Saturday, May 28th, 2022 00:51:46

Gandhi Contributions, Conflicts, Compromises

Updated: January 16, 2022 2:27 pm

After so many years Acharya J B Kriplani’s book Gandhi His Life and Thought is back in reckoning. It is probably so, because India is undergoing a renaissance wherein Indianhood is giving way to Bhartiyata.

Pre-independence and post-independence narratives are crumbling. Media platforms and communication channels are no longer the preserve of the government. The social-media is proving

Some of the major takeaways from this book are discussed in the succeeding paras.

to be a very powerful antidote to inspired propagandas. Books, once forgotten are being revived and reinterpreted. Acharya Kriplani’s book is one such case.


Acharya Kriplani says that Gandhi was against partition because it amounted to vivisection of the country, yet he advised rather prevailed on the AICC to endorse the decision of the Working Committee of the Congress. Gandhi ji felt that he was not in control of things and events had over taken him. He realized that he cannot render the country leaderless. Indeed, as per the book, Gandhi ji had said that he would sacrifice his life for Hindu-Muslim unity, but it did not mean committing suicide. The word ‘sacrifice’ implied that somebody had to take Gandhi’s life. Gandhi maintained at that juncture that exhorting people not to obey the Working Committee would have meant boycott of the incumbent leadership, and it was impossible to create another leadership in such a short period. He said that time was not on his side, hence he could not weken the leadership. He therefore had to swallow the poison.

Further, Acharya Kriplani says that Maulana Azad in his book ‘India Wins Freedom’ (page 192-197) writes that he was against partition.. but the fact is that the Maulana never opposed it in the AICC or the Working Committee meeting.

Muslim leaders in Congress were obsessed with self-determination

When the proposal for partition was introduced in the Working Committee, everyone was sad and depressed. The proposal from Viceroy was accepted without discussion or examination. Sind had Muslim League ministry and the decision for accession was left to the Assembly. In NWFP, there was a Congress ministry, but it was not left to the Assembly, instead a referendum was prescribed. The Sylhet district of Assam had a Muslim majority, and there too referendum was stipulated. Nevertheless, Tharparkar district of Sind, had Hindu majority (95%), but there was no provision for a similar referendum.

It was evident that the British wanted to favour the Muslim League, but it is not understood why these inconsistencies were not discussed in the Working Committee. Only one person stood up and that was Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan (Frontier Gandhi). He said that partition would destroy the Pathan community. He was inconsolable and said ‘Hum to tabah ho gaye’ (we are utterly ruined). Kriplani maintains that indeed the frontier comrades were betrayed. He blames Maulana Azad and other Congress leaders for this betrayal. He underscores that had the Muslim leaders in the Congress stood up with Gaffar Khan, partition would have been prevented. But they were obsessed with the idea of ‘self-determination’ for the Muslims.

Role of White Bureaucrats

British on advice of the white bureaucrats in India pitted the Muslim League against the Congress. On the advice of white bureaucrats, it equated Congress with the cast Hindu organization, not even Hindu organization. The fact that there were many Muslims in the Congress in important positions made no difference. The white bureaucrats never considered Schedule Castes as Hindus despite Gandhi’s yeoman service to the community. This game was evident during the Second Round Table Conference, wherein Prime Minister McDonald proposed separate electorate for Harijans. All prime ministers, who followed, maintained similar policy of balancing the Muslim League and the Congress.

On 2nd June 1947, Mountbatten called a conference, wherein he accorded Gandhi the status of representative of Hindus.

Acharya Kriplani opines that it would be wrong to say that Atlee or Mountbatten were responsible for partition. Actually, the stage was set by the White Civil Services in India. They always felt that all the troubles were because of the Congress. Acharya adds that we were so simple that we never believed that Mountbatten was following the political masters in Britain, who acted on the advice of White Bureaucracy in India. The stage for partition was set much before Mountbatten arrived.

Significantly, Acharya says that “the merit of Mountbatten lay in inducing the Congress leadership to accept the partition willingly”. Acharya claims to have met Lord Ismay, who was part of Mountbatten’s entourage. Lord Ismay categorically conveyed that British government fully endorsed the partition plan as advanced by the Muslim League.

The divergences in understanding and interpretation of ‘creed’ with   regard to violence and non-violence in  Hindu religion and Muslim majhab continues to bedevil Bharat.

Pakistan a theocracy and India a secular democracy!

The white bureaucrats in India advocated partition on the plea of protection of minorities. How could Britain, which claimed to be a modern democratic state, countenance the idea that religion could be the basis of citizenship and nationality. Kriplani laments that it is also not understood that how in a democracy the majority and minority could be equated. In the Western democracies, the state was considered to be inherently secular. Nevertheless, the British wanted India, with a large Muslim population, to be secular like Britain, accepted the establishment of Pakistan as a theocratic Islamic state.

Acharya reveals Mountbatten could tell Gandhi that Congress was “with me” and not with Mahatma. He laments that Nehru did not take any decision without the approval of Mountbatten. It was at the instance of Mountbatten that Nehru went to UNO on Kashmir. He acquiesced to plebiscite in Kashmir, also on the prodding of Mountbatten. The decision to give military funeral to Gandhi was also Mountbatten’s decision, because he could not think beyond the military way. Gandhi’s body was taken on a gun carriage which was an anathema to his declared moral compass and philosophy. Ironically, nobody in the Congress protested. Acharya Kripalani emphasizes that Lady Mountbatten was a  very shrewd diplomat. She enjoyed great intimacy with Nehru, which lasted till her death.It may deduced that ‘honey trap’ may have played a great role in decisions pertaining to transfer of power and partition.

