Peasant Movements in the 1930s and ’40s The 1930s bore wi tness to a new and nat ion-wide awakening of Indian peasant s to thei r own st rength and capaci ty to organize for the bet terment of thei r l iving condi t ions. Thi s awakening was largely a resul t of the combinat ion of part icular economic and pol i t ical development s: the great Depression that began to hi t India from 1929-30 and the new phase of mass st ruggle launched by the Indian Nat ional Congress in 1930. The Depression which brought agricul tural prices crashing down to hal f or less of thei r normal level s deal t a severe blow to the al ready impoveri shed peasant s burdened wi th high taxes and rent s. The Government was obdurate in refusing to scale down i t s own rates of taxat ion or in asking zamindars to bring down thei r rent s. The prices of manufactured goods, too, didn’t regi ster comparable decreases. The Civi l Di sobedience Movement was launched in thi s atmosphere of di scontent in 1930, and in many part s of the count ry i t soon took on the form of a no-tax and no-rent campaign. Thi s consol idat ion of the Left acted as a spur to the format ion of an al l -India body to coordinate the ki san movement , a process that was al ready under way through the effort s of N.G. Ranga and other ki san leaders. The culminat ion was the establ i shment of the Al l -India Ki san Congress in Lucknow in Apri l
1936 which later changed i t s name to the Al l -India Ki san Sabha. Swami Sahajanand, the mi l i tant founder of the Bihar Provincial Ki san Sabha (1929), was elected the President , and N.G. Ranga, the pioneer of the ki san movement in Andhra and a renowned scholar of the agrarian problem, the General Secretary. The fi rst session was greeted in person by Jawaharlal Nehru. Other part icipant s included Ram Manohar Lohia, Sohan Singh Josh, Indulal Yagnik, Jayaprakash Narayan, Mohanlal Gautam, Kamal Sarkar, Sudhin Pramanik and Ahmed Din. The Conference resolved to bring out a Ki san Mani festo and a periodic bul let in edi ted by Indulal Yagnik. A Ki san Mani festo was final ized at the Al l -India Ki san Commi t tee session in Bombay and formal ly presented to the Congress Working Commi t tee to be incorporated into i t s forthcoming mani festo for the 1937 elect ions. The Ki san Mani festo considerably influenced the agrarian programme adopted by the Congress at i t s Faizpur session, which included demands for fi fty per cent reduct ion in land revenue and rent , a moratorium on debt s, the abol i t ion of feudal levies, securi ty of tenure for tenant s, a l iving wage for agricul tural labourers, and the recogni t ion of peasant unions. Bihar was another major area of peasant mobi l izat ion in thi s period. Swami Sahajanand, the founder of the Bihar Provincial Ki san Sabha and a major leader of the Al l India Ki san Sabha, was joined by many other left -wing leaders l ike Karyanand Sharma, Rahul Sankri tayan, Panchanan Sharma, and Yadunandan Sharma in spreading the ki san sabha organizat ion to the vi l lage of Bihar. The Congress Mini st ry had ini t iated legi slat ion for the reduct ion of rent and the restorat ion of bakasht lands. Bakasht lands were those which the occupancy tenant s had lost to zamindars, most ly during the Depression years, by vi rtue of non-payment of rent , and which they often cont inued to cul t ivate as share-croppers. The Bihar Provincial Ki san Sabha effect ively used meet ings, conferences, ral l ies, and mass demonst rat ions, including a demonst rat ion of one lakh peasant s at Patna in 1938, to popularize the ki san sabha programme. The slogan of zamindari abol i t ion, adopted by the Sabha in 1935, was popularized among the peasant s through resolut ions passed at these gatherings The movement on the bakasht i ssue reached i t s peak in late 1938 and 1939, but
by August 1939 a combinat ion of concessions, legi slat ion and the arrest of about 600 act ivi st s succeeded in quietening the peasant s. The movement was resumed in certain pocket s in 1945 and cont inued in one form or another t i l l zamindari was abol i shed. Punjab was another cent re of ki san act ivi ty. Here, too, the ki san sabhas that had emerged in the early 1930s, through the effort s of Naujawan Bharat Sabha, Ki rt i Ki san, Congress and Akal i act ivi st s, were given a new sense of di rect ion and cohesion by the Punjab Ki san Commi t tee formed in 1937.
