Freda Bedi Cont'd (#2)

This is a broad, catch-all category of works that fit best here and not elsewhere. If you haven't found it someplace else, you might want to look here.

Re: Freda Bedi Cont'd (#2)

Postby admin » Wed Mar 11, 2020 5:32 am

Dosabhai Framji Karaka
by The Open University, Making Britain
Accessed: 3/10/20



Alongside this noticeable success, Freda faced some acute disappointments. She made enemies as well as friends, and sometimes these rivalries became vicious. Lois Lang-Sims commented, without saying what prompted the observation, that Freda's enemies 'were not only numerous but of an almost incredible malevolence'. That intense animosity seems to have been behind the most wounding public assault on Freda and her integrity. The stiletto was wielded by D.F. [Dosabhai Framji] Karaka, an Oxford contemporary of the Bedis. He was a writer and journalist of some distinction, though by the early 1960s he was the editor of a not-so-distinguished Bombay-based tabloidstyle weekly, the Current. This was awash with brash, sensationalist stories, reflecting Karaka's fiercely polemical style, his crusading anticommunism and his impatience with Nehru, India's prime minister, for his supposed lack of zeal in standing up for the national interest. The weekly paper bore the slogan 'God Save the Motherland' on its front page.

Image
The front page of 'Current' in September 1963 which caused Freda great distress.
Saturday, September 28, 1963 GOD SAVE THE MOTHERLAND
THE CURRENT, VOL. XV, NO. 3 All India Edition 30 N.P. WEEKLY
On Govt. of India notepaper ...
... Noted Communist appeals to unwary Americans for funds for
YOUNG LAMAS
by D.F. Karaka
According to an All India Radio news bulletin, Mr. Ghulam Mohammed Bakshi recently stated in Srinagar that Communism was infiltrating into Kashmir through Buddhism. This statement was later confirmed by Mr. Kusho Bakula, Minister of State for Ladakh Affairs, who is himself a Ladakhi and a Buddhist monk.
Information reaching CURRENT through reliable sources indicates that an Englishwoman, married to an Indian, is attempting to express a great deal of anxiety to help the Buddhist cause as a screen for her Communist activities.
This Englishwoman, whose name is FREDA BEDI, and her husband, BABA P.L. BEDI, have been most active workers for Communism for nearly 30 years.
Freda has dabbled with Communism ever since my student days in Oxford. She was, in fact, at Oxford at the same time as myself. Later, she married Bedi, a well known Indian Communist. They both came out to India and plunged themselves into the Communist movement.
They were at one time said to be card-holding Communists, and their police records in this country would certainly testify that before Partition they were not mere sympathisers, but active workers of the C.P.I.
Comrade Bedi was the leader of the Communist Party in Lahore, where in pre-Independence ...


In September 1963, Freda's photograph graced the front-page of the Current, accompanying a story which also took up much of the following page. It was a hatchet job. Under his own byline, Karaka asserted that 'an Englishwoman, married to an Indian, is attempting to express a great deal of anxiety to help the Buddhist cause as a screen for her Communist activities'. He insisted that 'Mrs Freda Bedi ... will always, in my opinion, be a Communist first, irrespective of her outwardly embraced Buddhism.' This was an absurd accusation. Freda's days as a communist sympathiser had come to a close almost twenty years earlier. Her husband had abandoned communism a decade previously.

By 1951, the thorny political issue of offering the people of Kashmir a plebiscite to let them decide whether they wanted to join Pakistan or accede to India hung heavily in the air. Freda was torn. While she believed in the people’s right to choose, she was adamantly against Pakistan’s propaganda, with its call for Islamic separation and the holocaust she feared would irrevocably follow, with Hindus and Sikhs the losers.

“There will be a tough fight when and if a plebiscite takes place. The other side uses low weapons – an appeal to religious fanaticism and hatred, which can always find a response. We fight with clean hands. I am content as a democrat that Kashmir should vote and turn whichever way it wishes, but I know a Pakistan victory would mean massacre and mass migration of Hindus and Sikhs – and I hate to face it. God forbid it should happen,” she said.

For the first time she revealed an anticommunist leaning. “I feel the British Press –- with the exception of our friend Norman Cliff on the News Chronicle -– is Pakistan minded, and while I realize that Pakistan and Middle East oil interests are linked, I think it is a great injustice to Kashmir. While a very brutal invasion and a lot of propaganda from the Pakistan side has been trying to make the state communist minded, it has valiantly stuck to his democratic ideas and built up this very war-torn, hungry world.”

BPL was valiantly doing his part in promoting counterpropaganda (a role given to him by Sheikh Abdullah’s administration), churning out publicity and articles both in Delhi and in Kashmir. One day in 1952, things went catastrophically wrong. BPL had a huge argument with his old friend Sheikh Abdullah, who was about to make a speech ratifying the plebiscite.

Kabir said, “My father warned him that India would never accept such a move and that Sheikh Abdullah would be jailed. He was also afraid that a plebiscite would deepen the split already existing in the state and would destroy the work that he, Mummy, and others had been carefully building up over the fragile early years to promote harmony and improve the living conditions of all the people. Kashmir had a huge Muslim majority, but anti-Pakistan feeling was also very high In Kashmir. That was what my father was working with, especially with his counterpropaganda. His ultimate commitment and hope was that Kashmir would be joined to secular India, with its democratic principles. Sadly the best of friendships ended in a bitter battle.”

The minute his argument with Sheikh Abdullah was over, BPL went home, packed up all his household goods and his family, and within twenty-four hours had moved everyone to Delhi. He could no longer stay in a Kashmir that he felt was heading for trouble, and in the employ of a man whose policies he no longer believed in. His prediction was right. In 1953, Sheikh Abdullah was dismissed as prime minister, arrested on charges of conspiracy against the state, and jailed for eleven years.

-- The Revolutionary Life of Freda Bedi, by Vicki Mackenzie


[1954] As with Freda, Bedi's crisis had a lasting spiritual aspect. He developed a keen interest in the occult, establishing the Occult Circle of India; he became attracted to the mystical Sufi tradition within Islam and -- re-engaging with the religion he was born into -- in Sikh mysticism; he believed he had acquired special powers, and took to hands-on spiritual healing. He dressed in a smock and carried a staff; as his hair became increasingly unkempt, he looked like a latter-day Moses. He chose to be known as Baba, which carried with it an echo of a mystical or spiritual identity. It was a reinvention almost as complete as those that marked out the phases in Freda's life; he had gone from gilded youth, to communist and peasants' rights activist, to political apparatchik, to prophet and visionary. Bedi had largely broken links with the organised left and although he remained active in a Delhi-based Kashmir support group, he moved decisively away from active politics. 'I had been under an impulsion to take to spiritual life,' he recalled a decade later. 'I resigned at once from all organisations .... It was like a realization that now [the] time had come to quit all this work and take to a new form of life.' Bedi insisted... that his embrace of a spiritual purpose did not involve any repudiation of his socialist beliefs. 'The statue of Lenin I loved still lies on my mantelpiece, and not a dent on [my] Marxist convictions exists.' But several of his old associates felt uncomfortable with Bedi's new look and message and kept their distance. Ranbir Vohra, who had known the Bedis in Lahore and Srinagar as well as Delhi, recalled that his old friend offered to help him communicate with anyone who had passed on: 'He suggested that I talk to Marx. I declined the generous offer.'

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


But the accusation of being a concealed communist was deeply wounding especially when the Tibetan refugees regarded communist China as their arch enemy -- the occupiers of their homeland and destroyers of their culture, faith and tradition -- and when India had recently been at war with China.

The idea to write Red Shambhala developed gradually as a natural offshoot of my other projects... By chance, I found out that in a secret laboratory in the 1920s Gleb Bokii -- the chief Bolshevik cryptographer, master of codes, ciphers, electronic surveillance -- and his friend Alexander Barchenko, an occult writer from St. Petersburg, explored Kabala, Sufi wisdom, Kalachakra, shamanism, and other esoteric traditions, simultaneously preparing an expedition to Tibet to search for the legendary Shambhala. A natural question arose: what could the Bolshevik commissar have to do with all this? ...

Meanwhile, I learned that during the same years, on the other side of the ocean in New York City, the Russian emigre painter Nicholas Roerich and his wife, Helena, were planning a venture into Inner Asia, hoping to use the Shambhala prophecy to build a spiritual kingdom in Asia that would provide humankind with a blueprint of an ideal social commonwealth. To promote his spiritual scheme, he toyed with an idea to blend Tibetan Buddhism and Communism. Then I stumbled upon the German-Armenian historian Emanuel Sarkisyanz's Russland and der Messianismus des Orients, which mentioned that the same Shambhala legend was used by Bolshevik fellow travelers in Red Mongolia to anchor Communism among nomads in the early 1920s.

I came across this information when I was working on a paper dealing with the Oirot/Amursana prophecy that sprang up among Altaian nomads of southern Siberia at the turn of the twentieth century. This prophecy, also widespread in neighboring western Mongolia, dealt with the legendary hero some named Oirot and others called Amursana. The resurrected hero was expected to redeem suffering people from alien intrusions and lead them into a golden age of spiritual bliss and prosperity. This legend sounded strikingly similar to the Shambhala prophecy that stirred the minds of Tibetans and the nomads of eastern Mongolia. In my research I also found that the Bolsheviks used the Oirot/Amursana prophecy in the 1920s to anchor themselves in Inner Asia. I began to have a feeling that all the individuals and events mentioned above might have somehow been linked...

Shambhala... was a prophecy that emerged in the world of Tibetan Buddhism between the 900s and 1100s CE, centered on a legend about a pure and happy kingdom located somewhere in the north; the Tibetan word Shambhala means "source of happiness." The legend said that in this mystical land people enjoyed spiritual bliss, security, and prosperity. Having mastered special techniques, they turned themselves into godlike beings and exercised full control over forces of nature. They were blessed with long lives, never argued, and lived in harmony as brothers and sisters. At one point, as the story went, alien intruders would corrupt and undermine the faith of Buddha. That was when Rudra Chakrin (Rudra with a Wheel), the last king of Shambhala, would step in and in a great battle would crush the forces of evil. After this, the true faith, Tibetan Buddhism, would prevail and spread all over the world....

In the course of time, indigenous lamas and later Western spiritual seekers muted the "crusade" notions of the prophecy, and Shambhala became the peaceable kingdom that could be reached through spiritual enlightenment and perfection. The famous founder of Theosophy Helena Blavatsky was the first to introduce this cleansed version of the legend into Western esoteric lore in the 1880s. At the same time, she draped Shambhala in the mantle of evolutionary theory and progress: ideas widely popular among her contemporaries. Blavatsky's Shambhala was the abode of the Great White Brotherhood hidden in the Himalayas. The mahatmas from this brotherhood worked to engineer the so-called sixth race of spiritually enlightened and perfect human beings, who possessed superior knowledge and would eventually take over the world. After 1945, when this kind of talk naturally went out of fashion, the legend was refurbished to fit new spiritual needs. Today in Tibetan Buddhism and spiritual literature, in both the East and the West, Shambhala is presented as an ideal spiritual state seekers should aspire to reach by practicing compassion, meditation, and high spirituality. In this most recent interpretation of the legend, the old "holy war" feature is not simply set aside but recast into an inner war against internal demons that block a seeker's movement toward perfection....

Lama Phuntsok was one of the dozens of lamas we had met, or were going to meet, in our future. It was already starting to get boring; all these amazing, enlightened Tibetan lamas and their cookie-cutter teachings we had access to, for free, because of our circumstances taking care of Trungpa's son. Although I wouldn't admit it, these lamas were all starting to sound the same and quite dull to me. This old lama from Tibet was different, however, being straight from the old country; unskilled in the strategic charms the lamas had learned for western audiences.

Phuntsok, we were told, was the incarnation of every great lama of the past, which was always the case for any new lamas who needed the boost, and this one seemed incoherent and all over the place. But, one thing was for sure, he was teaching us the real Kalachakra prophecy and its inner and secret teachings; how Trungpa's Shambhala legacy was embedded within it. It was not the Camelot Kingdom terma of Trungpa, nor the Shangri-la paradise of Saint Dalai Lama, filled with peace, love, and harmony, that we had come to believe.

This Kalachakra prophecy, the real one, we had never heard about before. Not in this direct and non-evasive way.

The Dalai Lama had finished giving his fourth, U.S. Kalachakra Wheel of Time empowerment in 1991, in New York City, to crowds of unsuspecting thousands, with the usual pitch that it was about bringing peace throughout the world. This Kalachakra prophecy, the real one, straight from this Lama Phuntsok's mouth, straight from Tibet, wasn't talking peace. He was talking about a third world war, the idea of which he seemed to relish, when Tantric Lord Chakravartins, as Rigden Kings, like Trungpa, would come to rule the world.

Lama Phuntsok told us we were the "special" Trungpa students of the "Shambhala Kingdom" and that Trungpa was a lama, who was not just a great bodhisattva, but a great military leader, connected to Gesar of Ling; an emanation of Rigden Kings who would come to rule the earth, in the near future. We were the future army of Shambhala warriors. Nothing new here; the usual teaching by Trungpa and his early students, but told were simply symbolic. We, as his students in this life, and part of his military branch, his kasung, were going to be reborn in the pure land of Shambhala. Yes, that was the same, but then Phuntsok continued: 'when you will come back to fight as Shambhala warriors, some of you as generals, in this great Wheel of Time war between heretics and Shambhala.'

When this war ended, he told us, it would usher in the Age of Maitreya, the Adi-Buddha world of Shambhala and its enlightened society, after this future great apocalyptic war, predicted by these lamas and their ancient prophesies, had destroyed the enemies of their 'dharma.' It was starting to sound like being reborn as kamikaze in a great, epic bloody battle. Not something you would wish for, for any of your next lives, as Lama Phuntsok was describing it. I just flinched, and filed it away.

What remained clear, however, was this great coming war was very real to this old lama from Tibet, and not symbolic at all; not an internal fight, or struggle within us, to tame our own demons -- our egoistic propensities, -- as we had been taught.

It was the first red flag, waving madly before my eyes, about why these lamas are building all their centers and temples, around the world. I realized, that they really believe they will rise up, at the end of this apocalypse they are all predicting; as the new Lord Chakravartins, the Rigden God Kings, ruling over the earth.

Lama Phuntsok, unskilled in donning a 'peaceful' mask for western consumption, had just told us that Tibetan Buddhism is an apocalyptic cult, that believes it will be the world religion in the not too distant future; once it has conquered the other heretic religions. The lamas had been telling us the same thing; but always making sure it was seen as just a metaphor; in a twilight language; about the war inside us, caused by that bug-a-boo: ego. Lama Phuntsok, straight from Tibet, and therefore straight from the thirteenth century, was telling us the truth about his Tibetan Buddhism; this religion of peace.

In a few short years, in Digby, Nova Scotia, at my last graduate Shambhala retreat -- Trungpa's Kalapa Assembly -- I would learn that Trungpa's ambitions to rule the world were as real for him as it was for Lama Phuntsok, transmitting the prophecy of Shambhala before me, now. Clearly, all these lamas believed and wished for the same thing.

-- Enthralled: The Guru Cult of Tibetan Buddhism, by Christine A. Chandler, M.A., C.A.G.S.


Red Shambhala is the first book in English that recounts the story of political and spiritual seekers from the West and the East, who used Tibetan Buddhist prophecies to promote their spiritual, social, and geopolitical agendas and schemes. These were people of different persuasions and backgrounds: lamas (Ja-Lama and Agvan Dorzhiev), a painter-Theosophist (Nicholas Roerich), a Bolshevik secret police cryptographer (Gleb Bokii), an occult writer with leftist leanings (Alexander Barchenko), Bolshevik diplomats and revolutionaries (Georgy Chicherin, Boris Shumatsky) along with their indigenous fellow-travelers (Elbek-Dorji Rinchino, Sergei Borisov, and Choibalsan), and the rightwing fanatic "Bloody White Baron" Roman von Ungern-Sternberg. Despite their different backgrounds and loyalties, they shared the same totalitarian temptation -- the faith in ultimate solutions. They were on the quest for what one of them (Bokii) defined as the search for the source of absolute good and absolute evil. All of them were true believers, idealists who dreamed about engineering a perfect free-of-social-vice society based on collective living and controlled by enlightened spiritual or ideological masters (an emperor, the Bolshevik Party, the Great White Brotherhood, a reincarnated deity) who would guide people on the "correct" path. Healthy skepticism and moderation, rare commodities at that time anyway, never visited the minds of the individuals I profile in this book. In this sense, they were true children of their time -- an age of extremes that gave birth to totalitarian society.

-- Red Shambhala: Magic, Prophecy, and Geopolitics in the Heart of Asia, by Andrei Znamenski


'Freda has dabbled with Communism ever since my student days in Oxford,' Karaka reported. 'She was, in fact, at Oxford at the same time as myself. Later, she married Bedi, a well known Indian Communist. They both came out to India and plunged themselves into the Communist movement.' The article resorted to innuendo, suggesting that 'the alleged indoctrination of Sheikh Abdulla [sic] was largely to be traced to his very close association with Freda Bedi'. It suggested that some former associates of the Bedis in Kashmir had 'mysteriously disappeared'. Freda was alleged to have been caught up in controversy about Buddhist property and funds before turning, 'with the active encouragement of Shri J. Nehru, the Prime Minister', to the running of the Young Lamas' Home School. The article suggested that Freda was getting money from the Indian government, and using government headed paper to appeal for funds from supporters in America and elsewhere. Karaka suggested that the Tibetan Friendship Group was a 'Communist stunt' and he alleged that 'noted Communists, with the usual "blessings" of Mr. Nehru, are using the excuse of helping Tibetan refugees and Buddhist monks for furthering the cause of Communism in strategic border areas.'

Aside from the venomous smears, the only evidence of inappropriate conduct that the article pointed to was her use of official notepaper to appeal for funds for her school and other Tibetan relief operations. It cited a letter of complaint, sent by an unnamed Buddhist organisation which clearly was antagonistic to Freda, stating that she had been using the headed paper of the Central Social Welfare Board which bore the Government of India's logo. A civil servant's response was also quoted: 'Mrs Bedi is not authorised to use Government of India stationery for correspondence in connection with the affairs of the "Young Lama's Home" or the "Tibetan Friendship Group". This has now been pointed out to Mrs. Bedi.'

Even if Freda has been using government headed paper to help raise money -- which those who worked with her say is perfectly possible -- it was hardly a major misdemeanour. But detractors were able to use this blemish to damage her reputation. She was, it seems, distraught at this vicious personal attack and took advice about whether to take legal action. She was advised, probably wisely, to do nothing, as any riposte would simply give further life to accusations so insubstantial that they would quickly fade away. 'The accusation was that Freda was a communist in nun's clothing -- not that Freda was a nun at that time,' recalls Cherry Armstrong. 'I remember her being particularly distressed and "beyond belief' when she believed she had identified the culprit. Freda was totally dumbfounded about it.'

Freda was convinced that another western convert to Buddhism, Sangharakshita (earlier Dennis Lingwood), was either behind the slur or was abetting it. They had much in common -- including a deep antipathy to each other. Lingwood encountered Theosophy and Buddhism as a teenager in England and was ordained before he was twenty by the Burmese monk U Titthila, who later helped Freda towards Buddhism. During the war, he served in the armed forces in South and South-east Asia and from 1950 spent about fourteen years based in Kalimpong in north-east India, where he was influenced by several leading Tibetan Buddhist teachers. In the small world of Indian Buddhism, the two English converts rubbed shoulders. More than sixty years later, Sangharakshita -- who established a Buddhist community in England -- recalls coming across Freda, then new to Buddhism, living at the Ashoka Vihar Buddhist centre outside Delhi. 'She was tall, thin, and intense and wore Indian dress. She had a very pale complexion, with light fair hair and very pale blue eyes. In other words, she looked very English! I also noticed, especially later on, that she was very much the Memsaheb ... During the time that I knew Freda she knew hardly anything about Buddhism, having never studied it seriously .... She had however developed what I called her "patter" about the Dalai Lama, compassion, and the poor dear little Tulkus. So far as I could see, Freda had no spiritual awareness or Enlightenment. She may, of course, have developed these later.' His view of the Young Lamas' Home School is also somewhat jaundiced -- 'some of [the tulkus] developed rather expensive tastes, such as for Rolex watches.'


In 1989 he was awarded with the Nobel Peace Prize, he is the spiritual head of Tibetan Buddhism -– and he, himself is a self-confessed watch lover. The speech is of course by Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama. Granted, the ascetic monk is not the first name that comes to mind in connection with luxury watches. But the Dalai Lama has a weakness for mechanical watches and has been happy to disassemble and reassemble them for years. His personal collection consists of over 15 watches, about which, however, little is known....

However, three of his watches can be clearly seen in photos and we are able to identity them. In addition to a Patek Philippe pocket watch, given to him as a young boy from U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the monk also has two Rolex models whose origin is unknown.

His love of mechanical watches began very early: At the age of 6 or 7, the Dalai Lama received his first watch, from none other than the U.S. American President Franklin D. Roosevelt....Eric Wind identified the watch... in a Hodinkee article as a pocket watch with Ref. 658, of which only 15 were made between 1937 and 1950, a truly special gift!... Roosevelt did not hand over the gift personally. Two agents of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the predecessor of today’s CIA, offered the watch along with a letter from the president. Brooke Dolan and his colleague Ilia [Ilya Andreyevich] Tolstoy, who was allegedly the grandson of the famous author Leo Tolstoy, strictly followed the protocol: visitors silently handed over their presents and received a so-called 'katha‘, a prayer shawl traditionally handed over. The two had a mission to find out more about the possibility of building a road from India to China, which was strategically important to the United States for supplying China during the war with Japan.

The Dalai Lama’s watch is a complex and rare specimen that displays the moon phases, date, day of the week and months. It aroused his enthusiasm for mechanical watches and watchmaking. A well-known photograph shows him working on watches....

If you are interested in mechanical watches, there is no way around a classic Rolex. The Dalai Lama owns two models that are well-known: A Rolesor Rolex Datejust made of gold and stainless steel with a Jubilee bracelet and a Rolex Day-Date, both presumably gifts. The latter is made of yellow gold and has a blue dial, as seen in some photographs. Some people say that they are a sign of proudness among a monk, but if you look at the meaning of the colours in Tibetan Buddhism, you will see a beautiful picture: blue stands for heaven and spiritual insights, yellow for earth and the experiences of the real world. Thus, the watch purely by chance reflects the teachings of Tibetan Buddhism.

-- The Dalai Lama and his [Rolex] watches, by Manuel Lütgens


Sangharakshita's recollection is that he and Freda 'got on quite well, even though I did not take her "Buddhism" very seriously' as they were both English and (in his view) of working-class origin. He was not impressed by her husband: 'he struck me as a bit of a humbug ... I was told (not by Freda) that he was then living with one of his cousins.' In his memoirs, he recycled one of the allegations that featured in Current, that an 'Englishwoman married to a well-known Indian communist' was trying to 'wrest' control of Ashoka Vihar outside Delhi from the Cambodian monk who had founded it. Decades later, he continues to recount this and other of the items on the Current charge sheet, describing Freda as 'a rather ruthless operator' while in Kashmir. He recalls the furore over the Current article, but says that he had no reason to believe that Freda was using the Lamas' School for a political purpose. Freda never tackled him over her suspicions, but he does not deny a tangential involvement. 'It is possible,' he concedes, 'that certain reservations about the Young Lamas' Home School eventually reached the ears of Current.'

The incident was a reflection of the intense rivalries within the Tibetan movement and its supporters. 'Strong personalities do seem to draw opposition by their very nature,' Cherry Armstrong comments, 'and there is a lot of personal politics amongst the Tibetan groups -- not all light and loveliness as one might like to think.'


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


Other Names: D. F. Karaka; Dosoo Framjee Karaka
Date of birth: 14 Apr 1911
City of birth: Bombay
Country of birth: India
Current name city of birth: Mumbai
Date of death: 01 Jun 1974
Location of death: Bombay
Date of 1st arrival in Britain: 01 Jan 1930
Dates of time spent in Britain: 1930-8, 1945
Location: Oxford, London.

About:

D. F. Karaka was born in Bombay in 1911. He is the grandson of Dosabhai Framji Karaka, whose History of the Parsis became the authoritative text on the Parsee community in the late nineteenth century. Karaka arrived in England in the autumn of 1930 and joined Lincoln College at the University of Oxford to study law. Karaka became an active member of the Oxford Union, participating in debates. He would occupy a number of posts - Treasurer, Secretary and Librarian - before being elected the first President of South Asian origin of the Oxford Union. He succeeded Michael Foot, who was a close friend of his.

Karaka was Secretary of the Union when it held its controversial ‘King and Country’ debate (9 February 1933). The Union discussed the pacifist motion ‘that this House will under no circumstances fight for its King or Country’. The controversy provoked heated debate in the national press and among Oxford students. At a subsequent meeting of the Union, Karaka’s minutes were torn from him and destroyed. He also received protection from the university police for a limited amount of time. During his time at Oxford, Karaka started writing non-fiction, especially about his experience as an Indian in Britain and his position as a 'coloured' man. After Karaka finished his degree, he sat the examination for the Indian Civil Service. He failed but went on to pass his Bar examination in London.
In order to earn some money, he briefly worked at the clothes store Simpson's on Piccadilly, advertising the store to newly-arrived Indian students in Britain. Against his parents wishes, he decided to pursue a career in journalism. He published an article on the colour bar in 1934 in the Daily Herald, one of the most widely read newspapers in the 1930s. He also wrote several non-fiction books that dealt with the colour bar and the position of Indians in the British empire and Britain, most notably The Pulse of Oxford, I Go West and Oh! You English. Some of his journalism of the period is collected in All My Yesterdays.

He returned to Bombay in 1938 where he worked as a journalist for the Bombay Chronicle, later being promoted to its editorial board. During the Second World War, he worked as a war correspondent. Initially he was posted to Chungking, covering the Chinese war against the Japanese, before becoming effectively an embedded journalist with the 14th Army in Burma in the run-up to the battles of Kohima and Imphal. He transferred to the Western Theatre of War in early 1945, covering the advances of British, American and Indian Forces in Italy. After a short time in London, where he was able to reconnect with friends such as Michael Foot from his Oxford days, as well as gain an exclusive interview with Lord Amery, Secretary of State for India, he was accredited to Southern Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force to witness the Allied Forces’ final push through France and the Low Countries into Germany. He was one of the first journalists to reach Bergen Belsen concentration camp. He was also among the journalists who travelled to Rheims to witness Germany surrender on 8 May 1945.

After the end of the war in Western Europe and his return to England, Karaka wanted to move via New York to the Pacific to cover the war there. However, he did not make it to the Pacific theatre in time. At the end of 1945, Karaka returned to India. After falling out with the editor of the Bombay Chronicle, he founded his own weekly newspaper, The Current. Karaka supported Indian independence and the Indian National Congress, while also supporting the British war effort. He was witness to partition violence, covering for his newspaper the displacement of 10 million people and the atrocities that accompanied it. After independence he became increasingly critical and sceptical of Nehru’s policies. He wrote critically about corruption, and Nehru’s ‘autocratic’ style of government, which led to his phone conversations being tapped and the monitoring of his movements. In 1971, with heightened tensions between India and Pakistan, he was imprisoned briefly on grounds of national security. D. F. Karaka died in 1974 from a heart attack.

Connections:

Lord Amery, Michael Foot, M. K. Gandhi, Roy Jenkins, Michael Joseph (publisher), M. R. Jayakar, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, Humayun Kabir, Madan Mohan Malaviviya, Sarojini Naidu, Jawaharlal Nehru, Tej Bahadur Sapru.

Organizations:

Oxford Union

Involved in events:

Second World War (war correspondent for the Bombay Chronicle in East India, Burma, the western front and Germany)

Published works:

The Pulse of Oxford (London: J. M. Dent, 1933)

Oh! You English (London: Fredrick Muller, 1935)

I Go West (London: Michael Joseph, 1938)

Out of Dust (Bombay: Thacker, 1940) [biography of Gandhi]

Chungking Diary (Bombay: Thacker, 1942)

There Lay the City (Bombay: Thacker, 1942) [novel]

Karaka Hits Propaganda (Bombay: Sound Magazine, 1943) [pamphlet]

All My Yesterdays (Bombay: Thacker, 1944)

Just Flesh (Bombay: Thacker, 1944) [novel]

We Never Die (Bombay: Thacker, 1944) [novel]

With the 14th Army (Bombay: Thacker, 1944; London: D. Crisp, 1945)

New York with its Pants Down (Bombay: Thacker, 1946)

Freedom Must Not Stink (Bombay: Kutub, 1947)

I’ve Shed My Tears: A Candid View of Resurgent India (New York and London: D. Appleton-Century Co., 1947)

No Peace at All (Bombay: Kutub, 1948)

Arre Bhai: Being Rephlection of the Problems oph Bharat, i.e. India, Boycott British Language (Bombay: S. B. Phansikar, New Era Printing Press, 1950)

Betrayal in India (London: Victor Gollancz, 1950)

Nehru: The Lotuseater of Kashmir (London: Derek Verschoyle, 1953)

Fabulous Mogul Nizam of Hyderabad (London: Derek Verschoyle, 1955)

Morarji (Bombay: Times of India Press, 1965)

Shivaji: Portrait of an Early Indian (Bombay: Times of India Press, 1969)

Then Came Hazrat Ali: Autobiography 1972 (Bombay: D. F. Karaka, 1972)

This India (Bombay: Thacker, n.d.)

(with G. N. Acharya) War Prose [anthology]

Contributions to periodicals:

Bombay Chronicle (war correspondent, editor, columnist)

The Current (editor)

Daily Herald

New Statesman

Oxford Isis

Sunday Standard

Secondary works:

Visram, Rozina, 'Karaka, Dosabhoy Framji [Dosoo] (1911–1974)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2013) [http://www.oxforddnb.com/index/101/101101328/]

Archive source:

L/I/1/1423, India Office Records, Asian and African Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras

********************

Dosabhoy Framji [Dosoo] Karaka
by Rozina Visram
Oxford DNB

[Karaka, Dosabhoy Framji [Dosoo] (1911–1974), journalist and writer, was born on 14 April 1911 in Bombay, British India, into a middle-class Parsi family, the eldest of three children of Framji Jehangir Karaka, imperial customs official, and his wife, Homai (d. 1952). He grew up in a house on Malabar Hill called The Cloisters, in a fashionable quarter of Bombay. His great-grandfather, Dosabhai Framji Karaka, was the author of the History of the Parsis published in Britain by Macmillan in 1884. After two years at the Jesuit college in Bombay, when the family moved to Karachi he attended the Dayaram Jethmal Sind College there, graduating with a bachelor of arts degree in English literature. In 1930 he entered Lincoln College, Oxford, graduating with a second in jurisprudence in 1933. At the same time, in October 1930, he was admitted to Gray’s Inn and was called to the bar in 1938. Two events which proved decisive in shaping his life and intellectual development occurred when he was still young. The first was when as a child in Bombay he witnessed mill workers shouting ‘Mahatma Gandhi ke jai’ and learned about the independence movement under Gandhi’s leadership. The second was his time at the University of Oxford and his eight years in Britain.]

Image
Dosabhoy Framji Karaka, by Howard Coster, 1930s

Oxford in the 1930s was changing: there was growing student radicalism. Caught up in undergraduate politics, Karaka became active in several clubs and societies. He was president of the University Liberal Club and the Oxford Majlis.

