Hindutva brigade continues to pretend to have great admiration for Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose (23 January 1897–18 August 1945) who attempted to organise a military campaign to force the British out of India. But very few people know about the terrible betrayal of his cause by the Hindu Mahasabha under the leadership of Savarkar who was also adored by the RSS as Hindutva icon. When Netaji during World War II was trying to secure foreign support for liberation of the country and trying to organise a military attack on the northeast of the country which finally culminated in the formation of ‘Azad Hind Fauj’ (Indian National Army), it was Savarkar who offered full military cooperation to the British masters. While addressing 23rd session of Hindu Mahasabha at Bhagalpur in 1941, he said:
The war which has now reached our shores directly constitutes at once a danger and an opportunity which both render it imperative that the militarization movement musts be intensified and every branch of the Hindu Mahasabha in every town and village must actively engage itself in rousing the Hindu people to join the army, navy, the aerial forces and the different war-craft manufactories.
To what extent Savarkar was willing to help the British would be clear by the following words of his:
So far as India’s defence is concerned, Hindudom must ally unhesitatingly, in a spirit of responsive co-operation with the war effort of the Indian government in so far as it is consistent with the Hindu interests, by joining the Army, Navy and the Aerial forces in as large a number as possible and by securing an entry into all ordnance, ammunition and war craft factories…Again it must be noted that Japan’s entry into the war has exposed us directly and immediately to the attack by Britain’s enemies. Consequently, whether we like it or not, we shall have to defend our own hearth and home against the ravages of the war and this can only be done by intensifying the government’s war effort to defend India. Hindu Mahasabhaits must, therefore, rouse Hindus especially in the provinces of Bengal and Assam as effectively as possible to enter the military forces of all arms without losing a single minute.
Savarkar called upon Hindus “to flood the [British] army, the navy and the aerial forces with millions of Hindu warriors with Hindu Sanghatanist hearts” and assured them that if Hindus recruited in the British armed forces,our Hindu nation is bound to emerge far more powerful, consolidated and situated in an incomparably more advantageous position to face issues after the war— whether it be an internal anti-Hindu Civil War or a constitutional crisis or an armed revolution.
While concluding his address at Bhagalpur, Savarkar once again stressed upon the Hindus to join war efforts of the British government. He categorically stated:
Whatever, again, be the position and the fate of nations after the war, today under the present circumstances taking all things together, the only feasible and relatively beneficial attitude which the Hindu Sanghatanists can take up is doubtless to ally ourselves actively with the British government on the point of Indian Defence, provided always that we can do so without being compelled to betray the Hindu cause.
The following concluding words of his Bhagalpur address made it clear that as per his wisdom, sub-serving the British war efforts would herald a great future for the Hindus of the country:
If ever the saying was true that the darkest hour of the night is nearer the golden rise of the morn, it holds good today. The war that has approached our shores from the East and may threaten us in due course even from the West is a danger which may prove unparalleled in its magnitude, ravages and results. But it is also bound to break into a new day for the world and there are no signs wanting to show us that not only a newer but a better Order [sic] may ensure out of this world chaos. Those who have lost all may gain much in the end. Let us also bide our time and pray and act for the best.
Savarkar’s total support to the British war efforts when leaders like Subhash Chandra Bose were trying to chalk out a strategy to throw out the British rule from India through armed struggle was the result of a well-thought-out Hindutva design. It was in Madura (22nd session of the Hindu Mahasabha, 1940) that he made his choice clear. His support to the British rested on the logic that “it is altogether improbable that in this war England will be defeated so disastrously as to get compelled to hand over her Indian Empire, lock, stock and barrel into German hands”[vi]thus believing in the invincibility of the British Empire.
His presidential address at Madura is a living testimony to his unabashed support to the British imperialistic designs. He rejected outright Netaji’s attempts to liberate India. He declared:
Not only on moral grounds but on the grounds of practical politics we are compelled not to concern ourselves on behalf of the Hindu Mahasabha organisation with any programme involving any armed resistance, under the present circumstances.
There was absolutely no ambiguity in his support to the British military designs. He presented a strange alibi in order to justify the unashamed support to the colonial masters. According to his logic,
Thus after taking stock of all other courses and factors for and against us, I feel no hesitation in proposing that the best way of utilizing the opportunities which the war has afforded to us cannot be any other than to participate in all war efforts which the [British] government are compelled by circumstances to put forth in so far as they help in bringing about the militarization and industrialization of our people.