But in Bri t i sh India, i t was the tebhaga st ruggle in Bengal that held the l imel ight . In late 1946, the share-croppers of Bengal began to assert that they would no longer pay a hal f share of thei r crop to the jotedars but only one-thi rd and that before divi sion the crop would be stored in thei r khamars (godowns) and not that of the jotedars. They were no doubt encouraged by the fact that the Bengal Land Revenue Commi ssion, popularly known as the Floud Commi ssion, had al ready made thi s recommendat ion in i t s report to the government . The Hajong t ribal s were simul taneously demanding commutat ion of thei r kind rent s into cash rent s. The tebhaga movement , led by the Bengal Provincial Ki san Sabha, soon developed into a clash between jotedars and bargadars wi th the bargadars insi st ing on storing the crop in thei r own khamars. The movement received a great boost in late January 1947 when the Musl im League Mini st ry led by Suhrawardy publ i shed the Bengal Bargadars Temporary Regulat ion Bi l l in the Calcut ta Gazet te on 22 January 1947. Encouraged by the fact that the demand for tebhaga could no longer be cal led i l legal , peasant s in hi therto untouched vi l lages and areas joined the st ruggle. In many places, peasant s t ried to remove the paddy al ready stored in the jotedars’ khamars to thei r own, and thi s resul ted in innumerable clashes. The jotedars appealed to the Government , and th pol ice came in to suppress the peasant s. Repression cont inued and by the end of February the movement was vi rtual ly dead. A few incident s occurred in March as wel l , but these were only the death pangs of a dying st ruggle. The Musl im League Mini st ry fai led to pursue the bi l l in the Assembly and i t was only in 1950 that the Congress Mini st ry passed a Bargadars Bi l l which incorporated, in substance, the demands of the movement . Wi th the experience of the spl i t of 1942, the ki san movement found that i f i t diverged too far and too clearly from the path of the nat ional movement , i t tended to lose i t s mass base, as wel l as create a spl i t wi thin the ranks of i t s leadership. 2 8
The Freedom Struggle in Princely India A much more powerful influence was exerci sed by the Non-Cooperat ion and Khi lafat Movement launched in 1920; around thi s t ime and under i t s impact , numerous local organizat ions of the States’ people came into exi stence. Some of the States in which praja mandal s or States’ People’s Conferences were organized were Mysore, Hyderabad, Baroda, the Kathiawad States, the Deccan States, Jamnagar, Indore, and Nawanagar. Thi s process came to a head in December 1927 wi th the convening of the Al l India States’ People’s Conference (AISPC) which was at tended by 700 pol i t ical workers from the States. The men chiefly responsible for thi s ini t iat ive were Balwant rai Mehta, Maniklal Kothari and G.R. Abhayankar. The pol icy of the Indian Nat ional Congress towards the Indian states had been fi rst enunciated in 1920 at Nagpur when a resolut ion cal l ing upon the Princes to grant ful l responsible government in thei r States had been passed. Fi rst , the Government of India Act of 1935 projected a scheme of federat ion in which the Indian States were to be brought into a di rect const i tut ional relat ionship wi th Bri t i sh India and the States were to send representat ives to the Federal Legi slature. The catch was that these representat ives would be nominees of the Princes and not democrat ical ly elected representat ives of the people. They would number one-thi rd of the total numbers of the Federal legi slature and act as a sol id conservat ive block that could be t rusted to thwart nat ional i st pressures. The Indian Nat ional Congress and the AISPC and other organizat ions of the States’ people clearly saw through thi s imperial i st manoeuvre and demanded that the States be represented not by the Princes’ nominees but by elected representat ives of the people. Thi s lent a great sense of urgency to the demand for responsible democrat ic government in the States. Fol lowing upon thi s, the Congress at Tripuri in March 1939 passed a resolut ion enunciat ing i t s new pol icy: ‘The great awakening that i s taking place among the people of the States may lead to a relaxat ion, or to a complete removal of the rest raint which the Congress imposed upon i t sel f, thus resul t ing in an ever increasing ident i ficat ion of the Congress wi th the States’ peoples’.
Al so in 1939,the AISPC elected Jawaharlal Nehru as i t s President for the Ludhiana session, thus set t ing the seal onthe fusion of the movement s in Princely India and Bri t i sh india. The outbreak of the Second World War brought about a di st inct change in the pol i t ical atmosphere.
Congress Mini st ries resigned, the Government armed i t sel f wi th the Defence of India Rules, and in the States as wel l there was less tolerance of pol i t ical act ivi ty. Things came to a head again in 1942 wi th the launching of the Qui t India Movement . Thi s t ime the Congress made no di st inct ion between Bri t i sh India and the Indian States and the cal l for st ruggle was extended to the people of the States. The people of the States thus formal ly joined the st ruggle for Indian independence, and in addi t ion to thei r demand for responsible government they asked the Bri t i sh to qui t India and demanded that the States become integral part s of the Indian nat ion. RAJKOT In a meet ing wi th Dewan Vi rawala, Patel , on behal f of the Pari shad, demanded a commi t tee to frame proposal s for responsible government , a new elect ion to the Prat inidhi Sabha, reduct ion of land revenue by fi fteen percent , cancel lat ion of al l monopol ies or i jaras, and a l imi t on the ruler’s claim on the State t reasury. The Durbar, instead of conceding the demands, asked the Resident to appoint a Bri t i sh officer as Dewan to deal effect ively wi th the si tuat ion, and Cadel l took over on 12 September. Meanwhi le, Vi rawala himsel f became Private Advi ser to the Thakore, so that he could cont inue to operate from behind the scenes. The Satyagraha now assumed major proport