View the H-Asia Discussion Logs by month
View the Prior Message in H-Asia's May 2007 logs by: [date] [author] [thread]
View the Next Message in H-Asia's May 2007 logs by: [date] [author] [thread]
Visit the H-Asia home page.
H-ASIA May 13, 2007 Further comment on "First Indian War of Independence" from an Indian politician's perspective ************************************************************************ From: hb paksoy <firstname.lastname@example.org> From Asian Age http://www.asianage.com/presentation/leftnavigation/opinion/ opinion/marx,-nehru-and-savarkar-on-1857.aspx "Marx, Nehru and Savarkar on 1857" by K. Natwar Singh In two days arrives the 150th anniversary of 1857. For us it is the first independence war. For others, it is a revolt, rebellion, mutiny, uprising. Karl Marx (1818-1883), in his slim volume Notes on Indian History, calls it "The Sepoy Revolt." For the events between 1857-1858 there are 39 entries. He adheres to facts available to him at the time. In the preface to Notes the editors of the volume write in 1986: "From the Fifties on, Marx carefully studied India as a colonial country where diverse forms and methods of colonial rule and plunder had been practised. He also took interest in India because she still retained to a certain degree, relations peculiar to a communal society." While writing about "the British rule in India" in 1853, Marx wrote: "However changing the political aspects of India’s past must appear, its social condition has remained unaltered since its remotest antiquity, until the first decennium of the 19th century." Let me quote a very famous statement of Karl Marx: "The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point, however, is to change it." India certainly changed for the worse after 1857, but not in the manner Marx would have wanted. Enough of Karl Marx, I shall now respectfully summon some well known names --Jawaharlal Nehru, V.D. Savarkar, Sir Syed Ahmed, Maulana Azad, Prof. S.N. Sen. Jawaharlal Nehru has written about 1857, both in _Glimpses of World History_ and at greater length in _The Discovery of India_. In the latter, he gives the heading "The Great Revolt." Only once he calls it "a war of Indian independence." He frequently uses the words mutiny, revolt, rebellion. He also writes that, "Essentially it was a feudal outburst, headed by feudal chiefs and their followers... There was hardly any national and unifying sentiment among the leaders and a mere anti-foreign feeling, coupled with a desire to maintain their feudal privileges, was a poor substitute for this." He is generous in his praise of Tantia Tope and Lakshmi Bai of Jhansi, who died fighting, aged twenty. He is robustly critical of British brutality and post-1857 behaviour. He is mildly critical of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan (1817-1898). I too want to write with restraint about the founder of the Aligarh Muslim University. If one examines his life in a holistic manner, then the conclusion has to be that he had a narrow vision and looked up to the British for India's salvation, his celebrated metaphor about Hindus and Muslims being the two eyes of India notwithstanding. Amresh Mishra in his superb and brilliantly written book on Lucknow has compared the roles and attitudes of Sir Syed and Mirza Ghalib. He makes it clear where his sympathies lie -- with Ghalib. Vinayak Damodar Savarkar (1883-1966) was the first to call 1857 "The Indian War of Independence." His book of the same title was published in 1909. It was immediately proscribed. It finally appeared in 1946. The original text was in Marathi. The author was 24 years old when he wrote his magnum opus. Savarkar's book has one remarkable feature -- it is fiercely secular. Two quotations will do. On page 285, Savarkar writes: "So, in the truer sense, we said that the raising of Bahadur Shah to the throne of India was no restoration at all. But rather it was the declaration that the longstanding war between the Hindu and the Mahomedan had ended... For, Bahadur Shah was raised by the free voice of the people, both Hindus and Mahomedans, civil and military, to be their emperor and the head of the War of Independence... Let, then, Hindus and Mahomedans send forth their hearty, conscientious, and most loyal homage to this elected or freely accepted Emperor of their native soil on the 11th of May, 1857." Numerous purple passages highlight the emotions and passions of both communities. The Meerut troops had revolted on May 10, 1857. The very next day a royal proclamation was issued: "To all Hindus and Mahomedans! We, solely on account of religious duty, have joined the people. Whoever shall, in these times, exhibit cowardice or credulously believe the promises of the English impostors, will be very shortly put in shame and receive the reward for their fidelity to England which the rulers of Lucknow got. It is further necessary that all, Hindus and Mahomedans, unite in this struggle and following the instructions of some respectable leaders, conduct themselves in such a way that good rule may be maintained, the poorer classes kept contented and they themselves be exalted to rank and dignity." For the centenary of 1857, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad had commissioned Prof. Surendra Nath Sen to write an objective history of the struggle. In his foreword, Maulana Azad adopts a somewhat magisterial tone: "As I read about the events of 1857, I am forced to the sad conclusion that Indian national character had sunk very low. The leaders of the revolt could never agree. They were mutually jealous and continually intrigued against one another. They seemed to have little regard for the effects of such disagreements on the common cause. In fact, these personal jealousies and intrigues were largely responsible for the Indian defeat." He is no admirer of Bahadur Shah, "who was not fit to serve even as a symbol." Prof. S.N. Sen's book is both dull and uninspiring. Factually, it cannot be defaulted. The centenary of the first war of our independence in 1957 was not observed with as much fanfare as the 150th is being celebrated. How interest will be maintained for the next 12 months has yet to be seen. There is no need for needless exuberance. If we are not careful, the celebrations may become victim of the law of diminishing returns. What needs to be celebrated is the secular character of the First War of Indian Independence. K. Natwar Singh is a former minister for external affairs H. B. Paksoy Baker University ****************************************************************** To post to H-ASIA simply send your message to: <H-ASIA@h-net.msu.edu> For holidays or short absences send post to: <email@example.com> with message: SET H-ASIA NOMAIL Upon return, send post with message SET H-ASIA MAIL H-ASIA WEB HOMEPAGE URL: http://h-net.msu.edu/~asia/