Puerile and Philistine — The Paradigm of Parochialism

I must concede that the title of this tract would well befit a book. However, such a book would merely be a fanfaronade against my generalized contention with numerous examples, thus being superfluous in its length. A tract with but one example would suffice to illustrate the said generalized contention.

Courtesy of steadily albeit laggardly rising awareness with regard to history — and I must commend filmmaker Vivek Ranjan Agnihotri and researcher Anuj Dhar very substantially for the same — Indians today know that the second of October heralds the birth anniversary of not merely the one whom Subhas Chandra Bose called Father of the Nation, but also a committed Gandhian who happened to be India’s second Prime Minister, Lal Bahadur Shastri. Nevertheless, we can all concur with the fact that Prime Minister Shastri by himself was not remotely a polemical figure. Gandhi, on the other hand, invites reactions across the emotional and political spectrum. It is quite apt that he be subject to some scrutiny.

I was stupefied reading tweets that commended Godse’s act of assassinating Gandhi. To the benighted minds of such “tweeples”, Gandhi’s assassination was symbolic of an act of courage against prevalent policies of Muslim-propitiation. Abhorrent as this view is, I cannot bring myself to outrage at its adherents. For this is how they are — overly simplistic and sensationalist in their paradigm, having been willfully kept bereft of academic temperament and having been emblematically programmed with one version history, the discovery of whose speciousness engenders anger within them. As opposed to virtue-signalling, I would prefer a proactive endeavour of inculcating academic temperament within them.

The point that I proceed to make does not necessitate the post of an academician, but rudimentary comprehension skills. I do not see how Gandhi’s assassination was any good for the nation. Murder is a crime and the State prosecuted Godse for it.

Those who contend that Gandhi staying alive any further would have been detrimental to India, do not seem to have understood the problem. What harm could he have possibly inflicted upon the nation? Whatever harm there was to be done, had already been done in the immediate aftermath of World War 1 with the pernicious amalgamation of religion and politics called the Khilafat. I am given to understand that the NCERT sixth grade history textbook calls it a unifying movement. I defend another person’s right to be delusional, but the Khilafat ultimately failed. If anything, it only cleaved the Hindus and Muslims further, and had mobilized the Muslims on religious, pan-Islamist grounds, thereby making them inimical to the idea of Indian nationalism thereafter. Ironically, it was opposed by Jinnah of all people (much prior to him becoming an Islamist himself).

Further, the British had no role in it. One may be content with the jejunely conventional propagation that Congress was the progressive, idealistic, tragic hero that failed to prevent India’s Partition, that was a result of British connivance and the parochialism of small yet vocal factions amongst Hindus and Muslims. However, the fact remains that the Khilafat movement which sowed the seeds of Partition, was supported by the Congress. The British did their best to cause fissures in a potential unity such as through separate electorates, but it had no role in the Khilafat.

It is also true that the Congress assiduously built mass support through phenomenal groundwork, but let us not accord it with a divine status. The paramount province of those who write history is to record it with objectivity and not with a sense of awe.

The years after the Khilafat were particularly marked with the capitulation of the Congress to Islamist demands, as would be evinced by Dr. Ambedkar’s incisive book, “Pakistan or the Partition of India”. It is interesting how not one historian or intellectual worth his or her name has, for the past seven decades, not managed to produce a single logical counter to Ambedkar’s book. What the Hindus — more specifically the supporters of BJP — accuse the Congress of (propitiation of Muslims) today, Ambedkar had noted decades ago. He observed:

The first thing which the Congress has failed to realize is that there is a difference between appeasement and settlement, and that the difference is an essential one. Appeasement means buying off the aggressor by conniving at his acts of murder, rape, arson and loot against innocent persons who happen for the moment to be the victims of his displeasure. On the other hand, settlement means laying down the bounds which neither party to it can transgress. Appeasement sets no limits to the demands and aspirations of the aggressor. Settlement does. The second thing the Congress has failed to realize is that the policy of concession has increased Muslim aggressiveness, and what is worse, Muslims interpret these concessions as a sign of defeatism on the part of the Hindus and the absence of the will to resist. This policy of appeasement will involve the Hindus in the same fearful situation in which the Allies found themselves as a result of the policy of appeasement which they adopted towards Hitler.

Being brutally objective — something that would horrify the academia today given that criticism of Nehru and Gandhi is akin to blasphemy for them — the best one could say is that Godse’s act of assassination led to but one such water bucket being emptied. There remained an entire ocean of systemic malaise within the Congress that was oriented around propitiation, as noted by Minhaz Merchant in his column for ThePrint. While his column points to appeasement post-independence, Dr. Ambedkar’s book proves appeasement prior to independence.

Accordingly, Gandhi having not being assassinated would not have exacerbated the situation. On the contrary, I am compelled to think Gandhi realized how profoundly flawed the Congress approach of propitiation had been. Realizing those grievous errors, he did his best to physically tour so much of India as possible in an attempt to dilute communal passions while the rest of the nation celebrated the dawn of independence; an endeavour whose credit I have no prerogative to deprive him of.

With the adulation of his assassin, the Hindus do a disservice to a man who discerned the common Indian like no other, barring perhaps Ambedkar. As opposed to learning from him through an objective view of history, the Hindus lamentably choose to besmirch him. As opposed to deciphering his tactical play at appealing to the masses, the Hindus choose to focus merely on his negatives and calumniate him for them. It does not help the Hindu cause of creating an India that is to be more just to them.

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Eternal as evolution is, I cannot purport to have grown in full measure, and I hope to augment my acuity in the company of beings far more erudite than me.

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Samved Iyer

Samved Iyer

Eternal as evolution is, I cannot purport to have grown in full measure, and I hope to augment my acuity in the company of beings far more erudite than me.

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