by BA and Venkatesh Sundaram
Source of photo: https://www.dkfindout.com/us/history/modern-india/partition-india/
India has just entered the 75th year of formal Independence from British colonialism, or more precisely of the Transfer of Power to the Indian Ruling Circles spearheaded by the Indian National Congress on the one hand, and to the Muslim League on the other in what constitutes today’s Pakistan and Bangladesh. The latter were formerly West Pakistan and East Pakistan, two parts of a country that came to be in an unprecedented manner in history of having a country with no contiguous border or even a littoral in common.
These came into being based on the British Cabinet Mission Plan of 1946 that advocated a communal partition of India based on majority populations in provinces with Hindu and Muslim majorities. This later became the Mountbatten Plan. In addition, the erstwhile Princely States were also merged into the Indian Union. Rebellious provinces were merged with the Union using armed military action as well as through coercion and arm-twisting of erstwhile rulers of these provinces. It may also be noted that Constitution of India which is primarily based on the Government of India Act of 1935 (itself based on earlier Acts of the British Parliament, traceable to the Rowlatt Act of 1919) was adopted by Constituent Assembly in 1950 that was not constituted on the basis of Universal Suffrage, hence cannot be said to really represent the will of the people of India.
It is necessary in our view to look into the history of pre-1947 to understand the development of India in the last seven and a half decades. Today, India has horrible statistics regarding human development, malnutrition, income disparity, health, education, corruption and so on. At the same time Indian ruling circles aspire to join the select club of imperialist countries, albeit with limited success, and the country spends very heavily on a large security apparatus and military. The Indian Union as it emerged in 1947 and developed is one in which sovereign power passed from the hands of the British Monarch and her legate the Viceroy of India, to the Indian Cabinet, Parliament and nominally the President of India. In essence, the power went from the oppressing colonial power to the class it nurtured, namely the Brown Sahibs and their representatives, the rich and wealthy industrial class and landlords and their political appointees in the Indian National Congress and the Muslim League.
The principle of British Statecraft in India resided on the notion that India had two warring parties, namely Hindus and Muslims and it was only an enlightened power like Britain that could keep the peace. The State they built was one of loot and plunder, which was to keep the population stupefied on the one hand, and to skim off the wealth produced by their labour using the natural resources of their land. This State was kept intact in 1947 and has proved to be one that prolonged the capitalist system that was implanted in India, with India becoming an enthusiastic partner of the imperialist-capitalist system, rather than becoming one that would challenge it, and truly liberate the people within its territorial boundaries.
It may be recalled that the Second World War, one of the two most catastrophic events that have shaken mankind, ended barely two years earlier. Whereas it had come to an end a year earlier in the European theatre, the Japanese theatre ended only in August 1945. The bombing of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki was a signal to the USSR, a great beacon of hope for the laboring millions around the world, and a prominent victor of the war in the European theatre, that you too will meet this fate should you not comply. The great colonial powers, Britain and France had weakened to such a point that their exit from their colonial possessions was a foregone conclusion. USA was the ascendant power, which was just beginning to understand its role and that the mantle of leadership would soon fall on its shoulders. The European ruling circles were alarmed at all the prospects were absolutely sure of one thing: any revolutionary movement had to be stopped anywhere and everywhere in the world.
Returning to India in that period, the people of India too were inspired by the prospect of revolution. Smelling that a complete transfer of power was possible and simultaneously frightened by the prospect of a revolutionary upsurge that would deprive them of their pole position, the Brown Sahibs and their representatives, the rich and wealthy industrial class and landlords and their political appointees were willing to negotiate with the British for a Transfer of Power. They wished to retain all the apparatus of state – police, army, courts, administrative structure – of the colonial system. Worse, they capitulated to the British colonialists’ plan for Partition.
No doubt the blueprint for partitioning India along communal lines was drawn up in the highest levels of the British government and colonial administration. The Indian property owning classes and their political parties did not oppose these machinations and thus became complicit in the massacres. The exodus that ensued was one which had no parallel in history. It made sure that no reconciliation was ever possible, despite the sanctimonious utterances of M/s Nehru and Jinnah who claimed that they never expected this to happen. It was also to ensure the stability of the formations and that no one would challenge the hegemony of the ruling circles, and an exhibition of their naked ambition and ruthlessness, which would cow down the population. At the same time the population was also fed with grandiose illusions and lulled into acceptance of their lot.
In the decades preceding these, such men as Shahid Bhagat Singh spoke of a vision of India that would be free of exploitation and where men and women would live in dignity. To counter this, the Congress Party offered a vision where `Ram Rajya’ would be tendered, where some would have more privileges than others, by virtue of their birth, or innate talent, or whatever who would be the Trustees of society and of wealth, and that there would be a trickle-down benefit. In order to deal with the pressure from below, and the spectre of socialism and revolution, the Constitution makers incorporated elements of socialism and social welfare in the Directive Principles, which are totally non-enforceable.
To deal with the historical atrocities of caste oppression, they gave the recipe of reservation policies, as a form of `elite accommodation’. A “mixed-economy” model was adopted, partly to create the impression of socialist planning, while in reality it was a foundation for the ruling circles of India to create the necessary infra-structure so that their industries could flourish, without making the necessary investments themselves. Ironically, the Mahalanobis Plan is more popularly known as the Bombay Plan or even the Tata-Birla Plan.
To this day that the people of India do not have any control over their destiny. The party ruling at the Centre may be changed after a while, but the ruling circles ensure that their class interests are always upheld. Their wealth has increased multiple-fold in the last seven decades, while the lot of the toiling people has deteriorated in real terms. The entire summation of the experience of India shows that the struggle for liberation is far from over. The Institutions that came into being after the first war of independence in 1857- the Great Ghadar – and which passed into the hands of the British Crown and then got transferred to the Indian ruling circles in whose hands the sovereign power resides, bear the clear stamp of colonial governance.
From the economic policies to the legislative bodies to the executive and the judiciary, all Institutions remain aligned in favour of the ruling circles. The inherent contradiction with the people lies just below the surface at times and blows over at other times. It can be safely concluded that the problems which beset India today have their origins in substantial part in the transfer of power from the British colonialists to the current ruling circles – the super-rich.