Wages of a mis-defined state
by Virendra Parekh on 13 Aug 2009 4 Comments

Six decades after Independence and the creation of Pakistan, why does the communal problem remain wholly unresolved even in the truncated India? In fact, it has grown to unimaginable proportions if we take (as we should) the whole of undivided India into consideration. The answer lies essentially in a wrong idea of India that dominated the thinking of the leaders of the freedom struggle. It still dominates the self-perception of the Indian state and its ruling elite. 

Two events, separated by about four decades, highlight the flawed character of the freedom struggle under Gandhi’s leadership. In 1905, when Lord Curzon partitioned Bengal, people erupted into a massive protest movement, forcing the British to annul the partition. In 1947, the whole country was partitioned and the same people guided by Congress accepted it as the best alternative in the given situation. A symbolic mirror image of the downfall was the replacement of Vande Mataram by Jana Gana Mana as the national anthem.

What had gone wrong? The descent from the fervent unadulterated nationalism of the Swadeshi Movement in the first decade of the twentieth century into the utter helplessness of the national leadership before British machinations and Muslim intransigence has been traced graphically by many chroniclers. Two nations: therefore, parity; therefore, veto; therefore, autonomy. Therefore, right to self-determination. Therefore, partition. It is one straight line.

The political failure was the consequence of an ideological one. The British presented India as a ‘composite country’ comprising a majority community and a minority community. Faced with a rising tide of national resurgence, the British imperialists started saying that while they ‘appreciated the legitimate aspirations’ of the ‘majority community’, they could not leave the ‘minority community’ at the ‘mercy’ of the former, that they could not leave the country till the ‘majority community’ had succeeded in ‘winning the trust’ of the ‘minority community.’

The leaders of the Indian National Congress could think only in terms of a parliamentary constitution patterned on the British model. They could, therefore, see no alternative to ‘winning the trust of the minority community’. They could not see that they were entering a blind alley from which there was no way out. The price of the trust, goodwill and cooperation of the minority community went on multiplying in direct proportion to the effort mounted to secure it. The more the Congress leaders bent, the more they were asked to bend.

It need not have been so. The Congress had declared itself a representative body of all groups, religious or otherwise, in the country. It could and should have, therefore, stood by its commitment to protect the interests and integrity of the nation as a whole, and never succumbed to the pressure tactics of any particular section.

In stark contrast with the pigmies that man our political parties currently, the Congress leadership in those days comprised sterling patriots of unimpeachable character and a long record of public service. But for all their qualities of head and heart, they could not rise above their training and education. They swallowed the definition of India as a conglomeration of communities and assumed with an inferiority complex that unless all communities came to its platform, it could not become a national organization. They became nervous at the prospect of being dubbed ‘communal’ if Hindus alone participated in its activities.

The same game continued to be played in the post-independence period under the garb of secularism. Before 1947, only that party, that programme, that leader was national which was approved by Muslims. After 1947, Muslim approval became a must for any party, programme or leader to be considered secular.

To return to the Congress leaders, they could not think of India as a great and ancient nation which had suffered a decline as a result of imperialist inroads, Islamic and British. They did not realize that to make India truly independent, they had to fight not only the British rule, also the residues of Islamic imperialism, masquerading as ‘minority leadership.’ To them, India was still a ‘nation in the making’.

After independence, an intellectually honest leadership would have candidly admitted failure of its policies and strategies against Jinnah’s intransigence and Muslim gangsterism (aided and abetted by the British) and accepted the reality that after the secession of the Muslim component, including army, police and bureaucracy, what remained was Hindu Rashtra. It would have fashioned a state whose orientation would have been more sympathetic to the aspirations of ordinary Hindus.

However, instead of accepting the failure of Gandhiji and his methods in dealing with Islamic separatism, the Indian state has continued to follow the same methods even in vivisected India.

The Indian Constitution, which grants special privileges to the minorities, mirrors this approach. Reason demands that if the minorities have some special rights as minorities, they should also have special duties and obligations as minorities, such as the duty of respecting the sentiments of the majority and living peacefully with it. Similarly, if the majority community has some special duties and responsibilities, it should also have special rights and privileges, such as the right to remain the majority and resist attempts at conversion, the right to be regarded as the national society, and the right to define the cultural ethos of the country.

However, in India, we have a situation wherein all the rights, privileges and prerogatives belong to the minorities and the Hindus are left holding the duties, responsibilities and obligations. 

Congress under Nehru took over from where the British and Muslim League left. It continues to swear by the colonial definition of India as a vast conglomeration of disparate groups struggling to evolve some principle of unity, as a nation in the making.

The British had perfected the use of Muslims as a counterweight to indigenous nationalism. To every proposal from freedom fighters, the British counter was “what about Muslims? Will they accept it?’ Now, to every demand from Hindu society in the truncated India, the Congress counter is: what about minorities? Will they accept it?’

How history repeats itself! What Jinnah used to say about Congress in 1940s, the Congress today is saying about BJP: “It is a party of Hindu banias, Muslims can never expect justice from it, if it came to power, Muslim lives and property will not be safe and so on.” The fact that like Congress under Gandhi, the BJP too is not a Hindu party, and that both have only betrayed the Hindus is irrelevant.

Again, like the Congress leadership’s surrender to the Muslim League, this outcome was not inevitable. The partition had resolved the civilisational stalemate in favour of the Hindus in three-fourths of undivided India. Partition gave Hindus a state of their own. However, they could not convert it into a Hindu state. At the time of independence, the Hindus were too traumatized by Partition to realize that they had reached an important milestone in their long and chequered history, that after several centuries they had an opportunity to come into their own.

This enabled Nehru and others to convert India into a secular state. Hindus went along in the hope that secularism would deny legitimacy to Muslim and other separatisms, and allow them to deal with non-Hindus in a non-partisan manner.

Here again, they have been betrayed. Owing to several factors that need not detain us here, secularism has been converted (or perverted) into a powerful political concept to deny legitimacy to Hindu aspirations and provide a shield to every anti-Hindu ideology such as Islam, Christianity and Communism. Indeed, secularism has one meaning when applied to Hindus and quite another when applied to non-Hindus.

Hindus have to realize that their civilization is fighting a life-and-death battle with its back to the wall. In the words of Sita Ram Goel, Hindu society has been thrown on the defensive by blood-soaked bigotries, clay-footed creeds, and a mercenary modernist culture because Hindu society is suffering from self-forgetfulness.

As Girilal Jain perceptively observed, the dominant Hindu intelligentsia is the product of the Macaulay school of education. It has got alienated from its own roots. It has to an extent lost its sense of identity. It is anxious to join the Western world even if as a very junior partner. It thinks mainly in Western terms. Its conceptual equipment and intellectual baggage is wholly Western in its origin.

Hindus missed the bus in 1947 because they lacked an elite that would reassert the primacy of their civilization in India. They are still paying the price for not having one even today. 

The author is Executive Editor, Corporate India, and lives in Mumbai

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