Source: Extract from a write-up contributed by Mr. G. V. Ketkar Editor Mahratta Hon Secretary, All India Hindu Mahasabha – Indian Annual Register, 1941, January
The first Hindu Sabha was established in the Punjab in the year 1907 with the following objects:- “(1) To Promote brotherly feelings amongst the various sections of the Hindu community (2) To help destitute and disabled Hindus (3) fo act as trustees of such properties as may be entrusted to the Sabha for charitable, religious, educational and other purposes (4) To improve the moral, intellectual and material condition of Hindus (5) Generally protect, promote and represent the interests of the Hindu community (6) To help the establishment of similar Sabhas in other important towns. Note: (1) The Sabha will not side with any particular system of religious thought and action and will observe perfect toleration towards all the different religious views. Note: (2) The Sabha will have no connection with any political body. As such the Sabha is not a sectarian nor a denominational but an all-embracing movement and while meaning no offence to any other movement whether Hindu or non-Hindus it aims to be ardent and watchful in safeguarding the interests of the entire Hindu community in all respects.”
It will be seen that the present aim and objects of the Hindu Maha Sabha have been evolved gradually from these primary objects. Several phrases in the first draft of objects are still preserved and continued in the aim and objects of the present Hindu Maha Sabha. Every primary member of the Hindu Maha Sabha has to subscribe in writing to this aim and the objects. The present form is as follows:-
To organise and consolidate all sections of the Hindu society into one organic whole; to protect and promote Hindu interests whenever and wherever necessary; To remove untouchability and generally to ameliorate and improve the condition of the so-called depressed classes amongst the Hindus; To revive and promote the glorious ideals of Hindu woman-hood; to promote cow-protection; To improve the physique of the Hindus and promote martial spirit amongst them by establishing military schools and organising volunteer corps; To reclaim all those who have left the Hindu-fold; To found orphanages and rescue homes for orphans and homeless women; Generally to take steps for promoting religious, educational, social, economic and political interests and rights of the Hindus. To promote good feelings between the Hindus and non-Hindu communities in Hindustan, and to act in a friendly way with them with a view to evolve a united and self-governing Bharatiya Nation based on equality of civic rights and duties irrespective of caste and creed.
Note :- The Mahasabha shall not side or identify or interfere with or oppose any particular sect or sects of the Hindu Community in respect of its religious practices amongst themselves so far as they do not infringe on the fundamental civic liberties of others.”
The First Hindu Conference
The first Punjab Provincial Hindu Conference was held in 1909 at Lahore. Nearly 800 delegates from different parts of the Province attended the two days sitting 21st and 22nd October 1909. Full report of this Conference was published in book form (200 pages) and copies are still preserved in Hindu Maha Sabha records. The late Lala Lajpat Rai who took a prominent part in the Hindu Maha Sabha movement afterwards attended the conference and made a long speech on the first resolution on “Desirability of feeling of Hindu Nationality and Hindu Unity.”
In his speech late Lajpat Rai quoted a very significant passage from his article on the Indian National Congress written ten years before that (i. e, in 1899) In the Hindustan Review of Allahabad. The following extract from this article written 42 years ago, will explain the motives behind the genesis of the Hindu Maha Sabha:-
“The number of subjects upon which there is any likelihood of reasonable friction existing or coming into existence between members of different religious nationalities in India ought to be reduced to minimum, if there is any room for the same, in the agenda paper of the general assembly. Such subjects being reserved for separate treatment by the inclusive organizations of the nationalities. This will lead to a Hindu political or semi-political Congress or Conference being organised and the sooner it is done the better. As at present situated the absence of such an organisation places the Hindus at a distinct disadvantage, and takes away from them the chances of a united action or a united expression of opinion upon matters which affect the unity, prosperity and well-being and generally the interest of Hindus all over India. In order to leave no doubt as to the necessity of this step, I will be more specific. In my opinion, it should be the business of a Hindu Congress or Conference to support and take as far as possible such steps which might conduct to their unity and strength as a religious nationality, as for instance, the language question, the question of character, the advisability of having common text-book, the teaching of Sanskrit language and literature all over India, the taking of steps which might lead to the protection of Hindu orphan from the hands of proselytising agencies of other denominations, and if necessary, to record a protest against those confidential circulars of Government, which aim at the favouring of other communities to the loss of Hindus”.
