Kanhaiya Kumar and Betrayal of Freedom Struggles

By Saswat Pattanayak

Kanhaiya Kumar’s arrest was unfortunate and so his release on bail is a great relief. But beyond that, to seek revolutionary potential in the hoopla surrounding it, is to miss the point entirely. Competing for authentic nationalism to legitimize an oppressive power structure is not what the Communists do. Quite the opposite.

Sudden excitement and pronouncement of “victory” at the news of a judge granting Kumar’s bail is a betrayal of Kashmiri peoples’ struggles, given the specific contexts of denial of antinationalism on part of these students. It is as if the left-liberals of India were hoping and praying and wishing that the judge found nothing in those tapes that were anti-India. To celebrate Maqbool Bhat and Afzal Guru and then to hope that nothing is spoken against Indian state is a mockery of social justice ethos. Outside of the campus too, no politician in the parliament condemned capital punishment and everyone hailed the court’s verdicts as eternally just. Their voice in unison across party line was “We will not spare whoever raised anti-India slogans, but Kanhaiya Kumar is innocent.” This eagerness to embrace court verdict to be tagged a nationalist should have appeared disappointing to comrade Kumar himself.

But what is disappointing is that the foremost student leader of the most progressive campus in the country, who personally was assaulted within court premises of Delhi by a group lawyers who received bails much before he did, holds a rally where he time and again reposes faith in the judiciary system and in the dominant interpretations of constitutional framework.

Kumar says he does not want Azaadi from India, but within India. Not from India, but from those who are exploiting India. How did he manage to so brilliantly make such distinctions is a puzzle. India as a nationalist construct belongs to the ruling class exploiters – it does not remain in vacuum. One single political party is not responsible for giving shape to India as a monstrously exploitative machinery that continues to “shine” at the expense of the teeming millions who despair. And if that is so, then the party to hoodwink people into believing in a public relations campaign for India is not the BJP, considering how comparatively new entrant it is into this oppressive domain. Comrade Kumar failed to note how this India came into being – on the murders and suicides of countless people who continue to remain in a state of destitute thanks to the capacity of Indian state to overlook their existence, not due to a few right-wing politicians alone. Instead he continued to shower praises and salutes on men in uniform at the borders while classifying them as working class. Of course they are the working class, but the ideology they safeguard is surely within the purview of a communist as well to critique – an option, that was left deliberately unexplored inside JNU that night, because of Kumar’s refusal to speak of Kashmiri crisis, independent of India’s crises.

If JNU protest is not about Indian state, then what was precisely the reason for organizing student assemblies on the day to commemorate Afzal Guru? Is the AISF (and CPI by extension) not aware of the collective aspirations of Kashmiri peoples? Aspirations of North-East that remain subjugated militarily? At what point the “within India” and “from India” became distinctly different notions in a freedom struggle?

Comrade Kumar knows quite well that condemning India or any other country is not about wishing ill for people who live in those territories. It is about demanding the gigantic state machinery to stop oppressions, executions, and political prosecutions of people who reside within the geographic territories that are politically demarcated to be India’s. Kanhaiya Kumar’s arrest and release are within the ambit of India’s judiciary, but what about the dissenting voices from Kashmir and Nagaland and Manipur that demand fellow Indians to reject their country’s colonial overtures precisely because the same judiciary fails them?

Kanhaiya Kumar sees Modi as his rival, and not enemy – and that is totally fine. That is about political aspirations of student leaders. Let us not mistake that for some communistic engagement with issues of colonialism and imperialism. The struggle for Kashmiri people is not a struggle to be recognized as “nationalists within India”. Indeed, their struggle is defined “without”. And that is the fundamental difference which the mainstream left parties in India have failed to grasp to this day. Sadly, JNU leads this delusion from the front.

Quite evidently, the left parties do not understand or even bother to understand the slogans associated with Kashmiri liberation movement. The official communist parties that claim to represent the oppressed working class and the marginalized, unfortunately take the same imperialist high ground of ultra nationalism when it comes to Kashmir. When it is Palestine, the leftists in India are all about anti-Israel propaganda, but when it comes to Kashmir, they hide under the umbrage of constitutional frameworks and pronounce great faith in their state judiciary, and in case of Kanhaiya Kumar, they take pretense of a student mobilization against forces that want to disintegrate India. No disintegration of India – is this the new communist mantra?

But of course, the Indian leftists also have faith in the judiciary that allows Modi to remain PM while his henchmen Kodnani and Bajrangi get bails. What about the police officer who wins gallantry medals from the Constitutional Head of the country after he tortures Soni Sori with stones? There are thousands more reasons for Indians not to get all worked up about becoming nationalists. And therefore, for progressive folks, it is clearly not sufficient to just cite injustices and sing “humein chahiye azaadi” slogans from this and from that, in order to prove political correctness, if at the same time, we refuse to wear the badge of being antinationals with utmost honor.

First of all the judicial pronouncements on JNU are not worthy of celebrations. They are ultranationalist verdicts in themselves in so many ways. Secondly, so what if Arnab Goswami was telling the truth that indeed there were tapes with anti-India slogans? So fuckin what? A country works either for the people or it works against the people. And the Indian reality is that a significant population remains under the burden of Indian militarist state and to say “Down Down India” is to say “Down with Indian colonialism”, and that condemnation of Indian state is only a right thing that decent people should do anyway. If not, then why shy away from “Bharat Maata Ki Jai” slogans? Why fight with ABVP at all, if we feel ashamed to be “antinationals”? Or is it that we just want to compete with the Savarkarites in the guise of being Marxists?

Are we to simply forget AFSPA, if sedition charges are somehow dropped against all JNU students? Is this what it is all about? People have compared Kanhaiya Kumar’s speech with Nehru’s midnight hour speech, as indicative of a second freedom struggle in India. If it is indeed a freedom struggle, then it is a freedom struggle from what, exactly? Nowhere from Comrade Kumar’s speech did it appear that the freedom struggle was from the Indian state ably represented by its ruling class. Appropriating Rohith Vemula who is no more is gross and sick. Did Rohith die because he could not fight Modi? Or because he could not fight the Indian state? Do we not know the difference? And if freedom struggle should be from Indian state, then who are we to determine the fate of Kashmir vis-a-vis indestructibility of the great Indian republic? Then why all the pretense about freedom struggle? Freedom from rising costs of petrol, maybe, but making slogans about freedom from capitalism, imperialism also entail the need to be inclusive of the most marginalized. And the most marginalized population in India do not dwell inside JNU campus, and the most marginalized residents do not see in Narendra Modi or Rahul Gandhi their rivals, but in them they see their class enemies. Comrade Kumar surely knew this.

Being a student leader of AISF, if Comrade Kumar rivals PM Modi while looking straight at the cameras, it is his privilege if not arrogance that reveals itself. There is something macho about it too which I find uncomfortable. Sure Burkha Dutt of Kargil fame is all impressed, since Comrade Kumar’s speech sounded oh so nationalist. But misappropriating the “Azaadi” slogans from Kashmiri freedom fighters, using images of their martyrs on special occasions and then when time comes to articulate a political position, bestowing all glory upon the motherland’s judges, police dudes and parliamentary party politics and sending all sympathy waves to D Raja, Sitaram Yechury, Rahul Gandhi and Arvind Kejriwal? This is parliamentary politics at best. Not revolutionary student politics which recognize no boundaries and nationalist flags when it comes to fighting for justice.

Sure, ABVP got a beating which it deserved. But that could have been done without unnecessary glorification of JNU campus while using as ideological pawns, some of the most marginalized people militarily subjugated “within” the Indian territory crying freedom “from” Indian state excesses, who do not have any access to top constitutional lawyers to repose their faith in state judiciary and holy parliamentary books.

Azaadi from colonialism, Azaadi from militarism, Azaadi from nationalism, Azaadi from draconic laws, Azaadi from Indian annexations – that is what this freedom struggle is supposed to be about. Condemning anti-people laws passed in the parliament and in the courts of India which have nurtured the Indian state itself. Azaadi from India indeed, because for revolutionaries, it is always people above the nations.


Sovereignty, Unity and The State Of Denial

The self-appointed champions of secular liberalism are decrying the recent electoral triumph of Hindu nationalism as a subversion of the true will of the people. Saswat Pattanayak argues that ‘we the people’ must not be let off the hook so easily…. (Kindle Magazine)

Nationalism is an infantile disease. It is the measles of mankind. – Albert Einstein

Contrary to dominant media claims, it is not despite divisive politics that Narendra Modi won the resounding mandate; he instead is it’s natural culmination. For, divisiveness is never the result of political assertions by oppressed socio-cultural minorities against militant nationalistic aspirations; rather, it takes concrete shape through the majoritarian identity politics reveling in patriotic overtures. Divisive is not the politics which ideologically identifies and combats fascist tendencies in one’s assumed country; divisiveness in political climate owes itself to sanctimonious imposition of opportunist conceptions as unquestionable national priorities that override specific needs of the oppressed.

One such conception in recent times involves projection of India as emerging superpower that hosts “world’s oldest civilization” – an enduring and endearing myth that unequivocally demands an end to multicultural pluralism within the country, and harbors a deep suspicion towards the world outside.

BJP’s own election manifestos are constantly updated to reflect the party’s aggressive posturing in as many words. In 2009 edition, the manifesto was less vehement in asserting the myth by stating “Indian civilisation is perhaps the most ancient and continuing civilisation of the world. India has a long history and has been recognised by others as a land of great wealth and even greater wisdom.” In 2014, it dropped the word “perhaps” and emphasized on “always” by beginning the manifesto with these words: “India is the most ancient civilization of the world and has always been looked upon by the world as a land of wealth and wisdom.”

