Today I was invited to virtually join with the students and teachers of the Emjay Vocational Higher Secondary School, Villapalli, Vatakara, Calicut, Kerala and inaugurate their Independence Day function. I must thank the management board of the School and its members, the Principal of the School, Mr Jazeel, and Mr Moideen who called me up to invite me. I was given two options: either record my message in audio or if I could, to make a video. I preferred the later for I know that if send an audio, it would never be listened to by the young children! In a video, there was a remote chance of them listening in to at least some portions of it. Now to record a video and send it also presented a number of issues: when I recorded it on my laptop, it somehow became a little lengthy and I being a technically challenged, was unable to think how to upload it. So I spoke again, this time for 6 minutes and had it recorded on mobile. It was then cut into sections and sent to the person concerned. But then all this meant that I could not discuss all things which I wanted to discuss with the young students! So this post to get the things out of my system!
Today as we celebrate the 74th Independence Day, we are again in the midst of very critical times. The country is tottering to collapse into anarchy, chaos and Neo-fascism. Lynchings on the pretext of religious differences, muzzling of dissent and minorities, trampling of human and minority rights are the order of the day. Probably such are the conditions which would shame even the dark ages of the past! And on top of that India is in the midst of a raging pandemic which threatens the very existence of the known ways of life and society! The education system is in tatters, the economy is at its worst and blind faith rules the roost! On top of everything else, those at the helm of political affairs are those who were once the most powerful collaborators of our Imperial masters who had enslaved us and turned us into an enslaved Colony and milking away our national wealth and draining out our wealth to their Mother Country!
It was after a very long struggle that we had won our Independence from the Colonial Rule. Since the Battle of Plassey in June 1757 we had slowly and gradually fell victim to the extremely exploitative English Imperialism. Slowly and gradually almost the whole of the Indian Subcontinent was reduced to servitude: first of the English East Company, and then the British Crown!
The first War of Independence and the struggle for freedom was launched by Tipu Sultan during 1790’s when he entered into an alliance with Napoleon Bonaparte and invited him to jointly defeat the English. He and his father Hyder Ali had also aligned themselves with the Americans. We know that Tipu had reportedly ordered a copy of the American Declaration of Independence, in a prelude to his ringing endorsement of the French Revolution! His troops, like the French, were uniformed and even used their military techniques.
And then a second Struggle to gain Independence was the Great Revolt of 1857-58! It was joint revolt of all the Indians irrespective of religion or race! It was started by the Sepoys: you must have heard the name of Mangal Pandey!
The rebels starting from Meerut Cantonment marched to Delhi to beseech the old Mughal emperor declare Bahadur Shāh Zafar who was ultimately declared as their leader! Rani Laxmi Bai of Jhansi, Tantia Tope of Pune were all Mujahid’s who fought under the banner of a Muslim King! Nahar Khan, Bakht Khan, Kunwar Singh, Rao Tula Rām, Umrao Singh, Begum Hazrat Mahal, Birjis Qadr, Thakur Vishwanath and many others fought together without any division on the basis of religion or caste! That is why 1857 is also known as the First War of Independence!
After the Revolt Sir Syed Ahmad Khan who was in the employment of the English and seen the Mutiny, it’s causes and effects subsequently wrote two important works. His Asbāb i Baghawat i Hind and Tārīkh i Sarkashi i Zila Bijnore were in fact a critique of the British.
Through his writings he tried to show the English where they were at fault and why people had in fact risen in revolt. Ultimately on witnessing that the Muslims were emerging as the worst sufferers due to their boycott of English language he founded the Mahommadan Anglo Oriental College: at Aligarh. It was an institution where modern education coupled with Religious knowledge was to be given. By now the Revolt haf miserably failed and India had passed directly under the rule of the British monarch and the Parliament. There was no option but to train the young members of his community in the new sciences and make them eligible for government service. At Aligarh Sir Syed also established a Scientific Society and a Journal on the same line was also launched.
