THE RIGHT VIEW
Why Kaveri wears saffron
28 May 2008, 1943 hrs IST,Tarun Vijay (Times of India)
The saffron Karnataka wears is aglow with the sacrifices of the anonymous workers who lived with a reason, for a cause. Who sowed saffron in Karnataka's soil – like Yadav Rao Joshi, H V Seshadri, Suryanarain Rao, often going to sleep on an empty stomach but worked day and night to spread the message of a strong nationalism, motherland first and foremost. Everything else was secondary.
When Seshadri breathed his last, he was listening to the Sangh prayer – namaste sada vatsale matribhume (Salutations to thee, O beloved motherland...) But Vidhan Saudha was never on their radar of achievements. Their mission was and remains a total transformation of society into a proud, strong, self-reliant, knowledge reservoir with character which would lead Bharat, which is India, into the highest ranks of the comity of nations. Political power is just one small step in that direction.
The people who remember their past have a future. The saffron we see blooming in the South is powered with the ideas of a man whose birth anniversary would largely go unnoticed today. Veer Vinayak Damodar Savarkar was the name of the man who shook Hindus from their lethargic and self-demeaning attitude and who put the word Hindutva in vogue.
I remember Madhumangal Sharma who was killed while reading a book by Pt Deen Dayal Upadhyaya in his Imphal house. The day bullets pierced his heart, through the book, happened to be 11th February, 1995. It was also the martyrdom day of the author he liked most, Pt. Deen Dayal Upadhyaya, who was murdered mysteriously on 11th Feb 1968 on a moving train.
One could wonder in these times of extreme parochialism why a Manipuri in Imphal would be reading a book by a northerner? The same Manipur has banned all books of Hindi writers, Hindi movies, and finally the national anthem now.
The martyrdom of Pt Upadhyaya and Madhumangal and many others for a cause energised a collective will to bring change in polity. That's what nationalism is all about. Different parts, one body. There are youngsters who still have the courage to stand for a broader, Indian nationalism in Manipur facing foreign-funded extremists who have otherwise succeeded in silencing all other voices reflecting Indianness.
What makes them brave the bullets? Love for motherland, and that's saffron unquestioningly.
Shyama Prasad Mookerjee was born in Bengal and became the youngest ever vice-chancellor of Calcutta University at the age of 33. He was a close friend of Kaji Nazrul Islam, helped him when he needed most, was a part of the family of Rabindranath Tagore, became a legendary figure in his life time, inherited a legacy Bengal is justifiably proud of, and he died for Kashmir. His mysterious “death” in the jail of Sheikh Abdullah, in Srinagar on 23rd June 1953 raised questions that are still unanswered. The only reason for his untimely death was his demand that Kashmir be assimilated in India like any other state. And there should not be two flags, two constitutional provisions and two heads in relation to Kashmir. He was arrested for entering the valley without a permit, in his own country and jailed where he met a sudden death.
Mookerjee’s mother, Jogmaya Devi wrote to Nehru on 4 July 1953: “His death is shrouded in mystery. Is it not most astounding and shocking that ever since his detention there, the first information that I, his mother, received from the government of Kashmir was that my son was 'no more', and that also at least two hours after the end? And in what a cruel, cryptic way the message was conveyed! '. A fearless son of free India has met his death while 'in detention without trial' under most tragic and mysterious circumstances. I, the mother of the great departed soul, demand that an absolutely impartial and open enquiry by independent and competent persons be held without any delay. I know nothing can bring back to us the life that is no more. But I do want that the people of India must judge for themselves, the real causes of this great tragedy enacted in a free country and the part that was played by your government.”
Nehru gave a short reply on 5 July 1953: “l did not venture to write to you before without going into the matter of Dr Shyama Prasad Mookerjee's detention and death fairly carefully. I have since enquired further into it from a number of persons who had occasion to know 'some facts'. I can only say to you that I arrived at the clear and honest conclusion that there is no mystery in this and that Dr Mookerjee was given every consideration.”
This was really rude and Jogmaya Devi replied on 9th July, 1953: “Your letter dated 5th July reached me on the 7th. It is a sad commentary on the whole situation. Instead of helping to clear up the mystery, your attitude deepens it (further). I demanded an open enquiry. I did not ask 'for your clear and honest conclusion'. Your reaction to the whole affair is now well known. The people of India and I, the mother, have got to be convinced. There is a rooted suspicion in the mind of many. What is required is 'an open, impartial, immediate enquiry'.
