Hindus have not learned to counter imperialist language in its various forms, be it Islamic, Christian or Communist.
Continued from Part 1
The Role of Leftist Language
Communists continued to lambast the Congress leadership particularly Mahatma Gandhi. When the Congress launched a mass movement in March, 1930, Communists stayed aloof and called the Congress as a ‘class organisation of the capitalists working against the fundamental interests of the toiling masses.’ They tried to sabotage the freedom struggle by splitting the trade union movement with the help of finances flowing from the Soviet Union.
The song changed suddenly in 1935. The militarisation and rising anti-Bolshevik tone of Nazi Germany scared the Soviet Union. The Comintern (Communist International) appealed to the Communist parties in France and Britain to build pressure on their governments for a ‘broad national front of all anti-fascist forces.’ The strong Communist Party of France had its own government in Paris. The Communist Party of Great Britain was, however, weak to exert any pressure.
That task was, therefore, assigned to the Communist Party of India. Their instruction was to join the Indian National Congress through the newly formed Congress Socialist Party and push for a mass movement against the conservative British government. The Congress Socialists became the ‘revolutionary Left-wing of the Indian National Congress’; the Congress became a ‘broad national front for all patriotic people’; and a ‘Popular Front (non-conservative) government in Britain was the best guarantee for an early freedom in India’ in a new turnaround. The Congress Socialists swallowed this language wholly.
Split in the National Movement
The Congress leadership, meanwhile, in an opposite direction, toyed with the proposal of provincial self-government envisaged in the Government of India Act 1935. Immediately the Leftists launched a campaign against the ‘Rightist leadership trying to compromise with British imperialism in the interests of feudal and capitalist elements.’ Simultaneously, it claimed that the Left-wing of the Congress was working to bring in the working class so that this organisation could play a revolutionary role at home and an anti-fascist role in international affairs.
Nehru, the patron of leftist language in Congress, kept publicly aloof from the communist-socialist combine but used it surreptitiously to attack Patel, known for his contempt of communists. The Leftist campaign succeeded to a large extent in making Sardar Patel and his supporters as ‘fascists out to suppress all democratic, progressive, revolutionary, and socialist elements’. The Congress, for the first time, stood split by slogans imported from abroad and in the interests of a foreign power in the power politics of Europe. Finally, the Leftists prompted Subhash Chandra Bose to form the Forward Bloc to challenge Mahatma Gandhi; only to leave him when Moscow pulled some wires.
Standards of Public Life Lowered
Many in the so-called ‘Congress Right’ lived in poverty in the service of the motherland but became ‘reactionaries and fascists’ because they refused to serve the Soviet Union. Many so-called ‘Congress Left’ lived in luxury but became ‘democrats, progressives, revolutionaries, and socialists’ by a duplicitous use of slogans.
Character assassination and prompt generation of ‘swearology’ was a significant contribution made to Indian politics and public life by Leftism. Facts or logic no longer could settle differences of opinion. Any disagreement with a Leftist would be a ‘feudal fuss about keeping forms or a bourgeois hypocrisy for hiding vested interests’
Nationalism Named as Hindu Communalism
Muslims and the British accused Congress nationalism of Hindu communalism. The Congress to disprove this bent over backwards to appease the Muslims. Supporting the Khilafat agitation was one such appeasement move. Muslims remained unreconciled and indulged in violence as the Moplah riots showed. Many freedom fighters were unhappy with the pro-Muslim politics and held that Hindu society constituted the nation in the ancient Hindu homeland. Muslims either played the British game, stood aloof, or came forward to share the concessions which Hindu freedom fighters had gained. Muslims could not cure the illusion that they were a race of conquerors and could use violence to achieve anything.
These nationalists became ‘Hindu communalists bent upon breaking the broad national front by bringing in religious obscurantism and cultural chauvinism borrowed from the primitive Hindu past.’ They were allegedly not only provoking Muslim communalism but also serving feudalism, capitalism, and imperialism by raising narrow and sectarian issues. The nationalists became suspect in the Congress fold.
