When I conceptualized this piece I thought that chapter 3 would give you the sequence of events from 1920 to 1948 i.e. from the Khilafat Movement to his death. However, after reading Godse’s defence I think he has covered important aspects of the freedom struggle pretty comprehensively. This chapter gives you additional information on the above, presents events covering large spans of time and provides information to questions like why did Gandhi nominate Nehru as his successor.
Let us get back to a more fundamental question. Why did Godse kill Gandhi? Simply put - Inspite of admiring Gandhi qualities Godse felt that Gandhi had ignored Hindu sentiment continuously and appeased the Muslim one rather generously. Therefore by killing Gandhi, he believed that it would put an end to the appeasement policies of the Congress. How wrong was he?
The books referred to are The History and Culture of the Indian People published by the Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan, Sardar by Shri Rajmohan Gandhi, The Tragic Story of Partition by Shri Seshadari.
Before we go ahead would like to quote freedom fighter, Gandhi associate, founder of the Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan, writer, historian Shri K M Munshi. Said he “ Another problem that we have to consider is the persistent demand for the rewriting of history to foster communal unity. To my mind, nothing can be a greater mistake. History, in order to generate faith in it, must be written as the available records testify, without any effort to exaggerate or minimize the actual facts. The communal problem, which divided the country, was neither inevitable nor insoluble. It was a price that we had to pay for our inability to assess political realities’.
In 1921, Muhammad Ali wrote a letter to the Amir of Afghanistan inviting him to invade India. The Brits got scent of this and arrested the Ali brothers. On his written assurance that he was no opponent of the Brits Ali was released. In 1921, when the Khilafat agitation was at its peak, Ali again sent a wire to the Amir urging him not to enter into any agreement with the Brits. When Ali was taken to task by the Congress leaders he showed Swami Shraddananada (renowned Arya Samaj leader) a hand written draft of the wire. The Swami writes “What was my astonishment when I saw the draft of the same self-same telegram in the peculiar handwriting of the Father of the non-violent non-cooperation movement”. Writing in the Young India in May 1921 Gandhi said, “I would, in a sense, certainly assist the Amir of Afghanistan if he waged war against the British govt. It is no part of the duty of a non-violent non-cooperator to assist the govt against war made upon it by others. I would rather see India perish at the hands of the Afghans than purchase freedom from Afghan invasion at the cost of her honor. To have India defended by an unrepentant govt that keeps the Khilafat and Punjab wounds still bleeding is to sell India’s honor”. Gandhi was criticized by Lala Lajpat Rai and B C Pal for his statements.
In early 1920 the Indian Muslims started an agitation to bring pressure on the Brits to change her policy towards Turkey. This is known as the Khilafat Movement, received enormous strength because of Gandhi’s support. Said he to the Muslims, “Arise, awake or forever be fallen. If the Hindus wish to cultivate eternal friendship of the Muslims, they must perish with them in the attempt to vindicate the honor of Islam”. He felt that the Muslim demand was justified and he was bound to secure the due fulfillment of the pledge the British PM had given to the Indian Muslim during the war.
Friends Gandhi the father of Ahimsa saw nothing wrong in assisting the Amir of Afghanistan in waging war against India.
You see the onus on befriending the Muslims lie on the Hindus. When Muslims ruled India the treatment meted out to Hindus is well known. Now Hindus are to forget the wrong doings of over a thousand years and woo the Muslim. Did Gandhi believe the Hindu heart to be so magnanimous or devoid of emotion? The onus was on Hindus then and that carries on to this day!
The Congress leaders at first disbelieved these stories but the tales of hundreds of refugees landing at Calicut, a wave of horror spread among the Hindus who were not blinded by the new-fanged ideas of Hindu-Muslim unity at any cost. Gandhi himself spoke of the “brave God-fearing Moplahs who were fighting for what they considered as religion, and in a manner, which they considered as religious”. Little wonder those Khilafat leaders passed resolutions congratulating the Moplahs on the brave fight they were conducting for the sake of religion.
When truth could not be suppressed any longer, and came out with all its naked hideousness, Gandhi tried to conciliate Hindu opinion by various explanations, denials and censure of the authorities which resulted in the following resolution passed by the Congress at Ahmedabad. “ The Congress expresses its firm conviction that the Moplah disturbance was not due to the Non-Cooperation or the Khilafat Movements, specially as preachers of these movements were denied access to the affected parts by the District authorities for six months before the disturbance, but is due to causes wholly unconnected with the two movements, and that the outbreak would not have occurred had the message of non-violence been allowed to reach them.
