War and Ahimsa: Gandhi on Kashmir

September 1, 2020

I had compiled the writings and speeches of Gandhi on Kashmir from the time of invasion by the Afridi tribesmen from Pakistan in October 1947 till his death in January 1948. I wrote an introduction to it, which appeared in the Tamizhini emagazine in October, 2019.

I am now publishing the compilation along with the introduction as a free ebook on Google Drive.

The book is also available on the www.mkgandhi.org site and can be downloaded from here.

The Tamil (print) version of the book was published by Yaavarum Publishers last year (October, 2019) as போரும் அகிம்சையும்: காஷ்மீர் குறித்து காந்தி.

Excerpts from the book:

We can also observe some common threads emerging from these speeches.

Firstly, he emphasized that people’s opinion was paramount, be it in Kashmir or other territories, and neither India nor Pakistan should force them to accede. Gandhi supported the accession of the Muslim majority State of Kashmir to India, more because of Sheikh Abdullah than the Maharaja. He believed Sheikh Abdullah had the backing of all Kashmiris. “If it had been only the Maharaja who had wanted to accede to the Indian Union, I could never support such an act. The Union Government agreed to the accession for the time being because both the Maharaja and Sheikh Abdullah, who is the representative of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, wanted it. Sheikh Abdullah came forward because he claims to represent not only the Muslims but the entire masses in Kashmir.” [Nov 11, 1947]

When it came to listening to the will of the people, he thought it was essential and did not base his principle on time, place and gains.

Secondly, Gandhi was greatly impressed by the unity displayed by the Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims in Kashmir. About an earlier Sultan of Kashmir, he had said, “In days gone by when, accompanied by Hindus, Jainuluddin set out on a pilgrimage to Kashi, he got repaired all derelict temples he passed on the way” [June 12, 1947]. He saw Kashmir as the place where the idea of partition will be proven wrong. He could have thought of the accession of Kashmir to India as a victory for secular thinking. “The poison which has spread amongst us should never have spread. Through Kashmir that poison might be removed from us. If they make such a sacrifice in Kashmir to remove that poison, then our eyes also would be opened,” he said. “It is my prayer that in the present darkness in the country Kashmir may become the star that provides light,” he hoped and prayed [Dec 29, 1947]. He was greatly distressed when the Hindus and Sikhs attacked Muslims in Jammu.

Thirdly, it is for this same reason, his admiration for its secularist nature, that he opposed any suggestion to partition Jammu and Kashmir. It is evident that he thought partitioning Jammu and Kashmir along religious lines tantamounts to India accepting the principle of partition. “…Jammu and Kashmir is one State. It cannot be partitioned. If we start the process of partitioning where is it going to end? It is enough and more than enough that India has been partitioned into two. If we partition Kashmir, why not other States?“ he asked [Dec 25, 1947]. This was his strong position.


Notes on CAA/NRC, Kashmir

January 17, 2020

(My posts in FB/Twitter on CAA/NRC)

Religion is no test of nationality, but a personal matter between man and his God. In the sense of nationality they are Indians first and Indians last, no matter what religion they profess.

– Gandhi (Harijan, 29-6-1947)


It seemed relevant when I posted this 6 years ago, and sadly, even more pertinent now.

This probably is a great antidote to the Godse-eulogizing seen on FB and elsewhere.

Ram Manohar Lohia, not exactly an unquestioning acolyte of Gandhi, and a bitter critic of Nehru, on Hindu fanaticism and Partition :

‘Opposition of fanatical Hinduism to Partition did not and could not make any sense, for one of the forces that partitioned the country was precisely this Hindu fanaticism. It was like the murderer recoiling from his crime, after it had been done.

Let there be no mistake about it. Those who have shouted loudest of Akhand Bharat, the present Jan Sangh and its predecessors of the curiously un-Hindu spirit of Hinduism, have helped Britain and the Muslim League partition the country, if the consequences of their acts and not their motivations are taken into account. They did nothing whatever to bring the Muslim close to the Hindu within a single nation. They did almost everything to estrange them from each other. Such estrangement is the root cause of Partition. To espouse the philosophy of estrangement and at the same time, the concept of undivided India is an act of grievous self-deception, only if we assume that those who do so are honest men.
[…] The opponent of Muslims in India is the friend of Pakistan.


