Sunday, 10 October 2021

Ram Guha's Socioproctological suppository

The Bardoli Satyagraha enabled Sardar Vallabhai Patel to escape from being overshadowed by his more successful, more cosmopolitan, independent minded and left wing older brother who as President of the Indian Legislative Council had managed to stop the passage of a Public Safety Bill aimed at the Communists which won him personal popularity with the Left.

Vallabhai- being a Patel by birth and not being too grand to spend time in the district- became the principal coordinator of the Patel led rent-strike in Bardoli. The resultant access of power to this flexing of muscles by Patels satisfied them. They claimed victory not because the tax had fallen but because their ability to intimidate rival communities had increased. Patel was fiercely partisan in putting the needs of his caste above any higher political duty. Thus, like Ambedkar, he continues to inspire worship. He didn't engage in virtue signaling. He was a champion of his own community whose talents- like those of Ambedkar's community- we have all come to recognize. What is good for them is good for Hindu India because they are Hindus who are determined to come up and, in doing so, place the country as a whole on a higher trajectory. On the other hand, neither Patel nor Ambedkar have any pan-Asian salience- unlike Nehru- nor could they said to have anything attractive or universal- as opposed to obstinate and parochial- in their make up. In particular, as men from Bombay Presidency, their respective interventions in the politics of Bengal was disastrous. In this, they were like Jinnah but with this difference- being Hindus from a Hindu majority province, they couldn't fuck up their own people no matter how stupid and bloody minded they were. 

Unlike Ambedkar and Jinnah, the Sardar's salience arose out of his ability to manage a grass-roots agitation with an all-India appeal. However, Nehru- who could have led something similar in UP- towered over all three precisely because he refused to do any such thing.

Still, it must be admitted that it was only Patel's supposed victory in Bardoli which enabled him to become President of Congress with a remit to turn the Party into a centralized organization under 'Commander Gandhi'. As Govind Vallabh Pant would say a few years later 'Italy has its Il Duce, Germany has its Fuhrer, India has Mahatma Gandhi'. Patel gained by being seen as the Stalin to Gandhi's Lenin.

 Since, Patel used his accession to power to back his own Patidar community in any and every quarrel they had with the Administration or with other communities, he had an incentive to always compromise or collaborate with established, socially conservative, power brokers who, in turn, could trust him precisely because he had no principles but was parochial and partisan simply.

 Patel, as President of Congress, neglected Bengal which reacted by boycotting Bombay Mill Cloth. Tagore had a hand in this. Patel, however, was unfazed. He knew the true enemy of the Bengali Hindu was the Bengali Muslim. Thus he stuck to his guns. Punjab, too, would be communally divided. Thus the Revolutionaries from both Provinces would lose salience. Already the Hindu Maratha Revolutionaries saw no point in anti-British terrorism. The Gujaratis might need to be cut down to size but otherwise the future of Hindu dominated Maharashtra was unclouded. Here, Patel's lack of charisma and willingness to compromise made him an acceptable interlocutor. He was considered a straight shooter with a bull dog tenacity- useful enough qualities but what Bardoli had shown was that the Sardar would back down from anything truly insurrectionary because this would involve his own caste surrendering power over their landless laborers.

This fierce caste loyalty and partisanship has enabled Patel to have an enduring legacy in Independent India because the Patels are one of the most successful, decent, and well respected communities in the country- or, indeed, the U.K where the current Home Secretary is a pretty lady named Priti Patel. 

On the other hand, Patels have done well precisely because they have been prepared to move out of farming. Thus Sardar Patel is a national leader- not a farmer's leader. Nations can only do well when a dwindling proportion of the population is engaged in agriculture. 

Oblivious to all this, Ram Guha writes in the Telegraph-

In 1931, the annual meeting of the Indian National Congress was held in the port city of Karachi. 

It was a special session convened for the specific purpose of empowering Gandhi to proceed to the Second Round Table Conference. There had been no meeting the previous year and there would be none in the next year.