ions and included wi thhold of land revenue, defiance of monopoly right s, boycot t of al l goods produced by the State, including elect rici ty and cloth. There was a run on the State Bank and st rikes in the state cot ton mi l l and by student s. Al l sources of income of the state, including exci se and custom dut ies, were sought to be blocked. Sardar Patel , though most of the t ime not physical ly present in Rajkot , kept in regular touch wi th the Rajkot leaders by telephone every evening. Volunteers began to arrive from other part s of Kathiawad, from Bri t i sh Gujarat and Bombay. The movement demonst rated a remarkable degree of organizat ion: a secret chain of command ensured that on the arrest of one leader another took charge and code numbers publ i shed in newspapers informed each Satyagrahi of hi s arrival date and arrangement s in Rajkot . By the end of November, the Bri t i sh were clearly worried about the impl icat ions of a possible Congress victory in Rajkot . The Mahatma decided that he, too, must go to Rajkot . He had al ready made i t clear that he considered the breach of a solemn agreement by the
Thakore Sahib a serious affai r and one that was the duty of every Satyagrahi to resi st . He al so fel t that he had st rong claims on Rajkot because of hi s fami ly’s close associat ion wi th the State and the Thakore’s fami ly, and that thi s just i fied and prompted hi s personal intervent ion. In accordance wi th hi s wi shes, mass Satyagraha was suspended to prepare the way for negot iat ions. But a number of di scussions wi th the Resident , the Thakore and Dewan Vi rawala yielded no resul t s and resul ted in an ul t imatum by Gandhi j i that i f, by 3 March, the Durbar did not agree to honour i t s agreement wi th the Sardar, he would go on a fast unto death. The Thakore, or rather Vi rawala, who was the real power behind the throne, stuck to hi s original posi t ion and left Gandhi j i wi th no choice but to begin hi s fast . The fast was the signal for a nat ion-wide protest . Gandhi j i ’s heal th was al ready poor and any prolonged fast was l ikely to be dangerous. There were hartal s, an adjournment of the legi slature and final ly a threat that the Congress Mini st ries might resign. The Viceroy was bombarded wi th telegrams asking for hi s intervent ion. Gandhi j i himsel f urged the Paramount Power to ful fi l i t s responsibi l i ty to the people of the State by persuading the Thakore to honour hi s promi se. On 7 March, the Viceroy suggested arbi t rat ion by the Chief Just ice of India, Si r Maurice Gwyer, to decide whether in fact the Thakore had violated the agreement . Thi s seemed a reasonable enough proposi t ion, and Gandhi j i broke hi s fast . The Chief Just ice’s award, announced on 3 Apri l , 1939, vindicated the Sardar’s posi t ion that the Durbar had agreed to accept seven of hi s nominees. The bal l was now back in the Thakore’s court . But there had been no change of heart in Rajkot . Vi rawala cont inued wi th hi s pol icy of propping up Rajput , Musl im and depressed classes’claims to representat ion and refused to accept any of the proposal s made by Gandhi j i to accommodate thei r representat ives whi le maintaining a majori ty of the Sardar’s and the Pari shad’s nominees. The si tuat ion soon began to take an ugly turn, wi th host i le demonst rat ions by Rajput s and Musl ims during Gandhi j i ’s prayer meet ings, and Mohammed Al i Jinnah’s and Ambedkar’s demand that the Musl ims and depressed classes be given separate representat ion. The Durbar used al l thi s to cont inue
to refuse to honour the agreement in ei ther i t s let ter or spi ri t . The Paramount Power, too, would not intervene because i t had nothing to gain and everything to lose from securing an out right Congress victory. Nor did i t see i t s role as one of promot ing responsible government in the States. At thi s point , Gandhi j i , analyzing the reasons for hi s fai lure to achieve a ‘change of heart ’ in hi s opponent s, came to the conclusion that the cause lay in hi s at tempt to use the authori ty of the Paramount Power to coerce the Thakore into an agreement . Thi s, for him, smacked of violence; nonviolence should have meant that he should have di rected hi s fast only at the Thakore and Vi rawala, and rel ied only on the st rength of hi s suffering to effect a ‘change of heart ’. Therefore, he released the Thakore from the agreement , apologized to the Viceroy and the Chief Just ice for wast ing thei r t ime, and to hi s opponent s, the Musl ims and the Rajput s, and left Rajkot to return to Bri t i sh India. The Rajkot Satyagraha brought into clear focus the paradoxical si tuat ion that exi sted in the States and which made the task of resi stance a very complex one. The rulers of the States were protected by the might of the Bri t i sh Government against any movement s that aimed at reform and popular pressure on the Bri t i sh Government to induce reform could always be resi sted by pleading the legal posi t ion of the autonomy of the States. Thi s legal independence, however, was usual ly forgot ten by the Bri t i sh when the States desi red to fol low a course that was unpalatable to the Paramount Power. It was, after al l , the Bri t i sh Government that urged the Thakore to refuse to honour hi s agreement wi th the Sardar. But the legal separat ion of power and responsibi l i ty between the States and the Bri t i sh Government did provide a convenient excuse for resi st ing pressure, an excuse that did not exi st in Bri t i sh India. Thi s meant that movement s of resi stance in the States operated in condi t ions that were very di fferent from those that provided the context for movement s in Bri t i sh India. Perhaps, then, the Congress had not been far wrong when for years i t had urged that the movement s in Princely India and Bri t i sh India could not be merged. It s hesi tat ion to take on the Indian States was based on a comprehension of the genuine di fficul t ies in the si tuat ion, di fficul t ies which were clearly shown up by the example of Rajkot . Despi te the apparent fai lure of the Rajkot Satyagraha, i t exerci sed a powerful pol i t icizing influence on the people of the States, especial ly in Western India. It al so demonst rated to the Princes that they survived only because the Bri t i sh were there to prop them up, and thus, the st ruggle of Rajkot , along wi th others of i t s t ime, faci l i tated the process of the integrat ion of the States at the t ime of
