Betrayal In India-D F KARAKA (1950)

About the year 1929 this group had begun to attract a lot of young men to its ranks, chiefly students to whom this new gospel of Lenin and Marx made a quick appeal. The British-controlled government of India, realizing that this growing trend of thought should be nipped in the bud, effected an all-India round up of these extreme leftists, the majority of whom were Communists. They were charged
with sedition. There followed the famous Meerut trial, where crystallization took place for the first time and the vague term “leftist” gave place to the more definite designation of “Communist


D. F. KARAKA is editor of The Current —a highly polemical magazine (described as independent, non-party and anti-
“communal”) which he started on September 28th 1949, after resigning from the Editorship of March . The latter had made its mark with its front-page article “The People say Congress Worse than the British”.

Educated at Oxford, where he was the first Indian to be President of the Union, Mr. Karaka was subsequently columnist, staff writer and special correspondent to the “Bombay Chronicle” for nine
years, and was that paper’s war correspondent with SHAEF. In 1948 he was the first editor in
Bombay against whom an attempt was made to enforce the Public Security Press Act.

Mr. Karaka is the author of some dozen books, published in Britain, the United States and
India. The best known of these is perhaps / GO WEST , published in 1938. Mr. Harold Nicolson wrote
of it in the “Daily Telegraph” :

“Mr. Karaka will undoubtedly
be a disturbance in this country;
but the right kind of disturbance.”

Mr. Tom Clarke wrote:

“It is a poignant book, brilliantly written…. It illuminates for me, as never before, the contradictions of the social scenes among Indians in India.”

Distributors in India , Pakistan , Burma and Ceylon

Printed in Great Britain by
Billing and Sons Ltd., Guildford and Esher



I never thought a day would come when I would see my people and my country free; yet freedom came.

I never thought a day would come so soon after their liberation when these same people would feel betrayed. Yet that day has also come, and by a strange combination of circumstances it falls on me to tell the story of that betrayal. The writing of this book has involved much research and much time has been spent in assimilating the facts, igures, angles and opinions that have come to me. It has not been
easy to write such a book as this while doing a full-time job as an editor, perpetually watched by the government.

I have done it more easily because of the many friends who have allowed me access to their findings and allowed me sometimes even to use their words. To them my grateful thanks are due.

There are other debts of gratitude which I find difficult to express in words. They are owed to all those who have helped me in my most difficult days.

12, Carmichael Road,
Bombay, India.




author’s preface vii























ALL was quiet in the main thoroughfare, deserted except
for steel-helmeted policemen in dark blue, yellow-braided
uniforms, their pants tucked in like plus-fours. They stood in
groups of three and four at intervals along the road. Some
leant against the closed doors of a shop, their chins resting
on crossed hands atop a thick bamboo stick. On their steel
helmets were painted the initials B.C.P., Bombay City
Police. On their feet they wore black shiny chappals, which
were sandals and part of their uniform. Their legs were
bare and brown. Now and again they yawned, for it was a
warm summer day.

On an old deck-chair with faded stripes sprawled an
Anglo-Indian sub-inspector of police. Khaki-clad, his legs
were lazily crossed; his white sola topee with its service
yellow stripes was drawn well over his eyes, Next to him two
Indian soldiers in khaki-green were squatted on the kerb.
On their arms flashed the red eagle of the Fourth Indian
Division. In front of them was a machine-gun with the
tracer in position, ready for firing. From the fox-holes of
Keren, Tobruk and Benghazi these Indian soldiers had once
fought the Germans. Now they were entrusted with the task
of keeping their countrymen in order.

The sun still beat strongly. It was afternoon and normally
a busy time of the day. But there was no sign of business
being conducted, nor any activity nor even movement. At
rare intervals an armoured car clanked down the street. A
twenty-four hour curfew was in force.

The asphalt stretch, which on a normal working day
would be obscured by a sea of humanity, stood out in the
surrounding bareness. The shining steel tramlines which
ran parallel along the middle of the road, curving at the
far end where the road swung right, accentuated the bare
grey appearance.

The thoroughfare appeared clean, polished and quiet. No
one could notice, unless they looked very closely, the red blood spots on that grey asphalt. They had dried up and
congealed. The man who had lain there that morning be¬
side a pool of fresh blood, his intestines falling out of his
naked, dark brown abdomen, his mouth gaping wide, his
eyes in a vacant stare, was no longer there. His body now
lay in a morgue, waiting to be identified.

