Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Maulana Azad – the low-profile man who almost saved India the Partition


In politics, an oft repeated statement is as much they change, as much they would remain the same. In the season of who has ‘stolen’ whose history, thanks to certain assertive moves on the issue by the Modi regime, the birth anniversary of Abul Kalam Azad, freedom fighter and country’s first Education Minister, passed off in a low key affair.
This also justifies the allegation that over the decades, India’s ruling elites have tried to keep all glories for one family primarily and occasionally agreed to share the limelight between two ‘surnames’ – Nehru and Gandhi.


Born on November 11, 1888, Abul Kalam Azad certainly did not get his due despite the blowing the trumpet on serving the country’s minorities. Azad was not only a minority community leader but a great nationalist and one of the main organisers of the Dharasana Satyagraha in 1931. The former AICC president had emerged as one of the leading limelight carrying the conviction of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose in espousing Hindu-Muslim unity, the true secularism and welfare of the downtrodden, the true socialism. 

With Gandhi & Nehru

Azad was president of Congress party from 1940 to 1945 and during this period the Quit India rebellion movement was launched at the personal interest of Mahatma Gandhi.
This brings us to the relevance of this blog piece.
A Facebook poser from me on November 11 (2014) afternoon: 
Some questions from history needs to answered: IT'S HIGH TIME
#Why Gandhi resorted to starting the ‘Quit India’ movement in spite of opposition from Maulana Azad, fetched merely 2 likes in 9 hours.

Thanks to friends like Arun Kumar Shah and Paromita Acharya for liking the question. There were no comments, however.
Well, even if this query did not generate a debate; perhaps the next issue from the pages of history I would refer would generate some interest.

The last date for the nominations for the post of the President of Congress, and thereby the first Prime Minister of India, was April 29, 1946.
Gandhiji had already made his choice widely known. 
A popular BBC snap on Partition
In fact, 9 days before on April 20,1946, Gandhiji had written to Azad expressing his displeasure on media reports about Azad’s willingness to contest for president of Congress and thereby possibly move an inch towards Prime Ministership.

“Please go through the enclosed cuttings.… I have not spoken to anyone of my opinion. When one or two Working Committee members asked me, I said that it would not be right for the same President to continue…. If you are of the same opinion, it may be proper for you to issue a statement and say that you have no intention to become the (Congress) President again…. In today’s circumstances I would, if asked, prefer Jawaharlal. I have many reasons for this. Why go into them?”

So that’s history for all of us!
But to me, the Quit India movement timing and Azad’s opposition is more perplexed an issue and that is why I am plunging into this article.
An assertive Azad was perhaps creating a sort of panic and insecurity in Team Mahatma Gandhi – comprising Gandhi himself and his two lieutenants Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel and Jawaharlal Nehru – if not in Mahatma himself.


In 1924 at Ahmedabad session, the Swarajists lobby comprising C R Das and ironically Motilal Nehru (Jawaharlal’s father) had opposed Gandhi’s idea that members who did not spin for half-an-hour a day and did not observe the five-fold boycott of legislative councils, law courts, government schools, titles and mill made cloth would have to resign from the All India Congress Committee. This resolution, if carried, would have excluded the Swarajists from power.
Again in 1939, Gandhi’s supreme leadership position in 1939 was threatened by Subhas Bose when Gandhi's candidate Pattabhi Sitaramaiha.
Later M N Roy wrote, “Gandhi’s tormented soul made him acknowledge after the election ‘Pattabhi’s defeat is my defeat’”.
Thus, it would not be erroneous to believe that by launching Quit India movement, Gandhiji wanted to strengthen his grip over Congress party.
In retrospect, even Azad as Congress president had tried to persuade Gandhiji not to launch Quit India movement in 1942, which even otherwise was realized later had failed to achieve any ‘tangible result’. 
1942 was politically a crucial year in Indian history. The Cripps mission under Stafford Cripps made an attempt in late March 1942 to secure Indian cooperation and support for their efforts in World War II. 
 Cripps worked to keep India ‘loyal’ to the British war effort in exchange for a promise of full self-government after the war. Had Congress leaders under Gandhi accepted this, the partition could have been avoided.

Even Mohammed Ali Jinnah had “accepted” the Cabinet Mission's proposals. Had this worked, perhaps, India's unity would have been preserved and partition avoided. But the course of human history is often predestined. 

In later years, the country had to witness a gory partition marked by unprecedented killings and arson and worse, the ‘hatred’ that has continued till today.
Thus in hindsight, the country should recall in all humility the efforts made by Azad to preserve its unity. On his part, Azad’s various predictions made in his famous speech in Jama Masjid area in Delhi about Pakistan has come true.

Azad had warned about “incompetent political leadership” that would pave the way for military dictatorship in Pakistan as it has happened in many Muslim countries.
He had also cautioned against absence of friendly relationship with neighbors and the possibility of armed conflict (with India) and the ‘collapse’ of the very idea of  Pakistan. He has perhaps proved more than right.
(ends) 

1 comment:

  1. After reading this piece I feel more enlightened on Azad. Gud piece. Kudos.

    ReplyDelete