Gandhi confined his religious reformist zeal to Hindu customs and tradition. He exacted compliance by coercion, and this coercion was achieved often with public humiliation of the individual or group. Some of the notable people whom Gandhi humiliated in public and in private were his long-suffering wife Kasturba, Tilak, Hindu kings and princes, Sardar Patel, Subhash Chandra Bose and at least one English-speaking scheduled-caste gentleman who dared to question Gandhi on the composition of the Constituent Assembly.
Sarkari history book writers are yet to analyze the lasting damage caused to the post-independence Indian nation’s territorial unity and integrity because of Gandhi’s personalized bias against Hindu rulers, and Nehru’s muscular and even contemptuous treatment of the Hindu king of Jammu and Kashmir.
Gandhi fired his first public salvo against Hindu rulers when he commented on Dhingra’s assassination of Curzon Wyllie. He fired his second bullet at a public meeting after he returned to India when at a public meeting Gandhi mocked the sartorial elegance of Hindu royalty. Needless to say, the sartorial preferences of British monarchs did not weigh with Gandhi when he wrote letters expressing his eternal loyalty to the empire and the dynasty.
Gandhi was invited to the inaugural function of the Benares Hindu University. Present at the meeting was Viceroy Hardinge.Annie Besant who asked Gandhi to stop his harangue against Hindu maharajas was also seated on the dais. So was Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya, founder of Benares Hindu University.
I now introduce you to another scene. His Highness the Maharajah, who presided yesterday over our deliberations, spoke about the poverty of India. Other speakers laid great stress upon it. But what did we witness in the great pandal in which the foundation ceremony was performed by the Viceroy? Certainly a most gorgeous show, an exhibition of jewellery which made a splendid feast for the eyes of the greatest jeweller who chose to come from Paris. I compare with the richly bedecked noblemen the millions of the poor. And I feel like saying to these noblemen: “There is no salvation for India unless you strip yourselves of this jewellery and hold it in trust for your countrymen in India.” I am sure it is not the desire of the King-Emperor or Lord Hardinge that in order to show the truest loyalty to our King-Emperor, it is necessary for us to ransack our jewellery-boxes and to appear bedecked from top to toe. I would undertake at the peril of my life to bring to you a message from King George himself that he expects nothing of the kind. (Speech at Benares Hindu University, February 6, 1916, CWMG Vol. 15, pp 148-55)
Speaking last night at one of the lectures inaugurated in connection with the University week in Benares, Mr. Gandhi referred to the precautions taken by the authorities to protect the Viceroy while he was in Benares. Mr. Gandhi was asked to explain briefly what he was about to say. Eventually all the princes present left in a body, and, though Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya explained that what Mr. Gandhi meant was that it was a shame to themselves that such a course was thought necessary because of the misdeeds of a few misguided youths, the meeting dispersed at once.
The Maharaja of Darbhanga, who presided at the morning lectures today, at which almost all the princes now in Benares were present, made a brief reference to last night’s incident. He observed that they had heard with grief and pain, the remarks of Mr. Gandhi and he was sure they all disapproved the attitude Mr. Gandhi had taken up. Voices: “We all disapprove.” (Letter to Maharaja of Darbhanga, February 7, 1916, CWMG Vol. 15, pp 155-56)
Now contrast this with the Mahatma’s language when writing to the Muslim Nizam of Hyderabad nine years later in 1924 and count the number of “Your Exalted Highness” in Gandhi’s two-sentence letter to the Nizam.
His Exalted Highness, The Nizam of Hyderabad
Your Exalted Highness, I beg to acknowledge Your Exalted Highness’s letter of the 1st April. I received also the letter of the 1st ultimo to which I replied on the 5th ultimo. I am surprised that the reply did not reach Your Exalted Highness. I now enclose a copy thereof. I remain Your Exalted Highness’ faithful friend. (Letter to the Nizam of Hyderabad, April 5, 1924, Post Andheri, CWMG Vol. 27, page 167)
Generosity to hand over the nation to Muslims
As generous as Gandhi was about handing over the Hindu nation to the Muslims, he was just as generous about handing over the kingdoms of Hindu rulers to the Muslim League.
On the very day that Gandhi announced his Quit India Movement when the entire nation was roused to a state of feverish expectation that independence was just around the corner. We notice the same state of expectation when Gandhi announced ‘Swaraj’ in the Nagpur Congress of 1920, and after a decade of futile waiting, the same sense of expectation in 1929 when Gandhi announced ‘Purna Swaraj’ in the Lahore Congress, and then again when the nation waited in vain for another 13 years, till 1942 when Gandhi announced Quit India.
Gandhi wrote a letter to an unnamed Muslim about whether Gandhi had earlier really made the offer to hand over the entire nation to the Muslim League – all territories of British India (provinces which were directly under British government) and Indian India (all kingdoms and territories ruled by Hindu maharajas and Muslim Nawabs and Nizams.
