Social Scientist. v 8, no. 91 (Feb 1980) p. 52.


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NOTES

Communal and Revivalist Trends in Congress

THE Indian National Congress leaders proclaimed the non-communal character of their organization in order to enlist the support of various castes and communities.1 This was vital in a divided and disparate country like India. Indeed, the claim of being a national body could be sustained only by transcending, at least in theory, caste and sectarian boundaries. Besides, by adopting the noncommunal posture the Congress hoped to allay the apprehensions of certain groups, particularly the Muslims, about the Hindu character of the organization.2 Thus the attempt to pass a resolution at the 1887 Congress calling to make cow slaughter a penal offence was thwarted. Instead, it was decided to avoid a discussion of any subject to which cither the Hindu or the Muslim delegates "unanimously or nearly unanimously" were opposed.3 The consternation caused by this attempt led Surendranath Banerjea to assure the Muslims that the Congress movement was for building a "united India, of Hindus and Muslims, ofParsis and of Sikhs. . . . Here we stand upon a common platform .... Here we have all agreed to bury our differences."4

Such assurances, however, were not matched with practice. The Congress, in spite of its secular protestations, was often drawn into activities or movements pioneered by Hindu revivalists. In Punjab, for instance, the cow protectionists were "very generally Congressmen."5 In the Central Provinces (now Madhya Pradesh) the activities of the Gaurakshini Sabha (cow protection society), founded by Gopalrao Hari Bhide, were backed by the "Mahratta Brahmin pleaders, the same men who are the chief supporters of the Congress."6 In the United Provinces (Uttar Pradesh), the heartland of India, several prominent Congressmen, supported by traders, bankers and some landowners, actively campaigned for outlawing cow slaughter and for the recognition of Devanagari as the official script in courts and government offices.7 Many of



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