September 25 is a very important date for all Bharatiya Janata Party workers. It is the Birth Anniversary of our Party’s principal ideologue since its launching as Bharatiya Jana Sangh in 1951, namely, that of Pandit Deendayal Upadhayaya. The party was founded by Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerji. The Jana Sangh contested the First General Elections of 1952 under the leadership of Dr. Mookerji, who had meanwhile nominated Deendayalji as the Party’s first General Secretary. And as General Secretary, Upadhyayaji put together a formidable team of organizers who under the guidance of Dr. Mookerji, laid a firm foundation for the party in all states.
Later in 1952, Dr. Mookerji convened the first All India session of the Party at Kanpur. It was while working with Deendayalji for the preparations of this Kanpur conference that Syama Prasadji discovered how talented and versatile Deendayalji was both as a thinker, as well as an ace organizer. One of those days he remarked: “If only I had two or three Deendayals with me I am sure I would be able to change the map of this country!”
For the title of this blog, I have been inspired by the title of the best book I have read on India by a foreign journalist. He is a journalist whom I have known personally for many years and whom I have always admired. I am referring to Mark Tully, BBC’s correspondent in India and South Asia for 25 years. He was among the 29 foreign journalists whose entry into India was banned during the Emergency. After retirement from the BBC he has settled down in India and lives in New Delhi.
The book I am talking about bears the title “No Full Stops in India.” The book is a compilation of episodes Mark Tully has been witness to, while functioning as a correspondent in India – episodes which have made him acutely alive to the fact that the elite of India is very far removed from Indianness.
When I started writing blogs in January 2009 my second blog was captioned “Understanding Genuine Secularism”. The blog drew a lot from Mark Tully’s Foreword to a Coffee Table pictorial book by Amit Mehra. The Book’s title was INDIA: A Timeless Celebration. I do not propose to repeat all that. It is already part of my book of blogposts, AS I SEE IT.
What I liked best in the book I have referred to today and which inspired the caption of today’s blog. is his own Introduction. In this, Tully quotes India’s second President, Sarvepalli Radhakrishan saying in a book on the Upanishads: “The characteristic genius of the Indian mind is not to shake the beliefs of the common man but to lead them by stages to the understanding of the deeper philosophical meaning behind their beliefs”. Mark Tully adds: “But the Western World and the Indian elite who emulate it ignore the genius of the Indian mind. They want to write a full stop in a land where there are no full stops.”
I have seen my party evolve very systematically since 1951. Apart from campaigning continuously without a break in all the General Elections held in the country since 1952 I have undertaken six countrywide yatras. The first of these yatras was the Somnath to Ayodhya yatra which commenced on September 25, 1990. The yatra was to conclude at Ayodhya on October 30. But it was interrupted by the Bihar Government then headed by Laloo Prasad Yadav, at Samastipur. On October 23, I was arrested and transported to Massanjore on the border of Bihar and West Bengal. That brought about the end of V.P. Singh’s government ― thanks only to Laloo Prasad.
My choice of Somnath as the starting point of this first yatra had a historical background, both of mediaeval history as well as modern history.
Swami Vivekananda has at one place referred to mediaeval iconoclasm in these words: “Temple after temple was broken down by the foreign conqueror, but no sooner had the wave passed than the spire of the temple rose up again. Some of these old temples of South India, and those like Somnath in Gujarat, will teach you volumes of wisdom which will give you a keener insight into the history of the race than any amount of books.”
Let me also cite Dr. B.R. Ambedkar in the same context. In his book titled Pakistan or The Partition of India, Dr. Ambedkar refers to the raids on Somnath and quotes Al’Utbi, the historian of Mahmood Ghazni: “He demolished idol temples and established Islam. He captured…. cities and destroyed the idolaters, gratifying Muslims. He then returned home and promulgated accounts of the victories obtained for Islam….and vowed that every year he would undertake a holy war against Hind.”
Let me now speak about Somnath’s recent history.
Somnath is located in Junagarh State in Saurashtra. It had a 80 per cent Hindu population. But its Nawab was a Muslim. On the eve of independence, before Sardar Patel had even started his process of Integration of States, the Nawab announced accession of Junagarh to Pakistan! The people reacted in anger and publicly disowned the Nawab. In a mammoth public meeting a reputed Congress leader, Samaldas Gandhi, was declared head of a ‘parallel government’.
