Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru (the title of Pandit is a little incongruous for a sworn secularist) passed away on this day (May 27), 54 years ago in 1964. His larger than life image though has only lately begun to be put in perspective. A lot of it has to do with social media for it loosened the grip of mainstream media and academics in controlling the narrative, hiding the ugly and sprucing up the good.
This revisit on Nehru’s early years, his rise in Congress echelon, manipulation at the time of independence to PM’s seat, his shaping of Hindu Civil Code etc are now being fiercely ripped out in open. I would presently concentrate on two of his actions which have put India’s eastern and western borders in permanent strife. I am of course referring to Pt. Nehru’s conduct during the incursion of Pakistani raiders in Kashmir in 1947; and the disastrous China War of 1962.
Pak Raiders in Kashmir in 1947
Within a month of India’s independence, Maharaja Hari Singh of Kashmir offered his state’s accession to India in September 1947. Nehru refused for his “blood brother” Sheikh Abdullah was in jail. It was thus a deadlock. By next month, Pakistan’s raiders from North West Frontier Province had penetrated up till the outskirts of Srinagar, looting, pillaging, killing and raping along the way. On October 26, Hari Singh had agreed to sign the Instrument of Accession to Indian Union.
On the same day, Lord Mountbatten, the governor general, called an urgent meeting in Delhi. Nehru was his typical ambivalent self. Sardar Patel, the home minister, lost his cool. Sam Manekshaw, then an army colonel, was to later recall: “As usual Nehru talked about the United Nations, Russia, Africa, God Almighty, everybody, until Sardar Patel lost his temper. He said `Jawaharlal, do you want Kashmir or do you want to give it away?’.” Nehru was thus pinned into taking an action and thanks to Sardar Patel, troops were flown to Srinagar and the airport, the only link with New Delhi, was saved.
In just a few weeks, in December 1947, Nehru had committed his grave blunder for which successive generations of India are still paying the price. He referred the matter to United Nations—there was no need for Kashmir was literally India’s “internal matter” since Maharaja Hari Singh had already acceded the state to Indian Union.
Why did Nehru go to United Nations? There are two explanations forwarded: one, he wanted Sardar Patel out of Kashmir for the latter fed up by Nehru’s antics had offered to resign just a few days before in December 1947; two, Nehru walked into a trap laid by Mountbatten who wanted UN to mediate.
(The truth is, India didn’t need Mountbatten as its Governor General. Pakistan never considered a similar option for itself. Mountbatten then maneuvered himself as head of India’s defence council).
Nehru then approached United Nations for arbitration. In the first few months of 1948, the folly had begun to hit Nehru in the face. The British stance in front of UN was completely opposite to what Mountbatten had led Nehru to believe. The Indian complaint was ignored; instead UN Security Council began adopting anti-India resolutions.
The cat was out of the bag. Despite India’s protestations, Pakistan was firmly in control of “Azad Kashmir.” India had to lose Gilgit-Baltistan region. UN and its plans for a plebiscite went kaput. India’s next generations had been condemned with the festering wound of Kashmir. Terrorism and internal security, if not secession, are everyday issues emanating from the Valley.
India’s China War of 1962
This refers to India’s political and military humiliation at the hands of China during the 1962 War. The impression successfully perpetuated all these years is that it was all China’s aggression which didn’t respond to Nehru’s brotherly overtures. The truth is more nuanced.
Britain didn’t leave India with any boundaries. India were left to settle matters with Pakistan, Nepal and China. While the first two nations didn’t cause any problem, China was a different matter altogether. They were not prepared to let Nehru get away with his “forward policy” of aggression.
India inherited the McMahon line on its eastern border with China which British had created in mid-1930s by seizing the Tibetan territory, renaming it NEFA. The Chinese government’s plea for renegotiation was turned down by Nehru who latched on to London’s fake claim of Simla Conference (1945), legitimatizing the McMahon Line. Nehru topped it with his fake claim on Aksai Chin—a claim which even the British hadn’t made on a territory China had termed its own for over a hundred years.
Then on its Western (Ladakh) border, Nehru’s “forward policy” in September 1962 tried to force the Chinese out of territory it claimed as its own. Nehru announced on October 11 that the army had been ordered to “free our territory.” That’s how the war began with China reacting to the situation.
China fought the 1962 war while in the throes of economic hardship. It’s forces were hardly elite, mostly comprising regiments of local military. Their equipment and logistics were poor. Yet they overpowered the Indians. In that short war of two weeks—China called for a unilateral ceasefire as quickly as it had gained ground—India lost 1383 of its soldiers; 1047 were wounded, 1696 were missing.
Our only clue to 1962 China War is a book by Australian journalist Neville Maxwell: India’s China War. He could pen it down by accessing the Henderson (Brooks)—(Premindra Singh) Bhagat report which had been commissioned in the wake of 1962 War disaster. Even Maxwell could copy only a part of the report which the Indian government had classified as “top secret.”
It’s been over a half century yet the Henderson-Bhagat report as well as various correspondences of Nehru are out of reach—being treated as “private property’ of Nehru Library, a private trust. The papers of India’s first prime minister belongs to his family and not to the state!!! The classified secret clause of “30 years” is long over yet the report isn’t being made public.
That’s how truth in this country is treated. Everyone tries to muzzle changes in school text books and academia in light of new findings so that their narrative remains perpetuated. Doesn’t the history of this country deserve a revision when important annals of this country are being kept locked in the form of documents inside safety vaults?
