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The lesser known Maulana who sought ‘United India’ to the bitter end

Azad, as Congress President, had negotiated with the Cabinet Mission and Viceroy Lord Wavell to keep India united.

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Sunday, November 11, happens to be Maulana Abul Kalam Azad’s birth anniversary, forgotten this year as it has been in the past. The Maulana is an inconvenient name to remember at a time when Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel towers above every national leader.

When former Vice President Hamid Ansari released the Hindi, Urdu and Malayalam translations of my book “Being the Other: The Muslim in India”, he quoted from a speech Patel had made on August 11, 1947, four days before Partition. Some TV channels went ballistic. The quote is actually quite well known: “To be United, India would have to be divided.” Patel was tracing how the consensus to “divide” India came about. No, but Ansari should not upturn conventional wisdom that “Jinnah was the culprit”. If it were the evil Jinnah who created Pakistan, it follows that the CWC, the Iron man included, were busting their guts to keep a United India and Jinnah outfoxed them.

Mountbatten’s June 3, 1947, plan sought a division of India largely along religious lines. The Congress Working Committee (CWC) swallowed the plan hook, line and sinker. Of the two Muslim leaders present at the CWC, Frontier Gandhi Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan wailed: “You have thrown us to the wolves.” Maulana Azad smoked a box of cigarettes and said nothing. Supposing the two, vehemently opposed to Partition, had walked out of the meeting in protest, what interpretation would future historians have placed on the remaining CWC composition?

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Jawaharlal Nehru valued Azad for his intellect. Some of Nehru’s admiration for Azad comes across even in his intimate letters from Ahmednagar jail to his daughter Indira. “Maulana is an extraordinarily interesting person. The more I know him, and I have known him now for over 21 years, the more I find in him. He has an astonishing memory and his information on a variety of subjects is encyclopedic. He is soaked in the lore of the middle ages… he has Plato and Aristotle on his fingertips and is perfectly at home at Cordoba of Arab Spain… It seems such a pity that with such vast learning and a very unusually keen mind and a powerful style, he should have written so little.”

At one point Nehru reveals he is keen to learn Sanskrit from Acharya Narendra Dev and Persian from Azad. Nehru then gives vent to his afterthought: “But Azad is too erudite.”

The paradox is that despite such admiration for Azad, Nehru still found time to let him down repeatedly. It was a delicate package, that Azad, as Congress President, had negotiated with the Cabinet Mission and Viceroy Lord Wavell to keep India united. Nehru torpedoed it by raising contentious issues at a press conference in Bombay (Mumbai).

Azad was shocked when the entire CWC accepted the Mountbatten plan without fuss. “Partition over my body” kind of sham was instantly abandoned. In fact, Rajendra Prasad came down strongly on a suggestion Mountbatten and Azad had made: That a United Armed Forces for a short period would obviate the massacres which eventually followed. “Not for a day” after August 15, 1947, would the Congress government tolerate a United Army, Prasad thundered. He wanted Partition to be sealed irreversibly. It was no concern of the CWC that an Army, abruptly separated along sectarian lines, would be sucked into the horrendous violence that followed as a partisan force on both sides.

Mahatma Gandhi’s Secretary Mahadev Desai wrote about Azad: “There was no other in the Congress to match Maulana’s insights and wise counsel.” Stalwarts like C.R. Das and Motilal Nehru deferred to him on many issues. On his wisdom and erudition, Sarojini Naidu was at her wittiest, “Maulana was 50 years old when he was born.”

It was this vast reservoir of wisdom that Nehru relied on when Home Minister Kailash Nath Katju decided to bar foreign missionaries in India, “if evangelism is their purpose”. The statement created a furore among Christian missionaries. Nehru singled out Maulana to handle the situation. The letter that Azad wrote to Cardinal Valerian Gracias is reproduced on page 79 of my book, “Being the Other”. It is a masterpiece of reasoning and logic on the question of conversion. Azad had settled the issue over 60 years ago.

He made a distinction between religious conversion, which requires deep reflection on issues of theology and what the constitution calls “mass conversions”. The latter is a response to a social and political provocation.

It is possible that Maulana was not suited to the rough and tumble of politics which demands fickleness generally dressed up as flexibility. Maulana was incapable of deviating from his core principles — Hindu-Muslim unity as the bedrock of Indian nationalism.

Dr. Rajesh Kumar Pruthi, Director General of the National Archives, published a rare collection of the Maulana’s letters in Urdu. The preface by Dr. Pruthi is by itself quite masterly. As evidence of Maulana’s consistency he cites a passage from the Maulana’s address as President of the Congress at a session held in Delhi on 15 December, 1923:

“If an angel came down from heaven and, from the height of the Qutub Minar, announced that if the Congress abandons its platform of Hindu-Muslim Unity, Swaraj or independence would be granted in 24 hours, I would turn my back on that Swaraj. Shunning it for the cost being demanded may delay Swaraj and harm India’s interest for a short period but abandoning our unity for good as a price for freedom will be a blot on all humanity.”

