Posts tagged ‘Syama Prasad Mookerjee’

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

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April 8, 2011

Subhas Chandra Bose – Another Look Part 3: Crush Hindu Mahasabha “By Force If Need Be”

by Sarvesh K Tiwari

Continues from Part-1  (the beginnings) and Part-2 (the urduphile secularism):

The applied smokescreen of secularism hinders one’s vision from both the historical perspective and the contemporary reality, of the Islamic behavior patterns.  A study in the attitude of the secularists during the period from the early 1920s till the partition of India makes for a perfect microcosmic analysis of this fact.  It was purely this optimist-to-death secularism contrary to hard realities that informed the national leadership in assessment of the so called ‘communal question’ and therefore the formation of their un-questionable ‘diagnosis’ and the ‘solution’ which can be summaries as follows:

1) It is the British that are alone to blame for creating and festering the ‘discord’ between Moslems and the rest of the Indians as part of their Divide and Rule strategy; neither the history of the ‘discord’ is any far-reaching nor are its origins inherent in anything to do with Islam and its intercourse with India

2) The mainstream psyche of Indian Moslems is patriotic & nationalistic, while the separatist element being nothing more than some misguided cranks without any popular backing

3) Without the Moslem support, the destiny of Indian movement is neither possible nor worth it, and therefore, an all out and continuous effort to secure the Moslem approval is a must and a prerequisite, for gaining which no sacrifice is too costly

When Gandhi returned empty handed and sullen faced from the futile second Round Table Conference in 1931, which yielded no result on the key “communal question”, Subhas Bose’s take on the chief reason of that failure was, that to counter the Moslem League ideologues Gandhi had failed to carry enough ‘Nationalist Moslems’ on his London entourage! 

“One cannot help thinking what a change it would have made if the Mahatma had come to London with a full contingent of Nationalist representatives of Moslems and other minority communities…”, he wrote.

It never occurred to the leaders like Bose or Gandhi that rather than spending so much energy in futile bargaining with and appeasing the Moslem leaders, better to consolidate the genuine nationalists and counter the British from that strength. 

Writes Sita Ram Goel:

“The basic and the big mistake made by the national leadership was that it could not conceive of a native nationalism which would march ahead under its own impetus even if the Muslims were reluctant to participate in it or remained hostile to it. The national leadership was all along in a hurry to bargain with the British on the basis of Hindu-Muslim unity, and consequently failed to give sufficient thought and attention to the consolidation of genuine nationalist forces. The residues of Islamic imperialism spotted this weakness of the national leadership very soon, and exploited it to the hilt. Their price for co-operation went on soaring in direct proportion to the nationalist solicitation for it.”

But there is more.  The secularism of the national leadership, of which Bose was now an important participant, started equating the Hindus and the separatist Moslem leadership!  Writing about a meeting of his with Gandhi before the Conference, Subhas Bose writes:

“I remarked (to Mahatma) that the Congress should only care for an agreement between Nationalist Hindus and Nationalist Moslems… and that the Congress need not bother what other anti-Nationalist elements thought or said…”

Notice the reference to “Nationalist Hindus and Nationalist Moslems”, out of compulsion, as if there was a body of Hindus that could be called not Nationalists!  But such was the typical tendency of not being able to speak about the anti-national Muslim League without in the same breath reducing the Hindus to also some fictitious not-nationalist bogey.  The reference here is to exclude the Hindu Sanghatanist organizations, which were carrying on the work on the lines of Maharshi Dayanand Saraswati, Bankim Chandra, Lokmanya Tilak and Lajpat Rai.  Such was the perversity of outlook and terminology already set in the Congress leadership by 1930s, that these people were now called “communal Hindus” while the secularists of Congress called the “nationalist Hindus”.

Elsewhere, the same attitude is on display when Bose introduces the Moslem leaders and the Hindu Leaders of Congress in the same breath:

“Within the Indian National Congress there is an important and influential Moslem group and this group has its representatives in the Congress Cabinet, that is, the Working Committee.  In this group are Moulana Abul Kalam Azad of Calcutta, Dr. M. A. Ansari of Delhi, and Dr. Mohammed Alam of Lahore.  Mr. Sherwani of Allahabad, Mr. Asaf Ali of Delhi and Mr. Khaliq-uz-zaman of Lucknow also belong to this group.  Among the Hindu leaders of the Congress there are some who are more inclined towards the Hindu Mahasabha, for instance Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya of Benares and Mr. M. S. Aney of Berar.”

