Sunday, December 25, 2011


Reading ahead as the book talked about the Constituent Assembly and the process which our fore-fathers followed in framing the Constitution, there were a few speeches quoted on reservations and on national language. I found the speeches very moving and they very well drove home the point as to why reservation was needed by the oppressive sections of the society and the unjustness of the demand that House proceedings be conducted in Hindi alone and not also in English.

The remarkable thing I found was that the speeches and the other arguments given at that time, hold merit even today. Now is this an indicator of our failure to progress as a nation - is a debatable thing.

However, the most striking part is the BabaSaheb B.R Ambedkar’s points of caution which he mentioned in the end after acknowledging everybody’s support and effort in framing the Constitution. I could not resist but draw out examples indicating that we have failed to get his message.

 ·   The first warning -“Popular protests” and their place in a democracy.
 He clearly said that Gandhian methods (civil disobedience, Satyagraha and non-co operation) – methods of popular protests were relevant under an autocratic regime but when there are Constitutional methods in place they better be abandoned.

·   Second warning -“unthinking submission to authority”.
   BabaSaheb said that although hero-worship or Bhakti plays its part in life, following it in the sphere of politics was degrading one self. I think he meant, that no matter how charismatic a leader we get, we shouldn’t be submitting ourselves, our support to him without rationally analyzing his agenda, his motives.

·   Last one - "Content” with political democracy.
   He warned us that we do not become complacent with attaining a democratic status but rather work to get rid of the inequality and hierarchical order prevalent in the society.

Unfortunately, looking around us – the society and political spectrum, we seem to have not paid heed to his words!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Tale of the Vale of Kashmir

Carrying on from where I had left, I read a couple of more chapters – which dealt about how Sardar Patel went about the arduous task of merging 5oo odd princely states into the Union of India, in particular the accounts of Travancore, Bhopal, Junagadh and yes, Kashmir as well.

The way Ramachandra Guha gives the account of events is simply brilliant. All the while I was reading, I was getting this great feeling of satisfaction that the events I am reading are authentic from a credible source, devoid of any artistic freedom which a Bollywood story-teller might have taken had this been his task. Yes, there were a few “Oh-I-never-knew-this” moments as well and they were bound to be there as all this while I have been relying on media and hear-say for the events that happened then. But no more!

One particular thing I found interesting was that initially Sardar Patel was also content to let Kashmir (governed by a Hindu ruler over Muslim population) go, but when he saw the not-so-friendly stance from Pakistan on Junagadh(Muslim ruler over Hindu population) he realized their hypocrisy and changed his stance.

Another thing which hasn’t found a mention in school textbooks is that one particular place in J&K (Poonch) had a particular kind of animosity against the then Maharaja which translated to anti-India sentiments and was one of the reasons that triggered the 1948 invasion from the North-West. Guha, does acknowledge that Pt. Nehru was kind of filled with regret over taking the issue to the UN but he was very much hurt by seeing power politics governing the affairs of UN.

An innocuous remark from Guha which I found hard to fathom is that he attributed the tilt of UN over Pakistan to their gifted orator, one Sir Zafrullah Khan. How come the Indian side had no great orators on their side then? Does such a trivial thing impact the outcome of such a sensitive issue? Any answers!

To end, a piece of triviaJ:
The only naval defeat ever inflicted by an Asian state on a European power?
Sinking of a Dutch fleet by the State of Travancore in 1741 (Amazing!!)

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Back Again!

So after a short hiatus finally I have been able to get some precious time to get started with India After Gandhi. Although it is hard to complete a 770 page book in a span of 15 days but nonetheless, I would try and cover as much as I can at my own leisurely pace.

 It is hard to describe in words the pleasure of doing what one likes on a sunny winter day in the comforts of our home. I am lucky to have this opportunity and surely will try to make maximum use of it.

So, today I completed the first chapter of the book. In the prologue, Ramachandra Guha beautifully highlights the challenges that were before him while writing this book. He explained – For a contemporary historian it is more challenging and difficult to write for his readers as they are more likely to have their own strong views over the topic as it was something that occurred more close to their lifetime. Thus, the reader is himself less trusting on the author for the account which he lists. Whereas, in writing on figures and issues of further back in time the reader is more trusting and relies on the author to guide and teach him about them.

The major theme of the chapter was how much Gandhi was disturbed with the barbarism and violence that followed the Partition and his travels all over India appeasing the raging emotions of the Hindus and Muslims who were displaced through the Partition. However, by the time I finished reading it – the accounts of violence, the shady role of RSS and assassination of Gandhi; it had left a bitter taste in the mouth.

For now, this much for what I have covered. Will write more as I progress further!

P.S: I came across this interesting piece of trivia which might feature in the next season of KBC (who knows!)
On the night of 14th-15th August, 1947 who were the three main speakers? One was Pt. Nehru and who were the other two?
Chaudhry Khaliquzzaman (represented the Muslims) – proclaimed the loyalty of the minority to the newly free land
Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan (praised the sagacity and courage of the British)
Pt. Nehru (As the first Prime Minister of India)