Sunday, 9 December 2012

On 14th November 2012 I had posted a tweet on twitter which ran: “Jawaharlal Nehru was born this day in 1889. I wish he wasn’t”. This brought forth outbursts, some angry, some sad, from some of my followers and others to the effect that it is in poor taste to wish someone had not been born. I had reconsidered the position subsequently; and I too feel sad to say that I find no reason to change my views.
Why? Consider the following:  
Nehru had, in spite of having ruled India for seventeen years, and out of that having enjoyed practically unchallenged power over the nation for no less than fourteen years (1950-64, from Patel's death to his own), failed to address the problems of food deficit, population explosion, governmental corruption and illiteracy ; despite his great predilection for foreign affairs willfully acquiesced in the Chinese annexation of Tibet and removed what could have remained as a buffer state between the two countries, and could have effectively ruled out any Chinese aggression of the type that took place in 1962 ;  aided by his trusted friend Krishna Menon, turned India into a virtual Soviet satellite, and made enemies of all western nations ;  needlessly internationalised the Kashmir dispute ; taxed the nation to its gills, gave birth to a ‘Black Economy’, and frittered away all that tax money in creating a semi-Stalinist command economy based on state-owned heavy industries – real white elephants – that he fancifully called ‘temples of tomorrow’ ; and finally foisted a hereditary rule on the country and his party, the latter continuing to this day in the person of his Italian-born granddaughter-in-law.
Even during Patel's lifetime he had committed the incredible folly of calling off the Indian Army in Kashmir in 1948 when they were in hot pursuit of the fleeing Pakistani irregulars, and declaring a cease-fire unilaterally. He is believed to have done this because he believed Lord Mountbatten implicitly, much more than he did his own Generals, and it is on his advice that he did this. We need not go into the romantic aspect of this belief, that is to say the relationship between him and Lady Edwina Mountbatten – even without that the folly had been committed. There must be very few instances indeed in the history of mankind where a nation, about to taste victory in a war not of its doing, has acted in such an inexplicable manner. Had the army been allowed to chase the irregulars out of the hills of Kashmir on to the plains of Punjab - which they would have done in another forty-eight hours - the Pakistanis would have lost all the advantage of the heights, and probably there would have been no Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, and no Kashmir problem today.
His abandonment of the Hindu refugees of East Bengal (or East Pakistan has not received a fraction of the publicity it deserved. The facts are as follows: Unlike in Punjab, there was no mass exchange of population between the two sides following partition of the province of Bengal in 1947. There was, however, considerable  pressure from the East Pakistani government on the Hindus in the form of forcible requisitioning of their properties, etc. Many well-to-do Muslims in West Bengal at this stage had also decided to move to Pakistan, and in the period between 1947-50 there was a lot of amicable exchange of property between the two Bengals. However, in February 1950 the East Pakistan government, led by its Chief Secretary Aziz Ahmed (described as ‘notoriously anti-Hindu’ by B.K.Nehru in his autobiography), started a pogrom against Hindus as a result of which more than 50,000 Hindus were killed, and an enormous number of women raped and property destroyed. Nehru showed unspeakable vacillation in dealing with this crisis, but ruled out an exchange of population on the Punjab model or military action against Pakistan when the same was proposed by his cabinet colleague Syama Prasad Mookerjee. Then he signed a pact with Liaquat Ali Khan, Prime Minister of Pakistan whereby it was agreed that either country will look after its minorities and take back the displaced ones. Pakistan treated this pact as no better than toilet paper and continued its pogroms, though on a milder scale, against the Hindus. But Nehru pinned his personal prestige to the success of this pact, as a result of which he refused to take any action for the rehabilitation of the east Bengali Hindu refugees. Syama Prasad Mookerjee and K.C.Neogy, the two Bengali ministers in the central cabinet, resigned in protest against the pact. As an act of political naïveté few acts could compare with this pact – it could not have been unknown to Nehru that the Pakistan government had engineered this pogrom, yet he entrusted the safekeeping of the Hindus to the very same Pakistan government!    