independence. In 1937, the other two regions of the State al so set up thei r own organizat ions — the Maharasht ra Pari shad and the Kannada Pari shad. And, in 1938, act ivi st s from al l three regions came together and decided to found the Hyderabad State Congress as a state-wide body of the people of Hyderabad. Thi s was not a branch of the Indian Nat ional Congress, despi te i t s name, and despi te the fact that i t s members had close contact s wi th the Congress. But even before the organizat ion could be formal ly founded, the Nizam’s government i ssued orders banning i t , the ostensible ground being that i t was a communal body of Hindus and that Musl ims were not sufficient ly represented in i t . Negot iat ions wi th the Government bore no frui t , and the deci sion was taken to launch a Satyagraha. The leader of thi s Satyagraha was Swami Ramanand Ti rtha, a Marathi -speaking nat ional i st who had given up hi s studies during the Non-Cooperat ion Movement , The two cent res of the Satyagraha were Hyderabad ci ty and Aurangabad ci ty in the Marathwada area. Gandhi j i himsel f took a keen personal interest in the development s, and regularly wrote to Si r Akbar Hydari , the Prime Mini ster, pressing him for bet ter t reatment of the Satyagrahi s and for a change in the State’s at t i tude. And i t was at hi s instance that , after two months, in December 1938, the Satyagraha was wi thdrawn. The reasons for thi s deci sion were to be primari ly found in an accompanying development — the Satyagraha launched by the Arya Samaj and the Hindu Civi l Libert ies Union at the same t ime as the State Congress Satyagraha. The Arya Samaj Satyagraha, which was at t ract ing Satyagrahi s from al l over the count ry, was launched as a protest against the rel igious persecut ion of the Arya Samaj , and i t had clearly rel igious object ives. It al so tended to take on communal overtones. The State Congress and Gandhi j i increasingly fel t that in the popular mind thei r clearly secular Satyagraha wi th di st inct pol i t ical object ives were being confused wi th the rel igious-communal Satyagraha of the Arya Samaj and that i t was, therefore, best to demarcate themselves from i t by wi thdrawing thei r own Satyagraha. The authori t ies were in any case lumping the two together and seeking to project the State Congress as a Hindu communal organizat ion.
Simul taneously, there was the emergence of what came to be known as the Vande Mataram Movement . Student s of col leges in Hyderabad ci ty organized a protest st rike against the authori t ies’ refusal to let them sing Vande Mataram in thei r hostel prayer rooms. The State Congress, however, cont inued to be banned, and the regional cul tural organizat ions remained the main forums of act ivi ty. A symbol ic protest against the cont inuing ban was again regi stered by Swami Ramanand Ti rtha and six others personal ly selected by Gandhi j i . They were arrested in September 1940 and kept in detent ion t i l l December 1941. A resumpt ion of the st ruggle was ruled out by Gandhi j i since an al l -India st ruggle was in the offing and now al l st ruggles would be part of that . The Qui t India Movement was launched in August 1942 and i t was made clear that now there was no di st inct ion to be made between the people of Bri t i sh India and the States: every Indian was to part icipate. The meet ing of the AISPC was convened along wi th the AICC session at Bombay that announced the commencement of st ruggle. Gandhi j i and Jawaharlal Nehru both addressed the AISPC Standing Commi t tee, and Gandhi j i himsel f explained the impl icat ions of the Qui t India Movement and told the Commi t tee that henceforth there would be one movement . The movement in the States was now to be not only for responsible government but for the independence of India and the integrat ion of the States wi th Bri t i sh India. But the Qui t India Movement al so sealed the ri ft that had developed between the Communi st and non-Communi st radical nat ional i st s after the Communi st Party had adopted the slogan of People’s War in December 1941. Communi st s were opposed to the Qui t India Movement as i t mi l i tated against thei r understanding that Bri tain must be supported in i t s ant i -Fasci st War. The case of Hyderabad, and that of Rajkot , are good examples of how methods of st ruggle evolved to sui t the condi t ions in Bri t i sh India, such as non-violent mass civi l di sobedience or Satyagraha, did not have the same viabi l i ty or effect iveness in the India States. The lack of civi l l ibert ies, and of representat ive inst i tut ions, meant that the pol i t ical space for hegemonic pol i t ics was very smal l , even when compared to the condi t ions prevai l ing under the semi -hegemonic and semi -repressive colonial state in Bri t i sh India. The ul t imate protect ion provided by the Bri t i sh enabled the rulers of the States to wi thstand popular pressure to a considerable degree, as happened in Rajkot . As a resul t , there was a much greater tendency in these States for the movement s to resort to violent methods of agi tat ion thi s happened not only in
Hyderabad, but al so in Travancore, Pat iala, and the Ori ssa States among others. In Hyderabad, for example, even the State Congress ul t imately resorted to violent methods of at tack, and, in the final count , the Nizam could only be brought into l ine by the Indian Army. Thi s al so meant that those such as the Communi st s and other Left groups, who had less hesi tat ion than the Congress in resort ing to violent forms of st ruggle, were placed in a more favourable si tuat ion in these States and were able to grow as a pol i t ical force in these areas. Here, too, the examples of Hyderabad, Travancore, Pat iala and the Ori ssa States were qui te st riking.
