“Netaji: Living Dangerously”: by Kingshuk Nag

On his birth anniversary on January 23, I had paid tribute to one of my biggest heroes in Indian history, Netaji Subha Chandra Bose. In that post, I had briefly mentioned the author, Kingshuk Nag. Today, I write my impressions about his book , “Netaji, Living Dangerously”.

I admired the way Nag has crafted this book. He has touched upon the key points of Netaji’s interesting and illustrious career in a 208 page book without sacrificing the essence of his deeds. Since the book was published as recently as 2016, he has been made use of the latest information available on the subject. Earlier authors on Netaji could not do so as all the archives about Netaji were classified. They were not made available to the public by successive Governments in India.

One may wonder why Governments took this approach given Netaji’s reputation and name all over India. His fame, ironically, was the reason why Congress Governments- starting with Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru’s first cabinet- made it their mission to downplay Netaji. They supported the story that he had died in an air crash in modern day Taiwan in 1945.

Nehru did not want Netaji to emerge in India post Independence as by then he was the tallest leader in the country. He knew that Netaji could pose a threat to his popularity and political fortunes, hence the deliberate downplaying of anything abut Netaji. Indeed, we know now from archives made public, that Netaji’s family was under surveillance for decades after Independence. Nehru and his successors wanted to know if Netaji was planning to return to India. This started the surveillance activity.

Nag also writes about the mysterious Gumnami Baba who first came to Uttar Pradesh in the mid-1950s. He was also called Bhagwanji or Gumnami Baba as he had no name! Many believed that based on anecdotal and other evidence found over the decades that he was indeed Netaji. He died in 1985 with his secrets intact. What was the true story of Gumnami Baba remains in the realm of speculation.

The reader is explained the political developments that took place towards the end of the Second World War. You will remember that Netaji had allied himself strongly with the Japanese who surrendered in 1945 bringing the Second World War to an end. The British Empire, weary after the long war was on it’s last legs. Netaji had influenced an armed struggle for the first time in British India. The mutiny by Indians in the Royal Indian Navy was a major event which made the British decide to leave India once and for all. On the other hand, the United States and Soviet Russia had become the most powerful countries in the world.

Nag suggests that post 1945, Netaji was a prisoner in the Russian labour camps. The Russians under Stalin had no interest in him, Japan was seeking a new beginning, Nazi Germany had been vanquished, and India had become an independent nation under Nehru and the Congress. Where would Netaji fit in – in this new world? Perhaps his experiences in Russia convinced him to live incognito in the future? Did he therefore emerge as Gumnami Baba to live out the rest of his dues in relative anonymity?

I have said enough about the book. You should read it to come to your own conclusions. I can assure you it makes for highly interesting reading, especially if, like me, you are fan of Netaji and a student of Indian history and politics.

Credibility Is The Name Of The Game

What credibility does Mr Rahul Gandhi, a leading light of the Indian National Congress (INC) and scion of the Nehru-Gandhi family have? At 50, the “youth icon” has never been a Minister in a State or Union Cabinet. But he is a law unto himself! All his power stems from who he is by virtue of his birth. That he ( born in 1970) publicly tore up an ordinance, in 2013 shaming the Congress-led Prime Minister Manmohan Singh ( born in 1932) speaks for itself. Continue reading “Credibility Is The Name Of The Game”

“Nehru’s 97 Major Blunders” by Rajnikant Puranik

Very few are as admired in India as our late Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru ( 1889-1964). As a school boy, I remember how thrilled we were when he visited our school in 1959, complete with that rose adorning his jacket. It was in 1962 however when his image took a beating in public for the first time. This followed the disastrous India-China War which saw our Army grossly humiliated. It was the same Army which as the British Indian Army had gained tremendous respect during World War II across different battle theaters, not to mention the sacrifices made in World War I as well. The blame for the 1962 blunders rest squarely with Nehru. Continue reading ““Nehru’s 97 Major Blunders” by Rajnikant Puranik”