From the three-storeyed building opposite the policemen
two eyes could be seen peering through the Venetians of a
window on the first floor. In the silence the unfastening of
a bolt was heard.

The armed law stiffened to attention. The two soldiers
moved closer to the Bren, one of them moving his finger to
the trigger and pointing the nozzle of the gun at the window
on the first floor. The white sola topee of the sub-inspector
was lifted back into place.

There was a tense moment. Slowly the window opened
and a man’s face appeared. He was chewing pan. He looked
at the policeman for a while, as he twirled the betel-nut in
his mouth. Calmly he spat the red juice on to the pavement
below. Then he closed the window gently again as if that
was all he had really meant to do.

The sub-inspector changed the position of his legs,
brought his hat down over his eyes, stretched his arms and
yawned once again. The two soldiers near the gun looked
at each other with relief.

The next day the curfew was relaxed.

At first the people hesitated to open their front doors,
but gradually they could be seen slipping out to do an
errand and returning to their homes as stealthily again.

The tempo of the thoroughfare quickened as men walked
with short, quick steps, their hearts beating a heavy pit-pat,
their eyes eager and watchful. The familiar trams were
plodding their way over the asphalt stretch, the drivers
whacking at the foot-bells to keep people off the lines. Now
and again a car would drive past, and now and again a
horse and carriage could be seen plying for fare.

As the first morning hours passed without any important
incident, more people appeared in the streets with renewed
confidence that the worst was over. By noon the life of the
thoroughfare would resume its normal shape. The shops
which had been closed for two or three days would open,
perhaps just a door, hoping to transact what little business
they could.

Suddenly the hum of the street died down and out of the
silence could be heard the shouts of policemen calling upon
the people to stop a man who was running through the
crowd, knife in hand. But the people merely made way for
the murderer, too afraid to cross his path. A shot or two
rang out from the police squad but by then the assassin had
slipped into a gully off the main thoroughfare.

The groans of a dying man lying in the middle of the
road with blood streaming out of his wound were clearly
heard. The police had now gathered around him and the
passers-by stopped to look on. Then an ambulance whisked
down the road, collected the victim and drove away. The
people ran back into their homes and shut their doors

During the year before independence this was a frequent scene in the cities of India. The civil war was on, though few were aware of it.


On June 3rd, 1947, Lord Louis Mountbatten, Viceroy and Governor-General of India, went to the microphone and made a declaration on behalf of the British government. It was the answer to the Indian cry of “Quit India”.

So freedom was announced to my people, as easily as that.

Two weeks later, in a bottle-green 1935 Chevrolet driven
by a weatherbeaten Moslem taxidriver, I rattled down the
long drive of Viceroy’s House, New Delhi, to see the man
who had taken part in all the behind-the-curtain discussions
that led to that declaration. His name was Lord Ismay.

Past a handful of turbaned flunkeys in their long, “new-
look” red and gold-crested uniforms, I was escorted to the
offices of the various secretaries and attaches. Then on again
through various corridors and conference rooms on whose
walls hung portraits of Viceroys and Vicereines long since
dead till I was shown into an oak-panelled study, the office
of Lord Ismay.

Ismay rose from the desk at which he had been working
and stretched out a friendly paw.

General Lord Ismay, D.S.O., K.C.B., C.H., etc., etc., typi¬
fied the British ruling class. He had an impressive presence,
a fine military bearing, his features were strong and rugged.
He was an odd mixture of soldier, aristocrat, bulldog and
gentleman. His blond, bushy eyebrows were like those of the
American labour leader, John L. Lewis. His face was full of
character, round and Churchillian in its emphasis. He wore
a dark brown civilian suit that morning, a beige silk shirt
and a knitted tie. He looked a perfect English gentleman,
as tailored by Hawes and Curtis.

Ismay had come to India as adviser to Mountbatten
during the momentous talks that preceded the decision to
partition and quit India. He was a Tory in politics, a per¬
sonal friend of Winston Churchill and a General in the
British Army. He belonged to the generation of Englishmen
who believed in the Empire and all its dignity but who
were also aware that the British could no longer hold on to
their Empire in the East by force of arms. In the face of that
realization he was now getting ready to quit that imperial
scene with grace.

It was at this interview with Lord Ismay that I understood how Britain, who had held out so long against our national aspirations, had suddenly and so readily agreed to give up her 150-year-old domination and quit the Indian scene.

