellectual giant who responded to various issues confronting the nation. We need to use his basic tools to respond to the current crises that we face today. Reach more and more groups diverse from your own and make alliances with common minimum programmes without undermining the basic identity of Ambedkarism. The real fight against the brahminical caste hegemonists or fascists in India can only come through an inclusive and diverse coalition of Ambedkarite Bahujans with Ambedkarism playing the lead role of coordinating these diverse groups, but in a collective leadership.

It is essential to understand that Baba Saheb Ambedkar paid great emphasis on interacting with his people and through his media. He could also have written in the Manuwadi media of his time but he preferred his own publications so that his view remained undiluted and unadulterated. Also important is that he changed his strategies from time to time - from Mook Nayak to Bahishkrit Bharat, and ultimately to 'Prabuddh Bharat' which was his vision for an enlightened India as he knew well that without providing an alternative to brahminism you cannot really liberate people; and hence it was essential to continue with the intellectual dialogue.

Today's leadership actually don’t want an intellectual debate. Most of them hate the idea and never felt that a professional media was required which could give its professional guidance by inviting community intellectuals, silent activists, grassroots workers to write and not merely report or produce all the garbage of party reporting or neta bhakti. Intellectuals need to come beyond the bhakti as Baba Saheb said categorically why 'bhakti' in politics was a way towards disaster. Through the media, leaders give their vision and people interact with them. More than that they listen to their own critique but today criticism is not liked and brahminical media will not critique Bahujan leadership for the point of the community interest but its own interest and therefore such media was needed which could warn leaders of their faults and not become their propaganda tool as it would never help in the long run. Media can also be used in creating new young leaders but for that one needs a long term strategy.

While we salute all those known and unknow Ambedkarites who carried forwarded the legacy of Dr Baba Saheb Ambedkar's journalism, it must continue its work unmindful of whether others appreciate it or not. The real power does not lie in brahminical acknowledgement but in awakening the masses and making their issues public. The ‘Manustream’ media today is distorting facts, hiding them and vilifying dissenters. It is important therefore, we support and participate with all such forces who have stood with people for their human rights, social justice and raised their issues and provided space for all kind of discussions.

In the 21st century, Dr Baba Saheb Ambedkar's philosophy will play the real 'liberation theology' for all the oppressed people and if we want that this philosophy is not distorted then it is essential we keep safe the legacy of all those who dedicated their life to spread Baba Saheb's 'Prabuddha Bharat' mission. Ambedkarite media is not reporting cut and paste from the manuwadi media but essentially a constructive ideological alternative of the hierarchical varna system, a complete annihilation of caste which is necessary for a stronger and democratic India. No Manuwadi media would be interested in annihilation of caste as it is only possible through Ambedkarite media but for that we all will have to learn to listen to even disagreements and try forge a coalition with all. Ambedkarite media can be an individual enterprise but will have to work in close association with the community and should not only raise their issues but work towards creating new young writers, photographers, cartoonists, reporters and editors. The task is tough but nothing is impossible and will ultimately benefit the nation enormously where media is the 'exclusive' domain of two or three jaatis.

In the 100 years of the celebration of Mook-Nayak, our main goal should be to break the hegemony of these exploiting castes and classes in our knowledge and information system so that brahminical exploitation is exposed, people get justice and rule of law is restored. We have seen the dirt and filth that ‘Manustream’ media has unleashed on us and to counter this we need an enlightened media and better analysis of the current situation. Ambedkarites can do that, and if they do so, it will be the best tribute to Baba Saheb Ambedkar.

 

Century ago, Mook-Nayak beckons a new Ambedkarite movement today

Foster young and new Ambedkarites to lead the new age of knowledge and information for an enlightened media

Ambedkar

Today marks the centenary of the publication of 'Mook-Nayak', founded by Baba Saheb Ambedkar. Exactly on January 31, 1920, Baba Saheb Ambedkar launched this fortnightly to give voice to the voiceless as reflected in its name. I won’t go into many details of the newspaper as many scholarly articles have already appeared on it commemorating its century run. What is more important is to reflect on the influence Baba Saheb Ambedkar had on the media in India. What emerged out of Baba Saheb’s influence was what we can safely call was the Ambedkarite media. People may differ but I write based on my experiences and interactions with whole lot of Ambedkarites and those who were part of Baba Saheb's mission. I feel extremely proud that I could interact and learn a lot from intellectual giants Bhagwan Das ji, NG Uke Saheb, L R Balley, V T Rajshekar, J V Pawar, Raja Dhale, Vijay Surwade and many more who had been regularly writing and contributing in different forms to strengthen mission Ambedkarism and its intellectual ethos. There are hundreds other unknown soldiers of the movement who in different nooks and corners of the country started various journals and periodicals to spread it in their impact domains and areas.

Photographs and quotes of Baba Saheb Ambekar today are visible in every protest and dharna everywhere. His bitter opponents, both the Congress and BJP quote him. The Left forces which portrayed him 'constitutionalist' and too narrow 'caste' focused are quoting him now too, but things were not the same when Dr. Ambedkar started his journey. We were a country in awe of Gandhi as he represented the Savarna power of India even when he played patron saint for Muslims. No 'Manustream' media would focus on Ambedkar's work and thought. All his life, Baba Saheb fought not with Gandhi or Gandhians but the dishonest brahminical intellectual class too which felt threatened and had no keen interest that his thought and vision reach to the people of India. But his  mission of Ambedkarism was carried forward by his dedicated followers who started publishing periodicals and magazines everywhere and it is because of their work and dedication that Ambedkarites today are one of the most enlightened and intellectual class. It is these dedicated icons who took immense pain to make this literature available to us.

Today, we have a hugely powerful Ambedkarite opinion making class, a majority of who, would not like to get legitimised or justified by the brahminical intellectual of media yet many of those who are active and visible on social media and have made their way into the ‘Manustream’ media. The difference is that in the yesteryears, no brahminical intellectual had the capacity to publish the roar of an L R Balley or Bhagwan Das or V T Rajshekar or Raja Dhale. Today, they have started publishing the new young which is a good sign but for me, I would still appreciate and respect those more who don’t care for the brahminical mainstream media and continue to do their work of spreading Ambedkarite enlightenment through their own network. It is a fact that Ambedkarism is the most potent weapon against brahminism and it has survived despite India's power elite never wanting it to. Such was the power of the movement, which never got any good 'press' or review by the 'nationalists' and who always blamed Ambedkarites as Casteists.

Today, in the one hundred years of Mook Nayak, it is important to continue with autonomous publications. Let more flowers bloom and young Ambedkarites take charge of new media, use social media and engage in constructive debates. Dr Ambedkar was an intellectual giant who responded to various issues confronting the nation. We need to use his basic tools to respond to the current crises that we face today. Reach more and more groups diverse from your own and make alliances with common minimum programmes without undermining the basic identity of Ambedkarism. The real fight against the brahminical caste hegemonists or fascists in India can only come through an inclusive and diverse coalition of Ambedkarite Bahujans with Ambedkarism playing the lead role of coordinating these diverse groups, but in a collective leadership.

It is essential to understand that Baba Saheb Ambedkar paid great emphasis on interacting with his people and through his media. He could also have written in the Manuwadi media of his time but he preferred his own publications so that his view remained undiluted and unadulterated. Also important is that he changed his strategies from time to time - from Mook Nayak to Bahishkrit Bharat, and ultimately to 'Prabuddh Bharat' which was his vision for an enlightened India as he knew well that without providing an alternative to brahminism you cannot really liberate people; and hence it was essential to continue with the intellectual dialogue.