“Freedom At Midnight” by Dominique Lapierre & Larry Collins

As we are in the month of August, the conversations in India often turn towards Independence Day coming up on August 15. We talk of the Freedom Struggle; of Jawaharlal Nehru, Mahatma Gandhi, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, and Sardar Patel; of Lord and Lady Mountbatten; and the horrors of Partition. I recently re-read ” Freedom At Night” by Dominque Lapierre & Larry Collins, which I had read decades ago. You may recall that this book was first published in 1975, less than twenty years after Independence. I re-read the same book in 2019, by which time so much had changed in the world around us. Yet, the haunting memories of Partition continued in the minds of thousands of families affected by that tumultuous  event. The conflict over Kashmir which continues till today is an old wound from that time which still festers. Continue reading ““Freedom At Midnight” by Dominique Lapierre & Larry Collins”

Freedom Of Speech

The General Elections are on in India and in the heat of political campaigning, leaders of political parties sometimes get  carried away and say things they ought not to. Yes, we do have the freedom of speech and expression but that does not give an individual an unfettered right to say whatever comes to his mind, more so if it is detrimental to his political opponents .

I am reminded of our lecturer, Mr Clarence Motha who taught us Political Science. He used to tell every batch the same story every year : ” I have the right and freedom to swing my umbrella as I walk,” he would say, ” but that right  and freedom ends where the finely chiseled nose of my young friend here begins!! ”

In the space of the last few weeks, in my view, the Congress President Rahul Gandhi no less, has been guilty of breaking the law with regard to the freedom of speech. He recently implicated the Supreme Court when he suggested that they too supported his political campaign  and endorsed his “Chowkidar Chor Hai” line of attack against Prime Minister Modi. Only a few days ago the highest court of the land was not satisfied with the regret expressed by Mr Gandhi and asked his lawyer to file another affidavit with a proper apology.

If that were not enough, Mr Gandhi in a political rally in Jabalpur, used the expression, “Murder Accused” against Mr  Amit Shah, the President of the Bharatiya Janata Party several times in his speech.  It is no surprise that a defamation suit has been filed against him in an Ahmedabad court as facts indicate that Mr Shah, was acquitted in 2015.

Politicians are guilty of gross exaggeration in their speeches. I was shocked to hear Mr Rahul Gandhi claim that Mahatma Gandhi ( no relation to him whatsoever) had  been in solitary confinement for 15 years during the Freedom Movement. This is untrue. The details of Gandhiji’s imprisonments, first in South Africa and later in India are listed in this comprehensive website about him.  Also, it is widely accepted that unlike the common political prisoner, the British treated Gandhi and Nehru with kid gloves. They were typically kept under arrest in reasonable comfort and not thrown into some dingy cell and made to do hard labour like the convicts depicted in the old Hindi movies.  The Mahatma, for example, was interned in the Aga Khan Palace in Pune in 1942.

In another case, the Savarkar family have filed a case against Mr Rahul Gandhi for casting aspersions on the character of Veer Savarkar, a freedom fighter, while glorifying Gandhi and Nehru.

Mr Gandhi is not the only politician  guilty of this. Mr Arvind Kejriwal, the IIT educated Chief Minister of Delhi was sued in a criminal defamation case for the remarks made by him against the country’s Finance Minister  Mr Arun Jaitley. In that case, he was compelled to render an apology in the Court which was accepted by the complainant.

I believe there has to a salutary punishment for defamation. If the accused is allowed to get away with a written apology, as happened in the case of Delhi Chief Minister following his remarks against Finance Minister Jaitley, what is the deterrent to prevent him from doing such a thing again?

In a recent case, the Punjab and Haryana High Court fined singer and composer Vishal Dadlani and political activist Tehseen Poonawalla, Rs 10 lakhs each for hurting the religious sentiments of a Jain monk Tarunji Sagar through their tweets.

Now, that is a deterrent. I am sure they will be more careful when they tweet next time!

 

Nehru, China and the Indian General Elections

The dates for the General Elections in India have recently been announced. We will know on May 23, 2019 as to who will form the new Government to rule the world’s largest democracy with a population of over 1.3 billion people, for the next five years. It is natural that there will be a huge spike in political activity. Opponents of the ruling BJP-led National Democratic Alliance will lose no opportunity to take pot shots at the ruling Government and its policies. However, judging from recent comments made by leading people in the Congress party, the quality of debate (if one can call it that) will be in the pits this time around.

