Constitutional Framework and Structures of Governance in India:


A Historical Perspective

 


Series of Weekly Lectures by Sri Devendra Swarup

 

Lecture XV, Saturday, October 13, 2012

 
 

SUMMARY





In the fifteenth talk in this series, Sri Devendra Swarup continued with his exposition of Gandhiji’s role in the Independence struggle, especially with his unprecedented success in mobilising the Hindus behind him and his tragic failures with the Muslims and the British.

Sri Devendra Swarup began by referring to the questions that had been raised about Gandhiji in the last talk. That discussion indicated that Gandhiji requires a deep understanding. Gandhiji returned to India in 1915 and lived with us with his mortal body up to 1948. In these 35 years he left the shores of India only once, in 1930 to take part in the Second Round Table Conference. This period is known in history as the Gandhi Period. In this period, he was the centre of public life in India; the impact that he had on Indian people and polity was incomparable.

Ravindra Nath Thakur was initially critical of Gandhiji, his description of Sabarmati Ashram at the time of the non-cooperation movement is scathing. But later, the same Rabindra Nath Thakur compared Gandhiji to Gautam Buddha, and said that such a great person is born in India again after 2000 years. Gandhi and Tagore differed on several issues. Some of you must have come across the book, “Truth Called Them Differently” in which the correspondence and ideological difference between the two is described in detail. But when Mahatma Gandhi undertook his fast unto death in Yarvada Jail in 1932 against the Communal Award, Rabindra Nath rushed to Yarvada, sat with him on his austere bed and cried uncontrollably.

When Gandhiji arrived in India in 1915, there were several important leaders here; Madan Mohan Malaviya, Moti Lal Nehru, C. R. Das, Srinivasa Shastri, and many others, held a high place in Indian politics. But almost immediately after his arrival, Gandhiji became the foremost leader of India and all the great leaders began to defer to him. The impact he had on the Indian leadership can be gauged from the letter Gandhiji wrote to K. M. Munshi in 1944 in the context of his discussions with Jinnah. In 1944, when Gandhiji agreed to engage in discussions with Jinnah at the latter’s residence and terms, K. M. Munshi was deeply hurt, he felt that this amounted to surrender of the Mahatma before Jinnah.  He sent his son, Jagdish Munshi, with a letter to Gandhiji asking him what was he likely to gain by engaging in this discussion.  Gandhiji replied that when he entered Indian politics, there were several leaders who were much older and higher than him, but he was fortunate to receive the blessings of all of them; in his humility, he was able to impress all of them. But he could not impress Jinnah. All other leaders accepted him, not Jinnah. And, Gandhiji’s said, he was entering into discussion with Jinnah in 1944 to make one final attempt to bring him around.

But Jinnah did not accept him, either then or earlier. The differences between the two began to arise immediately after Gandhiji’s arrival. The Gujarati community of Bombay had organised a reception for Gandhiji; this was one of the several receptions held in his honour. Jinnah was asked to preside over it and, as the president, he was the first to speak. As was his wont, he spoke in English. Jinnah was every inch an Englishman; he dressed, spoke and lived like an English-man. Gandhiji, on the other hand, had given up the English ways before arriving in India. He had departed from India in western dress, but while disembarking at Bombay in 1915, he was in traditional Kathiawari dress, including the turban. When Gandhiji began to speak, he mentioned that he had thought that on that occasion everyone would be speaking either in Gujarati or in Hindi. Jinnah, it seems, was cut up by this, probably inadvertent, reference to his English ways.

Jinnah was also the President of the Home Rule League of Bombay province. Umar Sobhani, Shankardas Banker and K. M. Munshi were its secretaries. They thought of making Gandhiji the president of the Home League Rule. When they asked Jinnah about it, he said that they might offer Gandhi the presidency, but on becoming the president, the first thing he would do was to change the name of the League. Gandhiji indeed changed the name of the Home Rule League to Swaraj Sabha, and Jinnah promptly resigned from the League.

Since that early beginning, the distance between Gandhiji and Jinnah only kept increasing. There is only one occasion when Jinnah approached Gandhiji for a compromise. This was in 1937, when Muslim League had failed to win many Muslim seats in the elections and the Congress had obtained verwhelming majority in seven provinces. At that time, Jinnah sent a letter to Gandhiji, through B. G. Kher, proposing some kind of compromise between the League and the Congress. In response, Gandhiji snubbed him. He replied that in matters concerning the Muslims in the Congress he used to seek the guidance of Dr. Ansari earlier, but had begun to rely on the opinion of Maulana Azad; therefore, it would be appropriate for Jinnah to approach Maulana Azad. Jinnah, of course, did not accept this.

