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Does Congress Manifesto Reflect Muslim League Thinking?

Ram Puniyani Ram Puniyani
22 Apr 2024

Last week (April 4 2024), the Indian National Congress released its manifesto, Nyay Patra (Promise for Justice), for the 2024 General Elections. It prominently talked of the Caste census, raising the cap of 50% on reservations, jobs for youth, internships, and economic support for the poor, among others. Its focus has been justice for women, Advises, dalit-OBCs, farmers, and student-youth. One of the spokespersons of Congress stated that the manifesto addresses the steps needed to undo the injustices heaped on different sections of society during the last ten years of BJP rule.

Mr Narendra Modi criticised this manifesto by saying that it has the divisive imprint of the Muslim League of yore and that the remaining part has been filled by the left ideology. One was immediately reminded of the fountainhead of Hindu nationalist ideology, RSS, second Sarsanghchalak M.S. Golwalkar, who in his 'Bunch of Thoughts' articulates that the Hindu nation has three internal threats, Muslims, Christians and Communists. The two of these threats have been invoked by the BJP at various levels and are being reiterated now. In a way, it is a sort of communal dog whistle, the primary weapon of the BJP. Muslim League manifesto and program for the 1937 Assembly elections revolved around Muslim identity demands and never talked of affirmative action for the weak. Its programs were parallel to what Hindu Nationalists have been pursuing.

Mallikarjun Kharge, the Congress President, in response to BJP's allegations, correctly brought out the collaboration of BJP's ancestors-leaders with the Muslim League. What is the truth? As such, these Religious Nationalists, Muslim League and Hindu Mahasabha-RSS share a lot in common. Their origin is the declining sections of society in light of changes in colonial India. As industrialisation, modern education, judiciary, administration, and communication emerged, new social classes emerged: the working classes, modern educated classes, and modern industrialists. The old rulers, landlords, and Raja-Nawabs felt threatened as their social-political-economic hegemony declined.

From the rising classes emerged the organisations of workers led by Narayan Meghaji Lokhande, Com Singaravelu and many more. The political expression of different emerging groups gave rise to the Indian National Congress, among others. Their fundamental values were a nascent form of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. From the declining classes of landlords-kings first came the United India Patriotic Association, which pledged its loyalty to the British. Their core ideology was the hierarchy of caste and gender. In due course, this organisation split, Muslim League in 1906 and Hindu Mahasabha in 1915. In 1923, Savarkar, in his book 'Essentials of Hindutva' articulated that there are two nations in this country, Hindu Nation and Muslim Nation. Taking off from this, RSS came up with the agenda of Hindu Rashtra in 1925. Some pro-Muslim League followers studying in London came up with the word Pakistan.

The common thread of both these streams was that they looked at the rule of Hindu or Muslim kings as the glorious golden period. They supported the British all through against the national movement for Independence. Their strategy was to ally with the British to counter the Hindus or Muslims, as the case may be. Savarkar, the leading ideologue of Hindu Nationalism in the 19th session of Hindu Mahasabha in Ahmedabad, said, "India cannot be assumed today to be a unitarian and homogenous nation, but on the contrary, there are two nations in the main: the Hindus and the Moslems, in India". Based on the "two Nation theory", Jinnah demanded a separate Muslim Nation, Pakistan, in 1940 at the Muslim League's Lahore convention.

RSS unofficial mouthpiece Organiser wrote on August 14, "...that in Hindustan only the Hindus form the nation, and the national structure must be built on that safe and sound foundation…the nation itself must be built up of Hindus, on Hindu traditions, culture, ideas, and aspirations".

Muslim League and Hindu Mahasabha formed joint ministries in Bengal, Sindh and NWFP in 1939. It was in Sind that the Muslims League passed the Pakistan resolution in the Assembly as Hindu Mahasabha members kept silent. Later, Subhash Chandra Bose, in a broadcast from Germany, appealed to both the Muslim League and Hindu Mahasabha to join the anti-British movement. These organisations and RSS kept aloof from the massive 1942 movement. Savarkar supported the British in their war efforts in a very active way. "… every branch of the Hindu Mahasabha in every town and village must actively engage itself in rousing the Hindu people to join the [British] army, navy, the aerial forces and the different war-craft manufactories [sic]." As Subhash Bose's Azad Hind Fauz fought against the British Army, Savarkar was helping the British army.

One can clearly see that both Hindu Mahasabha and Muslim League acted in the interests of the British. Subhash Chandra Bose was very much against both organisations' communal politics. Both these organisations totally ignored his appeal to join the struggle against the British. As part of a joint ministry with the Muslim League in Bengal, Shyama Prasad Mukherjee wrote to the British viceroy to control the 1942 movement, promising he would ensure the movement was suppressed there. In a letter dated July 26, 1942, he wrote, "Let me now refer to the situation that may be created in the province as a result of any widespread movement launched by the Congress. Anybody, who during the war, plans to stir up mass feeling, resulting internal disturbances or insecurity, must be resisted by any Government that may function for the time being".

Subhash Chandra Bose categorised both these ideologies of Muslim nationalism and Hindu nationalism into the same group; the analysis of Bhimrao Babasaheb Ambedkar was similar. In His book Pakistan or Partition of India, 1940, he writes, "Strange as it may appear, Mr. Savarkar and Mr. Jinnah, instead of being opposed to each other on the one nation versus two nations issue are in complete agreement about it. Both agree, not only agree but insist, that there are two nations in India — one the Muslim nation and the other the Hindu nation".

No wonder any commitment for the downtrodden has to be condemned by BJP-RSS as that goes against the agenda of Hindu Rashtra. We can see the fate of deprived sections in Pakistan, which came up as a Muslim Nation. Modi's criticism of this hope-giving manifesto aligns with what his ideological forefathers were saying.

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