The Oxford Union Society, commonly referred to simply as the Oxford Union, is a debating society in the city of Oxford, England, whose membership is drawn primarily from the University of Oxford. Founded in 1823, it is one of Britain's oldest university unions and one of the world's most prestigious private students' societies. The Oxford Union exists independently from the university and is separate from the Oxford University Student Union.

The Oxford Union has a tradition of hosting some of the world's most prominent individuals across politics, academia and popular culture, including US Presidents Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton, British Prime Ministers Winston Churchill, Margaret Thatcher, David Cameron and Theresa May, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, activists Malcolm X, Dalai Lama and Mother Teresa, actor Morgan Freeman, musicians Sir Elton John and Michael Jackson and sportspeople Diego Maradona and Manny Pacquiao.

-- Oxford Union, by Wikipedia


At a time of an upsurge in the freedom struggle many prominent Indian figures addressed the Majlis and there were heated debates on Indian independence. Although ‘essentially an Indian club’ (The Pulse of Oxford, 35) it exercised a considerable influence on some of his contemporaries such as Michael Foot. Considered ‘the chief star in our Union constellation’ (Lincoln College Record, 2003/4, 21), Karaka was active in the Oxford Union. He was secretary during the notorious ‘king and country’ debate, and the furore over the outcome meant that Karaka had to re-record the minutes, torn out by some angry undergraduates from the minute book. It was in this charged atmosphere that Karaka wrote his first book, The Pulse of Oxford (1933). In 1934, having worked his way through the society’s ranks, he became president of the Oxford Union, succeeding Foot. As he was the first Indian to hold that office his election made headlines in the national press. While still at Oxford he was commissioned by Michael Joseph to write a book on India, which he entitled I was Born Dark. But the publishers, thinking this would suggest African authorship, changed it to I Go West (1938). His first piece of journalism, ‘Colour Bar’, commissioned by the Daily Herald, was published in 1934.

In 1938, by now a firm believer in the democratic way of life and a ‘budding crusader for the equality of man’ (Then came Hazrat Ali, 103), Karaka returned to Bombay. In December he joined the Bombay Chronicle, one of the leading dailies and a newspaper in the front line of the independence struggle. Under the pseudonym DIM (from Dominus illuminatio mea, the Oxford University motto) Karaka wrote a racy daily half-column as well as a serious feature, ‘I cover the town’. As a reporter for a nationalist paper he met many luminaries of the Indian National Congress. During his nine years with the Bombay Chronicle he wrote a series of eloquent, well-researched pieces. Among his more notable articles was his graphic eyewitness report on the 1943 Bengal famine countering the version of events given to parliament by Leo Amery, the secretary of state for India.

April 1942 saw Karaka in Chungking on his first major assignment as the Bombay Chronicle‘s war correspondent. His daily broadcasts to India, permitted by the Ministry of Information, were aimed at raising awareness of Chinese resistance to Japan. His book Chungking Diary (1942) was a lively account of his experiences, including interviews with Chou en Lai and Madam Chiang Kai-Shek. Next he was on the China–Burma border witnessing the long-drawn-out run-up to the battles of Kohima and Imphal. His monograph With the Fourteenth Army (1944) narrated a human story of courage and endurance in this frontier war. In December 1944, wishing to gain a bigger picture of the war, he transferred to the western front to cover the allied forces’ final push into Germany. With his usual knack for securing interviews he gained an exclusive interview with Amery, which was reported in twenty-seven Indian newspapers on their front pages. Karaka summarized Amery as ‘a cunning little river fish’ (BL OIOC L/I/1/1423), skilful at manoeuvring interviews and difficult to pin down. Karaka was one of the first journalists to enter Bergen Belsen concentration camp. But his eyewitness account, one of the major stories of the war, remained unpublished as the proprietor of the Bombay Chronicle chose not to print it.

The event that was to haunt Karaka, which he witnessed and reported at the request of Brigadier B. S. Chimni, was the partition of the Punjab. His graphic description of the harrowing scenes of slaughter and the helplessness of the refugees lifted the curtain on what he called ‘virtually a war of extermination’
(Freedom must not Stink, 4). He saw no justification in whitewashing Indian shortcomings. He was to return again and again to the images, drawing comparisons between the Punjab and the stench of Belsen in several publications including his autobiography, Then came Hazrat Ali (1972).

After nine years with the Bombay Chronicle Karaka edited a weekly, The March, and in 1949 founded his own weekly, The Current. He remained steadfast to his liberal ideals of a democratic way of life and journalistic ethics. Increasingly disenchanted with Nehru—witness the title Nehru, the Lotus Eater from Kashmir (1953)—and the Congress style of government, he became fiercely critical of its policies, accusing Congress of ‘virtually creating a dictatorship’ (Betrayal in India, 82). In 1971, during the emergency, he was briefly imprisoned on grounds of national security. The Current was a financial struggle and affected his health.

A well-regarded and politically committed journalist, Karaka also wrote works of fiction. At Oxford he was renowned for his wit and sherry parties. A cultured man, he spoke French fluently. He was also fond of betting on horses and playing cards for high stakes. He married in 1952 and lived latterly in Bombay, where he died of cardiac failure in 1974.

********************

Current is back: D.F. Karaka and Ayub Syed’s legacy of trailblazing journalism is back with a bang
by Inder Malhotra
2017

There was an era, long gone by, when there was no media in this country, only the Press. The government-owned and controlled All India Radio seemed not to matter. Mainstream, metropolitan newspapers -– generally respected, even if rather Victorian in style and substance -– dominated the scene that was enlivened, however, by precisely two Mumbai-based newsmagazines in tabloid size. One was the heavily left-leaning Russy Karanjia’s Blitz and the other Current of Duso (D.F.) Karaka whose politics was the exact opposite of Karanjia’s. Their barbs at each other added to the readability of their rival publications without damaging personal relations. More important, both men had deliberately shed the constraints major national newspapers had accepted voluntarily. Their reporting was spicy and their comments hard-hitting. Even at the risk of being accused of sensationalism, they won the reader’s attention and a measure of admiration of the common man—in today’s jargon, aam aadmi. With the passage of time and in accordance with the laws of life, both the trail-blazers eventually disappeared in limbo.

Karaka was the first to call it a day. He looked forward to retired life, but had absolutely no need to shut down the journal he had nurtured so lovingly. There were many wannabe publisher-editors scrambling to buy it from him. He was, however, choosy about the potential buyer. He decided to sell Current to Ayub Syed, a professional journalist of standing, full of dynamism and initiative, and determined to make a mark. When asked why he had opted for Syed, Karaka, a Parsi, gave the startling reply: “Appearing in my dream, Hazrat Ali had so ordered me”.

All through his heyday Karaka had been a trenchant critic of Jawaharlal Nehru and, later, of Indira Gandhi, earning her wrath and brief imprisonment during the Emergency. Ayub Syed, a member of the Congress party for some years and a known Leftist, was in no mood to follow the Karaka line. He adopted his own independent policy. Soon enough, under his stewardship, Current flourished and became an influential and powerful forum for vigorous political reporting and fearless exposure of wrongdoing whenever and wherever perceived. He had close relations with political leaders of all hues, across the entire spectrum. No wonder therefore that there were attempts to influence him. There were also whispers that he was promoting one leader or the other. Ignoring these, he did exactly what he wanted and tried to be as even-handed as humanly possible. This is not to say that he and his newsmagazine made no errors. They did. For instance, in its initial stages and for quite a while later, Current and Ayub supported the Emergency but, later, he was candid enough to admit that it was a mistake. At the same time, he never tampered with, leave alone block, writings by columnists like me that were contrary to his own stand. During the historic 1977 General Election he and I traveled together extensively, especially in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, to gauge the ground reality. He was quick to perceive the sea change in public opinion. By the time we reached Lucknow, we nearly exclaimed in unison: “By God, she has had it… but if we are wrong, we have had it even worse”.

Yet, it is to Ayub’s credit that when the Janata government crossed all limits in calling Indira Gandhi and her son Sanjay to account for the Emergency and its excesses, and instead of prosecuting them started persecuting them, he sternly cried halt, unmindful of reproaches from his friends on the then ruling party’s highest rung. Similarly, by the time Bofors and much else had overwhelmed Rajiv Gandhi’s government, Ayub’s sympathies were with V.P. Singh, by then the rallying point of all forces opposed to Rajiv and the Congress. But this never prevented him from lambasting his good friend Singh’s Mandalization policy. And then something terrible happened. Ayub fell seriously ill. He struggled hard to fight for his life as well as to keep Current going. But fate willed otherwise. The iron crab got him; three years later his beloved weekly went into coma.

Now, with this inaugural issue, on the sixty-first anniversary of Independence, Current is back with a bang. Edited and produced by the Generation Next, the weekly in its new avatar is aimed at reviving Ayub Syed’s legacy, on the one hand, and catering to the wishes, aspirations and needs of the rising youth of rising India, on the other.

During the long interval between Current’s closure and revival, the change in India and the world has been phenomenal to the point of boggling the mind. The transformation of the Indian media scene has been even more staggering. Round-the-clock TV news channels, partly foreign-financed, are giving the print media a run for its money. But, instead of being swamped and supplanted by TV – as was predicted by Jeremiahs and is indeed happening in some Western countries – Indian newspapers and journals, in English as well as regional languages, have not just stood their ground, they have registered expansion beyond all expectations. Burgeoning circulations have been matched by mounting profits. However, this upsurge has not been an unmixed blessing.

On the contrary, with the gargantuan expansion of quantity – it is difficult to keep count of publications: one sinks, several appear almost instantly -– quality has, most distressingly, taken a nosedive. Barring some honourable exceptions, even major and responsible papers of yore have trivialised their contents. Page 3 has overshadowed Page 1. Worse, crass commercial considerations have increasingly eclipsed journalistic ethics and the editor’s authority. Collusion between the movers and shakers of the newspaper industry and the unhidden persuaders of the advertising and PR agencies has reached a stage when editorials have been converted into ‘advertorials’. Nor is any sign of corrective action by newspaper moguls in sight.

To be sure, after its Second Coming, Current is not going to be a charitable outfit, unmindful of earnings. But there need be not the slightest doubt that it would never compromise professional values, leave alone sacrifice them, for the sake of pelf or any other consideration. Equally, the weekly would remain steadfastly committed to giving a wide berth to trivia and titillation that is becoming the USP of far too many publications. Serious but lively journalism is the objective of those infusing a new life into Current, which is why subjects like film and fashion, so hugely splashed by others, will be avoided, and the publication’s priority focus would be on the ‘business of politics and politics of business’.
admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 31180
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: Freda Bedi Cont'd (#2)

Postby admin » Wed Mar 11, 2020 10:42 am

The American who had Nehru’s ear: Recently declassified papers reveal the role of Solomon Abramovich Trone, a personal advisor to India’s first prime minister, in charting the direction of the economy in newly-Independent India.
by Rakesh Ankit
May 05, 2017

Two years after India’s independence, Solomon Abramovich Trone, a former director of the storied General Electric (GE) came to India and became a personal advisor on economy to Jawaharlal Nehru, joining an extraordinary band of people who participated in state-building after Independence. His memorandums to Nehru on planning, a product of Trone’s extensive tour of the country, in their observations on institutions and places provide an unlikely insight into the early days of Independence; unlikely because planning in India is associated with Soviet influence, not an engineer from the home of capitalism.

“Modi sends Soviet-inspired Planning Commission Packing”, ran a headline in The Wall Street Journal (India) on August 18, 2014. Two days later, The New York Times proclaimed the end of “An experiment with Socialism”. These are just two examples of the words and sentiments that greeted the demise of the Planning Commission and its substitution by NITI Aayog. They reflect the popular understanding of the commission as a “Soviet-style behemoth”.

Even in academic literature, when the inspiration(s) behind Nehru and his Planning Commission are enumerated, the usual suspects are turn-of-century British Socialists: G. B. Shaw and R. H. Tawney, the Fabians, Sidney and Beatrice Webb, Soviet Russia from the time of Nehru’s visit in 1927 and the British Labour Government from 1945. (Brown, Nehru, YUP: 2003; 239)

But advice to Nehru came from far and wide. In September 1946, days after taking over as vice-president and member, external affairs, of the interim government, Nehru read a note from P. C. Mahalanobis, containing reports of his tour to Canada, UK and USA—not the usual suspect, the USSR. Mahalanobis spent time at the Statistical Commission of America and attended scientific conferences in the UK. At both places, he found “a friendly attitude and a general desire to help” and, upon return, made concrete suggestions to take advantage of this. One was a central statistical organisation with a focus on planning. In August 1947, both an official mind (Tarlok Singh, ICS) and an unofficial (Manu Subedar) prepared elaborate notes on the machinery and mandarins for planning.

In May 1949, Dr. Stanley Jones, an American missionary who had visited India many times and knew Gandhi, sent a comprehensive letter to Nehru after his return from a tour of Indo-China, East Asia and China. He took the letter and the advice it contained seriously enough to share it with his provincial premiers. Reflecting upon the rise and fall of Chiang Kai-shek and his Kuomintang party, Jones wrote thus:

Congress forestalled Communism through their wise radicalism but will the Congress go the way of the Kuomintang? Will it hesitate about getting the land back to people? Will it tolerate bribery and corruption among lower officials? Will it try to save capitalism by insisting that profit-sharing be a basic principle of industry? A wise radicalism now will be true conservatism then [as] it will take the wind out of the sails of both the Socialists and Communists. (H.K. Mahatab Papers)


Jones’ views were, of course, not wholly applicable to India but he was echoing, in a sense, what Nehru himself held deeply and more forcibly. In a note accompanying Jones’ letters the prime minister remarked to his provincial premiers:

There is a risk for us to be complacent...We do not show a sufficient awareness of the swift currents that are convulsing Asia at present...The real problem lies behind Communism. It is an economic distemper coming at a time when political consciousness and expectations have been roused...Agrarian problem is first in priority in India...Socialists carry on petty agitations and satyagraha...Most people think in terms of the election to come...Congressmen are often static...Our contacts with the masses diminish...We [have] taken them for granted... Communism attracts idealists as well as opportunists. Because there is an element of idealism in it, it draws earnestness... Those who are impelled by a faith in a cause can seldom be crushed by superior force. They can only be defeated by higher idealism and a capacity to work for the cause (H.K. Mahatab papers).


The presence of Solomon Trone (1872-1969) alongside Nehru in late-1949 has gone largely unremarked, an exception being Michael Brecher (Brecher, Nehru, OUP: 1959; 515-16). Trone’s life provides an alternative vantage from which to see the birth of planning in India. Born in Latvia in 1872 to Jewish parents, he took part in the 1905 Russian Revolution. An engineer by training, Trone migrated to the US in 1916. There he ascended rapidly in the echelons of GE and became a director in 1931. In the 1930s, he was a key figure in the GE-led electrification of Russia and creation of the Dnieper power-station. Later, he was an advisor on industrial development to the Kuomintang government in 1940 and a member of the Allied Reparations Commission in 1945.

Trone came to India in the autumn of 1949. Between September and November, he wrote five comprehensive memorandums. After this, he became an economic adviser to the Israel government. Having come under a cloud during the McCarthy era because of his associations, Trone moved to London in 1953, where he died in 1969. He was recently celebrated as The American who electrified Russia in a film by Michael Chanan of Roehampton University, London.

Trone was invited by Nehru who set out the background in a long letter to his finance minister John Mathai on September 13, 1949. He “wanted men with wide experience and ideas”. No one in India had “big experience of rapid development of a country or the ideas for it except in a limited or theoretical way”. Trone had “just that experience in very different environments–the US, Russia, China, [and] Japan”. Nehru had consulted “large numbers of people about him and every single report was that he was a very exceptionally able man”.

The impression he himself got from Trone’s memorandums, as we shall see, confirmed this and Nehru thought he could be of “the greatest use”. He wanted Trone “to stay for a number of years” (John Matthai papers). Right from his work in the Congress’ National Planning Committee of 1938 to the Interim Government over 1946-48, Nehru had felt the need “for a full [economic] picture” especially “so that no money need be wasted”.

The plans made in this period—from Sir M. Visvesvaraya’s 1936 initiative in Mysore and Congressman Syed Mahmud’s 1938 plan for provincial reconstruction in Bihar, to Sir Henry Knight’s food plans during the Second World War years, to the famed 1944 “Bombay Plan” by a group of industrialists, and the post-war department of planning and development that comprised General T. J. Hutton, Sir Akbar Hydari, Sir Ardeshir Dalal and H. V. R. Iyengar (ICS 1925 and RBI Governor 1957)—were to Nehru:

...hardly planning, from a national point of view [but] departmental planning, provincial planning, planning in fits and starts and more or less industrial planning...just a large number of separate schemes and projects which have little relation with each other...no common outlook, no clear objective, no coordinated approach.


Moreover, there was little consideration of what he liked to call “the human aspects of planning, that is, unemployment”. Nehru envisaged plans as “a popular appeal to the people—something big and far reaching that enthuses and draws out the best from everyone”, including the capitalist class. Trone’s memorandums were not made public then as they dealt, in Nehru’s words, “rather frankly” with the state of the economy. They are available now at the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, New Delhi in the P. N. Haksar Papers (III Instalment, Subject File Serial No. 187) and give a detailed account of the economy in 1949—the year of currency devaluation and food and foreign exchange shortage.

Against that background, it was “axiomatic” for Trone, as he noted in his first memorandum of September 12, 1949, that the Indian state had to emerge as a producer of basic goods and services as well as a regulator of private and provincial undertakings. Moreover, for coordinated growth, a national industrial plan with a “clearly defined singular social purpose” had to be formulated. This planning of production and regulation could only be made compatible with democracy by delegating authority and responsibility.

Trone began by reminding Nehru of something we would do well to remember ourselves; that in the last century planning had been undertaken for different purposes in different contexts. Between the late-1920s and mid-1940s, the Soviet Union began the production of heavy machinery for manufacturing and defence with a concomitant neglect of consumer goods, Japan produced a plan for cheap export-oriented goods with a resulting neglect of domestic markets. The military complex in Nazi Germany was planned, too. Before any suggestions for planning, though, Trone had strong words for the way the economy was organised. First, government departments appeared as “watertight compartments without organic unity of purpose”. Second, without an overall plan, it seemed impossible in a country of India’s size and diversity to attempt any planning provincially, especially industrialisation. The crying need was for “a man with power and authority as coordinator to unify and pursue a common purpose” (Memorandum No. 1).

Citing the Central Electricity Commission (CEC), Trone remarked that it was an advisory body with about 70 engineers. But the bulk of big engineering work, for instance, the building of the Bhakra power plant, was being done by foreign consulting engineering groups. Trone wanted active participation for CEC engineers in future enterprises so that the government could develop its own specialists and eliminate the expense on foreign consultants. But the most important point was, Trone found, “responsibility divorced from authority”. Every action by a local official responsible for results had to be cleared by the Secretariat. Even in cases where specified sums for specified work were allocated, expenditure within the allotment had again to be approved.

This was a problem not unique to India. In America, the creation of a Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) and in England, the Electricity and Transport Board, had compelled governments to devise new machinery to unite responsibility and authority.

Trone began a two-week survey of major industrial establishments in Bengal and Bihar. He visited the office of the Coal Commissioner, Geological Survey of India, Titagarh Paper and Jute Mills, and Damodar Valley Corporation (DVC) in Calcutta. In Jamshedpur he went to Tata Steel (then Tisco), Indian Cable Company, Agrico, Indian Steel and Wire Products, Tinplate Company, Tata Locomotive and Engineering. In Asansol it was the Aluminium Corporation of India, in and near Dhanbad, the Fuel Research Institute, Indian School of Mines, Tata Colliery, Burrakur Coal, and the fertilizer factory in Sindri. In Giridih he looked at the mica industry, railway collieries and coking plant, and in Bokaro the railway collieries and the site of the power plant for DVC.

Upon his return on October 4, 1949, he wrote a detailed memorandum. The contents read familiar to a student of Indian industrialisation. Trone saw the power of local authorities limited to a degree incommensurate with production, economy and efficiency. He found managerial bodies laden with responsibilities, but real authority was vested in the ministries and secretariats. Certain paper patterns, created or inherited in New Delhi, had become inflexible and ground conditions were made to conform to them in a way that reminded Trone of the old Greek story of Procrustes’ Bed. Trone was blunt in his report to Nehru: “If your government expects results, the authority to act and to change along with changing conditions must be on the spot”.

This problem was compounded by the fact that the central authorities—ministers and secretaries—seldom visited production sites and when they did, were not around long enough to acquaint themselves with conditions. At the Bokaro collieries, labour was living in conditions unfit for man but local managers had neither authority nor money to create new settlements though the colliery paid large sums to the Mines Welfare Fund for the purpose of improving labour conditions.

Trone worried that such conditions fed agitation as industrial labour fluctuated between factory and farm—a condition he knew well from China and pre-revolutionary Russia. Unsurprisingly, labour productivity was abysmal. The major stop on Trone’s tour was DVC. An autonomous agency set up in March 1948 under the DVC Act, its engineering programme comprised eight multi-purpose storage dams with hydroelectric plants, two additional hydroelectric plants, a steam power plant at Bokaro, an irrigation barrage, canals, a 145 km-long navigation canal, and a power transmission grid.

More complex than the TVA, this first multi-purpose project in India was expected to have a far-reaching impact as it was in a mineral-rich region akin to the Ruhr Valley in Germany and Donetsk Basin in Russia. At the time of Trone’s visit, DVC was facing three key obstacles.

First, there was no qualified and experienced chief engineer. Trone recommended getting someone from abroad. Second was the steel in the design for the Bokaro power-house, by GE along with the Philadelphia consulting firm of Kuljian. Going by American practice, they had incorporated rolled steel in place of fabricated steel. But rolled steel was not easily obtainable in India. The shortage of dollars, especially after devaluation, had prevented the import of American rolled steel. The quantity in question was about 6,000 tons, of which GE was providing 1,200. The remainder, if not imported, was to be fabricated indigenously. The choice was between time and money. Rolled steel from America came at $210 per ton with a delivery time of five months via Calcutta. Fabrication in India meant a delay of 18-20 months.

According to the DVC master plan, the first boiler at Bokaro was to arrive in June 1950 and the first turbo-generator in January 1951, with the powerhouse to be ready by the end of 1952. To realise this schedule, steel needed to be at the site by the beginning of April 1950. DVC was staring at a delay similar to the fertilizer factory at Sindri, caused by paper-work jammed in New Delhi. The original sin had been that the Bokaro powerhouse design was made in America. Had Indian engineers been present, design, schedule and supply orders could have been adapted.

Third, there was the Konar Dam. In September 1949, construction had not begun nor final agreements for design and engineering made with the French firm working on it. The dam, which was to supply water for the Bokaro powerhouse, was to be ready by the middle of 1951. In each case, Trone found “the autonomy and authority of the DVC to exist only on paper. Decisions rest with Delhi and are delayed”. This feeling was amplified at Trone’s next stop, the Sindri Fertilizer Factory. He reiterated that such large-scale undertakings “cannot be directed from New Delhi” and anticipated problems that arose a year or so later, when the plant was ready. No long-term plan existed for the coke and gypsum requirements or ammonium sulphate disposal. Secondly, he did not find any technical and administrative personnel. It is a tribute to Trone’s command of local conditions that he suggested the practical solution of coking coal from nearby Giridih instead of then ongoing negotiations with the comparatively far-off Indian Steel company (Asansol).

This question of raw material supply led to a more fundamental challenge: the Geological Survey of India’s limited knowledge of existing mineral sources. No drilling equipment was available to it, the whole of India had no more than three-four diamond drills, the geophysical department was underdeveloped, and hydrological studies non-existent. A few Indian geologists who spent a year or so in the US and a German geologist made up the whole of the Geological Survey. The Indian School of Mines and Applied Geology was little better, with about 170 students. From his experience, Trone knew industrial development went hand in hand with geological knowledge.

A rare example of this was the Aluminium Corporation at Asansol where the entire process of extracting aluminium from bauxite was concentrated on one spot. Yet, at the time of Trone’s visit, only 33/48 furnaces were working and the plant usually shut down for two months for repairs. Some 1,500 men produced 2,500 tons of alumina and 1,000 tons of aluminium over ten months—much lower than the mill’s rated capacity. It got a subsidy of Rs 900 per ton of aluminium. Trone grasped the need to enhance aluminium production in India, since it could to a large extent replace copper, a scarcer item. He argued that if cheap power, bauxite and soda could be brought together at one spot, as in Asansol, there was no reason why cheap aluminium could not be produced.

Any attempt to answer this question took him to planning. In 1949, planning in India was in a chaotic state: “at best, provincial and even then on a departmental basis”. Trone was clear about his vision of a broad, non-political planning effort in his second memorandum dated October 4, 1949:

I propose that a small central planning agency be set up without delay...directly attached to the PM...It should consist of a very few members, selected with the utmost objectivity and care for their experience, their background and their acquaintance with planning. This agency could evolve a unified national plan...fix priorities, coordinate activities, overcome bottle-necks, and transform plans from paper to reality.


Trone also had some advice for Nehru before he embarked on his maiden US trip. It was obvious that no country could indefinitely pay for large imports of technical equipment and the first objective for India, therefore, was self-sufficiency in iron and steel, tool-making and hydroelectricity. Trone believed America would be interested in a democratic, developed India—given Chiang-Kai-shek’s defeat by the communists in China—and willing to give India self-liquidating loans with as few strings attached as possible. Trone advised Nehru to seek a loan to cover steel mills, power generation and tool-making, apart from ensuring DVC’s requirements of a chief engineer. This would allow Indian personnel to work closely with Americans and benefit from the experience. Trone had little doubt that DVC and the steel and electricity plants would have a ready market that could easily pay off US debts.

After eastern India, Trone turned his thoughts to the south, central and western provinces of Bombay, Mysore, Travancore, Madras and the Central Province. He was in these areas for three weeks, and went to industrial establishments and cottage industries, met cabinet ministers and bureaucrats, addressed engineers and chambers of commerce, discussed matters with labour leaders, academics and the press and, in Mysore, met Visvesvaraya and Mirza Ismail. The tour yielded a typically detailed memorandum on November 21, 1949. Trone was struck by “the achievements of the former benevolent [princely] government of Mysore” and “the educational facilities in [princely] Travancore”, observations that ring familiar even at this distance in time. He was also struck by “primitive agricultural methods” and “economic consequences of caste and sub-caste including one case where, in manganese mines near Nagpur, while water was sparse, each sub-caste had its own”.

Trone organised his report by provinces and began with Bombay. The textile capital of the country disappointed him with its working and living conditions for labour: “worse than Calcutta and Bihar’s coal region”, with “understandable low production and discontent”. This, to Trone, was one of the reasons why the much-touted prohibition law was not working in Bombay as scarcity of consumer goods left workers with “spare cash even from his small earnings that he drinks and gambles away”. It was a lose-all situation: “the loser is the state in money and in health of its poisonous-liquor drinking population; the gainer is the black-marketeer”. Here, Trone drew parallels with the failure and harm of enforced prohibition in the US and argued that prohibition succeeded gradually only if the state provided substitutes for drinking in the forms of better housing, schools, recreation centres, etc.

In Mysore, Trone felt a “discrepancy” between the “fine outer appearance of the state—its buildings, roads, hospitals, educational and scientific institutions, fine irrigation dams, public gardens, all inherited from the past, and the present state of its industries”, with the sole exception of the Jog Falls. There he saw “four 18,000 KW [18MW] turbo-generators of English make being installed by first-class Indian engineers without foreign assistance”. Mysore was a model-state with respect to developing hydroelectric energy. On the back of this, the state was planning fertiliser, cement and acid plants, an extension of the Mysore Iron and Steel works, trolley buses in Bangalore and railway electrification. To Trone, a great believer in national development, these projects were “schemes that try to make Mysore self-sufficient in all respects and overlook the bigger unit—India. The economic justification and prospects for self-liquidation of these projects, if executed, are very questionable” (Memorandum No. 3).

In Travancore, also one of the more progressive states, Trone noted the well-built and maintained Pallivasal hydroelectric station and Alwaye Fertilisers and Chemicals Ltd. Nevertheless, some all-India ills were present here too: production below capacity, mechanical troubles, foreign exchange requirement for imported machinery, superfluous labour and, above all, correspondence with New Delhi. The factories had “a special man there—a pusher—to hasten procedure”. It was in Travancore that Trone found his arguments for all-India planning. The Indian Aluminium Co. at Alwaye, a subsidiary of the Aluminium Ltd. Group of Canada, had first-class engineers and equipment but no rolling facilities. The aluminium produced went to Asansol. On the other hand, the latter needed a full overhaul of its infrastructure. A third aluminium plant at Muri in Bihar could not reduce alumina to aluminium for lack of equipment and sent alumina to Alwaye.

As Trone put it, “One need only look at the map to see how uneconomical the whole process from ore to rolled product—Muri-Alwaye-Asansol—must be”. Aluminium production in India was only 3,500 tons a year, regardless of the subsidy for producers.

From Travancore, crossing the Nilgiris, Trone reached Madras, where the issue was power shortage. The province had three government-run hydroelectric stations: Pykara (43 MW, est. 1933), Mettur (40 MW, 1937) and Papanasam (21 MW, 1944), and was in the middle of a six-year development plan (1945-51) that envisaged four new plants. Here, for the first time, he visited a village development scheme and pronounced a harsh judgement on the hand-spinning and hand-weaving cluster: “Aside from sentimental value, there is no economic future whatsoever”.

For him, modern cottage industries as in Japan could be an instrument of growth but India was better off planning outfits like the highly mechanised West India Match Company in Madras where 1,600 workers produced three million boxes of 60 matches daily. Trone’s final stop was Nagpur. The Central Province appeared rich in natural resources but poor in terms of infrastructure and planning. On the one hand, a poorly planned thermal plant was being set-up at Khaperkheda, on the other, manganese mines in the province produced 400,000 tons of ore yearly with primitive manual labour.

Trone also visited the Hindustan Aircraft Ltd. in Bangalore. The “unsound atmosphere” he found merited a separate memorandum and this was the report considered too embarrassing to be made public at the time. Trone himself suggested that this memorandum “should not be widely circulated” (Memorandum No. 3 (a)). Hindustan Aircraft had started as a private enterprise in 1941 with equipment from China. Under the management of the American Air Force, it had developed into an enterprise for aircraft overhaul and repair. At its peak, it did about 300 engines and 100 frames per month and employed 14,000 people. In 1949, it was jointly owned by the Union government and Mysore government. It had about 6,200 workers, a technical staff of about 100 and twice as many supervisors. Reflecting the prevailing environment of transition, the general manager was Indian, while the production controller, chief inspector, commercial manager and manufacturing superintendent were English and the factory manager, rail-coach factory superintendent and airline overhauling superintendent were Americans. In addition, about 20 Indian engineers held responsible positions.

The factory now rebuilt about 35 engines and six frames per month and had started producing rail-coaches. In addition, a prototype of an Indian airplane was being made. Nevertheless, the plant was more than one-third idle and working at a loss. The Indian engineers confided in Trone about the “strains between foreign and Indian staff”. As a result, regular customers like Airways India, Bharat Airways, Deccan Airways etc., were setting up their own repair shops. They did not complain of the engineering service as much as “uneven treatment, high prices [and] priorities given to preferred customers”. Trone left with “an uneasy feeling” and suggested an investigation, given the importance of Hindustan Aircraft in the country’s development.

