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Hindu angst

Hindu angst

Author: Prafull Goradia
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: March 24, 2009
URL: http://www.dailypioneer.com/164587/Hindu-angst.html

Why is there ground level support for Varun Gandhi?

Mr Varun Gandhi's reported speech at Pilibhit is a long due articulation of how many Hindus feel about their being the objects of prejudice. This discrimination against them began with the Khilafat movement, launched under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi in 1919. He declared that the saving of the Caliph or the Sultan of Turkey on his throne was equivalent to India winning swaraj. When he failed to fulfil his promise, the Muslims were disappointed. Their feelings were first expressed in anti-Hindu riots in Malabar. In the words of Annie Besant, the Irish lady who was president of the Congress in 1913, "It would be well if Mr Gandhi could be taken into Malabar to see with his own eyes the ghastly horrors which have been created by the preaching of his and his loved brothers Muhammad and Shaukat Ali".

While writing in the Young India, Gandhi on September 8, 1921 opined that the Moplahs have succeeded in taking half a dozen lives and praised them for being among the bravest in the land. In fact, not half a dozen but 600 Hindus were killed and 2,500 Hindus forcibly converted to Islam, Gandhi wrote in the Young India published on September 29, 1921. He went on to add, "Be the Moplahs be ever so bad, they deserve to be treated as human beings".

On September 10, 1924, in Kohat, North-West Frontier Province, several hundred Hindus were butchered because they had protested against their womenfolk being abducted and converted to Islam. Gandhi's reaction was: "I can only suggest solutions of questions in terms of swaraj, I would, therefore, sacrifice present individual gain for future national gain" (Collected Works of Gandhi, 1925).

In October 1939, Gandhi received a telegram from Dr Choitram Gidwani, appealing for an enquiry committee visit to look into riots, loot, rape and kidnapping of Hindu women in Shikarpur town of Sukkur, Sind. He replied: "Now the only effective way in which I can help the Sindhis is to show them the ways of non-violence" (Collected Works of Gandhi). He went on to advise the Sindhis to resort to hijrat or leave the place which has proved inhospitable.

On December 23, 1926, Swami Shradhanand, a disciple of Swami Dayanand Saraswati, was murdered on his sick bed by one Abdul Rashid, with a dagger. Despite pleading in the court by Asaf Ali, Rashid was sentenced to death and hanged. Gandhi reacted by writing, "What true religion was?" and explained the causes that led to the murder. He went on to call Rashid a brother and "I do not ever regard him as guilty of Swami's murder".

In the Young India of April 9, 1925, Gandhi had called heroes like Guru Gobind Singh, Ranjit Singh, Shivaji and Rana Pratap as misguided patriots. In his view, it was incumbent upon Hindus to be non-violent although Muslims, who were in any case brave, were free to practise violence.

In September 1944, Gandhi went to MA Jinnah's house on Malabar Hill, Bombay several times over a fortnight. Jinnah had, at the outset, asserted that India should be divided into Hindustan for Hindus and Pakistan for Muslims; the name India should be abolished. By the end of the serial meetings, Gandhi had conceded Pakistan, subject to there being a referendum by the people affected by the division. He preferred this to take place after the British had left India. The meetings were recorded in an exchange of letters later published in Calcutta and also referred to by DG Tendulkar in his book Mahatma.

On the British declaration of their decision to leave India, Gandhi opposed partition and said it could take place only over his dead body. Yet, when the vivisection took place, to the surprise of many, he did not undertake any fast unto death as this had been his favourite form of protest. Nevertheless, despite his opposition to Pakistan, he went on an indefinite fast to ensure that the new country was paid Rs 55 crore, which was supposed to be a corollary of the partition. No weight was given to the fact that a war between the two countries was raging in Kashmir.

Led by Jinnah, eight Muslim league leaders had throughout 1946 and 1947 demanded an exchange of populations concurrent with partition. Gandhi chose to ignore the League's demand.

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