Updated: Aug 9, 2019
The Tamil poet Suradha once wrote:
We got our Independence at midnight but we still wait for the dawn.
Up until last night, these words played in my head on loop as I spoke to a fellow INC youth supporter who shared his concerns on the leadership vacuum at the top. As I sat there dismayed, trying to comprehend the possible outcome of the turn of events in the last few weeks, a story from the past grabbed my attention.
Today, a vast number of Congressmen on different levels of the hierarchy have turned their back on the party with many attributing the consecutive failures of the party to a lack of leadership and centralized planning. Here’s a story not only for all those who left but also for all those contemplating on leaving. You need to read this before you make your decision. This is Their story. This is Our History.
The words of Suradha written years ago, have found their relevance in the modern Indian narrative once more. With parts of India especially Kashmir reeling under uncertainty, it’s time for us to flip the pages of history as we impatiently wait for the arrival of the President of the Indian National Congress. The dire need for central leadership in these palpable moments of uncertainty can not be undermined but there is another narrative that needs to be shared widely, the story of the Congress supporters whose faith stood the test of time, those who did not buckle under pressure or give in to the benevolent favours of the majority. This is the story of those nameless, faceless folk who with pride stood by an ideology refusing to compromise, while their leaders languished behind bars. They bore one identity: Each of them was an Indian National Congress worker. This bound them across the borders of race, religion, colour and culture. It is the truth of the Congress Workers during the Quit India Movement that we commemorate every year on the 8th of August. It is the story that needs retelling because for some of us, our faith has begun to waver.
The Quit India Movement was largely a reaction to the British Government’s decision to give India a dominion status. A famous historian while describing the Movement narrates that in 1942, when all the top Congress leaders like Mahatma Gandhi were arrested, “it left the organization as a rudderless boat in a turbulent ocean but they were adamant to fight to the last.” An estimated 30,000 Congressmen were arrested. The Movement went on. This was a war of principles, of philosophies and of Hope in a time of utter hopelessness.
Interestingly, those participating enmasse were simple commoners: washer-men, artisans, women, young students and more. These were the true backbone of the party. While each of them had the choice of continuing their slavish existence under the British rule, they refused to back down. History is witness to the indefatigable truth that while these simple folk could have washed off their hands like Pilate, with numerous facts on their side, especially that they were alone and without a beacon of hope given that their core leadership was in jail, they chose resilience over all else. There were no signs of giving up or caving in.
Think about it: this lot of uneducated, partially educated and educated people had only heard one clarion call, “we shall free India or die in the attempt.” This was all that kept them going. With an unclear leadership even back then, these workers went ahead, and carried out their responsibility of fighting for the nation.
Today, we stand in the same position that the INC stood 77 years ago. Today the Congress is like a rudderless boat caught in a turbulent political ocean where a conflict of ideologies has become the reason for a war within. While the Congress has always had two factions, be it the moderates and extremists, or the young and the old, none left. There was not a Nehru, Gandhi or Patel coercing the people to stay. They worked around their differences and they ensured that a resolution was struck amicably. What happened in the family, stayed in the family. It was the value, the ideal and the principle that mattered in letter and spirit. Their followers felt emboldened by the principles laid down by the front-runners and leaders of the time. They believed.
Today it is our turn to make a conscious decision. If we stand divided within, we stand to lose sight of the bigger picture. Your anger and mine is strong and right but the reason is distinctly misplaced. We can’t afford to cry over spilt milk. This is not a moment to be lost to lamentations or resentments. Don’t stop those who leave; for in a democracy, every one is free to choose. We need to revive this party of Inspiration to stimulate the common man to believe in us again and work with us while the leader who stands to embody all the principles we stand for, is eventually elected. We cannot afford to lose the trust of those who haven’t lost their trust in us. At the same time, we have to win the trust of those who we have lost in our journey till now.
Time has come to Revive, Rebuild and Reform the Indian National Congress with a common consensus. Differences of opinion while always acceptable and welcome must find a resolution within the party behind closed doors because dissent veiled in a cloak of secrecy ruptures trust within the people. The blueprint of Revival and Reformation can only come when we Re-discover our own Relevance in the entire Indian jigsaw.
What we are seeing today is a party that has not lost its relevance but whose supporters are conveniently forgetting its history. For those Congressmen who left the party for greener pastures, or because they were diffident to voice their concerns, well, you’ve written the party off too soon. A sudden rise of anything, a party or an individual gradually ends into a high and mighty fall as you will soon witness.
There is only one clarion call for the Congress supporters today: Keep your animosities and your own vested interests aside, unite unequivocally without the need for a better post or a greener pasture, work without the expectation of a medal or recognition; establish the need to be needed within the party. Today, we stand divided on Article 370 with many Congress workers publicly hailing the decision of the government and many more defying it. Remember the rupture that it has caused within.
We were united in our resolution to do away with the colonial rule, so what is stopping us now from reclaiming the reins of a country that has only seen the dawn of hope under the Congress rule? Our own divisive behaviour. Why are we Congress supporters moving away from the ideology for the lack of a central leadership? Would we have won our freedom at all, if all those underprivileged, oppressed, illiterate people hit the pause button when Nehru and Gandhi were in jail?
Our Sole Consensus must be on Conviction. As a Congress loyalist, I say this with a firm conviction, that all is not lost. We cannot give up in 6 years, when our political ancestors fought for 250, relentlessly working their way towards victory. The Congress worker is the most important central element to the Freedom Movement narrative and the Millenial Indian narrative. You are the heart and the soul of the party. Losing your patience, as I briefly did, because of two colossal political failures to the exclusion of all those tiny victories that serve as a reminder for us that there is still a segment of the society that believes in the Congress tenets of liberalism, pluralism and secularism, is erroneous.
Adam Braun in the Promise of a Pencil wrote,
“In moments of uncertainty, when you must chose between two paths, allowing yourself to be overcome by either the fear of failure or the dimly lit light of possibility, immerse yourself in the life you would be most proud to live.”
Dear Fellow INC Supporter, We have two paths today: one that says, Crib about vacuum, Compromise on ideals and become Complacent OR, Stand together, Speak in one voice, and Stick to the Singular goal of bringing the numbers up in State Assemblies, and ultimately the Union Executive eventually. Our current focus is to hold on to the values of our political ancestors and work irrespective of what’s happening at the top. We need to convert our weaknesses into our strongest assets. We have to reaffirm our faith in the ideology that has held this nation together.
Our independence is once again at stake. Today, as fear envelops the the minorities and marginalized sections of society, we are called to unite against dangerous forces that are swiftly dividing us on the basis of religion. They are tearing into the carefully interwoven fabric of Indian pluralism, liberalism and secularism. We cannot serve as pall bearers at the funeral of ideals and convictions. Our role is that of a life-guard alert 24/7 to mitigate the risks of any impending disaster. Today we want political extremism, communal hatred and bigoted rhetoric to Quit India and most importantly we want the propagators of all this negativity to Quit India so that our diverse country can break free from the shackles of political oppression and communal divide. By calling for division, they have attacked the jugular vein of this country and it is our moral duty to save it. As for those who left, may their conscience be sufficiently aroused by the purity of our deeds and the strength in our convictions. Let the weak leave for they have succumbed to their mind. You keep the faith and listen to your heart.
On my part: I’m not giving up and I’m not giving in.
@katie_abraham on Twitter