Electoral appeals based on nationalistic outbursts are innately divisive – they require enemies before looking for allies, they condemn diversities before celebrating unity, they overlook special needs before harping on equality rights. In India’s context, they shape nationalism as uniquely Hindu. They also sacrifice dignity in the name of development, undermine humanity in the name of religion, revoke “inner vitality” in the name of civilizational march. Modi’s agenda for “Ek Bharat – Shreshtha Bharat” must also resort to depicting rival parties as “foreigners’ parties”. The seduction of patriotism must encompass rejection of entities who cannot impressively elevate their own jingoism. This year the expectations were so high that despite her foreign origin issue apparently laid to rest, Sonia Gandhi still had to make a televised appearance specifically to reassert her patriotism.

To absolve Congress/UPA of its role in resulting political miseries today would be dishonest. Several of its neoliberal policies have indeed landed India in an economic mess which will require nothing short of a fundamental restructuring – which neither the Congress nor the BJP are prepared or willing to undertake. If the Congress has introduced policies of economic liberalization, it is the BJP which has worked towards its greater implementation – rhetorically, both the parties may indulge in patriotic duels, but in reality, they have never been shy of auctioning off the public lands for private interests. Contrary to popular circulations by the nationalist Right, it is not the “inner vitality” of Indian nation that will be rejuvenated following the new electoral results, but perhaps, quite the contrary.

It is only appropriate to recall in these times the words of Italian communist leader Antonio Gramsci, who had further theorized Lenin’s use of the term hegemony, while courageously battling the fascists almost a century ago: “The more the immediate economic life of a nation is subordinated to international relations, the more a particular party will come to represent this situation and to exploit it, with the aim of preventing rival parties gaining the upper hand. Often the so-called ‘foreigner’s party’ is not really the one which is commonly so termed, but precisely the most nationalistic party – which, in reality, represents not so much the vital forces of its own country, as that country’s subordination and economic enslavement to the hegemonic nation or to certain of their number.” In Gramscian times, “foreigner’s party” was a term used by the nationalist Right to depict the communist parties in Italy. Prior to that, Mazzini’s Action Party used to be vilified similarly since it was influenced by the idea of the French Revolution. In our times, while BJP tends to be nationalistic party, the Congress Party resembling Action Party of the center-left ideology remains the “foreigner’s party” along with the various communist parties.

What Then?
“Hurricane Modi swept through the heartland and beyond…The Modi typhoon that swept away BJP’s rivals in the Hindi heartland…Modi, who mauled powerful regional satraps in states where the caste narrative marginalised national parties, showed that he has the wherewithal to beat them at their own game…The new social umbrella that Modi has forged—‘upper’ castes, OBCs, MBCs and a sizeable section of Dalits— would give the BJP a lethal support base in any electoral combat. “Modi’s ‘backward caste’ image will not put off the ‘upper caste’ voter. The Modi brand has something for everyone.” (Open Magazine, 16 May, 2014)

It is said that during the period of National Emergency when journalists were asked to bend, they crawled. Under Modi, it appears as though we are doing as much, even without being asked. As if the uncritical adulation and the unabashed defense of a communal politician is not shocking enough, there are terms like “Hinduphobia” floating around these days to portray the new ruling class as a potential victim of an imaginary witch-hunt. One commentator in Huffington Post alludes to “civilizational Hindu point of view” in his depiction of a fictitious battle between India and Hinduphobia – and he surmises that India has voted in favor of India (much as a journalist should, while acting as a “stenographer for the government” to quote I.F. Stone).

For, “India has won” was also the tweet by Modi himself to describe the results. And Modi could be right. This is the India we knew always existed amidst us and thrived over the decades. This India was socio-culturally undeniable a construct, despite occasional rise to influence by a few reformers and revolutionaries who challenged it from time to time. Religious beliefs, superstitions, casteism, nepotism, misogyny, greed, and bullying as core features of this India always preceded our keenness to pursue ideological understanding of political economy.

Gleeful celebrations of Modi over the past few months have merely brought it all to a full circle as it so happens that this robust, vibrant, shining India has now also found a complimenting political outlet. For those of us who desired for a different tally, it is not the victory of Narendra Modi. It is the victory of an India we have always cheered for, consciously or subconsciously; an India viciously right-wing in socio-cultural and, now, political character.

It is important to make distinctions between the socio-cultural and the political in understanding how a secular idea called India has ended up in the hands of the communal voters masquerading as Indians. How does a country that had its Prime Ministers celebrate norms of secularism by invariably recalling Mahatma Gandhi in their first address to the nation end up with Modi, who reminds the nation of the centenary celebrations of rightwing Hindu ideologue Deendayal Upadhyaya instead? How does a country prepare itself to be headed by an active member of the RSS – an organization banned thrice on the charges of being communal, then celebrate such an occasion with tearful joys? How do many of the country’s prominent intellectuals and cultural icons express jubilation at the victory of a political party that possibly has its origins through hate-mongering, and prosperity through orchestrated genocides?

Maybe because the trends were always showing culturally, although somewhat limited (or, disallowed) politically. Perhaps the private lives of Indian citizens were not in consonance with the state policies outlined in the constitution. As a reflection of clear dismissal of secular ethos, the National Executive member of BJP Sheshadri Chari recently remarked following his party’s victory: “The jury is out. The constitution does not defend the word secularism and it was added into the Preamble in 1975.” It is almost as though we privately abide by secularism only because it has juridical weight. To quote Gramsci who had proposed two superstructural levels: “the one that can be called ‘civil society’, that is the ensemble of organisms commonly called ‘private’, and that of ‘political society’ or ‘the State’. These two levels correspond on the one hand to the function of ‘hegemony’ which the dominant group exercises throughout the society and on the other hand to that of ‘direct domination’ or command exercise through the State and ‘juridical government.’”

Hypothetically speaking, if secularism were to be removed today from the Preamble, how would the private lives be for us Indians? We the people who have historically practiced untouchability as part of our Hindu “way of life”, and still very much do (even BJP in its latest manifesto is “committed to the eradication of untouchability at all levels”). We the people who gleefully demolish shrines and persecute minorities and overwhelmingly participate in communal riots. We the people who authorize the State in sending Kashmiri freedom fighters to gallows – from Maqbool Bhat to Afzal Guru, brushing aside legitimate concerns over prejudiced trials. From slapping sedition charges against students for cheering Pakistani cricket team to imprisoning professors and social workers on grounds of being Maoist sympathizers – considering innumerable such injustices have taken place regardless of who was at the helm of power, can we the people truly become secular, even if we tried?

As Dr. Ambedkar wrote once, “This country has seen the conflict between ecclesiastical law and secular law long before Europeans sought to challenge the authority of the Pope. Kautilya’s Arthshastra lays down the foundation of secular law. In India unfortunately ecclesiastical law triumphed over secular law. In my opinion this was the one of the greatest disasters in the country. The unprogressive nature of the Hindu society was due to the notion that the law cannot be changed.”

Since Hindu society has always remained the dominant group in India, Ambedkar was not averse to discarding the entire identification with Hinduism. He conceptualized an India where there would be no scope for “Hindu nationalists”, no possibility for anyone like Modi to proudly claim as he did in his interview to Reuters last year: “I am nationalist. I’m patriotic. Nothing is wrong. I am born Hindu. Nothing is wrong. So I’m a Hindu nationalist. So yes, you can say I’m a Hindu nationalist because I’m a born Hindu.” Dr. Ambedkar had foreseen such an advent, which is precisely why he had warned the country in the following words, “Personally myself I say openly that I do not believe that there is any place in this country for any particular culture, whether it is Hindu culture, or a Muhammadan culture, or a Kanarese culture or a Gujarati culture. There are things we cannot deny, but they are not to be cultivated as advantages, they are to be treated as disadvantages as something which divides our loyalty and takes away from us our common goal. That common goal is the building up of a feeling that we are all Indians. I do not like what some people say, that we are Indians first and Hindus afterwards or Muslims afterwards. I am not satisfied with that, I frankly say that I am not satisfied with that. I do not want that our loyalty as Indians should be in the slightest way affected by any competitive loyalty whether that loyalty arises out of our religion, out of our culture or out of our language. I want all people to be Indian first, Indian last and nothing else but Indians.”

Nothing else but Indians has been predictably compromised during BJP’s campaigns in various states this season. Amit Shah’s call for “revenge for the insult” in Uttar Pradesh should have resulted in a boycott of the BJP in the state, and yet it landed up with overwhelmingly majority seats. What became worse was how in a unique backlash against minority assertions, Islamic leaders were compared with Hindu supremacists by media and election commission alike. Once the minorities were brought to the level of the Hindu majority in receiving the equal flak, it was just a matter of competitive loyalty then on, in which the majority, quite naturally, had a comfortable victory.

Oppressed minorities in any society are not equal to the oppressive majority. This is a simple proposition which often gets lost amidst modern criticisms of secularism. Whereas it is perfectly alright for various minority groups to organize themselves for cultural promotion, linguistic preservation or even political self-defense to a certain degree, it is absolutely unacceptable for members of the dominant group of a given society to organize themselves accordingly. Whereas what results from minority organizations is a celebration/possibility of diversity and pluralism, what results from majority organizations is blatant display of fascist politics. In other words, whereas it is not hate speech to claim that Muslims have sacrificed themselves in wars against Pakistan, it is clearly hate speech to assume that Muslims are unpatriotic Indians; because in the former instance, minorities speak in their defense in order to doubly attempt to prove their loyalty to the nation, whereas the latter instance would be one where even an irresponsible remark by a member of the majority can further isolate and jeopardize the interests of minorities.

