Tuesday, July 26, 2022

On Lalchand’s Book: Self-Abnegation in Politics

Rai Bahadur Lalchand’s book Self-Abnegation In Politics was published in the communally charged political environment of the 1930s, when India was hurtling towards independence, and the Muslim League, led by Muhammad Ali Jinnah, had become vociferous in its demand for a separate homeland for the Muslims. Lal Chand laments in his book that instead of uniting and strengthening the Hindus, the Congress was weakening them and making them defenseless.  

The first six presidents of the Congress were not Hindus: the 1885 president was a Christian, Mr. W C Bonnerjee; the 1886 president was a Parsi, Mr. Dadabhai Naoroji; the 1887 president was a Muslim, Mr. Badruddin Tyabji; in 1888 and 1889, there were two European presidents, George Yule and Sir William Wedderburn; the 1890 president was a Parsi, Sir Pherozeshah Mehta. 

In Chapter 1, Lalchand writes: “If there is one thing which is strictly forbidden within the precincts of the Congress, it is the term ‘Hindu.’” He charges that the Hindus were a non-entity for the Congress leaders, and that the Hindus made a mistake by joining the Congress, because if they had worked to safeguard their political interests through their own efforts, they might have emerged stronger. In chapter 14, he writes: 

“They [the Congress movement] were given a political importance which they never possessed before, while Hindus were lowered in the scale from the position which they had already occupied. And with all these events passing before their eyes, the Congress through its mouthpiece the Indian Congress Committee moved not a little finger to render support or help to the Hindu cause. Nay, it did not even condescend, to give encouragement to the community in the struggle. On the other hand , its main exponent tried to gag the Hindu mouth, against even raising a lament…”

“…A movement is judged by its results, just as a tree by its fruit. A tree, however, bright and beautiful in form and figure, yet if it bears bitter or poisonous fruit will be shunned and avoided.” 

Lalchand was deeply affected by the violence that was raging in several parts of the country. He could see that the gulf between the religious groups was widening and he blamed the Congress rendering the Hindus defenseless. He felt that due to the ineffectiveness of the Congress, Hindu nationality was being gradually eroded. He has not mentioned Mahatma Gandhi in his book. But in Chapter 1, he rejects the Gandhian philosophy of non-violence:

“The moral ideal, that when slapped on one cheek you should offer the other for a slap, has no place in politics. Here the maxim is just the reverse. If you are slapped, give proper return, and you would at once find a desire by the other side to make friends. The method of offering the other cheek for being slapped has now been tried for over 20 years. There has been enough of coaxing and fawning, which by giving undue importance to the other community has begotten only insolence and impudence. May we not now try the counter method and see its result?”

Lalchand’s book became influential in the late 1930s and early 1940s and led to the formation of Hindu Sabha in Punjab. 

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