Thursday, 22 August 2013

Jawaharlal Nehru: Three Letters on Ayodhya

Jawaharlal Nehru

To GB Pant

New Delhi
April 17, 1950

My dear Pantji,

Thank you for your letter about Shahjahanpur. I am quite sure that your Government has taken strong and effective action during these recent troubles in the U.P. I am glad to learn that as a result of that action as well as a consequence of the Agreement, there is a tendency to settle down.

These recent occurrences in the U.P. have greatly distressed me. Or perhaps this was a culmination of what I had been feeling for a long time. People die and the fact of killing, though painful, does not upset me. But what does upset one is the complete degradation of human nature and, even more, the attempt to find justification for this.

I have felt for a long time that the whole atmosphere of the U.P. has been changing for the worse from the communal point of view.[1] Indeed the U.P. is becoming almost a foreign land for me. I do not fit in there. The U.P. Congress Committee, with which I have been associated for 35 years, now functions in a manner which amazes me. Its voice is not the voice of the Congress I have known, but something which I have opposed for the greater part of my life. Purushottam Das Tandon, for whom I have the greatest affection and respect, is continually delivering speeches, which seem to me to be opposed to the basic principles of the Congress. Other members, like Vishambhar Dayal Tripathi, have the presumption to write and speak in a manner which would be objectionable in a member of the Hindu Mahasabha. We talk a great deal of disciplinary action. But these major distortions of the Congress policy are continually being made and accepted.

If the sea loses its saltiness, wherewith shall it be salted?

I have not been to the U.P. for a long time. That is partly due to lack of time, but the real reason is that I hesitate to go there. I do not wish to come into conflict with my old colleagues and I feel terribly uncomfortable there, because I find that communalism has invaded the minds and hearts of those who were the pillars of the Congress in the past. It is a creeping paralysis and the patient does not even realise it. All that occurred in Ayodhya in regard to the Mosque and temples[2] and the hotel in Faizabad[3] was bad enough. But the worst feature of it was that such things should take place and be approved by some of our own people and that they should continue.

It seems to me that for some reason or other or perhaps mere political expediency, we have been far too lenient with this disease, that has been spreading all over India and in our own province. Sometimes I feel that I should leave everything and take up this matter only. Perhaps some day I shall do that. If I do it, it will be a crusade with all the strength that I possess.

Law and order prevails in the U.P. and there are no incidents and the exodus has toned down or almost stopped. That is all very good. But the reports I get of the general atmosphere and of petty happenings reveal the true state of affairs even more than major incidents. A Muslim is walking along the street in a city. He is spat upon and told to go to Pakistan or he is given a slap on the face or his beard is pulled. Muslim women have vulgar remarks passed against them in the streets and always there is the taunting remark, "go to Pakistan". Only a few individuals may do these, but we have tolerated the growth of an atmosphere which permits this kind of thing being done and others look on and approve.

I have an instinctive feeling that our people, those who function in the Congress in large numbers, are still fairly sound at heart and can be made to understand. But the leadership is weak and is always compromising with something that is wrong and so the rank and file goes astray.

The fact of the matter is that for all our boasts, we have shown ourselves a backward people, totally lacking in the elements of culture, as any country understands them. It is only those who lack all understanding of Culture, who talk so much about it.


[1] The Faizabad-Ayodhya area became a centre of communal tension and this caused anti-Muslim feeling in other districts such as Agra, Mathura and Bareilly.

[2] Some images of deities were found in the mosque at Ayodhya on the night of 22-23 December 1949.

[3] A Muslim proprietor of a hotel was ordered to vacate it by the district authorities. Some Hindus occupied it the next day.


To BC Roy

New Delhi
May 18, 1950

My dear Bidhan,

Thank you for your long letter of the 16th May, in which you have given me an account of your meeting at Dacca. On the whole the meeting seems to have gone off fairly well. It is obvious that the problems you deal with bristle with practical difficulties. But something what is even harder to tackle is the psychological difficulty and the suspicion on either side.

