Nehru: The Lotus Eater From Kashmir, by D.F. Karaka

The good, the bad, and the ugly.

Re: Nehru: The Lotus Eater From Kashmir, by D.F. Karaka

Postby admin » Sun Mar 15, 2020 2:44 am

Part 2 of 2

Naturally the Indian press and the people showed great concern over this unbridled outburst of Sheikh Abdulla, and Pandit Nehru hurriedly sent for his protege to the capital for discussion and consultation! Unlike other occasions when the two had met and run into each other’s arms in fond embrace, there was no such cordiality reported in the Indian press. ‘Misunderstandings’ were soon cleared up, however, and, as a wag observed: ‘It is extremely gratifying to find that the exalted Abdulla has been graciously pleased to condescend to accept the accession of India to Kashmir!’1 [1. Vivek in The Times of India, 30th July, 1952.] According to the compromise arrived at, Sheikh Abdulla agreed to fly the Indian flag, but his claim to fly the flag of the state of Kashmir also was agreed to by Pandit Nehru.

On what basis this was agreed to by the Indian Prime Minister, no one knows. Even the old flag of Mysore state can now only be flown by the ruler over his own house and not by the state. Likewise, the various other states which have acceded to the Indian Union have been given no preferential treatment. They have all merged into the pattern of the Indian Union and they salute only one flag, that of the Republic of India. The exception made in the case of Kashmir has met with much adverse criticism. Pandit Nehru attempted to explain it away by saying that the Indian Union flag was supreme in Kashmir and that the state flag was in no sense a rival to it. This lame apologia was not becoming to the Liberator of Asia, and his staunchest admirers blushed at seeing the great Nehru eat crow at Sheikh Abdulla’s hands.


Nehru, despite the provocation offered by Sheikh Abdulla, unequivocally reiterated that Kashmir should not be coerced; it would have a full choice to decide whether it should join the Indian Union or not, irrespective of the ex-Maharaja’s earlier accession. But, said the Prime Minister, lamely upholding the dignity of the Union, if Kashmir did decide to join us, it would have to adopt our constitution, recognise the jurisdiction of our Supreme Court, and have common citizenship with us. Sheikh Abdulla, however, had different views on the subject. Bloated with the power and the prestige which Pandit Nehru’s extravagance of utterances had pumped into him, the Sheikh now fancied himself in no way inferior to the President of India. He spoke of claiming the right of granting pardons, which clearly cuts across the prerogative of the Indian President. He also thought he would like to have a Supreme Court of his own, and, from what we could understand, he visualised a dual citizenship for Kashmir. As Vivek1 [1. In The Times of India.] pointed out, the complete security in which the Kashmiris live now, because of the presence of Indian troops, had emboldened them.

All these factors were most disturbing, and to no one so much as to the Prime Minister himself, who was rudely shocked by one of his protege getting too big for his boots. But there was very little he could do in the matter now. Sheikh Abdulla was using his trump card in the negotiations that followed. He said he would take no responsibility for the plebiscite if his demands were not fully met.

The plebiscite is important to Nehru’s prestige in the world. He had assumed, somewhat rashly, that the people of Kashmir as a whole would come to us. He had based this assumption on the fact that the tribes which plundered and looted the Kashmiri people did so with the connivance of Pakistan, and in some cases with arms and ammunition which bore the marks of the Pakistan army. So how could Kashmir want to go over to those who had plundered it? But the Moslem mind does not think along those logical lines. Political observers were inclined to believe that the two provinces of Jammu and Ladhakh would very likely vote in favour of joining India, but they were equally certain that the Pakistan-held portion of Kashmir would likewise vote for Pakistan. In between there lay the valley of Kashmir, which was the plum, and the focal point of the whole action. This included the fertile plains around the Jhelum river, and it was in this crucial spot that the prestige of India and, in particular, that of its Prime Minister was at stake. While no one was in a position to state categorically how the valley would vote, there was growing fear amongst certain well-informed Indians that India would lose the valley on a straight, fair and uninfluenced vote. To lose the valley would mean the abandoning of the passes beyond, which guarded it, and that would mean abandoning Kashmir itself and taking up some line of defence far behind the Indian border, which would make our defence position most vulnerable in the vital sector of the north. The danger on paper was in terms of Pakistan only, but those who took a longer view foresaw the possibility of Russia and China, both of which had a common frontier with Kashmir, marching into that state without much opposition. The communists would then stand four square on the border of India proper.

This was the dilemma in which India found itself when Sheikh Abdulla, who had all along professed his gratitude to India for the protection it had offered his people, spoke of Kashmir as an independent state ‘with no strings attached’.

‘How to patch up?’ has become the motto of Nehru’s India, and some sort of compromise had to be effected quickly. It was agreed that all Kashmiris would be full citizens of India, but Indian citizenship did not correspondingly entitle the Indian to reciprocal treatment in Kashmir. No non-Kashmiri would be permitted to own property in Kashmir, and the entry of an Indian into the Kashmir state service was also banned. Pandit Nehru agreed to all this. He had to; his earlier emotional impetuosity had committed us to pledges which, in the context of our defence, we really would be foolish to redeem.

We can agree to no plebiscite in Kashmir until India is sure that the whole of Kashmir will vote for us. This is not likely to happen in our lifetime. Contemporary history has proved on more than one occasion that the Moslem, because of ties of religion, prefers to cast his lot with his Islamic brothers rather than forsake that tie and join a secular state, predominantly Hindu, even though the secular state offers more to him economically, socially and politically. Look at the classic example of the North-west Frontier province of India, which once virtually worshipped Mahatma Gandhi. Its two local Congress leaders, Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan and Dr Khan Saheb, were heroes in their day. But when the referendum was held, the very people who shouted ‘Mahatma Gandhi ki jai' went solemnly to the ballot boxes to vote for going over to Pakistan by an overwhelming majority. Nor did these erstwhile followers of the Congress raise even a ripple of protest when Pakistan, soon after taking control of this province, pushed their tried and trusted leaders, Gaffar Khan and Khan Saheb, into jail, where they have remained all these years, patiently enduring the loss of freedom which jail life entails. The late Mr Jinnah had, in an exclusive interview, warned me that this would happen, and history proved him to be right.


The situation in Kashmir today is much the same as what it was in the North-west Frontier following the partition. It would be suicidal for Pandit Nehru to risk a plebiscite now; the only way it can go in our favour is if it is conducted under the aegis of our own army! But who would ever agree to that?

That is the plain truth. We cannot afford to lose Kashmir, and therefore we cannot afford to hold a plebiscite, whatever may be our Prime Minister’s pronouncements on the subject. No one minds Pandit Nehru paying lip service to democracy and espousing the cause of self-determination in every unit of India; flowery tributes to freedom are his speciality. But, no matter how many new formulas the United Nations commissions may produce, we would be ill-advised to withdraw from the cease-fire line or abandon the passes which we now control.

This explains why we periodically go to United Nations conferences on Kashmir and agree to nothing that can produce a settlement. Our official attitude on the Kashmir problem is that Pakistan is the aggressor, and that therefore Pakistan must first withdraw from Kashmir before we can move further in the matter of the plebiscite. Pakistan is not likely to agree to this; at present she is at least in possession of a part of Kashmir, however small, which she fears she will lose forever. But her attitude suits India, because it gives us an opportunity to proclaim to the world that our amour propre is offended, and it justifies our holding on to the present cease-fire line, a position which is strategically most favourable to us. But if Pakistan were naive enough to withdraw, what then? India still dare not hold a plebiscite under the aegis of a third power; the only plebiscite we can ever hold is one in which the vote will be assured of going in our favour.  

At the last conference held in Geneva, over which Dr Graham presided, Pakistan arrived with its huge contingent of military experts and high-ranking officials. They trooped into the conference room and entrenched themselves behind a rampart of official files. India was represented by our Defence Minister, Mr Gopalaswamy Ayyangar, and General Thimayya. Thimayya carried with him only his tin of cigarettes, and as he sat down he smiled at the opposite side and put the tin of cigarettes in front of him. The General knew that our real defence position was not at Dr Graham’s conference table; it was in the passes that guarded the Kashmir valley.

The conference ended, as was expected, with India still maintaining that unless the Pakistan army completely withdraws out of Kashmir, no further negotiations and no plebiscite are possible.
The alternative is the status quo, the maintenance of the present cease-fire line by which we continue to hold the valley and the passes that guard it, and Pakistan held on to their portion, which includes Gilgit and barren rocks.

Kashmir is the lotus-eaters’ paradise; ‘... the narrow and lonely valleys ...the Zoji-la pass with the rich verdant mountainsides below ...the bare bleak rock ...the snow-covered mountain tops ...the little glaciers creeping down ... the cold wind and the clear air ...the loneliness . . . trees and vegetation . . . this wild and desolate haunt of nature . . . full of energy and a feeling of exultation,’ Nehru had said. The eating of the lotus flower produces this sensation.
Back in the capital city of New Delhi, where Mogul emperors once held sway, and where later the Viceroys of India came to live and rule from this majestic north the humbler plains of the vast subcontinent, there now sits in the office of Prime Minister a Kashmiri Pandit, in no way inferior to the Moguls or the Viceroys who preceded him. Nehru’s ancestor was only the kotwal of Delhi; his great-grandson, Jawaharlal, was the emperor himself. Even his critics have to concede that his is no inferior sway.  
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Re: Nehru: The Lotus Eater From Kashmir, by D.F. Karaka

Postby admin » Sun Mar 15, 2020 2:44 am

10: THE ORACLE OF DELHI

As time passes, Nehru flounders more and more. The drill is the same: first, Pandit Nehru makes an unexpected announcement in the shape of an emotional outburst; it is followed by an almost hysterical general effort by those closest to him in order to make the impracticable, practicable. This involves the diversion of men and material from other programmes on which they are engaged, in order that they may be made available for the infatuation of the moment. Every speech, every public pronouncement, centres, for the time being, around the fantasy which is in Nehru’s mind, and experts of all kinds, advisors and consultants are hurriedly rushed to the capital to develop the original fad. All sorts of committees and sub-committees go into conference, and high-powered personnel are nominated to serve on them. There will be no retracting, no turning back, we are repeatedly told, however impossible research may make fulfilment appear. Eventually, when sufficient time and money has been wasted and it is found that circumstances or the merciful ‘act of God’ makes solution impossible, the best brains of the country are again tapped in order to find a compromise whereby the matter can be postponed sine die -- but without any recrimination on the master brain from which the original idea first sprang.

So it has been in the case of self-sufficiency in food; so it was again with the plebiscite in Kashmir; so it was with the black-marketeers, the hoarders, the evaders of tax, whom Pandit Nehru was going to hang from the nearest tree; so it was in the case of our innumerable development schemes which were to take us nearer to the promised Welfare State; so it was with neutrality, goodwill missions, nationalisation, re-distribution of land -- an endless saga of unweaned brain-children, each of which was born with a great fanfare of trumpets, and most of which have now been discarded or written off, retarding the progress of our country because of the impoverishment caused in the process.


Education in India may have cost a lot of money, but the education of Pandit Nehru in the elementary principles of administration is perhaps the costliest burden which our country has had to bear. At the end of it, the Pandit still remains incorrigible, partly because of an inherent inaptitude to learn from his mistakes, but largely because of the surrounding acqui-yes-ers, who make his continued blunders appear to be great national ventures, gone slightly wrong. Pandit Nehru’s prerogative to continue in his extravagant foolishnesses remains unchanged, unchallenged and undiminished.

This ridiculous situation arises out of Nehru taking too much upon himself, and, as a result, being unable to pay the needed attention to any particular problem with which he is faced because of some momentary preoccupation in which he has entangled himself, nor does he allow anyone else to grow near him. It is not that he is jealous of competition or that he would consciously retard the progress of any of his colleagues. Petty jealousy is not one of his failings; on the contrary, he is big-hearted and unselfish. But he is so used to voicing his opinion on every matter which crops up and to having his own way, that he unconsciously smothers initiative in others and obliterates any sign of budding leadership in those around him. This has now become a habit with him, encouraged by the people who will not accept a lesser light so long as his continues to burn. Nehru is the last of the triumvirate of which the other two were Mahatma Gandhi and Sardar Patel. In the eyes of the people he is the sole surviving trustee of our freedom. Their faith in him is blind, uncompromising; they will perish with him because reason alone will not make them abandon that faith. This is the basis of his power. Just as he is emotional himself, he draws his strength from the emotions of the millions he still sways.

