Yogendra Yadav has the cultivated voice of an actor who is dressed up in a kurta-pyjama, made distinctive by his non-use of politicians’ whites. He was part of the troika with Prashant Bhushan and Arvind Kejriwal before the once-mufflerman got rid of them. He has since formed Swaraj India, so anonymous it could challenge an IAS-aspirant in its quiz test. News networks such as NDTV and India Today are the ones who keep him going. But for some elections, somewhere in India, at any time of the year, Yadav would go unnoticed on a busy street.
I do find him sometimes on The Wire and the Firstpost, slightly amused when he sings paeans in praise of Jignesh Mewani; and definitely irked when he distorts history to run down Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) as he did in his edit-piece in the Hindu on Wednesday.
Yadav must be reading from the dubious books of Romila Thapar and Irfan Habib to suggest that since its inception in 1925, RSS has never been part of a national movement. Which national movement sir, the one where we didn’t seek complete independence from British but only sought dominion status? (truth to tell, India was still a dominion to British empire on August 15, 1947).
If Yadav remembers the year of RSS formation, he also ought to have told his readers that it came in the backdrop of Khilafat movement (1921-24) where Muslim leadership was appeased to the extent that Moplah rebellion occurred which butchered thousands of Hindus.
The slaughters were so macabre that this is what Madras High Court noted after the event: “…(these) murderous attack indicate something more than mere fanaticism…the only survivors were those who either got away or were left as dead.”
Yadav then does the cheap act of lampooning Veer Savarkar for seeking mercy from the British in the Cellular Jail of Andaman and Nicobar Islands and thereafter meekly follow the conditions imposed on him. Doesn’t Yadav know that only the most dangerous prisoners were kept in that “kaala paani” jail? That Savarkar, unlike Nehru who was given a bungalow with his choicest curtains and a garden in his jail-term, was a prisoner marked D (dangerous) and went through most unspeakable cruelties: flogged, manacled, made to eat gruel which was riddled with worms?
As for his mercy petitions, it is known to everyone but the fake history peddlers that Savarkar’s clemency pleas were a tactical ploy like Shivaji’s letter to Aurangzeb during his arrest in Agra as he didn’t want his life’s mission to end behind bars.
Yadav would like us to believe that Savarkar went quiet and obeyed British after he was released. In fact Savarkar spent 27 years in jail and under prison-restricts terms between 1910-1937. He helped found the Ratnagiri Hindu Sabha and worked ceaselessly against caste discrimination and untouchability in the years which Yadav terms as “quiet.”
Yadav has a problem with Savarkar and his Hidutva philosophy but wouldn’t tell readers that one of India’s tallest freedom fighter was a self-avowed atheist! He would not mention how Savarkar was wrongly implicated in Mahatma Gandhi’s murder.
Yadav then tars Shyama Prasad Mookerjee for “collaborating” with Britsh during 1942 Quit India stir which he terms as the “biggest anti-colonial uprising.” A view has lately gained ground that “Quit India” was as phoney as “non-cooperation” and “civil disobedience” movement, meant only to vent out the frustration of Indians. Quit India stir was a desperate attempt of Congress which had committed the grave error of resigning from its’ provincial governments in 1939. Without a say in national politics, and with Muhammad Ali Jinnah and British in alliance, Congress whipped up Quit India just to stay relevant. As soon as it was launched, all of its leaders were put behind bars. Jinnah got a free field to pursue—and finally accomplish—his dream of a Pakistan.
As for RSS playing no role in 1942 Quit India movement, let Aruna Asaf Ali’s words debunk Yadav’s claim. Aruna Asaf Ali had revealed that RSS Delhi sangachalak Lala Hansraj Gupta had given her shelter in his own house during the 1942 Quit India. Prominent Congressmen like Achutrao Patwardhan, despite being a strong critic of RSS, and others were kept safe in swayamsewaks’ homes. Be it food, safety or in illness, RSS stood like a wall in safeguarding Congress leaders.
Yadav has no qualms in besmirching the reputation of Mookerjee who saved Hindus by championing the cause of Bengal partition after the Muslim League government of Bengal butchered and raped thousands of Hindus in the Great Calcutta Killings of 1946. Mookerjee was the man who set up 5000 relief kitchens during the 1943 Great Bengal Famine of 1943.
