Nehru, not progeny, is the problem, Mr Guha! – Punarvasu Parekh

Jawaharlal Nehru was the archetypical Indian brown sahib

IconA society divided and unsure of itself, an economy grossly performing far below its potential for decades, a large but powerless nation in the world, a country at odds with its own roots—that is the legacy Nehru left, for which we are now expected to feel suitably indebted. – Punarvasu Parekh

President Ram Nath Kovind’s pointed omission of Jawaharlal Nehru and his progeny in his first presidential speech to parliamentarians has not gone down well with Congressmen and other secularists. Congressmen have availed of this opportunity to exhibit once again their loyalty to their first family, while some secularists have sought to remind us of Nehru’s greatness, such as it was. Court historian Ramachandra Guha  (“Rescue Nehru from his descendants”, The Hindustan Times, 30 July 2017) argues that Nehru’s legacy should be separated from mistakes and misdeeds of his progeny and respected properly with due gratefulness.

Essentially, the argument is that “Nehru contributed enormously to the making of modern India, by promoting universal adult franchise, linguistic and religious pluralism, and modern science. However, the actions of his descendants have deeply damaged his reputation.”

Guha is wrong on both the counts. Nehru’s contribution to the modern India is largely negative, and his descendants have only followed the lead given by him, though in a more crass and cynical manner.

Nehru’s biggest failure was his inability to appreciate the role played by Hinduism in defining and unifying India. He borrowed, through Marx, the colonial view of Indian society, Indian history and Indian civilisation. According to this view, Indian society is a loose conglomeration of disparate groups divided along every conceivable line (caste, community, ethnicity, language, religion, wealth and income, to mention a few) which is struggling to evolve some principle of unity. For him, this ancient land with a glorious civilisation running through millennia was a “nation in the making”. India’s history, according to this view, is a record of its conquest by successive groups of marauding invaders. To Nehru, Indian civilisation, at least at practical level, was a hotchpotch of irrational superstitions, empty rituals and meaningless metaphysics.

This view of India (now glibly flaunted as Idea of India) is not unexpected in a man who said that “by education I am an Englishman, by views an internationalist, by culture a Muslim and I am a Hindu only by accident of birth.” Nehru failed to see the cultural and spiritual unity reigning supreme over social divisions, a unity which makes it imperative to read Indian history as a vast and variegated narrative of a single people through the ages, and Indian civilisation as an elastic but unbreakable bond that held its people together despite their mind-boggling social diversity. No wonder he came to the conclusion that “to talk of Hindu culture would injure India’s interest. The ideology of Hindu Dharma is completely out of tune with present times and if it took roots in India it would smash the country to pieces.”

This suspicion of and disdain for everything that was Hindu propelled him to strenuously oppose India’s return to her roots after independence, saying that he did not want India to become a “Hindu Pakistan”, whereas, in fact, it was he who behaved like a Muslim monarch ruling over a Hindu kingdom.

Nehru is said to have promoted pluralism through secularism. However, Nehru’s secularism was an alien concept borrowed from the West, divorced from Indian tradition of respect for other viewpoints. Owing to his defective view of Indian society, history and civilisation (not to mention vote bank politics), secularism turned into a united front of anti-Hindu ideologies (Islam, Christianity, Communism) and became a powerful tool to suppress Hindu aspirations.

Nehru’s admirers project him as a world class visionary. They should explain why his foreign policy was such a disaster. His handling of the challenges posed by Pakistan and China was inept, to put it mildly. His quest for glory on the global stage led him to set up a talking shop of beggars better known as the Non-Aligned Movement and isolated India from countries that could and would have helped her in areas that mattered. It was no surprise that after four decades of that foreign policy, India stood friendless, voiceless and insignificant in the comity of nations.

As the late Girilal Jain observed so perceptively in his The Hindu Phenomenon, under Nehru’s influence we mis-defined the nature of the Indian state on several fronts. “Nehru saw himself as an arbiter between rival camps in the Cold War in disregard of the horror that was communism, just as he saw himself as an arbiter between Hindus and Muslims in the country. Obviously, the cost on both counts has been quite heavy. If non-alignment has meant isolation of India from true centres of power in our era, secularism has meant the moral disarmament of Hindus. Pakistan and China could not have posed the threat they have to our security if we had made common cause with the West and the Muslim problem would not have remained wholly unresolved if we had not mis-defined the nature of the Indian state”. (p.13)

Modi’s India is struggling to correct that mistake, however clumsily and ineptly, and that has rattled the secularist class.

Guha suggests that universal adult suffrage was Nehru’s gift to India. That is like suggesting that the sun rises because the cock crows. Nehruvians have long flaunted their democratic credentials. But their record is one of nepotism and lust for power. Their stranglehold on Congress has vitiated our polity.

The manner in which Nehru managed to sideline Sardar Patel to become Congress president in 1930 and prime minister in 1946 should put paid to his love for democracy. No doubt as prime minister he showed respect to his party colleagues, but then they were stalwarts in their own right, having risen from the ranks and passed through the crucible of the freedom struggle. They did not owe their rise and survival in politics to Nehru’s sufferance. Also, Nehru never missed an opportunity to cut his potential rivals to size. Witness the Kamraj Plan.

Nehru’s social policies have proved divisive and disruptive. Even at the height of his popularity, this votary of modernity did not oppose caste-based reservations. Nor did he dare touch the Muslim personal law while driving the Hindu code bill. Like an ordinary politician, he chose the line of least resistance. That is the not the mark of a visionary.

