How Modi's India Unmasked Gandhi And Nehru

On a long enough timeline, the truth does come out: Gandhi and Nehru were products of a priest-ridden caste-ridden society

How Modi's India Unmasked Gandhi And Nehru

India’s founding fathers Mohandas Karamchand “Mahatma” Gandhi and Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru are often extolled by a certain section in Pakistan who often contrast them (favourably) with Narendra Modi. The truth is that Narendra Modi is the logical extension of the same majoritarian exceptionalism that Gandhi and Nehru practised and fought for before independence. 

As a matter of fact, if the record is read impartially, both Gandhi and Nehru can give Modi a run for his money. Indeed Modi by comparison would look like an angel. Let us consider the record.

First, let us first address the myth that is “Mahatma” Gandhi. India’s global marketing effort spanning 7 decades to make a Mahatma out of Gandhi is now finally failing spectacularly as all untruths must in the end. Over the last decades, Black Lives Matter and other advocates have increasingly protested and filed lawsuits against the erection of Gandhi statues world over. The reason? Because Gandhi was an unrepentant racist who believed in the racial superiority of the Aryan race over Africans, who he dismissed as savages throughout his time in South Africa. Sample this from his letter to Natal Parliament:

"I venture to point out that both the English and the Indians spring from a common stock, called the Indo-Aryan […] A general belief seems to prevail in the Colony that the Indians are little better, if at all, than savages or the Natives of Africa. Even the children are taught to believe in that manner, with the result that the Indian is being dragged down to the position of a raw Kaffir […] The Indians were, and are, in no way inferior to their Anglo-Saxon brethren, if I may venture to use the word, in the various departments of life — industrial, intellectual, political, etc."

On the one hand, Gandhi raised the cry of Ram Rajya and we can see what it is leading to under Modi. On the other hand, in order to sideline and isolate the Muslim middle class and secular leadership, Gandhi unleashed some of the worst sectarian bigots from the Muslim community

This is just one example. The collected works of "Mahatma" Gandhi are littered with such references to the "raw kaffir" being inferior to the Indian. The damage he did to the Dalits and scheduled castes, not to mention his undying belief in caste being the natural organisation of humanity, is well documented by Dr BR Ambedkar. His attitudes towards women, especially the Suffragette movement which he dismissed as Ravanna Raj, burnishes his credentials as a misogynist without a mask. In short, Gandhi was a racist, casteist and a  misogynist. 

Gandhi also brought religion as a decisive factor in politics. His use of religion was twofold. On the one hand, he raised the cry of Ram Rajya and we can see what Ram Rajya is leading to in India under Modi. On the other hand, in order to sideline and isolate the Muslim middle class and secular leadership like Jinnah, Gandhi unleashed some of the worst sectarian bigots amongst the Muslim community in the name of Khilafat. Gandhi was the father of both Jamiat-e-Ulema Hind and Majlis-e-Ahrar ul Islam, whose sectarian bigotry is well known. By doing so, Gandhi made religious identity non-negotiable, which ultimately led to the partition of India.

Now over to Pandit Nehru. Much has been written about how Nehru caused the partition of India by his dithering on the Cabinet Mission Plan. To this end, Maulana Azad's testimony is particularly revealing. As the Prime Minister of India, Nehru was an incorrigible opponent of free speech, which he stifled and clipped through the First Amendment to the Indian constitution – which basically took away the very freedom the constitution of India promised to provide. This happened in tandem with his crackdown on Communists and others. Nehru also freely used Section 93 to dismiss state legislatures and once jailed his old ally Shaikh Abdullah for a decade for not towing his line. 

Perhaps the most damning part of his legacy is that which was kept under wraps for decades. On 13 September 1948, the Indian armed forces marched into Hyderabad on Nehru's orders. In the weeks that followed, the Indian forces indulged in horrendous war crimes, rapes and murder, carrying out a genocide that according to Indian government's own Sundarlal Committee claimed upwards of 40,000 lives. This, within a fortnight. Scholars and historians actually calculate a much higher number than that. This is a record that would make even Netanyahu envious, because even after seven months of bombardment, Israel has managed to murder 30,000 Palestinians. Nehru achieved more than that within two weeks, and that is if we go by conservative estimate given by the report commissioned by his own government. So damning was this report that Nehru tried to bury it. It was not until the last decade that the report was finally declassified and the truth came out. This genocideer is now extolled as a virtuous liberal democrat. Nehru was anything but that.

On a long enough timeline, the truth does come out. Gandhi and Nehru were products of a priest-ridden caste-ridden society. Nehru tried to mask it with his faux secularism but Modi has ripped the mask right off of India's face. That is something to celebrate, not despair.

Yasser Latif Hamdani is a barrister at law and the author of the book Jinnah; A Life.