May 10, 2011

Confessions of bANabhaTTa

by Sarvesh K Tiwari

It would be far more convenient, would it not, to just let us say that this was not the name which our revered pitAshrI gave us and let the story behind our more famous name remain out of these annals? On our part we confess to having conscientiously let the embarrassing thing remain obscure and unknown, but as it seems not possible anymore, we deem it less disagreeable to be coming from us than speculated by the reckless one and a hundred exaggerating mouths. But mighty embarrassment indeed, for on the bright moon-like forehead of the renowned vAtsyAyana household in which we were fortunate to be born, our name appears to us like an accursed blot!

When we recall our ancestral agrahAra and the household where we grew up, what flashes first to our mind is the resounding sonorous vaidika uchchAra-s with which our pitAshrI’s abode was always abuzz, and then the swarm of his devoted countless students that came to study with him from afar. This should seem like an exaggeration to you as it does to us, that even the parroquets of his household used to perfectly repeat the recitations. An exaggeration that might well be, but we can safely vouch to you this, that it used to terrify the younger of our pitAshrI’s pupils who used to be perpetually wary of these birds for the fear of their monitoring the recitations and then reporting any of misdoings and errors to their venerable achArya, our pitAshrI!

It is not a hollow embellishment of a poet when we say that mahAdevI sarasvatI herself used to wipe the labour-sweat from the face of our father as we think mothers must do to their tots when they return from the playground. (This experience, of how it feels when your mother wipes your face, our fate did not permit us, having lost our jananI so early that we don’t even remember her face). When we said that upamA, what had come to our mind was the droplets of sweat flowing from the handsome and fair face of our pitAshrI, shining like a string of pearls, as he used to come out after having performed homa for some muhUrta-s since uShAkAla. And then he used to go straight to his kushAsana to teach vedAbhyAsa and other subjects to the bramhachArI-s; that was his rest, that was his break! Aho, such was indeed our pitAshrI, shrI chitrabhAnu bhaTTa, one of the most learned and venerated vaidika scholars and performers of sacrifices of his time. Hard to imagine that to such a father we were born! A boastful, aimless fickle-minded vagabond!

But we were going to reveal the origin of our popular name. When we ran away from the house of our pitAshrI, we must have been very young. And then we did not run away alone, we had with us a gang of other equally worthless idle lads from our village, though most of them did not survive with us for long and returned back to the familiar toils of our village life. And that running away had made us notorious among our folks. In our mAgadhI locale, a vR^iShabha without a tail is called a ‘baNDa’, and in that tongue there is also a popular vulgar adage that roughly means something like, ‘a baNDa ran away, and took away the leash too’. Thence we were called baNDa, the tail-less run-away bull, by everyone at our village and the ugly name stuck. We refined it with devavANI and made it into ‘bANa’, which name has now made us famous, but our heart only knows how we long to again hear once more the deep and sagacious voice of our revered pitAshrI summoning us — ‘dakSha bhaTTa, come at once…!’ We can remember that ring, that voice; the memory of our pitAshrI calling us by our proper name always gives us an unbearable pang.

(based on the immortal novel by AchArya Hazari Prasad Dwivedi)

Continues to

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May 8, 2011

Baji Prabhu by Shri Aurobindo

by Sarvesh K Tiwari

 

A NOON of Deccan with its tyrant glare
Oppressed the earth; the hills stood deep in haze,
And sweltering athirst the fields glared up
Longing for water in the courses parched
Of streams long dead.

 

It hung upon the Mogul horsemen as they rode
With lances at the charge, the surf of steel
About them and behind, as they recoiled
Or circled, where the footmen ran and fired,
And fired again and ran; “For now at last,”
They deemed, “the war is over, now at last
The Panther of the hills is beaten back
Right to his lair, the rebel crew to death
Is hunted, and an end is made at last.”

 

At morning when the sun
Was yet below the verge, the Bhonsle sprang
At a high mountain fortress, hoping so
To clutch the whole wide land into his grasp;
But from the North and East the Moguls poured,
Swords numberless and hooves that shook the hills
And barking of a hundred guns. These bore
The Hero backward.  Silently with set
And quiet faces grim drew fighting back
The strong Mahrattas to their hills; only
Their rear sometimes with shouted slogan leaped
At the pursuer’s throat, or on some rise
Or covered vantage stayed the Mogul flood,
A moment.

 

At last they reached a tiger-throated gorge
Upon the way to Raigurh. Narrowing there
The hills draw close, and their forbidding cliffs
Threaten the prone incline.

 

The Bhonsle paused.
His fiery glance travelled in one swift gyre
Hill, gorge and valley and with speed returned
Mightily like an eagle on the wing
To a dark youth beside him, Malsure
The younger, with his bright and burning eyes,
Who wordless rode quivering, as on the leash.

 

His fierce heart hungered for the rear, where Death
Was singing mid the laughter of the swords.
“Ride, Suryaji,” the Chieftain cried, his look
Inward, intent, “and swiftly from the rear
Summon the Prabhou.”

 

Turning at the word
Suryaji’s hooves sped down the rock-strewn slope
Into the trenchant valley’s death. Swiftly,
Though burdened with a Nation’ s fate, the ridge
They reached, where in stern silence fought and fell,
Their iron hearts broken with desperate toil,
The Southron rear, and to the Prabhou gave
The summons of the Chief, “Ride, Baji, ride,
The Bhonsle names thee, Baji.” And Baji spoke
No word, but stormed with loose and streaming rein
To the high frowning gorge and silent paused
Before the leader.

 

“Baji, more than once
In battle thou hast stood, a living shield,
Between me and the foe. But more today,
O Baji, save than any single life –
Thy nation’s destiny.”

 

“Thou seest this gorge
Narrow and fell and gleaming like the throat
Of some huge tiger, with its rocky fangs
Agrin for food: and though the lower slope
Descends too gently, yet with roots and stones
It is hampered, and the higher prone descent
Impregnably forbids assault; too steep
The sides for any to ascend and shoot
From vantage. Here might lion-hearted men,
Though few, delay a host.”

 

“Baji, I speed To Raigurh and in two brief hours return.
Say with what force thy iron heart can hold
The passage till I come. Thou seest our strength,
How it has melted like the Afghan’s ice
Into a pool of blood.”

 

And while he paused
Who had been chosen, spoke an iron man
With iron brows who rode behind the Chief,
Tanaji Malsure, that living sword:
“Not for this little purpose was there need
To call the Prabhou from his toil. Enough,
Give me five hundred men; I hold the pass
Till thy return.” But Shivaji kept still
His great and tranquil look upon the face
Of Baji Prabhou.

 

Then, all black with wrath,
Wrinkling his fierce hard eyes, the Malsure:
“‘What ponders then the hero? Such a man
Of men, he needs not like us petty swords
A force behind him, but alone will hold
All Rajasthan and Agra and Cabool
From rise to set.”

 

And Baji answered him:
“Tanaji Malsure, not in this living net
Of flesh and nerve, nor in the flickering mind
Is a man’s manhood seated. God within
Rules us, who in the Brahmin and the dog
Can, if He will, show equal godhead. Not
By men is mightiness achieved; Baji
Or Malsure is but a name, a robe,
And covers One alone. We but employ
Bhavani’s strength, who in an arm of flesh
Is mighty as in the thunder and the storm.
I ask for fifty swords.”

 

And Malsure: “Well, Baji, I will build thee such a pyre
As man had never yet, when we return;
For all the Deccan brightening shall cry out,
Baji the Prabhou burns!” And with a smile
The Prabhou answered: “Me thou shalt not burn,
For this five feet or more of bone and flesh,
Whether pure flame or jackals of the hills
Be fattened with its rags, may well concern
Others, not Baji Prabhou.”