Nehru nurtured a deep hostility to private enterprise. In an effort to control this “evil”, he handed over the economy to control-minded planners and corrupt bureaucrats. The planned economy stifled innovation, discouraged enterprise and punished initiative.

Many people credit him with promoting science and scientific temper, but the bureaucratic state and restrictive policies suffocated growth and prompted migration of people of talent, either in industry or science. Indians prospered everywhere except in India, and Nobel Prize in Science was won by Indians who had left the country for good years ago to pursue research.

Nehru’s economic policies inspired by half-baked Fabian socialism kept the country poor, backward and underdeveloped in spite of a large, young and highly talented population, vast territory, rich mineral resources and willingness of other countries to help and cooperate. Followed faithfully for four decades, they drove the country to the brink of default on international loans.

It is not an accident that the country embarked on a high-growth path only after Nehruvian policies were dumped. And, that course correction is still hobbled by two pillars of Nehru’s approach to economic problems: state control and populism (mai-bap sarkar).

Nehru created an interventionist state which claimed to know better than the people what was good for them and sought to mould society, economy and polity in a pre-determined structure. The project was bound to fail since the conceived structure was anti-growth and alien.

The Babri mosque of Nehruvian edifice had three domes: secularism, socialism and non-alignment. Socialism kept us poor and backward in the name of growth with social justice. Secularism kept us divided and distrustful of each other in the name of communal amity. Non-alignment rendered us ineffective and friendless in the comity of nations. A society divided and unsure of itself, an economy grossly performing far below its potential for decades, a large but powerless nation in the world, a country at odds with its own roots—that is the legacy Nehru left, for which we are now expected to feel suitably indebted.

India cannot regain its rightful place in the world until Nehru’s legacy is undone and forgotten. That process has been on for some time now. President Kovind deserves to be complimented for according formal recognition to it.

» Punarvasu Parekh is an independent senior journalist in Mumbai.

Jawaharlal Nehru and Hindi Chini Bai Bai

J&K’s Accession: An insider’s account – Punarvasu Parekh

Pandit Ram Chandra Kak & Maharaja Hari Singh
JournalistThe failure of the Indian state to find a solution to the J&K dispute is rooted in its refusal to face the facts. – Punarvasu Parekh

“What Sheikh Abdullah was really gambling for … was an independent principality whose continued existence would be guaranteed by the Indian armed forces and whose solvency was secured by the Indian treasury. There was, however, no idea of a quid pro quo from his side. He did not expect to be called to account either in respect of the internal administration of the state or the utilization of funds supplied to him by the government of India.”

How prophetic these words penned way back in 1955 have been! As Indian soldiers shed their blood to protect J&K from troublemakers of all sorts and as the Indian treasury bleeds to keep it solvent, only to be greeted by chants of “Azadi” from stone-pelting mobs and demand for “greater autonomy” from local sundries, we realize how farsighted the author was in warning us that “Sheikh Abdullah stood only for his own aggrandizement and had no affection for India and no use for her except to the extent she sub-served his ends.” The Abdullah tribe has multiplied several times since then, but its genes and DNAs remain unchanged.

The author Pandit Ram Chandra Kak was the prime minister of princely state of Jammu & Kashmir during the period leading up to the state’s accession to India in October 1947. He left behind a document that records the devious political games played to transfer authority over this Hindu-Buddhist kingdom to Muslims, specifically to Sheikh Abdullah.

Radha Rajan is the editor of Vigil OnlineUnsurprisingly, the document is barely known in “secular” India; its only known public copy is in UK. In a monumental piece of investigative journalism, Radha Rajan presents this document in full, along with her analysis of the communal political game played by Congress leadership in general and Nehru and Gandhi in particular, which has converted Kashmir into a festering sore in Indian polity.

Pandit Kak’s document traverses familiar ground, though it does highlight some less known facts. Its chief merit consists in providing a clear and consistent exposition of the dilemma faced by the State of J&K over accession to India on the eve of independence, by a perceptive patriotic powerful insider who was privy to overt happenings as well as covert machinations in the state, who was in the centre of the storm facing winds blowing from all directions. It tells us why things went the way they did and how India could have averted the current impasse. From the document, Pandit Kak emerges as a man of learning and character, a sterling patriot who had the courage to suffer for his convictions.

In her comments on the selected passages from the document, Radha Rajan shows that what happened in J&K was not accidental, but a logical culmination of the attitudes and policies consciously adopted by Gandhi, Nehru and Congress towards princely states, especially those with Hindu rulers.

The question of accession to India came up before J&K twice in less than a year, though in very different circumstances. Its decision on both the occasions was the same, but for different reasons. Then again, Prime Minister Kak and Maharaja Hari Singh concurred in their conclusion, but not for identical reasons.

Late in 1946, the state was sounded out by the Government of India on the accession to India after the Cabinet Mission had completed its consultations with Government of India and Indian leaders in Delhi. At that time, partition was not on the horizon except as a remote contingency and the accession was envisaged only to the newly-to-be-created Dominion of India.

Sheikh Abdullah and Jawaharlal Nehru

Pandit Kak tells us that as regards welding India into a single unit, he was not opposed to accession pure and simple. But there was a problem: Sheikh Abdullah, Congress leaders’ (especially Nehru’s) complete identification with him and their refusal to see any other point of view than his.

Sheikh Abdullah started his political career in 1931 as one of the two protagonists of Muslim Conference, an unabashed self-professed communal body. Later he fell out with the other protagonist Ch. Ghulam Abbas and set up his own outfit National Conference. As Ghulam Abbas managed to get close to Jinnah and Muslim League, Sheikh Abdullah approached Pundit Nehru for support. This he received in ample measure and soon he found himself a leading luminary in Congress firmament and President of All India States’ Peoples Conference.

