Monday April 22, 2019

Bhagwati Charan: Unveiling the man behind the ‘Philosophy of a bomb’

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Bhagwati with his wife and young child

By Gaurav Sharma

The fight for India’s independence was a multifaceted movement comprising myriad regional campaigns, peaceful non-cooperation, civil disobedience, constitutional struggles and various other agitations.

Although the mass movement encompassed various sections of the society, the major part of the freedom struggle was shrouded under the influence of the mainstream views of the Indian National Congress.

The conflicting approaches

The later stages of the movement particularly saw the Congress adopt Mahatma Gandhi’s policy of nonviolence and civil resistance.

At the same time, the freedom struggle was brimming with an undercurrent of a rather radical approach formulated by the famous trio of Lal, Bal and Pal among other revolutionary leaders like Aurobindo Ghosh, Chandrashekhar Azad and Bhagat Singh.

The contrarian standpoints of the two sides, popularly known as the moderates and extremists, led to a scuffle between the philosophical polar opposites viz-a-viz an exchange of a series of articles.

The forthright, vocal articles began with Gandhi criticizing the bombing of the train moving on the Delhi-Agra railway line, in which the then Viceroy Lord Irwin was traveling in 1929.

Irwin managed to escape unscathed and Gandhi thanked God for the miracle. Subsequently, he condemned the move orchestrated by the revolutionaries by publishing “The Cult of a Bomb”, an article in Young India, consisting of his arguments against violence based on his opinions and beliefs.

The response of revolutionaries

Soon after Gandhi’s article was published, Bhagwati Charan, an outstanding Indian revolutionary associated with the faction of the socialist movement, issued his own response–”The philosophy of a bomb”–in consultation with Chandrashekar Azad.

Meant to quash Gandhi’s description of revolutionaries as “cowards” indulging in “dastardly” activities, the philosophy of a bomb enunciated the basic principles of the revolutionary movement and intended to foster a better understanding of the ideals that inspired the mutineers.

The Uniqueness of the bomb philosophy

The primary reason why Charan supported the extremist way was because he thought it would be most effective in banishing the proletariat rule and dethroning “social parasites” from political rule.

The triple motto of “Service, Suffering and Sacrifice” lay at the core of the revolutionary ideology directed towards the independence of India.

Charan believed that the deliverance of the country was dependent solely on a revolution which not only involved an armed conflict between the foreign rule and subjugated people of India, but also something that would usher in a new social order.

But perhaps the most important characteristic which made the bomb philosophy resplendent with unique radiance was the proposition that it would spell the “death knell of capitalism” and annihilate caste distinctions and exploitative inequalities.

Defense of Revolutionary Psychology

Quite in contrast to popular notions, the revolutionaries did not stand for violence in the form of physical brutality and injustice.

Charan, on the contrary, attacked the concept of nonviolence as practiced by Gandhi and his followers.

“What generally goes by the name of non-violence is, in reality the theory of soul-force, as applied to the attainment of personal and national rights through courting suffering and hoping thus to finally convert your opponent to your point of view”, Charan opined.

He then went a step further and defended the position taken by revolutionaries through a logical argument.

“When a revolutionary believes certain things to be his right he asks for them, pleads for them, argues for them, wills to attain them with all the soul-force at his command, stands the greatest amount of suffering for them, is always prepared to make the highest sacrifice for their attainment, and also backs his efforts with all the physical force he is capable of”, argues Charan.

By quoting a rational reasoning, Charan laid the contention that such methods cannot be termed as violent because “that would constitute an outrage on the dictionary meaning of the word.”

Hence, the entire argument is turned on its head by shadowing violence and instead highlighting the moral cum practical dilemma of using soul-force plus physical force or soul-force alone.

The question of the masses

Another pertinent argument that Charan makes while defining the means of activity is a view of the general populace.

According to Charan, the average Indian and human beings, in general, do not understand theological niceties about loving one’s enemy, a central tenet of Gandhian Ahimsa.

That people love their friend and hate their enemy, forms the fulcrum of the revolutionary thought process, as it does with the minds of the common people.

