Friday, July 30, 2010

Another Wolpertism

Just came across another instance of Stanley Wolpert's creative approach to writing history.  In chapter 8 of "Jinnah of Pakistan",  Wolpert writes:
On February 12 {1928}, Jinnah attended the All-Parties Conference chaired by Congress president Ansari in Delhi.  Motilal and Jawaharlal were there, as were Lajpat Rai, Malaviya, Jayakar, and most of the other leaders of political India.   Gandhi did not attend; he remained at his Sabarmati ashram, placing as he did so little faith in constitutional planning.
Short version: Wolpert is wrong in why Gandhi did not attend.

Long version:

Excerpts from Gandhi's letters (Complete Works, Volume 41, pages 183 and onward)

February 7, 1928 letter to G.D. Birla:

"Do not be alarmed at the reports of my health in the newspapers.  There is not much cause for anxiety.  Doctors do try to frighten me, but I remain unaffected by it."

February 7, 1928, message to meeting at Gujarat Vidyapith, Ahmedabad:

"Having submitted to the doctors I may not attend the meeting, Acharya Kripalini is going away"

February 8, 1928, letter to N.R. Malkani:

"Don't be alarmed about the reports of my health.  Doctors' instruments do give alarming readings, and therefore I have agreed to take full rest.  Hence, such correspondence as I am permitted to undertake is dictated."

Feburary 8, 1928, letter to C.F. Andrews:

"I hope you have not become nervous over the news of my health.  There was nothing in it, and there is nothing in it now so far as I can see.  But as doctors themselves are frightened, I am taking all precautions and taking full rest.  I am doing only a little bit of correspondence and that also by dictating."

February 11, 1928, letter to Dr. M. A. Ansari:

"Don't you worry about my health.  Doctors will frighten one.  This time the registered blood-pressure does not seem to produce any impression on me.  I am keeping fairly [fit].  I have strength to walk, and I only lie on my back because the doctors are imperative and tell me that some blood-pressure cases are most illusive and specially dangerous when the patient himself feels no visible effects."

February 11, 1928, letter to Motilal Nehru:

"I am again on my back, and I suppose these ups and downs will some day decide the final issue.  The funny thing about the blood-pressure this time is that I notice nothing myself.  But I am obeying the doctors as far as it is possible."
 ---

And so on.  There are more letters but the above should suffice.
____________  

As to Gandhi's enthusiasm for constitutional planning, later in 1928, Motilal Nehru was to provide his commission's report on a constitutional plan.  In an August 21, 1928 letter to Motilal Nehru, he wrote:

"I have your letter. I have written for this week’s Young India too on the forthcoming Conference. But I thought it was better for me not to deal with the body of the report but rather emphasize the importance of avoiding theoretical criticism and appealing to the Mussalmans and Hindus not to insist upon the pound of flesh. What is the use of my dealing with the recommendations? My mind just now
refuses to think of the form except when it is driven to it. For, I feel that we shall make nothing of a constitution be it ever so good, if the men to work it are not good enough. Anything reasonable therefore appears to me to be acceptable if only we have unanimity, because in the matter of the constitution, unanimity seems to be the most important thing. But I can say in general terms that you have succeeded wonderfully with Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru and Sir Ali Imam. I was not prepared for the endorsement of the franchise for instance, or of your solution of the Native States. But I see that the Hindu-Muslim question is still to be a thorny question."

Not exactly enthusiastic, yes.  But September 30, 1928, Gandhi wrote to Motilal Nehru:


Mahadev tells me that you want me to attend the All-India Congress Committee’s meeting. What shall I do there? What can I do? I know that that part of the national work is also useful, but my heart has gone out of it and I become more and more inclined to give my time to what is concisely understood as constructive work.....

Today riots are going on in Gujarat which never before knew Hindu-Muslim rioting. News has just arrived that a brave Ashram lad was nearly done to death yesterday. Whilst he was in a press building,
the goondas broke into that building, indiscriminately assaulted everyone who was in it and then set fire to it. A noted Vakil of Godhra was fatally wounded and Waman Rao who is a member of the Bombay Council and whom you know was seriously assaulted. Every day some fresh rioting news comes from some place or other.

I know that in spite of all this, the constitution-building work must be done. I only want to tell you that these riots largely unfit me for such work. Indeed, I am contemplating absence even from the Congress if you could permit me to remain away. There is a double reason: the prevailing atmosphere and the decision of the Calcutta Committee to copy the Madras type of Exhibition. The Council of the All-India Spinners’ Association has decided to abstain from being represented at that Exhibition. Much though I feel the error in using Madras Exhibition as a type, I do not want to criticize it in the public. If I go to Calcutta, my presence will either embarrass the Committee or my silence will embarrass me.

And October 18, 1928, Gandhi wrote:

DEAR MOTILALJI,
I have your two letters.

Of course I shall obey your wishes about attending the Congress at Calcutta.

I did not refer to the Exhibition incident with a view to securing your intervention.1 I would not in any way whatsoever like to be interfering with the local discretion. I simply told you of my own difficulty. I have certainly not objected to machines as such at all. My objection was and is to the exhibition of Indian mill-cloth. Regarding machinery my argument is that we may not exhibit any and every machinery but that we may certainly exhibit such machinery which we ourselves know to be desirable for the cultivators and which has not yet obtained vogue in the country.

I quite agree with you that we have to go on with the political work in spite of the riots.

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