While paying lip service to Congress ideals, Abdullah never forgot his original aim and ambition: absolute control over the state. With the power and prestige of Congress behind him, he started resorting to coercion and bullying against those who disagreed with him, including dissident Muslim groups. Some residents of Srinagar were for years unable to visit other parts of the town for fear of harassment. A maulavi who favoured Muslim Conference was prevented from preaching at the mosque where he and his forefathers had preached for generations before. Hindus began to live in perpetual fear. During the so-called Quit Kashmir agitation in 1946, thousands-strong mobs would surround houses of respectable persons for hours together, terrorise inmates and hurl stones and filthy abuses not sparing women folk of the house. For this reason, he was arrested, prosecuted and sentenced to three years of imprisonment by the state administration.

This was the man backed to the hilt by Congress and its leaders right from the beginning. Nehru, Maulana Azad, Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan and others visited Kashmir and participated in deliberations and demonstrations of National Conference, which often culminated in violence. After Sheikh Abdullah’s arrest Pundit Nehru insisted on visiting Srinagar despite being told that his visit would be most undesirable in the prevailing circumstances. Nehru was detained in the Dak Bangalow at Muzaffarabad, provided all the facilities possible and the state arranged for his return to Delhi when he so decided. Indeed, after a meeting with Sardar Patel in Mumbai where Gandhi also was present, Pandit Kak facilitated Nehru’s visit to Srinagar in July 1946. Yet, it seems, Nehru never forgave Maharaja and Pandit Kak for his detention.

Against this background, it is not surprising that the decisive factor which influenced Pandit Kak in rejecting accession was the attitude of the Indian National Congress as regards the affairs of the state.

Radha Rajan points out that in the attitude of the Indian National Congress towards princely states, there was nothing peculiar to J&K. It is strange but true that Congress under Gandhi who reached out to the likes of Ali brothers, Muslim League, Jinnah and even Britishers nurtured undisguised hostility towards princely states and sought to undermine them on every conceivable occasion. J&K is the best example to show that this hostility has cost the country dearly.

The issue of accession came up again on the eve of independence when partition had been agreed upon and princely states, which were to regain sovereignty after the lapse of the British paramountcy, were advised to join either India or Pakistan.

J&K again found itself on the horns of a dilemma. It was Jinnah or Nehru-backed Abdullah. Lord Mountbatten told Pandit Kak “you must consider your geographical position, your political situation and composition of your population and then decide.” Pandit Kak rejoined “that means you advise us to accede to Pakistan. It is not possible for us to do that. And since that is so, we cannot accede to India.”

India was divided on communal lines and the only rational course of action for any state before deciding on accession was to ascertain whether its people would support the accession. And with 76 per cent Muslim population, J&K could not be sure of the support of its people if it acceded to India. Accession to India was also hobbled by Congress’s infatuation with Sheikh Abdullah. Sheikh Abdullah was in prison at the time of independence. Top Congress leaders were insisting not merely that he be released forthwith, but also that a new constitution be drafted for the state with their advice and power transferred to Sheikh Abdullah. Accession to Pakistan was ruled out because Pandit Kak had no illusions about the nature of Islamic state that was coming up. In other words, Kashmir would not accede to Pakistan and could not accede to India.

Pandit Kak met Jinnah who advised him to join Pakistan and offered favourable terms. However, when Jinnah was told that J&K’s decision not to accede was final, he said so long as the state did not accede to India he would not mind if it did not accede to Pakistan. Of course, he had no intention of honouring this assurance. Less than ten weeks after its formation, Pakistan invaded J&K.

From Government of India side, V. P. Menon, secretary, Ministry of States, had a lengthy discussion with Pandit Kak in Delhi and it was decided that Menon would pay a visit to Srinagar after 15 August 1947 to discuss the future course of action. Pandit Kak, therefore, resolved that under the given circumstances, it would be ideal for all stakeholders if J&K became an independent state, maintaining good relations with India and Pakistan.

Maharaja Hari Singh came to the same conclusion, though for more grandiose, if irrational, reasons. He was dreaming not just of remaining independent, but also of ruling over a larger territory. Fuelling his ambitions was Swami Sant Dev, part of the assortment of swamis, gurus, astrologers and others claiming direct communion with the supernatural collected by Maharaja Hari Singh’s uncle and predecessor Maharaja Pratap Singh. Such was the influence acquired by the Swami on Maharaja that even Pundit Nehru paid him a visit when he came to Kashmir in 1946.

For all his supposed spirituality, the Swami did not neglect the mundane. He was keen to earn jobs, contracts and other favours for his large but non-descript followers and constantly made suggestions to the administration on behalf of his cronies. On most of the occasions, Pandit Kak found it hard to oblige him. The enraged Swami started looking for an opportunity to get rid of the “obstinate” prime minister.

The opportunity came when accession became a live issue. The Maharaja was convinced that after the departure of the British, with the potency of Swami’s supernatural powers, he would be able to extend his rule to new areas. In June 1947, he met with rulers of some adjoining princely states and planned a federation of J&K and some areas now in Himachal Pradesh. When Maharaja Hari Singh sought Pandit Kak’s opinion about his plan, the latter explained to him that it was a futile and impracticable idea; it was utterly unrealistic to imagine that forces which had compelled the British to leave India would allow the creation of a new empire in their midst.

