Editor : Satish Ohri    Edition : Jan - Feb 2019

Good Tidings in 2019

Good Tidings in 2019

As the New Year rings in, Good Tidings seem to be round the corner. The New Year will see a keenly contested General Election where the Modi Government will fight for a second consecutive term in office, while Congress President Rahul Gandhi is emerging as the principal challenger. The New Year also marks the Jallianwala Bagh Centenary on April 13, while Gandhiji 150th Birth Anniversary falls on October 2. 1919 marked the commencement of the stupendous efforts made by Gandhiji to bring about Hindu-Muslim Unity. 2019 marks not only its centenary but comes as a timely reminder for its utmost importance, especially at a time when communal polarization is being showcased as great accomplishment. An important landmark is the Jallianwala Bagh Centenary. It was a turning point in the freedom struggle, when the Congress pledged to drop the idea of Dominion Status and root for Purna Swaraj. The AICC Session that convened in Delhi in 1918 decided that the next AICC Session would be held in Punjab. For the British, politicization of the people in Punjab was a mark of grave concern. The reason was not far to seek. People of Punjab were the largest reservoir of their recruits for the British imperial army. The British could not imagine that this source to dry up with the growth of nationalist sentiments and the surge for freedom struggle. The entire effort of the British was focused on stopping the AICC Session from being held in the Punjab. Dr Saifuddin Kitchlewand Dr Satpal took the initiative in organizing the AICC Session. As Britain Rowlatt Bills, which was a draconian legislation, it gave power to a court of three judges to punish anyone allegedly involved in revolutionary activities without any right to appeal. It also provided powers to detain a person suspected of involvement in the freedom movement. Local governments were given powers to arbitrarily arrest people whom they considered dangerous. Mahatma Gandhi called for a protest action through a disobedience movement to force the British to retract on March 30, 1919. On this day, police opened fire at Delhi during the hartal claiming five lives while injuring hundreds. In protest against this, demonstrations were held countrywide and there was unprecedented unity between the Hindus, Muslims and the Sikhs. Against this backdrop, a public meeting was organized in Jallianwala Bagh to protest the mounting stridency in the British rulers. Unarmed people, including women and children, who had come from nearby villages for the Baisakhi fairs in Amritsar, had gathered and a peaceful meeting was proceeding, when suddenly General Dyer entered the Bagh. He blocked the only lane from where the people could exit and started firing forthwith. Firing continued till the British troops ran out of ammunition. This was indeed an unforgettable day in the history of the freedom struggle. Yet another important landmark is the 150th Birth Anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi falling on October 2. At a time when efforts are on to belittle the enormous accomplishments of Gandhiji, this year should mark a new assessment of his multifarious achievements. Mahatma Gandhi for the first time experimented Satyagraha as a political weapon to fight the might of the British Empire. Nowhere in the world was non-violence made into a political weapon to fight the might of the State. Employing non-violent civil disobedience, Mahatma Gandhi led India to independence and inspired peace, non-violent movements for civil rights and freedom across the world. Martin Luther King in the United States and Nelson Mandela in South Africa are two brightest examples of Mahatma Gandhi’s ideology being replicated in their own country. Gandhi’s greatest contribution is his unparalleled work for Hindu-Muslim Unity. To Gandhiji Hindu-Muslim unity meant unity not only between Hindu and Muslims but also between all those who believe India to be their home, no matter to what faith they belong.

According to Mahatma Gandhi, in addition to Swadeshi and the removal of Untouchability, the necessity of cordial relations between Hindus and Muslims was an inescapable factor for the social advancement of the nation. Social and political change could not be planned without taking this factor into consider¬ation, according to him.Gandhiji’s long and lively association with both Muslims and Hindus in South Africa had made him conscious of the fact that both had much in common and their traditional harmony, which had been somewhat fractured in the preceding decades, could be re-established in India. Though there are some who tried to downplay on this aspect of Gandhiji, he did make this issuean essential component of the Constructive Programme launched in 1920. Though he did not sponsor a specific movement for the purpose, he repeatedly suggested, in word and action, ways and means of promoting communal harmony. On several occasions, Gandhiji was able, through individual action and sheer force of personality, to bring communal riots to an immediate halt. He managed to do it even at the height of the communal holocaust in Naokhali, where he went on a fast-unto-death, to stop the communal conflagration. Khilafat Movement presented an excellent opportunity for Gandhiji to bring the Muslim masses into the national struggle for freedom and for restoring amicable relations between Hindus and Muslims. Gandhiji believed that if non-Muslims joined Muslims on the Khilafat issue, it would be a big step towards the emotional integration of the country. In November 1919, the Khilafat demand was made an issue of the all-India Satyagraha campaign that had been launched that April. This was the first major step taken by Gandhiji to bring about Hindu-Muslim harmony and identify common issues between the two communities. All in all, 2019 will be a New Year with immense scope for ever new possibilities.

- Satish Ohri