Khurshid said that he was not just a representative of the Congress but the Congress itself
When senior Congress leader Salman Khurshid says that his party has blood on its hands for the various instances of communal violence during its rule since independence, he is only speaking half the truth. And he has had to ‘clarify’ even that half-truth in order to help the party wriggle out of the acute embarrassment his remark has caused. Khurshid was responding to a question by a student at Aligarh Muslim University, and it is obvious from the context that he meant the ‘blood of Muslims’. The other half of the truth is that the party has the blood of Hindus on its hands as well because even members of the majority community lost their lives in the innumerable communal clashes during the Congress’s reign. Let us also not forget that it has the blood of Sikhs as well.
The Congress never officially endorsed the pragmatic remark
Why then did Khurshid only remembers the death of Muslims? It can be argued that he was addressing a specific query about the loss of Muslim lives in communal riots. That may be so, and yet the Congress leader could have risen above the question and pointed out that the lives of thousands of innocent Indians, regardless of their religious affiliation, had been snuffed out in such violence. The Bharatiya Janata Party and its partners may be toasting him today for the bold ‘confession’, but it was the same Khurshid who had said that Sonia Gandhi had tears when she heard of the death of (Muslim) militants in the Batla House encounter. Also, Khurshid had not said a word of protest when the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said at an official event that Muslims had the first right to the country’s resources.
Nonetheless, his ‘bold admission’ comes at an inopportune time for the Congress. The party is facing a difficult Assembly election in Karnataka and his acceptance of guilt on behalf of the party — when questioned by the media, he actually said that he was not just a representative of the Congress but the Congress itself, since he ‘lived and breathed Congress’ — has given a handy stick to the BJP to beat the Congress with. Moreover, the admission of culpability is not going to amuse the Muslim community, sections of which could possibly shift to the Janata Dal (Secular) in the State. Incidentally, this is the second self-goal Khurshid has scored against his party; only days ago he had criticised the move led by the Congress to impeach the Chief Justice of India and added that he had not been kept in the loop.
If Khurshid wants to have his moment of glory, let that not be denied. But since he also talked at the AMU event of the need to learn lessons from history, he ought to demonstrate further boldness in admitting that historically the Congress has been less than fair to Hindu sentiments in its quest to appease the minorities. It treated with disdain, for instance, several attempts by Bal Gangadhar Tilak to highlight the issue. When leaders of the Christian and the Muslim communities appealed for brotherhood with the majority religionist, Tilak had said that “it would happen when all other people also behaved well towards the Hindus”. The Congress never officially endorsed the pragmatic remark. Tilak was left to fight his battles alone. Not just that, the party pitted the ‘moderate’ Gopal Krishna Gokhale to counter Tilak.
when he next develops the spine, Salman Khurshid can confess to his party’s these other blunders as well
Another example, even more brazenly communal, was the Congress’s support to the Khilafat movement (1919-24). A bunch of Muslim leaders had initiated a drive to pressure the British regime to protect the Caliphate in faraway Turkey in the backdrop of the First World War. The issue had nothing to do with India and was a sectarian demand. The Congress argued that the alliance between it and the Muslim leaders on the subject would promote Hindu-Muslim unity in the country and assist in the freedom movement. This was a fig leaf, and just how bogus the claim was, came to be evident in a most tragic manner in the Malabar region of south India. Right in the midst of the so-called Hindu-Muslim bonhomie, Moplah Muslims went on a rampage, targeting Hindus living there. Over 100,000 Hindus were reportedly driven out of their homes, and many were massacred or forcibly converted. This is what Annie Besant had to say about the violence: “They murdered and plundered abundantly, and killed or drove away all Hindus who would not apostatise… Malabar has taught us what Islamic rule still means.” Ironically, the killings happened because the Moplahs accused the Hindus of not backing the Khilafat campaign.
While the concern for Muslim sentiments was high in the Congress, the party would suddenly become ‘secular’ when it came to dealing with Hindu sentiments. Nehru vociferously opposed Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel’s initiative to reconstruct the historic Somnath temple which had been destroyed by Muslim invaders and relented only after Mahatma Gandhi backed the proposal on condition that the finances for the reconstruction would not come from the Government treasury but through private donations. Right through the 1920s and until independence, the Congress now effectively led by Nehru, systematically sidelined pro-Hindu (though not anti-Muslim) leaders such as Sardar Patel, Madan Mohan Malaviya and even Rajendra Prasad; Nehru was uneasy with Rajendra Prasad being President and made many efforts to cut him down to size.
So maybe, when he next develops the spine, Salman Khurshid can confess to his party’s these other blunders as well.