Today's leadership actually don’t want an intellectual debate. Most of them hate the idea and never felt that a professional media was required which could give its professional guidance by inviting community intellectuals, silent activists, grassroots workers to write and not merely report or produce all the garbage of party reporting or neta bhakti. Intellectuals need to come beyond the bhakti as Baba Saheb said categorically why 'bhakti' in politics was a way towards disaster. Through the media, leaders give their vision and people interact with them. More than that they listen to their own critique but today criticism is not liked and brahminical media will not critique Bahujan leadership for the point of the community interest but its own interest and therefore such media was needed which could warn leaders of their faults and not become their propaganda tool as it would never help in the long run. Media can also be used in creating new young leaders but for that one needs a long term strategy.

While we salute all those known and unknow Ambedkarites who carried forwarded the legacy of Dr Baba Saheb Ambedkar's journalism, it must continue its work unmindful of whether others appreciate it or not. The real power does not lie in brahminical acknowledgement but in awakening the masses and making their issues public. The ‘Manustream’ media today is distorting facts, hiding them and vilifying dissenters. It is important therefore, we support and participate with all such forces who have stood with people for their human rights, social justice and raised their issues and provided space for all kind of discussions.

In the 21st century, Dr Baba Saheb Ambedkar's philosophy will play the real 'liberation theology' for all the oppressed people and if we want that this philosophy is not distorted then it is essential we keep safe the legacy of all those who dedicated their life to spread Baba Saheb's 'Prabuddha Bharat' mission. Ambedkarite media is not reporting cut and paste from the manuwadi media but essentially a constructive ideological alternative of the hierarchical varna system, a complete annihilation of caste which is necessary for a stronger and democratic India. No Manuwadi media would be interested in annihilation of caste as it is only possible through Ambedkarite media but for that we all will have to learn to listen to even disagreements and try forge a coalition with all. Ambedkarite media can be an individual enterprise but will have to work in close association with the community and should not only raise their issues but work towards creating new young writers, photographers, cartoonists, reporters and editors. The task is tough but nothing is impossible and will ultimately benefit the nation enormously where media is the 'exclusive' domain of two or three jaatis.

In the 100 years of the celebration of Mook-Nayak, our main goal should be to break the hegemony of these exploiting castes and classes in our knowledge and information system so that brahminical exploitation is exposed, people get justice and rule of law is restored. We have seen the dirt and filth that ‘Manustream’ media has unleashed on us and to counter this we need an enlightened media and better analysis of the current situation. Ambedkarites can do that, and if they do so, it will be the best tribute to Baba Saheb Ambedkar.

 

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No discussion on who killed Mahatma Gandhi is complete without addressing idea of a Hindu Rashtra

30 Jan 2020

First published on: 28 Jul 2016


 
The murder of Mahatma Gandhi, or more dramatically put, the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi was the first act of terror committed in independent India, as I wrote in the introduction to the volume, Beyond Doubt-A Dossier on Gandhi’s Assassination (2015, Tulika). It was also, I wrote, a declaration of war and a statement of intent.

It was a declaration of war by a section of society which remained largely on the fringes during the independence struggle and was committed to religion-based nationhood, and wanted India to become a Hindu rashtra. This was a section that bore visceral dislike toward the idea of composite culture and inclusive nationhood advocated by the Mahatma.

It is this ideology that unashamedly rules India today.

Any discussion on the assassination, therefore, needs to address the issues around the killing, the motives of the assassins. It should also examine further why Gandhi and what he stood for posed such a dire threat to the worldview of the killers.

Whenever the murder is discussed, and the factors responsible for the killing tossed around, public memory can often become carelessly selective, unwarrantedly perhaps spawning a dangerous ambivalence. I refer here specifically to the July 21 article that deliberately or otherwise skips crucial bits of the event. There are also several inaccuracies in the report that has carelessly quoted from earlier published articles.

Setting the record straight
There is need to set the record straight. The killing of Gandhi was not an isolated act but the last successful one of a series of attempts that began as early as 1934. Since the first attack on June 25 1934, there had been a total of five attempts on Gandhi’s life: in July and September 1944, September 1946, and January 20, 1948, ten days before he was actually shot dead.

Nathuram Godse was involved in two of the previous attempts besides the last one – that is, in a total of three, completely upsetting the comfortable narrative of Godse’s actions not being pre-meditated and coldly and carefully planned.

This aspect is completely missing from the article that fails to ask (while superficially relying on a sinister justification for the killing that Godse’s belief that “Gandhi helped create Pakistan” was the reason behind the killing) why some groups of persons found Gandhi and his beliefs so thoroughly repugnant that they had to eliminate him.

It was Gandhi’s commitment to composite nationhood as opposed to a religion-based state (Pakistan or Hindu Rashtra) and his support for the law against untouchability (he made a historic speech in the Central legislature in 1935) that made him enemy No 1 for all those who dreamt then – and conspire even today – to convert India into a Hindu Rashtra.

One of the crucial reasons for editing the volume Beyond Doubt was to bring to readers in English the seminal work of senior journalist and writer Jagan Phadnis who researched the killing back in 1998 as also the important contribution of Chunibhai Vaidya from Gujarat. These works along with historian YD Phadke’s analysis of the Kapoor Commission Report published in Communalism Combat are crucial reading for serious readers on the subject, and are included in the volume.

That the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh was banned by the government of India within two days of the assassination, through a Government Resolution dated February 2, 1948, is surely a critical part of the narrative, which is absent in its recounting 68 years later. The language of this resolution, reproduced in Beyond Doubt, is unequivocal when it speaks of the determination of the government of India
 

“to root out the forces of hate and violence that are at work in our country and imperil the freedom of the Nation and darken her fair name. In pursuance of this politics [the GR says] the GOI has decided to declare as unlawful the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh in the Chief Commissioner’s Provinces. Similar action is also being taken in the Governor’s provinces.”
The banning of the RSS within five months of India becoming independent and within two days of the dastardly killing of Mahatma Gandhi has been linked to the ‘undesirable and even dangerous activities carried out by individual members of the Sangh who have indulged in acts of violence involving arson, robbery, dacoity and murder and have collected illicit arms and ammunition. They have been found, “circulating leaflets exhorting people to resort to terrorist methods, to collect firearms, to create disaffection against the government and suborn the police and the military….The objectionable and harmful activities of the Sangh have, however, continued unabated and the cult of violence sponsored and inspired by the activities of the Sangh has claimed many victims. The latest and the most precious to fall was Gandhiji himself.” The GR was first published in the August 2004 issue of Communalism Combat, as part of the cover story, titled Hey Ram.

 

Ban and lifting the ban
The story does not end here. The communications between the Government of India through then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and Home Minister Vallabhai Patel with the RSS also show up the falsehoods perpetrated by the Sangh, which has tried to distort even this part of history.

On September 11, 1948, the famous letter written by Patel to RSS chief MS Golwalkar strongly decries the systematic hate tactics of the Sangh before and after Gandhi’s assassination. This letter has been quoted in full in Desraj Goyal’s Rahstriya Swayamsevak Sangh (First published in 1979, Revised edition in 2000, Radhakrishna Prakashan Pvt Ltd, New Delhi).

More importantly, this and another letter written by Patel to the founder of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh Dr Shyama Prasad Mukherjee dated July 18, 1948 make clear the links between the RSS and the Hindu Mahasabha.
The September 11, 1948 letter is of particular significance as it outlines the kind of activities the RSS was observed to indulge in.
 

“But the objectionable part arose when they, burning with revenge, began attacking Mussalmans. Organising Hindus and helping them is one thing but going in for revenge for its sufferings on innocent and helpless men, women and children is quite another thing……..All their speeches were full communal poison. It was not necessary to spread poison and enthuse the Hindus and organise for their protection. As a final result of the poison, the country had to suffer the sacrifice of the valuable life of Gandhiji. Even an iota of sympathy of the Government or of the people no more remained for the RSS. In fact the opposition grew. Opposition turned more severe, when the RSS men expressed joy and distributed sweets after Gandhiji’s death. Under these conditions it became inevitable for the Government to take action against the RSS.”
 

A government of India press note of November 14, 1948 relates to the outright rejection of a representation by Golwalkar to lift the ban on the RSS by the Home Ministry, refers to the "anti-national, often subversive and violent activities of the RSS”.