Vallabhbhai Patel was elected president.

He was nominated by the Working Committee- which he then packed with his own loyalists. As Gandhi said 'if we expect work from Vallabhai, we must not put in anyone on the Working Committee who will strike a discordant note.' This was dictatorship. There was no election because there was no other candidate. Bose had been pushed out of the committee but Pundit Nehru- representing the biggest single Hindu block- viz. the Hindi speaking cow belt- had been placated . The context was the Gandhi-Irwin pact which dismayed the young who were already riled by the execution of Bhagat Singh. The compromise was that Congress adopted some Socialist sounding policies and showed deference to Nehru.

However, by appointing Patel as President, Congress was showing sensitivity to the needs and concerns of its Bombay financiers. 

 Early in his address, Patel remarked: “You have called a simple farmer

the man was a lawyer- that too a British barrister

 to the highest office to which any Indian can aspire. 

Though that office had been previously held by five British men, one British woman, and  would next be held by another British lady who had married an Indian.

I am conscious that your choice of me as first servant is not so much for what little I might have done, but it is the recognition of the amazing sacrifice made by Gujarat. 

Everybody else was conscious that Patel had been put in because Gandhi had done a deal to get out of jail. However, Patel- like Gandhi- was good at raising money. Money is the essence of non-violence. The Brits had refused to restore the land of those who hadn't paid their dues but- it was said- Patel had raised enough money to buy back their land. Still, Patel was tackling a genuine demand- viz. a smaller increase in rents and land taxes- whereas Gandhi focused on crazy shite.

Out of your generosity you have singled out Gujarat for that honour. But in truth every province did its utmost during… the greatest national awakening that we have known in modern times.”

Which failed completely. Gandhi put up such a miserable showing at the Second Round Table Conference that the Brits felt justified in simply locking up Congress leaders and imposing their own solution. Irwin was the last Viceroy to negotiate with Gandhi. 

In 1931, the Congress had been in existence for more than four decades. Yet in this time, it had never before elected a person born in a peasant household to head the organisation, this despite Mahatma Gandhi’s own claim – and exhortation – that “India lives in her villages.” All past presidents of the Congress had been city-bred and city-raised.

As would all future presidents. Prior to Independence, some Congress Presidents were European. Now, of course, we have Sonia Gandhi. 

On the other hand, it should be remembered that Patel's family was more prosperous than Dadhabhai Naoroji's.  Dadhabhai Naoroji's father and grandfather had been so poor that they worked as agricultural laborers on a farm in Dharampur. It was poverty which caused the family to move to the slums of Bombay. Patel's dad could pay for his education. Naoroji's father would not have been able to do so. His early death opened the way to free education for the future Westminster M.P. 

It is noteworthy that Naoroji's female descendants tended to become militant Gandhians. Unsurprisingly, that lineage has died out completely.

Vallabhbhai Patel was the first major leader of the freedom movement who came from a rural background.

But Congress had not been 'the major leader of the freedom movement'. Its Presidents had been Brits or Britain returned barristers or Anglophiles from elite backgrounds. In contrast, many of the revolutionaries came from modest, rural, families. Like his uncle, Ajit Singh, Bhagat Singh was familiar with farm work.  

Notably, it was as a mobiliser of peasants that he first made his mark on the national stage.

The peasants had mobilized themselves. Patels who had returned from East Africa were a factor. Being of the same community, Vallabhai gained salience because- unlike his elder brother who had rebelled against Gandhi and presided over the Central Legislative Assembly in 1925- he was close to Gandhi and could raise money from Hindu businessmen. 

Guha is pretending this barrister- the younger brother of another barrister who had been the Speaker of the Indian Legislative Assembly- was a simple farmer. 

 Recent discussions of Patel’s historical legacy have stressed his crucial role in the integration of the princely states and in furthering national unity in the aftermath of Independence and Partition. Those contributions were indeed substantial, but it would be a pity if an exclusive attention to them obscures his formative work as a peasant organiser.

