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Savarkar, Savarkarism and Hindutva: The Representations of an Ideologue in India

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Vinayak Damodar Savarkar (1883-1966), popularly hailed as Veer Savarkar by his acolyte followers and Savarkar by his political and ideological opponents, is one of the most controversial men in modern India’s history. Since Savarkarism, a staunch form of Hindu nationalism, succeeded in appearing as a powerful current of political nationalism in India in the 1990s, not only the ideologies but the very personality of Savarkar has been subject to historical autopsy and various interpretations. There is no doubt, Savarkar became the iconoclastic bandwagon of what later came to be known as Hindutva politics in India, and to Hindutva, he is like what St. Peter the Apostle is to Christianity. It is so because the whole edifice of Hindutva politics in contemporary India is based on a partial representation of Savarkar as expressed in his 1923 book ‘The Essentials of Hindutva’, and in his numerous speeches and activities. In addition, his practical politics as expressed in Abhinav Mela and Mitra Mela later became the organisational foundation of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh which now defines Hindutva politics.   Savarkar is the most authentic stepping-stone behind Hindutva politics and his commitment towards what he defined as Hindutva forced him to be tactical to submit many unconditional apologies to be released from the Andaman prison to extend his wings in the free world of Hindustan. Yet, to become the saviour of Hindu religion, Savarkar remains to be the most criticised Indian freedom fighter, and is sometimes portrayed alongside Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the father of Pakistan. Nothing but belligerent criticism, according to some political observations, Savarkar is also portrayed as a traitor who stood up against the Indian independence movement and apologised to the British government just to be freed from prison. It is unfortunate that a section in the Indian National Congress, especially under Nehru, too, represented Savarkar as someone who collaborated with the British Empire. Sarcastically, Indian Marxist intellectuals and leftist parties, who wish to locate the minutest apertures of socio-cultural movements and personal cults within the so-called materialist interpretations are adamant arguing that Savarkar is a Hindutva ideologue and that he collaborated with British colonialism, without the slightest mention that he was the product of an era of intensified religious tensions and his adamant commitment to Hinduism resulted in various streams of social reforms.

As a prelude, two factors need to be presented here. As Frank Anker Smith has shown, historians are not the custodians of ‘the truth of past’, instead they invent meanings and put it into interpretations suitable to their fashions and interests. Secondly, if we examine the history of British colonialism in India at least since 1757, we will be able to understand that a majority (something like 95 per cent) of middle-men, educated class, princes and political leaders have either collaborated or worked with colonial masters, and these names start from Mir Jaffar and extend to Mahatma Gandhi. About five per cent include the real heroes, if one wants to identify it so, of Indian nationalists who thought that the sacrifice of their lives would be much better than compromises. These are people like Birsa Munda, Surya Sen, Khudiram Bose, Bhagat Singh and others. This means, collaboration with the colonial state apparatus or a cluster of apology must not be the ultimate criterion to estimate or assess the life of stalwarts like Savarkar, Gandhi or Ambedkar. Doing so would be nothing but partisan and ahistorical interpretations.

Such distorted interpretations often take place in contemporary India, when we compete with each other to accuse Savarkar of collaborating with the British Empire. The problem of such distorted or partial narratives is that they forget to ask certain basic questions. For example, the way Savarkar was classified D-Class prisoner indicates that he was a danger to the British Empire. As well, why to hide the fact that many Indians of high repute had various secret engagements with colonial administrators, as demonstrated in the case of Madan Lal Dingra and the execution of Bhagat Singh and his comrades. Such distorted historical interpretations lead to contemporary political gimmicks as demonstrated by Mr. Rahul Gandhi who went to the extent of arguing that his name is not ‘Rahul Savarkar’ to offer an apology. Similarly, in my home state, Kerala, Savarkar’s name is often equated with loyalty to the British Empire, and as an ardent form of anti-communist, acerbically forgetting that Savarkar raised his voice in 1959 against the Liberation struggle to bring down E.M.S. Namboothirippad’s Communist ministry. For Savarkar, the struggle against E.M.S. Ministry was a Christian-Muslim ploy to derail what he termed as a ‘Hindu’ Ministry, though it was a communist-led ministry. Therefore, the ongoing (mis)representations of a devoted nationalist like Savarkar, for being an ideologue of Hindutva, and taking tactical but contradictory standpoints needs a balanced reading, significantly when his philosophies of Hindutva are misrepresented for partisan political purposes. 

