How Gandhi and Nehrus subverted Hindu grass-root peasant movements in collusion with British and Islamists – Part II
- In History & Culture
- 01:30 PM, Nov 07, 2016
- Dikgaj and Saswati Sarkar and Shanmukh and Latha Isloor
In the prequel, we started from the period in which peasant movements had just originated and were experiencing an uneasy co-existence with Congress. We had described how the rise of Gandhi in Congress power politics, and the formulation of his Non-Cooperation movement institutionalized the exclusion of the peasants from Congress and its agitations. Simultaneously, a Hindu militant peasant movement had been organically growing in Awadh from the grassroots, which was led by a Maharashtrian Brahmin by the name of Ram Chandra. The movement had grown notwithstanding determined efforts to foster the personality cult of Gandhi through media propaganda that relied on superstitions and miracles. As the peasant movement gathered steam, the Allahabad Congress leadership comprising of Nehrus and Gaurishankar Mishra emerged in the scene, seeking to exploit the movement for their political ends. The peasant movement under Ram Chandra attained a revolutionary fervour, and Ram Chandra sought to connect it to the Non-Cooperation movement. This is when Gandhi and Nehrus decided that he had become too big for his own good, and Gandhi, Nehrus, and Khilafatists, all joined hands with the British to destroy him. This is where we start the current article.
Illegal confinement of Baba Ram Chandra by Gandhi, Nehrus and the Khilafatists and the Munshiganj peasant massacre
One of the most diabolical suppression of peasant masses next ensued. Ram Chandra was summoned to Lucknow by Maulana Abdul Bari, a Khilafat leader, and was illegally detained by him. Bari illegally detained Ram Chandra in consultation with Gandhi and with full knowledge of Motilal Nehru and likely Jawaharlal Nehru as well pp. 47-48, . Meanwhile the police arrested two other peasant leaders, Baba Janaki Das and Baba Ram Ghulam p. 245, . The peasants believed that all three were lodged at the Rai Bareilly and proceeded to free them. Jawaharlal Nehru has written that ``It was at the beginning of January 1921. I had just returned to Allahabad from the Nagpur Congress when I received a telegram from Rae Bareli asking me to go there immediately as trouble was expected. I left the next day. I discovered that some leading kisans had been arrested some days back and had been lodged at the local gaol. Remembering their success at Partabgarh and the tactics they had then adopted, the peasants marched to Rae Bareli town for a mass demonstration. But this time the Government was not going to permit it and additional police and military had been collected to stop the kisans. Just outside the town on the other side of a little river the main body of the kisans was stopped.’’ p. 60,  Sukhbir Chowdhary records, ``But near Munshiganj, the retreating crowd was sufficiently enforced and augmented by a peasant procession coming towards the city. The crowd at this time was about ten thousand strong. The crowd again demanded the release of its leaders. But the Deputy Commissioner admonished the crowd and said that their leaders Ram Chandra, Baba Janaki Das and Baba Ram Ghulam were not in Rae Bareilly jail. They had already been transferred to Lucknow and would not be released in any case.’’ p. 244, . This was on January 7, 1921, in Munshiganj, when the British police fired on the unarmed peasants and perpetrated a miniature Jallianwala in Munshiganj, the perpetrators were congratulated by the Lieutenant Governor, Sir Harcourt Butler p. 46, . There was an emotive outrage in press, and Congress leaders demanded an enquiry p. 47, . It is interesting to note that the blue-blooded future prime minister of India did not deem it fit to name the ``leading kisans.’’ or the date or the place of the massacre. It was after all some poor peasants who had the impunity to demand the release of their proletariat-leaders (to borrow a terminology of an ideology Nehru was rather fond of) who were shot dead.
It is also remarkable that Jawaharlal Nehru was present at the location of the firing, was allowed to address a peasant gathering of a couple of thousands there, and enjoyed the hospitality of the District Magistrate at his home for about two hours right after the firing. We quote him from his autobiography: ``As I reached the river, sounds of firing could be heard from the other side. I was stopped at the bridge by the military and as I waited there I was suddenly surrounded by large numbers of frightened kisans who had been hiding in the field on the side of the river. So I held a meeting of about a couple of thousand peasants on the spot and tried to remove their fear and lessen their excitement. It was rather an unusual situation with firing going on their brethren within a stone’s throw across a little stream and the military in evidence everywhere. But the meeting was quite successful and took away the edge from the kisans’ fear. The District Magistrate then returned from the firing line and, at his request, I accompanied him to his house. There he kept me, under some pretext or other, for over two hours, evidently wanting to keep me away from the kisans and my colleagues in the city. We found that men had been killed in the firing. The kisans had refused to disperse or to go back otherwise they have been perfectly peaceful. … They refused to take their orders from men they did not trust.’’ p. 60,  p. 245, . A couple of thousand peasants can not simply hide in a field on the side of a river. So, in all probabilities Nehru was allowed to address an existing assembly of peasants on the side of the river on which firing was not taking place. The British government obviously trusted him enough not to incite the peasants on one side of a stream, while they were ruthlessly slaughtering those on the other side. He fulfilled his obligations and was subsequently entertained at the magistrate’s home (not police station). Political interactions are usually conducted police stations, friends are invited to homes. Nehru may have had legitimate reasons to assuage the feelings of the peasants right then, to avoid a blood-bath, but he stopped there. He did not lead them the next day to a police station demanding that their leaders be returned to them, or he did not write extensively in the press about the massacre. The massacre was shortly all but forgotten and was never widely known.