Nevertheless the Congress deplores the acts done by certain Moplahs by way of forcible conversions and destruction of life and property, and is of the opinion that prolongation of the disturbance in Malabar could have been prevented by the Govt of Madras accepting the proffered assistance of Maulana Yakub Hassan and allowing Gandhi to proceed to Malabar, and is further of opinion that the treatment of Moplah prisoners as evidenced by the asphyxiation incident was an act of inhumanity unheard of in modern times and unworthy of a Government that calls itself civilized”.
Friends look at Gandhi’s attitude towards the killings in Malabar, finding excuses for Muslim oppression. To read all about the Khilafat Movement and Moplah Rebellion go to History section.
Murder of Arya Samaj leader Swami Shraddhananda
Subsequent to the aggressive Shuddhi Movement by the Arya Samajis, the Muslims were highly agitated. The Samajis were infringing on their 1200 years monopoly so they decided to murder a great proponent of the Shuddhi movement Swami Shraddhananda in 1926. Pattabhi Sitaramayya writes “At the Gauhati Congress Session of 1926, Gandhi expounded what true religion was and explained the causes that led to the murder. Now you will perhaps recall why I have called Abdul Rashid (the murderer) my brother and I repeat it. I do not hold him guilty but Guilty are those who excited feelings of hatred against one another”.
This happened a few years after the phasad of Hindu Muslim camaraderie during the Khilafat movement. It agitated the Arya Samajis no end but those who thought unilateral concessions to Muslims was the only way to promote Hindu Muslim unity found fault with the aggressive activities of the Samaj. In protest, the International Aryan League convened an Indian Aryan Congress in November 1927. It was presided over by eminent leader Lala Hans Raj and attended by Lala Lajpat Rai and Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya.
Life is all about turnarounds and Appeasement
Writing in the Harijan, of 15 June 1940, “Gandhi candidly admitted that the Congress, which professes to speak for all Indians, cannot strike a common agreement with those who do not. It is an illusion created by ourselves that we must come to an agreement with all the parties before we can make ourselves progress”. One would wonder, is it the same Gandhi who was unwilling to attend the second session of the Round Table Conference without a previous agreement with the Muslims and kept on saying that there was no progress without a Hindu-Muslim agreement? What a volte face for Gandhi? Why on earth did Gandhi start the Khilafat Movement other than for Hindu Muslim unity?
Writing in the Harijan dated 13/10/1940 said Gandhi “the strongest power in the land would hold sway over all India and this may be Hyderabad for aught I know. All the big and petty chiefs will ultimately succumb to the strongest power of the Nizam who will be the emperor of India. If you ask me in advance, I would face anarchy to foreign rule whether British or any other”. Quoted from Veer Savarkar by D Keer. Ask any Hindu to live in a Muslim ruled state!
In April 1942, a few days after the departure of Cripps, he once again realized that ‘attainment of independence is an impossibility till we have resolved the Communal tangle. And he involved himself in a further contradiction when he said that the communal problem would not be solved so long as the Brits did not leave India. Although he looked upon unity of India as a sheet anchor of his policy, he wrote -
In April 1942 “If the vast majority of Muslims regard themselves as a separate nation having nothing in common with the Hindus, no power on earth can compel them to think otherwise. And if they want to partition India on that basis, they must have it, unless Hindus want to fight against such a division”.
Quoted from Veer Savarkar by D Keer, said Gandhi sometime in 1942 “Vivisect me before you vivisect India. Needless to say, the Congress can never seek the assistance of the British forces to resist the vivisection. It is the Muslims who will impose their will by force, singly or with British assistance, on an unresisting India. If I can carry the Congress with me, I would not put the Muslims to the trouble of using force. I would be ruled by them for it would still be Indian Rule”.
Friends Gandhi has interestingly made three points. One that Muslims want partition. Two that they will use force to get what they want. Three the way to prevent partition is to let Muslims rule India. Did his Muslim appeasement policy arise from this realization?
Far more surprising was his approval on 2/8/1942 of Azad’s statement that he had no objection to British handing over power to the Muslim League or to any other party, provided it was real independence, since, has he pointed out, no single party could function without the cooperation of other parties.