2 9 Indian Capitalists and the National Movement Fi rst , the Indian capi tal i st class grew from about the mid 19th century wi th largely an independent capi tal base and not as junior partners of foreign capi tal or as compradors. Second, the capi tal i st class on the whole was not t ied up in a subservient posi t ion wi th pro-imperial i st feudal interest s ei ther economical ly or pol i t ical ly. In fact , a wide cross sect ion of the leaders of the capi tal i st class actual ly argued, in 1944-45, in thei r famous Bombay plan (the signatories to which were Purshot tamdas Thakurdas, J.R.D. Tata, G.D. Bi rla, Ardeshi r Dalal , Sri Ram, Kasturbhai Lalbhai , A.D. Shroff and John Mathai ) for comprehensive land reform, including cooperat ivizat ion of product ion, finance and market ing. Thi rd, in the period 1914-1947, the capi tal i st class grew rapidly, increasing i t s st rength and sel fconfidence. Thi s was achieved primari ly through import subst i tut ion; by edging out or encroaching upon areas of European dominat ion, and by establ i shing almost exclusive cont rol over new areas thus account ing for the bulk of the new investment s made since the 1920s. Close to independence, indigenous enterpri se had al ready cornered seventy two to seventy three per cent of the domest ic market and over eighty per cent of the deposi t s in the organized banking sector. Since the early 1920s, effort s were being made by various capi tal i st s l ike G.D. Bi rla and Purshot tamdas Thakurdas to establ i sh a nat ional level organizat ion of Indian commercial , indust rial and financial interest s (as opposed to the al ready relat ively more organized European interest s in India) to be able to effect ively lobby wi th the colonial government . Thi s effort culminated in the format ion of the Federat ion of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Indust ry (FICCI) in 1927, wi th a large and rapidly increasing representat ion from al l part s of India. The FICCI was soon recognized by
the Bri t i sh government as wel l as the Indian publ ic in general , as represent ing the dominant opinion as wel l as the overal l consensus wi thin the Indian capi tal i st class. The leaders of the capi tal i st class al so clearly saw the role of the FICCI as being that of ‘nat ional guardians of t rade, commerce and indust ry,’ performing in the economic sphere in colonial India the funct ions of a nat ional government . G.D. Bi rla and S.P. Jain were talking of unequal exchange as early as the 1930s. However, as ment ioned earl ier, the Indian capi tal i st class had i t s own not ions of how the ant i imperial i st st ruggle ought to be waged. It was always in favour of not completely abandoning the const i tut ional path and the negot iat ing table and general ly preferred to put i t s weight behind const i tut ional forms of st ruggle as opposed to mass civi l di sobedience. Thi s was due to several reasons. Fi rst , there was the fear that mass civi l di sobedience, especial ly i f i t was prolonged, would unleash forces which could turn the movement revolut ionary in a social sense (i .e., threaten capi tal i sm i t sel f). As Lal j i Naranj i wrote to Purshot tamdas in March 1930, ‘private property,’ i t sel f could be threatened and the ‘di sregard for authori ty’ created could have ‘di sast rous after effect s’ even for the ‘future government of Swaraj .’ 9 Whenever the movement was seen to be get t ing too dangerous in thi s sense, the capi tal i st s t ried thei r best to bring the movement back to a phase of const i tut ional opposi t ion. Second, the capi tal i st s were unwi l l ing to support a prolonged al l -out host i l i ty to the government of the day as i t prevented the cont inuing of day-to-day business and threatened the very exi stence of the class. Further, the Indian capi tal i st s’ support to const i tut ional part icipat ion, whether i t be in assembl ies, conferences or even joining the Viceroy’s Execut ive Counci l , i s not to be understood simply as thei r get t ing co-opted into the imperial system or surrendering to i t . They saw al l thi s as a forum for maintaining an effect ive opposi t ion fearing that boycot t ing these forums completely would help ‘black legs’ and element s who did not represent the nat ion to, wi thout any opposi t ion, easi ly pass measures which could severely affect the Indian economy and the capi tal i st class. However, there was no quest ion of uncondi t ional ly accept ing reforms or part icipat ing in conferences
or assembl ies. The capi tal i st s were to ‘part icipate on (thei r) own terms,’ wi th ‘no compromi se on fundamental s,’ fi rmly reject ing offers of cooperat ion which fel l below thei r own and the minimum nat ional demands. It was on thi s ground that the FICCI in 1934 rejected the ‘Report of the Joint Parl iamentary Commi t tee on Const i tut ional Reforms for India’ as ‘even more react ionary than the proposal s contained in the Whi te paper.’ The Indian capi tal i st s’ at t i tude had undergone signi ficant changes on thi s i ssue over t ime. During the Swadeshi Movement (1905-08), the capi tal i st s remained opposed to the boycot t agi tat ion. Even during the Non-Cooperat ion Movement of the early ‘20s, a smal l sect ion of the capi tal i st s, including Purshot tamdas, openly declared themselves enemies of the Non-Cooperat ion Movement . However, during the 1930s’ Civi l Di sobedience Movement , the capi tal i st s largely supported the movement and refused to respond to the Viceroy’s exhortat ions (in September 1930) to publ icly repudiate the Congress stand and hi s offer of ful l guarantee of government protect ion against any harrassment for doing so. urther, whi le the capi tal i st class on the whole stayed wi thin the nat ional i st camp (as opposed to l ining up wi th the loyal i st s), i t did so on the most conservat ive end of the nat ional i st spect rum, which certainly did not cal l the shot s of the nat ional movement at any stage. Simi larly, in 1928, the capi tal i st s refused to support the Government in int roducing the Publ ic Safety Bi l l , which was intended to contain the Communi st s, on the ground that such a provi sion would be used to at tack the nat ional movement . It was wi th thi s reform perspect ive that the ‘Post War Economic Development Commi t tee,’ set up by the capi tal i st s in 1942, which eventual ly drafted the Bombay Plan, was to funct ion. It s at tempt was to incorporate ‘whatever i s sound and feasible in the social i st movement ’ ana see ‘how far social i st demands could be accommodated wi thout capi tal i sm surrendering any of i t s essent ial features. Bombay Plan, therefore, seriously took up the quest ion of rapid economic growth and equi table di st ribut ion, even arguing for the necessi ty of part ial nat ional izat ion, the publ ic sector, land reform and a series of workers’ wel fare schemes. One may add that the basic assumpt ion made by the Bombay planners was that the plan could be implemented only by an independent nat ional Government .
