The story of India's Partition has often been told… but it has almost always been a blinkered perspective. Dr Ram Manohar Lohia, in his insightful book guilty Men of India'a Partition recounts those painful days when the decision to divide India and the two communities-Hindus and Muslims-was taken. He identifies the leaders and circumstances responsible for the partition in a candid conservation with his readers. He shares his experiences of being sidelined, his efforts being thwarted and his prophetic foresight being ignored in the midst of influential leaders with political power.
In this book we get to know about a true patriot's dreams of a reunified India and suggested measures for the same. A must read to know the whole truth of India's Partition and the politics behind it.
Dr Ram Manohar Lohia (1910-67) was born in Akbarpur in Faizabad, Uttar Pradesh.
After completing his studies in Berlin University, Germany, Lohia joined the Indian National Congress and helped in the foundation of Congress Socialist party in 1934.
A true Socialist thinker and visionary, Dr Ram Manohar Lohia went to jail several times for the country. He participated in various movements of the freedom struggle. He was a true leader of the people who did not shy away from confronting stalwarts like pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Patel and other influential leaders of the congress when it came to defending the people's interests.
In December 1957 Lohia wrote a letter from Lucknow District jail which has come in print, as Vashishta and Valmiki. This was in certain instances an illustrative commentary on an earlier-note on ‘Hinduism’ chronologically close to the partition of India. The present work, which evolved as Lohia undertook an evaluation of Maulana Azad's book, is to my mind, substantively an elaboration: of certain issues put forth in those two scripts hence the title GuilhJ Men of India's Partition is somewhat inadequate to the burden of the book. This could be easily appreciated from the very fact that of the eight causes of India's partition, as enumerated in the opening paragraph of Lohia’s introduction, scarcely two or three relate to the personality sphere.Then the question as to what accounts for the given title needs to be answered. It is indeed an 'overtone' of Azad's India Wins Freedom which provoked Lohia's reflections on India's partition, one of the greatest tragedies of the twentieth century.
Azad's book is obviously autobiographical and ostensibly contemporary history, but essentially a string of subjective projections. The central point of controversy pertains to the All India Congress Committee (AICC) meeting of 14 June 1947 which was to consider the fatefulresolution. Lohia's account is of crucial value as he was one of the three invitees, including Gandhiji and.P. Nearly three decades after the publication of Lohia's book Guilty Men Rajmohan Gandhi is now (see Express Magazine, Sunday 20 August 1989) quoting from Lohia's version of the meeting to counter Azad's outrageous comments on the role of Gandhiji, in the wake of the controversy following the recent publication of the remaining thirty pages from the hide- out.
Quite contrary to Azad's implication of Gandhiji's acquiescence in respect of partition resolution, he regretted the fact that Nehru and Patel did not inform him about their commitment to Mountbatten. All the same he came forward with a proposal which would help his 'noble disciples' wriggle out of the pernicious plan without risking their honour. A more detailed account of this episode could be found in Lohia's 'Anecdotes of Mahatma Gandhi' (1952). (See Marx, Gandhi and Socialism, pp. 163-66).
At this meeting, Nehru had the temerity to contend against
Gandhiji and Lohia that 'what is the use of calling people
brothers who are flying at each other's throat?' To this Lohia
rejoined by saying that:
The Americans had their civil war, they killed 300 thousand or 400 persons or, may be more on both sides, but they did not cease to be brothers.
With transparent self-righteousness Maulana Azad concocts an
account toward a claim that he was the sole hand to oppose the
partition plan that was hatched by Mountbatten. He would have
us believe in a trajectory according to which Vallabhbhai Pate
was the first to be enlisted by Mountbatten. This is followe.
by canvassing of Nehru together with the critical role of Lad
Mountbatten; and ultimately Gandhiji taking the line of Pate
In the version of Azad's book the only character to be steadfa
in opposing the partition plan was none other than he himself.
Little wonder that Lohia comments that the whole story is an ‘uninteresting lie’. Lohia exposes the the hollowness of Azad’s claim by saying:
Not only did he keep unbrokenly silent at this meeting he also continued in office as a minister of partitionec India for an entire decade and more.
Lohia discounts the role ascribed to the influence of I Mountbatten in as much as such revelations cover the del currents of political processes. He thus discloses the dan unduly caused to Nehru's reputation, but also suggests it goes to exonerate Nehru from direct guilt. Lohia also Mountbatten's own role in due place. In Lohia's words:
Maulana Azad has definitely erred in describing Lord Mountbatten's role as a maker of policies. Lohia Mountbatten was indeed an accomplished executor of policies that were made for him by his superiors.
Lohia's assessment of Mountbatten is corroborated by 1 Ziegler'sMountbatten: An Official Biography (1985) wherein the author makes thecryptic remark: 'His intellectual resot were limited'.
Lohia is categorical in pinpointing the craving for a on the part of decaying Congress leadership conjoint the objective condition of communalriots as the underlying factor of India's Partition. Lohia's reference to the declining old leadership is echoed in Nehru's conversation with Leonard Mosley:
The truth is that we were tired men and we were getting on in years too. Few of us could stand the prospect 0 going to prison again-and if we stood out for a united India as we wished, prison obviously awaited us. WI saw the fires burning in the Punjab and heard everyday of the killings.The plan for partition offered a way out and we took it. We expected that partition would be temporary, that Pakistan was bound to corne back to us.
Leaving aside the facile talk of Pakistan corning back, did the partition plan mean only a way out or was Panditji on the look-out for such a way to open up? We have the answer from Nehru himself. Way back in 1940 when the Pakistan resolution was passed, Nehru reacted to that:
If people wanted such things as suggested by the Muslim League at Lahore then one thing was clear. They and people like him could not live together in India. He would be prepared to face all the consequences of it, but he would not be prepared to live with such people.