Throughout Bose’s writings and speeches he would allude to the Congress Hindus as the Nationalist Hindus and the likes of Hindu Mahasabha as communal, and every time equate them with the Muslim League.  In fact it was during the Presidency of Subhas Bose that the Congress banned the dual membership of Congress and Mahasabha, so what if such eminent Congress leaders of past such as Pandit Malaviya and Lajpat Rai had been patrons and leaders of the Hindu Mahasabha! 

Justifying that resolution in face of the fact that Congress before Gandhi was solidly led by none other than such very communal Hindus as Lajpat Rai and Pandit Malaviya, Bose later wrote a signed editorial in his Forward Bloc weekly on May 4, 1940 under the title of ‘Congress and Communal Organizations’. 

“There was a time not long ago”, wrote Bose, “when prominent leaders of the Congress could be members and leaders of the communal organizations like the Hindu Mahasabha and the Muslim League.  In those days the communalism of such communal organizations was of a subdued character.  Hence Lala Lajpat Rai could be a leader of the Hindu Mahasabha and the Ali Brothers could be the leaders of Muslim League.  In Bengal, an ex-president of the Bengal Congress Provincial Committee and of the Bengal Provincial Conference, like Maulana Akram Khan, could be a leader of the Muslim League.  But in recent times, the circumstances have changed.  These communal organizations have become more communal than before.  As a reaction to this, the Indian National Congress has put into its Constitution a clause to the effect that no member of a communal organization like the Hindu Mahasabha or the Muslim League can be a member of an elective committee of the Congress.”

Thus in Bose’s estimation Hindu Mahasabha was ‘communal’ and to be placed in the same bracket as the Moslem league, indeed he mentions Mahasabha before Muslim League every time he refers to the so called “communal organizations”. 

But if one looked back at the history of both Hindu Mahasabha and the Muslim League, one cannot but conclude that there was no such significant change in their character as Bose seemed to have observed.  If there was any change, it was in the character and leadership of the Congress itself and therefore its newfound outlook that considered Hindu Mahasabha communal!  It was the change in the outlook of Congress itself by the advent of Gandhian secularism that now saw “Hindu Communalism” into what was earlier Indian Nationalism, and equated it now with the “Muslim Communalism” which in reality was nothing else but the same force that urged the revival of the Islamic Imperialism.

Noting this perversion in the Congress outlook as reflected in its altered terminology, Sita Ram Goel astutely observes:

“Hindu society had been reduced from the status of a nation to that of a religious community in the counting of heads which the British rulers described as their census operation. Nationalism was now increasingly being labelled as Hindu Communalism.  A revaluation of the national resurgence could not lag far behind. It was soon stigmatised as Hindu Revivalism…  This terminological swindle … was brought about by the combined efforts of the British imperialists and the residues of Islamic imperialism. They shared a problem in common. The problem was the rising tide of National Resurgence in the indigenous Hindu society… the use of a new terminology had far-reaching ideological consequences.”

In the same vein, Bose would continue to also display the delusional assessment of the ‘Nationalist Moslems’ too, typical to the Gandhian secularists.  Recalling the same meeting with Gandhi as was referred before, Bose writes, “Dr. Ansari and some of the Nationalist Moslem leaders including Mr. Sherwani, …, said that if for any reason the Mahatma gave up the demand for a common electorate for both Hindus and Moslems and accepted the demand of the reactionaries for a separate electorate, …, they would oppose the reactionary Moslems and also the Mahatma”.   But then retrospectively he records, albeit briefly and only in a footnote, his bafflement at the altered behaviour of the very same “Nationalist Moslems” after the Communal Award was granted, “…the attitude of the Nationalist Moslems in 1934 to the Prime Minister’s Communal Award is inexplicable!”