When the British government in the wake of the World War II decided to raise new battalions of its armed forces, it was Hindu Mahasabha under direct command of Savarkar which decided to enroll Hindus in a big way in this venture. This is what Savarkar reported to the delegates at the Hindu Mahasabha session at Madura:
Naturally, the Hindu Mahasabha with a true insight into a practical politics decided to participate in all war efforts of the British government in so far as they concerned directly with the question of the Indian defence and raising new military forces in India.
It was not as if Savarkar was unaware of the strong resentment which was brewing in the ranks of common Indians against such an approach. He brushed aside any criticism of Hindu Mahasabha’s decision of co-operating with the British in war efforts as,
political folly into which the Indian public is accustomed to indulge in thinking that because Indian interests are opposed to the British interests in general, any step in which we join hands with the British government must necessarily be an act of surrender, anti-national, of playing into the British hands and that co-operation with the British government in any case and under all circumstances is unpatriotic and condemnable
If on the one hand, Bose was working on the military strategies to take help of the German and Japanese forces to liberate India, on the other hand, Savarkar was busy in directly assisting the British colonial masters. This amounted to the betrayal of the cause espoused by Netaji. Savarkar and Hindu Mahasabha openly stood with the British government which later was able to kill and maim thousands of brave cadres of the Indian National Army (INA). While greatly eulogizing the British masters, Savarkar told his followers at Madura that due to the ever-advancing forces of Japan with a declared objective of freeing Asia from European influence, the British government needed Indians in large numbers in its armed forces which must be helped. While praising the British war strategy, he said:
The British statesmanship, far sighted as it usually is, realised this also that if ever war broke out with Japan, India itself must be the centre of gravity of all war preparations…chances are that an army with the strength of a couple of millions shall have to be raised, manned by Indians under Indian officers as rapidly as Japan succeeds in advancing near our Frontiers.
Savarkar spent the next few years in organizing recruitment camps for the British armed forces which were to slaughter the cadres of INA in different parts of North-East later. The Madura conference of Hindu Mahasabha concluded with the adoption of an ‘immediate programme’ which stressed “to secure entry for as many Hindus recruits as possible into army, navy and the air forces”.[xii] He also informed them that through the efforts of Hindu Mahasabha alone, one lakh Hindu’s were recruited in the British armed forces in one year. It is to be noted that during this period RSS continued inviting Savarkar to address the RSS youth gatheringsfor motivating the latter to recruit into the British armed forces.
Savarkar, while emphasizing the need to join the British war efforts, gave following direction to the Hindu Mahasabha cadres:
Turn this inevitable co-operation with the British as profitable to your own country as it is possible under our present circumstances to do. Because let it not be forgotten that those who fancy that they can claim of not having co-operated with the government and helped the war-efforts either on account of the demoralising and hypocritical fad of absolute non-violence and non-resistance even in face of an armed aggression or as a matter of policy simply because they do not join the fighting forces, are but indulging in self-deception and self-complacency.
His call to the Hindus had no ambiguity: “Let the Hindus therefore come forward now and enter the army, the navy and the air-forces, the ordnance and other war-crafts factories in their thousands and millions.” Hindu Mahasabha under Savarkar’s leadership organised high-level Boards in different regions of the country to help the Hindus seeking recruitment in the British armed forces. We come to know through the following words of Savarkar that these Boards were in direct contact with the British government. Savarkar informed the cadres,
To deal with the difficulties and the grievances which the Hindu recruits to the Army find from time to time, a Central Northern Hindu Militarization Board has been formed by the Hindu Mahasabha at Delhi with Mr. Ganpat Rai, B.A., L.L.B Advocate, 51, Panchkuin Road, New Delhi, as convener. A Central Southern Hindu Militarization Board is also formed under the Chairmanship or Mr. L.B. Bhopatkar, M.A., LL.B., President Maharashtra Provincial Hindusabha, Sadashiv Peth Poona. All complaints or applications for information etc. should be addressed by those Hindus who want to enter the forces or have already enlisted themselves in them, to the above addresses. Sir Jwala Prasad Shrivastav; Barrister Jamnadasji Mehta, Bombay; Mr. V.V. Kalikar, M.L.C., Nagpur and other members on the National Defence Council or the Advisory War Committee will certainly try their best to get these difficulties removed so far as possible when they are forwarded by these Militarization Boards on to them.