Indian nationalism of Ambedkar, Gandhi and Nehru therefore fundamentally differs from the Hindu nationalism. Rajnath Singh rightly said recently that the dream of Deendayal Upadhyaya was pursued by Advani and Vajpayee, and finally has been fulfilled by Modi. He is right because Indian nationalism has resoundingly departed from Gandhi’s path, and has been replaced by Hindu nationalism – a philosophy that had once succeeded in assassinating Gandhi.

Even as the focus has been identified, the fight for social justice must go beyond Modi government and one’s imaginations for political possibilities must not be surrendered only within the confines of democratic elections. For, this replacement of values did not take place overnight. It did not start with Narendra Modi. It began with the regular Hindu families – of yours, and of mine. It started over the dining table discussions over the evils of reservations. It started with great expectations from our meritorious children to leave others behind in the race for excellence. It started with our charitable cooperation towards the status quo, where giving alms to the beggars took precedence over translating empowering literatures. It started with our collective jubilation at defeating neighboring nations in sports, in distributing ladoos at hanging of “terrorists”, and in remaining ever prepared to lay down our lives in the name of territorial sanctities. It started with our pious denunciation of meat-eaters and needless reverence towards vegetarians – privileged enough to be selective about their diets. Narendra Modi merely provided for a punching bag. For us Indian liberals so committed to thwart Modi’s designs, the real battle must take place inside our own homes, around the textbooks our children unquestionably consume, with our family values that continue to be shaped by Brahminical scriptures, calendars and wisdom. And just because some caste folks eat meat or vote against BJP or unfriend bigots on social media, it has no bearing upon the amount of sustained efforts required to challenge the Hindu supremacist system that has been glorified in India, since well before any modern political party came into existence. Dictatorial Modi may be running a vicious one-man show for BJP. But the well-meaning liberals in India have been running the Hindutva show for several generations now.

BJP’s stellar performance is not the contribution of a failed Rahul Gandhi. It is a mandate by the country ever so in denial of its supremacist potentials. Even in the mammoth defeat of the liberals, we scrounge for figures that would suggest that BJP has received merely one-third vote share. Apparently, that provides us the solace. Before Modi came to power, we continued to reject any Modi-wave whatsoever. And even after he bosses over the parliament, the educated liberal Hindu folks are looking for convenient numbers to absolve ourselves off our responsibilities, if not complicity. Intellectuals not only are able to articulate the direction a country takes, they also lend credence to that. Gramsci said as much about their roles in furthering the prestige of the dominant group in any society, until the group emerges too dangerous to be tackled anymore – “The intellectuals are the dominant group’s ‘deputies’ exercising the subaltern functions of social hegemony and political government. These comprise: 1) The ‘spontaneous’ consent given by the great masses of the population to the general direction imposed on social life by the dominant fundamental group; this consent is ‘historically’ caused by the prestige (and consequent confidence) which the dominant group enjoys because of its position and function in the world of production. 2) The apparatus of state coercive power which ‘legally’ enforces discipline on those groups who do not ‘consent’ either actively or passively. This apparatus is, however, constituted for the whole of society in anticipation of moments of crisis of command and direction when spontaneous consent has failed.”

The spontaneous consent to BJP is in fact caused by India’s historical propensity for Hindu dominance. Until now, barring intermittent sessions, Hindu nationalism was part of the civil society (the private) in India, but now they are dominating the political society (the State) with unprecedented success. Reversal in sight through electoral reconfigurations is merely hogwash, since it changes very little. Let’s take Odisha as an instance, where there has been no Modi wave, and yet Christians are routinely harassed and the Hindu way of life prevents Dalits, Muslims and foreigners from sharing Lord Jagannath’s blessings in the same way the caste Hindus do. “Modi wave” may only legitimize the coercive power of state apparatus, but the privileges of the dominant group that gave rise to Modi, has remained a constant due to our refusal to take a stand on religious absurdities. What Gopalkrishna Gandhi recently hoped for in his open letter to Narendra Modi reinforces once again the hegemonist notion that it is indeed possible for someone “to be Savarkar in the heart and yet Ambedkar in the mind”. The truth is there is no reconciliation among the two. There is no reconciliation between Savarkar’s Hindu and Ambedkar’s India – they stand diametrically opposed. India can never be a Hindu nation and a Hindu nation can never be India.

What Now?

Contradictions abound in the new political landscape. Like Savarkar’s divisive Hindutva excluded other religions, so does Modi’s prescriptions of Hinduism as the way of life for Indians. To reemphasize, Modi did not win the mandate because he opposed divisive politics, but because he profited from it. Not because he spoke against identity politics but because it is the victory of the identity politics – that of the Hindu identity. That of a Hindu nation. A supremacist majoritarian identity has merely triumphed over the stifled oppressed identities. It is not the unity of Indians across caste/religion lines that gave rise to Modi. It is the disunity of people who are divided along various social divisions – thanks to the all pervading Hindu ethos – to distrust each other, rather than to unite as a politically empowered working class to thwart domestic and global capitalists, which has empowered the fascists. BJP is a political vulture (with due apologies to the bird) that aimed to gain the most from a divided working class. And it has amply succeeded, thanks to the virulently anticommunist Indian society.

At the cost of incurring the wrath of the politically correct who must treat the act of voting as sacrosanct, we should be able to denounce a backward society that thrives off feudal values, a nation whose literacy quest remains abysmally apolitical, a country whose ruling class remains emphatically anti-intellectual, a people that remain conflicted based on fictitious religious romanticisms rather than expressing solidarities to foster class interests among the oppressed. If religion is the opium of the masses, the communal politicians remain the drug dealers. In allowing for them to legally operate as cultural peddlers and in ennobling them to take the political centerstage, it is we the people who must bear responsibility and solemnly resolve once again – this time to reconstitute India into a sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic republic.

Our resolve must be strong enough to prevent encounters of Ishrat Jahans, jail terms for Binayak Sens, sedition charges against Arundhati Roys; our resolve must become strong enough to prevent arrests of G.N. Saibabas, Hem Mishras, Prashant Rahis; our resolve must emerge strong enough to let no politician call Kerala a nursery for terrorism, or to demand Hindu ancestry of religious minorities. Finally, our resolve must be relentless in not forgetting amidst all electoral festivities, that elections are not about personalities or parties – they are about ideas. Idea of India as a sovereign democratic republic needs to be contested on the basis of whether the country surrenders to imperialistic designs – threats from foreign powers or through its own military – or chooses to remain sovereign and therefore respects struggles for sovereignty by lands oppressed by it. Idea of India needs to be contested on the basis of whether it allows capitalistic expansions by private capital, regardless of whether it is global or domestic, or it chooses to pursue socialist economy. Idea of India needs to be contested on the basis of whether the country remains at the disposal of Hindu supremacists or it celebrates secularism by allowing for sufficient reflections and correctional measures to check the growth of majoritarian militancy.

And if we fail at our renewed resolve in safeguarding even the Constitution we once dedicated to ourselves, now that we discover the political crossroads – contrary to what the champions of resurgent nationalism claim, India might even have won, but Indians would eventually lose.

Hindus, Muslims and Secular Traditions: Vande Mataram (Part II)

Vande Mataram debate has almost engulfed India these days. I would not claim it to be entirely of no consequence. And those who say that people should be left to sing what they want to, in the tradition of liberal democracy, in my view again, are continuing to enjoy a Hindu privilege. If for a moment, they would imagine how it feels to be member of a minority group being subjected to a song that was targeted against them, most of us would clearly understand the inherent pain. Muslims in India have been told from the beginning that they are citizens of a secular country, and it is the responsibility of the Hindu majority to live upto that expectation. There must not be any confusion in this regard.

Furthermore, some of my beloved readers of this blog have vociferously attacked the communalism in Islam, and in fact to that extent shown solidarity with Bankim Chandra, the poet of Vande Mataram, who also happens to be the founding father of modern Bengali literature.

I am not surprised at the way both perceptions have been intertwined. However, I shall like to dispel some myths about the dismissal of Islam as a communal or fanatical religion, as many in the Hindutva brigade would like to portray it and influence some of us in that process in their abominable quest to establish a “Hindu Rashta”. Some even bring to question the credibility of Mohd. Iqbal who penned down “Sare Jahan se Achha” and compared it with “Vande Mataram”, which I think is a valid comparison, but a grossly non-issue, this time. I will attempt to make some clarifications within the limits of a weblog:

Vande Mataram vs Sare Jahan se Achha:

Let there be no doubt that the origins of the writings and the world-views of the authors are important in understanding the significance of any work. However, even while doing so, one should always keep in mind the socio-political context in which the works have been authored.

I have elaborated on Vande Mataram already in a previous post. The origin of the song was embedded in the work “Ananda Matha” which was just like every other written work of Bankim Chandra, a highly hindu supremacist literature. It clearly outlined Bankim’s aversion towards Muslim people and possibly could have sowed the seed among the Bengali community to later on engage in the religious animosities that eventually led to partition of India into two separate religious regions (East Bengal-Pakistan region and India).

Sensitizing the Bengali population to become reactionary elements in that age was the sole aim of Bankim Chatterjee, and he fairly succeeded in it (which is why the Hindu hymn became so popular to begin with). It can be said without a doubt Bankim was the founding father of reactionary Bengali literature and unfortunately as it is, quite a handful of works during that time thrived with feudal stories and patriarchal protagonists with entire omission of British misrule, (Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay’s stories included) thanks to the unmistakable popularity of this legendary writer.

