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Challenging the Metanarrative Of Indian Independence Struggle.

A historian ought to be exact, sincere and impartial; free from passion, unbiased by interest, fear, resentment or affection; and faithful to the truth, which is the mother of history the preserver of great actions, the enemy of oblivion, the witness of the past, the director of the future, says Ambedkar.

The function of historian is neither to love the past, nor to condemn the past, nor to be free from the past, but to master the past in order to understand its bearing on the present. Therefore, let us re-look into the significance of 15th August 1947 for our country and its citizens. And also what we as Indians technically achieved on our most celebrated and glorified National holiday.

What India got on 15th August 1947?

  • What is a Dominion? Dominion means colonial self-Government.
  • Was the Total independence achieved from the British rule?

The late 19th century till the mid of twentieth century is very crucial in the evolution of Republic of India, as it stands today. This period marks the rise of political conscious and ambitious Indian nationalism. This is the period when the Indians started voicing out their political demands to the British Government. The politics of this time is described by the nationalist historiography as India’s Independence Struggle. This description is hitherto not challenged. Nationalists will not challenge this description is natural and can be easily understood. The Hindutva ideology also does not counter this description and in fact makes an attempt to locate itself within this framework in order to picture themselves and their leaders as ‘freedom fighters’ as it serves their task of Hindu Nationalism. The Ambedkarite Movement, the leftist Marxist movement, the Kanshiram pioneered Bahujan movement seems to disagree with this nationalist description though it cannot be in anyway regarded as countering the fundamental basis of the description and hence cannot be regarded as a challenge to the nationalist description. Their objection is mainly to the title of ‘Freedom Struggle’ and they want to merely describe it as ‘Transfer of Power from B2B i.e. From British to the power hungry Brahmins’. They do not question the fundamental assumptions of this description namely the ‘struggle of Indians against the tyrannical British rulers’, ‘the Congress Nationalism as the only nationalism’ etc. Their complain, being merely over the title and as it does not challenge the nationalist paradigm in any way, hence not fundamental and does not have any major bearing on the nationalist historiography. Thus their disagreement in fact is no disagreement.

Dr. Ambedkar described the Indian politics of his times as having two different aspects, namely –

  1. Foreign politics i.e. Quit India or the Transfer of Power Politics and
  2. Constitutional Politics i.e. the Communal Deadlock or the struggle between the Hindu Communal Majority against the Minorities.

Below is the sequence of events that took place around 15th August 1947, technically:

  1. What India got on 15th August 1947?
  2. On 15th August 1947 India got the Dominion status under the Indian Independence Act, 1947.
  3. Dominion is defined as a British colony with a responsible local self government. This means that India was a British colony even on 15th August 1947.
  4. The below excerpt from the Constituent Assembly debates would serve as the best evidence to understand the significance of 15th August 1947:

The confusion in the Constituent assembly:

Thursday, the 14th August 1947

(2) the Constituent Assembly of India has endorsed the recommendation that Lord Mountbatten be Governor-General of India from the 15th August 1947.

and that this message be conveyed forthwith to Lord Mountbatten by the President and Pandit Jawaharlal.Nehru. (Cheers.) I take it the House approves it.

The motion was adopted.

Friday, the 15th August 1947

The wishes from many countries started pouring in to India for achieving the Dominion status. None of them mentioned  “Republic of India” but just “Dominion of India” in their wishes.

Few messages could be read as below:

Message from Dr. Soedarsono on behalf of the Republic of Indonesia:

“On the eve of the establishment of the Dominion of India it is a great pleasure to the Republic of Indonesia to express her feelings of heartfelt joy, sympathy and friendship.”

Message from the President of the United States of America:

“On this memorable occasion I extend to you, to Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and to the people of the Dominion of India the sincere best wishes of the Government and the people, of the United.States of America. I wish to avail myself of this opportunity of extending my personal congratulations to Your Excellency on your assumption of the post of Governor-General of the Dominion of India and at the same time to convey assurance of my highest consideration.”