Nehru’s role before independence in bringing about the partition of the country is also reprehensible. Maulana Azad’s remarks (Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, India Wins Freedom, Orient Longman, Madras, Complete Version, Reprinted 1993) on the man in the context of his press interview which gave Jinnah an opportunity to retract his acceptance of the Cabinet Mission proposals, are quite instructive in this regard. These details have been deleted from our history books by the so-called historians receiving largesse from Nehru’s government (read Arun Shourie’s  Eminent Historians, Their Technology, Their Line, Their Fraud, ASA, New Delhi, 1st  Ed., 1998). Very briefly, what happened is this: in 1946 the British Cabinet sent a very high-powered team under the leadership of Lord Pethick-Lawrence to negotiate with Indian leaders (principally those of the Congress and the Muslim League) the modalities of granting independence to India. The team had talks with the leaders and came up with a plan in June 1946 which was called the ‘Grouping Plan’. The sum and substance of this plan was that India would remain one. There would be a weak centre with a few subjects such as currency, foreign affairs and communications, and the remaining powers would all vest in the provinces. The Congress accepted the plan and so did the Muslim League, though somewhat reluctantly. At that time Maulana Azad had just relinquished the presidency of the Congress in favour of Jawaharlal Nehru. However Nehru in a press conference held on July 10 in Bombay resiled from this position and declared that the Congress would enter the Constituent Assembly ‘completely unfettered by agreements and free to meet all situations as they arise’ ; and also that grouping of provinces, as proposed by the mission, will not work. Consequent upon this, the Muslim League on July 29 withdrew their acceptance of the Cabinet Mission proposals.
Maulana Azad has termed this act of Jawaharlal Nehru an ‘astonishing statement’ and “one of those unfortunate events that change the course of history”. He also deeply regretted that on April 26, 1946, while stepping down from the Presidency of the Congress he had issued a statement proposing the name of Jawaharlal Nehru as the next President of the Congress, and had appealed to all Congressmen that they should elect him unanimously. He called this the greatest blunder of his political life. He goes on to say that his second mistake was not supporting Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel who, had he become the Congress President, would never have committed the mistake Jawaharlal made, and which gave Jinnah the opportunity of sabotaging the Cabinet Mission plan. The book was first published in 1958, after his death, but in accordance with his wishes, thirty pages of the book were withheld, to be published thirty years later. In this part of the book he writes “Jawaharlal Nehru was one of my dearest friends and his contribution to India’s national life is second to none. I have nevertheless to say with regret that this was not the first time that he did immense harm to the national cause. He had committed an almost equal blunder in 1937 when the first elections were held under the Government of India Act 1935 when he refused to honour a pre-election understanding with the Muslim League. M.C.Chagla in his autobiography has also been critical of this terrible mistake of Nehru.
Together with withdrawal of acceptance of the Cabinet Mission proposals the Muslim League also announced that August 16, 1946 will be a day of ‘Direct Action’ by the League in support of Pakistan. No explanation was forthcoming as to what would constitute such ‘Direct Action’. This Direct Action eventually turned out to as bloodbath known as the The Great Calcutta Killings of 16-20 August 1946.
Another very astute and knowledgeable person who saw him at close range is the relatively unknown Benoy Mukhopadhyay, Chief Press Adviser and Registrar of Newspapers, Government of India, around 1947 and later Secretary, Press Council of India. Mukhopadhyay is known in Bengali literature by his pseudonym Jajabor, and is credited with writing the classics Drishtipat and Jhelum Nodir Tire.  In an interview to the Bangla fortnightly Desh, he has described Nehru as a 'Political Somnambulist', a person living in his own dreamland of political make-believe. He reminisces on the Nehru-coined slogan of the 1950s, 'Hindi-Chini bhai bhai' (Indians and Chinese are brothers) which culminated in the Chinese attacking India in 1962. The attack was preceded by frequent border incursions by the Chinese across the McMahon line, a fact that Nehru simply chose to ignore, because it did not fit in with his pre-set notions of Sino-Indian friendship. Mukhopadhyay describes Nehru as imagining 'secularism' (one of the most misused words in India) to be the panacea for all centrifugal and divisive tendencies. He chose to forget that there was such a thing as pan-Islamism, that Islam called upon all its followers to unite regardless of nationality, that Allahu Akbar was not merely a religious slogan but a political exhortation as well.
All his misdeeds could be forgiven if, with his untrammeled power and his foreign exchange reserves in the form of ‘sterling balance’ he could take the country forward economically. Alas, he did no such thing. He did not believe in the creation of wealth or the profit motive as being the driving engine behind economic development. Thus, a strange phenomenon was manifest: while countries like Germany, Japan, Singapore and South Korea (which, unlike India did not have a single building intact in their country in 1947) went ahead with development and raised themselves to the first world in no time, India was left languishing with its begging bowl in hand, forever a poor country. Meanwhile Nehru, who had become something like an international busybody, created a ‘Neutralist Bloc’ with Tito of Yugoslavia, Nkrumah of Ghana and Sukarno of Indonesia, while at the same time losing his credibility by adopting a duplicitous policy between the Suez crisis and the Soviet invasion of Hungary, both of which took place at around the same time in 1956.   

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