 

And the Chief
With a high calmness in his shining look,
“We part, O friend, but meet again we must,
When from our tasks released we both shall run
Like children to our Mother’s clasp.”

 

He took
From his wide brow the princely turban sown
With aigrette diamond-crowned and on the head
Of Baji set the gleaming sign, then clasped
His friend and, followed by the streaming host
That gathered from the rear, to farther hills
Rode clattering.

 

Small respite had the slender band who held
Fate constant with that brittle hoop of steel;
For like the crest of an arriving wave
The Moslem van appeared, though slow and tired,
Yet resolute to break such barrier faint.
Pathan and Mogul and the Rajput clans,
All clamorous with the brazen throats of war
And spitting smoke and fire.

 

Sheltered by tree and rock, the silent grim
Defenders waited, till on root and stone
The confident high-voiced triumphant surge
Began to break, to stumble, then to pause,
Confusion in its narrowed front. At once
The muskets clamoured out, the bullets sped,
Deadly though few; again and yet again

 

So the great onset failed.  And now withdrawn
The generals consulted, and at last
In slow and ordered ranks the foot came on,
An iron resolution in their tread,
Hushed and deliberate. Far in the van,
Tall and large-limbed, a formidable array,
The Pathan infantry; a chosen force,
Lower in crest, strong-framed, the Rajputs marched;
The chivalry of Agra led the rear.

 

Then Baji first broke silence, “Lo, the surge!
That was but spray of death we first repelled.
Chosen of Shivaji, Bhavani’s swords,
For you the Gods prepare. We die indeed,
But let us die with the high-voiced assent
Of Heaven to our country’s claim enforced
To freedom.”

 

As he spoke, the Mogul lines
Entered the menacing, wide-throated gorge,
Carefully walking, but not long that care
Endured, for where they entered, there they fell.
Others behind in silence stern advanced.
They came, they died; still on the previous dead
New dead fell thickening. dead
Rather than living held the conquered slope,The
living who, half-broken, paused.

 

Then the heads that planned pushed swiftly to the front
The centre yet unhurt, where Rajasthan,
Playmate of Death, had sent her hero sons.
They with a rapid royal reckless pace
Came striding over the perilous fire-swept ground,
Nor answered uselessly the bullets thick
Nor paused to judge, but o’er the increasing dead
Leaping and striding, shouting, sword in hand,
Rushed onward with immortal courage high
In mortal forms, and held the lower slope.

 

But now the higher incline, short but steep,
Baffled their speed, and as they clambered up,
Compact and fiery, like the rapid breath
Of Agra’s hot simoom, the sheeted flame
Belched bullets. Down they fell with huge collapse,
And, rolling, with their shock drove back the few
Who still attempted. Banned advance, retreat
Threatening disgrace and slaughter, for a while
Like a bound sacrifice the Rajputs stood
Diminishing each moment.

 

Then a lord High crested of the Rathore clan stood out
From the perplexed assailants, with his sword
Beckoning the thousands on against the few.
And a mighty shout
Rose from behind, and in a violent flood
The Rajputs flung themselves on the incline
Like clambering lions.

 

The Rathore stood on the disputed verge
And ever threw fresh strength into the scale
With that inspiring gesture, Baji came
Towards him singling out the lofty crest,
The princely form: and, as the waves divide
Before a driving keel, the battle so
Before him parted, till he neared, he slew.
Avoiding sword, avoiding lifted arm
The blade surprised the Rajput’s throat, and down
As falls an upright poplar, with his hands
Outspread, dying, he clutched Mahratta ground.

 

Loud rose the slogan as he fell. Amazed,
The eager hosts of Agra saw reel back
The Rajput battle, desperate victory
Turned suddenly into entire defeat,
Not headlong, but with strong discouragement,
Sullen, convinced, rejecting the emprise.

 

As they retired, the brilliant Pathan van
Assumed the attempt. “Exhaust,” the generals cried,
“Exhaust the stubborn mountaineers; for now
Fatigued with difficult effort and success
They hardly stand, weary, unstrung, inert.
Scatter this fringe, and we march on and seize
Raigurh and Shivaji.”

 

On came the Pathans running rapidly,
But as the nearmost left the rocky curve
Where lurked the ambush, loud from stone and tree
The silence spoke ; sideways, in front, behind
Death clamoured, and tall figures strewed the ground
Like trees in a cyclone. Appalled the rest
Broke this way and broke that, and some cried, “On!”
Some shouted, “Back!” for those who led, fell fast.
So the advance dissolved

 

With gloom their chiefs
Beheld the rout and drawing back their hosts
In dubious council met, whether to leave
That gorge of slaughter unredeemed or yet
Demand the price of so immense a loss.

 

But to the Prabhou came with anxious eyes
The Captain of the band . “Baji,” he cried,
“The bullets fail; all the great store we had
Of shot and powder by unsparing use
Is spent, is ended.

 

And Baji Prabhou turned.
One look he cast upon the fallen men
Discernible by their attire, and saw
His ranks not greatly thinned, one look below
Upon the hundreds strewing thick the gorge,
And grimly smiled; then where the sun in fire
Descending stooped, towards the vesper verge
He gazed and cried: “Make iron of your souls.
Yet if Bhavani wills, strength and the sword
Can stay our nation’s future from o’erthrow
Till victory with Shivaji return.”

 

And so they waited without word or sound,
And over them the silent afternoon
Waited; the hush terrestrial was profound.
Except the mountains and the fallen men
No sight, no voice, no movement was abroad,
Only a few black-winged slow-circling birds
That wandered in the sky, only the wind
That now arose and almost noiselessly
Questioned the silence of the wooded sides.
So the slow minutes passed.

 

Resolved at last the stream of Mogul war
Came once more pouring, not the broken rout
Of Pathans, not discouraged Rajput swords,
But Agra’s chivalry glancing with gold
And scimitars inlaid and coloured robes.

 

Swiftly they came expecting the assault
Fire-winged of bullets and the lethal rain,
But silence met them and to their intent
So ominous it seemed, a while they paused,
Fearing some ruse; Reassured,
Onward with a high shout they charged the slope.
No bullet sped, no musket spoke; unhurt
They crossed the open space, unhurt they climbed
The rise

 

But even as their hands surprised
The shrubs that fringed the vantage, swords unseen
Hacked at their fingers, through the bushes thrust
Lances from warriors unexposed bore through
Their bosoms. Small was the space for fight,
And meeting strength with skill and force with soul
The strong and agile keepers of the hills
Prevailed against the city-dwelling hosts,
With covert and the swiftly stabbing blades
O’erpowering all the feints of Agra’s schools.

 

Upon the Prabhou all the Goddess came.
Loud like a lion hungry on the hills
He shouted, and his stature seemed to increase
Striding upon the foe.

 

That godlike impulse faded from his heart,
And passing out of him a mighty form
Stood visible, Titanic, scarlet-clad,
Dark as a thunder-cloud, with streaming hair
Obscuring heaven, and in her sovran grasp
The sword, the flower, the boon, the bleeding head —
BHAVANI!!!

 

Then she vanished; the daylight
Was ordinary in a common world.
And Baji knew the Goddess formidable
Who watches over India till the end.

 

Even then a sword found out his shoulder, sharp
A Mogul lance ran grinding through his arm.
Fiercely around him gathered in a knot
The mountaineers; but Baji, with a groan,
“Moro Deshpande, to the other side
Hasten of the black gorge and bring me word.
Rides any from the West, or canst thou hear
The Raigurh trumpets blow? I know my hour
Is ended; let me know my work is done.”

