POLITICS  

 

 

 

A rare correspondence of rare leaders
Selection by Amir Ali Kadri

 

 

Naeem Deswaly

Congress and the Sayed Faction

Extracts from three letters from G.M. Syed, leader of the Sayed faction in Sind Assembly to Dr. Choithram Gidwani, President, Sind Congress Committee, 22 July, 28 July and 1 August I938. Published in Daily Gazette, Karachi, 14 August 1938. Cutting in AICC Papers, File No: PL-11/1937-38 [NMML].

 

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Karachi,
 22 July 1938.

Dear Doctor Choithram,

I really thank you for doing your best to give opportunity to our friends, the present Ministers, to see sense and, if possible, to make amends for the grave error committed by them in flouting the clear mandate of the parties whose nominees they are in the Cabinet by their deliberate decision to introduce increased rates of land assessment in hot haste. Judging from the attitude of the two Ministers, as revealed by the talks last night at Mr. Jamshed’s residence, I do not think they are even now honest enough to implement their promises. I and my party at least have lost all hopes of them and I have no doubt that your decision will not be different.

As citizens of Sind, we built many castles about the future of our Sind after its being constituted a separate Province under Provincial autonomy. We put up with Sir Ghulam Hussain as the Head of Government hoping against hope that with his wide and extensive experience of administration, his ripe age and judgment, he might steer the Government safe, and promote peace, prosperity and patriotism in the province. Our hopes were in vain. He proved too old to change with the times and his training in the old bureaucratic regime proved a source of hindrance instead of progress. We frowned and fought. Thanks to the Congress with whose help it became possible to succeed in replacing him by younger blood, these new Ministers are our own and the Congress very kindly went out of its way in adjusting even their principles by declaring conditional support, which alone made it possible for them to assume office. The advent of this ministry supported by Congress naturally aroused expectations of the people, who are day by day growing more enlightened and Congress-minded, but you know too well how miserably even they have conducted themselves so far. Excepting the first outside glamour, all the rest has been dark and gloomy. Still we waited in hope till by their foolhardy action, they have made it impossible for any honourable man to standby them. Their persistence has made their folly still worse. However dear they may be personally to us, the country and its good government are dearer. We have made up our minds. We are starting public propaganda and wish to issue an appeal to observe a day when meetings be held throughout Sind condemning the unconstitutional act of the Ministers and calling upon their representatives to Sind Assembly to join in censuring the Ministers.

The Ministers so far instead of proving honest to their constituents in trying to organize them into disciplined groups on whose strength and active co-operation they could rely, have deliberately tried to weaken them by playing with their individual weakness, with the sole view to be left free to run the Government in their own individual autocratic and selfish way cutting at the very root of democracy, making a good honest government an impossibility. The present act of the Ministers is only a climax of that attitude and shows how ruinous it can be if not checked and controlled in time. In this there can be no two opinions. I therefore feel that the appeal is issued by leaders of all parties, as the question involved is one of the elementary rights and privileges of the electorate, irrespective of the party they belong to. I am therefore sending you a copy of the draft appeal for your signature after approval if necessary of your party. ...The fall of the present Ministry is now a matter of time and the longer it takes, the worse for the present incumbents and British imperialism. We can use the opportunity in educating [the] masses in making them conscious of the power of their vote.

I do feel that the ultimate solution is full-fledged Congress government which means general elections: but today is not the opportune time. If Congress accept responsibility, they by their work can prepare the Province for general elections and if they prove their mettle, I have no doubt that victory is certain. The only handicap during the transitional period will be that there being coalition of different interests, far-reaching radical reforms of highly controversial nature may not be inaugurated; but there is so much to be done in ameliorating the condition of masses; that a year of strenuous and devoted work would not even suffice to successfully tackle these problems; moreover many problems when tackled in an atmosphere of goodwill and understanding are not so difficult of solution as they appear to be at a distance....

Yours sincerely,
 G.M. Syed.

 

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Karachi,
 28th July 1938.

Dear Dr. Choithram,

I have been considerably perturbed after your talk with me last evening, when you were good enough to take me into confidence and inform me of the moves of the present ministry and likelihood of the Congress party changing their attitude in the light of those moves.

