Revisiting the ideology of Pakistan

This was originally published in the September 2011 issue of Pragati 

If there is one national termite that has been eating up Pakistan’s physiology and neurology, it is its purported ‘ideology’. After more than six decades of existence, Pakistan is still defending its genesis and going to-and-fro on the cause-effect tree. Graduating a ‘community’ into a ‘nation’ has not been without consequences, and is now affecting affecting its own existence.

The origin of the idea of Pakistan stands as obliterated in the subcontinent, as is Pakistan’s identity. The most prominent narrative in both countries has been that Indian partition was based on a simplistic ‘Two-Nation Theory’ (that Muslims and Hindus are two essentially distinct ‘nations’ and thus cannot live together). In India, the narrative turns negative, interpreting communalism and Muslim separatism as the raison d’etre of Pakistan. In Pakistan, it becomes the root of jingoist patriotism, hatred of India and religious fundamentalism with a burgeoning political commitment to further theocratise the state. In India, in contrast, the birth of a country based on ‘communal’ considerations continues to be unacceptable to a more secular public. The two narratives remain unchallenged even by the peaceniks; peaceniks who otherwise bear the brunt of popular ridicule for denying harsh realities while trying to find solutions in hollow emotionalism.

Both the narratives seem to simplify the complex political power-play that shaped the events leading to the partition of India.

They also miss a tragic flow of events and ideas that started much earlier than the Lahore Resolution of 1940, which is thought to be the basis for creation of Pakistan.

Photo: International Rivers

The ‘ideology of Pakistan’ as scripted by the state, emphasises cultural and religious difference between Hindus and Muslims, and hence their inability to live together. The Indian discourse about the genesis of Pakistan doesn’t seem to be any different. The majority of notable authors, from Kishori Lal to M J Akbar, put the blame of Pakistan’s current problems on its communal origins. The narrative misses significant political developments post 1857 that pitched the two communities against each other to the point of no return by 1940s.

For many in Pakistan, their country was born the day Ibn-e-Qasim set his foot on Indian soil. This makes a religious hero out of any invader, aggressor, trespasser and intruder if he was a Muslim. Ghauri, Ghazni, Al-Afghani and various others fall in this category, thus undermining the motherland in favour of an apostolic cause—conquest of territories as divine right. The passion is too conspicuous to miss in today’s Pakistan where terrorist groups from every nook and corner of the world can seek shelter for the cause of Islamic conquest of the world.

There is no denying the fact that any differences of religion or civilisation, however big they might be, should not have been made the basis for tearing the ‘watan’ (homeland) apart. Equally noteworthy is the fact that from Mauryas to Mughals, Indian land had had varying delimitations of different territories, loosely forming the umbrella—India. Aitzaz Ahsan, in his The Indus Saga and the Making of Pakistan gives a new meaning to the separation of the Indus and the Ganges. His thesis snatches the space from the religious discourse while attempting to ground the idea in centuries of human experience rather than vagaries of holy mission of conquest of ‘Hind’. The view probably borrowed by earlier work of REM Wheeler, Five Thousand Years of Pakistan.

The crux of Mr Ahsan’s study was the inherent difference between the Indus valley and the Ganges civilisations, which he argues, bound all the people living northwest of the Gurdaspur-Kathiwar salient, as one, irrespective of their religion. The southern side of this cultural border constitutes Mr Ahsan’s Ganges man, who considers every intruder from the south or from the central Asia as an invader rather than a hero. He identifies his Indus man more with the Central Asian culture than the Ganges civilisation—a more ‘Indian’ civilization.

The political brokering since the early twentieth century which formed the basis on which India was partitioned, had combined the tagging of political survival based on parity and ego of the Muslim elite who used Islam as a motivational factor. During these years, no political roadmap, blueprint of the state or an ideology was presented for public purview that could determine the future state and its postulates.

Keeping the confusion and ambiguity about the nature of the state he demanded, Jinnah was able to not only mobilise mass support using a religious tag, but he also succeeded in having an edge over the Indian National Congress on the negotiating table, almost every significant time after 1940. The Congress’s acceptance of Cabinet Mission Plan was, however, a blow to the politics Jinnah was playing. Without being serious—K K Aziz quotes at least two instances where Jinnah confesses that he had used the demand for a hypothetical state just as a negotiation tool—about the Pakistan proposal and being mindful of the consequences of this kind of politics, Jinnah kept on treading wherever the flow of politics took him, with of course his hand firmly placed on the control panel, which the Congress seemed to misread.

Muslims of united India had by mid-1940s become extremely confused about the nature and justification of ‘Pakistan’. Those in the Muslim minority provinces had been main wielders of the idea of ‘save Muslims’ through resolving existential concerns like greater political rights, greater shares in power-sharing formulae and increased job quotas. The ever-evolving idea of Pakistan changed the locus of separatist politics from minority to Muslim-majority provinces. Those already in the majority became incomprehensibly confused about the need for a separate country when they were already enjoying political, social and economic rights as a majority.

The newborn nation obviously could not survive this scrambled egg of an ideology and soon succumbed to political Islam.

The phenomenon of jihad as state policy, though not documented as such, amply defined itself when Pakistan decided to invade Indian Kashmir through the tribal people called ‘mujahiddin’, right under Jinnah’s nose. The Two-Nation Theory became an explosive TNT for Pakistan with the advent of sectarianism in the 1950s and the perpetual subjugation of Bengalis by the state and led to the partition once again in 1971. The ‘Islamic Republic of Pakistan’, in which religious ‘oneness’ was trumpeted disproportionately, could not keep its predominantly Muslim East Pakistan wing intact.

