India, Gandhi, Urdu, Hindi, British Monarchs, and other stuff

July 11, 2006 at 6:38 am (History, Languages, Military, Religion, South Asia)

Warning: This posts criticizes Gandhi. Please do not proceed if you think you might be offended.

This long rambling post has been divided into six sections for your convenience. I don’t really expect anyone to wade through this stuff. It comprises many, many issues: the origin of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute between Pakistan and India, criticism of Gandhi, criticism of the importance given to Indian civil disobedience, comments on Hindi, comments on the Pashtuns, comments on British monarchs, pictures of two British important figures, and two lists of The Queen’s dominions. So, read what you want! (I apologize in advance if the language stuff is boring.)

Section One: Introduction.
At one point, Tushar D. made a statment criticizing Gandhi in the Ace of Spades HQ. As a fellow South Asian, I would have to agree. I’d actually go further than he did. (I tried to find the original post wherein he criticized Gandhi in speaking about his assassins, but I can’t find it. Suffice it to say, his comment was repeated in this thread, and Tushar D. gave a number of explications. Good job, Tushar. I would like to add that I am not a right-wing South Asian, just that I have a more nuanced view of South Asian history and politics besides the one parroted by official sources.

Gandhi was useful insofar as he captivated the people’s adulation and attention. People saw in him a quasi-religious leader, divinely-inspired, to justify the independence/self-rule (svaraj) movement.

Tushar specifically criticized Gandhi’s protest over the nascent Indian government’s decision to withhold certain money from Pakistan, which invaded Kashmir.

Section Two: Jammu and Kashmir.
Now, some perspective is needed. When the British hammered out their plan for an independent India and the creation of Pakistan for Muslim-majority areas, they gave the princely states (of which there were many) a choice: join India or Pakistan. Jammu and Kashmir was a princely state, whose ruler, Maharaja Hari Singh, was Hindu. He didn’t want to join either Pakistan or India. He stalled the process by signing an agreement with Pakistan that would allow him to operate independent of Pakistan, and tried to sign a similar agreement with India, but India refused. Evidenty, there were revolts by Muslims in the Poonch district of Jammu and Kashmir. These Muslims wanted to be united with Pakistan, the Muslim state. Pashtuns from the northwest region of South Asia (mainly in the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) of Pakistan) marched to support this revolt. This was followed by the entry of Pakistanis Rangers (either of which could be seen as an official invasion by Pakistan). Maharaja Hari Singh requested assistance from India. What happened next is disputed: some say the Maharaja allowed India to annex his state, some say he didn’t. In any case, India claimed the Maharaja allowed India to annex Jammu and Kashmir. Soon after, Indian troops entered Jammu and Kashmir. This move was staunchly opposed by Pakistani and Muslim Kashmiri authorities: they refused to recognize the Maharaja’s alleged relinquishment of Jammu and Kashmir to India. To end to dispute, the United Nations called for a plebescite for the people of Jammu and Kashmir to decide whether they will join India, join Pakistan, or be independent. To this date, this plebescite has not occured; both Pakistan and India have found various reasons not to hold it or to stipulate conditions before they would allow a plebescite.

Pakistani oral history says that the evil, self-interested Hindu monarch obviously threw his lot in with India despite his subjects best interests and desires, and that as a monarch of a Muslim-majority state he had no authority to act on his subjects’ behalf. India tricked/bribed/convinced the Hindu Maharaja to side with India and thus allow India to wrongly occupy Jammu and Kashmir. The people of Jammu and Kashmir wanted to unite with Pakistan, hence Pakistan’s unceasing efforts to throw off the unjust yoke of Indian rule and reunite the Muslim Kashmiris with their Muslim Pakistani brothers and sisters.

Another version, by more reasonable people, states that the Maharaja was planning to join Pakistan; when Pakistan acted preemptively and invaded Jammu and Kashmir, the Maharaja became incensed at Pakistan’s presumptuousness and arrogance; in retaliation he threw his lot in with India, which was more than willing to move in and expell the Pakistani invaders. (Again, this version blames India’s intervention on the Hindu Maharaja’s capriciousness.)

Section Three: Diversions – Language, Good-looking British Men, and Styles.
Sidenote 1: In Urdu, we are wont to refer to Pashtuns as “Pathan” (pronounced like “putt-taan”) (پٹھان/paṭʰān). This word is practically impossible for non-native speakers of Urdu/Hindi to pronounce, so I am glad there is a word that is easier for everyone to pronounce to refer to these people. They refer to themselves as “Pakhtun” (in Pashto: پښتون); “Pakhtun” in Urdu is “پختون”. Pashto/Pakhto/Pathan has two “kh” sounds, one which uses the letter for this sound in Arabic, Persian, and Urdu (“خ”) and one which uses a letter that resembles the Arabic/Persian/Urdu sheen (“ښ” ,(“ش”. Pashtun in Urdu is “پشتون”.

