Posts Tagged ‘Gandhi’

Tryst with Destiny : The Great Betrayal.

1 December 2009

To a starving person, God will appear in the form of bread alone.

Poverty is but the worst form of violence.

“As a jungli, as an adibasi I am not expected to understand the legal intricacies of the resolution. But my common sense tells me that every one of us should march on that road to freedom and fight together. Sir, if there is any group of Indian people that has been shabbily treated it is my people. They have been disgracefully treated, neglected for the last 6000 years. The history of the Indus Valley civilization, a child of which I am, shows quite clearly that it is the newcomers – most of you are intruders as far as I am concerned – it is the newcomers who have driven away my people from the Indus Valley to the jungle fastnesses. This Resolution is not going to teach Adibasis democracy. You cannot teach democracy to the tribal people; you have to learn democratic ways from them. They are the most democratic people on earth… The whole history of my people is one of continuous exploitation and dispossession by the non-aboriginals of India punctuated by rebellions and disorder, and yet I take Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru at his word. I take you all at your word that now we are going to start a new chapter, a new chapter of Independent India where there is equality of opportunity, where no one would be neglected. There is no question of caste in my society. We are all equal. Have we not been casually treated by the Cabinet Mission, more than 30 million people completely ignored?… If history had to teach me’ anything at all, I should distrust this Resolution, but I do not. Now we are on a new road. Now we have simply got to learn to trust each other. And I ask friends who are not present with us today that they should come in, they should trust us and we, in turn must learn to trust them. We must create a new atmosphere of confidence among ourselves”.

Constituent Assembly, 19th December 1946.

“Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny, and now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially. 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. It is fitting that at this solemn moment we take the pledge of dedication to the service of India and her people and to the still larger cause of humanity… That future is not one of ease or resting but of incessant striving so that we may fulfill the pledges we have so often taken and the one we shall take today. The service of India means the service of the millions who suffer. It means the ending of poverty and ignorance and disease and inequality of opportunity. The ambition of the greatest man of our generation has been to wipe every tear from every eye. That may be beyond us, but as long as there are tears and suffering, so long our work will not be over”.

Constituent Assembly, 14th August 1947, Midnight.

“Although I have every respect and praise for this Constitution, yet there is one thing which I am most afraid of, and it is that this Constitution is tendentious to create a class – a class that democracy has created everywhereof professional politicians.’ All democracies are run by professional politicians’ and I am afraid that is the main cause of their failures, because such people begin to live on democracies. It becomes with them a profession, the Statecraft’, becomes their only source of living. That is the bane of democracy and I want to make the future generations aware of this. It creates professional politicians’ – those whose earning depend on politics, with the result that they cut themselves adrift from all creative professions. If this democracy is also to be run by such persons who will have nothing else to fall back upon, and who live on Ministries or on the memberships of the Parliament, then this democracy is doomed, I am sure… But the picture from the villagers’ point of view is dull and dead. I cannot give argument to convince the villager that from 26th January 1950 his lot will be better. Nor is there anything tangible through which he can better understand this Constitution; because we give the villager nothing but the vote, which we will take from him after two years. That is the only thing we give him. So, I submit that it is only when those who till the soil are enabled to run this Constitution that they would appreciate it to be their charter of rights and freedom. Otherwise the Constitution is dull. There must be a leader. I hope our Indian earth is not so sterile that it will not give birth to a leader who will whisper life into this mould of the Constitution so that it could speak… Notwithstanding anything contained in this Constitution, no citizen of India shall draw for his personal use either from the public exchequer or from private enterprise a pay, profit or allowance which exceeds the earnings of an average wage earner”(this last statement he called the Mahamantra).

Constituent Assembly, 25th November, 1949.

“We must begin by acknowledging the fact that there is complete absence of two things in Indian Society. One of these is equality. On the social plane, we have in India a society based on the principle of graded inequality, on the economic plane we have a society in which there are some who have immense wealth as against many who live in abject poverty. On the 26th of January 1950, we are going to enter into a life of contradictions. In politics we will have equality and in social and economic life we will have inequality. In politics we will be recognizing the principle of one man one vote and one vote one value. In our social and economic life, we shall, by reason of our social and economic structure, continue to deny the principle of one man one value. How long shall we continue to live this life of contradictions? How long shall we continue to deny equality in our social and economic life? If we continue to deny it for long, we will do so only by putting our political democracy in peril. We must remove this contradiction at the earliest possible moment or else those who suffer from inequality will blow up the structure of political democracy which this Assembly has so laboriously built up”.

Constituent Assembly, 25th November, 1949.

First of the quote owes its existence to a spirited & gifted speaker Jaipal Singh – himself an adibasi, a Munda from Chotanagpur. He expresses his fear that Adibasis are unlikely to be treated fairly in the new nation whatever the protestations to the contrary of others, when speaking on the ‘Objectives Resolutions’ moved in the Constituent Assembly(CA). Yet he chooses to repose his faith in the words of Nehru. Stirring words of the next quote need no introduction. But they do reinforce 63 years later the sense of betrayal of reluctant confidence reposed by Jaipal in the man who uttered them. Mahavir Tyagi, a great Gandhi follower, minces no words in telling that self-serving politicians are likely to hold the constitution a hostage & make a mockery of all pious ideals. Most will agree that his stunning indictment rings true today though his prescription at the end must have met with strong disapproval when it was uttered. Many would be though wistful today as to why wasn’t his ‘Mahamantra’ included in the Constitution. The man who is described as the architect of Indian constitution, Dr. Ambedkar, speaks of his awareness of the infirmities of Indian democracy. Democracy to thrive & succeed requires the triad of Social, Economic & Political equality; just fulfilling the last will ultimately consign whole arrangement to the dustbin of history.

Constituent assembly (CA) debates, the breadth & depth of which I became aware of after reading ‘India after Gandhi’ by Ramchandra Guha, are rhetorical, ideological, prejudiced, contentious, and are greatly influenced by the upheavals in India of the time from 9th December 1946 to 25th November 1949 during which it held its sessions. But they are also eloquent, rousing, analytic, profound, and surprisingly prescient. People who sacrificed their careers, creature comforts, health, wealth, even life in the cause of freedom struggle & the makers of our Constitution – at least some among them –, are holding a mirror to our face, a mirror to the face of India that is Bharat. What do we see there? Have we redeemed their pledge? Not wholly, or in full measure, but do we have a face to say at least substantially? It depends. It depends upon whom we ask. If we ask the adibasis for whom Jaipal Singh spoke, if we ask the villagers, daily wage earners for whom Mahavir Tyagi spoke, if we ask those who suffer grossest economic or social inequality for whom Ambedkar spoke, or if we ask those from whose eyes tears haven’t ceased to flow for whom Gandhi spoke; then what answer would we expect to hear?

Activists like Dr. Biyanak Sen, Himanshu Kumar, Sudha Bhardwaj, and others are telling us that answer. An answer we refuse to hear, to see, to know or to contemplate about. If Jaipal Singh, Mahavir Tyagi, Ambedkar, Gandhi were to come today, where will we find them – with Chidambaram, Manmohan Singh, Sonia Gandhi in Delhi or with the adibasis in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa, and elsewhere? The government of the current ruler of India, granddaughter in law of Nehru & the newest-comer to India, would in all probability brand them terrorists or extremists, jail them or would have them die in an encounter with security forces for resisting the onslaught of the state by standing tall in solidarity with the tribals & the poor.