Recollections and reflections

Reminiscences, Rafi Ahmad Kidwai

I first came in contact with Subhas Bose in 1923 at Delhi when the Congress was divided into two groups over the question of what was known as 'Council Entry.'...Subhas Babu, as the favourite lieutenant of Deshabandhu, was playing a prominent part in the controversy. more>>

Speech at Uttar Pradesh Naujawan Bharat Sabha, Mathura

The Naujawan Bharat Sabha movement is not a local or provincial affair. It is an all-India movement appearing it may be under different names in different parts of the country, and having it may be slightly different methods of work in different places. Nevertheless fundamental character of this movement is the same all over the country. And the very existence of this movement demonstrates that there were potent causes, which necessitated the birth of this movement.

The psychological impulse behind this movement is a feeling of restlessness and impatience, of acute discontent with the present order of things, and a profound desire for a radical change. This basic feeling has a destructive, as well as a creative element - the desire to destroy, what appears to the youthful mind to be old, unsuitable, insufficient, or evil and to create an organisation through which they could give full play to their destructive as well as creative instincts and desires.

The Indian National Congress has to exist, and to work under certain limitations. It is burdened with a sense of responsibility, which may be lacking in youth organisations in the earlier stages of their growth. The Indian National Congress has to carry the whole country with itself, so far as that is humanly possible and has therefore got to move somewhat slowly. Further the Congress is primarily a political body, and generally it cannot concern itself questions which do not have a political bearing, Lastly, in order to carry the whole country, the Congress has to trim its sails, and to adjust the desires, interests or demands of different communities or groups, or schools of thought in the country.

The youth organisations in the country, which are thoroughly radical in character and outlook, are more free to think and to act, than the Indian National Congress. They have not to carry the whole country with them, just at present, their primary objective being to rally the youths only. Neither are they burdened with a sense of responsibility as the Indian Congress is. Consequently, they can move as fast as they like and be as radical as they desire, without any fear of alienating any individual or group.

In India today, we find that in some parts there is no conflict between the youth organisations; whereas in other parts there is a conflict of some sort. In order to avoid unnecessary conflict between the youth organisations and the Congress organisations two factors are necessary.

The Congress organisations should sympathise with the desires and aspirations of the youths. As a matter of fact, where the Congress machinery is in the hands of youths, or of those who sympathise with the youth, conflict is very often avoided. I am emphatically of the opinion that there is no inherent opposition between the Indian National Congress and the Naujawan Bharat Sabha. If there is any opposition or misunderstanding between the two anywhere, it is of our ownmaking, and with good will on both sides, it can be very easily ended.

If the Naujawan Bharat Sabha is taken to represent a feeder movement in its relation to the Indian National Congress, it will give a correct expression to my views. Youth movement will not care for members, it will only seek to rally the radical elements in society. It will not be merely political since it will interest itself in every department of human life, and will seek to introduce a thoroughly new socio-economic order as well asa body politic. It will not be content with tackling the superficial problems of the day, but will take up the deeper problems of our life as well, and attempt to solve them. All this can very well be done without creating any conflict, if there be goodwill on both sides.

The Naujawans on their part must realise that the Congress stands for the nation. Nothing should be therefore, done that may undermine or harm the prestige of that institution. They should act in a spirit of helpfulness, and if they so desire, they may act as a lever inside the Congress, in order to influence the Right wing or the conservative section in the Congress. The Congressmen, on their part, should not view the Naujawans with suspicion or hostility. They should remember that the Naujawans are after all the heirs of future India, and that their desires, and aspirations should be appreciated and sympathised with. If both sides are thus inspired with a friendly feeling, I am sure that conflict or hostility or misunderstanding can be easily avoided. I have said that the Naujawan Bharat Sabha movement is not a local or a provincial affair. I shall now go further and say, that it represents a universal phenomena. Even in countries, that are politically free, the youth movement exists. The reason is that the purpose of this movement is to recreate the whole of our life; individual as well as collective. And as long as this purpose is not fulfilled, the youth movement cannot cease to exist.

Since the earliest ages humanity has been in search of a better order of things. This search has gone on alike in the East, and in the West, and not only sages and dreamers, but politicians and statesmen as well, have been after it. The vision of an idealsociety or state has appeared in different forms in different climes, but the impulse behind them all has been the same. In theWest people dreamt of an Ideal Republic. Sometimes the people endeavoured to go back to the state of nature from whence they think they came; at other times, they have tried to demolish the age-long social, economic, and political structure in order to rear up something great and noble on the views of the past. In the search for a better order humanity has throughout the ages been groping in the twilight of darkness and light. Religion, philosophy, and literature have all tried to throw some light on that elusive will-o'-the-wisp, the ideal. It would be interesting to trace, and study these efforts made in almost every civilised country from age to age, but that would take much time and may divert us from the immediate problem before us. It will suffice to say that mankind has now accepted the theory or progress, and has rejected the opposite theory viz. the theory of man's fall and his subsequent degradation. This theory of progress may be made the starting point of our discussion.