He maintained a decent silence on colleagues who had “blotted humanity”. But he did not cheat history. He kept away in the National Archives 30 pages which expose the men with feet of clay who faltered in the last lap towards freedom. Partition, he wrote in a press note, “would be unadulterated Hindu Raj”. These pages were made public in 1988 when he and all his colleagues had died. He may have had grievances with Nehru but that did not prevent him from dedicating “India Wins Freedom” to “Jawaharlal, Friend and Comrade”.

(A senior commentator on political and diplomatic affairs, Saeed Naqvi can be reached on [email protected] The views expressed are personal.)

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Once dreaded ‘queen of outlaws’ Phoolan now a ‘veerangana’

Phoolan Devi emerged as an icon for the Nishad community (boatmen) but after her brutal death in 2001, the community was not given adequate representation by political parties.

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phoolan devi Bandit Queen

Bandit queen-turned-politician Phoolan Devi has been conferred the title of ‘veerangana’ (a brave warrior) by the Eklavya Welfare Society in Jalaun district.

Phoolan’s native village Garha Ka Purwa is located in Jalaun district and the Eklavya Welfare Society represents the Nishad community to which Phoolan belonged.

“The title of Veerangna has been conferred on Phoolan Devi because she was a true warrior — she fought for her honour and later, for the welfare of the oppressed.

“She deserves her and the young generations need to be told about her contribution. We will soon install her statue here,” said Gopalm Nishad, a member of the Eklavya Welfare Society.

Phoolan Devi, a bandit in the ravines across Uttar Pradesh and present Chhattisgarh and also Madhya Pradesh, had hit the headlines when she massacred 22 Thakurs in Behmai in Kanpur in February 1981 to avenge her sexual exploitation by a Thakur gang led by Lala Ram and Sri Ram.

In 1994, then Chief Minister Mulayam Singh withdrew the cases against Phoolan and she contested and won the Lok Sabha elections from Mirzapur in 1996 on a Samajwadi Party ticket.

Phoolan Devi emerged as an icon for the Nishad community (boatmen) but after her brutal death in 2001, the community was not given adequate representation by political parties.

The Nishad community constitutes about 4.5 per cent of the state’s population and are known to be among the Most Backward Castes (MBC).

The Nishad community has a sizeable population in about 40 assembly segments. Since the past one decade, they are trying to be included in the Scheduled Caste’s category but their demand has been caught in legal hassles.

An attempt was made to install Phoolan’s statue in Gorakhpur in 2016 but the attempt was foiled by the district administration that claimed that requisite permission for same had not been obtained.

The issue had revived an intense caste war between OBCs and MBCs in Uttar Pradesh.

Last year, Phoolan’s mother, Moola Devi, 90, who still lives in the village in abject poverty, had released the Chambal Manifesto on the eve of Lok Sabha elections to press for development of the Chambal region.

The 4-page manifesto was a compilation of the demands for the region which included the formation of the Chambal Commission for a scientific study of the issues and challenges faced by the people living in Chambal region along with solutions.

More than 40 years after she picked up the gun and turned into a bandit, following a dispute over four bighas of land with her cousin Maya Din, Phoolan Devi’s family in her native village in Jalaun district is still waiting to reclaim that elusive piece of land.

Meanwhile, the land that was initially owned by Phoolan’s father, Devi Din Mallah, and after his death, it still eludes her mother Moola Devi as the rightful owner.

Maya Din, son of late Devi Din’s elder brother allegedly grabbed the plot and did not allow Phoolan’s mother to till the land. Maya Din claimed the land was passed on to him as legacy.

Moola Devi said, “My daughter Phoolan fought with Maya Din for this land. Maya Din and his men ridiculed her and hurled abuses at her. She got together some girls from the village and staged a dharna on the land. The village elders tried to remove her from the land but failed. Then Maya Din hurled a brick at her and she fell unconscious. After this, she became a ‘baaghi’ (rebel).”

It is said that Maya Din ‘sold’ her off to Lal Ram and Shri Ram — heads of a Thakur gang of dacoits — who not only raped her but also held her captive.

A few years later, Phoolan Devi fell in love with another dacoit Vikram Mallah, who was later killed by the Lala Ram and Shri Ram gang.

To avenge the wrong done to her by the Thakur gang, Phoolan Devi gradually built up her own gang and the rest, as they say, is history.