Devotion to India: Journey as a Nationalist 

Savarkar was born into a Maharashtra Chitpavan Brahmin family in May 1883, hardly two months after the tragic and poverty-stricken demise of the world’s most influential philosopher, Karl Marx. If the 1880s were times of despair and political revolutions in Europe, India was going through intensifying religious polarisations, especially under the foreign yoke of British colonialism. Under it, religion was becoming a basic component of socio-personal life while the whole structure of pre-colonial social conditions was acquiring new forms. By the 1880s, Bengal and Punjab had already witnessed various forms of religious tensions, mostly between Hindus and Muslims and between Hindus and missionaries. Maharashtra, too, was not an exception to such religious confrontations though the pace of such movements was very different. Adding fuel to the already strained religious harmony, the revolution of 1857 had redefined middle-class Indians’ attitudes towards colonialism. The revolt of 1857 showed the danger of unified Hindu-Muslim power in India. As reflected in the revolt and the elevation of Bahadur Shah Zafar, who lived under the title of Mughal Emperor, symbolically, to the title of Emperor of India, the British Empire smelled danger.

However, as later history shows, the revolt of 1857 was the last major symbol of Hindu-Muslim unity. In post-riot India, religious identity can be found to take on more dangerous dimensions. The Hindutva ideologies of Bal Gangadhar Tilak and the Islamic movements led by Sir Syed Ahmed Khan and a multiplicity of socio-religious issues were the hallmarks of this period, especially in the three hotspots of Bengal, Maharashtra and Punjab. The influence of the nineteenth century reform-oriented and anti-colonial religious movements such as the Brahmo Samaj, Haji Shariatullah, Wahabi and Faraizi movements were reshaped into ardent but also fervent ideologies. Hindus and Muslims had already started to alienate each other, and mutual suspicion between these communities was promoted by the colonial administration, especially after the three months that shook the British Empire in 1857.

As Savarkar was born into a communally intensified social condition, and amid an anti-colonial situation, there was no doubt that two streams of ideologies influenced him. That is how the challenges to Hinduism and the colonial rule become points of interests for Savarkar. It means that colonial social engineering, especially the ploy to divide Hindus and Muslims, created more tensions in the minds of nationalist leaders who could also realise that the Muslim response to the Bengal partition of 1905 was propelled by communal interest, anticipating what was to happen later in 1947. Nevertheless, the fact is that Savarkar led his anti-British, nationalist agitation long before the 1905 Partition of Bengal and such form of extreme nationalism was the main reason for his expulsion from the famous Ferguson College in Pune. By the term ‘extreme nationalism’ I mean nothing but his deep patriotism, especially when Congress was trying to have a dialogue with British colonialism. This indicates Savarkar began his campaign with the determination to create the thunder of independence when moderate sections of the Congress were claiming that they should cooperate with the British and move on. Therefore, he was beyond the leaders of nationalism, who wore the nationalist garb of wanting achievements and strategic cooperation. 

Although expelled from Ferguson College, Savarkar had the opportunity to graduate at Gray’s Inn in London with the help of Shyamaji Krishnavarma. Savarkar arrived in London in 1906 and devoted his entire London life to the anti-British struggle. Fascinated by the Italian nationalist Mazzini’s ideas, Savarkar founded an organisation called the Free India Society and propagated Indian nationalism among Indians in London. One thing to note is that Savarkar would have conquered great heights through strategic cooperation in London if he had wanted to. However, Savarkar did not seek to do so, but instead embraced nationalism. The reason for highlighting this is to remind us that Savarkar put nationalism ahead of practical gains when the vast majority of Indians in London continued their strategic cooperation with colonial politics. That is why he decided to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the First War of Independence in 1907, and that too in London which caused a great uproar, as students marched to pay their respects to the martyrs. The result was that Savarkarism began to be considered a dangerous philosophy, and the British police kept Savarkar under a panoptical model of surveillance. Such anti-Savarkar policies intensified with the unexpected act of Madan Lal Dingra in 1909, an Indian student, who killed Sir William Hutt Curzon Wyllie, a British administrator in London. While the entire Indian community in Britain, including Jawaharlal Nehru, has either disassociated itself from or condemned the act of Dingra, partly securing their interests, Savarkar was the only one to support Dingra openly. Naturally, Savarkar was accused of instigating Dingra to murder Wyllie, though no conclusive evidence suggested so. While Dingra was given the death penalty, the life of Savarkar was becoming pathetic in London, as by this time he was branded the sole enemy of the British Empire in India. After a short stay in Paris to avoid arrest, Savarkar returned to London to get arrested in 1910. Savarkar was then deported to India for further judicial procedures which ended up with Savarkar being sentenced to life imprisonment for fifty long years in a small cell in the cellular prison in the Andaman Islands. 