The incredible fact that even intelligent people were determined to be blind to whatever he did was brought home to me when, early in his ‘reign’, I tried to point out some of the absurdities he had perpetrated or allowed to be perpetrated in the first flush of his newly-acquired power. The reiterated cry of these intelligent Indians was: ‘But give him a chance. He hasn’t had time to do anything yet.’ But Nehru’s seemingly unimportant deviations were to become errors beyond redemption as the angle of deviation widened with time. To take one example, the choice of his sister, Vijayalaxshmi Pandit, as our most important diplomatic representative abroad, first at Moscow and then at Washington. Pandit Nehru resented any unfavourable comment on his choice. The people supported him, but to me it plainly indicated that the basis of Nehru’s thinking in terms of conducting his government was warped and that he was starting off as an administrator on the wrong lines. Soon he developed an attitude of mind which showed signs of defeating the very meaning of democracy. In Mrs Pandit’s case, Pandit Nehru made out that he was acting impersonally; but when we criticised the appointment, he took the criticism as a personal insult to his family. How can that be?

There were many people at that time who met our criticism by saying: ‘What’s wrong with Mrs Pandit? Can’t a man appoint his sister as an ambassador?’ But my objection was more fundamental; I felt that there were better people for those delicate jobs who had the added advantage of not being so closely related to the dispenser of favours. Mrs Pandit’s subsequent performances in the two foreign capitals indicated that neither the Russians nor the Americans regarded her as a great success, but her brother’s conceit in his judgment and his correctness of action in this respect has to date remained unaffected.

So it was in the case of many other appointments which he made in and out of the country, based on claims of sacrifice which some of these individuals are said to have made in the cause of freedom. The record once again speaks for itself, and there is much in it of which we, as a people, hardly feel happy or proud. Many of our embassies are not exactly the diplomatic missions of a first-class nation, which Nehru claims we are.

It has also been said of Pandit Nehru that as he himself is scrupulously honest, he cannot be blamed for the mistakes of those whom he puts in office. But honesty should not be regarded as a very rare quality in a man who is the head of the government of a country; it should rather be a necessary prerequisite. The managers of various branches of Lloyds Bank are also paragons of honesty, but does that qualify these impeccable gentlemen to be Prime Ministers of India?

Democracies elsewhere work on the idea of de-centralising power with checks and counter-checks at every stage. Democracy here in India has come to mean a concentration of power in one man. So Nehru remains the sole arbiter of our destiny. Not a leaf can grow until he has breathed life into the tree. That is the popular belief. It is also his belief, and in unguarded moments he reveals himself as the despot he has gradually become, instead of the democrat he wanted to be.

Consequently, the whole machinery of our government periodically becomes paralysed because the Oracle does not have time to look through the files and speak.
You can see the ‘high priests’ flapping around the Secretariat in a state of utter helplessness and suspense because no one can afford to stake his reputation or his political future on the Prime Minister’s next move, of which very few have an inkling and fewer still a positive clue.

Therefore, before any further steps can be taken in any matter on which Pandit Nehru might remotely have some views of his own, it is generally considered advisable to wait and consult him beforehand, rather than take the risk of incurring his displeasure, which could result in much loss of face to the individual concerned, if it had no more serious consequences. The result is that the Prime Minister has to be consulted in the minutest detail on every subject in which he has at some time or other shown some interest. No one can budge an inch without consulting the ‘High Man on the totem pole’.

I saw him on his totem pole on Independence Day, 1952, when I chanced to be in the capital city. As is the custom on this memorable day, Pandit Nehru was to unfurl the flag on the historic Red Fort in Old Delhi. This was the rampart on which, five years ago, he had first unfurled the tricolour of saffron, white and green with the Asoka wheel in the centre, which became our national flag, the standard of the new Republic of India. Each year on the same day he comes back to the same rampart to perform the ceremony and to address the vast crowds which gather to salute the flag.

I went to the Fort that morning in an army staff car, a flashy green Buick. The police were discerning and gave our car right of way. We drove into the Fort grounds through the entrance reserved for the blue-ticket holders, of which there were many, and amidst much saluting I was ushered into the seat to which I was entitled by reason of the gilt-lettered invitation card which my host had obtained for me from the Ministry of Defence. We sat on chairs facing the high rampart of the Fort, on a piece of flat land, separated from the Fort itself by a dip which must have been the old moat. Ushers in uniform were rushing up and down the aisles, showing people to their correct seats. Official Delhi had rolled up in full force: the three defence services, with their families, of course; various departments of the government of India, the Ministers, who numbered more than a dozen, Secretaries to government, other high officials, their wives, their hordes of children and their subordinates. Anyone who was remotely connected with the government felt he was entitled to a privileged position when their Prime Minister -- whom they often referred to by his first name -- was addressing them on this historic occasion. The flag-hoisting ceremony was, however, not only for the employees of the government; it was for the benefit of the whole of India, whose morale constantly needs uplifting. Around our enclosure, which was for the chosen hundreds, stood the masses, who had come to pay homage to the man who shaped their destiny.

The sun was scorching hot, even at that early hour of the morning, and everyone was perspiring profusely. Soon the Prime Minister arrived, and the guard of honour, consisting of men from the army, navy, air force and the police, and commanded on this occasion by a Wing Commander, sprang rigidly to attention. Our Prime Minister was, however, in no formal mood. He strolled lackadaisically past the guard, inspecting it as if he were walking on a Sunday morning in a dressing-gown across the lawn of his house. He was wearing, on this occasion, his usual long coat of white khaddar and chunidars, which are tight pants like jodhpurs. The inspection over, he strolled across the moat and appeared like Jack near his beanstalk, which was the flag-mast at the top of the Fort from which our national flag hung in a little bundle. The army officer nearby undid the strings for Pandit Nehru, who then proceeded to unfurl the flag -- a limp, creased standard. The band below struck up our national anthem, ‘Jana Gana Mana’, and the whole audience sprang to its feet. I expected this scene to be deeply moving and impressive on this fifth anniversary of Independence; Pandit Nehru with his informality had made it appear a trifle melodramatic.

Amidst deafening applause he eventually came to the microphones and spoke in Hindi for twenty minutes. He talked once again of banishing black-marketeers from our midst, and of the people uniting in purpose and concerning themselves with the future. Corruption, nepotism and jobbery, he said, must be rooted out. According to him, these nefarious qualities were to be found in the people, and apparently not in the nerve-centres of the administration itself. So he went on in his usual sing-song way, like a schoolboy reciting a piece of poetry, the words of which he had learned by heart and produced every time he made a public appearance. The people listened to him as they have done before, without protest. His words did not matter for they had not come there to hear him speak; they came rather to see from a distance the man they still loved and respected because of what he had once been, and not for what he was now. How fast he was ageing; the scars of age were showing on his face more than they did in the grim days of the struggle. Pomp and ceremonial had weakened him; applause and flattery, which came to him with freedom, had made him content to look on at mirages, forgetting the sufferings and sorrows of his people which lay behind.

The men and women who came to hear him speak were hungry people. Many of them belonged to the lost tribe, the refugees whom he had not yet succeeded in rehabilitating; but they had not come there to ask for food on that memorable Independence Day! Even so, the lashings of vague generalisms and time-worn shibboleths which he dished out must have been indigestible fare. In silence they stood for the twenty minutes of his speech; it was like tuning in to the radio and listening to the Children’s Hour. He finished and called on the crowd to join in giving three rousing cheers of ‘Jai Hind'.1 [1. Long live India.] The bovine multitude repeated the words after him, but so half-heartedly that the Prime Minister had to request a little more enthusiasm in their cheer. A people who cannot be roused to cheer their country on such a day as this could surely not be happy about the state of the nation. This flag-hoisting ceremony, which we once approached in deep reverence, is now only an empty ceremonial, a ritual left over, an irksome duty which perforce has to be performed.

The Prime Minister soon departed, his retinue trailing behind; he had other matters of high ceremony to engage him that day. I wended my way back through the thick, perspiring crowd to the car park where the green Buick was waiting to take us home. My thoughts were still of independence, although, after hearing Pandit Nehru, they could as well have been of a bath and a bottle of iced beer. Around us in the car park my compatriots were busily peddling their wares: a new furniture polish to brighten the home, packets of sweetmeats, popcorn -- everything ‘Made in India’ was on sale that day. Why not? India was free. One of the hawkers, appropriately clad in Gandhi cap and a khaddar kurta,2 [2. Home-spun shirt.] was selling replicas of the national flag. ‘Special reduced price,’ he shouted. ‘Only four annas.’3 [3. 4d approximately.] The habit of sacrifice had caught on with this Gandhi cap and khaddar clad clan.

Slowly through the heavy traffic the green Buick drove along the road. On the left lay Raj Ghat, where Mahatma Gandhi’s remains were cremated before his ashes were consigned to the holy rivers. Green grass had grown on that barren patch of earth. It looked a peaceful shrine. On nearing it our driver, a turbaned Sikh, slowed down as if in slow march, and as I looked across the way, I could see little lines of pilgrims paying homage to the man who was the father of our nation and the chief architect of its freedom.

The people had not forgotten him. He was still there, even though the freedom which he had promised had come and gone. The India which he had fought for was surely not the police state in which Jawaharlal Nehru made us live.
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Re: Nehru: The Lotus Eater From Kashmir, by D.F. Karaka

Postby admin » Sun Mar 15, 2020 2:45 am

11. IN MOUNTBATTEN’S JEEP

Yet there was a time when Nehru too spoke the language of freedom.

‘Comrades!’ he said, opening his presidential address at Lucknow,1 [1. 12th April 1936.] . . Being interested in psychology, I have watched this process of moral and intellectual decay and realised, even more than I did previously, how autocratic power corrupts and degrades and vulgarises.’


He was speaking of the British in India.

‘. . . Of one thing I must say a few words, for to me it is one of the most vital things that I value. That is the deprivation of civil liberties in India. A government that has to rely on the Criminal Law Amendment Act and similar laws,2 [2. This was the so-called ‘emergency’ legislation somewhat similar to DORA.] that suppresses the press and literature, that bans hundreds of organisations, that keeps people in prison without trial and that does so many other things that are happening in India today, is a government that has ceased to have even a shadow of a justification for its existence. I can never adjust myself to these conditions; I find them intolerable. And yet I find many of my countrymen complacent about them, some even supporting them, some, who have made the practice of sitting on the fence into a fine art, being neutral when such questions are discussed.’

In Important Speeches of Jawaharlal Nehru3 [3. Edited by Jagat S. Bright and published by The Indian Printing Works, Lahore, p. 229.] there appears an extract from a dateless statement which Pandit Nehru made to the press. It is headed ‘Reign of Terror’, and naturally pertains to the British raj.

Nehru said:

‘On my return to my province I must take the first opportunity to express my horror and disgust on the recent occurrence in Benares, news of which reached me in Bombay. It was reported that three under-trial political prisoners in a Benares jail were to be taken for trial to a court which was situated about a mile away. They were in fetters and handcuffs and yet they were asked to walk this distance. They said that it was not possible for them to walk with fetters on and that they should be taken in a conveyance. This was refused and they were knocked down and dragged by the legs and arms all the way to the court, just as a dead animal might be dragged. Their clothes were torn, their skins scraped off, and they arrived at their destination with their backs and buttocks torn and bleeding. On the way, a request for water was met with insults.

‘I find it difficult to believe that such sadistic horror can be perpetrated even by those who, by long practice in them, have ceased to function as normal human beings. But everything was done in public in a great city like Benares; the evidence is there and the local Bar Association has protested. What amazes me still further is that anyone who saw this horror could have tolerated it for a minute. There are some things which cannot be tolerated, whatever the consequences.

‘It is reported that the person chiefly responsible was a police inspector named Tweesdale. That man should be tried in an open court for an offence which surely exceeds in its enormity and inhumanity almost anything that the Penal Code contains. But responsibility must rest also on the Police Superintendent and the District Magistrate and the whole administration under which such sadism, frightfulness and inhumanity in such extreme forms flourish.’

Very moving, very dramatic words. But when Nehru came to power, another incident occurred which shocked me equally. I described it in my book Betrayal in India.1 [1. Published by Gollancz, p 92.]  

‘In my own province, Bombay, another detenue died in prison. His name was D. R. Kulkarni, and he was arrested under the same Securities Act on April 2nd 1948. Kulkarni was no criminal. He was merely arrested for his political beliefs. Soon after his arrest he was taken to the Visapur jail in Ahmednagar district. Kulkarni had been suffering from asthma for a long time. A month in jail under the horrible jail conditions without a charge or a trial caused a stroke of paralysis and he became unconscious. He was then taken to the Ahmednagar government hospital.

‘The next day his wife sent a petition to the Home Minister of the government of Bombay, requesting the release of her husband who had been stricken by paralysis.

‘The Home Minister of a people’s government did not acknowledge or reply to that petition.

