HINDU ALTERNATIVE TO PAKISTAN
[Mr. Gandhi’s tenacious quest for Hindu-Muslim unity]
Mr. Savarkar is quite unconcerned about the Muslim reaction to his scheme. He formulates his scheme and throws it in the face of the Muslims with the covering letter ‘take it or leave it.’ He is not perturbed by the Muslim refusal to join in the struggle for Swaraj. He is quite conscious of the strength of the Hindus and the Hindu Maha Sabha and proposes to carry on the struggle in the confident hope that, alone and unaided, the Hindus will be able to wrest Swaraj from the British. Mr. Savarkar is quite prepared to say to the Musalmans: “If you come, with you, if you don’t, without you; and if you oppose, in spite of you—the Hindus will continue to fight for their national freedom as best as they can.”
Not so Mr. Gandhi. At the very commencement of his career as a political leader of India when Mr. Gandhi startled the people of India by his promise to win Swaraj within six months, Mr. Gandhi said that he could perform the miracle only if certain conditions were fulfilled. One of these conditions was the achievement of Hindu-Muslim unity. Mr. Gandhi is never tired of saying that there is no Swaraj without Hindu-Muslim unity. Mr. Gandhi did not merely make this slogan the currency of Indian politics, but he has strenuously worked to bring it about. Mr. Gandhi, it may be said, began his carrier as a political leader of India with the manifesto dated 2nd March 1919 declaring his intention to launch Satyagraha against the Rowlatt Act and asking those who desired to join him to sign the Satyagraha pledge. That campaign of Satyagraha was a short-lived campaign and was suspended by Mr. Gandhi on 18th April 1919. As a part of his programme Mr. Gandhi had fixed/1/ the 6th March 1919 to be observed all over India as a day of protest against the Rowlatt Act. Mass meetings were to be held on that day and Mr. Gandhi had prescribed that the masses attending the meetings should take a vow in the following terms:
“With God as witness, we Hindus, and Mahomedans declare that we shall behave towards one another as children of the same parents, that we shall have no differences, that the sorrows of each shall be the sorrows of the other and that each shall help the other in removing them. We shall respect each other’s religion and religious feelings and shall not stand in the way of our respective religious practices. We shall always refrain from violence to each other in the name of religion.”
There was nothing in the campaign of Satyagraha against the Rowlatt Act which could have led to any clash between the Hindus and Muslims. Yet Mr. Gandhi asked his followers to take the vow. This shows how insistent he was from the very beginning upon Hindu-Muslim unity.
The Mahomedans started the Khilafat movement in 1919. The objective of the movement was two-fold: to preserve the Khilafat and to maintain the integrity of the Turkish Empire. Both these objectives were unsupportable. The Khilafat could not be saved simply because the Turks, in whose interest this agitation was carried on, did not want the Sultan. They wanted a republic, and it was quite unjustifiable to compel the Turks to keep Turkey a monarchy when they wanted to convert it into a republic. It was not open to insist upon the integrity of the Turkish Empire because it meant the perpetual subjection of the different nationalities to the Turkish rule and particularly of the Arabs, especially when it was agreed on all hands that the doctrine of self-determination should be made the basis of the peace settlement.
The movement was started by the Mahomedans. It was taken up by Mr. Gandhi with a tenacity and faith which must have surprised many Mahomedans themselves. There were many people who doubted the ethical basis of the Khilafat movement and tried to dissuade Mr. Gandhi from taking any part in a movement the ethical basis of which was so questionable. But Mr. Gandhi had so completely persuaded himself of the justice of the Khilafat agitation that he refused to yield to their advice. Time and again he argued that the cause was just and it was his duty to join it. The position taken up by him may be summed up in his own words./2/
“(1) In my opinion, the Turkish claim is not only not immoral and unjust, but it is highly equitable, only because Turkey wants to retain what is her own. And the Mahomedan manifesto has definitely declared that whatever guarantee may be necessary to be taken for the protection of the non-Muslim and non-Turkish races, should be taken so as to give the Christians theirs and the Arabs their self-government under the Turkish suzerainty;
(2) I do not believe the Turk to be weak, incapable or cruel. He is certainly disorganised and probably without good generalship. The argument of weakness, incapacity and cruelty one often hears quoted in connection with those from whom power is sought to be taken away. About the alleged massacres a proper commission has been asked for, but never granted. And in any case security can be taken against oppression;
(3) I have already stated that, if I were not interested in the Indian Mahomedans, I would not interest myself in the welfare of the Turks any more than I am in that of the Austrians or the Poles. But I am bound as an Indian to share the sufferings and trials of fellow-Indians. If I deem the Mahomedan to be my brother, it is my duty to help him in his hour of peril to the best of my ability, if his cause commends itself to me as just;
(4) The fourth refers to the extent Hindus should join hands with the Mahomedans. It is, therefore, a matter of feeling and opinion. It is expedient to suffer for my Mahomedan brother to the utmost in a just cause and I should, therefore, travel with him along the whole road so long as the means employed by him are as honourable as his end. I cannot regulate the Mahomedan feeling. I must accept his statement that the Khilafat is with him a religious question in the sense that it binds him to reach the goal even at the cost of his own life.”