We now learn from S. K. Mittal the plight of Ram Chandra meanwhile: ``Ignorant of the events at Rai Bareilly, Baba Ram Chandra went to Lucknow at the summons of Maulana Abdul Bari, a Khilafat leader. There he came to know of the Munshiganj tragedy but he was virtually a prisoner of Maulana Bari. Ram Chandra wrote: "I felt annoyed and whenever attempted to leave the place, the soldiers (Bari's men) would restrict me... I even wept and wrung my hands in despair but none bothered. I was at a loss to know why I was treated so." With Ram Chandra in his custody, Abdul Bari telegraphed Mohamed Ali that he should inform Mahatma Gandhi about Ram Chandra's whereabouts and seek Gandhi's instructions as to what was to be done with Ram Chandra, for he (Bari) apprehended a grave situation in case Ram Chandra was allowed to proceed to Rai Bareilly. Bari added in his telegram that if Ram Chandra was stopped from proceeding no further disturbances need be apprehended. Shaukat Ali telegraphed back that Gandhi desired Ram Chandra to pacify the peasantry in accordance with his creed of non-violence. Gandhi's confirmation of Shaukat Ali's telegram followed soon after. The perplexed Ram Chandra was told by Abdul Bari on the strength of the above telegrams that he would not let Ram Chandra go anywhere as it was the wish of the leaders.’’ p. 47, 
We now show that the illegal confinement of Ram Chandra was done with the knowledge, if not active collusion of the British. As reproduced above, Sukhbir Chowdhary has recorded that the Deputy Commissioner had informed the crowd at Munshiganj that their leaders Ram Chandra, Baba Janaki Das and Baba Ram Ghulam were not in Rae Bareilly jail, the trio had already been transferred to Lucknow and would not be released in any case p. 244, . However, from the preceding paragraph, we know that Ram Chandra was not arrested and was in Bari’s custody in Lucknow at this time. The Deputy Commissioner, however, chose to pretend that Baba Ram Chandra had been arrested, in order to mislead the peasants about his true fate.
We now find out why Ram Chandra was illegally detailed at all. S. K. Mittal has written
``The day of the announced meeting at Unchahar had come but Ram Chandra was helpless and failed to reach there. The meeting was declared illegal under the Seditious Meetings Act by the Government. In order to minimise attendance at the meeting, trains were diverted to other routes on January 15 and at some places the peasants were forcibly restricted from boarding the trains. The meeting was scheduled to decide on the crucial question of withholding the payment of rent. It would be recalled that the Congress had not considered the issue of non-payment of rent as part of the Non-Cooperation programme. Abdul Bari and Jangilal Dhaurasiya discouraged the peasants who had collected at Lucknow from going to Unchahar. Jawaharlal, Madan Mohan Malviya and Gauri Shanker Mishra persuaded the peasants who had already assembled at Unchahar to disperse and return to their homes. The determined peasantry dispersed for want of proper guidance and leadership. The whole episode makes curious reading and forces home the conclusion that the bourgeois nationalist leadership betrayed the peasants and their movement.’’ p. 47, . Ram Chandra was therefore detained to preventing him from addressing the meeting he had called at Unchahar. This is also why the other leaders like Baba Janaki Das and Baba Ram Ghulam were arrested by the police. Given their previous experience with incarcerating Baba Ram Chandra, they probably did not want to incarcerate him at a jail to prevent it from being stormed, but resorted to the subterfuge of detaining him at Bari’s place. We also note that it was Jawaharlal along with Gauri Shankar and Madan Mohan Malviya, who helped disperse the peasants once again, like at Munshiganj. And the British tried their best to reduce the size of the assembly in the first place. So Gandhi and the entire Congress leadership of Allahabad and the Khilafat leaders like Bari and Ali were acting in cahoots with the British police in this utterly disgraceful episode (we have seen that Gandhi was in the knowhow all along, we will see that so did Motilal Nehru).
We now observe that Motilal Nehru had known of Ram Chandra’s illegal detention as well. As S. K. Mittal has written, ``Motilal Nehru wrote to Abdul Bari to send Ram Chandra to Anand Bhawan in complete secrecy. Escorted by two armed servants of Abdul Bari and dressed in a Muslim woman's apparel (burqa) Ram Chandra proceeded to Allahabad. He was told that all this was being done to avoid police detection. At Allahabad he was taken straight to the residence of the Nehrus only to be detained for the second time by the 'loyal' nationalists. In his presence a new U P Kisan Sabha was launched with Motilal as its president in opposition to the Malviya led Kisan Sabha.'? The former Kisan Sabha wished to bring the peasantry into the Non-Cooperation movement while the latter opposed the move. The grievances of the peasantry were lost in the petty squabbles of the two Kisan Sabhas. Jhinguri Singh, Matabadal Koyari and others on learning of Ram Chandra's detention at Allahabad, reached there and ensured his release. The small party left on foot for Partapgarh and enroute Ram Chandra told the peasantry: ``…now we shall have to fight for our honour. Lives will have to be sacrificed, lands and houses will have to be given up. It may well become difficult to dwell even under the trees. These rich and honourable persons (urban intelligentsia and politicians) will clash among themselves on the strength of your support. It will take another fifteen to twenty years for the redressal of your real grievances as parties professing faith in legal battles have sprung up.’’ pp. 47-48, .
Thus, the Nehrus benefited from their physical control of Ram Chandra. This fact is confirmed by Dhanagare too, who records the politics of the Kisan Sabhas and the forcible merger of Oudh Kisan Sabha of Motilal Nehru and the UP Kisan Sabha of Malaviya-Tandon p. 119, . Dhanagare says that the UP Kisan Sabha [of Malaviya-Tandon] and the Oudh Kisan Sabha [of Nehru] – were merged into one unit – the new UP Kisan Sabha – under the presidency of Motilal Nehru, and the Purushottam Das Tandon group was put down p. 119, , and the Congress attention shifted away from the peasant issues. p. 119, .
The destruction of Baba Ram Chandra
Meanwhile Congress leaders like Jawaharlal and Gauri Shanker Mishra toured the areas which were the scenes of the recent agrarian disturbances seeking to bring the peasants within the fold of Non-Cooperation p. 48, . Ram Chandra had himself sought to connect the peasant movement to Non-Cooperation, so if the stated goal was the real issue, the leaders could have worked through him. So Nehru’s and Mishra’s trips were more likely intended to usurp Ram Chandra’s base and supplant him as a leader.