‘Kulkarni regained consciousness after a few days but he lost his eyesight, and in his blind state, when no-one was near him, he fell down from his cot in the jail hospital. That fall brought about a second attack of paralysis, and he became unconscious once again, from which state he never recovered.

‘When he was in that condition -- a paralytic, completely unconscious and completely blind -- his wife petitioned the district court for his release. After the civil surgeon had endorsed the petition and certified that the facts stated by his wife were correct and that the detenue’s condition was critical, the district magistrate agreed to release Kulkarni for one month on parole, but he specified certain conditions on which this temporary release would be granted.

‘Now the question arose how the conditions laid down by the district magistrate could be made binding on Kulkarni, who was then in an unconscious state. The police of a people’s government solved the dilemma by serving the release order on this political detenue, an unconscious man, and by taking the thumb impression of that unconscious man in order to make the conditions of the magistrate’s order binding on him.’

To quote Nehru’s words back to him: ‘What amazes me is that anyone who saw this horror could have tolerated it for a minute.’

Did Pandit Nehru take any action against the authorities of the state concerned for perpetrating this inhumanity? No, sir. The Prime Minister is a stickler for form. He frequently finds himself ‘unable to interfere in the action of a state government’. Does not responsibility rest on the whole administration any more? Or has there been some sort of fragmentation of the blame attachable in Nehru’s India? It is difficult to understand how Nehru, who blamed the whole British administration for the Benares incident when only a police inspector is said to have been responsible, can now deny responsibility for the actions of whole state governments, the personnel of which he himself has approved. Such niceties of constitutional etiquette can be somewhat nauseous.

Let us take other examples: ‘We have few rights and privileges left in this country,’ Nehru said on his whirlwind tour of India, prior to the elections of 1937, which the Congress decided to contest. ‘We will not and we cannot submit to any restriction of our right of free speech.’1 [1. Important Speeches of Jawaharlal Nehru, pp. 41-42.]

Brave words, we thought at the time, which would pave the way for freedom of the press in India when the Indians came to power.

Imagine my surprise when, working late in my office one evening in 1948, 1 received a hand-delivered letter from my government, informing me that under Sub-Sec. so-and-so of Sec. so-and-so of such-and-such Act unless ... I apologised . . . !

Let’s get this right. Is it believable that in a democracy an editor could be compelled by law to publish an apology? And for what? For a silly news-item, incidentally correct, which said that a certain Minister was snoozing in a certain doctor’s waiting-room while his P.A. was telling callers that the Minister was busy at an important conference and could not be disturbed!


Yet it happened in Nehru’s India, and I was the editor concerned. If I did not apologise, it was not because Pandit Nehru rushed to my aid; it was the High Court which intervened on my petition. As I came out of the court-room that day, I realised that, but for our incorruptible judges, schooled in the traditions of British justice, India, far from being a democracy, would soon degenerate into a dirty little fascist state. I also came painfully to the realisation that while Nehru in opposition had been a great fighter for freedom, Nehru in government was giving harbour to small-town gauleiters.

Even that docile body, the All-Indian Newspaper Editors’ Conference, was constrained to pass a resolution, the relevant extract from which read:

‘This Conference is firmly of the opinion that there is no justification for the continuance of public safety legislation of the type in force in several provinces, insofar as it affects the Press. Such legislation militates against free expression of public opinion, and is not only open to abuse, but has actually been abused by the executive authority in some provinces . . .’1 [1. At Bombay, July 1948.] The condemnation could not have been more clearly worded; the vote in its favour was unanimous.


***

Let us look at Nehru the socialist and Nehru the land reformer, as he was in the days of the struggle. ‘I am convinced’, he said in 1936,2 [2. Important Speeches of Jawaharlal Nehru, p. 13.] ‘that the only key to the solution of the world’s problems and of India’s problems lies in socialism. When I use this word, I do so, not in a vague humanitarian way, but in the scientific, economic sense. Socialism is, however, something even more than an economic doctrine; it is a philosophy of life and, as such, it appeals to me. I see no way of ending the poverty, the vast unemployment, the degradation and the subjection of the Indian people except through socialism. That involves vast and revolutionary changes in our political and social structure, the end of vested interests in land and industry, as well as the feudal and autocratic Indian States system. That means the ending of private property, except in a restricted sense, and the replacement of the present profit system by a higher ideal of co-operative service. It means, ultimately, a change in our instincts, habits and desires. In short, it means a new civilisation, radically different from the present capitalist order.’

The next sentence of that ‘important speech’ went further. Nehru was not content with socialism as understood in the West. He wanted to establish in India the ‘socialism’ of the U.S.S.R. He said; ‘Some glimpse we can have of this new civilisation in the territories of the U.S.S.R. Much has happened there which has pained me greatly and with which I disagree, but I look upon that great and fascinating unfolding of a new order and a new civilisation as the most promising feature of our dismal age. If the future is full of hope, it is largely because of Soviet Russia and what it has done . . .’


All these vainglorious dreams, admittedly a little confused, have not been translated into any positive action. Far from planning on the lines of the U.S.S.R., Pandit Nehru became ultra-cautious on the question of breaking up land holdings. In the Planning Committee’s report, which appeared over his signature, the great revolutionary expressed strange fears:

‘It is possible that any large scale and sudden attempt to break up the existing holdings may give rise to organised forces of destruction . . .’1 [1. Planning Commission report, p. 99.]

Mercifully, Pandit Nehru did not carry out his threat of emulating Comrade Stalin. Even so, it is somewhat of an anti-climax when a man who spoke of redistribution of the land ends up by planting a handful of trees and calls it Land Reform.

So that, in whatever sphere we compare the utterances of Nehru in opposition with the actions of Nehru in power, we find an unbridgeable gulf between theory and practice which even his staunchest followers find difficult to straddle.


*** It is equally difficult to understand the difference between Nehru’s views on remaining within the Empire, or the Commonwealth as it is now called, as he expressed them in 1936, and his present views. In 1936 he stated his final argument for the severance of our connection with the Empire when he said: ‘Between Indian nationalism, Indian freedom and British imperialism, there can be no common ground, and if we remain within the imperialist fold, whatever our name or status, whatever outward semblance of political power we might have, we remain cribbed and confined, allied to and dominated by the reactionary forces and the great financial vested interests of the capitalist world. The exploitation of our masses will still continue and all the vital social problems that face us will remain unsolved. Even real political freedom will be out of our reach, much more so radical social changes.’1 [1. Important Speeches of Nehru, p. 6.]

But by June 1952 Nehru had changed his mind on that subject also. Replying to a two-day debate in the House of the People,2 [2. June 12th, 1952.] in which foreign policy came under review. Pandit Nehru traced India’s relations with Britain and said : ‘. . . Later the question arose about our being in the Commonwealth or not. Now, is it not a very different thing for the Republic of India, which has nothing to do with England constitutionally, legally, or in any other way except such normal bonds as two countries may have in the economic sphere or in the cultural sphere, whatever it may be, to decide to remain associated with England or with a group of countries without the least inhibition, without the least binding factor in it?
... In what way, at any time, at any moment during the last three or four years, the fact of our being associated with the Commonwealth has affected our policy, or varied it this way or that in the slightest degree, I should like to know that [sic]. I say, therefore, it becomes purely a question, if I may say so, of acting in a sentimental huff . . .’

A sentimental huff? Surely this was not the mood in which Nehru had emphatically stated his ‘final argument’ for the severance of our connection with the Empire in 1936 by saying : ‘. . . there can be no common ground and if we remain within the imperialist fold, whatever our name or status, whatever outward SEMBLANCE OF POLITICAL POWER WE MIGHT HAVE, we remain cribbed and confined . . But there it was, on the record.

Nehru went further that day. In the same incredible speech in Parliament, he said: ‘Our association with the Commonwealth is rather remarkable ... It has given us certain advantages and it has not meant any disadvantages in the slightest degree . . .

‘I am perfectly clear in my mind,’ he added, ‘that in no sense at all does it [the Commonwealth] come in our way, in our policy, politically, economically, peace or war. If any honourable members seem to think that we have got some kind of common war or defence policies, allow me to assure them that they are completely mistaken. We have never discussed defence policies in the Commonwealth, either jointly or severally.’

It was like Charlie McCarthy, sitting on the ventriloquist’s lap and protesting, ‘I am no dummy. These strings are really not attached.'

A member of Parliament interrupted him. Then why did you allow the Commander-in-Chief to go to London?’ the M.P. asked.

To which Pandit Nehru replied: ‘Our Commander-in-Chief goes to London to take part sometimes in what are called “military exercises”. Perhaps the honourable member does not understand these things.’

But naturally. Not every Indian gets an opportunity of riding in Mountbatten’s jeep and learning about the intricacies of military affairs at the feet of the master.
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Re: Nehru: The Lotus Eater From Kashmir, by D.F. Karaka

Postby admin » Sun Mar 15, 2020 2:46 am

12. BIG TALK

The excitement of attaining freedom blinded us to Nehru’s inconsistencies. When a ring is worn out of sentiment, one does not look for the flaws in the stone.

But sentiment can wear thin when the mood of a people changes from one of romance to realism. I was supported in this belief when, on the occasion of the third birthday of The Current, we offered a prize of one thousand rupees1 [75 pounds.] for the best open letter to Nehru, and we received hundreds of letters from readers who took part in this competition. These letters, read together, gave me a picture of the disillusionment that Nehru had caused.


The winner of the competition was an advocate from Musiri in South India, by name R. Venkatachalam. A picture he sent us of himself, after he was declared the winner, revealed a very young man, attired, to our astonishment, in a Gandhi cap and khaddar clothes.

The young advocate in his open letter said: In the pages of history, your name will be marked not so much for your achievements, but for the vast gulf between your ideals and your practice. Your name will go down as that of a weak-kneed politician who had lofty idealism but not the strength or courage to put it into practice. You will be remembered as one who gave up his faith to make sure the security of his office.

‘Posterity will judge you, not so much by what you did, but by what you failed to do. To those that have heard your preachings and seen your writings, you are a grand paradox, a strange enigma . . .

'. .. For seven long years you have held undisputed, almost despotic sway over the dumb millions of India. You have had your pet planning commission. After Gandhiji and Patel, you have held the sceptre as the sole dictator of your party and government alike. You and your state governments have handled over eight thousand million rupees of public money year by year. You have and you had at all times thousands of crores of locked up money which you can call, if only you have the will. You have the backing of the masses in an abundant measure. To lift the down-trodden even a little, you have equipment and facilities which no leader ever had in any nation . . .


‘You have talked much of what Bharat1 [1. India.] has achieved after independence; partition problems, refugee rehabilitation, Kashmir, consolidation of states, neutral foreign policy and river valley schemes. This, in short, is the list of glorious achievements in which you have taken pride. To be proud is your strength, as well as your weakness. Take your claim; and be proud. There may be shades of criticism, but broadly the nation stands behind you in these.

‘But of what avail can your foreign policy and Kashmir be to the hungry millions? Are you out to protect three hundred million corpses? What have you done to tackle the growing poverty in the lower strata? You cry hoarsely “Produce more”; and you talk of big river valley schemes. What have you done to raise the purchasing power of the masses? Even if our industrial magnates flood the markets with all types of consumer goods, where will the Indian farmer find the money to pay the price? You know the average farmer, who has neither land nor shelter, and who gets work for barely four months a year. You have seen him starve; you have seen him without garment.

‘Your Bharat has three hundred million such farmers. There was a time when you mixed with them, and roused them by your slogans. You sounded the tocsin of the peasants’ struggle, and gave them pledges under your banner. You were, and I am afraid you are still the cherished idol of the hearts of millions of them. You were to them the one and only hope.

‘What a trust! And what a betrayal! In your adversity, their problems were first on your lips. But now while in power, other problems stare you in the face. It was their trust and their vote which put you in power. You have kicked the ladder by which you ascended the heights; and there you cling rather precariously.

‘Surely you know that without an equitable redistribution of wealth, and a rise in the purchasing power at the lower strata, mere increase in capitalist production can do no good. You also know that in various ways the government can use its lawful authority to reduce glaring inequalities, conscription of wealth, capital levy, estates duties, reorientation of the tax system, ceiling on land-holdings, redistribution of surplus land, profit-sharing in industries, pegging of dividends, etc. Seven long years were not enough for you to levy the simple estates duty . . .

‘Dear comrade, in spite of your honesty and integrity, you are impatient and intolerant. A mental depravation has come upon you. You are labouring under a false sense of intellectual monopoly. Sometimes a certain amount of egoism and haughtiness mar your grace. Remember that Bharat has hundreds of Nehrus who have not yet been voted to power . . .’1 [1. The Current, September 24th, 1952.]

The italics are mine. It was a significant observation. It indicated that circumstance more than ability had taken Nehru to the pinnacle of power and sustained him there. Others had not had the same chance.