Lala Lajpat Rai also explained how the Hindus by themselves formed a Nation. He said:
“It may be that the Hindus by themselves cannot form themselves into a nation in the modern sense of the term, but that is only a play on words. Modern nations are political units. A political unit ordinarily includes all the people who live under one common political system and form a State. The word ‘nation’ and ‘state’ when thus considered are practically interchangeable phrases. That is the sense in which the expression in used in connection with the body called the “Indian National Congress”. That is, no doubt, one use of the word and the one which is commonly adopted in modern political literature. But that is not the only sense in which it is or can be used. In fact, the German word ‘Nation’ did not necessarily signify a political nation or a State. In that language it connoted what is generally conveyed by the English expression “people” implying a community in possessing a certain civilisation and culture. Using it in that sense, there can be no doubt that Hindus are a “nation” in themselves, because they represent a type of civilisation all their own”.
With regard to the attitude of the Hindu Maha Sabha towards other communities in India Lalaji said:-
“In the present struggle between Indian communities, I will be a Hindu first and an Indian afterwards, but outside India, or even in India against non-Indian, I am and shall ever be an Indian first and a Hindu afterward. That is, in short, my position in the matter.
“Holding that position, I bear no ill-will to my countrymen of other faiths. I wish them all joy and prosperity. In their efforts to ameliorate the condition of their own community and to secure a position of advantage for their co-religionists I do not find fault with them. In the existing political conditions of India they are perfectly justified in looking to the interests of their own community as long as by doing that they do not injure the Hindus by an unholy alliance with non-Indians.”
The movement was comprehensive from the beginning. Lalaji said:-“The Hindu movement inaugurated by the organisers of this conference does not contemplate the exclusion of anyone who is prepared to sail under the Hindu flag and take the credit or discredit which attaches thereto.”
All these statements can be made by any leader of the Maha Sabha in any Conference. These statements indicate the basic principles of the formation of the Maha Sabha. In December 1900 at meeting of leading Hindus held at Allahabad it was decided that an all India Hindu Maha Sabha should be formed. The objects and rules were drafted and office-bearers were elected. The first Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Maha Sabha Conference was held in 1914 at Hardwar.
Till 1928 Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya and Lala Lajpat Rai led the Hindu Maha Sabha Movement. The Sessions of the Hindu Maha Sabha were mostly held since 1922 along with the Congress Sessions. The Jubbulpur Session in 1928 under the presidentship of Shri. N. C. Kelkar marked the turning point. The Session voted against separation of Sind with an overwhelming majority against the advice of the revered Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya, who urged that the Maha Sabba should not take the “odium” upon itself of making a settlement impossible by its flat denial but “to wait for the report of the sub-committee appointed by the Madras Congress.”
The Maha Sabha leaders had till then participated in the ‘Indian’ politics carried on by the Congress. But it must be noted that even there they formed a group in favour of parliamentary and constitutional activities and against Non-cooperation policy and Gandhism in general. The first breaking away with the Congress began with the disapproval by Maha Sabha leaders and followers of the “appeasement” policy of the Congress with regard to the political constitution of the country. The difference became more prominent when Congress adopted the attitude of neutrality towards the Communal Award. The same difference was visible when with regard to the policy in legislatures the Maha Sabha felt the necessity of setting up candidates on the Maha Sabha ticket as opposed to the Congress. After the actual experience of the working of the Congress ministries in several provinces and especially in U.P., the breaking away from the Congress in the Parliamentary programme became complete.
With the relinquishment of the ministries by the Congress, its adoption of anti-militarisation policy and Satyagraha for the principle of non-violence, the political divergence between the Hindu Maha Sabha and the Congress has become almost complete.
The creed of the Hindu Maha Sabha is “Complete political Independence” for Hindustan. But since the beginning of this war the Hindu Mahasabha is demanding Dominion Status as a step towards the goal to be taken at the end of the war.
Resolution No.2 passed by the Working Committee on 19th November 1939 at Bombay runs as follows:-
“This meeting of the Working Committee of the Hindu Maha Sabha refuses to look upon Dominion Status as an ultimate goal as H. E. The Viceroy has assured in the Statement but instead insists upon it as an immediate step to be taken towards the final goal of absolute political independence and that a constitution based upon that status should be conceded to India at the end of the war at the latest. Even now it is not too late to mend. A definite declaration to that effect can alone evoke a responsible and willing co-operation on the part of India”