Neither Maharaja nor Swami forgave Pandit Kak for this candid advice, the cold douche he administered to their towering aspirations. Machinations started to remove him from the office. Matters reached Sardar Patel who asked Pandit Kak to convey to the Maharaja that in those crucial days it was essential that the Maharaja and his Prime Minister pulled together, and if that was not possible the situation must be brought to an end immediately. In other words, Maharaja Hari Singh had to choose between swami and Kak. Inevitably, he chose the Swami.

From that point, it was a downhill journey. On 11 August 1947, Maharaja gave Pandit Kak “permission to retire.” It was followed by decapitation of the entire administration. Top officers including Chief Secretary, Chief of the Army Staff, the IGP, Governor of Kashmir, Director of Civil Supplies, the Chief Engineer and several other important officers were removed and replaced by people of little or no experience. Sheikh Abdullah was released in September and lost no time in spreading his tentacles. These developments disheartened and alarmed the citizenry. The result was that when Pakistan attacked the state around 22nd October, it was in no position to counter it. Its helplessness was aggravated by perfidy of the British officers and treachery of the Muslim soldiery.

Pandit Kak had to pay a heavy personal price for his love of truth and candour. Charges of trumpery were forged against him and he was denied permission to leave the state even though he feared for his safety. This enabled Sheikh Abdullah to have his revenge when he paraded Kak and his elder brother through the streets of Srinagar with their hands tied and residents asked to shower shit and filth on them. Kak was pressured to give statement against Maharaja Hari Singh rule. But he did not utter a single word against the Maharaja. Kak later migrated to Kasauli.

The Hindustan Times

With the benefit of hindsight, we can say that Pandit Kak’s idea of an independent state of J&K was not viable. Pakistan would not let it remain in peace. Given its location, onset of the Cold War and China’s ambitions, it would have been a hotbed of international intrigues and a constant source of anxiety to India.

Ideally, J&K should have been fully integrated into India, just like hundreds of other states, small and big. What we now have is a halfway house, an arrangement in which India has the worst of both the worlds. For all nationalist objectives, J&K is an alien state—the steadfast refusal of Sunni Kashmiri politicians to the return of Kashmiri Pundits, establishment of sainik colonies or even temporary facilities for Amarnath pilgrims should clinch the issue. However, India has all the obligations regarding its security and solvency.

Pandit Kak’s document tells us how we could have avoided landing in this position of no rights and all responsibilities. India could and should have insisted that accession of J&K to India would be on the same terms as that of any other state. There was no insurmountable reason why it should be on a different basis. There was no need for India either to accept Mountbatten’s suggestion to make accession conditional upon a plebiscite or transfer power to Sheikh Abdullah or agree to a separate constituent assembly for the state. The Indian army was fighting the state’s battle and the simplest thing was to set up a military administration as was done subsequently in Hyderabad. By the time the military operations ended, a lot of things would have become clear. Then again, there was no need to allow Sheikh Abdullah to oust Maharaja Hari Singh and elect a new Head of State when the issue was being debated in the UN Security Council.

The failure of the Indian state to find a solution to the J&K dispute is rooted in its refusal to face the facts. The two-nation theory was false and pernicious, but after conceding Pakistan Congress lost moral right to oppose it. The country was divided on communal lines and the logic of partition has to be accepted. The existence of a large Muslim population in India does not alter the reality that after the secession of the Muslim component, what remained was and is Hindu Rashtra.

How could India expect to retain the valley of Kashmir with a 95 per cent Muslim population contiguous to the entirely Muslim province of NWFP? Replying to this poser in 1950 by Gordon Walker, then secretary of state for commonwealth relations, Pandit Kak pointed out that it was wrong to assume that the status of the valley affects only its residents and therefore they alone could decide its future. From time immemorial, Kashmir has been cradle to a vital corpus of Hindu thought and rituals. For that reason all the Hindus in India and beyond have a stake in the fate of Kashmir. Kashmir has always been a part of the Hindu Holy Land (punyabhoomi) and the question of handing it over to those who are hell-bent on destroying its Hindu ethos does not arise.

To sum up, reading this book would be a sobering, painful experience for any patriotic Indian. It narrates a sordid tale of historical vicissitudes and human weaknesses from which no player emerges unscathed. But truth, however unpalatable, must be faced. For truth alone liberates from bondage of fear, from folly and its consequences. That is the significance of Radha Rajan’s book.

»  Punarvasu Parekh is an independent journalist in Mumbai.
» Radha Rajan is a political commentator and animal rights activist in Chennai. Pandit Kak’s original document (PDF) is available on Radha Rajan’s website Vigil Online.

Jammu and Kashmir: Dilemma of accession: A historical analysis and lesson by Radha Rajan and Krishen Kak

       Published by Voice of India, New Delhi.  Pages 140, Maps 2, Price Rs 300 

Order from Voice of India or Amazon

New Book: Jammu and Kashmir Dilemma of Accession: A Historical Analysis and Lesson – Radha Rajan

Jammu and Kashmir Dilemma of Accession: A historical analysis and lesson by Radha Rajan

Radha Rajan is the editor of Vigil OnlineJammu and Kashmir Dilemma of Accession: A Historical Analysis and Lesson authored by Radha Rajan analyses Prime Minister Pandit Ramchandra Kak‘s first-hand narrative of the tragic events which shook the Kingdom of Jammu, Kashmir, Ladakh and the Tibets in the critical years of 1946-47 when Pandit Ramchandra Kak was Prime Minister of the kingdom.