As noted, the 1920s were periods of intense religious conflicts in India, especially between Hindus and Muslims. Since the conflict over the partition of Bengal in 1905, the mutual animosity between Hindus and Muslims continued and reflected in various forms: the establishment of Arya Samaj, Chapetkar brother’s initiatives, and Mitra Mela and Abhinav Mela by Savarkar brothers show these intensified religious animosities. Along with these issues, the prison-centric proselytising efforts, mostly by Muslim groups, were becoming an issue in the Andaman jail. For someone like Savarkar, dangers to Hinduism within the closed walls of the cellular jail were indicators to recognise what is happening in India. Deepened worry about Hinduism might have prompted Savarkar to avoid wasting his time and energy in jail. This means, Savarkar may have been motivated to approach the British government in the form of apologies because of the perception that he must seek to return to India to save Hinduism which was going through a difficult period of caste feud, missionary influence and Islamic conversion attempts. However, this apology was just another tactic of the most dangerous Indian freedom fighter who went to London and encouraged political assassinations. Therefore, to overcome the rising political pressure and criticism in India, Savarkar was sent to India in 1921, but was sentenced to detention in Ratnagiri until 1937. As we can see, by the 1920s patriotism slowly shifted towards Hinduness in the mind of Savarkar due to his unconditional love for Hindu culture and his desire to protect it. The result was a book, titled ‘Essentials of Hindutva’ which he wrote in 1923.

If necessary, he had the opportunity to become a leader of the Congress or part of the British government, perhaps more than Nehru, by strategically playing the card of secularism and nationalism. The perfect example can be Gandhi’s strategy of Khilafat satyagraha to extend his wings to the Muslim community.  Nevertheless, Savarkar, also a poet and philosopher, did not hide his love for Hindu culture from within and went ahead with courage, and that is what now appears as Hindutva alias Savarkarism. That means, through his post-cellular politics, both as an ideologue of Hindutva and the steward of Hindu Mahasabha, Savarkar laid the foundation stone of Hindu nationalism in India, and produced various, often contradictory versions of Hindutva politics which to this day continue to be prominent in India’s road towards cultural nationalism.    

Savarkarism: Caste and Hindutva 

Savarkar’s nationalism was a mixture of Hindu-centered cultural ideology and a reconceptualization of India’s past. While acknowledging that he was a staunch nationalist, he was also a social reformer committed to the cause of eradicating caste violence and building bridges among the various Hindu communities in India. Very interestingly, Savarkar’s ideological development towards Hindutva was shaped by a Christian named Brahma Bandhav Upadhyay, whose argument that everything in India is rooted in Hinduism profoundly influenced Savarkar. So, Savarkar’s Hindutva or Savarkarism was a mixture of various shades of Indian-ness and he wanted it to be reflected in all such aspects. There is no doubt that Savarkar’s social reforms were tainted with his political motives, but that does not lead us to forget what he did to alleviate the social problems faced by Dalits in colonial India. Savarkar’s struggles to keep temples open to the underprivileged and to eliminate caste problems often led him into conflict with the upper castes. Not only that, Savarkar initiated that lower caste Hindus should get the opportunity to educate their children. Savarkar has been at the forefront of educating underprivileged children belonging to the so-called untouchable communities. As part of his anti-caste initiatives, he regularly visited Dalit houses during festival seasons and spent time with them. The Patitpawan temple at Ratnagiri can be seen as the best example of Savarkar’s social reform efforts and anti-caste movements. Savarkar ensured equality for the lower castes in the temple’s governing body, which gave access to Hindus from all castes when the temple entry struggles led by Ambedkar had failed. It is pertinent to mention one more detail. The Ganesha festival and the pan-Indian coffee shops, started under the stewardship of Savarkar in 1930 and 1933 are the two examples of anti-caste ideology, but these transformational efforts through the participation and representation of the lower castes have not been mentioned much in the social history of India. For example, in the context of discourses of the public sphere in Europe, the famous German sociologist Habermas explains how coffee shops and salons influenced modernity transformation. Unfortunately, none of the Left-dominated Indian academic studies speaks of the pan-Indian coffee shops or its social relevance. However, Savarkar initiated that a Mahar community member should serve the food, at a time when inter-dining was impossible in India. If Indian modernity is also about questioning caste oppression and its various manifestations, there is no doubt that Savarkar had an essential role in the whole process, whether one accepts it or not.    Undoubtedly, Savarkar was an advocate of a Hindu-centric political ideology, but it was always subject to change. Therefore, as far as Savarkar is concerned, Hindu culture can be interpreted in many different ways. For example, he has made statements about India’s integrity, but also supported the partition of India. Similarly, his so-called Hindutva was an amalgamation of Aryan and Dravidian cultures, which sometimes even went so far as to say that beef may be eaten if desired. 

