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'Bharat Ratna to Vajpayee, Malaviya insult to Freedom Struggle, Mahatma Gandhi'
The move is an attempt by 'fascist forces' to justify communal politics in India, says Rihai Manch
Thursday December 25, 2014 0:25 AM, News Network

Even as the government's decision to confer Bharat Ratna on former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and late freedom fighter-educationist Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya is being hailed by almost all political parties, a group of activists based in Uttar Pradesh have termed it an insult to the freedom movement and Father of the Nation Mahatma Gandhi.

Atal Bihari Vajpayee

"There are serious allegations against Atal Bihar Vajpayee for his allegedly dubious role during the Quit India movement. Against this backdrop, conferring Bharat Ratna on him will be an insult to the martyrs and the freedom struggle of the country", Advocate Shoeb Ahmed, president of the Rihai Manch said.

A day ahead of their birth anniversaries, Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya were named for the Bharat Ratna. Incidentally, both Vajpayee and Malaviya were born Dec 25 -- the former in 1924 and the latter in 1861. Their birthday has also been declared as "Good Governance Day" by the government.

The honour for Gwalior-born Vajpayee, who was the country's prime minister first in 1996 and then again from 1998 to 2004, came after years of demands from people across party affiliations and the public at large.

Bharat Ratna is India's highest civilian honour, and is conferred in recognition of exceptional service rendered without distinction of race, occupation, position, or sex.

Advocate Shoeb Ahmed also criticised the government for its decision to confer Bharat Ratna on Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya who he said was one of the founders of the right-wing Hindu Mahasabha. Mahatma Gandhi's killer Nathuram Godse was also said to be a member of the Hindu Mahasabha.

"Conferring Bharat Ratna on Vajpayee, who is known for his controversial speeches especially when the Babri Masjid was demolished, and on Pandit Malaviya, who is accused of fanning communal tension, is an attempt to justify the communal politics", he said.

"The people of this country will never accept this", he added.

Atal Bihari Vajpayee, BJP's senior most leader known for his excellent oratory skills and moderate image, was once referred as 'a right man in a wrong party'.

However, contrary to his image as a moderate statesman, he reportedly spewed venom against the Muslim community during his speech at the BJP conclave in Goa, barely a few months after the 2002 Gujarat riots.

"Wherever Muslims live, they don't like to live in co-existence with others; they don't like to mingle with others; and instead of propagating their ideas in a peaceful manner, they want to spread their faith by resorting to terror and threats", he was quoted as saying.

Even as prime minister, some of Vajpayee's decisions were highly controversial. One was the famous surrender to the IC-814 hijackers and releasing dreaded terrorist Masood Azhar in return for the safety of the hostages. After the release, Azhar's outfit, Jaish-e-Mohammed, carried out several attacks on our country, including the attack on Parliament in 2001.

His role in the freedom struggle of India has also been questioned not only by his critics but also by his fellow partymen.

Alleging that Vajpayee had acted as a 'police informer' during the Quit India movement in 1942, former Janata Party president and now a BJP leader Subramanian Swamy had in 1997 even urged Vajpayee to dissociate himself from the golden jubilee celebrations of the country's Independence.

He claimed that there was documentary proof at the national archives to show that as a police witness, evidence tendered by Vajpayee on August 21, 1942, before a Bateswar (near Agra) magistrate had led to the conviction of seven satyagrahis' to life-imprisonment on a false police FIR that they were engaged in arson and destruction.

Vajpayee denies these charges.

"These allegations are nothing but lies fabricated to malign me and my party. This campaign of calumny has been raked up at periodic intervals with a view to damaging my personal and my party's reputation.

"It is hardly surprising that frustrated elements should utilise an important event like the curtain-raiser of the Golden Jubilee of our Independence held at Mumbai on August 9, 1997, to revive this contemptible campaign. According to the copy of the final judgement, I have not been mentioned at all, either as a witness or as an accused-turned-approver", he said.

Conferring Bharat Ratna to Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya has also been questioned by noted historian Ramchandra Guha.

"Giving Vajpayee a Bharat Ratna is fine, but one should not award it to people dead or long dead. Awarding Malaviya is a mistake. If Malaviya, why not give Tagore, Phule, Tilak, Gokhale, Vivekananda, Akbar, Shivaji, Guru Nanak, Kabir, Ashoka, Bharat Ratnas too?", Guha tweeted minutes after the government's decision was made public.

Others have however welcomed the government decision with LK Advani, the long-term associate of Atal Bihar Vajpayee, praising him for running a "blemishless" tenure - even better than India's first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru.

According to Advani, both Nehru and Indira Gandhi had some issues marring their tenure. "In the case of Nehru it is difficult to justify his handling of China."

"In case of Indira Gandhi too, though she also acquitted herself well generally but no one can forget the emergency; certainly not persons like me," he said.

"Among all the prime ministers since independence there was "not a blot" on Vajpayee's tenure", he said adding that he did not think the 1999 Kargil conflict and the 2002 Gujarat riots could be considered negative points.


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