Richard Attenborough did a great job by way of producing a film on the theme-Gandhi. It was in late 80’s that I watched this mesmerising film. I remember nothing except one scene which re-opened a wound which lay partly healed. Gandhi is moving towards a river for morning ambulation. One naked lady perhaps in waist deep water is washing her sari. Gandhi looks up and in one moment of eternal grief removes his piece of white cloth which hogs his shoulders and the photographer makes that two meter long piece of khadi to reach the lady to hide her modesty. I was moved to tears. How could a sufficiently resourceful India decay into such a well of poverty that modesty of women can only be concealed by the shroud of a night!
This scene should have tickled the conscience of the advocates of Thaprite School of History writing and brought in relief the moments of their self-introspection. But cupidity and publicity have remained the one destination of post -independence Hindu scholarship, to arrive and enjoy.
In 1972, the first experiment with double cropping was introduced in Kashmir. The wheat harvest was ready for thrashing in July ‘72. I was holding fort in Tral-Pulwama belt. It is the same area which has become the new theatre for the militants to flex their muscles after the great deluge in 2014 washed away all the logistics as also the command and control centres in Srinagar and down North.
I distributed some thrashing machines in Tral area. There is a village called Bully. One has to cover 2 kms to reach the town centre of Tral from this village.
Now it happened that one machine started its journey about half a km from the road adjacent to this village. The idea was that it should start from the remote inner area and then progress towards the main road. It was the month of July. After two days the agriculture extension officer of the area came to me and requested me to accompany him to the field. He didn’t tell me anything. He took me inside a hut-compound by the roadside. There was a modest mound of wheat harvest in the compound. Two days ago it had rained and the crop was wet. The officer then said to me: “Can you see the poverty of this lady who is standing in front of you. She is a widow and has to feed three mouths. Her crop will start sprouting if we don’t thrash it now. So we have to shift the thrasher to her place today.” Then he took me inside the hut and lo and behold! There was no grain no food in the hut of this middle aged Muslim lady to feed her kids. I don’t know what happened next. I had for the first time realized the pathos associated with poverty. Helplessness! I was reborn on that day. I became a closet poet on that day. And I started with the same Vedic quarry: Kasmy devayi havishyami havyae! My first words, though difficult to translate the sentiment: I shall prostrate but before whom/ is there one who cares/Should I belittle myself any further- voluntarily!
At ten in the night we moved the machine to her compound, did the job and relocated the thrasher at its original place in the morning.
If buffaloes can be carried on scooters to reach their destination in Bihar then all revolutions shall
come a cropper and poverty will remain the destiny of majority in this country.
Satyamev Jayatey! One phrase plus one word sum up the accosting initiative of a shaloka of Mundaka Purana, decorated at least by 16 words. On 26th Jan 1950 it became our national motto and was punched on our National Flag. The wise men put additional burden on the ruling elite to keep in check the impulse of greed which grips the humans once power becomes their femme de chamber. The intentions were noble. But Gandhi had left the scene. His blessings were missing.
Satyamev Jayatey! Now imagine a Mr J or a Mr L salutes the national flag on 15th August and the next day or the day after a police inspector is transferred because he had the cheeks to file a report in what became the infamous Chara scandal. He is not only transferred but is also suspended for the sheer courage displayed by him. So Satyamev Jayate instead of becoming a reminder for maintaining probity serves as an armour for those who control the state treasuries. In this way the slogan and the sloganeer become partners in crime. That is the tragedy!
So Mr L becomes the king maker. He addresses the acme of the Hindu intelligentsia, like the philosopher Sanjay Gandhi addressed the scholars in Bihar during the period of Emergency. I was appalled when I witnessed the hushed gathering all ears to the one who was speaking. Mr L also converts two side seats in railway sleeper coaches into three sleeper cots. He herds people like cattle are herded. He receives accolades from the foreign press. And then accompanies dignitaries to Raj Ghat to pay homage to Gandhi-the Hero of all Festivities!