Savarkar Image in Post-Colonial India

One of the most distorted portrayals of Savarkar’s image in post-independence India was produced by Indian leftist intellectuals who accused him to be a communal fascist associated with Gandhi’s murder, though no such conclusive evidence exist. Typically, postcolonial India’s leftist circles always take what they call an anti-Hindutva stand, and argue that they oppose Sangh Parivar’s philosophy, and therefore Savarkar. Ironically, Indian lefts’ opposition to recognising Savarkar’s full role has led to an ahistorical representation of Savarkar’s leftist relationships, and how he has been praised by leftist or socialist intellectuals of international repute. For example, how do we interpret the fact that Savarkar earned a socialist image in the international anti-colonial circles in the 1920s, as demonstrated in the newspaper articles and a twenty-four-page pamphlet of Jean Longuet, the grand-son of Karl Marx, in support of Savarkar. Similarly, we seldom speak about Shaheed Bhagat Singh’s high regard for Savarkar. As expressed in the former’s instruction, one should understand three books to become a member of Hindustan Socialist Republican Association, and of these three, one was ‘The Life of Barrister Savarkar’. Most strikingly, M.N. Roy, the stalwart Indian leftist intellectual, reportedly requested to be part of a reception committee in 1937 to celebrate Savarkar’s release from Ratnagiri prison. As these situations demonstrate, Savarkar was a respected and celebrated freedom fighter, though the postcolonial Indian left obstinately rejects his contributions, while exaggerating his association with fascist Italy and Nazi Germany.      

Conclusions 

There is not only white and black in history but also grey matter. That is to say, individuals like Savarkar should be considered in light of all their contradictory identities. While recognising that Savarkar had every right to dream and work for Hindutva, one must also investigate his role in shaking the British Empire as one of the longest prisoners in colonial India’s history. Of course, Savarkar’s philosophy had an evident influence on India’s Hindu-Muslim conflict, but let us not forget that the Hindu-Muslim riots caused Savarkar to become a Hindu nationalist, eventually. 

Even if we reject all of Savarkar’s anti-colonial and anti-Muslim ideologies, his struggles and social reform movements, especially his efforts for the Dalit community’s upliftment, need to be further studied. Contradictory to what we usually see in Indian movies, heroes are not the seedbed of all virtues. There are also plenty of anti-heroes, who stand beyond the personalities of heroes. Unfortunately, Savarkar is a man whom a group once made an anti-hero of old heroes, both colonial and Indian, and that image remains without much change.

References

Vineeth Mathoor teaches at the Research Department of History, N.S.S. Hindu College, Kerala, India. He is an Assistant Editor of South Asia Research published by Sage International.

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South Asia

The Khalistan nightmare

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 After several postponements, the “Punjab Referendum Commission has announced to hold the “Punjab Independence Referendum on October 31, 2021.  The Commission has been appointed by the US-based Khalistani separatist group Sikhs for Justice. The Commission” consists of “non-aligned direct democracy experts” who are to organise and hold a referendum on whether Punjab should be independent. The referendum will start in London on October 31 and then take place in other countries, including the US, Canada, Australia, and the region of Punjab, the commission stated.

Commission’ chairman M Dane Waters, based at the University of Southern California clarified that the commission’s role is to “help the SFJ conduct a referendum that is as consistent with international norms as possible”.  He added, ‘Although a non-governmental and non-binding referendum, the result will be used as the basis for the Sikh community to request an official binding vote from the United Nations on establishing the Indian governed region of Punjab as an independent homeland for the indigenous people of whom Sikhs are the single largest group’. India is irked y the date of referendum,  October 31, as on this date anti-Sikh riots, following Indira Gandhi’s assassination by his body guards, erupted, leaving 3000 to 17000 Sikhs dead.

India fought tooth and nail to forestall the intended referendum. It sent a dossier to the British government blaming Pakistan and Paramjit Singh Pamma, “an ordinary criminal”, for sponsoring the event. The UK rejected the request.

SFJ has promised help and assistance for those seeking visas to come to London to attend the rally. The organisation has booked rooms in a hotel in South all for participants travelling from outside the UK. From Britain’s Green Party, which has a lone MP in Westminster, Caroline Lucas and George Galloway, a former MP and former broadcaster respectively, have registered their support for the rally. Lucas said, `Sikh people have a right to determine for themselves whether they want to establish an independent Punjabi state’.

Why India fears the non-binding referendum?