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International Day of Persons with Disabilities: Theme, Date and history of the day

International Day of Persons with Disabilities: It aims to increase public awareness, understanding and acceptance of people with disabilities and celebrate their achievements and contributions.

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International Day of Persons with Disabilities

International Day of Persons with Disabilities is an international observance promoted by the United Nations since 1992. It is celebrated on December 3 all around the world. It aims to increase public awareness, understanding and acceptance of people with disabilities and celebrate their achievements and contributions.

IDPD mobilizes support for critical issues relating to the inclusion of persons with disabilities, promotes awareness-raising about disability issues and draws attention to the benefits of an inclusive and accessible society for all.

UN agencies, civil society organizations, academic institutions and the private sector are motivated to support IDPD by collaborating with organizations for people with disabilities to arrange events and activities.

International Day of People with Disability: Theme

The theme for IDPwD 2020 is “Building Back Better: toward a disability-inclusive, accessible and sustainable post COVID-19 World”.

Every year the UN announces a theme to observe for International Day of People with Disability. The annual theme provides an overarching focus on how society can strive for inclusivity through the removal of physical, technological and attitudinal barriers for people with disabilities.

This has been occurring since 1992 when the General Assembly announced 3 December as the International Day of Disabled Persons.

National Disability Strategy 2010–2020

In Australia, the National Disability Strategy 2010–2020 commits all governments to a nationwide approach aimed at improving the lives of disabled people, their families and carers.

The Strategy’s ten-year national framework for reform concentrates on better inclusion for people with disabilities and seeks to create a society that enables people with disabilities to fulfill their potential as equal citizens.

On the 2012 International Day of People with Disability, the United Kingdom government introduced mandatory work for disabled people who received welfare benefits in order to “Improve disabled peoples chances of getting work by mandatory employment”.

A program is also launched on December 3 across India to serve the differently-able community of the country as an initiative called Accessible India Campaign under the Article 9 of UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD)

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BJP leaders brainstorm for second day, say govt ready for talks with farmers

Union Home Minister Amit Shah met Agriculture Minister Narender Singh Tomar earlier in the day to discuss the strategy to break the logjam.

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Farmers on Protest

Eager to break the deadlock with famers who are agitating for scrapping the new farm laws, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leadership held meetings for a second consecutive day on Monday and sent out the message that the Union government is ready for talks.

Union home minister Amit Shah met Union minister for agriculture, NS Tomar earlier in the day to discuss the strategy to break the logjam. A senior party functionary said, “The message from the top is clear that the laws are not anti-farmers and that the farmers are being misled. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has reiterated that laws will offer better opportunity for the farmers.”

The functionary said the government is ready to sit across the table and discuss the new laws and “address whatever concerns” the farmers have.

Speaking in Varanasi, the PM on Monday said the laws have given farmers new options and legal protection. He lashed out at the opposition for “misleading” the farmers and said earlier decisions of government were opposed now rumours have become the basis for opposition and propaganda is being served even though the laws favour the farmers.

The party has also opted for a cautious, measured response to the agitation. Even though it is pinning the blame on the opposition for provoking the protest, it is taking care not to rile the farmers. “The farmers are innocent. They are being misled by those with vested interests. The laws have barely been implemented and their impact is yet to be ascertained, so how can people rush to call these anti-farmers,” said Rajkuamr Chahar, head of the BJP’s Kisan Morcha.

He said the Punjab unit of the Morcha has been communicating with the farmers’ representatives and has relayed the government’s willingness to address their concerns.

On Monday, even as the party tried to diffuse the anger against the bills, its ally the Rashtriya Loktantrik Party (RLP) joined the chorus for the rollback of the laws. Rajasthan lawmaker and RLP chief, Hanuman Beniwal, shot off a letter to Shah, seeking the reversal of the laws.

“….In view of the countrywide sentiment in support of the ongoing farmers’ movement, the recently introduced three bills related to agriculture should be immediately withdrawn. (The Centre must) implement all recommendations of the Swaminathan Commission, and immediately hold dialogue with farmers in Delhi,” he said.

The BJP, however, played down the ally’s demand. Its national spokesperson on economic issues, Gopal Krishna Agarwal said, “We assure all, including our NDA partners that farmers’ well-being and welfare are in our heart. Large scale market reforms are needed and that has always been the consensus.”

He went on to add that while the BJP opposes misgivings about the APMC mandis being dismantled and MSP being withdrawn, the opposition is politicizing the issue along with the Arhtiyas (commission agents) and middleman.

“We have offered all the basic facilities to farmers, drinking water, toilets, shelters and medical facilities. They have been given permission to protest and also been invited for dialogue. We are open for all discussions on the merits or demerits of the three bills. If farmers have certain serious concerns, we are ready to listen to them,” he said.

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