With reference to your letter giving me the purport of your conversation today with the Quaid-e-Azam, I wish to say in as clear language as possible that when in a Harijan article I reproduced Maulana Azad’s publicised offer to the Muslim League I meant it to be serious offer in every sense of the term; provided the Muslim League co-operated fully with the Congress demand for immediate independence without the slightest reservation…..The Congress will have no objection to the British Government transferring all the powers it today exercises to the Muslim League on behalf of the whole of India, including the so-called Indian India. And the Congress will not only not obstruct any government that the Muslim League may form on behalf of the people, but will even join the government in running the machinery of the free state. (Letter to a Muslim, August 8, 1942, CWMG Vol. 83, pp 186-87)
Sir C P Ramaswamy Iyer, Dewan to the Maharaja of Travancore and Member of the Viceroy’s Executive Council took serious exception to Gandhi’s unilateral and hideous offer to hand over Hindu kingdoms to the Muslim League. He openly called it a “menacing move”, resigned from the Viceroy’s Executive Council, took his gloves off against Gandhi and set about “definitely and publicly to rouse the (Princely) States to a sense of impending danger”. (Eclipse of the Hindu Nation, page 488)
As a first step in this direction, C P Ramaswamy Iyer explored the idea of all Hindu Princely States coming together to form themselves into federations and small unions to be better able to deal with the twin threats of Gandhi and the Muslim League. The idea gathered momentum and important political leaders of the time both within and outside the INC veered around the advisability of small princely states forming themselves into federations for purposes of dialogue, negotiations, representation to any future Constituent Assembly and also the possibility of entering the Union of India as federations of Princely States.
This was certainly a sound initiative, more organized and a politically workable idea than lapse of paramountcy with no alternative in place.
Doublespeak on Cabinet Mission
This writer’s book Eclipse of the Hindu Nation: Gandhi and his Freedom Struggle (2009, NAPL), re-examined the freedom movement between 1893 and January 1948 when Gandhi was assassinated. The book put Gandhi’s doublespeak and his dubious role under intense scrutiny in first welcoming and then sabotaging the Cabinet Mission whose report incidentally Gandhi agreed to make the basis of British Transfer of Power.
When Imperial London sent the Cabinet Mission to India in May 1946, it signalled surrender by the British Government to the inevitable – India could no longer be held by force. India could certainly not be held by force of the British military severely debilitated by the Second World War and even more severely underfunded by a crippled British post-war economy. The mission comprised Sir Pethick-Lawrence, Secretary of State for India, Sir Stafford Cripps, President, Board of Trade, and A V Alexander, First Lord of the Admiralty. The Mission offered its report as the only basis for transfer of power notwithstanding Gandhi’s claim to the contrary that it was neither a legal document nor binding upon the INC.
The last is important because the Cabinet Mission in unambiguous language refused to pass on the Paramountcy it wielded over the Indian Princely States to the first Indian Government of free India and insisted that paramountcy will lapse with transfer of power. Gandhi welcomed the Cabinet Mission Report within 48 hours and exonerated the British of any ill-will or deviousness. This in effect means Gandhi accepted the British condition that paramountcy will lapse and will not be passed on to the Indian cabinet.
After four days of searching examination of the State Paper issued by the Cabinet Mission and the Viceroy on behalf of the British Government, my conviction abides that it is the best document the British Government could have produced in the circumstances. It reflects our weakness, if we would be good enough to see it. The Congress and the Muslim League did not, could not agree. We would grievously err if at this time we foolishly satisfy ourselves that the differences are a British creation. The Mission have not come all the way from England to exploit them. They have come to devise the easiest and quickest method of ending British rule. (Excerpts from An Analysis, New Delhi, May 20, 1946, CWMG Vol. 91, pp 1-3, Eclipse of the Hindu Nation pp 397-99)
And yet for a full three decades that Gandhi led the so-called freedom movement, burdening the Hindus of the country with his deluded search for Hindu-Muslim unity, he kept insisting that Hindus and Muslims were blood brothers and had lived in unity until the British sowed the seeds of discord among Hindus and Muslims!
The British Cabinet Mission came with a report that was crafted to exploit these critical differences and yet Gandhi certifies to British good intent and insists that the Cabinet Mission did not come all the way to India to exploit the differences and disagreement between the INC and the Muslim League!
This writer after a painstaking study of the Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi (CWMG), has laid the blame squarely upon Gandhi for the vivisection of the Hindu Nation because he paralysed the INC from dealing sternly with the British Government and the Muslim League, and also for foisting Nehru upon the Hindu nation. Gandhi’s destructive political activism stemmed from his thoroughly un-Hindu and faulty understanding of the basis of nationhood.
With evil aforethought, Imperial Britain insisted that paramountcy will lapse with transfer of power because Britain predicated its exit plan from India on leaving behind them chaos, instability and civil and communal war.
So what actually did “lapse of paramountcy” mean, and what did the Sapru Committee Report have to say in this regard?
To be continued
Radha Rajan is a Chennai-based political analyst. She is also author and animal activist.