This clearly shows that the British Government had accommodated leaders of the Hindu Mahasabha on its official war committees. Those who declare Savarkar as a great patriot and freedom fighter must bow their heads in shame when they read the following instruction from Savarkar to those Hindus who were to join the British forces:
One point however must be noted in this connection as emphatically as possible in our own interest that those Hindus who join the Indian [read the British] Forces should be perfectly amenable and obedient to the military discipline and order which may prevail there provided always that the latter do not deliberately aim to humiliate Hindu Honour.
Astonishingly, Savarkar never felt that joining the armed forces of the colonial masters was in itself a great humiliation for any self-respecting and patriotic Indian. Bhide’s book also tells us that he alone drafted the following resolution titled ‘Maha Sabha and the Great War’ which read:
As the task of defending India from any military attack is of common concern to the British government as well as ourselves and as we are unfortunately not in a position today to carry out that responsibility unaided, there is ample room for whole-hearted cooperation between India and England.
World War II was also the period when different groups of revolutionaries and Subhash Chandra Bose were trying to secure help from countries like the USSR.
Savarkar used the occasion of his 59th birthday also for promoting Hindu Mahasabha’s call for large-scale Hindu recruitment to the British military forces. In his birthday message, he called upon every,
Hindu who is capable to put in military service, join the land forces and the air forces or secure entry into the ammunition factories and such other manufacturing workshops in connection with war crafts.
The British Government was in regular touch with Savarkar so far as the organisation of its highest war bodies was concerned. It included individuals whose names were proposed by Savarkar. This is made clear from the following thanksgiving telegram Savarkar sent to the British government. Bhide’s volume tells us that,
The following Telegram was sent by Barrister V.D. Savarker [sic], the President of the Hindu Mahasabha to (1) General Wavell, the Commander in-Chief; and (2) the Viceroy of India on the 18th instant (July 18, 1941).
YOUR EXCELLENCY’S ANNOUNCEMENT DEFENCE COMMITTEE WITH ITS PERSONNEL IS WELCOME. HINDUMAHASABHA VIEWS WITH SPECIAL SATISFACTION APPOINTMENT OF MESSERS KALIKAR AND JAMNADAS MEHTA.
It is important to note here that even the Muslim League, sub-serving the interests of the British rulers, refused to align in these war efforts or join Defence Committees established by the government as done by Savarkar.
It is sad that despite all these pro-British criminal, anti-national ideas and activities of Savarkar Indian rulers continue glorifying him as ‘Veer’. It is intriguing that these nefarious ideas and deeds of the Hindutva gang against Netaji were kept hidden. It could be understood in context of the present Children of the Hindutva organizations but why democratic-secular historians too kept quiet about this betrayal is more intriguing. If India is to be saved from coming under the Iron Heel of the Hindutva juggernaut, we must share this fact with common Indians.
I challenge members/supporters of Savarkar and RSS to prove these facts wrong.
(The author is a retired Professor of University of Delhi.Email: [email protected])
INDESCRIBABLE JOHN ELI
By Shabbir Aariz
This indeed is proverbially a herculean task to describe or define John Elia in any particular frame. Whosoever while mentioning him, is either trapped in contradictions of one’s own opinion or is able to confine to a few verses of John Elia to judge him. But the more one tries to understand John, the more confused one is and I believe that you need another John Elia to explain him. He is a phenomenon, a thing like a live fish to hold in your hand or an elephant amongst blinds to be described. Wusatullah Khan, a noted broadcaster, holds that knowing John is as good as dating with a liberated lady. And it is quite obvious that a man who in him is a philosopher, a scholar, a biographer, a linguist with command over Urdu, Arabic, English, Persian, Sanskrit and Hebrew and needless to say that the Ismaili sect of the subcontinent could not find anyone other than John to translate Ismaili treatises from Hebrew, it becomes a tedious affair to be conclusive about John. Common perception though with an element of truth is that John is a progressive Marxist, an unconventional poet and always in denial of everything including himself while himself saying in three line verse,
“KISKO FUSAT K MUJSAY BAHAS KARAY…..
