The power of two: Makers and breakers of India have often worked in pairs
It is instructive to find the power of two that has influenced India’s power structure and politics
On Saturday Congress observed its foundation day. As I write this, I cannot think of two greater founders of independent India than Mahatma Gandhi and Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru.
Somehow India, from ancient times, always had to deal with twos – Duryodhan and Dushasan, the biggest evils, who were countered by Lord Krishna and Arjuna. Mahabharata and Ramayana, two of the four greatest epics in the world came from India. Ram and Laxman, two heroic brothers against Ravana and Kumbhakarn, the two, not evil, but villainous ones.
Jainism and Buddhism, the two non-violent responses to the then prevalent violence in Hindu society that were embraced respectively by the two most violent and homicidal rulers of their times, Chandragupta Maurya and his grandson Emperor Ashoka that brought lasting peace and ahimsa to India in the years before Christ. Closer to our times, two great Mughal emperors, Akbar who tried to integrate Indian society and his great-grandson Aurangzeb who couldn't care less about anything but religion.
Then there is what is having a lasting influence on both the good and bad in our lifetimes - two ideas of India that have their seeds in two great freedom fighters -Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak, the father of Indian nationalism whose militancy (though non-violent) inspired Keshav Hegdewar to set up the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and Mahatma Gandhi, the antithesis of the RSS every which way whose foundational ideas for the nation state are now clashing with those rooted in the RSS ideology.
During the freedom struggle the names of Gandhi and Nehru were taken in the same breath. After Gandhiji's assassination by Nathuram Godse, who was great friends with Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, Nehru and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel rescued and resurrected India and moored it in a unique unity and harmony despite our culturally, ethnically and religiously diverse population.
Economically, there were PV Narasimha Rao and Dr Manmohan Singh to whom jointly goes the credit for bringing the tanking nation back on track. But stepping back a little, Savarkar was also a fellow traveller of Shyama Prasad Mookerjee, both of who were the progenitors of the two nation theory – they have left behind ideological heirs like Narendra Modi and Amit Shah, as much in cohort about dividing the nation as Savarkar and Mookerjee were about partitioning it on the basis of religion.
Nehru and Patel were all about nation building, Modi and Shah are shaking up those foundations and laying the grounds for several secessions - the northeast, which worries more about culture and ethnicity than religion, Kashmir, Bengal and Punjab, already partitioned once on religious lines, the southern states which care less about religion than the imposition of an alien language – Hindi - upon them by the Gujarati duo, Orissa, fiercely protective against RSS domination, Maharashtra where there is a resurgence of hostility towards Gujaratis, most of the Hindi heartland states which have rejected the BJP as also visible from all municipal corporations in Chhattisgarh now having been won by the Congress. And, of course, Jharkhand, where there is a resurgence of tribal rights crushed underfoot by the current ruling dispensation at the Centre.
That leaves only Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh completely in the grip of the BJP (Bihar also has the potential of rebellion as does Goa) where the anti- Citizenship Amendment act protests have seen such horrifying police brutalities against Muslims as would not have been imaginable even five years ago.
So, I wonder who Shah means when he asks the common goons (or perhaps the police in the states controlled by his party) to target the “tukde-tukde gang". Firstly it does not behove a home minister occupying an office that once Sardar Patel, the greatest unifier of independent India sat in, to use the kind of street language preferred by common goons.
Secondly, is he actually attempting to destroy the peace and harmony of this country (which in any case has not existed in a long time) by ordering more bloodletting on the streets at a time when he should be doing the opposite?
Much as Shah might have tried to rewrite history by placing the partition at the door of the Congress, there are records to prove that Mookerjee was among the first to advocate the partition of Bengal after the British rulers’ “communal award". Bengal was a Muslim majority state with more representation to Hindus in the assembly than to Muslims and the British corrected this imbalance in 1932 with proportional representation to both Muslims and Dalits who they considered a minority, angering the upper caste Hindus like Mookerjee.
Later between 1937 and 1939, Mookerjee, by now a member of the Hindu Mahasabha, teamed up with Savarkar to demand a similar partition to the north - Punjab and Sindh -which once again were Muslim majority regions like Kashmir. He died before he could mess around too much in Kashmir but Mohammad Ali Jinnah first raised the issue of partition only in 1940, after learning of the the two-nation theory from Savarkar and Mookerjee. It was bitterly opposed by Gandhi and Nehru to the end – Gandhi even offered the job of the first prime minister of independent India to Jinnah to prevent the partition. But by then things had gone too far.
Not going too much into the merits or demerits of the CAA, I would like to say that those Muslims who chose consciously to stay back in India made an informed decision and cannot now be treated as second class citizens. Those Hindus who would not give up their land and property in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan to become refugees in India deserve no special consideration now beyond what is offered to all other similarly persecuted.
I may have mentioned this before in my writings but in this context, I must again recount this story from an informed source.
Soon after partition those Muslims who had migrated to Pakistan complained to Jinnah that they were being treated like second class citizens while the Indian government was honouring its refugees. To their complaint, “We are responsible for Pakistan and this is how we are being treated!”, Jinnah curtly replied, “Only three things are responsible for Pakistan - I, my typist and my typewriter!”
Of course, he would not give credit to Savarkar for putting that idea into his head but Shah needs to know who the ‘tukde tukde gang’ really are on this side of the border.
(Views expressed are the author’s own)