 

Desperate, he laboured in his human strength
To push the Mogul from the gorge’s end
With slow compulsion. By his side fell fast
Mahratta and Mogul and on his limbs
The swords drank blood, a single redness grew
His body, yet he fought. Then at his side
Ghastly with wounds and in his fiery eyes
Death and rejoicing a dire figure stood,
Moro Deshpande. “Baji, I have seen
The Raigurh lances; Baji, I have heard
The trumpets.”

 

And Baji with a gruesome hand
Wiping the blood from his fierce staring eyes
Saw round him only fifteen men erect
Of all his fifty. But in front, behind,
On either side the Mogul held the gorge.

 

Groaning, once more the grim Mahratta turned
And like a bull with lowered horns that runs,
Charged the exultant foe behind.
And as a knife cuts instantly its way
Through water, so the yielding Mogul wall
Was cleft and closed behind. Eight men alone
Stood in the gorge’s narrow end, not one
Unwounded.

 

There where hardly three abreast
Have room to stand, they faced again the foe;
And from this latest hold Baji beheld
Mounting the farther incline, rank on rank,
A mass of horsemen; galloped far in front
Some forty horse, and on a turbaned head
Bright in the glory of the sinking sun
A jewelled aigrette blazed.

 

And Baji looked
Over the wide and yawning field of space
And seemed to see a fort upon a ridge,
Raigurh; then turned and sought again the war.
So for few minutes desperately they strove.
Man after man of the Mahrattas fell
Till only three were left. Then suddenly
Baji stood still and sank upon the ground.
Quenched was the fiery gaze, nerveless the arm:
Baji lay dead in the unconquered gorge.

 

But ere he fell, upon the rocks behind
The horse-hooves rang and, as the latest left
Of the half hundred died, the bullets thronged
Through the too narrow mouth and hurled those down
Who entered. Clamorous, exultant blared
‘The Southron trumpets, but with stricken hearts
The swords of Agra back recoiled; fatal
Upon their serried unprotected mass
In hundreds from the verge the bullets rained,
And in a quick disordered stream, appalled,
The Mogul rout began. Sure-footed, swift
The hostile strength pursued, Suryaji first
Shouting aloud and singing to the hills
A song of Ramdas as he smote and slew.

 

But Shivaji by Baji’s empty frame
Stood silent and his gaze was motionless
Upon the dead. Tanaji Malsure
Stood by him and observed the breathless corpse,
Then slowly said, “Thirty and three the gates
By which thou enterest heaven, thou fortunate soul,
Thou valiant heart! So when my hour arrives,
May I too clasp my death, saving the land
Or winning some great fortress for my lord.”

 

But Shivaji beside the dead beheld
A dim and mighty cloud that held a sword
And in its other hand, where once the head
Depended bleeding, raised the turban bright
From Baji’s brows, still glittering with its gems,
And placed it on the chief’s. But as it rose
Blood-stained with the heroic sacrifice,
Round the aigrette he saw a Golden Crown.

 

(Abridged from a poem written by Shri Aurobindo.)

 

 

April 30, 2011

Brave Hindus of Bali, a 1963 Photo Feature from Dharma Yuga

by Sarvesh K Tiwari

“kAla-jayI pUjA of mahAkAla: A Thrilling Photo Feature from Indonesia”

Under the clear blue skies of Bali, we were sitting on the broken steps of an ancient village temple of Ubud, when my companion, Ida Bagus Sudharma, renowned photo-journalist from Indonesia, narrated to me this thrilling and shocking tale of bravery. Of how, in the Phalguna of 1963 lakhs of Shiva-Bhaktas of Bali, Java and Sumatra, had gathered in the complex of Besakih Shiva Temple, to observe Ekadasha Rudra Parva ritual that is here only performed once in a hundred years; and how just two weeks before the ritual, the Mount Agung volcano, the largest active volcano of Bali, on the very slope of which the temple is located, had erupted, emitting terrible smoke and river of lava, threatening all-round destruction. And how, in face of such imminent calamity, brave Hindus of Bali stayed committed to properly performing the centennial ritual to mahA-kAla and only on the proper muhUrta assigned, come what may. And they indeed evacuated only after having acomplished the feat, to continue unbroken the tradition from several centuries.

Of the havoc wrought by the earthquake and volcanic eruption, news were published in papers all over the world, including some sparse coverage by Indian media too. But in Bharata, the abode of Shiva, who had ever heard of this unique tale of steadfast faith and unwavering bravery; unique indeed it must be in the annals of courage and of dharma!

But thanks to the Balinese photo-journalist Shri Ida Bagus Sudharma’s camera, a courageous witness to those events, Dharma Yuga presents that audacious tale of faith for the first time. — Dharma Veer Bharati.

One would scarce believe that the Times of India group once used to publish such magazines as ‘Dharma Yuga’ edited by legendary author Shri Dharmaveer Bharati (an important contributor to the neo-Renaissance movement in Hindi led by Shri Harivansha Rai Bachchan and Shri Sumitra Nandan Pant); a magazine which for over two decades had the claim to be the largest circulated fortnightly in any language world-wide. And who could also believe that it was this Times management which had conceived and initiated the Gyanapeeth Samman, to recognize and reward one literary personality every year for contribution to the wealth of any Indic language, including saMskR^ita. It is sad that with the change of hands in the 90s, the new Times of India management, hostile to dharma and saMskR^iti, closed down all these vernacular ventures including Dharma Yuga, Dinamaan, Sarika, Parag, and many others, which indeed used to be successful portals of cultural revival.

Well, in the same chest of old periodicals that we had earlier discovered from our ancestral place, we were amazed and delighted to stumble upon this one leaf from a 1960s issue of now defunct Dharma Yuga magazine, plucked aside to preserve it for future (likely by our pitAshrI but he does not remember it, so possibly by pitAmaha).  Wish we were a kavI to be able to describe our feelings when we discovered this blessing from our pitR^is…

It is a Photo Feature narrating a story of audacious bravery and defiance displayed by the courageous Hindus of Bali, when they dared their life in middle of a volcano eruption but did not shrink from keeping the millennia-old tradition of centennial ritual worship at the famous Shiva temple at Besakih, the kailAsha of Bali.

 

The famous volcanic Mount of Agung in East Bali is called the Kailasha of Bali.  Belief here is that Mahadeva spends the winter months here.  Once in a hundred years is celebrated that rare mahA-yoga when ekAdasha rudra mahApUjA is performed.  And this graha-yoga was to occur in the March of 63, for which the ritual preparations were on for the last two month.  Image above shows the Besakih Temple on the slopes of terrible vocanic Agung .  The three pIThikA-s are dedicated to bramhA, viShNu, and maheshvara.


Devotees carrying a dhenu-shAvaka for viShNu after bathing in sea


The devotees lining up in the Complex for darshana after bathing in the sea. The gathering and mela was spread over miles.


And the sleeping Agung woke up! Eruptions started and tremors were felt. Our journalist captured this image from an aerial survey.


What to do? Whether to evacuate? The purohita-s, managers, eminent devotees gathered to confer about the course of action in light of the danger.  But in a single voice, it was unanimously decided that come what may, the mahApUjA would be performed with full splendour and observing complete traditions, no matter what.


And then, disregarding the danger, all devotees went back to their duties.  In above image, ladies prepare floral AbhUShaNa-s with which the devatA-s would be adorned.  The bright tADapatra tied to their foreheads announces their cleanliness to perform such duty.


On Feb 18, the landscape was threatening. Agung was vomiting fire and lava. Earth was shattering. Sky was black with smoke.


But unmindful of all this, devotees were preparing for the ritual. A sample of colourful floral decoration with which the temple was decked.


The patAkA-s and masts were raised. Dancers in full traditional dress and preparation, continued to pour into the complex to perform.