It was inexplicable to Bose only because he did not try to view the attitude of the Moslem leadership without the optimistic glasses of secularism.   Otherwise, it would be evident to him that while his “Reactionary Moslems” were hard Jihadists, most of the so called “Nationalist Moslems” were also soft Jihadists differing from the former only in methods but not in the objectives.  In their eagerness to embrace these soft Jihadists as the “Nationalist Moslems”, the secularists also always did a great disservice to the true Nationalist Moslems like the reverence-worthy Azeem Ullah and Ashfaq Ullah, who cared nothing to lay down their lives along with their Hindu comrades at the altar of the motherland in pure love for her; for secularist the chosen models of “Nationalists Moslem” are not they but the likes of Mawlana Abul Kalam Azad.  Bose would later name a regiment in INA as Azad Regiment, in honour not of Chandrashekhar Azad, (lest one thought so), but of the Mawlana Azad.  No Ashfaq nor Azeem Ullah.

It was but another culmination of such self-tied hands of the national leadership that the British Government in collaboration with Muslim leadership pushed through the so called Communal Award, which laid down for the upcoming assembly elections, besides the General seats, separate reserved electorates on the communal basis.  In states where Moslem population was in a minority, the award ensured far greater number of seats than the numerical proportion of their population.  Thus in the state of Bombay where their population was only 9.2% the seats reserved for them were more than twice the proportion, 30 out of 175. Likewise in UP, population 15.3% but seats 66/228; in Bihar-Orissa, population 10.8% but seats 42/175; in Madras, population 7.9% but seats 29/215; in Central Provinces, population 4.7% but seats 14/112, and so on, while in the states where Moslems were a numerical majority, i.e. Bengal and Punjab, a permanent reserved majority was ensured in the respective Assemblies.  Sindh, hitherto a part of Bombay, was carved out as a separate state so it could enjoy its own Moslem majority government, which was ensured to it through a majority separate electorate (70.7% Moslem population, 34/60 seats).  Only NWFP was a state which despite over 91% Moslem population left a respectable number of seats for the non-Moslems (14/50).

Despite all the posturing and lip service, this communal award was meekly accepted by the Congress, just like the partition later.  And just like the partition which created a Moslem state but denied a Hindu state, in the matter of the communal electorate too it is only the Hindu electorate which Congress would pounce upon and treat as secular.  The Congress President at the time was Subhas Chandra Bose, when on the basis of such Communal Award the state assemblies went to elections in 1937.

Congress, contesting primarily on the “Hindu” electorate, secured majority in seven out of eleven states.  And for all their powerful and influential Nationalist Moslems in Congress, it was thrashed in the Moslem seats almost across all the states.

Savarkar, writing in a foreword to a book sometime in 1938, chastised Congress and Bose in following words:

“Congress Candidates are not ashamed of subscribing themselves as “Hindus” in the election season, that is, in that season they do not think communal to own themselves as Hindus.   For, otherwise they would not be eligible to stand as candidates at all and get elected on Hindu votes!!  But as soon as the elections are over and they have raised themselves to the posts in the Councils and in the Ministries on the strength of the Hindu votes, they disown their Hinduness, condemn the Hindu Organizations like Hindu Mahasabha as communal, while keep dancing attendance on the most fanatical and anti-national Moslem organizations as the Moslem League!”

“Witness for example, the instructions issued by the Bengal Congress inspired by Mr. Subhas Chandra Bose himself, that Congress Hindus in Bengal should not agitate against the so-called Communal Award; or the action of the Congress party in the Bengal legislature, which practically supported Mr. Fazlul Haq’s outrageous bill to reserve 60% of the services for the Moslems alone! Why, Mr. Sarat Chandra Bose (Subhas’ elder brother) and Congress party dared to betray Hindu interest in that treacherous fashion, only because the Hindu electorate, they were sure, would not take them to task!”

Such rising tide of utopian secularism disgusted many Hindus even within Congress.  Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee was one such staunch Hindu who was forced to abandon both his Congress leanings and his academic pursuits.  Then the Vice Chancellor of Calcutta University, and having been twice elected to the assembly, once on the Congress ticket (1929), he was dismayed at the growing anti-Hindu tendencies and Muslim-placatory policies of Congress.