Prime Minister Kak describes the role played by the Indian National Congress in the affairs of Jammu and Kashmir from 1938 onwards and explains why the Kingdom could not accede to India in 1946 when the offer to accede was first made and again in 1947 when the Prime Minister came under pressure from several quarters to accede to Pakistan and to India. While V. P. Menon’s book for reasons unknown does not touch upon the critically important details which culminated in the tragedy of absolute power and total control over the entire kingdom being transferred to Sheikh Abdullah, it nevertheless provides critical insights and information which supplement Prime Minister Kak’s narrative; and read together, they provide all missing links in the official history of the tragedy.

Pandit Kak’s document is not available in India and while the original is with a family member, a copy of the original is housed in the India Office Library and Records, London. (A copy of the original is available on Radha Rajan’s website.)

Voice of India Publications through Radha Rajan’s book places this document for the first time since independence in the public domain in India.

ISBN 9789385485107, Voice of India, New Delhi,  Pages 140, Maps 2, Price Rs 300 

Order from Voice of India or Amazon

PMO Classified File: Bose was alive in 1968 – Prithvijit Mitra

Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose

Prithvijit MitraFiled before the Mukherjee Commission in 2000, Sindkar’s affidavit quotes Chattopadhyay as saying that Bose was in hiding in Russia for he feared being prosecuted as a war criminal in India. – Prithvijit Mitra

Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose was in Russia till at least 1968 when he had met Nikhil Chattopadhyay—son of revolutionary Virendranath Chattopadhyay—at Omsk, according to a classified PMO file released in Delhi on Thursday, [6 July 2016] .

It contains an affidavit filed by Narendranath Sindkdar, a writer and journalist who was based in Moscow between 1966 and 1991, that claims Chattopadhyay and his wife had met Bose in the Siberian town 23 years after he was apparently killed in a plane crash.

Filed before the Mukherjee Commission in 2000, Sindkar’s affidavit quotes Chattopadhyay as saying that Bose was in hiding in Russia for he feared being prosecuted as a war criminal in India.

The affidavit mentions that Sindkar had met Chattopdhyay in Moscow soon after the death of Vir Savarkar in 1966. Chattopadhyay was born in Russia, where his father was executed by the Stalin government in 1937. “During the course of our conversation he accused Nehru of forcing Netaji Subhas Chandra to exile in the Soviet Russia. It was an exile because Netaji feared that he would be declared a war criminal with the connivance of Nehru. On his arrival in the then USSR via Manchuria, Stalin, Molotov Beria and Voroshilov consulted with the Indologists who advised Stalin to consult Krishna Menon in London through the Soviet embassy. Krishna Menon categorically asserted in favour of Nehru and urged Stalin not to divulge the information,” … Sindkar’s affidavit, enclosed in file number WI/411/1/2000 – EE, claimed.

He went on to mention that he was left shocked by Chattopadhyay’s disclosure. Calling himself an ardent admirer of Netaji, Sindkar said Chattopadhyay had promised to reveal more about Netaji through one comrade Chandran. The affidavit, however, does not talk about further interactions on the revolutionary. – The Times of India, 7 July 2016

» » Prithvijit Mitra is a Times of India reporter in Kolkata. Tweet him @toi_PrithvijitM

Nehru & Menon

How August 15 became Independence Day – Praveen Davar

Eleven days before August 15, 1947, Viceroy Lord Louis Mountbatten (center), Jawaharlal Nehru (extreme left) and Mohammad Ali Jinnah (right) prepare for the transfer of power from the British Crown (Photo: AP)

Praveen Davar“The jyotishis proclaimed August 15 a date so inauspicious…. Accepting their advice would have brought India ridicule. But Nehru and Patel, … had to find a way out. According to Durga Das, author of India: From Curzon to Nehru and After: ‘Nehru then hit upon an interesting compromise. He called the Constituent Assembly in the afternoon of August 14 and continued its sitting till midnight when, according to Western practice, August 15 took birth and the zero hour was within the auspicious period envisaged by the Hindu calendar.’ The Constituent Assembly, as the Provisional Parliament, assumed sovereign power at midnight on August 14-15.” – Capt Praveen Davar

Indian security personnel celebrate on the roof of a police station after a gunfight in Dinanagar town, in Gurdaspur district of Punjab, India, July 27, 2015.Gurdaspur has been in the news lately but, unfortunately, for the wrong reasons. There may be only a handful of people today in the district, or perhaps in the three states which once comprised east Punjab, who may recall how Gurdaspur managed not to become a part of Pakistan. Akbar is said to have been crowned emperor of India way back in 1556 at Gurdaspur. But in 1947, its significance was that it provided the only land link to Jammu and Kashmir.

Lord Mountbatten, who had come to India armed with powers which no Viceroy before him enjoyed, had decided to unveil his plan (transfer of power) on May 17, 1947. Nehru did not have any idea about what he was going to see when he took the file Mountbatten gave him. On reading the draft, he was deeply shocked. The new plan would offer India’s provinces and princes only one choice—India or Pakistan. Jinnah would get his Pakistan, but with Punjab and Bengal truncated.

Later, Nehru introduced the problem of Gurdaspur, with its evenly divided population, and virtually ensured that this critical land-link with Kashmir remained in India. Ferozepur was similarly prevented from going on the other side of the border. The plan was finally announced on June 3. A visibly upset Mahatma Gandhi, after meeting Mountbatten, spoke at his prayer meeting: “The British government is not responsible for Partition—The Viceroy had no hand in it—if both of us (Hindus and Musalmans) Louis Mountbattencannot agree on anything else then the Viceroy is left with no choice.”