And the groups of devotees, unmindful of the danger, continued to pray faithfully, bravely and steadfastly…


On March 17, the burning flood of lava engulfed the entire region, two days after the mahApUjA was accomplished and concluded, and devotees evacuated. (Wiki says, the flood of lava came up to this place, but missed the temple complex merely by few meters.  Overall, 1700 casualties were claimed by the 1963 volcanic eruption.)

 

***   *   ***

A 2010 video tour to this temple complex:

April 20, 2011

mAnasa-taraMgiNI !

by Sarvesh K Tiwari

 

मानस तरंगिणी ! मानस तरंगिणी !!

 

वितण्ड-पाश खण्डिनी !
पाषण्ड-तिमिर भण्डिनी !!
सुधी-मति मञ्जनी मानस तरंगिणी !!!

 

स्वधर्म-देश दर्पिणी !
दुष्ट-दम्भ दंशिनी !!
दुन्दुभि अभिहन्तिनी मानस तरंगिणी !!!

 

इति-गति निरूपिणी !
आगत प्रब्रूतिनी !!
नवचेतन-सूतिनी मानस तरंगिणी !!!

 

अनुश्रुति-चिर पोषिनी !
अभिनव-अपि तोषिनी !!
स्वस्ति-मार्ग घोषिनी मानस तरंगिणी !!!

 

गुह्यतम् प्रवल्हिनी !
सान्ध्य-वाच गुञ्जिनी !!
अचिन्त्य शब्द-कोषिनी मानस तरंगिणी !!!

 

नाना प्रसङ्गिनी !
बहुधा मति-रञ्जिनी !!
कुतूहल-आसञ्जिनी मानस तरंगिणी !!!

 

अकस्मात् लोपिनी ?
किम्-निमित्त रोषिनी ??
भवतु सदा संगिनी मानस तरंगिणी !!!

***

mAnasa-taraMgiNI! mAnasa-taraMgiNI!!

 

vitaNDa-pAsha-khaNDinI !
pAShaNDa-bhrama-bhaNDinI !!
sudhI-mati-ma~njanI mAnasa-taraMgiNI !!!

 

svadharma-desha-darpiNI !
duShTa-dambha-daMshinI !!
dundubhi-abhihantinI mAnasa-taraMgiNI !!!

 

iti-gati-nirUpiNI !
Agata-prabrUtinI !!
navachetana-sUtinI mAnasa-taraMgiNI !!!

 

anuShR^uti-chira-poShinI !
abhinava-api-toShinI !!
svasti-mArga-ghoShinI mAnasa-taraMgiNI !!!

 

guhyatam-pravalhinI !
sAndhya-vAcha-gu~njinI !!
achintya-shabda-koShinI mAnasa-taraMgiNI !!!

 

nAnA-prasa~NginI !
bahudhA-mati-ra~njinI !!
kutUhala-Asa~njinI mAnasa-taraMgiNI !!!

 

akasmAt-lopinI ?
kim-nimitta roShinI ??
bhavatu sadA saMginI mAnasa-taraMgiNI !!!

 

mAnasa-taraMgiNI is back. Revel! Rejoice!!

April 19, 2011

Subhas Chandra Bose – Another Look Part 5: The Jehadis of Azad Hind Fauj

by Sarvesh K Tiwari

Continues from
Part-1  (the beginnings) 
Part-2 (the Urdu-phile Secularism)
Part-3 (“Mahasabha is communal”)
Part-4 (“the Holwell Monument”)

The Jehadis of Azad Hind Fauj

When Bose arrived in Germany, Berlin and Rome were the bastions of international pan-Islamists from all over the world.  In the well established Axis policy, support to global Islamists was an important element of geopolitical strategy, primarily to cultivate Jehad against British dominated and controlled Moslem-populated countries including India.  Nazis were hand in gloves with such a wide array of Islamists now gathered and hosted by them as the fanatical Grand Mufti of Jerusalem Amin Al-Huseyni from Palestine, Rashid Ali al-Gilani the ex-Prime Minister of Iraq whose credit was to have abetted the Farhud pogrom against Jews in his country, Shah Amanullah the dethroned Sultan of Afghanistan, pan-Islamist Shakib Arslan of Lebanon, Muslim Brotherhood Jehadists from Egypt, and Bosnian Islamists who massacred the Serbs — all of them, bedfellows of the Nazis as part of the policy of abetting Islamists all over the world.

Before Bose even made an entry in the picture, such Indian Jihadists as the Faqir of Ipi of Waziristan and Inayatullah Khan al-Mashriqi of Punjab, were receiving covert support from the Nazis.  Interestingly, the latter of these, the founder of the Khaksar movement, Inayatullah Mashriqi of Lahore, was the first ever Indian leader whom Hitler had personally met in Berlin, as early as 1926 when Hitler was still a struggling small fry [foot note 1].

In reality, this policy of co-opting Islamists was only a continuation from the pre-Nazi German policy since WWI itself, and was a scholarly studied and researched geopolitical doctrine of how to cultivate Jehad to foment trouble for the British-French [Footnote 2].  It is a telling symbol of this policy that the first masjid ever erected on the German soil, was constructed in 1915 for and by none other than the Mohammedan PoWs of British Indian Army captured during WWI and camped in the Berlin outskirts.  Around WWI already, the German Emperor had financed and propped up such Indian Jehadis as Mawlana Barqatullah Bhopali, who dreamt of an Afghan invasion to India for liberating Hindustan (for Moslems), and from this pious motivation had become a fellow traveler with the Ghadar Party and Hindu-German conspiracy revolutionaries [Foot note 3].

While the same tactical reasoning of WWI days of abetting Jehad world-over was still a prominent component of the Berlin thinking, their collaboration now had a deeper purpose and ideological compatibilities including the shared hatred for the Jews.  In a telegram to the Grand Mufti, Himmler wrote:

“The National Socialist movement of Greater Germany has, since its inception, inscribed upon its flag the fight against the world Jewry. It has therefore followed with particular sympathy the struggle of freedom-loving Arabs, especially in Palestine, against Jewish interlopers. In the recognition of this enemy and of the common struggle against it lies the firm foundation of the natural alliance that exists between the National Socialist Greater Germany and the freedom-loving Muslims of the whole world…”

This Grand Mufti Mohammad Amin al-Husayni, as is common knowledge, was an important lynchpin of Nazi policy towards Moslems all over the world including India.  While Bose would not be deemed important enough by Nazis to even get him an interview with Hitler for almost a year, and even then only once for a brief meeting, Grand Mufti on the other hand was a much sought after personality flying in and out of Hitler’s & Mussolini’s offices and commanding great policy influence.  Grand Mufti was one of the chief interlocutors to deal with Bose.  Bose would often meet and dine with the Grand Mufti and Rashid Ali al-Gilani in trying to impress them with his mission and his plans.  [Foot note 7]

Then too, before Bose appeared in the Axis scheme of things, there was already an Indian Jehadi squatting in Rome for some years under Mussolini’s direct patronage as the India policy man.  This was Mohammad Iqbal Shedai of Sialkot, a pious disciple of the Ali brothers and a staunch pan-Islamist to boot, who had migrated from India under influence of Mawlana Muhammad Ali Jouhar’s fatwa declaring India a dar-ul-harb and calling Moslems to migrate elsewhere.  This Jihadi was declared by Mussolini to be the point man for India policy, and he was already running much of the same operations which Bose would later try to run, including a radio station airing Islamist propaganda in India [Foot note 6], and recruitment of the Indian PoWs.  Shedai’s organization had consisted entirely of the Moslems alone and included among its officials such people as a close relative of the Grand Mufti and an ex-minister of Afghanistan.  Bose had to cooperate (and compete) with Shedai, take his help in setting up his own radio infrastructure, even staff, and retained even the name of Shedai’s organization “Azad Hindustan” with a minor abridgement as “Azad Hind”. [Foot note 4]

Thus, Bose who had since beginning of his career pursued Islamist-placatory policies, if needed any encouragement to go farther in that direction, Berlin gave it to him in abundance.  All these pressures would further force Bose to demonstrate himself as being a fellow traveler of the Islamists, a path not new to him anyways.