Clearly the Indian capi tal i st class was ant i -social i st and bourgeoi s but i t was not proimperial i st . 3 0 The Development of a Nationalist Foreign Policy
After the War, the nationalists further developed their foreign policy in the direction of opposition to political and economic imperialism and cooperation of all nations in the cause of world peace. As part of this policy, at its Delhi session in 1919, the Congress demanded India’s representation at the Peace Conference through its elected representatives.
Indians also continued to voice their sympathy for the freedom fighters of other countries. The Irish and Egyptian people and the Government of Turkey were extended active support . At its Calcutta session in 1920, the Congress asked the people not to join the army to fight in West Asia. In May 1921, Gandhiji declared that the Indian people would oppose any attack on Afghanistan. The Congress branded the Mandate system of the League of Nations as a cover for imperialist greed.
In 1921, the Congress congratulated the Burmese people on their struggle for freedom. Burma was at that time a part of India, but the Congress announced that free India favoured Burma’s independence from India. Gandhiji wrote in this context in 1922: ‘I have never been able to take pride in the fact that Burma has been made part of British India. It never was and never should be. The Burmese have a civilization of their own.’ In 1924, the Congress asked the Indian settlers in Burma to demand no separate rights at the cost of the Burmese people.
In January 1927, S. Srinavasa Iyengar moved an adjournment motion in the Central Legislative Assembly to protest against Indian troops being used to suppress the Chinese people. The strong Indian feelings on the question were repeatedly expressed by the Congress during 1927 (including at its Madras session). The Madras Congress advised Indians not to go to China to fight or work against the Chinese people who were fellow fighters in the struggle against imperialism. It also asked for the withdrawal of Indian troops from Mesopotamia and Iran and all other foreign countries. In 1928, the Congress assured the people of Egypt , Syria, Palestine, Iraq, and Afghanistan of its full support in their national liberation struggles.
In 1926-27, Jawaharlal Nehru travelled to Europe and came into contact with left -wing European political workers and thinkers. This had an abiding impact on his political development , including in the field of foreign affairs. This was, of course, not the first time that major Indian political leaders had made an effort to establish links with, and get the support of, the anti imperialist sections of British and European publ ic opinion. Dadabhai Naoroj i was a close friend of the social i st H.M. Hyndman. He at tended the Hague session of the Internat ional Social i st Congress in August 1904 and after describing imperial i sm as a species of barbari sm declared that the Indian people had lost al l fai th in Bri t i sh pol i t ical part ies and parl iament and looked for cooperat ion only to the Bri t i sh working class. Lajpat Rai al so establ i shed close relat ions wi th American social i st s during hi s stay in the US from 1914-18. In 1917, he opposed US part icipat ion in the World War because of the War’s imperialistic character. Gandhiji also developed close relations with outstanding European figures such as Tolstoy and Romain Rolland.
Nehru @ Brussels Conference The highl ight of Jawaharlal ’s European vi si t was hi s part icipat ion as a representat ive of the Congress in the Internat ional Congress against Colonial Oppression and Imperial i sm held in Brussel s in February 1927. The basic object ive of the Conference was to bring together the colonial people of Africa, Asia and Lat in America st ruggl ing against imperial i sm and the working people of the capi tal i st count ries fight ing against capi tal i sm. Nehru was elected one of the honorary president s of the Conference along wi th Albert Einstein, Romain Rol land, Madame Sun Yat Sen and George Lansbury. In hi s speeches and statement s at the Conferences, Nehru emphasized the close connect ion between colonial i sm and capi tal i sm and the deep commi tment of Indian nat ional i sm to internat ional i sm and to ant i -colonial st ruggles the world over.
