गाँधी का वो उपवास जो उनके लिए आख़िरी साबित हुआ

गाँधी का वो उपवास जो उनके लिए आख़िरी साबित हुआ

आज़ादी के बाद भारत में ख़ूनखराबे का सिलसिला जारी था. इसके विरोध में गाँधीजी ने अपना आख़िरी उपवास 13 जनवरी, 1948 को शुरू किया था. इस घटना पर इतिहासकार दिलीप सिमियन से चर्चा




Gandhi’s last battle

On 11 January, 1948 a group of Delhi’s Muslims met Gandhi asking him to help them in their “ passage to England.” They had decided not to go to Pakistan but it was made impossible for them to stay in India. Gandhi felt defeated.

“ We are steadily losing hold on Delhi” , Gandhi wrote to a friend. “If it goes, India goes and with it goes the last hope of world peace.” Describing Gandhi’s state of mind in what were to be his last days, his biographer D G Tendulkar says that it was intolerable to him that Dr. Zakir Hussain or even Shaheed Suharwadi could not walk on the streets of Delhi with as much safety and assurance as himself.

Feeling lost, Gandhi struggled within to find a way. And as had happened earlier in his life, he turned to his inner little voice which had been beckoning to him for a long time and decision was made :he had to fast again. “ The fast begins from the first meal tomorrow(Tuesday, 13 January)…it will end when I am satisfied that there is a reunion of hearts of all communities brought about without any outside pressure, but from a awakened sense of duty.”

The decision of a 79 year old man to undertake fast for an indeterminate period stunned his friends and his family as well. Devadas Gandhi reprimanded his father for having surrendered to “ impatience,whereas the mission that you had undertaken is essentially one of infinite patience.” His patient labour had saved lakhs upon lakhs of lives and could still save many, but “ your patience seems to have suddenly snapped.”

Gandhi wrote back to his son calling him a “high minded friend” but rejected the charge of being hasty : “behind the lightning quickness was my my four days’ heart searching and prayer.”

Gandhi explained his decision in his prayer discourse, “I never liked to feel resourceless, a Satyagrahi never should. Fasting is his last resort in place of sword- his or other’s. I have no answer to the Mussalman friends…. My impotence has been gnawing at me of late. It will go immediately the fast is undertaken….. No man, if he is pure , has anything more precious to give than his life.”

As a votary of Ahimsa, he had no other way of registering his protest against the wrong done by his people.He blamed no one but if the “Hindus and Sikhs insisted on turning out Muslims from Delhi, they would be betraying India and their won faith.”

Gandhi, before camping in Delhi had wandered barefoot in Noakhali telling the Muslims what he was now asking the Hindus and Sikhs to do to their neighbors. There too he was unwelcome but that had not deterred him. He had walked from village to village telling Muslims that by killing and driving out Hindus they were acting against their faith. In Calcutta, he camped with the hated Suharavardi and forced Hindus to lay down arms. His colleagues, Nehru and others were in Bhagalpur and other places quelling the fire of communal violence.

Delhi was not to be his destination. He wanted to go to Punjab in the newly created Pakistan with a strange dream of taking with him the Hindus and Sikhs who had to flee their land and bring back with him the Muslims who had fled from India. It was true that two new nations were created but how could neighbourhoods be broken!

It was the grief stricken face of the usually jovial Sardar Patel and the the gloom in Delhi which made his decision. He had to be in Delhi and “do or die.”

Very few Gandhians have noted the recurrence of his famous slogan “ do or die”. Gandhi had laboured hard from September, 1947to January, 1948 to persuade Hindus and Sikhs that revenge from the Muslims of Delhi for what was done to them in Pakistan was wrong .He demanded the same from the leaders of Pakistan constantly asking what happened to their commitment of safeguarding the minorities. He wanted to go their to their succour. “ But with what face could he now go there if he could not guarantee full redress to the Muslims in Delhi?”

Hindus were a majority in India. But on the strength of their numbers they could not make Muslims secondary in the project of the nation of India. Hindus must understand that they were not big brother or patron to Muslims and Muslims were not to live as vassals of Hindus in India. Hindu way of life was not to be confused as the only Indian way of life. One should remember that he had firmly rejected the suggestion by Rajendra Prasad to legally ban cow slaughter and beef eating.

The doing part seemed to be over and time had to come to die for the cause dearest to his heart. Like Maulana Azad, a free India without equality for all religious communities was unacceptable to him :“ Death for me would be a glorious deliverance rather than that I should be a helpless witness to the destruction of India, Hinduism, Sikhism and Islam.”