In 1943 Rajagopalchari had drawn up a plan for partitioning India as a basis for settlement with the Muslims and secured Gandhi’s approval when he visited him in jail during his fast of February 1943. In April 1944, Rajagopalchari carried on negotiations with Jinnah. Gandhi himself suggested to Jinnah that they should meet and talk over the matter. Gandhi’s letter was most pathetic in tone and shows the importance the Congress now attached to the League. Gandhi wrote to Jinnah on 17/7/1944 ‘I have always been a servant and friend to you and to mankind. Do not disappoint me. Jinnah turned down the proposal but agreed to meet Gandhi.
In 1944, Gandhi visited Jinnah’s house 19 times conceding Pakistan through the Rajaji formula but Jinnah did not find it large enough then yet today he was fighting against it. What is common however, is his appeasement of the League.
On Gandhi’s authorization, Bhulabhaidesai in January 1945, held talks with Liaqat Ali Khan to initial a pact that meant a national govt. would be formed with five members each from the Congress and League with two representing other groups. Within a month Liaqat denied any knowledge of the pact. Inspite of having a copy initialed by Liaqat, Desai preferred not to call the bluff. Jinnah disagreed because it did not bar the Congress from including a Muslim on the list.
Friends you can see the extent to which Gandhi went to achieve Hindu Muslim unity even if it meant handing over India to the Muslim League. For those of us who have lived in Muslim ruled states, in India or the Gulf the thought is scary na.
Gandhi told Azad on 03/03/1947 “If the Congress wishes to accept partition, it will be over my dead body. So long as I am alive, I will never agree to the partition of India. Nor will I, if I can help it, allow the Congress to accept it”.
Gandhi’s last bid to prevent partition – Returning from Bihar on March 31, 1947 Gandhi called on the Viceroy and suggested to Mountbatten that the Interim govt be dissolved and Jinnah be invited to form a Cabinet of his choice. As long as the Congress thought that Jinnah was pursuing India’s interest, Congress would cooperate with Jinnah and not use its majority in the Central Assembly to block his ministry. If he wishes Jinnah could continue to advocate Pakistan, provided he eschewed force. Azad agreed with Gandhi’s plan and thought it would be the quickest way to stop bloodshed. Nehru and Patel opposed the plan though it was never put to Jinnah. V.P. Menon was opposed to the scheme. Yet there was a moment on April 10, when Mountbatten thought that Gandhi's proposal might fly. In the middle of a three hour meeting with Jinnah he said “we do not know how sincerely – that it was a day dream of mine to be able to put the Central Govt under the Prime Ministership of Mr Jinnah”. Jinnah was too surprised to react but some 35 minutes later Jinnah “suddenly made a reference out of the blue” to the Viceroy’s proposal. At the Working Committee only Ghafar Khan sided with Gandhi. Thus Gandhi admitted defeat.
When opposition to the acceptance of partition was running high in the meeting of the A.I.C.C. on 14/6/1947, Gandhi spoke for about 40 minutes urging the acceptance of Partition. He said if the A.I.C.C. threw out the recommendations of the Working Committee, they must find a new set of leaders who could not only Constitute the Working Committee but also the government. Gandhi concluded by saying that he steadfastly opposed partition but sometimes, certain tough decisions needed to be taken. Blackmail by Gandhi, either you agree with me or find another leader.
Said Nehru on 29/4/1947 “The Muslim League can have partition if they wish to have it”. Please read this in conjunction with the above para what Nehru told Mosley in 1960 “But if Gandhi had told us not to, we would have gone on fighting, and waiting. But we accepted”. So you see in 1942 – 44 Gandhi agreed to Partition but in March 1947 he said it would be over his dead body and went to the extent of offering Jinnah the PM’s post. In June’47 he urged the Congress to accept partition. Honestly what had changed? I think Gandhi realized that Jinnah’s Muslim League would continue with their orgy of violence unless Pakisthan was agreed to. If that indeed is what prompted him to accept partition, then, Gandhi behaved like a realists.
If Gandhi was so serious about avoiding partition why he did not tell the Muslims of North-West, ‘I will fast unto death if you insist on partition’. After all fasting was one of the major weapons in his arsenal. Again I admire Gandhi’s realism. Had he done so he would have surely saved Godse from going to the gallows!
Gandhi’s response to World War II - In an interview with the Viceroy on September 5 Gandhi told the Viceroy that his own sympathies were with British and France, and he actually broke down at the very possibility of the destruction of London. It was Subhash Bose who pointed out that the Congress had since 1927 repeatedly declared that India should not cooperate in Britain wars. Because of Subhash or otherwise the Congress Working Committee adopted a resolution disassociating it with the War. The A.I.C.C. went a step further ‘India must be declared an independent nation, and present application must be given to this status to the largest possible extent. The Muslim League assured the British govt support on two conditions. One that Muslims must be assured fair play and justice in the Congress provinces. Two the Brits must give an undertaking that ‘no declaration regarding the question of constitutional advance for India should be made without the consent and approval of the League, nor any constitution framed without its approval.