Indian High Commission has planned a counter demonstration at the same venue few hours before the ‘Referendum 2020’ rally. India is worried that the referendum would open wounds of 1984 anti-Sikh riots.

The riots resulted in genocide of thousands of Sikhs. Not only the Congress Party leaders like Sajan Kumar and Jagadish Tytler but also police colluded with the killers. India’s then foreign minister and later prime minister Manmohan Singh said , ‘If then home minister Narisamha Rao had paid to IK Gujarat’s suggestion to call in the army, the 1984 Sikh riots could have been avoided’.(1984 Sikh riots could have been avoided if Narrasimha Rao had listened to IK Gujaral: Manmohan Singh, India Today December 5, 2019).

Desire for autonomy

Guru Gobind Singh asked Sikhs to adopt Khalsa way of life. At the gathering of 1699, Guru Gobind Singh founded the Khalsa Vani – “Waheguru ji ka Khalsa, Waheguru ji ki fateh“. He named all his followers with the title Singh, meaning lion. He also founded the principles of Khalsa or the Five ‘K’s, kara, kirpan, kachha, kais, and kanga (a wrist bracelet, underwear, long hair and a comb). The five K’s have spiritual connotation.

Sikhs have a long history of fighting repression. In 1973, Akali Dal put forward the Anandpur Sahib Resolution to demand more autonomy to Punjab. It demanded that power be generally devolved from the Central to state governments. The Congress government considered the resolution a secessionist document and rejected it.

 Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, a prominent Sikh leader of Damdami Taksal, then joined the Akali Dal to launch the Dharam Yudh Morcha in 1982 to implement the Anandpur Sahib resolution. Bhindranwale had risen to prominence in the Sikh political circle with his policy of getting the Anandpur Resolution passed. Others demanded an autonomous state in India, based on the Anandpur Sahib Resolution.

India used iron fist tactics to gag the demand. The high-handed police treated the protesters (Dharam Yudh Morcha) as ordinary criminals. The Sikh youth retaliated by starting an insurgency. By 1983, the situation in Punjab was volatile.

Operation Blue Star

It was launched (1 June) “to remove him and the armed militants from the Golden Temple complex. On 6 June Bhindranwale died in the operation. The operation carried out in the temple caused outrage among the Sikhs and increased the support for Khalistan Movement.

Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi killed

Four months after the operation, on 31 October 1984, Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her two Sikh bodyguards, Satwant Singh and Beant Singh. Public outcry over Gandhi’s death led to the killings of Sikhs in the ensuing 1984 anti-Sikh riots.

Convictions

Very few people were punished. In Delhi, 442 rioters were convicted. Forty-nine were sentenced to the life imprisonment, and another three to more than 10 years’ imprisonment. Six Delhi police officers were sanctioned for negligence during the riots. That month, the Karkardooma district court in Delhi convicted five people – Balwan Khokkar (former councillor), Mahender Yadav (former MLA), Kishan Khokkar, Girdhari Lal and Captain Bhagmal – for inciting a mob against Sikhs in Delhi Cantonment. The court acquitted Congress leader Sajjan Kumar. But, upom revision, he was sentenced to life imprisonment.  In the first ever case of capital punishment in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots case death sentence was awarded to Yashpal Singh convicted for murdering two persons, 24-year-old Hardev Singh and 26-year-old Avtar Singh, in Mahipal Pur area of Delhi on 1 November 1984. Additional Sessions Judge Ajay Pandey pronounced the Judgement on 20 November 34 years after the crime was committed.

Investigations

Ten commissions or committees were formed to investigate the riots. But, most of the accused were acquitted or never formally charged. The commissions or committees include Marwah Commission, Misra Commission, Kapur Mittal Committee, Jain Banerjee Committee, Potti Rosha Committee, Jain Aggarwal Committee, Ahuja Committee, Dhillon Committee,

Narula Committee, and The Nanavati Commission, The most recent, headed by Justice G. T. Nanavati, submitted its 185-page report to Home Minister Shivraj Patil on 9 February 2005; the report was tabled in Parliament on 8 August of that year.

The Marwah Commission was appointed in November 1984. As Marwah was completing his inquiry in mid-1985, he was abruptly directed by the Home Ministry not to proceed further. The Marwah Commission records were appropriated by the government, and most (except for Marwah’s handwritten notes) were later given to the Misra Commission.

The Misra Commission was appointed in May 1985; Justice Rangnath Misra submitted his report in August 1986, and the report was made public in February 1987. In his report, he said that it was not part of his terms of reference to identify any individual and recommended the formation of three committees.