OOR SABIT KARAY K MERA WAJOOD….
ZINDZGI K LIYAY ZARORI HAY
(Anyone prepared to argue and prove that my existence is imperative for life). His poetry is admittedly very close to life and his verses in the words of a legendry poet, Majrooh Sultanpuri, are like a dialogue which no other poet has the distinction to be capable of. John has an extra-ordinary craft of connecting with his audience that has created an unprecedented fan following which no other contemporary poet can claim to have. So magical is his poetry and its rendition that it has created a cult of his admirers with such an obsession and longing for the life of melancholy lead by John Elia himself. It is no secret that he was never a happy man with defiance and protest against everything and anything around. Loudly a nonconformist when he says
“unjaman main mayri khamooshi…..
burdabari nahin hay wehshat hay”.
His style made him famous and popular. He appears to be disgusted even with creation when he says … “HASILE KUN HAY YEH JAHANE KHARAAB….
YAHI MUMKIN THA AYSI UJLAT MAIN”.
His admirers strangely wish to pass through the same pain and despair that is hallmark of John’s poetry besides satire and the disdain for the system which contributed to his sadness in life. He has so glorified and romanticized the pain and sadness that it leaves his audience in frenzied ecstasy.
John Elia was born in the year 1931 and died in 2002. He originally belonged to Amroha in the state of Uttar Pradesh, younger brother of Rayees Amrohi, a known journalist and writer. John migrated to Pakistan in the year 1957 and settled in Karachi where he is buried now. But Amroha never left his heart and mind. He never felt comfortable after leaving Amroha partly because his stay in Karachi brought him in conflict with the system too. Many other things have also contributed to his sadness in life. He was married to a well-known writer of Pakistan, Zahida Hina but in mid-80’s , the relation between the two became bumpy and ended up in divorce which left John devastated and for ten long years thereafter went in depression without writing a word.
As is true about many in the history of literature, John earned his name and fame more after his death than in his life time while he was not received well and felt a strange type of suffocation when he says,
“AAP APNAY SAY HUMSUKHAN REHNA…..
HUMNISHEEN SAANS PHOOL JATI HAY”.
Thanks to the electronic boom and You Tube that brought him to the lime light and enabled audience to reach him and his works. As if this was not enough that his first poetic collection only came to be published when he reached the age of 60. It is worthwhile mention that he has as many as seven poetic collections to his credit namely SHAYAD, YANI, LEKIN, GUMAAN, GOYA, FARMOD and RAMOOZ. Except one, all other are published posthumously. This is besides his scholarly works in prose which may require greater insight to go into.
John all his life remained honest, direct and straightforward in expressing his views on matters of public interest. He also never demonstrated any pretentions or reservations while expressing the truth of his personal life. He never made any secret of his fantasies, love affairs or drinking habits. Yet he was never at peace either with the times or with himself. John Elia, in my humble opinion lived ahead of times and even the desire of dying young without being bed ridden was not granted to him except that he strangely enough wanted to die of tuberculosis and which he did.
(The author, a senior lawyers, is a well known poet and writer. Feedback at: [email protected])
Manto: Why I wanted to read a ‘lewd’ writer
By Naveed Hussain
I first read Saadat Hasan Manto as a teenager and the spirit of what I’m writing now was etched on my memory in those years.
I was too young to understand the intricacies of his stories but I enjoyed what I read and craved for more. Back then, Manto wasn’t available in the small town of Haripur where I lived. A friend introduced me to a schoolteacher, a bibliophile who had a modest collection of Manto in his personal library.
“Why do you want to read Manto, he’s a ribald, lewd writer,” he quipped. “This is exactly why I want to read him,” I replied, almost impulsively. He smiled and agreed to lend me Manto’s books. Thus began my journey to explore Manto. The more I read, the deeper my love for him became.
