Lessons that History teaches us.

I have been reading up on History for some time. From much before Internet was accessible. But what Internet has changed is the speed and the cost of accessing sources till date prohibited to enthusiasts like me. Over the past twenty days I must have accessed close to 100 books all related to the Period from 1920 to 1960.

One thread runs through. Most authors skip criticizing Nehru. If they do they make judgmental references to Nehru then they are immediately watered down by mention of mitigating circumstances. R.M.Lohia was a trenchant critic of Nehru. So naturally I would take his words with an amount of caution. Not that I think he is a liar but if he praises Nehru it would be more reliable but when he criticizes would look for at least 1 independent corroboration. Keeping this in mind read this extract of mine: http://wp.me/pIT3l-JN

Lohia says what is now repeated by most RW. He must have been one of the earliest to say this. Every one who knows Lohia knows that he was a socialist and could not stand *Capitalism*. So why was he against Nehru? JP explains here. My Blogpost: http://wp.me/pIT3l-DN

For a moment the contrarian in me could not accept this.  Those who criticize Nehru must have done so out of jealousy or had an axe to grind. But on the other hand take someone like Micheal Brecher or Stanley Wolpert. They have no known prejudices. To quote Wolpert:

From Page 131:

Motilal hoped at this time to win the working committee’s support for his son Jawaharlal to become next president of Congress. Some Congress leaders preferred Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel to young Nehru, however, especially in light of the heroic satyagraha Vallabhbhai led in Bardoli District. Bengal’s members were not willing to host the Congress in Calcutta if Jawaharlal presided. So Gandhi decided to urge Motilal to take the burden one last time rather than handing it down to his as yet untested son. Ailing Motilal, though long since dead by the time India won its independence, was thus the founding father of India’s Nehru dynasty.

   From Page 139:

“I have seldom felt quite so annoyed and humiliated,” Jawaharlal recalled of that moment of his anointment. “It was not that I was not sensible of the honour. . . . But I did not come to it by the main entrance or even a side entrance; I appeared suddenly by a trap-door and bewildered the audience into acceptance.”14 His two patrons, father Motilal and adopted Bapu Gandhi, had conspired to elevate their son and heir to the Congress throne, but instead of feeling exalted at having achieved the summit on the eve of turning forty, moody Jawaharlal’s “pride was hurt” and he “stole away with a heavy heart.” A month after winning the presidency he tried to resign, crying to dear Bapuji, “I feel an interloper and am ill at ease. … I must resign. … I was a wrong choice.”15 Gandhi’s response was brief but firm. “About the crown, no one else can wear it. It never was to be a crown of roses. Let it be all thorns. . . . [M]ay God give you peace.”16 Jawaharlal did as his Bapu told him about the crown, but, like Hamlet, never found peace.

Page 140:

It was everything they had so long hoped to achieve, most of them, both Patels, Motilal Nehru, and all the liberal and moderate leaders of the older generation. “Jinnah … is quite convinced of the good faith of the Labour Government as well as the Viceroy, and thinks that this opportunity should on no account be missed,” Vallabhbhai wrote in his “personal” confidential letter to his beloved Bapuji. Gandhi, of course, agreed to the proposed meeting, but knew how unhappy and disgruntled Jawaharlal would be if instead of raising his cry of “Complete Independence” (Puma Swaraj) in two months, as promised at last year’s Congress, he would be obliged to restrain his revolutionary frustrations and fury and return to long, arduous sessions of negotiation with Jinnah, the viceroy, and his own father. Had Motilal not insisted on crowning his son, Vallabhbhai instead could have been chosen and, despite his well-known Hindu-first reputation and orthodox prejudices, would clearly have been more prone to reach a realpolitik agreement with Jinnah than Marxist-Leninist-Shavian-Hamlet Jawaharlal ever was or would be.

I am able to believe this not because it is written by a White Man. Not because it is what I wanted to find when I started reading into the Patel story. But read again the lines I have underlined.

  1. Motilal insisted his son be crowned.
  2. Vallabhbhai despite his well known Hindu first reputation and orthodox prejudices.
  3. more prone to reach a realpolitik agreement with Jinnah.
  4. than Marxist-Leninist-Shavin-Hamlet Jawaharlal was or would be.

Now a quote from S. Gopal: Jawaharlal Nehru A Biography, Vol 1 Page 115:

Nor did the Independence for India League as Jawaharlal Nehru sadly recognised soon enough, fulfill the hopes of its creator. It consisted of a few politicians who either were disgruntled with Gandhi and Motilal or hoped to draw on the growing popularity of Jawaharlal for their own advantage. Indeed, often people joined the League with the intention of smothering it. (4) Jawaharlal was too honest himself to realize in time the machinations of others; and it has been suggested he was by now increasingly the victim of flattery. (5)

Reference (4) is a quote from Nehru’s letter and (5) is a quote from K D Malaviya, a long term friend and disciple of Nehru. To quote from Lohia:

Researchists (Sic) may later discover the great fraud behind it and that a whole army of propogandists, in particular, Left busybodies, was always kept busy whispering the name of the latest obstructor or misleader of Mr. Nehru. I have often admired Mr. Nehru, the world’s unmatched politician, as the practitioner of the great art of  building up a fresh defence through an unending series of scapegoats. Before one defence cracks or is demolished, another more formidable goes up.

But why all these now?

Look at how Media attacks Rahul G and Sonia G mercilessly? This is written in their defence. Defence of the media. They are only following age old tradition.

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One thought on “Lessons that History teaches us.

  1. Interesting. I must, however, disagree with the punchline. If I have got the punchline wrong, of course, you should correct me. Your main point seems to be the following. (A) Jawaharlal was seldom (if at all) criticised by contemporary historians. (B) So, it should be no surprise that Rahul G and Sonia G are treated with kid gloves by today’s media – they are merely following a long tradition of being deferential to the Nehru family. While I have no difficulty agreeing with both (A) and (B) in isolation, I am not sure that (B) follows from (A) (or even has any connection). Here are two reasons why I disagree:

    First, you seem to be comparing the comments of contemporaneous historians (for Nehru) with comments of the media (for Sonia G and Rahul G). That does not strike me as a fair comparison. A better comparison would be the media that existed then with the media today, but then again, the media in the 1920’s in India is surely not comparable to the media today (I am not sure which is “better”, but they are certainly different).

    Second, it is said (rightly or wrongly) that history is written by the “winners.” In some sense, Nehru was a winner (at least initially). it should not be surprising that most contemporaneous historians were deferential, reverential or even sycophantic. Nonetheless, I have heard Nehru blamed (no authoritative historical references here ,these comments come from a bunch of assorted relatives of mine) for linguistic division of states, for the 5-year plans, for socialism, for aligning with the Soviet Union, but calling us non-aligned, and above all for the humiliating loss in the war with China. Historians today might not be so generous in their appraisal of Nehru.

    Of course, if I completely missed your point, send me an email.

    A couple of things I find interesting: At least initially, Nehru appears to have been the unwitting (unwilling ?) victim of his father’s desire (craze?) for power (the expression “some people have greatness thrust on them” comes to mind). That much is clear from his own writing on the matter .

    Later, as time passed, he appears to have convinced himself that he was entitled to be wherever he was doing whatever he did (that’s the sense I get form the “flattery” comment)

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