The streets of Delhi were milling with angry Hindu and Sikh refugees from Pakistan who had lost everything. Slogans wishing death for Gandhi were not uncommon. Gandhi shared their pain but never wavered from telling them that they were playing in the hands of Satan by occupying mosques, capturing Muslim houses and driving the Khadims out of the Dargah of Mehrauli.

Gandhi had fasted many times. But would his body, frail and exhausted from his relentless wandering and his soul worn out from the violence it sought to confront, be able to survive this time? Gandhi did not want people to rush to action to save him. They should examine the purpose of his fast and let him die, if must, in peace.

Gandhi was attacked for taking the fast on behalf of Muslims. His response was again unambiguous, “ My fast….is undoubtedly on behalf of the Muslim minority in the Indian Union and,therefore, it is necessarily against the Hindus and Sikhs of the Union and the Muslims of Pakistan. It is also on behalf of the minorities in Pakistan, as in the case of the Muslim minority in the Union.”

Gandhi felt that this was a clumsy compression of his long held belief. He is not for balancing between communalisms. What he is telling the world that the bedrock principle of Indian democracy is protection and respect for minority rights. Gandhi felt that he had equal claim over India and Pakistan. Pakistan failed him by not standing by its minorities. Exactly 70 years after the commencement of Gandhi’s last fast, can we say that India stands by its minorities with the resolve Gandhi expected from it?

Bhima-Koregaon: When new Dalit leadership faces off with Hindutva project

Maharashtra saw violent protests after clashes between Dalits and some Maratha groups in Dalits had gathered in to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the battle of  These clashes and the subsequent protests brought the focus back on Dalit assertion and its conflict with Hindutva politics. The writer analyses this conflict in this Business Standard Special.

The determination and force of the response of the Dalits to the violence at the has unsettled the BJP governments of the state of Maharashtra and the centre. It has also baffled the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. This time it has not been easy for the BJP and the governments to denounce the protests the way could do in the past. Previously the Student leaders of the JNU were successfully branded as anti-national. The students and teachers of the Ramjas college of the university of Delhi were also declared anti-national. Before them, the student unrest – mainly led by Dalits – at the central University of Hyderabad was condemned as casteist and anti national.

This time the response from the centre’s of power has been slightly complex.It is true that the RSS tried to blame the violence at the on and  It did say that the Bharat tere tukde honge gang was responsible for the violence. But interestingly, this time this allegation could not create the kind of frenzied attack on these leaders as we have seen on the previous occasions directed at Kanhaiya, Umar and others.

Student leader and the newly elected MLA from Gujarat were targeted specifically. Criminal cases were registered against them claiming that it was their provocative speeches which led to violence. But again, these two leaders have not been pushed to back foot. Instead of going defensive, the Dalit leaders have blamed the RSS for the violence and have been demanding the arrest of Guruji Bhide and Ekbote. Prakash Ambedkar has even allaeged that the PMO is saving these accused. The RSS is struggling. How did it happen? Let us try to understand the new situation

.has made it clear after the atrocity at Una that he wouldn’t let the BJP and RSS have respite even for a moment. He is also articulating an alternative vision of development and politics for the Dalits which is much more than getting representation in the electoral politics for them. Even after entering the assembly in Gujarat through elections he has made it clear that his fight would continue on the streets.

It explains the extraordinary attention that the annual event at the Vijaystambh at Bheema Koregaon attracted this time. The scale of the commemoration of the battle between the forces of the East India company and the army of the Peshwas was unprecedented this year. But more important than that is that the the organisers decided to give this commemorative event a contemporary meaning. It was an audacious move to invite Umar, Jignesh, Radhika Vemula, mother of Rohit Vemula on this occasion.

The organisers were giving a clear message that they want to take the political project of the RSS head on, refuse to be cornered by the threat of exclusion from the nationalist project , which the RSS claims only it has a right to interpret. They assert their right to protest the hegemonic intent of the RSS and in this process gain agency for themselves.

One knows that Dalits enjoy a unique position in the current political scenario. They have brought with them a unique force and energy. The RSS knows that to stabilise its project of Hindu Rashtra it would need the militancy of the Dalit politics. It cannot therefore antagonise Dalits.

The RSS and the BJP would be happy if the Dalit politics remains confined to the anxiety of Dalit inclusion in the mainstream politics. But it has before it a new kind of Dalit voice emerging. From the campuses of IIT Madras ,Central University of Hyderabad, JNU and Saharanpur a new educated Dalit class is asserting itself. It is speaking of and about alliances.