This press note, also obtained from the archives of the government of India, was first published in the August 2004 issue of Communalism Combat, as part of the cover story, titled Hey Ram.

The government of India took into account the considered opinion of provincial governments before arriving at its decision to ban the RSS. An article of The Indian Express dated February 7, 1948 reports that an RSS leader from Nagpur who had presented Godse with the revolver with which he killed Gandhi had been arrested. Other persons arrested included Professor Varahadpande of the City College, Nagpur.

This news report states that another professor of Nagpur had told his students a day before the assassination that “Gandhiji would be murdered”. An associate of the gang of conspirators, Devendra Kumar, was reported by the same newspaper to have surrendered to the District Magistrate, Mirzapur and taken to Lucknow under armed escort.

There is more such material which forms part of the annexes to the Kapoor Commission which will form part of the second volume of Beyond Doubt that I am currently annotating and editing. For the record, towards the end of the judgement in the Gandhi Murder case, Special Judge Atmacharan made the following remarks in regards to the conduct of the police with relation to the bomb attack on Gandhi on January 20, barely ten days before the day he died.

“ I may bring to the notice of the Central Government the slackness of the police in the investigation of the case during the period between January 20-30,1948... Had the slightest keenness been shown in the investigation of the case at that stage, the tragedy could have been averted.”

The terms of reference to the Kapoor Commission clearly show that it was not within its ambit to investigate whether or not the RSS was involved in the murder. It would be pertinent to again quote from the Government communiqué dated 11 July, 1949 provided in Appendix IV to Desraj Goyal’s Rahstriya Swayamsevak Sangh which laid down the conditions for lifting the ban on the RSS.

“The RSS leader has undertaken to make the loyalty to the Union Constitution and respect for the National Flag more explicit in the Constitution of the RSS and to provide clearly that persons believing or resorting to violent and secret methods will have no place in the Sangh..”

Among other conditions was that the RSS would function only as a cultural organisation.

Hindu rashtra

A genuine understanding of the motivations behind the ideology that killed Gandhi cannot skirt around the fundamental issue of religion-based nationhood. The contempt for the Indian Constitution is writ large in MS Golwalkar’s Bunch of Thoughts, which is proudly available on the RSS website even today (for example, see Page 119).

Despite its assurances to the government of India, the Indian tricolour remained anathema to the Sangh for 52 years after India became independent. It was only on January 26, 2002, that the RSS hoisted the tricolour on its headquarters. Until then it was always the bhagwa dhwaj, representing the Hindu nation.

In fact, the English organ of the RSS, Organiser (dated August 14, 1947) carried a feature titled “Mystery behind the bhagwa dhawaj” which, while demanding hoisting of the saffron flag at the ramparts of Red Fort in Delhi, openly denigrated the choice of the Tri-colour as the National Flag in the following words:

“The people who have come to power by the kick of fate may give in our hands the Tricolour but it never be respected and owned by Hindus. The word three is in itself an evil, and a flag having three colours will certainly produce a very bad psychological effect and is injurious to a country.”

It became even more brazen once the first RSS-driven government in New Delhi under Atal Behari Vajpayee came into power as the organisation’s mouthpiece Organiser proudly advertised the books published by Surya Bharati Prakashan, Gandhi Ji’s Murder and After by co-accused and brother of the assassin, Gopal Godse, as also May It Please Your Honour, by Nathuram Godse.

Both the RSS and the Hindu Mahasabha have made money by glamourising the killer of Gandhi and claimed proud privilege for the reasons for the killing.

The crux of the issue for the Sangh and those who have opposed its supremacist ideology has always been about who has or has not the right to equal rights and citizenship in the India of today. On this issue Gandhi and the RSS stood on the extreme opposites ends of the spectrum. Not only can no one deny this, but it is this crucial issue that remains central to the debate around which forces were responsible for the murder of the Mahatma.

Courtesy: Scroll.in
 

No discussion on who killed Mahatma Gandhi is complete without addressing idea of a Hindu Rashtra

First published on: 28 Jul 2016


 
The murder of Mahatma Gandhi, or more dramatically put, the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi was the first act of terror committed in independent India, as I wrote in the introduction to the volume, Beyond Doubt-A Dossier on Gandhi’s Assassination (2015, Tulika). It was also, I wrote, a declaration of war and a statement of intent.

It was a declaration of war by a section of society which remained largely on the fringes during the independence struggle and was committed to religion-based nationhood, and wanted India to become a Hindu rashtra. This was a section that bore visceral dislike toward the idea of composite culture and inclusive nationhood advocated by the Mahatma.

It is this ideology that unashamedly rules India today.

Any discussion on the assassination, therefore, needs to address the issues around the killing, the motives of the assassins. It should also examine further why Gandhi and what he stood for posed such a dire threat to the worldview of the killers.

Whenever the murder is discussed, and the factors responsible for the killing tossed around, public memory can often become carelessly selective, unwarrantedly perhaps spawning a dangerous ambivalence. I refer here specifically to the July 21 article that deliberately or otherwise skips crucial bits of the event. There are also several inaccuracies in the report that has carelessly quoted from earlier published articles.

Setting the record straight
There is need to set the record straight. The killing of Gandhi was not an isolated act but the last successful one of a series of attempts that began as early as 1934. Since the first attack on June 25 1934, there had been a total of five attempts on Gandhi’s life: in July and September 1944, September 1946, and January 20, 1948, ten days before he was actually shot dead.

Nathuram Godse was involved in two of the previous attempts besides the last one – that is, in a total of three, completely upsetting the comfortable narrative of Godse’s actions not being pre-meditated and coldly and carefully planned.

This aspect is completely missing from the article that fails to ask (while superficially relying on a sinister justification for the killing that Godse’s belief that “Gandhi helped create Pakistan” was the reason behind the killing) why some groups of persons found Gandhi and his beliefs so thoroughly repugnant that they had to eliminate him.

It was Gandhi’s commitment to composite nationhood as opposed to a religion-based state (Pakistan or Hindu Rashtra) and his support for the law against untouchability (he made a historic speech in the Central legislature in 1935) that made him enemy No 1 for all those who dreamt then – and conspire even today – to convert India into a Hindu Rashtra.

One of the crucial reasons for editing the volume Beyond Doubt was to bring to readers in English the seminal work of senior journalist and writer Jagan Phadnis who researched the killing back in 1998 as also the important contribution of Chunibhai Vaidya from Gujarat. These works along with historian YD Phadke’s analysis of the Kapoor Commission Report published in Communalism Combat are crucial reading for serious readers on the subject, and are included in the volume.

That the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh was banned by the government of India within two days of the assassination, through a Government Resolution dated February 2, 1948, is surely a critical part of the narrative, which is absent in its recounting 68 years later. The language of this resolution, reproduced in Beyond Doubt, is unequivocal when it speaks of the determination of the government of India
 

“to root out the forces of hate and violence that are at work in our country and imperil the freedom of the Nation and darken her fair name. In pursuance of this politics [the GR says] the GOI has decided to declare as unlawful the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh in the Chief Commissioner’s Provinces. Similar action is also being taken in the Governor’s provinces.”
The banning of the RSS within five months of India becoming independent and within two days of the dastardly killing of Mahatma Gandhi has been linked to the ‘undesirable and even dangerous activities carried out by individual members of the Sangh who have indulged in acts of violence involving arson, robbery, dacoity and murder and have collected illicit arms and ammunition. They have been found, “circulating leaflets exhorting people to resort to terrorist methods, to collect firearms, to create disaffection against the government and suborn the police and the military….The objectionable and harmful activities of the Sangh have, however, continued unabated and the cult of violence sponsored and inspired by the activities of the Sangh has claimed many victims. The latest and the most precious to fall was Gandhiji himself.” The GR was first published in the August 2004 issue of Communalism Combat, as part of the cover story, titled Hey Ram.