Kripalani says that Nehru had assured the Congress that even if partition took place, it would take ten years to operationalize. It took the same period to complete the separation between India and Burma. Probably Nehru had underestimated the quick efficiency of Mountbatten. He had quickly established himself the unassailable boss of India.So much so that he had the confidence to tell Gandhi that Congress was with him and not the latter.


Mountbatten Equated SC with Muslim

Jinnah was not only recognized as complete master of Muslims but Mountbatten allowed him a role with regard to representation of Schedule Castes as well.When the Congress included a SC in the Interim Cabinet, the right to include another was extended to Jinnah as well. He was rather allowed similar concessions with regard to all minorities. Indeed the endeavor was to equate Muslims with SC. Jai Bhim – Jai Meem probably draws its inspiration from this antecedent. This had been the policy of the white bureaucracy in India. Whatever the power arrangement in Britain, they all acted in accordance with the white bureaucracy in India.

Gandhi Accused of Blasphemy of Koran

When Gandhi established Phoenix and Tolstoy farms in Africa he invited people from all communities and faiths to be part of it, including white Christians. Youth were given instructions about their own scriptures and were advised to follow stipulations and imperatives of their respective faiths.Gandhi says that he particularly emphasized on Muslims offering their namaz. Those days Gandhi had undertaken in-depth study of scriptures of various faiths. He constantly had the scriptures on his table.A Muslim friend of Gandhi objected to Koran being placed in company of scriptures of other faiths, he rather accused of him of blasphemy. Gandhi then sought the correct way, and was advised to put the Koran in a bag, and hang it on the wall, outside the contaminating distance of other scriptures, which Gandhi obediently did.

Hindus cannot recite Aayats

In Noakhali Gandhi exerted for Hindu-Muslim unity and stressed that God was indeed one.The Muslims objected to it because the Maulanas had drilled into them that it was blasphemous to say that Ishwar and Allah were two different names for one absolute power. Hence, the prayer meetings of Gandhi had little impact on the Muslims.The slogan that Ram and Rahim were one also had no takers amongst muslims.Gandhi made some Hindu disciples recite the Aayats, which was again considered a blasphemous act by the Muslims. They maintained that non Muslims cannot recite Aayats, and there was only brotherhood for muslimsi.e. Ummah.

When Annie Besant Chided Gandhi

Followig the laying of foundation stone of Benares Hindu University by Lord Hardinge, there was a meeting presided over by Maharaja of Dharbhanga as part of the ceremony. Gandhi then had just arrived on the Indian political scene. He was desperate to elevate himself in the Congress hierchy.He began his speech by berating the Maharajas for their expensive jewelries donned for the occasion. He went on to say that their jewelries and palaces owed to the sweat of the tillers. He then castigated the revolutionaries and said their methods were wrong.It is on this occasion that Anne Besant bursted out against Gandhi and stormed out of the meeting.


Gandhi Not Against Japan

Kripalani says that the Deputy Chief of the Army had said that he could not defend India against possible Japanese onslaught. The British had planned to evacuate Madras, Calcutta, Mumbai and Delhi.There were plans to fall back to a line in proximity to Allahabad.The British never trusted in arming Indians to defend themselves. Under such circumstances Gandhi wanted the British to leave.He said he personally had nothing against Japan, if they came he would offer non violent non-cooperation. A resolution was drafted in the Congress Working Committee. Maulana Azad was present. Next day when final draft was read out the,Maulana objected to the condition that British must withdraw from India.

Gandhi Must Be Pleased with Modi

In his BHU inauguration speech Gandhiji mentioned about the apathy of the people about the narrow and filthy approach to the Kashi Vishwanath temple. 106 years hence Modi has fulfilled the desire of the Mahatma.


In the wake of the First World War the Turkey ceased to be the leader of the Islamic world. The Caliphate had collapsed, and the Sultan was deposed. For the Muslims of India specially the privileged ones, the Sultan was the spiritual and political father. Leaders like Hakim Ajmal Khan and Dr MA Ansari convened a meeting to chalk out a agitation plan against the British and compel them to restore the Caliphate and the Sultan. They realized that to make the agitation effective, they must find a way to include Hindus as well, so they roped in Gandhi. The participation of Gandhi galvanized even those muslims who, being convertees, were least conscious about caliphate and caliph. Gandhi advised the muslim leaders that the agitation should be non –violent to which they reacted very sharply. The leaders and maulanas said that non-violence was antithetical to Quran. As per Kripalani, Gandhi did not dispute it, and suggested that non-violence may be treated as a’ policy’ exigency, rather as a change of ‘ creed’

And finally the last journey of Gandhiji.. Kripalani says that Gandhiji was on fast and the cabinet met by his bedside. The cabinet took the express decision to to pay Rs 55 crores to Pakistan. There was a large segment of refugees and constituencies in Maharashtra and Gwalior who wanted to ensure the end of Gandhi.. One such refugee was Madan Lal Pahwa.On 20 Jan 1948 he made an assassination bid on Gandhi at the Birla House during the time of prayer meeting by a bomb attack. Gandhi escaped. There were any number of intelligence warnings from   agencies in Mumbai and the Central Govt regarding conspiracies to eliminate Gandhiji. The 20th Jan attack was allowed to be a rehearsal for another attack on the same location. This shall remain an enigma within a mystery.




(The writer is a former military intelligence officer who later served in the Research and Analysis Wing, or R&AW)

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