Every scandal is definitely a loss to the public because ill-gotten money acts in the same manner as the scourge of deficit financing acts. But it doesn’t push up demand. It pushes up prices selectively, first in the real estate sector. So the homeless are further pushed away from their dreams because their hard earned money gets devalued. Social consequences fostered in the wake of every scandal are like scars left behind by a wound. The wounds heal but the scars remain.
When there was no constitution the folk civilisation devoid of self-consciousness was virtuous. The collective state of penury was inherited by every generation. It was not their fault. It was the decline of local statesmanship at one point of time in history, which couldn’t manage the defences of their respective states that yielded ground to foreigners. On the other hand the Chinese paid so much attention to defending their territories that they built the great wall- the only man made construction visible from the moon! It was the virtue of selfless sacrifice which made the poor people of India to listen to the wise words of Gandhi that they forgot their own miseries and followed him for emancipating the country.
Virtues are the indicators of quality of civilisation one lives in. The virtues are cultivated by institutions like crops are cultivated for human consumption by the Institution of Agriculture.
An institution is a spot of great activity. Take the case of highways. They are institutions. They guide us to our destinations. Take a wrong detour and you are lost!
Democracy creates institutions. The state delegates the executive powers to as many satellite power packets as can circumambulate around the main power centre. The institutes enjoy a fair amount of autonomy so much so that the first dealing clerk delivers a judgement when he writes the first note on a file. And if the clerk or those who work higher up in the hierarchy are oblivious to the fact that they are actually delivering judgment on a case, their casualness can become a cause of miscarriage of judgement. An institution created by a democracy can’t become a source of corruption and profit.
It has to cultivate a fair amount of empathy before it puts the power vested by the state to test.
We have cultivated a nature of making fetish of everything. Paying lip service consumes valuable time! And time is one commodity which can’t be recovered. Everyday produces a definite quantity of problems. Every day we solve some of them. The backlog thus created act as road blocks. The roadblocks decelerate the economic activities. The slowdown fosters the scourge of poverty. And poverty fuels the engines which exploit human resources and devalues the culture.
Poverty is not absence of affluence. It is an unending survival struggle like animals hunting for survival and the prey always alert to not get killed. Poverty is absence of capacity to create a surplus. Surplus resources maintain continuity. Poverty is absence of leisure. This in turn shuts down thinking brains. Such brains and such people are easily exploited especially when they carry the right to vote. This manipulation can be witnessed every year when the floods unsuccessfully try to wash the sins of the sinners. As Juveniles we were taught that before putting the first morsel into mouth you should ask yourselves the question: Have the kids of the farmer whose efforts have produced food which lies in your plate, eaten their morsels? For when we were kids the Indian farmers would hardly afford two time meals!
Our beliefs don’t square with reality. Our respect for Gandhi does not square with our deeds. That is the tragedy of modern India!
19th January 1990 was a Friday. As the day died and darkness enveloped Kashmir, the loud speakers in mosques woke up to deliver the judgment. The judgment against the Pandits was scary. But the caution to the faithfuls was shameful. The locals were asked not to secure their gates and doors. It was to facilitate the vanishing act of the militants once being pursued by the police. In the history of freedom struggles never have leaders staked privacy of people to realize their pipe dreams as much as was staked in Kashmir. When less than honourable Hindu Historians will write down the history of Kashmir they will skip the running commentary and round off the episodes with……..Hamin Asto, Hamin Asto….It is here, the heaven is here!
15th August 1947 was also a Friday. But as the world slept (which was a lie) India woke up to freedom and life. Brave words! A war between emotions and intellect! Nehru could have invoked the blessings of God instead of sterile atheism for a deeply religious people to prosper. He delivered his lecture to the free Indians in a language which they couldn’t understand. So it was not to thank and felicitate the poor people in a language which they could understand; Urdu or Hindi! He delivered his swagger to foreigners to thumb the West although America always supported our freedom struggle. A people who survived by sheer grit and determination of their faiths deserved a better address. But the makeup of falsehood perhaps made India more presentable to the English speaking world. On that day much truth but much more falsehood was showered on the fallow but fertile political Indian farmland. The first day wrote what the last day of reckoning shall read-Omar Khayyam.