The RSS has been disturbed by the rise of this voice which instead of competing with the minorities, seeks to speak on their behalf. This was the reason for the Sangh fury against Rohit Vemula and their friends. It we care to remember, we can recall the charge by the BJP leaders that these young student leaders have never demanded reservation in the AMU or Jamia Millia Islamia Universities.

This emerging politics is also trying to weave a national narrative of unrest. So, the cry of Chandrashekhar Ravan finds resonance in Gujarat and Maharashtra. You can see the bonhomie, solidarity among these young greenhorns which infects the new masses of young Dalits. It has the potential to replace the old, tired Dalit leaders safely ensconced in the Parliamentary space.

The RSS has taken note of this threat and decided to aggressively reach out to the Dalits assuring them of a respectable place in its political and cultural project of Hindutva . It is asking the caste Hindus to help it in creating a harmonious Hindu Samaj. Can its wish be converted into reality? The message from the ground is not very encouraging.

The caste Hindus have shown no desire to forego their identity markers. It is after all associated with its material interests. We are told that there is a resurgence of the Caste pride in the so called forward castes. It is being demonstrated more aggressively than ever before. It is seen in areas where even their forefathers had not done it. It would certainly disturb and even thwart the agenda of the RSS to enlist the Dalit in their project where they could feel to be on equal footing with caste Hindus. Even after that this time the educated Dalit seems to be more hungry. It is not only demanding a ride of on the bus of democracy, it wants to be on the steering wheels.

2018 is going to be an interestingly bitter year. The future of not only Indian democracy but the very idea of India as we know it depends on the outcome of the tussle between these two competing projects. One is flush with funds and a well oiled organisational machinery. The other has courage of freshness and a promise of novelty. At some point we’ll also be asked to choose our side.

क्या आपने आहेद तामिमी का नाम सुना है? (Do you know Ahed Tamimi of Palestine ?)

क्या आपने आहेद तामिमी का नाम सुना है? अगर नहीं, तो इसमें आपका कोई दोष भले न हो, लेकिन इससे यह पता चलता है कि आप क्या जानना चाहते हैं और क्या जानने में आपकी रुचि नहीं है. कह सकते हैं कि यह जानना किसी के बताने पर ही निर्भर है क्योंकि सब कुछ अकेले दम पर जानना मुमकिन नहीं. फिर यह सवाल उठेगा कि बताने का काम करने वाली संस्थाएँ क्या अपना काम बखूबी कर रही हैं? अगर हाँ, तो आपको उन्होंने आहेद तामिमी के बारे में क्यों नहीं बताया? उन्हीं सस्थाओं ने जिन्होंने आपको मलाला युसुफजई के बारे में लगातार बाखबर रखा? Continue reading

Why criminalise triple talaq?

The opposition parties, especially the Congress Party seem to have gathered their wits after displaying a pathetic loss of nerves in the face of the bill criminalising Triple Talaq was introduced in the Parliament. It was shocking to see a bill of this nature being introduced, discussed and approved in a span of few hours. The rush itself should have raised eyebrows. But the opposition got thoroughly confused and failed even to properly press the serious objections raised by its members like Sushmita Dev, Adhir Ranjan Chawdhury and Asaduddin Owaisi. Continue reading

What India’s BJP lost in the Gujarat elections

Supporters of India's main opposition Congress party cheer for Rahul Gandhi during an election campaign meeting ahead of the second phase of Gujarat state assembly elections [Amit Dave/Reuters]

Supporters of India’s main opposition Congress party cheer for Rahul Gandhi during an election campaign meeting ahead of the second phase of Gujarat state assembly elections [Amit Dave/Reuters]

The narrow victory India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) secured in the assembly elections in the western state of Gujarat and northern state of Himachal Pradesh has brought some relief to its leadership.

While both states gave the mandate to the BJP, it was the win in Gujarat that really mattered for the party. Gujarat, a long-time stronghold of the BJP, is the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modiwho used to be chief minister there in the early 2000s. It is also the state that Modi promotes as a “model of development”.

Naturally, the victory was seen as a mark of approval for the Modi government’s rule, especially the economic policies it has introduced since 2014

The BJP won 99 seats in the 182-member state house, crossing the 92 seat halfway mark required to rule. But this was in no way an easy or definitive victory for the party.

A closer look at the results also shows that there are signs of reinvigoration of the opposition Congress Party, and there are reasons for the BJP to worry about its positions in Gujarat.