On January 27, 1921, Jawaharlal Nehru presided over a meeting of 30000 to 40000 peasants at Guhana, and used it as a launching pad for supplanting Ram Chandra. Myths surrounding the persona of Gandhi were liberally shared during the speeches: ``In the course of the speeches [in the meeting] it was suggested that the peasants should consider Mahatma Gandhi as their raja (king) and act on his advice. They were told that so great was Gandhi's influence that a daroga (police inspector) returned bribes when he came to know that "Gandhiji's disciples had also reached the spot"….’’ p. 23, . Accolades were showered on Gandhi throughout the meeting: Ram Devi compared Gandhi’s agitation with Mahabharat war (Hindu epic). In the Mahabharat Draupadi’s respect was at stake and ``Gandhi’s agitation was to maintain respect of Bharatmata’’ (mother India). Phool Chand described Mahatma Gandhi as a doctor who was suggesting medicine to cure the condition of India.’’ p. 23,  Without naming Ram Chandra, Jawaharlal Nehru sought to delegitimize him: ``Jawaharlal told the peasants that ``only by coloured clothes they should not believe that every person was a real sadhu and a messenger of Mahatma Gandhi’’ as the latter ``never advises irreligious or unlawful acts.’’ p. 23,  The peasants were even asked to denounce their leaders, which they refused: ``To all this the peasants listened peacefully but when they were asked to vote a resolution which condemned the "plunderers" during the agrarian upsurge, they became unruly and Jawaharlal, after postponing the speeches, made use of music played on the harmonium to quieten the peasants. Nehru, it appears, was following Gandhi's instructions as the latter had suggested the use of music to control "mobocracy". It appears that the enthusiasm of the peasants was somewhat dampened by the sermons of the Congress leaders; the exuberant shouts of jai, which were raised on the way to the meeting, were absent on the return’’ p. 23, .
It is interesting to point out that the authorities allowed Nehru and his group to hold a huge rally in Guhana, but chose to stop a rally under peasant leaders in nearby Akbarpur. Sukhbir Choudhary narrates that, ``On January 27, 1921, the public meeting was held at Akbarpur, as announced. A strong police force was on the spot to terrorise the peasants.’’ pp. 248-249, .
The stature of Ram Chandra at this point can be assessed from the fact that the media that was usually completely apathetic to rural issues covered him. On 28th January, 1921, The Independent published, ``It has almost become a trite saying that political leadership has passed from the educated class to vast rural democracy. The saying is strictly true. Now we have a famous Kisan leader (Baba Ram Chandra) making a profession of faith before an urban audience and challenging the emasculated children of Western culture to the high task of national participation and regeneration.’’ p. 21, 
This is when Gandhi was fielded. He did his bit to prepare grounds for the impending arrest of Ram Chandra.
1) On 8 February 1921, Gandhi harshly condemned the peasant rebellion in Awadh: `` What have the Fyzabad peasants done? In frenzy they looted shops and the property of their own brothers. That was our downfall. The Government is aware that we have started a great campaign, that we have resolved to mend or end this regime. Even then the Government, mighty as it is, says nothing. Why? Because the Government sees that we are working peaceably, that we have made it a matter of religion. So the Government can do nothing against us. If we take up arms today its power will begin to increase. If we want to see an end to the Punjab atrocities, if we want to see justice done in the matter of Khilafat, if we want to secure swaraj, we must show cool courage. This and this alone will be the right way. I shall not be in the least sorry if lawyers do not give up their practice or students their schools and colleges, if people choose to go into the Councils, and if Government jobs and titles are not renounced; but it causes me great pain if there is even a single killing, if the stick is brought into play or if someone swears at someone else, for it indicates waning of our power. I am extremely unhappy at the madness shown by the peasants of Fyzabad and the doings of the Bombay students. ….I would not have been sorry if you had not gathered here today. But it would be painful if you indulged in rowdyism and created a noisy disturbance here. …. We do not need numbers. The few that are making sacrifices are enough. Pandit Motilal Nehru, Mr. Das and Lala Lajpat Rai have given up legal practice. What more do we need? By and by, others will follow them. No coercion should be used against anyone. Let those only do it whose hearts respond. Students of Sanskrit ask me what their duty is. There is no question now about what one’s duty is. The only duty is to give up Government schools and colleges. So long as our sufferings are not wiped out, Government schools are taboo.’’ pp. 327-328, . Note that Gandhi has never advised the zamindars to abjure violence against the peasants.
2) On 9 February, 1921, Gandhi wrote in the Young India, ``We must then refrain from sitting dharna, we must refrain from crying ‘shame, shame’ to anybody, we must not use any coercion to persuade our people to adopt our way. We must guarantee to them the same freedom we claim for ourselves. We must not tamper with the masses. It is dangerous to make political use of factory labourers or the peasantry—not that we are not entitled to do so, but we are not ready for it. We have neglected their political (as distinguished from literary) education all these long years. We have not got enough honest, intelligent, reliable and brave workers to enable us to act upon these countrymen of ours.’’ p. 324, .
3) On February 9, 1921, in Benares, Gandhi described the peasant revolt as ``madness’’, ``mobocracy’’ and forbade committing ‘’mischief’’ in his name p. 25, .
Ram Chandra was invited by an eminent Congress leader from Allahabad, Gauri Shanker Mishra [Jawaharlal’’s associate] to a meeting in Benares, Nehrus were present at the meeting. Ram Chandra was arrested on February 10, 1921, in the meeting: ``Ram Chandra was arrested on February 10, 1921, at Benares under sections 124 A (sedition) and 133 A (promoting enemity between classes) for his inflammatory speeches at Bara Banki in early January, 1921. The style of arrest adopted by the government was typical of an imperialist power. He was arrested before a crowd of eighty thousand people soon after the opening ceremony of Kashi Vidyapith where he had gone at the invitation of Gauri Shanker Mishra. His arrest caused a great flutter and the Nehrus had to appeal to the crowd to remain peaceful. After his arrest he was seated in Gandhi's room from where he was taken to Benares Central Jail, and was locked in a cell meant for mad dogs. Kapil Dev Malaviya’s [a Congress leader during the time who shortly became an organizer of the Swarajya party at United Provinces] contention was not without foundation that the government purposely selected the occasion to effect the arrest for had it resulted in disturbances it would have discredited Gandhi and his gospel of non-violence. Jawaharlal Nehru held the same opinion’’ p. 49, . Gandhi was also present at the meeting, and Ram Chandra was arrested during Gandhi’s speech. We learn from B. R. Nanda, the biographer of Jamnalal Bajaj who was an eminent businessman, a British loyalist and treasurer and member of Congress Working Committee: ``Jamnalal accompanied Gandhi on some of these tours. He was present at the public meeting in Banaras in February 1921 when Baba Ramchandra, the Kisan leader, who had electrified the Awadh countryside with his explosive mixture of religious revivalism, patriotism and socialism, was taken into custody by the police. `The government arrested him’, Jamnalal wrote, `while Gandhiji was speaking. There was a huge crowd, but it remained completely peaceful. I observed the arrest being made : the audience took it in good part, and complete order was maintained.’’ One wonders whether the same exemplary discipline would have been exhibited by the crowd if Gandhi had not been present. Evidently, the Government chose the time and place of Baba Ramchandra’s arrest so as to reduce its risks to the minimum.’’ p. 68, . Note that the audience remained peaceful in part because given that the assembly was in Benares, the peasants of Awadh were minimally represented in it. Ram Chandra was not widely known in the urban crowd, among which Gandhi had a star appeal, thanks to lopsided coverage by the media. So police did his job while Gandhi kept the audience otherwise engrossed through his speech. Gandhi’s business sponsors like Jamnalal Bajaj were part of the conspiracy, at comes across that he (and his biographer) considers it to Gandhi’s credit that Gandhi could subvert protests against arrest of peasant leaders through his speeches. K D Malviya rightly asserted that the government was afraid to arrest so popular a leader anywhere except under the protection and indirect help of Gandhi p. 49, .
