How did Gandhi respond to lapse of paramountcy?
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?
Besides other things, lapse of paramountcy meant that the 565 Princely States in India would not be compelled to become a part of the vivisected Union of India. Each of the Princely states was free to accede to India, to Pakistan or to declare independence. In real terms, Gandhi knew that when the British withdrew from India, lapse of paramountcy meant that the new Union of India would have 565 pockets scattered across the country in a state of simmering turbulence, instability and uncertainty. Not only the Princely States but the Union of India would have to deal with several Muslim states under Nizams and Nawabs either existing as independent entities or as little Pakistans inside Indian borders.
Gandhi knew all this and yet he wholeheartedly welcomed the Cabinet Mission Report as basis for transfer of power, even when he knew that the Sapru Committee Report was a vastly superior document not the least because it was wholly Indian in authorship. The Sapru Committee comprising Tegh Bahadur Sapru, MR Jayakar and N Gopalswamy Iyengar, formulated a report which presented an India-centric and workable basis not only for transfer of power but as a sound basis for the future Constitution of India. The Sapru Committee proposals were made public in Bombay on December 27, 1945 and its opening statement said it all [emphasis added]:
The Committee stands for a single Union of India, including the whole of British India and all the Indian States, the claim for secession or non-accession, by which individual Provinces or States can keep out of the Union is not accepted.
The Committee maintains that throughout it has endeavoured to make a constructive approach to the many knotty problems that confront the country, to investigate them from every angle, to appraise as dispassionately as they could every fact, circumstance or argument and to reach conclusions which in their estimation were calculated promote the lasting interests of India and were likely to elicit the approbation of thinking Indians.(Eclipse of the Hindu Nation, page 404)
So whose interests was Gandhi serving when he refused to even consider this all-Indian report and instead legitimized the Cabinet Mission which insisted not only on vivisection of the nation but also insisted on lapse of paramountcy?
On the question of paramountcy, the Sapru Committee had a clear-headed and well-articulated position too.
Dealing with the Indian States, the Committee says that provision should be made in the constitution for the accession from time to time of Indian States as units of a Federation on such terms as may be agreed upon but the establishment of the Indian Union should not be contingent on the accession to the Federation of any Indian State or of any minimum number of Indian States. The Committee therefore contemplates that the Union need not be identical with Federation and it may include States which have not formally federated. The Committee say: “Our recommendation is that the new constitution should continue at least the unity that now binds the States and British India, though the bond may not be federal. To hang up the Federal Union of such units as are willing to federate until some States, or a minimum number of States, or the last hesitant State had agreed to accede, would be a policy which is calculated to postpone indefinitely the elimination of foreign rule and the achievement of full self-government. The Committee therefore insists that the Union of India should be established without any such waiting and that, while individual States might take their own time to make their minds as to whether they would accede as federated units, all of them should from the outset be treated as in the Union, united with each other and with the rest of India through paramountcy at the Union Centre”.
As regards paramountcy, the report says,
“British suzerainty, which is the mainspring of paramountcy jurisdiction today, will have to cease to exist and the new Union Centre, that is the Federal Cabinet, will come to exercise that jurisdiction over the unfederated States”. (Excerpts from Sapru Committee Report, Eclipse of the Hindu Nation, pp 409-10)
The Sapru Committee proposals rejected the partition of India, rejected lapse of paramountcy and rejected the pernicious idea that the Princely States can even consider the issue of declaring independence. The Committee also did not allow the Princely States the option of non-accession. This precluded the other pernicious idea that Muslim Princely States will be accorded any special status or concessions just because they were Muslim.
Gandhi’s threat to Hindu princes
But Gandhi knowing well that immediate lapse of paramountcy compounded by not allowing paramountcy to be passed to the Union Centre, would cause great turbulence within an already communally charged situation, offered more offence to Hindu Princely States when he appointed Nehru and the Nawab of Bhopal to choose 93 delegates from among the 565 Indian States to participate in the Constituent Assembly.
In the course of his public address at the AICC meeting in Bombay on August 8 announcing the Quit India movement, Gandhi made reference to the Indian Princely States and issued a mildly-worded explicit threat:
I have eaten the Princes’ salt and I would not be false to it. As a faithful servant, it is my duty to warn the Princes that if they will act when I am alive, the Princes may come to occupy an honourable place in free India. In Jawaharlal’s scheme of free India, no privileges or the privileged classes have a place. (CWMG Vol. 83, pp 198-99)
Gandhi did not have a word of reassurance, he refused to reach out to the Hindu Princely States and did not inspire confidence or sense of security in the Princes that he would be receptive to their concerns and act upon them.
It is baffling why Gandhi pointed Hindu Princes in Nehru’s direction and not towards Sardar Patel, Rajaji or anyone else for the matter and why it had to be the Nawab of Bhopal and not a Hindu Maharaja, or why not a Nawab and a Hindu maharaja. Needlessly alienating the Hindu Princely States, Gandhi declared that if the Princely States failed to come to an agreeable solution, then there would be no delegates to represent them in the Constituent Assembly and their issue would be transferred to the Advisory Committee referred to in Clause 20 of the Cabinet Mission State Paper.