To appease the Islamists, he would on one hand continue to criticize the Hindu Mahasabha and Akalis even in Berlin, and on the other, in the initial days, maintain an ambivalent stand about Pakistan.

From a news broadcast on Berlin Radio:

“Speaking over the Radio on Monday, the noted Indian Leader in Berlin, Subhas Chandra Bose … pointed out that the majority of the Muslims, except those in the Muslim League, had joined the Congress and fighting side by side their Hindu brethren for the emancipation of India.  He condemned the Hindu Mahasabha and the Akali Sikh leaders for their selfish policy of ignoring the national cause and for trying to secure power and influence for themselves.  He assured Mr. Jinnah that his Pakistan scheme will never materialize so long as the British were in India. He emphasized that Pakistan could be created only under a national government.” [Foot note 8]

Notice above, that Bose does not lash out at the concept of Pakistan itself, but only that Jinnah should postpone it until after the exit of the British.  This was his stand in 1942, and then, even after that period in Berlin days, his criticism to Pakistan would remain limited to (mistakenly) claiming that Pakistan idea did not have a majority Indian Muslim support, or that it was a wile ploy of the British.  As though, if proven that the majority Indian Moslem opinion was indeed in support of Pakistan (as the upcoming assembly elections showed), the idea became legitimate or acceptable to him!

On 26 January 1943, Bose organized a celebration of Indian Independence Day in a Berlin hotel, attended by about four or five hundred people, mostly Indian diaspora, students, and Axis diplomats.  The Chief Guests carefully chosen for the function by Bose were none other than the bigoted pan-Islamists: the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem Amin Al-Huseyni and Rashid Ali al-Gilani the ex Prime Minister of Iraq.  Subhas Bose led the proceedings, dressed not in his military uniform or European suits nor in his dhoti-kurta which he otherwise would, but calculatedly in a black Sherwani.  In the speech that he delivered he assured these pan-Islamists that the Indian Moslem opinion was safely in favour of a united India and Pakistan was indeed but a British propaganda:

“By the beginning of the present century, the British … discovered the Muslim problem in year 1906 when Lord Minto was the Viceroy.  Prior to this there was no such problem in India.  In the great revolution in 1857, Hindus and Muslims had fought side by side against the British, and it was under the flag of Bahadur Shah, a Muslim, that India’s first war of independence was fought…. Consequently, the British policy has now fallen back on its last hope.  If Indian people cannot be divided, then the country – India – has to be spilt up geographically and politically. This is the plan called Pakistan which has emerged from the fertile brain of a Britisher.  Though the vast majority of the Indian Muslims want a free and independent India, though the president of the Indian National Congress today is Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, a Muslim, and though only a minority of the Indian Muslims support the idea of Pakistan, the British propaganda throughout the world gives the Indian Muslims are not behind the national struggle for liberty and want India to be divided up.” [Foot note 9]

He would insist that Jinnah, by allying with the British, is the one who is actually acting against the interests of Islam and Moslems:

“…British are the enemies of Muslims and Islam, and their policy has been always directed against them.  It was the British who brought about the downfall of the Moghals and enslaved India… Mr. Jinnah is always surrounded by Muslim landlords and capitalists who are loyal to the British… A free Indian Army has been organized to deliver India from alien bondage, and Indian soldiers will render a great service to Islam by uprooting British influence from their country.” [Foot note 10]

Bose would also express, on multiple occasions, his support to Palestine, and oppose creation of the Jewish settlement (to later become Israel), though not vocalizing his opposition to latter too obviously.

Bose would never tire of asserting that it is the Moslem Prisoners of War who joined Azad Hind Fauj that made the backbone of his movement, and present it as a proof that the Moslem separatism did not exist and was merely a British propaganda:

 “I can confidently assert that the Hindu-Muslim question is a British creation.  This is proved by the fact that though the Indian National Army is mainly composed of the Moslem soldiers, there is perfect harmony between them and their Hindu comrades. ” [Foot note 11]

The later paragraphs  in this essay will demonstrate the real motivation behind the Moslems of INA, but the above statement does reveal that if Bose really needed yet another reason to bend towards placating the Islamist sentiments, the high concentration of Moslems among the PoWs was one. 

As a matter of policy, since the last two decades, British had increased the proportion of army recruitment from Moslem majority regions, especially Punjab, Waziristan and Balochistan.  As a result, while at the officer level in the British Indian Army, Hindus and Sikhs were still in a majority, at the Jawan level the proportion was more tilted towards the Moslems.  This seems to have been the British policy since late 1920s, and was indeed one of the reasons why Savarkar had vehemently called out to Hindu youth from all over India to enlist in the Army, while Congress (and, back then Bose himself) were all out for the boycott of the army recruitment efforts around the breakout of WWII.  In later days Bose would, for once at least, publicly praise Savarkar for his policy:

“When due to misguided political whims and lack of vision, almost all the leaders of Congress party have been decrying all the soldiers in Indian Army as mercenaries, it is heartening to know that Mr. Savarkar is fearlessly exhorting the youths of India to enlist in armed forces. These enlisted youths themselves provide us with trained men and soldiers for our Indian National Army.” [Foot note 12]

Bose would though dare not say of course that it was the Hindu youth that Savarkar was exhorting to join Army, surely Bose was not only aware of it, but also had reason to silently appreciate it, as the following paragraphs will show.

The secularists look back at the Azad Hind Fauj days with misty eyes as that golden moment when Moslem soldiers marched arm in arm with their Hindu-Sikh comrades for liberating their common motherland, as perfectly symbolized in the “Sahgal-Dhillon-Shah Nawaz” trinity of one Hindu, one Sikh, and one Moslem INA officer jointly facing the famous Red Fort trial of 1946.  But if only one explores the Azad Hind history more deeply and sincerely, the uncomforting facts stare at one’s face about the motivation behind most Moslems in joining the INA.

We provide four different evidences from four different sources.

We have a loud and clear testimony of INA senior officer Capt. Abdul Rashid Ali, who held very senior positions in the Azad Hind Fauj, at the same level as Dhillon, Sahgal and Shah Nawaz Khan.  During his later Trial & Court Martial by the British in 1946, he clearly stated that his predominant objective in joining the INA was to serve the interests of Islam and safeguard the Indian Moslems from getting dominated by the Hindu-Sikhs of INA.  His court martial testimony, unlike those of Shah Nawaz and others, are never ever quoted by the secularist narratives. 

A newspaper report:

“Reading from written statement, in a clear ringing voice, he [Capt. Abdul Rashid Ali] declared, I was cut off from the rest of the world and could get only such news as was supplied by the Japanese.  I was convinced that the non-Muslims who were the moving spirit in the INA were going to invade India with the help of the Japanese.  I was also convinced that this would result in the domination of India by the non-Muslims [helped] by the Japanese.  In order to safeguard the interests of my community I decided like the rest of the Muslims to join the INA in order to arm myself and thus be in a position to safeguard the interests of my community in India…” [Foot note 13]

Rashid Ali was awarded seven years of imprisonment by the British, and was turned into a hero by Muslim League.  In his honour and to demand his release, Muslim League announced to observe 12 February 1946 as Rashid Ali Day and to hold demonstrations and agitation all over India on that date.  As is usual for the ignorant and moronic Hindu leadership, eager still to forge some kind of Hindu-Moslem unity and gain some approving nod from Muslim League, foolish Hindu leaders too announced support to this Rashid Ali Day (of course they called it ‘INA Day’!) and held joint rallies and protest marches especially in Calcutta!