In protest against Ram Chandra’s arrest, complete hartal was observed in Bara Banki, and people thronged the local jail to have a glimpse of him, thinking he was there. But the District authorities refused to try him there, the Deputy Commissioner of Bara Banki wrote: ``It is my firm belief that if Ram Chandra is tried in this district dangerous riots will take place both in Bara Banki and in Fyzabad and Rai Bareilly. These riots will undoubtedly require a strong military force to quell.’ He was therefore moved to Lucknow, under the strictest surveillance, in a special train, and even the station staff was not allowed to come to the platform until the special train had left’’ pp. 49-50, 
On the day of Ram Chandra’s arrest, Gandhi delivered a speech at Fyzabad p. 55, . In that speech, he proclaimed Ram Chandra’s arrest as a sacred event and exhorted the peasantry not to demand his release as it would displease Ram Chandra. He instructed the peasants to follow the two Nehrus: ``You should bear a little if the zamindar torments you. We do not wish to fight with the zamindars. We are fighting a big zamindar….zamindars are also slaves and we do not want to trouble them….If the zamindars harass them I would ask my kisan brethren not to fight with them but adopt a conciliatory attitude. They can go to Pandit Motilal Nehru and Jawaharlal Nehru who are sacrificing men and the kisan should act according to their decisions.’’
Gandhi remained terrified of the peasants going out of the Congress control and attempted to dissuade them from taking any active part in the demonstrations p. 199, . So he repeatedly sought to dissuade the peasants from engaging in any form of violence, or even non-violent resistance against the landlords. In February, 1921 he exhorted them of Faizabad to refrain from all violence, including abusive language, undue pressure and social boycott of landlords. p. 119, . He avoided all contacts with leaders of the peasant movement at Awadh during his visit p. 51, , and continued to side with the zamindars condemning the agrarian revolt there as follows:
1) ``He next dwelt upon the agrarian disturbances and deplored the action of the kisans who committed violence.... Mr. Gandhi condemned violence most strongly and unequivocally, and said that he considered it a sin against God and man. He deprecated all attempts to create discord between landlords and tenants and advised the tenants to suffer rather than fight, for they had to join all forces for fighting against the most powerful zemindar, namely, the Government. He exhorted the people to purify their soul, to banish fear and to march on with stout hearts and fearlessness.’’ 13 February, 1921, pp. 336-337, 
2) ``We may not withhold taxes from the Government or rent from the landlord. Should there be any grievances against zemindars they should be reported to Pandit Motilal Nehru and his advice followed. It should be borne in mind that we want to turn zemindars into friends.’’ 9 March, 1921, p. 404,  (thus the instructions to follow the Nehrus continue)
Motilal Nehru sent Shah Saghir to cool down the tempers at Bara Banki. Leaflets bearing the names of Motilal, Jawaharlal and Gauri Shanker were distributed urging the peasants neither to agitate to secure Ram Chandra’s release nor to assemble to have his darshan p. 50, . Gandhi and Motilal remained indifferent throughout Ram Chandra’s trial p. 51, . And Jawaharlal just mentioned a few lines about Ram Chandra in a note dated 18-8-1921 published in Young India, edited by Gandhi. The note was on repression in the United provinces, under the heading THE “KISAN” MOVEMENT: `` A very determined and persistent effort made by Government to kill this movement. Early in February, Ramchandra, Kedarnath and Deo Narain were arrested. There was no disturbance of any kind and Government was emboldened to take concerted action to crush the kisans.’’ p. 469, . Not surprisingly he omits his own collusion in the repression, and omits the hartal and as to why the public protest could not be further intensified. In his autobiography, he has alluded to Ram Chandra’s arrest (and jail sentences), while completely omitting his illegal detention, his trip to Anand Bhawan, and the manner of his arrest. In his autobiography, he has also belittled the peasant rebellion of Awadh in January 1921 as an outcome of a private feud
In court, Ram Chandra faced his trial boldly, refusing the services of Shaukat Ali, and argued his case himself. He received a prison sentence of two years p. 51, . With Ram Chandra out of the way, Congress had monopoly on the peasant grievances, but it did nothing for their redress. Acharya Narendra Dev of Congress has recorded, ``The Congress was not then willing to fight for the economic demands of the kisans though in its struggle the Congress assuredly desired the cooperation of the kisans.’’ p. 50, .
