Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha

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A group photo taken in Shimoga in 1944 when Vinayak Damodar Savarkar (seated fourth from right, second row) came to address the State-level Hindu Mahasabha conference. The late Bhoopalam Chandrashekariah, president of the Hindu Mahasabha State unit, is seated to Savarkar's left.

The Akhil Bhāratiya Hindū Mahāsabhā ( English: All-India Hindu Assembly) is a Hindu nationalist political party in India.

The organisation was formed to protect the rights of the Hindu community in British India, after the formation of the All India Muslim League in 1906[1] and the British India government's creation of separate Muslim electorate under the Morley-Minto reforms of 1909.[2][1]

Although the oldest Hindu nationalist political party, the Hindu Mahasabha has remained marginal in its influence on Indian politics, both before and after independence.

History[edit]

Origin[edit]

The formation of the All India Muslim League in 1906[1] and the British India government's creation of separate Muslim electorate under the Morley-Minto reforms of 1909 [2] was a catalyst for Hindu leaders coming together to create an organisation to protect the rights of the Hindu community members.[1]

In 1909, Arya Samaj leaders Lala Lajpat Rai, Lal Chand and Shadi Lal established the Punjab Hindu Sabha ("Assembly").[3] Madan Mohan Malaviya presided over the Sabha's first session at Lahore, in October 1909. The Sabha stated that it was not a sectarian organisation, but an "all-embracing movement" that aimed to safeguard the interests of "the entire Hindu community". During 21–22 October 1909, it organised the Punjab Provincial Hindu Conference, which criticised the Indian National Congress for failing to defend Hindu interests, and called for promotion of Hindu-centered politics. The Sabha organised five more annual provincial conferences in Punjab.[4]

The development of the broad work for Hindu unity that started in the early 20th century in Punjab was a precursor for the formation of the All India Hindu Sabha. Over the next few years, several such Hindu Sabhas were established were established outside Punjab, including in United Provinces, Bihar, Bengal, Central Provinces and Berar, and Bombay Presidency.[5]

A formal move to establish an umbrella All-India Hindu Sabha was made at the Allahabad session of Congress in 1910. A committee headed by Lala Baij Nath was set up to draw up a constitution, but it did not make much progress. Another conference of Hindu leaders in Allahabad also took the initial step to establish an All India Hindu Sabha in 1910, but this organisation did not become operational due to factional strife. On 8 December 1913, the Punjab Hindu Sabha passed a resolution to create an All India Hindu Sabha at its Ambala session. The Conference proposed holding a general conference of Hindu leaders from all over India at the 1915 Kumbh Mela in Haridwar.[4]

Establishment[edit]

Preparatory sessions of the All India Hindu Sabha were held at Haridwar (13 February 1915), Lucknow (17 February 1915) and Delhi (27 February 1915). In April 1915, Sarvadeshak (All India) Hindu Sabha was formed as an umbrella organisation of regional Hindu Sabhas, at the Kumbh Mela in Haridwar. Gandhi and Swami Shraddhanand were also present at the conference, and were supportive of the formation of All India Hindu Sabha.[4] The Sabha laid emphasis on Hindu solidarity and the need for social reform. Manindra Chandra Nandy, the President of the Conference, declared that the Sabha would be loyal to the British Government. This pro-British stance was criticised by Shraddhanand.[4]

The Sabha formally changed its name to Akhil Bharatiya (All India) Hindu Mahasabha at its sixth session in April 1921. Presided over by Manindra Chandra Nandy, it amended its constitution to remove the clause about loyalty to the British, and added a clause committing the organisation to a "united and self-governing" Indian nation.[4]

Amongst the Mahasabha's early leaders was the prominent nationalist and educationalist Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya, who founded the Benaras Hindu University, and the Punjabi populist Lala Lajpat Rai. Under Malaviya, the Mahasabha campaigned for Hindu political unity, for the education and economic development of Hindus as well as for the reconversion of Muslims to Hinduism.

