Tuesday, June 2, 2020
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Jawaharlal Nehru – No ‘ traitor ‘

B L Saraf

We live in interesting times . The bread and butter issues have been hijacked by the narrative that debunks Nehru and holds him responsible for what ails India . Wishful imagination has overtaken us that Patel , instead of Nehru ,would have been better Prime Minister . Everyone is unsparing . To the left liberals and separatists Nehru is a ‘ criminal ’ who “ cheated Kashmiris of the Azadi “ . The ‘ nationalist ‘ call him a “ traitor “ for not having merged Kashmir with the mainland . Hindsight comes easy to pronounce one a failure .

When to run down Nehru is flavor of the season , rarely , can one find somebody listening to an objective assessment of the man and his policies . Jawaharlal is accused of having usurped the post of Congress president , in 1946 , when Patel had won the race . Remember, in committing the “sin “ Nehru was actively supported by Mahatma Gandhi who , first , prevailed upon Acharya Kriplani to withdraw in favor of Nehru and then Patel himself to sidestep and make way for Nehru .

It saddens to create a binary in assessing the works of great men like Patel and Nehru . Congress must be blamed for its neglect of Patel and other national heroes . Jawaharlal is a fall guy because of the ‘ surfeit of Nehruism ’ . It lead BJP to appropriate Patel and other national heroes from the Congress pantheon . There is no well defined boundary between the job done by Nehru and Patel because both tirelessly worked together in nation building . One who has to evaluate the works of the two may sometimes enter domain of Nehru and sometimes of Patel which allows a prejudiced observer to tailor facts suit to his preferences - doing justice to neither .

To evaluate role of Nehru sense of history is essential . Kashmir has had centuries old spiritual and civilizational relations with the Indian mainland . But, as argued earlier , their present Constitutional relationship is embedded in a meeting that took place between Nehru and Sheikh Abdullah in early 1937 , in Lahore . Sheikh Abdullah was so impressed by Nehru and his views that he “ felt if leaders of Muslim Conference have to seek support from the Indian nationalists they will have to enlarge their vision and bring changes in the name and constitution of the party .” Aatish e Chinaar p 228 . So , the Muslim Conference lead by Sheikh turned into the secular and inclusive National Conference , open to all the sections . The camaraderie between Nehru and Abdullah , partly personal partly ideological , became instrumental in state acceding to the Indian Union.

‘ Nationalists ‘ hold Nehru guilty of introducing a conditionality in the state’s accession with the Union , by resting its finality on the wishes of people of the state . However , facts exonerate him . V P Menon records in his book Integration of The Indian States p 399 , that it was Mountbatten who insisted that accession of J&K should be conditional on the will of the people being ascertained by plebiscite , after the raiders had been driven out of the state . This was agreed to by Nehru and his Ministers , p 399 . S. Gopal , in his book Jawaharlal Nehru Vol 11 p 20 , corroborates the version.

On 24 July ,1952 Nehru made a statement in Lok Sabha on Delhi Agreement, in regard to J &K “ the accession is complete in law and in fact J &K is a constituent unit like any other .” On 29 March 1956 he stated in the Lok Sabha “ The talk of plebiscite in Kashmir was ‘ entirely beside the point ‘ and there could be no question of holding it until Pakistan had withdrawn all armed forces from the state. The Kashmir problem had to be viewed afresh because of the American Military aid to Pakistan and added that Pakistan’s joining Baghdad Pact and SEATO had invalidated the old arguments relating to the question .” He then said , “Legally and constitutionally , Kashmir acceded to India .This is an undoubted fact . You may criticize the speed , with which this was done , but the fact is that legally and constitutionally the state of J&K acceded to India . Therefore it became the duty of the Indian Union to defend and protect Kashmir from aggression and drive out the invaders ….” ( Jawaid Alam in Select Correspondence Between Jawaharlal Nehru and Karan Singh P 195 and Sandeep Bamzai in Bonfire of Kashmiriat –Deconstructing the accession P 68 )

Nehru is cursed for allowing Mountbatten to be the Governor –General of free India . Mountbatten helped India’s cause on Kashmir . He advised Cyril Radcliff to alter his boundary plan in East Punjab to grant India physical connectivity with J &K , so necessary for the state to accede to India . He did invaluable service to India by insisting on Maharaja Hari Singh signing Instrument of Accession (IOA ) before Delhi could dispatch forces to Kashmir to thwart Pakistan , ignoring the annoyance of the members of Defense Committee who wanted to rush the forces ,immediately.

Imagine what would be the fate of India’s case in UNO if there wouldn’t be an IOA , or had it come after Indian forces had landed in the Valley . Working under the influence of Anglo- American block as it was then , UNO would have easily indicted India . It were testing times for India . 1947 was not 2018 for India when the country can afford to ignore the UNO . If we follow the narrative built in Kashmir , with the help of obliging western historians around the legality of IOA , Mountbatten’s insistence on prior execution of IOA would look a god send gift . Pakistan sympathizers like Victoria Schofeld , Alistair Lamb etc argue that India sent troops to Kashmir before the IOA was signed and support Pakistan’s claim that India’s presence in J & K is illegal .

As said earlier , Mountbatten’s letter doesn’t give anything to the opponents of the accession , or to the Nehru baiters . Krishna Menon , speaking in the UN Security Council o 23rd January , 1957 explained the matter , “ We may then be asked ; What is the meaning of a letter written by Earl Mountbatten , when he was Governor – General of India , to the Maharaja about consulting wishes of the people . … . As I pointed out there is document of accession . There is an offer and then there is acceptance ….. The letter of Mountbatten is a separate document and has nothing to do with this . What does that document do ? It makes no guarantee. It expresses wish of the Government of India – not as a part of law , but as part of political policy …” He then referred to the Constituent Assembly of the state and explained how people of the state have been consulted. Kashmir – Krishna Menon’s speeches in Security Council ( Publication Division of Ministry Of Information GOI Ps 42 , 43 )
If we exclude Nehru and Sheikh Abdullah from the Indian discourse on Kashmir what remains there for the nationalists to the celebrate ? As argued earlier , without them we will have to write new history and geography of the sub – continent , much to the liking of the separatists . For us J&K within the Indian Union is the preferred option . Jawaharlal’s contribution to the nation lies in strengthening the democratic institutions , creation of human resource and the technological advancements made in Space and Atomic energy spheres .
BJP has better things to do other than Nehru bashing , if it wants to retain the turf in 2019 . We must discard the tendency of canonizing leaders as gods one day and demolishing them as devils the other day .

(The author is a Former Principal District & Sessions Judge. Feedback- [email protected] )

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