Thursday, January 16, 2020

Sardar Patel, RSS, Communists and Ramaswamy: When Hate Clouds Mind

Few days back P.A.Krishnan shared a short excerpt from a speech by Sardar Patel that was sharply critical of RSS for its communalism. Othisaivu Ramaswamy has gone at it with hammer and tongs but with no sense or honesty. Alas, his erudition notwithstanding his mind is addled with the venom of communalism and Hindutva. 

I’ll ignore his jibe at my relationship with P.A.K (ironically I was not completely in support of P.A.K on his recent posts on RSS run schools and even in that post I had only posed a question. 

Ramaswamy alleges that P.A.K played a dishonest game with selective quoting. This is the crux of his blog. Ramaswamy who adores Sardar Patel, for the usual misconstrued reasons that Hindutva morons always do, thankfully provided the full speech and as he asked for it I did read the speech in full too. Did P.A. Krishnan make a mistake? No, and here's why.

A charge of selective quoting is valid ONLY if the parts not quoted are in opposition to what was quoted or provides a different mitigating context. This is simple logic of criticism. PAK had quoted these lines from Patel’s speech wherein Patel warns the RSS and said:
“ (I) have made them an open offer : ‘Change your plans, give up secrecy, eschew communal conflict, respect the Constitution of India, show your loyalty to the Flag and make us believe that we can trust your words, to say one thing and to do another is a game which will not do.”
Nowhere in the full speech has Patel said anything contradicting that passage or nuanced it in any different context to mitigate the sharpness of those words.  Ramaswamy himself, waving his self-righteousness of not giving a merely convenient excerpt, had provided a more detailed paragraph where Patel really drives home the point:
“We in the government have been dealing with the R.S.S. movement. They want that Hindu Rajya or Hindu culture should be imposed by force. No government can tolerate this. There are almost as many Muslims in this country as in the part that has been partitioned away. We are not going to drive them away. It would be an evil day if we started that game, in spite of partition and whatever happens. We must understand that they are going to stay here and it is our obligation and our responsibility to make them feel that this is their country. It is, of course, their responsibility, on the other hand, to discharge their duties as citizens of this country.”
Patel’s advice to Muslims to discharge their duties as citizens of this country warms the cockles of Ramaswamy’s heart but, and this is where Ramaswamy is dishonest, Patel practically asks that of RSS and Communists too, both of whom were the chief targets of the speech. 

Given P.A.K’s self-identification as Marxist Ramaswamy picks an argument over PAK omitting to mention how Patel had, in the same speech, scolded the Communists as terrorists. Patel lashes out at Communists for violent uprisings and talk of revolution. 

Now, Ramaswamy adores Patel and like any Hindutva lout ridicules Jawaharlal Nehru. Patel’s address was on Feb 23rd 1949 and here’s Nehru writing to Chief Ministers, a practice he started, on 15th April 1948, “some of the activities (of the communist party) in the recent past have been far from legitimate and have created grave disorder. There has been open incitement for the collection of arms and violence, and sabotage has been feared”. With all that Nehru still refuses to ban the Communists just as he had not clamored for a ban on RSS (which only for a short while banned after Gandhi’s assassination and then the ban was lifted). Nehru, citing how unleashing a repression unshackles the police who are bound more to abuse power as it happened in the unfortunate case of jailing a communist who was ill for long and who died in jail. 

Nehru cautions the chief ministers, “We have to be very careful in having recourse to repressive measures because the appetite grows with use and it appears a simple way out of a difficulty. But as believers of civil liberty know, the consequences are apt to be bad, and a popular government like ours has to be particularly careful”. India was a democracy not a Stalinist state to crush everyone with a hammer.

On 16th April 1949, Nehru again writes to the chief ministers, and this time he accuses the communists of “following a policy of sabotage and terrorism”. He still argues against a ban not out of any dovish sentiments to ideological fellow travelers but with reason. He rightfully suggested that a ban would be a propaganda victory and furthermore it’d be futile since the party anyway conducted most of its subversiveness underground. “Generally speaking therefore, banning does not give any greater powers to deal with an organization which is essentially functioning underground, The slight balance in favor of banning is rather outweighed by Communists posing as ideological martyrs instead of saboteurs and terrorists”. Nehru, too, did not shy from calling communists as terrorists. Of course to Ramaswamy’s hate filled mind it was only Patel who had the spine to call Communists as terrorists.