Pawan Khera, the Congress Spokesperson said some disgraceful things about Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently in a debate that was televised nationally. He said M-O-D-I was for Masoor Azhar, Osama Bin Laden, Dawood Ibrahim, and the ISI!!!  The Congress which in the last General Elections was reduced to 44 seats in the Lok Sabha seems to have decided that this will be a no holds barred contest. The rank and file are probably taking a cue from Congress President Rahul Gandhi who has been very vocal in his criticism of the Prime Minister.

In the recent past, he accused the Government and the Prime Minister of lying about the Indian Air Force strike against Jaish E Mohammed terror camps deep in Pakistan. He asked for proof, ignoring the fact that details of top-secret strikes like these are never revealed by any country. His accusations left many shocked as the country has to come together to fight terror. They did not go down well with everybody including some in his own party. Binod Sharma, a Congress leader left the party after three decades saying Rahul Gandhi’s approach was all wrong.

Rahul Gandhi has been equally vocal about the Rafale deal, claiming that Prime Minister Modi had gifted Rs 30,000 crores to his crony, the industrialist, Anil Ambani. He has not been able to substantiate any of these charges of virtually calling the Prime Minister a ” chor” or thief.  The reputed columnist Tavleen Singh wrote that to get more credibility for his claims it is about time that Rahul Gandhi produced some evidence of his accusations.

What shocked me more was Rahul Gandhi accusing Narendra Modi of being scared of Xi, the Chinese President. “Weak Modi scared of Xi” he tweeted. Most observers would testify that Modi has shown more sagacity than his predecessors in dealing with different countries of the world including China. The fact that China, which backs Pakistan so strongly, did not object to the Indian strike against terror camps in Pakistan speaks for itself.

The irony was that Rahul Gandhi chose China as the topic to criticize the Prime Minister. The track record of the Congress has been dismal when it comes to China over the decades since India became independent. Rahul’s great grand father Jawaharlal Nehru died in 1964 a broken man following the debacle against the Chinese in 1962. His policies of appeasement and grand standing on the international stage as a great statesman came crashing down when the Chinese humiliated the Indian Army in the 1962 war.  The people of Tibet even decades later feel totally let down by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first Prime Minister. Here’s one example of their feelings captured in this article in the website of the Tibetan Association of Southern California titled, ” Nehru and the China-Tibet Blunder.”

The battle has just begun. I am sure in the coming weeks we will see much mud being flung on both sides. The Indian voter has to judge for himself about the political party he would like to see in power. Would he like to give Prime Minister Modi a second term which will continue the stability of the Government or will he opt to give a combination of parties the opportunity to form a Government despite their differing ideologies?

 

“India After Gandhi” by Ramachandra Guha

Although this book was published in 2007 by ECCO, an imprint of Harper Collins Publishers, I must confess rather sheepishly that I just read, “India After Gandhi” by Ramachandra Guha-in October 2016. The by line is an apt description of the book, “The History Of The World’s Largest Democracy.”

The hard bound edition ( which my friend Divakar Kaza said would improve my biceps before I was done with this tome) runs into 759 pages, followed by nearly 100 pages of well-researched notes.  The cover flap says, “massively researched and elegantly written, India After Gandhi is at once a magisterial account of India’s rebirth and the work of a scholar at the height of his powers.” I would agree. It certainly is extensively researched and most elegantly written though I would have said, “height of his prowess” speaking of the author’s talents rather than his “powers.”  Continue reading ““India After Gandhi” by Ramachandra Guha”

” The Holocaust of Indian Partition: An Inquest” by Madhav Godbole

In 1947, a few parts of undivided India, primarily Punjab and Bengal, were torn asunder and a new nation came into being: Pakistan. This event, directly or indirectly, affected millions of people in India and is still talked about although nearly 70 years have gone by since then. The turmoil of those times and the events that led up to these epoch-making events are captured in Dr. Madhav Godbole’s book,  “The Holocaust of Indian Partition: An Inquest” . Continue reading “” The Holocaust of Indian Partition: An Inquest” by Madhav Godbole”