Archive for October, 2010

India misses Pipeline of Prosperity

After fourteen years of delayed negotiations over what started as the Iran – Pakistan – India (IPI) cross boarder gas pipeline project, Pakistan and Iran have finally signed a $ 7.6 billion agreement in Tehran on May 20, 2010. The project termed as the ‘peace pipeline’ by officials of both countries, has been signed in presence of Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on the sidelines of the tripartite summit on Afghanistan Security in Tehran. The gas pipeline once operational, is expected to take care of as much as 20 per cent of Pakistan’s energy needs.

According to the initial plan, the 2700 kilometer long pipelines would cover around 1100 kilometers in Iran, 1000 kilometers in Pakistan and around 600 kilometers in India, and the size of the pipeline was estimated to be 56 inches in diameter. The estimated project completion time was estimated to be 5 years. The pipeline will deliver 750 million cubic feet of natural gas a day to Pakistan within four years. The pipeline will connect Iran’s giant South Pars gas fields with the troubled Pakistani provinces of Baluchistan and Sindh.

The IPI project was conceived in 1995 and after almost 13 years India finally decided to quit the project in 2008 despite severe energy crisis in the country. Security consideration and inability to come to an understanding with Pakistan over transmission charges saw India waver time and again over joining the project amid speculation that New Delhi is coming under Washington pressure not to do business with Tehran. Delhi has been reluctant to join the project because of its long-running distrust of Islamabad, having fought three wars since independence in 1947.

News paper reports say Pakistan too was facing severe criticism from the US over any kind of economic deal with Iran. The deal was speculated to be not welcomed by the US – because of Tehran’s suspected ambitions to build nuclear weapons. But the sudden change of stance from Pakistani government is seen as softening of stance by the US. This is perhaps the greatest diplomatic coup d’état Pakistan has pulled off in the recent past.

In the aftermath of signing the landmark civilian nuclear deal between President George Bush Junior and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in 2008, Pakistan too argued that it too should make a similar deal with US, but Washington had not shown much enthusiasm. But now Pakistan has cheaper source of power compared to India’s investments in civilian nuclear reactors to help fulfill its increasing energy demand.

Photo : Copyright with BBC

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Demystifying Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi

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Gandhiji or  Mahatma (“Great-Souled”), as he was popularly known, pioneered satyagraha. This is defined as resistance to tyranny through mass civil disobedience, a philosophy firmly founded upon ahimsa, or total non-violence. This concept helped India to gain independence, and inspired movements for civil rights and freedom across the world. In his autobiography, Dr. Martin Luther King wrote that “Gandhi was the guiding light of our technique of non-violent social change”.

Such high level talk and India Government red tape has always mystified Gandhi. So on his 142nd Birth Anniversary thought I will do my bit to demystify this bespectacled old man. He was born in Porbandar, a coastal town of Gujarat in India on 2nd October, 1869. His father, Karamchand Gandhi, who belonged to the Hindu Modh community, was the ‘Diwan’ of Porbander state, in the Kathiawar peninsula of Western India. The Gandhi family as well-to-do by Indian standards and at one stage Karamchand Gandhi owned three houses.

Karamchand Gandhi and his fourth wife Putlibai (other three wives having died at child birth) had three sons and Mohandas was the youngest. His elder brother Laxmidas practiced law and became a government treasury official. His other brother, Karsandas, was a sub-inspector of police.

When he was very young Mohandas and a friend stole money from a servant to buy cigarettes. He felt so guilty about the incident that he admitted to his father and never smoked again. With his mother being very spiritual and with the Jain traditions being prevalent in his region, young Mohandas absorbed early influences that would play an important role in his adult life. These included the compassion to sentient beings, vegetarianism, fasting for self-purification, and mutual tolerance between individuals of different creeds.

As child, Mohandas was inspired by the story of ‘Harishchandra’. He in his autobiography admits that it left an indelible impression on his mind and wrote, “It haunted me and I must have acted Harishchandra to myself times without number”. Mohandas Gandhi’s early self -identification with truth and love as the supreme value is traced back to his identification with these epic characters.

Gandhi_and_Kasturbhai_1902

In May 1883, Mohandas, who was 13-years old then, got married to Kasturba Makhanji, who was 14-years old. It was an arranged child marriage, as was the custom in that region during those days. In 1885, when Gandhi was 15, the couple’s first child was born, but survived only a few days. The couple went on to be proud parents of four children: Harilal, Manilal, Ramdas and Devdas.