Most, if not all, secularist narratives ignore Capt. Abdur Rashid Ali’s testimony. 

But the motive of most Moslems joining INA, as reported by Capt. Abdur Rashid Ali, is also corroborated by multiple other independent testimonies of other INA Moslem officers.

In the earlier Trial and Court Martial of Sahgal-Dhillon-Shahnawaz trio, testimony of some Moslem soldiers and officers of how they joined INA is also documented.  The argument delivered by the Defence Attorney Advocate Bhulabhai Desai includes quoting the testimony of one witness Muhammad Hayat (a PoW who had refused to join INA), reproduced below:

“The Camp Commandant was Capt. M. Z. Kayani, who was succeeded by Col. Shah Nawaz Khan.  I heard Col. Shah Nawaz Khan [was] lecturing to the camp.  I was not present at the lecture he delivered at the camp, but I was present at the lecture he delivered in the Mosque.  He said that the Sikhs and Hindus had already volunteered, and that Mussalmans should also join.  He said: ‘Muslims must join the INA because when the Hindus and Sikhs go [victorious to India], they will trouble you in your homes in India’… He did not say that he only wanted sincere men [i.e. interested in the INA cause].” [Foot note 14]

This is Shah Nawaz Khan, the INA hero, coercing Moslem PoWs in a mosque, to join INA not to fight for the emancipation of their motherland or to serve the cause of the Indian liberation, but to empower Moslems against the Hindu-Sikh soldiers!  And in his own statement during the Court Martial, Shah Nawaz Khan himself stated that he had reluctantly joined the first INA of General Mohan Singh and Rash Behari Bose only to sabotage it from within, and had had his part in its failure, but that he underwent a change of heart after seeing Subhas Bose’s character and ideology (which is not surprising as we have already seen what it was.)

Muhammad Hayat and some other Moslem witnesses also narrated another episode when yet another Moslem INA officer applied similar communal reasoning to motivate them to join INA, albeit using a different pressure.  Maj. Aziz Ahmed of INA charged the Moslem soldiers of a PoW camp in Burma, of having captured some cows from the local Burmese village and having slaughtered them in the camp.  This charge was used as a pressure to create fear and coerce the Moslem soldiers in either joining the INA thus becoming equally empowered as the Hindu-Sikh soldiers, or remain a PoW and face being sent to the concentration camp (by the Hindu-Sikh majority INA) for having done that.  The episode was corroborated by other witnesses, that in reality no such act of cow slaughter had taken place, but Maj. Aziz Ahmed wanted to frighten the Moslem soldiers into joining INA.  It further shows how Moslem officers of INA were driven by the same fanatic passions and motivations, to recruit more and more Moslems in INA, their object being to not let Hindu-Sikh soldiers becoming too dominant in INA.

By the early part of 1945 in Manipur & Burma, Azad Hind Fauj faced several instances of treachery by their own officers.  Bose as the “Sipah Salar” (Supreme Commander) of the INA issued a Pronouncement of Purge on March 13, 1945.  Excerpts:

“We were hoping that with the advent of the New Year, all evidences of cowardice and treachery would be wiped out… But that was not to be… the recent treachery of five officers of the H.Q. of the Second Division has come as an eye opener to us that all is not well in our ranks and that the seeds of cowardice and treachery are yet to be wiped out.  If we now succeed in exterminating this cowardice and treachery once and for all, this shameful and despicable incident may, through God’s grace, prove to be a blessing in disguise.  I am, therefore, determined to take all possible measures necessary for the purification of our Army.”

The Order then goes to list eight points of how the Purge was to be carried out and declares Death as punishment for the actions of treachery after the Purge.

This much is a common knowledge.  But what most secular-sensitized narratives skip over here is the motivations behind the treachery in INA, and no surprise, one of the main and indeed catalytic reasons was desertion and active sabotage by many Moslem INA officers due to their pan-Islamist ideology.  Once they began deserting, in many cases actively assisting the British against their INA comrades, it resulted in a cascading effect of severe moral handicap for the still loyal INA troops who too either surrendered as PoWs or deserted.

From the diary of Col. P K Sahgal who was an eye witness to these events:

“After a very careful study of these points, and the circumstances under which the unit fought, I am of the opinion that these desertions were due to the following causes:

i) Turkey’s alignment alongside the anti-Axis powers has had a very adverse effect on certain Muslim Officers.  In spite of our efforts to explain to them the circumstances under which Turkey has been forced to join the War, the officers feel that by fighting against the powers that are allied with the Turks, they are being disloyal to Islam.

ii) In the minds of a number of officers and men there is a lack of faith in our final victory.  They are in their own minds convinced that the Anglo-Americans are going to win the war and it is futile to carry on the struggle.

iii) In this particular operation, after the desertion of Lt. Yasin Khan and his companions, there was a general feeling among the officers and men of the unit that it was useless to continue fighting the enemy, so superior in numbers and armaments, and helped by the traitors who had gone over to his side.  Majority of these officers, in normal circumstances, would never have done anything treacherous, but finding themselves so overwhelmed, they did not have the moral strength to continue… ” [Foot note 15]

Thus again, we are staring at the same phenomenon which keeps hammering Hindus from time to time but from which they always refuse to learn the lesson: that no matter how much Secularism Hindus would display as Bose did, in Moslem psychology Islam and its interests come first and foremost, all other loyalties are secondary. 

One does not expect Bose to have known the dark history of the debacle at Talikota, about 390 years before the above events, when Vijayanagara army had fallen precisely due to the Moslem commanders trusted by Emperor Ramaraja having deserted at the crucial moment in the battle to the invading Sultan at the cries of allahu-akbar.  But one surely expects Bose to have known the facts of not so long back about the behaviour of the Moslem soldiers of British Indian Army during the WWI, when at many places they deserted and joined the Turks for the pious motivation of the call of Islam being above any other mundane loyalties and pledges:

“…a much more serious incident took place in February 1915 among the Muslim infantry posted at Singapore.  Thinking that they were going to be sent to fight the Turks, they mutinied, shot eight officers, gave a pitched battle and escaped into the hinterland.  Again in 1916, several killings and desertions were reported from among the Afridi units.  In fact, a large number of Indian prisoners of war, especially after the fall of Kut al-Amra (April 1916), fought alongside the Turkish forces on various fronts.” [Foot note 16]

But well, little blame to Bose; this is a common disease of Secularism among Hindus which causes them becoming semi-blind to reality, inviting debacle after debacle and calamity after calamity!

Another Moslem INA officer who deserves mention before we move on is Brig. Habib-ur-Rahman.  This was the same famous INA officer whom Bose had chosen to accompany him on his attempted escape to Soviet Russia, when the fateful crash took place allegedly killing Bose.  The survived Habib-ur-Rahman, originally from Kashmir, would within months become the chosen handyman of Jinnah to architect Pakistan’s plans of annexing Jammu & Kashmir.  Habib-ur-Rahman was first instrumental in leading the diplomatic mission to Srinagar for coercing Maharaja Hari Singh Dogra and his Prime Minister Ram Chandra Kak in acceding to Pakistan, and then when Maharaja declined, it was the same INA veteran Habib-ur-Rahman who not only provided training to the Kabailis and armed them as Mujahids but also architected the whole Pakistani Army operation of the 1947 invasion of Jammu & Kashmir.

