Indian National Congress & National Integration

By Ramakant Khalap
11 August 2010 21:40 IST

India is the ancient land whose antiquity is unfathomable....... It is the land where the Vedas and the Upanishads were written. It is the land hallowed by the footsteps of heroes of the epics, Rama and Krishna. It is the land where Bhagwat Gita was revealed. It is the land of Buddha. It is the land which has spawned numerous philosophies which have guided the lives of the people of the east as well as the west.

Max Muller, the famous German, Sanskrit scholar and Orientalist observed "If we were to look over the whole world to find out the Country most richly endowed with all the wealth, power and beauty that nature can bestow - in some parts a very paradise on earth - I should point to India. If I were asked under what sky the human mind has most fully developed some of its choicest gifts, has most deeply pondered over the greatest problems of life and has found solutions of some of them which well deserve the attention even of those who have studied Plato and Kant - I should point to India. And if I were to ask myself from what literature we here in Europe, we who have been nurtured almost exclusively on the thoughts of Greeks, and Romans, and of one Semitic race, the Jewish, may draw the corrective which is most wanted in order to make our inner life more perfect, more comprehensive, more universal, in fact more truly human a life, not for this life only, but a transfigured and eternal life - I should point to India".

The Westerners, much before Max Muller, were fascinated by the idea of visiting such a paradise. They sent expeditions to discover the "Indies'. In the process, the Americas were discovered by Columbus. Vasco da Gama discovered the sea route to India round the Cape of Good Hope. The French, the Dutch and finally the British joined the race to find India. The East India Company set up its business enterprise and raised an Army as a measure of protection of their business interests in India. Soon they found that it was easier to rule India. After the so called ‘Sepoy Mutiny' of 1857, which according to us is the First War of independence, the British Crown officially established its reign over India. Britain thus succeeded in colonizing India and setting their empire over it.

Britain is known for her liberal thoughts and love for freedom. Her democratic traditions can be traced to the days of ‘Magna Carta". However, democracy and freedom were her domestic love affairs. In matters of imperialism and expansionism, she exhibited her worst uninhibited cruel side. They plundered this great Country and devastated it. Britain, a small island Country conquered and subjugated a mighty Country. It was a wonder. How was it possible for a tiny nation to subjugate a land of such warriors as Ashoka - the Great, Rana Pratap, Chhatrapati Shivaji and Rani Laxmibai and such literary jewels as Kavi Kalidas and Bhavabhuti and saints like Shankaracharya and Dnyandeva?  How could they enslave a whole Country of millions nurtured on the exploits of Rama and Krishna ?

It became possible for more than one reason. We were a great Country no doubt. But we were never one Nation. We were a myriad of nations within one geographic entity called Hindustan or India. We followed innumerable faiths. We had watertight compartments called castes. Some of them were upper castes and others were lower castes. We believed in superiority of the upper castes and their right to subjugate the lower castes. We had the Varna system. Each Varna and each caste had to perform specific duties and none could transgress into the work of the others. It was the sole right of the Kshatriya to rule and of the Vaishya to indulge in trade and business. The Brahmin was confined to scholarly pursuits while the Shudra was destined to serve the rest. The untouchables were of course the outcastes. They had only duties and no rights whatsoever neither were they ever aware of any right as such. They eked a living at the mercy of the rest of the people. We practiced untouchability like of which was nowhere to be found except India. We had countless kings and their kingdoms. They were constantly at war with each other. Palace intrigue weakened them. Corruption corroded them. We believed in fate and karma. We were only a geographic entity. Unity was never a part of our life and belief. The British exploited our divisive lifestyle. Their methods lay in exaggerating our differences like caste, creed, religion, faith, color, and religion. Divide and rule was their motto and they succeeded in enslaving the Indians.

But soon the invaders felt the need to "educate' the Indians. They needed civilians to man their bureaucracy. They needed "Babus". So they started English Schools. They opened universities in Calcutta, Bombay and Madras. Young Indians from well-to-do families joined these institutions of learning. Some of them went abroad to ‘vilayat'. There they joined institutions of higher learning. In the process they came in contact with liberal thoughts. They studied Plato and Kant, Marx and Engels, Voltaire and Leonardo de Vinci. The socialist ideas fascinated them. They studied the Magna Carta and were influenced by the storming of Bastille. American War of independence awakened them. Meanwhile the Europeans too started studying the Indian scriptures, languages, art and culture. The Europeans realized the greatness of our Vedas and Upanishads, of Puranas and Geeta, of Shakuntalam and Geeta Govinda.  Educated Indians read about their own heritage through the works of the Europeans in European languages. Slowly the inevitable started happening.