Indigenous opposition in Gujarat

BJP’s victory was predictable. The party is in control of the central government, so it had immense financial and organisational resources at its disposal. Also, immediately before the election, the party’s fortunes were on the rise across India. It had very recently won elections in Uttar Pradesh, the largest state in India very convincingly.

Moreover, the BJP had successfully painted an image of Congress as a pro-Muslim and anti-Hindu party.

Yet not all was quiet and smooth in Gujarat. Before the elections, the state saw massive protests by traders against a new taxation regime introduced by the central government. There were reports of widespread resentment in rural areas and farmers were on a war path against the ruling party. Repeated atrocities against Dalits had shaken the conscience of the country, and the Dalits were out on the street, blaming the BJP for the violence.

As a result of these disturbances, the much-hailed Gujarat model came under scrutiny in the public arena, and some community leaders openly criticised it. For the first time since 2002, a space for a substantive discussion on the issues of education, health, farming, trading, small industries and land was created in Gujarat.

Public unrest also made space for new community leaders to emerge. Hardik Patel, a 24-year-old activist of the socially and politically dominant Patidar caste, which has been a traditional support base for the BJP, led an aggressive campaign against the government and Modi himself.

Similarly, Jignesh Mevani, a 35-year-old lawyer and former trade unionist, led a strong movement after the mob lynching of Dalits by members of the so-called upper castes. Alpesh Thakor, a 40-year-old leader from the upper-caste Kshatriya community, also mobilised people in opposition to the BJP.

The emergence of these three leaders was significant, as they were opposition voices coming from within Gujarat. Earlier efforts against the Gujarat government did not have strong local or indigenous voices to back them. Modi as State Minister succeeded in convincing the Hindus of Gujarat that opposition to him was actually an insult to them and Gujarat. But it seems that since he’s moved from Gujarat to Delhi, other local party leaders were not as successful in controlling public opinion.

This is the context in which the recent assembly election was fought. Modi’s key policies, which have been severely criticised by opposition parties and economists as well, were being tested. The discontent in Gujarat was apparent.

An unequal battle

Rahul Gandhi was fighting an unequal battle with his back to the wall. But he negotiated with the local agitators and managed to bring them into the Congress platform. Thakor joined the party, Patel declared his support openly, and Congress Party supported Mevani’s candidacy by allowing him to fight for a secure seat in the assembly that was held by the Congress Party since the last election. These moves changed the perception of Congress being an outsiders’ party with no local stakeholders.

Gandhi also framed his campaign in economic language, constantly talking about the distress of the farmers and the unemployed youth. He presented himself as a devout Hindu, thus deflecting BJP attempts to brand him an imposter and pseudo-Hindu. Gandhi also strategically refrained from talking about the atrocities and isolation faced by the minorities in Gujarat.

Gandhi’s success in making the Congress party a stronger contender in the Gujarat election made the BJP desperate and forced it to move further into its safe majoritarian platform. The whole central cabinet and entire party machinery were sent into the state to campaign. The winter session of parliament was delayed to allow Modi and his ministers to campaign in Gujarat.

Personally leading BJP’s efforts in Gujarat, Modi used his time-tested formula of fearmongering against Muslims and Pakistan. He went as far as telling the electorate that there was a Pakistan-inspired conspiracy hatched by the former prime minister, former vice president and a senior Congress leader to interfere in the Gujarat elections.

‘A victory in defeat’ for Congress

The pollsters predicted an easy win for the ruling BJP, but the election results told a different story. The BJP failed to touch the three-digit mark, and Congress managed to enhance its tally considerably from the previous election.

Interestingly the Gujarati media, which is conventionally seen as pro-BJP, called this result a “defeat in victory” for the BJP and a “victory in defeat” for the Congress. The leader of the far-right Shiv Sena party in Gujarat, an ally of the BJP, has also classified this result as a moral defeat for the Modi-led BJP.

BJP’s victory, of course, shows that Modi still holds significant sway in his home state and that anti-minority sentiments in Gujarat are still an effective political tool.

However, on the whole, the results are a much-needed breather for parliamentary democracy in India. Against all odds, the opposition has carved out a fighting space for itself. The Congress Party has managed to demonstrate that it is still in the reckoning. Its leader Rahul Gandhi has shaken off the image of a reluctant leader who ducks and shies away from a rough battle.

Modi’s image, despite the electoral win, has taken a severe blow in the eyes of the public and the media. This has opened up many possibilities for politics of India and the 2019 parliamentary election which till yesterday was seen as yet another easy win for the BJP. Suddenly, it now seems that the 2019 vote is open game.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.