30th January 1948 was again a Friday. Some people in some secret chambers were giving final shape to the events which unfolded in the evening. Gandhi was upright, walking and talking to reach a destination. And three bullets pierced his weak thin frame. His day was done!
I consider the person who invented the fire arm-say a pistol, civilised the art of killing. It brings death in a jiffy. The quantum of pain is much less than one caused by a sword. Caesar was unlucky to bear the shock of multiple stabbings. Gandhi was lucky. He had suffered all through his life. He was spared the ultimate shock and pain. Hey Ram!
There is always a confused soul like me who thinks that one man can change the course of winds. A private person is much less in a position to force events than a public person. Nathu Ram Godse did not do any good on that day. He in fact achieved nothing. But he made the inheritors of political power to reach a conclusion. A desperate and distraught polity became angry. It was a welcome relief. So before there was a debate there emerged a conclusion. Godse created a short cut and men in power travelled on it.
Hedgewar and Gandhi represent the character of the same one thousand year old wounded and fossilised Indian who mustered courage to unshackle a chained population. The difference lies in one being an idealist while the other was a pragmatist. Gandhi was exposed to the European culture and had grasped more or less their psyche. He had gained experience in dealing with people in South Africa, who were in need of emancipation. Gandhi was a Statesman. All Statesmen are like jellies. They squeeze through tight situations with ease and comfort. Idealists are rigid. They fail because of this very rigidity.
Whether Godse was a man from the RSS or not doesn’t matter. By this one foolish act he made an organisation, which had good intensions, to hide into its shell thereby giving a walkover to those who were in the process of drafting the constitution. So by silencing Gandhi he silenced the voice of the RSS. The RSS suffered a stroke of paralysis because they were overwhelmed by sheer nastiness of a guilt they might or might not have committed. This conspiracy of silence uplifted the term ‘communal’ to the level of a weapon, which is still used to silence and humiliate the ordinary Hindus.
Next what happened was sheer abrasiveness of a polity which was still in its stage of Neoteny? It created a filter to distil one freedom fighter from the other. This was sheer foolishness. It was a divisive project to pillory one and reward the other. People say that thieves became freedom fighters and received freedom fighter pensions because they had served a jail term during the British Rule. Conversely freedom fighters became terrorists because the standard reading of the filter said so.
The murder of Gandhi gave the timid Hindu politicians courage to remove the terms Hindus and Muslims out of fashion in official lingo. It was a clear case of introducing artificiality when none was required. It was replaced by the terms: Majority and Minority. So with one stroke a society which was/is divided into casts and sub casts was presented as a force to reckon with. At the social level it conveys a message: the majority are like carnivorous animals. Better to remain vigilant! And the unstated adjective associated with minority carried the wail: minority are herbivorous sheep. They are threatened. Let us give them additional security. The personal law was conferred on the Muslims to keep them tethered to the mosque and clerics. The “other man” was created in the wake of Gandhi’s assassination. So much for national integration!
When we say that India constitutes unity in diversity it is repeating something like the Sun rises in the east. Every region has its local lingo, cuisines and eating habits, folk culture-dance and poetic rhythm and dresses. But it is the dress code which carries the identification of the place the wearer belongs to. But when a person with a pure Muslim dress-skull cap and salwar kamees is on the street we can’ say which place he belongs to. This dress is not Deoband specific. Not even UP specific or India specific. It is a global dress code which tells us not about the geographic parameters but the religion to which the wearer belongs to. So it is not a dress but a uniform which unifies theoretically a diverse global population.
