The strategy of both the Hindu Mahasabha and the Muslim League was to humor the British imperialists, even if it be at the cost of compromising the goal of national independence, in order to secure the narrow sectional interests of the educated Hindu and Muslim upper middle class respectively.

This is an episode from the period of India’s struggle for independence that, for unknown reasons, very few people are aware about. And yet it seems so out of the ordinary and at such variance with the received wisdom about the supposed patriotism of the Hindutva forces that one feels it to be a worthwhile exercise to dig some graves and bring this rather shady chapter of the history of the sangh parivar and its icons to the light of day and hold it out to the scrutiny of those who still resist being swayed by blind passions and insist upon being governed by reason.

On 8th August 1942 Gandhi gave the clarion call for launching Quit India Movement. Immediately a nationwide movement was launched by the Congress Party. As a part of the movement all Congress ministers elected as per the provisions of the Government of India Act 1935 resigned. This movement was however opposed by the Hindu Mahasabha which saw a window of opportunity to enhance its power. It decided to not just boycott the movement but it also proceeded to form coalition ministries with the Muslim League (which too opposed to the Quit India Movement) in the provinces of Bengal and Sindh. The opportunistic nature of this coalition was apparent to all as the Hindu Mahasabha’s primary plank had always been active promotion of ‘Hindu’ interests and opposition to the supposed Muslim appeasement policy pursued by the Congress party. Opportunistic it might have been, but this decision on part of the Hindu Mahasabha to co-operate with the British government did not come across as a surprise to the contemporaries as it was consistent with the form of politics pursued by the Hindu Mahasabha since its inception.

Savarkar Hindu Mahasabha When Hindu Mahasabha Entered into Alliance with the Muslim League

Savarkar, HIndu Mahasabha Group Photo

Hindu Mahasabha had been formed with the proclaimed goal of protecting ‘Hindu interests’ against the onslaught of the Muslim league and supposedly ‘Muslim appeasement’ policy of the Congress party. ‘Hindu interests’ were to be protected at all costs even if it be at the cost of collaborating with the British government. It was believed by the leading proponents of Hindutva that if the confidence of the British government could be won then they might feel inclined to be more favorably disposed toward protecting the ‘Hindu interests’. The British on the other hand found the Hindu Mahasabha a pliant tool which could be utilized as a counterweight against the rising tide of the nationalist movement in return for small concessions to the ‘Hindu interests’ advanced by the Hindu Mahasabha. It is for this reason that it had been nurtured and patronized by the British government, to be utilized when an opportune moment presented itself.

V D SAVARKAR When Hindu Mahasabha Entered into Alliance with the Muslim League

Vinayak Damodar Savarkar

The outbreak of the second world war and the subsequent reverses initially faced by the British necessitated the cooperation of Indians in the war effort. Consequently a series of negotiations were initiated by the colonial government to secure Indian support. Keenly aware of the threats posed by fascist regimes like Germany, Italy and Japan to the humanity and world peace most of the Indian leaders were sympathetic to the British war effort. It was realized that if the fascists won they too would colonize India, and most probably subject them to worse forms of oppression. The nationalist leaders hence faced a difficult dilemma: a) should Indians support the British war effort and help them rid the world of the greater evil? Or b) should they make use of this opportune moment, when the British were engaged in wars elsewhere and launch their freedom struggle. It was a difficult dilemma and most of the leadership remained undecided for a long time. The speed and efficiency with which the Japanese began to conquer the colonies in South-East Asia confirmed the worst apprehensions about the looming danger of fascist rule over India. The news of brutal violence unleashed by the Japanese imperialists in the conquered areas of South-East Asia made it clear that trading British rule for Japanese imperialism would in all probability prove to be a worse deal. Meanwhile ‘Netaji’ had formed INA (Indian National Army) with the help of the Japanese military.How could one be certain that ‘Netaji’ was not being used by the Japanese imperialist to win over the support of a section of Indians with the intention of the eventual conquest of India, Netaji’s intentions notwithstanding? These were strong apprehensions and taking a decision was not easy for those who considered fascism an evil. Hindu Mahasabha however had always held an overt admiration for fascism and they were the party most likely to be open to warming up to the fascist regimes and actively opposing British war efforts, having expressed admiration and approval for the former on several occasions.