‘We are not a nation built just by laws, or even by just laws, but by concord, no matter how difficult the times.’

An important, balanced essay by Sanjoy Hazarika to help understand the historical context and the current turmoil in Assam.


(16-Dec-2019)

When students across the world are going on climate strikes and fighting for their futures, our students have been forced to fight for their present. It doesn’t matter who is affected and who is not. This fear is real. The rage and tears are real. The fight is for everyone. This government has bared its fangs. So has everyone who supports it, directly or indirectly.


(19-Dec-2019)

Modi supporters need more saving from Modi-Shah than Muslims. They can only delay or deny citizenship to Muslims. But, Modi supporters, they are stripping you of your humanity. Save yourselves.


What would have happened/would happen if India had a state religion?

The statement of objects and reasons as given in the CAB, 2019 inadvertently paints this picture [Bold letters, mine]:

“The constitutions of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh provide for a specific state religion. AS A RESULT, many persons belonging to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian communities have faced persecution on grounds of religion in those countries. Some of them also have fears about such persecution in their day-to-day life where right to practice, profess and propagate their religion has been obstructed and restricted.”

That’s precisely why this act must be opposed.


Any of you who want to give the benefit of doubt to the BJP government should watch these videos of Amit Shah on this link. (https://scroll.in/…/who-is-linking-citizenship-act-to-nrc-h…)

He cleverly plays with the words refugees and infiltrators, and often openly spews hatred. How can only Muslims from abroad (and those who can’t prove their citizenship) be infiltrators while all the rest are refugees?

The link between CAA and NRC is not an imaginary fear of the protestors. It is the stated objective of this government.

I am seeing BJP supporters updating their profile picture on FB with the slogan ‘I support CAB and NRC”. Not just CAA but ‘CAA and NRC’. In their minds the core BJP supporters are pretty clear on what their party is trying to achieve with this devious act.

It is not about inclusion. It is about exclusion. There is no doubt about it either for the protestors or for the core supporters. Those purporting to be in the middle are the ones who are attributing a certain goodness to this government, which it doesn’t even pretend to possess.


Democracy is as much about dialogue, disagreement, dissent, civil disobedience and protest as it is about voting once in 5 years or supporting the government. Any government which suppresses dissent with brute force is just fearful and nowhere close to being courageous or democratic.


11-Jan-2020

The animated movie ‘The Point’ from the 1970s, now showing on Mubi, is a good, light philosophical musical for children and adults.

It is about a village where everyone/everything is pointed. A boy is born without a point. He rubs the conceited Count of the village the wrong way. The Count brandishes an old law which provides for expelling anybody without a point, and the boy is banished to a pointless forest as per that law. His faithful pointed dog is also banished for being a traitor in supporting him. The boy returns to show the pointlessness of the law.

A good way to initiate a discussion on CAA/NRC with children.


2-Jan-2020

It is repeatedly said that NO Indian Citizen will be affected by CAA-NRC-NPR. A case can be made to show how all Indians will be affected. But really, should it matter only if Indian citizens are affected?

Even if not a single Indian citizen is affected but it discriminates against a section of immigrants, it should be opposed. Why is it so hard to get this?


Why only Hindus? Let us follow due process and help as many as we can irrespective of their religion.

Pakistan has declared themselves as Islamic. We haven’t declared ourselves as Hindu. We can criticize what they do, we should influence them on how they treat their citizens; but within our country we have to treat all people, whether they are our citizens or immigrants or refugees, equally. I think it is a fair demand.


Yes, there are no simple solutions, especially in Assam where the problem is not religious. It needs patience, statesmanship and a participative approach. Which is why many people don’t trust this blatantly partisan government to do the best for everyone.


Combined with NRC, CAA is totally discriminatory, especially in the immediate context of Assam. As it is, we had an almost unsolvable problem in Assam, which demanded great statesmanship and patience, and not hasty laws and diktats. This complicates the situation there. And it could be replicated everywhere.