Mohandas Gandhi left for London on September 4, 1888, to study law at the University College, and also to get trained as a barrister at the Inner Temple in London. {The Inner Temple was considered by Indians the most aristocratic of the four Inns of Court in London}. He returned to India after completing Law on June 12, 1891. On his return, he was informed that his mother had passed away. Mohandas’s attempts to establish himself as a lawyer in Mumbai, failed. After applying and being turned down for a part-time job as a high school teacher, he ended up returning to Rajkot to make a modest living by drafting petitions for litigants.

Mohandas Gandhi left for London on September 4, 1888, to study law at the University College, and also to get trained as a barrister at the Inner Temple in London. {The Inner Temple was considered by Indians the most aristocratic of the four IEarly Lifenns of Court in London}. He returned to India after completing Law on June 12, 1891. On his return, he was informed that his mother had passed away. Mohandas’s attempts to establish himself as a lawyer in Mumbai, failed. After applying and being turned down for a part-time job as a high school teacher, he ended up returning to Rajkot to make a modest living by drafting petitions for litigants.

Mohandas Gandhi arrived in South Africa in 1893 to handle a legal case in Pretoria. During these 21 years he started of and got fully immersed in agitation on behalf of South African Indians. In 1894 he enrolled as Advocate of Supreme Court of Natal, being first Indian to be so enrolled. The same year he founded the Natal Indian Congress and got more committed to South African Indian cause. He stayed on in South Africa for 21 years before returning back to India.

SatyagrahaIn South Africa, Mohandas faced many discrimination directed at Indians. He was thrown off a train at Pietermaritzburg after refusing to move from the first class to a third class coach while holding a valid first class ticket. Traveling farther on by stagecoach he was beaten by a driver for refusing to travel on the foot board to make room for an European passenger. These events were a turning point in his life and insisted him to launch the ‘Civil Rights Movement’ in South Africa from 1893-1914.

In between in 1896 when Mohandas Gandhi returned to India and continued his agitation on behalf of South African Indians. He toured Mumbai, Chennai, Poona and Kolkata educating Indians in regard to grievances of South African Indians. In 1900 he sends Dadabhai Naroroji draft resolution on South African Indian problem for Indian National Congress (INC) Lahore Session. By 1901 he sails back to India and by 1902 he had almost set up his practice in Mumbai but was called to South Africa to champion Indians’ cause against anti-Asiatic legislation in Transvaal.

{Started in 1885 at the initiative of retired Civil service officer, Allan Octavian Hume, the Indian National Congress (INC) was the first modern nationalist movement to emerge in the British Empire in Asia. Its aim was to obtain a greater share in government for educated Indians, and to create a platform for civic and political dialogue between them and the British Raj. Within the next few years, the demands of the INC became more radical in the face of constant opposition from the British government, and the party decided to advocate in favour Indian independence.

Dadabhai Naoroji was elected INC President in 1886 and he was the first Indian Member of Parliament in the British House of Commons (1892–95). The other tall INC leaders of the time included W C Banerjee, Surendra Nath Banerjee, Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya, Badruddin Tyabji, Justice Ranade, G Subramanya Aiyar, Feroze Shah Mehta, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Gopal Krishna Gokhale, Bipin Chandra Pal, Lala Lajpat Rai and Mohammed Ali Jinnah.}.

Attorney

In 1906, after the British introduced a new poll-tax, Zulus in South Africa killed two British officers. In response, the British declared a war against the Zulus. Mohandas Gandhi actively encouraged the British to recruit Indians. He argued that Indians should support the war efforts in order to legitimize their claims to full citizenship. The British, however, refused to commission Indians as army officers. Nonetheless, they accepted his offer to let a detachment of Indian volunteers as a stretcher bearer corps to treat wounded British soldiers.

In 1907 Mohandas Gandhi urged all Indians in South Africa to defy a law requiring registration and fingerprinting of all Indians. For this activity he was imprisoned for 2 months, in 1908 but released when he agreed to the ‘compromise’ – voluntary registration after meeting with General Smuts at Pretoria. He was nearly killed by Pathans who regard the compromise, under which Indians are expected to give their finger-prints voluntarily, as a betrayal of Indian interest.

Mohandas Gandhi was jailed 5 times in South Africa between 1908 and 1914. During his second stay in jail he read Thoreau’s essay “Civil Disobedience” and John Ruskin’s Unto This Last, which left a deep impression on him. He was influenced also by his correspondence with Leo Tolstoy in 1909-1910.  He even sent Tolstoy a copy of Indian Home Rule seeking his comments. The years in South Africa was also momentous to Mohandas’s personal life. He declared disinterest in worldly possessions, takes vow of brahmacharya for life, launched a newspaper ‘Indian Opinion’ and gives up European dress and milk and restricted himself to diet of fresh and dried fruit.

