Pavan K. Varma, member of JD (U), usually hedges his bets quite nicely but his edit piece in Times of India on Saturday (December 9, 2017) deserves a considered rebuttal.
Basically, Varma praises Jawaharlal Nehru (“Scientific Humanist”) and Mahatma Gandhi (“Catholic spirit”) for the India that should be; and slams the “deliberate communalization by the “Hindutva” brigade.
Varma pompously terms it a “malevolent design.” He writes that such forces “know very little about what Hinduism is.” Therefore, “Hinduism needs to be reclaimed…from rampant bigotry.”
Since Varma knows so much about “Being Indian”, having written a book by this title, he needs be told what Nehru thought of Indians while seeking permission from his father to shift from Cambridge to Oxford in England: “Cambridge is becoming too full of Indians.” [i]
As for his praise of Gandhi for the “Catholic spirit”, Varma needs be asked if it’s the same “Catholic spirit” which makes a Pope condemn the attempts of US-based protestant missions in Latin America but show his double standards by keeping silent on Catholic missions in India?
Is it the same “Catholic Spirit” he has in his mind when he surveys Church buildings standing on the debris of Hindu Temples in South India? [ii] Hasn’t Varma read the Niyogi Committee Report on Christian conversions? Isn’t he aware that Catholic church by itself could be the biggest owner or real estate in India? On a historical scale, does Varma has any recollection of Church condemning colonialism? Would he deliberate the Holocaust could be the result of centuries of Christian anti-Jewish stance? Does he remember Christianity’s oppression of Pagans?
Indeed, European landscape is studded with churches containing false relics of false saints to whom false martyrdom is attributed. [iii]
Now, let’s return to Mahatma Gandhi which Varma praises for his “respect for all religions.” Does Varma remember that Gandhi had made the last-ditch proposal to Jinnah to accept Muslim/non-Muslim parity in Parliament, making one Muslim equal to three non-Muslims? (As an aside, how could Gandhi who has “respect for all religions” be praised for his “Catholic spirit”? Too bad, Mr Varma for using a communal brush on your hero.)
Varma calls out Hindutva forces for communalization in this country. Doesn’t he know that it was Hindutva forces who opposed communal electorates and recruitment quota which Congress had endorsed in pre-Independent India? Doesn’t he know that Hindus can never be fundamentalist because this concept belongs to Biblical-Quaranic traditions? And that Hindu scriptures are universally acknowledged repository of plurality?
We all know, as I am sure Varma does, that words such as “secularism” and “Hindu communalism” were made popular by Nehru. But did Nehru, his other hero, ever say a word about Muslim League which was a reincarnation of “communalism?”
Let’s now take up Varma’s diatribe against the Hindutva forces, which as I infer, is Rashstriya Swamsewak Sangh (RSS) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
In RSS’ official statements, the notion of a “Hindu state” is totally absent. Every BJP member, on joining the party has to take the solemn pledge of “Sarva Dharma Sambhav.” That, “I subscribe to the concept of a secular state and nation not based on religion.”
In the RSS literature of the last 60-odd years, “not a single derogatory word or expression towards Christ, Biblical teachings, Prophets of the Bible, Mohammad Paigambar or Koran, or pilgrimage to the Holy Land Jerusalem or Mecca, or about anything which is purely religion,” has been mentioned. [iv]
The BJP election manifesto clearly states that “diversity is an inseparable part of India’s past and present national tradition.”
Varma would never condemn the curious fact that media never mentions the service aspect of RSS. He wouldn’t mention that Hindu India has no history of book-burning, of executing heretics or throwing dissidents to lunatic asylums. Does he remember that it was Hindus’ India which gave shelter to Christian refugees in 345AD and never took that protection away?
Varma in his editorial piece slams Hindutva forces for the “vitriolic politics” on Ram Mandir-Babri Masjid dispute even when the “dispute” is before the Supreme Court. Varma would do well to tell his readers that dispute is not about Mandir or Masjid. The High Court had already awarded Mandir to Hindu litigants. What the Hindu litigants are demanding is the entire land and not one-third of it. Besides, who began the Ayodhya issue? Wasn’t it “janeu-dhari” and “Shiv-bhakt” Rahul Gandhi and the blundering Kapil Sibal?
Wasn’t it Lal Krishna Advani who noted in a BJP Today editorial (16.11.97) that “non-Hindu” luminaries such as VS Naipual and Nirad C. Chaudhuri had justified the Babri demolition and that it was Advani himself who “still regretted the manner in which this happened” ?
Would the intellectual Varma offer us a clue why even after 25 years of Babri demolition, neither he nor his friends in Lutyens’ Media have attempted to find out the real culprits? Surely such forces which can dig up every cent being credited to the Jan Dhan accounts can do the job.