Another drama took place regarding the choice of August 15 as India’s Independence Day. At a press conference, after the Viceroy announced his plan on June 3, he was asked by one of the 300 journalists present on which day he will cease to be a Viceroy. Without hesitation Mountbatten replied: “The transfer of power will take place on August 15, 1947.” In an interview to Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre, authors of Freedom at Midnight, in 1971-73, a quarter century after Independence, Mountbatten admitted: “The date I chose came out of the blue—I was determined to show I was master of the situation. I thought it had to be August or September and I then came to the 15th of August because it was the second anniversary of Japan’s surrender.”

But the Viceroy had not catered for India’s occult industry. As the authors of Freedom at Midnight record: “Louis Mountbatten’s spontaneous decision to announce the date of Indian Independence on his own initiative was a bombshell—nowhere, however, did his choice of August 15 cause as much surprise and consternation as it did in the ranks of a corporation which ruled the lives of millions of Hindus…. They proclaimed August 15 a date so inauspicious….” Accepting their advice would have brought India ridicule. But Nehru and Patel, despite their intense dislike of the jyotishis, had to find a way out.

Nehru giving his 'Tryst with destiny speech' at midnight, 14-15 August 1947According to Durga Das, author of India: From Curzon to Nehru and After: “Nehru then hit upon an interesting compromise. He called the Constituent Assembly in the afternoon of August 14 and continued its sitting till midnight when, according to Western practice, August 15 took birth and the zero hour was within the auspicious period envisaged by the Hindu calendar.” The Constituent Assembly, as the Provisional Parliament, assumed sovereign power at midnight on August 14-15. India’s “tryst with destiny” had begun. – Deccan Chronicle, 14 August 2015

» Capt Praveen Davar, an ex-Army officer, is a member of National Commission for Minorities

Flag of India

The first step towards de-mythifying Nehru – Anirban Ganguly

Dr Anirban Ganguly“The book’s manner of discussing Nehru’s shortcomings directly and unequivocally, and basing the discussion on solid primary and secondary sources, and its way of linking Nehru’s legacy to the challenges of the present Indian polity make the study even more interesting. The predominant Nehruvian narrative has almost always depicted him as a great democrat, liberal, man of vision and an indefatigable administrator. Singh’s work challenges each of these assumptions and through a complex web of arguments and analysis proves the hollowness or unilateralism of these.” – Dr Anirban Ganguly

Jawaharlal Nehru was the archetypical Indian brown sahib.When he had just been two years in office, Prime Minister Nehru once wrote to a close colleague expressing a view which would, 15 years later, in a sense define the decadent political legacy he would eventually leave behind. “I have repeatedly made a mess of things, but, I hope, I have not forgotten the major ideals which Gandhiji taught us…. His (Gandhiji’s) face comes up before me, gentle and reproachful, sometimes I read his writings, and how he asked us to stick to this or that to death, whatever others said or did. And yet these very things we were asked to stick to slip away from our grasp. Is that to be the end of our labour?” Indeed, after an uninterrupted 17 years of steering the ship of the Indian state, Nehru had led the nation “up the blind alley”.

R. N. P. SinghIn his new book, Nehru: A Troubled Legacy, R.N.P. Singh, a former officer of the Intelligence Bureau and author of a number of books on modern India who is presently a senior fellow at the New Delhi-based Vivekananda International Foundation, examines in some detail Nehru’s legacy and weaves a narrative that looks at his other dimensions, shorn of all hagiographic sentimentalism.

Nehru, argues Singh, “left behind a confused and anaemic legacy of political culture, with the result that the foundation of Independence laid by him affected not only the present and the future generations of Congress party, but the entire political spectrum of the country…. His arbitrary, autocratic and impulsive decisions shaped India’s political culture in such a way that it diverted the course of politics to the point of systemic failure for the first six decades of Independence”. Singh asks to “ponder as to what went wrong with the foundation of independent India”. Did the “pillars of freedom” go “to the hands of incapable architects?” This book provides significant points to ponder over these questions.

Arranged in eight chapters and with a large appendix section that brings together, for the benefit of the lay reader and serious researcher, a collection of letters that essentially deal with crucial issues in the Nehru era, Singh’s book comes as an important intervention in the process of dismantling the Nehruvian consensus. Chapters such as ‘Seeds of Dynastic Democracy’, ‘Betrayal of Democratic Values’ and ‘Defence Policy in Post-Independence India’ (1947-62) introduce dimensions that are bound to generate a greater interest and certainly aid in making a fresh start to the assessment of India’s first Prime Minister and his complex legacy.

Nehru: A Troubled LegacyThe book’s manner of discussing Nehru’s shortcomings directly and unequivocally, and basing the discussion on solid primary and secondary sources, and its way of linking Nehru’s legacy to the challenges of the present Indian polity make the study even more interesting. The predominant Nehruvian narrative has almost always depicted him as a great democrat, liberal, man of vision and an indefatigable administrator. Singh’s work challenges each of these assumptions and through a complex web of arguments and analysis proves the hollowness or unilateralism of these.

In the end, the author observes that with the passage of time and with the “advent of genuine academic freedom one can be certain that many more tomes will follow to add to what we know about Nehru, the man and the politician. This will make for a more credible and dispassionate assessment of Nehru and for robust research in our universities”. And when this happens, argues Singh, “our view of Jawaharlal Nehru will change, the gap between history and truth will stand bridged” and the “coloured versions produced over the last sixty years … will cease to be relevant”.