It is thus not surprising that CP Ramaswamy Iyer considered Gandhi the most menacing threat to Hindu Princely States. The question remains: why did Gandhi not even consider the Sapru Committee report and why did he insist on going along with the British Government’s agenda for transfer of power which included vivisection of the Hindu nation and creating anarchy in the Princely states? Whose objective was Gandhi serving?
The real reason the RSS and Modi are feared
Consider the following:
- When the Indian National Congress led from the front by Gandhi had been rendered impotent and totally incapacitated from dealing with the Muslim League’s demand for Pakistan
- What did the INC do even after the bloody vivisection of the Hindu nation followed by Pakistan’s invasion and occupation of Kashmir in September 1947?
- Gandhi refused to quit politics and threatened for the nth time in January 1948 to fast unto death if he did not get his way about giving Pakistan that country’s share of the pre-vivisection treasury funds amounting to more than 500 lakh rupees, which Sardar Patel wisely refused to give Pakistan knowing that Pakistan will certainly use it for more aggression against India
- An enraged Hindu shot Gandhi to death.
- Nehru sought to distract a bleeding nation’s attention away from vivisection and away from his own criminal mishandling of Kashmir to Gandhi’s execution and made it easy on himself to blame not the Hindus but the RSS for Gandhi’s assassination
Now consider these:
- It suited Nehru then and suits the Congress now to blame the RSS for Gandhi’s death because blaming Gandhi for partition would be the same as blaming the Indian National Congress and not the Muslim League for partition. Nehru could not blame Hindus for killing Gandhi because that would be tantamount to acknowledging the deep and intense anger of Hindus against Gandhi and the INC. To label Godse as being RSS or Hindu Mahasabha instead of being Hindu served Nehru and his anti-Hindu politics.
- Modi as Chief Minister of Gujarat in 2002 was the unwilling instrument of destiny when jihadis being jihadis burnt alive in Godhra, 57 Hindus – ordinary Hindu men, women and children returning home after a pilgrimage to Ayodhya. Enraged Hindus of Gujarat, like enraged Hindus in Bihar between November 1947 and February 1948, reacted with fury and violence. This writer does not rule out the possibility that Muslim terrorists burnt Hindu pilgrims to death as an act of provocation to test Narendra Modi: What will Modi the RSS pracharak-turned-Chief Minister do now? How will his government respond to Muslim terror?
- As things turned out, what followed the jihadi massacre of Hindu pilgrims in Godhra was not quite what jihadis had scripted in their anti-Modi plot. Hindus of Gujarat reacted with a spontaneous fury which was doused only by Modi’s stern and secular (as opposed to “communal”) use of the army. More Hindus were killed in police and army firing than Muslims – a fact conveniently ignored by Modi’s domestic and foreign enemies. The USCIRF’s last lament is as deceitful and self-serving as the domestic political discourse on the Gujarat riots. The USCIRF does not refer to the victims of jihadi terror attack in the Sabarmati Express as ‘Hindus’ but uses the phrase “Hindu mobs” to describe the riots that followed the Muslim terror attack.
Just as it suited Nehru to blame the RSS for Gandhi’s execution, it suits political mercenaries, including America and its European vassal countries to blame Modi for the Gujarat riots. Gandhi, Nehru, America and the Congress underestimated then and underestimate even now the intensity of Hindu anger and Hindu capacity to express that anger. They were therefore unprepared for it and post-facto continue to delude themselves that there is no Hindu anger, only RSS agenda.
And that is why the RSS and Modi are feared and hated. They represent the resurgence of Hindu political empowerment, something which Nehru was determined to crush with the full might of the state and administrative power. Gandhi had never wanted this resurgence, not since his South Africa years, up until 1946 when he marginalized Sardar Patel to hang the millstone of Nehru as Prime Minister around the country’s neck.
Modi is being punished and harangued because he refused to adhere to Gandhi’s defining political philosophy – punish angry Hindus who react to Abrahamic provocation.
Looking back at Bihar in 1947-48 should give Modi a lot of comfort from knowing how Patel dealt with Gandhi who played Teesta Setalvad when Bihar’s Hindus wreaked vengeance for the Great Calcutta Killings. On a single day, Bengal’s Muslims, with the active support of the Muslim League Government, killed more than 5000 Hindus, many of whom were Hindu migrants from Bihar and Rajasthan. But that was 1947-’48.
Hindus who see in Modi the symbol of their political empowerment must necessarily revisit the history of the Indian National Congress and Gandhi’s megalomaniac political leadership to understand why being anti-Modi now is only a Congress legacy of being anti-Tilak and anti-Aurobindo back then. The Indian National Congress since its inception in 1885, and subsequently – before Gandhi, during Gandhi and after Gandhi was and continues to be anti-Hindu with a genetic self-destructive desire to be ruled and enslaved by foreigners.
Radha Rajan is a Chennai-based political analyst. She is also author and animal activist.