Lakhinder Singh | 3 DECEMBER, 2014
Nehru: This was a Man
It is a very fortunate thing that Jawaharlal Nehru’ s birthday was always celebrated in a big way in his childhood because what happened in November 2014 would have disgusted him thoroughly .The way we are treating our great leaders is a matter of shame .I think Gopal Krishna Gokhale and Gandhi were wrong in talking about building a nation. We should have first concentrated on building a better civilisation, a better society a more decent and compassionate India. Nation building is a much later phase.
Along with being a great leader Nehru was a great human being. He was flawed like many other leaders of the 20th century. But his flaws were forgivable—what can be described as leading to genuine errors of judgement—not of the mischievous or sinister variety. Let us analyse his record.
a) Sardar Patel and Nehru were not enemies not even rivals as has been made out by a lot of potboiling articles and books .There is very little study of history in India, only journalism and most of it is of the inferior kind enabling one to get a good price from the ubiquitous “Raddiwallah” when he comes with his “Boras” and “Tarazu”.There was a deep understanding and affection between the two leaders and the present day shenanigans of all concerned would have merely irritated them.
b) Nehru was in some ways an unlucky and lonely man. His father, mother and wife passed away within a span of 4-5 years. After that his dependence on Gandhi was total. The insinuations are ---and India is the greatest country in the world for rumour, insinuation and the whispered half truth. --- that he clung to Gandhi because of the power and plums of leadership and office to be encashed at a date far away in the future. If so it was one of the most distant of investments based on hope and is completely fallacious (the South Sea Bubble company in 18th century England was a far more sound investment) .
But again in our country people cling to their ideas tenaciously ---- renouncing them for material and mundane reasons only and never as a result of intellectual metamorphosis. Well ,Gandhi died in January 1948 and for most of the period after Nehru was a lonely soul. Indira Gandhi and Nehru were two different people with two different mindsets .Person to person Nehru had very little in common with his only child and even less with her children. From others he got admiration, sycophancy a kind of cult worship but no companionship. The people on whom he had to depend for the great tasks of his vision were mentally and morally quite inferior to him in mind and character.. The opposition to him was often mindless, negative again lacking in the kind of imagination and insight he was looking for.
c) In trying to understand Nehru we must envisage or imagine the scenario in the Indian subcontinent on 15 August 1947.’India was like a ship in mid-ocean--- on fire and which is carrying ammunition in the hold” said Lord Mountbatten. The statistics and facts bear this ouy .
Gandhi was to be assassinated within 169 days of freedom. 12 million people were on a trek to different sides of the border. The chaos and misery and wretchedness was total. Like Shakespeare,says in his play, The Tempest – “Hell is empty .all the devils are here”. Nehru’s task was very much akin to that of Robinson Crusoe after his ship sank or the crew of the Titanic trying to get the passengers on to the available lifeboats on 15 April 1912. You try to salvage whatever is salvageable. Our armchair experts/intellectuals ,preening themselves like a Madonna, can make mincemeat of his policies and actions. Friends, lock yourselves in a secluded room and imagine the first six months of Indian freedom. You might be persuaded to give up the reserved slot on your favourite News Channel where the anchor is anxiously waiting for you. And give up your 30 minutes of fame.
d) The attacks on Nehru are normally made for a variety of reasons. Dynastic rule,China, the Kashmir business, Also the economic issues, corruption and non alignment.These are the ostensible reasons .The real reasons are probably buried deep in the subconscious. Some of The old guard of the Congress hated him probably because he was the declared or likely successor the oldest reason of poltical conflict from Dara Shikoh to. Leon Trotsky to Hua Guo Feng after Mao. The other reason was ----secularism and equality and human dignity.
Communalism and casteism is the primary reaction of nearly all Indians-a major result of insecurity and fear psychosis in our history, part of our DNA.. In World history there are very few people to match Nehru in his commitment to secularism or Human rights.At a time when the British including Churchill almost totally –were making soothing and affectionate noises over Hitler and Mussolini Nehru had set his face firmly against them and their evil cohorts. Just as he had become anathema to the communal warriors among the Muslims he became the favourite figure of hatred for post independent communal forces among Hindus.
It was a great act of courage and statesmanship considering that a large section of his own organisation themselves believed in the communal and casteist way of thinking .but as in many other matters his thinking and ideology was, way, way different from the average Congressman,s view point. The Congress as it is constituted today has very little resemblance to the world view Nehru embodied. Neither do the forces in the opposition .The greatest tribute to Nehru and Gandhi is that the politician in modern India has absolutely no linkage with the ideals they stood for and their way of thinking. and we all know what the average person thinks of the political crowd all over the Indian subcontinent not only in India.
In Homer’s Trojan war I think the great number of Trojans would be looking at the feet of Achilles to get through to his heels and thus manage to kill him. In India all those opposed to the Gandhian or Nehruvian way of politics managed to discover China. India’s China war is a great legend by itself particularly when the number of people who understand the conflict in its entirety would be less than 100 in a population of 125 crores.. But what people lacked in knowledge they made up in emotion and hysteria and fervour .All the angst of their stultified minds and lives came boiling to the surface. Now let us look at some factors of the dispute:
1) The Sino Indian border issue was, is and never will be a black and white issue. It has a 100 different shades of grey. With the tremendous Indian capacity to reduce all disputes to a simple formula like a recipe for” aloo ka paranthas” or “Pudina Ka Chutney” as given on T V or Radio we came to the swiftest possible resolution of the conflict. The Chinese betrayed India. A gullible Nehru was duped by the Chinese. Menon was a traitor. If Sardar Patel had been alive this kind of thing would never have happened...etc...etc
2) Our title to both the eastern and western sectors of the border is of average validity and has a long and complex history. Nehru’s one mistake was that most of the people who were advising him on this issue were of very ordinary, routine capability and not in a position to really anticipate the Chinese mind, the strategy and statecraft involved.