Mr. Gandhi not only agreed with the Muslims in the Khilafat cause but acted as their guide and their friend. The part played by Mr. Gandhi in the Khilafat agitation and the connection between the Khilafat agitation and the Non-co-operation Movement has become obscure by the reason of the fact that most people believed that it was the Congress which initiated the Non-co-operation Movement and it was done as a means for winning Swaraj. That such a view should prevail is quite understandable, because most people content themselves with noting the connection between the Non-co-operation Movement and the special session of the Congress held at Calcutta on 7th and 8th September 1920. But anyone who cares to go behind September 1920 and examine the situation as it then stood, will find that this view is not true. The truth is that the non-co-operation has its origin in the Khilafat agitation and not in the Congress Movement for Swaraj: that it was started by the Khilafatists to help Turkey and adopted by the Congress only to help the Khilafatists: that Swaraj was not its primary object, but its primary object was Khilafat and that Swaraj was added as a secondary object to induce the Hindus to join it will be evident from the following facts.
The Khilafat movement may be said to have begun on 27th October 1919 when the day was observed as the Khilafat Day all over India. On 23rd November 1919 the first Khilafat Conference met at Delhi. It was at this session that the Muslims considered the feasibility of non-co-operation as a means of compelling the British Government to redress the Khilafat wrong. On 10th March 1920 the Khilafat Conference met at Calcutta and decided upon non-co-operation as the best weapon to further the object of their agitation.
On 9th June 1920 the Khilafat Conference met at Allahabad and unanimously reaffirmed their resolve to resort to non-co-operation and appointed an Executive Committee to enforce and lay down a detailed programme. On 22nd June 1920 the Muslims sent a message to the Viceroy stating that they would start non-co-operation if the Turkish grievances were not redressed before 1st August 1920. On 30th June 1920 the Khilafat Committee meeting held at Allahabad resolved to start non-co-operation, after a month’s notice to the Viceroy. Notice was given on 1st July 1920 and non-co-operation commenced on 1st August 1920. This short resume shows that the non-co-operation was started by the Khilafat Committee and all that the Congress special session at Calcutta did was to adopt what the Khilafat Conference had already done, and that too not in the interest of Swaraj but in the interest of helping the Musalmans in furthering the cause of Khilafat. This is clear from the perusal of the Congress Resolution/3/ passed at the special session held at Calcutta.
Although the Non-co-operation Movement was launched by the Khilafat Committee and merely adopted by the Congress primarily to help the Khilafat cause, the person who suggested it to the Khilafat Committee and who identified himself with the Committee and took the responsibility of giving effect to it and who brought about its adoption by the Congress was Mr. Gandhi.
At the first Khilafat Conference held at Delhi on 23rd November 1919 Mr. Gandhi was present. Not only was Mr. Gandhi present but also it was he who advised the Muslims to adopt non-co-operation as a method for forcing the British to yield to their demands regarding the Khilafat. The joining of Mr. Gandhi in the Khilafat movement is full of significance. The Muslims were anxious to secure the support of the Hindus in the cause of Khilafat. At the Conference held on 23rd November 1919 the Muslims had invited the Hindus. Again on 3rd June 1920 a joint meeting of the Hindus and the Khilafatist Muslims was held at Allahabad. This meeting was attended among others by Sapru, Motilal Nehru and Annie Besant. But the Hindus were hesitant in joining the Muslims. Mr. Gandhi was the only Hindu who joined the Muslims. Not only did he show courage to join them, but also he kept step with them, nay, led them. On 9th June 1920 when the Khilafat Conference met at Allahabad and formed an Executive Committee to prepare a detailed programme of non-co-operation and give effect to it, Mr. Gandhi was the only Hindu on that Executive Committee. On 22nd June 1920 the Muslims sent a message to the Viceroy that they would start non-co-operation if the Turkish grievances were not redressed before 1st August 1920. On the same day Mr. Gandhi also sent a letter to the Viceroy explaining the justice of the Khilafat cause, the reasons why he has taken up the cause and the necessity of satisfying the hands [=demands?] of the Khilafatists. For instance the notice given to the Viceroy on 1st July 1920 that non-co-operation will be started on 1st August was given by Mr. Gandhi and not by the Khilafatists. Again when non-co-operation was started by the Khilafatist on 31st August 1920 Mr. Gandhi was the first to give a concrete shape to it by returning his medal. After inaugurating the Non-co-operation Movement as an active member of the Khilafat Committee Mr. Gandhi next directed his energy to the cause of persuading the Congress to adopt non-co-operation and strengthen the Khilafat movement. With that object in view Mr. Gandhi toured the country between 1st August and 1st September 1920 in the company of the Ali Brothers who were the founders of the Khilafat movement, impressing upon the people the necessity of non-co-operation. People could notice the disharmony in the tune of Mr. Gandhi and the Ali Brothers. As the Modern Review pointed out: “Reading between the lines of their speeches, it is not difficult to see that with one of them the sad plight of the Khilafat in distant Turkey is the central fact, while with the other attainment of Swaraj here in India is the object in view.” This dichotomy/4/ of interest did not augur well for the success of the ultimate purpose. Nonetheless Mr. Gandhi succeeded in carrying the Congress with him in support of the Khilafat cause./5/