On another occasion, Gandhiji wrote a letter to Jinnah in Urdu and also sent an English translation with it with the request that the response might be sent either in Kachhi, which was the mother tongue of Jinnah, or in Urdu. Jinnah got very angry, he took this as an affront and said that he would reply in the language of his choice and, of course, he replied in English.

There area many such examples of small and large tiffs between Jinnah and Gandhiji. That is why when Munshi, in 1944, asked Gandhiji about the utility of his discussions with Jinnah, Gandhiji could reply that he was making one last effort to win the favour of Jinnah.

I have recounted these examples of Gandhi-Jinnah relationship to emphasise that Gandhiji had his own special way of working. Part of this way was to try and win over others. I have earlier spoken about the instance of Shri V. R. Srinivas Shastri marking the grammatical errors in the first issue of Harijan. He listed the errors in a letter to Gandhiji, which he marked confidential. But Gandhiji sought his permission to publish the letter and actually published the whole of it in the next issue of Harijan. Such was the way of Gandhiji. We come across several such examples of complete openness to his critics in Gandhiji’s life.

Gandhiji had an extraordinary impact on the Indian people. The older leadership of Congress was wonderstruck by the respect and devotion that he commanded. As we have discussed earlier, before Gandhiji’s arrival, a nation-wide awakening of national consciousness had taken place through the Swadeshi movement, the revolutionary movement and the efforts of the triad of Lal-Bal-Pal. But by 1915, this initial wave of national resurgence had largely been exhausted. The British had adopted a policy of oppression, and the charismatic leaders of these movements had been rendered ineffective. Lokmanya was in Mandalay, Lajpat Rai was in exile in US, Bipin Chandra had become nearly destitute and Sri Arvind had gone into hiding in Pondicherry. The nationalist leadership was thus neutralised and the revolutionary leadership had been nearly finished. Gandhiji came to India in this situation of dormancy of the national spirit and activity.

Almost immediately on his arrival, he was able to get the whole of the enlightened Hindu society behind him. It is important to understand the secret of the devotion of the enlightened educated middle-class Hindu for Gandhiji. The English tried to carefully analyse the support base of Gandhiji, and they came to the conclusion that the core of that base was formed by the middle-class caste Hindus. The lower castes at that time in any case were mired in poverty, had little education and were hardly active in public life. They could contribute only at the level of emotion, and their emotions were with Gandhiji, but they were not in a position to make any contribution at the level of thought or action.

There are a couple of reports available about the indifference of the “depressed castes” regarding public affairs. When the communal award was announced and the depressed castes were given separate electorate, then the Viceroy wrote to the Governors asking them to report on the reaction of the concerned castes. Similar directions from the Viceroy were repeated when Gandhiji decided to undertake his fast unto death on this issue which resulted in the Puna pact. In both instances, the Governors of all provinces had the same response. They reported that the depressed castes were not even aware of the meaning of separate electorate; they were simply not concerned with the issue. There were only one or two leaders of these castes active in every province and they were aligned either with M. C. Raja or with Ambedkar at the national level. The depressed castes at that stage were not in a position to take any active role in the freedom struggle, even though they had sympathies with the struggle that Gandhiji was leading. That is why during the Second Round Table Conference could  say that Ambedkar might be presented as a leader of the depressed castes in England, but let him accompany Gandhiji to any village in north India and then see who among the two had a sway on them.

Emery, the Secretary of State during World War II, wrote to the Viceroy advising him to muster the support of 6 crore persons of the depressed castes; the Viceroy replied that he understood the importance of that group but it was difficult to make any approach to them because there were just two and half English-knowing persons among them. Two of the persons that the Viceroy had in mind were Ambedkar and Raja; the latter died in 1942, leaving Ambedkar as the only English-educated depressed caste Indian. Such was the condition of the depressed castes at that time.