This aspect of Nehru's outlook carne out in sharp relief during the Noakhali days of Gandhiji. Lohia refers in his jail letter dated 10 December 1957, to Nehru's aberration:
In a fit of temper he even told me that a Hindu is a Hindu and a Muslim is a Muslim.
In other words Nehru was an eligible candidate for Jinnah's Two-nation theory.
'There is no doubt', Lohia avers in his Lucknow Jail letter of 1957:
That the obstinacy of Mr Jinnah was responsible for breaking the country. But alongside that was also the opportunism and hypocrisy of Mr Nehru. He gave his word to Mr Khallique Zaman for the 1936 elections
in alliance with him. But when success exceeded his expectations, he spumed his word as also his erstwhile friend.
In Guilty Men of India's Partition, Lohia observes:
Precisely this limited field of parliamentary and administrative participation has loomed so large before men that it has blinded their vision or at least distorted it beyond safety.
The full significance of Lohia's fertile observation can be appreciated from the change that took place in the political track of Jinnah's career. Gokhale could say about Jinnah earlier years:
He has true stuff in him and that freedom from all sectarian prejudice which will make him the best ambassador 'of Hindu-Muslim unity.
Quite ironically the chosen ambassador was destined to prove the very architect of Pakistan. The vicissitudes of Muslim League alongside the political manoeuvres of Nehru in the late thirtie resulted in the disenchantment of Muslim electorate from Indian nationalism pushing them into the grip of communa frenzy.
Lohia draws attention to the historical experience in Hindu Muslim relations and notes it as a see-saw of estrangement and approximation. He would not consider it as merely a question 0f unity between two religious groups; he is categorical in stating that it should be identification of the masses and leadership However, he is at the same time emphatic in affirming that estrangement is the root cause of partition. Since partition is only an effect, Lohia knocks down the facile view of an automatic solution: it could not by itself dissolve disharmony. He expresses concern over the fact that the estrangement of the Muslim from the Hindu has continued into the years of freedom.
To strike at the chord of separatist tendency of the Leaguers,Gandhiji suggested that the Muslim League should take over the Indian government. This suggestion was neither unpractical nor thetorical. This was not to the liking of the decaying Congress leadership. From this Lohia would rather find evidence to his contention that a purposive and more youthful people could have salvaged the country from the impending tragedy of Partition. Straight people must regard the task of effecting change in thought and action of the people. This is an important message, conveyed in Guilty Men of India's Partition.
Lohia has distilled from Gandhi's mode of action the point that those working for revolutionary changes must not attach undue importance to immediate results and must be prepared for unceasing labour stemming from great faith and unrelieved resignation.
It may be noted in passing that Lohia has put up some loud thinking along skeptical lies also on the validity of Gandhi's mode of action. But he reminds us that he has been too firm a believer to pass adverse judgements on either non-violence or Gandhi's leadership.
In the concluding section of the book, two points of interest to students of social enquiry are enunciated. One, the study of history should focus its attention on the process and not merely on the result of the phase. Secondly, Lohia contends that true science of society is correlated to revolutionism. Historical enquiry is intended to discover doorways to greater awareness of the direction of our collective pursuit. As such Lohia's study in
the Guilty Men of India's Partition is 'not with a view to making a complaint'. Its purport is essentially to enable the Indian people to have introspection as based on retrospective analysis.
Personality references are inevitable when a certain specific phase of history is taken up for close examination. In the scope of this contemporary history, we are exposed incidentally to the account of Lohia's disenchantment with Nehru. Most of the detractors of Lohia often make the sweeping remark that
Lohia was anti-Nehru. If they follow the account furnished right from Nehru's collaborationist overtures of early 1942 until a meeting organised by Lohia in the riot tom Delhi at the behest of Candhiji, whereupon Nehru indulged in insinuation with Lorna. Especially the reference to their discussion in connection with Nehru's proposal to make him the Congress general secretary is revealing of their diverse positions in respect of the principle of democracy.
To pick up the thread, Lorna suggests an objective approach to understand the eight hundred years of Hindu-Muslim interaction in the history of India. His hypothesis on the significance of Indian caste system in the context of successive defeats of native rulers, be they Hindu or Muslim, in the face of a vigorous invader is thought provoking; and it also compels one to undertake-a fresh study.
Finally, it may be observed that the book in your hands is a valuable reference to a article phase in Indian history.
Dr Ram Manohar Lohia was undoubtedly the most original thinker, and perhaps the only one, produced in India during the last hundred odd years. Unlike most thinkers whose thoughts remain encapsuled for others to act upon, Lohia was a man of a man of action who paid a heavy price for the courage of his convictions, having been arrested and jailed on innumerable occasions by the governments of Britain, India, Portugal, Nepal and the United States. He was also a political seer whose forsight into events always put him in a situation of being at least twenty years ahead of his time. Perhaps it is this prophet in him which once made him say: 'people will listen to me. Perhaps, after I am dead. But they will certainly listen to me'.
And people are listening to Dr Lohia-in India and outside -nearly twenty years after he is dead.
At some point of time, Lohia summed up the essence of the great struggles in which humanity was engaged in the middle of the twentieth century, and of which he and the Socialist Party he had helped to create wrere a part. The Seven Revolutions, as he called them,were: (a) For equality between man and woman; (b) Against political, economic and spiritual inquality based on skin colour; (c) Against inequality of backward and high groups or castes based on long tradition, and for giving special opportunities to the backward; (d) Against foreign enslavement and for freedom and world democratic rule; (e) For economic equality and planned production and against the existence of, and attachment for, private life and for democratic methods; (g) Againts weapons and for satyagraha.
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