There was another letter, from a Hindu girl from Kurla, on the outskirts of Bombay. She said: ‘Your photo on horse-back, torn out of a book, was the first picture of a man to adorn my table. I was an orphan, and being an orphan in India, and a girl at that, was not a very happy state of affairs in my country. I was then training as a nurse, so whenever I felt very depressed or tired, I’d look at you sitting on my table, so handsome and debonair, and I’d feel encouraged. Many pictures of you came and rested on it, but what always impressed me a great deal about you, was the way, the swagger, with which you wore that humble little white cap.

‘Holding you high in our hearts, we women felt a deep love and respect for that white badge of freedom and liberty. It stood for all that was clean and brave in our men. We placed you on a pedestal, very foolishly indeed, as a living symbol of emancipation in India; that cap was a promise of food for the hungry, shelter for the homeless, and comfort for the sick and poverty-stricken, and last but not least, equality for all.

‘Today my country stands on the very edge of revolution and ruin. There is extreme misery, poverty and ignorance everywhere. The great leaders of her destiny are still those who brandish the “white cap” but they have grown slack and lazy, having eaten of the fat of the land. For today the white cap stands for arrogance, deceit and lies; it shows treachery, vicious greed, and the slow degradation of a whole nation. Those who called themselves saviours, have become oppressors!


‘We, in our faith, believed that you started out to do your best, but what about your helpers? Can it ever be possible that in this vast country there were only these white-capped men who were fit to rule. Is it not a fallacy to think that all those others who for years have worked for their country systematically in humility, knew more about the working of a government than a few who were carried away in a moment of impulse, which was purely emotional, or who thought a few days in jail would qualify them to hold the lives of millions of people in the hollow of their hands. You, Mr Nehru, have placed us there.

Freda recalled:...

By and large, the jails, at least the ones we came into contact with, were not unduly oppressive, and often there were some enlightened Indian officers in charge who were nationalists at heart and did not give any hard time to the prisoners ....


Freda Bedi's wartime incarceration in Lahore Female Jail is the act of valour which forged her reputation as a nationalist icon. Thousands of Indian nationalists and leftists were detained for opposing India's participation in the Second World War. Vanishingly few of these were English and white skinned and so identified in the public mind with the coloniser rather than the colonised. Freda was, of course, both undeniably English and unequivocally on India's side. She was jailed as a deliberate act of protest and renunciation -- offering herself up for arrest under an initiative launched and overseen by Mahatma Gandhi, who personally approved all those who were to be his satyagrahis, or disciples of truth. She was the first, and perhaps the only, European woman to be part of this phase of Gandhi's nonviolent protest against the Imperial power. For her, as for so many others, jail strengthened political resolve and extended the network of nationalist sympathisers. It also provided a window on the lives and tribulations of those so often beyond the view of middle-class India -- the women who shared the prison grounds with her not out of political commitment but because of the desperate acts they had been pushed to by a profoundly unequal and patriarchal society. That, as much as the informal political meetings and study classes, was a part of Freda's education in jail.

War was declared in September 1939. The tensions within the Congress Socialist Party between communists and others were by now acute. But all agreed, initially at least, on the need to oppose the war -- the Congress because Britain's Viceroy in New Delhi had declared that India was at war with Germany without the agreement (or indeed seeking the agreement) of India's political leaders, and the communists because Moscow, in the wake of the Nazi-Soviet pact, had declared that this was an imperialist war. By the end of October 1939 more than 150 Punjabi politicians were in jail, and by the end of the following year that number had swelled to many hundreds. Punjab led the rest of India in the number of communists and socialists detained -- generally on the grounds of their anti-war and anti-recruitment activities.

B.P.L. Bedi was, by his own account, publishing anti-war literature and using his contacts in the rail unions to help get the leaflets circulated around the country. He was not among the early wave of arrests, but he knew that he was likely to be detained before long. That knock on the door came in early December 1940. 'I had just come from Lahore and the British Superintendent of police had arrived,' Bedi recalled. 'Soon after my servant told me that there seemed to be some peculiar movement of people round the bushes so I immediately sensed that the moment of my arrest had come. Within ten minutes of his announcing this, he arrived and in a very British way said, "I am afraid I have to arrest you.''' In an even more British manner, Bedi asked the police officer to sit down and have a cup of tea while he packed a blanket, some clothes and a few books. Bedi was at this time on the national executive of the Congress Socialist Party and his arrest under the Defence of India Act was front page news in the Tribune. It reported that as he was being driven away in the police car, 'Mrs Bedi raised loud shouts of "Inquilab Zindabad"' -- a communist slogan which best translates as 'Long Live the Revolution'.

Bedi was held briefly in the jail in the town of Montgomery (now Sahiwal), still in Punjab but some distance from Lahore, and then was sent more than 400 miles away to Deoli, a remote spot on the edge of the Thar desert in what is now Rajasthan. A Victorianera military base there had been turned into a detention camp -- a concentration camp, the communists complained -- for political detainees from across India. It had a long history of being used to lock-up 'undesirables', and continued to fulfil that role in later years. From 1942, the camp housed prisoners of war -- and in 1962, it was used to intern Indians of Chinese origin during a brief India-China border conflict. As soon as he reached Deoli, Bedi began to protest against his detention -- refusing to carry his bags into the camp as a statement, in his own words, that the 'revolutionaries' had arrived. 'At Deoli were nearly four-hundred persons, who were all Leftists ... From the moment we arrived we started planning to create more trouble and a hunger strike was on the agenda.'....

A couple of days later, she announced that she too intended to flout the wartime emergency regulations and was happy to take the consequences. The Tribune reported that she had sought Gandhi's permission to give herself up for arrest. 'Should Mahatma Gandhi's permission be secured, Mrs Bedi will be the first English lady to offer satyagraha in the civil disobedience campaign.' Freda regarded Gandhi's campaign as 'halting and incomplete' -- but it was at least action on a nationwide scale. 'There should have been a great, a magnificent up-surge of the nation. Gandhiji decreed otherwise, and chose his men with the greatest care. Only the few were to go to jail to protest for the many. It was to be a demonstration to the world of India's national right.'

At the end of January, Freda heard that Gandhi had agreed to her request -- she believed she was the fifty-seventh volunteer to be chosen as a satyagrahi in this stage of the civil disobedience campaign. This was Freda's boldest political act -- she was putting herself forward for arrest and imprisonment to protest against her native country's treatment of her adopted country. 'She said that she was born in England but had adopted India as her mother country,' the Tribune reported, 'and would wish to be known as an Indian woman.' It was also an impetuous move. She had a six-year-old son whose father had just been detained indefinitely, and rather than be around to offer support and reassurance, she decided that the political imperative was what mattered most. She admitted being torn about what to do. 'It was a terrible blow to lose B.P.L. and his cheery daily support in life's problems. And his mother, my son, the adopted boy Binder and myself were left alone in the huts. I didn't want to make things worse on the domestic side but on the other hand I felt that I should back up the nationalist movement in whatever humble way I could, even if it meant suffering some months in prison. I felt I could trust my mother-in-law to look after the boy and my brother-in-law to see that the family did not lack support at that time.' So the family arranged to move from the huts to Bedi's home village where they would be able to live comfortably with many members of the extended family there to help. In the carefully choreographed way of these protests, Freda wrote to the district magistrate in the town of Gurdaspur to tell him exactly when and where she intended to stage her act of civil disobedience. 'Mrs Freda Bedi left for Dera Baba Nanak,' the Tribune announced on its front page, 'where she will offer satyagraha on 21st [February] at 11 a.m.'

'So I packed up my little household, put that furniture with this friend, that with another, here my crockery and there my few loved possessions,' Freda wrote. 'I left Lahore station, in a welter of photographs and flower garlands. The women in the women's compartment were inquisitive ... "It is degrading that Indians should be treated like this," I said. "Somebody had to do something: we can't just all sit down and keep quiet about it." "But what does your husband say about it?" one matron asked. "He is in jail himself," I replied. "Ah ... " her eyes were turned in pity towards me, "now I understand." It was the wife following her husband. That was as it should be.'...

'We wrote a letter to the district magistrate,' Freda recalled, 'saying that we would break the law by asking the people not to support the military effort until India became democratic and that India must get her elected government first. But since we sent the letter, we effectively prevented ourselves from speaking because on the day we were supposed to speak we were naturally arrested before this happened.' Exactly what happened in the village that February morning is difficult to establish beyond doubt through the layers of valorous nationalist narrative and family folklore. Freda's own account is both the most straightforward and most credible. Her intention was to shout anti-war slogans in Punjabi in the village streets. She heard that the local inspector had summoned an English officer from Amritsar, thinking it best to have an Englishman to hand when an Englishwoman was placed under arrest. 'At eight-thirty they arrived. In the centre was the local Inspector with a beard. He came forward politely, "regretting that it is my duty but I must arrest you." The turbanned police-officer on his left had a half-smile. To the right was the European Inspector from Amritsar in an unwieldy topee [hat]. He was surprisingly small and had a walrus moustache. He looked like Old Bill: I wanted to laugh, and the corners of my mouth twitched. "Yes, I am quite ready. Take me along with you.'"

The little procession started towards the Police Station winding its way back through narrow brick-paved gulleys of the village. The shopkeepers came to the door of their shops, with their hands folded in greeting. The women crowded on the flat roofs to see us go, and sighed in the doorways. A few young men and boys began to attach themselves to the little group and shouted wildly 'Freedom for India. Long live Gandhiji. Long live Jawaharlal Nehru. Long live Comrade Bedi. Release the detenues.' We reached the elegant grey Amritsar car parked under the peepul tree near the only pucca road. Garlands were thrown over the radiator of the car, through the windows. They were removed immediately: 'garlands not allowed'.


At the village police station, Freda was questioned by the police officer she had nicknamed Old Bill, who she later discovered had 'Irish blood and a kind heart' -- though the interrogation was limited to questions along the lines of 'What colour would you call your hair?' Under the wartime regulations, trials under the Defence of India Act could be held straightaway and without any legal formality or indeed representation. Freda was taken from the police station to the dak bungalow, the guest house where visiting officials stayed, and that's where her trial took place that same morning:

It was finished in fifteen minutes. The man on the other side of the table was quite young still, and looked as though he had been to Oxford. His face was red.

'I find this as unpleasant as you do,' he murmured.

'Don't worry. I don't find it unpleasant at all.'

'Do you want the privileges granted to an Englishwoman?'

'Treat me as an Indian woman and I shall be quite content.'


... The room was deserted but there was a noise, and two Congressmen walked in. They had been allowed at the last minute to attend the 'public trial'. They carried a round shining brass tray filled with flowers and sweetmeats.

Wait until you have heard my judgment, perhaps you will not want to give them then.'

Six months Rigorous Imprisonment.


'She cannot have the garlands. Give her one or two of the sweets.'


Freda had expected the jail sentence, but not the specification of rigorous imprisonment. 'Hard labour was the point,' she said many years later, 'and none of the Indians arrested got hard labour in the Punjab except myself. None of the women at least. Whether it was the ignorance of the young civil servant, Englishman, who gave the sentence, very regretfully and with many apologies .... Or whether it was that they wanted to make an example of me because I was the first, maybe, western woman to offer satyagraha at that time.' Once the sentence was pronounced, Freda was put back in the car which was mobbed by well-wishers, many of them members of the Bedi clan, as it set off to Lahore jail.

News of Freda Bedi's arrest and sentence once again made the front page of the Tribune, complete with a posed portrait photograph. The following day's paper offered a fuller account of her arrest and sentence -- which emphasised the level of local interest in and support for her action, reporting that she was 'profusely garlanded by the public' after sentence was passed in a trial in which she had refused to participate. The Reuters news agency eventually picked up the story -- and a few weeks after the event, the jailing of 'the first Englishwoman to join Mr Gandhi's passive resistance movement' made front page news back in Freda's home city with the headline: 'Derby Wife of Indian Sentenced'. Freda of course regarded herself as Indian but her act of protest gained attention and achieved impact precisely because she was not Indian. It's a paradox which didn't greatly perturb her. She seems to have managed to negotiate these conflicts of identity without a lot of soul-searching. However much she might seek to forsake the special status accorded in colonial India to those with white skins, it was an indelible aspect of her life there. Inspector Price, the moustachioed Irishman, had been sent from Amritsar to Dera Baba Nanak to be present at Freda's arrest because it felt inappropriate for a white woman to be detained simply by Indian policemen....

