H C Singh

Annie Besant and MK Gandhi -6 Independence Movement of India from 1880 to 1920 –Brief Review

Annie Besant was born in England and at the age of 19 married a young author Christian Rev Frank Besant and came to be known throughout Anne Besant. Soon she found the women in Britain were discriminated and were not considered equal to men. So she became non believer in god and in due course in Christianity and started trying independently to alleviate the conditions of women in UK as she came to believe that as her Parish husbands wife she could  not do much for ending women’s suffering. So differences grew with her husband so fast that first they went their own ways but as her husband turned her out of home  and then got legal separation keeping the son with him allowing his wife to keep little daughter with her. Thus Annie came to London and 1874 joined the secular society .Annie Besant could not sit idle and started working for a paper of radical views called National Reformer. Editor of the paper was Bradlaugh equally secular and he and Annie wrote a book on Birth control which agitated the orthodox government of UK so much that both were imprisoned for six months. Though on appeal their sentence was overturned but Annie was determined to continue advocacy of her views and wrote a book independently on birth control in her book ‘ The laws of population ‘. Her husband got further annoyed and got custody for her daughter too so she was left alone. But all this did not deter the secular minded Annie and a free thinker and activist. She continued to work now writing about unhealthy working conditions for women, industrial workers and their low wages in comparison to men industrial workers .   Annie Besant came to India in early 1880’s and at once joined and commenced enthusiastically her secular activities. She was, it is said, one of the founder of Indian National Congress in 1885.

1)                     Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi and Annie Besant, were virtually contemporary. Gandhi was born in India, got bar at law degree from UK while Annie Besant was born and brought up in UK. For first 30 years of his life did not devote his young life for the benefit of Indians, the country to which he owed everything. As he was a failure as advocate in the very first and the only case MK Gandhi bar at law could not defend the case as he fumbled did not speak a word in support of his client before the British Magistrate. He apologized and left the court almost heart broken. Then Gandhi managed to get an assignment in South Africa from an Indian businessman and left for South Africa where he spent 21 years without his wife and children. Though Gandhi, the barrister from India made many friends, British, South Africans and Indian and fought for equality of Indians and Africans with British ruler of South Africa. Gandhi and Indians in South Africa cannot forget the humiliation that he suffered when, with valid 1st class ticket he was virtually thrown out of train by Britishers. Thus when the First World War started in 1914 Gandhi left for India. Indians thought now experienced Gandhi who was about 45 year old will lead the Indian campaign against the British rulers. But instead Gandhi supported the British in their war to the extent that Gandhi in his home state Gujarat went from village to village for four years to recruit soldier from India for British Army. Which on the other hand  Annie Besant a British citizen spent 5 years in jail as she was supporting Indian independence from British rule which was not only Annie Besant but many Indians were demanding , if not independence, Home Rule.

It was only after the Jallianwala Bagh massacre of unarmed India’s peaceful men and women who had just gathered there to hear their leaders, killing more that 500 men and women that Gandhi became to an extent anti British or anti imperialist and joined Independence movement and soon became its leader and Father of the Nation.

April 25, 2011 Posted by | Indian History | , | Leave a comment

Shashi Tharoor on Mahatma Gandhi

Attenborough’s picture on Gandhi was awarded 8 Oscars. Other film producers protested or regretted, As Gandhi was not awarded Nobel Peace Prize, though his follower in USA or self proclaimed Gandhians like Martin Luther king jr. and Adolf Perez Esquivel became Nobel laureates Seven Oscars to Film on Gandhi was perhaps to equate Gandhi with Nobel Peace Prize winners.

Shashi Tharoor in the opening pare on Gandhi writes: “Mahatma Gandhi was the kind of person it is more convenient to forget. The principles he stood for and the way in which he asserted are easier to admire than to follow. While he was alive, it was impossible to ignore. Once he had gone he was impossible to imitate” In Gandhi’s own day non violence could have done nothing for Jews of Hitler’s Germany.

In next few pages Shashi Tharoor clarifies Gandhi’s philosophy of non violence, “Satyagrah (literally holding on to truth) and adds there is no denying Gandhi’s greatness. While the world was disintegrating into fascism, violence and war, Gandhi taught the virtues of truth, non-violence and peace. He destroyed the credibility of colonialism…. Yet Gandhi’s truth was essentially his own….. Gandhi’s “triumph” did not change the world forever. It is, sadly, matter of doubt whether he triumphed.”