In the late 1920s, the Mahasabha came under the influence of leaders like Balakrishna Shivram Moonje and Vinayak Damodar Savarkar. Savarkar was a former revolutionary who had been banned from anti-British political activities and opposed the secularism of the Congress. Under Savarkar, the Mahasabha became a more intense critic of the Congress and its policy of wooing Muslim support. The Mahasabha suffered a setback when in 1925, its former member Keshav Baliram Hedgewar left to form the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, a Hindu volunteer organisation that abstained from active politics. Although ideologically similar to the Mahasabha, the RSS grew faster across the nation and became a competitor for the core constituency of the Mahasabha.

Indian Independence Movement[edit]

While not exactly loyal to the British Raj, the Hindu Mahasabha did not actively support the Indian freedom movement against British rule in India.

Civil Disobedience Movement[edit]

Under the leadership of Mohandas Gandhi, the Congress led several nationwide campaigns of non-violent civil disobedience. The Mahasabha officially abstained from participating in the Civil Disobedience Movement of 1930, which tarnished its image at a national level in India.[6]

Alliance with Muslim League and others[edit]

The Indian National Congress won a massive victory in the Indian provincial elections, 1937, decimating the Muslim League and the Hindu Mahasabha. However, in 1939, the Congress ministries resigned in protest against Viceroy Lord Linlithgow's action of declaring India to be a belligerent in the Second World War without consulting the Indian people. This led to the Hindu Mahasabha joining hands with the Muslim League and other parties to form governments, in certain provinces. Such coalition governments were formed in Sindh, NWFP, and Bengal.

In Sindh, Hindu Mahasabha members joined Ghulam Hussain Hidayatullah's Muslim League government. In Savarkar's own words,

"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[7][8][9]

In March 1943, Sindh Government became the first Provincial Assembly of the sub-continent to pass an official resolution in favour of the creation of Pakistan.[10] In spite of the Hindu Mahasabha's avowed public opposition to any political division of India, the Mahasabha Ministers of the Sindh government did not resign, rather they simply "contented themselves with a protest"[11]

In the North West Frontier Province, Hindu Mahasabha members joined hands with Sardar Aurangzeb Khan of the Muslim League to form a government in 1943. The Mahasabha member of the cabinet was Finance Minister Mehar Chand Khanna.[8][12]

In Bengal, Hindu Mahasabha joined the Krishak Praja Party led Progressive Coalition ministry of Fazlul Haq in December, 1941.[13] Savarkar appreciated the successful functioning of the coalition government.[8][14]

Quit India Movement[edit]

The Hindu Mahasabha openly opposed the call for the Quit India Movement and boycotted it officially.[6] Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, the president of the Hindu Mahasabha at that time, even went to the extent of writing a letter titled "Stick to your Posts",in which he instructed Hindu Sabhaites who happened to be "members of municipalities, local bodies, legislatures or those serving in the army...to stick to their posts" across the country, and not to join the Quit India Movement at any cost.[6]

Following the Hindu Mahasabha's official decision to boycott the Quit India movement,[6] Syama Prasad Mukherjee, leader of the Hindu Mahasabha in Bengal,(which was a part of the ruling coalition in Bengal led by Krishak Praja Party of Fazlul Haq), wrote a letter to the British Government as to how they should respond, if the Congress gave a call to the British rulers to Quit India. In this letter, dated July 26, 1942 he wrote:

“Let me now refer to the situation that may be created in the province as a result of any widespread movement launched by the Congress. Anybody, who during the war, plans to stir up mass feeling, resulting internal disturbances or insecurity, must be resisted by any Government that may function for the time being” [11][15]

Mookerjee in this letter reiterated that the Fazlul Haq led Bengal Government, along with its alliance partner Hindu Mahasabha would make every possible effort to defeat the Quit India Movement in the province of Bengal and made a concrete proposal as regards this:

“The question is how to combat this movement(Quit India) in Bengal? The administration of the province should be carried on in such a manner that in spite of the best efforts of the Congress, this movement will fail to take root in the province. It should be possible for us, especially responsible Ministers, to be able to tell the public that the freedom for which the Congress has started the movement, already belongs to the representatives of the people. In some spheres it might be limited during the emergency. Indian have to trust the British, not for the sake for Britain, not for any advantage that the British might gain, but for the maintenance of the defense and freedom of the province itself. You, as Governor, will function as the constitutional head of the province and will be guided entirely on the advice of your Minister.[11]