Later, Leftism accused the Congress of using too much Hindu symbolism to the discomfort of Muslim minorities. Bande Mataram, the soul of the freedom movement for several decades, was especially criticised as an ‘anti-Muslim crusade’. An apologetic Congress ran to achieve a ‘non-communal mode of functioning’ which could satisfy the Muslims; a run which is persisting to date.
Muslim March Towards Nationhood
In 1922, MN Roy called the Lucknow Pact of 1916 as a coming together of the Hindu and the Muslim bourgeoisie with British imperialism against the masses. Later, this language characterised the Muslim League as a ‘close preserve of feudal interests in confrontation with the capitalist Congress.’ Still later, the communal problem became a ‘competition for jobs between the Hindu and the Muslim petit-bourgeoisie’.
After this, the language of Leftism started presenting the Muslims as ‘poor peasantry and proletariat exploited and oppressed by Hindu landowners, moneylenders and capitalists.’ Now it was a class conflict with an economic character, a typical Marxist fit. Consequently, some Hindus were guilt-shamed and Muslims developed a degree of self-righteousness.
The vocal section of Muslims, particularly their press, started becoming increasingly aggressive. Meanwhile, Aligarh professors and Muslim comrades in the Communist Party had come out with a new thesis about the progressive role of Islam in Indian history by bringing equality and brotherhood. The Brahmins, in this spate of allegations, saw in Islam a threat to their privileged position in a ‘caste-ridden and hierarchical Hindu society.’ Roy, endorsing this thesis, said that Islam had tried to complete the social revolution started centuries earlier by Buddhism.
The climax came in 1942-43 when the Communist Party of India started to prove that India, like pre-revolutionary Russia, was a land of submerged nationalities – Andhras, Assamese, Bengalis, Gujaratis, and so on. Each of these had a right to set up a sovereign state of its own. And as the people in Bengal (East) and Punjab (West) were predominantly Muslim, they could set up a separate federation of their own and call it Pakistan.
Communists adopted this party line and collaborated actively with the British by sabotaging the Quit India struggle in 1942. Communist scholars equipped the Muslim League with statistics and arguments for a separate state. The Congress Socialists, Forward Blocists and some Leftist groups did part company with the Communists over the Quit India movement and the question of Pakistan. But they continued to share the language of Leftism with regards to Islam and Indian nationalism.
The Place of Mahatma Gandhi
Swadeshi Movement swept forward after the Partition of Bengal in 1905 when British and Christian imperialism was evident; the language of Islamic imperialism had revived; and, Communist imperialism was yet to appear. The last two blossomed by the end of the 1920s. The freedom movement by mid-1930s was in control of Gandhi who, along with the earlier leaders of Swadeshi movement, clearly understood British and Christian imperialism. Gandhi suspected the Communists as sinister but faltered when this became a Leftist language of Nehru and Socialists. His dealing with Islamic imperialism was a failure. This failure made the Muslims increasingly aggressive and created resentment in a section of Indian nationalists.
Mahatma Gandhi in Hostile Hands
The Leftists abused Gandhi during his lifetime. But Gandhi became an asset after his death. Not any new found respect, but Gandhi is a useful stick to beat Hindu society into shame. Muslims too, in a similar volte-face, abusing him in his lifetime, use him to harangue Hindu society. His teachings remain irrelevant.
The Gandhians curiously feel at home with the Hindu-baiters avoiding those taking pride in Hindu heritage. For them, ‘Hindu communalism’ remains a major malady. They forget that Gandhi was a proud Hindu having immense faith in Sanatana Dharma. The anti-Gandhian nationalists, on the other hand, without considering his contribution to Hindu society, criticise him severely on his understanding of Islam and his failure to prevent partition.
Hindu-baiters highlight that it was a Hindu who murdered Gandhi hiding the fact that it was always Hindus who surrounded and supported him. It is almost insinuating that Hindus have done nothing except help in murdering the Mahatma.
The anti-Gandhi nationalists do not realize that it was Gandhi and not them who stirred the minds and hearts of Hindu masses. This shows that Hindu society responds only to religious and cultural issues. Anti-Gandhi nationalists, drawing inspiration from the West, failed to move Hindu masses because their appeal had been purely political.