Yadav then trains his guns on Nathuram Godse-RSS connection. He would never tell the readers that Godse left RSS because it considered the latter to be a “coward.” As per the Justice Jeevanlal Kapur-headed 1969 Government-appointed Commission report, not only RSS was not involved in Gandhi’s murder but “in Delhi also there is no evidence that RSS as such was indulging in violent activities as against Mahatma Gandhi or top Congress leaders.”
And this man has the gall to call RSS an anti-national. What do you think we should call you Mr Yadav?
(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
Congress leader Digvijay Singh’s attempt to create the bogey of Hindu terrorism and dragging Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh into it is nothing new. In his classic book, The Men Who Killed Gandhi, celebrated writer Manohar Malgonkar, mentions how Veer Savarkar—who in the author’s words was to Hindu Mahasabha what Gandhi was to Congress—was wrongly implicated in the Gandhi murder trial in 1948-49. Malgonkar dropped more than a hint that it was the work of government of the day, or in other words Congress.
(Below are excerpts from the book. The texts in italics are my own; the one in bold letters are the exact page numbers and quotes in the book:)
From page 281-285:
Why were the police so anxious to implicate Savarkar?
Was it merely that, having failed in their proper function to arrest Nathuram before he killed Gandhi, they were making a bid to save face by raising the bogey of some sensational plot which involved a big leader who, providentially happened to be in bad odour with the government of the day?
Or was the government itself, or some powerful group in it, using the police agency to destroy a rival political organization or at least to destroy a fiercely uncompromising opposition stalwart?
Whatever it was, Savarkar himself was so conscious of these currents, so convinced that the authorities were determined to take him to court as an accomplice of Nathuram, that when five days after Gandhi’s murder, a police party entered his house he went forward to meet it and asked: “So you’ve come to arrest me for Gandhi’s murder?”
Savarkar being made an accused in the Gandhi murder trial may well have been an act of political vendetta. Of course Badge (Digambar Badge, a weapon supplier and conspirator who turned into a police approver)…was most insistent to me (the author) that he had been forced to tell lies, and that his pardon and future stipend by the police department in Bombay depended upon his backing the official version of the case and in particular that, he never saw Savarkar talking to (Narayan) Apte, and never heard him telling them: “Yeshaswai houn ya (Earn glory).”
Many years later on 16 June, 1983, the Poona newspaper Kal edited by S.R. Date, published a report on the subject, which was later reprinted in a volume published by the Savarkar Memorial Committee on February 16, 1989. I quote excerpts from it. It purports to repeat something that Savarkar’s counsel at the trial, L.B (Annasahen) Bhopatkar, a Poona lawyer, had revealed to his friends after he returned to Poona from Delhi in January 1949, after the Red Fort trial was over, and Savarkar found `not guilty.’
While in the Delhi for the trial, Bhopatkar had been put up in the Hindu Mahasabha office, Bhopatkar had found it a little puzzling that while specific charges had been made against all the other accused, there was no specific charges against the client. He was pondering about his defence strategy when one morning he was told that he was wanted on the telephone, so he went up to the room in which the telephone was kept, picked up the receiver and identified himself. His caller was Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar, who merely said: `Please meet me this evening at the sixth milestone on the Mathura road.’ But before Bhopatkar could say anything more, put down the receiver.
That evening, when Bhopatkar had himself driven to the place indicated, he found Ambedkar already waiting. He motioned to Bhopatkar to get into his car which he, Ambedkar himself, was driving. A few minutes later he stopped the car and told Bhopatkar: There is no real charge against your client, quite worthless evidence has been concocted. Several members of the cabinet were strongly against it (against implicating Savarkar), but to no avail. Sardar Patel could not go against these orders. But, take it from me, there just is no case. `You will win.’ Who…Jawaharlal Nehru?…But why?
They had arrested Savarkar even though they did not possess sufficient evident to do so. To be sure, the mass of papers seized from his house had yielded scores of letters from Nathuram and half a dozen from Apte, but these were disappointingly innocuous. All that they did was to establish the fact that Nathuram and Apte knew Savarkar and held him in great esteem. But this in itself was not enough to satisfy a magistrate that a prima facie case existed so that he could issue a warrant.
