WRITTEN BY R. NANJAPPA                        

Post No. 8607

Date uploaded in London – – – –1 SEPTEMBER 2020   

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Chapter -12 Part 3


R. Nanjappa


The British quit, it seems in a hurry. Why?

The end of the Second World War completely changed the situation. Imperial govt became a debtor to India – a position unacceptable to imperialists. The new situation entailed on Britain enormous responsibility and expenditure for the defence of India, which she was unable and unwilling to bear. 

The rise of the Indian National Army under Subhas Bose electrified the nation, especially the youth and greatly enthused our men in the Army and Navy, and some naval units even mutinied. The loyalty and obedience of the Indian soldiers could no more be taken for granted. It is these developments that hastened the freedom of India, more than the programmes and methods of Gandhiji. (Of course, Dharampal does not cover these developments.) He confines himself to comparing Gandhi’s programmes in 1920s and 1930s with what had happened a century earlier, and pointing out the common elements.

The colonial government did not share a bond with the Indian people, though the English educated classes were by and large loyal to them. In the hundred odd years after 1811, they did not care to cultivate the people, but relied on brute force to hold on to power. They consolidated their hold by force. But when they perceived that force would not work- they could no more command the loyalty of our soldiers and sailors, they decided to quit-rather than face a big mutiny. They imposed Partition as the condition for freedom. Thus Gandhiji did not succeed in a single aim of his in his long struggle against the British in India. Gandhiji was totally outwitted. 

Do non-cooperation and civil disobedience have a place in free India? This is a serious issue on which experts are divided. In a parliamentary democracy based on a party system, we have other methods of dissent. But there is no saying whether the government of the day will listen to it.

 And there are areas and issues which cut across political and party lines. Look at how students protested across the USA, demanding control on arms, which hit all parties. So are the protests against the role of chemical companies like Monsanto in agriculture. There are issues which exercise the people, and which are not appreciated by the political class, in spite of the ritual or show of periodic elections.  Direct public protest in some form becomes necessary even in democracies to make the ruling establishment aware of such issues and concerns. Power not only corrupts; it renders the ruling class (of all hues) arrogant and insensitive to public weal. Most rulers are also plain stupid. They are controlled by vested interests.

In free India, the label Satyagraha has been freely misused by petty men. However, the most disheartening aspect of the matter is the totally authoritarian way in which the govts of Independent India, both at the Centre and in the States have dealt with peaceful agitators even for genuine causes, and the mean methods they adopted, to suppress them. Their approach has been totally senseless and outrageous. They have indeed been worse than the British. Look at the way peaceful movements like those of Sunderlal Bahuguna, (Chipko), Medha Patkar, (Narmada) Anna Hazare (anti-corruption) were dealt with by our own governments. (which were run by a party, shamelessly  claiming Gandhian legacy.) Even the grievances of persons displaced by public projects were not entertained when peaceful. Govts. in Independent India  are even more remote from authentic Indian tradition in dealing with people’s grievances and unrest, than the British. Like in education, administration, judiciary, etc, here too they follow British methods and brutality. In their arrogance, Indian govts treat peaceful methods of resistance as illegitimate. They take cognizance only when protests are accompanied by violence and political backing. 

Will a protest now against the routine periodical upward hike in property tax, or registration fee work in free India? Will people even unite now on such issues to protest? Does a government which is elected by a minority of total voters really enjoy legitimacy? These questions are not raised by Dharampal, but occur to us on reading his material.

Volume II of Dharampal’s collected works contains archival material relating to the 1811 agitation of the people against house tax. It has a detailed Introduction by Dharampal and a learned Foreword by Jayaprakash Narayan. It is rewarding reading.

Who can say how many more such incidents are lying hidden?

to be continued……………………………………………..

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