The folly called ideology and political practice, designed by Jinnah, have put Pakistan at the brink of social and political collapse. It is high time to correct this historical blunder adopted as ideology and revise the genesis of Pakistan from the puerile haziness of Maududi’s terminology to Wheeler and Ahsan’s vocabulary. The difference, whatever little it might have been, was in the Indus man and the Ganges man, irrespective of their religion. Indus man should look towards Indus, not the deserts of Arabia for cultural refuge. Embracing heritage and rooting it firmly in the Indus soil rather than the air from the Arabian desert is the option that could put Pakistan on its way to international respect and progress. Destruction, otherwise, is impatiently waiting for us.

Thanks a lot Tharoor Ji!

This column No More Delusions was written by Shashi Tharoor ji for Delhi Chronicle on August 5, 2011 in response to my earlier column for Daily Times on July 25, 2011  We, the Delusional Liberals, which was in turn in response to Tharoor ji’s column Delusional Liberals on July 21, 2011 in Delhi Chronicle. This very write-up by Tharoor ji is actually an honor for me for having such a gorgeous mention of me. Posting it here to preserve it in my archives. In this article, he gave me a coveted Gandhi Cap which I’m going to celebrate for the rest of my life. Thanks a lot Tharoor ji. I’m honored! Here goes the article by hime in entirety, as it appeared in Delhi Chronicle:

 

No More Delusions

Few articles I’ve written have provoked as much of a storm as my last column in this space (Delusional Liberals, July 21, though the adjective “delusional” was a headline writer’s, not mine).

In that piece, I had expressed concern that some Pakistani commentators’ intolerant response to an article on Pakistan by the Indian writer Aatish Taseer, and the echoing applause of many Pakistani liberals, made me doubt whether we had credible partners for peace amongst the liberal community on the other side of the border. The reactions, particularly in social media forums, were sharp.

Inevitably, I have been subject to the usual bouts of invective and abuse that have so cheapened discourse in the age of the Internet, where the refuge provided by anonymity has encouraged a level of vileness that few would permit themselves to express face-to-face.

But those need not detain us here. Far more interesting and worthy of attention were three columns in the mainstream Pakistani media responding to mine. By broadening and deepening the terms of the debate beyond the Taseer piece, they made my original column worth writing.

The tenor of the three articles (none of whose authors I have ever met or known personally) varied. The most liberal of the trio, Marvi Sirmed, in her column in the Daily Times, began by clarifying that she had actually no disagreement with the central thesis of Aatish Taseer’s article (on the various misdeeds of the Pakistani military establishment), but had rejected the author’s assertion that his father Salman Taseer, the late governor of Pakistani Punjab, “hated” India.

She also objected to Aatish’s claim that Pakistan was the “dream of a poet” (Iqbal), though this was not an issue I had dwelt on in my own piece. And she ended with two impressive points I have no difficulty acknowledging: that I should be more conscious of the diversity of the Pakistani liberal community, and that Ms Sirmed saw herself as a proud Pakistani whose love of her country did not oblige her to hate India.

Marvi Sirmed is the kind of intelligent, broad-minded person most Indians would have no difficulty engaging with, and I tip my (metaphorical) Gandhi cap to her.

Ejaz Haider, whose riposte to Aatish Taseer had sparked my initial piece, was less accommodating of my core argument, seeing it as an exercise in “considered perception-formation and reinforcement”.

By this he seemed to imply that my article was part of a devious Indian conspiracy to affect perceptions of his country negatively; in fact he titled his column “It’s Not Just Mr. Tharoor!”

My fellow conspirators (on the basis of recent articles we had each written) apparently included young Taseer, the Mumbai-born American strategist Ashley Tellis, and the Indian analyst Nitin Pai, who has suggested (as I have done separately) that the US should end its over-generous aid to Pakistan’s military-jihadi complex. Ejaz Haider then proceeds to put words in our collective mouths to the tune that we seek “India’s supremacy in the region” and the resolution of disputes only “on India’s terms”. None of us has made so fatuous a suggestion, but the exaggeration was, alas, necessary to demolish our case.

Then Ejaz Haider (who, it must be said, is one of Pakistan’s finest columnists, and whom I have enjoyed reading for years) gets onto firmer ground. He admits there is a military-civilian divide in Pakistan, but argues that most of his country’s conflicts with India have originated under, or at the instigation of, civilian politicians, not military rulers.

In any case, this is “Pakistan’s internal matter” and acknowledging it should not imply any neglect of national security or abdication of Pakistani self-interest. And the clincher: “we don’t need advice from across the border” (especially, he adds gratuitously, from pundits who “crawled on their bellies” during the Emergency, a charge from which all those he’s responding to are in fact exempt).

Ejaz Haider was joined in the pages of Pakistan’s Express Tribune by Feisal Naqvi, who found my arguments “cretinous in the extreme” and “gratuitously smug about India’s lack of strategic ambitions”.

Invective aside, Naqvi’s argument was that while Pakistanis were obsessed with India, “the opposite of India-obsessed is not India-submissive” (which, again putting words into my mouth, I allegedly want them to be). Mr Naqvi also finds, somewhere between the lines of my column, something I never wrote — a rejection of the very legitimacy of Pakistan’s existence.

Pakistani liberals, he asserts, are happy being Pakistani, value their military and have no desire to dismantle it. My article instead “delegitimises” them in the eyes of the Pakistani establishment. (Sigh.)