Finally in August 1942 Congress launched the Quit India Movement, even as the threat of Japanese invasion over India loomed large. Hindu Mahasabha did not join, instead it decided to actively oppose it and enter into coalition ministries with the Muslim League in Sindh and Bengal. This is how Savarkar, the much celebrated Hindutva leader justified Hindu Mahasabha’s decision to oppose the freedom struggle: “So far as India’s defence is concerned, Hindudom must ally unhesitatingly, in a spirit of responsive co-operation with the war effort of the Indian Government( read British), insofar as it is consistent with the Hindu interests, by joining the Army, Navy and the Aerial forces in as large a number…Again it must be noted that Japan’s entry into the war has exposed us directly and immediately to the attack by Britain’s enemies. Consequently, whether we like it or not, we shall have to defend our own hearth and home against the ravages of the war and this can only be done by intensifying the government’s war effort to defend India. Hindu Mahasabhaites must, therefore, rouse Hindus, especially in the provinces of Bengal and Assam, as effectively as possible to enter the military forces of all arms without losing a single minute.” -while addressing the 23rd session of the Hindu Mahasabha 1941 at Bhagalpur. ‘Veer’ Savarkar was asking Indians to join the British military at a time when Congress has launched the Quit India Movement and ‘Netaji’ was exhorting Indians to revolt against the British rule in order to support the impending attack upon India by the INA! This is a significant statement in two respects, first, the Hindu Mahasabha opposed the Quit India Movement using the same argument as the Communists; the impending threat of Japanese fascists necessitated that the British war effort be supported to eliminate the greater evil, and so Savarkar urged the youth to join the the British army and navy. Second, by taking this stance the Hindu Mahasabhaites confirmed the Communists allegation that Subhash Chandra Bose’s INA was little more than a tool propped by the Japanese imperialists to win over a section of Indians in their bid to conquer India. In the light of this stance taken by Savarkar it is amusing to see the ease with which his modern day disciples in the Sangh Parivar denounce the Communists for ‘betraying’ the Quit India Movement and not supporting the patriotic war unleashed by ‘Netaji’s’ INA formed under the aegis of the Japanese imperialists. It is pertinent here to cite another quote by ‘Veer’ Savarakar during this period: “In practical politics also the Mahasabha knows that we must advance through reasonable compromises. Witness the fact that only recently in Sind, the Sind-Hindu-Sabha on invitation had taken the responsibility of joining hands with the League itself in running coalition Government. The case of Bengal is well known. Wild Leaguers whom even the Congress with all its submissiveness could not placate grew quite reasonably compromising and sociable as soon as they came in contact with the HM and the Coalition Government, under the premiership of Mr Fazlul Huq and the able lead of our esteemed Mahasabha leader Dr Syama Prasad Mookerji, functioned successfully for a year or so to the benefit of both the communities.” -presidential speech to the 24th session of the Hindu Mahasabha at Kanpur in 1942 by Savarkar at the height of the Quit India Movement. Notice that Savarkar is trying to justify Hindu Mahasabha’s coalition with the Muslim League in the name of ‘practical politics’, he even takes pride in the fact that the Hindu Mahasabha could engineer a compromise that even Congress could not achieve. The stance of Savarkar prior to this compromise vis-a-vis the league and in the period prior to it, proves that there was no sincere ethical or moral basis to it and it went against everything that the Hindu Mahasabha stood for. This clearly reflects that Sangh Parivaar’s foremost hero too was as much guilty of the crime of ‘pseudo-secularism’ as any other political formation upon whom they love to hurl this charge.

Muslim League Working Committee Lucknow Session Photo 429 4 When Hindu Mahasabha Entered into Alliance with the Muslim League

Muslim League Working Committee, Lucknow

In conclusion one could say that the Hindu Mahasabha and the Muslim league were two sides of the same coin. Driven by sectional/communal interests both attached foremost importance to the putative interests of their own communities. Their strategy was to humor the British imperialists, even if it be at the cost of compromising the goal of national independence, in order to secure the narrow sectional interests of the educated Hindu and Muslim upper middle class respectively. It is this stance, and not any principled national or international position that drove both to oppose the national struggle for independence. All the pre-independence heroes of the modern day Sanghis and the BJP are guilty as charged of pursuing a narrow sectional and communal agenda in opposition to anti-imperialist interests of the broad masses in the pre-independence period.

Also See:
Short Clip Showing Veer Savarkar
The skullcap is for Hindus, silly
In the Name of Jihad

Image Source: Savarkar In Hindu MahaSabha

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