Of Debates, Intimidation and Advice


                                                            By Abhijit Choudhury   

 Reading Mr. Albert Thyrniang’s article, ‘Debates are welcome, not intimidation’ (ST, February12, 2016), I felt the necessity to respond. I agree with him that debates are essential for healthy democracy. Kong Patricia once told me, unless we take part in debates and discussions how could we nurture vibrant democracy. However, one fails to understand, how addressing a writer/commentator as “Fr”/”Rev” (as has been done by some participants in the on-going debates on Niam Khasi/Niam Tre and other issues), could be threatening. In fact, these are honorific designations, which indicate, apart from his being ordained, the public recognition of his status as a missionary. One may take cognition of the services the missionaries are rendering to the society at large. I don’t know the attitude of the others, but having been associated with the Christian Brothers of India for a long time as a student and later as a teacher of St. Edmund’s College, I have experienced the yeomen’s service they have rendered in the field of education. Who can forget Rev. Brothers Vierra (who was my teacher too), Shannon, Barret, or Davis? In the last few years I have been associated with the Synod College in their academic programmes. I have seen the positive effects of the works done by the authorities of this college and of the Synod in spreading education especially among the youth of the rural areas. Similar type of social and educational services is rendered by the Rama Krishna Mission and the Bharat Sevashram Sangha everywhere including the North eastern region. During public discourses don’t we address the Hindu and Muslim clerics and scholars as “Swami”/”Maharaj”/”Sant” and “Maulana” respectively? Similarly the Buddhist “Lama”/”Bhrante” are honorific addresses. Are such addresses not a mark of respect? Hence in my perception I cannot accept the writer’s argument that addressing one as “Rev” is an insinuation upon one’s person or one’s Church!

         While saying that many Hindu thinkers and activists “all over the country” are vehemently opposing the RSS through “their publications”, the writer also alludes that they are from outside Meghalaya and the Christian majority states of the North eastern region. Is he insinuating that all Hindus living here are supporters of the RSS? Perhaps he does not know that many thinking Hindus here, also oppose the Sangh Parivar on ideological and other grounds. They cannot accept the stands taken by M. S. Golwalker, Savarkar and their ilk. Because such doctrines, cited by him (ST, January 29), are as reactionary as those of the Wahabi clerics of India. The latter owed their allegiance to the Wahabi movement (originating in Saudi Arabia in the nineteenth century). They are aware that such creeds spelt disaster for the concept of India in contemporary history. Curiously enough, the writer does not mention an important chapter in the rise of Fascism and Nazism. It is related to the attitude of the Church to Fascism and Nazism. These doctrines were based on totalitarian nationalism, which demanded total subservience to the state and were racist in ideology. Pope Pius XI had condemned them for their anti-Semitism. Later, however, in lieu of some freedom (in policy matters) with certain restrictions, he would accept the offer of Mussolini for accommodation. It led to the Lateran Treaty (1929). Of course, there was a silver lining in that the Papacy had vigorously protested Mussolini’s anti-Semitic decrees in 1938. In Germany the conditions were more complex. William Shirer, in his classic book, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, has delineated the long tradition of German racialism, especially anti-Semitic outlook. As early as in the sixteenth century, the great German leader of the Reformation movement in Europe, Martin Luther advocated brutal suppression of the Jews and the Gypsies. He stood for absolute obedience to political authority. In his book, Mein Kampf, Hitler railed against both the Catholic and Protestant churches. After coming to power in 1933, the Nazi state promised freedom of the Catholic Church through a concordat. But soon they violated their promises. Some Catholic priests were murdered and church bodies were suppressed leading to disillusionment of the church hierarchy, who tried co-operating with the new regime. Even when most of the Protestant clergy and lay members were opposed to the Nazi state, they were divided in their allegiance. Many became loyal supporters of the Nazi state, while the dissenters were murdered by the Nazis. Between 1937 and 1938, Bishop Marahrens of Hanover first eulogized “German manhood” as an ideal for the German Christians and then ordered all pastors in his diocese to swear personal allegiance to the “Fuehrer”. A vast majority of the pastors obliged him. This is indeed a lesson for all of us! Any perceptive student of history can take note of the fact that throughout history of mankind, religious institutions, sects and orders had   compromised their position. Often they exhibited intolerance. Kong Patricia has subtly hinted at our jostling for space in given socio-political milieu, which gives rise to tension. So correct!