Freda wrote luminously about her time behind the mud walls of Lahore's female jail (after her release, she and a fellow prisoner persuaded the authorities to rename it, with greater verbal precision, as Lahore women's jail). Within days of her release, she began a short series 'From a Jail Diary' in the Tribune, concerned particularly with the 'criminal' prisoners -- she was a 'political' -- she met there. This developed into a much more ambitious account of her time behind bars -- a day-by-day jail diary which is the spine of her book Behind the Mud Walls....

'The mud road to the "Female Jail" was long and dusty,' Freda wrote. 'The gates looked like the Lion House at the Zoo.'

The gates opened. We went in. They shut. It was cool like a cellar in the entrance room. Beyond was a second door: a sheet of solid iron like a safe. To the right the Deputy Superintendent's room. I was motioned towards the door. It was bare and depressing. A cold stare came from the aging woman in a drab frock on the other side of the table.

'What is her crime?'

'Political ... Six Months Rigorous Imprisonment,' said 'Old Bill'. After a few minutes, he turned and left.

The world beyond the barred gate seemed a long way away.

'Give over all your jewellery and money,' said the Deputy Superintendent.

'I haven't got any jewellery.'

She pointed to my left hand.

'That is my wedding ring.'

'It is also counted as jewellery,' she replied.

I looked at my wedding ring. It had never left my hand since that day in Oxford when Bedi put it on. Reluctantly, I used my last weapon.

'I am an A Class prisoner. Are you within your rights in taking it away?'

... There was a shuffling sound, a sort of subdued commotion, on the other side of the inner iron door. I could see an eye glittering through the peep-hole. Shouts of 'Gandhiji ki Jai' [Long live Gandhi] and lots of 'Zindabads'. It seems the 'politicals' had found out that I had arrived.


The small group of political prisoners in the women's jail banded together: on Freda's first evening 'behind the mud walls', they spun together, 'our common badge and discipline as satyagrahis'. On one occasion they staged a twenty-hour spinning relay -- Freda declared herself 'not very thrilled at the idea, but doing something has got its moral exhilarations ... I took my turn at 4.30 a.m.' There was also collective reading of Hindu scriptures and talks, meetings and education sessions. The camaraderie among these women activists was intense and nourishing. They were responsible for their own cooking, and the jail regime was sufficiently relaxed to allow them to meet fairly freely, staging informal political gatherings and on one occasion having a picnic and dance in the prison grounds.

Freda practised yoga in the mornings. 'I am doing them with no "spiritual" intent, only to keep healthy in the roasting months ahead of me. Find they are simple, rhythmical, and invigorating.' She read alone from Hindu religious writings and from novels by Aldous Huxley and John Steinbeck -- 'feel the lack of political books,' she noted, 'we forget how dependent we are on them.' She described herself on entering the jail as a professor of English and college connections sometimes resurfaced in surprising ways. 'The new Deputy Superintendent came to-day,' Freda wrote in her diary. 'It seems she was one of my old B.A. pupils. She is touched that I am here. I feel amused.'


Alongside the fairly unexacting routine, for the political prisoners at least, was the hardship of the raging summer heat which turned the very basic sanitary facilities into a 'horrible' ordeal....

As a team they worked well, all were leftists as well as admirers of Gandhi, and they managed to hold a May Day meeting inside the prison:

A few words from me on its significance. Attari Devi sang 'Inquilab Zindabad'; Raghbir Kaur spoke in Punjabi on the peasant and the worker; Aruna a little on Lenin and the significance of the Russian revolution. A funny rambling affair, but we did manage to celebrate it....


Concern about the plight of her husband was a constant preoccupation -- she was anxious about reports of a hunger strike at the much more spartan and remote Deoli camp and worried when she didn't hear from him for weeks on end. 'In his confinement, he must be thinking of me, and indeed I have felt him almost physically with me these last stirring days,' she wrote on the second day of her detention. The occasional telegram from Bedi gave her a big boost. One came on Ranga's seventh birthday -- 'Congrats for Bunny Heart'. 'Such a silly telegram and so nice to get it.' Freda missed her son too and was delighted when permission was given for him to spend a few days with her, sharing her bed....

Freda shared a cell with 'two very lovely women of the old type', as she described them -- both were brahmins and vegetarians as well as political campaigners. She gave them English lessons, and in return was helped in her Hindi. 'Both Lakshmi and Savitri remain for me an example of beautiful Indian womanhood: self-sacrificing, simple, cheerful. Naturally pure. And it was a great privilege to spend three months sharing a room with them. I shall never forget it. They both excelled in simple Indian cookery, making maize cakes and vegetables, and insisted on doing this little service for me.
And I found time in the early mornings to meditate, at dawn under the trees in the jail compound, before my labour started -- which took the form of gardening.'

She was fortunate that her hard labour consisted of running the prison gardens
-- a much more congenial option than the laundry or picking ropes or other punishment labour. 'It's still delirious with young leaves and the scent of orange blossom, the cooing of doves, the screech of parrots, an early owl hooting,' she wrote in mid-March. In a replication inside jail of the class hierarchy outside, she was put in charge of a group of 'criminal' prisoners in tending to the flowers and vegetables in the small prison grounds. Freda liked the work, which brought to mind the huts in Model Town, and she relished the opportunity to get to know the other inmates and something of the circumstances that led to their jailing....

In mid-May 1941, word began to circulate in the jail that some of the women were to be released, because of a ruling that an intention to challenge the wartime regulations was not a sufficient basis for conviction. If activists had not publicly challenged India's involvement in the war, then they had not broken the law. The rumours turned out to be true. In her entry for 24 May 1941, Freda wrote:

My last day in jail. Got up and went into the garden very early; did my exercises. Packed, with some difficulty, my little household. All went and had a breakfast of pooris and vegetables and halwa with the Delhi people in Aruna's tiny courtyard opposite the cell. We sat on mats on a white sheet with the thalis [plates] in front of us. The Superintendent arrived half way and sat talking to us. There was an atmosphere of regret: we were parting, after so long together, in an intimacy that only jail life gives. Who knows which of us will meet again, have the same talks.23


After a little over three months in detention, Freda emerged from behind the mud walls. A large number of male political detainees were being released in Lahore on the same day, and for the same reason: in all, fifty-three satyagrahis emerged from Lahore jails, thirteen of them women.24 The local Congress party wanted Freda and other women set free to go to the men's borstal and journey with them to a big rally at the Bradlaugh Hall. She didn't feel like a big fuss, so she made her excuses, phoned and sent telegrams to give word of her release, and then went to Fateh Chand College: 'the girls crowded round me like bees: we were so happy to see each other again.'

A few days later, Freda travelled to Dera Baba Nanak, where Bhabooji had been presiding over the family. The local Congress committee, led by one of her husband's relatives, organised a grand procession which welcomed Freda at the railway station and paraded her across the village.25 'A terrific fuss, including a brass band and innumerable garlands to welcome me,' Freda recorded....

During the procession, Freda addressed the crowd: she urged them to wear homespun cloth, join the Congress and appealed to Hindus and Muslims to join together to achieve India's freedom. Immediately on her release, Freda rang Mian Iftikharuddin, a friend, fellow leftist and president of the Punjab Provincial Congress Committee. She was seeking political instructions. She told him that she was 'ready to do whatever the Congress wanted me to do. He said I should first go and interview Bedi, and see him on my return.' So Freda planned a journey to visit her husband at the Deoli camp, and decided to take seven-year-old Ranga with her.

Ranga's recollection is that Freda had to fight for permission to make a family visit to Deoli, and that they made the trip 'in the blistering heat of June' by third-class train, buses and then a lengthy walk.

The camp was run and administered by the army, not the police, and they had no information regarding our visit or the permissions granted. There was perceptible discomfort among the British junior officers in the guardroom, caused by Ooggee being British. They were certainly overawed by her being in a khadi [homespun] salwar kameez and the fact that she was the wife of a dangerous political criminal. They were polite, made us comfortable under a fan, and got some tea and nice biscuits. A short while later, we were escorted to the office of the commandant, a strapping British colonial. The commandant's discomfiture was greater than that of his juniors, he could not permit the visit without confirmation from the local headquarters.


Freda's skin colour worked to her advantage. She and Ranga were put up in a room set aside for senior officers on inspection visits; she declined an invitation to dine in the officers' mess. The visit to Bedi the following day didn't happen -- Ranga's memory is that his father and other political detainees were on hunger strike, and an attempt to force feed Bedi ended with him grabbing the medical officer and dislocating his shoulder. '"Didn't you know he holds the all-India hammer throw record and was a wrestler in his college days?'" Ranga recalls his mother telling the camp commandant when she was informed why the visit wouldn't be possible.

The following day, a compromise was reached -- Bedi agreed to call off his hunger strike, and Freda and Ranga were given exceptional permission to visit the detainee, still weak but adamant that he would not use a wheelchair, in his room....

They had ninety minutes with Bedi. All their books and gifts were seized for inspection. The camp provided a truck to drop Freda and Ranga at the main road, where they could catch a bus. She thanked the commandant, and left a small packet of raisins -- a welcome gift in wartime -- for the injured medical officer.

Freda went back to teaching at Fateh Chand College. She was allowed to live in at the college and -- an even bigger concession -- to bring Ranga to live with her....

The notoriety that Freda had attained, both by her own activism and time in jail and her marriage to a prominent communist, made her a target for police surveillance. Ranga's recollection is that plainclothes police officers came regularly to the college and questioned staff about what his mother was up to....

This pattern of intimidation did not prevent her recommencing writing for the papers. Within days of her release, she resumed writing for the Tribune, for which she once more became a regular contributor. [urlxhttp://survivorbb.rapeutation.com/viewtopic.php?f=22&t=4044]She commented, in a more nuanced manner than a card-carrying communist would, about the Soviet Union.[/url] 'Let us not think of Russia as a paradise,' she wrote as part of a 'Spotlight on Russia' feature in the Tribune. 'It had the debris of the past to clear away. It worked with ordinary human beings, and human beings make mistakes. Russia has made mistakes. Some she has admitted to and some she has not....

A few weeks after Freda emerged from Lahore jail, the war took a turn which had direct repercussions for both her and her husband. Hitler launched Operation Barbarossa in June 1941 and attacked the Soviet Union, his erstwhile ally. Communist parties which had already carried out one contortion when the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact became public knowledge and changed overnight from describing the conflict as a war against fascism to an imperialist war were again wrong-footed. The British party quickly fell in line with Moscow and came to hail a people's war which needed to be prosecuted zealously, not least to protect Soviet communism from the Nazi aggressor....

Towards the close of 1941, a Friends of the Soviet Union association was established in Calcutta. Freda Bedi promptly took to the platform to endorse the campaign; her earlier misgivings about aspects of Soviet policy were set aside. 'The spirit that animates Russia in her magnificent resistance to Nazi barbarism will never die,' she told a students' conference at Lahore's Bradlaugh Hall at the end of November. She read a telegram from Bedi sent from Deoli, and passed by the censors there so in a sense approved by the British authorities: "'Convey students glowing greetings towards peace and progress through vigorously functioning Punjab Friends of Soviet.''' Within weeks, the new association had established a regional organisation in Punjab and Freda became the provincial organiser....The British communist intellectual Victor Kiernan was in Lahore at this time and regarded Freda highly, considering that she was 'emerging as one of the most effective of a new generation of Party leaders'....

Victor Kiernan's comment prompts the question of whether Freda Bedi ever held a [Communist] party card. If she did, that was more out of deference to her husband than devotion to the party. To judge from Bedi's own comments, it seems she was member of the CPI, though briefly.

No meeting was held in Lahore those days where Bedi did not speak or Freda Bedi did not speak....


'Our platform is non-party,' Freda insisted, not entirely convincingly, when seeking support for the initial conference of the Punjab section of the Friends of the Soviet Union, 'and the object of the organisation is to draw together all those who sympathise with the Soviets in their epic struggle against the Nazi hordes, whether on cultural, political or humanitarian ground.' On another occasion she spoke of the Second World War as an 'international civil war' and asserted that 'it is to Russia that the poor and neglected of the world look'.36 She spoke widely, warning that India would have 'greater troubles' if Japan triumphed while also raising money for medical supplies for the Soviet Union and -- as a civil liberties activist -- continuing to campaign for the release of political detainees....

The communists had already made a determined attempt to take control of the Congress Socialist Party at its conference in Lahore in April 1938. Bedi's own account was that, in Punjab at least, there was no real need for the party to capture the provincial CSP, because most of its members had been won over to communism. He also details, however, how the CPI acted as a caucus within the wider party -- establishing its own line on issues of policy and organisation and distributing secret circulars not to be shared with those with non-communists in the CSP.37

It was at Deoli that Bedi's allegiance to the CPI deepened. He entered the camp as a party sympathiser; he left it as a party apparatchik. By his own account, he was an important figure in the excited debates about communist strategy which helped wile away the long hours in the barracks. And he aligned himself with the hardliners in the party, such as B.T. Ranadive, and urged loyalty to Stalin and active support for the defence of the Soviet Union.