After Ram Chandra’s jail, Jawaharlal Nehru helped the authorities arrest and jail thousands of peasants. He has written: ``A little later, in the year 1921, Fyzabad district had its dose of widespread repression. The trouble started there in a peculiar way. The peasants of some villages went and looted the property of a taluqadar. It transpired subsequently that they had been incited to do so by the servants of another zamindar who had some kind of feud with the taluqadar. The poor ignorant peasants were actually told that it was the wish of Mahatma Gandhi that they should loot and they willingly agreed to carry out this behest, shouting ``Mahatma Gandhi ki jai’’ in the process. I was very angry when I heard of this and within a day or two of occurrence I was on the spot, somewhere near Akbarpur in Fyzabad district. On arrival I called a meeting for the same day and within a few hours five or six thousand persons had collected from numerous villages within a radius of ten miles. I spoke harshly to them for the shame they had brought on themselves and our cause and said that the guilty persons must confess publicly. (I was full in those days of what I conceived to be the spirit of Gandhiji’s Satyagraha). I called upon those who had participated in the looting to raise their hands, and strange to say, there, in the presence of numerous police officials, about two dozen hands went up. That meant certain trouble for them. When I spoke to many of them privately later and heard their artless story of how they had been misled, I felt very sorry for them and I began to regret having exposed these foolish and simple folk to long terms of imprisonment. But the people who suffered were not two or three dozen. The chance was too good to be lost and full advantage was taken of the occasion to crush the agrarian movement in that district. Over a thousand arrests were made, and the district gaol was overcrowded, and the trial went on for the best part of a year. Many died in prison during the trial. Many others received long sentences and in later years, when I went to prison, I came across some of them, boys and young men, spending their youth in prison.’’ pp. 61-62, 
In his autobiography, Nehru has alluded to Rama Chandra quite uncharitably: ``He [Ram Chandra] had little education and to some extent he exploited the tenantry for his own benefit, but he showed remarkable powers of organization…..Having organized the peasantry to some extent he made all manner of promises to them, vague and nebulous but full of hope for them. He had no programme of any kind and when he had brought them to a pitch of excitement he tried to shift the responsibility to others. This led him to bring a number of peasants to Allahabad to interest people there in the movement [Nehru is referring to the march of five hundred peasants on foot from Patti to Allahabad, a tract stretching over 75 kilometres, that Rama Chandra had organized, it was the first ever march on foot by a large group of peasants]. Ramachandra continued to take a prominent part in the agrarian movement for another year and served two or three sentences in prison, but he turned out later to be a very irresponsible and unreliable person. ’’ p. 53, . Without taking Rama Chandra’s name, he also described the arrest of Rama Chandra on August 28, 1920, and his release under public pressure pp. 59-60, .
Why did Gandhi and Nehrus destroy Ram Chandra?
We first rule out a principal reason advanced by Congress apologists, that Ram Chandra was destroyed because he had resorted to violence. The Congress never had a problem with violence. In Malabar, the Moplahs went on a rampage, slaughtering Hindus in cold blood. The total number of dead Hindus ran into thousands, with over a lakh fleeing Malabar . The violence perpetrated on the Hindus was cold, and deliberate with calculated cruelty, and with little compunction to the age, sex or the economic or physical condition of the Hindus. Some graphic atrocities are recorded in detail. Here, we quote Dewan Bahadur Gopalan Nair, who recorded the desperate letter by the horrified women of Malabar to Lady Reading:
``May it please your gracious and' compassionate Ladyship,
We, the Hindu women of Malabar of varying ranks and stations in life, who have recently been overwhelmed by the tremendous catastrophe known as the Moplah rebellion, have taken the liberty to supplicate your Ladyship for sympathy and succour.
Your Ladyship is doubtless aware that though our unhappy district has witnessed many Moplah outbreaks in the course of the last 100 years, the present. rebellion is unexampled in its magnitude as well as unprecedented in its ferocity. But it is possible that Your Ladyship is not fully apprised of all the horrors and atrocities perpetrated by the fiendish rebels: of the many wells and tanks filled up with the mutilated but often only half dead bodies of our nearest and dearest ones who refused to abandon the faith of our Fathers, … For five long months not a day has passed without its dread tale of horror to unfold.’’ pp. 73-75, . Gopalan Nair also speaks of the Government confirming in the Legislative Council of Madras, of more than a 100 temples defiled and damaged, but no mosque being damaged or desecrated. pp. 88-89, . This tale of horror is also confirmed by Sir C Sankaran Nair in , who speaks of Hindu temples defiled and Hindu women dishonoured and passed around from hand to hand with cold deliberation and calculated cruelty p. 100, . Agrarian distress was touted as a grievance, but Dewan Bahadur Gopalan Nair observed that ``The Khilafat Kings, Ali Musaliar and Kunhamad Haji, had no agrarian grievances, nor does it appear that the several leaders of the rebellion who indulged in lawlessness of the worst kind had any such grievances to redress.’’ p. 122, . Further, two more lawless outbreaks of attacks occurred against the Hindus, under the instigation of the Khilafatists; the first in Malegaon in April 1921 pp. 38-42, , and the second in Bara Banki in December 1921-January 1922 (Appendix XI, ). Neither attracted the condemnation of the Gandhians, while Malabar was blamed often on the victims themselves. So it was not the violence of the peasants.
Ram Chandra was removed in part because Congress wanted to cripple genuine peasant movements. Peasants were not a strong Congress base, but the zamindars and taluqdars were. Recall that apart from the urban middle classes it were the landed elite that dominated Congress. Between 1893 to 1900 in Awadh it were the taluqdars that comprised a majority of the candidates nominated by the Congress for the Legislative Council p. 116, . A peasant revolt threatened the status quo that was in favour of the taluqdars. In fact, many of the taluqdars and zamindars of Awadh were Khilafatists, eg, the Kidwai family of Barabanki district pp. 132-133, . Gandhi was close to Khiafat leaders during the Non-cooperation agitation, thus he would oppose any movement that threatened them. The Nehrus were also both socially and politically close to the Khilafatists. Rafi Ahmed Kidwai started his career as the secretary of Motilal Nehru. Jawaharlal Nehru was extremely fond of Rafi Ahmed Kidwai. who later would be a minister under him, with short breaks, from 1947 till his death in 1954, pp. 332-333, . The Raja of Mahmudabad [a great patron of the Khilafat movement] was a close friend of some leading Congressmen, who enjoyed his hospitality at Mahmudabad House in Kaiser Bagh, Lucknow. He also supported the activities of Mohamed Ali and his friends, whom Meston described as the Raja’s `vile entourage’. pp. 84-85, . So, Congress had umpteen reasons to oppose a peasant revolt. And, a peasant revolt would die a natural death, if not immediately but in due course, in absence of visionary leadership to coordinate peasants of different regions and order meaningful strikes. Without such a leadership, the moves would at best be local and separated in time, and therefore easily crushed by the British. It was therefore imperative to remove Ram Chandra from the scene. And, Congress did not need to invest any substantial effort in destroying the peasant movement after that was accomplished.