India after independence “paid lip service to much of its Gandhian patrimony while striking out in directions of which Gandhi could not have approved. Neither the Government nor the people understand and follow truth and non-violence. There are injustices, corruption every where in every sphere of government form Panchayats, Tehsils, Districts, States and Central Government. Persons like Lalu Prasad Yadav, Paswan and many others have flourished in corruption. Though there are cases against them but nothing has happened and nothing is likely to happen. Lalu and Paswan have been Ministers in Central Government and Koda has been Chief Minister. There is public holiday on Gandhi Jayanti and visit to Gandhi’s smadhi. That is all that is left of Gandhi and Gandhian philosophy of truth and non-violence.

 However, many Hindus considered Mahatma Gandhi as pro Muslim as he had compelled the Government of India to pay to Pakistan Rs 500 crores of undivided India’s assets when that country was at war with India in Kashmir. Gandhi was unfortunately assassinated by a Hindu fanatic Nathu Ram Godse who, after trial was hanged. . This alarmed not only whole of India but the rest of world as Gandhi was considered apostle of non violence and peace. He was a religious Hindu but moderate who as leader of Independence Movement of India inspired all Indians of all religion and all castes and professions. It is unique in history that a leader like Gandhi led independence movement against most powerful colonial Power. British for four decades without any break despite Gandhi’s shortcomings, which every human being has, pointed rightly by Shashi Tharoor, Gandhi was great. His non-violent movement for independence inspired many leaders of British and other European colonies that brought end to colonialism all over the world and the British Empire in whish “Sun never Set” And in America coloured leaders like Martin Luther King jr fought in non violent way and won equality with whites. It is because of this movement, inspired by Gandhi, that today Obama, a coloured citizen of USA, is President.

December 15, 2009 Posted by | Achievers, Biography, India, Indian History, Political Commentary, Shashi Tharoor | , , , , , | Leave a comment

To Me Mahatma Gandhi

As young and immature man of below 12 years I used to follow Gandhi and considered him real mahatma. I was very much impressed since 1942 Quit India movement in which I had little bit participated as a lad of under 12 years. But going to college, studying politics and history independently I came to conclusion that Gandhi was not either very intelligent or very honest or upright. By his so called non violence, which suited the British rulers of India before independence in comparison to demand and fight for independence come what may be Subhash Chandra Bose, Bhagat Singh and many other revolutionaries, Gandhi was made an icon of non violence and a mahatma.

As M.K. Gandhi’s performance as an advocate was not only below expectations from a Bar-at-law but poor, as has been described by POLAK in Great Men of India. It will be pertinent to reproduce below his comments on Gandhi’s ability and courage.
“On return from England after being Bar-at-law he continued practise in Bombay high court. His first case was a trial, not so much of his knowledge and ability as of his courage. To speak in public had always been an ordeal for him and now to have to conduct a case, even the placing of bare facts of it before the court, was more than he could do. He rose to speak but became tongue-tied. Baffled he begged to be relieved of his case and hastened from the court in shame and anguish, vowing never to appear again until he had learned to master himself and could use his brain and body as the instrument of his will.”

So to start with despite of having lived in England and having been called to Bar he was an utter failure as an advocate. So he first joined his brother in business and thereafter went to South Africa at the request of an Indian businessman, where it was more politics than law.

Though from 1942 to 1949 I considered Gandhi as Mahatma and Father of Nation and raised slogans like ‘Inqilab Zindabad’ and ‘Mahatma Gandhi Zindabad’ and on hearing that he had been assassinated by a Hindu fanatic because Gandhi was instrumental in the payment of Rs. 55 crore (Rs 550 Million) to Pakistan though Pakistan had waged a war against India in Kashmir, I kept fast for full 24 hours, not drinking even water and attended condolence meeting at the bank of Satluj river near Sardar Bhagat Singh’s smadhi.

Till 1949 I had not read and known about Gandhi’s high handedness not befitting a Mahatma or Father of nation in forcing rightfully elected Subhash Chandra Bose who defeated Gandhi’s candidate Patabhi Sitaramya. Instead of accepting the verdict of people and allowing S C Bose to function he indirectly made all the earlier members of congress working committee not to cooperate with Subhash Bose and not to join his Working Committee. It is to credit of Subhash Bose who was not yet ‘Netaji’ to resign instead of dividing the party. In this connection I reproduce below once again extracts from an article by POLAK expressed in an article in Greatmen of India.