For a long time the Hindus had been engaged in wooing the Muslims to their side. The Congress was very anxious to bridge the gulf between itself and the Muslim League. The ways and means adopted in 1916 for bringing about this consummation and which resulted in the Lucknow Pact signed between the Congress and the Muslim League have been graphically told by Swami Shradhanand in his impressions of the Congress Session held in that year at Lucknow. Says the Swami:/6/
“On sitting on the dias (Lucknow Congress platform) the first thing that I noticed was that the number of Moslem delegates was proportionately fourfold of what it was at Lahore in 1893. The majority of Moslem delegates had donned gold, silver and silk embroidered chogas (flowing robes) over their ordinary coarse suits of wearing apparel. It was rumoured that these ‘chogas’ had been put by Hindu moneyed men for Congress Tamasha. Of some 433 Moslem delegates only some 30 had come from outside, the rest belonging to Lucknow City. And of these majority was admitted free to delegate seats, board and lodging. Sir Syed Ahmad’s anti-Congress League had tried in a public meeting to dissuade Moslems from joining the Congress as delegates. As a countermove the Congress people lighted the whole Congress camp some four nights before the session began and advertised that that night would be free. The result was that all the “Chandul Khanas” of Lucknow were emptied and a huge audience of some thirty thousand Hindus and Moslems was addressed from half a dozen platforms. It was then that the Moslem delegates were elected or selected. All this was admitted by the Lucknow Congress organisers to me in private.
“A show was being made of the Moslem delegates. Moslem delegate gets up to second a resolution in Urdu. He begins: ‘Hozarat, I am a Mahomedan delegate.’ Some Hindu delegate gets up and calls for three cheers for Mahomedan delegates and the response is so enthusiastic as to be beyond description.”
In taking up the cause of Khilafat Mr. Gandhi achieved a double purpose. He carried the Congress Plan of winning over the Muslims to its culmination. Secondly he made the Congress a power in the country, which it would not have been, if the Muslims had not joined it. The cause of the Khilafat appealed to the Musalmans far more than political safeguards, with the result that the Musalmans who were outside it trooped into the Congress. The Hindus welcomed them. For, they saw in this a common front against the British, which was their main aim. The credit for this must of course go to Mr. Gandhi. For there can be no doubt that this was an act of great daring.
When the Musalmans in 1919 approached the Hindus for participation in the Non-co-operation Movement which the Muslims desired to start for helping Turkey and the Khilafat, the Hindus were found to be divided in three camps. One was a camp of those who were opposed to non-co-operation in principle. A second camp consisted of those Hindus who were prepared to join the Muslims in their campaign of non-co-operation provided the Musalmans agreed to give up Cow Slaughter. A third group consisted of the Hindus who feared that the Mahomedans might extend their non-co-operation to inviting the Afghans to invade India, in which case the movement instead of resulting in Swaraj might result in the subjection of India to Muslim Raj.
Mr. Gandhi did not care for those Hindus who were opposed to joining the Muslims in the Non-co-operation Movement. But with regard to the others he told them that their attitude was unfortunate. To those Hindus who wanted to give their support on the condition that the Muslims give up cow killing, Mr. Gandhi said:/7/
“I submit that the Hindus may not open the Goraksha (cow protection) question here. The test of friendship is assistance in adversity, and that too, unconditional assistance. Co-operation that needs consideration is a commercial contract and not friendship. Conditional co-operation is like adulterated cement which does not bind. It is the duty of the Hindus, if they see the justice of the Mahomedan cause to render co-operation. If the Mahomedans feel themselves bound in honour to spare the Hindu’s feelings and to stop cow killing, they may do so, no matter whether the Hindus co-operate with them or not. Though therefore, I yield to no Hindu in my worship of the cow, I do not want to make the stopping of cow killing a condition precedent to co-operation. Unconditional co-operation means the protection of the cow.”