This is precisely where Gandhi’s faith in Nehru as the chosen heir is vindicated because Nehru is neither blind to the problem nor does he prevaricate but, unlike most others, retains an approach that’s mindful of a problem’s larger dimension and a democratic spirit. Jeyamohan in a conversation paid tribute to Nehru for not keeping the ban on RSS once investigation revealed that the organization had no direct link to Gandhi’s assassination. The RSS, like the Communists, enjoyed the virtues of Nehruvian democracy.
How did the communists themselves perceive of Nehru at this point? Sarvapalli Gopal’s biography of Nehru provides some answers. B.T. Ranadive attacked Nehru and the government, “Nehru becomes more and more a democratic mask for Patel”. In Randive’s eyes Nehru and Patel were interchangeable and were playing good-cop and bad-cop in tandem. By hindsight that, if that was the case, was a brilliant strategy and we should be in awe of the illustrious partnership of Sardar and Nehru. After the communists started their insurgency in Hyderabad and Telangana region Nehru was condemned by communists as acting ‘fascist’ and obeying “the dictates of Anglo-American capital”. A railway strike, also referred by Patel in the speech, later petered and in due course the communist insurgency was put down too.

At this point we’ve to ask which organization, between the communists and RSS that Patel scolded for violence, still carries within it the capability and willingness to use violence to further its agenda? Without a doubt it is the RSS and not the communist party. I’m well aware of the violence of West Bengal Left Front but that is par for the course for any political party in India. Violence is NOT the stated operating method of communist party today. Whereas it is RSS that takes out armed flag marches in cities. So, it is relevant to quote just the RSS part of that speech (I’m not sure if P.A.K had indeed read the full speech or got the quote on RSS alone from elsewhere).

While fulminating against communists Ramaswamy bares his own fangs and says, his prose dripping with venom, “The so-called minorities are thriving in India – having a peaceful time and when possible, setting fire to trains with passengers and without passengers, in their march towards progress”. In the recent two days police have accepted that they opened fire at a library in Jamia and now Davinder Singh has been arrested for abetting terrorists.

The targets of Patel in the speech, for fomenting divisiveness, were RSS and Communists, two organization dominated by Hindus, especially Brahmins and Sikhs. Yet, Ramaswamy conveniently grafts his Islamophobia onto that speech. So much for intellectual integrity and honesty.

The speech by Patel, delivered when India was still unifying and dealing with the seismic socio-economic upheavals of partition, is impassioned in appealing to all, laborer and businessman alike, to unite in a moment of crises. He speaks of the cost of shipping food to address severe food crises and how the country, not owning enough ships, had to pay high freight charges and to address that was building a shipyard. Portugal and France still had their colonies. He pleads for people to donate what they’ve in excess. Unlike Ramaswamy I, an unabashed admirer of Nehru, will always pay tribute to Patel. Together Nehru and Patel formed a duo that few nations were blessed with in such crises. 

Unlike Nehru the Sardar is shortsighted on the issue of language. In the very opening paragraph Patel scolds Tamils for not learning Hindi and cautions that they’d “drag the country backward”. Happily history has shown that Tamil Nadu, still resisting Hindi, remains one of the most prosperous states of the country. Again, these are the shortcomings of the Sardar.

Interestingly the speech also highlights how much Patel was very much for partition, based on practical experience and ground realities. For all the dreams of a unified large India (Akhand Bharat) by the Hidutva group Patel is actually contented with India as it was shaped post-partition. Actually without partition India would've had such a large population of Muslims that a Modi may not have been possible. 

The shortcomings of Patel’s intellectual persona is compensated by the largeness of his heart for he closed the speech with these words, “In return for your affection, I can only ask you to forgive me if I have said anything harsh ; take it as a piece of advice which comes from an honest and humble servant.”

Giants have trodden the soil of India where the likes of Modi now strut about puffing their chests sowing hatred and venom. 

A note: Few days back a person commented on an FB post that P.A. Krishnan and I became friends out of a shared hatred for Dravidian politics. I told him no our friendship was not born out any shared hatred but out of love for Nehru. Long back when neither of us knew each other P.A. Krishnan had written a beautiful column on Nehru in Tamil Hindu titled "Prince of Spring" (a play on the name Tagore called Nehru, Rturaj. The column was titled in Tamil 'வசந்தங்களின் இளவரசன்'). Aravindan Neelakandan wrote a spiteful rebuttal to that and pilloried Nehru. I had written a rebuttal to Neelakandan then though I had no idea who P.A. Krishnan was. This is just my simple habit. Neelakandan was rebutting not just P.A.K. but Nehru and therefore I found it perfect to rebut, not necessarily on behalf of P.A.K. Likewise today. P.A.K read that column and liked it and we got introduced, thanks to Nehru.

Hindutva and Dravidian party merchants of hate share a common grammar of hatred and adopt similar techniques. One of their cheap tricks is to twist another person's name. Ramaswamy conveniently uses P.A.Krishnan's initials to write PAK, as in the popular abbreviation of Pakistan. 


1. Patel's Speech Provided by Othisaivu (thanks)
3. Jawaharlal Nehru: A Biography by Sarvepalli Gopal Volume 2, 1947-1956
4. Letters for a Nation: From Jawaharlal Nehru to His Chief Ministers 1947-1963 -- Edited by Madhav Khosla