Ram Chandra was also destroyed by Gandhi, Nehrus and the elite Congress leadership of Allahabad because of their inherent class bias. Gandhi and perhaps a large part of then society had a firm notion of social hierarchy, in which the lower strata of the Hindu society (peasants, workers, etc.) were at the bottom, middle class somewhat higher, next were the rich and powerful (aristocrats, big businessmen, landlords, influential professionals etc.), and on top were those who had ruled India for centuries (British and Muslims). This also comes out from Gandhi’s stands on other issues such as cow protection . In Gandhi’s worldview, the lower categories ought to patiently suffer without any violent retaliation whatsoever, when the higher ones persecute them. This is exactly why Gandhi wanted the Hindus and Sikhs to die without retaliating or resisting rioting Muslims . It was also this world view that motivated Gandhi and his coterie to connive with the British to destroy the political revolutionaries who were mostly from Hindu and Sikh middle classes and had dared to initiate armed insurrections against the British . Gandhi and his coterie (eg., Nehrus) did an encore for peasant revolutionaries, perhaps as retribution for the crime of resorting to violence against the categories above them (taluqdars, zamindars, many of whom were Muslims in Awadh, and the British).
Besides, a popular and charismatic leader like Ram Chandra who emerged from grassroots would make Gandhi and Nehrus insecure. Bulk of the urban, elite Congress leadership wanted to utilize the peasants for political purposes if it was absolutely necessary to do so (Gandhi wanted to exclude them from freedom struggle). They would never countenance sharing leadership space with them. Ram Chandra had himself pointed this characteristic of the advocates and high class people: ``…the literate persons may either have Swaraj or they may beg, their profession is only theft and dacoity as they use the peasants for their own interests. To appease the peasants they would scold the zamindars or government officials and after being entertained by them they will leave in cars, having sown the seeds of ill will.’’ p. 51,  The refusal to share the leadership space with peasants was the result of an acute class bias. Also, the top echelon like Gandhi and Nehrus preferred a trusteeship model where power was concentrated in the hands of a few, which would facilitate betrayal of the masses and furtherance of their own political power through deals with colonial occupiers. What sealed Ram Chandra’s fate was that he did not appear to be willing to confine himself to the peasant arena. He was seeking to relate the peasant movement to the Non-Cooperation movement. He was extremely popular among the peasants and was an educated man (he argued his own case in court and has written accounts of the peasant struggle and his experiences). If allowed to blossom, in due course, he might have upstaged the Nehrus and Gandhi and thereby constituted a genuine political threat for them. The threat was more immediate for the Nehrus as Awadh was their political backyard. But the threat also existed for Gandhi. Notably, Ram Chandra had later squarely blamed Motilal Nehru for his plight (he may not have known of Gandhi’s involvement): ``Pandit Motilal Ji, an advocate of the taluqdars, must have told Mahatma ji, (Gandhi) that the Non-Cooperation movement or the movement for attaining Swaraj could not proceed unless the Kisan movement is disrupted, because Baba Ram Chandra is a person in whose presence no other leader could influence the peasants. After his arrest only shall I (Motilal) be able to bring the peasants into the Non-Cooperation movement. This was not an assumption on my part but a firm belief.’’ pp. 50-51, 
Last but not the least, Gandhi and the Nehrus had distinct aversion against Hindu movements, particularly the militant ones, for different reasons. Gandhi had consciously assumed a Hindu religious persona, through his choice of attires, messaging and mannerisms, and had let the religious aspect be known far and wide by enlisting local media to circulate miracles concerning him. Ram Chandra also popularized his movement through Hindu religious messaging comprising of Hindu memes and symbolisms. He was therefore competing in the same space as Gandhi. More importantly, his message was in direct conflict with Gandhi’s – ``Sita Ram’’ was his war-cry, while Gandhi sung ``Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram, Sab ko Sadmati de Bhagwan’’. Thus Ram Chandra was resurrecting in Hindu consciousness the warrior in Ram which Gandhi wanted to obliterate, casting him only as a symbol of peace and amity. In other words, Ram Chandra was challenging the essence of Gandhism, that non-violence was the core of Hinduism. And, as we have seen elsewhere as well Gandhi could conceive or tolerate only one version of Hinduism – his version . As to the Nehrus, generations of deracination had cultivated in them a contempt in them for anything that was Hindu, this is why they would also deem it fit to nip a Hindu militant movement in its bud. Khilafat leaders naturally detested Hindu militant movements, and thus they allied with Gandhi and the Nehrus in crushing Ram Chandra.
The Contrast with Subhas Chandra Bose
One might wonder if all Congress leaders nurtured notions of class and caste-supremacy in particular and subscribed to a birth-based hierarchy in general. And was a sense of privilege invariably associated with elite birth? To discover an eminent exception, we take you to another peasant leader, Swami Sahajanand Saraswati, who emerged about two decades after Baba Ram Chandra, but was otherwise very similar, and his interactions with Subhas Chandra Bose who resembled Jawaharlal Nehru in birth based privileges.
Swami Sahajanand Saraswati was born in 1889 in a Jijhoutia Bhumihar Brahmin family of Ghazipur district of Uttar Pradesh, and became an ascetic (Dandi Sanyasi) of the Dashnami order of Adi Shankara Sampradaya. He started the Kisan Sabha movement in Bihar (like Baba Ram Chandra he was not confined to the province he was born in), formed the Bihar Provincial Kisan Sabha in 1929, and became the President of the All India Kisan Sabha in the Lucknow session of the Indian National Congress in 1936. The All India Kisan Sabha included prominent peasant leaders like Pandit Yamuna Karjee, Pandit Yadunandan (Jadunandan) Sharma, prominent leaders from the Congress Socialist Party like Jaiprakash, Ram Manohar Lohia, Acharaya Narendra Dev, Communist Party of India leaders like N.G. Ranga, E.M.S. Namboodiripad, Pandit Karyanand Sharma, Rahul Sankrityayan, and P. Sundarayya .