I do not know if Varma is a socialist or Marxist. But I do remember this popular saying about the misfortune of Hindus and their cultural heritage. “Hindus have been facing a sustained attack from Islam since the seventh, Christianity since the 15th and the Marxists since the 20th century.”
[i] – Joseph Shattan: Review of Stanley Wolpert’s book, “Nehru: A Tryst with Destiny, in American Spectator, February 1997
[ii] Decolonizing the Hindu Mind by Dr. Koenraad Elst, Page 273
[iii] Decolonizing the Hindu Mind by Dr. Koenraad Elst, Page 277
[iv] Christianity in India, by Sreepaty Sastry, Page 18
(This is a reprint from NewsBred)
While India celebrates its Navy Day (December 4), let’s do a remembrance to The Royal Indian Navy (RIN) Mutiny of 1946 which left colonial masters Britain with no choice but to leave India.
That there is little mention of this momentous event in Indian historiography is a striking indictment of establishment run by Congress who had betrayed this spectacular mass uprising in that heady week of February (18-23).
British Prime Minister Clement Attlee accepted three weeks later that “the tide of nationalism is running very fast in India.” Britain had always feared united mass movements in India and RIN Mutiny was one such where Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and Parsees had come under one banner. Indian masses came out on streets in support and hundreds spilled their blood on the street.
Salman Rushdie’s 1995 novel The Moor’s Last Sigh describes these momentous events on the streets of Bombay, through one of its character, thus:
“In February 1946, when Bombay, that super epic motion picture of a city, was transformed overnight into a motionless tableau by the great naval and landlubber strikes, when ships did not sail, steel was not milled, textile mills neither warped nor woofed, and in the movie studios there was neither turnover nor cut—the 21-year-old Aurora began to zoom around the paralyzed towns in his curtained Buick, directing her driver Hanuman to the heart of the act, or rather of all that great inaction, being set down outside factory gates and dockyards, venturing alone into the slum city of Dharavi, the rum-dens of Dhobi Talao, and the neon flesh pots of Falkland Road, armed only with a folding wooden stool and a sketchbook.
“Opening them both up, she set about capturing history in charcoal.”
Remember your history books and historians, your glorified political leaders and their progenies, all your Independence and Republic Day celebrations and after you’ve read of this great betrayal, don’t muffle but air-rend your full-throated cry which sends shockwave through this land of ours and warn these enemies “Not now and never again.”
And tell your children: “you would read history as it happened and not as it was doctored to us.”
The World War II had caused RIN to expand massively. It was 10 times larger than in 1939. Young men were enlisted in tens of thousands. Moving around the world, they could see the fire of nationalism against colonialism sweeping around the world. As these young men were hailed as liberators in Greece, Burma, Indo-China, Indonesia, Italy. It was logical they asked themselves: Why not India be free now?
The myth of British supremacy was receding. These young men could see how European forces were wilting across Asia under the Japanese aggression. The Indian National Army (INA) of Subhas Chandra Bose had captured their imagination. The trials of those arrested brethrens and their humiliation had filled the natives in armed forces and on streets with revulsion and anger.
In January 1946, the airmen of Royal Air Force mutinied as a harbinger to the eventually bigger revolt. They seized the signaling equipment and spread their message to other servicemen. From Karachi, the agitation spread to places as far as Kanpur to Singapore. The navymen were demanding delisting from the services. They were unwilling for fresh battles in Indonesia on behalf of the Dutch government as well as war in Vietnam, then under the rule of the French colonial government. The hands of British government were forced.
Meanwhile, trials of INA officers were on at the Red Fort. A young naval Rating (enlisted officer), Balai Chandra Dutt, posted on HMIS Talwar in Bombay, began painting the ships and dockyard walls with messages in its support. HMIS Talwar had 1500 officers and ratings and was the second largest training center in the whole British Empire. In the recollections, titled “Mutiny of the Innocent”, the mutineers detailed the squalor on board, the poor quality of food and the racism of British officers.
The mutineers first took out peaceful processions in Bombay, holding an image of Subhas Bose aloft. Chief Commanding Officer (CO) King called the rebellious “you son of bitches” and “sons of bloody junglees.” Rebels responded by deflating his car. The events of dockyards in Mumbai spread like a wildfire across the country. Ratings set up a INA Relief Fund and posted letters against CO King. On February 17, when the ratings again pressed their demand for good food, British officers called them “beggars.” This was the last straw.
On February 18th morning, 1500 ratings staged a protest in the mess. They also declared: “This is not a mere food riot. We are about the create history…a heritage of pride for free India.” A Naval Central Strike Committee (NCSC) was formed which decided to take over the RIN and place it in the command of national leaders. (That’s right!, they wanted India’s political class to be their guide and guardians).