So what were the general observations that convinced this former GE director that planning was the right, indeed the only, way forward for India? Contrary to usual analysis and his own expectations, it was a feeling of “general let-down and apathy” that led Trone to suggest the initiative.

In the mind of the people Congress sways in its economic and political policies and this estranges the industrialist, labour, the middle class [and] the socialist. The peasant seems to be outside the active field...The general opinion seems to be that the administrative machinery is not in the hands of the best men but Congressmen (Memorandum No. 3).


The usual “black features” of an economic crisis—corruption, falling production, rising unemployment, growing inflation—were in evidence. More seriously, relations between industry and government had deteriorated, and ministerial and secretarial interference in production and regulation from afar, often without knowledge or understanding of the process and problems, was assuming chronic proportions.

Life has found an unhealthy way out. Industries now have men at the centre whose function it is to push their interests...We, in the US, complain of the existence of “lobbies” in Washington that try to push their special private interests before public interests. But that a state-owned industry should need similar devices in its dealings with its own government... (Memorandum No. 3)


Consequently, few government industries were working well. Trone reckoned Mysore Iron and Steel could dispense with four-fifths of its labour and Alwaye Fertilisers and Chemicals with one-third. Managements at both places were keen to do so but prohibited by government. The answer for Trone was planned creation of more industries to generate employment. This inevitably led to mechanisation, a process both costly and slow. Moreover, an abundance of cheap labour reduced its economic value, especially where the time element was not important. Labour resisted mechanisation, fearing more unemployment.

The way to square this circle was to assure labour that “growing industrialisation will absorb the unemployed. England had to go through similar experiences, when destruction of machinery was a policy used to fight unemployment”. Efficient production was possible only by conscious cooperation between labour and management but in India Trone saw “quite the opposite”.

A great obstacle in the way of cooperation was the absence of opportunities for self-development and advancement—universities, libraries, parks and cinemas—for workers. For Trone, these had to be created, as much for generating production as for maintaining peace. As he put it, “sons of workers must be taught alongside boys from [the] middle class”.

His observations brought Trone to tie up his recommendations in a final memorandum on “Planning and Planning Machinery”, dated November 21, 1949. He brought up the example of England under Labour. A “mixed economy” like India, political power in England was in the hands of a party with a “social ideology”. The resultant policy had been to utilise natural resources and provide full employment for the increase of national income, which was then equitably distributed as well as suitably invested in capital goods, housing and agriculture that, in turn, contributed to generate a bigger national income. In India, Trone warned Nehru, the Congress party and government, “not being homogeneous in social structure nor in ideology”, was slipping from its pledge to work towards a social democratic society with full employment, growing standard of living and increasing national income.

Instead, he saw powerful industrial groups on their way to gain influence in government. “By withholding investments, closing factories, refusing to pay taxes on past profits thereby deepening the existing economic crisis and creating more unemployment and unrest”, these groups, Trone felt, had “already almost succeeded in forcing government into acceptance of their laissez faire policy”. Simultaneously, they used inflation to make quick profits in speculation and quick turnover in trade.

Trone conceded that this private sector might bring new investment in consumer goods, given the chance for quick profits but doubted that they would have a substantial impact on the economic crisis or unemployment. He argued that for fear of a possible reversal in government policy, it would be reluctant to go fully even into consumer goods. It was an axiom with him that free capital in India—even if available in sufficient quantity—would not seek new investment in capital goods industries as they took years to develop and more before they yielded profits. Indian capital then was, basically, “trade capital seeking quick profits and quick turnover”.

Secondly, industrial labour in India, as in China, had not lost its connection with the village. For Trone, existing labour conditions, coupled with unemployment, must create labour trouble and unrest and then carry it into the village, where a disintegrating economy was itself the basis for growing discontent. Given his experience with the Chiang-Kai-shek government, Trone saw many analogies between China and India.

Trone urged Nehru to take the lead by investing in capital goods, without which neither development of natural resources nor full employment was possible. Besides resources and manpower, capital goods demanded money and in India it could only come from either foreign exchange or in the form of long-term cheap loans aided by exports. Trone envisaged an expenditure of about $500 million over five-six years for two steel mills of 500,000 tons each, one electrical plant generating 300 MW per year and a machine tools industry.

He believed that “a common spirit of sacrifice and hope” that mobilised “all inner reserves” could generate “creative power” as in Soviet Russia, Hitler’s Germany, militaristic Japan and Labour’s England. For Trone, like many Americans of his generation, India was the last big country in Asia with a chance to grow into a social democracy and “no sacrifice was too great to make this chance a reality”.

The basis for this was to be an “all-India plan of a managed mixed economy with a wide field for private enterprise sufficiently controlled not to interfere with plan purposes in order to mobilise natural resources and manpower to create common wealth and distribute it equitably”. The first step had to be a new village economy around a reorganised and cooperative agriculture and cottage industries by pooling land, existing equipment, farm hands and working animals.

This required land reforms which for Trone could not be achieved without adequate planning. Reiterating his vision of a social-minded body that would consist of “an engineer, an economist, an administrator, a businessman and an expert on rural economy”, Trone insisted on it being invested with sufficient authority and autonomy, by being responsible directly to the Prime Minister. This national-level team would be assisted by regional planning boards and constituent units. Trone argued for a two-fold exercise of authority by this commission: control of scarce materials, export, import and exchange, price, investment and transport, and long-term plans in agricultural, industry, consumer goods, transport and communications, public health, education and recreation, scientific organisation, research and development in technology and public administration.

Trone repeatedly cautioned against over-centralisation and wanted the material and financial targets of the Planning Commission to reflect the objective situation in resources and requirements as well as regional appraisals and aspirations. State units and industries, in light of their capacities, were to be free to make alternative suggestions. India’s diversity and federal political structure had to be kept in mind but provincial cooperation was to be secured through a cadre of experts, financial and material assistance to provinces and exercise of constitutional powers by the centre. More than that, Trone wanted to ensure “the interest, enthusiasm and cooperation of people” in the working of the plan and, for this purpose, suggested that various means of communications, especially radio, be employed to communicate results achieved and issues outstanding. After all, the most important guarantee for any success was “an enlightened public opinion and continuous popular interest”.

The nub of Trone’s advice, a Planning Commission, came through in 1950. Similarly, the first plans saw his basic thrusts at village cooperatives and heavy industries being realised. The Planning Commission is today derided as the folly of a man, his vanity and dogmas. But in the aftermath of the Second World War, a broad international consensus existed on the role of the state as a creator, provider, manager and distributor of national economies. Nehru especially highlighted the experience of the “entirely dissimilar” Russia and Japan. With “little social capital and little help from outside” they industrialised themselves, they increased their production and raised their standard of living, because “both planned with the greatest thoroughness...and in a large measure achieved them within a remarkably short span of time”.

In 1949, he sent Mahalanobis, chairman of the Committee of National Income, to a conference on national income in Geneva. The proceedings emphasised developing “social accounting” (Mahalanobis papers), then being done in nine countries, two of which could be called “socialist” but none “communist”—France, Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Canada, Australia, the UK and the US.

In June 1954, Nehru sent Mahalanobis to the West again to meet a veritable Who’s Who of the “economic mind”. They included the Norwegian Ragnar Frisch and the Dutchman Jan Tinbergen (first winners of the Nobel prize in economics in 1969), the French Marxist Charles Bettelheim, the Polish economist Oskar Lange, the English trio of J. R. N. Stone (Nobel in economics in 1984), Joan Robinson and P. M. S. Blackett (Nobel in physics in 1948) and, in America, Simon Smith Kuznets (Nobel in economics in 1971), Solomon Fabricant, Paul A. Baran and the Harvard duo of Abram Bergson and Robert Dorfman.

In July, Mahalanobis was told in Moscow that Indian planning “need not, cannot and must not be a mere copy of Soviet planning”. National economies are complex creatures and as long as India remains a democracy where the desires of a few contrast with the deprivation of many, there will remain a desperate need for planning and regulation. The democrat that Jawaharlal Nehru was, he never forgot that “when government depends on the goodwill of large numbers of people”, planning was imperative to “offer them [an] objective, [a] clear picture” so that they do not “have a sensation of being asked to labour and to suffer with no promise of reward in future”.
admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 31180
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: Freda Bedi Cont'd (#2)

Postby admin » Wed Mar 11, 2020 7:10 pm

Part 1 of 2

Guru tricks 3 — Lying
by Angelo Mouthful Marketing
medium.com
Mar 17, 2019

With the help of John Driver, an Englishman who was also tutoring Trungpa, Freda set about getting a Spalding Scholarship for Trungpa, and succeeded. In early 1963 Trungpa set sail for England accompanied by Akong Rinpoche, to enter into the arcane, privileged, and hallowed halls of Oxford University. It was another epic journey into the unknown, heralding as many adventures, pitfalls, and triumphs as they had met in their escape from Tibet.

-- The Revolutionary Life of Freda Bedi, by Vicki Mackenzie


Along with John [E. Stapleton] Driver, a scholar of Tibet who had spent several years in Kalimpong, she managed to secure a Spalding scholarship to allow Trungpa to study at Oxford University....At Tilbury, Cherry's parents were on hand to welcome the two Tibetans -- as were Anita Morris and other well-wishers -- and to provide them with an initial berth at the family home in High Wycombe. Once installed at Oxford, Trungpa and Akong were joined by an old friend and another alumnus of the Home School, Chime Rinpoche. They shared a small flat in St Margaret's Road, on the same street as Freda's old college, and Akong took work as a hospital orderly to help support the household. All three became powerful beacons of Tibetan Buddhism in the west.

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


Driver was a graduate of Merton College (in Classical Chinese, 1954), and then pursued his interests in Tibetan studies (Guhyagarbha Tantra) in Kalimpong, Gangtok and Kathmandu, 1957-60.

He returned to St Antony's College as a fellow to continue his researches (1961-65), and thus was in Oxford when the Tibetan Buddhist lama tulkus Trungpa Rinpoche, Akong Rinpoche and Chime Rinpoche first came to Oxford (1963).

-- Donation of J.E. Stapleton Driver Collection of Tibetan texts to Bodleian, by yeshiuk.blogspot.com


Around this time, Rinpoche received a Spaulding [Spalding] Scholarship to attend Oxford University. This had come through the intercession of Freda Bedi and John Driver, an Englishman who tutored Rinpoche in the English language in India and helped him with his studies later at Oxford. The Tibet Society in the United Kingdom had also helped him to get the scholarship. To go to England, Rinpoche needed the permission of the Dalai Lama's government. They would never have have allowed him to leave if they had known about his sexual indiscretion, nor do I think it would have gone over very well with the Tibet Society or his English friends in New Delhi. He and Konchok Paldron kept their relationship a secret, and it was a long time before anyone knew that Rinpoche was the father of her child. This caused him a great deal of pain, although I also think that he hadn't yet entirely faced up to the implications of the direction he was going in his relationships with women. At that time, in spite of the inconsistencies in his behavior, he still seemed to think that he could make life work for himself as a monk. Rinpoche continued to stay in touch with Konchok Paldron and his son Osel, and a few years later, he returned to see them and to make arrangements for his son to come to England.

Rinpoche sailed from Bombay for England early in 1963, on the P&O Line, accompanied by his close friend Akong, who was to be a helper and companion to him at Oxford. Rinpoche had been working very hard on his English, but when he left India, he was still struggling with the language, speaking what would be called a form of pidgin English. When Rinpoche and Akong docked in England, they were welcomed by members of the Tibet Society, and before his studies started at Oxford in the fall, Rinpoche spent time in London, where he met many of the most prominent members of the English Buddhist community. He was invited to give several talks at the Buddhist Society, and he attended a kind of summer camp they sponsored each year, where he gave a number of lectures....

When he went up to Oxford, he had quite a challenge trying to bring his English up to speed so that he could understand the lectures and the books he was given to read. Rinpoche wanted to learn as much as he could about English history, philosophy, religion, and politics, but it was pretty tough going for him at the beginning. John Driver, whom he had met in India and who had been instrumental in bringing him to England, returned to England and helped Rinpoche a great deal with his lessons, and Rinpoche never forgot this kindness. In the evenings, Rinpoche attended classes in the town of Oxford to improve his English...

Rinpoche had started writing poetry in English while he was in England. He had studied English poetry at Oxford, and his early poems tended to be more formal, with allusions to Christian themes and Greek mythology as well as to Buddhist deities....

Most of the Western students at Samye Ling were English or Scottish. I don't remember meeting any Americans at that time. In addition to Rinpoche and the painter Sherab Palden Beru, we were introduced to another Tibetan: Akong Rinpoche, Trungpa Rinpoche's longtime companion and the cofounder of the center. Akong had escaped from Tibet with Trungpa Rinpoche and had lived with him at Oxford University, where Rinpoche had studied for several years after he arrived in England....

-- Dragon Thunder: My Life with Chogyam Trungpa, by Diana J. Mukpo with Carolyn Rose Gimian


In 1963, with the assistance of sympathetic Westerners, Trungpa received a Spalding sponsorship to study comparative religion at St Antony's College, Oxford University.

-- Chogyam Trungpa, by Wikipedia


And at that moment, a young woman came in the door, and she kind of pulled me aside and she said, “If you don’t mind me asking, ‘what are you doing here’?” I said, “Well, it’s really hard to explain, but I’m really interested in the teachings of the Kagyu order of Tibetan Buddhism.” She said, “Oh, you know there are two Tibetan lamas in this country, and they belong to that Kagyu order.” And then she reached into her purse and she pulled out a photo, and she pointed to the one on the left and she said, “That’s Trungpa. That’s the one you want to meet.” I said, “Yes. Okay.” And then she proceeded to give me the address and phone number. They were living in Oxford.

And so I was very excited. She actually gave me the photo. And I remember going into the park -- it was in the summer -- and sitting on the grass and trying to meditate. And I was looking at this photo – I had it on the grass in front of me – and I could see this kind of aura around the head of Trungpa Rinpoche in the photo. And I felt the hairs on the back of my neck standing up, and I thought, “I have to contact him. I can’t wait any longer.” And I rushed home, and I phoned the number in Oxford, and asked to speak to Venerable Trungpa, and someone with a weird foreign accent said, “Oh, he no here right now. Better you write to him.” And then they gave me an address of some place called Biddulph in Staffordshire, Biddulph Old Hall in Staffordshire.

And so I sat down and wrote a letter, “Dear Venerable Trungpa. I’d very much like to come and meet you, and study under your guidance. And I’d be willing to meet you any time or place that would be suitable to you.”...

So during the week, he told me that the time would come when he would have his own center, which seemed at the time utterly improbable, because he was living, as it turned out, with two other Tibetans in a basement flat in Oxford. And they had virtually no money. One of them was working part-time as a porter, just enough to put a little bit of food on the table. ....

And I guess Rinpoche was studying a little bit at St. Antony’s college in Oxford....

-- Richard Arthure on Meeting Chogyam Trungpa, The Chronicles of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche


Today’s article is part 3 in the internet guru series. I have been looking at some of the tricks that internet gurus use to draw you in and depart with your cash. Today’s trick is a simple ploy that has been around since the dawn of humanity. Lying. In the internet guru world, lying can range from exaggerating your achievements, camouflaging your environment or just plain old, out and out lying. Today I want to talk about how to protect yourself from these tricks.

A lot of gurus exaggerate what they have been able to do. In some cases, gurus will lie in order to appear successful. They are incentivized to do so because they have something to sell. In the 21st Century, it is easier than ever to masquerade as a successful entrepreneur when in fact you are nothing of the sort. By creating an online persona, with ‘evidence’ of wealth displayed all over a website and videos and instructional videos littered with bold statements of success, internet gurus are able to generate perceived value in their pitch.

How the human brain works in this area is very interesting. If I want to sell you something, all I need to do is provide you with perceived value multiple times. Following this, the brain generates an element of trust in that value and the prospect becomes an attractive purchase. This translates to the same mechanisms that lying achieves in the context of internet guru advice selling. Once the gurus have reiterated their perceived value, genuine or otherwise, a cognitive rapport of trust is generated and you become motivated to buy.

This isn’t to say that every individual on YouTube is a liar when it comes to promulgating their success. In the business world, if you are just starting out with a new venture then you do need to blow your own trumpet. As a seller, it is important to inform prospective clients that you are a high achiever, and demonstrate what you have accomplished due to your prosperous acumen.

As a buyer however, you need to validate these claims. It is your responsibility to differentiate between the self-promotion of a successful individual and a fraud. By definition, this can be a difficult task. Your own critical analysis will play a leading role in this fraud detection. Thankfully, there are a number of techniques you can incorporate in your assessment that will assist you in telling the genuine from the fake.

The first is a simple logic check. If most, or even none, of the proclaimed advice appears to make any sense or departs from pragmatism, then you need to question the validity. It is important here, however, to be mindful of your own cognitive biases. I have talked in a previous article about how the human brain is not always a rational machine. We have a range of quirky biases that influence our behavior. Being aware of these biases is an important step in avoiding being negatively influenced by them. Take an objective view of the advice the guru is offering. Do not become a ‘hater’ and dismiss advice purely for the narcissistic benefit of always being right. Only with an objective and unbiased mindset will you be able to properly asses the validity of the advice proffered by an internet guru.

The second technique is to conduct a deep analysis of the individual claiming internet guru status. If someone is claiming they made $50 million last year doing a certain action, how can you verify that? How do you know whether XYZ actually sold the 500 houses they are claiming to have sold? Well, you can check to see if they are registered under any companies or if any sales of similar magnitude have actually taken place. There are a wealth of websites and institutions that can help you do just that. This method is a more time-consuming approach but offers an effective way to detect fraud.

The third technique is perhaps the most powerful and pragmatic — experimentation. By putting the advice on trial, you can get an idea of the validity of the presented instruction. If you prototype the advice, using a small amount of your resources, and the advice works for you, then by definition what the internet guru has provided you has value. You can then move forward with this advice and either conduct more tests, using more resource, or begin the lifestyle change and follow the path the guru is offering.

This is perhaps the most powerful technique as its benefits are centered along two main lines. First, it is effective in fraud detection as it puts the guru’s advice under the microscope. Secondly, it offers a window into whether the advice is right for you, regardless of the validity of the provider. If you repeatedly test out the advice and it never works, then you have a clear signal to avoid the advice from that particular guru. Failure to repeat their success could mean one of two things. Either, the advice is incorrect and will never work, or their advice is generally correct but happens to not work for you. Regardless, the advice is to be avoided and you should move on. If you are trying to replicate the behavior of an individual whose cognitive style is fundamentally different from yours, you may struggle to achieve the same results they did. If this is the case, regardless of how genuine their success is, you should depart and find new advice. If it doesn’t work for you then it doesn’t work.

***********************************

Katherine Felt, Plaintiff, vs. Yogi Bhajan [Excerpt]
by Gordon Reiselt, Esq., Singer, Smith and Williams and Peter N. Georgiades, Esq. & Robert S. Whitehill, Esq., Rothman, Gordon, Foreman and Groudine, P.A.
1986

....The method by which Bhajan induced others to follow him was to pose as a Yoga master and teacher, and then covertly subject yoga students to a process of mental and emotional conditioning in which their personalities are disrupted and ultimately destroyed, and then are supplanted with a "reformed" personality ("reformed" in this context having its most literal meaning of "making over" or "forming again"). This reformed personality is, by design, intellectually, emotionally and ideologically committed exclusively to Bhajan and the service of Bhajan. Once a follower is in this condition, he or she becomes part of Bhajan's cult following, and is invariably exploited by Bhajan for whatever Bhajan can get out of the follower, be that money, property, sex, labor, administrative or business skill or assistance, or social or political contacts, prestige or credibility. This process is, by design, carried out without the knowledge or understanding of the inductee, and was carried out upon the plaintiff in this case.

In order to facilitate the expansion, operation and maintenance of his cult, Bhajan has created and operated a number of corporations and associations, including but not limited to the corporate defendants named in this case. These corporations and associations are used, inter alia, as devices through which he has intentionally misrepresented his personal history and background, his education, training, abilities, goals and objectives, as well as the nature, objectives, history and purposes of the various corporations and other associations. This misrepresentation is necessary in order for Bhajan to attract new followers, maintain the loyalty of the followers he already has, obtain the money, property, sex, labor and other assistance he extracts from his followers, as well as to conceal the true nature, objectives and operations of his organization from those outside the organization....

In addition to the foregoing general misrepresentations, Bhajan also made a number of knowing misrepresentations to the plaintiff while she was at the women's camp that related specifically to his status as a teacher, representative and leader of the Sikh religion of India. These misrepresentations were also made on virtually a daily basis from July 1975 through September, 1975, both orally and in articles, brochures and other promotional materials produced by the defendants, and were made for the purpose of inducing the plaintiff to remain at the women's camp until she could be indoctrinated, and to facilitate the thought reform process. These representations were false, and Bhajan knew them to be false at the time he made them. They included, inter alia:

(a) That he was an "avatar," which means a reincarnation of God. Bhajan has never believed this of himself.

(b) That the form of religious practice observed by Bhajan's followers was ancient in origin, and was followed worldwide by those professing to be Sikhs, including the Sikhs of India. In truth, Bhajan well knew the religious beliefs and practices espoused by Bhajan are not of ancient origin, are only superficially based upon the Sikh religion as it was practiced prior to the founding of Bhajan's organizations, and are very different from or contrary to the Sikh religion as it was practiced in India prior to the founding of Bhajan's organizations.

(c) That in 1971 he was appointed by the governing body of the Sikh religion at Amritsar, India (the Shiromani Gurdware Parbandhak Committee) as the "Sin Singh Sahib," and that this title and office were those of the chief religious leader of the Sikhs in the Western Hemisphere. In truth and in fact, Bhajan never did receive any such appointment, and indeed there is no body within the Sikh religion which as the power to make such an appointment, nor is there any such office within the Sikh religion as it is known and practiced in India. Moreover, the title "Sin Singh Sahib" is not a title of religious significance to the Sikhs of India, and is nothing more than a respectful mode of address used by one Sikh when addressing another.

(d) That he had studied the Sikh religion in India under a Saint of that religion for years before coming to the United States, and that as a result of his long study he was schooled in the ways of the Sikh religion. In truth and in fact Bhajan had not made any such study, could neither read nor write the language in which the teachings and scriptures of the Sikh religion are written (Punjabi), and in fact at least until he came to the United States he had never even read them.

(e) That he had over 250,000 followers, mostly of Indian birth. In truth and in fact he had never had in excess of a few thousand followers, and few, if any, of his followers were or are of Indian birth (other than Bhajan's wife).

(f) That he had washed the floors of the Golden Temple at Amritsar, India for four years to "purify himself," when in fact he had never done so.

(g) That he was always faithful to his wife, and for a period of many years prior to meeting the plaintiff had been entirely celibate, when in fact he was at that time regularly engaging in sexual relations with various members of his staff.

At no time material to this Complaint has Bhajan entertained a sincere belief in the religion he espouses to his followers, or to the Sikh religion as it was practiced prior to the founding of Bhajan's organizations. Nor has Bhajan ever personally acted in accordance with the teachings, tenets or practices of the religion he espouses to his followers, or of the Sikh religion as it was practiced prior to the founding of Bhajan's organizations. Rather, Bhajan's professed religious beliefs and objectives are espoused by him in bad faith, for the purpose of bolstering his credibility with the public and potential recruits, obtaining favorable tax treatment from the government of the United States and various states, concealing the covert manipulation he engages in to effect the thought reform process to which the plaintiff in this case was subjected, and justifying to his followers some of the arbitrary, cruel, bizarre and exploitive actions he takes with respect to his followers.

38. In addition to the foregoing general misrepresentations and misrepresentations pertaining to his status and affiliation with the Sikh religion, Bhajan also made a number of knowing misrepresentations to the plaintiff while she was at the "women's camp" which specifically related to his status as a master and teacher of all forms of yoga. These misrepresentations were initially made at plaintiffs private audience with Bhajan, and also made on virtually a daily basis from July 1975 through September 1975, orally and in articles, brochures and other promotional materials produced by the defendants. These misrepresentations were made for the purpose of inducing the plaintiff to remain at the "women's camp" until she could be indoctrinated, and to facilitate the thought reform process. These representations were false, and Bhajan knew them to be false at the time he made them. They included, inter alia:

(a) That he had studied 22 years with a famous yogi in India named Drindra Brahmachari, when in fact he had studied with Drindra Brahmachari only a few days.

(b) That the forms of yoga which Bhajan taught were ancient forms of "Kundalini" and "Tantric yoga," when in fact they were a collection of exercises put together by Bhajan, sometimes literally made up on the spot by Bhajan as a yoga class progressed.

(c) That the forms of yoga Bhajan taught had physically curative and beneficial properties which they did not and do not in fact have, and which Bhajan knew full well they did not and do not have.

(d) That the forms of yoga which Bhajan taught had spiritual properties which they did not and do not in fact have, and which Bhajan knew full well they did not and do not have.

(e) That he was recognized in India as a master of Kundalini yoga at age 16, when in fact he had not achieved such recognition.

(f) That in 1971 Bhajan was bestowed with unique skills and knowledge by a yoga teacher known as the "Mahan Tantric," who had selected Bhajan to be his successor and who bestowed the title of "Mahan Tantric" upon Bhajan when the former "Mahan Tantric" died. In truth Bhajan did not study under the "Mahan Tantric," nor was he ever vested with any such title by anyone previously holding the title.

(g) That forms of yoga which Bhajan told the plaintiff to perform were designed to benefit the plaintiff in various physical and emotional ways, when in fact they were designed to mentally debilitate the plaintiff and place her in a state of extreme suggestibility, which state was then exploited by Bhajan and his followers as part of the thought reform process the plaintiff was subjected to.

(h) That special diets prescribed for the plaintiff would have curative and beneficial effects upon the plaintiffs health, when in fact Bhajan knew they would not. In truth the special diets prescribed by Bhajan were designed to mentally debilitate the plaintiff and place her in a state of extreme suggestibility, which state was then exploited by Bhajan and his followers as part of the thought reform process the plaintiff was subjected to....

In The Man Called The Sin Singh Sahib, supra, Bhajan makes and publishes a number of misrepresentations concerning his education, qualifications, background and teachings. Among those fraudulent misrepresentations, are the following:

(a) That Bhajan has authored nine (9) books, as well as lectures and articles (p.4). In truth and in fact, employees of the defendant corporations have authored the books, articles and lectures.

(b) That Bhajan has given himself to the service of "God and guru" (p.10). In truth and in fact, Bhajan has no good faith belief that he is serving "God or guru," but rather is devoted to serving himself by obtaining his followers money, talents and sexual services.

(c) That Bhajan's family was wealthy and the family's combined land holdings included the entire village in India where Bhajan was born (pp.19 and 35).

(d) That Bhajan's birthday was a festive occasion in the town of his birth, and that baby Bhajans weight in gold, silver and copper coins and wheat was distributed to the poor of the village (p.19).

(e) That Bhajan was the only male child at the girls convent school in his village, and that he frequently "unnerved" the Mother Superior with his "profound and unanswerable" questions (p.19).

(f) That Bhajan graduated with honors from Punjab University with a B.A. in Economics and a Masters equivalent in 1950 (p.26).

(g) That Bhajan single-handedly led his family and entire village, as well as many people from surrounding villages, to safety when the partition of India and Pakistan occurred in 1947, saving them from "roving bands of murderous Muslim bandits" (pp.2627).

(h) That Bhajan was president of the Student Union at Camp College in Delhi, India (p.35).

(i) That Bhajan organized the Sikh Student Federation in Delhi, India (p.35).

(j) That Bhajan established the Khalsa Council as the chief administrative body for the Sikh Dhanma in the Western Hemisphere (pp.120 and 126).

***********************************

Lying on Your Resume? Here’s How You’ll Get Caught
by Megan Elliott
The Cheat Sheet
November 19, 2018

Honesty isn’t the best policy, at least according to some job seekers. People often stretch the truth on their resumes and cover letters in an attempt to land work, new research by OfficeTeam has revealed.

Nearly half of workers surveyed by the staffing company say they know someone who lied on their resume. That’s a 25% increase from 2011. Fifty-three percent of managers have a sneaking suspicion that candidates are often dishonest, and 38% have said no to an applicant after discovering their lies.

Employers are clearly clued into the fact that some applicants are either exaggerating their experience or handing over resumes that are more fiction than fact. But that doesn’t appear to stop some people from telling a few whoppers as they attempt to weasel their way into a job. Giving in to the temptation to lie when applying for a job is risky though. You could miss out on a job offer, damage your reputation, or even get fired once your fibs are revealed.

Plus, it’s easier than ever for a hiring manager to discover you’re not telling the truth about your past. Here are 10 ways employers discover the truth behind your resume lies.

1. Your alma mater can’t confirm you graduated

Claiming to be a Harvard graduate when you really have a degree from a no-name state school is one of the worst things you can lie about on your resume, according to hiring managers surveyed by Hloom. And while some employers will take you at your word when you say you went to a fancy school, others will check on your educational background by calling the school directly or using a service, such as the National Student Clearinghouse.

Sometimes, it’s interested third parties who clue an employer into a lie, such as the student journalists at a Kansas high school who discovered their new principal had inflated her educational credentials.

2. You can’t pass a skills test

It’s easy to say you’re proficient in everything, from conversational French to coding, on your resume. But proving you actually have those skills is another thing entirely. Employers realize how simple it is for people to exaggerate their skill set, so don’t be surprised if you’re asked to demonstrate your talents.

An interviewer might ask you a question in the language you claim to be fluent in or give you an on-the-spot quiz. Failing such a basic test is a sure sign that you’ve either stretched the truth or overestimated your abilities, both of which are likely to take you out of the running for a job.

3. Dates don’t add up

Roughly a quarter of resume liars are fibbing about their employment dates, according to OfficeTeam. If you’re tempted to cover up a resume gap by fudging employment dates, don’t do it. A quick call to your past employer is all it takes for someone to find out that you got laid off back in January, not June.

Trying to cover a gap by listing your job history by year, rather than month and year, is also suspicious and might prompt a hiring manager to do some further digging. If you’re worried about a resume gap making you look like a slacker, fill it with volunteering or consulting work, not lies.

4. Your resume and cover letter don’t match

A sparkling, error-free resume paired with a messy cover letter is a red flag that a candidate is not being totally honest. Such a discrepancy suggests you got a helping hand with your C.V. or maybe even stole another person’s work history to pass off as your own. Being unable to recall key details of your past experience and jobs during an interview is another huge giveaway that you’ve fabricated your past employment.

5. Your job titles are too good to be true

Two years out of college and already sitting in the C-suite? Expect an interviewer to ask some pointed questions about your responsibilities to make sure you’re actually telling the truth about your title. Inflated job titles will also come to light if the prospective employer calls your ex-boss to confirm your past employment. That’s when the promotion you gave yourself from marketing intern to senior marketing manager is going to be revealed.

6. You’re vague about your skills and experience

Job candidates might stretch the truth by using vague terms to describe their skills and experience. Perhaps they reason that as long as they’re not spouting an outright lie, it’s OK. But savvy interviewers will spot people who aren’t quite as knowledgeable as they initially appear. “Using ambiguous phrases like ‘familiar with’ or ‘involved in’ could mean the candidate is trying to cover up a lack of direct experience,” noted OfficeTeam. In other words, claiming to be familiar with event planning because you sometimes pick up doughnuts for the weekly staff meeting isn’t going to fly.

7. Your body language betrays you

You might think you’re an impeccable liar. But subtle body language cues in the interview could be giving away your resume lies. “A lack of eye contact or constant fidgeting may suggest dishonesty,” noted OfficeTeam, though those behaviors aren’t guarantees of dishonesty.