In 1912 Mohandas Gandhi invited Gopal Krishna Gokhale, a respected leader of the Indian National Congress (INC) during that time, to South Africa. Gokhale was impressed with the young barristers work and he introduced Gandhi to Indian issues, politics and the Indian people. He provided personal guidance and mentor-ship to Gandhi. He advised Gandhi to travel across India in third class compartment to ‘feel India’. By 1914 Gandhi felt his job in South Africa was complete, and he made plans to leave the country.

{After Gandhi left South Africa, his passive resistance philosophy was adopted by the African National Congress, and remained their policy of protest up until the 1960s, when the ANC finally decided to resort to violent means of protest against apartheid.}

Gandhi returned to India to further develop his ideology in early 1915. He would take up Gokhale’s advice and used trains to travel the length and breadth of India. Few Indians of his time, or indeed since, acquired the knowledge of India that Gandhi was to gain by his travels, and there can scarcely be any Indian who had criss-crossed the country by train as much as Gandhi had done.

{By 1905, a division opened between two of the tallest leaders of INC – Gopal Krishna Gokhale and Bala Gangadhar Tilak, a lifelong political opponent of Gokhale. The “moderates” led by Gokhale, downplayed public agitation and favoured Hindu–Muslim unity in achieving self-government, and had such leaders as Dadabhai Naoroji, Feroze Shah Mehta and Mohammed Ali Jinnha. The “extremists” led by Tilak advocated agitation, and regarded the pursuit of social reform as a distraction from nationalism and the leaders were famously called “Lal Bal Pal” (Lala Lajpat Rai, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, and Bipin Chandra Pal).}

With ThilakIt was in year 1915, Gandhi first spoke at the conventions of the INC, and by 1920 Gandhi emerged as the leader of the Indian Independence Movement. Jinnah’s moderate faction in the INC was undermined by the deaths of Mehta and Gokhale in 1915; he was further isolated by the fact that Naoroji was in London, where he remained until his death in 1917. Nevertheless, Jinnah worked to bring the INC and AIML together. In 1916, with Jinnah, now President of the AIML, the two organisations signed the Lucknow Pact, setting quotas for Muslim and Hindu representation in the various provinces.

{The All India Muslim League (AIML) had arisen out of a literary movement begun at the Aligarh Muslim University in which Syed Ahmad Khan was a central figure in 1886. In 1906, a delegation of Muslim leaders headed by the Aga Khan III called on the new Viceroy of India, Lord Minto, to assure him of their loyalty and to ask for assurances that in any political reforms they would be protected from the “unsympathetic [Hindu] majority”. Dissatisfied with this, INC’s Muslim face Jinnah wrote a letter to the editor of the newspaper Gujarati, asking what right the members of the delegation had to speak for Indian Muslims, as they were unelected and self-appointed. 

At AIML December 1906 Educational Conference in Dhaka, a self imposed ban on discussing politics was removed and a resolution was adopted to form an AIML political party. Although Jinnah initially opposed separate electorates for Muslims a demand of AIML, he used this means to gain his first elective office in 1909, as Bombay’s Muslim representative on the Imperial Legislative Council.

In December 1912, Jinnah addressed the annual meeting of the AIML although he was not yet a member. Jinnah joined AIML the following year but continued to be a member of the INC as well. He always stressed that AIML membership took second priority to the “greater national cause” of an independent India.}

Jallianwala Bagh

The ‘Jallianwala Bagh’ massacre in Punjab, on April 13, 1919 when the British troops killed about 400 innocent unarmed Indians turned the tide. It caused deep trauma to the nation, leading to an increased public anger and acts of violence. Gandhiji criticized both the actions of the British Raj and the retaliatory violence of Indians. The same year Gandhiji persuaded the INC to launch a Non-Cooperation Movement (1919 – 22).

Gandhiji expanded his non-violent, non-cooperation platform to include the swadeshi policy – the boycott of foreign-made goods, especially British goods. Linked to this was his advocacy that khadi (homespun cloth) be worn by all Indians instead of British-made textiles. Gandhi exhorted Indian men and women, rich or poor, to spend time each day spinning khadi in support of the independence movement. In addition to boycotting British products, Gandhiji urged the people to boycott British institutions and law courts, to resign from government employment, and to forsake British titles and honours. Gandhi thus began his journey aimed at crippling the British India government economically, politically and administratively. The appeal of “Non-Cooperation” grew, its social popularity drew participation from all strata of Indian society.

By this time Gandhiji commanded influence hitherto unattained by any political leader in India. He refashioned the INC into an effective political instrument of Indian nationalism and undertook major campaigns of non-violent resistance. Gandhiji employed non-cooperation, non-violence and peaceful resistance as his weapons in the struggle against Britishers who occupied India for 200 years. Gandhiji had mobilised both Hindus and Muslims to fight the British rule by appealing to their religious traditions. Gandhiji had made an alliance with the Khilafat Movement in 1920, in order to increase the participation of Muslims, who constituted a quarter to a third of the Indian population, in the non-cooperation movement.