But by itself also, CAA is discriminatory. Persecution can be based on race, colour, religion, sect, language, caste or even ideology. To have a law only for religious persecution and to choose only specific neighbours and to leave out only a specific religion from the scope, beats me. Once a certain law is enacted, it becomes a precedent for future laws.


15-Jan-2020

Too much media attention is on fixing the blame for JNU attacks on young students from ABVP. They could be mere tools. It does not help explain why the police were mute spectators and facilitators. Exposing the role of govt/police is more important.


9-Jan-2020

If there is normalcy in Kashmir, you don’t have to spend so much time and money in taking diplomats to Kashmir to showcase it. Just turn on the internet, and they can see it for themselves from wherever they are.


10-Jan-2020

Free Kashmir is ultimately about the right to self-determination. If internet and pizza are what they want, any govt would give it to them. But is that why Kashmiris have been shedding blood? If we have the courage to put this up on a placard, have the courage to own it up.


10-Jan-2020

Indian SC has delegated the responsibility of stopping the accused to the victims, and that of determining the sentence to the convicts.


Collective conscience and capital punishment

January 17, 2020

What does the collective conscience of India feel about the (accidental?) arrest of the DSP, Davinder Singh, and Naveed Babu, another ex-policeman and alleged Hizbul militant, who has been accused of killing non-Kashmiri migrants after withdrawal of 370?

Apparently, Afzal Guru had mentioned about the torture he suffered at the hands of Davinder Singh, and how Davinder Singh forced him to take the terrorists who attacked the parliament to Delhi and rent a flat. There is a detailed interview with him in The Caravan on this.

I have no idea if Afzal Guru was a willing participant or forced by Davinder Singh. But he made such an accusation, and now with the arrest of Davinder Singh, the accusation cannot be brushed aside as nonchalantly as it was earlier.

Was/is Davinder Singh acting against the establishment or for the establishment, we may never know. It is as murky as it can get.

Davinder still has a chance to make his defence. Mohammad Afzal doesn’t.

This is one of the reasons why I oppose capital punishment and police encounters and mob lynching, whatever be the nature of the crime and whoever is the accused.


Halfway to Freedom – Margaret Bourke-White

September 6, 2019

I came across this photo essay with some lovely photographs, and remembered that Margaret Bourke-White had interviewed Gandhi on 30th January, 1948. I then read her book, ‘Halfway to Freedom’.

This book, wonderful at times, gives insightful first-hand sketches on various key moments in Indian history. She saw Jinnah announcing direct action, and visited Calcutta after it erupted as a result of it; she photographed Gandhi and Jinnah and details the difficulties she encountered. She meets poor peasants, dines with the Maharajas, zamindars and the industrialists, and ridicules the idea of trusteeship; she also directly questions Gandhi and Birla on it. She saw the partition of Punjab and the raids on Kashmir by tribesmen & the spirited defense put up by the Kashmiris armed with sticks and clubs till the Indian forces arrived, and wrote a glowing account of Sheikh Abdullah and his People’s government which was, she says, at that time, far ahead of the Indian government in taking progressive steps.

After visiting Baramula, she also narrates the stirring story of Mir Maqbool Sherwani, ‘a young Muslim shopkeeper who had sacrificed his life rather than recant in his creed of religious tolerance. His martyrdom had taken place almost under the shadow of the convent walls, and in the memory of the devoted Kashmiris he was fast assuming the stature of a saint. ‘ Sherwani was crucified after he refused to shout “Pakistan zindabad: Sher-i-Kashmir-murdabad.” Margaret adds, ‘Once more Sherwani cried out, “Victory to Hindu-Muslim unity,” and fourteen tribesmen shot bullets into his body.’

