In this Series:
One of the outstanding services rendered by Swami Dayananda Saraswati to the Sanatana society was to devise the simple but highly effective Shuddhi movement. In his own time, it was both a courageous and a noble thing to do: of bringing forcibly converted Hindus back to their ancestral Dharma. Today, this is variously known as Ghar Wapsi. Initially, the Shuddhi movement met with significant success. However, the Swamiji had seriously underestimated the death-like chokehold that the Ulema had over the Muslim community. But that’s a story for another day.
After Swami Dayananda Saraswati’s death in 1883, his work was carried on with greater fervor and intensity by his worthy disciple, Swami Shraddhananda, who was alarmed at the stupidity of the fake Mahatma courting the Islamic bigot-brothers, Muhammad Ali and Shaukat Ali. Swami Shraddhananda neither needed nor cared for Gandhi’s Hindu-Muslim bhai bhai certificate. A measure of Swami Shraddhananda’s impact is in the fact that his efforts to reconvert the Malkana Rajputs to Hinduism met with success. The Malkana Rajputs had been eager to return to their ancestral Dharma for a long time but all they needed was the reassurance of safety and proper leadership. Swami Shraddhananda provided both.
By 1923, the Muslim Ulema was rattled so much that they decided to take urgent, drastic measures. In mid 1923, the Muslim leadership launched the Tanzeem and Tabligh movement[i] “in order to organize the Muslims as a virile community.”
Swami Shraddhananda hit back immediately. He launched the Sanghatan movement as a counter to this. One of the simultaneous developments that the Shuddhi movement spawned was the reinvigoration of the “physical culture” or the spirit of Kshatra among the Hindus. Gymnasiums, wrestling Akhadas, and martial arts training centres sprang up all over North and North-West India. Which further spooked the Tablighis especially. Swami Shraddhananda’s undaunted courage and leadership met with widespread support from wealthy Hindu Zamindars who in turn acted as his brand ambassadors and reconverted hundreds of Muslims back to Sanatana Dharma.
It was the beginning of the boil. Here’s how Muhammad Ali described[ii] it:
I frankly confess it is on such occasions that I sigh for the days when our forefathers settled things by cutting heads rather than counting them.
R.C. Majumdar’s analysis[iii] is as honest as it is blunt:
The Hindus naturally resented the attitude of the Muslims toward the Shuddi movement and felt…perfectly justified in…reconverting others to their own faith – a right which the Muslims had fully exercised all along without any restraint, and which alone accounted for their number in India.
In May 1923, a Muslim mob attacked an Arya Samaj procession which passed by a mosque in Calcutta. The reason? Hindu “religious music” was being played. That hurt the Muslim sentiments. This escalated into a bloody riot that lasted several days with heavy causalities on both sides. The Sanatana spirit didn’t buckle or cower down.
The Muslim Ulema could take it no longer.
On 29 December, 1923, it convened the Jamait-ul-Ulema Conference at Kakinada, Andhra Pradesh. The President of the conference denounced the Shuddhi movement as “the worst enemies of India,” and declared that “the Sanghatan movement would prove detrimental to the cause of the” Muslim advancement in India.
The stage was set but the real carnage would come later.
15 July 1924. Eid-al-Adha. Or Bakrid.
Some Muslim butchers forcibly dragged a cow through a road in a Hindu locality to the slaughterhouse. The British Government had explicitly shut the road by order fearing trouble on this “holy” festival day. Quite obviously, this led to rioting. Although the British resorted to firing to quell the violence, damage had already been done: the Muslim butchers had massacred 12 Hindus and seriously wounded about a hundred. The panicked Hindu community shut their shops and homes and for the next several days. But the attacks[iv] didn’t stop.
Sporadic attacks continued specially by Moslem goondas on stray passers-by, who happened to be Hindus, in the next few days, and even a Hindu temple was desecrated.
On the last point of the Hindu temple desecration, recall my piece on the recent Durga Temple vandalism in Chandni Chowk in the selfsame Delhi. History does repeat.
It appears that the Bakrid of 1924 was indeed a special occasion. Apart from Delhi, this special festival also witnessed the following elsewhere in India. Nagpur. Jabalpur. Berar. Scores of smaller towns and villages. The same story[v] everywhere.
On the’ Bakr-ld day smaller disturbances also occurred at several places, the cause of the trouble being the same everywhere; the Moslems must kill a cow for sacrifice and Hindus would not allow that. Some of the bigger street-fightings took place in Nagpur, Jubbulpore and other places in the C. P. [Central Provinces. Now Madhya Pradesh] and Berar.
But the worst of all was Gulbarga. In this case, it was the festival of Muharram.
Back then, Gulbarga was ruled by the Nizam of Hyderabad, the selfsame Nizam dynasty marked by plunder, genocide and debauchery that William Dalrymple celebrates in his apologia, White Mughals. On this occasion, the Nizam gave unbridled license[vi] to his “Muhammadan mobs” who “attacked all the temples in [Gulbarga], numbering about fifteen, and broke the idols.” But their bloodthirst wasn’t sated yet. They raided the ancient and holy Sharana Vishweshwara Temple and attempted to set fire to the temple’s Ratha. The intensity of violent bigotry was not quelled even by police firing which killed a few of these Jihadis. They backed off only to return the next day. Here’s what[vii] happened:
Next morning, the streets were again in the hands of Muhammadan mobs and considerable damage was done to Hindu houses and shops…the Muslim mob fury was at its height and almost all the temples within the range of the mob, some fifty in number, were desecrated, their sanctum sanctorum entered into, their idols broken, and their buildings damaged.
News of this wanton temple destruction and Hindu slaughter spread like wildfire throughout India. While Hindus were seething with rage and grieving with agony, the Muslim leadership took Gulbarga as an inspiration.
Their next target: the selfsame Kohat in the North-Western Frontier Province. Now in Pakistan. As always, Hindus remained blissfully unaware, unprepared.
To be continued
[i] R.C. Majumdar: History of the Freedom Movement, Vol 3, p 274
[ii] Ibid: p 275
[iii] Ibid: p 275. Emphasis added.
[iv] IAR Vol 2, p 25. Emphasis added.
[v] Ibid. Emphasis added.
[vi] Ibid: p 278