With communists now one of the few organised political groups in India to support the allied war effort, there was little purpose in keeping so many of their leading cadres locked up. A handful of Punjabi communist leaders were released in April 1942 -- even before the ban on the CPI was lifted. Bedi appears to have been part of the group. There were extenuating personal circumstance. Ranga was ill with a prolonged bout of typhoid which led to unsightly abscesses, and Freda strenuously sought her husband's release on compassionate parole.

By early May 1942, B.P.L. was back in Lahore. He was guest of honour at a function arranged by 'prominent citizens' where he thanked the people of Lahore and all those 'who had helped detenus [sic] by keeping up the agitation for release and rendered other help.'38 Far from being chastened by his sixteen months in detention, he was back on the podium and even more militant than before. He presided over an 'anti-Japanese Day' meeting in Lahore and stormed that 'guerilla bands should be formed in the Punjab, especially among the rural area for the protection of their hearths and homes. Mr Bedi declared that he would enrol ten lakhs of guerillas in the Punjab.'...

Freda Bedi is a fair-haired English girl whom Bedi had met and married when both were students at Oxford. She had become deeply interested in the welfare of her adopted country, learned the language, and wore the long full pajama like dress of Kashmiri women. She had her own jail record -- acquired for her participation in the freedom movement -- which is the proud badge of every patriotic Indian who has worked for independence.


-- The Lives of Freda: The Political, Spiritual and Personal Journeys of Freda Bedi, by Andrew Whitehead


‘There have been many of those around you who did not jump about making an exhibition of themselves, but worked quietly and patiently. There were doctors, professors, government officials, men and women who had not waited for the symbol of the cap, but had started building up the nation; they had poured their wealth on building schools, colleges, hospitals, homes for the poor, the blind, the mental. They were more fit in every way to know what their country needed. But behind you came those white-clad ghosts, to whom in our blindness we have given authority . . .

‘Millions of the poor who cower under fragile roofs of rags, leaves and straw, are still building for themselves hovels which dissolve in water and break in a strong wind. Thousands of pavement dwellers still occupy our great cities, railways stations, under bridges and trees. Who cares for them, Mr Nehru? You are far up there in your dizzy heights, the air is so rarified there, that the smell of the poor cannot reach. Their cries cannot be heard . . .

So it was through the countless letters and the hundreds and thousands of words through which I waded -- the same sorrowful note of disappointment, the same bitterness and disillusionment.


Yet another letter from a young man from Nehru’s home town, Allahabad, caught my eye. It was not because of any intrinsic merit in the writing that I noticed it, but rather because of the intensity of the young man’s frustration and his struggle to express it in words. This man, also a Hindu, said: ‘The whole structure of the country is riddled with half-baked plans, half-baked experts, hangers-on, lick-spittles and sycophants. The creative energy of youth has been found fit only to be frittered away in seeking a bare sustenance, in frustration and bitterness. You alone of all the leaders had the necessary vision and enthusiasm which lead to great things. You alone commanded their loyalty, admiration and respect. With the correct lead from you, they would have toiled mightily to build a new India. This was denied them. In the strange and rarified atmosphere of Delhi, even you are lost to them. It is very, very frustrating to be young.’

This is what the people were saying now, so different from what they used to say about him in the old days. It was the record, always the record, which was the cause of his undoing. The people were getting a little tired of applauding his bombastic pronouncements, however well-meaning they may have been when he made them, for these were never followed up by any action whatsoever.

‘I will hang every black-marketeer from the nearest tree,’ Nehru had said in one of his dramatic moments, but to date there has been no single instance of substantial punitive action taken against any of the notorious black-marketeers in our country. Far from hanging them from the nearest tree, these anti-social elements have periodically been seen as guests of honour at functions of the very government which was to have hanged them. Far from being discouraged in our national social life, these men were almost at a premium.

The people’s disillusionment was complete when one day the Finance Minister announced a strange offer to the tax evaders, whereby an official compromise with the black-marketeers was proposed. According to it, whoever voluntarily disclosed his ill-gotten gains on which tax had not been paid, would be allowed, under the new scheme, to convert his black money into white on the following incredible terms: the government would confiscate the first third; the second third would have to be invested in government bonds, but it would remain the property of the black-marketeer and be part of his legally recognised holdings. The black-marketeer could do what he liked with the third third, all of which would now become completely white. Those who availed themselves of this offer were to have no further action taken against them. The original crime was to be condoned. The taint on black money was removable at a slight charge: 33-1/3 per cent. Soon there were no black-marketeers. All were white-washed into clean, honest citizens.
The trees in the garden of freedom withered for want of someone to hang from their branches. The disillusionment of honest men was complete.

Any other leader in any other democratic country of the world would have been dethroned from power for such a shady transaction. But this did not happen and is not likely to happen to Jawaharlal Nehru. It makes one ask the question: What is this inexplicable mesmeric power he still has over the people which makes them blind to all he does?
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Re: Nehru: The Lotus Eater From Kashmir, by D.F. Karaka

Postby admin » Sun Mar 15, 2020 2:47 am

13. SPELLBOUND

It is a strange hold Nehru has over the people of India. It is a hold which is as fascinating as it is difficult to understand. It defies logic, but it is there, unquestionably, surely and firmly. Perhaps it is one of those tricks of fate which go to make a man of destiny what he is despite himself. Perhaps it could be explained away by reckoning the planetary position at the time of his birth. Other than by an explanation on the astral plane, I find it difficult to understand the continuance of his unchallenged leadership in our country, which is beyond the ken of logic or reason.

Repeatedly I have asked some of his severest critics, even former colleagues of his in the government and in the Congress party, who have fallen out with him, how it was that they who so often had right on their side had eventually to drop out of power in the government or the party while Nehru continued to stay on without so much as a blot on his escutcheon. The answer has been invariably the same -- a helpless shrug of the shoulders and uplifted hands. No one has ever dared to match his strength with Jawaharlal Nehru, for that would be foolish, if not suicidal. You cannot win against Nehru, they have all said, for eventually the verdict will be based not on reason, but on emotion and a revival of that sentiment which, though it periodically dies down, Nehru is always able to whip up whenever the critical moment comes.

I saw this for myself during the last general elections, the first of their kind in free India. The Congress party, which was Nehru’s party, had been in power since independence and even a little before that, with the consent of the British. On the eve of the elections in 1951, I felt there would be a landslide of public opinion against the Congress.

I remember analysing the situation and expressing my fears to an important foreign diplomat in an informal interview I had with him soon after he took over office.
The situation appeared very clear to me even then, for I could see a disintegration setting in at the provincial level and moving up to the top. My analysis was that the Congress would not break at the centre. At the centre there was a solid block of unity, consisting of the topmost leaders both of the Congress and the country, Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Patel, Dr Rajendra Prasad, Mr Rajagopalachari, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, names which were household words in India and represented the old guard which had spearheaded our fight for freedom.

The foreign diplomatic missions, which had only just taken up residence in New Delhi, were inclined to judge the political situation in the country from the seemingly healthy state of affairs in the capital, but that was not where the rot was setting in. They were dazzled by the Prime Minister’s brilliance at diplomatic parties and receptions, and equated Nehru to the Congress party as a whole. Most of them had read his autobiography; but now they were meeting the leading character of that book in person -- the colourful, dashing young liberator of India, the little symbolically-brown man who, with sheer rhetoric, was going to push all the whites out of Asia. Little did these well-meaning diplomats, who fussed around the new Indian court, know that the character in the book was fast becoming fictitious.

Few of these new diplomats had seen the real India of famished men and women, of dying cattle, of floods and famines, of poverty, hunger, squalor, dirt and disease. To them India was what they saw of it in the capital city, with fashionable clubs and hotels crowded with contractors, ‘admin’ officers and the new glamour boys of the services, the Ministers in great big cars, their deputies, their secretaries, and who could not fail to see the foreign ‘experts’ who were to teach us how to build the new India. All this presented a facade of a secure and stable government. The Congress appeared as steady as the rock of Gibraltar. It was, however, the various branches of this nation-wide organization which were decaying at their extension points. It was here that you could see the scramble for power in its most sordid forms, accompanied by corruption, nepotism and graft, and all the permutations and combinations of these diabolical traits in man.

The first note of warning had come at the end of 1947, when a veteran Congressman from Andhra in a letter to Mahatma Gandhi observed: ‘The situation is growing more intolerable every day. The people have begun to say that the British government was much better. They are even cursing the Congress.’
As the year turned, Mahatma Gandhi met with his tragic death, and a little later the aged writer of the letter also passed away. But the disillusionment remained; it stayed on in India long after that. It is still here.

The Congress disintegrated as I had said it would, and when I met the diplomat again, I reminded him about this little forecast which, contrary to popular belief, had proved remarkably true.

This was the data and the analysis which I had before me as the elections drew near, and, as a result, I could come to no other logical conclusion than that at the elections itself the Congress would lose power in some of the important states of the Union, chiefly Bombay and West Bengal.

That was all one could have wished for, just a break in this monopoly of power, so that some healthy opposition could be built up in our country, which would make the Congress-dominated governments stand up and take notice, and act as a democratic check on them.

My information about West Bengal was secondhand, but in my home state of Bombay, I was sure of my facts. I was sure that the people had made up their minds to reject the leadership of the Congress in our state, if only as a token protest. All this appeared a cinch on paper, and I had mentally gone past the stage of the elections and was almost working out the personnel of the new government of Bombay as I visualised it after the elections.

There was one factor I had miscalculated; and that was Nehru.


In the early campaigning stages he stayed aloof from the pre-election scuffle. Perhaps he did not think his presence on the scene was so necessary. Gradually it transpired that the prospects of the Congress party were not as rosy as most people believed; Sardar Patel, the party boss, was dead, and a queer fossilised old man presided over the Congress. Babu Purshottamdas Tandon was a revivalist; the period he wanted to revive was somewhat antediluvian. He was an odd character by any standards, a man who would not wear shoes because of the hurt it might cause the animal from which the leather came! An appeal to the electorate under such a leadership might be misunderstood, it was thought, and shrewd judges of the political situation prevailed upon Nehru to assume control of the party organisation. Tandon gracefully and tactfully handed the party over to Jawaharlal Nehru.

The Congress was now Nehru; the government was Nehru. It was reasonable to believe the country would be Nehru also.

What little opposition there was in the country, other than the communists, dissipated its force in an effort which was far too ambitious. Instead of denting the broad Congress front at a few vulnerable and strategic points, the socialists made the mistake of making an all-out bid for power, which met with dismal failure.

The Congress was swept into power everywhere. But these sweeping victories in state after state were not party victories; they represented the personal triumph of one man, Jawaharlal Nehru.

I saw how this happened.
Nehru had come to Bombay, a city disillusioned with its Congress ministry in power because of its irksome legislation, the most unpopular of which was prohibition. He spoke here, there, everywhere. What I recollect is the cumulative effect, not all, of the actual speech he made on the sands at Chowpatty, the same forum which Gandhi and Tilak had used in the days gone by, where two hundred thousand people had gathered to hear him that evening. The crowds were so large, they stood in the sea; there, soaking in the water, they heard him in utter silence.

'Bhai-o! Behn-o'1 [1. Brothers! Sisters!] Nehru opened after the initial joining of his hands in respectful namaskar.2 [2. Indian salutation.] There was an instant affinity between the speaker and his vast audience, as in the days of yore.

He had come to Bombay after a long time, he told them.

Many years.

He paused and looked at them with that wistful look he specialises in. In that pause, ominous for his political opponents, a thousand votes must have swung in his favour.

Yes, he felt a personal attachment to this city.

Pause.

Two thousand votes.

It was like coming back home.

Pause.

Five thousand votes.

In Bombay he had passed some of the happiest moments of his life. Yes, the happiest.

Five thousand, five hundred votes.

He remembered those great moments so vividly. And some of the saddest moments too - the sad, hard days of the struggle.

Ten thousand votes for the Congress.

Pause. ‘By looking at the people who have struggled together with me in the fight for freedom, I derive inspiration and strength,’ he said.

The affinity was complete.

Twenty thousand votes!

Pause.

A deep, sorrowful, soulful look in the fading twilight hour; with the air pregnant with emotion and the waters of the bay strangely still at that breath-taking moment. He told the gathering that he had taken upon himself the role of a mendicant beggar. Amidst cheers, he said: ‘If at all I am a beggar, I am begging for your love, your affection and your enlightened co-operation in solving the problems which face the country.’1 [1. November 24th, 1951.]

Thirty thousand votes were sure for Nehru.


Pause.