The remaining legacy of Bose is visible in the activities of his brother Sarat Bose, who in the crucial partition days, led the efforts to “Keep Bengal United”, which really meant partitioning India with the whole of undivided Bengal, that is today’s West Bengal and Bangladesh, becoming a separate “secular” country. “If dividing India is a sin”, Sarat Bose would declare, “Dividing Bengal is a bigger Sin!!”

Another Subhas Bose supporter and Forward Bloc leader in Punjab, Sardul Singh Caveeshar, would float the similar secular plan of keeping Punjab united, which too meant taking the whole of Punjab to Pakistan. 

Thankfully, Mahasabha and Akalis were strong enough in East Punjab to douse this crackpot proposal before it got any life.  The Bengali Hindus also had already had enough of such utopian secularism, when right before their eyes they had seen what the undivided Bengal meant through bloodbaths from Calcutta to Noakhali, and led by Syama Prasad Mookerjee they also bounded up Sarat Bose from going too far with his “plan”.  Sardar Patel also came and read to Bose his riot act which was sufficient to make him silent.  Mujib-ur-Rahman, after the formation of Bangladesh in 1971, would remember Subhas Bose in his first speech, wistfully recalling that had Bengal stuck to Bose’s vision, Bangladesh would have already been in a much better shape!

Indeed!

Concluded. (Or as Sita Ram Goel said, the trouble is that this past is not really past, the same behaviour patterns, of both the seculars and the Moslems, are intact and repeating right before us.  Can we at least learn something from the past and do something about it for our present?)

Foot Notes:

1: In his memoirs entitled Tazkirah, Mashriqi gives the details of their conversation which included the subject of Jehad and political vision of Islam.  Hitler and this ghazi seem to have kept in touch and shared mutual admiration, and if Mashriqi’s claims are to be believed, he played an important part in influencing Hitler’s ideas towards Moslems, India, Jehad and Ummah. (See Claudia Preckel, “South Asian Muslims in Germany”, 2008)

2: Eminent Orientalist & archaeologist Max von Oppenheim was the author of this doctrine both during the WWI and also during the Nazi regime.  His case is not unique at all, that Indologists and Orientalists were key players in geopolitics and subversion then as they are now.

3: After this jehadi’s name, senile Hindus have named the University of Bhopal!  Also for a detailed treatment of pan-Islamists around the WWI, see M. Naeem Qureshi, “Pan-Islam in British Indian politics: a study of the Khilafat Movement, 1918-1924”, Brill 1999.

4: He disappeared around this time to emerge some years later in Pakistan but he returned back to live in Rome in early 1950s.  Apparently Mawlana Azad, then the Education Minister, met Shedai in Rome and offered him a lucrative post to come to Delhi and work for the Government of India, which he declined.

5: It was this Grand Mufti who continuously stalled the efforts of transporting the Jews from many European countries to Palestine or elsewhere, and willingly pushed them to the concentration camps.  It was also his inspiration in raising Bosnian battalions which massacred the Serbs.  Google for this fellow’s name and read much material available online.  For Rashid Ali al-Gilani, see “Coordinated Farhud Anti-Jewish Pogrom in Iraq”: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Farhud

6: The radio broadcasts that Shedai was airing in India from his Himal Radio, were a total Islamist propaganda, supporting Islamization of India, Pakistan, and Muslim League.

7: What a tremendous soft power Islamists have always managed to project since a long time!  Look at the WWII itself, every party was bending itself backwards to courting them.  Allies, Nazis, Congress, Bose – every party indeed!  Even after the WWII, Allies themselves would shield both the Grand Mufti and Rashid Ali.  French government stalled all efforts to have them prosecuted for their war crimes and made part of the famous tribunal.  They both lived to their ripe age and continued their Islamist activities in different countries.  There were some rumours that Israel wanted to avenge the Jew pogroms by taking clandestine action against them, but such step was forestalled by the Anglo- Americans.

8: Berlin Radio, October 7, 1942, “Testament of Subhas Bose, 1946”.  In later days, especially in Singapore and Burma, Bose would more unequivocally oppose Pakistan, but still on the ground that Muslim League was not the sole representative of the Indian Moslims, and also that in his opinion majority Moslems of India did not want Pakistan.  Being abroad he might not have known, but most of the other Moslem parties and individuals whom he would appeal in his broadcasts to oppose the plan of Pakistan had either already sided jubilantly with Muslim League, or had meekly given in.  Only notable exception being NWFP khidmatgar pathans under Abdul Gaffan Khan, who continued to be vehemently vocal against Pakistan and sided with India and Congress, to be of course let down by Nehru in not supporting their claims to joining India.

9: This was broadcasted over Berlin Radio. “Testament of Subhas Bose, 1946”.

10: An interview on Bangkok Radio on July 18, 1943. “Testament of Subhas Bose, 1946”

11: An interview on Bangkok Radio on July 18, 1943. “Testament of Subhas Bose, 1946”

12: Azad Hind Radio, June 25, 1944. “Testament of Subhas Bose, 1946”

13: Star of India, Calcutta, January 28, 1946. Quoted in “Communalism in Bengal: from famine to Noakhali, 1943-47” By Rakesh Batabyal, PP 210

14: INA Defence Committee report, Defence Address by Advocate Bhulabhai Desai, Senior Defence Counsel, October 1945

15:  Durlab Singh, Formation and growth of the Indian National Army (Azad Hind Fauj), 1946. Hero Publication, Lahore. PP 115-116

16:  M. Naeem Qureshi, “Pan-Islam in British Indian politics: a study of the Khilafat Movement, 1918-1924”, Brill 1999, PP 78-79

April 15, 2011

Subhas Chandra Bose: Another Look Part 4: Holwell Monument & with Muslim League

by Sarvesh K Tiwari

Continues from Part-1  (the beginnings) | Part-2 (the urduphile secularism) | Part-3 (“Mahasabha is communal”)

The Holwell Monument

We have seen in the last part how the year of 1940 began with a failed Bose–Mahasabha alliance, followed by a successful Bose-Muslim League alliance for Calcutta Corporation.  While Bose waved aside his attempts to ally with Mahasabha as purely an attempt at running the civic body free of British control, he dubbed his alliance with Muslim League of being a larger vision and strategic purpose.

Important to note that when Bose allied with League, Muslim League had declared loud and clear, only one week earlier at Lahore (24 March, 1940), not only its objective of Pakistan but also their vision of how they planned to achieve it. Interestingly, the person who moved the Pakistan Resolution at Lagore was none other than Abul Kasem Fazlul Haq, the Prime Minister of Bengal and chief leader of KPP, whom Bose would continue to call (even after this) a secular, progressive, patriotic and a nationalist Moslem.

It was written on the wall for all sane Hindus to read as to which way the winds were blowing.  But like any diehard hopeful secularist, Subhas Babu was not to be dismayed by such tell-tale signs.  He forged an alliance with Muslim League in Calcutta, and made a career Muslim leaguer Abdur Rahaman Siddiqui the Mayor, himself being just one of the five aldermen under Siddiqui.  Modern Review (in which Sir Jadunath Sarkar used to write), perceptively criticised Bose, that instead of waging a war against the pro-Moslem and anti-Hindu Corporation Bill itself, Bose had “walked into the parlour of Muslim league which has humiliated the Congress and the Hindus”, and which had openly declared, right under the proposal of the Bengal Prime Minister Haq, the plan for Pakistan.