The main reason which appears to have prompted this
decision could be traced to the change that had come over
the British people as a result of the war. While Adolf Hitler
perpetrated many atrocities I felt he had also unconsciously
driven the British to realize yet more forcibly how much
freedom could mean to a people. The silent revolution
wrought by the early defeats of the war which gave to
Britain a cohesive, classless unity by which alone she sur¬
vived the Nazi onslaught was reflected not only in her home
affairs but also in her dealings with other peoples of the
world. It was as a result of this revolution that the Socialists
were swept into power in Britain and the British working
class got the chance of a fair share in the government of the
country. It was also a result of this silent revolution that,
without further struggle, the Indian was conceded his right
to govern his country.

This changed British mood was best expressed by the First
Lord of the Admiralty, the Rt. Hon. A. V. Alexander, who
said in the House of Commons: “We offer India independ¬
ence and freedom because it is our own birthright and be¬
cause it is the birthright we desire to accord to men and
women in all parts of the world.”

The questions, therefore, of whether India was ready to
govern herself or not were no longer relevant in terms of
this new outlook which ranked freedom and democracy
above all practical considerations. Whatever the practical
considerations and whatever apprehensions one may have
felt about the Indians’ ability to govern, independence
could not have been delayed without risk of serious reper¬
cussions in my country. Ours had by then become a unified
demand pressed for by every section of Indian opinion, even
including the princes. The only point on which the country
was divided was: Should power be transferred to the people
as a whole leaving it to them to settle the issue of partition,
or should the country be partitioned by the British and
power transferred to two newly-created and separate do¬

The majority said: “Quit”; the Moslem minority said:

“Divide and quit”. But no section of the Indian people,Hindu or Moslem or any other, wanted the British domination to continue. That was crvstal clear.

Ismay was of the opinion that, among other factors, the
part played by the Indian soldier in this war had made 3.
profound impression on British public opinion and influenced it to yield to India’s demand.

As the die of our independence had by then already been
cast, that hour and a quarter with Lord Ismay was important
more as a psychological study of the British character than
a pointer to future political moves. It made me understand
how the British were able to make an enforced retreat, as at
Dunkirk, appear a graceful withdrawal.

Ismay did not seem to favour partition. As a soldier he
felt it most when it came to dividing the army. “I told
Jinnah”, he said, “the army had but one heart, one pair of
lungs and one mind.” But Jinnah did not yield. At one
time further discussions between the three parties — the
British, the Congress and the Moslem League—appeared futile and hopeless. “Then the idea of creating two sovereign dominions came up. It seemed the only way out.”

Ismay had come here to perform a thankless job. It was a
British political maxim that to send a man on a political
mission to India was the best way to damn his prospects in
Britain. A long line of distinguished men had come to us
before Mountbatten and Ismay. Very few had survived the
expedition. Even so, when Lord Ismay was approached he
did not shirk the prospect of failure. He came against Win¬
ston Churchill’s better judgement, for Churchill had said to
him, “I should not go if I were you.” Ismay felt it was a call
he had to answer.

That was the spirit in which this Englishman came to
India and played an unrecorded and unostentatious part in
the most vital decision that has been made in my country in
my generation. To Mountbatten’s lead, Ismay played a bril¬
liant supporting role. He dispelled for me the suspicion
which many Indians harboured that the Englishman, pushed
out of India, was siding with Jinnah and the Moslems in
order to get even with us.

Here was a man more convinced than I that my country
would have a future and that its people were now on the
right path to democracy and freedom and all those glorious
ideals for which they had fought for over a quarter of a
century. I did not share that conviction, for I was afraid of
men changing when power came into their hands.

As I left him and walked back through the long vista of
corridors, I looked up once more at the pictures that hung
from the walls. There was a mustiness about that big house
around which Lutyens built the city of New Delhi. There
was also a hollowness about the place and the tread of my
feet; echoed in the empty rooms. It looked as though some¬
one was leaving.

I stopped and turned to the Indian flunkey escorting me through the maze. “What does this swaraj mean to you?” I asked him. He giggled shyly and said he did not know. Then he ventured: “Gandhiji will probably come here to live.”

“Would you like that?” I asked him, for he had lived there through many Viceroyalties.

He was not sure. “I don’t think I’ll get so much pay. And
my uniform—that may have to go. Khaddar uniforms
don’t look good. The British made the best uniforms. My
golden pugree is much better for a sepoy than a Congress topee.”

He walked up to the taxi with me, salaamed me with a
sheepish grin on his face, looked round to see whether anyone was watching, and whispered: “Bakshish for freedom?”

First things first even in free India, I thought to myself. I gave him a rupee.