What’s particularly interesting about these well-written responses is that they rely principally on refuting arguments I haven’t made. Since space limitations prescribe brevity, let me make clear where I stand. I am totally reconciled to Pakistan’s existence as an independent state, and have no desire to reintegrate it into “Akhand Bharat” — indeed, the demographic, social and political evolution of Pakistan since 1947 makes it quite unsuitable for any such reabsorption.

I do understand that Pakistan has to survive in a tough neighbourhood and it needs a capable military. And I do not expect any Pakistani government, military or civilian, to act in anything but Pakistan’s own best interest.

But — and alas, there is a but — I don’t believe it’s in Pakistan’s best interest to be the country whose military consumes the largest percentage of national resources (both GDP and annual budget) of any military in the world. I don’t believe it’s in Pakistan’s best interest to adopt a policy of seeking “strategic depth” by destabilising its neighbours.

I don’t believe it’s in Pakistan’s best interest to try to wrest Kashmir from India by financing or arming violent militancy. I don’t believe it’s in Pakistan’s best interest to be the cradle and crucible of militant Islamist terrorism. I don’t believe it’s in Pakistan’s best interest to be a country where no elected civilian government has ever served a full term. And I do believe that any Pakistani liberal worth the name (take a bow, Marvi Sirmed) should have no difficulty in agreeing with any of these propositions.

Even if they come from an Indian. Ay, there’s the rub…

Shashi Tharoor is a member of Parliament from Kerala’s Thiruvananthapuram constituency

The headline is the author’s own

Lost and Sought in Seven Decades: Peeping through Indo-Pak History


Baaghi is committed to truth and bringing to its readers the analyses on historical events objectively and dispassionately. Those who are firm believers of state-authored textbook history in subcontinent are on higher risk of being offended and agitated. It is recommended to kindly treat history as a sacred thing which we owe to our posterity in purest of its form and content. With this view, Baaghi brings you some nuggets of events that led to the partition of Indian subcontinent. While some call it "independence", others may term it the saddest incidence of the history of region where the arms of this mighty subcontinent were chopped off. But dismemberment of United India was not the only tragedy people saw. It also brought a bloodshed, human misery and destruction with it, rarely found in recent history. 

Not one factor or actor of the time, however, could be accused of this gory episod. There are many. In fact all the elements of subcontinent's political mainstream, now seem to be accomplice in this, when we peep through history pages today. Here we reproduce two important documents from the archives of partition papers, resting peacefully in British Library, United Kingdom. For the ease of researchers, the document number has also been given whereby you can reach it from the Library.

 

Text of the Second Resolution passed by the All-India Muslim League Council at Bombay on 29 July 1946.

[R/3/1/35]

Resolution No. 2

Whereas the Council of the All-India Muslim League has resolved to reject the proposals embodied in the Statement of the Cabinet Delegation and the Viceroy, dated 16th May 1946, due to the intransigence of. the Congress on one hand, and the breach of faith with the Muslims by the British Government on the other; and

Whereas Muslim India has exhausted without success all efforts to find a peaceful solution of the Indian problem by compromise and constitutional means; and

Whereas the Congress is bent upon setting up Caste-Hindu Raj in India with the connivance of the British; and Whereas recent events have shown that power politics and not justice and fairplay are the deciding factors in India affairs; and

Whereas it has become abundantly clear that the Muslims of India would not rest contented with anything less than the immediate establishment of Independent and fully sovereign State of Pakistan and would resist any attempt to impose any constitution-making machinery or any constitution, long term or short term, or the setting up of any Interim Government at the Centre without the approval and consent of the Muslim League.

The Council of the All-India Muslim League is convinced that now the time has come for the Muslim Nation to resort to Direct Action to achieve Pakistan, to assert their just rights, to vindicate their honour and to get rid of the present British slavery and the contemplated future Caste-Hindu domination.

This Council calls upon the Muslim Nation to stand to a man behind their sole representative and authoritative organisation, the All-India Muslim League, and to be ready for every sacrifice.

This Council directs the Working Committee to prepare forthwith a programme of Direct Action to carry out the policy enunciated above and to organise the Muslims for the coming struggle to be launched as and when necessary.

As a protest against and in token of their deep resentment of the attitude of the British, this Council calls upon the Mussalmans to renounce forthwith the titles conferred upon them by the alien Government.

 

Having read the above Resolution, it would be interesting for the readers to go through following secret report that was submitted to the then Viceroy, Lord Wavell. This report covers the event of a massacre that followed the above resolution and the Direct Action Day. According to newspaper reports (Archives …) the post Direction Action events rendered around 4000 people killed and more than 100,000 displaced in the West Bengal especially Calcutta, in the wake of worst communal violence, termed as Great Calcutta Kilings. Sir John Burrow wrote this report with the perspective of British Governor of Bengal, and in quite detail. For the purpose of brevity, the report has been extracted by the British Library as under:

 

An extract of a secret report written on 22 August 1946 to the Viceroy Lord Wavell, from Sir Frederick John Burrows, concerning the Calcutta riots.

[IOR: L/P&J/8/655 f.f. 95, 96-107]

Secret

Calcutta
22nd August 1946

Dear Lord Wavell,

The series of telegrams, beginning with No.192 of August 16th, will have kept you apprised from day to day of the board outline of the appalling disturbances that have occurred in Calcutta. In this letter I am attempting to give a fuller picture of the setting, the course of events, and my preliminary conclusions. It is too soon to expect a very accurate account even of the disturbances themselves, far less to attempt a balanced judgement either of the causes of the riots or the wisdom of the measures taken to quell them. I shall try to be as objective as possible, and shall in particular exclude all reference to food and relief, (about which I shall address you separately as soon as possible), and to the repercussions on my Ministry. I am sending a copy of this letter to Pethick-Lawrence by safe hand on a York plane.