H.E (His Excellency), the Governor-General: Mr. President and members of the Constituent Assembly:

“From today I am your constitutional Governor-General and I would ask you to regard me as one of yourselves. I am glad to announce that "my" Government (as I am now constitutionally entitled and most proud to call them) have decided to mark this historic occasion by a generous programme of amnesty.”

 

HOISTING OF THE NATIONAL FLAG

Mr. President: His Excellency will now give the signal for hoisting the Flag.

(The sound of a gun being fired was heard).

H.E. The Governor-General: That is the signal for hoisting the flag over this roof.

Mr. President: The House now stands adjourned till 10 of the Clock on the 20th.

Honourable Members: Mahatma Gandhi ki jai.

Mahatma Gandhi ki jai.

Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru ki jai.

Lord Mountbatten ki jai.

The Assembly then adjourned till 10 of the Clock on Wednesday, the 20th August 1947.

 

  1. On 15th August 1947 what was achieved was not Independence (Swatantrya) but Home Rule (Swarajya).
  2. The Constitutional head of India was the British Crown till 26th January 1950.
  3. On 26th January 1950 after all the provisions of the Constitution were made effective, India became a Sovereign Republic and Democratic country.
  4. From 15th August 1947 to 26th January 1950 India was governed according to the provisions of amended Government of India Act, 1935.
  5. Only on 26th January 1950 all the ties with the British Crown were broken and India was politically and constitutionally free country with all the privileges related to military and foreign relation powers.
  6. Therefore, India became free and got Total Independence (Swatantrya or Purna Swarajya) only on 26th January 1950, at least in technical sense.
  7. More so because even the date of 26th January was chosen for the implementation of Constitution because on this very day in 1930, the Congress passed the resolution of “Poorna Swaraj” in Lahore.
  8. Therefore, 15th August is therefore just a Dominion Day and not the Independence Day.
  9. The below illustration explains the political entitlements and progress India achieved:

 

India before the advent of British Raj

We must remember that what we now see as "India" was originally a collection of petty rajas, and kingdoms. It's the invaders who unified the subcontinent into a country called India. So let's be truthful about the facts and teach history as it happened and notoriously though thank those invaders for the present unity and diversity we enjoy. Myths also have played a major role in India attaining independence. The political movement of the Indian National Congress which started from the demand of ‘Home Rule’ i.e. ‘Dominion Status’ and matured into the demand of ‘Total Independence’ under the pressure of extremist movements outside and within the Congress is referred as the movement of Indian Independence is a point in case. The significance of 15th August 1947 must be seen in the light of these demands. Dissenting voices, if any, are raised only in the academic intellectual circles and are deliberately confined within the closed walls of universities, academic institutions and history congress.

The ‘Secularist’ and ‘Hindu-Nationalist’ Narratives concurrent apparently contradictory but part of the Same Grand Narrative, namely which camp is more patriotic.

 Civic Nationalism (New India) and Anti-colonial Nationalism (Quit India):

Nationalism is not an end but just a means for the individuals to reach the highest stage of Human development. An Individual is an end it itself. To create the social, political conditions in the world where each individual could spread the wingspan to its maximum potential. Nationalism which reformists like Phule and Ambedkar vouched for did not just object to the external domination but also the internal oppression, i.e. their brand of Patriotism deals with both the above progresses namely, Foreign politics as well as Constitutional politics which India as a country was heading towards. Unfortunately, the glorification of 15th August as Independence day which is confined to the mere idea of Foreign politics clearly subverts the latter progress, namely, the Constitutional politics which was also moving forward in parallel with the Foreign politics. Mere celebration of the freedom struggle movement against the British rule, invokes a limited sentiment of Anti-colonial Nationalism. The period of late 19th century till the mid of twentieth century has been also remarkable in resolving the age-old feuds among Indians. The people, now citizens, were nothing but warring camps. The Hindu-Muslim issue. The caste inequalities. The princely states vs their subjects, now citizens. The Zamindars vs the landless.