The formal list of demands called for release of INA’s POWs and naval detainees, withdrawal of troops from Indonesia and Egypt, equal status of pay and allowances and quality Indian food. It also formally asked the British to quit India.
The strike soon spread to other naval establishments around the country. At its peak, 78 ships, 20 shore establishments an 20,000 ratings were involved in the uprising. HMS Talwar was coordinating the mutiny through signal communication equipment on its board.
Indian Naval personnel now began offering left-handed salutes to British officers. The orders of British superiors were ignored or defied. In Madras and Poona, the British garrisons faced unrest by the Indian Army. Widespread rioting began from Karachi to Calcutta. The joint banners of INA, Indian National Congress, Muslim League and Communist Party of India were hoisted on board HMIS Talwar.
Sadly, instead of support, the Indian National Congress condemned their actions. Mahatma Gandhi criticized the mutineers for revolting without any guidance from a political party. The Muslim League too denounced the mutineers, arguing that protests should be through constitutional methods alone.
Sensing that the political leaders were not supporting the uprising, the British government moved in for the kill. Admiral Godfrey tricked NCSC into returning to their respective ships and barracks. Within an hour, Godfrey had the army surround these barracks. Realizing they had been betrayed, NCSC got ready for open battle The NCSC appealed: “You, our people and our respected political leaders come to our aid…you must support us.”
But the political leaders could sense the dilution of their political authority in this mutiny. Never one consisting of mass leaders and made up mostly of elites, these political leaders had always been uncomfortable in face of a mass uprising. The Congress asked the people “to go about their work as usual.”
But the masses were now ready to defy their political leaders. Thousands of civilians brought milk, fruits, bread, vegetables and cooked food for the starving ratings to the Gateway of India. The ratings came by motorboats to collect the offerings. Hindu, Muslim and Iranian shops opened their eateries and asked the masses to take whatever they could for the suffering ratings. The Indian soldiers on duty didn’t stop them.
The city of Bombay went on strike on February 22. The public transport system was shut down; trains were burnt; roads were blocked; shops were closed. Eleven military trucks were torced. The city came to a grinding halt.
With no assistance from either the Congress or the Muslim League, the mutineers were doomed. British army and air bombers began closing in. At this stage, Congress assured the mutineers their grievances would be looked into. That they won’t be victimized. Jinnah asked the Muslim ratings to surrender. That sealed the fate of the mutiny.
Meanwhile, Bombay continued to burn the next day, February 23. The army responded with indiscriminate firing. In just two days, 229 civilians and 3 policemen had died. Over 1000 people and 91 policemen/soldiers had been injured.
The ratings were court-martialled. More than 500 ratings were kept in Mulund (Bombay) and in Maliar (Karachi) in abominable conditions. They were dismissed and later sent home. Only in 1973 did the Indian government recognized a few as freedom fighters. Most claims for pensions were not responded to. Only in the 1990s, two of the navy’s tugboats were named after BC Dutt and Madan Singh.
In 2001, the uprising was commemorated with a statue in Colaba—a recognition which came more than half a century late!!!
Such is the story of great betrayal of Royal Naval Mutiny of 1946 by India’s political leaders. When 100s of ratings suffered in Mulund camp, nobody spoke up for them.
It’s time we pay our respect and homage to those braves who concluded their mutiny with the words: “Our strike has been a historic event in the life of our nation. For the first time the blood of men in the Services and in the streets flowed together in a common cause. We in the Services will never forget this. We know also that you, our brothers and sisters, will not forget. Long live our great people. Jai Hind.”
We would never forget it: And repeat this great event of bravery to our children.
Time to take a vow.
Just two words—Vande Mataram—by Bankim Chandra Chatterjee, who has his 179th birth anniversary (June 26, 1838) this Monday, tells a lot about we the Indians.
Vande Mataram epitomized India’s freedom struggle against the monstrous British Rule and ”every patriot,” as Acharya Kriplani was to write later: “from Khudiram Bose to Bhagat Singh to Rajguru died with Vande Mataram on their lips.”
Madan Lal Dhingra, inspired by Vande Mataram, shot dead Curzon Wyllie and embraced gallows. Veer Savarkar’s Vande Mataram vow led to him being arrested in England, brought to India, and sentenced to two life-imprisonments before being packed to Andamans.
Sister Nivedita and Bhikaji Cama differed in their own flags about India but didkeep Vande Mataram firmly in its centre.
All across the globe, from Lala Har Dayal’s Gadar Party whose many members greeted each other with the words; to mass of Indians in South Africa who welcomed G.K.Gokhale with this fervent cry, Vande Mataram galvanized millions of Indians at home and abroad for the liberation of the motherland.
It moved Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose to say: “Bande Mataram literally means `I salute the motherland’. It is the nearest approach to India’s national anthem.”
