A blot that Nehru could’ve avoided

This is where Panditji invites criticism due to his pusillanimity.

During the 1962 China war, having been denied arms by the then Soviet Union ( whose paeans he had sung for long), Panditji seeks arms from the US and Israel. Nothing wrong with that. But he imposes a strange condition that the ship carrying Israeli arms should not fly the national flag of Israel.

Panditji does this ‘not to offend the sensibilities of the Arab allies’. Only that the Arabs were never allied with India ( except for Iraq and Iran, at times).

Ben Gurion, the then Israeli leader firmly says ‘No flag, no arms.’ Then Panditji reverses his stand and India gets Israeli arms to fight the Chinese.

This policy of appeasement was followed even by Shastriji. When Singapore becomes independent in 1965, it asks India for help to build an army and train its personnel. India doesn’t want to antagonize Malaysia and doesn’t react. Singapore takes help from Israel and now has the National Service modeled on Israel’s mandatory military service.

It is in times such as these, that a nation finds who a true friend is. Leaders are made out of such crucial moments. Panditji, in spite of his charisma and intellect, didn’t stop playing to the gallery.

And that is a definite blot on Panditji’s stature.

Nehru: A contemporary's estimate – my review

Former Australian diplomat Walter Crocker is the author of ‘Nehru: A Contemporary’s Estimate’. He had written this soon after Panditji’s demise. Though most of the details are known to us, I felt the author has gone overboard with his treatment of the invasion of Goa.

The boo41tefxqbewlk is a sincere attempt at painting a balanced view, though at times I felt that the author was in awe of Panditji’s personality. Probably anybody who had worked with Panditji would have been struck down by the magnetic personality that latter oozed.
The book doesn’t deal with the two important things in detail – Kashmir and China. I didn’t understand why the Australian diplomat didn’t consider these two issues worth his while to write in detail while he had taken considerable efforts to paint the invasion of Goa in bad light.

I didn’t understand the rationale behind such a promising introduction by Ramchandra Guha.

The book’s language is convoluted and it smacks of the usual western arrogance in liberal doses. Probably that was how diplomats wrote then. Though rich in data, I didn’t find this book as enchanting as the the one by Judith Brown.

A detailed account, though.

Nehru, a Political life – book review

Amid the plethora of books on Nehru, this one by Judith Brown stands out in that it is not wishy washy. It doesn’t beat around the bush but hits the nail on its head straight.

Brown covers the entire lifespan of Panditji that includes some details on his ancestry, the migration of the Nehrus from Kashmir to Delhi to Rajasthan to Allahabad and then finally to Delhi. Nehru had an aristocratic childhood and continued with such a life until his entry into the freedom movement under Gandhiji.

We get to see how Panditji saw India, Europe and the world in general. We see that Panditji’s agnostic views were shaped partly by the rationalist views of his father. Panditji’s household, during his childhood, had people of many faiths and nationality employed as cooks, tutors and general care takers. This, we are given to understand, would have played a major role in shaping the worldly outlook of Panditji.

41jbz4vtbtl-_sx320_bo1204203200_Panditji comes out as man of temper and is always ready to blow up in the face of mediocrity and rituals. We see Panditji as a man in a hurry trying to turn, overnight, a predominantly agrarian economy into an industrialized one. But, in the hurry, he also had to share the burden of foreign policy too, for he didn’t have a full time foreign minister till the end.

We get to see Panditji’s stature among world leaders rise to meteoric levels due to his extreme interest in bringing peace to all countries. It is a pity that, in his efforts to bring peace all over the world, he loses out on the home front with the Congress party becoming an unmanageable entity, corruption becoming part of his minister’s diet and centralized planning ( modeled after the Soviet Planning Model ) resulting in not so spectacular results.

Reading the book we see a singularity of purpose- that of the unification of India and overcoming the divisive methods that have kept the country divided for long. What we also see is the visible hatred that Panditji had for religious rituals, more towards Hindu ones.

The reasons of Panditji’s blunder in Kashmir are not known yet while the reason for the blunder on China is well known – Nehru’s belief in Chou En Lai’s  words and his belief that China wouldn’t be an aggressor considering the out-of-the-way helps that India had done to get China into the UN Security Council.

I got a feeling that Panditji got so carried away in the halo surrounding him due to his international stature that he failed to focus on the ground realities at home and at the border.

Panditji’s efforts to found the NAM, his anti-colonial stance in the case of the newly independent African states, his struggles to get food aid to India during her formative years and extensive travels lead to rapid deterioration of his health and  results in his death in 1964.

Keeping aside all his blunders, however gargantuan they are, we cannot but be impressed at the extremes to which he had travelled to ensure the success of parliamentary democracy in India. His every thought and action had two motives : keep India united, industrialise the nation. The extent to which he had strived to bring peace in Kerala before having to dismiss the first elected communist government, the deliberations on Goa before sending in the army et al speak volumes about the patriot Nehru.

Panditji’s socialist policies don’t work today but the intent with which the policies were framed then was beyond suspicion.

Brown’s book is a voluminous yet detailed work on Panditji.

Thanking Nehru

‘The essence of a free press is the principled, reasonable, moral essence of freedom. The character of a censored press is the unprincipled aberration of un-freedom, it is a civilized abomination, a perfumed monster. I think, censorship of the press is based on the principle that the end justifies the means. But an end that requires unjustifiable means is not a justifiable end’. This was Karl Marx in 1842. But the communists who claim to follow him are the greatest censors of press freedom ( China is not communist any more though ). But Marx had a great follower in Pandit Nehru. He was an advocate of Press freedom. He once said,’I would rather have a completely free Press with all the dangers involved in the wrong use of that freedom than a suppressed or regulated Press.”

However he had his issues with press freedom. In the First Amendment to the Constitution, he brought in changes to curtail press freedom after a court ruled in favour of ‘Observer’, the right wing magazine and said “pre-censorship of a journal is a restriction on the liberty of the Press which is an essential part of the right to freedom of speech and expression.”. Panditji then moved the First Amendment and he said,”During the last fifteen months of the working of the Constitution, certain difficulties have been brought to light by judicial decisions and pronouncements especially in regard to the chapter on fundamental rights. The citizen’s right to freedom of speech and expression guaranteed by article 19(1)(a) has been held by some courts to be so comprehensive… In other countries with written constitutions, freedom of speech and of the press is not regarded as debarring the State from punishing or preventing abuse of this freedom… The main objects of this Bill are, accordingly to amend article 19 for the purposes indicated above.”

Except for this, he was a strong advocate of Press Freedom. He had encouraged Shankar when he had caricatured Panditji in various cartoons.

Yes, he goofed up on Tibet, lived in utopia ( as the left leaning politicians usually do ) and believed in the halo that he would be recognized as a statesman by China and chose to look the other way when there were massive incursions that eventually led to the country being slapped in front of the world, the J&K issue with Article 370 being introduced surreptitiously etc. You could add to this list.

But you cannot ignore the public sector that he assiduously helped build. And those served the nation at least for 40 years and some like BHEL and NLC continue to do so.

In our collective resolve to defame Panditji, let us not forget the founding father on his various other attributes that have helped nurture our democracy in its infancy.

Let us stop for a moment and thank the patriot for his service to nation that we call homeland.