{When the Ottoman Empire under Emperor Abdul Hamid II entered World War I against the British Empire, the Muslims across the world were concerned of the future of the Sultan of Ottoman Empire, who was considered the Caliph or Khalifa of Islam and spiritual leader of the global Muslim community. But even though the Khilafat agitation (1919–22) was to protect the position of the Sultan, to its founders and followers, the Khilafat was not a religious movement but rather a show of solidarity with their fellow Muslims in Turkey.}

The Khilafat founder leaders Mohammad Ali and Shaukat Ali, popularly known as Ali brothers, organised protests across British India. The support of the Khilafatists helped Gandhiji and the INC ensure Hindu-Muslim unity. Eminent Hindu leaders and personalities also supported the Khilafat Movement. With Hindu-Muslim unity achieved the non-cooperation campaign snowballed into a country-wide agitation. Massive protests, strikes and acts of civil disobedience spread across India. Khilafat leaders such as Dr. Ansari, Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad and Hakim Ajmal Khan also grew personally close to Gandhiji.

Jinnah criticised Gandhiji’s Khilafat advocacy, which he saw as an endorsement of religious zealotry. Jinnah regarded Gandhiji’s proposed satyagraha campaign as political anarchy, and believed that self-government should be secured through constitutional means. He opposed Gandhi, but the tide of Indian opinion was against him. At the 1920 Nagpur Session of INC, Jinnah was shouted down by the delegates, who passed Gandhiji’s proposal, pledging satyagraha until India was independent. Jinnah did not attend the subsequent AIML meeting, held in the same city, which passed a similar resolution. Because of the action of the INC in endorsing Gandhi’s campaign, Jinnah resigned from it, leaving all positions except in the AIML.

At the 1921 Ahmedabad Sesssion of the INC, Maulana Hazrat Mohani and Swami Kumaranand of the Communist Party of India (CPI) moved the resolution for complete independence for the first time. The resolution signed by M N Roy and Abani Mukherjee, called upon the INC to adopt “Complete Independence” as its mission and render full support to the struggles of the working class and peasantry.

The Non-Cooperation Movement took a violent turn with the Chauri Chaura incident (1922). Following this incident, Gandhiji  suspended the movement. The Ali brothers criticised Gandhi’s extreme commitment to non-violence and severed their ties. However, it is also true that the immediate reason for the disposal of the committee was the much criticised embezzlement of 16 lakhs rupee. The Ali brothers were severely criticised by Muslim politicians and the public. Although holding talks with the British and continuing their activities, the Khilafat struggle weakened as Muslims were divided between working for the INC and the Khilafat cause.

{The cooperation among Hindus and Muslims ended as Khilafat movement collapsed with the rise of Ataturk in Turkey after the Turkish War of Independence (1919–1924). Many Muslim leaders left the INC and the Khilafat leadership fragmented on different political lines. Syed Ata Ullah Shah Bukhari created Majlis-e-Ahrar-e-Islam with the support of Chaudhry Afzal Haq. The Ali brothers joined AIML led by Aga Khan III and they would go on to play a major role in the growth of the League’s popular appeal and the subsequent Pakistan movement. Leaders close to Gandhiji like Dr. Ansari, Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad and Hakim Ajmal Khan continued in INC}.

Gandhiji was arrested on 10 March 1922, tried for sedition, and sentenced to six years’ imprisonment. He began his sentence on 18 March 1922, however he was released in February 1924 for an emergency appendectomy.

Gandhi, Mahatma - Politker, Indien/ mit Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel (l.)With Gandhiji isolated in prison, the INC split into two factions, one led by Chittaranjan Das and Motilal Nehru favouring party participation in the legislatures – Council Entry, and the other led by Chakravarti Rajagopalachari and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, opposing this move. In 1923 Chittaranjan Das, popularly known as Deshbandhu, resigned his Presidency of the INC at the Gaya Session after losing a motion on “No Council Entry”. Deshbandhu, then along with Motilal Nehru and young Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy (Prime Minister of Bengal during the British Raj and Prime Minister of Pakistan), founded the Swaraj Party.

By 1925 Dr. Keshav Baliram Hedgewar, who was part of INC till 1923 started Rastriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) with the initial impetus to provide character training through Hindu discipline and to unite the Hindu community to form a Hindu Rashtra (Hindu nation). He was deeply influenced by the writings of Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Vinayak Damodar Savarkar. The RSS positioned itself as a cultural organisation and carefully avoided any political activity that could be construed as being anti-British. The nationalistic political base behind Gandhiji had broken into factions.