However, Gandhi failed badly regarding Hindu-Muslim unity. He paid high tributes to Islam, its prophet, its caliphs, and its scriptures; supported the Khilafat movement to win Muslim hearts; befriended questionable characters like the Ali brothers openly hostile to Gandhi; went out of his way to please a cold Jinnah; ignored the abuses of the Muslim press and politicians; advised the British to hand entire power to Muslims and quit; and asked Hindus to bear and smile at whatever injustices they were facing. A severe appeasement policy at the expense of the Hindu society did not prevent the Muslims from even more hostility. Hindus not supporting the freedom struggle and even the British felt morally wrong when Gandhi spoke. But his oceanic goodwill failed to move the Muslims.
Injustice to Mahatma Gandhi
Gandhi’s failure with regards to Muslims had grievous consequences but there is ample evidence that the partition was anyway inevitable. The roots existed long before Gandhi who appeared on the scene thirty-five years after the founding of the Indian National Congress in 1885. Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, a year or two after the Congress, first raised voice for his community. Hindu leaders tried to appease him instead of confronting him. Also, Hindus contributed money towards his Anglo-Oriental Mohammedan College at Aligarh- the main seat of Muslim separatism later.
The Swadeshi Movement, the next step in the freedom struggle, was immediately followed by the founding of the Muslim League. Muslims not only boycotted the movement but rioted violently in Bengal. No Hindu tried to resist this aggression; the Hindu response was to hail Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan as national heroes.
In the Lucknow-League Pact of 1916, when Tilak was the Congress leader, Muslim leaders made it no secret that Pan-Islamic causes made them join hands with them. Hindu leaders conceded separate electorates to Muslims. It also conceded one-third representation in the Central Assembly to a less than one-fourth of the total Indian population. These were all before Gandhi.
The next significant event was the Khilafat agitation under the auspices of Central Khilafat Committee held in June 1920. This sought Congress support for the support of Sultan of Turkey, an issue which did not concern India. Along with Gandhi, there were Motilal Nehru, Tej Bahadur Sapru, JN Nehru, Lala Lajpat Rai, Bipin Chandra Pal, Madan Mohan Malaviya, Satyamurti, Rajagopalachari and Chintamani. The proceedings clearly show that though some did oppose a simultaneous launching of Non-Cooperation Movement with the Khilafat agitation, none pointed out that the national movement should have nothing to do with a Pan-Islamic movement. This repeated at later sessions in Calcutta and Nagpur.
The Non-Cooperation Movement stopped in February 1922. Muslims thought that Gandhi severely betrayed them. They rioted all over the country. During this period and with Gandhi in prison, Deshbandhu C.R. Das led the Bengal Provincial Congress into signing a Hindu-Muslim Pact. This permitted Muslims to kill cows during their festivals but forbade Hindus from playing music before the mosques. Historically, Gandhi was neither the first nor the last to bend severely in Muslim appeasement. Even today, most Hindus chant sarvadharma-sama-bhava in the face of Muslim intolerance.
The Mahatma’s Failure: A Failure of Hindu Society
Gandhi’s writings show that he was aware of Muslim behaviour. He repeated several times that an average Muslim was a bully and an average Hindu a coward. But he refused to believe that this behaviour in India was an outcome of Islamic teachings. However, Sita Ram Goel; says that the story more appropriately is of Hindu society in its centuries-old encounter with Islam. Hindu society has always viewed Islam through its own spirituality. Despite its history, Hindus refused to draw the right conclusions.
Some modern Hindu and Sikh scholars have presented Islam as a superior social system. The previous Nirguna saints like Kabir and Nanak, however, questioned the exclusive claims of Islam. Islam had no impact on their teachings. But modern scholars have falsely painted these saints as monotheists revolting against polytheism, idol worship, and the evil caste system under the ‘influence of an equalitarian Muslim society’. The saints have turned into social reformers.
The Relevant in Mahatma Gandhi
What is relevant in Mahatma Gandhi, therefore, is not his failure in solving the Muslim problem but his success in re-affirming the language of Sanatana Dharma. He believed that India was one nation before the English came to India with one mode of life called Sanatana Dharma. The English could establish one kingdom because we were one nation. For him, India was strong at the foundations and Hinduism became moribund and inactive only because of fatigue. He said, ‘as soon as the fatigue is over, Hinduism will burst forth upon the world with a brilliance perhaps never known before.’