If we undertake a comparative analysis of the different socio-political ideals that have inspired human endeavour and activity throughout the ages, we shall arrive at certain common principles. The same result may be attained by searching our hearts, and asking ourselves as to what principles, and ideals would make our life worth living by following either course. I am led to the conclusion that the principles that should form the basis of our collective life are justice, equality, freedom, discipline and love. There is hardly any necessity of arguing that all our affairs and relations should be guided by a sense of justice. In order to be just and impartial, we shall have to treat all men as equal; we shall have to make them free. Bondage, economic, or political, robs men of their freedom, and gives rise to inequalities of variouskinds. Therefore in order to ensure equality, we must get rid of bondage of every kind, social, economic, and political, and we must become fully and wholly free. But freedom does not mean indiscipline or license. Freedom does not imply the absence of law. It only means the substitution of our own law, and our own discipline in place of an externally imposed law and discipline. Discipline imposed on us, by ourselves is necessary, not only when we have attained freedom, but is more necessary, when we are struggling to achieve freedom. Therefore, discipline whether for the individual or for society is necessary as basis of life. Lastlyall these fundamental principles viz., justice, equality, freedom and discipline, presuppose or imply another higher principle viz., love.Unless we are inspired by a feeling of love for humanity, we can neither be just towards all, nor treat men as equal, nor feel called upon to sacrifice in the cause of freedom, nor enforce discipline of right sort. These five principles, therefore, should in my opinion, be the basis of our collective life. I shall go further and say that these principles constitute the essence of socialism as I understand - what I would like to see established in India.

While seeking light and inspiration from abroad we cannot forget that we should not blindly imitate any other people, and that we should assimilate what we learn elsewhere after finding out what will suit our national requirements.There is adeal of truth in the proverb, "What is one man's meat is another man's poison." I should, therefore, like to strike a note of warning to those who may feel tempted to follow blindly the tenets of Bolshevism. I may say that the Bolshevik theory is at present passing through an experimental stage. There has been departure not only from the principles enunciated by Lenin, and other Bolshevik leaders, before they captured political power. This departure had been caused by the peculiar conditions or circumstances prevailing in Russia, which have compelled a modification of the original theory or theories.

With regard to the methods, and tactics employed by the Bolsheviks in Russia, I may say that they will not necessarily suit Indian conditions. As a proof of this, I may say that in spite of the universal and human appeal of communism, communism has not been able to make much headway in India, chiefly because the method and tactics generally employed by its protagonists are such as tend to alienate rather than win over possible friends and allies.

To summarise what I have said, I want a Socialist Republic in India. The exact form the socialist state will take is not possible to detail at this stage. We can at this stage outline only the main principles and features of the socialist state.

The message, which I have to give, is one of complete all-round, undiluted freedom. We want political freedom, whereby is meant the constitution of an independent Indian State, free from the control of British Imperialism. It should be quite clear to everybody that independence means severance from the British Empire, and on this point there should be no vagueness, or mental reservation. Secondly, we want complete economic emancipation. Every human being must have the right to work, and the right to a living wage. There shall be no drones in our society, and no unearned incomes. There must be equal opportunities for all. Above all, there should be a fair, just, and equitable distribution of wealth. For this purpose, it may be necessary for the state to take over the control of the means of production and distribution of wealth. Thirdly, we want complete social equality. There shall be no caste, no depressed classes.Everyman will have the same rights, the same status in society. Further, there shall be no inequality between the sexes either in social status or in law-and woman will be in every way an equal partner of man."

The Naujawan Bharat Sabha movement or the youth movement must have centres, the best among us must be drawn. Arrangements must be made for training young-men and women, who will be our future workers. This training must be an all-round one, and must provide for the physical, intellectual and moral uplift of our youths. Unless we have a network of institutions with this end in view, the youth movement will never grow.

When these workers have been trained and are fit to work, they will have to go out and organise the country. I would suggest the following programme:
(1)    Organisation of peasants and workers on a socialistic programme.
(2)    Organisation of young men and women into volunteer corps under strict discipline.
(3)    Extensive movement for the abolition of social and religious superstitions.
(4)    Organisation of women's associations for propagating among our womenfolk the idea of all-round freedom and equality.
(5)    Creation of new literature for giving expression to the new thought in the country.
(6)    Countrywide propaganda for popularising the new ideas of the age.

After our young workers are properly trained, and have fully understood the new ideas, they should take up the task of stirring up all the radical elements in our society and of rousing into our life and activity the hitherto backward sections of our community.