This, however, was no more than a technicality (sic), and they got overe it by arresting him under the Prevention Detention Act—one of the most malignant practice of legislation with which the British had armed themselves while they ruled India. Even though Indian politicians of all shades of opinion had persistently condemned the British for this Act, the Congress had been in no hurry to repeal it after the British had gone.
Under its provision, Savarkar was initially held as a `detenu.’ After that they proceeded to build up evidence against him that would enable them to change his detention into arrest, with what could be called `retrospective effect.’
Savarkar was 64 years old, and had been ailing for a year or more. He was detained on 5 February 1948, and remained in prison for the whole of the year which the investigations and the trial took. He was adjudged `not guilty’ on 10 February 1949. The man who had undergone 26 years of imprisonment and detention under the British for his part in India’s struggle for freedom was thus slung back into the jail for another year the moment that freedom came.
The strain of the trial, and the year spent in prison while it lasted, wrecked Savarkar’s health and finished him as a force in India’s politics. (Page 46).
Veer Savarkar is not in public discourse. His portrait in Central Hall of the Parliament, unveiled in 2003 by Atal Behari Vajpayee, was the first stirring for his recognition.
(No surprises, Congress boycotted that moment. Sonia Gandhi stood with opposition in snubbing the event. The Left had written to President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam to stay away from the function—he didn’t).
Be witness to the “Hate-Veer-Savarkar” moment in blogs and social media posts on his 135th birth anniversary on May 28. As the creator of “Hindutva” philosophy, the annual reviling of the man would be done in unison by TheLiars, Squint, Srolls and Duff-Posts; besides editorial pieces in “Journalism of Courage.” In essence, these hacks and compromised academicians would take recourse to five issues to revile the man:
1-SAVARKAR SOUGHT MERCY FROM BRITISH
Savarkar spent 27 years in jail and under prison-restrictions: between 1910-1937. He was sentenced to 50-year imprisonment and transported to the infamous Cellular Jail in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands (“Kaalapaani”) on July 4, 1911. In next decade, he wrote at least four mercy petition for his release. The Left-Liberal echo-chamber hold it as an evidence of his opportunism.
Let’s look at what Savarkar underwent while serving “Kaalapaani,” in the most inhuman jail of all. Prisoners were manacled; gruel to eat was riddled with worms; inmates, formed in groups, were chained like bullocks and hauled to oil mills, grinding mustard seed, for endless hours. Prisoners were flogged. Light was scarce. No talking between prisoners at mealtime. No contact with outside world. Those resisting food had a rubber catheter inserted through the nostril and into the gullet and so to the stomach. Medical aid was none. It was a precursor to Gulag Archipelago and Guantanamo bay prisons of our times.
Savarkar endured all this and much more. His badge was marked “D”—for Dangerous. He was subjected to unspeakable cruelties. Every time there was trouble in the compound, Savarkar was punished. The British were determined he must not be allowed to leave the prison alive.
(Before we proceed, let’s see how it contrasted with jails of pliable Congress leaders: it was almost a holiday vacation. We have the good word of none other than Asaf Ali: that Nehru almost had a bungalow to himself in his so-called jail with curtains of his choicest colour: blue. He could do gardening at leisure; write his books. When his wife was sick, his sentence was suspended even without he asking for it! Nehru “graciously” accepted the offer).
As subsequent events were to show, there was a method in Savarkar’s mercy pleas. He didn’t want his life’s mission to rot away in prison and come to a grief as it happened to Rajput warriors in the past. Jaywant Joglekar, who authored a book on him, dubbed his clemency pleas a tactical ploy like Shivaji’s letter to Aurangzeb during his arrest in Agra.
After his release in 1937, Savarkar led a political movement to prevent the Partition of India as president of Hindu Mahasabha.
2-DIDN’T SUPPORT QUIT INDIA; PLEDGED SOLDIERS TO BRITISH IN WW2
Savarkar’s stance to British was: ”Quit India but not Army.” Unlike Gandhi, he firmly believed “military strength” as key to India’s survival. He pledged Indian men as soldiers to British and helped Hindu-Sikh youths to join Indian army and thus reduce latter’s essentially Muslim-dominated numbers. It came handy during the partition or even when Pakistani raiders came up to Srinagar in 1947. But for these “secular” numbers, not just Jammu and Kashmir, event West Bengal, East Punjab or Delhi could’ve been overwhelmed.