The spirit of Indians was indomitable. The legacy of millions of years could not be wiped away in a century of subjugation. Reformists from Bengal to Maharashtra and Punjab to Madras started awakening the true spirit of India. Allan Octavian Hume, one of the Britishers, was moved by the plight of the Indians under the British regime and wrote, "Toil, toil, toil; hunger, hunger, hunger; sickness, suffering, sorrow; these alas, alas are the key notes of their (Indians) short and sad existence". He wrote to the Graduates of Calcutta, "Every nation secures precisely as good a Government as it merits....make a resolute struggle to secure greater freedom for yourselves and for your country".  At his initiative the Indian National Congress was formed and it met in its first session in Bombay in 1885.

It was presided over by the great jurist and leader of Calcutta Bar Shri Wyomesh Chandra Banerjee. In his inaugural speech he outlined the objectives of the Indian National Congress Party.

".......promotion of personal intimacy and friendship among all....in our country's cause...... eradication of race, creed or provincial prejudice and fuller development of national unity".

Great words of wisdom and foresight indeed. He became the torch bearer of a new resurgent India where there would be equality, fraternity and brotherhood among all Indians irrespective of caste creed, color, sex or region. This laid the foundation upon which the party was built. It has grown into a fine and  matured old grandmother of 125 years. It gave us our freedom. It inspired and gave an impetus to all lovers of freedom every where in the world. It initiated the principle of social harmony, friendship and brotherhood. The ideals of the founding fathers were high and lofty.

Dadabhai Naoroji, speaking at the Lahore Congress said ".......always remember that we are the children of our mother country. I am an Indian and I owe duty to my work and all my countrymen. Whether I am a Hindu or a Mohammedan or a Parsi or Christian or any other creed, I am above all an Indian. Our country is India, our Nationality is Indian".

For the Indian National Congress, geographic integrity was not the only creed. Its belief and patriotism transcended geographical boundaries, religious differences, ethnic dissimilarities, linguistic preferences and all barriers of caste, creed, color, and sex.

For the Congress Party national integration encompassed a cohesive population, elimination of poverty, eradication of superstitions, and installation of virtuous and healthy spirit of mind and body. They realized that poverty was the sole contributor to the divisive forces and to the subversive politics of the imperialist regime of the British.

Freedom and national integration were the targets of the movement of the Indian National Congress against the British. In his famous letter to all Indians before his arrest, after Dandi Yatra Mahatma Gandhi wrote, "After I am arrested neither the people nor my colleagues should be daunted, whole villages must come forward to pick or manufacture salt...... piquet opium, liquor shops and foreign shops...begin spinning- Hindus, Muslims, Parsis and Christians should heartily embrace one another." The Civil Disobedient Movement united the entire nation.  

Mahatma Gandhi, the apostle of peace created new weapons to fight the oppressors. His fight was based on principles of truth and non violence. "Charkha" or the spinning wheel became his weapon of empowerment of the underprivileged. Eradication of untouchability and prohibition were the main planks of the Congress movement for freedom of India.   

The pledge of independence adopted at the Lahore Congress in 1929 on the banks of river Ravi declared that the rights of the Indian people are "inalienable and Briton can not deny to them their right of freedom and their right to enjoy fruits of their toil".  This pledge of independence in a way reflects the sentiments of the American people conveyed through their declaration of Independence in the year 1776. It stated ".... All men are created equal and they are endowed by the creator with certain inalienable rights ..... Life, liberty and persuit of happiness."  

The Indian National Congress struggled for nothing less than life, liberty and happiness of the people.  The most inconspicuous product, the common salt was turned into a significant weapon of resistance of the oppressive rule of the British by Mahatma Gandhi.  As a part of the civil disobedience movement,   Gandhiji decided to fight against the salt Act. And why did he select salt after all?   He wrote: "I regard this tax to be the most iniquitous of all from the poor man's stand point."  

The Dandi Yatra and the mass movement which started there after resulted in participation of more than 7 million Indians.   No country in the world had any time seen such a phenomenon.  Its commander was a dhoti clad, bare-chested, short, fragile and aged man who in his life time became the Mahatma or the most pure soul for the people of the Country.  