Speaking of historical context, Bankim Chatterjee lived at a time that was not about “Islam invasion”, that his works were so apprehensive about. It was rather a time when British people had already invaded India. The primary enemies of Indian people were the British colonialists. And yet, Chatterjee was a loyal civil servant of the British administration, and worked as a deputy collector. And he was instrumental in sowing the seeds of two-nation theory through his works full of hatred for Muslims, who he used to describe as “Mlechhas”.

As regards Mohd. Iqbal, who is unfortunately brought to discussion in the context of Bande Mataram controversy, one can only say this. Mohd. Iqbal was a patriot of the highest order whose revolutionary songs were targeted against the British rule only. He had no expressed hatred against Hindus, although looking at growing popularity of Hindutva brigade within the Congress those days, he had sufficient reason to turn skeptical. Muslims, Buddhists and Dalits were among the most oppressed in India, and yet they were the least represented in the high echelons of Congress power. Congress was losing its secular focus with continued tension between Nehru and Patel. Despite Gandhiji’s reluctance, the Patel faction was growing in strength also due to the immense influence the Indian business houses had on sponsoring Gandhi’s visits and shelters at Ashrams. In disillusionment, Netaji Subhas also had to quit Congress. One needs to remember that the hindu fanatics had taken up so much of political space that Netaji Subhash was as unsure as Mohd. Iqbal about the eventual victory of Indians under leadership of mere religious reformers. Netaji was always known for his determined effort to persuade people to give up all their political differences and get united under the banner of Congress. He has emphatically stated that Congress was the only platform that needs support from people all across political spectrum, thus helping to enlist thousands of communists as well as receiving communist support to win the presidentship. However, Netaji was deeply influenced by the Soviet system of governance, its secularism and collective ownerships and he wanted to establish India in similar lines. Except for Nehru, who had himself visited Soviet Union and was a pronounced supporter of Marxist philosophy, Netaji could not gather support from any other major leader, finally leading to his quitting the party and forming an alternative Left organization.

It was during these times that Mohd. Iqbal also went through transformation as he was witnessing how the power structure of Congress was slipping into the hands of Hindu fundamentalists. He used to be a teacher in Philosophy after completing MA from Lahore University. During the college days, his radical poetry to destabilize the British rule with united efforts from Hindus and Muslims were inflammatory enough. At the same time, while on a short visit to London, Iqbal became conscious of the international Islamic revolutions against the European colonial powers, and his alignment towards Islamists became sharper. India was not merely struggling for independence from British during those days, one also needs to remember that some Hindu supremacists within the Congress were making clear their intent to get rid of Urdu as the lingua franca (which it was till that period), and to declare a Hindustan where Muslims would be tokenly represented as was the trend. Hindu leaders like Rajendra Prasad, Radhakrishnan, Sardar Patel were rabidly pursuing Hindu scholarships. And Gandhi himself was trying to adjust to Hinduism demands by “reforming” the religion, not condemning it. Clearly the country was about to be divided, just like Bankim Chatterjee had envisaged, the question was regarding when.

Bankim and Iqbal: Dichotomies

Again unlike Bankim Chatterjee who preached religious violence based on Militant Hinduism, Mohd Iqbal was deeply secular despite being a Muslim. And this is why there were attempts to caste aspersions on his popularity. Iqbal’s poetry were nationally sung and were widely popular (interestingly, it became popular even on the space when Rakesh Sharma made India proud by saying he saw “Sare Jahan Se Achha” from above when asked by Indira Gandhi about what India looked like to him while he was on the Soviet space expedition). Iqbal’s poetry was in Urdu, as opposed to Sanskrit, and that was a great dichotomy already. He was a Muslim revolutionary writing about the poor and the oppressed people of India grounded on realism of political economy. Chatterjee was a Hindu Brahmin reactionary who was writing about glorification of one-nation of Hindu India that was conditional upon annihilation of the Muslims. Whereas Chatterjee was preaching that deaths of Muslims were inevitable for India to be a proud nation, Iqbal was writing:

“Gurbat mein ho agar hum, rehta hai dil watan mein
Samjho wohi humein bhi, dil mein jahna hamara
Majhab nahni sikhata, aapas mein bair rakhna
Hindi hain hum, watan hain Hindustan humara”

(roughly translated it means: We are where our hearts are, and even when we reside abroad, our hearts live in our land. Thus artificial borders cannot separate our patriotic feelings. What of the religions? Our religions do not teach us to create enemies among each other. We are the people from the land of the Hind and shall remain thus despite religions and artificial borders.)

This was the great radical poet Mohd. Iqbal who wrote this “Taraana-e-Watan” among other brilliant works where he always stressed on Hindu-Muslim unity that was needed to overthrow the British rulers.

Sadly, the country was so taken hostage by the Hindu supremacists that they did everything possible to highlight Bankim Chatterjee’s conservative anti-Islam works while they continued to demean Mohd Iqbal. Any serious reader of progressive literature would be able to fathom the length at which Iqbal was subsequently saddened by the way his hopes for a united India was being shattered through the aspirations of the growing Hindu militancy even within the rank and file of the mainstream Congress.

I am reproducing a rare poem of Mohd Iqbal written to his beloved son, where he is asking his child to treat poverty as an asset, and not a weakness. Living the life of the oppressed calls for revolution against the foreign invaders, he declares. He directs his son to recognize that Mother Nature (interesting because its not a similar portrayal like Goddess Durga) has gifted a heart to him that must be used to appreciate the diversity of flowers (his stress on ‘Gul’ is consistently present in most of his poems, including another poem by the name ‘Gul Hai to Gulistan ho’. Also interesting, considering that flowers have universal appeal unlike nation-state names). Iqbal asks his son to dedicate life towards serving the poor and the oppressed in a colonial India and not get disheartened by inherent limitations. “Do not be a sell-out; Make a name amidst poverty!”

“Garibi mein Naam Paida Kar”

Dayare-Ishq mein apna muqaam paida kar
Naya Zamaana naye subh-o-shaam paida kar

Khuda agar dil-e-fitrat-shanaas de tujhko
Sukute-laal-o-gul se kalaam paida kar

Utha na shisha-garane-Firang ke ehsaan
Sifale-hind se mina-o-jaam paida kar

Mein shakhe-taak hnu meri gazal hai mera samar
Mere samar se maya-e-lalafam paida kar

Meri tariq amiri nahni fakiri hain
Khud-i na bech, garibi mein naam paida kar

I could go on quoting from the works of the great poet who did his best to promote religious harmony in the country that was facing threats from fanatic Hindus and insecure Muslims in terms of its future. And bowing down to the pressure of the Hindu revivalism that was to sketch a conditional secular country, Iqbal, like Malcolm X of African-American struggle, turned more towards recognizing the religious mainstream than secular alternatives. When he died in 1937, the entire country mourned the great loss whose expectations could not be lived upto by millions of people of the country who were engaged in falling into the traps of Hindu supremacists’ hatred towards Muslims as well British endorsement of the riots. What’s ironic is that Hindu atrocities those days were only usually tolerated with grief (as Gandhiji famously used to feel ‘sad’ about the conditions in a non-violent manner, which later allowed people like Patel to infiltrate Kashmir with terrorism), and it was continuation of a tradition. What’s often missed in the discourse is that most Muslims actually were converted from Hinduism because of the atrocities and caste-structures of Hinduism. Islam, despite its Shia/Sunni divisions never practiced “untouchability” which was a cornerstone of Hindu religion, and continues to exist even today in practice.

Finally, the categorical difference between Iqbal and Chatterjee was that whereas the former was a die-hard secular who wanted a “Hindustan” based on religious harmony, Chatterjee was a Hindu fanatic and British loyalist who wanted the country to be divided into two parts. Of course Chatterjee won by design since that’s also what the British wanted, and later on towards the late 30’s and early 40’s even the secular people of India had no other option than to accept the two-nation theory, simply because in the other case, there was a clear indication that India would have been ruled by Hindu Brahmins almost to the exclusion of Muslim leaders in power sharing. Even having more Muslim population in India than there is in Pakistan, today, India continues to oppress Muslims when it comes to relegating power.

Those who say that Congress is “appeasing” the minorities are entirely misguided. In fact, Congress, as much as the BJP, has been appeasing the majority in all respects, as a result of which the country’s power equation has fallen in the hands of Hindu Brahmin Supremacists.

Historical evidences, and why the right-wing never quite gets it right?

“Battle of Algiers” is considered to be a landmark in the history of cinema. And its Italian director Gillo Pontecorvo (who co-wrote it with the great Franco Solinas) shot Algeria while the Islamic revolution was defeating French colonialists in the 60’s. His extremely sympathetic treatment of cause of the revolutionaries won him great admiration from the progressive world, whereas the French were quick to ban the film in their country.

Encouraged by the response from the world over, he and his son went ahead to shoot Algeria once again, this time in the 90’s to get the pulse of the country under Islamic rule. Surprised as he was, his videos showed that people just could not tolerate his entry into the country, simply because he was a European filmmaker. However, after knowing that this was the man who had directed “Battle of Algiers”, he was immediately recognized by the new generation of people who greeted him, although with a little pinch of salt.

Seeing the commotion on the streets, a fellow European journalist asked him the reason behind Islam being such a violent religion. Such violent was it, that the Muslims even would not entertain a Marxist filmmaker like Pontecorvo, just because he was a European. Since throughout Pontecorvo was sad while shooting the second film in Algeria (and at some places children were spitting on his car), I was anxious to see how Pontecorvo responds to this stereotyped “European” question.