Soon thereafter, the Nawab fled to Pakistan. Samaldas Gandhi then sent a telegram to Sardar Patel that Junagarh had acceded to India. In his book Pilgrimage to Freedom, Dr. K.M. Munshi recalls that he was with Sardar Patel when the telegram arrived. Sardar handed it over to Munshi and exclaimed: “Jai Somnath!”
In November, 1947, Sardar Patel received a rousing welcome at Junagarh. In a huge public meeting he declared that the Government of independent India would reconstruct the historic temple at the same site where it was in ancient times, and reinstall the jyotirlingam. The move was blessed by Gandhiji, and formally approved by Nehruji’s Cabinet. Gandhiji’s only condition was that the construction cost should be borne by the people and not by Government. So a Trust was created which raised the necessary funds. In December 1950, Sardar Patel who was due to open it after its reconstruction passed away. So the formal inauguration was done by Rashtrapati Rajendra Prasad, even though Pandit Nehru asked him not to do so.
Describing Somnath Temple as a symbol of national faith, the President said: “By rising from its ashes again, this temple of Somnath is proclaiming to the world that no man and no power in the world can destroy that for which people have boundless faith and love in their hearts…Today, our attempt is not to rectify history. Our only aim is to proclaim anew our attachment to the faith, convictions and to the values on which our religion has rested since immemorial ages.”
If September 25 of 1990 was important for us in the BJP because of this Somnath to Ayodhya yatra, the same date this year, that is just last month, will always remain etched in our memories because of the all time record number of party activists who assembled at Bhopal, and that too activists of just one state – Madhya Pradesh.
On the stage were all central leaders of the Party. Assembled at the Bhopal Jambooree Maidan in front of them were as many as exactly 6,49,702 party workers, who had formally registered themselves for this unique conclave, with averagely at least 10 drawn from each of the 53,896 polling stations spread over 51 districts of the State. It is what I witnessed this day in Bhopal that made me sincerely feel that for BJP, there are no full stops.
Preparations for this ‘Karyakarta Mahakumbh’ had been going on for several months. These days, as part of the preparations for the coming elections – Assemblies and Lok Sabha – massive rallies are being organised all over the country. But they are public rallies. The Bhopal conclave planned by Shivraj Singh Chauhan and Narendra Singh Tomar was a karyakarta sammelan. The public was not invited. I doubt if any other political party in the country has even the capability of achieving anything of this kind. Someone rightly remarked: No one could have conceived a better tribute to Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya’s memory than what Madhya Pradesh has done this year.
It is just a happy coincidence that in the schedule of polls announced by the Chief Election Commissioner last week, polling for Madhya Pradesh has been fixed for November 25, exactly two months after this historic, record breaking event.
Overtly, this first yatra of mine, Somnath to Ayodhya seemed only to fortify the VHP objective of having a Rama Temple at Ayodhya. But for the BJP, the campaign had two clear political objectives also:
(a) to project a debate between genuine secularism; and pseudo secularism and
(b) to strengthen the cause of cultural nationalism.
I have referred in today’s blog to Mark Tully’s comments in an earlier blog on genuine secularism. Let me quote what he has written in his “No Full Stops in India” about culture and religion.
Mark Tully writes:
“The best way to destroy a people’s culture and identity is to undermine its religion and its language. We, the British, did that as India’s rulers and we continue to do that as part of the dominant culture of the world now. It is true that the British rulers of India were very cautious about Hinduism, especially after the Mutiny. Unlike some colonial powers, we did not attempt to convert India to Christianity. But we did create the impression that our religion was superior to Hinduism. As a child in Calcutta, I remember being told that Muslims were superior to Hindus because at least they did not worship idols.
At independence, India adopted the contemporary Western view that common sense dictates that religion be confined entirely to the personal domain and kept out of all public life – to put it at its kindest. What in fact the majority of people in the West have done is to consign religion to the rubbish bin. ‘Modern’ Indians inevitably follow our example, and anyone who does not believe in keeping religion out of all forms of public life is regarded as ‘communal’ – that is to say, totally biased in favour of his own religious community. The elite’s so-called secularism inevitably degenerates into disrespect for religion. But the vast majority of Indians, who do not enjoy the benefits of modernity, still believe that religion is one of the most – if not the most – important factors in their lives.”
October 8, 2013