In the meantime the Indians having lost the war for Independence did not rest. They rose as one once again under the aegis of the Indian National Congress which was a group of the middle classes of Indians founded by an English, AO Hume. Very soon a popular Freedom Movement with mass support was launched after the return of Gandhiji from South Africa. The struggle now started in right earnest. But remember that this movement was not confined only to North India
Kerala too produced many freedom fighters. Accamma Cherian was considered the Rani of Jhansi of Travancore by Gandhiji. Another was Abdur Rahiman who participated in Salt Satyagraha for which he was imprisoned for 9 months. He was was editor and publisher of the Malayalam daily newspaper Al-Ameen in which he tried to nurture nationalism among the Muslim people of Malabar
Vaikom Muhammad Basheer participated in Salt Satyagraha and was in prison. Even after he was released he didn’t keep quiet, he organized an anti-British movement and took an active part in the freedom movement.
Veliyankode Umar Khasi was a Muslim scholar and freedom fighter who took active participation in the Civil-Disobedience movement and fought against the British opposing to pay taxes. Interestingly at the time of his death, he was waiting for death to arrive by preparing his own grave.
There were thousands of others who’s names we should remember and felicitate!
As also this nationalist fervour was developing another thing happened. In 1920 through an Act of Parliament the Aligarh Muslim University was established. It was the culmination of a dream project of Sir Syed. He had always visualised the MAO College On the lines of Oxford of the East!
It emerged as a modern University where both Science and Quran had its importance. Physics, Chemistry, Botany, Zoology, and Engineering was taught along with Unani Tibb. Subjects of Art and Social Sciences along with a separate faculty of Theology was also established: the Science and Quran were literally together! On the other hand admissions and faculty positions were given to people of all religions: Muslims, Hindus, Jains, Buddhist, Sikhs and Christians were all entertained: Aligarh emerged as a microcosm of India visualised by the Rebels of 1857 and the Indian National Movement. The Aligarh Muslim University Students Union gave member ship to Gandhiji and Jinnah, Patel and Maulana Azad!
But don’t forget the horrors of Partition: The collaborators and the English Colonialists sowed the seeds of communal division! The division of separate electorate and Communal Award accentuated the social fissures. The Hindu Maha Sabha, the RSS, the Muslim League all played their dangerous games. For every Bhagat Singh and Sukhdev, there was a Savarkar writing apology letters and working for dividing the people on the basis of Religion and caste.
The end result was that on the eve of our Independence, as India was being into two, and as Pakistan as a separate nation purely on the basis of religion was being created, 2 million innocent Indians, both Hindus and Muslims lost their lives, while at least 14 million were displaced and turned into refugees.
As Pakistan was celebrating it’s birth and Nehruji was delivering his Tryst with Destiny Speech this was the scale of human disaster! Remember Gandhiji was amongst the rioters as others celebrated! He was fasting and grieving! Also remember that a year later, he was shot dead by those who had collaborated with the English. Gandhi ji died with the words “Hey Ram!” on his lips and a wish to go to Pakistan to bring a closure to the killings there!
Remember Our Duties on this 74th Independence Day as our democratic rights are being trampled, people are being killed on the basis of their faith, the Judiciary is silent, the Parliament is a silent spectator and the economy of the country is at its lowest! Only yesterday our Supreme Court held Prashant Bhushan for showing the mirror to the Judges! We need to swear once again by Unity, Integrity, and our Secular ideals! We need to safeguard our Constitution which gave us a unique character of our own. We need to retrieve the ideals of our founding fathers and all those who gave their life for preserving the idea of India which our beloved nation is! Let us endeavour to arrest the process of conversion of our esteemed nation into a mirror image of our neighbour! This is the only way that we can guarantee a continued Independence of our beleaguered nation!
Jai Hind! Long Live a United India! Long Live our Secular Constitution!