Touching your nose, looking down when you’re answering a question, and turning your body away from the interviewer are other ways you might inadvertently signal that you’re not telling the truth, according to the Los Angeles Times.

8. Your references don’t back you up

If you’re a skilled liar, you might get away with embellishing your skills or past responsibilities in an interview or on your resume. But you won’t necessarily be able to count on your references to back you up. An honest reference will reveal the real extent of your job responsibilities or the truth about your so-called accomplishments.

Even if you find a reference willing to go along with your charade, the interviewer might do some extra digging on their own, reaching out to mutual connections or independently contacting your old boss or co-workers to find out what you’re really like. And remember, there are no laws restricting what an ex-employer can say about you, despite what some job seekers might think.

9. A Google search reveals the truth

Seventy percent of employers snoop on candidates before offering them a job. You better hope that what HR finds on social media or as part of a basic Google search matches what you have on your resume. Of employers who decide not to hire someone after researching them online, 27% did so because they discovered the candidate had lied about their qualifications, CareerBuilder found. A little Nancy Drew-style sleuthing is all it takes to discover that your alma mater is a diploma mill or that the company you claimed to work for last year went out of business a decade ago.

10. The employer conducts a background check

Not all employers conduct formal background checks. But if you encounter one that does, it will sink you if you’re being untruthful. If a prospective employer conducts a background check and discovers you’ve lied (either directly or by omission) about your work history, criminal past, education, professional certifications, or other key facts, don’t expect a job offer.

***********************************

BUSTED: This Is What Happened To 10 Executives Who Lied About Their Resumes
by Vivian Giang and Jhaneel Lockhart
Business Insider
May 7, 2012, 6:15 AM

A little fibbing on your resume might not seem like a big deal when you're applying for a low-ranking position, but you never know where your professional career will end up.

And these little lies can come back to threaten you career, as in the current revelation of Yahoo's CEO Scott Thompson's fake resume.

As these top-notch executives prove, even if your career stays intact, be prepared to be publicly shamed, or at least embarrassed.

Celebrity chef Robert Irvine lied about designing Prince Charles and Princess Diana's wedding cake

Image

In 2008, British chef Robert Irving was fired from his own show on the Food Network's Dinner Impossible when it was uncovered that he didn't actually design the royal couple's wedding cake, but that he only attended the school where it was made and contributed by picking fruit for the cake.

An MIT dean never received any college degrees despite claiming to have a bachelor's and a master's

Image

Marilee Jones had been with MIT for 28 years before the university realized that she never received the undergraduate or master's degrees that she said she got on her resume. In fact, Jones never received any college degrees.

In 2007, she resigned stating on the university's Web site that she had "misrepresented her academic degrees to the institute" and explained that she "did not have the courage to correct [her] resume when [she] applied for [her] current job or at any time since."

She is now a college admissions consultant at the Berklee College of Music.

An IBM president kept his position after lying about his records, but later resigned due to a sexual discrimination complaint

Image

In 1999, it was revealed that Jeffrey Papows, president of IBM's software maker Lotus Development, fibbed about his academic and military background.

Jon Auerbach at ZDNet reported that Papows said he was a pilot when he was actually an air traffic controller and a captain when he was actually a first lieutenant in the Marines. He also said he got his PhD from Pepperdine, but actually got it from an unaccredited correspondence school.

Despite the lies, Papows kept his position with the company, but resigned the next year after he was named in a sexual discrimination complaint, according to CNET News.

His LinkedIn page says he's now CEO of Maptuit Corp. and Weblayers, Inc.

A top Wall Street analyst lied about studying at MIT when he actually attended Boston University

Image

At one time, Salomon Smith Barney's Jack Grubman was Wall Street's highest-paid analyst with a salary of $20 million per year.

Then it was uncovered that he never attended MIT like he told his employers. In an interview with BusinessWeek, Grubman said that he lied because he "probably felt insecure."

He is now the founder of Magee Group, which provides strategic advice to telecom and technology companies.

Former Notre Dame Head Coach lied about a master's degree and being a football legend in college when he never even played a game

Image

Five days after being named as Notre Dame's news head coach, George O'Leary was forced to resign for lying about a master's degree in education from New York University that he never received.

The university did verify that he was a student there in the '70s, but that he never graduated.

Furthermore, O'Leary told his employers that he played college football for three years at the University of New Hampshire, but, in actuality, he never even played a game of football.

In a statement released to the Notre Dame, O'Leary said: "Due to a selfish and thoughtless act many years ago, I have personally embarrassed Notre Dame, its alumni and fans."

O'Leary is known for his coaching success with Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets from 1994 to 2001.

He is currently the head coach at University of Central Florida.

A top Norwegian bureaucrat lied about being a registered nurse and having two degrees. She was sentenced to 14 months in prison

Image

Before she became a convicted felon, Liv Løberg held top administrative jobs within health care and other public sectors, and was also a former politician for the Progress Party in Norway.

In 2010, a journalist revealed that Løberg did not have the degrees she claimed she did from the London School of Economics, Queen Mary College and Norges Handelshøyskole. She wasn't even a registered nurse. In actuality, Løberg dropped out of high school and only had one year of practical nurse education.

In 2012, she was sentenced to 14 months in prison and fined 1 million NOK.

Bausch & Lomb CEO lied about his MBA degree, but was able to keep his position because he was deemed 'too valuable'

Image

Ronald Zarrella had to give up his $1 million bonus when it was revealed that he never received his MBA from NYU like he claimed he did. He actually started the program, but never finished it.

However, Bausch & Lomb — a supplier of eye health products — decided that Zarrella was too valuable to the company and he was able to keep his job, but eventually left in 2008 when the company experienced "extensive product recall and hundreds of product liability lawsuits."

RadioShack's CEO lied about having a four-year degree when he only had a three-year degree

Image

David Edmondson joined Radio Shack in 1994 and quickly advanced in the company until he became CEO in 2005.

A year after attaining his new title, the Forth Worth Star-Telegram reported that Edmondson had not earned degrees in theology and psychology from Heartland Baptist Bible College as he had claimed. Radio Shack's board of directors stood up for their new CEO, but Edmondson decided to resign. In his statement, he said:

"I clearly misstated my academic record, and the responsibility for these misstatements is mine alone. I understand that I cannot now document the ThG diploma."

The CEO of a major software firm lied about getting an MBA from Stanford. The company's stock dove when the truth surfaced

Image

Kenneth Lonchar joined Veritas Software Corp. through a merger in 1997 — both companies were small at the time.

Four years later, Lonchar won CFO Magazine's Excellence Award for Managing External Stakeholders, but the next year, the glorified CFO fell from grace when it was revealed that he never received an MBA from Stanford as he claimed.

He never even earned the accounting degree he said he did from Arizona State University, but instead got his degree from Idaho State.

Shortly thereafter, a Merrill Lynch analyst downgraded the company's credit ratings and shares dropped by as much as 20 percent.

Lonchar was asked to resign, saying the following in a statement released by the firm:

"I regret this misstatement of my educational background. Under the circumstances, I believe my resignation is in the best interests of both the company and myself," Mr. Lonchar said in the written statement.

Yahoo's CEO never earned the computer science degree he claims he got

Image

On Scott Thompson's resume, he had degrees in accounting and computer science from Stonehill College.

When Thompson, the former president of PayPal, was named as Yahoo's CEO in January 2012, Daniel S. Loeb, the founder of hedge fund Third Point and a shareholder of Yahoo, investigated into Thompson's background and uncovered that the new chief executive only had a degree in accounting, not computer science.

Loeb wrote:

“If Mr. Thompson embellished his academic credentials we think that it 1) undermines his credibility as a technology expert and 2) reflects poorly on the character of the C.E.O. who has been tasked with leading Yahoo! at this critical juncture. Now more than ever Yahoo investors need a trustworthy C.E.O.”


BONUS: Former Harvard student fabricated SAT scores, letters of recommendations and transcripts to gain admissions and received $40,000 in grants

Image

Adam B. Wheeler lied about his entire academic background in order to get into Harvard University — even telling the school that he was transferring in from MIT with perfect grades. He was actually a former student at Bowdoin College, but was suspended for academic dishonesty.

Once admitted into Harvard, Wheeler plagiarized essays and research proposals that would eventually earn him more than $40,000 in grants and prizes.

His background was revealed when Wheeler attempted to apply for the Rhodes and Fulbright scholarships in his senior year.

Wheeler eventually pleaded guilty to 20 misdemeanor and felony counts of larceny, identity fraud, falsifying an endorsement or approval, and pretending to hold a degree. He was sentenced to 10 years of probation and ordered to pay a restitution of $45,806 to Harvard University.

***********************************
admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 31180
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: Freda Bedi Cont'd (#2)

Postby admin » Thu Mar 12, 2020 12:31 am

Part 2 of 2

17 successful executives who have lied on their résumés
by Hope Restle and Jacquelyn Smith
Business Insider
Jul 15, 2015, 6:34 AM

Your résumé is a place to highlight your biggest accomplishments and showcase your most valued skills. It's what hiring managers use to determine whether you'd be good at the job, and whether you're worth meeting in person.

So, it's no surprise that a majority of people lie on their résumés. A 2014 poll from CareerBuilder found that 58% of hiring managers caught applicants exaggerating or fudging details about previous roles, skills, or awards. And entry- or mid-level workers aren't the only ones guilty of fibbing. Top execs have done it, too.

Here are 17 successful executives who were caught or admitted to fudging, exaggerating, or straight up lying on their résumés.

Vivian Giang and Jhaneel Lockhart contributed to an earlier version of this article.

David Tovar, former VP of corporate communications for Wal-Mart

Image

In September 2014, David Tovar, the vice president of corporate communications for Wal-Mart, resigned from the company after it was discovered that he had not, in fact, received a bachelor of arts degree from the University of Delaware, like his résumé stated, according to Bloomberg.

The New York Times reported that he didn't remember what he had put on his résumé. He said, "I definitely didn't disclose that I didn't have a degree, and there were times where it was probably an error of omission." He said he was a few credits shy of his degree, and had even participated in the graduation ceremony.

Sandra Baldwin, former president and chairman of the US Olympic Committee

Image

In May 2002, Sandra Baldwin, the first woman to be appointed the president and chairman of the US Olympic Committee, resigned after admitting she had put false information on her résumé, according to The New York Times.

She had stated on her résumé that she received her bachelor's degree from the University of Colorado in 1962, and her doctorate from Arizona State University in 1967.

She eventually admitted that she only attended the University of Colorado for three years, but received her bachelor's from Arizona State — and that she never actually earned her doctoral degree because she didn't have time to finish the dissertation.

Baldwin came forth because a University of Colorado student interviewing her for an alumni publication intended to disclose the truth, according to The New York Times.

David Geffen, billionaire entrepreneur

Image

Decades ago, looking for an "in" into Hollywood, David Geffen lied about attending and graduating from UCLA in order to obtain a mail room job at talent agency William Morris.

According to Fortune, Geffen soon became worried because he heard of someone else who had lied on their résumé — and subsequently got fired.

So he went into the workplace early each day for six months, and waited for the university's letter to arrive, stating he had never attended.

When it finally arrived, he intercepted it and replaced it with another that stated he had indeed graduated.

Though Geffen didn't specify during the Fortune interview, he insinuated he learned a lot and left the agency on his own terms (without them discovering his CV fib).

He also added in the interview: "Look, I'm not setting an example … But it's an idiotic thing that you have to be a college graduate to be an agent … Did I have a problem with lying to get the job? None whatsoever."

David Edmondson, former CEO of RadioShack

Image

David Edmondson joined RadioShack in 1994 and quickly advanced in the company until he became CEO in 2005.

A year after attaining his new title, the Forth Worth Star-Telegram reported that Edmondson had not earned bachelor's degrees in theology and psychology from Heartland Baptist Bible College as he had claimed. RadioShack's board of directors stood up for their new CEO, but Edmondson decided to resign. In his statement, he said:

"I clearly misstated my academic record, and the responsibility for these misstatements is mine alone. I understand that I cannot now document the [theology] diploma."

John Davy, former CEO of Maori Television Service

Image

In March 2002, Canadian businessman John Davy was appointed the CEO of the New Zealand television network, Maori Television Service.

He was fired less than seven weeks later when it was discovered that his résumé was almost entirely fabricated. For one, he claimed to hold an MBA from "Denver State University" — the New Zealand Herald investigated, only to find counterfeit credentials of the same university name and degree being sold online.

Secondly, he claimed to have worked with the British Columbia Securities Commission in 1986, who in turn found no records of him, according to the New Zealand Herald.

Two months after being sacked, Davy was sentence to be jailed for eight months, after pleading guilty to one charge of using a document — his CV — "to obtain a benefit or privilege 'namely a senior appointment with the Maori Television Service,'" the New Zealand Herald reported.

Albert Dunlap, former CEO and chairman of Sunbeam

Image

In July 2001, The New York Times published an article about the famous businessman Albert Dunlap, CEO of home appliance company Sunbeam and the best-selling author of "Mean Business."

The Times revealed that when Dunlap applied to Sunbeam, he had omitted two prior positions from his résumé that had ended poorly due to his performance.

Dunlap was fired from Sunbeam in 1998 and accused of accounting fraud. He denied any wrongdoing.

James Peterson, CEO of Microsemi Corporation

Image

In late 2008, a board investigation revealed that James Peterson, CEO of Microsemi Corporation, had not received his bachelor's or master's degree from Brigham Young University, according to Bloomberg.

Microsemi decided to keep him as CEO, saying he was a valuable asset to the corporation.

He was asked to pay Microsemi $100,000 and forgo the year's bonus.

Peterson is still CEO of Microsemi.

Bryan Mitchell, former CEO and chairman of MCG Capital

Image

In November 2002, Bryan Mitchell, CEO and chairman of the financial services firm MCG Capital, resigned from his position as chairman after it was unearthed he had only attended Syracuse University for three years, despite his claim that he had graduated with a bachelor's degree, according to The New York Times.

He was still able to stay on board as CEO, but the company asked him to repay his 2001 and 2002 bonuses — his 2001 bonus alone totaled $350,000, according to the Times.

Mitchell is no longer CEO of MCG Capital — he left in 2006, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Scott Thompson, former CEO of Yahoo!

Image

When Scott Thompson, the former president of PayPal, was named as Yahoo's CEO in January 2012, his résumé said he had degrees in accounting and computer science from Stonehill College.

Daniel S. Loeb, the founder of hedge fund Third Point and a shareholder of Yahoo, decided to investigate Thompson's background and uncovered that the new chief executive only had a degree in accounting, not computer science.

Loeb wrote:

If Mr. Thompson embellished his academic credentials we think that it 1) undermines his credibility as a technology expert and 2) reflects poorly on the character of the CEO who has been tasked with leading Yahoo! at this critical juncture. Now more than ever Yahoo investors need a trustworthy CEO.


Thompson left Yahoo! in May 2012.

Alison Ryan, former head of communications for Manchester United

Image

In February 2007, Manchester United fired Alison Ryan, its new head of public relations, before she even began the position, according to the Manchester Evening News.

While she didn't lie on her Manchester United application — she did graduate with a law degree from Cambridge University like her CV stated — she had previously lied on her résumé about earning a first-class honors degree instead of a second-class honors degree, and when Manchester United found out about her past, they were "furious," reported the Manchester Evening News.

Patrick Imbardelli, former head of Asia Pacific operations for InterContinental Hotels Group

Image

In June 2007, Patrick Imbardelli, the head of Asia Pacific operations for Intercontinental Hotels Group, left with two months salary after an internal review of his educational background found he had embellished his résumé, according to Forbes.

On his CV, he claimed to have graduated from Victoria University in Australia with a bachelor of arts degree in business studies and hotel management, and a bachelor of science and MBA from Cornell University. Though he attended classes at both colleges, he never graduated, Forbes reported.

Bruno Sorrentino, former head of IT and director of research for Telstra

Image

In October 1993, Bruno Sorrentino resigned as the head of IT and director of research for Telstra, a major Australian telecommunications and media company, CIO.com reported.

Though he said his resignation was for "personal reasons," it had just been discovered that he had not graduated from Imperial College with a PhD in physics like his résumé stated. Telstra had tried to look into his thesis, only to find it didn't exist since he had never attended the college.

Marilee Jones, former dean of admissions at MIT

Image

Marilee Jones had been with MIT for 28 years before the university realized that she never received the undergraduate or master's degrees that she said she had on her résumé. In fact, Jones never received any college degrees, according to CNN.

In 2007, she resigned stating on the university's web site that she had "misrepresented her academic degrees to the institute" and explained that she "did not have the courage to correct [her] résumé when [she] applied for [her] current job or at any time since."

She is now a college admissions consultant at the Berklee College of Music.

J. Terrence Lanni, former CEO of MGM Mirage

Image

In November 2008, The Wall Street Journal reported that the CEO and chairman of MGM Mirage, J. Terrence Lanni had not received an MBA from the University of Southern California (though he did receive a bachelor's degree).

Shortly after the questioning, Lanni stepped down as CEO for "personal reasons."

"I simply believe that change is inevitable and this is the right time for me to do this," he said in a statement, according to The New York Times.

After 13 years with the company, he still remained a member of the board of directors. "The company will always be indebted to Terry for his many years of leadership and wisdom," said the MGM Mirage's majority shareholder, Kirk Kerkorian.

Gregory Probert, former CEO of Herbalife Ltd.

Image

In 2008, Gregory Probert, CEO of Herbalife Ltd., resigned after it was discovered he never completed his MBA from California State University, Los Angeles, despite what his résumé claimed, according to Bloomberg. He said he was just shy of finishing the degree, reported The Wall Street Journal.

Probert was a former executive at Walt Disney, and was appointed CEO of the weight-loss supplement company in 2003.

"Greg made substantial contributions to Herbalife,'' CEO Michael Johnson said in a statement, according to Bloomberg News. "The circumstances surrounding his resignation are disappointing."

Ronald Zarrella, former CEO of Bausch & Lomb

Image

Ronald Zarrella had to give up his $1 million bonus in 2002 when it was revealed that he never received his MBA from NYU like he claimed. He started the program but never finished it, according to The New York Post.

Bausch & Lomb — a supplier of eye health products — felt Zarrella was valuable to the company, and he was able to keep his job. He eventually left in 2008.

Jeffrey Papows, former president of IBM's Lotus Development

Image

In 1999, it was revealed that Jeffrey Papows, president of IBM's software maker Lotus Development, fibbed about his academic and military background, according to ZDNet.

Jon Auerbach at ZDNet reported that Papows said he was a pilot when he was actually an air traffic controller, and said he was a captain when he was actually a first lieutenant in the Marines. ZDNet reported that Papows didn't get his PhD from Pepperdine, but rather from an unaccredited correspondence school.

Despite the lies, ZDNet reported that Papows kept his position with the company. He resigned the next year after he was named in a sexual discrimination complaint, according to CNET News.

His LinkedIn page says he's now CEO of Maptuit Corp. and Weblayers, Inc.

***********************************

Exposed. In politics and business, appearances can be deceiving. Bernie Madoff is only the latest in a long line of poseurs who have proven the need for investigative due diligence. Here are our classic cases of resume revisionism.
by Investigative Check
Accessed: 3/11/20

I DON’T HAVE AN MBA

Image

Software CEO’s Memory Crash? Kenneth Lonchar, the former CFO of Veritas Software, had long claimed an MBA from Stanford University. Ah, not so much. Lonchar never attended Stanford and was forced to resign from Veritas— which means "truth" in Latin.
Source: http://www.bizjournals.com/sanjose/stor ... ily56.html

I'M NOT A BRITISH KNIGHT

Image

Cooked His Resume? British-born celebrity chef Robert Irvine made claims that he was a Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order and had been given a castle by the Queen herself. His official bio claimed a food degree from a prestigious university—which the university denied. It turns out the Food Network chef was seriously spicing up his resume. Irvine was forced to apologize. "I was wrong to exaggerate in statements related to my experiences ... [with] the Royal Family," Irvine said. "I am truly sorry for misleading people and misstating the facts."
Source: http://www.usatoday.com/life/people/200 ... vine_N.htm

I'M NOT A WAR HERO

Image

Bronze Star for Deceit? Bob Levy, the former Mayor of Atlantic City, had long boasted that he had been an Army Green Beret with two Bronze stars who had served two tours of duty in Vietnam. But after a local newspaper investigated, the Mayor admitted his war heroics were a lie. He skipped town and was forced to resign.
Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/06/nyregion/06mayor.html

I'M NOT A DALLAS COWBOY

Image

A Case of Fantasy Football? In Maryland, state lawmaker Michael Vaughan claimed on his official bio that he had played professional football for the Dallas Cowboys for three years. But when a reporter investigated and the Cowboys denied it, the politician acknowledged an “error on my campaign website."
Source: http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/arti ... -have-a-3/

I'M NOT A PILOT

Image

Catch Him If You Can? Frank Abagnale posed as an airline pilot, doctor and lawyer with a Harvard degree. In reality, he was a teenage con man and serial check forger. His autobiography, full of con-man hype and impossible to verify, became the basis for the movie “Catch Me If You Can.” Abagnale served several years in prison and today is a security consultant and lecturer.
Source: http://articles.latimes.com/2002/dec/28 ... et-baker28

I DID TIME FOR ARMED ROBBERY

Image

Top Gun Fired? James Joseph Minder, the Chairman of the Board of Smith & Wesson, had an impressive resume. But his list of accomplishments failed to mention the 15 years he had spent in prison for armed robbery and attempted escape. In fact, a newspaper article from 1959 referred to him as the “shotgun bandit.” When the convictions became public, the gun-company executive swiftly resigned.
Source: http://money.cnn.com/2004/02/27/news/sm ... /index.htm
http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=ZC ... %2C1877402

I DON’T HAVE THREE DEGREES

Image

Dean of Admissions? Marilee Jones, the Dean of Admissions at MIT, claimed on her resume she had degrees from three prestigious colleges, including Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Albany Medical College. In reality, the longtime dean, renowned for guiding nervous high-school students through MIT’s application process, had fabricated her credentials. She said in a press release that she had lacked "courage" to correct her résumé, and stepped down.
Source: http://chronicle.com/article/TruthAdmis ... 66/?sid=at

I'M NOT A WARRIOR-SCHOLAR

Image

Credentials Un-Sealed? Texas A&M's No. 3 administrator presented himself as a former Navy SEAL with a doctorate from Tufts University. But military records made clear that Alexander Kemos never was part of the elite fighting force. And university officials confirmed that Kemos didn’t have a doctorate, either. Kemos was forced out of his $300,000-a-year position as the top adviser to the Texas A&M's President.
Source: http://www.statesman.com/news/local/a-m ... 56724.html
http://www.theeagle.com/am/Kemos-resigns-amid-scandal

I DON’T HAVE A DEGREE

Image

Hardwired for Exaggeration? Former Radio Shack CEO David J. Edmondson claimed on his official company bio that he had earned degrees in theology and psychology from Pacific Coast Baptist College in California. But the school never even offered a degree in theology, and Edmondson was forced to admit errors and step down after a newspaper challenged his academic credentials.
Source: http://articles.latimes.com/2006/feb/21 ... i-radio211

I’M NOT A TERRORISM EXPERT

Image

Counterfeit Colonel? As a retired U.S. Army Special Forces Colonel, William Hillar was a popular consultant and lecturer who taught counterterrorism at the prestigious Monterey Institute of International Studies. His bio boasted of his extensive international experience in “tactical counter-terrorism.” Hillar frequently mesmerized audiences with the story of how his own daughter had been kidnapped and tortured before being thrown into the sea. But it was all a massive fraud. Hillar never served in the Special Forces, did not receive counter-terrorism training and did not lose his daughter to sex traffickers. In 2011, the con man was sentenced to 21 months in prison for wire fraud. Prosecutors said Hillar even admitted that he fabricated the story about his daughter, who is alive and well.
Source: http://www.justice.gov/usao/md/Public-A ... enced.html

I'M NOT A CARDIOLOGIST

Image

Doctored Credentials? Dr. William Hamman was a respected cardiologist who wowed other doctors with his lectures at medical conferences. He trained hospital staffers how to handle simulated medical exercises, and lined up millions of dollars in research grants and salaries at hospitals and universities. But Hamman was not a doctor, and never graduated from medical school. A routine background check uncovered his 15-year charade.
Source: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/h ... ake17.html

***********************************

That Time Joe Biden Lied About His Academic Credentials: The presidential candidate bragged about graduating in the top half of his class at law school. He was 76th in a class of 85.
by Ben Dreyfuss
May 3, 2019

A commenter at the wonderful blog Lawyers, Guns, and Money dug up this C-SPAN video of Joe Biden lying about his academic credentials in 1987.

He later apologized for misrepresenting his record. Here’s the New York Times report published soon after the incident.

In his statement today, Mr. Biden, who attended the Syracuse College of Law and graduated 76th in a class of 85, acknowledged: “I did not graduate in the top half of my class at law school and my recollection of this was inaccurate.”

As for receiving three degrees, Mr. Biden said: “I graduated from the University of Delaware with a double major in history and political science. My reference to degrees at the Claremont event was intended to refer to these majors – I said ‘three’ and should have said ‘two.'” Mr. Biden received a single B.A. in history and political science.

”With regard to my being the outstanding student in the political science department,” the statement went on. “My name was put up for that award by David Ingersoll, who is still at the University of Delaware.”

In the Sunday interview, Mr. Biden said of his claim that he went to school on full academic scholarship: ”My recollection is – and I’d have to confirm this – but I don’t recall paying any money to go to law school.” Newsweek said Mr. Biden had gone to Syracuse ”on half scholarship based on financial need.”

In his statement today, Mr. Biden did not directly dispute this, but said he received a scholarship from the Syracuse University College of Law “based in part on academics” as well as a grant from the Higher Education Scholarship Fund of the state of Delaware. He said the law school “arranged for my first year’s room and board by placing me as an assistant resident adviser in the undergraduate school.”

As for the moot court competition, Mr. Biden said he had won such a competition, with a partner, in Kingston, Ontario, on Dec. 12, 1967.

You should read the whole thing.

There is also a very weird part of the video where Biden seems to say that Martin Luther King, Jr. and the women’s suffrage movement lacked policy ideas.

“When we got involved in the Civil Rights Movement, Frank, nobody asked Martin Luther King what his legislative agenda was. He marched to change attitudes. When the women’s movement started, it did not move with a constitutional amendment. They marched to change attitudes.”

MLK definitely did have legislative goals! And he was asked about them a lot! Gave a lot of speeches about them! And the women’s suffrage movement was responsible for two constitutional amendments.

***********************************

These high school journalists uncovered a principal’s resume lie
by Abigail Hess@AbigailJHess
Published Thu, Apr 6 201711:46 AM EDTU pdated Thu, Apr 6 20172:36 PM EDT

It was a big win for “meddling kids” everywhere.

On March 29th, the student reporters at Pittsburgh High School in Kansas published an article in the school’s paper, The Booster Redux, scrutinizing the resume of new principal Amy Robertson. It later led to the administrator’s resignation.

Robertson, who had been approved for the role by the local board of education, claimed to have earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Tulsa, a master’s degree and a doctorate degree from Corllins University, and a teaching degree from the University of Cambridge.

But Pittsburg High junior Gina Mathew told CNBC that students were surprised by how little they were told about their incoming principal and decided to investigate further.

“There really was no information being provided on this new administrator coming in,” says Mathew, “so we felt it was our duty to make sure that the community was informed.”

As student reporters looked deeper into Robertson’s credentials, her story began to unravel.

Connor Bathazor, a 17-year-old junior at Pittsburgh High, told The Washington Post, “There were some things that just didn’t quite add up.” Maddie Baden told The Kansas City Star that when they researched Corllins University, “We found a website that didn’t work.”

Robertson claimed to have received her M.A. in 1994 and her Ph.D. in 2010. But the U.S. Department of Education confirmed that Corllins University had been closed since 1986, and Robertson was also unable to provide evidence confirming her degree from the University of Tulsa. On April 4th, Robertson resigned.

While the students say they never intended to undermine the new principal, they felt a responsibility to report their findings.

“She was going to be the head of our school,” says Trina Paul, Pittsburg High senior and editor of the newspaper, “and we wanted to be assured that she was qualified and had the proper credentials.”

The students’ reporting has earned them praise from across the U.S. — and a day off from school.
admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 31180
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: Freda Bedi Cont'd (#2)

Postby admin » Fri Mar 13, 2020 6:30 am

Part 1 of 7

Nehru: The Lotus Eater From Kashmir
by D.F. Karaka
1953

In Greek mythology the lotus-eaters (Greek: λωτοφάγοι), were a race of people living on an island dominated by the Lotus tree, a plant whose botanical identity (if based on a real plant at all) is uncertain. The lotus fruits and flowers were the primary food of the island and were a narcotic, causing the inhabitants to sleep in peaceful apathy. Figuratively, 'lotus-eater' denotes "a person who spends their time indulging in pleasure and luxury rather than dealing with practical concerns".

-- Lotus-eaters, by Wikipedia


To Pita Without Any Fanfare of Trumpets

Table of Contents:

1. Paris Episode
2. Heritage
3. Two Ornamental Pillars
4. ‘Liberation’
5. Manpower
6. Intolerance
7. Spotting Genius
8. The Promised Food
9. The Emperor Himself
10. The Oracle of Delhi
11. In Mountbatten’s Jeep
12. Big Talk
13. Spellbound
14. Imperious
15. The Glamour is Gone

I. PARIS EPISODE

In June of 1952 I was in Paris. At the house of Andre Leleu, the interior decorator, I met an old carpenter, seventy years of age. In his free Bohemian way, Leleu often asked one of his workmen to stay on and share his lunch.

The carpenter was a rigidly orthodox Frenchman, with light blue eyes and an almost transparent complexion. His snow-white hair, well brushed, was carefully parted at the side. His suit, though ancient, was tidily worn. His powder-blue shirt was neatly buttoned up at the collar, but he apparently thought it pointless to wear a tie.

Leleu, who was always stressing ‘basic values’, said this was the ‘real France’. In turn, he told Monsieur Letzichez that I was from India.

'Ah oui,' the carpenter registered, without being unduly impressed.

‘You know about India, ne c'est pas? Leleu went on to drive the point home and also to make Monsieur Letzichez’s dormant reflexes spring to attention. And Monsieur Letzichez oui-oui-ed a few more times.

The ‘real France’ was not responding so well on this occasion, but Leleu was not giving up. With prodding, he was confident Monsieur Letzichez would produce some intelligent observation on my country. Leleu asked him if he knew of Gandhi.

'Mais oui' the carpenter replied with an of-courseness which ruled out any further questioning. Everyone knew Gandhi. ‘Gandhi was a great man,’ he volunteered, but qualified the remark by adding ‘for his country’.

‘For his country?’ Leleu asked, a little surprised.

Monsieur Letzichez repeated himself: ‘Gandhi was a great man -- for his country.’

‘Why only for his country?’ Leleu asked.

Monsieur Letzichez said Gandhi was for his country; and he was great. When he died, it was a great loss -- ‘for his country’.

By now Leleu was not clear, nor was I, what was the particular significance of this phrase ‘for his country’. ‘Would you say he was as great as Churchill was par example -- for his country?’ Leleu asked, in order to clarify the situation and ascertain comparative values.

Monsieur Letzichez said the two were different: Churchill was a politician; Gandhi, he explained, was ‘more religious’.

There was a pause and I chipped in to ask: ‘And what do you think of Nehru?’