2. The setting. Omitting the more remote causes of the riots – the long struggle for power between Hindus and Muslims, in which Calcutta is a focal point, the weakening of our authority which is an inevitable consequence of our impending departure, the dislocation of the normal life of Calcutta by war and famine, and the presence of a Muslim Ministry in a predominantly Hindu city – the proximate cause was the resolution of the Council of the All-India Muslim League passed at Bombay on July 29th, calling on 'the Muslim nation to resort to direct action to achieve Pakistan', and the consequent fixing of August 15th as 'Direct Action Day'. I enclose a cutting from the "Star of India" of August 9th – it was repeated in subsequent issues till the 13th – giving the programme for 'Direct Action Day' in Calcutta.

3. The decision of my Ministry to declare a holiday under the Negotiable Instructions Act on August 16th has been a matter of some controversy. …… It is easy to be wise after the event and to say that the trouble would not have occurred if there had not been a holiday, "for Satan finds some mischief still, for idle hands to do". I disagree; many of the mischief-makers were people who would have had idle hands anyhow. If shops and markets had been generally open, I believe that there would have been even more looting and murder than there was; the holiday gave the peaceable citizens the chance of staying at home. There was an adjournment motion in the Legislative Council on August -15th about the declaration of a holiday. The Chief Minister, defending the decision, said that though the Muslims would observe the day peacefully and in a disciplined manner, there was always a danger of conflict arising; Congressmen had in the past enforced hartals by violence, and Muslims might be tempted to follow their example, which in the present political atmosphere was bound to five rise to communal conflict. It was to minimize the risk of such conflicts that he had declared a holiday. ……

4. As regards the probabilities of trouble and its possible extent, we found it extremely difficult to arrive at any confident appreciation in advance. Outwardly both major parties and also the independent Schedule Caste leaders, who had announced their intention to support the Muslim protest, had emphasised the necessity of keeping the peace. On the other hand the atmosphere was admittedly explosive and we realised – and I impressed it on my Chief Minister and all his colleagues – that the League were playing with fire. ……

5. Narrative of events. ……

6. Friday, August 16th. Even before 10 o'clock Police Headquarters had reported that there was excitement throughout the city, that shops were being forced to close, and that there were many reports of stabbing and throwing of stones and brickbats. The trouble had already assumed the communal character which it was to retain throughout. At that time it was mainly in the northern half of the city. (Later reports indicate that the Muslims were in an aggressive mood from early in the day and that their processions were well armed with the lathis, iron rods and missiles. Their efforts to force Hindu shops to close as they passed through the streets were greeted with showers of brickbats from the roofs above – indicating that the Hindus were also not unprepared for trouble – and from this sort of exchange of missiles, matters soon degenerated into arson, looting and murder). The situation deteriorated during the forenoon and at 2.40 p.m. the Chief Secretary rang up my Secretary to say that the position had become so serious that he supported the request of the Commissioner of Police that the Army should be called in at once in aid of the civil power. …… Ten minutes later the Commissioner of Police reported that the Chief Minister had already agreed to the calling in of troops. He added that the Police had used tear-smoke on crowds frequently and that the situation was bad in Harrison Road, Wellington Square and Corporation Street. ……

……

Yours sincerely,

(Sgd.) F. J. Burrows.

His Excellency Field Marshal the Right Hon'ble Viscount Wavell, G.C.B., G.H.S.I., G.H.I.E., C.M.G., M.C.

Viceroy and Governor-General of India, The Viceroy's House, New Delhi.

 

 

Why I am an Atheist by Bhagat Singh

This pamphlet was written by Bhagat Singh Shaheed on October 5 – 6, 1930. Following version of the pamphlet was written originally in Gurumukhi, which was translated to Urdu/Persian script by Mr. Maqsood Saqib and was subsequently translated from Urdu to English by Mr. Hasan for marxists.org in 2006, from where it is lifted. Proofread by Andy Blunden and Mike Bessler, it remains a Creative Common (Attribute & ShareAlike) marxists.org 2006.


Bhagat Singh while in jail at the age of 20 years

I have never been able to understand how unfounded, baseless pride or empty vanity can hinder a person from believing in God. I may refuse to acknowledge the greatness of a really great person only when I have got fame without doing any serious efforts or when I lack the superior mental powers necessary to become great. It is easy to understand but how is it possible that a believer can turn into a non-believer because of his vanity? Only two things are possible: either a man deems himself to be in possession of Godly qualities, or he goes a step further and declares himself to be a god. In both these states of mind he cannot be an atheist in the true sense of the word. In the first case, it is not an outright rejection of God’s existence; in the other, he is affirming the existence of some kind of supernatural power responsible for the working of universe. It does not harm our argument whether he claims to be a god or considers God to be a reality in existence above his own being. The real point, however, is that in both cases he is a theist, a believer. He is not an atheist. I want to bring home this point to you. I am not one of these two creeds. I totally reject the existence of an Omnipresent, all powerful, all knowing God. Why so? I will discuss it later in the essay. Here I wish to emphasise that I am not an atheist for the reason that I am arrogant or proud or vain; nor am I a demi-god, nor a prophet; no, nor am I God myself. At least one thing is true that I have not evolved this thought because of vanity or pride. In order to answer this question I relate the truth. My friends say that after Delhi bombing and Lahore Conspiracy Case, I rocketed to fame and that this fact has turned my head. Let us discuss why this allegation is incorrect. I did not give up my belief in God after these incidents. I was an atheist even when I was an unknown figure. At least a college student cannot cherish any sort of exaggerated notion of himself that may lead him to atheism. It is true that I was a favourite with some college teachers, but others did not like me. I was never a hardworking or studious boy. I never got an opportunity to be proud. I was very careful in my behaviour and somewhat pessimistic about my future career. I was not completely atheistic in my beliefs. I was brought up under the care and protection of my father. He was a staunch Arya Samaji. An Arya Samaji can be anything but never an atheist. After my elementary education, I was sent to D. A. V College, Lahore. I lived in the boarding house for one year. Besides prayers early in the morning and at dusk time, I sat for hours and chanted religious Mantras. At that time, I was a staunch believer. Then I lived with my father. He was a tolerant man in his religious views. It is due to his teachings that I devoted my life for the cause of liberating my country. But he was not an atheist. His God was an all-pervading Entity. He advised me to offer my prayers every day. In this way I was brought up. In the Non-cooperation days, I got admission to the National College. During my stay in this college, I began thinking over all the religious polemics such that I grew sceptical about the existence of God. In spite of this fact I can say that my belief in God was firm and strong. I grew a beard and ‘Kais’ (long head of hair as a Sikh religious custom). In spite of this I could not convince myself of the efficacy of Sikh religion or any religion at all, for that matter. But I had an unswerving, unwavering belief in God.