“After the re-election of Subhash Chandra Bose as president of the congress… inspite of Gandhi’s support for another candidate the annual session of the congress that followed expressed complete confidence in him, resolved to support his politics and virtually instructed Mr. Bose to appoint a Working Committee that would enjoy Gandhi’s confidence: Mr. Bose however failed to get support of Gandhi’s nominees and resigned the Presidentship, the new President, Dr. Rajendra Prasad, being an old colleague of the Mahatma’s and the new working committee being composed entirely of his supporters.”

In the face of Bose’s demand to present Britain with an ultimatum in the prevailing international arena in order to compel her to grant India’s freedom Gandhi’s view was that “it would not be proper or generous on her part to take advantage of Britain’s embarrassment in the international field….”

… “In the following passage from a letter from Gandhi to Bose, in reply to later’s proposed ultimatum, under a threat of new intensive civil disobedience campaign, just before his resignation, expressing Gandhi’s profound disbelief that such a campaign (as pointed out by Bose) could be conducted without Violence”

“To many he (Gandhi) is a strange enigma, an aggregate of inconsistencies, and his subtilty of argument is often uncomprehending and baffling. But of his courage, his integrity of purpose, the splendors of his idealism his deep patriotism and his fine example of public conduct and personal sacrifice there is an all but universal recognition.”

This is how Mahatma Gandhi who worked for India’s Independence all through his life refused to celebrate Independence because of large scale riots from July to September 1947. Because of partitions riots which were instigated and initiated by Muslim League in August – September 1946 in Bengal particularly in Calcutta, it is pertinent to quote Ram Chandra Guha from his book India after Gandhi: “By starting a riot in Calcutta in August 46 Jinnah and the League hoped to polarize the two communities further and thus force the British to divide India when they finally quit. In this endeavor they richly succeeded.”

Mahatma Gandhi was hardly secular as he was a staunch Hindu and considered India after partition to be a Hindu country. It is significant to quote what Gandhi ji said on December 4, 1947 hardly a couple of months before his assassination by a fanatic Hindu Nathu Ram Godse.

“Even Guru Nanak never said that he was not a Hindu nor did any other Guru. It can not be said that Sikhism, Hinduism. Buddhism and Jainism are separate religions. All these four faiths and their off shoots are one. Hinduism is an ocean into which all the rivers run. It can absorb Islam and Christianity and all other religions and only then can it become ocean” (Collected works of Mahatma Gandhi, Publication of Government of India of various years, volume 90 p 177)

In the words of Nirad C Chaudhary , ‘Gandhi had the capacity for prevarication of a Hindu Bania and Hindu Guru combined and like both he think that what he desired must be necessarily right’ (C Chaudhary ‘The Hand of Great Anarch’ India 1921-52 , Laden 1987 p 792)

After talks with and influenced by Suhrawardy Gandhi became more pro-Muslim and anti-Sikh. He started calling Muslims as a separate religion but continued to call Sikhs (Sheekh) as culprits and criminals who killed Muslims (in retaliation so as to stop killing of Hindu and Sikhs in Pakistan.)

Because of large scale riots Gandhi did not take part in celebrations of Independence day on 15th August 1947 but instead undertook a 24 hour fast saying ‘Do you wish to hold celebrations in the midst of this devastation’

This proved that Mahatma Gandhi truly believed and propagated non-violence. This also proves that M K Gandhi had become a Mahatma in real sense and rightly known throughout India and the world as Mahatma Gandhi – apostle of Non – Violence.

To conclude, we cannot forget or minimize Mahatma Gandhi’s emphasis on non-violent struggle for independence, which was adopted by many leaders of America and Africa. In USA, Martin Luther King’s struggle for racial equality and end of discrimination against colored people particularly Africans was crowned with great and unique success. In South Africa, the South African leader NELSON MANDELA who had been imprisoned for 30 years by colonial government and that, too, in a solitary confinement for many years in a far off island of south of South Africa, emulated Gandhi’s non-violence and though after independence of South Africa he became the first African (non-white) President of South Africa he did not harbor any grudge against the erstwhile white rulers.

Highest tribute was paid by great scientist Albert Einstein, recognizing Gandhi’s contribution to peace, brotherhood of mankind, absence of hatred and above all non-violent struggle for attaining independence with truth honesty and sacrifice, all rolled into one. It is very pertinent to quote Einstein: “generations to come will scarcely believe that such a man as this (Gandhi) walked the earth in flesh and blood”

August 25, 2009 Posted by | India, Indian History | , , , , , , | 1 Comment