Gandhiji’s source of strength was thus only a part of the caste Hindu society. There is a letter that Gandhiji wrote to Mountbatten, which is very relevant in this context. This was written on June 28, 1947, after the partition plan had been finalised and formally adopted by the All India Congress Committee on June 14, 1947. In this letter, Gandhiji reminded Mountbatten that he had requested him to invite Jinnah to form the Government if the latter was not agreeable to a Congress government; Jinnah might also be given the freedom to take or not take any Hindus or Congress Muslims in his cabinet. But Jinnah refused the offer saying that if the British were to leave India without Partition then the Hindu majority would come to dominate the Muslims. Gandhiji wrote to Moutbatten that he was unable to understand the argument of Jinnah; a few Muslims had ruled over the Hindu majority for so long; a few Britishers were even then ruling over this large majority; history did not seem to suggest that the Hindu majority could dominate others. Gandhiji then went on to question the existence of any such majority. The British themselves and the Muslims, he said, opposed counting the depressed castes as part of the Hindu society. The Rajputs and Thakurs, the armed sections of the Hindu society, were not yet fully associated with the nationalist sentiment. This left only the Brahmins and Banias as defenders of the nation, and these two groups were unarmed; if they carried any influence it was only moral, they had no other power. How could the Hindu society, based on so little power and cohesion, dominate others? This, Gandhiji said, was beyond comprehension.

This letter is very important and unusual. In this letter, Gandhiji, perhaps for the first time, is analysing Indian society on the basis of caste. On receiving the letter, Mountbatten was worried. He did not want this analysis of Gandhiji to come on record. Gandhiji had in any case marked it confidential. The letter is now available in the Collected Works. It shows the deep understanding that Gandhiji had of the reality of Hindu society.

Gandhiji himself realised that his influence extended mainly to this middle-class caste Hindu society. But the influence he had on this section was nearly total. Let me give two examples of this. In 1919 session of the Congress held in Amritsar, the leaders had made up their minds to reject the Act of 1919. C. R. Das had already prepared a resolution to that effect. But Gandhiji suggested that the Congress should accept the Act and try to implement it. And, C. R. Das changed his draft and the Congress passed a resolution endorsing Gandhiji’s views.  This was perhaps the first session of the Congress in which Gandhiji played an active role. R. C. Majumdar, the foremost historian of this period, has analysed this incident. He wonders how did it happen that the topmost leaders of the Congress, like C. R. Das, Madan Mohan Malaviya and Motilal Nehru, thus surrendered before Gandhiji and accepted his suggestion. He says that Gandhiji had such an influence on the educated middle-classes that all the senior leaders of Congress were left with no choice but to follow him. This influence among the educated middle-class Hindus was the source of power of Gandhiji and this power remained with him till the end.

When Mahatma Gandhi announced his fast unto death against the communal award, Lord Wellingdon was worried. He wrote a private letter to all the Governors informing them that the Government was in a quandary. If Gandhiji were to die in jail then it would create a serious problem; and, if he were released and then continued his fast outside the jail, then it would create an even more serious problem. In that letter, Wellingdon also writes that Gandhiji had a very deep influence on caste-Hindus, and these caste-Hindus controlled the media, controlled the wealth and also had influence on the society in general.

The British tried to give their own political colour to this extraordinary hold of Gandhiji on the middle-class caste Hindus. They and Jinnah always kept insisting that the Congress represented only the caste Hindus; it had no influence beyond that group. But as we have said earlier, at the second round table conference in London, Gandhiji challenged Ambedkar to try and match his sway over the depressed castes in any village of north India. It is indeed true that Gandhiji would have been recognised and acknowledged by all Indians, even by the poorest in the remote villages, in both north and south India. Ambedkar, on the other hand, had very limited following in the country. Up to 1930, his influence did not extend beyond his own Mahar caste in Mahrashtra, and even among the Mahars, there was a large group that was not with him. Mahar leaders of Nagpur were opposed to him. The influence of Gandhiji, on the other hand, extended over the whole country. But in the Round Table Conference, it was Ambedkar, and not Gandhiji, who was seen as the representative of the depressed castes. In any case, the British media was against both the Congress and Gandhiji; they were demanding Independence and the British were in no mood to leave India. That is why the British media looked upon Gandhiji as an enemy and Ambedkar as a friend. The persona of Ambedkar was greatly built up by the British press.