 While the commission noted that there had been “widespread lapses” on the part of the police, it concluded that “the allegations before the commission about the conduct of the police are more of indifference and negligence during the riots than of any wrongful overt act.”

The Kapur Mittal Committee was appointed in February 1987 at the recommendation of the Misra Commission to enquire into the role of the police; the Marwah Commission had almost completed a police inquiry in 1985 when the government asked that committee not to continue. Although the committee recommended the dismissal of 30 of the 72 officers, none have been punished.

The Potti Rosha Committee was appointed in March 1990 by the V. P. Singh government as a successor to the Jain Banerjee Committee. In August 1990, the committee issued recommendations for filing cases based on affidavits submitted by victims of the violence; there was one against Sajjan Kumar.

The Jain Aggarwal Committee was appointed in December 1990 as a successor to the Potti Rosha Committee. The committee recommended the registration of cases against H. K. L. Bhagat, Sajjan Kumar, Dharamdas Shastri and Jagdish Tytler.

The Ahuja Committee was the third committee recommended by the Misra Commission to determine the total number of deaths in Delhi. According to the committee, which submitted its report in August 1987, 2,733 Sikhs were killed in the city.

The Dhillon Committee, headed by Gurdial Singh Dhillon, was appointed in 1985 to recommend measures for the rehabilitation of victims. Although the committee recommended ordering the (nationalised) insurance companies to pay the claims, the government did not accept its recommendation and the claims were not paid.

The Narula Committee was appointed in December 1993 by the Madan Lal Khurana-led BJP government in Delhi. One recommendation of the committee was to convince the central government to impose sanctions.

Khurana took up the matter with the central government, which in the middle of 1994, the Central Government decided that the matter did not fall within its purview and sent the case to the lieutenant governor of Delhi. It took two years for the P. V. Narasimha Rao government to decide that it did not fall within its purview.

The Narasimha Rao Government further delayed the case. The committee submitted its report in January 1994, recommending the registration of cases against H. K. L. Bhagat and Sajjan Kumar. Despite the central-government delay, the CBI filed the charge sheet in December 1994.

The Nanavati Commission was established in 2000 after some dissatisfaction was expressed with previous reports. The commission reported that recorded accounts from victims and witnesses “indicate that local Congress leaders and workers had either incited or helped the mobs in attacking the Sikhs”. Its report also found evidence against Jagdish Tytler “to the effect that very probably he had a hand in organising attacks on Sikhs”.It also recommended that Sajjan Kumar’s involvement in the rioting required a closer look. The commission’s report also cleared Rajiv Gandhi and other high ranking Congress (I) party members of any involvement in organising riots against Sikhs.

Role of Jagdish Tytler

In March 2009, the CBI cleared Tytler amidst protests from Sikhs and the opposition parties.

Concluding remark

At present the Sikhs are distraught by farmers’ prolonged protest and pettifoggery among political leaders. Former Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh’ rivals remind  him that Pakistani journalist Aroosa Alam, his sweetheart, is a Pakistani agent. Still, the referendum may gain momentum in future.

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Did India invade Kashmir?

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Friday prayers in Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir. © John Isaac

Pakistan has decided to observe 27th October as Black Day. This was the day when, according to India’s version, it invaded the disputed Jammu and Kashmir State.  India says that Pakistan had earlier entered a lashkar (irregular forces) into Kashmir on 22nd October. But, it is eerie that India never approached the International Court of Justice, as pointed out by Josef Korbel  (the author of the Danger in Kashmir), or the  United Nations (under Chapter VII of the UN Charter) to get Pakistan declared an aggressor. It approached the UN under Chapter VI of the UN charter (mediation). India’s invasion of Kashmir is based on myths .

Myths

India claims that ‘Maharaja Hari Singh signed the treaty of accession with the Indian Dominion on October 26, 1947’. As such, India was justified in marching invading Srinagar. . As for the ‘accession instrument’ argument, curious readers may refer to Alastair Lamb’s ‘Incomplete Partition, Kashmir – A disputed legacy 1846-1990’, and ‘Birth of a Tragedy’.

On the question of who the ‘aggressor’ was, the factual position is that India marched its troops into Kashmir without Maharajah’s permission – a blatant act of aggression (Alastair Lamb, ‘Incomplete Partition , Chapter VI: The Accession Crisis. Lamb concludes: ‘According to Wolpert, VP Menon returned to Delhi from Srinagar on the morning of October 26 with no signed Instrument of Accession. Only after the Indian troops had started landing at Srinagar airfield on the morning of October 27 did VP Menon and MC Mahajan set out from Delhi from Jammu. The Instrument of Accession, according to Wolpert, was only signed by Maharaja Sir Hari Singh [if signed at all] after Indian troops had assumed control of the Jammu and Kashmir State’s summer capital, Srinagar.