{The formation of RSS, a Hindu cultural organisation, further increased the Hindu Muslim divide. RSS rejected Gandhi’s willingness to cooperate with the Muslims. Dr Hedgewar had instructed RSS members to participate in political movements only in individual capacity. Golwalkar, who became the leader of the RSS in 1940, continued and further strengthened the isolation from the independence movement. In his view, the RSS had pledged to achieve freedom through “defending religion and culture” and not by fighting the British.

The RSS leaders convinced Hindus that Muslims were despots and religious invaders. This narative worked perfectly for the British who wanted to be seen as a rectifier of the historical harm inflicted by the Muslims, the invaders. The British had already completed the deeply resented partition of Bengal, in 1905, along religious lines – a Muslim majority state of East Bengal and a Hindu majority state of West Bengal. This kind of strengthened the British hands to do the same with British India.}

Gandhiji released from jail in February 1924, stayed out of active politics for most of the second half of the 1920s, preferring to resolve the gap between the Swaraj Party and the INC and expanding initiatives against the evil practices of society like, untouchability, alcoholism, ignorance and poverty. Gandhiji returned to the fore only in 1928 after successfully bringing the INC and Swaraj Party together. By 1926, Motilal Nehru who had joined Swaraj Party, had returned to the INC.

In 1928 Motilal Nehru chaired the famous Nehru Commission, a counter to the all-British Simon Commission. The Nehru Report, the first constitution written by Indians only, envisioned a dominion status for India within the Empire, akin to Australia, New Zealand and Canada. In December 1928 at the Calcutta Session over which Motilal Nehru presided was the scene of a head-on clash between those who were prepared to accept Dominion Status and those who would have nothing short of complete independence. A split was averted by a proposal by Gandhiji, according to which if Britain did not concede Dominion Status within a year, the Congress was to demand complete independence and to fight for it, if necessary, by launching civil disobedience.

With NehruThe Nehru Report was also rejected by the Muslim leadership of India, specially Jinnah, who warned the majority Hindu leadership of “shortsightedness and oppressiveness of commission”. In 1929, Motilal Nehru, with his advancing age and declining health, handed over the INC Presidency to Jawaharlal Nehru.

{Jawaharlal, who had entered the Indian independence movement in 1916, had opposed his father’s preference for dominion status. He had preffered to stay back with the INC when his  father joined Swaraj Party.}

With KhanInfluenced by Gandhiji’s teachings, in  1929, a close friend, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan or Bacha Khan founded the Khudai Khidmatgar (“Servants of God”) movement in North West Frontier Province (NWFP). The success of their non-violent struggle triggered a harsh crackdown by the British Raj against “Frontier Gandhi” and his supporters, and they suffered some of the most severe repression of the Indian independence movement.  This invigorated the INC and at their Lahore Session in December 1929, INC adopted “Purna Swarajya” as its objective.  The INC called upon all Indians to celebrate 26 January 1930 as Independence Day, and Gandhiji hoisted the Tricolour (which was, by consensus, considered the flag of the Indian national movement at that time), on that day.

{The INC was initially opposed the ”Complete Independence” resolution proposed by the CPI in 1921 INC Ahmedabad Sesssion but adopted at 1929 INC Lahore Session. When INC called upon all Indians to celebrate January 26, 1930 as Independence Day, the RSS and its leader Dr Hedgewar issued a circular asking all the RSS shakhas (branches) to observe the occasion through hoisting and worship of its own Bhagva Janda (saffron flag), rather than the Tricolor. The RSS continued the practice till 2002 except for a once in 1950 when the RSS hoisted the Tricolour in their HQ at Reshambaugh, Nagpur.

The second head of the RSS and the most reviered till date, M S Golwalkar, published in his book ”Bunch of Thoughts”. He lamented that “our leaders have set up a new flag for the country. Why did they do so? It is just a case of drifting and imitating… Ours is an ancient and great nation with a glorious past. Then, had we no flag of our own? Had we no national emblem at all these thousands of years? Undoubtedly we had. Then why this utter void, this utter vacuum in our minds?”

In 2001 the RSS filed a case (No. 176 at Kotwali Police Station, Nagpur) against three Rashtrapremi Yuwa Dal activists Baba Mendhe, Ramesh Kalambe and Dilip Chatwani, who allegedly entered the RSS premises in Reshimbagh on January 26,  2001 and hoisted the national flag there amid patriotic slogans. The case file reads that Sunil Kathle the incharge of the premises first tried to stop them from entering the premises and later tried to prevent them from hoisting the tricolour. The 3 activists were later were acquitted  and were released.

