The Bangalore Ganapati Clashes Set the Stage for DVG's Advocacy for Responsible Government

This article is part 22 of 23 in the series Life and Legacy of DVG

DVG was not in Bangalore when the Ganapati clashes occurred. He had been to Bagalkot for a conference of press editors. When he returned, he found Bangalore in a state of boil. Diwan Mirza Ismail had called for a public meeting of Hindus and Muslims to pacify both parties but public opinion was almost unanimous that he was on the Muslim side. Tempers flared when it appeared that Mirza Ismail was attempting to blame Hindus for the riots. When DVG listened to the detailed eyewitness stories and reports of the clashes, he concluded that the Mirza Government was indeed trying to pin the blame on Hindus. He severed all contact with Mirza Ismail for nearly two years. Not just that. He wrote a strongly-worded opinion piece titled What is Wrong With the State of Mysore: Bangalore Disturbances and After in Swarajya dated 15 September 1928. This was DVG’s rebuttal of an earlier mischievous article in the Times of India that sought to whitewash the role of Muslim mobs that instigated the riots.

DVG traced the roots of the riots in his rebuttal and concluded that Mirza Ismail, in his zeal to beautify Bangalore City, had not consulted all stakeholders but relied excessively on Abbas Khan. Repeated complaints to various Government offices about this matter had yielded no response. Besides, the plan to shift the Ganapati Murti was not informed to the public earlier. When even this was pointed out, the Government simply ignored. Then there was the question of “secret meetings” held by the Diwan with just a few of his confidants. When the Ganapati Murti was shifted from its original location under the supervision of Government officials and the police, public suspicion acquired the colour of confirmation that Diwan Mirza Ismail’s Government was anti-Hindu. The last straw, of course, was the unprovoked vandalism of Muslim mobs.  

Recounting the atmosphere of the period in one of his Jnapakachitrashale essays, DVG narrates his interaction with a traditional Vedic Pandit and teacher. The Pandit shares some snippets of his conversation with a prominent Muslim. When he questions the Muslim about the Ganapati vandalism, the man nonchalantly justifies the mob violence: “Diwan sahib hamara aadmi hai” – “The Diwan is our man.” DVG then confesses that he had no answer for the Vedic Pandit’s query: “You say you know all these people, you know the Diwan himself. What could you do about this?

Aftermath

Faced with stinging criticism and widespread condemnation from the press and public, on 28 August 1928, the Mysore Maharaja appointed a commission of inquiry into the Ganapati clashes. It was headed by the former Diwan Mokshagundam Visvesvaraya. On 10 October, DVG testified before the committee. His tenor was acerbic. The following is a sample of his testimony.

I am stunned to notice that the administrative machinery has been struck by paralysis. The cataclysm that hit Mysore on the 30th is new. It is also a great warning to every person who aspires to enter the Civil Services…The Government, instead of acting in a timely fashion despite several reminders, was busy napping. It appears that there is no connection between the Government and the life of ordinary people it is meant to protect and govern…Even when newspapers by the dozen wrote repeated letters to the Government and penned editorials of alarm, it didn’t show even the basic courtesy of a response…When protest marches and agitations over the Ganapati issue were being taken out, the Government did nothing…Poor thing, it didn’t know anything and we are supposed to believe it. It is rather shocking to note that the Government didn’t even bother to understand the real strength of these agitations…On the contrary, it clamped down on these newspapers post facto! And it continues to impose all manner of restrictions on press freedom and calls for separate laws for further choking the press.  

On 15 January 1929, Mokshagundam Visvesvaraya submitted his report to the Government. Expectedly, it was deeply embarrassing. On the floor of the Legislative Council, DVG demanded that the Government make its contents public. He was met with silence. However, as the truism goes, no Government document can ever remain completely secret. Visvesvaraya’s Report was leaked to the press, which had a field day. DVG himself took the lead by penning a sardonic piece[1] in the Vishwa Karnataka paper:

We were living under the fond illusion that everything was fine in the Mysore State only to be rudely awakened…The dome or tower atop the home might be shining from afar. Inside, its very pillars and columns might be shaking. All it takes is one lash of solid rains to understand whether the dome or the pillars are more important…Likewise, it took one Ganapati clashes to awaken us to the reality of our administrative machinery, judiciary, and public safety and security systems…Our great public officials in various departments must set aside petty squabbles and reinvigorate the functioning of the Government. Only then will Ganapati himself bless us.     

Eventually, this sort of dogged and sustained pressure forced the Mysore Government to publish the Visvesvaraya Report. It was a small victory. DVG wrote another essay commending the Report for its truthfulness and thoroughness, and recommended that everyone read it. This is how he summarises the report.

  1. There is excessive concentration of power in the Mysore State. This has caused a situation whereby Government officials are always scared to take independent action even in cases where such action demands timeliness and serves the interest of justice.
  2.  This in turn, causes paralysis at all levels and justice is not done. The Bangalore Ganapati Clashes have illustrated this in a clear-cut fashion in real life. The police did not and could not discharge their duty fearlessly and objectively because of these reasons. Faced with a crisis, the administrative machinery completely broke down.
  3. The only solution to these appalling defects is Responsible Government where various functions of the Governments are optimally distributed across different departments who are accountable to one another.

This set the tone for a prolonged crusade to introduce Responsible Government in Mysore. Mokshagundam Visvesvaraya was perhaps highly impressed by DVG’s passionate and well-argued writings and speeches in favour of Responsible Government. As such, he sent a recommendation to the Maharaja’s Government as an addendum of sorts. It was titled, How to Remedy the Current Political Discontent. However, Diwan Mirza Ismail didn’t budge an inch. But that is a story for another day.

This brings us to the next phase of DVG’s political career: the aforementioned advocacy for Responsible Government.

To be continued

Notes

[1] D V Gundappa: Ganapati Prasangada Goodartha: Vishwa Karnataka, January 1929. Excerpt translated into English by Sandeep Balakrishna.

 

 

Author(s)

About:

Sandeep Balakrishna is a writer, author, translator, and socio-political-cultural analyst. He is the author of "Tipu Sultan: The Tyrant of Mysore" and "The Madurai Sultanate: A Concise History." He translated Dr. S L Bhyrappa's magnum opus "Avarana" into English.

Prekshaa Publications

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