Then I joined the Revolutionary Party. The first leader I met had not the courage to openly declare himself an atheist. He was unable to reach any conclusion on this point. Whenever I asked him about the existence of God, he gave me this reply: “You may believe in him when you feel like it.” The second leader with whom I came in contact was a firm believer. I should mention his name. It was our respected Comrade Sachindara Nath Sanyal. He was sentenced to life imprisonment in connection with Karachi conspiracy case. Right from the first page of his only book, ‘Bandi Jivan’ (Incarnated Life) he sings praises to the Glory of God. See the last page of the second part of this book and you find praises showered upon God in the way of a mystic. It is a clear reflection of his thoughts.

According to the prosecution, the ‘Revolutionary Leaflet’ which was distributed throughout India was the outcome of Sachindara Nath Sanyal’s intellectual labour. So often it happens that in revolutionary activities a leader expresses his own ideas which may be very dear to him, but in spite of having differences, the other workers have to acquiesce in them.

In that leaflet, one full paragraph was devoted to the praises of God and His doings which we, human beings, cannot understand. This is sheer mysticism. What I want to point out is that the idea of denying the existence of God did not even occur to the Revolutionary Party. The famous Kakory martyrs, all four of them, passed their last day in prayers. Ram Parshad Bismal was a staunch Arya Samaji. In spite of his vast studies in Socialism and Communism, Rajan Lahiri could not suppress his desire to recite hymns from Upanishads and Gita. There was but only one person among them who did not indulge in such activities. He used to say, “Religion is the outcome of human weakness or the limitation of human knowledge.” He is also in prison for life. But he also never dared to deny the existence of God.

Till that time I was only a romantic revolutionary, just a follower of our leaders. Then came the time to shoulder the whole responsibility. For some time, a strong opposition put the very existence of the party into danger. Many leaders as well as many enthusiastic comrades began to uphold the party to ridicule. They jeered at us. I had an apprehension that some day I will also consider it a futile and hopeless task. It was a turning point in my revolutionary career. An incessant desire to study filled my heart. ‘Study more and more’, said I to myself so that I might be able to face the arguments of my opponents. ‘Study’ to support your point of view with convincing arguments. And I began to study in a serious manner. My previous beliefs and convictions underwent a radical change. The romance of militancy dominated our predecessors; now serious ideas ousted this way of thinking. No more mysticism! No more blind faith! Now realism was our mode of thinking. At times of terrible necessity, we can resort to extreme methods, but violence produces opposite results in mass movements. I have talked much about our methods. The most important thing was a clear conception of our ideology for which we were waging a long struggle. As there was no election activity going on, I got ample opportunity to study various ideas propounded by various writers. I studied Bakunin, the anarchist leader. I read a few books of Marx, the father of Communism. I also read Lenin and Trotsky and many other writers who successfully carried out revolutions in their countries. All of them were atheists. The ideas contained in Bakunin’s ‘God and State’ seem inconclusive, but it is an interesting book. After that I came across a book ‘Common Sense’ by Nirlamba Swami. His point of view was a sort of mystical atheism. I developed more interest in this subject. By the end of 1926, I was convinced that the belief in an Almighty, Supreme Being who created, guided and controlled the universe had no sound foundations. I began discussions on this subject with my friends. I had openly declared myself an atheist. What it meant will be discussed in the following lines.

In May 1927, I was arrested in Lahore. This arrest came as a big surprise for me. I had not the least idea that I was wanted by the police. I was passing through a garden and all of a sudden the police surrounded me. To my own surprise, I was very calm at that time. I was in full control of myself. I was taken into police custody. The next day I was taken to the Railway Police lockup where I spent a whole month. After many days’ conversation with police personnel, I guessed that they had some information about my connection with the Kakori Party. I felt they had some intelligence of my other activities in the revolutionary movement. They told me that I was in Lucknow during the Kakori Party Trial so that I might devise a scheme to rescue the culprits. They also said that after the plan had been approved, we procured some bombs and by way of test, one of those bombs was thrown into a crowd on the occasion of Dussehra in 1926. They offered to release me on condition that I gave a statement on the activities of the Revolutionary Party. In this way I would be set free and even rewarded and I would not be produced as an approver in the court. I could not help laughing at their proposals. It was all humbug. People who have ideas like ours do not throw bombs at their own innocent people. One day, Mr. Newman, the then senior Superintendent of CID, came to me. After a long talk which was full of sympathetic words, he imparted to me what he considered to be sad news, that if I did not give any statement as demanded by them, they would be forced to send me up for trial for conspiracy to wage war in connection with Kakori Case and also for brutal killings in Dussehra gathering. After that he said that he had sufficient evidence to get me convicted and hanged.

