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    OpinionsIs Rahul Dividing India To Rule? - I

    Is Rahul Dividing India To Rule? – I



    I came across a research paper authored by Neil Stewart published in Science & Society/Volume 15, No. 1, Winter, 1951/, Divide and Rule: British policy in India ( The article conclusively suggested that the ‘Divide and Rule' policy was started in India by the British company that ruled India — The East India Company — after the successful suppression of the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857, the First War of Indian Independence.

    Neil Stewart writes:

    ‘The Indian Mutiny of 1857 resulted in the transformation of British policy in . It meant the end of annexationist policy, and the support of the Indian princes as the bulwark of British interests against the tide of nationalism. Towards the people and the army, it meant an emphasis on differences of caste and creed, in order to prevent, as Sir John Strachey once wrote, “The growth of any dangerous identity of feeling from community of race, religion, caste or local feeling”. It was realised that “the existence side by side of the hostile creeds is one of the strongest points in our political position in India”.'

    After the First War of Indian Independence was won by the British forces, there were several strategy options available to the rulers. One was to increase the number of European troops from 40,000 that existed before the First War of Indian Independence to 80,000.

    However, it was found that one European soldier was eight times more expensive to maintain than his Indian counterpart.

    Since increasing the white troops was not economically feasible, it became necessary to ensure that even as the empire employed natives in the Indian armed forces, they kept these men within the narrow confines of their caste and religion.

    The solution that was finally arrived at by the British rulers was to abandon the practice of ‘general mixture' of Indian troops wherein, for example, the Bengal Regiment was a mixture of Muslims, Brahmins and Rajputs of Awadh (north eastern parts of present-day Uttar Pradesh) and Bihar.

    The indiscriminate mixing among ranks of different religions led to bonhomie among the troops and a general sense of collective resentment against the British officers and soldiers. It was felt that the close physical contact between Muslims and Hindus led to unity among them with a shared sense of animosity against the British soldiers who never mixed with the native troops and earned much superior remuneration and were offered much better living conditions.

    Thus started the policy of ‘Divide and Rule' in India. This general practice in the armed forces had a spillover effect in too.

    The Indian Council Act of 1909 was the first step towards the Divide and Rule policy of the British Raj. Under the Act the central legislative council and the councils at provincial levels were extended to include Indians to become part of the viceroy's executive council.

    However, more importantly and more dangerously for the country's unity, the Act introduced the the idea of a distinct electorate for Muslims. In a sense this Act ‘legalised communalism' as it ensured that the Muslim members were to be elected only by Muslim voters.

    In Independent India, the reservation for elected representatives in a few constituencies is limited to the contest being reserved for the scheduled caste and scheduled tribe candidates, but the right to vote is available for all eligible voters, without any distinction of caste or tribe.

    Just as Lord Minto, the 17th viceroy and governor general of India, is known as the father of communal electorateW in India, because he introduced separate electorates for Muslims in 1909, another politician of contemporary India, Rahul Gandhi, is trying to divide Indian politics into several factions.

    I give a few instances of the chasms that Rahul Gandhi, the newly appointed Leader of the Opposition, has tried to create in our society.

    Dividing Indians between Hindus and others: In the first week of September 2023, Udhayanidhi Stalin, minister for youth development, sports and two other ministries in Tamil Nadu, equated Sanatan Dharma with ‘mosquitoes, Dengue, Malaria, fever and Corona'.

    Stalin Jr further said, ‘Few things cannot be opposed, that should be abolished only. We can't oppose dengue, mosquitoes, malaria or corona. We have to eradicate this. That's how we have to eradicate Sanatana Dharma.'

    Stalin Jr is not only a minister in the Tamil Nadu government, he is the son and heir apparent of the top-most DMK leader and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M K Stalin. The powerful Udhayanidhi made these utterances at the ‘Sanatana Abolition Conference'. So, Stalin Jr was not making an off-the-cuff remark. He knew the purpose of the conference and his utterances were directly and explicitly hurtful to Hindus, at least of the northern part of India who are staunch followers of Sanatan Dharma.

    Rahul Gandhi's Congress and Stalin's DMK are allies and the Congress depends on the powerful Stalin factor to win a few seats in Tamil Nadu. In fact in the 2024 general elections, the DMK ensured that the INDIA bloc won 100% of the 39 seats in Tamil Nadu and one in neighbouring Puducherry. It helped the Congress send 9 MPs to the from Tamil Nadu.

    Rahul Gandhi, who is a janeudhari (sacred thread wearing) Hindu (as claimed by R S Surjewala) didn't come out with any condemnation of this Hindu/Sanatan bashing by Udhayanidhi Stalin.

    The question that arises is, why did Rahul Gandhi not condemn the attack on Sanatan Dharma by Stalin Jr? Did he not fear its negative effect in the Hindi heartland states? The answer lies in the fact that Rahul's party accurately calculated that the electorate of the rest of India would hardly be impacted by what was spoken in Tamil in the southern state.

    In his first major speech in the Lok Sabha on July 1, 2024, Rahul Gandhi articulated that those who claim to be Hindus are violent and hence not Hindus at all. In fact, Home Minister Amit A Shah responded in the Lok Sabha that the ‘Leader of the Opposition said those who call themselves Hindu talk of violence. He doesn't know crores proudly call themselves Hindu… connecting violence with any religion is wrong.'

    I personally believe that the BJP may be trying to get disproportionate mileage from a passage of speech made by Rahul Gandhi and blowing it out of context. However, the major beneficiary of all this noise will be Rahul Gandhi as it will help the Muslim community develop further affinity for his party, something that Rahul's ally, the Samajwadi Party, must be wary of.

    Rahul has perfected the art of winning Muslim votes, even as he is seldom seen taking up their perceived causes with any vigour.

    Dividing Hindus between backwards and forward castes: Rahul Gandhi has done well by neutralising the impact of consolidation of Hindu votes towards the BJP by raising the issue of proportionate representation of all castes in the power structures that exist in India. He has been very belligerent about it, even to the extent of asking journalists their caste identities.

    This is for the first time that any political leader has raised the issue of break-up of caste among the top echelons of newspapers and top companies. His advocacy of caste-based surveys and his promise to ensure that all castes will get proportionate representation in the government (if the INDIA bloc is voted to power) seems to have struck a favourable chord with the Other Backward Classes or the OBCs, a caste bloc that was solidly behind the BJP in the 2019 elections.

    In building up the case for caste-based appointments, Rahul Gandhi has not made even one passing reference to the merit-based advancement of individuals. Everything for him is about ‘Jiski jitni sankhya bhari, uski utni bhagidari'. This translates to a war cry of ‘The numerical strength of a sect in the overall population will solely determine that sect's participation in power.'

    However, Gandhi never made these assertions in southern India, because that would have meant supporting a greater number of Parliament seats for north Indian states like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar with their ever-burgeoning populations.

    The Congress's narrative of the BJP wanting to get to the 400 seat mark in the 2024 because it wanted to amend the Constitution also helped in his attempt to divide the Hindus between forward and backward castes.

    The Congress campaign that the BJP would remove reservations that benefitted the backward castes was something for which the beneficiaries of reservations fell for, hook, line and sinker.

    (To be continued…)



    Dr Sudhir Bisht, author and
    columnist, writes from New Delhi.

    The Northlines is an independent source on the Web for news, facts and figures relating to Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh and its neighbourhood.

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