To those Hindus who feared to join the Non-co-operation Movement for the reasons that Muslims may invite the Afghans to invade India, Mr. Gandhi said:/8/
“It is easy enough to understand and justify the Hindu caution. It is difficult to resist the Mahomedan position. In my opinion, the best way to prevent India from becoming the battle ground between the forces of Islam and those of the English is for Hindus to make non-co-operation a complete and immediate success, and I have little doubt that, if the Mahomedans remain true to their declared intention and are able to exercise self-restraint and make sacrifices, the Hindus will ‘play the game’ and join them in the campaign of non-co-operation. I feel equally certain that Hindus will not assist Mahomedans in promoting or bringing about an armed conflict between the British Government and their allies, and Afghanistan. British forces are too well organised to admit of any successful invasion of the Indian frontier. The only way, therefore, the Mahomedans can carry on an effective struggle on behalf of the honour of Islam is to take up non-co-operation in real earnest. It will not only be completely effective if it is adopted by the people on an extensive scale, but it will also provide full scope for individual conscience. If I cannot bear an injustice done by an individual or a corporation, and, I am directly or indirectly instrumental in upholding that individual or corporation, I must answer for it before my Maker; but I have done all that is humanly possible for me to do consistently with the moral code that refuses to injure even the wrong-doers, if I cease to support the injustice in the manner described above. In applying, therefore, such a great force, there should be no haste, there should be no temper shown. Non-co-operation must be and remain absolutely a voluntary effort. The whole thing, then, depends upon Mahomedans themselves. If they will but help themselves, Hindu help will come and the Government, great and mighty though it is, will have to bend before the bloodless opposition of a whole nation.”
Unfortunately, the hope of Mr. Gandhi that ‘no Government can possibly withstand the bloodless opposition of a whole nation’ did not come true. Within a year of the starting of the Non-co-operation Movement, Mr. Gandhi had to admit that the. Musalmans had grown impatient and that:
“In their impatient anger, the Musalmans ask for more energetic and more prompt action by the Congress and Khilafat organisations. To the Musalmans, Swaraj means, as it must mean, India’s ability to deal effectively with the Khilafat question. The Musalmans, therefore, decline to wait if the attainment of Swaraj means indefinite delay of a programme that may require the Musalmans of India to become impotent witnesses of the extinction of Turkey in European waters.
“It is impossible not to sympathise with this attitude. I would gladly recommend immediate action if I could think of any effective course. I would gladly ask for postponement of Swaraj activity if thereby we could advance the interest of Khilafat. I could gladly take up measures outside non-co-operation, if I could think of any, in order to assuage the pain caused to the millions of the Musalmans.
“But, in my humble opinion, attainment of Swaraj is the quickest method of righting the Khilafat wrong. Hence it is, that for me the solution of the Khilafat question is attainment of Swaraj and vice versa. The only way to help the affiliated Turks is for India to generate sufficient power to be able to assert herself. If she cannot develop that power in time, there is no way out for India and she must resign herself to the inevitable. What can a paralytic do to stretch forth a helping hand to a neighbour but to try to cure himself of his paralysis? Mere ignorant, thoughtless and angry outburst of violence may give vent to pent-up rage but can bring no relief to Turkey.”
The Musalmans were not in a mood to listen to the advice of Mr. Gandhi. They refused to worship the principle of non-violence. They were not prepared to wait for Swaraj. They were in a hurry to find the most expeditious means of helping Turkey and saving the Khilafat. And the Muslims in their impatience did exactly what the Hindus feared they would do, namely, invite the Afghans to invade India. How far the Khilafatists had proceeded in their negotiations with the Amir of Afghanistan it is not possible to know. But that such a project was entertained by them is beyond question. It needs no saying that the project of an invasion of India was the most dangerous project and every sane Indian would dissociate himself from so mad a project. What part Mr. Gandhi played in this project it is not possible to discover. Certainly he did not dissociate himself from it. On the contrary, his misguided zeal for Swaraj, and his obsession on Hindu-Moslem unity as the only means of achieving it, led him to support the project. Not only did he advise/9/ the Amir not to enter into any treaty with the British Government but declared:
“I would, in a sense, certainly assist the Amir of Afghanistan if he waged war against the British Government. That is to say, I would openly tell my countrymen that it would be a crime to help a government which had lost the confidence of the nation to remain in power.”