I was completely innocent, but I believed that the police had sufficient power to do it if they desired it to be so. The same day some police officers persuaded me to offer my prayers to God two times regularly. I was an atheist. I thought that I would settle it to myself whether I could brag only in days of peace and happiness that I was an atheist, or in those hard times I could be steadfast in my convictions. After a long debate with myself, I reached the conclusion that I could not even pretend to be a believer nor could I offer my prayers to God. No, I never did it. It was time of trial and I would come out of it successful. These were my thoughts. Never for a moment did I desire to save my life. So I was a true atheist then and I am an atheist now. It was not an easy task to face that ordeal. Beliefs make it easier to go through hardships, even make them pleasant. Man can find a strong support in God and an encouraging consolation in His Name. If you have no belief in Him, then there is no alternative but to depend upon yourself. It is not child’s play to stand firm on your feet amid storms and strong winds. In difficult times, vanity, if it remains, evaporates and man cannot find the courage to defy beliefs held in common esteem by the people. If he really revolts against such beliefs, we must conclude that it is not sheer vanity; he has some kind of extraordinary strength. This is exactly the situation now. First of all we all know what the judgement will be. It is to be pronounced in a week or so. I am going to sacrifice my life for a cause. What more consolation can there be! A God-believing Hindu may expect to be reborn a king; a Muslim or a Christian might dream of the luxuries he hopes to enjoy in paradise as a reward for his sufferings and sacrifices. What hope should I entertain? I know that will be the end when the rope is tightened round my neck and the rafters move from under my feet. To use more precise religious terminology, that will be the moment of utter annihilation. My soul will come to nothing. If I take the courage to take the matter in the light of ‘Reward’, I see that a short life of struggle with no such magnificent end shall itself be my ‘Reward.’ That is all. Without any selfish motive of getting any reward here or in the hereafter, quite disinterestedly have I devoted my life to the cause of freedom. I could not act otherwise. The day shall usher in a new era of liberty when a large number of men and women, taking courage from the idea of serving humanity and liberating them from sufferings and distress, decide that there is no alternative before them except devoting their lives for this cause. They will wage a war against their oppressors, tyrants or exploiters, not to become kings, or to gain any reward here or in the next birth or after death in paradise; but to cast off the yoke of slavery, to establish liberty and peace they will tread this perilous, but glorious path. Can the pride they take in their noble cause be called vanity? Who is there rash enough to call it so? To him I say either he is foolish or wicked. Leave such a fellow alone for he cannot realise the depth, the emotions, the sentiment and the noble feelings that surge in that heart. His heart is dead, a mere lump of flesh, devoid of feelings. His convictions are infirm, his emotions feeble. His selfish interests have made him incapable of seeing the truth. The epithet ‘vanity’ is always hurled at the strength we get from our convictions.

You go against popular feelings; you criticise a hero, a great man who is generally believed to be above criticism. What happens? No one will answer your arguments in a rational way; rather you will be considered vainglorious. Its reason is mental insipidity. Merciless criticism and independent thinking are the two necessary traits of revolutionary thinking. As Mahatmaji is great, he is above criticism; as he has risen above, all that he says in the field of politics, religion, Ethics is right. You agree or not, it is binding upon you to take it as truth. This is not constructive thinking. We do not take a leap forward; we go many steps back.

Our forefathers evolved faith in some kind of Supreme Being, therefore, one who ventures to challenge the validity of that faith or denies the existence of God, shall be called a Kafir (infidel), or a renegade. Even if his arguments are so strong that it is impossible to refute them, if his spirit is so strong that he cannot be bowed down by the threats of misfortune that may befall him through the wrath of the Almighty, he shall be decried as vainglorious. Then why should we waste our time in such discussions? This question has come before the people for the first time, hence the necessity and usefulness of such long discussions.

As far as the first question is concerned, I think I have made it clear that I did not turn atheist because of vanity. Only my readers, not I, can decide whether my arguments carry weight. If I were a believer, I know in the present circumstances my life would have been easier; the burden lighter. My disbelief in God has turned all the circumstances too harsh and this situation can deteriorate further. Being a little mystical can give the circumstances a poetic turn. But I need no opiate to meet my end. I am a realistic man. I want to overpower this tendency in me with the help of Reason. I am not always successful in such attempts. But it is man’s duty to try and make efforts. Success depends on chance and circumstances.

Now we come to the second question: if it is not vanity, there ought to be some sound reason for rejection of age-old belief in God. Yes, I come to this question. I think that any man who has some reasoning power always tries to understand the life and people around him with the help of this faculty. Where concrete proofs are lacking, [mystical] philosophy creeps in. As I have indicated, one of my revolutionary friends used to say that “philosophy is the outcome of human weakness.” Our ancestors had the leisure to solve the mysteries of the world, its past, its present and its future, its whys and its wherefores, but having been terribly short of direct proofs, every one of them tried to solve the problem in his own way. Hence we find wide differences in the fundamentals of various religious creeds. Sometimes they take very antagonistic and conflicting forms. We find differences in Oriental and Occidental philosophies. There are differences even amongst various schools of thoughts in each hemisphere. In Asian religions, the Muslim religion is completely incompatible with the Hindu faith. In India itself, Buddhism and Jainism are sometimes quite separate from Brahmanism. Then in Brahmanism itself, we find two conflicting sects: Aarya Samaj and Snatan Dheram. Charwak is yet another independent thinker of the past ages. He challenged the Authority of God. All these faiths differ on many fundamental questions, but each of them claims to be the only true religion. This is the root of the evil. Instead of developing the ideas and experiments of ancient thinkers, thus providing ourselves with the ideological weapon for the future struggle, – lethargic, idle, fanatical as we are – we cling to orthodox religion and in this way reduce human awakening to a stagnant pool.