In response the Viceroy’s stated that Dominion status and not complete freedom was the goal of the British policy. The Congress Working Committee regarded as the statement as unfortunate and refused to give any support to Britain. Thereafter it asked its ministries to resign in 1939. This strengthened the hands of the League and gave Jinnah a veto on further constitutional progress.
The Congress strategy was a Himalayan Blunder. First Gandhi Nehru said they would support the Brit effort. Next the Congress said India couldn’t be associated with a war when it was not free her. Said Patel 11 years later “if only we had followed Bapu’s way fully the situation would have been totally different. Bapu was ready to offer moral support. But Nehru stood in the way. If Nehru had agreed with Gandhi’s view, there would have been no Pakistan”. End quote from book Sardar by Rajmohan Gandhi. While I would agree with Sardar on the moral support bit to say that not doing so led to the creation of Pakistan is incorrect. The seeds for Pakistan were sowed by Sir Syed Ahmed of the Aligarh Muslim movement, Gandhi’s Khilafat movement and words of M Iqbal amongst others. Sardar is true to the extent that Nehru’s actions accentuated the creation of Pakistan or I would say strengthened Jinnah’s hands.
It is so easy to resign from office just like it is to file a divorce but the challenge lies in being in office and fighting it out or making your marriage work.
Bose – It is well known that Gandhi did not like Subhash Bose. Amongst the reasons for the dislike was in their attitude towards Britain. Bose looked upon the war between Germany and Britain as a godsend, which India would exploit to her advantage. On the other hand, Gandhi and Nehru had a soft corner for Britain and were definitely opposed to the idea of taking advantage of Britain’s peril. The differences came to a head over the election of Congress President in 1939. Gandhi put his whole weight in favor of Pattabhi Sitaramayya, but Subhash won by 95 votes. But a stronger difference between the two was in Policy. One propagated Non-Violence the other did not mind using the gun for India’s independence. Due to differences with Gandhi on the composition of the Working Committee Bose resigned within two months of his election.
When the trial of the Bose’s Indian National Army began in the Red Fort there was a wave of sympathy for them across the country. Thus the Congress that had opposed Bose’s policies earlier took up the defence of the accused. The glamour of Bose’s name and the fact that the Congress had taken up the cause of the accused got brownie points for the party. The official evidence given during the trial made people realize the magnitude of the I.NA. efforts under Bose and its heroic feats. Popular enthusiasm now rose to a very high level. The Government quailed before the storm. The accused were simply cashiered.
Friends the point I am making is that the Congress never lost an opportunity to criticize Bose but did not mind using the memory of his heroic deeds to evoke public sympathy for itself. I call it double standards even though some of you might think it is smart politics.
On 28 June 1946 Gandhi left Delhi, and this departure marks the end of the dominant part played by him in Indian politics. The differences between him and others had grown so he chose to depart.
Direct Action Day, August 16,1946 – the Muslim League unleashed an orgy of violence. Said the Statesman, an English daily of Calcutta. “ For three days the city concentrated on unrestrained civil war. The primary blame lies on the Muslim League and particularly on Chief Minister Suhrawardy”. When the Muslims butchered the government kept quiet, when the Hindus retaliated peace was restored within a week. Sounds so much like today! Where was Gandhi when Hindus were massacred in Calcutta? Quote from Veer Savarkar by D Keer “British imperialism had physically disarmed the Hindus, Gandhism had enfeebled them mentally and the curfew Raj had done the rest for them.
When about 300 Hindus were killed in Noakhali, temples destroyed Gandhi went on a long walking tour there to instill courage amongst the Hindus and tolerance amongst the Muslims. A rare instance of Gandhi’s care for Hindu sentiments.
On October 31, 1947 or thereabouts, Gandhi asked the Govt to declare that mosques would be protected, forcible conversion to Hinduism and Sikhism not recognized and no Muslim would be thrown out of India or his house. Patel ignored Gandhi’s advice. Another instance of Gandhi’s super love for the Muslims, Hindus!