Can any sane man go so far, for the sake of Hindu-Moslem unity? But, Mr. Gandhi was so attached to Hindu-Moslem unity that he did not stop to enquire what he was really doing in this mad endeavour. So anxious was Mr. Gandhi in laying the foundation of Hindu-Moslem unity well and truly, that he did not forget to advise his followers regarding the national crisis. In an Article in Young India of 8th September 1920 Mr. Gandhi said :
“During the Madras tour, at Bezwada I had occasion to remark upon the national crisis and suggested that it would be better to have cries about ideals than men. I asked the audience to replace Mahatma Gandhi-ki-jai and Mahomed Ali Shoukat Ali-ki-jai by Hindu-Musalman-ki-jai. Brother Shoukat Ali, who followed, positively laid down the law. In spite of the Hindu-Muslim unity, he had observed that, if Hindus shouted Bande Mataram, the Muslims rang out with Allaho Akbar and vice versa. This, he rightly said jarred on the ear and still showed that the people did not act with one mind. There should be therefore only three cries recognised. Allaho Akbar to be joyously sung out by Hindus and Muslims, showing that God alone was great and no other. The second should be Bande Malaram (Hail Motherland) or Bharat Mata-ki-jai (Victory to Mother Hind). The third should be Hindu-Musalman-ki-jai without which there was no victory for India, and no true demonstration of the greatness of God.. I do wish that the newspapers and public men would take up the Maulana’s suggestion and lead the people only to use the three cries. They are full of meaning. The first is a prayer and confession of our littleness and therefore a sign of humility. It is a cry in which all Hindus and Muslims should join in reverence and prayfulness. Hindus may not fight shy of Arabic words, when their meaning is not only totally inoffensive but even ennobling. God is no respecter of any particular tongue. Bande Mataram, apart from its wonderful associations, expresses the one national wish—the rise of India to her full height. And I should prefer Bande Mataram to Bharat Mata-ki-jai, as it would be a graceful recognition of the intellectual and emotional superiority of Bengal. Since India can be nothing without the union of the Hindu and the Muslim heart, Hindu-Musalman-ki-jai is a cry which we may never forget.
“There should be no discordance in these cries. Immediately some one has taken up any of the three cries, the rest should take it up and not attempt to yell out their favourite. Those, who do not wish to join, may refrain, but should consider it a breach of etiquette to interpolate their own when a cry has already been raised. It would be better too, always to follow out the three cries in the order given above.”
These are not the only things Mr. Gandhi has done to build up Hindu-Moslem unity. He has never called the Muslims to account even when they have been guilty of gross crimes against Hindus.
It is a notorious fact that many prominent Hindus who had offended the religious susceptibilities of the Muslims either by their writings or by their part in the Shudhi movement have been murdered by some fanatic Musalmans. First to suffer was Swami Shradhanand, who was shot by Abdul Rashid on 23rd December 1926 when he was lying in his sick bed. This was followed by the murder of Lala Nanakchand, a prominent Arya Samajist of Delhi. Rajpal, the author of the Rangila Rasool, was stabbed by Ilamdin on 6th April 1929 while he was sitting in his shop. Nathuramal Sharma was murdered by Abdul Qayum in September 1934. It was an act of great daring. For Sharma was stabbed to death in the Court of the Judicial Commissioner of Sind where he was seated awaiting the hearing of his appeal against his conviction under Section 195, 1. P. C., for the publication of a pamphlet on the history of Islam. Khanna, the Secretary of the Hindu Sabha, was severely assaulted in 1938 by the Mahomedans after the Session of the Hindu Maha Sabha held in Ahmedabad and very narrowly escaped death.
This is, of course, a very short list and could be easily expanded. But whether the number of prominent Hindus killed by fanatic Muslims is large or small matters little. What matters is the attitude of those who count, towards these murderers. The murderers paid the penalty of law where law is enforced. The leading Moslems, however, never condemned these criminals. On the contrary, they were hailed as religious martyrs and agitation was carried on for clemency being shown to them. As an illustration of this attitude, one may refer to Mr. Barkat Alli, a Barrister of Lahore, who argued the appeal of Abdul Qayum. He went to the length of saying that Qayum was not guilty of murder of Nathuramal because his act was justifiable by the law of the Koran. This attitude of the Moslems is quite understandable. What is not understandable is the attitude of Mr. Gandhi.
Mr. Gandhi has been very punctilious in the matter of condemning any and every act of violence and has forced the Congress, much against its will to condemn it. But Mr. Gandhi has never protested against such murders. Not only have the Musalmans not condemned/10/ these outrages but even Mr. Gandhi has never called upon the leading Muslims to condemn them. He has kept silent over them. Such an attitude can be explained only on the ground that Mr. Gandhi was anxious to preserve Hindu-Moslem unity and did not mind the murders of a few Hindus, if it could be achieved by sacrificing their lives.