It is necessary for every person who stands for progress to criticise every tenet of old beliefs. Item by item he has to challenge the efficacy of old faith. He has to analyse and understand all the details. If after rigorous reasoning, one is led to believe in any theory of philosophy, his faith is appreciated. His reasoning may be mistaken and even fallacious. But there is chance that he will be corrected because Reason is the guiding principle of his life. But belief, I should say blind belief is disastrous. It deprives a man of his understanding power and makes him reactionary.

Any person who claims to be a realist has to challenge the truth of old beliefs. If faith cannot withstand the onslaught of reason, it collapses. After that his task should be to do the groundwork for new philosophy. This is the negative side. After that comes in the positive work in which some material of the olden times can be used to construct the pillars of new philosophy. As far as I am concerned, I admit that I lack sufficient study in this field. I had a great desire to study the Oriental Philosophy, but I could get ample opportunity or sufficient time to do so. But so far as I reject the old time beliefs, it is not a matter of countering belief with belief, rather I can challenge the efficacy of old beliefs with sound arguments. We believe in nature and that human progress depends on the domination of man over nature. There is no conscious power behind it. This is our philosophy.

Being atheist, I ask a few questions from theists:

1. If, as you believe there is an Almighty, Omnipresent, Omniscient God, who created the earth or universe, please let me know, first of all, as to why he created this world. This world which is full of woe and grief, and countless miseries, where not even one person lives in peace.

2. Pray, don’t say it is His law. If He is bound by any law, He is not Omnipotent. Don’t say it is His pleasure. Nero burnt one Rome. He killed a very limited number of people. He caused only a few tragedies, all for his morbid enjoyment. But what is his place in history? By what names do we remember him? All the disparaging epithets are hurled at him. Pages are blackened with invective diatribes condemning Nero: the tyrant, the heartless, the wicked.

One Genghis Khan killed a few thousand people to seek pleasure in it and we hate the very name. Now, how will you justify your all powerful, eternal Nero, who every day, every moment continues his pastime of killing people? How can you support his doings which surpass those of Genghis Khan in cruelty and in misery inflicted upon people? I ask why the Almighty created this world which is nothing but a living hell, a place of constant and bitter unrest. Why did he create man when he had the power not to do so? Have you any answer to these questions? You will say that it is to reward the sufferer and punish the evildoer in the hereafter. Well, well, how far will you justify a man who first of all inflicts injuries on your body and then applies soft and soothing ointment on them? How far the supporters and organizers of Gladiator bouts were justified in throwing men before half starved lions, later to be cared for and looked after well if they escaped this horrible death. That is why I ask: Was the creation of man intended to derive this kind of pleasure?

Open your eyes and see millions of people dying of hunger in slums and huts dirtier than the grim dungeons of prisons; just see the labourers patiently or say apathetically while the rich vampires suck their blood; bring to mind the wastage of human energy that will make a man with a little common sense shiver in horror. Just observe rich nations throwing their surplus produce into the sea instead of distributing it among the needy and deprived. There are palaces of kings built upon the foundations laid with human bones. Let them see all this and say “All is well in God’s Kingdom.” Why so? This is my question. You are silent. All right. I proceed to my next point.

You, the Hindus, would say: Whosoever undergoes sufferings in this life, must have been a sinner in his previous birth. It is tantamount to saying that those who are oppressors now were Godly people then, in their previous births. For this reason alone they hold power in their hands. Let me say it plainly that your ancestors were shrewd people. They were always in search of petty hoaxes to play upon people and snatch from them the power of Reason. Let us analyse how much this argument carries weight!

Those who are well versed in the philosophy of Jurisprudence relate three of four justifications for the punishment that is to be inflicted upon a wrong-doer. These are: revenge, reform, and deterrence. The Retribution Theory is now condemned by all the thinkers. Deterrent theory is on the anvil for its flaws. Reformative theory is now widely accepted and considered to be necessary for human progress. It aims at reforming the culprit and converting him into a peace-loving citizen. But what in essence is God’s Punishment even if it is inflicted on a person who has really done some harm? For the sake of argument we agree for a moment that a person committed some crime in his previous birth and God punished him by changing his shape into a cow, cat, tree, or any other animal. You may enumerate the number of these variations in Godly Punishment to be at least eighty-four lack. Tell me, has this tomfoolery, perpetrated in the name of punishment, any reformative effect on human man? How many of them have you met who were donkeys in their previous births for having committed any sin? Absolutely no one of this sort! The so called theory of ‘Puranas’ (transmigration) is nothing but a fairy-tale. I do not have any intention to bring this unutterable trash under discussion. Do you really know the most cursed sin in this world is to be poor? Yes, poverty is a sin; it is a punishment! Cursed be the theoretician, jurist or legislator who proposes such measures as push man into the quagmire of more heinous sins. Did it not occur to your All Knowing God or he could learn the truth only after millions had undergone untold sufferings and hardships? What, according to your theory, is the fate of a person who, by no sin of his own, has been born into a family of low caste people? He is poor so he cannot go to a school. It is his fate to be shunned and hated by those who are born into a high caste. His ignorance, his poverty, and the contempt he receives from others will harden his heart towards society. Supposing that he commits a sin, who shall bear the consequences? God, or he, or the learned people of that society? What is your view about those punishments inflicted on the people who were deliberately kept ignorant by selfish and proud Brahmans? If by chance these poor creatures heard a few words of your sacred books, Vedas, these Brahmans poured melted lead into their ears. If they committed any sin, who was to be held responsible? Who was to bear the brunt? My dear friends, these theories have been coined by the privileged classes. They try to justify the power they have usurped and the riches they have robbed with the help of such theories. Perhaps it was the writer Upton Sinclair who wrote (Bhagat Singh is referring to Sinclair’s pamphlet ‘Profits of Religion’ – MIA transcriber) somewhere “only make a man firm believer in the immortality of soul, then rob him of all that he possesses. He will willingly help you in the process.” The dirty alliance between religious preachers and possessors of power brought the boon of prisons, gallows, knouts and above all such theories for the mankind.