Manto was a nonconformist, an unorthodox and ruthlessly bold writer. He didn’t believe in the so-called literary norms of ‘decency’ and ‘civility’ set by didactic writers of his time. For him, truth is truth. No matter how bitter and despicable the reality, Manto never dilutes the truth. Like a muckraker, he pokes his nose into the muck, rakes it, and then holds it up to the reader – in all its profound ugliness and twisted beauty. “If you don’t know your society, read my stories. If you find a defect, it’s the defect of your society, not my stories,” he says.
Manto wrote on socially taboo topics like sex, incest and prostitution, which earned him the wrath of contemporary traditionalists, conservatives and even progressives. For some of his ‘lewd’ and ‘obscene’ stories he had to face lawsuits – among them were great stories such as Thanda Gosht, Bu, Khol Do, Dhuan and Kali Shalwar.
But it is to miss the point to simply say that Manto wrote about sex. He wrote about the sexual debauchery of men and the sexual exploitation of women; about our patriarchal society where women are often treated as a ‘sex toy’, not a human being. Unlike many, I don’t compare Manto with DH Lawrence, because Manto is not lustful, even though he explicitly writes about the female anatomy. He’s more like Guy de Maupassant, who sees the throbbing heart, not the sensuous body, of the prostitute.
Manto blames the ‘diseased mind’ for reading ‘ribaldry’ into his stories. If a sex maniac derives morbid gratification from Venus De Milo, should we blame Alexandros of Antioch for chiselling such a ‘graphic’ sculpture? No, certainly not.
For contemporary literary pundits, Manto was also unacceptable because he wrote ‘indecent’ language. “They [the critics] criticise me when my characters verbally abuse one another – but why don’t they criticise their society instead where hundreds of thousands of profanities are hurled on the streets, every day,” he wonders.
I also love Manto because he was honest. He was an unflinchingly true writer who believed in calling a spade a spade. Sketch-writing was introduced as a genre in Urdu literature much earlier, but Manto created his own peculiar tell-all style. He didn’t write only the good qualities of his characters. “In my bathroom, everyone is naked. I don’t clothe them because it’s the tailor’s job,” he writes.
Manto’s sketches, which he initially wrote for the Lahore-based Daily Afaq newspaper, were later collected and published as Ganjay Farishtay. Manto wasn’t a hypocrite. He minced no words while writing about his dead friends. “I curse a thousand times a so-called civilised society where a man’s character is cleansed of all its ills and tagged as ‘May-God-Bless Him’,” Manto wrote in Ganjay Farishtay. Manto wrote sketches of filmstars Ashok Kumar, Shyam, Noor Jahan, literary figures such as Meera Ji, Agha Hashar and Ismat Chughtai and some politicians. “I have no camera that could have washed smallpox marks off the face of Agha Hashar or change obscenities uttered by him in his flowery style.”
Before embarking on his literary career, Manto had read Russian, French and English masters like Chekhov, Gorky, Victor Hugo, de Maupassant and Oscar Wilde and translated some of their works into Urdu. Surprisingly enough, despite his love for revolutionaries, Manto was not a Marxist ideologue. He was a humanist who was pained to see social injustices, economic disparities and exploitation of the underprivileged. He hated the obscurantist clergy and parasitic elites alike.
Although Manto had migrated to Pakistan after 1947, he couldn’t understand the rationale of partitioning a land along religious lines. His stories of bloodshed and cross-border migration, such as Teetwaal Ka Kutta and Toba Tek Singh, made him unpopular with ‘patriotic’ Pakistanis. To this day he remains a shadowy figure on the official literary lists of Pakistan: our school curricula, our national awards, our drawing room conversations.
Manto was acknowledged as a creative genius even by his detractors. And he knew this, which is perhaps why he wanted these words to mark his grave: “Here lies Saadat Hasan Manto and with him lie all the secrets and mysteries of the art of short story writing. Under tons of earth he lies, still wondering who among the two is the greater short story writer: he or God.”
Manto’s family feared his self-written epitaph would attract the unwanted attention of the ignorantly religious, so on his grave one finds a Ghalib couplet. He faced censorship all his life and even now has chunks of his stories taken out by the authorities. But as we mark his centenary year, I can say this with the instant certainty I felt as a young man in Haripur: the words and stories of Saadat Hasan Manto will outlive us all.
Gauhar Raza: Giving Poetry the Power to Protest
By Asheesh Mamgain
If things were different his poems would have been different, or maybe he would not have been a poet at all. But things are what they are. And that is why Gauhar Raza, the poet is writing, and it is why he writes his poetry of protest.