A stir in the audience. A tear on the face of the man or woman sitting on the beach or standing on the shore. Two tears, a sari2 [2. Garment which the women wear.]-end wiping them gently off a woman’s face. She would give her vote to Nehru no matter what anyone else said.

Memories of Gandhi came back to the people -- the days when Nehru stood beside the Mahatma. Nehru was Gandhi’s young and handsome disciple, the man he left to us as his political heir.

Fifty thousand votes! a hundred thousand! two hundred thousand!


By next morning, when the newspapers carried the report of his speeches, there was not much doubt left as to the way the great majority of the two million seven hundred thousand people who constituted the population of Bombay’s adult franchise would cast its vote; Nehru had swept the city off its feet. It became difficult to compete with such a dynamic force with any argument. No one can succeed in anything against such an onrush of emotion.

But one thing bothered Nehru that day. His former colleague in the cabinet, Dr Ambedkar, the Harijan1 [1. Literally God’s own child, formerly referred to as ‘untouchable’.] leader who had resigned from office, had attacked Nehru for his foreign policy and for his policy towards the Harijans.


That shook Nehru. He said: ‘That Dr Ambedkar, who now appears to be completely opposed to the nation’s foreign policy, should have tolerated it while he remained in the government for nearly four years, seems utterly strange. I am completely amazed by such an attitude on the part of Dr Ambedkar, who no sooner has left the government that he has started a campaign of hatred and vilification against the government and the Congress.’

Criticism of foreign policy is a sore point with Pandit Nehru. It is his own creation, unique. ‘I bear a special responsibility for the country’s foreign policy,’ he has repeatedly said. That makes criticism of foreign policy a direct personal attack on Nehru, which he resents. No disparaging remarks can be made about it. One either has to applaud it or grin and bear it. Everything he does on this score has the personal ‘chop’2 [2. Colloquialism for ‘stamp’.] of Jawaharlal Nehru. Perhaps this explains why, in the early days, official reports and letters to the Foreign Minister were said to have begun informally in the ‘Dear Bhai'3 [3. Brother.] vein. It was as if Ambassador Duff Cooper (now Lord Norwich), writing officially to Foreign Minister Anthony Eden, should begin the diplomatic note with ‘Hello, old chap,’ or some such endearing greeting.

Nehru is confident that the whole world will have to adopt his foreign policy one day, despite all the atom and hydrogen bombs which have yet to be exploded. Yet periodically he goes to Parliament, to the Congress party, even to the dumb-driven people, to collect votes of confidence on this strange, dreamy Utopian foreign policy of his.

At Chowpatty on that day, after his emotional outburst, he was naturally repeatedly cheered when he discussed foreign affairs. What else would you expect from a gathering of two hundred thousand to whom Nehru had said, ‘If one took the trouble of visiting foreign countries, one would realise the appreciation with which India’s foreign policy was regarded’? It did not matter to Nehru that not many of the applauding crowd had the intelligence to understand the words ‘foreign policy’, fewer still could appreciate their full implications, and, with the possible exception of a handful, no one would ever have an opportunity of visiting foreign countries to check on the Prime Minister’s claim. His word was the last on the subject. No one could challenge him from that audience, and if anyone had done so, the policemen would have removed the poor foolhardy heckler for disturbing the speaker, if the mob had not set on him before then.

So Nehru’s statement not only remained unchallenged, but it was also applauded. The applause was enough; it was sustaining. But what I fail to understand is why, when he is so sure of his foreign policy, he constantly needs to be reassured about it. Is this just lip-service to democracy?
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Re: Nehru: The Lotus Eater From Kashmir, by D.F. Karaka

Postby admin » Sun Mar 15, 2020 2:47 am

14. IMPERIOUS

It is distasteful for an Indian to break an image of his own creation. More so in my case, when I bear in mind the impressionable days when Nehru was the lodestar for us young men to follow. First the father, Motilal, the constitutionalist, with his smooth, lucid speeches in the Legislative Assembly, as it was then called, convincing us of the need to recognise the germ of self-respect which is in us all, and then the son, Jawahar, the young, ardent ‘revolutionary’ with courage in his heart and fire in his speech, spurring us to the ramparts for the great fight which was on. Gandhi was the spirit, the young Jawahar was the enthusiasm which urged us on. Of the two, Nehru was often nearer to us, for he spoke a language which we could more easily understand. We felt we were growing up with him; he was one of us.

I remember, a little after I had returned from Oxford, calling on him on a few occasions, although I am rather hazy about the sequence of these calls. There was a brief meeting in Bombay when he was very rushed; he was growing impatient with the British and revealed a frustration which was strangling his free spirit. I saw him again in a different mood in Allahabad. I was passing through his home town, where he was resting after a spell in jail. He was reading a book in the quiet of the afternoon in the living-room of a trim, north Indian bungalow. He gave me a cup of tea, I remember, and he spoke to me calmly, kindly, gently. There was a sad, hungry look in his eyes, but he was at peace with himself and the world. I once also saw him for a few moments in London. He was on a tour of Europe, accompanied by his quiet, unassuming daughter, Indira, his sole companion now. These were just fleeting glances I had of him, snatches from his overcrowded life. But in reality I was closer to him than he knew. I followed every move he made, watched every turn of mood, read much of what he wrote and said. I absorbed him until he became a part of me; I looked upon him as a symbol of what I thought an Indian should be.

Elsewhere I had seen him often, but not alone. I had watched him close and from afar, at public meetings and private parties. That one knew him was not so important as the fact that he in turn knew of us too. That was important -- the recognition. In turn I did my part; for with what gifts I had, and opportunity, I interpreted him as best I could to yet another generation that was growing up around me and to people all over the wide world over which, during the years, I roamed. That I was thought worthy of his trust meant much to me when I left for Chungking and carried a brief note of recommendation to the Chinese, ‘our valiant neighbours’ as he called them then. Nehru’s little note counted for more than all the official crested stationery I carried with me to that battered city, to which I was sent as a press correspondent and a commentator over the tiny slice of ether, Radio Chungking. It flattered my ego to see the Chinese nudge each other as they shuffled my name around and turned it out in Chinese as ‘Ko La-ka’, and then in discreet whispers, with raised eyebrows, murmuring to each other that which I imagined was ‘recommended by Nehru’. That was the hallmark. They felt they could speak to me without reserve after such a recommendation.

On my side there has been no faltering of personal regard. In spite of the various brushes with his minions, the harassment and provocation they have caused, resulting in frequent deprivations of my rights as an individual and an editor, I still keep the personal feeling detached from the professional. But Nehru does not. He can never forget little things between himself and the people who have differed from him on large, fundamental issues. Often I am told he is too big a man to be responsible for some of the small things that are attributed to him, but from personal experience I am reluctantly compelled to draw a different conclusion. Nehru’s weakness is that his irritations are not skin deep; they go deeper and they persist.

The result is somewhat sad to watch; a highly explosive temperament, easily aroused, now with more frequency than before; nerves that are frayed, almost shattered; a marked lack of self-composure, little self-control and less balance.

He would never make a good judge, for he is in the habit of passing judgment in favour of whomsoever reaches his ears first. Loyalty and personal attachment count with him more than the facts of the case. It is said that often at a cabinet meeting they would argue a point and thrash it out and he would be persuaded to take a decision on it one way or the other, but a few days later he would discuss the same point with one or another of his loyal friends who may or may not be competent to judge the point at issue, but should that friend’s opinion be at variance with the decision taken at the cabinet meeting. Pandit Nehru would have no qualms about reversing his judgment, and naturally, also the cabinet decision. While it may be laudable to uphold loyalty, such whimsicalities can be disastrous to an executive body which is supposed to work on the principle of joint responsibility.

Those who know Nehru intimately as an administrator are of the opinion that he is not at home with matters of a concrete character, which unfortunately comprise seventy-five per cent of the whole range of governmental activity. He cannot come to grips with any issue which involves a proper study of data. Because of his impatience and out of an inherent inaptitude to master details and statistics, he is often unable to understand the point at issue; naturally, therefore, he can seldom make up his mind. If he does, he does not always have the courage to stick to his decision. There is one exception to this: his adherence to his foreign policy.

The enunciation of foreign policy, especially of our neutral brand, comes easily to him. It only needs sweeping generalisms in which he specialises: the broad long-range view, the progressive eradication of mutual suspicions, the smoothing of differences, the blessings of peace, the amelioration of human suffering, neighbourly feelings, bonds of friendship, the self-respect of the downtrodden. Fluency of presentation rather than accuracy of statistics makes a great impression on a parliament chosen by a people eighty per cent of whom cannot read or write. Few can strike a challenging note in such an assembly.

Nehru has no opponent in India. On whatever scene he appears, he looks down endless vistas of bowing men; the odd head that bobs up is soon knocked down. Nothing can mar the abject harmony.


But his hold over the country and the people is essentially a moral hold. Without it, however, we would not have survived the delicate, if not dangerous, days that followed the partition, through which he alone was able to hold the nation together. Murder, rape, loot and arson had assumed proportions as at no other time in our chequered history. The passions of man were so roused by fanatical hatreds that they moved like a vast, uncontrollable herd, with the fury of a stampede, charging heedlessly forward to massacre and to eventual doom. Those were no easy days, but in that crisis he stood firm, not so much with a clear-cut plan, for there could be none, as with an honesty of purpose which would allow of no deflection. He might easily have been swept away in this turmoil, but once again his destiny guarded him, for he was surrounded by a cordon of unfaltering servicemen, who, living up to the best traditions of the Indian army, translated his honesty of purpose into concrete action and stemmed the mad onrush of purposeless vandalism.

The basis of that honesty of purpose which enabled us to pull through that critical period was his uncompromising secular approach, which is almost an instinct with him. In this at least he has shown remarkable consistency. He cannot tolerate sectarianism in any form. The disruptive forces which even now spasmodically come to the surface quickly disappear because he is able to hold them down by the sheer force of his personality. His influence as a party leader is not great; as a thinker he is not impressive; his record as a capable administrator is nil, but his personality as an individual is irresistible. He has a sincerity which is compelling; it makes even reason yield to it. That is his saving.

There are many who believe that Pandit Nehru should stay aloof from the administrative and political scene somewhat as Mahatma Gandhi did when freedom was won, and bring his personal influence to bear only on the major national issues, and that he should be a unifying force, holding dissenting elements together in days of crisis, cementing differences, advising in the selection of high-powered personnel for the advancement of the country and the welfare of the people. But Nehru is temperamentally unsuited to play this aloof, distant role. He is not happy unless he gets mixed up with actual day-to-day problems. Consequently he exposes himself to criticism which is levelled against him as the administrative head of the state, and thereby imperils his influence.
He cannot conceive of filling the role of a non-playing captain. On the contrary, in his cricket eleven he wants to bat, bowl and field, all at the same time, and if he could, play the role of umpire as well. Power and authority mean a lot to him. He would be unhappy without them; their absence would accentuate his loneliness.

He allows himself to be dragged into innumerable activities, far too many of which are ceremonial rather than functional. In England, the Prime Minister devotes the best part of his time and energies to the work of Parliament and the problems of the administration of the country. Rarely is the executive head of the government to be seen laying foundation stones, planting trees, inspecting troops or receiving addresses. Such ceremonial appearances are the prerogative and function of the monarchy. In America the President, who is roughly the equivalent of the British Prime Minister, devotes his time to affairs of state and the U.S. Congress. He is the co-ordinating force that functions on an altogether higher plane. Seldom does he perform as a master of ceremonies. But in India, although we have a President who is free to attend to such functions, Pandit Nehru plays a variety of trivial roles; some Indians believe he alone is auspicious enough to be garlanded, and Nehru has little or no resistance to offer them. He is naturally exhausted, for there is a limit to what one person can do. He has little time to absorb the bigger problems which alone should engage his undistracted attention. Consequently, his knowledge of many important affairs of state is often only superficial. He relies on his instinct more than on the cold facts of the case. But how long can you govern a country purely by instinct?

It is but natural that some far-sighted people look with trepidation on the prospect of an India without Nehru. No one has dared to consider dispassionately the question of a successor. Gandhi had during his lifetime settled the issue as after him, and had appointed Nehru as his political heir, thus deciding once and for all which of his two political lieutenants. Pandit Nehru or Sardar Patel, should have the casting vote after his death. The choice was sound, for it preserved a continuity of hero-worship for which the colourful Nehru was more suited than the ‘leather-faced’1 [1. Expression used by Time magazine.] Sardar Patel. The late Sardar was a tremendous organisational force, ruthless but of great calibre, but in Gandhi’s opinion India needed a force of the emotional kind.