This period has been instrumental in finding a safe ground plan to address innumerable such issues among Indians for a safe and sustainable democracy after the British rule would end.

Social reform must precede Political reform. Alteast the political reformists must consider Social reform as an integral part of the political reform. But the subversion of Social conference of Ranade by Tilak is the best example of the undermining of Social reform in context of Indian independence struggle. Be it through right from Montagu–Chelmsford Reforms, to the working and contribution of Indian intelligentsia in the works of various commissions, the Round table conferences that followed likewise in the making of India. And then ultimately at the remarkable and exhaustive Constituent assembly debates.

Like Anti-colonial movement, the Constitutional politics involved even more herculean task of bringing all the warring groups on board. All of these efforts involved a series of conflicts and struggle among the Indians to achieve the position of dignity in free India. The biggest example of the conflict among Indians manifested into partition and blood bath that followed soon after 15th August 1947. The constitutional politics was addressing this very problem. It was indeed talking about New India and the new order.

The significance of this period is more relevant in today’s times of continued struggle among Indians. If it is true that Political democracy cannot sustain without Social democracy, then this period of Constitutional politics must be indeed celebrated as Freedom struggle movement. It was the century of the Making of Present India. The test of patriotism therefore does not lie in participation in the Anti-colonial movement. The contribution towards the Constitutional politics is more apt in today’s times of continued struggle.

The constitutional politics plays an instrumental role in defining the present form of India as a Nation-in-the making. Therefore, at least in technical sense, India became free and got Total Independence (Swatantrya or Purna Swarajya) only on 26th January 1950.

The results of glorification of 15th August as Independence day therefore subverts the much needed Constitutional morality which is already lacking among Indians.

Like they say in New Zealand, Happy Dominion day !

 

References

[1] Swatantrata din ki Paheli - A research paper by Sumedh Ukey

[2] Constituent assembly debate proceedings.

[3] http://www.international.gc.ca/department/history-histoire/dcer/details-en.asp?intRefid=10567

[4] http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/culture/dominion-status/symposium

[5] The Modern Law Review,Volume 12, Issue 3, Article first published online: 18 JAN
[6] Conditions precedent for the successful working of democracy, Dr. Ambedkar Writings and Speeches, Vol 17 , Part THREE, page 480

[7] parliamentofindia.nic.in/ls/debates/debates.htm

An enterprising Abhishek Kumar shows us cartoons of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the slogan on Robert Vadra, posted there on the message board: “Congress ka haath Damaad ke saath (Congress’s hand [symbol] is always with its son-in-law [Vadra]).” We couldn’t resist appreciating the creative genius behind the hard-hitting message and know we are talking to the right man.

Kumar will do negative propaganda against the fictitious Netaji’s opponent, but using a different method, saying:  “… ek aadmi ko matlab maarne ke kiye ek hi tareeke ka istemaal hahin kiya jaata (… you don’t have to use the same method to kill a man).” Each day they would pick up an achievement of Netaji and share it with their group of one lakh visitors. This way, says Kumar: “Iss tareh se wo ek lakh se kai crore tak pahunchta hai (This way it reaches many crores through the one lakh).” This is how it goes viral. The loopholes of the opposite camp would be exploited in the same manner for negative publicity, but says Kumar:  “Lekin ye kis angle se kar rahe hain wo dekhna hai (But we will have to see what angle we have to use).”