 

Ban and lifting the ban
The story does not end here. The communications between the Government of India through then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and Home Minister Vallabhai Patel with the RSS also show up the falsehoods perpetrated by the Sangh, which has tried to distort even this part of history.

On September 11, 1948, the famous letter written by Patel to RSS chief MS Golwalkar strongly decries the systematic hate tactics of the Sangh before and after Gandhi’s assassination. This letter has been quoted in full in Desraj Goyal’s Rahstriya Swayamsevak Sangh (First published in 1979, Revised edition in 2000, Radhakrishna Prakashan Pvt Ltd, New Delhi).

More importantly, this and another letter written by Patel to the founder of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh Dr Shyama Prasad Mukherjee dated July 18, 1948 make clear the links between the RSS and the Hindu Mahasabha.
The September 11, 1948 letter is of particular significance as it outlines the kind of activities the RSS was observed to indulge in.
 

“But the objectionable part arose when they, burning with revenge, began attacking Mussalmans. Organising Hindus and helping them is one thing but going in for revenge for its sufferings on innocent and helpless men, women and children is quite another thing……..All their speeches were full communal poison. It was not necessary to spread poison and enthuse the Hindus and organise for their protection. As a final result of the poison, the country had to suffer the sacrifice of the valuable life of Gandhiji. Even an iota of sympathy of the Government or of the people no more remained for the RSS. In fact the opposition grew. Opposition turned more severe, when the RSS men expressed joy and distributed sweets after Gandhiji’s death. Under these conditions it became inevitable for the Government to take action against the RSS.”
 

A government of India press note of November 14, 1948 relates to the outright rejection of a representation by Golwalkar to lift the ban on the RSS by the Home Ministry, refers to the "anti-national, often subversive and violent activities of the RSS”.

This press note, also obtained from the archives of the government of India, was first published in the August 2004 issue of Communalism Combat, as part of the cover story, titled Hey Ram.

The government of India took into account the considered opinion of provincial governments before arriving at its decision to ban the RSS. An article of The Indian Express dated February 7, 1948 reports that an RSS leader from Nagpur who had presented Godse with the revolver with which he killed Gandhi had been arrested. Other persons arrested included Professor Varahadpande of the City College, Nagpur.

This news report states that another professor of Nagpur had told his students a day before the assassination that “Gandhiji would be murdered”. An associate of the gang of conspirators, Devendra Kumar, was reported by the same newspaper to have surrendered to the District Magistrate, Mirzapur and taken to Lucknow under armed escort.

There is more such material which forms part of the annexes to the Kapoor Commission which will form part of the second volume of Beyond Doubt that I am currently annotating and editing. For the record, towards the end of the judgement in the Gandhi Murder case, Special Judge Atmacharan made the following remarks in regards to the conduct of the police with relation to the bomb attack on Gandhi on January 20, barely ten days before the day he died.

“ I may bring to the notice of the Central Government the slackness of the police in the investigation of the case during the period between January 20-30,1948... Had the slightest keenness been shown in the investigation of the case at that stage, the tragedy could have been averted.”

The terms of reference to the Kapoor Commission clearly show that it was not within its ambit to investigate whether or not the RSS was involved in the murder. It would be pertinent to again quote from the Government communiqué dated 11 July, 1949 provided in Appendix IV to Desraj Goyal’s Rahstriya Swayamsevak Sangh which laid down the conditions for lifting the ban on the RSS.

“The RSS leader has undertaken to make the loyalty to the Union Constitution and respect for the National Flag more explicit in the Constitution of the RSS and to provide clearly that persons believing or resorting to violent and secret methods will have no place in the Sangh..”

Among other conditions was that the RSS would function only as a cultural organisation.

Hindu rashtra

A genuine understanding of the motivations behind the ideology that killed Gandhi cannot skirt around the fundamental issue of religion-based nationhood. The contempt for the Indian Constitution is writ large in MS Golwalkar’s Bunch of Thoughts, which is proudly available on the RSS website even today (for example, see Page 119).

Despite its assurances to the government of India, the Indian tricolour remained anathema to the Sangh for 52 years after India became independent. It was only on January 26, 2002, that the RSS hoisted the tricolour on its headquarters. Until then it was always the bhagwa dhwaj, representing the Hindu nation.

In fact, the English organ of the RSS, Organiser (dated August 14, 1947) carried a feature titled “Mystery behind the bhagwa dhawaj” which, while demanding hoisting of the saffron flag at the ramparts of Red Fort in Delhi, openly denigrated the choice of the Tri-colour as the National Flag in the following words:

“The people who have come to power by the kick of fate may give in our hands the Tricolour but it never be respected and owned by Hindus. The word three is in itself an evil, and a flag having three colours will certainly produce a very bad psychological effect and is injurious to a country.”

It became even more brazen once the first RSS-driven government in New Delhi under Atal Behari Vajpayee came into power as the organisation’s mouthpiece Organiser proudly advertised the books published by Surya Bharati Prakashan, Gandhi Ji’s Murder and After by co-accused and brother of the assassin, Gopal Godse, as also May It Please Your Honour, by Nathuram Godse.

Both the RSS and the Hindu Mahasabha have made money by glamourising the killer of Gandhi and claimed proud privilege for the reasons for the killing.

The crux of the issue for the Sangh and those who have opposed its supremacist ideology has always been about who has or has not the right to equal rights and citizenship in the India of today. On this issue Gandhi and the RSS stood on the extreme opposites ends of the spectrum. Not only can no one deny this, but it is this crucial issue that remains central to the debate around which forces were responsible for the murder of the Mahatma.

Courtesy: Scroll.in
 

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CAA is first big step towards Savarkar’s Akhand Hindu-Rashtra

14 Jan 2020

Akhand

The Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 (CAA) is being vaguely labelled as Anti-Muslim. Though it is certainly designed to exclude and disparage Muslims to become lesser rights-holders in India, the Act’s design reflects a larger nefarious social agenda.

In 2014, Hindus, Sikhs, Christians and Buddhists from Pakistan were given Long Term Visas (LTVs) for stay in India. In 2015, the notification by Ministry of Home Affairs made changes in Passport (Entry into India) Amendment Rules, 2015, the facility for LTVs were extended to people from Bangladesh and Pakistan who would now come to India due to religious persecution or due to fear of religious persecution. The order extended the facility to Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis, and Christians. Through another notification Dated 18th July 2016, Afghanistan was also added as an eligible country. All this was made as the ground for the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, which was brought during first tenure of Narendra Modi as PM, but was successfully passed in the Parliament during the second term and was published into The Gazette on 12th December 2019.

What is interesting to note is that the word “Persecuted” is completely missing from the Act. Having missed the word “Persecuted” is counter-intuitive to the “publicly declared” object of having the Act itself. Also, through the Act, Citizenship will only be granted to those people who have arrived in India before 31st December 2014, and those who come after, shall be granted the LTVs under the rules that I have talked about earlier. By dropping the word “persecution”, the Act in its writing looks like an implicit acknowledgement that for people belonging to Six Religions (Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Zoroastrianism, Christianity) and from three countries (Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh), India is their natural home and it is their right to come to India any time and claim visa and later citizenship.

What the Act in effect does is that it discriminates through an arbitrary criteria “Religion” and “Region”. It very smartly sidelines the Muslims from these three countries. The Act, very cautiously chooses only those countries where Muslims are in majority. There are Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, Buddhists, Parsis, and Christians in other neighboring countries like Sri Lanka, Nepal, Myanmar, Bhutan and China. In Sri Lanka, the Tamil-Hindus are persecuted, Rohingyas from Myanmar are the world’s most persecuted minorities. In fact, certain Muslim sects are persecuted in Muslim majority countries. If giving refuge to the persecuted was the intent, then the act would have definitely not been as arbitrary and as explicitly exclusionary as it is today. This is against the heritage of India and strongly dents the spirit of the Constitution of India.

The Act brings into many questions, of which there are no official answers, and no matter how hard you think, these contestations have no logical justification.