There is no one from the Congress party who can step into Nehru’s shoes. The only individual who makes a similar appeal to the nation is the socialist leader, Jayaprakash Narayan. But Jayaprakash’s personality cannot function by itself; it needs a political organisation acceptable to the broad mass of the people, and that at present is at best only in the making. So that after Nehru, the crown is likely to be put away and the sceptre shattered into little fragments, each wielding sway over restricted territorial limits. The scramble for power will be surprising to watch, and no one can foretell what or who will eventually emerge from it. The men who today command the respect of the party are far too old to be put into harness now, but God’s will works in mysterious ways its wonders to perform, and the possibility that after Nehru a junta with a Neguib at its head would make a bid for power should not be entirely ruled out. The situation in the country may at a future date throw open such a possibility, though not right now. That may sweep away the dead-weight which at present holds our country down, the endless legion of sycophants who hang around the Pandit, collecting rewards for sacrifices, as they are called. But even though sacrifices have been of known duration, the collection of reward seems endless. The trouble is that Nehru has not the heart to Say ‘no’.

Look at the Governors of some of our provinces! These plums of office he has distributed with a largesse with which he should not have thrown peanuts around. Look at our missions abroad, manned and staffed with the weakest of our herrenvolk. Nothing can be achieved in endless argument on this score. Once again the record speaks for itself.


A leader is judged, not often by his own intrinsic values, but by the values of those whom he leads. Of what use is Nehru’s unquestionable honesty, when he shows little ability to enforce it in the very machinery of the administration over which he presides? Of what use are Pandit Nehru’s high-principled shibboleths on civil liberty when an ordinary sub-inspector of the police can, and does, arrest you on the most frivolous of pretexts? What use is this theoretical liberty of thought and expression when so often we have been gagged and curbed? What use are constitutional rights when most of the time we are proceeded against under what is euphemistically called ‘emergency’ legislation? All these are landmarks of Nehru’s India. It looks as if they have come to stay.

It is my misfortune that I usually begin lone crusades and plead lost causes, not once, but repeatedly. Perhaps the impressionable years I spent beneath the spires of Oxford draw me to them, but in time I always find an echo of my lonely voice in some other more articulate quarter. Often the echo becomes the real thing and the original voice is forgotten.

It is so now with Pandit Nehru. Very recently, for the first time. The Times of India, whose editor1 [1. Frank Moraes.] is considered a staunch Nehru fan, broke out in an editorial which made readers of that staid morning daily blink over their morning tea. Headed, unconventionally for The Times of India, ‘Congress Rot’, it said: ‘From time to time the Congress President (Pandit Nehru) is in the habit of issuing meaningless and pathetic appeals to members of his party. These are never supported by stern action and have failed in the past to stem the rot in the organization. A typical example of such futile gestures is in his recent statement . . . The fact that careerists and opportunists have been worming themselves into the organisation has been one of the more obvious developments in post-freedom India. It has been responsible for the exclusion from the party of young and honest elements and for the increase in the corruption within the Congress organization. Mr Nehru should have been aware of these facts some years ago, but it appears that even today he has not discovered the entire truth . . . The Congress President refers to party principles and implores his followers to observe them faithfully. It is time he knew that the majority of Congressmen recognise no principles, other than those of self-seeking, casteism and socio-economic obscurantism. What action has been taken against those who blatantly flout party principles? ... Those responsible for this should have been immediately expelled, but all that has been done is to demand -- somewhat belatedly -- an explanation ... If Mr Nehru desires to improve the quality of the Congress and restore it to its former prestige, he should substitute immediate action for futile appeals.’1 [1. The Times of India, November 24th, 1952.]

But those editorials have little effect on him or on the masses whom they never reach. They merely serve to annoy the Pandit, who, amongst his recent annoyances, listed comic strips. He found them pointless. A man who grows immune to humour becomes impervious to any form of comment.  
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Re: Nehru: The Lotus Eater From Kashmir, by D.F. Karaka

Postby admin » Sun Mar 15, 2020 2:48 am

15. THE GLAMOUR IS GONE

Nehru cannot be fought at home. In India he is supreme. His writ runs from one end of the country to the other. He is, however, not so invulnerable abroad. The more seasoned politicians of the world are now able to see him in the right perspective as different from the early days, when he appeared to stride like a colossus on the Asian scene, moving over it dramatically, wearing the mantle of a great Asiatic sage. The West has realised that Nehru’s beat is India and no further.

Apart from the adoration of typical promoters of East-West goodwill, Nehru’s stock has fallen in the West, chiefly in America. The American people want everything presented to them clear-cut. Mao Tse-tung they can understand. He is a ‘Commie’, a Soviet satellite. He is positive and is to be reckoned with as a bastion of communism in Asia. But Nehru is fluid, flexible. He does not answer the American question: ‘well, are you for us or agin’ us?’ Nehru is just neutral. He has no affinities, except perhaps with the top rail of the fence.

America under the Democrats has reacted to him differently from time to time. When India got her freedom, the average American was truly glad that our people were now liberated. Imperialism is a bondage the Americans find abhorrent in the context of international relations, even though their own record is not exactly without blemish. They did not stint in their expression of joyous feeling when Pandit Nehru paid his official visit to the United States. They gave him a hero’s welcome with confetti and streamers.

But Nehru in America was disappointing to the Americans. He first gave them the impression that India would fight for democracy wherever it was assailed. But later clarification of this speech whittled down our stand as champions of democracy in Asia.

Gradually he revealed a growing concern over ‘strings attached’, and he has been most sensitive about anyone wanting to bind us to any positive stand in international affairs. To The Current’s correspondent at a press interview on his return from that trip abroad, he said: ‘We will judge each event according to its merits and decide after deliberation who is the aggressor and then take sides.’ As an afterthought he added that neutrality does not mean that we will not bother if democracy is in danger elsewhere in the world. All this was as confusing for the average American as it was to us.

The Americans naturally cooled off towards him. Those who had begun to look upon Nehru as a new synonym for India, once again began to look upon snake-charmers and nabobs with seven wives as more representative of our mystic land. Later, America thought it expedient to come to India’s aid in view of the deteriorating food situation in this country. They gave this aid to Nehru on his terms, though not to the extent it was requested. The new Republican regime is likely to have less patience with the Pandit’s vacillations.

Britain regards Nehru with a more maternal tolerance. After all, he has been the deciding factor which has kept India in the Commonwealth. Often the youngster is somewhat obstreperous, but nothing is so serious that a week-end at Romsey with Lord Louis Mountbatten cannot set it right. So long as we keep within the Commonwealth, we will be treated as one of the family.

Pandit Nehru’s popularity with some of the other members of the Commonwealth is, however, not so assured. From that little island of Ceylon, off the tip of the south coast, our nationals, who some two generations ago settled there as indentured labourers, are facing the threat of being rendered stateless. Nehru maintains that these Indians have a right to claim Ceylonese citizenship. Ceylon does not. She wants our nationals repatriated, which would still further swell the already large numbers of displaced persons whom we are struggling to rehabilitate.

A more awkward situation exists in South Africa, where our fellow countrymen have been made to suffer segregation akin to the worst days of the ghetto. Pandit Nehru is naturally most rightly disturbed about the treatment meted out to those who are, after all, fellow members of the Commonwealth. As a racial issue, no self-respecting Indian could but support Pandit Nehru on the strong stand which he has taken at the United Nations on this sordid South African question. But to the South Africans the issue apparently is more than just a racial issue, because of the way in which the Indians’ case is represented there. It is unfortunate that our nationals there appear in some ways to be mixed up with elements which seem to take their inspiration from the agents of world communism, and it is equally unfortunate that some of the Indians, to whom so much objection has been taken in South Africa, both by the whites and the native Africans, are the pernicious breed of middle-men who move in like an octopus with multi-pronged limbs to feed on others and gradually to gain a stranglehold on them.

Our case at the United Nations would have been much stronger were the high moral standards of human rights, which Pandit Nehru demands for our people elsewhere, available to them at home. The maxim which says that whoever comes to equity must come with clean hands operates adversely on us in view of some of the shocking manifestations of caste which are still to be seen in our ‘deep south’, where the situation threatens at times to be almost explosive. Caste has been with us for generations now, and although Herculean efforts have been made by Mahatma Gandhi and the Congress leaders to eradicate it from our midst, it is too deep-rooted to disappear with just an article in our constitution. Caste still marks our children deeply. It will take generations before the bigotry can gradually be worn down by education and a more enlightened outlook on life. The temples may be opened by law, but the heart of many a Brahmin is still closed to his ‘untouchable’ brethren. Consequently, anti-Brahmin feeling in the south is not healthy today; it periodically manifests itself in incidents of which we feel ashamed. A deteriorating economic situation aggravates it, for then it becomes a fight for survival between the privileged and the outcast.

Nor is this the only weak point in the representations we make to the United Nations. Admittedly Kashmir is strategically important to us and that is why we must hold on to it, but could not the Suez Canal be equally vital to Britain? The French say they need Cyrenaica, and Italy and Yugoslavia both press their need for Trieste. At the United Nations, however, we try to cloak our claim to Kashmir with moral sanctions which the astute, cold-blooded statesmen of the world do not recognise. They ask the embarrassing question: How can you regard one problem as strategic and the other as moral? Consequently, our delegates are reported to be often confused. Confronted at the United Nations with a critical world audience which does not accept Pandit Nehru’s norms with the same ease with which they are swallowed in India, they repeatedly write home for instructions. [b]At the conference table of the world, Nehru’s fight for human rights is weakened by his record at home, and on the vital issues before that world assembly we frequently find ourselves on the wrong side of the division lobby.

Naive Indians, however, are very impressed when they read in their local papers that one of our delegates has been appointed an official on some United Nations committee or other.
They are led to believe that we have a very vital say in all matters that come up at Lake Success, Paris and Geneva. Little do they reahse that because of our professed neutrality we are constantly being used by one side or the other to initiate proceedings so that should they fail there will be no recriminations falling upon one or another of the important members of the two power blocs. To the half-baked matriculate from some of our obscure universities, it is heartening to read that his representative is regarded as scholarly and educated enough to be elected the President of UNESCO, which Sir (now Shri) S. Radhakrishnan is today. The form still means much to the Indian, even though there is very little substance behind it, and Pandit Nehru has taught us that even the role of puppets can be played ‘without any strings attached’.

Yet never did any man have the opportunity which Pandit Nehru had in 1947, when liberation came, and the years which immediately followed. While Mahatma Gandhi was the spirit of the movement, it fell on Jawaharlal to play the role of a representative symbol. The world associated Gandhi with religion and Pandit Nehru with international politics. Here was a leader, pledged to democracy, and hailed by all the world as a fighter for human liberty. He had fought against British imperialism for a quarter of a century and he had won that fight against heavy odds and against all expectations. The story of that fight written around Jawaharlal Nehru was one of the great chapters of contemporary history, culminating in the liberation of a fifth of the world from a hundred and fifty years of bondage. No other individual in our lifetime had made such a glorious entry on the international stage. He was more than a victorious general, for he did not win a territorial war. Nehru had fought and won on transcendent issues of morality. He stood for government of the people by the people for the people; he stood for government for all the people and not for any select or special groups within it. He stood for clean government as opposed to the administration of the British. He fought for our country to become an entity in itself and not a colony of a great power. He fought for our right to express, in foreign and domestic policy, the moral beliefs which at that time lay at the root of Indian life and greatness. Wherever he went, the people of the world looked up to him, not only as a great Indian but as a man who expressed by his word and action, the faith of mankind.

One felt proud to be an Indian in those days. Our goal was achieved. The road to freedom lay ahead with the pilgrims lined up ready to march upon it. The liberation of India was to lead to the greater liberation of all the down-trodden people, first in Asia and later elsewhere in the world. India was the inspiration for the underdog.

Such was the glorious opportunity which Jawaharlal Nehru threw away. He faltered, he floundered, he allowed others to clog his way. He did all the things he said he would never do. He spoke so much and achieved so little. He shirked coming to a decision on vital issues. He preferred to take the cautious road of mediocrity rather than strike out on the path of a pioneer. In critical moments, he lacked the vision expected of a great leader. He was too afraid to show the way to his people. He surrounded himself with opportunists who traded in patriotism and on his name. He gave shelter to the little fuhrers who sprang up like mushrooms on our newly liberated soil. The shining armour in which we had clad this knight-errant became in time only so much tinselled splendour. Soon the glamour was gone. Gone too was the moment and the opportunity.


Pandit Nehru still gives an illusion of moving forward, even though the little people of India have remained behind. But he is out there in front with a new breed of men who follow him for the morsels of patronage he scatters on his way. Now and then he turns back but can see little difference between the men who once followed him and those who are now close on his heels. 'The people are still with me’, he believes in his luxurious dreaminess which even reality does not make him abandon. Lotus-eaters are made that way.

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