I ask why your Omnipotent God does not hold a man back when he is about to commit a sin or offence. It is child’s play for God. Why did He not kill war lords? Why did He not obliterate the fury of war from their minds? In this way He could have saved humanity of many a great calamity and horror. Why does He not infuse humanistic sentiments into the minds of the Britishers so that they may willingly leave India? I ask why He does not fill the hearts of all capitalist classes with altruistic humanism that prompts them to give up personal possession of the means of production and this will free the whole labouring humanity from the shackles of money. You want to argue the practicability of Socialist theory, I leave it to your Almighty God to enforce it. Common people understand the merits of Socialist theory as far as general welfare is concerned but they oppose it under the pretext that it cannot be implemented. Let the Almighty step in and arrange things in a proper way. No more logic chopping! I tell you that the British rule is not there because God willed it but for the reason that we lack the will and courage to oppose it. Not that they are keeping us under subjugation with the consent of God, but it is with the force of guns and rifles, bombs and bullets, police and militia, and above all because of our apathy that they are successfully committing the most deplorable sin, that is, the exploitation of one nation by another. Where is God? What is He doing? Is He getting a diseased pleasure out of it? A Nero! A Genghis Khan! Down with Him!

Now another piece of manufactured logic! You ask me how I will explain the origin of this world and origin of man. Charles Darwin has tried to throw some light on this subject. Study his book. Also, have a look at Sohan Swami’s “Commonsense.” You will get a satisfactory answer. This topic is concerned with Biology and Natural History. This is a phenomenon of nature. The accidental mixture of different substances in the form of Nebulae gave birth to this earth. When? Study history to know this. The same process caused the evolution of animals and in the long run that of man. Read Darwin’s ‘Origin of Species.’ All the later progress is due to man’s constant conflict with nature and his efforts to utilise nature for his own benefit. This is the briefest sketch of this phenomenon.

Your next question will be why a child is born blind or lame even if he was not a sinner in his previous birth. This problem has been explained in a satisfactory manner by biologists as a mere biological phenomenon. According to them the whole burden rests upon the shoulders of parents whose conscious or unconscious deeds caused mutilation of the child prior to his birth.

You may thrust yet another question at me, though it is merely childish. The question is: If God does not really exist, why do people come to believe in Him? Brief and concise my answer will be. As they come to believe in ghosts, and evil spirits, so they also evolve a kind of belief in God: the only difference being that God is almost a universal phenomenon and well developed theological philosophy. However, I do disagree with radical philosophy. It attributes His origin to the ingenuity of exploiters who wanted to keep the people under their subjugation by preaching the existence of a Supreme Being; thus claimed an authority and sanction from Him for their privileged position. I do not differ on the essential point that all religions, faiths, theological philosophies, and religious creeds and all other such institutions in the long run become supporters of the tyrannical and exploiting institutions, men and classes. Rebellion against any king has always been a sin in every religion.

As regard the origin of God, my thought is that man created God in his imagination when he realized his weaknesses, limitations and shortcomings. In this way he got the courage to face all the trying circumstances and to meet all dangers that might occur in his life and also to restrain his outbursts in prosperity and affluence. God, with his whimsical laws and parental generosity was painted with variegated colours of imagination. He was used as a deterrent factor when his fury and his laws were repeatedly propagated so that man might not become a danger to society. He was the cry of the distressed soul for he was believed to stand as father and mother, sister and brother, brother and friend when in time of distress a man was left alone and helpless. He was Almighty and could do anything. The idea of God is helpful to a man in distress.

Society must fight against this belief in God as it fought against idol worship and other narrow conceptions of religion. In this way man will try to stand on his feet. Being realistic, he will have to throw his faith aside and face all adversaries with courage and valour. That is exactly my state of mind. My friends, it is not my vanity; it is my mode of thinking that has made me an atheist. I don’t think that by strengthening my belief in God and by offering prayers to Him every day, (this I consider to be the most degraded act on the part of man) I can bring improvement in my situation, nor can I further deteriorate it. I have read of many atheists facing all troubles boldly, so I am trying to stand like a man with the head high and erect to the last; even on the gallows.

Let us see how steadfast I am. One of my friends asked me to pray. When informed of my atheism, he said, “When your last days come, you will begin to believe.” I said, “No, dear sir, Never shall it happen. I consider it to be an act of degradation and demoralisation. For such petty selfish motives, I shall never pray.” Reader and friends, is it vanity? If it is, I stand for it.