1.      Why is the cutoff date 31st December 2014? Have persecutions ended after this date?

2.      Why are religious minorities of Sri Lanka & Myanmar ignored?

3.      Why are agnostics and atheists not included?

4.      Why do Hazaras, Ahmadiyya, Shias, Tamil-Hindus, Rohingya, Uighur-Muslims, and other persecuted groups (like political persecutions) from other neighboring countries not included?

5.      What is the Intelligible differentiation and Reasonable classification behind choosing just 6 religions from 3 countries?

6.      How will the government arrive at a conclusion that a person belongs to a specific religion? If self-declaration will be valid, then will a criminal from Pakistan who sneaked into India and changed his name, to say “Rajesh”, while his real name is “Abdul” also get citizenship?

7.      Will Non-Muslims from these three countries charged of financial and other crimes be given refuge and citizenship in India just because they are not Muslims?

8.      What is the logic behind which the government believes that there is a dire need to provide shelter to the people of these 6 religions from these 3 countries? Was there an academic exercise done? Even if so, what is the need to award citizenship? What is the issue with sticking with providing them with LTVs and later awarding citizenship through naturalization?

 

The funniest thing is that even if these questions are answered (though they can’t be answered without arbitrariness and illogic), the Act will remain against the secular fabric of the Constitution. For the first time in India, a Citizenship law is be based on religion. Article 6 and Article 7 already deals with migrants from Pakistan and their citizenship in India. If the intention was to provide relief to refugees, then suitable changes could have been made in these Articles itself, rather than amending Article 5 and defining Citizenship through religion.

Also, the Act is pursued on a 'Mission Mode', at a time when The Social Hostilities Index of India (SHI) (Which measures religious hostility by private individuals, organisations or groups in the society) is 9.7/10.  This figure is highest amongst all neighboring countries. This is happening at the time when there are major allegations against the government to have diluted the RTI Act and have severely lowered the autonomy of Election Commission, CBI, RBI, CIC, CVC, etc. This is happening at the time, when the Economy of India is on a free fall. Retail inflation is at a 5 year high of 7.3%, Food inflation is up to 14.12% and all major economic indicators are in zero or negative terrain. This is happening at a time when the unemployment level is at a 45 years high.

While many are calling this as a diversionary tactic, to divert the attention of larger public from government’s failure on growth, economy, development, jobs and on almost all social and political indicators. However, in my opinion, the mandate for second tenure of Modi was seeked against such agenda, and I see the government executing on its mandate.

India was imagined as a Secular country which will have no state religion. This act, by acknowledging India to be a natural homeland for non-Muslims from three countries, and by explicitly disallowing Muslims to be on equal footing, is the first big acknowledgement that today’s India is the India of Savarkar’s imagination, An India that is a Hindu-Rashtra and is Akhand (Undivided). Any amount of Pan-India protests have not moved the Government to rethink its stand, so, all hopes now remain with the Supreme Court to protect the soul of India and defend the Constitution.

The author published writer, economist and is working as a Consultant with Government of India. The views expressed are personal. The writer can be contacted at [email protected]

CAA is first big step towards Savarkar’s Akhand Hindu-Rashtra

Akhand

The Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 (CAA) is being vaguely labelled as Anti-Muslim. Though it is certainly designed to exclude and disparage Muslims to become lesser rights-holders in India, the Act’s design reflects a larger nefarious social agenda.

In 2014, Hindus, Sikhs, Christians and Buddhists from Pakistan were given Long Term Visas (LTVs) for stay in India. In 2015, the notification by Ministry of Home Affairs made changes in Passport (Entry into India) Amendment Rules, 2015, the facility for LTVs were extended to people from Bangladesh and Pakistan who would now come to India due to religious persecution or due to fear of religious persecution. The order extended the facility to Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis, and Christians. Through another notification Dated 18th July 2016, Afghanistan was also added as an eligible country. All this was made as the ground for the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, which was brought during first tenure of Narendra Modi as PM, but was successfully passed in the Parliament during the second term and was published into The Gazette on 12th December 2019.

What is interesting to note is that the word “Persecuted” is completely missing from the Act. Having missed the word “Persecuted” is counter-intuitive to the “publicly declared” object of having the Act itself. Also, through the Act, Citizenship will only be granted to those people who have arrived in India before 31st December 2014, and those who come after, shall be granted the LTVs under the rules that I have talked about earlier. By dropping the word “persecution”, the Act in its writing looks like an implicit acknowledgement that for people belonging to Six Religions (Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Zoroastrianism, Christianity) and from three countries (Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh), India is their natural home and it is their right to come to India any time and claim visa and later citizenship.

What the Act in effect does is that it discriminates through an arbitrary criteria “Religion” and “Region”. It very smartly sidelines the Muslims from these three countries. The Act, very cautiously chooses only those countries where Muslims are in majority. There are Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, Buddhists, Parsis, and Christians in other neighboring countries like Sri Lanka, Nepal, Myanmar, Bhutan and China. In Sri Lanka, the Tamil-Hindus are persecuted, Rohingyas from Myanmar are the world’s most persecuted minorities. In fact, certain Muslim sects are persecuted in Muslim majority countries. If giving refuge to the persecuted was the intent, then the act would have definitely not been as arbitrary and as explicitly exclusionary as it is today. This is against the heritage of India and strongly dents the spirit of the Constitution of India.

The Act brings into many questions, of which there are no official answers, and no matter how hard you think, these contestations have no logical justification.

1.      Why is the cutoff date 31st December 2014? Have persecutions ended after this date?

2.      Why are religious minorities of Sri Lanka & Myanmar ignored?

3.      Why are agnostics and atheists not included?

4.      Why do Hazaras, Ahmadiyya, Shias, Tamil-Hindus, Rohingya, Uighur-Muslims, and other persecuted groups (like political persecutions) from other neighboring countries not included?

5.      What is the Intelligible differentiation and Reasonable classification behind choosing just 6 religions from 3 countries?

6.      How will the government arrive at a conclusion that a person belongs to a specific religion? If self-declaration will be valid, then will a criminal from Pakistan who sneaked into India and changed his name, to say “Rajesh”, while his real name is “Abdul” also get citizenship?

7.      Will Non-Muslims from these three countries charged of financial and other crimes be given refuge and citizenship in India just because they are not Muslims?

8.      What is the logic behind which the government believes that there is a dire need to provide shelter to the people of these 6 religions from these 3 countries? Was there an academic exercise done? Even if so, what is the need to award citizenship? What is the issue with sticking with providing them with LTVs and later awarding citizenship through naturalization?

 

The funniest thing is that even if these questions are answered (though they can’t be answered without arbitrariness and illogic), the Act will remain against the secular fabric of the Constitution. For the first time in India, a Citizenship law is be based on religion. Article 6 and Article 7 already deals with migrants from Pakistan and their citizenship in India. If the intention was to provide relief to refugees, then suitable changes could have been made in these Articles itself, rather than amending Article 5 and defining Citizenship through religion.

Also, the Act is pursued on a 'Mission Mode', at a time when The Social Hostilities Index of India (SHI) (Which measures religious hostility by private individuals, organisations or groups in the society) is 9.7/10.  This figure is highest amongst all neighboring countries. This is happening at the time when there are major allegations against the government to have diluted the RTI Act and have severely lowered the autonomy of Election Commission, CBI, RBI, CIC, CVC, etc. This is happening at the time, when the Economy of India is on a free fall. Retail inflation is at a 5 year high of 7.3%, Food inflation is up to 14.12% and all major economic indicators are in zero or negative terrain. This is happening at a time when the unemployment level is at a 45 years high.

While many are calling this as a diversionary tactic, to divert the attention of larger public from government’s failure on growth, economy, development, jobs and on almost all social and political indicators. However, in my opinion, the mandate for second tenure of Modi was seeked against such agenda, and I see the government executing on its mandate.

