Mahatma Gandhi – Father of Communal Riots in India

by Oct 3, 2022Blogs0 comments

Sixty years of Nehru-Gandhi dynasty rule and their “court” historians have completely corrupted the history of India. “Mahatma Gandhi” should be called the “Father of Communal Riots in India” because it was he who gave birth to the communal riots in India.

Till 1920, Muslim leadership in India was under seculars like MA Jinnah, yes Jinnah was a secular till 1920. Till 1920, he was member of both Congress and the Muslim League. He was against Khilafat Movement. But after Gandhi transformed Khilafat Movement from a small movement to a large nation-wide movement, Muslim leadership in India went from seculars to radical Muslims. Between 1900 and 1922, only 16 communal riots took place, but between 1923 and 1926 there were 72 riots, i.e., not even once in a year till 1922, but 18 a year after Gandhi’s embrace of the Khilafat movement.

Till 1920, Jinnah was a confirmed nationalist and while giving evidence before the Joint Select Committee appointed by the Parliament on the [1919] Government of India Reforms Bill, he recommended that the Muslim representation in Bengal should be only 40% and not more. He added, “… in India the Muhammadans have very few things really which you can call matters of special interest for them – I mean secular things.” He maintained that nothing would please him more than the day when the separate electorates would be abolished and the distinction between Hindus and Muslims in political life done away with.

He explained that during the Muslim League in 1913, 40 out of 120 delegates had voted against continuation of separate electorates and that he was confident that during the course of the next enquiry, a majority of Muslim delegates would press for joint electorates.[1]

Historian R.C. Majumdar correctly wrote:

The conduct of Gandhi, a great political leader, in assuming the leadership of the Khilafat movement, was certainly very reprehensible, and judged in this context, the epithet ‘Father of the Indian nation’, given him by his devotees, seems to be singularly inappropriate. [2]

Gandhi’s faith in the nationalism of the Ali brothers and their non-violent spirit can only be described as pathetic in character. Instead of honorably extricating himself from his entanglements with them, he descended to activities which were deemed by many at the time to be unworthy of the great leader of the Non-co-operation movement. [3]

In his forward to the book Islam in India’s Transition to Modernity, Achyut Patwarddhan, a prominent member of Congress Socialist Party wing of Congress Party since its foundation in 1934 and then founder of Socialist Party of India after Independence in 1947, wrote; [4]

Khilafat was an unworthy reactionary cause, Gandhi had to align himself with a sectarian revivalist Muslim leadership among the Muslim. He was thus responsible for jettisoning sane, secular, modernist leadership among Muslims of India and foisting upon the Indian Muslims a theocratic orthodoxy of the Moulvis.

By bringing large numbers of “radical mullahs” of Khilafat Movement, Gandhi captured Congress Party against the wishes of key Hindu leaders, then secular MA Jinnah and Ms. Annie Besant. For an example, out of 161 delegates from Hindu majority region Madras, who voted for Gandhi’s Non-Cooperation Resolution, 125 were Muslims. [5] Then in 1921 Gandhi collected 1 crore rupee by the bogus claim of bringing “Swaraj” (self-government) in a year. [Both the links are my articles on these two topics].

After Gandhi captured Congress in 1920, Jinnah said, “Well, I shall wait and watch developments, but as matters stand, I have no place in Gandhi’s Congress.” (Das, Durga, India from Curzon to Nehru and After, Rupa Publications, India, 1981, p 77). Thereafter he left India and went to London to practice law. Later he returned to India at the invitation of Liaquat Ali Khan and became a proponent of Pakistan.

Thereafter he changed the constitution of the Congress party and became its dictator, effectively becoming the ‘Sonia Gandhi’ of the time. He used to routinely nominate president and the entire Congress Working Committee.

Why Exponential Rise of Communal Riots in 1922

The suspension of Non-Cooperation Movement had an immediate effect on the Khilafat Movement which was dependent to a very great extent on Congress support. As was natural the leading Muhammadan extremists had been far less impressed by Gandhi’s non-violent programme than were his co-religionists, and they had accepted it merely in order to attain the Hindu support which they considered was essential to the success of their agitation. When Gandhi and his Congress followers withdrew from their forward programme, their Muhammadan allies were extremely disappointed and almost immediately signs of Hindu-Muslim friction appeared, for the Muhammadan public began to realize that they had been utilized merely to further the Hindu aim of Swaraj for India, and that their own grievance, including the Khilafat question, had been pushed to the background. This feeling was shared by their leaders, who, however, realized the necessity of concealing it in order to maintaining a semblance of the much-desired Hindu-Muslim unity.

