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India at 70: Thanks to Rightwing politics, we’re witnessing a second partition

The Hindu ‘Two Nationists’, helped along with Islamic fundamentalists, will have nothing to do with secularism now. They want in India a partition of the mind within the partitioned nation. Dogged in their aim, they seek to leverage an India traumatised by terrorism, into what it wants, a Hindu Rashtra

columns Updated: Aug 14, 2017 19:59 IST
Partition,Gandhi,Netaji
Gandhi, Bose and Nehru were tough – tough on the colonial power and tough on the communal virus. They did not ‘defend’ secularism. They proclaimed its criticality to India. India un-free is not India, India un-secular is not India(Raj K Raj/HT )

The 15th of August is, in a very special day, the prime minister’s day.

The Red Fort’s rampart waits for him, sees him unfurl the Tricolour from its sandstone majesty and then address his fellow citizens. And we must, on Independence Day, greet our prime minister with a ‘Jai Hind!’

But the Tricolour’s story atop the Red Fort started with one who never was prime minister but gave us something that outlasts all prime ministerships: The greeting ‘Jai Hind!’ He had all that is needed in a leader, in a prime minister, but did not, could not, become prime minister. He has remained an unfulfilled aspiration, an unrequited promise – Netaji.

He stays indelibly etched in the popular imagination, all these seven decades and more since he was last seen, seven decades this year, this month and date, since the Tricolour was hoisted there, on that spot, by our first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru.

But even before he did that, Nehru had become another link between Bose and the Red Fort. The INA personnel were tried in 1945 by court-martial, the first of which trials took place at the Red Fort, four leading lawyers defending the accused – Bhulabhai Desai, Tej Bahadur Sapru, Jawaharlal Nehru and Kailashnath Katju – Desai leading the defence skilfully on the basis of international law, and Nehru clearly shining in the proceedings. And there were three accused in this trial – Prem Sahgal, Gurbaksh Singh Dhillon and Shah Nawaz Khan, one Hindu, one Sikh, one Muslim. There was a nationwide surge of support for the three as symbols of braveheart patriotism and brave-mind secularism. The national chorus fluxed into the cry: ‘Lal Qile se aayee awaaz, Sahgal, Dhillon, Shahnawaz’.

Sugata Bose, in his new book The Nation as Mother describes this passage in our history compellingly.

The INA’s motto – Ittehad, Itmad, Qurbani – meaning Unity, Faith and Sacrifice shot through the country like a bolt of lightning. It bespoke, collectively, India’s future in unity.

Gandhi, Bose and Nehru were tough – tough on the colonial power and tough on the communal virus. They did not ‘defend’ secularism. They proclaimed its criticality to India. India un-free is not India, India un-secular is not India.

The Raj could not mess with their nationalism. The bigot could not mess with their secularism. For the reason they were ready, with the innocents who did die as a result of Partition, to give their lives for it.

The Two Nations Theory says it all.

The Muslim ‘Two Nationists’, helped along with diehard Hindus taunting it, would have nothing to do with secularism. It wanted Partition. Adamant to the end, it succeeded in leveraging the departing Raj to give it what it wanted, Pakistan.

The Two Nations Theory, we must now remind ourselves, had Muslim and Hindu adherents. Pakistan slaked the thirst of the first. That of the second is now wandering over the Indian countryside looking for, thirsting for, disemboweling the Indian earth for, the aquifers of hate.

The Hindu ‘Two Nationists’, helped along with Islamic fundamentalists, will have nothing to do with secularism now. They want in India a partition of the mind within the partitioned nation. Dogged in their aim, they seek to leverage an India traumatised by terrorism, into what it wants, a Hindu Rashtra.

And as this Partition of the Indian mind, as between Hindu and non-Hindu, is being assiduously advanced, what secularists miss is the strategic toughness and philosophic anchorage of a Gandhi, Bose and Nehru in the cause.

Indian pluralism is not just about Sufi music, Iftar embraces and kebabs. It is about being tough. ‘Lal Qile se aayi aawaaz…’

A formidable condemnation of Two Nationist divisiveness came from our former vice president Hamid Ansari in his convocation address at the National Law School University in Bengaluru. Speaking on the eve of demitting office he warned, in words that were made of steely resolve, that the “illiberal form of nationalism” which we are witnessing “promotes intolerance and an arrogant patriotism”.

His own ancestor, MA Ansari would have been proud.

What followed? Studied efforts at sarcasm and even rudeness aimed at Ansari when gratitude should have been offered, respect shown to his person, his office. So much for propriety, basic human decency.

Hamid Ansari should have become President of India.

Even as Dara Shukoh should have been emperor of Hindustan.

But then…

Whom does history honour? That never-say-die prince of secularism or the bigotry that ruled from the Red Fort awhile?

Gopalkrishna Gandhi is distinguished professor of history and politics, Ashoka University

The views expressed by the author are personal

First Published: Aug 14, 2017 16:35 IST