The expression on Monsieur Letzichez’s face turned completely blank, as if I was asking him about some obscure Asiatic. ‘Neyrue?’ he said, then, shaking his head, added: ‘Je ne le connais pas.'

He had never heard of the man.

That’s how this book began.

2. HERITAGE

I am no iconoclast. I am just one of the disillusioned. There is a whole generation in India like me, whom Jawaharlal Nehru has let down. We are too old to look for a new hero to worship, but young enough to feel the sting of defeat.

We were the young men who whipped ourselves into a frenzy as our long struggle for freedom showed signs of ending and the goal came within sight. The British were leaving and we were on the threshold of a new life. The path to freedom was lit with our hopes and aspirations. Gandhi was our torch-bearer. Swaraj, that beautiful Indian word which connoted freedom, ‘home-rule’ and democracy rolled up in one, did not mean only the ousting of the British; it was to bring to us the component parts of that larger freedom to which all men of self-respect aspire: freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of religious belief, freedom of public meeting, freedom from want, fear and hunger.

In Gandhi we believed we had a man of the stature of Lenin, and in Nehru, who was his second-in-command, a democrat of the shape and tone of Abraham Lincoln. Then freedom came. Gandhi retired, leaving Jawaharlal Nehru to crystallise and express in words the pent-up feelings and emotions of the people he had led for a quarter of a century. As Jawaharlal said: ‘A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance.’ As we listened to these words on our little radio sets at home, we found in Nehru’s words an echo of Lincoln’s Gettysburg address. ‘Freedom and power bring responsibility,’ he said. ‘The past is over and it is the future that beckons to us now. That future is not one of ease or resting, but of incessant striving so that we may fulfil the pledges we have so often taken . . . The service of India means the service of the millions who suffer. It means the ending of poverty and ignorance and disease and inequality of opportunity. The ambition of the greatest man of our generation has been to wipe every tear from every eye . . . Peace has been said to be indivisible; so is freedom, so is prosperity now, and so also is disaster, in this one world that can no longer be split into isolated fragments . . .’ I felt goose-flesh creeping over me that night, around the midnight hour. It was August 15th, 1947.

Not many months passed before Mahatma Gandhi disappeared from our midst. He fell at an assassin’s hand with the name of God on his lips. His ashes, symbolic of him, were strewn into our rivers. He had given us a new creed, a new faith, a new religion based on the two cardinal principles of truth and non-violence, and a new name by which we could now call ourselves. We were no longer a little part of a great Empire; we were an entity unto ourselves -- the Republic of India. That was the heritage Gandhi left us. As part of it, he left us his political heir, Jawaharlal Nehru.

***

I forget where I saw him first, but the picture still remains vivid in my mind of a handsome aristocrat with well-chiselled features, looking more like a Greek god than a Kashmiri Brahmin. He makes a terrific first impression.

Fate had been kind to this young man, who had had the advantage of being born into a well-to-do Indian home. His father, Motilal, was a wealthy Allahabad lawyer who had already made his mark in India, both in his profession and in politics, and who had gained admission into what may be called the Indian Cliveden set which grouped around the rebel, Gandhi.

Long before Jawaharlal returned from England, the elder Indian politicians had already reserved a place for him on the rostrum of the Indian National Congress. The young Jawahar, with his schooling at Harrow and his polished Cambridge manners, was obviously an asset to the group of khaddar-clad patriots, who struggled in their own way to be the articulate expression of a people’s desire for freedom. It was like throwing Hedy Lamarr into a village fair in order to attract the crowd.

Nehru was undoubtedly that attraction. He was the idol of the younger men. He fired their imagination. He attracted them to the struggle. Unconsciously he played the role of a recruiting officer to the ranks of the Congress, for, wherever he went in the name of the Congress, people flocked to him. Therefore, when he returned to India, Jawaharlal got easy entry into the inner circle of Indian nationals, and overnight he became a leader without having to go through the mill.


Nehru’s early contacts with the West and its political philosophies have left a permanent mark on him. If he cannot translate these philosophies into action, he still faithfully continues to pay lip-service to them. Nehru was never born of the masses and he will never be one of them, though circumstances have forced him to mix with large crowds of our people. Whenever I have seen him, through the years, he has always stood aloof from the crowd: an aristocrat by birth, a well-read, cultured and facile Kashmiri Pandit. Although he has assumed mass leadership, he is uncomfortable in his surroundings. He once seemed impatient with the mediocrity he found around him, but gradually this mediocrity has grown on him, and his resistance to it has worn down. He has always been known to lose his temper; in the initial stages it was only because he was impatient, but now it has become part of the mental make-up of the man. As he becomes more and more aware of his limitations, he tends to become nervous and, at times, even afraid. You can see he dislikes himself for having behaved in that manner, but that is his temperament -- hot-tempered, easily irritated, sometimes unbelievably intolerant.

Nehru once believed that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, but this is not the way things have worked out for him. Of late he has been seen going around in circles, like a dog trying to catch its tail, and getting increasingly annoyed at his inability to do so. Finally, we have seen him exhaust himself in the process and end up with delivering yet another sermon to the nation, pious, rambling, full of platitudes and good purpose, but achieving nothing in the process.

Non-violence, for instance, only came to him because of his blind and implicit faith in Gandhi. In the hectic days of our struggle he gave us the impression that he would have preferred to pick up a gun and fight his way out of the Bastille which was once India, and lead us to the open Elysian fields of freedom, rather than spend years in offering steady, solid moral resistance which was the essence of satyagraha. But as Gandhi never compromised on this fundamental issue, non-violence prevailed. Today, Nehru is left with the creed on his hands, unable to apply it at home, but content to preach it in the assemblies of the world, even with a world conflict looming on the horizon, and the power blocs rearming for action.


Power, as Nehru said, brought responsibility, and he who was for us an inspiration became overnight the symbol of government and the administration. In the eyes of thousands of Indians, however, the man he succeeded was not Mahatma Gandhi, but Lord Louis Mountbatten, from whom power was transferred. As responsibility weighed on him, the image of the democrat shattered under the strain. The splinters took odd shapes; one little piece resembled a demilitarised General Franco in a Gandhi cap and khaddar kurta,1 [1. Indian shirt of home-spun material.] and yet another shattered fragment was so like the ranting and verbose Ramsay MacDonald, whose latter-day public utterances indicated that he was gradually losing his grip on the problems with which he was faced. Something had always to look Oriental about Nehru, even a tiny piece of him, and as one picked up another broken piece, it bore a close resemblance to a flamboyant Chiang Kai-shek, who moved from the mainland of China to his retreat in Formosa, persisting in the belief that the West was still looking upon him to redeem the East. That is the level at which Pandit Nehru has steadied himself in five years of independence. Naturally, he is somewhat nettled that he, whom everyone in India applauded as the greatest Indian of them all, was able to achieve so little for his people and his country.

All great men have their little weaknesses, which characterise them. Nehru’s weakness is emotion, which rules him much more than his head. He has got away with it through the years, because he has always been able to count on the personal affection the people have for him, which has carried him through every and any opposition. That is his strength. That is also his Achilles heel. The destiny of India cannot perpetually depend on an individual’s emotional appeal, and everyday affairs of administration cannot always be conducted by intuition. Consequently, the planning of Jawaharlal Nehru, whether it is the planning of our nationalism or of our economy, has been chaotic. Figures cannot tally when they are based purely on emotion.

Men often call themselves progressive when they only mean that they are not reactionary. Progressive men start and lead progressive movements like the many we have seen spring up around us all over the world in the last two decades. Some of these progressive movements have had a great fascination for Nehru. He always likes to be looked upon as a modern; he wants to be a Picasso hung up in the Royal Academy, looking upon the classical forms around him with a supercilious air. He is easily moved by the righteousness of a cause and by anything that smacks of a crusade. He always comes back from his trips abroad full of admiration for some other people in some other part of the world who may be fighting their battle for freedom, whether that battle is to achieve freedom or to retain it. He is fond of reading literature which speaks the language of freedom. All this has endeared him to our people, to whom he is more a legend than a practical leader. In terms of folklore, he could be likened to a prince, ready with his sword to defend the unarmed, to guard the rights of man, to fight for human justice. But all this Tennysonian allegory of the days of King Arthur and Lancelot does not sit so well at the desk of the Prime Minister of India, more especially when this knight with the shining piece of steel has constantly got to dip it in ordinary blue-black ink to append his signature to executive actions, some of which could be likened to those of a small-town dictator in a neo-fascist state. That new streak, perceptible in Jawaharlal Nehru, some say has come with responsibility; others strongly suspect it has come with power.


To understand this, one has to go back fifteen years, when, in the staid Modern Review1 [1. November 1937.] of Calcutta, a magazine which circulates among ‘highbrows’ only, there appeared an article, anonymously written, entitled ‘Jawaharlal Nehru’. Readers of the Modern Review were disturbed by the appearance of this ridiculously melodramatic article in an otherwise weighty publication. The author was obviously an enthusiastic college student whom the editor was trying desperately hard to encourage. Nehru was at that time President of the Indian National Congress, and he had indicated his unwillingness to carry on the appointment for another term. The young writer was trying to dissuade the Congress from reelecting him, on the grounds that in Jawaharlal was the germ of a fascist, and that if he were pampered too much, the pampering would go to his head. Of course, he wrote in glowing terms about Jawaharlal all the way through the article, as some of the passages quoted below will indicate:

‘ . . . The Rashtrapati2 [2. Sanskrit word for President.] looked up as he passed swiftly through the waiting crowds, his hands went up and were joined together in salute and his pale hard face was lit up by a smile. It was a warm personal smile, and the people who saw it responded to it immediately and smiled and cheered in return.

‘The smile passed away and again the face became stern and sad, impassive in the midst of the emotion that it had roused in the multitude. Almost it seemed that the smile and the gesture accompanying it had little reality behind them; they were just tricks of the trade to gain the goodwill of the crowds whose darling he had become. Was it so?

‘Watch him again. There is a great procession, and tens of thousands of persons surround his car and cheer him in an ecstasy of abandonment. He stands on the seat of the car, balancing himself rather well, straight and seemingly tall, like a god, serene and unmoved by the seething multitude. Suddenly there is that smile again, or even a merry laugh, and the tension seems to break and the crowd laughs with him, not knowing what he is laughing at. He is god-like no longer but a human being, claiming kinship and comradeship with the thousands who surround him, and the crowd feels happy and friendly and takes him to its heart. But the smile is gone and the pale stern face is there again . . .

Jawaharlal is a personality which compels interest and attention. But they have a vital significance for us, for he is bound up with the present in India, and probably the future and he has the power in him to do great good to India or great injury ....

‘ . . . From the far north to Cape Comorin he has gone like some triumphant Caesar passing by, leaving a trail of glory and a legend behind him. Is all this for him just a passing fancy which amuses him, or some deep design or the play of some force which he himself does not know? Is it his will to power of which he speaks in his autobiography that is driving him from crowd to crowd and making him whisper to himself: “I drew these tides of men into my hands and wrote my will across the sky in stars”?’

Then came the young writer’s warning:

‘. . . Men like Jawaharlal with all their capacity for great and good work are unsafe in a democracy. He calls himself a democrat and a socialist, and no doubt he does so in all earnestness, but every psychologist knows that the mind is ultimately a slave to the heart and that logic can always be made to fit in with the desires and irrepressible urges of man. A little twist and Jawaharlal might turn into a dictator, sweeping aside the paraphernalia of a slow-moving democracy. He might still use the language and slogans of democracy and socialism, but we all know how fascism has fattened on this language and then cast it away as useless lumber.' (The italics are mine.)

On the other hand, the writer went on to say, ‘Jawaharlal is certainly not fascist either by conviction or by temperament. He is far too much of an aristocrat for the crudity and vulgarity of fascism ...’ Since when has aristocracy been a bar to fascism? In fact, history proves that it has fostered it. But when an editor decides to encourage a young man who fancies he has a flair for writing, it would be pointless to mutilate the script on grounds of historical accuracy. So the Modern Review printed this effusion, obviously without any sub-editing.

Soon the young writer was becoming wobbly. He could not make up his mind about Jawaharlal, and ended by proving that Jawarharlal could not become a fascist but that he would! The passages in the article that followed read:

‘Jawaharlal cannot become a fascist. And yet he has all the makings of a dictator in him -- vast popularity, strong will directed to a well-defined purpose, energy, pride, organisational capacity, ability, hardness, and, with all his love of the crowd, an intolerance of others and certain contempt for the weak and inefficient. His flashes of temper are well known, and even when they are controlled, the curling of the lips betrays him. His overmastering desire to get things done, to sweep away what he dislikes and build anew, will hardly brook for long the slow process of democracy. He may keep the husk but he will see to it that it bends to his will. In normal times he would just be an efficient and successful executive, but in this revolutionary epoch, Caesarism is always at the door, and is it not possible that Jawaharlal might fancy himself as a Caesar?

‘Therein lies danger for Jawaharlal and for India. For it is not through Caesarism that India will attain freedom, and though she may prosper a little under a benevolent and efficient despotism she will remain stunted, and the day of emancipation of her people will be delayed . . .

‘Let us not . . . spoil him by too much adulation and praise. His conceit, if any, is already formidable. It must be checked. We want no Caesars.’

This quite incredible article, which read like a rough shooting script for a Cecil B. De Mille version of an Indian Quo Vadis, was obviously not taken seriously by anyone except the author himself. It certainly made no difference whatsoever to the Indian National Congress, which voted Jawaharlal as President despite all warnings.

Imagine our surprise when some years later it was revealed that the author of this anonymous absurdity was none other than Jawaharlal Nehru himself.

Nehru has never contradicted the attribution of the authorship of the article to him. It has been reproduced again and again, the last known occasion being August 31st, 1951, when the New Delhi weekly Thought reproduced it under the title ‘Jawaharlal NEHRU -- By Jawaharlal Nehru’. Nor is Pandit Nehru careless about contradictions. The meticulous care with which he scrutinises every remark affecting him even remotely, and the frequent occasions on which he sets the whole machinery of the government of India, now at his command, into action to contradict even a single inaccurate or unfavourable comment in the Indian press about his regime, his ministers, his government, his policy or himself, make it certain that the frequent attributions could not possibly have escaped him.

Aristocracy was no bar to Jawaharlal’s metamorphosis. We spoiled him with too much adulation and praise, despite his own warning. His conceit, which he said was already formidable, grew with power until it became chronic with what he called responsibility. No one could check it, not even Nehru himself. In time he became Caesar, as he said he would -- or would he prefer Pandit Caesar? How could we ever drop that scholastic prefix which distinguished him from the ordinary Indians over whom he held undisputed sway after we were freed from the British?

Nehru has always lived, even during the days he spent in jail, somewhere in the clouds. Like some of the Russian princes who have remotely stemmed from the late Tsar, he refuses to come down to earth. Drama must always surround him; not the light comedy of the foibles of everyday life, such as you would see in any little bourgeois theatre, but the heavier variety, something like Marlowe’s Tamburlaine, accompanied by the music of Wagner, preferably the Funeral March, at the end of which Nehru could rise to rhetorical heights such as when he said on Gandhi’s death: ‘The light that shone in this world was no ordinary light ... for that light represented something more than the immediate present; it represented the living, the eternal truths . . .’

Something like that must always happen around Jawaharlal Nehru to bring out the greatness in the man. He is not just a steady plodder.

Robert Bernays, that brilliant young M.P. who was killed in an air crash during the war, once told me that Churchill was a man who wanted life to be one great tragedy and that he should always be in the centre of it. When I ran into Bernays accidentally in Rome, the fateful night before his plane crashed on its way back to the United Kingdom, I reminded him about this little epigram he had produced in Oxford many years ago. ‘Well, of course,’ Bernays said, ‘he has got the right part now, and he is certainly playing it brilliantly.’ In recent months I have often thought that this description of Churchill fits Nehru in the setting of India and Asia. Nehru has been at his best fighting for the liberation of our people, and, as the territorial limits of his crusade have expanded, he has been privately rehearsing to play the role of Liberator of Asia. But, as Asia is not likely to be ‘liberated’ except by communism. Pandit Nehru would find the role of a Soviet satellite somewhat irksome to his Caesarian susceptibilities.

But at home there are no such great and dramatic roles to play. Instead, innumerable little details keep cropping up in Nehru’s India. There is the Congress party machine continually in the process of being overhauled; there is the Planning Commission, which has been incessantly planning and producing blue-prints, apparently too impractical or expensive to be translated into action; there is the food problem, which Nehru has tried to solve with grandiose speeches on self-sufficiency and with the mass planting of trees, Vanamahotsava, which never grew, leaving our people dependent on the charity of nations we had antagonised; there is the acute shortage of foreign exchange; cloth is periodically rationed and then released overnight because of a glut due to under-consumption. These little things need the attention of Jawaharlal Nehru, Prime Minister of India, and once again President of the Congress.  

But to our three hundred and sixty million people these little things are as important as freedom; they are freedom itself. The greatness that is in Nehru unfortunately does not come out in rationing coupons or at economic conferences. It wants vivid colours to portray it; it needs to be painted on the broad canvas of suffering humanity. The canvas has, moreover, to be of pure khaddar, or, at least, hand-woven and hand-spun somewhere in Asia.
It required a world war to bring out the genius of Winston Churchill; that of Jawaharlal Nehru will likewise have to wait its turn to express itself. The failure of a local monsoon does not bring it out, even though this is how all our famines begin.  

3. TWO ORNAMENTAL PILLARS

Nehru’s over-preoccupation with Asia, which he regards as his beat and orbit of protection, is due to a constant fear within him of the possibility of the white man returning, or at least of his ability to achieve remote control over Asian affairs. Nehru is very sensitive about anything that savours of Western patronage; he will not brook even a charitable gesture, however genuine, and even when he agrees to take an occasional loan or any form of material help from the West, whether in the shape of food-grains or capital, he will not take it as a gift, but insists on regarding it as a loan, given unconditionally and ‘with no strings attached’. The only deviation from strict international financing he allows himself is to accept an indefinite date for its redemption. The obligation to pay is therefore always there and negatives any presumption of foreign patronage.

Chiang Kai-shek used to take the assistance and be thankful for it, but Nehru’s intense national pride and his highly-strung sense of self-respect make it necessary for the loan to appear almost forced upon him. Never before has a nation shown such determination to stand on its dignity at such a chronic stage of its helplessness. It is nevertheless determination that counts; all things done under the shadow of the Asoka pillar appear to have a sanctity which they did not have under the Royal Crown. In the old days, the offer of foreign aid would have been construed as an attempt to dominate the East and to enslave its people. Today the far greater assistance which we receive from those quarters is regarded only as friendly gestures of fellow democracies. In the old days, too, we would have boycotted this help from others; today we accept it, but nullify the danger of patronage by saying there will be ‘no strings attached’. Just as the ideals of administration weigh more with Nehru than administration itself, so, too, practicality takes second place to the greater value we attach to the gaining of a position in the comity of nations where, despite our recent entry, our representatives often behave as if they own the place. This innocence in flaunting our new status is a passing phase; not only India but the whole East, Near to Far, is passing through it as a rebound from the years of servitude. In Iran, Mussadiq believes the oil-taps of the Middle East can be switched on and off from his bedside, and Nehru, with equal Oriental charm, appears to be under the impression that India virtually has a casting vote on most of the important problems discussed by the United Nations.

Our attitude to the powers of the West has, therefore, been conditioned by the personal complexes of Pandit Nehru. The translation of these complexes into action has become our foreign policy.

This policy is based on two ornamental pillars: the one is the enhancement of our prestige abroad; the other, neutrality.

The first pillar has been raised brick by brick with Nehru’s own hands. It is he who has worked out the intricate details of how our prestige abroad should be enhanced. The belief is widespread among his still-constant followers that were he to be spared from his arduous duties at home, and allowed to roam the cities of the world as a pedlar of goodwill, he would promote enough understanding to last us a lifetime. Others do not think that Nehru’s personal presence is necessary in view of the whole host of celebrities who represent us abroad, occasionally or permanently.

Nor is the privilege of enhancing our prestige abroad the sole prerogative of the star turns of the diplomatic corps. The whole story can best be read in the report of the Auditor-General, Narahari Rao, who was sent out to check on our missions abroad, and who reported, to Pandit Nehru’s dismay, that accounting was by no means the forte of the corps. The Auditor-General’s report revealed inter alia that in one instance an equivalent of twenty-seven thousand rupees1 [1. Approx. £2,000.] was withdrawn from the bank account of the mission for the private use of the Minister, who credited the amount to his bank account a few weeks later. The irregularities did not stop with mere private and unauthorised borrowings from the official cash, which at least were restored after long periods. The report disclosed that there were also instances of purchases being made without proper sanction, which were prima facie objectionable and extravagant. Some of these purchases were said to be of a private nature, such as cigarettes, theatre tickets, flowers, etc., required by the officials of the mission. A subsequent thorough inquiry confirmed that there had been misuse of government money and falsification of accounts, and that some of the officers of the legation had employed highly improper and high-handed methods.

‘It is a pity,’ our correspondent1 [1. Thakorelal M. Desai in The Current, November 7th, 1951] said, breaking the story of the contents of this startling report, ‘that the identity of those who were responsible for these objectionable practices, especially those who are still members of the diplomatic service, has been shrouded in mystery and left to the people to guess. Such finicky regard for the niceties of official etiquette and considerations of our prestige in the foreign capitals is clearly out of place in matters of such gravity.’

Personalities, though regarded as important at the time of selection to our newly formed diplomatic service -- in which the selectors have paid more attention to breeding than to form -- have to be discarded in any criticism of this corps. Otherwise we are accused of bad taste.


Nehru resents any kind of personal criticism or any pin-pointing or documentation, even in a question in Parliament, with regard to his pet service, which he once proudly announced was ‘hand-picked’ by him. The Indian taxpayer still finds it difficult to understand why, in the state of poverty in which we perpetually proclaim ourselves to be, there was such urgent need for one of our diplomatic representatives to re-condition his bathroom at the cost of fifteen hundred pounds, or for Pandit Nehru to sanction yet another large sum for the opening of yet another diplomatic branch office, when the head office has so little to do. But on these little points, which affect any department under Pandit Nehru’s personal supervision, inquisitive people, however highly placed, find themselves often clashing with the Pandit, to the latter’s irritation and the former’s eventual disillusion.

It was one such incident that resulted in the resignation of Dr John Matthai, whose services as Finance Minister Pandit Nehru had requested on lend-lease from the Tata billion-dollar industrial empire. The situation became intolerable for the Finance Minister when, every time he effected an economy, the cabinet over which Pandit Nehru presided ‘adopted proposals for expenditure either without or in anticipation of their [the Standing Finance Committee’s] approval’.1 [1. From Dr Matthai’s statement following his resignation.] Dr Matthai had resigned quietly, without stating any specific reasons whatsoever, but Nehru, in a speech he made in the South, without any warning to the Minister who had silently resigned, provoked a contradiction which spoke for itself. Dr Matthai said: ‘Some of the greatest offenders in this respect have been the ministries functioning under the immediate control of the Prime Minister. It has been for me a difficult uphill task, and a definite weakening of our campaign for economy has naturally resulted.’

‘The last case of this kind I had to deal with’, the former Finance Minister continued, ‘is typical of what is happening. When it was decided that our High Commissioner in the United Kingdom should be our Ambassador in Ireland, the Standing Finance Committee agreed to the proposal on the distinct understanding that no expenditure other than the travelling expenses of the High Commissioner should be incurred. There was to be no building or staff for the Embassy.

‘This proposal was agreed to in November last by the External Affairs Ministry as part of our economy campaign. But the High Commissioner would not accept the suggestion made by us and the matter was, therefore, brought before the cabinet, at the Prime Minister’s instance. The cabinet has now agreed that our Embassy in Dublin should be provided with a building and also staff, not merely without the approval of the Standing Finance Committee, but against its recommendations.’2 [2. Ibid.]  

So this fetish of enhancing prestige abroad is a personal weakness of Nehru, resulting from his complex that his India — Nehru’s India — must be made to look as great a land as any in the world. If only the outward show were backed by inner substance, the expenditure on this count would be worth our while. But this object cannot be achieved by putting fifth-rate diplomats into first-class motor-cars.


All this goodwill promotion and this exchange of understanding would have no meaning, according to Nehru, were it not to promote peace between the nations involved. Therefore, as a natural corollary to this, our foreign policy is based on the idea of maintaining the status quo as at the end of the second world war. Altering this balance of power would be permissible only if it were done by means short of war. Thus, the sliding of the whole of China behind the Iron Curtain is not regarded as an act of aggression by the U.S.S.R., or even an infiltration move. It should rather be regarded as the legitimate exercise of the Chinese people’s right of self-determination, expressed spontaneously under the indigenous leadership of the great triumvirate: Mao Tse-tung, Chou En-lai and Chu Teh. Presumably the old Generalissimo, Chiang, was moved from the Chinese mainland to his new retreat in Formosa by a constitutionally conducted referendum. It, however, becomes our duty, so Pandit Nehru’s mind runs, to recognise this de facto change in the constitution of China from a Republic under Chiang to a People’s Republic under the tutelage of the U.S.S.R. Yet the same Pandit Nehru was, but a few years ago, strolling in the gardens of Viceregal House, to Lord Linlithgow’s discomfort, with none other than the Chiangs whom Nehru phrased as ‘our valiant neighbours’. And when, on my return from China, I respectfully indicated to Nehru that Chiang’s days appeared to be numbered and that the Reds were doing a terrific job, he merely smiled at me in a knowing sort of way. Britain, too, has recognised Red China, but not with the pious platitudes in which our spokesmen glorified the event.

Not to recognise China would be to displease her, and, after all, the British had really no tangible right on Chinese soil. Even the cities which the British claim to have developed, admittedly with their capital, were built with cheap Chinese labour, and that falls under exploitation which Nehru will not tolerate. China for the Chinese, as India is now for the Indians. Conquest by arms never established a claim which an upright democrat, pledged to non-violence, can recognise; the subtle conquest by infiltration was, however, on a different footing. Thus the foundation was laid for the policy of neutrality which was to revolutionise the mind of Asia, and which was to be a forging-house for promoting understanding with the West. The sweeping changes over the map were only the manifestations of a natural evolution of an awakened Asia. All this was plausible, except for the strange coincidence that Asia was being stirred to life in a dawn which was noticeably red.  

Neutrality implied staying aloof from all forms of controversy which could not be settled without recourse to arms. Therefore, it also implied the denial of any moral support to one side which would provoke action by the other side. It implied the denial of any form of preparation for any eventuality, or any training for participation in any future conflict, other than that required for the guarding of our frontier with Pakistan. Militarily, India’s prime concern is to be a little stronger than Pakistan, but no more. That is the official outlook. The question of defending ourselves in the event of China waging a secondary war on India to support the U.S.S.R. in the coming world conflict does not arise, because Pandit Nehru has been convinced of China’s goodwill towards us.


It is now officially accepted in India that Mao has no territorial ambitions outside his own frontiers. The highly militarised manoeuvres of Chinese troops along and behind the Brahmaputra river, which the Chinese prefer to call the Tsangpo, have to be written off as P.T. exercises. Pandit Nehru is said to have been further impressed by Chinese good intentions because, when the Chinese accidentally crossed our border some time in 1950, they were polite enough to apologise for their mistake, and their erring soldiers were made to return every little item which they had pilfered or pillaged from our northern villages. After all, what is a little fraternisation between understanding neighbours?

The Sino-Indian War, also known as the Indo-China War and Sino-Indian Border Conflict, was a war between China and India that occurred in 1962. A disputed Himalayan border was the main pretext for war, but other issues played a role. There had been a series of violent border incidents after the 1959 Tibetan uprising, when India had granted asylum to the Dalai Lama. India initiated a Forward Policy in which it placed outposts along the border, including several north of the McMahon Line, the eastern portion of the Line of Actual Control proclaimed by Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai in 1959.

Unable to reach political accommodation on disputed territory along the 3,225 kilometre- (2,000 mile-) long Himalayan border, the Chinese launched simultaneous offensives in Ladakh and across the McMahon Line on 20 October 1962.
Chinese troops advanced over Indian forces in both theatres, capturing Rezang La in Chushul in the western theatre, as well as Tawang in the eastern theatre. The war ended when China declared a ceasefire on 20 November 1962, and simultaneously announced its withdrawal to its claimed 'line of actual control'.

-- Sino-Indian War, by Wikipedia


4. ‘LIBERATION'

Things took a somewhat different shape when the new Chinese war-lords kept paying far too much attention to their cultural affinities on the Indian borders while they too easily ignored those dubious regions which divided them from the U.S.S.R. For instance, the somewhat strange similarity between the Tibetan and the Chinese Mongol brought, overnight, whole garrisons into Tibet to proclaim a suzerainty which, although we did not dispute it, we never knew the Chinese were so keen on emphasising. As a result, our own military mission in Gyangtse, the outpost on our trade route to the North, disappeared, without our Foreign Minister, who was Nehru himself, being able to account in Parliament for this vanishing act.

To understand what was happening in these parts, it is necessary to review in fuller detail these recent events which transformed large tracts of sleepy areas into active communist pockets.


With the ‘liberation’ of Tibet by the Chinese, this once autonomous province, which at one time could exchange diplomatic missions with other nations, found its foreign affairs controlled directly from Peking. This was announced one fine day over Radio Peking, and no one in India was in any position to question Peking’s decision. Possession is ten-tenths of international law.

Below Tibet lie the two kingdoms of Nepal and Bhutan, stretching over the top of our provinces of Bihar and north-west Assam. Tibet was too easily liberated. At first the Chinese had planned to enter Tibet from their provinces of Chinghai and Sikang, to the east, but in this process some of Red China’s reconnaissance units strayed into Indian territory, violating the McMahon Line, which is the recognised territorial demarcation between India and China. It was then that Nehru protested and the Chinese promptly withdrew, admonishing their troops. The Chinese then swung the whole operation north-west and proceeded to carry out their ‘liberation’ movement from Sinkiang, north-west of Tibet, to avoid the risk of clashing with India and offending our so-called neutrality.

It was as the Chinese rolled along the Brahmaputra, or the Tsangpo, that our mission at Gyangtse tactfully withdrew along with the garrison battalion of the Indian army which had been placed there to guard our lines of communication.

In November of 1950 there appeared on the front page of The Current an article over my name, entitled ‘Nehru’s neutrality brings Mao to our frontier’. It dealt with Nehru’s reactions to the invasion of Tibet.

Relying always on his ‘hand-picked’ men, Nehru had refused on more than one occasion to take the advice of seasoned experts on their subjects. Our representative in Lhasa at the time was an Englishman by the name of Richardson, who had continually warned the Indian government against the recognition of Chinese suzerainty over Tibet. Richardson was accepted as a competent authority on Tibetan affairs. Pandit Nehru, however, did not relish taking advice on Asian affairs from an Englishman. The government of India recalled Richardson from Lhasa. In his place, Pandit Nehru appointed an Indian, Dr Sinha. Dr Sinha was from the new Indian diplomatic service; he was formerly in Peking. The learned doctor was credited with a deep understanding of Mao Tse-tung.