In 1937 election in Bengal, Congress emerged as the largest party though way short of majority.  If Congress wanted, it could have easily formed a coalition government with Fazlul Haq’s KPP and Hindu Mahasabha to keep Muslim League out of power.  Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee, who had himself won as an independent, advised this course to Congress leaders as being the least evil.  But, in their short-sightedness they spurned the idea, and instead actively helped Muslim League and Fazlul Haq’s KPP to come together and make a coalition government (a Congress wheeler-dealer close to Bose group, Nalini Ranjan Sarkar, was the anchor of this arrangement).  This helped Muslim League consolidate Bengali Moslems under its own banner in a short time, just like congress support to Khilafat had done over a decade before.

Subhas Bose was then the national President of Congress and Sarat Bose the Bengal Congress (BPCC) President.   Even within the Assembly, Congress under Bose brothers could have still played an important role in safeguarding the Hindu interests in face of the repressive anti-Hindu League-KPP government; and as we learn from Mookerjee’s diaries, he often approached Bose brothers for cooperation, but returned disappointed.  Mookerjee at one place wrote, “(Congress) hesitates to oppose acts and bills, avowedly anti-Hindu and anti-national, lest it should be dubbed a communal body!!” (Dr. Anil Chandra Banerjee, “A phase in the life of Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee”,  APILOSPM)

It is during this period that Mookerjee, who was not affiliated to any party for the last seven years, came in touch with Savarkar when the latter came in 1939 to Bengal for extensively touring all over the state, meeting Hindu intellectuals and leaders, addressing students and villagers; in short to exhort Bengali Hindus to reclaim that rightful place in the Indian Nationalism, that they once held, not a long time ago.  Mookerjee later wrote that Savarkar was “greatly perturbed at the helpless position of Bengali Hindus whom the Congress failed to rouse and protect” and at how the “spirit of resistance against outrageously communal aggression was dying out.” (APILOSPM)

Mookerjee was greatly influenced by Savarkar and immediately joined Hindu Mahasabha.  In a very short time Hindu Mahasabha in Bengal started taking shape of a force to reckon with, gaining important and renowned members of the Bengali Hindu intelligentsia as well as popular support.  In December of the same year, it was in Calcutta that the annual All India convention took place and was a roaring success.  Bengali Hindu was again finding his self-confidence and a voice through Mahasabha.

Subhas Bose did not like it.  He feared that under Mookerjee Hindu Mahasabha would create in Bengal a body of popular support to rival Congress, and ‘communalize’ the politics!  Dr. Mookerjee records in his diary that Bose met and told him that if he went about building Mahasabha as a political body in Bengal, “he (Subhas Bose) would see to it, BY FORCE IF NEED BE, that it was broken before it was really born!” (APILOSPM – emphasis added)

And Subhas Bose meant business!

Writing in his journal, in aftermath of a failed negotiation, Bose bitterly wrote a signed editorial in Forward Bloc on 30 March 1940 about Hindu Mahasabha in Bengal:

“The annual All-India Conference of the Hindu Mahasabha was held in Calcutta towards the close of the last year.  As a conference it was a great success, and it afforded considerable satisfaction to the Mahasabha leaders who began to hope that their organization would forge ahead in Bengal.  … It has come forward to play a political role and to make a bid for the political leadership of Bengal, or at least of the Hindus of Bengal, who have been the backbone of nationalism in this country.  With a real Hindu Mahasabha we have no quarrel and no conflict.  But with a political Hindu Mahasabha that seeks to replace the Congress in the public life of Bengal and for that purpose has already taken offensive against us, a fight is inevitable.  The fight has just begun!” 

The bitterness is not even guised.  But some events that took place in the last three months must be mentioned.