India was imagined as a Secular country which will have no state religion. This act, by acknowledging India to be a natural homeland for non-Muslims from three countries, and by explicitly disallowing Muslims to be on equal footing, is the first big acknowledgement that today’s India is the India of Savarkar’s imagination, An India that is a Hindu-Rashtra and is Akhand (Undivided). Any amount of Pan-India protests have not moved the Government to rethink its stand, so, all hopes now remain with the Supreme Court to protect the soul of India and defend the Constitution.

The author published writer, economist and is working as a Consultant with Government of India. The views expressed are personal. The writer can be contacted at [email protected]

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CAB Debate: Falsehoods to the Fore

Who was responsible for Partition of India?

23 Dec 2019

Protest against CAB

The Citizenship Amendment Bill, which was recently passed in both houses of the Parliament, has elicited diverse and negative responses all over India. On the one hand, we see massive protests in the North-East, leading to the death of four people. On the other hand, there is a severe discomfort among those upholding the Indian Constitution and among the Muslim community all over the country. This Bill, in its present form, gives the right of citizenship to Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains and Christians persecuted in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh. What is glaring is that Muslims are missing from the list. What is also glaring and dangerous is that while those persecuted in these countries have been offered citizenship, countries like Myanmar, where the worst sort of persecution against Muslims has been seen in recent years, donot find any place in the list. Also, even in the countries which are mentioned in the bill, there are sects of Muslims which are persecuted, but have been left out.

A lot has been written against the bill and its intention of converting our plural India into a Hindu Rashtra. What is also disturbing is that the defence of this Bill has been done by blaming the Congress party and by stating that partition was done on the basis of faith! Both these formulations are a total lie. Mr. Amit Shah, while speaking in the RajyaSabha in an aggressive manner, retorted that “Is deshkavibhajan agar dharma keaadhar par Congress nakarihoti to is Bill kakaamnahinhota.” (Had the Congress not partitioned this country on the basis of religion, there would have been no need for this Bill). In response,ShahshiTharoor of Congress said that Amit Shah was not paying attention during the History class. The facts lie somewhere else.

Mr. Shah was a RSS worker who later joined the RSS student wing, ABVP. Contrary to what ShashiTharoor is saying, Shah has imbibed the history taught by the RSS combine, and seriously internalized it. We recall that even NathuramGodse, the murderer of the Father of the Nation, held Gandhi, the patriarch of the Congress party, as being responsible for partition. This is believed by most of the Hindu nationalists. Religion as the basis of nationhood is, by and large,said to have begun with Savarkar and then Jinnah. As such, the story is much older. Before coming to the genesis of the idea of religion as the root of nationhood, we also need to remember that the British, the colonial masters, were the prime force in encouraging Muslim League on the one side and Hindu Mahasabha-RSS on the other.

The British, to begin with, saw these organizations as helpful in the pursuit of their ‘divide and rule’ policy. Later, close to the peaking of the National movement in 1942, they started keeping yet another angle in mind – that of the geo-political realities of those times. Russia had emerged as the major other pole in the power politics of the world. It was posing a challenge to the British-American hegemony. Russia was also inspiring the anti-colonial movements. Many of the leaders of the freedom movement were influenced by socialist ideology. Keeping this in mind, the division of India was one of the steps the British had in mind. The idea behind this was that they can retain their hold in the region through the yet-to-be-formed Pakistan.

Coming to the genesis of nationalism in the name of religion, it was the reaction of the declining classes, landlords and kings to the changing scenario, where through industrialization, communication and modern education, India was emerging as a secular democratic nation. Different groups, Madras Mahajan Sabha, Pune SarvajanikSabha, Bombay Association, representing the emerging classes and newer social changes, started coming up and they, together, formed the political organization, Indian National Congress in 1885. In response to this, the declining classes became very uncomfortable with the changes which were the root of equality. The feudal classes, landlords, kings of both religions were deeply shaken as the system of birth based hierarchy, on which they were presiding, started crumbling.

At this point of time, the Muslim section started saying that Islam is in danger and Hindu sections presented Hinduism to be in danger. As the Indian national organizations and parallel activities of education for dalits and women started picking up, the feudal classes saw it as an assault on the religiously ordained inequality. While these organizations, initially, had the participation of landlord-kings, later they succeeded in winning over other elites and, still later, sections of ordinary people. This is the foundation of religious nationalism-Muslim and Hindu. So, on the one hand, we had Indian nationalism, which can broadly be identified with Gandhi, Ambedkar and Bhagat Singh, while on the other hand, there was the Muslim League, formed in 1906; the Hindu Mahasabha in 1915 and the RSS in 1925. The latter groups harped on our ancient glorious past while the India nationalist stream saw the need for struggle against the prevalent inequality.

The articulation of religious nationalism comes with Savarkar, who saw Hindus and Muslims as two opponents, and Muslim League, which felt that the Hindu majority would not let them have equal rights. Hindu and Muslim nationalists spread hatred against each other, forming the base of intense communal violence in times to come.

It was the gravity of the communal violence which forced Congress to gradually accept Lord Mountbatten’s (March 1947) proposal of partitioning the country. Congress, in its resolutionaccepting the partition, stated that though it opposes the ‘Two Nation theory’ (of Savarkar, Jinnah, Golwalkar, Muslim League, Hindu Mahasabha and RSS), under the given circumstances, it seemed to be the lesser evil as compared to the communal venom which was engulfing the nation at the time. Here, again, VP Menon, the architect of thePartition Plan, points out that Patel 'accepted the division of India in December 1946, while Nehru would only acquiesce six months later'.

Maulana Azad and Gandhi, did not accept the idea at all, but in the face of the rising communal tide, they had to keep quiet about it. In the Amit Shah-RSS narrative, Congress is blamed but Congress, leading the freedom movement, never accepted the idea of religion as the basis of nation.

 

RELATED ARTICLES:

  1. Anand Sharma fact-checks Amit Shah
  2. CAB 2019 is not just Unconstitutional, it is meant to create communal divides
  3. NO to AZAD, WELCOME SAVARKAR!
  4. 150 years of Gandhi: A legacy of Ahimsa and Communal Peace
  5. An Essay for Our Times: Diversity and Indian Nationalism

CAB Debate: Falsehoods to the Fore

Who was responsible for Partition of India?

Protest against CAB

The Citizenship Amendment Bill, which was recently passed in both houses of the Parliament, has elicited diverse and negative responses all over India. On the one hand, we see massive protests in the North-East, leading to the death of four people. On the other hand, there is a severe discomfort among those upholding the Indian Constitution and among the Muslim community all over the country. This Bill, in its present form, gives the right of citizenship to Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains and Christians persecuted in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh. What is glaring is that Muslims are missing from the list. What is also glaring and dangerous is that while those persecuted in these countries have been offered citizenship, countries like Myanmar, where the worst sort of persecution against Muslims has been seen in recent years, donot find any place in the list. Also, even in the countries which are mentioned in the bill, there are sects of Muslims which are persecuted, but have been left out.

A lot has been written against the bill and its intention of converting our plural India into a Hindu Rashtra. What is also disturbing is that the defence of this Bill has been done by blaming the Congress party and by stating that partition was done on the basis of faith! Both these formulations are a total lie. Mr. Amit Shah, while speaking in the RajyaSabha in an aggressive manner, retorted that “Is deshkavibhajan agar dharma keaadhar par Congress nakarihoti to is Bill kakaamnahinhota.” (Had the Congress not partitioned this country on the basis of religion, there would have been no need for this Bill). In response,ShahshiTharoor of Congress said that Amit Shah was not paying attention during the History class. The facts lie somewhere else.

Mr. Shah was a RSS worker who later joined the RSS student wing, ABVP. Contrary to what ShashiTharoor is saying, Shah has imbibed the history taught by the RSS combine, and seriously internalized it. We recall that even NathuramGodse, the murderer of the Father of the Nation, held Gandhi, the patriarch of the Congress party, as being responsible for partition. This is believed by most of the Hindu nationalists. Religion as the basis of nationhood is, by and large,said to have begun with Savarkar and then Jinnah. As such, the story is much older. Before coming to the genesis of the idea of religion as the root of nationhood, we also need to remember that the British, the colonial masters, were the prime force in encouraging Muslim League on the one side and Hindu Mahasabha-RSS on the other.