3) Sardar Patel’s letter to Nehru which is often quoted by Nehru’s detractors, is not really useful because India’s rights with regard to Tibet-on which the letter is based - are very fragile Indeed Mao’s Chinese Communist regime was more about China and nationalism less about Communism or Marxism .We could only have shown so much aggression and nothing more. The Americans and General Douglas Macarthur learnt that the hard way in Korea. The only way forward was the path of negotiations. The forward policy which some advisers induced Nehru to follow was totally uncalled for and that one thing can be held against Nehru .The good relations he had been cultivating for a long time were however not entirely fruitless because it did sway the moderate element among the Chinese .The Chinese acted quite honourably after the fighting stopped something that was praised by the great 20 th century philosopher Bertrand Russell. Internationally even now there are not many takers for the Indian case on the border. But being good and sensible Indians we can pass a resolution claiming every single inch of that area while holding Nehru responsible and thereby clearing our minds and agenda of a complicated dilemma.
4) The error of judgement made by Nehru was called V K Krishna Menon who was not the right man for the job probably not the right man for any serious executive job.
5) While criticising Nehru we should always keep in mind the great ambiguity surrounding the issue. It was quite a setback but was not a major war. The Government also went into cover up mode, which was probably quite unnecessary and maybe foolish also. There was no need to seal up the Henderson Brooks report. Almost anybody who is interested knows the gist of the report which is easily available internationally and on the Internet. This cover up is just a reflection of the acute shortage of intelligence shown by various regimes in India. The Henderson Brooks report probably will make people sorry for Nehru showing the poor quality of Personnel surrounding him. In any case Nehru’s legacy and memory is enough of a factor to prevent any possible harm to his reputation.
Even with regard to Kashmir we should not ignore the fact that both Mountbatten and Sheikh Abdullah had a big role in preventing greater success by the Pakistani raiders. The advice for going to the UN was Mountbatten”s contribution but the fact that the Pakistan Armed Forces could not intervene directly was also the contribution of Mountbatten and that was due to his regard for Nehru. Nehru was an idealist in a century which has virtually no idealists left in politics or public affairs.
The 20th century is one of the bloodiest centuries in history because of the very large number of over-- practical politicians well versed in the art or realpolitik great admirers of Machiavelli and Chanakya.(it still remains to be proved if the writings of these two savants have led to a better world.) and people totally devoid of any shred of Morality or Ethics.
The majority in the Kashmir valley was Muslim who were linked to India only because of the leadership of Sheikh Abdullah and the support of the National Conference (the only Muslims who could stop the Roman Triumph of Mohammed Ali Jinnah), who in turn was heavily influenced by Nehru. Again the whole issue is complicated like the Sino Indian imbroglio and it is very difficult to say that alternatively Sardar Patel or somebody else could have done a better job. Here again we should have judgement based on historical facts and not just history based on biased journalism .
If history is biased and not dispassionate it is no longer history but story writing for Bollywood movies.
Again the question of weak historical analysis comes up. Nehru and Patel acted along with Mountbatten in coordination with regard to the Integration of States. Politics in India is the easiest profession to make a mark in--- probably easier than the oldest profession. The” Aam Ka Achaar” variety of Indian history gives the entire credit to Patel for the Integration. with a far more diminished role for V P Menon.
In reality the trio of Mountbatten, Nehru, and Patel were together in this-- the major credit rightly going to Patel. Only some elements in the British Government –trouble making cold warriors the likes of Churchill and his ilk people wanting desperately to retain some foothold in India and nostalgia with the great British Empire were pushing for the independence of the Princes. Nehru had no ambiguity on this but who can compete with the “Aam ka aachar plus Kacchori” variety of historical narrative when people become economical or extravagant with the truth. .As a matter of fact it was Mountbatten,s address to the Chambers of Princes and his interaction which made the Royal rulers and some mischief making British civil servants realise that the game was up and could be considered as the turning point in the process.. Royalty in India had absolutely no chance after Lord Wellesley and after the 1857 Mutiny. Hyderabad the biggest of Royal domains had hardly any chance to begin with. Kashmir because of its border with Pakistan was a different matter where none of the alternatives being considered were easy.
In conclusion ,one can only say that Indians have every reason to believe that India was truly blessed to have a great leader like Nehru in the first 17 years of our independence The 20 th century in many ways is a horror movie--- Hitler Stalin Mao, Pol pot and others ; the multiple incidents of Genocide ; the hard men and women with much harder hearts.;World War 1 and World War two; violence cruelty, and behaviour akin to the wildest of animals.(“men are behaving like animals,but I think I am wrong .even animals do not behave like this “---Gandhi 1n 1947.) in spite of all Nehru,s frailities and errors (and there are quite a few) ,let Shakespeare have the last word,”
His life was gentle, and the elements,
So mixed in him, that Nature might stand up
And say to all the world:” This was a man “
Act V. Scene V. Julius Caesar.