Lamb regards the so-called Instrument of Accession, ‘signed’ by the maharajah of Kashmir on October 26, 1947, as fraudulent. He argues that the maharajah was travelling by road to Jammu (a distance of over 350 km). How could he sign the instrument while being on the run for the safety of his life? There is no evidence of any contact between him and the Indian emissaries on October 26, 1947. Lamb points out Indian troops had already arrived at and secured Srinagar airfield during the middle of October 1947. On October 26, 1947, a further airlift of thousands of Indian troops to Kashmir took place.

The UN outlawed the ‘accession’; the accession resolution, passed by the occupied Kashmir’s ‘constituent assembly’ is void. Aware of India’s intention to get the ‘Instrument of Accession’ rubber-stamped by the puppet assembly, the Security Council passed two resolutions, Security Council’s Resolution No 9 of March 30, 1951, and confirmatory Resolution No 122 of March 24, 1957, to forestall the ‘foreseeable accession’. It is eerie to note that the ‘Instrument of Accession’ is not registered with the United Nations. India took the Kashmir issue to the UN in 1948 under article 35 of Chapter VI which outlines the means for a peaceful settlement of disputes on Jammu and Kashmir State, not under Chapter VII dubbing Pakistan as ‘aggressor’. India knew at heart that she herself was an aggressor.

In his books, based on Nehru’s declassified papers, speeches and correspondence, Avtar Singh Bhasin debunked Nehru’s perfidious failure to hold a plebiscite. In Chapter 5 titled Kashmir, India’s Constitution and Nehru’s Vacillation (pages 51-64) of his book India and Pakistan: Neighbours at Odd he makes a startling revelation. Nehru discarded Maharajah’s and Kashmir assembly’s ‘accession’; in a letter dated October 31, 1947, addressed to the disputed state’s prime minister, he shrugged off ‘accession’. He said in the letter, ‘after consideration of the problem, we are inclined to think that it [plebiscite] should be held under United Nations’ auspices’ (p. 28 ibid..). He reiterated in New Delhi on November 3, 1951, that ‘we have made it perfectly clear before the Security Council that the Kashmir Constituent Assembly does not [insofar] as we are concerned come in the way of a decision by the Security Council, or the United Nations’(SWJ: Volume 4: page 292, Bhasin p.228). Again, at a press conference on June 11, 1951, he was asked if the proposed the constituent assembly of Kashmir ‘decides in favourof acceding to Pakistan, what will be the position?’ he reiterated, ‘We have made it perfectly clear that the Constituent Assembly of Kashmir was not meant to decide finally any such question, and it is not in the way of any decision which may ultimately flow from the Security Council proceedings’. He re-emphasised his view once again at a press conference in New Delhi on November 3, 1951. He said ‘we have made it perfectly clear before the Security Council that the Kashmir Constituent Assembly does not [insofar as] we are concerned come in the way of a decision by the Security Council or the United Nations’. Bhasin points out, ‘at a press conference on July 24, 1952, when asked what the necessity of plebiscite was now that he had got [accession by] the Constituent Assembly, he replied “Maybe theoretically you may be right. But we have given them assurance and we stand by it. Bhasin points out Nehru made a ‘tactical error’, one ‘of committing himself to the UN’.Accession documents are un-registered with the UN.

Concluding remarks

India’s prime minister Modi cartographically annexed the disputed state, spurning the UN resolutions and the Simla Accord. Let India know that a state that flouts international treaties is a rogue state: pacta sunt servanda, treaties are to be observed and are binding on parties. Mushtaqur Rehman elaborated why Kashmir is the most dangerous place in the world (Divided Kashmir: Old Problems, New Opportunities for India, Pakistan and the Kashmiri People, 1996, pp. 162-163).No talks, no mediation. That is an open invitation to war, perhaps a nuclear Armageddon.

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Bangladesh violence exposes veneer of Indo-Bangladesh bonhomie

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image source: Focus Bangla /dhakatribune.com

Protests in Chittagong, Comilla and elsewhere left 10 dead, besides loss of property. The protests were sparked over an allegation of desecration of the Holy Quran in a temple. The Holy  Quran was found resting on the thigh of a Hanuman statue in a Durga Puja pandal near a pond in Comilla called Nanua Dighi. A raft of issues from water disputes to religious tension mask mistrust in the relationship. Let us look at some of them. Broken promises indicate that India looks to its own interest.