Swami Sahajanand Saraswati remained steadfast with Subhas Bose in their joint opposition to the British during the second world war, even after the desertion by all the Congress Socialist Party and Communist Party leaders mentioned in the previous para. In March 1940, he co-organized with him the anti-imperialist conference in Ramgarh to pressurize Congress into action. On 20th April 1940, he was arrested from Patna under the Defence of India Act. Unlike what Gandhi and Nehru did to Baba Ram Chandra, Bose did not desert Swami Sahajanand Swaraswati in his hour of need. Bose called for the observance of 28th April, 1940 as an All-India Swami Sahajanand Day to protest against his incarceration. In a signed editorial in the Forward Bloc on the day of Swami Sahajanand’s arrest, Bose wrote: ``The British Government, like any other imperialist Government, are unsparing, ruthless and determined. They do not hesitate to strike whenever that is deemed necessary and they seldom respect persons. The tallest in the land have therefore to suffer when they happen to incur the wrath of the powers that be. Swami Sahajanand Sararswati is, in this land of ours, a name to conjure with. The undisputed leader of the Peasant Movement in India, he is today the idol of the masses and the hero of millions. It was indeed a rare fortune to get him as the Chairman of the Reception Committee of the All-India Anti-Compromise Conference at Ramgarh. For the Forward Bloc it was a privilege and an honour to get him as one of the foremost leaders of the Left Movement and as a friend, philosopher and guide of the Forward Bloc itself. As a matter of fact, following Swamiji’s lead, a large number of front-rank leaders of the Peasant Movement have been intimately associated with the Forward Bloc. The Sword of Damocles at last fell on Swamiji and he was arrested this morning at Patna under the Defence of India Act. Yesterday he was in Calcutta and we spent long hours in conversation with him. Little did we know at the time that the warrant for his arrest was waiting for him at Patna. He left Calcutta last night and this morning at Patna he was placed in custody. Before he left Calcutta, we issued a joint statement under our signatures appealing for a proper observation of May Day throughout the country. The statement will be found in this issue. On hearing of his arrest, we immediately decided to observe 28th April as an All-India Swami Sahajanand Day for the purpose of protesting against his incarceration. We earnestly hope that that day will be observed in such a manner as to give a fitting reply to the British Government. We congratulate Swamiji on the signal honour he has won through his arrest and incarceration. In fact, one feels like envying him for being able to force the Government to take action against him. Swamaji’s arrest is to be welcomed. It will inspire millions to break the stalemate and take the plunge. One can no longer continue sitting on the fence. The time for action has come and we must act. Swamiji has disappeared behind the bars, but he has left behind a legacy. We have to learn from him the lesson of his life – the lesson of service and sacrifice, the sound political instinct, of radicalism and dynamic socialism. He is essentially a man of action and when arrested, he appealed to his countrymen not to delay and procrastinate – but to act at once. Swamaji’s arrest is nothing less than a challenge to New India. That challenge we have now to take up. Let this British Government see and note that the country stands solidly behind him. With the sacred resolve `Give me Liberty or give me Death’, let us continue our march with redoubled vigour and renewed determination. All obstacles will then disappear and freedom will dawn on this benighted land.’’ pp. 94-95, 
From how Bose posited Swami Sahajanand Saraswati as a national icon, the `idol of the masses’ and the `hero of the millions’, and a `friend, philosopher and guide’ of his party, it becomes clear that he considered him as his equal, a comrade in his struggle for freedom. It is an irony that the establishment right posits Gandhi as a great Hindu and Bose as an Islamist, although it was the former who betrayed peasant leaders of Hindu militant movements without any compunction, while the latter treasured social and political associations with them. This irony reinforces our contention that the deification of Gandhi owes to his attempt to preserve the existing power hierarchy where Hindu elites took precedence over Hindu commons, and the vilification of Bose is precisely because he violated the same hierarchy. It is worthwhile also to note that Bose characterized a Hindu Sanyasi, as a leader of the left movement, and many Congress Socialist Party leaders and Communist Party leaders publicly politically associated with him. The left movement in India was not anti-Hindu from its inception, the pro-Islamist bias and the Hindu phobia of the leadership developed later, mostly through the influence of European leftists (eg, the Communist Party of Great Britain), and their deracinated Indian intermediaries like Jawaharlal Nehru, P. C. Joshi, Gangadhar Adhikari, etc.
Peasant Revolts Continue:
The peasant revolts continued well up to the end of 1921, as recorded by the governor of the province, Sir Harcourt Butler. (Appendix IX, ). There was a major flare up in Sultanpur in March 1921, in Faizabad in the middle of 1921. The revolts continued sporadically in different regions till the end of the year. The Congressmen gave little thought to any of these – their object had been attained and they had defanged the dangerous peasant leader Ram Chandra. They let the peasants revolt, fight and die as they would, as long as they did not intervene any more in the Non Cooperation Movement by linking their demands with the Congress ones. They issued a few sporadic rebukes and played both sides. They kept filing petitions for the redress of the grievances of the peasants, while simultaneously condemning the violence of the peasants. Peasants were still recruited and speeches and petitions were made, as during the marriage of Vijayalakshmi Pandit and the politics associated with it in May 1921, but the Awadh Peasant movement had been isolated and contained. The Eka movement in 1921 lacked the charisma of Ram Chandra and lacked the bite of the movement of January 1921. Gandhi and his coterie routinely condemned the peasants (like those of Faizabad) for violence, but let the zamindars slide: ``Whilst the U.P. Government is crossing the bounds of propriety, and intimidating people, there is little doubt that the kisans too are not making wise use of their newly-found power, In several zemindaris, they are said to have overstepped the mark, taken the law into their own hands and to have become impatient of anybody who would not do as they wish. They are abusing social boycott and are turning it into an instrument of violence. They are reported to have stopped the supply of water, barber, and other paid services to their zemindars in some instances and even suspended payment to the rent due to them. The kisan movement has received an impetus from Non-co-operation, but it is anterior to and independent to it. Whilst we will not hesitate to advise the kisans when the moment comes to suspend payment of taxes to the Government, it is not contemplated that at any stage of non-co-operation we would seek to deprive the zemindars of their rent. The kisan movement must be confined to the improvement to the status of the kisans and the betterment of the relations between the zemindars and them. The kisans must be advised scrupulously to abide by the terms of their agreement with the zemindars, whether such agreement is written or inferred from custom. Where a custom or even a written contract is bad, they may not try to uproot it by violence or without previous reference to the zemindars. In every case there should be a friendly discussion with the zemindars and an attempt made to arrive at a settlement.’’ 18 May, 1921, pp. 158-159, 