Pontecorvo, unfazed, replied that Islam was never a violent religion. Indeed its been violent from phase to phase since last 200 years only, and that marks the beginning of European colonization period. It was only in the manner that the European colonizers projected an image of the Muslim people as inherently backward that, they are now facing the wrath of a reaction (which is an ‘open wound’ still). He said he is convinced that the women in Algeria are not oppressed due to their religion, they are oppressed due to economic sanctions imposed by a group of elite colonialists who have made wealth by looting the Muslims during their illegal occupations. As regards the culture, Islamists were not ‘backward’ and the women were not ‘humiliated’. When asked why the women then covered themselves up in such primitive manner, Pontecorvo quoted a female Muslim doctor who said that burka is actually one of the most liberal outfit a woman can wear. It reveals the least and that’s why it makes the woman sexier. The point is to also see the perspectives of the other culture from different levels.

This is also a lesson one can get from the various radical postcolonial studies about how the Islam was never a regressive or oppressive religion in comparison to any other (every religion thrives on codes that are equally repressive). As in the case of India, MJ Akbar, the renowned journalist and author, gives the most comprehensive account about Muslim Rule in his book “Kashmir: Behind the Vale”.

He cites how Saiyyid Bilal Shah (called with love as Bulbul Shah) introduced Islam with love and compassion. That was a time when Kashmir was being ruled by Hindu King Sahadeva. Owing to Bulbul Shah’s immense popularity, there was great support for him, and consequently the King had befriended him in order to carry on the rule. In fact by the time Bulbul Shah passed away in 1327, the king, king’s brother and commander-in-chief of the army were all converted to Islam! The converted king had even constructed Bulbul Langar in Srinagar.

Two things can be noticed here. One, that the King was himself a convert, naturally a voluntary one. And there were many Hindus, predominantly lower castes, but also quite many Kashmiri Pundits themselves, who were horribly disenchanted by Hinduism’s orthodoxy and voluntarily converted themselves. In fact, works by Mulla Ahmed, the first Sheikh-ul-Islam, such as “Fatwa-i-Shihabi”, and “Shihab-i-Saqib” were immensely secular works that held more relevance to Hindus and Muslims than the epic superstitious mythologies of Hinduism.

Upon death of mongol expansionist Kublai Khan (1260-1294), there were huge tribal uprising that led to death of Beijing’s viceroy Lha-Chen-Dugos Grub. Tribes attacked the region Sonamarg valley, which was being ruled by Rama Chandra, who was the prime minister of King Sahadeva. But Sahadeva did not lend much support to Rama Chandra during the period of crisis when tribals attacked the area (in fact Sahadeva was supportive of the tribals). This betrayal led to Rama Chandra declaring himself as the King. As a rather feeble king, Rama Chandra was no match for Lha-Chen’s son Rinchin who attacked the king soon after. Rinchin had escaped the border and aspired to be a king, as much as his friend from Swat valley Shah Mir. Rinchin with support of Mir took over the palace. And Rinchin was declared the Lord of Kasmir on 6 October 1320. Interestingly, Rama Chandra’s daughter Kota who was in love with Rinchin much before the attack, quickly declared herself the queen.

Rinchin’s era is considered to be the golden age in the history of Kashmir, as Rinchin was a Buddhist and he wanted to spread peace throughout the region. He not only married Rama Chandra’s daughter, he also made Rama Chandra’s sons his prime ministers. But since Rinchin was a Buddhist, he could not rule over the state that did not have much Buddhist presence. Hence he decided to convert to Hinduism and called for the head priest. And as shocking as it may sound, the high priests of Hinduism declined to convert him, since they could not determine what caste in the hierarchy was King Rinchin!

Since the Brahmin pundits exercised this folly, Shah Mir found the opportunity to ask his friend to convert to Islam. Although Rinchin was skeptical, he soon saw the great Sufi divine Bulbul Shah at a prayer. Bulbul Shah provided Rinchin what the Brahmins could not: a casteless religion. Islam had no caste: it was built on the equality of humans and faith in the omnipotence of Allah and His last Messenger, the prophet Muhammad. To become a Muslim, Rinchin only had to utter the Qalimah: ‘La-e-laha illallah, Muhammad un-Rasul Allah’.

Rinchin thus became a Muslim, and Islam arrived not through violent coercion, but through peaceful understanding of a harmonious religion. Rinchin took the name Sultan Sadruddin, and built a mosque called Bodro Masjid. During his friend Shah Mir’s rule as Sultan Shamsuddin, a dynasty that lasted for 222 years, Islam had become the paramount religion of Kashmir, but because of its popular success and their identification with the Kashmiri people. Jonaraja described this rule:

“This believer in Allah, calm and active, became the savior of the people and protected the subjects.”

And throughout, despite the brahminical prejudices against the converted kings (Hindus and Budhhists who had turned into Muslims), the Muslim rulers were always sympathetic towards the high priests. It was the period when Nand Rishi or Lal Ded and other religious people flourished. In fact, Abul Fazl wrote in the Ain-i-Akbari:

“The most respected people are the Rishis who, although they do not suffer themselves to be fettered by traditions, are doubtless the true worshippers of God. They do not revile any other sect, nor ask anything of anyone. They plant the roads with fruit trees to provide the traveler with refreshments. They abstain from meat and have no intercourse with the other sex. There are 2000 of these Rishis in Kashmir.”

Moghul rulers likewise, and especially Akbar, were aware of the large Hindu population and worked towards their harmonious living. Firstly, it was the most practical thing to do, since any alternative could have called for doom. Tribal populations were always up in arms against any empire, and it could become a matter of time before Hindus got disenchanted and joined the revolution. To that end, the emperors were forced to be considerate towards diversity of religions. Needless to point out, just as characteristic of any empire (just like it is true in today’s so-called democracies running large thought controls called mainstream media), there were state propaganda working those days to lull people to passivity and relaxation instead of agitated uprising. And just like today’s cheap slavery and draconic hours of call centers, people were forced those days to seek cheap labor in works they had no interests in. But as evidenced, the secularism during the Muslim and Moghul periods were quite practiced at several levels.

“The fusion of Islamic culture with existing Indian culture achieved the most positive expression in the activities of the artisan classes of the towns and amongst the cultivators, as is evident from the socio-religious ideas of the time, and also in primarily artisan activities such as building monuments, the fusion being evident in the architecture of the period. The pattern of living in both these classes came to be interrelated to a far greater degree than amongst the nobility. Domestic ceremonies and rituals such as those connected with birth, marriage, and death became mingled. The converted Muslims were also heirs to long-standing rituals practiced by the Hindus. New ceremonies which had come with Islam, and which were regarded as auspicious, crept into Hindu ritual.”
(page 300, A History of India, Volume One. Romila Thapar.)

Upon deconstruction, what it merely suggests is that Moghul rule created more problems for the upper caste Hindu feudalists than the working peasants. The assimilation was seen more among Muslims and the working poor of India, than between Muslims and the upper caste people.

Now I will quote from Orissamatters, authored by SCP, who is an eminent journalist of Orissa:

“Kalhan’s classic work ‘Rajtarangini’ describes how the Brahmins conspired against Queen Dida as she was not patronizing to Brahminism and after her death, beheaded from behind Sri Tunga, the most powerful protector of the liberal policies of the Late Queen.
So ruthlessly the Brahmins known as Kashmir Pundits imposed their caste supremacy that the people exploited under caste apartheid jumped into Islam which was not vitiated by caste system. They not only became Muslims en masse, but also they became so with so much revengeful resolution that they drove away the Pundits from the soil.
The entire land mass that has now become Pakistan and Bangladesh was the dwelling place of Indians where our ancient people had established their own civilization. It is the Brahmins’ supremacist mentality that has helped Islam to spread in India.
So whosoever has embraced the Muslim religion in this Sub-Continent is an Indian who has revolted against Brahminism, against Brahminic caste apartheid.”

Eminent historian Irfan Habib says that Moghul rulers had even appointed Brahmins as administrators owing to their upper caste/class/knowledge backgrounds. And even in such positions, the Brahmins under the Moghul rule, did not amend their behavior. As an example, we shall take the case of ‘Satnamis’, a sect founded in 1657 by a native of Narnaul, who proclaimed himself to be of the tradition of the great monotheist Kabir, the weaver. They were opposed tooth and nail by the banyas and Brahmin caste people, since Satnamis (worshipper of the True Name or God) comprised people from sections such as sweepers, carpenters and tanners. “It was obviously owing to this contamination from contact with the untouchables that the sect became particularly hateful in the eyes of the orthodox,” says Habib. (Essays in Indian History, Tulika, New Delhi, 1995).
Isardas Mehta in “Futuhat-i ‘Alamgiri” quotes a loyal Hindu official of the Mughal government describing Satnamis as:

“That community, because of its extreme dirtiness, is rendered foul, filthy and impure. Thus in their religion they do not differentiate between Hindus and Muslims. They eat porks and other disgusting things. If a dog has eaten from their bowl, they do not abstain from eating from it or show any revulsion.”

Thus, even during the Mughal period, the Hindu supremacists continued to hold sway, even in the face of definitive secular reigns by Akbar and Aurangzeb. Unfortunately, they continue to do so even to this date–to the extent that the stories of forced labor were exaggerated by the Hindu revisionists, without a mention of exploitation of workers to build temples. More than the Hindu kings, it was the Moghul rulers who played their part in promoting economic parity. Indeed Sir Walter Lawrence’s works show how in Moghul periods, women were given six annas a day for independent sustenance. And in projects involving large-scale labor, the main gates were written with inscriptions such as these:
“Na kardeh hech kas beggar anja
Tamame yaftand az makhzanash zar”.

(No one, it proclaims proudly, was shanghaied into beggar, or forced labor, for this imperial project; each worker was paid fully for his her labor.”)