'Your experience in jails is known to all. It was at one time a matter of great national pride with us. But you had suffered imprisonment under an alien rule and my son has met his death in detention without trial under a national government. It is futile to address you further. You are afraid to face facts. I hold the Kashmir government responsible for the death of my son. I accuse your government of complicity in the matter.”
Nehru never cared to reply.
Shyama Prasad's martyrdom too has added to the saffron we see in Karnataka.
The Kothari brothers and others who died facing brutal police repression in Ayodhya during their satyagraha to demand a Ram Temple in 1990 is a scar on India's body that would hardly be forgotten. The other side of the secular Talibanism creates ghettoes of Gulags and Siberia-ism for votebank politics. Hasn't the accumulated angst against these discriminations fuelled a change in the Indian political scene? Remember the best of Indian soldiers, editors and actors like Gen Candeth, Gen. Jacob, Girilal Jain and Victor Banerjee joined the saffron side in the aftermath of Ayodhya. And who were those who died demanding a ban on cow slaughter? Were they simply an expendable crowd of illiterate, empty-headed buffoons, trampling on other's rights in times when editors love to write about restaurants serving the most tasty beef?
Those teachers and truck drivers and auto-rickshaw owners who were killed in Kannur and Palakad just for wearing saffron have also contributed to the Karnataka victory.
And those hundreds of highly qualified selfless workers who lived and died anonymously for seeing saffron bloom, did help in paving the way for the leaders who rule today with a broad smile on their faces, though they never aspired to work for a political fortune.
Who were those workers who dedicated their lives for a cause that would never provide them comfort or fame? What was that magic bond that bound them in a solidarity that would not be shaken under any circumstances. They first fought the British, then the Communists and their political mates in Congress and progressed astoundingly well in spite of a collective media assault and opposition that would surpass every logic and sense of balance. Today the saffron brotherhood is running the largest number of successful schools, has the highest number of service projects in slums and tribal areas across the country from Port Blair to Leh and Naharlagun to the Nilgiris, runs centres to train Scheduled Caste youths as priests and computer engineers and provides the nation the sinews it needs during any crisis. None will see these elements of fire and light but will only comment frivolously on the electoral underpinnings and caste-religion equations. The saffron we see blooming over the Vidhan Saudha in Bangalore is the result of a collective will engulfing the grand Indian picture we worship as mother incarnate.
Those who occupy the plush chairs inside must remember this and the responsibility that comes along with wearing colour. The land of Hampi and Basaveshwara and Kanak Dasa wants to see that the polluted Kaveri (Cauvery) of public administration, behavior and accountability be cleaned and Sanskrit and Sanskriti (culture) flowers unhindered. Always remember why Hampi was razed and for whom. Should the children of that past forget their ancestors and get glued to elements that negate the fragrance of the land?
Karnataka results have defied the pettiness of the polity we had been witnessing over water sharing and language–regional conflicts and have proved that merger with the nationalist cause is worthier than asserting parochial and smaller identities. It's also a verdict against hate and ideological apartheid.
Media with seculars of the red variety have turned saffron into a term of abuse and derided its use as if belonging to saffron is a sin. Today with Karnataka, saffron rules over seven states on its own. The red smart seculars, self-obsessed “upholders” of the peace marches and candle-burning rituals for Afzals and betrayers of faith, find themselves completely marginalized and shrunk. Naturally so. As the grand Indian vision expands, the myopic market managers of Marx and Macs will have to squeeze into a smaller space.
I have always maintained that the hate factor in Indian politics is a contribution of the left and alien thought processes. Swami Dayananda fiercely attacked the practice of idol worship among Hindus but he was accommodated and respected, not turned into an outcaste and fatwa-ed to death. Guru Nanak and Kabir criticized ritualism and the blind faith prevalent among influential Hindus. But they were revered and adored. Hate and animosity on the basis of beliefs is alien to Hindus and was introduced by those who are inherently intolerant to the different viewpoint.
There is no reason for the hate between various political parties in India – after all they all swear to work for the good of India and Indians. The polity must play on the foundation of a pan-Indian vision. Programmes may differ but the fragmentisation must come to an end giving way to fraternisation. Seculars have so far invested their pride in being backward, most backward and other backwards. Yet they call themselves as most progressives. See what's happening in Rajasthan. A matter of pride?
It's the dharma of all Indian political organisations to see that India prospers and doesn't fall prey to divisive and mutually hateful policies to nurse vote banks. The nation must stand taller than the South Blocked ambitions.
The author is the Director, Dr Syamaprasad Mookerjee Research Foundation.