Vallabhai followed his elder brother's footsteps in municipal politics- not peasant organization. Vithalbhai died in 1933 denouncing Gandhi and bequeathing money to Bose. Vallabhai challenged the will in the British Courts and won his case by showing his bro was a shite lawyer who couldn't even draft his own will properly. Since most Indian peasants have qualified as barristers from the Inns of Court, Guha is correct on insisting that Patel was a simple rustic farmer who entered politics as an organizer of peasants like himself.

Indeed, it is Patel as a Sardar (leader) of the kisans who seems most relevant to us today when, for more than a year now, peasants in northern India have sustained a satyagraha against the Narendra Modi government.

Very true. When Congress took power in 1937, Patel ensured that 'kisans' no longer had to pay rent or land tax. I'm joking. He did nothing of the kind. Still, it must be said that the Scheduled Castes and landless laborers did badly under Congress administrations after Independence. 

The Bardoli Satyagraha of 1928, which was led and organised by Vallabhbhai Patel, emphatically demonstrated the power and potential of non-violence in the cause of peasant self-respect. 

It could have done, if Gandhi had endorsed a nation-wide rent-strike. As it was, a small rent increase was imposed and some businessmen supplied some money to compensate those who had been kicked off their land. 

In this struggle, kisans in rural Gujarat mobilised against the oppressive agrarian policies of the colonial state. 

Which were based on the oppressive agrarian policies of indigenous states from time immemorial.

Patel’s speeches in Bardoli during the months of the satyagraha make for riveting reading, even in translation.

No they don't.

 In one, he asked the peasants to show courage and sacrifice: “What are you afraid of?” he said in Gujarati: “Confiscation? You waste thousands after marriage ceremonies, then why worry if the [government] officers take away goods worth Rs. 200 or Rs. 500?”

So the guy wasn't really working for poor peasants. He was championing the cause of rich landlords who spent lavishly on weddings. 

“In this struggle,” said the Sardar to the peasants of Bardoli, “it is better to have five persons who are ready to die instead of having five thousand sheep.” 

But the guy wasn't ready to die himself. Unlike his elder brother, he was perfectly content with Gandhi's capitulation to Irwin. This was because he had kept getting arrested. Jail isn't very nice. 

In another speech, Patel sarcastically observed that “the government has kept a steam-roller to suppress the farmers of Gujarat.”

Fuck were rural peasants supposed to know about 'steam-rollers'? These operated only in the cities.

In a third, Patel remarked that “a pro-government newspaper says that Gujarat is suffering from Gandhi fever. Let’s hope that everybody gets such a fever.” 

Starting with elder brotherji. Then that old fool won't leave money to that damned Bengali Bose. 

A police report commented, with some alarm, that Vallabhbhai was consulting “the leaders of almost every village in the [Bardoli] taluka”.

So the guy wasn't actually doing any grass-roots mobilization at all. He was merely consulting with leaders. 

Supplementing the archival records of the colonial State are the old microfilms of that splendid (but now sadly defunct) newspaper, The Bombay Chronicle. In the last week of April 1928, the Chronicle reported as follows on a kisan sabha: “At a cultivators’ meeting at Varad yesterday night enthusiastic scenes of devotion and worship showered upon Mr. Vallabhbhai Patel were witnessed. Women dressed in khadi, with garlands of hand-spun yarn and offerings of flowers, cocoanut, red powder and rice were paying their respects and making obeisance in unending chains. Songs composed by pious matrons among women-folk, in some places altered to suit the present occasion, invoking God to bless them in their holy struggle for truth were recited by about five hundred women, which gave a religious turn to the congregation consisting of about 2,500 souls.”

What Guha isn't saying is that the Swaminarayan sect played a big role in this.

In August, the Chronicle reported on a settlement between the satyagrahis and the state, whereby the government agreed to an enquiry “by a Judicial Officer associated with a Revenue Officer the opinion of the former prevailing in all disputed points”. The state released all satyagrahis from jail and reinstated village headmen who had resigned.