The British, to begin with, saw these organizations as helpful in the pursuit of their ‘divide and rule’ policy. Later, close to the peaking of the National movement in 1942, they started keeping yet another angle in mind – that of the geo-political realities of those times. Russia had emerged as the major other pole in the power politics of the world. It was posing a challenge to the British-American hegemony. Russia was also inspiring the anti-colonial movements. Many of the leaders of the freedom movement were influenced by socialist ideology. Keeping this in mind, the division of India was one of the steps the British had in mind. The idea behind this was that they can retain their hold in the region through the yet-to-be-formed Pakistan.

Coming to the genesis of nationalism in the name of religion, it was the reaction of the declining classes, landlords and kings to the changing scenario, where through industrialization, communication and modern education, India was emerging as a secular democratic nation. Different groups, Madras Mahajan Sabha, Pune SarvajanikSabha, Bombay Association, representing the emerging classes and newer social changes, started coming up and they, together, formed the political organization, Indian National Congress in 1885. In response to this, the declining classes became very uncomfortable with the changes which were the root of equality. The feudal classes, landlords, kings of both religions were deeply shaken as the system of birth based hierarchy, on which they were presiding, started crumbling.

At this point of time, the Muslim section started saying that Islam is in danger and Hindu sections presented Hinduism to be in danger. As the Indian national organizations and parallel activities of education for dalits and women started picking up, the feudal classes saw it as an assault on the religiously ordained inequality. While these organizations, initially, had the participation of landlord-kings, later they succeeded in winning over other elites and, still later, sections of ordinary people. This is the foundation of religious nationalism-Muslim and Hindu. So, on the one hand, we had Indian nationalism, which can broadly be identified with Gandhi, Ambedkar and Bhagat Singh, while on the other hand, there was the Muslim League, formed in 1906; the Hindu Mahasabha in 1915 and the RSS in 1925. The latter groups harped on our ancient glorious past while the India nationalist stream saw the need for struggle against the prevalent inequality.

The articulation of religious nationalism comes with Savarkar, who saw Hindus and Muslims as two opponents, and Muslim League, which felt that the Hindu majority would not let them have equal rights. Hindu and Muslim nationalists spread hatred against each other, forming the base of intense communal violence in times to come.

It was the gravity of the communal violence which forced Congress to gradually accept Lord Mountbatten’s (March 1947) proposal of partitioning the country. Congress, in its resolutionaccepting the partition, stated that though it opposes the ‘Two Nation theory’ (of Savarkar, Jinnah, Golwalkar, Muslim League, Hindu Mahasabha and RSS), under the given circumstances, it seemed to be the lesser evil as compared to the communal venom which was engulfing the nation at the time. Here, again, VP Menon, the architect of thePartition Plan, points out that Patel 'accepted the division of India in December 1946, while Nehru would only acquiesce six months later'.

Maulana Azad and Gandhi, did not accept the idea at all, but in the face of the rising communal tide, they had to keep quiet about it. In the Amit Shah-RSS narrative, Congress is blamed but Congress, leading the freedom movement, never accepted the idea of religion as the basis of nation.

 

RELATED ARTICLES:

  1. Anand Sharma fact-checks Amit Shah
  2. CAB 2019 is not just Unconstitutional, it is meant to create communal divides
  3. NO to AZAD, WELCOME SAVARKAR!
  4. 150 years of Gandhi: A legacy of Ahimsa and Communal Peace
  5. An Essay for Our Times: Diversity and Indian Nationalism

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In times of CAA & NRC remember the words of Kakori martyrs

19 Dec 2019

Kakori
Image Courtesy: thewire.in
 

The Kakori conspiracy (or Kakori train robbery or Kakori case) was a train robbery that took place at Kakori, near Lucknow, on 9 august 1925. This 'Robbery' was organised by the Hindustan Republican Association (later was named as Hindustan Socialist Republican Association).

It was executed by Ram Prasad Bismil, Ashfaqullah Khan, Rrajendra Lahiri, Roshan Singh, Chandrashekhar Azad, Sachindra Bakshi, Keshab Chakravarty, Manmathnath Gupta, Murari Lal Gupta, Mukundi Lal and Banwari Lal.

The British rulers secured the death penalty for Ram Prasad Bismil, Ashfaqullah Khan, Rajendra Lahiri, Roshan Singh courtesy a kangaroo court trial on July 18, 1927. Three of them, Roshan Singh (hanged at Naini Jail, Allahabad), Ashfaqullah Khan (hanged at Faizabad Jail) and Ram Prasad Bismil (Hanged at Gorakhpur Jail) on the same day on 19 December 1927. Rajendra Lahiri was hanged at Gonda Jail on  December 17, 1927, two days before the scheduled date.

The British government and its Indian lackeys propagated that these martyrs and their comrades who took possession of the British Government treasury being transported in Kakori Mail, near Kakori on August 9, 1925 were simply romantic, hot-headed, adventure loving young men who loved guns and fire-arms. They were referred to as terrorists. It is far from truth. On the contrary, these revolutionaries were highly politicized and aware of the fact that the goal of overthrowing the British imperialist rule in India could not be achieved till the people of India discarding their religious bickering did not unite. They were led by a genuine urge to liberate India from the repressive colonial rule but with mass involvement. Unfortunately, generations after Independence, we remain ignorant of their writings and ideological stands.

Let's know what the contemporary documents tell us about these young men who laid down their lives for the liberation of India.

(1) British treasury robbed not for buying arms but establishing a printing press for literature

This revolutionary group waylaid the British Government treasury at Kakori and captured the same not for purchasing/manufacturing arms and ammunition but for publishing Socialist literature to be circulated among youth, peasantry and workers so that they are politicized and rise in revolt. It shows this group had passed the stage of terrorism and matured into a revolutionary political group which believed in involving larger masses in the struggle to overthrow British rule.

(2) For a Socialist India

They knew that to overthrow the British rule was a serious task and needed ideological clarity. With this aim they worked tirelessly and formed Hindustan Republican Association/Army [HRA] whose manifesto 'Revolutionary' was produced as a proof by the prosecution in the Kakori Case. Even after the martyrdom of these revolutionaries in 1927, other revolutionary leaders like Bhagat Singh and Chandershekhar Azad continued with this effort. The conversion of HRA into ‘Hindustan Socialist Republican Army’ in a secret meeting at Ferozshah Kotla on September 8-9, 1928 gave a clear-cut Communist direction to the revolutionary movement.

In fact, this direction was quite notable in Ashfaqullah Khan's ‘Message to Countrymen’ which he smuggled out of Faizabad Jail few days prior to his martyrdom on December 19, 1927. He made his socialist commitment very clear when addressing to the Communists of India he wrote:

“I am greatly in agreement with you and want to tell you that my heart always weeps for the poor peasants and helpless workers. While on the run I stayed with them and after seeing their condition I often wept…This is absolutely true that whatever they grow or produce, they have no share, they always remain sad and in bad shape. I do agree that for all these things our white Masters and their agents are responsible…I have deep regards for you in my heart and while dying, I fully agree with your political aims. I want that kind of freedom for Hindustan where poor should live happily and with ease. I pray to God that after my death, that day should come at the earliest when Abdullah mechanic of loco workshop, Dhaniya cobbler and common peasants are seen sitting on chairs in front of Mr. Khaliq-uz-Zaman, Jagat Narain Mulla and Raja Saheb Mehmoodabad in Lucknow’s Chhaatter Manzil. My comrades, my revolutionary brothers—what I can tell you and what I can write to you, it will be a matter of great pride to you when you will hear that one of your brothers went to the gallows smiling and was happy while dying. I know very well about the spirit which your group has and I was proud of it, and now I am more proud that I am dying as a true revolutionary.”