The last time RSS Sarsanchalak M S Golwalkar had hoisted the Tricolur in RSS HQ was in January 26, 1950. In the wake of Gandhi’s assassination on January 30, 1948, the new Government banned the RSS and the then Deputy Prime Minister, Sardar Patel, wrote to Nehru on February 27, 1948 ”It was a fanatical wing of the Hindu Mahasabha directly under Savarkar that [hatched] the conspiracy and saw it through”. However personal conviction would not compromise Patel’s commitment to due legal process and after investigations were completed, Patel declared quite unequivocally that though “the RSS was not involved… his assassination was welcomed by those of the RSS and the [Hindu] Mahasabha who were strongly opposed to his way of thinking and to his policy”.

Golwalkar repeatedly pleaded with Patel, but he remained firm. He lifted the ban on July 11, 1949, only after the RSS ”pledged to stay away from politics, not be secretive and abjure violence”. More important, it had to profess “loyalty to the Constitution of India and the National Flag”. But post the death of Sardar Patel in December 15, 1950 the RSS went back to their old ways’.

On March 12, 1930, Gandhiji led the ‘Dandi’ march from his Sabarmati Ashram with growing numbers of Indians joining him along the way. Several thousand marchers walked 241 miles to the coast, where Gandhiji picked up a handful of salt in defiance of the government. When Gandhiji broke the salt laws at the conclusion of the march on April 6, 1930, it sparked large scale acts of civil disobedience against the British Raj salt laws by millions of Indians. This signaled a nationwide movement in which peasants produced salt illegally and INC volunteers sold contraband salt in the cities. Nationalists gained faith that they could shrug off foreign rule. The march also made the British more aware that they were subjugating India. The movement is known as the ‘Salt Satyagraha’ or ‘Civil Disobedieance Campaign’.

Dandi March

Gandhiji was not opposed to compromise. In 1931 he negotiated with the Viceroy Lord Irwin, a pact whereby civil disobedience was to be canceled, prisoners released, salt manufacture permitted on the coast, and INC would attend the Second Round Table Conference in London. Gandhiji attended as the only INC representative, but Churchill refused to see him, referring to Gandhi as a “half-naked fakir.”

In 1932, Gandhiji began a fast to the death for the Harijans, opposing a British plan for a separate electorate for them. In this action Gandhiji confronted Harijan leader Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar, who favored separate electorates as a political guarantee of improved status. As a result of Gandhiji’s fast, some temples were opened to exterior castes for the first time in history. Following the marriage of one of Gandhiji’s sons to a woman of another caste, Gandhiji came to approve only intercaste marriages.

Gandhiji devoted the years 1934 through 1939 to promotion of spinning, basic education, and Hindi as the national language.  During these years Gandhiji worked closely with Jawaharlal Nehru, who was INC President 1936 and 1937 even though there were differences between the two. Nehru and others came to view the Gandhiji’s ideas on economics as anachronistic. Nevertheless, Gandhiji designated Nehru his successor, saying, “I know this, that when I am gone he will speak my language.”

With BoseIn year 1938 the radical wing of INC took over under the leadership of young Subhas Chandra Bose. The INC top brass were locked horns with the British Indian Government over release of all freedom fighters from jail. Hectic parleys go on for a week. Neither side blinked.  The strain exhausts the 70 year-old Gandhiji, his blood pressure shoots up and he is bedridden at Subhas Bose’s home on Elgin Road in South Calcutta. Doctors Nilratan Sirkar and Bidhan Roy lead the medical team that was treating Gandhiji.

A worried Ravindranath Tagore arrives to see the man he had named the ‘Mahatma’. But Mahatma Gandhi’s bedroom is on the 3rd floor, and the 78-yr old poet cannot climb the stairs. So a chair is brought and Tagore is made to sit upon it and four men carry him upstairs. The four men who carry the chair up three floors were Subhas Chandra Bose, Jawaharlal Nehru, Sarat Chandra Bose and Mahadev Desai.

By 1939 the bickering and frosty relationship between, once follower, Subhas Bose and Mahatma Gandhi reached a climax, when Bose, now slowly asserting his radical views, was elected INC President for a second term defeating Gandhi-nominated candidate Pattabhi Sitaramayya. Unable to hide his displeasure, Mahatma commented “Subhas’ victory is my defeat.” But this unhealthy environment within the INC Working Committee made Bose’s task all the more difficult and soon he resigned from his post.

With JinnahBy 1940, Jinnah had come to believe that Muslims of the Indian subcontinent should have their own state. In that year, the AIML, led by Jinnah, passed the Lahore Resolution, demanding a separate nation. The NWFP Leaders like Pasha Khan also known as Frontier Gandhi and other Khudai Khidmatgar leaders strongly opposed the AIML’s demand for the partition of India. The same year the defiant patriot Subhas Bose, escaped house arrest and arrived in Germany in March 1941 in his bid to rid India of British rule with the help of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan.