It’s laughable to even suggest Savarkar worked for the British. After Second World War broke out, he wrote once and cabled on another occasion to US President Franklin Roosevelt, urging him to ask “Britain too to withdraw armed domination over Hindustani.”
Savarkar, and Dr. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, were keen on Indianising the British-India army. This effort of his was endorsed by both Rash Behari Bose and Subhas Chandra Bose—the revolutionaries behind the Indian National Army (INA). Subhas Bose praised Savarkar in his broadcast from Singapore on June 25, 1944 “for fearlessly exhorting the youth to enlist in the armed forces.” Rash Behari Bose spoke thus in his radio broadcast: “In saluting you, I have the joy of doing my duty towards one of my elderly comrades in arms. In saluting you, I am saluting the symbol of sacrifice itself.”
It was INA which forced Britain’s hands to quit India.
Further, Bhagat Singh and Sukhdev had made “Life of Barrister Savarkar” a necessary reading for revolutionaries, as their associate Durga Das Khanna was to reveal in 1976. The book was clearly anti-British.
3- SAVARKAR HAD A HAND IN GANDHI’S MURDER
Savarkar was 14 years younger to Gandhi. But his vision was far clearer. He asked for complete independence in 1900; Gandhi’s demand only came in 1929. It was Savarkar who first made a bonfire of foreign clothes in 1905; his movement against “untouchability” was stunning as even his critics admit.
Savarkar was a fierce critic of Gandhi. He termed Gandhi a hypocrite for the latter had supported use of violence by British against Germany during World War 1. He was also critical of Gandhi’s Muslim appeasement during Khilafat movement.
In his articles between 1920-1940, Savarkar considered Gandhi a naïve leader who “happens to babble…(about) compassion, forgiveness”, yet “notwithstanding his sublime and broad heart, the Mahatama has a very narrow and immature head.”
As for his hand in Gandhi’s murder, he was honourably acquitted by the court.
4- SAVARKAR BEGAN HINDUTVA AND WAS ANTI-MUSLIM
It was Savarkar who expounded the philosophy of Hindutva in the book by the same name in 1923. But his Hindutva espoused Hindu-Muslim unity. He was against the Partition; believing Muslim should stay in India as Hindustani Muslims, just as they are alright with being in minority in Greece (Greek Muslims), Poland (Polish Muslims) and elsewhere.
He believed in a Hindu Rashtra which didn’t curb the religion of a minority in any way. But he was against “creation of a nation within a nation in the name of religious minoritism.” How true the words sound in today’s context. He once described his difference with Jinnah thus: “I stand for equality and no concessions while Jinnah is for more concessions and doesn’t stand for equality.” His view was not Hindus supremacy but that of Hindus’ protection.
5—SAVARKAR WAS A NAZI IN WORD AND SPIRIT
The critics must make up their mind whether Savarkar was pro-British or pro-Nazi. He couldn’t be both at the same time. After all, he actively campaigned for recruitment in British-Indian army during WW 2. He supported the allied war effort against the Axis. He said: “After all, there is throughout this world…but a single race, the human race, kept alive by one common blood, the human blood.” Adolf Hitler, on the other hand, believed in the superiority of his race, the “pure race.” The truth is Savarkar believed in military strength which his shameless critics equate with support for Nazism.
What critics won’t tell you is that Vinayak Damodar Savarkar (May 28, 1883- February 26, 1966) was an atheist. He had asked his relatives to perform only his funeral and no rituals of 10th or 13th day as is done in Hindu faith. He was called Veer for when only 12, he led fellow students against a rampaging horde of Muslims that attacked his village in Nasik. He wrote several books, most of them while in jail.
Since his death, the airport at Port Blair has been named in his name. India House in England has a plaque in his name. In recent past, there have been calls to award him the “Bharat Ratna” posthumously.