When we put kids in uniforms their identities merge and they acquire a new identity – students. But as adults when they don a uniform they become Militia or Police or Army. They are vested authority by the state. Men in uniform also surrender their individualities and become one. And when adults don Islamic dress they too acquire the authority which they source from their religion. So at times they take decisions by trespassing the authority of the state to the detriment of the society. Pakistan is a typical case which should be closely studied by the students of political science. Afghanistan is at present passing through the stage from fitful resurgence to wasteful dissipation because of this very civilian-in-uniform syndrome! Within the Islamic world this war of attrition to acquire political power by jumping through the windows of mosques is in full display ever since Noor Mohd Taraki started war game in Afghanistan.
By playing second fiddle to politicians, the Hindu intellectuals created a smoke screen of secularism to simply abandon the Muslim population to their fate. By refusing to include the Muslims in the ambit of the affirmative action, they created the other man. How that pans out in the longer run one cannot predict.
It is also true that people all over the world wear the European dress and that also becomes a uniform is not true because they don’t acquire any authority from any statute book. This dress is not religion specific we should know.
By faking loyalties we create an environment of deception. Deception is no statesmanship. Catching reality by the horn is the beginning of following a correct foot path to reach a highway. By eclipsing reality we popularise deception. Deception succeeds when it becomes habitual. But nature doesn’t respect artificialities. Artificiality being labour intensive and energy consuming, decays revealing the reality hidden from the public eye! What we saw in the just concluded UP elections was the death of artificiality.
I must say that those who conducted the business of the Indian state during 50’s and 60’s did their job with utmost caution and maturity. It was the inertia of the working culture fostered by the British which helped in application of minds and fear of probity at lower levels which achieved the uninterrupted course of good governance. It is the reward of that caution and wisdom that we are gaining control over the problems of poverty and education. But the manner in which the whole narrative of freedom struggle was choreographed by the pliant scholars was not fair. From the Hindu point of view, and when Pakistan had been conceded there was no reason to advance arguments to place the Muslims, who never moved out in religious security cocoon. The unstated directive to the Historians to fine tune the defining features of our story to suit the Muslim world was superfluous.
When Mughals took control of North India, how many Hindus picked up the literacy of the Persian language? Since the Hindus didn’t learn it they could not come nearer to the power centres. On the other hand the Pandits in Kashmir picked up the language and as such tried to remain informed about what was cooking in the courts. It is this proximity of the Pandits to the power centres that forewarned them about the impending disasters. And it was this experience inherited by generations which came handy in 1990 AD to them that they very intelligently ran away from Kashmir to save their families. There was no coercion. Only ingenuity to leave as and when it was safe to run. Kashmiri Pandits saved everything minus their homes and immovable properties. Kashmiri Muslims, Well……….
But with the British, it was different. The Hindus picked up the English language and they became conscious of the rut they were in, courtesy the exotic political ideas. It was a case of real self-realisation. Our freedom is as much a product of a state system which replaced the Mughal state as it is due to the efforts invested by people under the leadership of Gandhi. So a logically justified warp and woof should have been laid while weaving the tapestry of the story of the freedom struggle which could include the salubrious environment created by the British in making this country mobile one more time.
Paul Roche was born in India. His father was a captain in the Royal Engineers. He was 8 years old when Gandhi visited Shingar, a hill station a few hours’ drive from Pune. He met with Gandhi and a brief encounter endeared him to Gandhi. The boy asked him about the Charkha but before he could explain, more people came in and he slipped away in the melee. He rushed back to his home. Next morning when he woke up he found a person at his door with a parcel and a card which read: “Krishanaji Ananta will show you how to use this. I would so much have liked to do that myself. Don’t forget India when you grow up. We’ll always need good Englishmen!”- Your friend: Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi.
Miss Tatlock looked at the parcel, first one side and then the other. As she removed the packing she found a chakha- spinning wheelin her hands!
Gandhi and Hedgewar were two faces of the same coin. They both represented the same agony of the fallen Motherland. Both were blessed by the History’s Arbiter to succeed. The Hindus were bereft of their self-consciousness. It was A for apple, B for boy, C for….which made the Hindus self- conscious. Next we had freedom struggle!
With this submission, I rest my case. The Vice-Chancellor, the Jawaharlal University New-Delhi, your witness, please!
End of Chapter