You are quite right in saying that the Moulvis and Maulanas are likely to give trouble. Apart from other reasons, there is an economic urge for them, as they want to become Qazis and some kind of judicial officers where Muslim personal law is concerned. But we have our Moulvis and Maulanas too, even though we call them by different names. The two cases you mention, racing and alcoholic drinks, are being attacked and suppressed by our enthusiasts. What is worse is the way some of our Sanatanists are raising religious or semi-religious issues. This has created a good deal of tension in parts of the U.P. In Ayodhya an old mosque built by Babar was taken possession of by a mob led by the Pandas and Sanatanists of the place and I regret to say that the U.P. Government showed great weakness in handling the situation. You will have noticed that there has been a pretty large migration of Muslims from the U.P. Altogether over 100,000 persons have gone to West Pakistan from the U.P., Delhi and parts of Rajasthan. Very little in the shape of incidents has happened in the U.P. and whatever happened took place early in March during the Holi. Nevertheless there has been this migration and there can be no doubt that in some districts of the U.P. the pressure on the Muslims was considerable and created a feeling of insecurity in them. This makes one understand easily enough the greater pressure on the Hindus in East Bengal.

I am glad you had a talk with Mohanlal Saksena. There was no question of your complaining against anyone to me. You wrote to me about Nikhil Sen and said that B.G. Rao had not been seeing much of you. I passed on this information to Saksena. I quite agree with you that you should be kept in the closest touch with all Central activities in West Bengal and indeed should be consulted about them.

The press in West Bengal is, I am afraid, still far from satisfactory. It is possible that when some of these newspapers go to East Bengal, they might increase the tension there.



To Lal Bahadur Shastri

New Delhi
July 9, 1950

My dear Lal Bahadur[1],

Akshaya Brahmachari[2] came to see me yesterday and he gave me a long account of what had happened at Ayodhya. Much of this I had heard previously, much was new. You must be fully acquainted with all these facts and so I need not repeat them. Indeed, I asked Akshaya to keep in touch with you in this matter.

As you know, the Babri Mosque affair in Ayodhya is considered by us a major issue and one affecting deeply our whole policy and prestige. But apart from this, it appears that conditions in Ayodhya have become worse and worse. It is quite likely that this kind of trouble may spread to Mathura and other places. What distresses me most is the fact that our Congress organisation takes no interest in it and some prominent Congressmen like Raghavdas[3] and Vishambhar Dayal Tripathi carry on propaganda of the kind which can only be called communal and opposed to Congress policy.

Akshaya told me that a hotel called the Star Hotel, owned by a Muslim in Ayodhya, was ordered to be vacated in December last under Section 144. The next day possession of this was taken up by some Hindus and four days later they started a hotel there called the 'Gomati' Hotel. This continues. Under what law or rule of commonsense or policy this was done or permitted to be done is not clear to me.[4]

Then I am told that it has become almost impossible for Muslims to be buried in Ayodhya. A case of the wife of one Ahmed Ali was placed before me when the corpse was carried about from one cemetery to another and ultimately sent outside Ayodhya for burial.[5]

A number of Muslim graves have been dug up also.[6]

These are one or two of the points Akshaya told me. I fear that again for some kind of disaster.

Yours sincerely,
Jawaharlal Nehru

[1] He was Home Minister in the U.P. Government at this time.

[2] Akshaya Brahmachari was a Shrivaishnav sadhu of Ayodhya. He was also secretary of the Faizabad District Congress Committee, and a member of the Uttar Pradesh Provincial Congress Committee. He undertook a fast from 30 January to 4 February 1950 when the Hindu-Muslim situation did not improve. It was given up on the U.P. Home Minister's assurance that he would-take action.

[3] Raghavendra Sheshappa Pachapurkar alias Baba Raghavdas (1896-1958); joined Indian National Congress in 1920 and worked in Gorakhpur for social uplift.

[4] A subsequent report from the District Magistrate, Faizabad, said that the previous order served on the hotel was withdrawn in March. The building was allotted to the owner who opened a hotel of his own which was still running. The proprietor of the previous Star Hotel had been allotted another building. The premises were chosen by him with the consent of the owner and there were no problems afterwards.

[5] The Magistrate denied this and said that there was opposition from the Hindus to the burial of bodies “within Panch Kosi Parikrama” limit of Ayodhya but not in the other graveyards.

[6] The Magistrate said that there had been no fresh damage to graves. Earlier cases were investigated and the accused were convicted or acquitted on appeal some Hindi words had been written in coal tar. These cases were being investigated and the culprits were being prosecuted.

Courtesy: Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru – Second Series 14 – Part II
First Published: 1993 Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Fund


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