For some days past there have been persistent rumours that the Congress are yielding to the propaganda of vilification carried on the local communal Hindu papers which are also being used by the present ministry as their mouthpiece, that the Congress by not supporting the present ministry which has been pro-Hindu in its conduct, are ruining the Hindu cause and thus forfeiting the confidence of their own constituencies. I for one have refused to believe the rumours; but after your last evening’s talk I find that the worst fears of my friends responsible for the rumours are going to materialise and I shudder to think of consequences towards the province and the country at large. God forbid, if the same turns out to be true.

Sind Congress supported Khan Bahadur Allah Bakhsh and his ministry not for any personal merit of the individuals constituting the same but because of the parties at their back. Antecedents both of Khan Bahadur Allah Bakhsh and of his colleague Mr. Nichaldas, if any, were very unhappy from the Congress point of view. We however hoped that after the lesson of the fall of Sir Ghulam Hussain they would act wisely and in close consultation of their parties and the Congress whose support alone made it possible for them to assume office. They, instead, in spite of repeated warnings have definitely defied their parties, assumed indifferent if not insulting attitude to the Congress and turned down in a treacherous way the other offer of Congress to comply with the minimum requirements of revoking their decision to enable the Congress to continue their attitude of support. I agreed to this arrangement as a matter of compromise in deference to the wishes of Acharya Kripa lani, the General Secretary of the All-India Congress.

I consider the above arrangement as a compromise, as after all the steps that the Congress High Command are taking to enforce discipline in Congress-governed provinces, the only honourable course left to us and the Congress was to see that such an irresponsible and autocratic ministry was not allowed to stay in office even for a day as far as it lay in our hands. The ministry instead of availing itself of this generous gesture tried to play by, in the first instance, agreeing to the proposal, then trying to gain time and using the time to create rift in the parties after putting us off guard and then staging a farce of declaring that the parties were at their backs in their dishonourable conduct. By these acts of theirs they have forfeited the right of our response in agreeing to connive at their past conduct, on their revoking the decision and thus all doors for our negotiations with them should stand closed. On going through the decision arrived at your party meeting of the 25th instant which appeared in the local press on the 26th morning, I can read only one meaning and that to my mind is consistent with my above analysis.

The decision comprises of three parts. The first part deals with the conduct of the present ministry and the attitude of the Congress party towards it. It condemns the act of the ministry for having ”defied the wishes of the parties supporting it” and for having ”passed the orders about and introduced a new system of land assessment despite repeated appeals”, and declared that the Congress Party stands by the decision of policy it made on July 16th, resuming complete freedom of action in regard of the ministry as before. The latter part especially in view of the subsequent paragraph can only have one meaning that the Congress now goes into opposition. The second part of the resolution is corollary to the first. Having declared their opposition, the only constitutional course left to Congress was to see that the present ministry is removed as early as possible. It would have been more honourable on the part of the Congress to have exerted themselves actively in the overthrow of the ministry whose creation became possible only because of their support. The Congress owed to the province after rousing expectations in people’s mind to give lead and do all that is possible to establish healthy practices and to put down all forces that dare to attempt to undermine democratic ideals.

Instead Congress by the above decision chose to put themselves in a passive position, leaving the lead to be taken by others and making even their support conditional on the party taking lead, fulfilling conditions which even, according to the ministerial organ of the “Sind Observer”, are difficult of fulfilment. Improper thus as the decision is, it may yet be justifiable, on the grounds of expediency. I therefore saw that about 22 signatures were obtained on a motion of no-confidence from amongst members of United Party and Sir Ghulam Hussain’s Party and the combined Muslim Party likely to assume office, in the event of the Congress not agreeing to coalition, agreed to the fulfilment of even those difficult conditions to the entire satisfaction of Congress. I fail now to understand how Congress consistently with the principles of self-respect can resile from their position and reject the move of the Muslim group and encourage immorality by allowing themselves to be approached further by the ministry for compromise.

I have also read very carefully the second part of the Congress decision. It has no application to the act or move of the present ministry who having been tried and found failing, have been condemned in the first part of the resolution and door for further negotiations shut against them. It will therefore be unfair to allow the present ministry to exploit the situation created by their opponents having agreed to Congress terms by now compromising with them on any terms much less on their agreeing to merely postpone the operation of their orders. I am emphatic that the stipulation contained in the second part of the Congress decision of any party declaring their policy of merely securing the postponement of the operation of assessment orders when in office as condition precedent to the Congress joining the party in moving vote of no-confidence cannot be applicable to any move of the present ministry. The minimum requirement required of the present ministry was their revoking their present order which would have secured postponement as well as have secured amends for their unconstitutional conduct.