When he went to attend the 2nd round table conference he did so as an agent of Indians as a whole.   He wrote: "I am a poor humble agent acting on behalf of Indian National Congress".  And he emphasized that the Indian National Congress "... represents no particular community, no particular class, no particular interest.   It claims to represent all Indian interests and all classes, the Mussalmans, Christans, Anglo Indians, in fact all religions, sects and creeds...."   That was the fundamental belief of the Indian National Congress.  The program adopted by Mahatma Gandhi became the program of the Indian National Congress and therefore of the whole country.  

Untouchability has been the curse of the Hindu religion.  The subjugation of the lower castes by the upper castes affected the unity of the Country.  The plight of the untouchables was so dismal and lowly.  They suffered a discrimination which was worse than the lot of the American slaves.   The caste Hindu believed that even the shadow of the untouchable was enough to defile them.

The Congress under Gandhi fought the scourge of untouchability.  Even when he went to attend the 2nd round table conference, he made it clear that the congress would remove untouchability with all its might.  As the British had given a separate representation to the untouchables at the Conference, Gandhi asked whether the British want the untouchables to remain untouchable in perpetuity. On the same principle Gandhiji resisted  Ramsay Macdonald Award which provided for separate representation to the depressed classes.  Gandhiji undertook fast unto death to protest what he called vivisection of Hinduism.    In its Quit India Resolution the Congress unequivocally declared "..... The power when it comes will belong to whole of India."    

The geographical unity of India has always been dear to the Congress. Partition of Bengal in the year 1905 by Lord Curzon was opposed by the party on the ground that it would dismember the country and disunite its people. The resultant movement against partition was catalyzed by the principles of Swadeshi, national education and national integration.    The Mountbatten plan which ultimately divided this country into India and Pakistan and the blood shed preceding and following it was resisted by the Congress till the very last.  Mahatma Gandhi even offered the premiership of free united India to Mohammad Ali Jina.  Had this offer been accepted, perhaps India would have been a united country even to this day.  The partition was in the words of Jawaharlal Nehru, "crises in India's soul" and a "Human earthquake".  

The constitution of the Congress Party expresses its adherence to the principles of equity, justice and fraternity as enshrined in the Constitution of India.  It pledges to uphold secularism and sovereignty of the Republic of India.  Every congress man is bound by a set of commandments.  The first commandment is to work for communal unity.  Removal of untouchability, prohibition, Khadi & village industry, health, education, women and children, provincial languages etc, are part of the commandments.   These commandments reflect the Congress Party's highest priority to communal unity and harmony.  Mahatma Gandhi and later Indira Gandhi were assassinated for preaching and practicing national integrity and communal harmony. Young Rajiv Gandhi became a martyr for espousing the cause of communal harmony among the Sinhalese and the Tamils. Their sacrifices and of countless other heroes of the freedom movement
continue to inspire  congressmen.

We have our foes and enemies.  They allege that the Congress appeases minorities for their votes. There were no votes to be sought in 1885 when Wyomesh Chandra Bannerjee gave a clarion call for national unity and communal harmony. There were no votes to be sought when Bal Gangadhar Tilak declared that Swarajya is my Birthright. There were no votes to be sought when Lala Lajpat Rai faced the lathis or the Punjab faced the savage bullets of General Dwyer at Jalianwala Baug. Votes cannot compensate the sacrifices of our great leaders. Secularism is enshrined in our Constitution. Rights of Minorities are enshrined in our Constitution. All Indians are wedded permanently to these principles.

We have earned freedom after a long struggle. Let us not forget the words of Surendranath Bannerjee at the first session in 1885. ".. liberty is a jealous Goddess. In her worship, she claims from her votaries, prolonged and assiduous devotion."

We must abhor fanaticism and fundamentalism, religious or otherwise. We must cherish our freedom. We must abide by the pledge of independence on the banks of Ravi in Punjab. We must strive to make the commonest man happy and contended for God dwells in him. Ravindranath Tagore has in one of his poems, implored us, "Stop that chanting and ringing of bells, God is not in the Temple, .. He is there in the fields, toiling, in tattered clothes in sun and rain.. worship him".