[Tweet "#OperationBlueVirus China is invading India, leave it, only remember Modi Gujarat and 2012 and 2002 …"]

Kumar is running a campaign for the BJP on social media, and the job has been subcontracted to his company by a Bangalore-based firm. To show how effectively they are doing a campaign for the BJP on social media, Kumar shows another message posted by his team and reads out for us: “Cheen India mein ghus raha hai wo chhodo bas Modi Gujarat aur 2012 ya 2002 yaad rakho … Pakistan ghuspaith kar raha hai humare sainik ke sar kaat liye wo chhodo … Modi Gujarat aur 2002 yaad rakho … unees sau chaurasi ka danga theek hai … chara ghotala wo chhodo bas Modi Gujarat aur 2002 yaad rakho (China is invading India, leave it, only remember Modi Gujarat and 2012 and 2002 … Pakistan is invading us beheading our soldiers on the border, leave it as well, only remember Modi Gujarat and 2012 and 2002 … 1984 riots are okay … fodder scam leave that as well … remember only Modi Gujarat and 2002 …).”

This evocative message, Abhishek claims, has reached millions of Indians: “Lakhon karono tak pahunch gai baat aur dekho yahan daba ke comments (This has reached millions of people … and see the flood of comments).” And this magic is done with a pool of network groups. Kumar claims: “Mere yahan log itni pahunch wale hain (I have people with really good connections).”

It means you are doing a negative campaign against Congress Party? Nodding, Kumar replies: “Haan … (Yes).” They will do a negative campaign against Netaji’s opponent in the same manner as they are doing against Congress.

[Tweet "#OperationBlueVirus Rahul Gandhi aur … Mittal inki ek purani friend thi .. usko inhone bana liya ki gangrape hua hai …"]

Look at the audacity with which he is planning to make a damaging content against Rahul Gandhi to go viral on social media a few days before elections: “Dekha aise hi rape … arre bhaiya sab idhar udhar ghuma fira ke rakhte hain … hum kuch nahin keh rahe hain inse milo … parho toh neeche masala … bata deta hoon aapko (See, this is about a rape … they keep the content ready by twisting it here and there … we are not saying anything on our own … look here … read the spicy stuff below … let me tell you about it).” It involves one Sukanya Devi. He then goes on to explain what the affair was: “Inka jo Rahul Gandhi aur … Mittal inki ek purani friend thi … uska thoda kuch hai … usko inhone bana liya ki gangrape hua hai … usne shayad kuch case bhi kiya tha … wo hi toh hai neeche likha hua ye sab baatein jo hain (This Rahul Gandhi … he had a friend called … Mittal … there was some affair … they have made it out into a gang rape … she had perhaps filed a case also … this is what is written all here below).” This is how he would do negative publicity against anybody by digging out all the muck.

6

If you remember our earlier appreciative publishing of the indie film Inklab and the interview with Dr. Gaurav Chhabra that followed, we are glad to share that the film was widely appreciated. But once it came to the "real world", it ran into trouble - specifically, trouble with our nitpicking, politically meddling censor board. A censor board that sees nothing in passing item numbers even while evidence of objectification of women in real life is leading to increasing sexual crimes against them. But God forbid an enactment of documented historical facts about national heroes is actually seen by the people without censoring to taste.

Disclosure: Dr. Gaurav Chhabra is a friend and a person I respect for consistently challenging wrongs where he sees them.

Read on:

What came as a rude shock to Chandigarh based director Dr Gaurav Chhabra, the producer of the film InkLab, who was packing his bags for Goa, to attend International Film Festival of India (IFFI) was the letter from Central board of Film Certification India, suggesting at-least 9 cuts in the film thus destroying the whole structure and message of the film InkLab, which is inspired by Shaheed Bhagat Singh's Assembly Bombing case of 1929.

What disturbs him more is that, CBFC has right away kicked out the film from the 'Educational category'. " Film is a direct result of my personal learning in the field of social-activism over last 5 years...and it advocates the use Constitutional tools like Right to information, Freedom of speech, peaceful protests etc for bringing about a holistic social change in society " says the 32 year old doctor turned indie filmmaker and activist.

