Tuesday, September 28, 2021
 
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Tale of a missing portrait


B L Saraf

To commemorate the 75th year of Independence the Indian Council Of Historic Research- a Government body- has released a poster depicting portraits of those who played notable part in the freedom movement; like Mahatma Gandhi, Sardar Patel, Rajindra Prassad, Ambedkar, Subash Bose, Vir Savarkar and others . Absent from the galaxy is Jawaharlal Nehru – the foremost stalwart of the freedom movement and independent India’s first Prime Minister. When flavor of the seasons is to erase Nehru from our memory and portray him as a ” devil responsible for all evil that beset country” it doesn’t surprise that his photograph is missing from the constellation of ” angels .” In issuing this poster, we presume, the ICHR has blessing of the tops. Sadly, the Indian history has succumbed to the identity politics.


We wish the Rulers in Delhi had asked ICHR to recall what Atal Bahrain Vajpayee had acted when he found Nehru’s portrait missing in the corridor of South Block. He narrated an anecdote that soon after he became Minister of External Affairs in the Janata Party Government, in 1977, he went to his office in South Block and was astonished to see portrait of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru missing from the gallery. He had seen portrait hung on the wall whenever he visited South Block. His query about the missing portrait of Nehru went unanswered. The officers, however, got the message and next day the portrait was restored to its original place. Lamenting on the prevalent state of politics in the country Vajpayee , while replying to the motion of no confidence moved against his Government by the Congress led opposition parties which created a great deal of acrimony in the debate , asked in the spirit of accommodation “should such sentiments germinate . Kya Is Bhavna Ki Kadra hai . Kya is desh mey ye Bhavna Panpe .” A B Vajpayee speech (The Economic Times).

In the tailored ecosystem, rarely, can one find somebody listening an objective assessment of the man and his policies. To evaluate role of Nehru sense of history is essential. Kashmir has had centuries old spiritual and civilizational relations with India. But their present Constitutional relationship is embedded in close relationship between Nehru and Sheikh Abdullah. The camaraderie between them, partly personal partly ideological, became instrumental in state acceding to the Indian Union.


Not so much in respect for the legal position laid down by the British that Ruler of the State has to sign Instrument Of Accession (IOA) with either of the two Dominions , as it is in derogation to the Nehru’s efforts to link J &K with India, in 1947, his detractors give all credit to Maharaja Hari Singh in State acceding to India. True, legally Maharaja alone was competent to sign the IOA . But one must acknowledge that in those tumultuous days the ‘de jure ‘meant nothing unless it was backed by the ‘de facto’. If it wouldn’t be so, Hyderabad and Junagarh would have effortlessly fallen in the lap of Pakistan because their Rulers wanted so. But both failed in their ‘de jure ‘ effort because, unlike in case of Kashmir Ruler , there was none among the masses to lend them ‘de facto ‘support. Remember like Hari Sigh, Nizam Hyderabad and Nawab Junagarh had majority of the subjects belonging to the faith different from their own. The difference in faith of the Ruler and his subjects posed a big hurdle in fructification of their desire .


Hari Singh’s intention to accede to India couldn’t succeed on the principle underlying partition of India on the basis of Muslim and non -Muslim majority areas. Mountbatten read this principle to Maharaja Hanwant Sigh of Jodhpur-a Hindu majority state – and exhorted him to abort his desire to accede to Pakistan. (V P Menon in Integration Of The Indian States p 117) Hari Singh succeeded because, thanks to Jawaharlal Nehru , he had Sheikh Abdulla – then undisputed leader of vast majority of the Kashmiris and some sections in Jammu region – to back up his action. So Hari Sigh’s de jure right succeeded because of de facto support of the locals , notwithstanding their difference in faith.


‘ 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. 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………. Legally and constitutionally, Kashmir acceded to India .This is an undoubted fact….” (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 ) If we exclude Nehru from the Indian discourse on Kashmir what remains there for the nationalists to the celebrate ? Without him we will have to write new history and geography of the sub – continent, much to the liking of the separatists.


Jawaharlal’s contribution to the nation lies in strengthening the institutions, creation of sound industrial base and development of human resource which led to the technological advancements in Space and Atomic energy spheres. Nehru laid strong and durable foundations of democratic polity wherein a common man from a remote area could reach the top administrative position in India.
We wish the inheritors of Vajpayee legacy would recall what he said on Nehru’s death, ” Bharat Mata is stricken with grief today. She has lost her favorite Prince. Humanity is sad today -it has lost its devotee – Peace is restless, its protector is no more . The common man has lost the light in his eyes. The down -trodden have lost their refuge.” (The Print 16 8 2018). So long these words of another Prince of Bharat Mata resonate in the horizon Jawaharlal stands eternally etched in memory of a common man, needing no more commemoration.


Nehru took great pride in his Indian roots as reflected in his Discovery Of India . India -a nation – is too ancient to believe that it was borne on May , the 26th, 2014 and too firmly rooted in history and geography to fear that it will perish the day the incumbent Government demits the office.

(The author is former Principal District & Sessions Judge)






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