BY UDAY MAHURKAR
It is very clear that Gandhiji’s contribution has brought immense dividends to India on the international stage. On the national platform, his model of social service and Swadeshi, his vision of Gram Swaraj that aims at making villages self-reliant and his idea of trusteeship, which inspires businessmen to contribute to the progress of the poorer sections of the society by apportioning a part of their personally-owned wealth for poverty elimination, have greatly inspired the nation. His method of Dalit assimilation is also nationally recognized.
But, it is equally true that his ideology of complete non-violence and Hindu-Muslim unity at the cost of Hindus first led to partition by spurring the demands of the Muslim League. Later, in independent India, it allowed the pan-Islamist elements to take advantage of his austere ideology to further their own agenda in the name of various slogans woven around Gandhism. It is not without reason that in the Shaheen Bagh protests across India and even in foreign countries, the first photo at every demonstration was of Gandhiji. So it is clear that the Gandhian model of Hindu-Muslim unity has become a tool to blackmail the majority community with.
Need for debate on Gandhiji’s ideology:
Not many know that Gandhiji had also once suggested that after getting independence India should dismantle the army and only rely on police. In 1925, he had shocked many when he said that Guru Gobind Singh, Maharana Pratap and Chhatrapati Shivaji were misguided patriots. In WW-II, when Germany was raining bombs on London, Gandhiji first said he felt like committing suicide and later advised England to rely on its moral force instead of defending itself with military power. His unthinkable suggestions had greatly incensed British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.
Clearly, Gandhi’s pacifism prevents us from seeing evil in an enemy like China. Except in rare cases like Balakot or the surgical strike after the Uri attack, we have rarely followed a tit-for-tat policy, a direct result of Gandhian legacy. If China can capture our territory, why can’t we do the same at some other point on the border? Significantly, Modi has set new paradigms in diplomacy and security engagement but in the end few can deny that the vision of a visionary like Modi too remains hamstrung by Gandhism when it comes to national security.
We are unable to liquidate Hafiz Sayeed and Masood Azhar:
When we are challenged, we start with homilies like “India never commits aggression but doesn’t tolerate it when it is thrust on it”. Where is the need to say the first part? Clearly, it is a sign of diffidence. The US relentlessly chased Osama bin Laden 11,000 km away 10 years after 9/11 and killed him to exact revenge for the 3,000-odd people who died in the Twin Tower tragedy.
In sharp contrast, Hafiz Sayeed and Maulana Masood Azhar, who have killed thousands of Indians since 1995, lie within 150 km of our border and yet we are unable to liquidate them. Is it not in sharp contrast to the US response against Osama?
So, first, there has to be an honest debate on Gandhiji’s ideology in the context of the damage it has done to our national security even while appreciating his contribution to the nation. And second, Veer Savarkar, who is in one sense the father of our national security vision, and Subhas Chandra Bose, the hero of Azad Hind Fauj, should be adopted as India’s national security icons.
Why Savarkar and Bose as national security icons?
Let us examine Savarkar first. Savarkar is that unique person who had predicted many years before Pakistan was born that the Congress’s Muslim appeasement policies would become Muslim League’s fodder, whet its appetite for special demands at the cost of Hindu rights and would ultimately result in partition. From 1937 onwards, Savarkar repeatedly warned the Congress against minority appeasement but was dubbed as a communalist though he never demanded special treatment for Hindus at the cost of Muslim rights. Ten years later, he was proved correct when Pakistan was born.
Savarkar was a great visionary of India’s security. He predicted Assam’s Muslim problem in the 1940s (Assam’s Muslim population then was just over 10 per cent. Today it is 35 per cent) and the 1962 Indo-China war eight years in advance. In 1954, he warned Nehru that his principle of Panchsheel would spur China’s evil designs and that he wouldn’t be surprised if China attacked India and swallowed its land in the near future.
His warning on Pakistan was also unique. He said as long as a nation based on religious fanaticism was India’s neighbour, she wouldn’t be able to live in peace. This appears true to the last dot today.