(3) Anti-people rule survives by dividing people on religious lines

The Kakori martyrs were highly concerned about the damage communal polarization was going to cause to the anti-British struggle. It was their firm opinion that communal divide will only help the British rulers. Ashfaqullah Khan's ‘Message to Countrymen’, in fact, expressed their collective opinion regarding the game communal forces were playing in league with the British masters, he wrote:

“Oh! How can we appreciate the present-day life when our political leadership is going through internal strife? If one is fond of Tableegh [the propagation of Islam] the other believes that dying for Shuddhi only will lead to emancipation. Government secret service agents finance the spread of religious propaganda. Their aim is not to defend religion or help it to flourish but to create obstacles in the path of the moving train [of the freedom struggle].”

While pouring out his heart for his countrymen both Hindus and Muslims he went on to warn them:

“Brothers! Your civil war, your internal bickering will not be useful for any of you. This is impossible that 7 crores Muslims can be converted to Hinduism [through Shuddhi] and likewise it is futile to believe that 22 crores Hindus can be turned into Muslims. However, [if they continue fighting with each other] it is easy and very easy that all of them together will continue to be in chains.”

The Kakori martyrs belonging to different religions and regions expressed these words of wisdom when foreign rulers had India under their Iron Heel. They could rule India by putting one religious community against the other; institutionalized as Divide and Rule. Sadly, almost seven decades after the birth of a democratic-secular India, the polity has been taken over by RSS/BJP rulers who are using every evil tool in the armoury of the Hindutva fascism to divide India along religious lines. The new Citizen Amendment Act 2019 and war cries for introducing National Register of Citizens will put to shame even the British masters who ruled India once. All those who want to save India from the Hindutva juggernaut must come out on streets, holding photographs of these martyrs in hands and their words of caution and unity on the lips.

 

In times of CAA & NRC remember the words of Kakori martyrs

Kakori
Image Courtesy: thewire.in
 

The Kakori conspiracy (or Kakori train robbery or Kakori case) was a train robbery that took place at Kakori, near Lucknow, on 9 august 1925. This 'Robbery' was organised by the Hindustan Republican Association (later was named as Hindustan Socialist Republican Association).

It was executed by Ram Prasad Bismil, Ashfaqullah Khan, Rrajendra Lahiri, Roshan Singh, Chandrashekhar Azad, Sachindra Bakshi, Keshab Chakravarty, Manmathnath Gupta, Murari Lal Gupta, Mukundi Lal and Banwari Lal.

The British rulers secured the death penalty for Ram Prasad Bismil, Ashfaqullah Khan, Rajendra Lahiri, Roshan Singh courtesy a kangaroo court trial on July 18, 1927. Three of them, Roshan Singh (hanged at Naini Jail, Allahabad), Ashfaqullah Khan (hanged at Faizabad Jail) and Ram Prasad Bismil (Hanged at Gorakhpur Jail) on the same day on 19 December 1927. Rajendra Lahiri was hanged at Gonda Jail on  December 17, 1927, two days before the scheduled date.

The British government and its Indian lackeys propagated that these martyrs and their comrades who took possession of the British Government treasury being transported in Kakori Mail, near Kakori on August 9, 1925 were simply romantic, hot-headed, adventure loving young men who loved guns and fire-arms. They were referred to as terrorists. It is far from truth. On the contrary, these revolutionaries were highly politicized and aware of the fact that the goal of overthrowing the British imperialist rule in India could not be achieved till the people of India discarding their religious bickering did not unite. They were led by a genuine urge to liberate India from the repressive colonial rule but with mass involvement. Unfortunately, generations after Independence, we remain ignorant of their writings and ideological stands.

Let's know what the contemporary documents tell us about these young men who laid down their lives for the liberation of India.

(1) British treasury robbed not for buying arms but establishing a printing press for literature

This revolutionary group waylaid the British Government treasury at Kakori and captured the same not for purchasing/manufacturing arms and ammunition but for publishing Socialist literature to be circulated among youth, peasantry and workers so that they are politicized and rise in revolt. It shows this group had passed the stage of terrorism and matured into a revolutionary political group which believed in involving larger masses in the struggle to overthrow British rule.

(2) For a Socialist India

They knew that to overthrow the British rule was a serious task and needed ideological clarity. With this aim they worked tirelessly and formed Hindustan Republican Association/Army [HRA] whose manifesto 'Revolutionary' was produced as a proof by the prosecution in the Kakori Case. Even after the martyrdom of these revolutionaries in 1927, other revolutionary leaders like Bhagat Singh and Chandershekhar Azad continued with this effort. The conversion of HRA into ‘Hindustan Socialist Republican Army’ in a secret meeting at Ferozshah Kotla on September 8-9, 1928 gave a clear-cut Communist direction to the revolutionary movement.

In fact, this direction was quite notable in Ashfaqullah Khan's ‘Message to Countrymen’ which he smuggled out of Faizabad Jail few days prior to his martyrdom on December 19, 1927. He made his socialist commitment very clear when addressing to the Communists of India he wrote:

“I am greatly in agreement with you and want to tell you that my heart always weeps for the poor peasants and helpless workers. While on the run I stayed with them and after seeing their condition I often wept…This is absolutely true that whatever they grow or produce, they have no share, they always remain sad and in bad shape. I do agree that for all these things our white Masters and their agents are responsible…I have deep regards for you in my heart and while dying, I fully agree with your political aims. I want that kind of freedom for Hindustan where poor should live happily and with ease. I pray to God that after my death, that day should come at the earliest when Abdullah mechanic of loco workshop, Dhaniya cobbler and common peasants are seen sitting on chairs in front of Mr. Khaliq-uz-Zaman, Jagat Narain Mulla and Raja Saheb Mehmoodabad in Lucknow’s Chhaatter Manzil. My comrades, my revolutionary brothers—what I can tell you and what I can write to you, it will be a matter of great pride to you when you will hear that one of your brothers went to the gallows smiling and was happy while dying. I know very well about the spirit which your group has and I was proud of it, and now I am more proud that I am dying as a true revolutionary.”

(3) Anti-people rule survives by dividing people on religious lines

The Kakori martyrs were highly concerned about the damage communal polarization was going to cause to the anti-British struggle. It was their firm opinion that communal divide will only help the British rulers. Ashfaqullah Khan's ‘Message to Countrymen’, in fact, expressed their collective opinion regarding the game communal forces were playing in league with the British masters, he wrote:

“Oh! How can we appreciate the present-day life when our political leadership is going through internal strife? If one is fond of Tableegh [the propagation of Islam] the other believes that dying for Shuddhi only will lead to emancipation. Government secret service agents finance the spread of religious propaganda. Their aim is not to defend religion or help it to flourish but to create obstacles in the path of the moving train [of the freedom struggle].”

While pouring out his heart for his countrymen both Hindus and Muslims he went on to warn them:

“Brothers! Your civil war, your internal bickering will not be useful for any of you. This is impossible that 7 crores Muslims can be converted to Hinduism [through Shuddhi] and likewise it is futile to believe that 22 crores Hindus can be turned into Muslims. However, [if they continue fighting with each other] it is easy and very easy that all of them together will continue to be in chains.”

The Kakori martyrs belonging to different religions and regions expressed these words of wisdom when foreign rulers had India under their Iron Heel. They could rule India by putting one religious community against the other; institutionalized as Divide and Rule. Sadly, almost seven decades after the birth of a democratic-secular India, the polity has been taken over by RSS/BJP rulers who are using every evil tool in the armoury of the Hindutva fascism to divide India along religious lines. The new Citizen Amendment Act 2019 and war cries for introducing National Register of Citizens will put to shame even the British masters who ruled India once. All those who want to save India from the Hindutva juggernaut must come out on streets, holding photographs of these martyrs in hands and their words of caution and unity on the lips.

 

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