The rebirth of the Gandhi cap (from symbol of Congress Party to symbol of AAP)..

A nice piece by M.S.S. Pandian of JNU in recent EPW edition.

He points how the humble Gandhi cap has made a comeback due to Anna movement and AAP surgence to power. But then given AAP’s performance, the rebirth time might be much smaller.

There are two interesting tales on Gandhi cap from history:

Let me share two Gandhi cap stories – both from Maha­rashtra, the home of Anna Hazare. In a prelude to the 1946 provincial election, B R Ambedkar visited Nagpur. Following his visit, a conference was organised to highlight the injustice faced by dalits. As Namdeo Nimgade, an Ambedkarite and a well-known agricultural scientist educated in the US, reminiscences in his autobiography, the dalit leader P N Rajbhoj told the audience, “The Congress Party is systematically trying to divide and rule the various Scheduled Caste groups… In recognition of their deceit, I declare that I will burn the sign of the Congress, the Gandhi cap.”

The gathering made a bonfire of their caps and Nimgade fanned the flames by throwing his father’s cap into the fire.

The election day too was eventful. It witnessed widespread caste violence. Nimgade tells us: “Several unfortunate individuals of all castes were trapped in the wrong place at the wrong time during the riots.”

One of them was an upper-caste man, Bhivapurkar Kosshti. He sought Nimgade’s help to survive the riot and bartered his cap for his life. Nimgade writes: “I felt sorry for him. I said, ‘Brother, if you wear your Gandhi topi here, you will not survive. Please give it to me.’ I took his Gandhi cap and escorted him to Baburao Meshram’s house and hid him there until the riot calmed down…”

From Nagpur, the scene shifts to Bombay, and the period from the 1940s to the 1950s. On the night of 20 November 1955, S K Patil, the president of the Bombay Pradesh Congress Committee, and Morarji Desai, the chief minister of Maharashtra, addressed a public meeting on the sprawling sands of Chowpatty beach. The gathering had no fewer than 1,50,000 people. The next day Bombay witnessed a general strike in demand of a united Maharashtra, egged on by both speakers who were arch enemies of the Samyukta Maharashtra movement.

The meeting was torn asunder, as stones were pelted and the uproar drowned the voices of the speakers. Around 100 people were injured, and half of them sent to hospitals. The next day – the day of the general strike – anyone wearing a Gandhi cap, the sartorial hallmark of Morarji Desai, was attacked.

So clearly in the two examples, those wearing Gandhi cap became the targets of dislike and attack. So there were moments when the humble cap wearers had just the opposite experiences.

The first one is really interesting as Gandhi cap was seen as a symbol of Congress. How AAP made this its own symbol (because Congress forgot it) is an interesting tale..

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