Sidenote 2: Of interest to my gay readers, here is a picture of Louis, Lord Mountbatten (officially at the time of his death, The Right Honourable Louis Mountbatten, 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma; he was rumored to be bisexual), who was Viceroy of India in 1947 (representing King George VI of The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and Emperor of India) and Governor-General of India (representing King George VI, King of The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland; the title “Emperor of India” was dropped when South Asia was granted independence) from 1947 to 1948.
Louis, Lord Mountbatten

They may find these pictures of King George VI to be interesting too:
His Majesty King George VI
His Majesty King George VI, 2

Sidenote 3: I find it interesting that Queen Victoria, King Edward VII, King George V, King Edward VIII, and King George VI were Queen and Kings of The United Kingdom of Great Britain and (Northern) Ireland as well as Empress and Emperors of India, and yet their style was “Her/His Majesty” rather than “His/Her Imperial Majesty.” (From Queen Victoria to King George V, the Kingdom’s name was “The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.” From King George V to Queen Elizabeth II, gloriously reigning, the Kingdom’s name has been “The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.”)

Section Four: Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi.
The one many people call “Mahatma Gandhi” was born Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (Mohandās Karamchand Gāndʰī). He, like the founder of Pakistan, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, was a lawyer and worked in South Africa. He returned to India, became involved in the independence movement, became religious/spiritual (more or less becoming a sadhu or unattached holy man) and even opened up an ashram. He preached non-violence (as a way of life and as a way of politics). His civil disobedience, non-violent political protest, is called “satyāgraha” (सत्याग्रह). The independence movement was always known as the self-rule movement, “self-rule” being the literal translation of the Hindi word for this movement, and for independence, “svarāj” (स्वराज). Many people – in India and in Pakistan – credit him for India’s independence, and for advocating such a civil manner in which to achieve it.

This is, to be frank, a bit inaccurate. There can be no doubt that Gandhi was helpful in promoting the idea of civil disobedience; but, really, civil disobedience does not work unless the state is willing to permit it. Rather than civil disobedience pushing the state to grant their demands, all civil disobedience did/does is publicize the people’s demands and speed up the state’s granting thereof.

The cardinal fact in all this is that after World War II, the British were no longer in any mood to put in the effort necessary to manage their worldwide empire. The British were quite aware that the Indians did not like the British and did not want to British. This they made clear not by fasts, hunger strikes, marches, strikes, or protests but by violent rebellions. The British granted some concessions during the World Wars in order to win the natives’ participation in those wars on behalf of The United Kingdom. Of course, progressivism was also to blame, with British people deeming it appropriate for the Indians, having been taught statecraft by the British, to strike out on their own. Simply put: there was little incentive in India or in the British Isles to put in the large amount of effort needed to hold on to India as part of the British Crown. Even though India was the Jewel in the British Crown, it was becoming quite burdensome. People give Gandhi too much credit. The real people who should be admired for accomplishing what they did accomplish are the two crafty, shrewd upper-class secular Jawaharlal Nehru (of India) and Muhammad Ali Jinnah (of Pakistan). The British paid little attention to the short, almost naked, inappropriately-dressed Gandhi. Gandhi had more relevance with the people rather than the political powers.

Getting to Tushar D’s point: people were quite upset with Gandhi when he embarked on a hunger strike while demanding that the government of India pay to Pakistan the portion of the money paid by the British government for India and Pakistan as a parting gift. The Indian government said it would not pay the money until Pakistan withdrew from Jammu and Kashmir. Gandhi told the government to pay it anyway. The government refused. Gandhi went on a hunger strike. Pressured by the people because of this act, the government caved in. Gandhi – who had no political position whatsoever – won. Two Hindu extremists, upset with this, plotted his death, and Gandhi was killed. Gandhi had more power over the Indian government than he ever had with any British official.

What legitimacy did Gandhi have to bully the Indian government in this way? Why did the people honor, follow, and obey him so unquestioningly? Do we really want religious/spiritual leaders without any political office calling the shots in a secular government? For al his talk about satyagraha, the only reason he could exercise satyāgraha is because Indian officers in the British forces of India made it known through their violent acts – basically sacrificing themselves, because of which they are celebrated today as heroes in India’s struggle for independence – that they wanted the British out. Were it not for this, the British would have executed Gandhi. As I said before, people give Gandhi too much credit.

Section Five: The Queen’s dominions.
(All lists are in alphabetical order discounting the article.)

The Queen is Queen of the following countries:
Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Canada, Grenada, lslands of Guernsey & Jersey (as Queen and Duke of Normandy), Isle of Mann (as Lord of Mann), Jamaica, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, and The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland; Head of the Commonwealth.