Did rent go down or up? It went up but not by much. 

In his book on the Bardoli Satyagraha published in 1929, Mahadev Desai writes that Sardar Patel’s “apotheosis of the peasant has a twofold basis – his keen sense of the very high place of the peasant in a true social economy, and his poignant anguish at the very low state to which he has been reduced”.

Patels were already doing well and have continued to rise decade by decade. Swaminarayan Temples are now held in the highest regard by all Hindus. As a Bihari shopkeeper informed me, they are very clean... but still very auspicious and holy nonetheless. 

 “He is the producer, the others are parasites,” said Patel of the Indian peasant.

Patel, as a lawyer, was one such parasite. 

The satyagraha succeeded in Bardoli, writes Desai, because the Sardar taught his fellow peasants two fundamental lessons – the lesson of fearlessness, and the lesson of unity.

But his elder brother had not been able to teach him either lesson. Gandhi should not have got scared and surrendered in 1922. Hindu-Muslim unity should not have been sacrificed on the altar of a purely private scruple. 

Still, Vallabhai had good reason to resent his brother. He had the last laugh by challenging his will and rising to a higher position by his devotion to the Maha-crank. 

Almost a hundred years separate the peasant struggle that Patel led in Bardoli with the kisan andolan of today.

More than two hundred miles separate Bardoli, where there is no farmer's agitation today, from kisan andoloan's nuisances today. Being pro-active in locking up nutters has helped.

 Yet the parallels are hard to miss. 
Gujarat is rising up. Its farmers are sensible. The Jat belt is going down the toilet. Drug addiction and gun crime are rampant among the younger generation. Sooner or later, there will be a fiscal squeeze and everything they have fought for will simply disappear. 

On the one side, the role of women in sustaining the movement,
e.g. the 26 year old activist from West Bengal who travelled to a protest site and was gangraped by members of the 'Kisan Social Army' before dying of COVID

 and the quiet heroism of the satyagrahis, who have braved winter, summer, monsoon and a pandemic and kept their struggle going.

Sadly, some can't keep their struggle going coz they get jailed for gang-rape. 

 On the other side, the attempt by the state to stall and delay, to divide the movement, and to spread falsehoods about its leaders.

What the Bardoli agitation shows is that there is no need to do any such thing. Jail the trouble-makers and the problem disappears.

Thus, in a note dated July 28, 1928, the Bombay government claimed that Patel had “kept Gandhi out of the movement … because he does not want it to be controlled by a man who would stick at blood-shed and who would cloud the issue by laying stress on spinning, untouchability and so on.” The report went on to make the staggeringly libellous remark that “Vallabbhai [sic] himself is fond of the bottle and in many ways not unlike Rasputin”.

Why was this claim made? The answer is that, while building his law-practice, Patel had gained an unsavory reputation as a man who would take any case and resort to any type of dirty trick. One of the mildest stories told about him was that he had got a bootlegger released after demanding an examination of the seized bottles of liquor- which were found to contain water. Apparently Patel had discovered that the Magistrate was in the habit of drinking up the evidence in such cases. 

On the other hand, it must be said that the British police tended to believe that brothers must always be in league. They were putting forward the notion that the Patel brothers, like the Bose brothers, were dangerous Revolutionaries. However, in Vallabhai's case they were wrong. The guy genuinely hated his older brother. 

Back in the 1920s, the collaborators with the raj included Brahmin revenue officials and hired goons brought in from outside Gujarat.

No. The collaborators with the Raj were the Princes and Zamindars. Officials were employees. Someone who is hired for a wage is not a collaborator- he is an servant. 

 Now, in the 2020s, it is the police and the godi media that aid the postcolonial state, the first in suppressing the peasants, the second in distorting their message and defaming their leaders.

Whereas Guha tells stupid lies because he can do nothing else. He is the Huccha Venkat of Indian historiography. 