JAI HIND


Blogger's Profile

Ramakant Khalap

Adv Ramakant Khalap is former Chairman of the Goa State Law Commission. Being a veteran politician of Goa, he has served the political arena as the union law minister as well as Goa’s deputy chief minister and the opposition leader in the past. He also takes keen interest in literature and cultural activities while heading several institutions, especially in the field of Marathi literature.

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Previous Comments

Dear Sir,

As much as I appreciate the INC for its national integration, I also do feel that it is deteriorating with respect to the quality of politicians the INC has collected . INC was at its peak when giant advocates, orators and social workers ruled the INC and the national structure. Now, apart from a few exceptions like yourself, the party is filled with petty politicians who are mostly after improving their bank balances by joining the ruling national party.

I deeply feel that INC should have a cell to search people from all stratas of life who have the intellect, oratory and knowledge of the people like you or the stalwarts like Vallabhai Patel, Motilal Nehru, Mahatama Gandhi and make them a part of INC. Youngsters and veterans alike, who have the vision and capability of taking national integration to its conclusion should be given importance by the party on priority basis, rather than concentrating on the economics like most other political factions.

Regards.

- Chinmay Bhosale, Pune | 19 th March 2013 19:02

 

Jay hind

- Parmar Anil, Rajkot | 08 th October 2012 18:59

 

Dear Khalap Saheb

I will appreciate your way to illustrate history without being prejudice.Even common reader perceives facts n figures without favoritism.

All the best..Jay Hind

- Zafar Iqbal, Pakistan | 25 th September 2010 21:05

 

Very nice article on Indian Politics.

- Vijay Hande, Pune | 25 th September 2010 11:07

 

Cleverly written article.

I hope you are referring to ideology of Indian National congress before independence and not the one which ruled India for so many years after independence.

You did mention Indira and Rajeev Gandhi but its not clear. Write something more about INC after independence.

Please don't take credit for what INC had done before independence.

- NItesh Naik, Mapusa | 21 st September 2010 13:00

 

No doubt the Congress was a party based on the ideologies so vital for moving ahead taking with it people from all religions, casts, sects, and give an honest, clean, efficient value based Government which could boast of probity in public life ! It is time to evaluate as to what level it has reached now!

- Vishwas Prabhudesai, Loliem | 20 th August 2010 09:50

 

Nicely written Sir, I also admire you for joining Congress Party.

By the way you didn't reply to the allegation made against you by Mr. Babi Bagkar Ex. Director Mapusa Urban regarding irregularities in banks transaction and also your political carrier as a congress candidate from Manderm as Mr. Samir Salgaonkar already declare himself as a official candidate of the Congress party from Mandrem Constituency and he kick-started his election campaign from mandrem.

As your political supporter I need a clarification from your side.

- Nilesh Shetgaonkar, Morjim | 18 th August 2010 12:53

 

The founding fathers of the Congress Party were totally different from the Congress leaders today. The leaders that time put the Indians and India before their selfishness. Today, one can count on fingers the real Congressmen.

Gandhiji united the people whereas today politicians do the opposite. They follow the British mantra than Gandhiji’s teachings. Many Congressmen have deserted the party for their own interests.

Fortunately, Sonia Gandhi & Rahul Gandhi are surrounded by a few true Congress blooded followers. Thanks to such persons, the party is still alive! The Party needs young leaders.

Indira Gandhi through Rajiv Gandhi succeeded in bringing young honest leaders in the Congress through the youth wing of the party and many of them have remained still loyal to the Congress Party. Today, Rahul Gandhi is putting all efforts to inject new blood into the Congress through NSUI & the YC. The youth should take the challenge.

The Congress can take the country to new heights only if young & honest leaders join the Party. Long live the Congress Party!

PS: Mr. Khalap, I admire your wisdom for having joined the Congress Party.

[email protected]

- francis fernandes, Switzerland | 16 th August 2010 16:19

 

Let me remind another excerpt...

“ At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom. A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance..... We end today a period of ill fortune, and India discovers herself again.”

...India discovers herself again... again into that land you described in this blog...

"But we were never one Nation. We were a myriad of nations within one geographic entity called Hindustan or India. We followed innumerable faiths. We had watertight compartments called castes. Some of them were upper castes and others were lower castes. We believed in superiority of the upper castes and their right to subjugate the lower castes. We had the Varna system."

- Nanvnam, India | 12 th August 2010 20:08

 

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