By S.R. Ramanujan
There must be something in the word ‘Arjun’ itself which enables the bearer of this great name to be always a champion of some cause or the other in the spirit of a warrior. That is what we find in our Human Resources Minister, Arjun Singh. He has that spirit of a crusader, a defender of all that which stands for ‘secular’ values and an offender of all that he considers ‘communal’. This is what, perhaps, made him organise a National Convention on Secularism to coincide with the Quit India Day and make a fervent appeal to the Prime Minister to banish all the communal forces from the country. And mind you, he was doing this in the august company of two other great secularists—Union Minister of State for External Affairs, E. Ahmed and the CPI General Secretary, A.B. Bardhan. Of course, there were other comrades and libertarians like Nilotpal Basu and S. Jaipal Reddy.
First, let us see the credentials of the first two gentlemen to be associated with the Quit India Day. Ahmed belongs to the Indian National Muslim League which in its earlier avatar stood for the partition of the country and his political mentors of the early 20th century, the Moplahs of Malabar, were responsible for killing at least 5,000 Hindus, just because the power of the Caliph was not restored in distant Turkey and the Khilafat movement collapsed. Moplahs felt that it was the time for Jehad and they must exterminate all the kafirs. From what Dr Annie Beasant wrote about Malabar’s agony, Godhra or post-Godhra violence must be a pale imitation.
“The misery is beyond description. Girl-wives, pretty and sweet, with eyes half blind with weeping, distraught with terror; women who have seen their husbands hacked to pieces before their eyes, in the way ‘Moplahs consider religious’, old women tottering, whose faces are written with anguish and who cry at a gentle touch and a kind look, waking out of a stupor of misery only to weep; men who have lost all: hopeless, crushed, desperate…I have walked among thousands of them in refugee camps”—New India, November 29, 1921.
Moplahs, i.e. political forefathers of our Union Minister, E. Ahmed, who was a special invitee of Arjun Singh at the National Convention on Secularism, defended the looting and killing of Hindus as a ‘military necessity’. Congressmen who were leading the Khilafat movement under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi felt that the Muslims were fighting devotedly for their religious cause in a way ‘they consider religious’.
Well, it may be unfair to blame Ahmed for what happened in 1921 in Malabar or for the Moplah rebellion. But he belongs to the same political class that did not share Gandhiji’s ideals or care a damn for his political struggle. Arjun Singh considers him and his party most secular whereas RSS has to be banished from this country, if Arjun’s wishes were horses; and Nathuram Godse’s sin has to be carried as an inherited legacy by all RSS or its ‘hundred different fronts’ for centuries to come.
It may be unfair to blame Ahmed for what happened in 1921 in Malabar or for the Moplah rebellion. But he belongs to the same political class that did not share Gandhiji’s ideals or care a damn for his political struggle.
Let’s take the case of Bardhan who gets offended whenever you mention the word ‘nationalism’. In September, 1942, just a month after the Quit India call in August, the Communist Party of India’s central committee adopted a resolution:
“Every section of the Indian people which has a contiguous territory on its homeland, common historical tradition, common language, culture, psychological make-up, common economic life would be recognised as a distinct nationality with the right to exist as an autonomous state within the free Indian Union or federation and will have the right to secede from it if it so desires…” (Sikander Hayat, Pakistan Resolution Revisited, 1999, p. 91.)
The communists were openly preaching secession under Gandhiji leadership the Indian National Congress were trying to put reason into the minds of Jinnah & Co. to avert Partition. In fact, in the mid-forties, E.M.S. Namboodripad led processions of Muslims in Kerala along with A.K. Gopalan shouting, ‘Pakistan zindabad’ and ‘Moplastan zindabad’. In fact, this prompted Khwaja Ahmed Abbas to say that “India was killed by the CPI which provided the Muslim separatists with an ideological basis”.
A party which has always been feeding minority communalism with all its borrowed and obsolete ideologies and which always thrived on extra-territorial loyalties talks of secularism! What brand of secularism Bardhan talks about—secularism of the West, or Nehruvian secularism or secularism that is inherent to Indian psyche? And ‘nationalism’ has become such a dirty word for Bardhan because Hitler seems to have ‘played havoc around the world in the garb of nationalism’? It is probably a most civilised act for him, if in the name of communism, Stalin and Mao played havoc with their own people, killing hundreds and thousands of their men. But, RSS should not talk of ‘nationalism’. It is nothing but ‘barbarianism’. Communism, as a political philosophy, might have failed all over the world. It doesn’t matter. But don’t talk about nationalism. That’s Bardhan’s secular sermon. According to the Oxford Dictionary, nationalism is nothing but patriotic feeling, often to an excessive degree or belief in political independence for a particular country. Why should Bardhan be so obsessed with Hitler’s vocabulary rather than Stalin’s?
Now, our great warrior for secularism, Arjun Singh, flanked by Muslim fundamentalists and Hindu-baiting Leftists, wants the Prime Minister to cleanse the administration of all RSS supporters and those who share their thoughts or sympathise with their cause. All because, RSS’s single ‘biggest achievement was killing of Gandhi’. Without going into the legal complexities of various findings of the courts on the culpability of the RSS over Gandhiji’s assassination, can we ask a simple question from Arjun Singh? Who assassinated Indira Gandhi, the third most important leader for Congressmen after Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, and why was she assassinated? Two Sikhs committed such a heinous act not because of any personal enmity; but because of perceived political grievance. Can we condemn and isolate the entire Sikh community for the aberration of two misguided individuals, though the Congressmen massacred thousands of Sikhs in the aftermath of assassination? What is more, as if to atone for what was done to the community, we have a Sikh Prime Minister.
Similarly, Godse’s madness cannot determine our attitude towards the RSS. RSS might have had differences with Gandhiji like communists or the Muslim League and that should not be held against the Sangh Parivar. One of the allies of the Congress is MDMK and its leader Vaiko is a staunch supporter of LTTE and an admirer of Velupillai Pirabhakaran, who masterminded Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination. Will Arjun Singh ask his boss to cleanse the UPA of such men? Why is there this special treatment for RSS supporters?
You can have Left sympathisers or minority sympathisers in the administration, but not those who sympathise with the RSS or the majority community. What sort of pluralism is Arjun Singh talking about if you have to keep out a section with which you don’t agree politically or ideologically? What sort of democracy is it, if the ruling party or the government expects everyone working for it to hold a regimented political view, not different from that of the ruler? The basic human right is that a person cannot be punished for his views. If an official fails to implement the policies of the government of the day, punish him by all means, but not for his views or sympathies. If we go by Arjun Singh’s recipe for reinforcing secularism in the country, we will only be taking the country towards tinpot dictatorship and not secular democracy.