Any move of the Congress compromising their attitude further would only be construed as their surrender to the communal Hindu cry instigated purposely by the present ministry to achieve their personal end and would result in creating reaction in Muslim mind the result of which I shudder to think. That the Congress should allow themselves to be used as tools for fanning the communal fire passes my imagination. I would urge you to realise the position of people like me. With all the adverse forces working for communalism, with Muslim League cry raging all through, we succeeded in persuading the Muslim friends to look in the Congress way for the solution of the political problems of our province, made them agree to all the Congress conditions and now to show helplessness that the Congress are throwing away the olive branch would only be confessing that the Congress in this province can find no room to accommodate the Muslim element and that it is at the mercy of the Hindu communal group.

We are told that the Congress are being forced to put up with the present ministry in spite of their misdeeds as they do not find a better alternative to it. I humbly ask that can it be reasonable to refuse to shoulder the responsibility and at the same time doubt the bona fides of the other party who are prepared to accept the Congress lead by joining them in coalition government or in the alternative agree to run the Government consistently with the Congress programme, leaving them free to support only in case they find the Government being run on Congress ideals.

I have been rather strong in expression of my feelings. It is because I am alive to the gravity of the situation and the serious consequences in case Congress happens to be coerced to take a wrong stand.

In the end I would appeal to you in the name of the Province and in the name of the great institution as whose head you are to consider the situation carefully from the point of view of the good of the province as a whole, and if necessary not to hasten with the decision. It may be helpful to consult Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and Sardar Patel as I feel they being outsiders can take a correct, detached, impartial, disinterested and non-communal view of the matter. I on my part am ready to accompany any one of you to them, to place the whole case before them and abide by their decision.

I may also add that I am grateful to you for keeping the door for coalition open as I feel that there is going to be no other lasting solution. On my part I have taken signatures of my friends on the prescribed pledge form necessary for admission to the Congress Parliamentary Board so that when there is call we march in to stand as comrades-in-arms.

Yours sincerely,
 G.M. Syed.

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Karachi,
1 August 1938
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Dear Mr. Choithram,

This is the third letter that I am writing to you not as Dr. Choithram but as the leader of the Sind Congress Committee-an institution that has occupied many of my dreams, an institution with which I have always associated the happy future of my Province. If I therefore today am forced to stand in the opposite camp to fight against the very Congress I do so in the hope that out of the fight may emerge the Congress of my ideals and dreams, the Congress which stands for the equality of citizenship, the Congress which can defy all attempts to exploit its resources for personal gain, and the Congress which may not be susceptible to individual and communal considerations.

The Congress has been an integral part of my own existence and therefore I cannot willfully fight against it except when I find that it is essential to subject certain diseased parts thereof to a surgical operation in order to restore it to a normal state of health. It is in this spirit that I am approaching the situation which has been created by you and your other Sind Congress friends by pursuing the policy which you have been pursuing lately. You have not replied to my last two letters and ordinarily I was under no obligation to supplement them with this, the third one; but after knowing all that is passing in your camp, and after having been convinced that there is going to be no fair and honourable deal by you, and that you are also determined to see Khan Bahadur Allah Bakhsh continuing to remain in office evidently to satisfy the demand of Communalist Hindus, I have made up my mind to stand up in opposition....

Hindus and Muslims have to live together and that is why Gandhiji and others in Congress High Command have been so anxious to win confidence of Muslim India as now represented by Muslim League and have expressed their willingness to even sacrifice certain interests to satisfy Muslim demand so long they are consistent with the general national interests. It is unfortunate therefore that at such a juncture the Congress in Sind should decide to act exactly to the contrary.

The fact that in spite of preponderating Muslim population of our Province, Congress in its local composition is essentially Hindu, is sufficient to prove that Congress have not yet approached Muslim masses, much less served them, to be entitled to their confidence. By your present act of twisting and warping your own judgment in order to ensure Khan Bahadur Allah Bakhsh’s personal safety as a Minister, which has emboldened the latter to defy his party as well as the general Muslims, you have given cause to the Muslims to feel that the Congress in Sind is virtually a branch of the Hindu Mahasabha, and not a National non-communal organization. I am purposely using the word Hindu Mahasabha as I find that the saner sections among the Hindus have displayed better wisdom and have taken the stand of condemning the present undemocratic, autocratic and faithless Ministry which Congress has been hugging and trying to preserve....

