Date: 08 May 2012


Rabindranath, Knighthood and Congress\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\ 7 May 2012\ \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\ romit bagchi\\\\\\\\\\\\\\ SILIGURI, 7 MAY: Rabindranath Tagore wrote to the Viceroy, Lord Chelmsford, in May 1919, asking to relieve him of Knighthood in the wake of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre that took place on 13 April the same year. “…I, for my part, wish to stand, shorn of all special distinctions, by the side of those of my countrymen who, for their so-called insignificance, are liable to suffer degradation not fit for human beings” he wrote. \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\ The massacre followed protest against the promulgation of the Rowlatt Act in March that extended emergency powers pertaining to the Defence of India Regulations Act that had been enacted during the First World War and the subsequent repression let loose to suppress dissent. Along with Tagore, another Indian, Sir Shankar Nayar, resigned from the Viceroy’s Executive Council. The resignation resulted in Nayar foregoing an annual salary of Rs 64,000. Yet, he did not renounce his Knighthood. The renowned leader of the undivided CPI and later of the CPI-M, Muzaffar Ahmed, recounted an interesting fact in his autobiography Amar Jibon O Bharater Communist Party. \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\ The annual session of the Indian National Congress was held the same year at Amritsar. Pandit Motilal Nehru presided over it. “The Congress passed a resolution, thanking Nayar for quitting the post he had been holding. But the same Congress did not allow another resolution lauding Tagore for renouncing Knighthood to be raised. \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\“The Congress leadership remained enamoured of the British-bestowed titles. Hence, Tagore was ignored,” he wrote. \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\ According to Ahmed, Tagore’s Knighthood renunciation kept embarrassing the British India government. “This is why they kept addressing Tagore as ‘Sir’ even years after the latter had renounced the title,” he wrote. \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\ Notably, Tagore wrote a letter to Mahatma Gandhi on 23 March 1919 just two days after Punjab was brought under the martial rule, articulating strong reservations over Satyagraha agitation as envisaged by Gandhi.\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\ “I know your teaching is to fight against evil by the help of the good. But such a fight is for the heroes and not for men led by impulses of the moment,” Tagore wrote. \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\ No historian has thrown light over whether the critical epistle had anything to do with Tagore remaining ignored at the Amritsar session of the Congress.\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\ However, Charles Andrews, the common friend of Tagore and Gandhi, defended Gandhi as regards the Satyagraha controversy. In a letter addressed to Tagore dated 1 October 1919, he spoke volume of the Satyagraha movement. In his view, through the Satyagraha, the central Gandhian idiom Abhaya (fearlessness) came into full manifestation. The fear long associated with the alien regime that had kept hanging over the Indian horizon like an epidemic melted into thin air thanks to the collective acceptance of Gandhi’s Satyagraha shibboleth, he wrote to Tagore. ============================== 000000000