Furthermore, the efficacy of “the gospel of love” was questioned by Charan by showcasing the dearth of foreign rulers who had actually been converted by such a lofty ideal.

The revolutionary Modus Operandi–No Bullying

Quashing the misconception that revolution inherently involves extremist bullying, Charan attacked Gandhi for failing to understand revolutionary psychology.

“How easy and convenient it is to call people deluded, to declare them to be past reason, to call people deluded, to call upon the public to withdraw its support and condemn them so that they may get isolated and be forced to suspend their activities, specially when a man holds the confidence of an influential section of the public!”, wrote an astounded Charan.

Simultaneously, Charan emphasized reason as the sole premise on which a revolutionary functioned.

“A revolutionary believes in reason more than anything. It is to reason, and reason alone, that he bows. No amount of abuse and condemnation, even if it emanates from the highest of the high can turn him from his set purpose”, declared Charan.

The moral arguments against the revolutionary style of working aside, it cannot be but said that the “rebels” were men driven by logic, bereft of any fear for their own lives.

In this regard, Charan’s own words enlighteningly synopsize the revolutionary way of life;  Let there be no doubt in anybody’s mind. A revolutionary is the last person on earth to submit to bullying.

Next Story

Astronaut Floats in Space on Mural Sporting a Gandhi Patch on Shoulder

The mural that looks up from the vista that opens to the iconic glass-fronted UN building a block away commemorates the occasions

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Sporting a Mahatma Gandhi patch on his shoulder, an astronaut floats in space on the mural painted on the side wall of the Indian Mission to the UN. Wikimedia

The high-tech future of green jobs and the Gandhian virtue of the dignity of work meld their messages on a six-storey high mural commemorating the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi and the centenary of the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

Sporting a Mahatma Gandhi patch on his shoulder, an astronaut floats in space on the mural painted on the side wall of the Indian Mission to the UN that was inaugurated on Tuesday.

The mural that looks up from the vista that opens to the iconic glass-fronted UN building a block away commemorates the occasions.

The other themes on the mural, a joint effort of the ILO and the Indian mission, include the concept of “green”, environmentally sustainable jobs and the greening of the world by planting trees.

India’s Permanent Representative Syed Akbaruddin said at the inauguration that the mural addresses global concerns of decent jobs and the environment.

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Sporting a Mahatma Gandhi patch on his shoulder, an astronaut floats in space on the mural painted on the side wall of the Indian Mission to the UN. Pixabay

He said the mural effort goes beyond the diplomatic work at the UN of dealing with resolutions to a new diplomatic area of reaching out to people to create broader awareness of issues.

Victor Ash, the artist who painted it while perched high on a cherry-picker, told IANS: “I mixed different ideas and came up with this ‘green astronaut’ that is also worker – the worker from the future who would be working in space.”

And to commemorate the anniversary of Gandhi’ birth, he said he added Gandhi’s image as a logo on the arm of the astronaut.

Ash said that one of his inspirations was India’s record in 2017 of planting 66 million trees on a single day.

The mission building with a red-stone facade was designed by the internationally acclaimed Indian architect Charles Correa, but one of its sides was bared to the bricks after the neighbouring building was torn down and a hotel was built on the site with a deep setback.

The mural now decorates that side without impinging on the building’s Correa design.

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The other themes on the mural, a joint effort of the ILO and the Indian mission, include the concept of “green”, environmentally sustainable jobs and the greening of the world by planting trees. Wikimedia

The mural was one of several sponsored across the city by ILO to commemorate its centenary with a project called Street Art for Mankind that aims to spread the message of decent work for all with sustainable development and social justice.

Portugal-born Ash said that he had painted a mural at the Indian Institute of Technology in Chennai during its Summerfest.

He said that he had started as a street-artist in Paris, where he had studied, and later went into doing paintings for galleries.

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“But it was only the studio work and exhibiting in galleries was not reaching such a broad public,” he said.

“So I went back to the street and did murals because it has a much bigger impact and you can actually transmit messages much better than just exhibiting in galleries for a few specific people.” (IANS)