This blog cannot go on in the direction of glorifying the Moghul rulers. Indeed far from it, this stands to condemn any of the rules by the kings and emperors, since none of them established peoples’ democracy. Also because of the stages of development those days, such dreams were quite distant. But in view of the current attack on Islam and an ignorant dismissal of it as a religion inherently violent, oppressive or backward, I thought it would serve well to do a small analysis of the situation using a critical historiography.

In Conclusion:
The day of patriotic exhibition of India has passed us by. We can rejoice at its passage. To begin with 2006 is not the centenary of Vande Mataram. It was used this way solely for sensational purpose. In addition, even singing of National Anthem Jana Gana Mana is not compulsory and should not be. Hence Vande Mataram controversy was furthered solely for the political purpose. Lastly, Islam is unlike Hinduism. Just the way Hindu preachers know that Hinduism is an organically developed national religion that has always stayed inside India due to its exclusionary philosophy that forbids people from joining it (just like Puri Pandas are absolutely right in not allowing non-Hindus to enter Jagannath Temple since they know Hinduism quite well to be discriminatory), Muslims know it well that Islam is a global religion that is based upon spreading the word of the last Messenger of Allah, and hence it does not recognize a nation-state to be paramount. So certain religious people condemning certain other religious people because they think their base of religion is valid while other bases of other religions are not, amounts to mere assertion of misconception.

And the way the right wing brigade took advantage of death of Pramod Mahajan and statue of Bal Thackrey’s wife to cause unrest in the country, they are now trying to take advantage of a song-recital drama. News reports say that their Vande Mataram demonstrations are causing violence in muslim areas where the hindu fanatics are having a free hand in harassing the minorities in India. And this is simply intolerable and unacceptable, and every patriotic Indian must rise up against the narrow minded ignorant bigots of the rightist parties and stop them from further claiming that they represent us in any manner whatsoever. Its time for them to either gain newer knowledge and get rid of their professed idiocy, or prepare to face the wrath of the oppressed in coming times when the people of India will no more merely vote them out of power like a dying party of losers, but also wipe them off the public platforms where they stage hypocritical melodramas.

Vande Mataram as a Hindu Hymn

There is no reason why Vande Mataram, the Indian national song, should be in controversy any longer. This song should be now scrapped and deleted from its current status.

Ever since India’s ‘independence’, this song has created controversies, and for obvious reasons. However, just as the ‘secular’ leadership of India had tried to suppress the skeletons in its cupboard, the opportunistic media had also vociferously supported the need for the song to go on in its truncated form.

And India, mostly kept ignorant about the damaging consequences of having such a song was lulled into believing that everything was well so long as we could come to a consensus. For the consensus, however the four power estates of Indian democracy utilized a) the voices of Hindu seculars approving the song’s first two paragraphs, b) the voices of Muslim seculars approving the same paragraphs, c) the voices of Hindu fanatics demanding the whole song to be made compulsory, and d) the confusion of the vast majority of Indians who had no clue whatsoever of any possibility of controversy over a ‘patriotic’ song. But the structure deliberately left out a segment of public which had from the beginning staged protest against the song.

Since the mainstream premise of such a song begins with unquestioned patriotism, anyone who opposes an element within that realm is at once accused of being anti-national. Hence, the remaining group of people, the fifth group which fervently opposed the song everytime, unfortunately most of the time comprised radical Muslims, were denounced to the extent of being silenced by the media.

Bankim Chandra as a Patriot: The lies my teacher told me

In matters of social concerns, half-truths are synonymous with blatant lies. This is so, because half-truths promote biases, prejudices and stereotypes. The text books that most of us studied during our school days were full of the half-truths. This is nothing surprising or exceptional, though. Every government under a popular democracy has to resort to lies in order to sustain its power base. Hence the dominant Congress with its pseudo-Gandhian philosophy also worked towards integrating its lies by to projecting a reconciled difference and reaching a “consensus”.

There is nothing wrong in reaching a consensus, but in this attempt, the critical voices should not be silenced systematically either. And in this case, Vande Mataram should not have been allowed to triumph in a land that should have had it banned subsequent to pursuance of its ideals of secularism. Rajendra Prasad whose fanaticism with Hindutva is well known, of course wanted the song to be given equal status with national anthem. This was unfortunate, although not entirely unexpected of him, considering that the rabid religious elements still wanted to declare India as a Hindu Rashtra. But the condescending statesmen of the time also acquiesced to the demand, albeit in the truncated form.

The future generations of India were not to be told of the lies and deception that went behind projecting Vande Mataram as a national song. As a result, today most people do not even think twice before patronizing the song. Even the ardent Hindu fanatics forgave a Muslim composer making tunes and money off the obsession.

The colonial crisis?

The demands by the rightist brigade to make the song compulsory in educational institution has raised eyebrows. In this case, again, the criticism has mostly come from religious minorities, even at the expense of being categorized as anti-national. We all know it too well how the Hindu fanatics are running to any extent to blame the Muslims of India as instigators of terrorism instead of looking within for managing a society based on complete anarchy and making living off the institutional ignorance. And now, the Hindu supremacists, whose ideological forefathers were infamously hands in gloves with the imperialists (and which is why they were banned from contesting polls in secular India) have picked up sensitive threads of patriotism.

In the classic case of ignorance, the mainstream media propaganda, clearly overlooks certain facts that people of India have right to know and act upon. Here they are in a nutshell:

1. Anti-Muslim: Bankim Chattarjee, the man who wrote this song Vande Mataram was a rabid Hindu fundamentalist whose goal was not emancipation of India from the clutches of the colonialists, rather to establish a Hindu Rashtra by any means. His stress on Islam corruption of India is not only devoid of the highly secular past of India during the Moghul rule, but also smacks of religious chauvinism targeted against Muslim freedom fighters of the colonial period.

Historian R.C. Majumdar writes, “Bankimchandra converted patriotism into religion and religion into patriotism”. In fact Anand Math, the work from which Vande Mataram is derived, is a text of Hindu nationalism, and not Indian nationalism. The work is selectively targeted against Muslims all over the texts. Anand Math is a Hindu temple where there are scenes of Jivananda calling Muslims names: “We have often thought to break up this bird’s nest of Muslim rule, to pull down the city of the renegades and throw it into the river – to turn this pig-sty to ashes and make Mother earth free from evil again. Friends, that day has come.”

A G Noorani (Frontline, January 2-15, 1999) quotes M.R.A. Baig’s analysis of the novel in which the song finds exclusive place:

“Written as a story set in the period of the dissolution of the Moghul Empire, the hero of the novel, Bhavananda, is planning an armed rising against the Muslims of Bengal. While busy recruiting, he meets Mahendra and sings the song ‘Bande Mataram’ or ‘Hail Mother’. The latter asks him the meaning of the words and Bhavananda, making a spirited answer, concludes with: ‘Our religion is gone, our caste is gone, our honour is gone. Can the Hindus preserve their Hinduism unless these drunken Nereys (a term of contempt for Muslims) are driven away?’… Mahendra, however, not convinced, expresses reluctance to join the rebellion. He is, therefore, taken to the temple of Ananda Math and shown a huge image of four-armed Vishnu, with two decapitated and bloody heads in front, “Do you know who she is?” asks the priest in charge, pointing to an image on the lap of Vishnu, “She is the Mother. We are her children Say ‘Bande Mataram'” He is taken to the image of Kali and then to that of Durga. On each occasion he is asked to recite ‘Bande Mataram’. In another scene in the novel some people shouted ‘kill, kill the Nereys’. Others shouted ‘Bande Mataram’ ‘Will the day come when we shall break mosques and build temples on their sites?””

2. Pro-British: If there ever was a piece of Indian literature that was most pronouncedly pro-colonialists, then it was Anand Math. Interestingly, and naturally enough, the right wing political parties have picked up their ideal role model in Chatterjee since their ideologues were themselves allies of the British rulers in India. Anand Math is replete with anti-Muslim slogans, no doubt. But it also celebrates the British rule in India. It in fact goes to the extent of saying that British were friends of India, and it was only the Muslim people against whom the Hindus should fight against.

In the last chapter of the work, the author speaks through the supreme character: “Your task is accomplished. The Muslim power is destroyed. There is nothing else for you to do.
Your vow is fulfilled. You have brought fortune to your Mother. You have set up a British government. Give up your fighting. Let the people take to their ploughs. Let the earth be rich with harvest and the people rich with wealth.
There are no foes now. The English are our friends as well as rulers.”

This is the context of the song that goes on to celebrate Hindu religious deities entirely and exclusively.

Baahute tumi maa shakti
hR^idaye tumi maa bhakti
tomaara i pratimaa gaDi
mandire mandire
TvaM hi Durgaa dashapraharaNadhaariNii
kamalaa kamaladala vihaariNii
vaaNii vidyaadaayinii namaami tvaaM

Its target is the Muslim people of India and their tradition which has been blatantly misrepresented in the work. And its ally in the vicious hatred campaign is the British rule in India. The mothers in Bande Mataram are the Hindu goddesses and there is no reason why people of other religions should be forced to sing their praises. Just because certain Bengal revolutionaries used this slogan and popularized it, and some more Bengali intellectuals upheld Bankim Chatterjee as an iconic litterateur, it does not mean the great peoples of India will forget the rich multi-cultural tradition that has been in existence in the country since centuries now and in the name of Hindu chauvinism, people should not be misled any further to denounce Moghul rule and celebrate British Raj.

Knowingly or unknowingly, people have believed in the mainstream history of India from almost a harmless angle. They believe that Gandhi was the ‘father of the nation’, that Congress was the party that gave freedom to India, they believe that Hindus contribute the most to the country’s cultural landscape, and they celebrate Saraswati and Sivaji. People are apparently content with the reservation policies working against the Dalits, with nominal celebrations of Islam culture, with not paying reparation to the tribal peoples for having snatched their dear lands.

