Loyal servants of British at once became loyal servants of Congress – Nirad C. Chaudhuri (2008)

Actually, those who had served the British most efficiently were kept, so that they might put their efficiency at the disposal of the new regime. An Indian civil servant who had dealt with the Bengali revolutionary movement with great severity became India’s first ambassador in Washington and the first representative in the UN. The loyal servants of the British at once became loyal servants of the Congress.

Autobiography of an Unknown Indian Part II-2008

BOOK X
CROSSING THE BAR
1947–1952
Prefatory Note

Independence for India made a radical difference to my worldly prospects, but not in the way it did for others placed in the same situation. At the time of the British withdrawal from the country a majority of the highest posts in the administration were held by British civil servants. However, most of them chose to retire from service and go back to their own country. This created opportunities for Indians who were in the lower ranks of the administration which they could never have hoped to see under British rule. For those Indians who had ability or connections the promotions were like mini cars rising into the sky like jumbo jets. Even one-time clerks under the British became Secretaries in the Indian service. But these men at all events possessed high and specialised qualifications to keep the bureaucracy running in the old manner. They had become indispensable to the new regime which did not want to rule in any other manner, in spite of being Indian.

But there was no such possibility for me, nor was I indispensable. I could only remain where I was if I chose. I did not have any fear that I would suffer for my wholehearted adherence to the British and Alied cause. For one thing, I was too minor an official for my conduct to be noticed. Next, thousands of other Indians like me, i.e. intellectuals (being writers or journalists), had worked for the same cause, and for practical purposes it was irrelevant whether they had done so for the sake of conviction or money. The new Indian regime did not make victims even of those Indians in high places in the civil service who had made themselves notorious by their attitude as well as actions in regard to the nationalist movement.

Actually, those who had served the British most efficiently were kept, so that they might put their efficiency at the disposal of the new regime. An Indian civil servant who had dealt with the Bengali revolutionary movement with great severity became India’s first ambassador in Washington and the first representative in the UNO (1). The loyal servants of the British at once became loyal servants of the Congress. Their new masters wanted nothing more. But I could not make that choice, and so had no prospect of rising higher. However, this was my own doing. It had become impossible for me to serve the new Indian Government in any capacity in which I should be involved in its policies. To anything beyond routine work, I had acquired an unconquerable emotional repugnance. Ever since the war had begun, as I have made clear, I regarded the actions of the Congress as a betrayal of civilization and humanity, and I decided that I would never seek any advantages for myself from it, which I could do by resuming my contacts with the nationalist leaders.

Thus, I never called on Sarat Chandra Bose, my old chief, when he became a member of the socalled Interim Government in 1946. I did not also try to see Jawaharlal Nehru then or when he became Prime Minister a year later. I could have extended my previous contacts with him and perhaps he would have made use of me in some capacity, for he was sensitive to the kind of ability I had. But that was inconceivable to me. All that I could do in the service of the new Government was to do some work where no case of conscience would arise. How I managed that I shall relate presently. But the result of my choice was that I closed the door against myself in respect of worldly advancement in India. For the next five years I remained in a blind alley instead of being on the high road of official preferment.

But a different kind of future opened out for me then. In the early summer of 1947, when I was about six months short of being fifty, I took a decision, or rather had one imposed on myself by a spark of intuition, which accomplished that. That decision was to begin work on the book which was published later under the tide of The Autobiography of an Unknown Indian. However, I had no inkling at the time of the future that was to be created for me by that book. It looked at first towards the past, because my decision really meant the execution of a design which I had always had in mind to write a book which would not be mere ephemeral journalism, but be a work of permanent value, coming out of a life which had been sadly lacking in any real achievement so far. It was also to be the fulfilment of my promise to my wife to write the book she was always asking me to write.

But in the upshot the book that was produced cut me off from all my previous life and created a new life for me. Defining my new status I might call myself a twice-born in Hindu terms. To vary the metaphor, the execution of the design turned out for me to be like leaving a harbour, crossing its bar, and putting out to sea on a voyage of discovery into the unknown. In a passage of the old autobiography, written towards the end of 1947, I said that ‘to be once deradné is to be for ever on the road.’ Even then, although I was going to be fifty, I did not have any idea how long that road was to be.

In this, the concluding part of the book, I am going to describe the first five years of my new life or rather my plunge into the unknown. At its end, in spite of the success of the enterprise, it would be seen that in the worldly way I was left very much in the state in which I began the span of life described in this book.


(1) Samar Sen (10 August 1914 – 16 February 2003) was an Indian diplomat who served as the 1st permanent representative of India to the United Nations, Geneva, 8th in New York and the 2nd high commissioner of India to Bangladesh from June 1974 to November 1976 [Wikipedia]

SOURCE : Autobiography of an Unknown Indian Part II -Thy Hand, Great Anarch! – India 1921- 1952 by Nirad C. Chaudhuri – 2008


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