Chhabra applied for Censor certificate for his film InkLab after some of the film festivals in the country where the film is  an official selection, asked for it as a routine. Chhabra who is already promoting his film as ‘For mature audience only’ straightaway demanded for Adults certificate in his application to CBFC. “The film documents the casual talks of two university students on corruption and other prevalent issues of today in a natural flow…and at places there is use of strong language and symbolism, so I myself responsibly opted for Adult certification… but unfortunately even that is denied”

This hour long Avant-garde film made in Cinema-Verite style, produced in Chandigarh in March this year, is a story of a young rebellious PhD fellow who has gone missing and police is investigating the case with the help of his close friend and professors. The film is shown as if been put together from the footage of video and mobile camera of this friend.

The film incidentally is shot at the Historic Dwaarka Das Library in Chandigarh, which is post-partition restoration of the library at Lahore where Shaheed Bhagat Singh used to spend a lot of time reading books on Russian, Irish revolutions and socialism.

Confronting the cuts prescribed by the CBFC and calling them uncalled for and invalid, the Doc says " The cuts prescribed by the CBFC chop off selectively the talks about corruption in politics. These talks represent average discussions on contemporary news, among today’s youth. Chopping such scenes is only in the interest of ‘corrupt politicians’ and not in interest of ‘Politics’ and public in general "

As the story unfolds the film primarily touches the topics of:  Corruption, Right to Information Act, Social equality, Debate on nuclear power, Debate on Genetically Modified food, Development issues, Freedom of Speech, Naxalism, Role of Independent media in society. Film also bring forth the core idea of Social equality as envisioned by Shaheed  Bhagat  Singh and educates the audience about the reason behind Assembly bombing case of 1929 and how ‘Long live revolution’doesn’t mean constant turbulence  in the society but rather a just and peaceful society.

The film focuses on the fact that today even if youth are fighting for ‘their rights’ all around the world, the marginalized groups are still neglected by them and voice of poor is still oppressed. But however even after 80 years of the Martyrdom of Shaheed Bhagat Singh, his idea of Freedom and social-economic equality is being suppressed.

CBFC has asked to chop off the scene where the protagonist is trying to make homemade fire-works/non-lethal bombs in his kitchen and then trying it at his room.

"CBFC grossly missed the historical context of the film, where protagonist talks about Bhagat Singh’s Assembly bomb case. The protagonist being a rational, inquisitive and  scientific person tries for himself everything before he actually decides to apply it or not. Explosives made by Bhagat Singh were home made too and this film simply reflects the same thing via the protagonist. There are thousand plus recipes to make bombs on Internet, just in case they are worried that this film teaches public about making bombs. Until the reason behind the Assembly bombing of 1929 is shown, any uninformed person would call the valiant act of Freedom fighters a violent act. “ tells the director doc who in in last five years has bagged various national and international awards for his short films and social activism.


In 1929, Shaheed Bhagat Singh, a young Indian Freedom fighter and a contemporary of a better-known figure Mahatma Gandhi, threw non-lethal bombs in Central Legislative assembly to protest against the draconian laws being passed by the British Govt. He was arrested and later executed at the young age of 23.

“ The name InkLab stands for Lab of Ink.. lab of thoughts.. and means that one should not just apply any ideology which has been passed on to him just because it has been existing and is prevalent. Film tells that one should experiments with the ideas before one actually applies them in social life. To doubt, to question is a scientific approach .. and this film is about having a scientific and sensitive approach to the theme of Revolution and social” says Chhabra, who has refused to take any cuts for his film and will stand by the Director’s cut alone.

Dr Chhabra's earlier earlier films have won awards at W.H.O.'s Global Health film award in 2007 in Switzerland, Green Apple Award 2010 for Environment films in U.S.A , We care Film Festival, Delhi among many others. InkLab is submitted to around 3 dozens film festivals across the globe and has been selected in all the three festivals, that have declared the results - International Film Festival of Ahmedabad, IFFI, Goa, and Third Eye Asian Film Festival, Mumbai. The denial of Censor certifications doesn’t seem to deter the spirits of this indie filmmaker who believes in the power of youth and new media and positively believes that the film will find its way to the deserving audience in one way or the other.