“Taxed by Gandhi with a report that he – Patel was encouraging the idea of Muslims going away to Pakistan, Patel denied it totally. He told Gandhi that Muslims not loyal to India should leave”. Quote from book Sardar by Rajmohan Gandhi. I fail to fathom the reason of Gandhi’s ever growing love for Muslims?
Whom to Blame for Riots during partition? In response to the large-scale violence during partition some have held Mountbatten responsible. According to them it would not have happened had independence not been rushed through at such a desperate rate. The truth is – An important factor contributing to the tragic events that took place was the failure of Hindu leaders to make a proper assessment of the feelings and attitude of the Muslims and a realistic, not idealistic, approach to the Hindu-Muslim problem. The difference between these two kinds of approach is best illustrated by the Hindu-Muslim brotherhood preached by Gandhi and the requisites of Indian nationality from the Muslim point of view, as enunciated by Muhammad Iqbal. To read about Iqbal’s mind please go section history and read Words of Iqbal.
Why did Gandhi nominate Nehru and not Sardar as his successor/PM? Friends follows is the gist of the answer given to this question in the book Sardar by Rajmohan Gandhi.
“It was on 15/01/1942 that Gandhi designated Nehru as his successor. He said “You cannot divide water by repeatedly striking it with a stick. It is just as difficult to divide us—When I am gone he will speak my language”. Why did Gandhi prefer Nehru to Patel? One was that Patel was less popular than Nehru with the country’s leftists, youth and Muslims. Two age and health went against Patel. Three, Gandhi knew that Patel was there to supply a corrective, when necessary to Nehru, who would be primus inter spares and not the sole guide.
Fourthly, Gandhi may have felt that Nehru was more likely than Patel to resent a number two position. He was certain that Patel’s commitment had nothing to do with rank. Five was Patel’s distance from the Muslims. “You should try to learn Urdu” Gandhi advised Patel in a letter. Patel’s reply showed that the Wardha announcement had not made him any less frank or free with Gandhi. Sardar Patel said, “ Sixty-seven years are over and this earthen vessel is near to cracking. It is very late to learn Urdu but I will try. All the same, your learning Urdu does not seem to have helped. The more you try to get close to them, the more they flee from you”. Said Gandhi later “Those like Patel who have followed me without question cannot be called heirs. Nehru has the drive that no one has in the same measure”.
Gandhi elects Nehru - Aware that the next Congress President would be India’s first defacto Premier, Azad wanted to continue to be President. Nehru had his own ambitions while Patel was backed by many PCC’s. Nine days before the date for withdrawal of nominations i.e. on April 20, Gandhi indicated his preference for Nehru but the party wanted Patel. 12 of the 15 PCCs had nominated him. Knowing that no PCC chief would propose Nehru, Gandhi asked Kriplani to propose Nehru’s name during a Working Committee meeting in Delhi. As soon as Nehru had been proposed Kriplani withdrew his nomination and handed over to Patel a fresh piece of paper with the latter’s withdrawal written on it, so that Nehru was elected unopposed. Said Gandhi to Nehru. No PCC chief has recommended your name but the Working Committee has. Nehru kept quiet. Obtaining confirmation that Nehru would not take second place, Gandhi asked Patel to sign the statement that Kriplani had given him. Patel did so at once as he had withdrawn in 1929,1936 and 1939.
Why did Gandhi select Nehru? One was that Nehru, a Harrow boy, Cambridge graduate; barrister was required to carry out negotiations with the Brits. Two was Nehru’s rapport with a section of the Muslims contracted with Patel’s aloofness. That Nehru will not take second place, is better known abroad than Sardar and will make India play a major role in international affairs were other reasons. Finally Gandhi realized that Nehru’s selection would not deprive India of Patel’s services but denial would drive Nehru into the opposition”.
Friends by nominating a Muslim appeaser Nehru as India’s first PM, Gandhi did earn the ire of a large number of Hindus. If only Gandhi had allowed democracy to prevail India’s history might well have been different. There have been lots of debates on whether the P.C.C. chiefs supported Patel or not for the top slot but to me that is immaterial. What matters is that at a crucial moment Gandhi made Patel withdraw in Nehru’s favor?
So obsessed was he with Hindu Muslim unity that he did not see beyond that. Unfortunately the theme has continued on to this day. Every issue gets converted into a Secular one. Take a matter as simple as Family Planning. Everyone knows that India’s population is exploding and wiping out the fruits of economic growth. Yet try telling a Muslim to have two kids and all hell would let loose. Islam does not allow family planning. How dare the Government interfere with my religion? It is a different issue that some Muslim countries have adopted family planning.