Even as these acceptances come as mediocre consensus of some form to carry on with a liberal democracy, these have been still in a Gandhian tradition of positive compromises. Our objections should not be towards the social fiber of Indian constitution which is secular, democratic and socialist in its spirit. But if anyone tries to enforce their religious ideals down the future generations of the country, one and all of us must stand in solidarity to oppose the vicious steps. Once and for all, it must be declared that India is not a Hindu country and no Hindu glorifications can take place at an official level, not even if some right wing fanatics come to power once in a while.

We have had many a dramatic stands of consensus in the past. Indeed, this has been the policy of Indian ‘nation’ since its very birth. Although the country is composed of different nation-states, we declared a consensus that we were almost one nation. Although India had distinctly different language groups we declared Hindi as the adopted core. Despite numerous tribal and distinctly exclusive peoples historically inhabiting the country, we agreed that it was a country of the Aryas.

Need to oppose the reactionaries:

But what’s missing from the discourse is not the sense of agreement, but the sense of disagreement. We never studied anything where the genuine disagreements were brought forth for healthy dialogues. We agreed India was the most ancient civilization, that Paravati and Laxmi were goddesses, that Hindus needed more festivities than any other religious groups, that New Delhi needed to be the capital city and Vande Mataram was the national song.

The problem is not in the ultimate acceptance of something as official policy. This is needed for sound governance. The issue at stake is the manner in which the officiating agencies of India never propose the need for the measures that would seriously dwell upon critical issues at stake. Everywhere, regional and national chauvinistic forces are at work in India. The conservatives are creating vandalisms all over with their openly racist and primitively backward views, starting from setting up Saraswati Vidya Mandirs which goes unchallenged even though separation of education from religion should be the spirit of secularism, to install statues in parochial terms. They go on to disrupt Valentines Days, link Muslim cricketers and filmstars with underworld, even as they have formed the most pernicious underworld themselves, only operating wide open in the corridors of political power. They go on to revise history to celebrate Shivaji and claim a Gujarat civilization named after a Hindu goddess. And as their wont, they go on to celebrate their fellow hindu fanatic, one Nathuram Gadse, the killer of Gandhi by revising text books to omit the assassination incident.

We have been taking all these lying down even as the rightist brigade, safely harbored by the domestic business houses of India continues to celebrate the absurd. And now they want the rest of the country to celebrate these sectarian crimes as well, and hence there is a need for the rest of us to resist and desist the temptation to fall into the opium trap. The trap works variously. At times, the enlightened people just assume that its alright if things are this way or that way. Thats the Hindu privilege some people enjoy since their feelings do not get hurt, as long as the hymn remains as the national song.

And if the secular Hindus and religious Muslims of India have not denounced the song in such a serious manner to seek its withdrawal as India’s national song, it speaks of their great tradition of tolerance to Hindu bigotry. This should not be misconstrued as an organic weakness and allowed to be taken advantage of any further.

Madhusudan Das, Mahatma Gandhi and Manual Working Class

Gandhism and Leninism surely intersect at interesting crossroads. And they could be more pivotal than merely interesting. At the macro level they intersect at their common abhorrence towards militarism. At the micro level, they are one with the advocacy for community cooperatives. At both stages though, interests are similar: promote peace, for it is at this situation alone that cooperatives can exist. In every conceivable way, Gandhism and Leninism stressed on peace and cooperation because of their stress on workers’ welfare.

The question which naturally arises then is, if Gandhi believed in social emancipation of working class who worked in cooperatives. The answer is clearly yes, but the methods he would have employed would be different, some of the arguments follow. But I feel, relating Gandhi to working class struggle is as moot a question as relating need of violence to further state’s interest in Stalinist Russia.

I have always believed that Gandhi and Stalin (or you may say Lenin) both used the long-term goals of revolution as primary objective and immediate concerns as secondary. Gandhi’s call for tolerance in face of brutal murders of thousands of Indians was as stoically violent, as was the communist path to emancipation of working class in face of gory class wars.

How then were the goals in liberating Indian masses and emancipating Russian working class similar? The answer is, by the yardstick of labor. By the recognition of working tools. This is where the weapons of the masses come to focus. And Gandhi intersects with the Left.

Gandhian philosophy: From Hindu-centric to Workers-centric:

The critical question here, then is not to the extent that Gandhi respected working peoples’ tools, but how did he acquire this knowledge of need. Whereas Gandhi’s relation with the Left could be an inferred one, in oblivion to his own knowledge (although he has admired Lenin several times in his life and he had only great words to describe the revolutionary), his understanding of working peoples’ aspirations to self assertions is clearly an acquired knowledge.

The educated and well-off Gandhi upon his entry into India saw things similar to South Africa in terms of racism, but not in terms of economic class of peoples. This is important to understand because in South Africa, Gandhi stood for the interests of Indian trading class, not the most poorest economic class (who incidentally were the Blacks of Africa, not so much the browns of India). The only way he could get away with that slant of social justice was to claim to his nationalistic role, and his subsequent inevitable arrival in India to pursue that cause to his death.

What then, led to the transformation in Gandhi from being a Hindu nationalist, to craft a radical talisman; his core belief that he had to work for the ‘poorest of the poor’? What led to his famous declaration that every step that we make must be made towards welfare of only the Poorest of the Poor (the proletariat)? Obviously, his exposure to Gujarat did not do Gandhi any enlightenment. His association with industrialists and trading class of India (just like in South Africa) would have again led him astray into supporting the Indian bourgeois cause of petitioning in the Indian National Congress than walking across all villages to mobilize the greatest mass movement in the world history. What brought him the change, the new worldview?
It was Orissa, a state of India, that continues to be the poorest and most underdeveloped state of the vast country. And the chief architect of Orissa’s struggle for independence, Utkal Gaurav Madhusudan Das, whose birth anniversary was celebrated last week.

Teachings of Madhusudan Das:
Gandhi came to learn from Madhusudan Das that two things afflicted India the most: poverty and superstitions. Basically, the lack of class consciousness and adoption of religious practices. (Interestingly, those days, these two were also the primary motivations for the Bolsheviks to cause revolution in Russia.)

And the real life enactor of those struggles in India was Madhusudan Das. Gandhi knew of two postulates: that India was not poor historically, and its Gods were not discriminatory historically either. The ancient rich state of Orissa, and the most universally worshipped Lord Jagannath were the biggest riddles for Gandhi to solve. And in doing so, Gandhi would change his entire course of action, from representing the Congress (his initial interests in presiding it) to representing the people (his growing attachment to causes of peoples in daily lives). Gandhi wanted an end to religious chauvinism, to Hindu supremacists, to Brahminical casteists and to economic exploitators. For him, the role model was an Oriya of great eminence, Madhusudan Das.

Talking of how he started his struggle for freedom of his self and others, Gandhi pointed at both Jagannath culture and Orissan poverty as the eye-opening experiences. He said, “You know that in the whole of our country the land of Orissa is the dearest to me. As soon as I returned to India I began to hear of Orissa’s poverty and famine. We raised an amount and sent over Thakkar Bapa in the capacity of a servant of this afflicted province and organized famine relief.”

Those were the days when Orissa was really afflicted. Her Lord Jagannath was hijacked by the conquerors of the land who spoke different languages, pretended to be representative of Orissan people and instead forced opium addiction on the poor peasants, and the non-Oriya traders used their lobby to force brahminical supremacy over a large indigenous population of Orissa that were either highlanders or just forest dwellers. In a way, the poverty of mineral rich Orissa was brought on it by the ruling classes of adjoining states who also blackmailed some native Kings into forcing cultural seclusion (attempts to make Hindi a state language in Sambalpur, Bangali as language in rest of the state etc), religious dogmatism (project the Lord Jagannath from a universal goddess of peasant class, a black god representing the working class aspirations and the most secular one, for some of whose greatest followers came from religion of Islam too—the most famous being Bhakta Salabega, to a male god who banned entry of non-hindus and the oppressed), and enforced poverty (the spread of opium—literally in Orissa to keep it economically weak).

Few Oriya leaders who were educated and exposed to international working class movements took up the challenge to fight these three pronged reactionary overbearings of language-religion-economics issue. The primary of them was Utkal Gaurav Madhusudan Das, who went on to inspire Gandhi to lead national struggle against religious dogmatism.

Gandhi’s struggle against the Hindu Conservatives & Reformists:
Gandhi said he could not give up his struggles against the Sanatanists (the hindu practitioners). Indeed, he went on to say, “I also realized that if I could serve Orissa somewhat I would by so doing serve India. Thus Orissa became for me a place of pilgrimage—not because the temple of Lord Jagannath was there—for it was not open to me, as it was not open to the Harijans—but because I thought of a novel way of touring the country for the sacred mission of the abolition of untouchability. I had heard that the so-called sanatanists were enraged at my mission of removing untouchability and would even try to frustrate it with violence. If they were really so minded, I said to myself, I should make their work easy by discarding the railway train and motor-car and trekking through the country. Moreover, people don’t go on a pilgrimage in cars and trains.

And if there was trouble in Puri because of the anger of the sanatanists, we could not flee from their wrath. It does not behove a satyagrahi to run away. We must face it. I could not do all this in a car or a railway train, and so I decided to perform the rest of the Harijan pilgrimage on foot. The temple of Lord Jagannath has the reputation of being the most famous in India, for there all human distinctions are supposed to vanish, and all sorts of people, Brahmin and pariah, brush shoulders with one another vying for the darshan of the Lord and even eat His prasad out of one another’s hands. But evidently it had outlived that reputation and the description had become a fiction, for the priests would not admit Harijans, but throw them out of the doors of the Lord of the World. I said to myself that so long as these distinctions of high and low endured before the very eyes of the Lord of the World, that Lord was not my Lord, that He was the Lord of the Brahmins and the Kshatriyas who exploited his name and kept Harijans out, but certainly not the Lord of the World. My ambition of restoring its old reputation to the temple is yet unfulfilled, and you have to help me in fulfilling it. So long as the doors of the Jagannath temple are closed to the Harijans, they are closed to me as well.”