"The true test of Freedom of speech in a democracy comes only when someone makes Speech of Freedom..and CBFC has time and again failed in that! Passing vulgar scenes and baseless abuses and violence is definitely not a sign of boldness or Freedom of speech but of misplaced priorities and challenged sensibilities of the board members " signs off the doctor, who has made available the film for free private viewing for mature audience at the official websitewww.inklabmovie.com

The tagline on the film's official website and the posters itself reads: ' In the digital age, where megabyte is the new dynamite and power of ideas & connectivity cannot be ignored, this is an experiment in the Lab of thoughts – Ink Lab. '

11

It is well presented. Two old men, calling for freedom for their respective lands through protests against the occupying powers. Both with names starting with G and ending with I. Both having a big role in the struggle for freedom. It is a big fat lie. It is an insult to India's Satyagraha movement to accept this without objection. I haven't seen many people bring this up, and I think it needs said.

Let me begin with saying that I am biased. I think Geelani is one of the most evil people to exploit Kashmir in its history since 1947. Gandhi had his faults, but he never called for something he himself wouldn't do. Gandhi and his close associates stood at ground zero with protesters, not issued calendars. Gandhi had his faults - who doesn't, but using the success and recognition of the Satyagraha movement to legitimize organized rioting is an insult to India and a gross misguidance of Kashmir, which isn't going to help the moral fabric of the state whether in India or free or in Pakistan.

Some points that come to mind:

  • Gandhi didn't have an agenda to free India from the British and hand it over to another country. This can't be called a freedom struggle. Particularly when the country itself has a far worse human rights record and thinks nothing of killing Kashmiris as a part of their strategic depth.
  • Gandhi did not have hoodlums 'enforcing' his protests.
  • Gandhi had protested Hindu-Muslim riots, and empathized with the pain of both, not led the persecutor.
  • Gandhi did not excuse violence as a part of the non-violent movement. The entire nationwide non-cooperation movement was called off at the peak of its success when ONE incident at Chauri Chaura resulted in clashes between the police and the protesters and three protesters died. Geelani, what's your score? If hot blood was resulting in stone pelting and deatths, what did you do to prevent those innocents from dying? To ensure that the morality of your movement was beyond reproach?
  • Most importantly, Gandhi was a protester himself - out there on the street, courting lathis, courting arrests, risking his life like any other Satyagrahi. When was the last time Geelani stood defiantly asking for his rights along with his people?
  • Gandhi did not expect the British to see to the safety of the protesters. Six decades later, Geelani still reacts with expectation of not evil from people whom he declares evil.
  • Gandhi was of the people. There was no threat in contradicting him. He lived their life, ate their food, suffered their suffering. Did Geelani go hungry this winter because he was busy protesting in the summer?

It is sad today that India's activists who claim to stand for the rights of the people apparently only stand for the rights of people already vocal against the state. It is sad that they legitimize this kind of corruption of not just India's image (which is comparitively minor) but the spirit defining one of the worlds most successful and ethical resistances that inspired movements around the world.

As long as Geelani sits at home and declares days of protest in full awareness that the protesters will face bullets, he is nothing more than your garden variety gangster manipulating local events for fun and profit. A leader assumes responsibility for the well being of his people, not sets them up for situations likely to risk their lives.

Yes, the soldiers have done many wrongs. Yes, India has been unable to find a political resolution so far. Yes, India is guilty of neglect. Yes Kashmir is suffering. This doesn't total up to a butcher who sets Kashmiris up for more suffering to be their hero.

When dead bodies are advertisements, there is some organization also profiting from the results of that advertisement. I doubt if it is the person who died, or the others lined up to become advertisements.

And no, I'm not a Congress supporter. The congress of today is irrelevant to Gandhis satyagraha movement.

No, I'm not a Gandhian with a pen either. I'm only looking at the leadership of one successful mass movement.

I AM a fan of the concept of Satyagraha, which is what I am defending.