He also said, ‘what the divine author of the Mahabharata said of his great creation is equally true of Hinduism. Whatever of substance in any other religion is always present in Hinduism, and what is not contained in it is insubstantial or unnecessary.’ He firmly believed that Hinduism was a brotherhood not of all humans but of all that lives. He cared deeply about the temples and protection of cows. Varnashrama was relevant to him- inherent in human nature which Hinduism made into a science. He wrote several articles in defence of the ‘much-maligned Brahman’. There was no symbol of Sanatana Dharma which he did not trace back to its inner and eternal spirit. His whole life was an uninterrupted hymn to Hinduism. He staked his life to free Hindu society from the stigma of untouchability. His place should be secure in the mainstream of Indian nationalism.
Sita Ram Goel makes one important point that the one lesson we learn from the freedom movement is that a religious and cultural awakening in Hindu society must precede political awakening. The language of Indian nationalism must be the language of Sanatana Dharma before it can challenge the various languages of imperialism. The more clearly Hindu society sees the universal truth of Hindu spirituality and culture the more readily it will reject political ideologies masquerading as a religion.
Conclusion- Towards a Language of Indian Nationalism
India’s prevalent political parlance – Right and Left, Reactionary and Progressive, Revivalist and Revolutionary, Fascist and Democratic, Communal and Secular, Capitalist and Socialist, and so on remains an alien imposition. This malicious parlance blackened Indian nationalism as ‘Hindu communalism’ and abetted Islamic imperialism to consolidate itself. This language in the post-independence period continued its campaign against Indian nationalism and has thrown the national society on the defensive. It converted Muslims into a poor and persecuted minority and blamed constantly the brute majority for aggression.
The perverse parlance will paralyse this country unless a language of nationalism replaces it. Islamic, Christian, and Communist languages are turning a love of the country into a cardinal sin. A language of Indian nationalism evolved, developed, and perfected in the past through a long line of saints, scholars, and literature. This language has sustained the spiritual, cultural, social, and political life of India through many stormy centuries. It was under the banner of this language that the princes and people of India waged and won a long war with Islamic imperialism. It was this language which battled British imperialism. This language spoken by Dayananda, Vivekananda, Tilak, Aurobindo, and Gandhi stirred the nation deeply.
Basics of Indian Nationalism
The Itihasa-Purana speaks of people, members of the same family, living in Bharatavarsha bounded by the Himalayas on the north and by the sea on the east, west and south. For the Dharmashastras, Bharatavarsha is the field for the establishment of varna-ashrama-dharma. Dandaniti regards Bharatavarsha as Cakravrtya-kshetra; a compact country under one political sceptre without uprooting regional traditions and institutions. Indian nationalism was intact since hoary times and evolved through its rich literature.
The dominant note is Bharatavarsha as the land of Sanatana Dharma. The truths of Sanatana Dharma are not of the nature of a revelation or confined to a book. On the contrary, the truths of Sanatana Dharma are in every human heart and always accessible to the seekers. The truths never need a crusade for their spread and propagation. Sanatana Dharma guides the seeker to reach the Self and then become one with the entire creation. India’s spiritual humanism has provided a consistent message to the entire humanity.
A second note in the symphony of Indian nationalism is the vast complex of a culture and civilisation created and sustained by the spiritual vision of Sanatana Dharma. At the base is a swadeshi economic infrastructure. The middle part is decentralised social and political institutions in the spirit of swabhava, swadharma and swarajya. This implies the autonomy of the family, the clan, the village, and the region in accordance with the inner aspirations and the inherited traditions. At the apex stands a wealth of art, architecture, music, dance, drama, language, and literature without losing the inner sense of unity.
In all these economic, social, political, and cultural creations, there is no insistence on a uniformity. Instead, a living universality accommodates any number of individualities. This is the true and tested universalism which India has prescribed and practised throughout the ages.
