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Snippets from 70 years of Independence

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Snippets from 70 years of Independence

A single snapshot speaks 1,000 words, but JNU historian and writer of this book Roshen Dalal’s snapshots speak more than that, writes Kumar Chellappan

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” said George Santayana, the great Spanish philosopher and essayist who lived between 1863 and 1952. Santayana’s words are quoted by all alike when they note that facts and history have been distorted. It’s the enemies of the culture of the nation who distort and manipulate its history. India is a victim of distortion of these facts by some vested interests. We all know that  Indian Council for Historical Research (ICHR) and Indian History Congress have been monopolised by the Left historians, who are projected by the fellow travellers as eminent historians.

During an interaction with SL Bhyrappa, the literary icon of Karnataka, this writer was shocked to hear how the top political leadership of the country caused havoc with Indian history. Bhyrappa recounted his personal  experience way back in 1969. Indira Gandhi was the Prime Minister during that time and Bhyrappa was invited for a meeting convened by G Parthasarathy, a Nehru-Gandhi loyalist, who was also the son of former Union Minister N Gopalaswamy Ayyangar. Parthasarathy, a Communist, was also known as GP in the corridors of power and was the special advisor to Indira Gandhi. She was eager to project herself as a progressive and radical leader, a step ahead of the Leftists. Hence, she had constituted a committee for national integration and communal harmony under the chairmanship of GP.

“I was working as a reader of educational philosophy in the National Council for Education and Research Training (NCERT) in New Delhi and was invited to the committee as a member. It was recognition for my professional achievement, GP had told me. One day, all members of the committee were called for a meeting by GP, who told us that the Prime Minister was particular that history books be rewritten in such a way that avoids all thorns which would cause communal disharmony in the minds of children,” said Bhyrappa.

Bhyrappa asked GP to clarify what he wanted from the committee members. “Gazni Mohammed had looted Somnath Temple, Aurangzeb built mosques by demolishing temples in Kashi and Mathura; he collected jazya. Is it helpful to build a strong India under the present circumstances by conveying such useless facts, other than generating hatred in the minds?” asked Parthasarathy, much to the dismay of Bhyrappa.

When he pointed out to Parthasarathy that the purpose of teaching history was to seek the truth about the past events and to learn about ancient human lives by studying the inscriptions, records, literary works, and artifacts, the former got annoyed and said he would not allow seeds of poison in young minds of the country. “Though they may be true facts, such things should not be taught to students. We all know that Aurangzeb destroyed and demolished Kashi Viswanath Temple. But why should we tell the youngsters about it? You tell them that the temple was destroyed because of some other reasons,”  demanded GP. When Bhyrappa took an uncompromising stance towards this, he was eased out of the committee and was replaced by Arjun Dev, a Marxist historian. The rest is history! GP was later made Vice-Chancellor of the JNU and had a wonderful life till he breathed his last in 1995. History went haywire and students across the nation are taught manipulated and distorted versions of events which decided the destiny of the nation.

Distortion and manipulation of historical facts continue unabated in India. One of the incidents which hogged national limelight was the time capsule prepared and “deposited” in a well in the Red Fort in New Delhi during the Emergency days for the benefit of future generations to know about India.

It was mentioned in the time capsule that India was owned by the royal family of Nehru-Gandhi and the progress made was only because of the vision of the family members. The contents of the time capsule were known only because of the decision by the Morarji Desai-led Janata Government to dig it out and make it known to the people!

All these things come to the fore, thanks to the book, India at 70 — Snapshots Since Independence, by Roshen Dalal, a JNU historian. The author has not let the readers down as she has followed the JNU style of writing history. A single snapshot speaks 1,000 words, but Dalal’s snapshots speak more than that. The author claims the book is a tribute to the 70 years of Indian Independence.

Dalal writes that Neelam Sanjiva Reddy was the candidate proposed by the old Congress leaders, known popularly as the Syndicate, in the 1969 Presidential election. But the fact is that Reddy was the official candidate of the Congress party whose name was proposed by none other than Indira Gandhi!

Later she told the then Vice-President VV Giri to file  his nomination as a candidate. Giri  won the race because Indira Gandhi asked the electorate to vote as per their conscience. She wanted Giri to win the election because she knew he would be a rubber stamp President, which he proved beyond any doubt.

The split in the Congress took place after the Presidential election. The Congress led by Indira Gandhi came to be known as Congress (Ruling) and not as Congress (Requisitionist) as Dalal has written. In 1969 itself, Morarji Desai had resigned from the Government following Indira Gandhi’s decision to take over the Ministry of Finance from him. Indira Gandhi herself became the Prime Minister by default. The regional satraps of the Congress, like the then Chief Ministers of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Orissa, Punjab, and West Bengal wanted Kamaraj, the then Congress president, to become the Prime Minister.

“No English, what Prime Minister?” was what Kamaraj said to this suggestion, the only English words he spoke in his lifetime. Since Kamaraj felt a younger face would suit the country at that juncture, he proposed the name of Indira Gandhi, who was known as “gungi gudiya” (dumb doll) because of her incapability to address gatherings.

Though Morarji Desai, then the senior most Congress leader, was the frontrunner, the old guard preferred Indira in the hope that she would listen to them. But it turned out to be the other way. The old guards were shown the door by Indira, who had the tacit and discreet support of the CPI and CPI(M).

In the chapter dealing with the Emergency, Dalal writes that the Allahabad High Court ruled the election of Indira Gandhi to the Lok Sabha not valid “on technical basis”, when in fact she had violated all rules of the game by misusing her official position as Prime Minister to win the election from Raebareli in the 1971 Lok Sabha Elections.

Raj Narayan, the losing candidate, had filed a petition challenging Indira’s victory. The Emergency was declared by her to consolidate her position in the party as well as the Government and to subvert the Allahabad High Court verdict, which disqualified her from being the PM and also barred her from contesting elections for six years.

Dalal also quotes Morarji Desai, whom she describes as a senior minister, as saying: “We intend to overthrow her, to force her to resign.” What is the truth? Desai left the Cabinet in 1969 and at the time of the Allahabad High Court verdict, he was in the Opposition Congress (Organisation).

Similarly, Dalal doesn’t broach the topic of the 1987 Bofors pay-off scandal, which shook the country and cost Rajiv Gandhi his job as the PM. Isn’t the incident worth mentioning? The author’s silence about two more notorious scams during the UPA regime (2004 to 2014 ) raises questions. The book is silent about the 2G Spectrum scam worth Rs 1,74,000 crore, the Coal Gate, and the Commonwealth Game scam. The country saw the resignation and arrest of Union Cabinet Minister A Raja along with a Member of Parliament in connection with the 2G scam. Since the book is meant for youngsters, we have to be cautious while ignoring key details.

India at 70-Snapshots Since Independence by Roshen Dalal; Rs 399, Puffin Books    




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