In justifying the Calcutta Corporation alliance with Muslim League, even in the face of League’s declared objective of creating Pakistan, he wrote under a signed editorial for Forward Bock (4 May, 1940):

“…one cannot ignore the fact that a certain number of communally-minded Hindus are furious about the above understanding. We, on our part, do not regard the communal organizations as untouchables. On the contrary, we hold that the Congress should try continuously to woo them to its side. During the last three years, repeated attempts have been made, to bring about a rapprochement between Congress and Muslim League. At a certain stage, the writer, then President of Congress, met Mr. Jinnah, President of the Muslim league… the attempts failed… We regard the present agreement with Muslim League as a great achievement not in its actuality, but in its potentiality… There is now some hope that we may ultimately succeed in solving a problem which has proved well nigh insoluble to many.”

In the hindsight, as assessed the Bengal Governor John Herbert in a letter to the Viceroy that month, Muslim League objective in allying with Bose was simply to employ him as a useful tool to keep Congress and Hindus divided, while at the same time consolidating itself in Bengal as the sole Moslem representative.

Indeed, Bose would continue his labours to “woo them to his side” at all costs, and it is towards that direction that he spent his energies in the next political program that he took up: Muslim League led agitation to remove the Holwell Monument.

Short-lived “Last sovereign Nawab of Bengal” [Footnote 1], Nawab Siraj-ud-Dawla[Footnote 2] was as notorious for his debauchery and drunkenness as for his cruelty and harshness.  After successfully capturing the Fort William at Calcutta from the East India Company garrison on 19 June 1756, his soldiers locked up over a hundred European and Anglo-Indian captives in a small dungeon cell meant probably for not more than 2 or 3 people. Without enough ventilation and any water and sanitation at all, in the Bengal heat of June month, most of them died of suffocation or heat exhaustion in a single day.

One of the few survivors, Dr. John Zephaniah Holwell, an East India Company Army surgeon and later Governor of Bengal, wrote a detailed narrative of the event. He himself placed at this place, after the battle of Palashi, a memorial tablet to remember the victims of the tragedy, which remained there till 1822 when it disappeared until replaced by another one in 1901 by Viceroy George Curzon remembering also the older slab. This rather modest and humble stone slab came to be known as the Holwell Monument. Neither the Holwell’s book nor his memorial blamed the Nawab, who seemed to have been unaware of the tragedy until it was over.

As is usual to the Moslem psychology, the Moslems suddenly discovered the issue in 1940 and monument overnight became as a famous insult to the ‘venerable memory of a great Islamic sultan’ and a British attempt to ‘tarnish his glory’. And also as is usual to the Secularist psychology, Siraj-ud-dawla, like the Ghazis Tippu Sultan and Hyder Ali, became great ‘nationalist revolutionaries’ and ‘freedom fighters’, and therefore here was another opportunity to forge a ‘Hindu-Moslem unity’ by lionizing these “Heroes”.  Subhas Bose pledged support to Muslim League Students Organization and declared a joint agitation with Muslim League, just like Gandhi had done with Ali Brothers for Khilafat.

Bose wrote in a signed article in Forward Bloc on 29 June 1940, declaring the plan for agitation:

“The third of July 1940 is going to be observed in Bengal as the Sirajuddaula Day – in memory of the last independent king of Bengal. The Holwell Monument is not merely an unwarranted strain on the memory of the Nawab, but has stood in the heart of Calcutta for the last 150 years as the symbol of our slavery and humiliation. That monument must now go.”

On the said date, a meeting was held at the Calcutta Town Hall, attended mostly by the Muslim League’s student wing and Forward Bloc workers, and addressed by Subhas Bose. Glowing homage was paid to the lionized nawab, and the whole tragedy of dungeon itself denied as being a malicious farce of British historians’ creation; and demands were made to rewrite the history textbooks that had any ‘negative’ reference to Siraj-ud-dawla. Bose and his Muslim League supporters also gave a two week ultimatum to the government (which was itself a Muslim League led government!) for removing the monument or face street agitations. There was never really any opposition to removing the Holwell plaque from any quarter including British. And still, the hoax of an agitation went on for some time under the leadership of Muslim League student wing supported by Forward Block and Congress supporters of Bose.

Some “nationalist” supporters of Subhas Bose in this movement were student leaders Abdul Wasek Mian and Chaudhary Muazzam Ahmed, who, having made their name in this ‘cause’, would later take active part during Partition politics and after partition have bright careers in East Pakistan.

It was in mid of all this that Bose travelled to Bombay and had the famous meeting with Savarkar on 21 June 1940, along with on the same day, and before Savarkar, having also met Jinnah and Dr. Ambedkar. Apparently Savarkar unsuccessfully tried to impress Bose about the futility of the Holwell agitation, rather using the opportunity presented by the WWII in going abroad and focusing on activities from there as had done the earlier Indian revolutionaries around WWI. However, as the quoted editorial above appeared right in the next week of this meeting shows, Bose seems to have taken no heed to Savarkar’s first suggestion, but he possibly did discuss in detail the second one. [Footnote 3]

Bose would never mention his meeting with Savarkar, but he would the meeting with Jinnah. Elated about collaboration with Muslim League in Calcutta, Bose was optimistic of some understanding with Jinnah at national level, towards a “Hindu-Muslim Unity”. It was in background of similar initiatives Bose had taken up with Jinnah three years earlier when Bose was the Congress President.  As then, also now, Bose would not recognize the reality that Muslim League really represented the most popular Indian Muslim sentiment.  And as then, also now, Jinnah would insist that no understanding between League and Congress was possible without Congress realizing, whether they liked it or not, that Congress really represented a large body of Hindu opinion and Muslim League the large body of Muslim opinion; and a successful Hindu-Muslim alliance in shape of a Congress-League pact can be had, as was done at his own initative over 2 decades back by Tilak and League, only if Congress could shed the false grandiose notions of representing all Indians and denying League the right of representing Moslems.  Congressmen should shred the false notions, once and for ever, first that the Congress was a secular party representing not Hindus alone, and second, there were other groups besides League that could be the representative of the Moslems.  And then Jinnah pointed out that Bose was not even an official Congressman at the time, having been expelled from it, and enjoyed no locus standi to represent either the Congress or the Hindus for any formal agreement with Muslim League, who were bonafide and sole representatives of the Indian Muslims.  Bose would forever remain bitter at this, and would continue to dispute this claim, as comes out from his later speeches.

Continues to the concluding part, the Ghazis and Jehadis of Azad Hind

Foot Notes

1: Alivirdi Khan, maternal grandfather and predecessor of Siraj-ud-dowla was a chauth-paying vassal of Raghuji Bhosle, therefore hardly a sovereign.  Peshwa Bajirav II had subdued the rogue Raghuji, for which he had himself marched upto Murshidabad, Alivirdi standing before him in attendance, and he had plans for Bengal just when Panipat debacle took place.  In a letter he even says so far that he intended to reduce the nawabs of Bengal and Awadh to ‘pigeons without feather’ after taking care of Hyderabad and Hyder Ali.  But he made a great mistake in misjudging the British.  Indeed, one of the mistakes of Maharatta policy in failing to check the British was that the Peshwa did not send Maharatta support and reinforcement to Bengal, underestimating the mlechcHa power.

2: British had invented an ingenious way to pronounce the nawab siraj-ud-dawla’s name as ‘New-Web Sir-Roger-Dweller’)!

3: Rash Behari Bose, from whom Subhas Bose later took reigns of the INA, was in close communication with Savarkar since, at least, 1937 when Savarkar was freed by the British. Rash Behari was also engaged in establishing Hindu Mahasabha among the Indian Diaspora in East Asia. But it would not be correct to say that there was no independent initiative about going abroad on Bose’s part if credence is given to the theory that Shankarlal, a secretary of the Forward Bloc, had clandestinely travelled to Japan and had held meetings with Rash Behari Bose, returning sometime in the same month of June 1940. (Mihir Bose in his “Raj, Secrets, Revolution” quotes a British intelligence brief that mentions Shankarlal’s activity. PP 178)

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