In Germany Subhas Bose raised a 3,000-strong Free India Legion, to aid in a possible future German land invasion of India. The military unit was comprising Indians captured by Erwin Rommel’s Afrika Korps.

In Ausust 1942 INC at Bombay Session lauched the ‘Quit India Movement’, a Civil Disobedience Movement in response to Mahatma’s call for immediate independence. Mahatma Gandhi hoped to bring the British government to the negotiating table. Almost the entire leadership of the INC including Mahatma Gandhi, Nehru, Patel was imprisoned without trial within hours of Gandhiji’s speech. This touching off violence throughout India. Most of the leaders arrested spent the rest of the war in prison and out of contact with the masses.

 

Around the same time, in light of Japanese victories in southeast Asia and changing German priorities, a German invasion of India became untenable, and Subhas Bose became keen to move to southeast Asia. With German and Japanese co-ordination Bose travelled in submarines and disembarked in Japanese-held Sumatra in May 1943. With Japanese support, Bose revamped the Indian National Army (INA), then composed of Indian soldiers of the British Indian Army who had been captured by Japanese in the Battle of Singapore. Before long the Provisional Government of Free India, presided by Bose, was formed in the then Japanese-occupied Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

Even though the INC always praised Bose’s patriotism, it distanced itself from his tactics and ideology, especially his collaboration with fascism. And in spite of all the differences in ideologies, both these great men admired and respected each other. In 1942 Mahatma Gandhi called Bose the “Prince among the Patriots” for his great love for the country. Bose too admired Gandhi and in a radio broadcast from Rangoon in 1944, he called Mahatma Gandhi “The Father of Our Nation”.

When the British attempted to place the blame on Mahatma for the Quit India Movement violence, he fasted 3 weeks in jail. He contracted malaria in prison and was released on May 6, 1944. Mahatma had spent a total of nearly 6 years in jail.

 

Subhas Bose’s military effort with the INA was short-lived. In late 1944 and early 1945 the British Indian Army first halted and then devastatingly reversed the Japanese attack on India. Almost half the Japanese forces and half the participating INA contingent were killed. The INA was driven down the Malay Peninsula, and surrendered with the recapture of Singapore by the British. The AIML, RSS, Hindu Mahasabha, CPI (at that time banned by British) and Princely States openly opposed the call for the Quit India Movement and boycotted it officially.

The Quit India campaign was effectively crushed. The British refused to grant immediate independence, saying it could happen only after the war had ended. By early 1944, India was mostly peaceful again, while the Congress leadership was still incarcerated. A sense that the movement had failed depressed many nationalists, while Jinnah and AIML, as well as Congress opponents like RSS and Hindu Mahasabha sought to gain political mileage, criticizing Gandhi and the INC. However, the British government realized that India was ungovernable in the long run due to the cost of World War II (1939 to 1945), and the question for postwar became how to exit gracefully and peacefully.

During this period the AIML had gained strength while leaders of the INC were imprisoned, and in the elections held shortly after the war, it won most of the seats reserved for Muslims. The INC and the AIML could not reach a power-sharing formula for the subcontinent to be united as a single state, leading all parties to agree to the independence of a predominantly Hindu India, and for a Muslim-majority state of Pakistan. When the INC declared its acceptance of the partition plan without consulting Pasha Khan, leader of NWFP, he felt very sad and told the INC “you have thrown us to the wolves”.

JailWhen Mahatma Gandhi emerged from prison on May 6, 1944, he sought to avert creation of a separate Muslim majority state of Pakistan which Jinnah was demanding. A British Cabinet mission to India in March 1946 advised against partition and proposed instead a united India with a federal parliament. In August 1946, Viceroy Wavell authorized Nehru to form a Cabinet for Interim government of India (1946–1947). Mahatma Gandhi suggested that Jinnah be offered the post of Prime Minister or Defense Minister. Jinnah refused and instead declared August 16, 1946 as “Direct Action Day.” On that day and several days following, communal killings left 5,000 dead and 15,000 wounded in Calcutta alone. Violence spread through the country.

Noakhali

Aggrieved, Mahatma Gandhi went to Bengal, saying, “I am not going to leave Bengal until the last embers of trouble are stamped out,” but while he was in Calcutta 4,500 more were killed in Bihar. Gandhi, now 77, warned that he would fast to death unless Biharis reformed. He went to Noakhali, a heavily Muslim city in Bengal, where he said “Do or Die” would be put to the test. Either Hindus and Muslims would learn to live together or he would die in the attempt. The situation there calmed, but rioting continued elsewhere.