Until the death of C. R. Das in 1925, Gandhi’s domination of the Congress was limited in several provinces like Madras and Bengal. So, peasant strikes against their landlords and political strikes of workers could be organized in many provinces despite Gandhi’s opposition, eg, in Bengal (peasant strikes in Midnapore, Rangpur, Chittagong, Tippera, strikes of tea coolies in Eastern Bengal and Assam), and Andhra. So, the AICC authorized individual provinces to undertake non-payment of taxes by November, 1921 stating ``the All-India Congress Committee authorizes every province on its own responsibility to undertake civil disobedience including non-payment of taxes, in the manner that may be considered the most suitable by the respective Provincial Congress Committees’’ 10 November, 1921, p. 74, . Nevertheless, Gandhi continued to dissuade such movements:
1) ``I have given much anxious thought to the no tax campaign going on there. Apart from the possibility of suspension of mass civil disobedience by reason of a round table conference ever forthcoming, I think that you are not yet ready for non-payment of taxes.’’ January 17, 1922, p. 462, 
2) ``I observe a desire in some places to precipitate mass civil disobedience by suspending payment of taxes. But I would urge the greatest caution before embarking upon the dangerous adventure, We must not be indifferent about violence, and we must make sure of masses exercising self-control whilst they are witnesses to the confiscation of their crops and cattle or forfeiture of their holdings. I know that withholding of payment of taxes is one of the quickest methods of overthrowing a government. I am equally sure that we have not yet evolved that degree of strength and discipline which are necessary for conducting a successful campaign of non-payment of taxes. Not a single tahsil in India is yet ready, except perhaps Bardoli and to a lesser degree Anand. More than fifty per cent of the population of such tahsil has to rid itself of the curse of untouchability, must be dressed in khadi manufactured in the tahsil, must be non-violent in thought, word and deed, and must be living in perfect friendliness with all whether co-operators or non-co-operators. Non-payment of taxes without the necessary discipline will be an act of unpardonable madness. Instead of leading to swaraj, it is likely to lead to no-raj. I must, therefore, repeat the caution I have so often uttered that mass civil disobedience ought not to be tried in the first instance, except under my personal supervision, and certainly never without the fulfilment of the conditions laid down at Delhi’’ January 19, 1922, pp. 476-477,  Why did Gandhi consider Bardoli as an exception? It was dominated by a prosperous and privileged community, Patidars, a cast of substantial peasant proprietors p. 73, . He never trusted the lower strata of peasants. Besides, his deputy Vallabhbhai Patel, was born in a landowning Patidar family, and had a strong base in Bardoli. So Gandhi could personally supervise the movement and ensure that it did not get out of his control (that is, it does not excessively threaten the British).
3) ``In Gujarat, as also in the rest of the country, it is being debated whether the people should withhold payment of land revenue. The more I think about this, the clearer it becomes to me that we are still not fit to do this. Anyone who refuses to pay taxes with a view to saving money is certainly a thief, and we shall not win swaraj with the help of thieves. Such swaraj will be a government of thieves…. From this, we should understand that, so long as the cultivators have not been trained to make sacrifices in a peaceful manner and to work in the national cause, it would be a great sin to turn them towards the path of non-payment of taxes and we ourselves would have to suffer the consequences. It is my advice, therefore, that individuals may, after full consideration, do what they like, but it will be in the country’s interest that all others, save people in Bardoli and Anand, should pay up the taxes.’’ 22 January, 1922, pp. 491-492, 
4) ``The idea of non-payment of taxes is in the air. The Andhras have made us more familiar with the cry than any other part of India. Whilst the Congress has given provincial autonomy to every province, I have ventured to warn the provinces against embarking upon a non-payment campaign till I had tried the experiment myself in some area under my own supervision.1 I abide by that warning. I must also draw attention to the fact that we are not to start offensive civil disobedience till the 31st instant, or if it is sooner, till the Malaviya Conference Committee knows the result of its negotiations and knows that the proposed Round Table Conference is not to come off. Therefore, any suspension of taxes at the present moment can only be regarded as temporary holding back pending the result of the negotiations carried on by that Committee. …..I hear the talk even of refusing payment of rent to zemindars. It must not be forgotten that we are not non-co-operating with zemindars, whether Indian or foreign. We are engaged in a fight with one big zemindar—the bureaucracy—which has made of us and the zemindars themselves serfs. We must try to bring round the zemindars to our side, and isolate the big zemindar. But if they will not come to us, we must be patient with them. We may not even proclaim a social boycott against them. That is to say, we may not refuse social service such as dhobi, barber, etc., to them. In areas under permanent settlement, therefore, there can be no non-payment campaign except in respect of cesses that might be payable directly to the Government. But the mention of zemindars merely shows the difficulties that beset us in the pursuit of no-tax campaign. All things considered, therefore, it is my deliberate opinion that the no-tax movement for the objects of the Congress should be for the time being left to me; meanwhile, workers can develop their own districts along constructive lines’’ 26 January, 1922, pp. 21, 23, 
Gandhi withdrew the Non-cooperation movement in the first week of February, 1922, before the tax payment campaign in Bardoli could be put in motion, and went to jail with the halo of a Christ soon after. After the withdrawal of the Non-Cooperation movement Motilal Nehru had joined forces with C. R. Das to provide a political alternate to Gandhi, Das along with other leaders like Motilal Nehru, Vittalbhai Patel, etc. had forced Gandhi to retire from political activities. But, C. R. Das died in 1925. Subsequently, Gandhi fully won over Motilal Nehru to his camp and became the uncrowned king of Congress. He excluded the peasants and industrial workers from all his subsequent programmes barring sporadic movements such as one in Bardoli between 1927 and 1931, which was also betrayed in 1931.
In due course, starting early twenties, Communists appropriated some of the peasants and workers through worker, peasant parties, they succeeded to some extent in organizing them, but not wholly as their doctrine was not rooted in the soil the workers and peasants emerged from. Ram Chandra had galvanized peasants of three districts in a short time in part because his message relied on Hindu civilizational symbolisms. Grass-root level Kisan Sabhas outside the Communist space however continued, eg, those organized by Swami Sahajanaand Saraswati. They were all staunch anti-imperialists and in tandem with Subhas Bose they exerted tremendous pressure on Congress to act against British during the early part of the second world war. But mostly they were excluded from the independence struggle which could never reach desired proportions as a result.
Ram Chandra was released in 1923, his base was decimated by then, but he continued to support the kisan sabha movement in opposition to Congress. Yet, he also supported Congress’ demands for freedom, and actively participated in all the movements they sponsored. He was imprisoned in 1931 (civil disobedience) and 1941 (during second world war) for his activities against the British-Indian state. He led a miserable life during his last days, and died in 1950. Before his death he wrote: ``Had I been their (Congress leaders’) yes man, I too would have lived in big bungalows and enjoyed all the comforts of life.’’ p. 51,