This attitude to excuse the Muslims any wrong, lest it should injure the cause of unity, is well illustrated by what Mr. Gandhi had to say in the matter of the Mopla riots.
The blood-curdling atrocities committed by the Moplas in Malabar against the Hindus were indescribable. All over Southern India, a wave of horrified feeling had spread among the Hindus of every shade of opinion, which was intensified when certain Khilafat leaders were so misguided as to pass resolutions of “congratulations to the Moplas on the brave fight they were conducting for the sake of religion.” Any person could have said that this was too heavy a price for Hindu-Moslem unity. But Mr. Gandhi was so much obsessed by the necessity of establishing Hindu-Moslem unity that he was prepared to make light of the doings of the Moplas and the Khilafats who were congratulating them. He spoke of the Moplas as the “brave God-fearing Moplas who were fighting for what they consider as religion and in a manner which they consider as religious.” Speaking of the Muslim silence over the Mopla atrocities Mr. Gandhi told the Hindus:
“The Hindus must have the courage and the faith to feel that they can protect their religion in spite of such fanatical eruptions. A verbal disapproval by the Mussalmans of Mopla madness is no test of Mussalman friendship. The Mussalmans must naturally feel the shame and humiliation of the Mopla conduct about forcible conversions and looting, and they must work away so silently and effectively that such a thing might become impossible even on the part of the most fanatical among them. My belief is that the Hindus as a body have received the Mopla madness with equanimity and that the cultured Mussalmans are sincerely sorry of the Mopla’s perversion of the teaching of the Prophet.”
The Resolution/11/ passed by the Working Committee of the Congress on the Mopla atrocities shows how careful the Congress was not to hurt the feelings of the Musalmans.
“The Working Committee places on record its sense of deep regret over the deeds of violence done by Moplas in certain areas of Malbar, these deeds being evidence of the fact that there are still people in India who have not understood the message of the Congress and the Central Khilafat Committee, and calls upon every Congress and Khilafat worker to spread the said message of non-violence even under the gravest provocation throughout the length and breadth of India.
“Whilst, however, condemning violence on the part of the Moplas, the working Committee desires it to be known that the evidence in its possession shows that provocation beyond endurance was given to the Moplas and that the reports published by and on behalf of the Government have given a one-sided and highly exaggerated account of the wrongs done by the Moplas and an understatement of the needless destruction of life resorted to by the Government in the name of peace and order.
“The Working Committee regrets to find that there have been instances of so-called forcible conversion by some fanatics among Moplas, but warms the public against believing in the Government and inspired versions. The Report before the Committee says:
“‘The families, which have been reported to have been forcibly converted into Mahomedanism, lived in the neighbourhood of Manjeri. It is clear that conversions were forced upon Hindus by a fanatic gang which was always opposed to the Khilafat and Non-co-operation Movement and there were only three cases so far as our information goes.'”
The following instances of Muslim intransigence, over which Mr. Gandhi kept mum, are recorded by Swami Shradhanand in his weekly journal called the Liberator. Writing in the issue of 30th September 1926 the Swamiji says :
“As regards the removal of untouchability it has been authoritatively ruled several times that it is the duty of Hindus to expiate for their past sins and non-Hindus should have nothing to do with it But the Mahomedan and the Christian Congressmen have openly revolted against the dictum of Mr. Gandhi at Vaikom and other places. Even such an unbiased leader as Mr. Yakub Hassan, presiding over a meeting called to present an address to me at Madras, openly enjoined upon Musalmans the duty of converting all the untouchables in India to Islam.”
But Mr. Gandhi said nothing by way of remonstrance either to the Muslims or to the Christians.
In his issue of July 1926 the Swami writes :
“There was another prominent fact to which I drew the attention of Mahatma Gandhi. Both of us went together one night to the Khilafat Conference at Nagpur. The Ayats (verses) of the Quran recited by the Maulanas on that occasion, contained frequent references to Jihad and killing of the Kaffirs.But when I drew his attention to this phase of the Khilafat movement, Mahatmaji smiled and said, ‘They are alluding to the British Bureaucracy.’ In reply I said that it was all subversive of the idea of non-violence and when the reversion of feeling came the Mahomedan Maulanas would not refrain from using these verses against the Hindus.”