It is now an open secret that the Chinese invasion of Tibet came as a complete surprise to the Indian government. Comment is superfluous on the fact that neither Sardar Pannikar, who was our former Ambassador at Peking, nor our new representative in Tibet, Dr Sinha, had any information to communicate to New Delhi on Chinese troop movements and manoeuvres which preceded the coup d’etat. They had apparently no knowledge of Chinese intentions with regard to Tibet. Pandit Nehru, when he heard of the invasion, was furious; he sent a frantic cable to Ambassador Pannikar in Peking. The message is said to have read somewhat as follows: ‘Either you did not explain our point of view to the Chinese, or you did not understand what the Chinese told you.’ Two days later, a cool and collected Ambassador replied that he knew nothing of the invasion until he heard about it over All-India Radio!

It is no secret that at the last Pacific conference at Lucknow, high level Americans present told the Indian representatives in very specific terms that they did not understand from where India got its information about China, but that American Intelligence reports were very clear on the point that China was shortly to invade Tibet. Surely this must have reached the ears of the Prime Minister, but Pandit Nehru often closes his ears to anything that he does not wish to hear.

Nor was this the only occasion on which Nehru has ignored advice given to him on Tibet. He had been told, we understand, that we should increase our representation at Kashgar, the vital key-point where Tibet touches the Chinese province of Sinkiang. Kashgar is on the direct caravan route, and we had only one trade representative there. Pandit Nehru disregarded this advice. He probably feared that our keeping an eye on this vital spot would offend the Chinese government. He went further; he recalled our sole representative, Mr Sathe, on the eve of the invasion. Mr Sathe returned, ostensibly for consultation, and while he was in New Delhi the Chinese army struck at Tibet. The Chinese came from two places, and one of them was Sinkiang.  

The invasion of Tibet has had momentous consequences for the defence of India, which neither our government nor our people wish to appreciate. The border of Tibet runs along the Indian frontier for approximately two thousand miles. Hitherto, the Himalayas have been our silent sentinels, separating us from the Chinese, but now it has been realised that this mighty mountain barrier is no longer impregnable. Moreover, the Indian army and the other defence services, in which we all naturally take great pride, are hardly equipped to fight the first-rate power which China has become under Soviet influence. It was different when the Chinese were only limp, knock-kneed soldiers, as in the days of Chiang Kai-shek, but the army of Mao is a very different proposition. In the event of a clash, Mao can always fall back on the U.S.S.R., whereas we, by our neutrality, have alienated all our friends.

Our deliberate unpreparedness is unforgivable. So eminent an historian as Professor Arnold Toynbee has said in his Civilization on Trial that there would be two theatres of war in World War III, and that one of them would be Tibet. Tibet touches not only the disturbed area of Nepal, but also the disputed portion of Kashmir; important trade routes pass through Ladakh. Tibet also borders on Assam, which has been for some time in a restless state due to perpetual communist activities of which our government is aware, but not poignantly. Attempts to point out to our government the danger of underestimating the communist menace in these areas have been dismissed by the remark that the communists are ‘not unduly unmanageable’.


Pandit Nehru has always had faith in the Asiatic, however treacherous certain Asiatics can be. An indication of this is to be seen in the exchange of official correspondence between India and China, released to the press on November 3rd, 1950. The correspondence was on the subject of the delay of the departure of the Tibetan delegation from New Delhi, on the personnel of which China had said foreign influence was being brought to bear. India said; ‘Owing to lack of knowledge on the part of the Tibetan delegation in dealing with other countries, and the necessity of obtaining instructions from their government who in turn had to consult their assemblies, certain further delay took place. The government of India do not believe that any foreign influence hostile to China has been responsible for the delay in the delegation’s departure.’

There was nothing apologetic about China’s reply. China said: ‘The Central People’s Government of the People’s Republic of China would like to make it clear; Tibet is an integral part of China’s territory. The problem of Tibet is entirely a domestic problem of China. The Chinese People’s Liberation Army must enter Tibet, liberate the Tibetan people and defend the frontiers of China. This is the resolved policy of the Central People’s Government.’ When this correspondence was released, I knew it was pointless kidding ourselves that the leadership of Asia was ever likely to rest with us. Mao was way ahead of the Pandit.

But Nehru’s ‘neutrality’ was in no way disturbed by this major operation in Tibet, whereby a huge territory, situated among formidable mountains and stretching thirteen hundred kilometres from south to north and two thousand kilometres from east to west, virtually slipped behind the ever-expanding Iron Curtain. The directive issued by Peking to the Chinese People’s Liberation Army for this offensive said; ‘This attack is to liberate three million inhabitants of Tibet from the imperialist yoke and to strengthen the defence of western frontiers’. We swallowed this pious platitude. Tibet may be essential to China’s defence; it can also be dangerous to India in the event of our being attacked.

The ‘liberation’ was confined to Tibet, but its effect overflowed farther south. Nepal, where the Gurkha soldiers come from, began to show signs of becoming unstable.

Nepal had long been an almost feudal state, lorded over by the handle-bar moustachioed military chiefs, the Ranas. In the name of democracy the Ranas were deposed, and a grim three-cornered struggle ensued for political power, in which the two Koirala brothers vied with each other. The one was Chief Minister of Nepal, the other controlled the Nepal Congress party. While these two brothers were sparring, a third factor cropped up on the scene. A small band of insurgents attempted to blast their way to power; but beaten by the government forces, who called themselves loyalists, their leader crossed the frontier into Tibet and escaped to China, where, it is reliably learned, he is being trained to ‘liberate’ Nepal in due course. Communists everywhere, after liberating themselves, always seem anxious to liberate everyone else around them.

No one had paid much attention to Nepal during all these years. Life in Nepal was controlled by a primitive economy which fitted into the feudal pattern. Its international finance transactions were confined to receiving tributes from the British and the Indian governments, in return for which Nepal allowed its Gurkhas to be recruited into the armies of these two governments, virtually as mercenaries. On the outgoing side, it used to pay money tribute to China because of some obscure historical war which Nepal had lost. The modern term for this sort of payment would be reparations.

Today Nepal has become a focal point of the world’s attention because of its strategic position. It is below the Himalayan range, and therefore a vital defence position which India cannot afford to lose. The cultural war now going on, between China on one side and India and the Western democracies on the other, for Nepalese understanding and goodwill is only a cover for a future military position which these two sides hope to acquire in Nepal. Point Four aid to the Nepalese cannot have been prompted entirely by humanitarian motives. Even the stray Americans in the hotels of Kalimpong, who maintain they are interested only in rare fauna, are hardly sufficiently convincing as naturalists. It is said that the Americans wanted a consulate there and that Nehru turned down the suggestion. He was probably afraid the Russians would make a similar request which he would then not be in a position to refuse. So that all this area of and around Nepal is loaded with dynamite which India is doing its best to dampen with neutrality.

Coming eastwards and south-east from our northern borders, we run into the Naga territory of the Abor and the Mishmi tribes, north of Assam. On this primitive terrain has sprung up a strange character, an educated Naga whose name is Phizo. Into his head-hunting compatriots, who would change sides overnight for the gift of a blanket and whose most tasty dish is dog cooked in rice, Phizo tries to inculcate an ancestral affinity with the Chinese. Admittedly the Nagas look more Chinese than Indian, but strategically the Naga land is too important for us to be finicky about facial resemblances.

The influence of the new Chinese and the restlessness which accompanies it flow farther south, down the Lushai Hill range, till they reach the tea-plantations of Assam, owned by British and Indian interests in the proportion of nearly three to one. Several of these once-prosperous plantations are having to close down due to the rise in the cost of labour. Unemployment has spread among the plantation workers, and the ground has gradually been prepared for further affinity with the doctrines of communism.

Mr C. Rajagopalachari, former Governor-General of India and now Chief Minister of Madras in South India, sounded a note of warning only recently when he said: ‘The British have gone. But my trouble is with China and Russia . . . From outside there is some influence creeping into this country. It is good to make the poor govern the country. It is one thing if we do it, but quite another when others do it for us here.’1 [1. Speech at Tirupati, October 1952.]

That is how Nehru’s neutrality has worked for us. It has brought one of the most dangerous enemies of democracy right on to our northern gates, while Pandit Nehru sleeps the soft slumber of innocence, exchanging goodwill missions with the Chinese.
admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 31180
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: Freda Bedi Cont'd (#2)

Postby admin » Fri Mar 13, 2020 6:37 am

Part 2 of 7

5. MANPOWER

Early in 1951, the United Nations branded Communist China an aggressor in Korea, and the General Assembly ratified this decision at a plenary session. This was perhaps the most important step taken in international affairs since the end of World War II.

While our government was right in making every possible effort to restore peace in Asia, there was no justification for the way we voted on the American resolution which brought the issue to a head. The fact that in the division lobby we found ourselves with Burma and the Soviet group of five states against forty-four nations of the world speaks for itself.


Ridiculous situations like these in which our country constantly finds itself on many other international questions are the direct result of Pandit Nehru’s untenable foreign policy. We have the misfortune of having our foreign affairs conducted by a man who still keeps talking in vague emotional generalisms on vital world problems.

We shirked casting our vote against communist China for fear that China might break off the peace negotiations, not being sufficiently up to date in modern Soviet strategy to realise that the quest of peace in which communists frequently indulge is only another communist front.

We are naturally surprised when time and again Pandit Nehru goes out of his way publicly to contradict any least offence that may have been given to China and Russia, but remains strongly silent when the Western democracies are embarrassed.
This does not mean that he is in any way more fond of the communists; Stalin gave Nehru an inferiority complex which he did not feel in the presence of his British and American counterparts. Stalin was an unknown mysterious factor; Churchill, Attlee, Truman and Eisenhower are ‘the devils we know’. Mao is again on a completely different footing. Nehru very likely feels superior to Mao, because Mao is after all a Soviet satellite. Nehru is too big to play this small supporting role; he secretly fancies himself as being able to play the greater role of the arrowhead of progress in Asia.

Nor was this impossible at one time. Soon after our liberation, wherever Nehru went he received the deafening applause of the common men and women of the world, who looked upon him as a great fighter in the cause of freedom. The story is told of his triumphant visit to Malaya, and how the crowds went mad when Nehru and Mountbatten drove in the same car, and how when they stopped on the way to pay a visit to Lady Mountbatten’s canteen -- it was the first time Nehru met her -- a whole platoon of Indian troops had to be called out to rescue him from being mobbed. Crowds still follow Nehru wherever he goes in India, larger than ever before, but they now go to him in a questioning sort of way, and some go out of amusement also, just as people go to hear pretentious tub-thumpers in Hyde Park, only to listen to the amusing nonsense they speak.

Nehru’s complacent attitude towards communism is a most dangerous thing. History records that before communism creeps in, it gives the victim an amazing sense of security, a quiet self-confidence and inflated self-assurance, all of which quickly dies down when the coup is effected and the victim is in the stranglehold of the ‘forces of liberation’. But Pandit Nehru knows better; this is one of the great tragedies India has to face.

Pandit Nehru believes that what is happening in China today is similar to what happened in India under Mahatma Gandhi: just an awakening of national consciousness. Chinese communists are likened to our well-meaning Congress volunteers. The leader of our delegation to the United Nations at that time, Mr B. Narsingh Rau, even said that China is misunderstood! All of which goes to prove that the Soviets have worked more subtly, but more surely and successfully, in Asia than the Nazis did in Europe in the last decade. The pattern of these two ‘isms’ may differ, but their effect on the lives of free people and on those who cherish freedom will be found in the long run to be the same. There will be no misunderstanding on this score when the time comes, despite what our spokesmen say.  

The New York Times, which expresses the most seasoned American opinion on international affairs, accurately appraised Pandit Nehru and his limitations, when, in an editorial written about that time, it said: ‘Mr Nehru, who has spent most of his adult life denouncing “imperialism”, cannot recognise it when it appears in any even slightly unfamiliar pattern. It is quite obvious that Mr Nehru, along with many other, has made a misappraisal of the Chinese communists. He persists in thinking of them in terms of dynamic Chinese nationalism, just as some other apologists have persisted in thinking of them in terms of “agrarian reform”. He is apparently still unwilling to recognise that the Chinese communist invaders of Korea are a militant wing of Soviet imperialism.’

Inability to recognise this new pattern of imperialism has now become the fashion of the day in Nehru’s India. Even the most honourable and learned judges of our leading High Courts have found hidden depths in Soviet art and culture; their Lordships are frequently to be found presiding over the opening of what appear to them to be innocuous art exhibitions. This, to my mind, is a most dangerous portent.

While we draw cultural inspiration from the Soviets and their satellites, we appear to have no qualms about placing our orders for our military requirements with Great Britain and America. Our General Officers brush up their knowledge of modern warfare at the Imperial Defence College. They do not attempt to gain admission in Russia’s Sokol Academy. We beg for food from the U.S.A. and the Commonwealth; we beg for loans from the World Bank; we beg for American capital to come over to stimulate our industries and assist in the process of industrialisation. In comparison, what do we get from the U.S.S.R.?


With all the granaries of the Ukraine and all the tremendous food-growing schemes about which we have heard so much, we do not appear to have received more than a few crumbs from Comrade Stalin’s dinner-table. What, then, is the basis of this neutrality of which our Prime Minister has, in the last few years, been making such a fetish? And, what is even more to the point, how do we propose to safeguard it?

Field-Marshal Montgomery, who should know a little more about military matters than any non-violent pandit, laid down in August 1947 five essentials for the security of a nation. They were: (1) a strong national character; (2) a great development of scientific and industrial research; (3) a powerful and well-disciplined industrial power; (4) a regular army; (5) preparedness. Montgomery was obviously speaking in terms of Great Britain, which already had the advantage of a vast industrial potential in addition to an alliance with a rich and powerful military power like the U.S.A. Moreover, as founder member of NATO, Britain had other nations pledged to rush to its aid in the event of Russian aggression. But, of the five essentials which the Field-Marshal mentioned, India has got only one — a regular army — a great part of which is preoccupied with holding a cease-fire line in Kashmir, and the remainder sparsely scattered over our country. Our vast mainland jutting into the sea, which has to be defended by land, air and sea, needs more than gallant men to guard and maintain its territorial integrity. The complaint of the first Indian Commander-in-Chief,1 [1. General Cariappa.] just retired, was that not a single vehicle was turned out in this country to keep the army moving on wheels. Barring a few shells turned out in the Kirkee factory, everything the army needed had to be imported, mainly from Britain. Scientific military research is nil. In fact, while Britain is putting finishing touches to the jet prototypes, Mr Birla, our second-best industrialist, is still grinding the valves of his Hindustan 14, which is only an acclimatised Morris made from carbon copies of Lord Nuffield’s old blue-prints. The finest fighting men in the world, which we have, can do but little without an adequate industry behind them which can turn out war material in an emergency.

Neutrality may be possible in the case of a small state in Europe, like Switzerland. A friendly people, content with yodelling on their mountains, can remain neutral in the event of a conflict. But with India the situation is entirely different. We have become strategically important in terms of World War III. As soon as the first shots are fired in the next war, the one who can get to us first will squat on our neutral pitch.
Nehru can then protest to the utmost, but I don’t think it will make much difference.

The growth of India’s importance in terms of military strategy is of comparatively recent occurrence. In the old days India was important because it was the half-way house to Britain’s vested interests in the Far East, but that is now no longer the criterion. New factors have come to the fore which must be considered in order to understand why the Americans have changed their policy towards India almost overnight. Soon after India’s independence was declared, the high-powered policy-makers of America were of the opinion that America should do nothing which might be construed as interference with or influence over a country which had just shaken itself free from foreign domination. The U.S.A. believed that India was to Britain what the Philippines were to America. Ours was a nationalism which America, as an upholder of freedom everywhere, should encourage. As a result, America had written off India from the military point of view. This laissez-faire attitude to India was based on the belief that the next war would be fought either in those areas where American troops were constantly brushing with the Russians or it would take the form of a direct attack on America itself. American militarists were therefore not inclined to plan long-range, remote-controlled action in India, which, from their bitter experience of China, they had found to be a waste of time and money.

Following this decision to write off India as a prospective military base of operations, the Department of State swamped their consulates here with a whole heap of well-meaning, pious and good-intentioned missionaries. The State Department probably thought that religious-minded Vice-Consuls would go down well in Gandhi’s India.

This American phase passed away soon after that brilliant young man from the Department of State, Assistant Secretary George C. McGhee, came to India. McGhee was here on a brief visit to study South-East Asia from the American point of view. It may be only a coincidence, but the American policy towards India indicated a change soon after his return.

Overnight, India became most important to the Americans. No one really knew why. Economic aid, substantial long-term credits for food-grains and loans from the World Bank virtually flowed into our country. Not many people in this country realised what had changed the American attitude so suddenly. It appears that the more intelligent American observers were quick to see that, while India may be useless militarily, it would be suicidal to allow this formidable mass of manpower to slip into Soviet hands.
It was Korea which brought this danger home to the Americans. The Chinese rice-soldiers of Chiang Kai-shek presented a completely different proposition under Mao Tse-tung, who trained them in the shadow of the Kremlin. The tough, long-drawn opposition which these soldiers have put up in Korea is proof of this contention.

The U.S.A. could make arms and ammunition better and quicker than any other nation in the world. It could not, however, produce anywhere near this quantity of manpower, and the Americans realised that if five hundred million Chinese had already become a factor to be contended with in any future operation with the U.S.S.R., it was unwise to allow this manpower to be increased by the addition of three hundred and sixty million Indians, for then the Soviets would have nearly nine hundred million Asiatics under their command. Nine hundred million men need not all be great fighters, but they could be used for slave labour, for the building of bridges, roads and war factories, even for cannon-fodder in delaying actions and secondary wars. All this was a powerful potential which the Soviets could exploit and which the U.S.A. could not easily ignore.

The missionaries in the consulates, therefore, were quickly pulled out and replaced by others who looked far too intelligent to be chopping passports and visas. The truth was that the eyes and ears of the American army had been sent out here with Nehru blissfully unaware of the transformation that had taken place. The Pandit was still glued to his neutrality.

6. INTOLERANCE

Nehru’s sympathetic understanding of communism abroad is in sharp contrast to his government’s treatment of communists at home. The indigenous variety appears to irritate Nehru because it disrupts his regime and challenges his authority. It is healthy but nevertheless difficult to understand how Nehru, who is so extremely careful about the sensitivity of Russian and Chinese Reds, treats their satellites and sympathisers in India with such utter contempt.

Nehru had earlier believed that communism was a very weak force at home, and that the Congress still held sway over the people, as in the days of Mahatma Gandhi. It is true the elections resulted in a country-wide Congress victory, but a close analysis of the votes cast against the Congress revealed that this once great nationalist party had landslided in the people’s estimation. In many cases the people had voted Congress only because the alternative appeared even worse. Even so, it was a communist who polled the largest number of votes at the elections. This unknown little comrade, Ravinarayan Reddi, collected 309,162 votes at Nalagonda, an obscure agrarian constituency in the Telengana district of Hyderabad, while Nehru at Allahabad, a densely populated major city, could only boast of 233,571.

When, in one or two minute areas as for instance in the State of Tripura, in the valley below the troubled northern areas - the communists actually secured a ‘democratic’ majority, far from allowing them to come to power, Nehru entrusted the administration to the Red-baiter, Captain Nanjappa. This administrative officer governed the district as if he were commanding an infantry company. Democracy was suspended; an emergency had apparently arisen. So that, while Nehru pays lip service to communism abroad, he is by no means tolerant of communism at home. He uses methods to crush it which would make any lover of democracy blush.

While one may have no sympathy for communists, it is difficult to overlook and ignore the slow destruction of the normal processes of democracy. Nor have the democratic methods been discarded only to meet the case of communists. Our governments, both at the centre and in the states, appear to have no scruples whatever about discarding these time-worn processes. As one who has tasted official wrath on more than one occasion, I know what it feels like to be a ‘free’ man in Nehru’s India. Time and again I have been dragged through the law courts on charges which the government have not been able to prove or substantiate. Acquittal follows in due course, but in the meantime one is made to suffer the costs of the long process, for which acquittal in the criminal courts brings no relief. Nehru’s governments believe that the best way to silence their critics is to declare a nerve war on them. On a seasoned ‘accused’ like myself it may have little effect, but for the meek it can be a nerve-shattering process. There is no respect for the liberty of an individual, and less for his self-respect.

These are only minor pin-pricks. It is the gradual liquidation of civil liberty itself with which we should be more concerned. Reports from all parts of India tell of new processes adopted by various administrative authorities to mow down whatever little resistance an individual can offer his government in the exercise of his freedom of thought and expression. Many of these instances have gone to court, and on almost every occasion the High Courts have reacted splendidly, standing four-square between the individual and the mighty power of an ever-growing despotism. The government has countered this by amending the legislation under which they acted, making it inscrutable by the judiciary. This renders the High Court helpless, and deprives the individual of his sole defender.

Nehru could not be unaware of all this; yet he maintains a sphinx-like silence. The Nehru who once sat in a bullock-cart behind Gandhi, humbly joining his hands to greet his people, now allows his minions to ride in a slow but sure moving steamroller, crushing down every head that bobs up against the administration. No wonder the people lament that Nehru’s India is not the land of freedom which the Father of the Nation promised us.

The people of the world believe that the days of lathi charges [baton charge is a British era method for crowd control] and police firings in India are over. When the British did this, Nehru thought it was cowardly. Therefore the great liberator of India would not allow his government to fire on his own people in the hour of their liberation, would not stand by and watch the menials of his police force brutally lathi-charge them, as in days of yore.

The records of the various state governments, however, tell a different tale: In July 1952 The Current published on its front page a five-column photograph. It was an action picture of the police lashing out at the people. The incident occurred at the foot of the Ochterlony monument in Calcutta, the premier city of West Bengal, over which presided the healer of the people, Dr B. C. Roy. The meeting which the police attempted to break up was convened to protest against the food policy of the West Bengal government. The protest meeting was held in defiance of an order banning the calling of public meetings, for the government naturally wanted to avoid scenes of huge crowds protesting, so vehemently and so publicly, on such a vital issue as food. For this defiance of authority, even though the manner of protest was peaceful, the crowds were charged with lathis and dispersed exactly as in the days of the British. The Hindustan Standard, an old and established Congress paper, referring to the events, commented editorially: ‘So faithfully has this government aped its predecessors, that if a Rip Van Winkle had gone to sleep a decade ago, and had suddenly awakened on the fateful Tuesday, he would have noted no difference between 1942 and 1952. Not only police action but also ministerial reaction in 1952 bear a familiar resemblance to those in 1942, and are marked by the same arrogance and the same heartlessness.’ At least some Congressmen were beginning to feel ashamed of their kind.


There was a time when Nehru himself bore the brunt of a lathi charge. He describes one such in his autobiography. It was in Lucknow when the Simon Commission was due to arrive in that city, and the Congress had prepared a great demonstration to protest against it. Nehru describes the large crowds that gathered, swelled by sympathetic onlookers, when suddenly there was seen in the far distance a moving mass:

‘There were two or three long lines of cavalry or mounted police, covering the entire area, galloping down towards us, and striking and riding down the numerous stragglers that dotted the maidan. That charge of galloping horsemen was a fine sight, but for the tragedies that were being enacted on the way, as harmless and very much surprised sightseers went under the horses’ hooves. Behind the charging lines these people lay on the ground, some still unable to move, others writhing in pain, and the whole appearance of that maidan was that of a battle-field. But we did not have much time for gazing on that scene, or for reflections; the horsemen were soon upon us, and their front line clashed almost at a gallop with the massed ranks of our processionists. We held our ground, and, as we appeared to be unyielding, the horses had to pull up at the last moment and reared up on their hind legs with their front hooves quivering in the air over our heads. And then began a beating of us, and battering with lathis and long batons, both by the mounted and the foot police. It was a tremendous hammering, and the clearness of vision that I had had the evening before left me. All I knew was that I had to stay where I was, and must not yield or go back. I felt half blinded with the blows, and sometimes a dull anger seized me and a desire to hit out. I thought how easy it would be to pull down the police officer in front of me from his horse and to mount myself up, but long training and discipline held and I did not raise a hand, except to protect my face from a blow. Besides, I knew well enough that any aggression on our part would result in a ghastly tragedy, the firing and shooting down of large numbers of our men . . . The excitement of action held us; but, as it passed, immediately the question arose: To what end was all this? To what end?’1 [1. Nehru’s Autobiography, p. 179.]

Yes, to what end? The Indians in 1952, reading of the lathi charges in Calcutta and the police firings on students in Hyderabad, are still looking for an answer to Jawaharlal’s question. Nor does Jawaharlal answer the question himself. Speech dries up in him on occasions like these. His respect for constitutional procedure does not allow him to interfere with the action of the state governments. Quelle delicatesse! After all, what else would one expect of a man who in his autobiography1 [1. p. 20.] admits that his attitude to life was a vague kind of Cyrenaicism [The doctrine of Cyrenaics that people should ultimately aim at the pleasure of the present moment, disregarding future pain that could result from it.], partly natural to youth, partly the influence of Oscar Wilde and Walter Pater.

Civil liberty in India is dead in more senses than one. It is not only shot down by authority in the literal sense of the word; it is bound down in heavy chains, as even a cursory glance at our police records will indicate.

The list of those who have been detained without trial in India, often without so much as a charge made against them for as long as six months in some cases, are ugly, black marks on the career of any democrat. Again Nehru maintains that these are the executive actions of various state governments in which he is unable to interfere. It is like the old madame denying responsibility for the morals of her individual girls.

The state governments of India are Nehru’s direct responsibility. At the last elections it was he who supervised every important nomination of the state Congress party, and when the elections were over, it was he who gave his personal attention to the formation of the various state ministries. In the name of democracy, he created oligarchic pockets which he could use to effect in safe-guarding his new despotism, his neo-fascist state which was unfortunately our Republic of India.

Nehru will not admit that India under his regime is gradually becoming a police state. He gets angry if anyone accuses him of adopting the familiar methods of a fascist state. But the record speaks for itself, always the record. The attempts may be amateurish, but the trend is to supersede the rule of law by executive action, the validity of which cannot be challenged in the courts of law. Time and again have the judges of the High Court deprecated these undemocratic acts of the government, but that does not appear to deter the ‘drunken old Omars’, drunk with power. Nehru’s responsibility is that he retains these small-town Caesars in office. Inasmuch as they derive power and authority from Nehru himself, the smear of fascism must necessarily spread to him.

Nehru sees red when he is accused of adopting these shabby methods in the working of an avowed democracy. He gets easily angry nowadays, and even more easily irritable. He litters his wrath all over the country.

Recently he thought nothing of insulting a very high police officer in public, and in the presence of his subordinates, merely because the arrangements made by this officer for Pandit Nehru’s visit did not meet with the Prime Minister’s approval. Nehru frequently insults pressmen, which is unwise; even Secretaries to the government, who are highly paid civil servants, could hardly be content with the treatment they receive from him.

Nehru has become so impulsive these days that he makes up his mind without so much as hearing the other point of view, and, having made up his mind, he goes to town on it, irrespective of the normal canons of justice or fair play. The list of people with whom Nehru is angry is growing daily. The more ground he loses, the more despotic he becomes, as those who have dealt with him over a long period of years say. Only recently one of his colleagues remarked to me: ‘The Prime Minister is always irritated by anyone whose criticism he cannot meet’.

Nehru’s best friends are beginning to show concern over his growing intolerance. They feel that he will break down one day in a sorry spectacle of shattered nerves and frayed temper because of his inability to accept the fact that people have a right to differ from him. Nehru is failing in India; only because of the emotional hold he still has on the people who will not desert him is he able to escape defeat. People suffer his shocking exhibitions, partly out of fear of the power he wields, and partly also because of the affection they have for the man who was once the spark that kindled the flame of resistance in those great and now forgotten days of our struggle.

The people of the world are accustomed to see Pandit Nehru as he appears in their capitals, with a pleasant, friendly grin on his face, stretching out his hand for a warm handshake or joined in the Indian manner of namaskar. They know him as the essence of gentility, a humble little Pandit from India, educated at Harrow and Cambridge. But that is not the Nehru we know. There is very little humility in him now, and even the little he had learned from Mahatma Gandhi is hardly to be evidenced these days.
Nehru’s concept of humility is that the Indians should gather to acclaim him as the greatest of them all, and that he should try to dissuade them from such a process of thought. The article which Pandit Nehru wrote on himself in the Modern Review appears to substantiate this view.

There is nothing humble about the way he runs his cabinet; to his ministers he is like a schoolmaster taking his class. Only two of his colleagues, Maulana Azad and Rafi Ahmed Kidwai, exercise any influence over him. Of the rest, two more, Deshmukh and Gopalswamy Ayangar, stand on their dignity, but most of the others who theoretically share joint cabinet responsibility according to the parliamentary convention, find moron-like agreement with their Prime Minister, once he expresses a definite view. A grunt from Nehru produces immediate acceptance of an idea. A dissenting opinion, apologetically expressed and prefaced by: 'I wonder, Mr Prime Minister, whether we should not also consider . . .’ produces a look of disgust on his face, which indicates how utterly stupid the Prime Minister regards such a suggestion to be, and, if occasion arises, Pandit Nehru is not unwilling to say it in so many words. The more ambitious anglers for power, which can only emanate from his authority, now spend their time trying to forecast how he is likely to react on any matter which they may have to discuss with him.

Even so, there is no dearth of worshippers at the Nehru temple. The legend continues.

7. SPOTTING GENIUS

Glib talk of grandiose schemes easily impresses the great Nehru, more so when it comes from foreigners, even though of no known distinction. The Pandit believes he has a flair for spotting genius, as is evidenced in the case of Dr Solomon Trone.

In December 1949 the name of Dr Solomon [Abramovich] Trone figured in the question hour in the Indian Parliament. Our New Delhi correspondent described him as a ‘bespectacled man, always trailed by his bespectacled wife-secretary ... a short, squat and portly American engineer who was in Russia before the revolution’. He was reported to have operated at the top engineering levels in Germany, Japan, America, China and Manchuria. He came to India at the invitation of the Indian government to advise on industrial planning. Dr Trone had prepared a report, but the Prime Minister was unwilling to release it; it was ‘top secret’! No one could understand why a report on industrial planning should be held back, and members of Parliament were getting very agitated at the large salary being paid to the doctor.

Dr Trone, however, appears to have been a pet of Pandit Nehru. Nehru liked the way Trone talked in economic generalities, which was also the language of Nehru. It is relevant that before Nehru, it was Chiang Kai-shek on whom this learned doctor had made an equally profound impression. The economic planning of Chiang’s China was the certificate of Trone’s work, and Nehru, undismayed by the chaos which followed in China, had invited the doctor over to India.


It was our Ambassador in Peking1 [1. Sardar Pannikar.] who located this ‘economic genius’ for Nehru. Trone was then out of a job; Chiang was out of China. The new Republic of India, in its infant stage, needed the sort of economic planning of which Trone was capable. About the same time, Pandit Nehru was also enthusing over national planning. He had gathered experts to plan our millennium. The time was ripe for one genius to meet another. The meeting took place in the Prime Minister’s house, where Dr Trone was invited to stay as a guest of honour.

Dr Trone fitted easily into the Indian picture. His sojourn in China had helped him to get the feel of Asia. It was decided that Dr Trone was to be entrusted with the momentous task of preparing a report.

The Finance Ministry, however, before sanctioning the expenditure, wanted more concrete evidence of Trone’s achievements; they asked for a reference on the doctor before they agreed to his employment at a salary -- with expenses -- which the Indian Treasury could hardly afford.

The Prime Minister’s position became somewhat awkward. He could not possibly turn down an economic genius who was his own find. He therefore took the responsibility upon himself and employed Dr Trone for a probationary period of three months, at a salary higher than that of the Prime Minister himself. Dr Trone’s first job was to report on the Damodar Valley experiment and the Hindustan Aircraft factory.