Swami Dayanand Saraswati, whose death anniversary falls this week (October 30, 1883), deserves attention from all Indians. If Mahatma Gandhi is “Father of the Nation”, Swamiji has been called “The Grandfather of the Nation” by no less than a Speaker of our Parliament 1; President Radhakrishnan termed him the “Maker of Modern India”; Swami Vivekananda was inclined to place him alongside Kabir, Nanak and Chaitanya for ensuring Hindus weren’t wiped out in their own homeland 2. A man as towering as Adi Sankaracharya himself 3; he is credited to have laid the real foundation of modern independent India 4; who went farther than “Brahmo Samaj and even Ramakrishna Mission,” as per se Romain Rolland 5. To Sri Aurobindo, he’s been “A Soldier of Light” to the land we call Bharat or India 6.
A piece is hardly enough to encompass a man who needs a shelf-full of books to do justice to him. He believed in ancient Vedas and not Vedanta; was a Hindu without Hinduism. He wanted the living beings of this land to return to roots of Vedas and side-step Upanishads, Puranas, Idolatry and was critical of Brahmins for not disseminating Vedas’ profundity to masses. Such a man can’t be expected to be reverential to Islam or Christianity and he wasn’t. In no way, it implied religious intolerance—rather he wanted the entire humanity to drink from this fountain of eternal wisdom called Vedas. The greatest of all Sanskrit scholars, Swamiji chose to reach out to masses in their own language of Hindi with his magnum opus, Satyarth Prakash (The Light of Truth).
So reams could be written and hours be spent in marvelling how a young boy ran away from his home at 14, never to return or see his family again, spending a quarter of a century as a wandering ascetic, and devoting his entire celibate life in uplifting widows, untouchables and orphans and regenerating the Hindu society. He was the first to give call for Swaraj in 1876, “India for Indians,” which was later taken up by Lokmanya Tilak and a good half-century later by Gandhi-Nehru. To this day, the presence of Arya Samaj in our neighbourhood remind us of him; as do scores of DAV Schools and Colleges which dot most towns and cities of India. Not to forget the admirable Gurukul Kangri in Haridwar.
It is one of history’s painful irony that two men who lit the light of India’s renaissance, Swami Dayanand Saraswati and Mahatma Gandhi, now stand at cross-purpose, even hostile to each other’s philosophy, in the annals of time. Both were born in the state of Kathiawar in Gujarat; the year 1869 which saw the birth of Mahatma Gandhi was also a seminal year in Swamiji’s life when he won over hundreds of learned Pundits in a historic debate in the holy city of Kashi, Banares.
First, it’s no help if we pigeon-hole these two giants in social, religious or political boxes. Those who try to run down Arya Samaj for its unswerving loyalty to Vedas, are worth being reminded that a few of the greatest Indians in freedom struggle like Lala Lajpat Rai, Bhagat Singh, Veer Savarkar, Madanlal Dhingra and Ram Prasad Bismal were shaped by Arya Samaj philosophy. Men like Swami Shraddhanand and Bhai Parmanand were martyred and Swami Dayanand himself was poisoned.
In 1912, a special committee under the chairmanship of Nehru, surveyed all the jails of the country and reported that 70% of its inmates were Arya Samajis. In 1931, that figure rose to 80%. The great historian K.M. Pannikar credited 80% of all freedom-fighters as being inspired by Arya Samaj.
This fervour wasn’t limited to India. In England, Shyamji Krishna Varma began India Home Rule Society in 1905. Another organization with similar aim and objective, namely Ghadar Party was floated in United States by Har Dayal. Sohan Lal Pathak breathed revolutionary fire from Burma in 1915 7.
This all flowed from Swami Dayanand’s philosophy of overturning the alien rule. He recognized the influence of education in regeneration of the Hindu race. The clarion call emanated from DAV College of Lahore and the Gurukul Kangri and between 1886-1918, the Arya Samaj ran over 500 educational institutions throughout India. Long before Gopal Krishna Gokhale, Swamiji had said: “It should be made a penal offence to keep a child at home after that (5-8 years) age.”
All these institutions included the idea of Swadeshi in their curriculum. He mobilized Rajas and Maharajas in this regard. Under his influence, the Maharaja of Jodhpur and all his officials began using hand-spun and hand-woven clothes. All adopted Khadi produced in Marwar. All of these were independent of any governmental assistance. Significantly, military training was made compulsory. One of his critic Valentine Chirol said: “…the whole drift of Dayananda’s teachings is far less to reform Hinduism than to range it into active resistance to the alien influence which threatened, in his opinion, to denationalize it 8.”