The Swami ‘s third instance relates to the Mopla riots. Writing in the Liberator of 26th August 1926 the Swami says :
“The first warning was sounded when the question of condemning the Moplas for their atrocities on Hindus came up in the Subjects Committee. The original resolution condemned the Moplas wholesale for the killing of Hindus and burning of Hindu homes and the forcible conversion to Islam. The Hindu members themselves proposed amendments till it was reduced to condemning only certain individuals who had been guilty of the above crimes. But some of the Moslem leaders could not bear this even. Maulana Fakir and other Maulanas, of course, opposed the resolution and there was no wonder. But I was surprised, an out-and-out Nationalist like Maulana Hasrat Mohani opposed the resolution on the ground that the Mopla country no longer remained Dar-ul-Aman but became Dar-ul-Harab and they suspected the Hindus of collusion with the British enemies of the Moplas. Therefore, the Moplas were right in presenting the Quran or sword to the Hindus. And if the Hindus became Mussalmans to save themselves from death, it was a voluntary change of faith and not forcible conversion—Well, even the harmless resolution condemning some of the Moplas was not unanimously passed but had to be accepted by a majority of votes only. There were other indications also, showing that the Mussalmans considered the Congress to be existing on their sufferance and if there was the least attempt to ignore their idiosyncracies the superficial unity would be scrapped asunder.”
The last one refers to the burning of the foreign cloth started by Mr. Gandhi. Writing in the Liberator of 31st August 1926 the Swamiji says:
“While people came to the conclusion, that the burning of foreign cloth was a religious duty of Indians and Messrs. Das, Nehru and other topmost leaders made bon-fire of cloth worth thousands, the Khilafat Musalmans got permission from Mahatmaji to send all foreign cloth for the use of the Turkish brethren. This again was a great shock to me. While Mahatmaji stood adamant and did not have the least regard for Hindu feelings when a question of principle was involved, for the Moslem dereliction of duty, there was always a soft corner in his heart.”
In the history of his efforts to bring about Hindu-Moslem unity mention must be made of two incidents. One is the Fast, which Mr. Gandhi underwent in the year 1924. It was a fast of 21 days. Before undertaking the fast Mr. Gandhi explained the reasons for it in a statement from which the following extracts are taken:
“The fact that Hindus and Musalmans, who were only two years ago apparently working together as friends, are now fighting like cats and dogs in some places, shows conclusively that the non-co-operation they offered was not non-violent. I saw the symptoms in Bombay, Chauri Chaura and in a host of minor cases. I did penance then. It had its effects protanto. But this Hindu-Muslim tension was unthinkable. It became unbearable on hearing of the Kohat tragedy. On the eve of my departure from Sabarmati for Delhi, Sarojini Devi wrote to me that speeches and homilies on peace would not do. I must find out an effective remedy. She was right in saddling the responsibility on me. Had I not been instrumental in bringing into being the vast energy of the people? I must find the remedy if the energy proved self-destructive.
* * *
“I was violently shaken by Amethi, Sambhal and Gulbarga. I had read the reports about Amethi and Sambhal prepared by Hindu and Musalman friends. I had learnt the joint finding of Hindu and Musalman friends who went to Gulbarga. I was writhing in deep pain and yet I had no remedy. The news of Kohal set the smouldering mass aflame. Something had got to be done. I passed two nights in restlessness and pain. On Wednesday I knew the remedy. I must do penance.
“It is a warning to the Hindus and Musalmans who have professed to love me. If they have loved me truly and if I have been deserving of their love, they will do penance with me for the grave sin of denying God in their hearts.
“The penance of Hindus and Mussalmans is not fasting but retracting their steps. It is true penance for a Mussalman to harbour no ill-will for his Hindu brother and an equally true penance for a Hindu to harbour none for his Mussalman brother.
“I did not consult friends—not even Hakim Saheb who was close with me for a long lime on Wednesday—not Maulana Mahomed Ali under whose roof I am enjoying the privilege of hospitality.
“But was it right for me to go through the fast under a Mussalman roof? (Gandhi was at that time the guest of Mr. Mahomed Ali at Delhi.) Yes, it was. The fast is not born out of ill-will against a single soul. My being under a Mussalman roof ensures it against any such interpretation. It is in the fitness of things that this fast should be taken up and completed in a Mussalman house.
“And who is Mahomed Ali? Only two days before the fast we had a discussion about a private matter in which I had told him what was mine was his and what was his was mine. Let me gratefully tell the public that I have never received warmer or better treatment than under Mahomed Ali’s roof. Every want of mine is anticipated. The dominant thought of every one of his household is to make me and mine happy and comfortable. Doctors Ansari and Abdur Rehman have constituted themselves my medical advisers. They examine me daily. I have had many a happy occasion in my life. This is no less happy than the previous ones. Bread is not everything. I am experiencing here the richest love. It is more than bread for me.