The Finance Minister, Dr Matthai, found himself in the equally awkward position of having to write off a large sum of money which the learned doctor was costing the Indian exchequer. Dr Matthai therefore preferred to wait for Dr Trone’s report before making any further commitments on this score. When in due course the report was received, the Finance Ministry was of the opinion that the report was more a catalogue of local grievances than an enunciation of economic policy for India. Dr Matthai declined to confirm Trone’s appointment. He bluntly pointed out to Pandit Nehru that, in his opinion, this expenditure would be a gross wastage of public money, which India could not afford.

Pandit Nehru was most upset by Matthai’s attitude, and it became a sore point of difference between the Prime Minister and his Finance Minister until the latter resigned.

In the meanwhile, through top-level channels, enquiries were made about Dr Trone from the U.S. Embassy in Delhi, because the doctor was American-born. These confidential enquiries did not reveal anything very definite about him or his genius for economic planning. The Americans were not in a position to vouch for him; in fact they were rather disturbed about his presence on the Indian scene bearing in mind the environment in which he had more recently been operating.

This did not in the least diminish Pandit Nehru’s enthusiasm for his find, nor did the remark of a highly placed American visiting New Delhi, who told very high officials in India that if Trone was the type of person advising the Indian government, American capital could not feel very confident about their investments in this country.

After that, no one appears to know what happened to Dr Trone. In any case, Pandit Nehru was justified in keeping his report ‘Top Secret’. Its publication would have caused a rebellion in Parliament, and Nehru is a stickler for law and order.
 

8. THE PROMISED FOOD

An Englishman in Bombay, married to an American and browned- off with too many social evenings with his wife’s compatriots, caustically remarked to his friends one day that he never did fancy himself as much of a brain, but latterly he had been feeling some- what of an intellectual giant.

He illustrated this by telling how, at the end of one of these dinner-parties, which, because of his wife, he attended, the hostess decided to play ‘The Game’. It was one of the guessing games. By questioning the circle of guests, you had to arrive at the name of some well-known world figure, living or dead, pinned to your back.

It came to the turn of a pretty American girl, the Betty Boop type, whose husband worked for a tyre company. She started off quite well, and got as far as finding out:

(1) that the man whose name appeared on her back was dead a long, long time ago;

(2) that he was a king and a warrior; and

(3) that he was an ancient Greek.

Then it came to her in an inspired flash: Buddha!

Pandit Nehru has been feeling an intellectual giant under similar circumstances. You should see the minutes of the old Congress meetings, unless these have been destroyed after Independence, and wade through the resolutions he proposed or seconded which attempted to lay down the economic policy of Free India long before freedom became a reality. Some of these were sweeping resolutions couched in Jawaharlal’s majestic prose, with phrases borrowed from Karl Marx, Beatrice and Sidney Webb, and with an occasional splash from Nietzsche to produce the superman effect. Nehru’s forte was that he could adapt these abstract socio-economic cliches to suit the needs of India when it could be liberated from the British.


But the tragedy of Nehru has been that India got liberated in his lifetime, and, as its first Prime Minister, it fell on him to put his own words into effect.

Among the subjects on which he had, through the years, waxed eloquent, was nationalisation. The time now came for him to set some sort of date for the redemption of that pledge. The setting of a dead-line was proof of an intention to fulfil an obligation. Eight months after the fateful 15th of August, 1947, [independence day] the Prime Minister made a pronouncement in Parliament. He prefaced it with an apology, saying that within a few months of coming to power he was ‘a wiser and more cautious man’.

So Nehru said on nationalisation:

‘One has to be very careful that in taking any step the existing structure is not injured too much. In the state of affairs in the world and in India today, any attempt to have a clean slate, that is, a sweep-away of all that we have got, would certainly not bring progress nearer, but might delay it tremendously. If we spend large sums of money on acquiring this and that we would be acquiring things which were ninety per cent obsolete today.

‘There is a great deal of difference between theory and practice. All manner of difficulties crop up in implementing a theory. There has been destruction and injury enough and certainly I confess I am not brave and gallant enough to go about destroying much more. I think there is room for destruction in India still of many things. They would, no doubt, have to be removed. Nevertheless, there is a way of approach.

‘Perhaps there never has been a clean slate even when people imagined that there was going to be a clean slate. Nevertheless, there could be more or less a clean slate. The alternative to that clean slate was to try and rub out here and there . . . But, nevertheless, not with a great measure of destruction etcetera in its trail. Maybe I have been affected by recent events but more and more I have felt that it is wrong to destroy something that is producing something or doing good.

‘I have no doubt in my mind that we have to change this existing structure and as rapidly as possible. The lament of burdens that are put on industry, taxation, this and that is based on a certain view of the world, which, I fear, cannot possibly come back. I am not thinking in idealistic or any terms but practical terms when I say that you cannot have it back.’1 [1. In the Indian Parliament, 7th April 1948.]


The late Mr Ramsay MacDonald could not have done better had he expressed these thoughts himself. It reminded me of the quotation fabricated by Michael Foot in the days of the Oxford Union, and jokingly referred to by him as one of Mr MacDonald’s epigrams. It read; ‘The longer I remain in political life, and the more I see of the varieties and discrepancies of political experience, the more I am coming to recognise that it would be neither unsafe nor exaggerated to say that upon all subjects there is a lot to be said on both sides.’

Mr Tata and Mr Birla, the two shriyuts2 [2. Gentlemen.] of our industry, were, however, quick to remark that Pandit Nehru was showing signs of coming to grips with reality at an early date.

Nevertheless, it would all take time.

***

Nehru revels in spontaneous utterances. They come from the heart, we are told, and apparently circumvent the head. One such utterance he made when he was addressing the important Federation of the Indian Chambers of Commerce in March 1949. Cautious Indian merchants, listening to him with rapt attention, heard that the Oracle had decreed that there was to be no import of food after two years, that is from the end of 1951 onwards. Speaking without any notes, and completely ex tempore, the Prime Minister maintained that the food shortage of India was about ten per cent of the total quantity consumed in the country. Where he got his figures from no one was able to say, and certainly the first time that the Department of Food heard about all this was when they read it in the papers the next morning. With typical Nehruvian courage, he added: ‘Let us make up our minds to live on the food we produce or die in the attempt.’1 [1. In Parliament, on November 18th, 1952 -- three years later -- Nehru admitted: ' . . I regret that my words were falsified and I felt thoroughly ashamed of myself for having made what was almost a pledge to the country.’]

The starvation deaths which followed in Assam, West Bengal, Bihar, Orissa, Gujerat and in the Rayalaseema district of Madras, the total of which will never be available even to the statistician, were the price our people paid for those brave words.


Moreover, at the end of it all, far from stopping our imports of food, we found ourselves in the humiliating situation of not being able to afford to pay for the food we imported. We had to request credits from the United States and other nations who came to our assistance. But not an ounce of food would Nehru take ‘with any strings attached’. The strings were on the dead, holding the emaciated bodies together so that they could be carried to the burning-ghats without falling apart.

I know what a famine looks like, for I saw one for myself in Bengal in 1943, with death hovering in every village through the day. I have heard the wailing of the living through the night. I have seen them again the next morning carried on a lonely bier with not a mourner walking behind. No one had the strength to follow their dead. I have seen men gasp in death for a morsel of food, with pain and anguish on their cold, grey faces. In Bengal I felt the same inner sickness which I experienced as I entered the Nazi concentration camp at Bergen Belsen, the day after it was liberated.


Freda Bedi's increasing profile as a writer opened new opportunities, the most challenging of which was an assignment to report at first hand on the most terrible of India's wartime tragedies. From the summer of 1943 onwards, newspapers carried accounts of famine in Bengal, where crop failures and cyclone damage were exacerbated by official indifference, a preoccupation with the war effort, and a determination to ensure that if the Japanese army -- already well established in Burma -- managed to invade they would be denied stockpiles of rice and the boats so essential for local transport. A huge number of Bengalis -- perhaps as many as four million, Freda believed -- died of starvation or succumbed to diseases which if well-fed they would have resisted.1 The Communist Party was particularly active in drawing attention to the famine and demanding relief. In December 1943, both Bedi and Freda addressed meetings in and around Lahore on behalf of the Bengal Central Relief Committee.2 By the end of the month, she was on the spot, sent by the Tribune to give a sense of the human consequences of the disaster. Freda didn't speak Bengali and she was almost certainly accompanied when travelling from village to village. Her job was 'to make the famine a reality' for newspaper readers in Punjab rather than 'a bundle of figures' by writing reflective and descriptive columns from the areas worst affected.

In a letter to her old Oxford friend Olive Chandler, Freda recounted that she spent a month 'tramping the villages and seeing the worst spots, something so horrible that an Airgram can't hold it.'3 She had seen plenty of human suffering, but nothing remotely like this. The paper carried Freda's articles as a series under the title 'Bengal Today' and within a matter of months these were compiled as a slim book. Bengal Lamenting was published not by the Bedis' own imprint but by the much larger Lion Press in Lahore. Accompanying the articles were deeply unsettling images. The cover was designed by the progressive artist Sobha Singh whom the Bedis would have known from Andretta. It was a stark and arresting drawing, depicting a naked and emaciated woman with the wasted body of her son on her lap. Pinned in to the book were five photographic images of the famine, one of which showed a dog gnawing on human remains.

In her travels across Bengal and Orissa (now Odisha), Freda made a point of venturing off the beaten path. At times, she travelled by bicycle, 'a perilous affair with inactive brakes. It was in addition a man's cycle and I couldn't get off easily. So I quietly fell off whenever the crowd got too great.' This allowed her to see something of life and suffering in the villages, 'always the barometer of Indian life. There, in one of the hundreds and thousands of huddles of mud huts away from the main road, barely reachable by a muddy path, lies India's destiny, her life, her death, her intolerable longings, her inertia, the remnants of her joy of living, and her last and most bleeding despair.' Her account of the individual stories of loss and destitution gave particular force to her writing.

At every door I stopped to hear the same pitiful theme, with its hundred variations. 'Here the men have gone away to work in Assam: the women have nothing. They make a bare occasional living working at marriages and festivals. In between they starve' ... 'Here they have all run away: the men to the town, the women to beggary and destitution and the gruel kitchens.' I shuddered. There was a lot behind that inadequate word, destitution. Humiliation, demoralisation, casual prostitution, disease. And behind it the face of abandoned children.

We came across a hut without its corrugated roof. It had been casually torn off, the room gaped dully to the sky. In reply to my half-formed question they pointed out a dried up husk of a woman cowering in the next hut. 'Her husband died a few days ago,' they said. 'Her children died before that. She sold the roof, her last possession, to buy him a coffin.'4


As so often, her particular focus was village women: those who had seen their menfolk head out to 'get food' and had no idea whether they were alive or dead; those forced by despair and the plight of their children to sell themselves. She reported on the manner by which young girls, some of them infants, were sold for sex. 'The need to take people from beggary to self-supporting work is a real one. In the case of women, it is the only road open to them if they are not to become mere cattle in the markets of human flesh.'

Freda was more an essayist and columnist than a reporter and she was not used to disaster journalism. Her writing from Bengal was vivid, compassionate and resolutely non-sensational. Her challenge was to break through with her prose the barrier that she herself identified -- that middle-class readers on the other flank of India had become 'famine weary', She spoke warmly of the Friends' Ambulance Unit, the People's Relief Committees and all the other local efforts -- religious, secular and military -- to provide food and medical relief to those in gravest need. There is also a pervasive anger running through Bengal Lamenting at the greed and hypocrisy she witnessed amid the many generous and selfless initiatives. 'Doctors who profiteer on patients, and traders who profiteer on foodstuffs and medicines, deserve no mercy at the hands of the people. Peaceful as I am by temperament, by the time I had been round a few villages and heard [the] same stories I felt even transportation for life would be too mild a sentence for them.'5 In Calcutta, Bengal's capital, the poor and emaciated had been pushed out of the city to harvest the next rice crop -- and also, she surmised, to be hidden from the view of the urban middle class. 'Calcutta is a lady with a painted face,' Freda wrote. 'She is hiding her ugliness and her sores under a coating of powder and the red on her lips is die red of the people's blood.' And even as one famine was starting to ease, everyone was talking about the next one round the corner.

In the foreword to Bengal Lamenting, Freda declared that her book 'is more than a cry of pain, a call to pity, a picture of another tidal wave of tears that has wrenched itself up from the ocean of human misery. It is a demand for a reconsideration on a national scale of that problem that cannot be localised, a plea for unity in the face of chaos, one more thrust of the pen for the right of every Bengali and every Indian to see his destiny guided by patriots in a National Government of the People.'6 This was reportage with a political purpose. She dismissed conspiracy theories that the British had allowed Bengal to slip into famine to punish the home province of Subhas Chandra Bose, whose supporters were fighting alongside the Japanese. But she argued that the official response to the Japanese invasion of the rice-exporting regions of Burma, and the policy of 'denial' to ensure that advancing Japanese troops would not be able simply to commandeer river transport and grain, 'meant the sealing up of Bengal from the world rice market.'

Actually what happened was that artificial scarcity in Denial and cyclone areas ... combined with dislocated transport, overburdened with war responsibilities, created local panics that translated themselves into, on the one hand, exaggerated private-hoarding by the middle classes and, in particular by the big rice-growing landlords who are the king of Bengal's rice, and on the other, profiteering and hoarding by local trades people, backed up by the big commercial rice firms. Add to this inflation, and you have chaos complete. Money flowed into the Stock Exchange; rice became a commodity of scarcity value; and the sharks of Big Business made their daily thousands by trading in the people's life-blood -- their staple food.


From this she made the obvious argument that if India was governed by those whose first concern was the welfare of India's citizens, the tragedy would not have been on anything like the same scale. 'There is no argument left for the status quo when it has failed so miserably, and there is no doubt about it that any patriotic team of Indians could have averted such a terrible loss of life. The Indian demand for a National Government at the Centre has become not only insistent, but a matter of life and death.'7

Freda ended the book with a quote, unacknowledged, from one of the great political poems to come out of the Spanish Civil War. Cecil Day-Lewis's 'Nabara', published six years earlier, was an account of a fascist-aligned warship intercepting and destroying a convoy carrying relief supplies to the Republican-controlled Basque country.

Freedom is more than a word, more than the base coinage
Of statesmen, the tyrant's dishonoured cheque, or the dreamer's mad
Inflated currency. She is mortal, we know, and made
In the image of simple men who have no taste for carnage
But sooner kill and are killed than see that image betrayed.


She implied some moral equivalence between the brutality of the supporters of Franco in Spain and of the misery British imperialism forced on Bengal.

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


The famine of Bengal was attributed to maladministration by the British; the periodic famines in Nehru’s India are apparently only acts of God.

It was at Rayalaseema recently that the Prime Minister put in an appearance. The Chief Minister of Madras believed that the presence of Nehru might be food for the hungry. Nehru could spare but little time for the starved; he rushed through the district with an impatient look of annoyance on his face. He was annoyed with the whole state of affairs, annoyed with the crops that had failed, annoyed apparently with himself also. He was even annoyed with the people because they were starving. He told them not to look at his government so helplessly! The destiny of free India was not working out according to plan, his plan. The fruits of freedom were not growing in the orchards as he had said they would. Everything was dying, dying, dying around him. He could not understand why. The Liberator of Asia was seeing his people liberated from his folly only by death.

But that should not deter him now. ‘Let us make up our minds to live on the food we produce or die in the attempt,’ he had said. The people were perishing in the attempt. If only they would do it quietly and die in stoic silence, perhaps it would not trouble his conscience too much, but all this adverse publicity was bad for our prestige abroad.

Nehru immediately felt that something had to be done -- something humanitarian, dramatic, something to ease the tension of a people expectantly waiting to hear what he proposed to do now. At one of the villages he got his cue. A father was purchasing a toy for his child. Nehru enquired from the vendor the price for the whole lot. Pat came the answer: ‘Five rupees, sir’.1 [1. 7s 6d.] The Prime Minister had the entire lot purchased and, with the superb gesture of a monseigneur, he entrusted them to the headman of the village to distribute to the children. It would make them happy -- before they died.


Wherever he went, the crowds gathered to hear him. The official news agency, the Press Trust of India, made a lot of that. But what were they trying to prove? Was it implied that despite the fact that Nehru and his government had failed them so miserably, the people came out to pay homage to him? Or was it that a mass of hungry people came to ask: ‘Where is that food you promised us?’

From Rayalaseema, Nehru returned to New Delhi, but within a week he was off again to the opposite end of India, significantly to Assam, to inspect the new defence installations from the air.

Why? Was he afraid of the communists coming?
admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 31180
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: Freda Bedi Cont'd (#2)

Postby admin » Fri Mar 13, 2020 6:39 am

Part 3 of 7

9. THE EMPEROR HIMSELF

And so we come to Kashmir, the sore spot of the Indian Union, from which Pandit Nehru traces his descent.

The Pandit says: ‘Over two hundred years ago, early in the 18th century, our ancestor came down from that mountain valley to seek fame and fortune in the rich plains below.’1 [1. Autobiography.] It took an emperor, Farrukhsiar, to induce the Nehru family, whose original Kashmiri name was Kaul, to migrate to the imperial capital, to accept a jagir2 [2. Feudal tenancy.] with a house situated on the banks of a canal, and later to accept, in successive generations, the high offices of First Vakil of the ‘Sarkar Company’ and Kotwal of Delhi, which were bestowed on the Nehru ancestors.


The urge to lean back on his Kashmiri ancestry is still strong in him, even though these ancestors have been settled and absorbed in India from about the year 1716.

Significantly, Nehru begins his Autobiography with the chapter ‘Descent from Kashmir’, and only as an afterthought, in a footnote, does he mention: ‘I was born in Allahabad on the 14th November, 1889 ...’

To be an Indian today is to be just one of the milling crowd. To call oneself a Kashmiri shows quality of breeding, learning and scholarship. Nehru is very proud of his prefix, Pandit. When titles were abolished and the order was given that everyone should henceforth uniformly be called ‘Shri',3 [3. Mister.] the officials of one of the departments of government proceeded to drop the ‘Pandit’ and began to refer to the Prime Minister as Shri Nehru. The Prime Minister was most upset; he made it quickly clear that ‘Pandit’ was not a title and there was no objection to anyone using it! It was, therefore, reinstated forthwith, though some people wondered whether, in a secular state whose constitution held all men to be equal, the Prime Minister should call himself a Pandit when this allegedly scholastic designation was available only to the top drawer of the Hindu caste system. No harijan1 [1. Untouchable.] would ever dare to flaunt ‘Pandit’ before his name, no matter how high his qualifications might be. A descent from the heights suggests an altogether superior being, different from the millions of Indians who breed like rabbits and die like flies.

It is not surprising, under the circumstances, that Kashmir occupies such a privileged position in the attention of our Prime Minister; it is his spiritual home. Kashmir is the appropriate setting for a liberator; posterity should not be allowed to associate the great Nehru with a railway junction like Allahabad, just because this humdrum, middle-class town was his birthplace.

Jawaharlal describes his first visit to Kashmir, after his marriage, in 1916: ‘This was my first experience of the narrow and lonely valleys, high up in the world, which lead to the Tibetan plateau.
From the top of the Zoji-la pass we saw the rich verdant mountainsides below us on one side, and the bare bleak rock on the other. We went up and up the narrow valley bottom, flanked on each side by mountains, with the snow-covered tops gleaming on one side and little glaciers creeping down to meet us. The wind was cold and bitter, but the sun was warm in the daytime, and the air was so clear that often we were misled about the distance of objects, thinking them much nearer than they actually were. The loneliness grew; there were not even trees or vegetation to keep us company -- only the bare rock and the snow and ice and, sometimes, very welcome flowers. Yet I found a strange satisfaction in these wild and desolate haunts of nature; I was full of energy and a feeling of exaltation.’2 [2. Autobiography, p. 37.]

Such is the hallowed valley of Kashmir, where nature in all its glory spreads its canvas for man to behold. During the days of the British, Kashmir was the playground of the north, the summer spot to which the elite flocked in search of coolness and beauty. Over it ruled a weak but pleasure-loving Maharaja, a courteous, pleasant-looking Indian prince, fond of racing, fond of throwing parties, fond of good food and singing.

I used to live below him at one time -- in the same apartment house in Bombay. Sometimes when I would return home in the evenings I would hear the singing-girls on our terrace, rehearsing their long ragas1 [1. Scale of notes in singing, though the literal translation is ‘noise'.] before the prince and his party came out to hear them sing. ‘The singing-girls are warming up’, my bearer would say with a glint in his eye.

This would go on for hours, interspersed with periodical clearings of the throat and coughing and spitting, all of which are necessary preliminaries to the production of pure notes which only the maestros of Indian music can appreciate, until at some stage the process of warming up would be complete and the fat would be in the fire. All next morning the elevator of our apartment house would reek with the strong perfume of the raja’s singing troupe, and the ragas would linger long on the lips of our bearers.

That was as close as I came to the ex-Maharaja, as he is now. No one regarded him as important in the structure of our society. Like any other ruling prince of India, His Highness the Maharaja Hari Singh Bahadur of Jammu and Kashmir sat on his gadi2 [2. Throne.] by the grace of the British, who flattered his vanity by saluting him with the fire of twenty-one booming guns.

The scene changed when, soon after Independence, the Maharaja was rudely awakened one day and told that a savage tribe of raiders had appeared on the borders of his state. The raiders were pressing inwards, towards Srinagar, his capital city.


Just a little before this, the Maharaja had put under arrest the popular agitator, Sheikh Abdulla. Abdulla was the crusading force which transformed the restlessness of the people into a movement which clamoured for freedom from the Maharaja’s despotic rule. Too preoccupied with racing and the pleasures of life, the ruler had allowed his people to sink deeper into poverty and to be gripped by bigotry and superstition. Education had been completely neglected and very little money was spent on the social services. The luxury in which the ruler lived was deeply resented by his subjects.

When the raiders came, the Maharaja quickly released Sheikh Abdulla. At the same time he sent a distress call to the Viceroy of India. The help of the Indian government was urgently requested by Sir Hari Singh Bahadur. ‘Bahadur’ means the brave, but there was very little bravery to be seen in him in the hour of crisis; he was, in fact, packing up to move to a place of safety, leaving Abdulla to mobilise the people and defend the state. The state of Jammu and Kashmir had not yet clarified its position, unlike other ruling states which had acceded to the Indian Union. Consequently, the Maharaja was told that the Indian Union could do nothing until the accession was effected. The Maharaja readily acceded, and from that time Kashmir became the responsibility of the Indian government, and the personal charge of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru.

The long story of how the raiders looted and pillaged the villages of Kashmir, and the complicity of the Pakistan government in their activities, is too well known to need repetition here. Nor is it necessary to enlarge on the monies spent on the Kashmir operation during the months that followed. Kashmir is estimated to have cost the Indian government 900,000 rupees1 [1. £60,000 approximately.] per day when the campaign for liberation was on. All this is understandable in the context of the military importance of Kashmir, which is bounded by five countries -- India, Tibet, China, Russian Turkestan, and Afghanistan -- completing the circle from the south through the east, north and west. It is, however, the character of Pandit Nehru, as it emerged from the Kashmir incident, with which I am more concerned.

Pandit Nehru rushed early to the scene of the battle, to see for himself the harrowing devastation which that little war had caused. Artillery fire had destroyed the homes of the Kashmiris, and when Nehru reached Baramulla, he could still see the smoke rising from the smouldering debris. As a tribute to Kashmir, Pandit Nehru rushed into the arms of Sheikh Abdulla -- in reality at the airport, and metaphorically in every speech and gesture he subsequently made. In Srinagar’s main square the people had gathered in their thousands to acclaim the liberator of India who had now made the liberation of Kashmir his prime concern, pledging the Indian Union to protect Kashmir in the process. The skies were rent with the echo of voices shouting hysterically: 'Pandit Nehru ki jai! Sher-e-Kashmir1 [1. ‘Tiger of Kashmir’ as Sheikh Abdulla is called.] ki jai.’ What greater tribute could the Prime Minister want from the land of his ancestors?

Carried away on a wave of emotion, Pandit Nehru, addressing the people of Kashmir in the square, told them, on his own responsibility and without any consultation whatever with his government at home, that when the process of liberation was over, they would be free to choose whatever form of government they desired.

This was yet another of Pandit Nehru’s solemn pledges. In other words, after the Indian Army sweated blood to protect the Kashmiris from the marauding bands from Pakistan and peace was restored, the people of Kashmir could, on a referendum, decide to opt out of the Indian Union to which their ruler had acceded and even go over to join Pakistan of their free will and accord. Nehru naturally did not believe such a possibility could ever occur. It now transpires that he grossly misjudged the mood and temper of Kashmir’s predominantly Moslem population, which had smarted long under the rule of a Hindu despot. The pledge remains; its redemption, as in the case of our government loans, will have to be indefinitely postponed. Nehru’s judgment had again misfired; it was based as always on emotion.
 

That is the crux of the Kashmir problem; let me explain it to you in simple terms.

Kashmir is vital to the defence of India. If we were to abandon it, we could not fall back on any proper line of defence. The strategic outposts of this defence position are the various passes which we now firmly hold. It was the comparatively young Lieut.-General Thimayya, recently raised to that rank and given an Army command, superseding six senior men, who foresaw the need to block these passes permanently, and without much ado, when he was put in charge of the Kashmir operation, he sealed them once and for all.

Nehru chose Thimayya for the Kashmir operation because of his masterly handling of the exchange of populations which followed the partition, in the inflammable border zones between India and Pakistan. Thimayya’s method was often unconventional, but, as a result, he brought that delicate situation under control. This had placed the General high in the Prime Minister’s esteem, and when equal tact and initiative were required in Kashmir, Pandit Nehru called upon Thimayya to do the job.

The day-to-day fighting on that front and the niceties of the various military operations he had conducted are not relevant to the story. What is important is the eventual result for which Thimayya was largely responsible.

Irrespective of what had been said in India, Kashmir or elsewhere in the world, the General concentrated on the closing of the vital mountain passes beyond the valley, so that these could become our first and impregnable line of defence. Soon the United Nations began to take a hand in the settlement of the dispute, and it was generally believed that after a few rounds were fired in the early excitement, the parties to the dispute -- India and Pakistan -- would sit around a conference table to thrash out their differences and restore an atmosphere of peace and friendly feeling in which the referendum which Nehru promised the Kashmir people could be held. But United Nations’ mediation was only lip-service to collective security; it was Nehru’s belated attempt to sprinkle the holy water of the ashrams1 [1. Hermitage.] of non-violence on what could be nothing more than necessitous rape.

We had to go into all the paraphernalia of the truce talks only because of Nehru’s impetuousness in promising the Kashmiris the right to decide their future, but it is now abundantly clear that if the people of Kashmir were to decide to accede to Pakistan, the Indian Union would seriously jeopardise its chances of finding a new line of defence. But that was just like Nehru, always committing himself on the spur of the moment, without any thought of the far-reaching consequences which such a pronouncement would involve. Situations like these will continue to recur so long as Pandit Nehru believes that the running of India is part of his family’s destiny, and the finances of the country part of the family ‘cook’s book’.1 [1. The book in which the Indian cook contrives to manipulate his daily accounts.]

Ever since the passes were sealed and the cease-fire line agreed upon, Pandit Nehru’s preoccupation has been to find ways and means of holding on to this practical solution of our defence problem, without too blatantly going back on his impracticable pledge. It is now his hope that years of close association with India may veer the Kashmiris round to accept a permanent self-willed association with India in preference to accession to Pakistan. With this end in view, crores of rupees are being spent on the development of Kashmir under the aegis of Sheikh Abdulla, whose allegiance to us periodically wavers. The Sheikh, so like Nehru, is prone to break out into a torrent of emotional Kashmiri nationalism, which the Pandit, in his turn, finds most embarrassing. Recently it appeared as if Sheikh Abdulla wanted Kashmir to be an autonomous state, independent even of India, and owing no allegiance to it. He even went so far as to say that Kashmir would have its own flag and that it would fly no other.


This altered situation came to light some time in the middle of 1952, when Sheikh Abdulla arrived in New Delhi with his team of advisors to hold discussions with Pandit Nehru. The talks were at the Prime Minister’s level. Before leaving on this political excursion to the Indian capital, Sheikh Abdulla had made a staggering speech in Srinagar. He declared that he was a Moslem, a Kashmiri and an Indian too! How he contrived to manipulate all these three conflicting loyalties within himself, no one knew; nor was he challenged on this point by the Indian Prime Minister. The quarrel of the Congress with the ‘communal’2 [2. The word communal is used here not in the dictionary meaning of the word, but in accordance with its usage in India. It means those who think in terms of one community to the exclusion of the other.]-minded Moslems has always been that they put their religious faith before their Indian nationality. Sheikh Abdulla did not express his differently, but Pandit Nehru did not brand him as ‘communal’-minded. Such tolerance is rare in Nehru. It was forced on him because he was in no position to destroy the man whom he himself had claimed to be the rightful leader of the Kashmiri people.
admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 31180
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: Freda Bedi Cont'd (#2)

Postby admin » Fri Mar 13, 2020 6:41 am

Part 4 of 7

Abdulla’s somersault placed Pandit Nehru in a most awkward dilemma. Here was India spending millions and millions on the defence of Kashmir, ostensibly to safeguard its people from the marauding tribes from Pakistan, and more millions on the social and economic development of that state, far in excess of anything the central government has spent on any other state of the Union, and at the end of it the accredited spokesman of the Kashmir people was dissociating the nationalism of Kashmir from that of India.

Freda also began to spend more time in another of India's troubled regions, Kashmir. The family travelled to Kashmir occasionally from the late 1930s, in part as a summer retreat from the scorching Lahore summer but also to support the nascent progressive nationalist movement in this princely state. After Bedi's release from Deoli, Kashmir loomed increasingly large in their lives -- and their engagement with the Kashmir Valley merits separate attention....

By the time the Bedi family moved to Kashmir late in 1947, they had already made a name for themselves there. Freda Bedi had braved attempts by the maharaja's government to expel her from the princely state and had been dressed in Kashmiri bridal clothes in an unlikely attempt to pass incognito when meeting underground political leaders. Her son unwittingly served as a messenger between Kashmiri leaders forced into exile in Lahore and activists seeking an end to princely autocracy. B.P.L. Bedi's most abiding political achievement was as principal architect of the defining document of progressive Kashmiri nationalism -- at the time the dominant political force in the Kashmir Valley. Freda and B.P.L. became firm friends and allies of Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, the commanding figure in Kashmiri politics. When they moved to Srinagar it was to work alongside him to achieve his goal of a secular, democratic and socially progressive Kashmir -- and to strengthen India's contested claim to the state.

The Bedis' involvement in Kashmiri politics was partly an accident of geography. From the late 1930s, the Kashmiri capital, Srinagar, became a summer refuge for Punjabi intellectuals. It was more than five thousand feet up in the foothills of the Himalayas, a place of legendary beauty which offered respite from the bleaching summer sun. An attractive alternative to Andretta, Kashmir offered lakes, houseboats and opportunities to camp and trek particularly in the upper Lidder valley beyond the resort town of Pahalgam. It became 'like a second home for us,' Freda remarked; 'somebody ought to make a film round Kashmir with the Kashmir Valley as Hero no. 1.'1 Among the roll call of Punjabis and north Indians who spent part of the summer in the Kashmir Valley was Faiz Ahmad Faiz, the pre-eminent progressive Urdu poet, whose nikah or marriage ceremony with an English communist, Alys George, was conducted by Sheikh Abdullah in Srinagar in 1941. Alys's sister Christabel had already married M.D. Taseer, a leftist writer and intellectual at one time a college principal in Srinagar.2 The novelist Mulk Raj Anand, the actor (and veteran of the Monday Morning venture in Lahore) Balraj Sahni and the cultural figure K.A. Abbas were also among the more renowned of the left-leaning literati who assembled in the Kashmir Valley.