In the book that was published in 1949, she says this about RSS:
“The RSS insisted it was a nonpolitical body; however there was no doubt that its young men absorbed with their glasses of milk strong doses of what they called “awakening race spirit”. I had managed to get my hands on some of their secret literature, and each blazing line about Hindu supremacy reminded me of ideas I had heard in Germany during the thirties when rising fascism fed its master-race theory to the Hitler youth. With the R.S.S. stand against ‘wrong notions of democracy’ and their belief that Muslims should be treated as foreigners ‘wholly subordinate to the Hindu nation,’ there seemed a very real danger that this youth movement might develop the same fascist and totalitarian tendencies we had witnessed in the West, and act against minorities as the Nazis did against the Jews.”

When Gandhi undertook his last fast in January, 1948, Bourke-While was there for almost the entire duration, being amazed by how the initial lukewarm, indifferent response gradually converted to an irresistible force.

“The whole nation seemed to have shared God’s gift, Gandhiji’s fast had stirred up a fount of emotion and great soul-searching. Although sporadic outbreaks continued to occur, especially in explosive border areas or where the greatest concentrations showed only too bitterly that problems remain unsolved, Gandhiji’s heroic risking of life had wrought profound effects. The entire country had been stirred to its foundations, and the people bent their will toward peace. “

She seemed to have admired Nehru; Patel, not as much.

When she went to photograph Jinnah, she found his appearance to be ‘tortured’, and speculated on the causes:

“…my dismay at the dyed fur was dwarfed by my shock at Jinnah’s changed appearance – the unsteady step, listless eyes, the white-knuckled, nervously clenched hands. […] Later, reflecting on what I had seen, I decided that his desperation was due to causes far deeper than anxiety over Pakistan’s territorial and economic difficulties. I think the tortured appearance of Mr.Jinnah was an indication that, in these final months of his life, he was adding up his own balance sheet. Analytical, brilliant, and no bigot, he knew what he had done. Like Doctor Faustus, he had made a bargain from which he could never be free. During the heat of the struggle he had been willing to call on all the devilish forces of superstition, and now that his new nation had been achieved the bigots were in the position of authority. The leaders of orthodoxy and a few ‘old families’ had the final word and, to perpetuate their power, were seeing to it that the people were held in the deadening grip of religious superstition. “

Here are some more interesting excerpts from the book. Pdf version is available here.

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No eyes for Kashmir

August 26, 2019

The new wave of oppression in Kashmir is into its fourth week. Presumably, a vast majority of the people of India, especially the educated, are cheering. The press council, the bar council and the medical council are supporting. The courts are waiting and watching. The local leaders are behind bars. The opposition leaders are not let in.

It’s just shameful. Unless the consciences of the Indian people are touched by the plight of the Kashmiris, and we say, not in our names, the rulers will be emboldened to do worse.

An IAS officer has resigned in protest this week. Good for him. Why should honest government servants hang on to a system, which they cannot reform?

Non-cooperation with evil is needed in these days. The same question will soon be asked of each of us. What were we going when our country was crushing Kashmir? What will we do if it gets worse? Continue to hide behind the bogey of Pakistan?

At the peak of partition atrocities, Gandhi said,
“He asks me to see what is happening in Pakistan and suggests that we should do the same here. That we should take revenge I do not agree. We cannot burn the houses of the Muslims. However humble those houses may be they are as dear to their owners as the palaces of millionaires may be to them. It is in these houses that they live. When a Muslim has to go to Pakistan he suffers.”

A million and a half people were out on the roads in Hong Kong, seeking to protect their autonomy, but also outraged by the blinding of an eye of a single person, making it an important symbol of their protests. They do so knowing fully well a Tiananmen Square awaits them soon enough.

Have we become so morally blind that blinding of so many eyes with pellets has no effect on us? Eyes of children, eyes of teenagers, eyes of stone throwers, eyes of bystanders, whatever eyes come in the way. We continue to insist they are our countrymen; is this how we will treat our countrymen, let alone other people?

We are now doing , what Tolstoy said, ‘I sit on a man’s back, choking him and making him carry me, and yet assure myself and others that I am very sorry for him and wish to ease his lot by all possible means – except by getting off his back.’ Except that we have stopped feeling sorry for him.

[Pictures from Hong Kong, so that we can sleep well thinking everything is normal in Kashmir.]

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