The biased nature of the British media can be gauged from Srinivas Shastri’s observation that when Simon Commission came to India and was boycotted throughout the country, the British media in England took no note of it. Given this attitude of the British media, it is not surprising that they found Ambedkar to be more worthy of attention than Gandhiiji. Gandhiji probably inadvertently helped strengthen this bias with the dress he chose to wear in England. He insisted on wearing the same dress that he wore in India; and that was the dress of an austere pious and religious Hindu. So it became easier for the British media and the British people to present Gandhiji as the leader of caste Hindus alone. This is precisely the attribution that Ambedkar and the representatives of the Muslim league wanted to impose upon Gandhiiji. Gandhiji was certainly much more than the leader of caste Hindus; but in the Round Table Conference, the British and his other opponents were able to successfully present him in this manner.

Gandhiji was seen as the leader of caste Hindus by the Hindus themselves, by the British and by the Muslims. But Gandhiji saw himself as a representative of all of India. In the Round Table Conference, he kept insisting that the Congress represented all of India and regretted that it had been placed on an equal footing with the representatives of much smaller and limited interests.

One of the earliest important political decisions of Gandhiji in India was to adopt the Khilafat movement in order to break the Anglo-Muslim alliance that had been built up since 1885. Before coming to India, Gandhiji had already arrived at a position regarding Hindu-Muslim unity. He mentions the issue several times in Hind Swaraj; while reading the discussion there it becomes clear that at that stage Gandhiji had not the same clarity about the Islamic ideology that he arrived at in the course of and after the Khilafat movement. In Hind Swaraj, he goes to the extent of saying that in case he fails to save the cow from the Muslim, he would let the cow go. He wouldn’t kill the Muslim for the sake of the cow. He also strongly states the position that the Hindu as the elder brothers had to bear the larger responsibility for maintaining the unity.

This is the position that Gandhiji adopts at the beginning of the Khilafat movement. In his speeches at that time, he even says that if necessary he would let Swaraj be delayed, but he wouldn’t let Khilafat down. There is no doubt that in that period Gandhiji, in association with the Ali brothers, made a great effort to achieve Hindu-Muslim unity. He went to great lengths for this purpose. We have earlier seen that in September 1919 he had made the Congress accept the Act of 1919. But, during the Khilafat movement, he began opposing Council entry; boycotting the Council elections was made a part of the non-cooperation programme. In fact, Gandhiji adopted the whole programme of the Khilafat Committee as part of the non-cooperation movement. In response, Muslims entered the non-cooperation movement with great enthusiasm and vigour. The movement was extremely powerful till the Muslims remained in the field. Khalif-ul-Zaman describing the Nagpur session of the Congress held in December 1920 says that it was in fact a Muslim session. Of the 14,000 delegates in the session, a majority were Muslims.

Muslims felt the need of Hindu support in Khilafat as much as Gandhiji felt the need of Muslim support in the struggle for Swaraj. But by 1922, after the incarceration of Ali brothers, the Muslim community began to distance itself from the non-cooperation movement. This slowed down and weakened the movement. R. C. Majumdar analysing this phenomenon says that the Hindus at that time were inspired by Nationalism, while the chief inspiration of the Muslims was the protection of Islam. Religious inspiration creates a kind of madness; it made the Muslims participate in the movement with abandon. In fact, Muslims did protest that they had to undergo all the suffering during the movement; Hindus had become mere fellow-travellers.

The psyche of the Muslims, rooted in religious fanaticism as it was, found its worst manifestation in the Mopilla riots that occurred on 21-23 August 1922. It was rumoured that the Khilafat would be re-established on August 21, 1922. And to welcome the Khilafat Raj on that day, the Muslims Mopillas of Malabar indulged in terribly bloody rioting. Gandhiji commenting on these riots wrote that they fought for their religion as they understood it and in a manner which they considered to be religious. Gandhiji, it seems, was still trying to keep the Muslims within the non-cooperation movement. That is why he did not directly condemn the riots. This had its impact on the Hindus, many of whom felt betrayed. Shankaran Nair, one of the Hindu leaders of Kerala, wrote a book describing the Mopilla riots on the basis of his first hand knowledge and accusing Gandhiji of condoning anarchy. Many other contemporary leaders and later authors have commented negatively upon the role of Gandhiji in these incidents.