Indeed, in the range of repressive methods used against the farmers – water cannons, the installation of metal spikes on roads, internet shutdowns, hate-filled propaganda – the Modi-Shah regime has exceeded even the White Man’s raj.

Good. The White Man's raj was successful. So was the White Woman- Sonia's- Raj till about 2012 when the Leftists prevented Manmohan from carrying forward needful reforms like the Farm Bill. 

Vallabhbhai Patel’s early biographer, Narhari Parikh, quotes him as telling the peasants: “Remember that you who are prepared to lose your all for the sake of truth must win in the end. Those people who have joined hands with the officers will regret their action.”

Patel joined hands with the officers. If he hadn't he wouldn't be known as the 'Iron Man of India'.  He'd have sunk without trace.

 As a follower of Gandhi, Patel hoped that the force of truth and non-violence would in the end compel the government to see reason.

He himself lied his head off so as to overturn his elder brother's will. 

 “There will be a satisfactory settlement,” he said in one speech, “only when the government’s attitude changes.

The reverse happened. In the end, Nehru and Patel were whimpering and pleading with Mountbatten to stay on a bit longer. 

 When there is a change of heart, we shall immediately find that bitterness and hostility, which now move the Government to action, have been replaced by sympathy and understanding.”

There was no 'sympathy and understanding' between Vallabhai and Vithalbhai.

Today’s kisan leaders have been animated by the same spirit of hope, 

and greed not to mention the chance to do a bit of gang-raping

although past experience suggests that sentiments of sympathy and understanding may be even more foreign to this regime than they were to the British.

In other words, it will prevail.

I shall end this column as I began it, by quoting from Sardar Patel’s Congress Presidential Address of 1931. Here, while speaking of the great national upsurge led by Gandhi, he remarked that “it is a fact beyond challenge that India has given a singular proof to the world that mass non-violence is no longer the idle dream of a visionary or a mere human longing. 

What was the result of this tamasha? The British found they could impose the Government of India Act of 1935 because Gandhi had united all non-Congress forces- including Sikhs and non-Brahmin Madrasis- in demanding that the Hindu majority of the country be rendered a permanent minority. 

Sadly, the Americans refused to let Britain keep India- indeed, they would have handed Hong Kong to the KMT if their troops had got to it first- and so Gandhi lost salience. Patel then showed that he was a Hindu, not a virtue signaling windbag. 

It is a solid fact capable of infinite possibilities for a humanity which is groaning, for want of faith, beneath the weight of violence of which it has become almost a fetish. The greatest proof that our movement was non-violent lies in the fact that the peasants falsified the fears of our worst sceptics. They were described as very difficult to organise for non-violent action and it is they who stood the test with a bravery and an endurance that was beyond all expectations. Women and children too contributed their great share in the fight. They responded to the call by instinct and played a part which we are too near the event adequately to measure. And I think it would be not at all wrong to give them the bulk of the credit for preservation of non-violence and the consequent success of the movement.”

What success? Rents went up. True, an Indian- Jayakar- had wanted a 30 per cent increase but this was greatly scaled down after a White official investigated the matter- but the upshot was that a 'no-rent' strike ended with higher rents being paid. The bigger problem of 'Hali' (serfdom of Scheduled Castes) was not touched. There was a good reason for farmer's agitations to collapse because the Government could always call in the landless laborers to cultivate forfeited land. In other words, a Revolution from the top would have destroyed the vehicle to class power of the indigenous middle class. 

These words of 1931 make for moving reading in 2021, when, once again, peasants in India have offered dignified and resolute resistance to an unfeeling and possibly uncaring administration.

Guha has been offering resistance to the administration for a long time. But, because he writes nothing but stupid lies, we can't say his resistance is dignified. Perhaps this is because he has been gang-raped. It would be very unfeeling and uncaring of the BJP if they did not inquire into the state of Guha's anus. At the very least, he should be offered suppositories of various types. I propose that he be sent a complete set of 'Socioproctological Investigations' (purchasable from Amazon) for insertion into his rectum. It is bound to have a soothing effect. 

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