CAA/NRC

India’s Citizenship Act and the national Register of Citizenship  does not confer citizenship on the Bengali immigrants at par with non-muslim refugees. In one of his speeches, India’s minister Amit Shah even called Bangladesh immigrants “termites”. The BJP leaders quote from Sheikh Mujibur Rehman’s book to say that Mujib, as an East Pakistani national, wanted to annex Assam into East Pakistan (Bangladesh). Bharatiya Janata Party MLA from Telangana T. Raja Singh Lodh demanded `Illegal Bangladeshi settlers and Rohingya should be shot if they do not return to their countries like gentlemen’. He made the statement in the context of the Supreme Court-monitored exercise to identify genuine Indian nationals living in Assam. A legislator from Goshamahal in Hyderabad, in similar vein, roared in a video message on a social networking site: “If these people, illegal Bangladeshis and Rohingya, don’t go back with ‘sharafat’ (like gentlemen) then there is a need to talk to them in their own language. They should be shot. Only then India will be safe. Such illegal settlers were “shot and driven out” from some other countries.

YS Chowdary of the Telugu Desam Party Said illegal immigrants from Bangladesh had settled in Assam as part of a “conspiracy to destroy India”. It is the responsibility of the government to send them back to Bangladesh, he added.

 “Shoot on sight”

Indian Border Security force has orders to “shoot on sight” if any Bangladeshi citizen living near the  4,096 kilometer (2,545 mile)alluvial/shifting border,   happens to cross over. Regarding border killings, Brad Adams, Executive Director of the Asia Department of Human Right Watch state that, “Routinely shooting poor, unarmed villagers is not how the world’s largest democracy should behave” (Adams, Brad  “India’s shoot-to-kill policy on the Bangladesh border” The Guardian. London). According to a report published by Human rights organisations, around 1,000 Bangladeshi civilians have been killed by Indian Border Security Force (BSF) in a period of 10 years (from 2001 to 2010). The report also states that Indian paramilitary forces routinely threaten, abuse arbitrarily detain and torture local Bangladeshi civilians living along the border and Bangladeshi border guards usually don’t help the Bangladeshi civilians. Odhikar, a Bangladesh-based human right organization, allege that acts of rape and looting have also been perpetrated by BSF at the border areas.

Bangladesh Border Guards hate the BSF so much that a soldier, accompanying his commander for a flag meeting with DG was shot dead.

Onion export banned

India suddenly stopped exporting onions to Bangladesh. While addressing India-Bangladesh Business Forum, in Delhi, Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina expressed grief on the onion crisis in her country. She taunted that she asked her cook not to use onions in her food. Hasina said, ‘We are facing crisis on the onion issue. I don’t know why you have banned onion export. Maine cook ko bol diya ab se khana mein pyaaz bandh kardo.” Indian Government had banned export of Onions on September 29 (Times of India ).

India is the biggest supplier of onions to Bangladesh, which buys a yearly average of more than 350,000 tons. India abruptly slapped a ban on onion exports to Bangladesh. Following the export ban, onion prices in Bangladesh jumped by more than 50 per cent, prompting the government to procure supplies from elsewhere.

Vaccine export contract cancelled

India backed out of its agreement (December) with Bangladesh to supply 30 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine, developed by Oxford University in cooperation with the Pune-based Serum Institute of India. The Institute announced that India had barred Serum from selling doses on the private market until everyone in India had received the vaccine.

Later, Salman F. Rahman, a Cabinet minister and co-founder of the Beximco Group, a Bangladeshi conglomerate, took over the responsibility to distribute three million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine in Bangladesh.

Concluding remarks

The ruling Awami League itself is mired in charges of corruption and nepotism. Its army chief also is being besmeared. It cracked down hard on its opponents  with the army chief’s help. The persecution of Muslims in India and laws like the citizenship Amendment Act and the National Register of Citizenship turned Bangladesh into a simmering cauldron of resentment.Demand for expelling all Bangladeshis from various Indian states is gaining momentum. The onslaught against Bangladeshi Muslims in India is part of Hindutva (perverted Hindu nationalism) frenzy to harass Muslim community.

Bangladesh is tight-rope balancing China and India. Many cabinet ministers think that Bangladesh’s future lies with stronger rapport with China. During her visit to China, Bangladesh’s Prime Minister discussed a broad spectrum of issues and signed several memorandum of understanding. They cover the power sector, riverine matters including Brahmaputra River, commercial loans and formation of various working groups. Bangladesh has also accepted the Belt and Road Initiative.

Bangladesh has contracted Chinese in a proposed $300 million project downstream of Teesta River.  Turkey also is improving relations with BD.

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