Gandhiji thus tried very hard to achieve Muslim-Hindu unity, and an unprecedented unity was indeed witnessed for a while. But ultimately he failed, because the Hindu and Muslim societies were animated by entirely different objectives and inspirations. As soon as Gandhiji was jailed in February 1922, a wave of rioting erupted throughout the country from Kohat to Dhaka.

The riots of Kohat had a deep impression on Gandhiji. He was released from jail in January 1924. An enquiry committee comprising of Gandhiji and Shaukat Ali was set up to visit Kohat. The British did not allow the Committee to go beyond Rawalpindi. Gandhiji and Shaukat Ali met the Hindu refugees from Kohat at Rawalpindi. Gandhiji has himself described the details of this enquiry. In Kohat, Hindus were being converted forcibly to Islam for a long time. The riots occurred when the Hindus began to object to such conversion. The Muslims claimed that the riots happened because Hindus had published a pamphlet containing material that insulted the Prophet. Shaukat Ali was inclined to accept this argument. But Gandhiji, after extensive enquiry, came to the conclusion that the cause of the riots was the forcible conversion of Hindus. Gandhiji then asked Shaukat Ali about his opinion on conversion. Shaukat Ali expressed his support for it; this shocked Gandhiji. In protest Gandhiji sat on hunger strike at the house of Mohammad Ali in September 1924. From then onwards, Gandhiji’s changed his opinion about Shaukat Ali.

When Gandhiji returned to Sabarmati, he was unable to sleep for several nights. One morning he gathered all the residents of the Ashram and told them that he had been deeply disturbed since he had come to know of the reality of Kohat riots. He went on to express his apprehension that what happened in Kohat could also happen in Sabarmati. And if such a situation indeed arose then, he cautioned, it would be proper for the Ashramites to ignore his advice about non-violence and do whatever was necessary to prevent such a calamity. This incident happened on February 10, 1925 and is recorded in the diaries of Mahadev Desai.

Later in May 15, 1925, he wrote a long article in Young India, analysing the Hindu-Muslim problem. He wrote that he was being accused of bringing the fanatic Muslim religious leadership to the forefront in public life; and that he had encouraged the Muslim masses to come out on the streets. The article attracted a great deal of response and comment. Gandhiji chose to answer only the letter from Dr. Bhagwan Das. Amongst other things, Bhagwan Das had asked why the Muslims exhibited such fanaticism and violence against the Hindus while the blood of the two was said to be the same. In his reply, Gandhiji said that though the blood was indeed the same, yet history and religion had changed the nature of Muslims. This is perhaps the first time when Gandhiji analysed the psyche of Muslims in this manner.

In 1926, Swami Shradhanand was murdered. During the Khilafat movement, Shradhanand had been invited to address Muslims from the Jama Masjid. Perhaps no Hindu had ever received such an honour from the Muslims before that. The same Shradhanand was murdered because he was opposing conversion and was spearheading the Shudhi programme. There was very strong reaction to the murder. Gandhiji also felt despondent. At that time someone asked him about the solution to the Hindu-Muslim problem; he replied that he had left the issue in the hands of God.

There are two modern historians of this period, Prof. S. R. Mehrotra and Prof. Bimal Prasad. Both are of the opinion that by 1927 Gandhiji had arrived at the conclusion that Hindu-Muslim unity was impossible, because the ideological ground of the two communities was entirely different. Even then, in 1931, when Gandhiji agreed to participate in the Second Round Table Conference, he wanted to go to England as the representative of the whole of India. He tried hard to obtain cooperation of the Muslims. Mahadev Bhai’s diary details the efforts Gandhiji made in that direction. After the congress session at Karachi, Gandhiji called a Muslim Sammelan there. In this Sammelan, he got up to tell the Muslims that they might write down what they wanted from him and he would put his signatures on it. Mahadev Desai writes that Gandhiji went to the extent of offering to fall on the feet of the Muslims to beg for their cooperation. But all his efforts went waste; the Muslims were not willing to extend their cooperation to him. He sadly remarked that though the Congress wanted to represent all Indians, but there was nothing the Congress could do if the Muslims refused to give their assent.

Gandhiji’s mission was to get Swarajya for India. Before coming to India from South Africa, he had declared in his Hind Swarajya that his life was dedicated to achieving Swarajya. He wanted to make Indian society strong from within so that Swarajya would become its natural state. The instruments he created for preparing Indian society for the achievement of Swarajya included first of all the experiments that he did in his own life. The second instrument of his was the establishment of Ashrams for raising an army of disciplined soldiers trained in living the life of satyagrahis. And the third instrument was the Congress that was completely reformed by him for the purpose of fighting the political part of the battle for Swarajya. Gandhiji himself drafted the 1920 Constitution of Congress, makinng it obligatory for the Congressmen to spin, to wear hand-spun cloth, to take part in constructive work, etc.