In March 1947 the last Viceroy Lord Mountbatten, arrived in India charged with taking Britain out of India by June 1948. In spite of being ideologically at odds with both Nehru and Patel, J B Kripalani, one of Mahatma Gandhi’s most ardent disciples was elected INC President and by this time INC had agreed to partition, since the only alternative appeared to be continuation of British rule. Mahatma Gandhi, despairing because his nation was not responding to his plea for peace and brotherhood, refused to participate in the independence celebrations on August 15, 1947.

On September 1, 1947, after an angry Hindu mob broke into the home where he was staying in Calcutta, Mahatma Gandhi began to fast, “to end only if and when sanity returns to Calcutta.” Both Hindu and Muslim leaders promised that there would be no more killings, and Gandhiji ended his fast.

Gandhis-assassinationOn January 13, 1948, Mahatma Gandhi began his last fast in Delhi, praying for Indian unity. On January 30, 1948 as he was attending prayers on the grounds of Birla Bhavan in New Delhi, he was shot and killed by Nathuram Godse, a 35-year old Hindu Nationalist and editor of a Hindu Mahasabha extremist weekly in Poona. He held that Gandhiji responsible for the weakening of India.

Last

There are still political parties and people who are not willing to wholeheartedly embrace the Gandhian principles. The Government redtape has either mystified Gandhiji, downplaying the differences he had with Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru as well as Netaji Subhash Candra Bose, celebrating he being nicknamed as ‘Bapu’ and honouring him as India’s ‘Father of the Nation’. The Father who didn’t participate in the independence day celebration on August 15, 1947 and cheer the “when the whole world sleeps, India awakens” speech.

A Special Court headed by Justice Atma Charan was constituted in May 4, 1948. During the Mahatma Gandhi Murder trial Nathuram Godse and RSS claimed that Nathuram had left RSS. This was one of the reasons Golwalker was let off in the murder case. Justice Charan had found Digambar R. Badge (the arms dealer who supplied fire arms and who had turned approver), to be a truthful witness.

The Judge also found circumstantial evidence against Savarkar to be “impressive” but in the absence of independent corroboration of some of the crutial parts of Badge’s testimony, the Judge found it ”unsafe” to convict Savarkar. Godse and Apte were awarded death penalty. This is based on the school of legal thought which found it worthy to take ”the risk of letting a thousand criminals go unpunished in the process of ensuring that not a single innocent man is penalised”.

However three years after Savarkar death in February 26, 1966 a commission of inquiry ‘Jeevan Lal Kapur Commission, 1969, established Savarkar’s guilt in Gandhi’s murder. After re-examining all the relevant information – old and new- unearthed by Bombay’s Deputy Commissioner of Police Jamshed Nagarvala, the Kapur Commission concluded “All the facts taken together were destructive of any theory other than the conspiracy to murder [Gandhi] by Savarkar and his group”.

In December 1993 Gopal Godse, co-conspiator and brother of Gandhi’s assasin published a book, “Why I Assasinated Mahatma Gandhi”. Soon after in a interview to Frontline on Januray 28, 1994, Gopal Godse provided details and agrily scotched BJP President Lal Kishan Advani’s attempts to disown them. Gopal said ”All the brothers were in the RSS. Nathuram, Dattatreya, myself and Govind. You can say we grew up in the RSS rather than in our home. It was like a family to us. Nathuram had become a ‘baudhik karyavah‘ (intellectual worker) in the RSS. Nathuram had said in his statement (in Court) that he left the RSS, because Golwalkar and the RSS were in a lot of trouble after the murder of Gandhi. But he did not leave the RSS”.

In 1944 Nathuram, as the RSS baudhik karyavah, had started doing Hindu Mahasabha work. Even during the Murder trail the Hindu Mahasabha did not disown Nathuram Godse and Narayan Apte, while the Savarkar disowned his ‘lieutenant’ (as Gopal wrote Nathuram was regarded) to wriggle out of the case.

P L Inamdar in his memoirs, The Story of the Red Fort Trial, 1948-49 wrote, Naturam was deeply hurt by Tatyarao’s [Savarkar’s] calculated, demonstrative non-association with him either in Court or in the Red Fort Jail. He also quoted the lawyer who defended both Naturam and Gopal in the Court, “How Naturam yearned for a touch of Tatyarao’s hand, a word of sympathy, or atleast a look of compassion in the secluded confines of the cells. Naturam referred to his hurt feelings in this regard even during my last meeting with him at Simla High Court.”}

You may hate him or revere him, despise him or adore him but the best comment on Mahatma Gandhiji came from Albert Einstine “Generations to come, it may well be, will scarce believe that such a man as this one ever in flesh and blood walked upon this Earth”.

The truth for Mahatma Gandhi was not an abstract absolute but a principle which had to be discovered experimentally in each situation.