Is this Nationalism ?

| Published on:


Glancing through press cutting I came across a news item in the national Herald of 27 March, 1962, reporting a speech of Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia at Allahabad. In this speech Dr. Lohia stressed the need of communal harmony and is further reported to have said that he would not like to enter into a controversy whether the Jana Sangh was a communal body or not, but he was sure that the Jana Sangh by its policies and activities was widening the gulf between Hindus and Muslims. The report as published does not elaborate the point and I do no know whether Dr. Lohia actually explained to the audience the basis of his charge against the Jana Sangh. In the absence of specific instances the criticism uncalled for and would not befit a leader like Dr. Lohia, who I feel would not parrot–like repeat catch–phrases used by Pandit Nehru and the comrades. Till now, he had been accusing Jana Sangh, for not championing the cause of Hindi as fanatically as he does, and for not expressly insisting on the river Brahmaputra as the boundary between India and Tibet. But this time be has harped on a hackneyed and propagandist tune.

It may be that his whole speech was addressed to some of his no so liberal followers who had taken exception to his remarks make in a published letter appreciating the thoughtful sober and dynamic leadership of Sri Nana Deshmukh who had earlier met him and seemed to have impressed him.

Lohia’s Suggestion Despite the fact that Dr. Lohia had been insisting on the acceptance of the fact of common ancestry and common history by all people of India it seems basically he has not been able to get rid of the erroneous outlook on the Muslim problem followed by the congress during the last four decades.

Referring to the establishment of Akhand Bharat, Dr. Lohia proposed in the course of his speech that if the people of India wanted to attract their Muslim brethren in Pakistan there must be an amendment in the constitution making it obligatory that either the President or the Prime Minister of India should be a Muslim.

This proposal betrays a lack of appreciation of the intrinsic unity of Bharat and its people, Akhand Bharat is more a cultural concept than territorial. It is true that the achievement of this ideal is only possible through the unity of hearts of the people of India. But unity is never created or promoted by political patchwork. Unity manifests itself in equality. No section of the society can demand a price for unity and if it degenerates into such an attitude, no price can inculcate a feeling of oneness in that section. The moment you think in terms of winning communities on the basis of paying them price in form of political power, you sow the seeds of separation. The history of the last forty years bears ample testimony to the fact. In order to induce the Muslims into identifying themselves with the nation and its goal of freedom all sorts of “cheques” were offered, but we did not succeed. The motive of the Congress leaders was not bad. But they fell into the trap of the Britishers, while to the Hindu they appealed purely in the name of national independence; they qualified their appeal to the Muslim with a number of guarantees and conditions, which did not discriminate against, but for the Muslims.

But it was discrimination all the same. It failed to enthuse the Muslims. After all there is difference between a patriot and businessman. The Congress never recognized the patriot in the Muslim but only a businessman bargaining for political power. On the other hand Jinnah formulated a new theory of nationhood. However fantastic it might have been, it filled the Muslim mass with zeal and zest for the League’s ideal of Pakistan.

Jinnah did not recognise sectarian differences amongst the Muslims. If Dr. Lohia were in his place, it would have been made obligatory perhaps to have Shia or a Sunni either as the President or the Prime Minister of Pakistan, but no, Jinnah did not bother about these things. He did not even tell the people what sort of a State Pakistan would be and what would be the relationship between different units of Pakistan. He talked to them as Muslims, and the Congress also talked to them as Muslim. While Jinnah attempted to ‘elevate’ Muslims to the position of a ‘nation’, Congress approach sought to make of them simply a minority. There was in this attitude an air of condescension, a spirit of patronisation. In practice it amounted to a policy of appeasement. It was certainly not equality.

Is this Nationalism ?

Even today to common variety of nationalism thinks in these terms. National integration has come to mean some solution of the jig saw puzzle to which the people of India have been reduced by the sectarian and communal politics of the last forty years.
Dr. Lohia wants constitutional provision for reserving either the President’s or the Prime Minister Minister’s post for a Muslim. But what about other religious sects? The Christians, Parsis and Jews are there. And even within the narrower and limited connotation of the word Hindu there are a number of sects. Will they not all demand reservation? And this will mean tearing after thread by thread the national texture so exquisitely woven in the course of centuries past.

We do not know about it but some people have definitely been interpreting and the whole thing is capable of creating such an impression as if the choice of Congress nominees to the various top posts has been determined by communal consideration. The Hindu President is to be counterbalanced by a Muslim Vice President, a Christian Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha and a Sikh Speaker of the Lok Sabha. To complete the circle, as it were, the opposition parties have nominated the Speakership. But can the circle to thus complete ?

The Jana Sangh is opposed to this idea; offices should go by merit and not by Religion. To take religion into consideration will be imitating Pakistan. Pakistan has a constitution under which only a Muslim can become Head of the state. Non Muslims are second rate citizens there. In India we have a constitution where religion entails no bar to any office. Let us follow it in spirit and letter both, if we want further forces of national integration. The Jana Sangh decided to support Sri Zakir Hussian for the Vice President or Sri Hakim Singh for the Speakership of the Lok Sabha not because of their denominational attachments but because of their merit. If however, the Congress intends to institutionalise communalism by apportioning different offices on a sectional basis, it will be extremely wrong. The Jana Sangh will definitely oppose any such move.

Vested Interests Befoul The Atmospheres

It may be that because of Jana Sangh’s clear cut enunciation of this pure and simple nationalism and insistence on it, some people who have developed a vested interest in Muslim separatism feel enraged and so raise a hue and cry. These are the people who paint Jana Sangh as anti Muslim not because it is really so but because it suits these politicians to keep up such a scare. Let us, however, not be afraid of the false alarm. The Jana Sangh is no widening the gulf but taking measures to see that not gulf remains.

Dr. Lohia’s love of Hindi is not liked by those who have a vested interest in English. And they try to twist the whole issue as one between the north and the south. Should we on that account say that the policies pursued by Dr. Lohia are widening the gulf between the North and the South?

In politics, decisions at times are taken on pragmatic grounds, but there is tendency to theorize and generalise the decisions either to lend them a hallow or to denounce them. However, there is a necessity of observing certain rules of the game in this respect. If we want to end communalism let us avoid communal generalization unless unimpeachable facts force such a conclusion.

I will take an example pertaining to the Socialist party. Sri Tatari had been a member of the UP legislative council on a socialist ticket. This time he was not given a ticket. Should we conclude that he was not given a ticket because he was Muslim and that the policy of the Socialist party which six years ago preferred a Muslim for this seat has undergone a change? I do not think any such conclusion will be right.

If, therefore, we want to end communalism let politicians cease to talk of Muslims, Christians, Parsis, Jains, Sikhs, Arya Samajis or Lingyats. Let this task be reserved for the head of different religious sects. If we do not like the clergy, the Granthi and the Maulvi to dabble into politics let us also forgo the temptation of intruding into these sacred precincts..

(Published in the Political Diary, 30 April, 1962)