“It has been whispered that by going so much with Mussalman friends, I make myself unfit to know the Hindu mind. The Hindu mind is myself. Surely I do not live amidst Hindus to know the Hindu mind when every fibre of my being is Hindu. My Hinduism must be a very poor thing if it cannot flourish under influences the most adverse. I know instinctively what is necessary for Hinduism. But I must labour to discover the Mussalman mind. The closer I come to the best of Mussalmans, the juster I am likely to be in my estimate of the Mussalmans and their doings. I am striving to become the best cement between the two communities. My longing is to be able to cement the two with my blood, if necessary. But, before I can do so, I must prove to the Mussalmans that I love them as well as I love the Hindus. My religion teaches me to love all equally. May God help me to do so! My fast among other things is meant to qualify me for achieving that equal and selfless love.”
The fast produced Unity Conferences. But the Unity Conferences produced nothing except pious resolutions which were broken as soon as they were announced.
This short historical sketch of the part Mr. Gandhi played in bringing about Hindu-Moslem unity may be concluded by a reference to the attitude of Mr. Gandhi in the negotiations about the Communal Settlement. He offered the Muslims a blank cheque. The blank cheque only served to exasperate the Muslims, as they interpreted it as an act of evasion. He opposed the separate electorates at the Round Table Conference. When they were given to the Muslims by the Communal Award, Mr. Gandhi and the Congress did not approve of them. But when it came to voting upon it, they took the strange attitude of neither approving it nor opposing it.
/1/ Young India, 2nd June 1920.
/2/ Young India, 2nd June 1920.
/3/ “In view of the fact that on the Khilafat question both the Indian and Imperial Governments have signally failed in their duty towards the Muslims of India and the Prime Minister has deliberately broken his pledged word given to them, and that it is the duty of every non-Muslim Indian in every legitimate manner to assist his Muslim brother in his attempt to remove the religious calamity that has overtaken him;
“And in view of the fact that, in the matter of the events of the April of 1919, both the said Governments have grossly neglected or failed to protect the innocent people of the Punjab and punish officers guilty of unsoldierly and barbarous behaviour towards them, and have exonerated Sir Michael O’Dwyer who proved himself directly responsible for most of the official crimes and callous to the sufferings of the people placed under his administration, and that the debate in the House of Lords betrayed a woeful lack of sympathy with the people of India, and systematic terrorism and frightfulness adopted in the Punjab, and that the latest Viceregal pronouncement is proof of entire absence of repentance in the matters of the Khilafat and the Punjab;
“This Congress is of opinion that there can be no contentment in India without redress of the two aforementioned wrongs, and that the only effectual means to vindicate national honour and to prevent a repetition of similar wrongs in future is the establishment of Swarajya.
“This Congress is further of opinion that there is no course left open for the people of India but to approve of and adopt the policy of progressive non-violent non-co-operation inaugurated by Mahatma Gandhi, until the said wrongs are righted and Swarajya is established.”
Mrs. Annie Besant says: “It will be remembered that Mr. Gandhi, in March 1920, had forbidden the mixing up of non-co-operation in defence of the Khilafat with other questions; but it was found that the Khilafat was not sufficiently attractive to Hindus,” so at the meeting of the All-India Congress Committee held at Benares on May 30 and 31, the Punjab atrocities and the deficiencies of the Reforms Act were added to the list of provocative causes.—The Future of Indian Politics, p. 250.
/4/ Mr. Gandhi repudiated the suggestion of the Modern Review and regarded it as “crudest cut.” Dealing with the criticism of the Modern Review in his Article in Young India for 20th October 1921 Mr. Gandhi said, “I claim that with us both the Khilafat is the central fact, with Maulana Mahomed Ali because it is his religion, with me because, in laying down my life for the Khilafat, I ensure safely of the cow, that is my religion, from the Musalman knife.”
/5/ The Resolution of non-co-operation was carried by 1886 voles against 884. The late Mr. Tairsee once told me that a large majority of the delegates were no others than the taxi drivers of Calcutta who were paid to vote for the non-co-operation resolution.
/6/ Liberator, 22nd April 1926.
/7/ Young India, 10th December 1939.
/8/ Young India, 9th June 1920.
/9/ Young India dated 4th May 1921.
/10/ It is reported that for earning merit for the soul of Abdul Rashid, the murderer of Swami Shradhanand, in the next world, the students and professors of the famous theological college at Deoband finished five complete recitations of the Koran and had planned to finish daily a lakh and a quarter recitations of Koranic verses. Their prayer was “God Almighty may give the marhoom (i.e., Rashid) a place in the ‘a ‘ala-e-illeeyeen (the summit of the seventh heaven).”— Times of India 30-11-27. “Through Indian Eyes” columns.
/11/ The resolution says that then were only three cases of forcible conversion!! In reply to a question in the Central Legislature (Debates 16th January 1922) Sir William Vincent replied: “The Madras Government report that the number of forcible conversions probably runs to thousands but that for obvious reasons it will never be possible to obtain anything like an accurate estimate.”