In Punjab, at that time, a common joke was that Swaraj meant Swah (ashes) for the Muhammadans and Raj for the Hindus. [6]

The number of communal riots, which took place between 1923 and 1928, were many more than ever before or after in the history of India. Only 16 communal riots took place between 1900 and 1922 but 72 between 1923 and 1926. It may seem strange that the communal riots should have followed immediately after the heyday of Hindu-Muslim unity. But some of the major factors which caused the riots were themselves the outcome of the short-lived alliance between the Khilafat movement and Congress. [7]

In 1921 Malabar riots thousands of Hindus died and converted to Islam by violent mob of Muslims during six-month Moplah Rebellion in the name of Khilafat Movement. Hundreds of Hindu women were raped in front of their family members in the name of Khilafat Movement which was started by Gandhi himself in Malabar in 1920, i.e. Gandhi himself went there to inaugurate Khilafat Movement.

The June 1926 Rawalpindi Communal Riots occurred on the occasion of the death anniversary of Guru Arjan Dev, the Fifth Guru of the Sikhs. The communal situation became tense when a procession of the Sikhs in celebration of Gurpurb passed before the Jama Masjid where some Mohammadans objected to the playing of music in front of the mosque. On that day, the procession passed peacefully though some tension was created by rude remarks made by a few irresponsible Muslim standing in front of the mosque and some stray brickbats thrown at women in the procession. Next day, crowds of Mohammedans armed with lathis and hatchets collected before the Gurdwara when the congregation was inside. The shouts of Alla O Akbar were raised which attracted the Muslims and the Sikhs of the locality. Then the troublemakers went to nearby shops ran by Hindus and began setting them on fire. When the mob attempted to set fire to a shop, a Muslim cried out “Spare a Muslim and his family”. He was called out and was asked to give proof of his being a Muslim, which he did. The shops under his residence were spared. The incident resulted in more than a dozen killed and several dozens injured. [8]

A Hindu wrote to Gandhi that Gandhi was responsible for recent riots in Multan, because he had asked them to make common cause with Muslims, and now ‘the awakened Musaalmans have proclaimed a kind of jehad against us Hindus.’ A Muslim wrote to say that through Gandhi’s advocacy of the boycott of colleges the great university of Aligarh had been ‘utterly spilt.’ The Muslim boys left their colleges, but the Hindus stayed on to study. [9]

A serious communal riot occurred in Calcutta in April 1926, and in the succeeding twelve months there were 40 riots resulting in 197 deaths and injuries to nearly 1,600. In UP alone between 1923 and 1927, 81 people were killed and 2,301 injured in 88 communal riots. Far too little is known about the deep-seated causes of this surge of communal antagonism at the level of village alley and city street, about the anatomy of communal riots, their flashpoints, leadership (if any), and the way news of them spread to ignite further conflagration in neighboring towns or villages. Certain issues such as cow-killings, music before mosques and routes of religious processions were constant occasions for potential strife between local groups of Hindus and Muslims. But though the ingredients remained the same, their interaction changed in the 1920s as wider forces of change impinged upon them. [10]

In what was then arguably the largest communal riot in the subcontinent, the April 1926 Riots in Calcutta were spread over a month (from April 2 to April 21). It also marked a new height in the limits of horror for those times: 110 killed and 975 injured. Nor was it a regional phenomenon. Since 1923, there were 76 riots officially recorded clustered mainly around Bombay, Punjab, Delhi, the United Provinces, Bihar and Bengal, out of which 31 had been counted from the beginning of 1926 till August 22 of that year. [11]

All the major riots of Bengal in 1926, which included the ones in Calcutta, Kharagpur, Pabna and Dacca were sparked off by the music before mosque issue… This issue seemed to have had no immediate past. According to the Government of India’s records there were no recorded conflicts on this issue from 1893 to 1922. However, prior to this period there are two instances for which records are available. The first occurred in 1863 in front of the Hooghly Emambara and the other in 1882 in Salem, Madras Presidency. Needless to add, the representations of the affected parties cited customary and religious rights without any specific reference to precedents. [12]

In July 1924, there was a communal riot in Delhi which started after some Muslim Kahara (water carriers) beat up a Hindu boy at a park. The riot went on for three days. The army was called into restore the order… That stopped rioting, but peace eluded the city. Newspapers continued to report till December on the tensions between the two communities… Since January, Mohamed Ali was the president of the Indian National Congress. Gandhi was pressing him for a closer look into the riots: “If we can tackle the Delhi … in a business-like way, much trouble can be saved.” [13] The July collision in Delhi had occurred, Mohamed Ali wrote to Gandhi, despite the efforts of Congress and Khilafat volunteers, and the Police. Twice, in the same letter, he suggested that it was best to leave “the maintenance of peace to the guns and bayonets of the police”, as the Congress, at the moment, was the “object of everybody’s wrath”. [14]