          In his ire against what happened in Shillong on the occasion of the birthday of Subhash Chandra Bose this year (which many of the Hindus also do not approve of), the writer has unnecessarily dragged in his name. That also with a misinformation that Hitler and Bose were “mutual admirer”! He writes, “There was also an advice to verify facts before putting them in public domain”. This is obviously a reference to what I had written (ST, February 10). How can I be so audacious as to give advice to someone? I placed my “humble request” not only to him but to all writers/ commentators on this count. I am amused to read, “I still hold on to my views.”! How? Is it based on historical facts or simply on imagination? If not imagination, then the two or three sources that the writer cites are not sufficient to substantiate his stand. Well, he wanted dictatorship in initial stage after India’s independence. But that was to guide the Indians in governance. Dr Sun Yat Sen, the father of Chinese nationalism, too, advocated party dictatorship called “Tutelage”, so that his people learn governance during transition to democracy. He did it in the 1890s. One of the sources (M.S.Sharma), the writer cites, had written, “Netaji seems to have liked Nazism more than fascism…”  Where is the evidence? There cannot be any room for “seems” in historical method. Concrete evidence is needed. In Bose’s own writing or speeches there is no evidence of his preference. One may consult the Essential Writings of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose (Ed. Sisir Kumar Bose and Sugata Bose), Bow of Burning Gold. A Study of Subhas Chandra Bose (Hiren Mukherjee), Brothers against the Raj(Leonard Gordon) and other works. As for the German sources, cited in my aforesaid article, one may see Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose through the British and German Lens (Nanda Mukhopadhyay).Yes, he wanted synthesis between national socialism and communism, as his source mentioned. But what was the extent? His correspondences suggest that he would consider only their orderliness in governance and their economic programmes of reconstruction.

In my earlier article, cited above, I have given evidence of his disdain for their racist and imperialist ideology in his correspondences, interviews and speeches while he was in Germany during the 1930s. It is needless to repeat it here. I have also explained the background of his moving to Germany under compulsions of the situation. Any one conversant with that era of ‘Real politick’ would realize as to why he had to do so. One should read Mein Kampf to see Hitler’s attitude towards India under the British rule. In a letter to Amiya Chakrabarty from Germany in the 1930s, Bose asked him to campaign against Hitler’s observations on India. Even during his stay in Berlin, Bose’s views and attitude towards Hitler was known to the officials of the Foreign Office like Voigt (which I have already mentioned). Nowhere in my article did I say that Bose did not meet Hitler. The writer has also cited another ‘on-line’ contributor, Sisir K Majumdar wondering as to how Bose could put up with this inhuman regime “for two long years”. One has to study the available records to see why he did so. One must remember that Bose had to work in an atmosphere where the top echelons of the Nazi government showed indifference. He not only struggled to meet Hitler, but he had to work hard to form the Indian Legion from among the Indian POWs from North Africa and to establish the Azad Hind Radio etc. One must also note that though he had a number of German admirers, Bose had to work under difficult conditions. When he found that nothing was to come from the Germans he decided to shift to South East Asia. Anyone who does not understand the rigours of the then international situation cannot appreciate these facts.

If the writer still “holds on” to his views, then I have nothing to say! Before concluding, with reference to Mr. Morning Star Sumer’s article, ’RSS, Politics and Religion’ (ST, February 16), may I say that I fully agree with Mr. Mawroh that Bose “had nothing to do with the RSS”. I had pointed out in the concluding part of my article that in our country today we are searching for “heroes”. What happened in Shillong on that day reflected the current trend, which is unwelcome to any perceptive student of history. May I humbly point out, however, that mine was not an “apologia for Bose”, as the writer makes it out to be! If he had read my article carefully, he would notice that I only tried correcting a misperception about the nature of his relations with Hitler.

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