Sonia’s New, Narrow Patriotism Hinges On Participation In 1942 Movement

by R Jagannathan - Aug 10, 2017 10:09 AM +05:30 IST
Sonia’s New, Narrow Patriotism Hinges On Participation In 1942 MovementSonia Gandhi (Arvind Yadav/Hindustan Times via Getty Images) 
  • If Sonia Gandhi thinks that participation in the Quit India movement of 1942 is the only proof of patriotism, then a lot of nation-builders, including Dr Ambedkar, would become ‘unpatriotic’

It was said, not unreasonably, that the BJP was focusing on a narrow definition of nationalism, where a refusal to sing Vande Mataram or respecting the cow was tantamount to anti-national behaviour.

This criticism lost its moral sheen when the present government’s critics were found doing the same in another area: defining secularism in a sectarian way. Our “secular” discourse is tilted in favour of supporting minority communalism, and many of our laws are tilted against the so-called majority: the RTE, the takeover of thousands of temples by the state, and the reduced autonomy to run educational and cultural institutions are some instances of the same.

The point is simple: nationalism or secularism cannot be defined by who you dislike, but by a neutral definition that everyone can agree on.

However, we can let that pass, and focus on nationalism. Consider what Sonia Gandhi, President of the Congress party, which claims ownership of the freedom movement and the ideas of nationalism derived therefrom, had to say yesterday (9 August), when Parliament met in a special session to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the 1942 Quit India Movement.

After pointing out that many Congress leaders went to jail during the movement, she remarked: “We must not forget that some organisations opposed the Quit India Movement; such organisations have no role in freedom struggle.”

If it is right to criticise those who want the Vande Mataram to be a marker of nationalism, how is this any different, if those who allegedly did not participate in the Quit India Movement are deemed to have played no part in the freedom struggle?

Was the freedom struggle only about freeing India from colonial rule? Was BR Ambedkar, who can hardly be accused of backing the Quit India Movement, not a part of the freedom struggle, when his focus was on social emancipation, which is the deeper part of the freedom struggle? Both the Hindu Mahasabha and the Muslim League were outside the Movement, but secularists believe that Mohammed Ali Jinnah was very much part of the freedom movement, and the Hindu Mahasabha played a large role both within the omnibus Congress of that time, and outside it. The Communists too were lukewarm to the Quit India Movement, but can we assume they did not fight for freedom in their own way?

Does the mere fact that your agenda may be different, or larger than just India’s political freedom, make you ineligible to claim the freedom movement, including the Quit India Movement, as part of your heritage?

To indirectly hold organisations like the RSS or Ambedkar’s own movement for the emancipation of the SC/STs as being opposed to the freedom struggle is narrow-mindedness at its worst.

In any event, let’s assume, for argument’s sake, that the RSS was against the freedom movement in 1942. Should an organisation be held responsible for what its leaders did 75 years ago? By that yardstick, we should hold Sonia Gandhi as inheritor of Italy’s fascist streak under Benito Mussolini, for her father was allegedly a supporter of Mussolini’s policies.

This was not the speech of someone with inclusive ideas of freedom running in her veins. It is the politics of exclusion, of political untouchability.

Jagannathan is Editorial Director, Swarajya. He tweets at @TheJaggi.
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