INC @ member of League against Imperialism The Brussel s Conference decided to found the League Against Imperial i sm and for Nat ional Independence. Nehru was elected to the Execut ive Counci l of the League. The Congress al so affi l iated to the League as an associated member. At i t s Calcut ta session, the Congress declared that the Indian st ruggle was a part of the worldwide st ruggle against imperial i sm. It al so decided to open a Foreign Department to develop contact s wi th other peoples and movement s fight ing against imperial i sm. The Congress declared 9 May to be Ethiopia Day on which demonst rat ions and meet ings were held al l over India expressing sympathy and sol idari ty wi th the Ethiopians. On hi s way back from Europe, Jawaharlal refused to meet Mussol ini , despi te hi s repeated invi tat ions, lest the meet ing was used for fasci st propaganda.
Congress @ Solidarity with China
At Tripuri , in early 1939, the Congress passed a resolut ion di ssociat ing i t sel f ‘ent i rely from the Bri t i sh foreign pol icy, which has consi stent ly aided the fasci st Powers and helped the dest ruct ion of the democrat ic count ries.’ In 1937, Japan launched an at tack on China. The Congress passed a resolut ion condemning Japan and cal l ing upon the Indian people to boycot t Japanese goods as a mark of thei r sympathy wi th the Chinese people. As an expression of i t s sol idari ty wi th the Chinese people, 12 June was celebrated throughout India as China Day. The Congress al so sent a medical mi ssion, headed by Dr. M. Atal , to work wi th the Chinese armed forces. One of i t s members, Dr. Kotni s, was to lay down hi s l i fe working wi th the Eighth Route Army under Mao Ze-Dong’s command.
3 1 The Rise and Growth of Communalism
Above al l , communal i sm was one of the by-product s of the colonial character of Indian economy, of colonial underdevelopment , of the incapaci ty of colonial i sm to develop the Indian economy. The resul t ing economic stagnat ion and i t s impact on the l ives of the Indian people, especial ly the middle classes, produced condi t ions which were conducive to divi sion and antagoni sm wi thin Indian society as al so to i t s radical t ransformat ion. Throughout the 20th century, in the absence of modern indust rial development and the development of educat ion, heal th and other social and cul tural services, unemployment was an acute problem in India, especial ly for the educated middle and lower middle classes who could not fal l back on land and whose socio-economic condi t ions suffered constant deteriorat ion. These economic opportuni t ies decl ined further during the Great Depression after 1928 when large scale unemployment prevai led. In thi s social si tuat ion, the nat ional i st and other popular movement s worked for the longterm solut ion to the people’s problems by fight ing for the overthrow of colonial i sm and radical social t ransformat ion. In fact , the middle classes formed the backbone both of the mi l i tant nat ional movement from 1905 to 1947 and the left -wing part ies and groups since the 1920s. Unfortunately
there were some who lacked a wider social vi sion and pol i t ical understanding and looked to thei r narrow immediate interest s and short -term solut ions to thei r personal or sect ional problems such as communal , caste, or provincial reservat ion in jobs or in municipal commi t tees, legi slatures, and so on. Gradual ly, the spread of educat ion to wel l -off peasant s and smal l landlords extended the boundaries of the job-seeking middle class to the rural areas. The newly educated rural youth could not be sustained by land whether as landlords or peasant s, especial ly as agricul ture was total ly stagnant because of the colonial impact . They flocked on the towns and ci t ies for opening in government jobs and professions and t ried to save themselves by fight ing for jobs through the system of communal reservat ions and nominat ions. Thi s development gradual ly widened the social base of communal i sm to cover the rural upper st rata of peasant s and landlords. Thus, the cri si s of the colonial economy constant ly generated two opposing set s of ideologies and pol i t ical tendencies among the middle classes. When ant i -imperial i st revolut ion and social change appeared on the agenda, the middle classes enthusiast ical ly joined the nat ional and other popular movement s. They then readi ly advocated the cause and demands of the ent i re society from the capi tal i st s to the peasant s and workers. Individual ambi t ions were then sunk in the wider social vi sion. But when prospect s of revolut ionary change receded, when the ant i -imperial i st st ruggle entered a more passive phase, many belonging to the middle classes shi fted to short -term solut ions of thei r personal problems, to pol i t ics based on communal i sm and other simi lar ideologies. Thus wi th the same social causat ion, large sect ions of the middle classes in several part s of the count ry constant ly osci l lated between ant i -imperial i sm and communal i sm or communal -type pol i t ics. But there was a crucial di fferent in the two cases. In the fi rst case, thei r own social interest s merged wi th the interest s of general social development and thei r pol i t ics formed a part of the broader ant i -imperial i st st ruggle.