Singh’s book is a decisive first step towards bridging that gap between “history and truth”; it is a major contribution to the de-mythification of Nehru. – The New Indian Express, 19 July 2015

» Dr Ganguly is Director, Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee Research Foundation, New Delhi. Email anirbangan@gmail.com

Netaji Bose: What Nehru wanted nobody to know – Meena Mandavia

Subash Chandra Bose with his Indian National Army

Azad Hind Flag“Modi government has an opportunity to bring Netaji a small measure of justice which was denied to him by his contemporaries. It must throw open all the material (thousands of pages in dozens of files) pertaining to Netaji in its possession. It must also request Britain and Russia to disclose whatever information they have about him. The contention that such disclosures will impair relations with other countries is untenable. All the principal actors are dead and international equations have changed beyond recognition.” – Meena Mandavia

Subhas Chandra Bose Truth, like sin, cannot be hidden away forever. It has a habit of resurfacing, often at odd times. The haze of mystery surrounding the last phase of the illustrious life of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose is a sin of Congress leadership at the time of independence and a truth concealed from the people. Strenuous efforts for seventy long years have failed to suppress it. Like Banco’s ghost in Macbeth it refuses to disappear.

The recent revelations that Congress governments in Delhi and Calcutta spied on Netaji’s family members who were tracked within India and abroad, their letters were opened, watch was kept on their visitors and the information was shared with the British spying agency MI5 may disturb us, but they need not surprise us. The question that needs to be asked is: why did Jawaharlal Nehru think it necessary? A possible answer is that he was unsure about Netaji’s survival, whereabouts and activities after the alleged crash and wanted to secure this information by tracking his family. Another, more probable explanation is that he knew, at least broadly, what happened to Bose and did not want Bose’s family to know his fate. He was extremely wary of the likely consequences of such knowledge. The British intelligence agency was kept in the loop all along to ensure that he kept receiving information from that source and that there was no leakage.

Bose's daughter Anita with her mother Emilie Schenkl.The official line is that Subhash Chandra Bose died on 18 August 1945 when the aircraft carrying him and some of his associates along with others crashed at Taihoku (now Taipei) airport while taking off. Netaji’s family members, close associates and knowledgeable researchers have resolutely refused to accept this theory. Netaji’s widow Emilie as well as his close associate Lt. Col. Habib ur Rahman refused till the close of their respective lives to lend credence to the plane crash theory despite Raja Habib ur Rahman Khanrepeated requests from the Government of India. Nor did they affirm that the ashes brought back to India were Netaji’s. On a visit to Bose family’s home in Calcutta soon after the alleged crash, Nehru showed a wrist watch to Sarat Chandra Bose with a charred band and square dial and said with teary eyes, “this was the watch Subhas was wearing when the crash took place.” Sarat Chandra Bose returned it, saying “Jawahar, I do not believe in the crash theory. Subhas never wore such a watch. He wore one with a round dial that our mother had given him”. Nehru was silenced.

Much evidence has surfaced to show that the so-called fatal crash never took place. The government of Taiwan, the only country that has wholeheartedly cooperated with efforts to unearth the truth about Netaji’s death, sent the government of India a report in 1956 saying there was no record Sarat Chandra Bosewhatsoever of any aircraft crashing at Taihoku airport on 18 August 1945. The Mukherjee Commission managed to get this report from British intelligence. It is futile to ask how a secret report submitted to government of India found its way to Britain. More pertinent is the question: Why was it not shared with people of India?

Senior journalist M. D. Nalapat writes “Taiwanese authorities have stated to this correspondent that to the best of their information, there exist no records of any crash at the airbase in question on the date specified as being the final day of the life of Netaji Subhas Bose. Instead, they say that witnesses to the flight confirmed that the aircraft took off in a normal fashion and was bound for an airfield in Manchuria.” (Sunday Guardian, 11-4-2015)

There is some material suggesting that Nehru knew Subhas Bose did not die in the plane crash.

Along with this article, we publish copy of a letter addressed to Clement Attlee, the prime minister of Britain during the period India got independence (July 1945-October 1951). The letter purportedly written from New Delhi on 26 December 1945 (i.e. four months after the alleged plane crash) reads:

Letter to Attlee from Nehru (26/12/1945)

The letter seems to have been typed in great hurry. As the photocopy shows, there are half a dozen typing errors in such a short letter, but the grammar is impeccable. It is unsigned.

Shyam Lal Jain of Meerut deposed on oath before G. D. Khosla Commission that he had typed this letter for Pundit Nehru at his request. (Subhas Bose and India Today: A New tryst with Destiny by Pradeep Bose p. 277-78)

The small letter raises some big questions. Who gave this information to Nehru? Why was only Nehru informed? Did he share it with other Congress leaders like Gandhi and Patel? If he did, why was the information suppressed? If he did not, why?

The British government too seems to have received some reports that Bose was alive. Amrutlal Sheth, a courageous Gujarati journalist and founder of Janmabhoomi Group of newspapers, accompanied Nehru on his trip to Singapore in 1946. According to Pradeep Bose, on his return Sheth told Sarat Chandra Bose that Punditji was warned by Lord Mountbatten that according to his report, Bose did not die in the alleged air crash and if Nehru played up legends of Bose and demand for re-absorption of INA into the Indian Army, he would be taking risk of presenting India on a platter to Bose when the latter re-appeared. (ibid. p. 278)

Joseph StalinInformation compiled and collated from diverse sources gives the impression that after the end of World War II, Subhas Bose was in the Soviet Union.