Delhi, Mohamed Ali had earlier reported to Gandhi, was difficult to handle because Congress and Khilafat workers had lost the sympathy of the people. “What programme of the Congress can be possible here? We are too unalterable helpless. The Congress is anathema to the man in the street here.” [15]

After the Delhi Riots, there was a major communal riot in September 1924 in Kohat in North-West Frontier Province. In three days of rioting, the total casualty-count was 155, of which the casualties of Hindus & Sikhs were more than three times that of the Muslims. Almost the entire population of Hindus living there, who numbered 3200, had been evacuated. [16] The Khilafat Committee reported that the riots in Kohat took place because the Hindus of the town misbehaved with the Muslims. On the other hand Gandhi tended to blame Kohati Muslims for the hostilities because Muslims were 95% of Kohat population. It seems that Mohamed Ali disagreed with Gandhi. As the President of the Congress, he had received a report from the Secretary, Punjab Province Khilafat Committee which in no uncertain terms blamed the Hindus and the Congress. He tended to agree with the report. The government’s finding was that Hindus provoked the riots. As for the government’s inquiry, Gandhi dismissed it on two grounds: that it was “a departmental inquiry at which the public was unrepresented” and that it did not take cognizance of the fact “that the Hindus were practically forced out of the Kohat.” The Kohat Muslims refused to cooperate with Gandhi. [17]

The following talk, held in 1926 between Swami Shardhananda and Gandhi, depicts how the latter disregarded the hatred of Muslims towards the unbelievers: [18]

There was another prominent fact to which I drew the attention of Mahatma Gandhi. Both of us went together one night to the Khilafat Conference at Nagpur. The Ayats (verses) of the Quran recited by the Maulanas on that occasion, contained frequent references to Jihad and killing of the Kaffirs. But when I drew his attention to this phase of the Khilafat movement, Mahatmaji smiled and said, ‘They are alluding to the British Bureaucracy.’ In reply I said that it was all subversive of the idea of non-violence and when the reversion of feeling came the Mahomedan Maulanas would not refrain from using these verses against the Hindus.

No less than sixteen communal riots occurred in 1925, the most serious being those at Delhi, Aligarh, Arvi (C.P.) and Sholapur. In 1926, there were riots at Rawalpindi and Allahabad and no less than five riots in Delhi. The year ended with a terrible tragedy. Swami Shraddhananda of the famous Gurukul, near Hardwar, was fatally stabbed on December 23, by a Muslim who entered his sick room on a false pretense. Several communal riots broke out in 1927. At Kulkathi (Barisal, Bengal) a Muslim mob refused to allow passage to a Hindu procession which was permitted by the local authorities to proceed. The police opened fire, killing 17 and wounding 12 Muslims. Twenty-seven were killed in a communal riot at Lahore, and eleven at Bettiah in Champaran District, Bihar. It has been calculated that between 1922 and 1927 approximately 450 lives were lost and 5,000 persons were injured in communal riots. [19]

The Statutory Commission of 1928 observes: [20]

Every year since 1923 has witnessed communal rioting on an extensive, and in fact, on an increasing scale which had as yet shown no sign of abating. The … list, which excludes minor occurrences, records no less than 112 communal riots within the last five years, of which 31 have occurred during 1927.

The Commission also notes that the riots were not confined to a restricted area, but almost every Province was more or less affected by it. Further, the storm centers had a tendency to shift rapidly from one place to another, – from the larger to smaller towns and then to countryside. [21]

[Dr. Susmit Kumar obtained his Ph.D. from Pennsylvania State University, US. Before coming to the United States, he was selected in the prestigious India Administrative Service (IAS) and did its training at the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration (LBSNAA), Mussoorie, India (August 1985-March 1986).

Dr. Kumar is the author of Gandhi, an Obstacle for the Freedom of India, Brought Radical Mullahs into Mainstream Politics Which Finally Led to Partition of India Subhas Chandra Bose, Not Gandhi and Congress Party, Gave Independence to India (461 pages, 778 Endnotes, Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers Pvt. Ltd., New Delhi, 2021); India is a Country, not a Company – How Anglo-US ‘Imported’ Economists Misled and Mismanaged the Indian Economy (Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers Pvt. Ltd., New Delhi, 212 Pages, 2018) and The Modernization of Islam and the Creation of a Multipolar World Order (Booksurge, January 2008)]

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