Even the Indian historian R.C. Majumdar noted this fact and states:

"Shyam Prasad ended the letter with a discussion of the mass movement organised by the Congress. He expressed the apprehension that the movement would create internal disorder and will endanger internal security during the war by exciting popular feeling and he opined that any government in power has to suppress it, but that according to him could not be done only by persecution.... In that letter he mentioned item wise the steps to be taken for dealing with the situation .... " [16]

The Mahasabha was also affected in its fortunes by appearing to be a party dominated by the upper caste Brahmins. Although it opposed untouchability, the Mahasabha's orthodoxy on other matters concerning Hindu law and customs were a handicap in attracting the support of many Hindus.

Savarkar met Subhash Chandra Bose at his residence in Mumbai in 1940. This was the first and only time Savarkar met him. The meeting was part of Bose's efforts to meet all national leaders across party lines, to build up support for a united effort against the British rule.[17]

Assassination of Mahatma Gandhi[edit]

In the 1940s, the Muslim League stepped up its demand for a separate Muslim state of Pakistan. Although the Congress strongly opposed religious separatism, the League's great popularity amongst Muslims forced the Congress leaders to hold talks with the League president, Muhammad Ali Jinnah. Even though Savarkar agreed with Jinnah and recognised Hindus and Muslims to be separate nations, he condemned the secular Gandhi's overtures to hold talks with Jinnah and regain Muslim support for the Congress as appeasement. After communal violence claimed the lives of thousands in 1946, Savarkar claimed that Gandhi's adherence to non-violence had left Hindus vulnerable to armed attacks by militant Muslims. When the partition of India was agreed upon in June 1947 after months of failed efforts at power-sharing between the Congress and the League, the Mahasabha condemned the Congress and Gandhi for agreeing to the partition plan.

On January 30, 1948 Nathuram Godse shot Mahatma Gandhi three times and killed him in Delhi. Godse and his fellow conspirators Digambar Badge, Gopal Godse, Narayan Apte, Vishnu Karkare and Madanlal Pahwa were identified as prominent members of the Hindu Mahasabha. Along with them, police arrested Savarkar, who was suspected of being the mastermind behind the plot. While the trial resulted in convictions and judgments against the others, Savarkar was released on a technicality, even though there was evidence that the plotters met Savarkar only days before carrying out the murder and had received the blessings of Savarkar. The Kapur Commission in 1967 established that Savarkar was in close contact with the plotters for many months.

Aftermath[edit]

There was an angry popular backlash against Savarkar, Godse and the Hindu Mahasabha as their involvement in Gandhi's murder was revealed. The Hindu Mahasabha became more marginalised than ever. Its one-time rising star, Syama Prasad Mookerjee, left the party and established the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, the forerunner to the Bharatiya Janata Party, which is today the largest Hindu nationalist political party in India. The Hindu Mahasabha remains active as an organisation, but it only a marginal presence in some parts of the Indian state of Maharashtra and negligible instances through the rest of the country.

Ideology[edit]

Although the Hindu Mahasabha did not call for the exclusion of other religious communities from government, it identified India as a "Hindu Rashtra" (Hindu Nation) and believed in the primacy of Hindu culture, religion and heritage. The Mahasabha advocates that Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists are also Hindu in terms of national and political identity. It argues that Islam and Christianity are foreign religions, with their holy places being in Arabia, Palestine and Rome, and that Indian Muslims and Christians are simply descendants of Hindus who were converted by force, coercion and bribery. At various points in its history, the party called for the re-conversion of Muslims and Christians to Hinduism. The Hindu Mahasabha stridently opposes Westernisation, which it regards as a decadent influence on Indian youth and culture. It calls for a revival of the Sanskrit language and the primacy of Hindi. The Mahasabha opposed socialism and communism as decadent foreign ideologies that do not represent India's indigenous needs and conditions.