Dr. Purabi Roy of the International Relations Department, Jadavpur University, presented before the Mukherjee Commission archival evidence she came across while researching for the Asiatic Society in Moscow. According to her testimony, the then Soviet envoy to Teheran had delivered a letter from Nehru to Stalin in October 1946, in which Nehru referred to Netaji’s stay in the USSR at that time. Another document recorded a meeting at Moscow in October 1946 between Stalin, Soviet Foreign Minister Molotov and other high officials, in which Netaji is referred to “in the present tense,” and as present in the USSR at that time (The Hindustan Times, 23 December 2000).

Sarvepalli RadhakrishnanDr. Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan, who was appointed India’s ambassador to Soviet Union in 1949, enjoyed a measure of respect from Stalin. There are reports that at Dr. Radhakrishnan’s request, Stalin allowed him a glimpse of Subhas Bose, a prisoner in a jail, on the condition that he would not exchange a word with the latter. The philosopher statesman who subsequently became vice president and then President of India never commented on these reports. But obviously, the visit could not have taken place without the knowledge of the Government of India and some of the mission staff. The ambassador must have reported to the people back home what he saw. Why did the Indian government keep silent about it?

Netaji Subhas Chandra BoseOn the face of it, it seems that after the fall of Japan, Subhas Bose reached Manchuria (via Formosa now Taiwan), then under Russian occupation. Probably, Bose wanted to remain away from the British eyes until India’s independence. Probably he thought that Stalin would welcome him as an inveterate foe of the British imperialism. If so, he made a serious miscalculation. Stalin’s Russia had just fought a life-and-death war as an ally of Britain and he viewed Netaji as an unrepentant Fascist who had fought the war on the side of Hitler, Mussolini and Tojo. Netaji reached Manchuria, was taken into custody by Russian troops and flown to Moscow where he spent 17 Yakutskmonths in a high security prison before being dispatched to a gulag where he passed away after 11 years. Stalin and his successors kept the treatment meted out to him and his death secret to maintain good relations with India. This chain of events, though plausible, is still little more than a conjecture. The clinching documentary evidence to corroborate it is yet to surface, assuming it exists.

What can be said with certainty is that Netaji was the hero of the Indian people, especially the young generation, in the years leading to independence. He had captured their imagination with his sterling patriotism, indomitable spirit and heroic exploits such as his extraordinary escape from Calcutta in 1941, his romantic, dangerous land journey from Bengal to Berlin via Afghanistan and Central Asia, his landmark meetings with Hitler and Mussolini to seek support for India’s independence, his secret submarine trip to Japan, and then his unprecedented mobilisation of fighting units from Indian Army officers and soldiers held as prisoners-of-war by Japan.

Unfortunately for the country, all the principal political forces on the eve of independence were united in desiring his absence from the scene at that critical juncture.

M.K. Gandhi & Lord MountbattenFor the British rulers, he was a far worse enemy than Gandhiji and Congress. Gandhi and Nehru were amenable, Bose was not. Although Gandhiji had withdrawn Congress support to the British war effort on the ground that Indian people had not been consulted, Congress did nothing to sabotage the war effort or Britain’s military might. The man who did so was Subhas Bose. His INA cracked the loyalty of the Indian armed forces to the empire and paved the way for its eventual disintegration.

Netaji & NehruNehru knew, better than anyone else, that Bose was the only national leader who could challenge Congress dominance over India and Nehru’s dominance over Congress. Netaji was younger than Nehru and a highly charismatic popular leader. With him around, Congressmen would no longer suffer Nehru as their leader. If, for whatever reason, Congress remained with Nehru, Bose could have mounted a powerful challenge to the Congress dominance in the country. Indeed, the possible consequences of Netaji’s return from exile continued to exercise Congressmen in general and Nehru in particular for a long time. His family was spied upon, it seems, to know the possibility of such an event and probably to forestall it.

Muslim League was close to realizing its dream of Pakistan and presence of Subhas Bose could have put a spanner in its plans. The INA was a model of communal amity and by holding out a prospect of replicating it in the Indian society at large, Netaji could have questioned the very rationale for Pakistan. In his radio broadcasts from southeast Asia, he had bitterly criticized Jinnah and his demand for Pakistan.

Clement AttleeIronically, the best evaluation of Subhas Chandra Bose’s contribution to the freedom struggle came from his mortal foes: the British. Papers in London show that the increasing disaffection in the (British) Indian military was the most potent cause of the 1946 decision by Whitehall to leave India. When P. B. Chakravarty was acting as the Governor of West Bengal in 1956, Clement Attlee visited Calcutta and stayed at Raj Bhavan for a couple of days. Chakravarti asked Attlee about the real grounds for granting independence to India. Here is the Governor’s account of what Attlee told him: “In reply Attlee cited several reasons, the most important were the activities of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose which weakened the very foundation of the attachment of the Indian land and naval forces to the British Government. Towards the end, I asked Lord Attlee about the extent to which the British decision to quit India was influenced by Gandhi’s activities. On hearing this question Attlee’s lips widened in a smile of disdain and he uttered, slowly, putting emphasis on each single letter- “mi-ni-mal.” (See History of Freedom Movement by R. C. Majumdar, Part III, pp. 609-10)

Surya Kumar Bose & Narendra ModiModi government has an opportunity to bring Netaji a small measure of justice which was denied to him by his contemporaries. It must throw open all the material (thousands of pages in dozens of files) pertaining to Netaji in its possession. It must also request Britain and Russia to disclose whatever information they have about him. The contention that such disclosures will impair relations with other countries is untenable. All the principal actors are dead and international equations have changed beyond recognition. Hindu nationalists have been demanding for long correction of distortions in Indian history. Sharing information on Netaji’s last phase could be a good beginning.

» Meena Mandavia is a free-lance journalist in Mumbai.