Kashmiri political leaders similarly spent time in the Punjabi capital, Lahore. Sheikh Abdullah and many other young Kashmiris had been students there. Hundreds of Kashmiris settled in the city, which offered a bigger canvas and more opportunities for educated Muslims. The poet Hafeez Jullundhri in particular forged friendships with the coming generation of Kashmiri leaders, and the Bedis too got to know -- and on occasion host -- the key figures in Kashmir's national movement.

At this time, Kashmir was emerging from a long period of isolation and popular politics was taking root. The maharaja, Hari Singh, was a Hindu and, in the eyes of most Kashmiris, an outsider, while his princely state was largely Muslim and the Kashmir Valley emphatically so. He was also part of a generation of Indian princes who were much more comfortable hunting, shooting and fishing than in engaging with social and political reform. The princely states were not formally part of the British Raj, but in Srinagar -- as in many other princely capitals -- a British Resident kept a careful watching eye and on occasions intervened to seek to ensure political stability and protect British interests. Princely autocracy and the accompanying restraints on political activity and public expression were increasingly an anachronism as the temper of Indian politics began to rise. Sheikh Abdullah and a like-minded group of young, educated Kashmiris -- most of them from the state's Muslim majority -- sought to challenge the oppressive feudalism still prevalent in the villages and to mobilise public opinion.

The Bedis came to see the Kashmir Valley not simply as a picturesque location offering respite from the summer heat but as the site of a political struggle to which they could, and should, contribute. This was probably a mix of personal initiative and prompting by the Communist Party, which viewed Kashmir as a promising place to seek recruits and influence. Sheikh Abdullah had a firm personal friendship and political alliance with the Congress's Jawaharlal Nehru, himself of distant Kashmiri descent. But the communists were keen to help support Abdullah's party, the National Conference, and shape its policy and strategy. When in the summer of 1942 Bedi was released from Deoli and Freda was able to disengage from her lecturing job in Lahore, their involvement in Kashmiri politics stepped up. In August 1942, Bedi was in Srinagar as the Indian National Congress launched the Quit India movement, its biggest civil disobedience movement to date. At this time, the communists were opposed to protests which would hamper the war effort. By his own account -- and Bedi was prone to exaggerate his role in the events he recounted -- he persuaded the National Conference leadership to keep a distance from the Congress's initiative:

Sheikh Abdullah, [C.M.] Sadiq and Bakshi [Chulam Mohammad], all three were lunching with me that day. So instead of arriving at 12 o'clock for lunch, they arrived at about 10.30. 'Ah,' they came laughing and joking and said, 'now good-bye Bedi Saheb, instead of lunching we will be behind bars by the time lunch comes, because this is the situation which has come about.' So, we immediately went into consultations and realised that the ruthless administration of the Maharaja was looking for an opportunity to smash the national movement in Kashmir ... We said, 'Leave alone anti-fascism and anti-imperialism, who is there if the National Conference is removed at the moment to stand between the Maharaja's ways and the people and stem the tide of destruction and suffering.' With this argument we completely assessed the situation and came to the conclusion that no 1942 movement could be launched in Kashmir.3


Bedi said he was given the job of making the opening speech at a rally that evening to argue the case for standing aloof from the Congress-launched campaign. In the tussle between the Congress and communists for influence within Kashmir's main political movement, the left had won a victory. Bedi's argument that Kashmiri nationalists could achieve more if they were out-and-about rather than behind bars was well made. The Quit India campaign placed the Congress leadership behind bars and out-of-action at a crucial stage in the advance towards independence. 'Whereas in other parts of India the national movement was smashed,' Bedi argued somewhat self-servingly, 'in Kashmir, the national movement emerged with ten times more strength by following this policy.'4

The following spring, both Freda and Bedi attended the annual session of the National Conference at Mirpur. Freda chaired a meeting of women activists; Bedi presided over a gathering of student supporters. Freda wrote in her weekly column in the Tribune about the difficult journey she made to Mirpur, the final stage of which was a 'shabby' ferry boat across the Jhelum. We got across the river being alternately pulled and pushed and rowed and towed in about two hours. For us it was easy enough since we never left the boat. But the other passengers had to get down on the islands and walk across the burning sand, the round hot stones and the spiked grasses.' Unsurprisingly, the main demand of local women at the meeting Freda convened was for a bridge.

It is no joke for old women and mothers with children to face such a primitive journey every time they want to come to the Punjab or the Frontier. They were indignant about it 'and we even have to ride on donkeys' they said with a smile half mischievous and half ashamed. They formed their own committee. So many have tried and failed. Now it is for the women of Mirpur to show that they will not be refused. Alone a woman is helpless and knows it. Together with her sisters bound by common trouble and suffering she can show greater strength than she or the world dreams of, for none can refuse the weak when they band together.5


From a small incident, she drew a parable which reflected her own commitment to social justice and the agency of women in achieving that.

Freda also wrote lyrically about a journey in Kashmir, by donkey and on foot, retracing the old Mughal route into the valley. Sheikh Abdullah accompanied the group for at least part of the journey, and was welcomed as if a saviour.

The Kashmiri women had found out that their leader had come. They huddled together in a shy group on the roof of one of the huts, as though undecided what to do. Then they started a song of welcome: 'To-day our Rajah has honoured the house with his presence,' they sang. I looked again at their faces lined with poverty, the dirty and ragged clothes on their backs. Had they been as dirty and as poor when the great ones of history ruled the earth? Probably so, for the poor have always been poor .... The lively, happy faces of the women were sharp before the dark arches: beggars at the door of history, they were singing for the only ray of light they knew. For one who fought for the poor, and would see them ruling in the land of their poverty.6


In another 'From a Woman's Window' column, Freda wrote about attending a martyrs' day ceremony with Sheikh Abdullah in Srinagar, a tribute to those killed by the maharaja's forces in 1931 at the inception of what became a mass movement demanding civil and political rights. Again, her attention focused on the women, about 150 of them, who gathered outside the walls of the cemetery while the men laid flowers on the graves.

To outward seeming they were like any other crowd of Kashmiri women. Most were in the burqua, with its crown-like head-piece, making it particularly ungainly and ugly. The others were working women, in their loose-fitting tunics, the white thick veil on the back of their heads, heavy earrings, carved circles of silver, hanging in bunches on their distended ears ....

They were the silent background of the animated meeting. And it occurred to me looking at them that they had been the silent background of all the history of Kashmir and the struggles of its people. ...

It was women such as these who ran out into the streets and became the heroines of those early fiery days. It was such women who rattled stones and frightened the horses of their soldiery. Some village woman, like that plump aging woman over there, took a club on her shoulder and strode at the head of one of the village 'armies' of the people that marched into Srinagar.7


She foresaw Kashmiri women coming on to the streets again, 'throwing that power-house of energy which they hoard as a bee hoards its honey into another great movement of the people.' On this, she was right.

Freda Bedi's empathy with Kashmiri women, and her emphasis on their role in political and social change, is striking. Women were also conspicuous in the iconography of Kashmiri nationalism. When the 'New Kashmir' manifesto was published, it featured a drawing of a woman on its front cover, wearing a Kashmiri pheran or smock and with her head covered-not quiescent but politically assertive, wielding the National Conference flag of a hand-plough in white on a red background. It bears more than a faint echo of Delacroix's famous depiction of Marianne, emblem of the French republic, mounting a barricade flag in hand. The Kashmiri woman depicted appears to have been Zooni Gujjari, a local activist from a disadvantaged background who featured in other National Conference publications.

The content of the manifesto was also notably progressive on gender issues, extending to equal wages, paid leave during pregnancy, the right to enter trades and professions, to own and inherit property and to consent to marriage. But this was simply one aspect of a remarkably far-reaching political programme, which has been described as 'the most important political document in modern Kashmir's history'.8 It was written in response to an initiative by the maharaja to consult about political and constitutional reform. This was the National Conference's submission -- a hugely ambitious, forty-four page document which was a draft constitution, an economic programme and party manifesto combined. It proposed a constitutional monarchy with universal suffrage for those aged eighteen and over; equal rights irrespective of race, religion or nationality; freedom of speech, press and assembly; free and compulsory primary education in the mother tongue; state ownership and management of all key industries; and the abolition of feudalism through an agrarian programme of which the key points were 'abolition of landlordism' and 'land to the tiller'. Sheikh Abdullah noted with justification that his party had come up with a much more detailed prescription for the future than the Indian National Congress, or indeed any other movement in the region.

The authorship of the 'New Kashmir' manifesto was, at the time, opaque. Sheikh Abdullah recounted many years later that to 'compile the manifesto we requisitioned the services of a famous progressive friend from Panjab [sic], B.P.L. Bedi. ... Bedi's sharp-minded, elegant wife Freda typed the manuscript.'9 Bedi worked with a small group of leftists, mainly from outside Kashmir. Although he took credit for the manifesto, which he described as a '100% Communist document', he never claimed authorship.10 'There was not much drafting to be done except to write the introduction,' a veteran Kashmiri communist P.N. Jalali recalled, as it was 'almost a carbon copy' of a Soviet document.11 For the key opening section, the draft constitution, Bedi turned to an item he had published in Contemporary India a few years earlier -- Stalin's 1936 constitution for the Soviet Union. It was a resourceful rummage through his personal archive. Although this was adapted to meet Kashmir's circumstances, many of the points were simply copied out. The longer economic programme, including charters for workers, peasants and women, was more loosely based on kisan sabha (peasants' movement) documents, which Bedi would also have known well. The only considerable piece of writing to be done was Sheikh Abdullah's foreword. This was even more explicitly communist in tone. 'The inspiring picture of the regeneration of all the different nationalities and peoples of the U.S.S.R., and their welding together into the united mighty Soviet State that is throwing back its barbarous invaders with deathless heroism,' Sheikh Abdullah was made to declare, 'is an unanswerable argument for the building of democracy on the cornerstone of economic equality.'

As far as the communists were concerned, Bedi had carried out a brilliant political manoeuvre. An important regional party with close links to the Congress had adopted a manifesto drafted by communists, staunchly pro-Soviet in content and reflecting the cprs political line. 'New Kashmir' was for decades the watchword by which Sheikh Abdullah's ambition for a social transformation of Kashmir was known. Sheikh Abdullah himself described it as 'a revolutionary document'.12 While much of the manifesto remained simply an aspiration, the far-reaching pledges on land reform were acted upon once the National Conference came to power and remain one of the most radical and egalitarian measures introduced in independent India.

P.N. Jalali's recollection is that Bedi had been 'deputed' by the Communist Party in Punjab to 'look after' the communists in Jammu and Kashmir. Kashmiri communists operated not as a separate party but inside Sheikh Abdullah's National Conference, and were particularly influential among students and the trade unions. 'They did not raise their hand [and say] that: here we are, communists. Except that everybody knew they were communists. Even Sheikh sahib knew.... But we were conscious not to rub Sheikh sahib on the wrong side because he was very sensitive about any parallel political activity.' While B.P.L. Bedi had the greater political influence in Kashmir, Jalali also had keen memories of Freda and her 'very striking' appearance:

She was a wonderful lady, very modest, and she was very well known throughout the valley in Kashmir. Every summer they would come, early visitors if you call them visitors. And Mrs Bedi used to deliver lectures on the USSR, they used to be very well attended ... weekly lectures. These were very popular lectures ... Strangely enough, they were held in a hall which belonged to the Church Mission Society.


On one of these summer visits, the Bedis got caught up in the growing turbulence of Kashmiri politics. They were part of a river procession through Srinagar, a popular form of both demonstration and celebration in the Kashmiri capital, when political rivals standing on a bridge loosed volleys of stones down on the boats. Several of those in the procession suffered nasty injuries, and Ranga remembers his mother lying on top of him to save him from the barrage.

The reputation Bedi gained for taking the lead in compiling the 'New Kashmir' manifesto helped him in his task of securing recruits. Christabel Taseer saw at close quarters Bedi's effectiveness -- she recounted that G.M. Sadiq, later a prime minister of the state, 'was motivated to be a Leftist, as were a number of other young Kashrniris, by association with B.P.L. Bedi and his wife, Freda, both dedicated Marxists.' Another Kashmiri leftist with a large popular following, G.M. Karra, told Taseer how he and several others had been 'won over to the Communist cause through the Bedis'. Yet another stated that 'Kashmir's Marxist intellectual scene was dominated by B.P.L. Bedi and his English wife Freda Bedi'.13 The Bedis were big fish in the small pond of Kashmiri progressives and radicals -- and their close friendship with Sheikh Abdullah and his reliance on the left for strategic direction and organisational support gave them huge authority and influence. At the same time, the Bedis were making friends in the political mainstream of the nationalist movement too. A remarkable group photograph survives, taken in Kashmir in 1945 at the annual session of the National Conference, which includes three future prime ministers of India and two future prime ministers of Indian Kashmir: Sheikh Abdullah and his ally Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad are at the back; in front of them are Jawaharlal Nehru -- recently released from detention -- and his daughter Indira Gandhi; two nationalist leaders in what became Pakistan are prominent, Abdul Samad Khan Achakzai from Baluchistan and Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan from the Frontier, the latter carrying a young child, very probably Indira's son, Rajiv Gandhi; on one flank is Mridula Sarabhai, an influential supporter of Kashmiri nationalism; on the other is Freda Bedi, smiling broadly and clearly pregnant, with B.P.L. behind her, largely hidden to the camera.

When next the temper of Kashmiri politics boiled over, it was Freda rather than B.P.L. who was on the spot and propelled to prominence. In the spring of 1946, Sheikh Abdullah launched the Qyit Kashmir movement. While the Congress's earlier Quit India campaign was directed against the British, Sheikh Abdullah was seeking the eviction of Kashmir's royal family and the establishment of representative government. The maharaja responded with repression. Protests were violently dispersed. Sheikh Abdullah was arrested in May 1946; hundreds of his supporters were also detained. Several of his key colleagues managed to reach Lahore. Some leaders of the National Conference, notably G.M. Karra, operated underground. Bedi was in Lahore and too well-known to make the journey to Srinagar without attracting immediate arrest. Freda, by chance, was in Kashmir on a camping holiday with her new baby, Kabir, then just four months old and still being breastfed. On Kabir's nineteenth birthday, Freda wrote him a long and intensely personal letter in which she dwelt on the political drama in which he was caught up.

In summer, we went up to Kashmir as usual. Papa left me in Haji Brar, and went down to Lahore again, promising to return. Then the storm burst. Sheikh Abdullah started the 'Quit Kashmir' agitation. He was promptly jailed along with all his followers. I felt I must do something. What, I didn't know. Srinagar was a long way away and all the people I could discuss things with were behind bars. I came down to Srinagar. You were always with me like my skin, tucked up in your little Moses basket. I daren't leave you for a minute so wherever you + I had to go, we went together.

How can I put in words that painful summer? The police wanted me to leave Kashmir as they knew Papa and I were friends of the rebels. So they issued a notice to me to leave. I wrote on the back of the notice that I didn't accept it, as I didn't recognise the people who issued it. From then on they pursued me. C.I.D. watching, following. I was doing nothing, of course; just feeding you. Whoever I stayed with, the poor boatman, were called and harassed [sic] by the Police. It was so difficult: they wanted to protect me, but I was giving them trouble. Finally, to save the boat people, I took a room in a cheap Punjabi hotel in the city, with a Frontierman Manager, some Peshawari Hindu, I've forgotten his name, but he had a heart of gold. 'Just you sit here and feed that baby,' he said, 'and don't worry about anything.'

But the hotel food made me sick, + my milk began to suffer. It was then that that saintly old man, a Kashmiri Pandit, ... heard of my plight and sent me every morning and evening a tiffin box full of pure vegetarian food. That kept me going, and you too ....

Once, the 'underground' Kashmiri nationalists wanted to meet me, and I was given a 'burqua' (you were tucked away under it, close to my heart) and slipped out of a house I was visiting by the back door, + so reached a room in the centre of the old city.14


In this intimate letter written many years after the events described, Freda downplayed both the bravery and the political significance of her actions. The state authorities' issuing of an 'externment' or deportation order against Freda in June 1946 was widely reported -- so too was her refusal to comply.15 This was a political trial of will, and Freda could not be sure that if the maharaja's police moved in, she would be gently treated. The British communist Rajani Palme Dutt -- in Kashmir in late July as a public show of support for Sheikh Abdullah -- complained of the 'reign of terror' let loose by the maharaja and his police. He met Bedi in Lahore, noting that he was 'large' and 'robust'. Bedi, in turn, helped to organise meetings for Palme Dutt in Srinagar, including with Freda.16 'I saw armed sentries posted on all the bridges and strategic points,' he wrote in Labour Monthly. 'An Indian journalist who accompanied me to Srinagar was subjected to a police raid at night by ten C.I.D. men, who made a complete search of his room, as well as of the room of Freda Bedi in the same hotel. The driver of the car which I had used in Srinagar was ... arrested and beaten up to extract from him information as to my movements.'17

Freda's secret meeting was to pass on messages between the National Conference leaders -- presumably those in Lahore -- and those such as G.M. Karra who were operating undercover in Srinagar. In the absence of much of the male leadership of the National Conference, women activists stepped into the breach. At the behest of some of these women, Freda dressed up in clothes which would have disguised her European appearance but hardly made her inconspicuous. '"People wouldn't put me in an old muddy burka," said Freda. "They wanted to dress me in the best they had, and they would go to the bride's chest." In ballooning garments encrusted with embroidery, and with daintily crocheted inserts just big enough for her blue English eyes to peer through, Freda moved about, relaying directives ... Her temporary retreat into purdah had been an experience for her. "It's a strange sensation it gives you," she said. "You're behind a bridge. You have this queer knowledge that you can observe everybody and no one can see you. It's a peculiar mentality that must develop among Muslim women."'18 Sajida Zameer Ahmed recalls escorting Freda, disguised in a burqa, on a horse-drawn buggy around Srinagar to meet underground activists. She also took on another invaluable role for Freda -- babysitting Kabir so that his mother could devote herself more fully to the political role she had taken on.19

Twelve-year-old Ranga was also embroiled in taking messages to the underground activists -- though without his, or it seems his mother's, prior knowledge. This was probably Bedi's idea -- he saw a lot of the Kashmiri nationalists in Lahore, and some stayed in the Bedis' guest hut, indeed it seems that the Lahore Kashmir Committee arranged for the building of an additional hut to house activists. 'I saw many of the important and not-so-important Kashmiri leaders as guests of Bedi -- Sheikh Abdullah, Bakhsi Ghulam Mohammad, Ghulam Muhammad Sadiq and a host of others,' Som Anand reminisced. 'During the "~it Kashmir" movement of the National Conference, Sadiq in particular stayed there for a long time.'20This was probably how Ranga was press-ganged into the service of the Kashmiri underground. He was told to make a journey by train and bus to Srinagar during term time to visit his mother and baby brother. He had to travel alone -- though there was usually someone c1ose-at-hand keeping a discrete eye on the youngster. In his school copy books, hidden among writing exercises and homework, were political messages written longhand in Urdu. Freda was astonished to see Ranga in Srinagar and, as he recalls, 'horrified' when she discovered the purpose. But she passed on the school books, the relevant pages were nearly removed, and the same method used to get messages back to Lahore.

Freda's letter many years later to Kabir rehearsed what happened at the end of that turbulent summer:

By October, the Police had realised I wasn't to be bullied, so they were not troubling me any more. But Sheikh Sahib sent a message from jail that I should go down to Lahore, + thanked me for all I had done. Just a silent satyagraha, for what it was worth. During that summer, you and I were as close as ever Mother + baby could be. Papa, too, (who was not allowed to re-enter Kashmir) was wanting us. And so we reached Model Town + the huts again.


Freda kept the letter sent by Sheikh Abdullah from Riasi sub-jail in Jammu province, a personal and affectionate letter but expressing his anger at the treatment from 'these devils' his jailers and his political resolve. 'It seems to me that things will hang on in Kashmir for some time more + that my countrymen shall have to prepare themselves for a final onslaught on the citadel ... The cause must win. I am sure that our cause is righteous + we shall win in the end.'21 Freda had sent the jailed leader a photo of Kabir. 'He will, I am sure, grow as a very handsome boy,' Sheikh Abdullah responded, '+ his forehead depicts him to become a great thinker + a revolutionary.'

When Sheikh Abdullah's supporters captured the citadel, to use his analogy, Freda was thousands of miles away in England. In mid-August 1947, when India and Pakistan gained independence, the maharaja was still dithering about which nation his princely state should join, and wondering whether Kashmir could achieve independence. Both he and Sheikh Abdullah -- for very different reasons -- were more inclined to Indian rule than to becoming part of Pakistan. In late October, with the connivance of sections of Pakistan's armed forces and new government, a large force of tribesmen from the North West Frontier entered the princely state and quickly overwhelmed the maharaja's army. They were motivated in part by the pursuit of jihad and of loot, and by vengeance for Partition massacres of Muslims in Punjab -- and also by a determination to overthrow the state's Hindu ruler and claim Muslim Kashmir for Pakistan. The maharaja promptly fled to the relative safety of his palace in Jammu, to the south of the Kashmir Valley, and once there signed the instrument of accession by which his domain became part of India. The Indian armed forces began an airlift to the rudimentary landing strip outside Srinagar, saving the city from ransack, and within a couple of weeks had repulsed the invading force. But Indian troops failed to evict the tribesmen from the entire princely state which became informally partitioned between India and Pakistan -- as it still is.22

Sheikh Abdullah, recently released from jail, manoeuvred into the vacuum created by the flight of the maharaja and his courtiers. With communist help, he organised a militia, some of which was trained and equipped by the Indian army. This was both a defence force should invaders again imperil the Kashmiri capital and a demonstration to all that the old regime of princely autocracy had been swept away. Sheikh Abdullah's supporters flooded the streets of Srinagar, and the city pulsed with political energy. 'The National Conference red flag ... decorates every public building in the city,' the Times of India reported. 'In the main square in the heart of the city, which has been renamed "Red Square", a giant red flag flutters from a tall mast under which workers and ordinary people foregather at all hours of the day to hear the latest news of the war and exchange political gossip.'23

Amid all this turmoil, Sheikh Abdullah received a letter from Freda in England and found the time to write a brief reply from the hotel in Srinagar which had become his temporary headquarters:

We are facing a grim struggle and the enemy is almost at our door-step. But we are confident that we shall turn the corner.

I think the best you can do for us at present would be to help us to set up an Information Bureau in New Delhi to work as the medium of our publicity in the outside world. I do not want to call you here because coming here at present is unsafe and unpleasant.

I should love to hear from Bedi. The two of you have done such a lot for us.24


Freda and Bedi took no notice of Sheikh Abdullah's warning to stay clear of Srinagar. Within a few days of their re-assembly as a family in India in December 1947, they all moved on to Kashmir. While the Indian army by then had the upper hand, Kashmir was a war wne. 'From Delhi we were flown in an army troop carrier, Dakota DeS,' Ranga recalls. 'No formal seats, fixed benches along the length of the aircraft and seat belts anchored to the body of the plane. Our great dane Rufus on the floor shivered out of fright all the way. When we landed in Srinagar it was a hive of military activity.' Bedi's role was to work closely with Sheikh Abdullah, both on policy and propaganda. The family were allotted evacuee property -- a simple but well situated house with the name Dar-ul-Aman ('home of peace') at Gagribal, close to Srinagar's renowned Dal Lake.

Within days of arriving in Srinagar, the Bedis had a visit from one of the commanding photo-journalists of the era. Margaret Bourke-White had provided Life with its first front cover in 1936. She was a war photographer in Europe but turned her back on the 'decay of Europe' and came to India just as it was about to achieve independence. 'I witnessed that extremely rare event in the history of nations, the birth of twins,' she wrote.25 She arrived in India in March 1946 and spent seven months travelling widely across the subcontinent, meeting and photographing all the main political players. She returned in September 1947, as it became clear that the birth of twin nations, midnight's children, was also a profound human calamity. Her powerful and unsettling images of Partition -- of migration and massacre -- are among her most memorable. She was determined to record India's passage to independence not only in images but in a book.. Halfway to Freedom, sub-tided 'a report on the new India' and published in 1949, is a vivid account of India's faltering steps to full nationhood.

When fighting erupted in Kashmir in late October 1947, Margaret Bourke-White was determined to get there. For a photo-journalist, the prime requirement is to be at the heart of the action-there's no other way of capturing the most commanding images. Early in November, Sir George Cunningham, the governor of Pakistan's North West Frontier Province, noted in his diary that two American women journalists from Lift had been refused permission to go to Abbottabad, the informal headquarters of the invading force, and beyond to Baramulla.26 That didn't stop her. She managed to reach Abbottabad and to meet and photograph a band of several hundred armed Pathans on their way to Kashmir:

Unlike higher officials, these tribesmen seemed to know what was going on when I questioned them.

'Are you going into Kashmir?' I asked.

'Why not?' they said. We are all Muslims. We are going to help our Muslim brothers in Kashmir.'

Sometimes their help to their brother Muslims was accomplished so quickly that the trucks and buses would come back within a day or two bursting with loot, only to return to Kashmir with more tribesmen, to repeat their indiscriminate 'liberating' -- and terrorizing of Hindu, Sikh and Muslim villager alike.27


A few weeks later, Margaret Bourke-White managed to reach the Kashmir Valley -- approaching not from Pakistani territory but from the Indian side. 'Just before Christmas of 1947 I flew over the wild mountain barrier, with guerrilla warfare going on fiercely but invisible among the ravines and chasms below, and landed in the enchanted city of Srinagar. Everyone who has ever visited Kashmir knows it has a special magic. "It is a different world altogether," my friend Bedi, who was my guide in Kashmir, expressed it; "the water and the land combines into one."'28

The account Bourke-White gave of the turbulence in Kashmir -- the political cohesion of its people, the progressive credentials of the National Conference's manifesto and their 'legendary' leader Sheikh Abdullah, 'this good-natured, weather-beaten, eminently practical and rather homely young man' -- reflect the political outlook of her guide and host. Indeed, her two chapters on Kashmir capture the high water mark of the progressive New Kashmir movement. She interviewed Sheikh Abdullah and several of his associates, met members of his people's militia, and encountered the key figure in the underground movement during the Quit Kashmir campaign. And of course, she got to know Bedi's wife.

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.


Bourke-White also wanted to see the evidence of the invaders' largely indiscriminate destruction, and having heard about the desecration of a convent at Baramulla and the ransacking of the mission hospital, she persuaded Bedi to take her there:

It was badly defaced and littered, and a delegation of students from Srinagar was coming next day to clean it up and salvage what remained of the library .... They would put the Christian mission in as good order as they could in time for Christmas Day.

We made our way into the ravaged chapel, wading through the mass of torn hymnbooks and broken sacred statuary. The altar was deep in rubble. Bedi stooped down over it and picked up one fragment, turning it over carefully in his big hands. It was the broken head of Jesus, with just one eye remaining.

'How beautiful it is,' said Bedi, 'this single eye of Christ looking out so calmly on the world. We shall preserve it always in Kashmir as a permanent reminder of the unity between Indians of all religions which we are trying to achieve.'29


And that's where she left her account of Kashmir -- an impassioned, if partial, piece of reportage. She recited uncritically what she heard from Bedi, and this has to be marked down as one of his key successes as a propagandist. There's hardly a whisper of criticism of Sheikh Abdullah and the movement he headed, and hardly a good word about Pakistan or the invaders acting in its name.

B.P.L. Bedi pops up repeatedly in the pages of Halfway to Freedom as Bourke-White's friend and guide. In Delhi in mid-January 1948 a couple of weeks after leaving Kashmir, she conveniently caught sight of him when attending Gandhi's prayers during a fast to protest against the communal hatred unleashed by Partition. 'Bedi was a giant of a figure in his billowing wool homespun which swept in coarse, oatmeal-colored folds from his massive shoulders to his Gargantuan feet, bare and crusty in their open sandals.'30Another two weeks later, she was again with Bedi in Delhi when she heard of Gandhi's assassination and rushed with her camera to the spot. The following day, Bedi and sixteen-year-old Binder accompanied Bourke-White to Gandhi's cremation, Bedi using his persuasiveness to help get access, and Binder being little short of heroic in guarding the cameras from the crush of the crowd and helping Bourke-White to a vantage point.

Margaret Bourke-White was in her early forties when she arrived in India -- vivacious, sociable, successful, determined and with two failed marriages behind her. She embarked on an affair with one of India's best-known journalists, Frank Moraes -- handsome, hard living, Oxford-educated with an accent to match. He was a friend of the Bedis. He was also married -- and Beryl Moraes, in the throes of a mental health crisis, turned up with her young son Dom at Bourke-White's hotel room to remonstrate. She had other Indian lovers. Her publisher, Peter Jayasinghe, suggested marriage but was rebuffed. For a woman 'who had so little wish to do harm,' says her biographer, 'Margaret left behind her a wide swath of injured wives.'31 Whether Freda was among those who had reason to feel injured, it's difficult to say with certainty. There are stray hints in Bedi's letters at an intimacy. What I really feel like saying to you -- I have told these petals to whisper!' he wrote to Bourke-White in September 1949, just ten days before Freda gave birth to their fourth child.32 That could be a flirtatious aside -- it feels as if it's something more.

B.P.L. Bedi and Margaret Bourke-White seem not to have met again after her departure from India in early 1948, but they kept in touch by letter for almost two decades more. Eight years after Gandhi's assassination, Bedi wrote to his old friend -- that letter hasn't survived, but Bourke-White's tender reply has.

It was wonderful to hear from you. Yes I too think of you when the anniversary rolls round of the solemn events in which we shared. And I think of you always, and with quiet affection ....

I was very moved, Bedi dear, at your letter. I too felt we were always very close in understanding and those terrible -- and, in a way, majestic -- events through which we moved, brought us even closer.33


In subsequent years, Bedi offered support and succour through the photo-journalist's diagnosis with Parkinson's disease and her gradual decline in health. 'Remember we who lived through the stormiest of struggles have the deepest faith in the doings of the Divine ... ,' Bedi wrote, reflecting the unorthodox spiritual turn his life had taken. 'I am directed by the Celestial Masters to tell you that your future is greater than your past.'34 Bourke-White wrote respectfully of Bedi's personal journey and fondly of their shared adventures: 'How vividly I remember your long, strong stride on our excursions in Srinagar, Amritsar and Delhi.'35 A few years later, at Bedi's prodding, she wrote in support of funding for a project he had devised to translate and publish Sufi poetry. 'He is one of the most scholarly, cultivated and great-hearted of men.' A generous comment about an old friend she hadn't seen for sixteen years -- and the last act of a loving friendship of which Freda can hardly have been unaware.36

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


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.
admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 31180
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: Freda Bedi Cont'd (#2)

Postby admin » Fri Mar 13, 2020 8:27 pm

Part 5 of 7

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.  

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.


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.
admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 31180
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: Freda Bedi Cont'd (#2)

Postby admin » Fri Mar 13, 2020 8:34 pm

Part 6 of 7

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?
admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 31180
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

PreviousNext

Return to Articles & Essays

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Google [Bot] and 3 guests