Although opposed to untouchability and caste discrimination, the Mahasabha continues to support the Varna caste system and argues against what it regards as the political appeasement of lower castes by reservations and affirmative action. Although Vinayak Damodar Savarkar was in favour of abolishing the entire caste system, the Mahasabha's membership remained conspicuously Brahmin.

The Mahasabha advocates orthodox Hindu law as the best solution for India's problems. It advocates the study and implementation of the principles of the ancient Manusmriti, which is controversial for its espousal of caste boundaries and restrictions on the freedom of women.

Hindutva[edit]

The Mahasabha promoted the principles of Hindutva, a Hindu nationalist ideology developed by its pre-eminent leader Vinayak Damodar Savarkar.the Mahasabha identified India as "Hindu Rashtra" (Hindu Nation). Although it broadly supported the Indian National Congress in its efforts to attain national independence, it criticised the Congress commitment to non-violence, civil disobedience and secularism, as well as its efforts to integrate Muslims and engage in dialogue with the separatist All India Muslim League, which the Mahasabha deemed to be appeasement.

Current idealogical positions[edit]

In 2015 vice president of All India Hindu Mahasabha, Sadhvi Deva Thakur stoked a controversy saying Muslims and Christians must undergo sterilisation to restrict their growing population which was posing a threat to Hindus. She said."The population of Muslims and Christians is growing day by day. To rein in this, Centre will have to impose emergency, and Muslims and Christians will have to be forced to undergo sterilisation so that they can't increase their numbers,".[18][19]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Bapu 2013, p. 16.
  2. ^ a b Bapu 2013, p. 3.
  3. ^ Bapu 2013, p. 17.
  4. ^ a b c d e Bapu 2013, pp. 17-20.
  5. ^ Jaffrelot 2011, p. 43.
  6. ^ a b c d Prabhu Bapu (2013). Hindu Mahasabha in Colonial North India, 1915-1930: Constructing Nation and History. Routledge. pp. 40–. ISBN 978-0-415-67165-1. 
  7. ^ Savarkar, Vinayak Damodar (1963). Collected Works of V.d. Savarkar. Maharashtra Prantik Hindusabha. pp. 479–480. 
  8. ^ a b c Shamsul Islam (2006). Religious Dimensions of Indian Nationalism: A Study of RSS. Media House. pp. 213–. ISBN 978-81-7495-236-3. 
  9. ^ Mani Shankar Aiyar (1 January 2009). A Time of Transition: Rajiv Gandhi to the 21st Century. Penguin Books India. pp. 75–. ISBN 978-0-670-08275-9. 
  10. ^ Asian Societies in Comparative Perspective: Papers Presented at the 7th Annual Conference of the Nordic Association for Southeast Asian Studies, Møn, Denmark, 1990. NIAS Press. 1991. pp. 800–. ISBN 978-87-87062-14-5. 
  11. ^ a b c Abdul Gafoor Abdul Majeed Noorani (2000). The RSS and the BJP: A Division of Labour. LeftWord Books. pp. 59–. ISBN 978-81-87496-13-7. 
  12. ^ Baxter, Craig (1969). The jan Sangh: A biography of an Indian Political Party. University of Pennsylvania Press. p. 20. 
  13. ^ Sumit Sarkar. Modern India 1886-1947. pp. 349–. ISBN 978-93-325-4085-9. 
  14. ^ Savarkar, Vinayak Damodar (1963). Collected Works of V.d. Savarkar. Maharashtra Prantik Hindusabha. pp. 479–480. 
  15. ^ Mookherjee, Shyama Prasad. Leaves from a Dairy. Oxford University Press. p. 179. 
  16. ^ Majumdar, Ramesh Chandra (1978). History of Modern Bengal. Oxford University Press. p. 179. 
  17. ^ "Netaji's meeting with Veer Savarkar". 
  18. ^ "Muslims, Christians should be forcibly sterilised, says Hindu Mahasabha leader". Deccan Chronicle. 
  19. ^ "Hindu Mahasabha leader calls for forced sterilisation of Muslims, Christians to restrict growing population". IBNLive. 
Sources

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]