In the second case, they funct ioned as a narrow and sel fi sh interest group, accepted the socio-pol i t ical status quo and object ively served colonial i sm. To sum up thi s aspect : communal i sm was deeply rooted in and was an expression of the interest s and aspi rat ions of the middle classes in a social si tuat ion in which opportuni t ies for them were grossly inadequate. The communal quest ion was, therefore a middle class quest ion par excel lence. The main appeal of communal i sm and i t s main social base al so lay among the middle classes. It i s, however, important to remember that a large number of middle class individual s remained, on the whole free of communal i sm even in the 1930s and 1940s. Thi s was, in part icular, t rue of most of the intel lectual s, whether Hindu, Musl im or Sikh. In fact , the typical Indian intel lectual of the 1930s tended to be both secular and broadly left -wing. There was another aspect of the colonial economy that favoured communal pol i t ics. In the absence of openings in indust ry, commerce, educat ion and other social services, and the cul tural and entertainment fields, the Government service was the main avenue of employment for the middle classes. Much of the employment for teachers, doctors and engineers was al so under government cont rol . As late as 1951, whi le 1.2 mi l l ion persons were covered by the Factory Act s, 3.3 mi l l ions got employment in government service. And communal pol i t ics could be used to put pressure on the Government to reserve and al locate i t s jobs as al so seat s in professional col leges on communal and caste l ines. Consequent ly, communal pol i t ics t i l l 1937 was organized around government jobs, educat ional concessions, and the l ike as al so pol i t ical posi t ions — seat s in legi slat ive counci l s, municipal bodies, etc. — which enabled cont rol over these and other economic opportuni t ies. It may al so be noted that though the communal i st s spoke in the name of thei r ‘communi t ies,’ the reservat ions, guarantees and other ‘right s’ they demanded were vi rtual ly confined to these two aspect s. They did not take up any i ssues which were of interest to the masses. At another plane, communal i sm often di storted or mi sinterpreted social tension and class confl ict between the exploi ters and the exploi ted belonging to di fferent rel igions as communal confl ict .
Both the communal i st s and the colonial admini st rators st ressed the communal as against the class aspect s of agrarian exploi tat ion and oppression. In the Pabna agrarian riot s of 1873, both Hindu and Musl im tenant s fought zamindars together. Simi larly, as brought out in earl ier chapters, most of the agrarian st ruggles after 1919 stayed clear of communal channel s. Fi rst , by consi stent ly t reat ing Hindus, Musl ims and Sikhs as separate communi t ies and socio-pol i t ical ent i t ies which had l i t t le in common. India, i t was said, was nei ther a nat ion or a nat ion-in-the-making, nor did i t consi st of nat ional i t ies or local societ ies, but consi sted of st ructured, mutual ly exclusive and antagoni st ic rel igion-based communi t ies. Second, official favour and pat ronage were extended to the communal i st s. Thi rd, the communal Press and persons and agi tat ions were shown ext raordinary tolerance. Fourth, communal demands were readi ly accepted, thus pol i t ical ly st rengthening communal organizat ions and thei r hold over the people. For example, whi le the Congress could get none of i t s demands accepted from 1885-1905, the Musl im communal demands were accepted in 1906 as soon as they were presented to the Viceroy. Simi larly, in 1932, the Communal Award accepted al l the major communal demands of the t ime. During World War II, the Musl im communal i st s were given a complete veto on any pol i t ical advance. Fi fth, the Bri t i sh readi ly accepted communal organizat ions and leaders as the real spokesperson for thei r ‘communi t ies,’ whi le the nat ional i st leaders were t reated as represent ing a microscopic minori ty — the el i te. Sixth, separate electorates served as an important inst rument for the development of communal pol i t ics. Last ly, the colonial government encouraged communal i sm through a pol icy of non-act ion against i t . Certain posi t ive measures which the state alone could undertake were needed to check the growth of communal i sm. The fai lure to undertake them served as an indi rect encouragement to communal i sm. The Government refused to take act ion against the propagat ion of vi rulent communal ideas and communal hat red through the Press, pamphlet s, leaflet s, l i terature, publ ic plat form and rumours. Thi s was in sharp cont rast wi th the frequent suppression of the nat ional i st Press, l i terature, civi l servant s, propaganda, and so on. On the cont rary, the Government freely rewarded communal leaders, intel lectual s and government servant s wi th t i t les, posi t ions of profi t , high salaries, and so on. The Bri t i sh admini st rators al so fol lowed a pol icy of
relat ive inact ivi ty and i rresponsibi l i ty in deal ing wi th communal riot s. When they occurred, they were not crushed energet ical ly. The admini st rat ion al so seldom made proper preparat ions or took prevent ive measures to meet si tuat ions of communal tension, as they did in case of nat ional i st and other popular protest movement s. To sum up: So long as the colonial state supported communal i sm, a solut ion to the communal problem was not easi ly possible whi le the colonial state remained; though, of course, the overthrow of the colonial state was only the necessary but not a suf f icient condi t ion for a successful st ruggle against communal i sm. and the ant i -part i t ion of Bengal agi tat ion was ini t iated wi th dips in the Ganges. What was much worse, Bankim Chandra Chat terjea and many other wri ters in Bengal i , Hindi , Urdu and other languages often referred to Musl ims as foreigners in thei r novel s, plays, poems, and stories, and tended to ident i fy nat ional i sm wi th Hindus. A communal and di storted unscient i fic view of Indian hi story, especial ly of i t s ancient and medieval periods, was a major inst rument for the spread of communal consciousness as al so a basic const i tuent of communal ideology. The teaching of Indian hi story in school s and col leges from a basical ly communal point of view made a major cont ribut ion to the ri se and growth of communal i sm. A beginning was made in the early 19th century by the Bri t i sh hi storian, James Mi l l , who described the ancient period of Indian hi story as the Hindu period and the medieval period as the Musl im period.