He kept experimenting with himself throughout his life; he called these “Experiments with Truth”. He never claimed to have achieved completeness; in any case, man can not expect to achieve completeness in life. The Ashrams of Gandhiji created great men like Vinoba Bhave, Kishori Lal Mashruwala, J. C. Kumarappa and many others. He was not equally successful with his third instrument, the Congress. He tried to change the character of Congress, but he failed.

When we study the life and work of Gandhiiji, it gives rise to several questions. It is true that we find Gandhiji compromising on several occasions. But why did it happen? Can we put the responsibility for the failure of his efforts on Gandhiji alone? Should we not try to understand our own weaknesses as a society through Gandhiji? It cannot be denied that the internal cohesion that Gandhiji generated in the Hindu society was unprecedented. This cohesion was seen in the elections of 1937 and 1946. The same cohesion was seen in the movements of 1920 and 1930. Gandhiji’s contribution in awakening Indian society cannot be under-estimated. The largest public movement in the world arose in India under his leadership. And for the first time in history, he created an India-wide political leadership. He created leaders in every province, in every group and every caste of India. No man could have achieved more.

I remember the experience of the Hindu Mahasabha delegation to the Second Round Table Conference. On their return, the Mahasabha delegation met with other leaders in Pune. In that meeting, Dr. Munje, the leader of the delegation, was asked about the proceedings of the conference. He said that they could not do anything because Gandhiji was taking the side of the Muslims. When Dr. Munje repeated this several times, the leaders told him that you had a delegation of seven, while Gandhiji was alone. What did you do? Dr. Munje replied what could they have done? Nobody paid attention to them, all attention was focussed on Gandhiji. Then he said, that they might like it or not, Gandhiji was the man of the century. This is recorded in the intelligence reports of the times.

This was the status Gandhiji had achieved in popular perception. He was able to unite Hindu society behind him. Such cohesion has not been seen since then. Hindu society forms the foundation of Indian Nationalism. The Muslim society of India even today has a pan-Islamic outlook. As we have seen they get agitated about the concerns of Muslims in Thailand or Myanmar or in Europe and America, and they are willing to shed blood here in India for the sake of those faraway Muslims. A man like Gandhiji, who had such great spiritual power, could not bring Muslims into the national fold.

We should remember that Gandhiji felt helpless when the Muslims demanded and were able to enforce Partition of India. He had said that the Partition would happen only on his dead body. He could not stick to that position. And even in his last fast unto death, all the demands he made were from the Hindus, because Hindus alone were within his influence. This influence on the Hindu society, he retained till the end.

The unfortunate death of Gandhiji led to a great anger in the Hindu society; even RSS became a target of that anger. In Nagpur, the samadhi of Dr. Hedgewar was desecrated; the furniture of Sangh Karyalaya was burnt. In Maharasthra, it became difficult for the swayamsevaks to venture out of their houses. Such was the anger. That is why the then Sarsanghchalak of the Rashtriya Swyamsevak Sangh, Guru Golwalkar, advised the swayamsevaks to worshipfully accept the public anger against them as a mark of the Hindu reverence for Gandhiji. Incidentally, the RSS has also taken up the task of uniting Hindu society; I believe that in the twentieth century there has been no greater organised effort in this direction than that of the Sangh. But the Sangh has not been able to match the level of mobilisation of Hindu society that Gandhiji achieved. 

We are trying to find an alternative to the present constitutional and administrative arrangements of India. This can hardly be done without studying Gandhiji. Gandhiji deeply studied the Indian civilisation and presented a picture of a political system consistent with that civilisation. One of the fundamental problems of Indian constitutional system, which has been there since 1885, is the refusal of the Muslims to be ruled by a non-Muslim majority. In this context also a study of Gandhiji is important.

The talk was followed by an extensive discussion. Several persons from the audience took issue with the characterisation of Gandhiji as the leader of middle-class caste Hindus alone and insisted that his support base extended across all sections of Hindus.
 
 
 
 
 
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