The Queen was Queen of the following at one point or another:
Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), Fiji, The Gambia, Ghana, Guyana, Kenya, Malawi, Malta, Mauritius, Nigeria, Pakistan, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tanganyika (now a part of Tanzania), Trinidad and Tobago, and Uganda. (She was proclaimed Queen of Rhodesia by Rhodesia but she never accepted the title. A few years later, Rhodesia became a republic under the name of Zimbabwe.)

Section Six: A Pet-Peeve – More Language.
Please note that the name is Gandhi and not Ghandi. The “h” is not pronounced: it is there to indicate aspiration. In Devanagiri (the script in which Hindi and Sanskrit, among other South Asian languages, are written), Gandhi is गान्धी or गांधी (g-aa-n-dʰ-ee); Ghandi is घान्दी or घांदी (gʰ-aa-n-d-ee). Just for fun, Mahatma is महात्मा (m-h-aa-t-m-aa), a contraction of maha (महा – mahā, great) and atman (आत्मं or आत्मन – ātman, soul).

Thank you for reading!

Update: Added warning.

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8 Comments

  1. Beth said,

    Muslihoon, I just want to say I love your blog. Thanks for the education!!

    (And people who write “Ghandi” drive me freaking insane! That’s the only thing I have the authority to speak of in this post!)

  2. Muslihoon said,

    Thanks for the comment! (Glad to know I’m not the only one with that pet peeve!)

    Everyone has the authority to say whatever they want. If they’re right, they’re right.

    Most South Asians, for example, would be considered to be authorities on their history, don’t know history accurately. They’re fed whitewashed garbage and it’s difficult for them to get to the truth. Plus there are emotional issues that prevent them from trying to find the truth.

    So, if you have an opinion, say it! your authority depends on whether you’re right or wrong.

  3. Think Tankers » Hey Ram said,

    […] Not a perspective one gets here in the States. At least I never thought of him this way. Interesting. […]

  4. Ravi Kapoor said,

    My thoughts about Gandhi, gleaned from facts of his life and history, in general, untainted by any propaganda material that bestows Gandhi with the title of ‘father of the nation’.

    Gandhi was a lawyer, and a rather bad one at that. He tried practising in India in the early 1890s, but failed miserably. Somehow, he got a contract from South Africa for some case, went there and made a mess of it too. In the meanwhile, he had personal trysts with the British in various parts of the country, which irritated his professionally frustrated mind.

    Gandhi proceeded to incite the locals in South Africa against the British until 1914, which virtually led to his deportation after a massive row where thousands suffered. Something called the Gandhi-Smuts treaty also appears to have taken place.

    The British were in no mood to leave South Africa. However, India was another story. India was becoming too cumbersome to handle with its burgeoning population. Thyey had already given India most of its roads, city systems, railways and other civic amenities, while the Indian people were just not grateful for what they had got for a mere pittance (in terms of payments made to the British for governing India so efficiently). Plus, the political scene in the world made governance of an Empire unfeasible.

    Rather than risk Gandhi playing havoc in South Africa, where gold and diamonds were still the lure, the British appear to have struck a deal with Gandhi. They offered him safe passage to India, with the promise to make him a superstar and portray him as the saviour of India. The ruse worked wonderfully well. The gullible Indian people went bonkers over nonsensical speeches and Holy-man like actions. The myth of the Mahatma was born.

    Come to think of it, if the British ever wished to get rid of Gandhi, they could have done so in South Africa itself, or anytime later too, for that matter. But, being the master adminsitrators that they have always been, they had their cake and ate it too.

    Or, again, the British could have merely left India to their own devices and left its shores, with no-one being any the wiser. However, a move of this kind would have been slanderous and a matter of shame for the British. They needed to portray someone as the messiah, and Gandhi was a more than willing scapegoat.

    Later on, with his coterie of equally inept lieutenants, gandhi went on to create the greatest political mish-mash the world has ever known. His choice for India’s first Prime Minister, Nehru, has a record of being the most short-sighted politician pretending to be a statesman. Almost all the ills ailing India today can be traced back to Nehru, be it adult franchise, division of States based on language, socialism, the Government’s forays into industry, complications arising from a secular India when the partition was based on religion, the Hindu Succession Act. Nehru’s daughter, Indira, merely compunded his mistakes by nationalization, raid raj, embargoes on travel, protection to local industries, politically playing to the galleries, dividing rich and poor, caste with caste. While Nehru pretended to be a God, Indira was sick of self love. Poor Gandhi had to be content with his bhajans and occasional fasts.

  5. Anish said,

    Ha ha Ravi Kapoor…….you have a creative black mind. You will make good money writing fiction.

  6. DAQWEISE said,

    HE WAS A GOOD MAN

  7. jose said,

    yh he was a good man

  8. shahrukh ali said,

    i should have wanted to meet gandhi ji he is proud of nation

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