Yet, Vande Matram was not destined to be India’s national anthem. All it got was to be the national song of the country, and that too just the first two paragraphs, as the honour went to Janaganamana of Rabindranath Tagore.
It might make no sense to the uninitiated readers as to why Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru thought Vande Mataram couldn’t lend itself to orchestral music or why even before an official decision was taken by the Constituent Assembly of India, Janaganamana was played as a national anthem in the UN General Assembly. Or why India’s first President Dr. Rajendra Prasad announced Janaganamana as national anthem on January 24, 1950 even before the Constituent Assembly could pass a resolution to this effect.
It might make more sense to readers if they relate the opposition to Vande Mataram by a section of Muslim leaders in today’s India,–on the grounds that it’s an idolatrous prayer–with the one of Muslim League in blood-soaked years of pre-independent India.
Vande Mataram, a part of Bankim Chandra’s celebrated novel Ananda Math, about the Sanyasi Revolt of the 18th century (1763-1800)–against the British East India Company who had just taken a foothold in India with the conquest of Bengal after the Battle of Plassey (1757)–was the battle-cry Congress had championed from the very early days of its inception in 1885..
The Vande Mataram song, which was written at least seven years before Ananda Math was penned in 1882, came into national consciousness due to events in the Barisal province of Bengal. On April 14, 1906, Indian National Congress was to meet at the venue and pledge against the partition of Bengal. A mammoth gathering burnt an effigy of Lord Curzon and rendered the air with the shrieks of Vande Mataram. The District Magistrate promptly put a ban on its singing but unmindful, a procession which had the likes of Surendranath Bannerjee, Sir Bipin Chandra Pal and Sri Aurobindo in the front, took to the streets. Police rained lathis and kicks on the peaceful and unarmed demonstrators.
The poem spread like a wildfire. Secret societies, like the one of Ananda Math, began springing all over the country. Lala Lajpat Rai started a journal called Vande Mataram. Subramaniam Bharati brought out the Tamil verse translation of the song. Vande Mataram even soaked the army in its spirit. Twenty-four young men of the Fourth Madras Coastal Defence Battery were sent to gallows and died singing Vande Mataram.
However, Muslim League opposed Vande Mataram from the very beginning. In its 1908 session, it was deemed sectarian. In 1923, Maulana Mohammed Ali, as the president of Congress, opposed it.
Congress, in conformity with its Muslim-appeasement stance, introduced Mohammad Iqbal’s Hindustan Hamaara. The Muslim leaders wanted Iqbal’s song to replace Vande Mataram. The All-India Muslim League passed resolutions condemning Vande Mataram. The Congress Working Committee in 1937 maimed the song Vande Mataram to just two paras. The Muslim League wasn’t satisfied still. Jinnah asked Nehru in 1938 to completely abandon Vande Mataram. To placate the Muslim League, the Congress decided to allow the singing of a song by Basheer Ahmad, Quran recital as well as a prayer in English in the assembly.
As for Janaaganamana, famous Indologist Dr. Koenraad Elst has this to say:
“Janaganamana itself is controversial because Tagore had allegedly written it in honour of the King of England, George V, the janaganamana adhinayak, master of the people’s minds, and the bharata bhagya vidhata, shaper of India’s destiny, mentioned in the opening line. There is a lot of circumstantial evidence for this, and there is no convincing alternative explanation for the said opening line. In his 1911, Delhi Durbar, George V had annulled the partition of Bengal, conceding a nationalist demand, and that could give this glorification of the king a nationalist twist.”
When a nation is founded on secular lines, implying that religion wouldn’t play a role in its governance, it’s a debatable if national interests or sentiments are decided on the whims of a community. France has put a ban on burqa (veil) in public places. Same is now the stance in Australia. Germany’s Chancellor Angelo Merkel has a similar view and parties in Britain have long called for ban on veils.
However in India, appeasement only ended up vivescating one-third of the undivided India.
Meanwhile, it has kept Bankim Chandra, arguably Bengal’s greatest literary figure, alive to this day. One of the first graduates of Calcutta University, Bankim Chandra became a deputy collector in due course, like his father, Yadav Chandra Chattopadhyaya. He eventually became a deputy magistrate before his retirement in 1891. Three years later, he was dead.
Bankim Chandra was best summed up by Sri Aurobindo in these words: “And when posterity comes to crown with her praises the Makers of India, she will place her most splendid laurel not on the sweating temples of a place-hunting politician, nor on the narrow forehead of a noisy social reformer but on the serene brow of that gracious Bengali who never clamoured for place or power, but did his work in silence for love of his work, even as nature does, and, just because he had no aim but to give out the best that was in him, was able to create a language, a literature and a nation.”