I find the followers of secular ideology as fanatic as others are. There was a furore over the visit of BJP president Amit Shah to my residence a few days ago. Critics over telephone and emails were numberless. And all that they said was “you should not have allowed him to visit you”.
I want to put the record straight. A couple of days before Shah’s visit, a few activists came to my house. We were together in the Jayaprakash Narayan movement. They asked me that if I had any objection to meeting Shah at my residence. I told them that anybody can come to my house and I do not discriminate people on the basis of their ideology.
I feel that my ideology of not mixing religion with politics is probably the best and we should not wear beliefs on our sleeves. One should not be afraid of sharing thoughts with the people who are staunchly opposed to you. Ideological differences should have no place. After all, democracy is all about discussion and debate.
Mahatma Gandhi talked to Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, and even visited his residence to persuade him not to insist on partition. When it happened, he observed that he had failed to convince Jinnah. There was no bitterness in their thought. Gandhi, in fact, went on fast for 21 days on what he called “purification”. The lesson to be learnt is that we should not hesitate to sit across the table to iron out our differences.
I must admit that my opinion about Shah was that of a person emitting fire and brimstone. But I was completely bowled over by his courtesy and politeness, clear thought process and perception and, above all, possessing an affable temperament. He was anxious to convince me even though he knew my philosophy was opposite to his and that of the BJP.
He said he was six years old when he started going to the RSS shakas. I could spot the pride in his eyes when said this. Indeed, he has been through the grind at Nagpur. It has been a long haul for Shah but he has ultimately emerged as the party president.
India is at the crossroads. Followers of Hindutva want to capture power and oust the principle of togetherness without religion coming in the way. I partly touched on this topic while talking to Shah. He said the BJP develops an area comprehensively when it takes over. My observation was that in the process the mosques also get demolished. He refused to be provoked and responded saying that development dependent on the deputy commissioner of the area.
The two main points on which Shah dwelt during his meeting with me were caste and the Partition. He said the socialists ended up in caste politics and mentioned that Ram Manohar Lohia, the founder, underlined the caste all the time. That is probably the reason, according to me, why they were able to capture power only in states in initial years and not at the Centre. Shah also emphasised that the present set of leaders of different parties were following the same path.
Strange, those who believe in the ideology of development for all should get divided on the betterment of certain groups when they come to power. This is understandable at the state level. But they do not get over the divisive politics even when they come to power at the Centre. The ruling BJP is one example. They have 21 states under their rule and the party has employed different tactics and methods in different states to capture power.
Even the Congress, the oldest party with secular outlook, is no longer an organisation which it used to be. Its problem is that it has no leader and has resorted to parochial politics. Rahul Gandhi will have a hard time in 2019 when he would have pitted himself against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has been able to push the BJP down the Vindhyas. The Karnataka example is before the country.
Amit Shah, talking on the Partition, said that if “we had waited” the Indian subcontinent would not have got divided. Shah is wrong on this issue. Lord Clement Atlee, the British prime minister, who announced the end of their rule had fixed June 6, 1948, as the date when they would leave India as either one country or more. But Partition took place in mid-August in 1947, at least 10 months before the deadline set by Lord Atlee.
When I asked Lord Mountbatten why the Partition was effected earlier than June 1948, he said he could not hold the country together. He regretted the death of millions of people in the process. However, he justified on the plea that it could not be helped. So what Shah thought was contrary to the events which ultimately unfolded.
When I told Lord Mountbatten that he was responsible for the death of people during the Partition, he said that he had saved the lives of two million people when he diverted to Kolkata the food ships meant for his troops in South Asia. Before the Almighty he would swear that he had saved as many people from starvation.
Shah’s remark had a tinge of disappointment. But his party does not seem to have learnt any lesson. It is trying to impose a Hindutva rule of sorts even when the BJP realises that 17 crore Muslims are against what the party is attempting to do. And one thing which Shah and his party should remember is that India has a secular Constitution and whoever rules the country should follow it in letter and spirit.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem so. The RSS is spreading itself all over and, in the process, extinguishing the identity of others. The BJP needs it because it has no cadre of its own. Whatever the reason, the rule of RSS is forbidding.