This struggle of Gandhi against the Sanatan Dharmi or the Hindus, was inspired by Madhusudan Das of Orissa, who had himself, out of sheer disgust at Hindu supremacists had adopted Christianity, even if just to demonstrate that untouchability was not going to be practiced by him at any level and nor be tolerated.

Madhubabu’s progressive roots:
If Gandhi learnt the lessons in racism at South Africa, he learnt the ways to deal with it, from Madhubabu (fondly so called). Madhubabu had set before Gandhi an example, which the latter would continuously refer to, while defining essence of what a human being should aspire for. Madhubabu, despite his high qualifications as a lawyer, not only opened a tannery in Cuttack, Orissa, but also worked there himself. He invested his own money, worked by his own hands and exemplified at least few core virtues that were to guide Gandhian philosophy in future: self-reliance, non-discrimination (since until then, only the “untouchables” were relegated the work of tanning), and relentless perseverance.

Gandhi was so moved by this living example that he wrote to industrialist GD Birla on September 27, 1925 (during his first series of struggles itself), to lend a helping hand to Madhubabu in his loss-making venture.
“Shri Madhusudan Das owns a tannery at Cuttack which he has developed into a limited company. I feel like acquiring a majority of its shares…. The tannery’s liabilities amount to Rs. 1,20,000. It is necessary to rescue it from this dead weight. The tannery uses only the hides of dead animals….; I would also like you to undertake its management. If that is not practicable, I shall find someone else who can manage it. The tannery has a few acres of land which I have seen myself. Shri Madhusudan Das has spent a considerable amount on it out of his own pocket.”

Gandhi acknowledged that there was a need for the country to be sensitized in the direction of thought that was pursued by Madhubabu. Indeed, he thought Madhusudan Das was showing light in the direction of future that India must strive towards: use of hands and feet to abolish class society (yet another Marxist principle) and establish an industrial climate based on vocation (a Soviet measure during that period). In “Navajivan” of September 23, 1928, Gandhi wrote an editorial, “This country needs an industrial climate. In the education of this country, the vocational aspect should constitute its dominant part. When this takes place, the students who will go on learning a craft will support their schools through it. Shri Madhusudan Das had conceived such a plan with regard to his tannery in Cuttack. The plan was a fine one. But it did not materialize as the prevailing atmosphere in the country provided no encouragement to vocational training or a tannery. Why should not carpentry be an indispensable part of our higher education? Education without a knowledge of weaving would be comparable to the solar system without the sun. Where such trades are being properly learnt, the students should be able to meet the expenses of their own schools. For this scheme to succeed, the students should have physical strength, will-power and a favorable atmosphere created by the teachers. If a weaver could become a Kabir, why cannot other weavers become, if not Kabirs, at any rate, Gidwanis, Kripalanis or Kalelkars? If a cobbler could become a Shakespeare, why cannot other cobblers become, if not great poets, at any rate, experts in the fields of chemistry, economics and such other subjects?”

Not just blatant untochability, but also the reformist Hindu argument (some quote Swami Vivekananda to substantiate it) that caste division is a necessity to maintain division of labor was completely quashed by Madhusudan Das in his own trade and by Gandhi in his following Madhubabu’s examples.

Need for Public Sector:
Madhusudan Das was not only the greatest fighter against caste and class society, he also enlightened Gandhi about the need to preserve the ethnic living arts of the peoples by welcoming industrialization on national terms (public sector industries). In the editorial on “Swedeshi vs Foreign” in Navajivan on June 19, 1927, Gandhi paid glowing tribute to Madhubabu for his works in words and deeds: “Raw materials worth crores of rupees are produced in this country and, thanks to our ignorance, lethargy and lack of invention, exported to foreign countries; the result is, as Shri Madhusudan Das has pointed out, that we remain ignorant like animals, our hands do not get the training which they ought to and our intellects do not develop as they should. As a consequence, living art has disappeared from our land and we are content to imitate the West. As long as we cannot make the machines required for utilizing the hide of dead cattle, worth nine crores, available in our country, I would be ready to import them from any part of the world and would still believe that I was scrupulously keeping of the world and would still believe that I scrupulously keeping the vow of swadeshi. I would believe that I would be only discrediting that vow by refusing, out of obstinacy, to import those machines. Similarly our country produces a great many things with medicinal properties, and those come back to us in the form of a variety of drugs or other articles. It is our duty to import any machines, and obtain any help, which will enable us to utilize these things in our own country. Swadeshi is an eternal religious duty. The manner of following it may, and ought to, change from age to age. The principle of swadeshi is the soul and khadi is its body in this age and in this country.”

Talking of “Deadly march of Civilization”, Gandhi said in Young India dated May 10, 1928, that “Under the guise of the civilizing influence of commerce the innocent people of Burma are being impoverished and reduced to the condition of cattle. As Sjt. Madhusudan Das has pointed out, people who merely work with cattle and forget the cunning of the hand by giving up handicrafts are impoverished not only in body but also in mind.

Tolstoy and Madhusudan Das:
In support of workers’ unique contributions, and the needs for intellectuals to stand in solidarity and their participation in workers’ movements, Gandhi compared Madhusudan Das to Lev Tolstoy: “The late Madhusudan Das was a lawyer, but he was convinced that without the use of our hands and feet our brain would be atrophied, and even if it worked it would be the home of Satan. Tolstoy had taught the same lesson through many of his tales.” (Speech at a Marwari Shiksha Mandal on October 22, 1937)

Even as the British were busy creating the class society of high-paying bureaucrats and “lowly” peasants, Gandhi remained unruffled because he always had Madhubabu as the example to follow. At Birbol, in a village industries exhibition on March 25, 1938, Gandhi stressed again, “Man differs from the beast in several ways. As the late Madhusudan Das used to say, one of the distinctions is the differing anatomy of both. Man has feet and hands with fingers that he can use intelligently and artistically. If man therefore depended wholly and solely on agriculture, he would not be using the fingers that God has specially endowed him with. We will be worthy of being called human beings if we utilize our fingers. Moreover, mere agriculture cannot support us, unless it is supplemented by the work of the hands and the fingers.”

Khadi and genesis of the Mahatma:
Likewise, Gandhi’s core realization for stress on Khadi as a village industry came from Madhubabu’s legacy that he left behind. In a speech at a public meeting in Nagpur, Gandhi said on March 1, 1935, “It was during my walk in Orissa, in the course of my Harijan tour, that it was clearly brought home to me that the village industries must be revived if khadi is to be universal.
I could not have realized this in any tour by rail or car. As the late Madhusudan Das had said, our villagers were fast being reduced to the state of the brutes with whom they worked and lived as a result of the forced idleness in which they passed their days. If they continued in that state, not even independence would improve the state of India. I, therefore, decided that I must, even in the evening of my life, make a heroic effort to end this idleness, this inertia.
……..We have to employ all these crores of human machines that are idle, we have to make them intelligent machines, and unless cities decide to depend for the necessaries of life and for most of their other needs on the villages, this can never happen. We are guilty of a grievous wrong against the villagers, and the only way in which we can expiate it is by encouraging them to revive their lost industries and arts by assuring them of a ready market.”

Similarly at another public speech at Ramgarh on March 14, 1940, Gandhi said, “The true Indian civilization is in the Indian villages. The modern city civilization you find in Europe and America, and in a handful of our cities which are copies of the Western cities and which were built for the foreigner, and by him. But they cannot last. It is only the handicraft civilization that will endure and stand the test of time. But it can do so only if we can correlate the intellect with the hand. The late Madhusudan Das used to say that our peasants and workers had, by reason of working with bullocks, become like bullocks; and he was right. We have to lift them from the estate of the brute to the estate of man, and that we can do only by correlating the intellect with the hand. Not until they learn to work intelligently and make something new every day, not until they are taught to know the joy of work, can we raise them from their low estate.”

Workers’ tools of freedom:
Workers’ self-reliance, their pride in their own hands and feet, their resistance to superstitious deviance, their need for correlation of intellect with the hand—Gandhi followed Madhu Sudan Das in his footsteps throughout in the struggle for peoples’ freedom.

The tools of the oppressed, according to Madhubabu were their own hands and feet. The tools of the oppressors were the opiums—religious and otherwise. Gandhi understood these basic tenets of human service from his great teacher-Madhusudan Das.

Today, in an increasingly sophisticated machinery world, as we inch more toward monopolistic corporate societies, lessons of Madhusudan Das should not be lost on us. And the dignity of each work, as Madhubabu used to preach and practice, should remain a hallmark in our collective thinking. For, only when we have learnt to appreciate the workers, can we distinguish the seeds of exploitations. Only when we acknowledge the contributions of the working class of the entire world, can we differentiate the ruling class of the unipolar world. Only by realizing that the part-time workers are exploited in the name of non-exemptness, in the name of disguised employment, in the name of unauthorized working permits etc, can we acknowledge that without these so-called low class workers, we would not even exist today as a human race. Workers deserve the rights they demand, in every parts of the world, and we must acknowledge that they deserve equal pay for equal works, no matter the nature of the work, as long as the hours are the same. For a change, like Madhubabu, we must prepare ourselves to undertake any kinds of works, just to be in solidarity with the working class interests, without any discriminations!