Dr. Shyama Prasad Mookerjee’s death which falls on Friday (June 23, 1953), and which Atal Bihari Vajpayee termed as “Nehru Conspiracy” , was as turbulent as his heroic life.
The founder of Bharatiya Jana Sangh (BJS), the precursor to Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Dr. Mookerjee had been arrested and kept without medical care in degrading conditions for over a month in Srinagar in May-June 1953 by the Sheikh Abdullah’s J & K government,
Despite his known heart condition which the rarified air of Kashmir didn’t help, Dr. Mookerjee was finally offered the care of a hospital just a couple of days before his death—shifted in a small jeep instead of an ambulance and kept in a gynaecology ward, according to present BJP president Amit Shah–and administered penicillin injection despite his protestations that he was allergic to it, as BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra asserted in a TV show, citing evidence of an eyewitness.
Prime Minister Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru refused to entertain a written appeal of Dr. Mookerjee’s mother for an impartial inquiry as she believed her son’s death was a murder as the family members hadn’t been allowed to meet him during his long confinement—nor his two companions allowed to visit him—apparently illegal for it was done without a formal, legal trial.
Dr. Mookerjee had decided to take on the prevailing political situation in Kashmir where the state not only had its own constitution, it’s own flag but even it’s own Prime Minister (Sheikh Abdullah) whose permission was necessary for other citizens of the country to enter the state! Dr. Mookerjee’s war-cry that “Ek Desh Mein Do Vidhan, Do Pradhan aur Do Nishan Nahin Chalenge” (One nation can’t have two constitutions, two Prime Ministers and two Flags) would resonate for decades to come.
Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the future Prime Minister, who had partly accompanied Dr. Mookerjee in that fatal march to Srinagar as a journalist, insisted it was a conspiracy to let Dr. Mookerjee enter Srinagar so as he could then be incarcerated and dealt with severely. As Vajpayee was to recall: “later, we came to know that J & K government and Nehru government had entered into a conspiracy, as per which it was decided that Dr. Mookerjee would be allowed to enter J & K but not be allowed to leave.”
Dr. M.S. Gowalkar, chief of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in Nagpur, in a premonitory caution, had warned Dr. Mookerjee he was putting his life to risk.
The academicians and historians over the years have provided several clues to Nehru’s antipathy towards Dr. Mookerjee who was his colleague in independent India’s first cabinet as industry minister not long ago.
However, three years into his job as a Union minister, Dr. Mookherjee had resigned on April 8, 1950 against the Nehru-Liaqat Pact. In Indologist Dr. Koenraad Elst’s words, the Pact was an “unequal treaty in which Nehru promised Pakistani Prime Minister Liaqat Ali Khan not to interfere in the treatment of the minority Hindus across the border, even while the latter were suffering large-scale atrocities in East Bengal.” The Indian part of the Pact didn’t hold water as a stable communal cease-fire had descended on India after the day of Gandhi’s murder.
Dr. Mookerjee was often at crossroads with Indian National Congress (INC) during the Freedom Struggle, including Quit India Movement (1942), which he didn’t support along with the Hindu Mahasabha of which he was a part.
Critics cite it as proof of Dr. Mookerjee and Hindu Mahasabha’s corrosive role in India’s freedom struggle. However a contrary view is that Hindu Mahasabha suspected Congress to have a “Muslim-appeasement policy” with no regard to the concern and well-being of the Hindus. They believed Quit India Movement was no better than a vent to let out the frustrations of Indians and was as phoney as the “non-cooperation” and “civil disobedience” movement. None of these achieved their objectives and were fake movements.
Dr. Mookerjee’s role in the partition of Bengal into West Bengal and East Pakistan is glorious beyond words. When the Muslim League government of Bengal in 1946 had butchered and raped minority Hindus by several thousands during the “Great Calcutta Killings” and “Noakhali Riots” of a genocidal nature, Mookherjee had championed the cause of Bengal partition so as Hindus could be safe in West Bengal rather than be subjected to genocide in East Pakistan. The Bengal Muslim League and its leader Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy had earlier sought to create an un-partitioned, an independent Bengal state—which won’t be part of either Indiia or Pakistan!!!. Suhrawardy was conscious that with its coal mines and jute mills, as well as Calcutta and its mighty port, would all go to Hindu-majority West Bengal.
The calamity of great Bengal famine of 1943 which cost 38 lakh lives also saw Dr. Mookerjee at his best. He led the Relief Coordination Committee which set up 5000 relief kitchens for famine-stricken people. He had then hit out at Food Minister of Bengal, Suharawardy, and his business friend Ispahani, with these words: “Bengal has not seen greater acts of official crime in its long history.”
Dr. Mookerjee, born on July 6, 1901, was also an illustrious scholar and became vice-chancellor of Calcutta University at the age of 33, like his father Ashutosh Mookerjee once was. Dr. Mookerjee was part of Congress and a member of the Bengal legislative assembly in 20s and 30s. Disillusioned by Congress and its policies against Hindus, he had joined the Hindu Mahasabha in 1939.
Dr. Mookerjee’s speech at Banaras Hindu University in 1940 is still relevant today:
“If I have understood the history of my country alright, a pacifism that refuses to take up arms against injustice and makes one a passive spectator of oppression and aggression, does not represent the real teaching of India…
“Disruptive forces are at work within the country itself…A divided India was always a prey to the foreign invader from the days of Alexander and Mahmud of Ghazni to those of Vasco de Gama, Dupleix and Clive.
“There is much disharmony and disunity in India today. Communal differences have taken such an acute turn that fanatic claims for the vivisection of our Motherland are widely asserted.”
These words ring a bell even today.