Implications of Indian Nationalism
The first implication is that Bharatavarsha is an indivisible whole and that its present division into Afghanistan, Pakistan, Hindustan, and Bangladesh, is a creation of Islamic imperialism. This has alienated not only large areas but also segments of the national population. Indian nationalism should fight this motivated aggression of an influential few.
The second implication is that closed creeds like Islam and Christianity cannot subvert India’s ancient spiritual heritage in the name of secularism. They are political ideologies of imperialism masquerading as a religion. Foreign patronage and finances to alienate more members of the national society need defeating.
The third implication is that the economic systems of capitalism and socialism, both themes of centralisation, should not be able to pulverize the Indian economy. Indian people should not become victims of a vast industrial and commercial complex. The spirit of swadeshi needs a revival so that people have control over their local resources, employ their talents and enterprise for their own benefit, and prevent their environment from erosion.
The fourth implication is that totalitarian tendencies inherent in Communism and Consumerism cannot steamroll India’s social-political and cultural life into a dead uniformity. The national genius and tradition of experimenting with a variety of social and political institutions and cultural patterns need preservation.
The fifth implication is that a strong structure of a central state should emerge to preserve the national heritage and protect the national homeland without inhibiting the multiple expression of regional, provincial, and local autonomies. In fact, this is the most important implication because the absence of a strong central state has been the bane of India’s national life in the past. Foreign invaders played havoc with national society and culture.
A language of Indian nationalism would not only enshrine India’s eternal aspirations but also challenge and defeat the several languages of imperialism ruling the roost for some time. This language will be in direct continuity with the language evolved during the freedom struggle.
Eclipse of the Language of Indian Nationalism
A language loses its inherent power when it fails to characterise in its own idiom the various forces operating in the fields. The language wanders away from its own ideological moorings and indulges in shallow and sentimental liberalism.
Indian nationalism had become mature by the Swadeshi Movement. But it failed to characterise Islam itself. Christianity was characterised more clearly mainly because this creed was working hand-in-glove with British imperialism. But here too the true character of Christianity as an independent system of imperialism was neither recognised nor proclaimed. Communism did not appear on the scene till two decades after the Swadeshi Movement. But the language of Indian nationalism failed once again to characterise correctly this new ideology from the West. Instead, Communism was good in terms of its goals but bad in terms of its means. This was a big failure which bore bitter fruits in subsequent years.
The language of Indian nationalism will have to overcome these shortcomings as it revives and surveys the national scene anew. It would have to come out with concrete characterisations and in its own idiom of every alien and anti-national force in the field.
Sanatana Dharma views human life and the world drama as a deva-asura-sangrama, that is a battle between the forces of light and darkness. This is not a battle based on dogmas but in the arena of human nature between animal appetites and aspirations for a larger, deeper, and divinized life.
A broad outline of the battle taking place presently in India’s spiritual, cultural, social, and political life are as follows:
- The spiritual traditions of Sanatana Dharma are the forces of light. They are struggling against forces of darkness embodied in Islam, Christianity, and Communism.
- The complex culture created by the spiritual traditions of Sanatana Dharma is the national culture of India. The cultures brought in by Islam, Christianity and Communism are imperialist impositions. Those who talk about a composite culture are either ignorant of what culture really means or are trying to sabotage India’s national culture.
- The society which cherishes the spiritual traditions of Sanatana Dharma and has inherited the national culture of India is the national society of India. It constitutes the nation in this country. On the other hand, communities which have been crystallised by Islamic, Christian, and British imperialism are denationalised colonies left by invaders who have departed. Those who regard the national society as only a majority versus minority issue and who shout slogans of ‘Hindu Communalism’ are enemies of the nation.
- A struggle is taking place in the political arena between the forces of nationalism and the forces of anti-nationalism. Leftism, even when it is not a part of the Communist movement is, by and large, the political expression of a self-alienated psyche. It serves as a smoke-screen for all anti-national forces.
- It is the duty as well as the destiny of the national society in India to clean up all anti-national forces at home as a first step.
Sanatana Dharma has a universal face in which nationalism and internationalism are two necessary expressions of the same truth. Islam, Christianity, and Communism need modification to align themselves in the principles of Sanatana Dharma instead of the other way around. Only then will we have a strong current of nationalism which we can call our own.