First, in 1939 League-KPP government passed the Calcutta Municipal Bill, which reserved 46 out of 93 seats in the Corporation for the Moslem candidates alone.  This massively disproportionate representation to Moslems, who formed only 28% of city population, was against any rhythm or reason, except that the powerful body of Calcutta Corporation and its resources must come under the Moslem control.  Speaking in the assembly, Mookerjee opposed the bill saying that a 50% Moslem reservation in Corporation was an act of robbing the Hindus “who form 70% of the total population of Calcutta, 76% of total tax payers, and 80% of the eligible voters of the Corporate!” But as usual, despite the opposition as well as Congress lip service, the Bill was passed (No satyagraha, no hunger strike.)  On this new basis the Calcutta Corporation elections were due to take place in the beginning of 1940.

Second, in the meanwhile, Subhas Bose was expelled from Congress in the shiniest democratic traditions of the party, having won the election to a second term of Presidendship against the Gandhi-backed candidate and then forced to resign by the hunger-strike of the Mahatma.  In Bengal PCC, the role of his elder brother was also curtailed by the high command, and all other Bose loyalists were either purged or sidelined too. 

The Corporation elections provided an opportunity for Bose to demonstrate to his rivals in Bengal Congress and high command, his strength and popularity by capturing the Corporation and becoming its Mayor; and it became for Bose a matter of prestige.

To improve the prospects of his Forward Bloc, Bose approached Mookerjee for an electoral tie up with Hindu Mahasabha.  Mookerjee, driven by his urge to consolidate the Hindu vote in face of the communal reservation, responded positively.  An agreement was worked out according to which both parties will contest an equal number of constituencies divided between the two parties as mutually agreed.  They also agreed about the candidates and finalized the list, except for two particular constituencies on which names could not be agreed.  A way was suggested and agreed that both parties should propose a panel of names to the other party, and the other party may pick up a name from it to be the joint candidate.  Accordingly, Bose picked up one name from the panel submitted by Mahasabha, and that candidate was accepted.  Likewise Mookerjee picked up one name from the panel submitted by Forward Bloc, but Bose would not accept it.  Bose started insisting on one particular candidate, who was a notorious goon, to whose candidature it was impossible for Mahasabha to agree.  For all the persuasion of Mookerjee, Bose would not abide by the agreement already made, and even threatened that the ‘Force was the ultimate argument’, and the Mahasabha-Forward Bloc pact broke down, having lasted for just nine days.  This is one version of the story, as given by Prof. Balraj Madhok (“Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee”, Portrait of a Martyr, 1953).  There is another version that gives a more complex agreement of candidate selection.  But in any case, suffice to say that the agreement was short lived.

Bose came true on his words that he was not averse to using force and intimidation to put Mahasabha down.  We now quote Prof. Balraj Madhok:

“Subhas Bose with the help of his favourite (the goon), decided to intimidate the Mahasabha by use of force.  His men would break up all Mahasabha meetings and beat up the candidates…  Dr. Mookerjee could not tolerate it.  He got a meeting announced, to be addressed by him.  As soon as he rose to speak, a stone hit him in his head, and he began to bleed profusely.  This infuriated the audience, and they fell upon the goondas including the strong man of Subbhas Bose.  They gave them a thorough beating.  That put the end to their hooliganism (once and for all).”

Forward Bloc won 21 seats, Hindu Mahasabha 16 and Muslim League 18.  Bose went over to Moslem League and entered in an understanding.  Mookerjee’s plea not to do this which would surely place Calcutta Corporation in hands of Moslem League, when the nightmare of League rule in Bengal Assembly was in front of everyone, found no favours with Bose.  Siddiqui, a Muslim Leaguer, became the Mayor and Subhas Bose just an alderman under him.  The agreement with Mahasabha lasted mere 9 days and broke down on triffles, but with Muslim League Subhas Babu worked the Corporation till the end of his disappearance and after conceding to all League demands.  He was criticised by one and all of the Hindu voice in Calcutta of “having betrayed the Hindu interests to League for  merely becoming an alderman”.

Bose later wrote that he was more concerned about fighting the British members controlling the Corporation! 

As we had said in the beginning, the smokescreen of secularism hinders one’s vision from both the historical perspective and the concurrent reality of the Islamic behavior patterns; and it blurs the vision of even the most talented, most well meaning, most patriotic, most sacrificing people.

Continued to Part 4: The Holwell Agitation and meeting with Savarkar & Jinnah

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