Public organizations are not the monopoly of individuals. You have to take people at their word. So long as any individual satisfies conditions, laid down as minimum requirements, you cannot shut him out on the plea that he may not be honest in professing or declaring his faith in the doctrines of the institution. At any rate the Congress with its democratic ideals, with the consciousness of its strength, cannot with any justification take up that stand....

I made some of Sir Ghulam Hussain’s party members and some from my own party to sign Congress pledges for their entry in the Congress Assembly Section, so that it should be possible for the Congress to agree to coalition. Furthermore, when the Congress passed the resolution inviting parties in opposition to declare that when in power they would see that the operation of the orders for the enhancement of land assessment by the present ministry are suspended, to make it possible for the Congress to join in a motion of no-confidence, I saw to it that the combined group of the United Party and the Democratic Party and a section of the Hindus gave that undertaking to the entire satisfaction of the Congress....

I may remind you that it was in accordance with agreement and desire of you and Mr. Jairamdas at Hyderabad that I saw to it that my party stood firm in their attitude towards the ministerial conduct and did not spare them when they acted in an undemocratic and unconstitutional way; it was you who expressed your resentment at the conduct of the Prime Minister in showing you indifference amounting to insult and agreed that the various acts of the Ministry apart from their action of enforcing revised rates of assessment, in the sphere of administration deserved condemnation. The Premier ignored his party and the ministry introduced grouping and taxation in spite of warnings from the party and the Congress, defied and insulted the same, resigned from the very party whose creature he is, still then Congress chose to extend their favour to him, instead of punishing him for the past conduct and gave him an opportunity to revoke his orders. The Premier answered the generous gesture by playing and dodging, attempting at creating rifts in parties by exercising his official position....

To add insult to the injury, Congress instead of honouring their decision allows the Premier whom they unreservedly condemned to exploit-the readiness of the other party to agree to comply with the Congress terms. Such a move on the part of the Congress is unworthy of the high ideals of that organization. As if this was not sufficient, they further humiliate themselves by their dishonourable conduct in doubting honesty of the other party instead of appreciating their generous offer of co-operation with them on the Congress terms. I am prepared to admit that this other group consists of Muslim minded Muslims and for argument’s sake I am prepared to admit further that their past record is not quite a happy one. But I ask how Khan Bahadur Allah Bakhsh is better than those gentlemen. In case of the Premier who kicked in the face of his party and the Congress, the latter goes out of its way to be generous to him, does all [that is] possible to persuade him [to] see sense and then also compromises its position to accommodate him and to facilitate his justifying his dishonourable conduct....

The only one justification for your agreeing to this humiliating position can be your anxiety to satisfy the communal Hindu minds, as revealed by the articles appearing every day in the local Hindu press. I do not know if you realise that this narrow communal alliance, apart from ruining Congress cause is going to harm both Khan Bahadur Allah Bakhsh and the Hindus.

The news published in local Hindu papers that the Hindu Mahasabha in Sind have passed a resolution of confidence and support in favour of the present ministry, added to that your conduct of encouraging disloyalty to the Muslim party, can only have one repercussion; that of facilitating the Muslim League path. With cry of Muslim League, almost all the Muslim M.L.As. are already against Khan Bahadur Allah Bakhsh, the Congress cannot save him from political death....

The Prime Minister may satisfy you and you may also feel satisfied with him, but his defiance of the party whose creature he is will remain unaccounted for. Your support was not for the Khan Bahadur as an individual but for a nominee of the Sind United Party; it would indeed be paradoxical that you should continue to support the man even when he forfeits the confidence of the party that nominated him. If you are counting upon Khan Bahadur winning over majority of the members of the United Party in course of time if left in power you are exhibiting ignorance of the working of the Muslim mind in Sind. The moment appeal is made and passions aroused in the name of religion no amount of temptations and personal consideration would win the members to the other side.

I am writing this not to intimidate you but to make you alert to the realities which you are likely to underrate for want of proper contact with the Muslim mind. I also feel that any little mistake in handling the situation may cause an irreparable loss both to Sind and the Congress.

I for myself feel I have done my duty to the Congress. The present Congress conduct has completely disillusioned me and caused me infinite pain. I have had no love for office and my stipulations for acceptance of the same stand good.

I have done my best in persuading you to see sense. I am approaching Sardar Patel and Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and placing all facts before them.... 

Yours sincerely,
G.M. Syed.

 

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