By the advent of Mahatama Gandhi in India in 1915, Arya Samaj had become big enough a threat for the British government to ban any of its followers from entering the “precincts of its regimental barracks.” No Arya Samaji was to be enlisted in the army. Swamiji had long gone by then, having been poisoned in 1883 by communal forces but Arya Samaj brooked no stopping.
Gandhi was an early recipient of Arya Samaj’s largesse when he received funds for his struggle against apartheid in South Africa and wrote a personal letter of thanks to its head, Mahatma Munshi Ram. Thereafter students of Phoenix Ashram came to India and stayed several months in the Gurukul. Gandhi himself paid a visit to Gurukul when he arrived on his first visit in 1915. It was here that Mahatma Munshi Ram called Gandhi a Mahatma, a title that Gandhi unsparingly used thereafter in public life. Two years later, Mahatma Munshi Ram took sanyas as “Swami Shraddhanand Saraswati” in 1917.
When Gandhi was praised for his Satyagraha in South Africa, he was quick to respond: “I am worthy of teaching anybody but I yearn to learn myself from anyone who is servant of his country.” He had marvelled at Swami Dayanand Saraswati and his body of work in a mere 11 years. On meeting Swami Shraddhanand in India, Gandhi described him as having a stature as tall as a mountain 9.
In the spirit of those times, Swami Shradanand soon joined Congress, moved by Gandhi’s call that “dharmic aims alone can transform the political field, (leading to pure and true amelioration of India 10 .” Alongside, he infused a new life in Hindu Sangathan, known these days as Hindu Maha Sabha.
No sooner had Swami Shradanand joined Congress, he began seeing the futility of his decision. Ironically, his biggest heart-ache came on the matter of Untouchability. Swami Shraddanand was convinced that seven crores of Indians can’t be allowed to stay out of freedom struggle only because they were Untouchables. He feared they were ready pickings for Christian missionaries. Despite Gandhi’s avowed stance against Untouchability, he received no support from Congress on the matter. His proposals were rejected by Congress in its 1920 Calcutta session. Swamiji was aghast to see Gandhi was more into his non-violent, non-cooperation creed and completely immersed in making the Khilafat Movement a success 11.
Gandhi was completely taken in by his mission to forge a Hindu-Muslim unity. Gandhi’s support to Khilafat Movement, a movement to restore Ottoman Sultan and Caliphate in faraway Turkey—in order to gain Muslim support—and the subsequent Moplah riots in which thousands of Hindus were butchered and about which the apostle of non-violence never offered any criticism, stung Swami Shradhanand. He also found to his dismay that Gandhi was forming committee on various issues and then taking arbitrary decisions. He lamented: “I thought it would be a misfortune if Mahatmaji would be obliged to sever his connection with the oldest political movement (Arya Samaj) in India.”
Gandhi meanwhile had begun to distance himself from Arya Samaj. A flashpoint must have come in 1923 when Swami Shradanand became the president of the Bhartiya Hindu Shuddhi Sabha, created with an aim of reconverting Muslims, specifically Malkana Rajputs in the western United Province. For Arya Samaj has always believed that most minorities of India, whether Muslim or Christian or any other minority, were converts out of Hindu fold. And this it expressly aimed to stop, fearing for such continuance would play havoc for Hindu’s existence in the future.
Soon enough, Gandhi began criticizing Arya Samaj in no uncertain terms. On May 29, 1925, Gandhi wrote in Young India: “Swami Shraddhanandji…his speeches are often irritating…he inherits the traditions of the Arya Samaj 12.”
Gandhi didn’t spare even Swami Dayanand and his magnum opus, Satyarth Prakash. “I have profound respect for Dayanand Saraswatiji…But he made his Hinduism narrow. I have read Satyarth Prakash, the Arya Samaj Bible. It’s a disappointing book from a reformer so great.”
In our times, Arya Samaj is losing its steam primarily for it doesn’t have leaders of stature of Swami Dayanand Saraswati and a few others. Its offices and compounds are now turning into “baraat ghars.” A great movement is dying out. The educational institutions, fashioned by Swami Dayanand Saraswati, though are doing fine.
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.”