Interestingly, Savarkar had advocated an armed strategy for India’s independence during the two world wars. He advocated militarization of Indians before and after independence. He advocated the atom bomb for making India a superpower. But, most of all, he preferred national security over any ideology in sharp contrast to how he is painted by pan-Islamists and Communists.
Savarkar’s contribution to India’s national security vision is endless and beyond the scope of this article. For example, he had advised the Jawaharlal Nehru government soon after independence that India should call Arabian Sea as ‘Sindhu Sagar’. But Nehru never agreed.
More importantly, according to Savarkar’s biographer Dhananjay Keer, it was on Savarkar’s sound advice that on the world stage our enemy’s enemy had to be seen as our friend that spurred Subhas Chandra Bose into leaving for Japan, Italy and Germany, striking a deal with the Axis powers and forming the Azad Hind Fauj comprising the Indian soldiers captured by them and attacking India with the aim of freeing Hindustan from British rule. Although Bose’s AHF lost, it played a big role in pressing Britain to give independence to India. And in one sense, Bose implemented Savarkar’s vision.
There is unimpeachable evidence of Bose’s contribution to this. Clement Attlee, who gave India Independence in 1947 as British Prime Minister, made some startling revelations during his 1956 visit to India (when he was not the British PM) in his talk with the then acting West Bengal governor PB Chakraborty, with whom he stayed in Kolkata for two days. His comments warrant a complete change in the way India looks at independence struggle history.
Attlee told Chakraborty: “The pressure built up by the AHF episode, the unwillingness on the part of Indian soldiers returning from WW-II to accept British rule and finally the mutiny by Navy soldiers at Mumbai Dock in 1946 played a big role in pressing Britain to withdraw.”
To a specific question by Chakraborty, Attlee said that the influence of the Congress and Mahatma Gandhi was ‘minimal’ in pressing Britain to give independence to India.
So, the time has come for India to adopt Savarkar and Bose as its national security icons, firmly declaring that India will now walk on the Savarkar-Bose doctrine when it comes to national security thus making it amply clear that in security-related issues, India won’t follow Gandhiji any more. Significantly, there were some differences between Savarkar and Bose on the approach towards the Muslim community, but their views on most things to do with national security were one.
What will be the impact of such a move?
Such a move will at once stop the blackmail of the nation by pan-Islamists using Gandhiji’s name, which they have done with unerring regularity by first challenging the majority with violence, like in the Godhra episode and on facing retaliation invoking Gandhiji’s non-violence and his doctrine of ‘Hindu-Muslim unity at Hindu cost’ to accuse the majority community of biases.
The blackmail by Communists, the co-brothers of pan-Islamists, would also end. This will also enable India to properly define the section of the Muslim community which is moderate and not wedded to pan-Islamism and wants to remain in the Indian mainstream. The numbers of inclusive pan-Islamist Muslims is quite vast in India but India is unable to tap them due lack of a national security vision.
Delinking Gandhiji from our national security plan will also immensely help India in sending the right signals to the world, especially the powerful nations besides, of course, its key rivals, Pakistan and China.
The entire world would know what to expect from India if it is challenged. But, the greatest service it will render to the nation is in clearing the confused national security vision of Indians. In contrast to my suggestion, many in RSS and BJP believe that Gandhiji shouldn’t be tampered with as the present rulers (read Modi government) are already following the Savarkar-Bose doctrine as demonstrated in the Balakot strike or the surgical strike against Pakistan earlier or the removal of Article 370 from J&K.
But the argument has shortcomings. The need of the hour is to clear the vision of the countrymen on the security front and not of rulers alone. Plus, even the Modi government has taken decisions under Gandhian impact in areas touching the nation’s security scenario like allowing the foreign missionaries of the Tablighi Jamaat to come to India for six years from May 2014, when the government came to power, to April, 2020, when it finally decided to stop these missionaries from coming but after paying a heavy price. The ban came only after the Tablighi Jamaat preachers became careers of the Coronavirus in large parts of India after March 30, 2020.
Clearly, the time for a vision shift on the national security front has arrived. There is a hole in the Indian ship that needs to be immediately plugged to realize its future dreams or else the ship might sink.
(Uday Mahurkar is a senior journalist. The views expressed are those of the author)