“Maybe I would have written about love, the beauty of nature and science. But as things stand my poetry is predominantly about resistance and protest,” said Raza, who is faithful to the tradition of resistance poetry to the extent that he has throttled, without much difficulty, the romantic and the scientist in him. “The need to write poetry always arose when something happened around me which affected me, to the core. I have never written and will never write poetry just for the sake of it.”
“The murder of Safdar Hashmi, the breaking up of the Soviet Union, the demolition of the Babri Masjid, the killing of an activist in Afghanistan, the death of Rohith Vemula are some of those things,” he said.
Raza’s second published collection of ghazals and nazms (71 in all) came out in November 2017 and is titled Khamoshi, or Silence.
Is there a lot of anger in his poems? Yes, there is definitely a lot of anger. But then there is also hope. That is where Raza becomes special.
“For me, a poem that merely complains or rants about the injustice, violence and persecution happening all around is not enough. A poet has to go beyond this; he has to give a vision. The vision of an alternative world, of a better world. Only then will his poetry be successful and meaningful. A poet has to show the consciousness he wants to bring into society.”
So how does he define good poetry? “Well, a good poem should be able to raise the level of the reader at least one notch higher, and also give him a fresh perspective about the aspect being dealt in the poem. Something new to dwell upon,” said Raza.
The influences that shaped his poetic thought came pretty early, at home and at the Aligarh Muslim University where he studied. Raza’s father, Wizarat Hussain, worked in the education department there and was a second-generation Leftist.
“The question about the existence of God came up very early in my life and soon I became an atheist for life,” said Raza. Literature was read with passion at home and by the time he was 15 he had read all the Urdu literature available at the AMU library as well as a solid portion of Russian literature.
“During my growing years, Leftist thought had a major presence in the university. On the other hand, the fundamental forces were also steadily getting stronger. I was smitten by the leftist idea. I was part of a literary study circle, we served tea at the secret meetings of leftist groups and listened to discussions at home between my father and other intellectuals such as Irfan Habib and Iqtidar Alam Khan.”
There was a lot of churning in his mind and soon he started pouring the remnants of all that into his poems. When it comes to poetry some of Raza’s major influences have been Ghalib, Faiz Ahmad Faiz and Sahir Ludhianvi. He is often seen reciting their work at length during his various lectures, with Sahir Ludhianvi’s long poem ‘Parchhaiyan’ or Shadows one of his favourites.
“Writing the kind of poetry I do is not easy. Each time a write a poem I must relive all the pain and emotion I went through when the particular incident happened that forced me to write. All those disturbing images come rushing back to me. It is a difficult thing to undergo.”
Nor is poetry Raza’s only means of reaching the people. He recently retired as chief scientist from the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research. He is also into documentary filmmaking, his documentaries on Bhagat Singh and the 2002 Gujarat genocide being very well known.
Where does poetry stand today, as a means of communication with the reader? According to Raza, “for one, social media has helped. It has helped poets reach a wider audience. Also, the tradition of musharias and kavi sammelans (poetry meets) is still very strong in India. So even if a poet is competing with the multimedia world, it is easy to reach one’s audience with one’s poetry, provided you have something pertinent to say.”
More broadly speaking, however, “I have to say that things have progressed in a disturbing direction. A poem I wrote 20 years ago, I could rededicate it to Rohith Vemula and then to Gauri Lankesh. This disturbing trend is seen all over the world. I believe that the fall of the USSR has been a major turning point in the way our World has evolved.”
A few lines from one of his poems brings out his concern and struggle.
Mein phool khilata hoon jab bhi,
Woh baad e khizan le aate hain,
Mein geet sunata hoon jab bhi,
Yeh aag se ji bahlate hain.
Whenever I make a flower blossom
They bring the autumn wind
Whenever I sing a song
They give the soul succour with flame.
But Raza is still hopeful. “There has been a resurgence of resistance poetry in Urdu in the recent past. The trend of religious poetry in Urdu has also reduced in recent times. The youth today has become more involved in this attempt to bring a positive change. I have seen young people reading protest poetry and reacting to it. Once again universities have become a place of resistance and struggle for change.”