One of the best-informed newspapermen in New Delhi at
that time was Shiva Rao, correspondent of the orthodox
Hindu of Madras and the staid Manchester Guardian. He
also wrote for the American Nation. He was the elder
brother of Sir Benegal Rama Rao, who was for some time
our ambassador at Washington. Shiva Rao had also been
our delegate to the United Nations in Paris.

I saw Shiva Rao more than once. In his quiet way he told
me how the Congress party in the Central government
gradually came to realize that they had allowed the Moslem
League to get too strong a foothold in the administration.
The Congress-Moslem League coalition had not worked in
a team-spirit. The deadlock which the Moslems created
within the administration was a triumph of political
strategy. And in their desire to placate the Moslems the
Congress had let the administration become paralysed from

The sabotage was so effective that various government departments headed by Congressmen were issued with a directive urging the departmental heads “to prevent their departments from rusting”.

The situation was yet more aggravated by the realization
that the country would be faced with a serious economic
crisis if immediate measures were not taken to undo the
damage done by this sabotage. Congress cabinet ministers
who handled the folios of food and industries were alarmed
at the statistics with which they were confronted. There was
a food shortage of over 45,000 tons and a cloth shortage of
800,000 yards.

But the desire to yield to Jinnah’s demand for partition was more fundamental than a difference of opinion in
government. The Moslem mind had become irreconcilable
to compromise. The vision of a Moslem homeland had
taken too firm a root in the Moslem mind. Jinnah’s young
lieutenants had become religious fanatics, believing in the
doctrine that the end justifies the means.

We were lunching at the time in the large dining room of
the Hotel Imperial, when a curly-haired, handsome, burly
young Moslem in his thirties, dressed in a thin muslin north-
Indian shirt and balloon pyjamas, walked into the room.
An amber cigarette holder dangled from his mouth and he
looked around him with the air of a spoilt playboy.

“There is one of them,” Shiva Rao said, pointing to the
curly-haired young man.

Behind the young man was a squad of four hefty Pathans,
wearing their traditional dress, with exaggerated turbans
domed with gold brocade and laced pyjamas made of yards
and yards of cloth. They looked like musketeers of the days
of the silent films. Their greased moustaches twirled to a
Casanova point.

This curly-headed boy was Quazi Mohamed Issa, a land¬
lord of Quetta.

“Last year”, Shiva Rao said, “this Issa made a speech at
the Anglo-Arabic college here in Delhi. I was there and
heard him speak. He made a vicious attack on those
Moslems who had joined the Congress and threatened

“In what way?” I asked.

“The words he used were ‘We give ten days to these here¬
tics to return to the fold or else they will be dealt with as
traitors under the Koranic law’.”

Shiva Rao said that at the end of the meeting an American
correspondent, Alfred Wagg III, went up to Issa and chatted
with him. Issa is said to have told Wagg that he was wasting
his time in New Delhi. If Wagg wanted a really hot story
he should go immediately to Calcutta. He would see “the
fireworks” there.

This incident is alleged to have occurred in the first week
of August 1946 and within a week there took place in Cal¬
cutta, which was then governed by a Moslem League minis¬
try, the most unprecedented scenes of lawlessness. The British-controlled newspaper The Statesman called it a “jehad”, a holy war.

And Alfred Wagg III was there—in Calcutta—to cover
the story. Wagg has told me this story is true. On the other
hand Issa has flatly denied it to me.

What happened in Calcutta in August 1946 is best described by The Statesman which was on the spot to make this observation.

“This is not a riot. It needs a word found in mediaeval
history, a fury. Yet a fury sounds spontaneous, and there
must have been some preparation and organization to set
this fury on its way. … It has been three days of unprecedented, concentrated, Indian civil war.”

Calcutta was followed by Noakhali in East Bengal where
the Moslem peasants made an attempt to eliminate the
Hindu minority. The males were killed; the women either
kidnapped, converted or forcibly married. There was a reply
to this in Bihar where the Hindus did more or less the same
thing to the Moslem minority. So it spread all over the
United Provinces, Punjab, Bombay. The year before inde¬
pendence saw a series of reprisals in which thousands of
innocent people lost their lives.

To trace the origin of this civil war, one has to go back to the resolution of the All India Moslem League, which, under the guidance of its leader, the late Mr. Jinnah, rescinded the League’s support of the British cabinet proposals and decided to launch a programme of Direct Action. Its object was to compel the acceptance of the League’s demand for Pakistan. The date of this resolution was June 29th, 1946, just a little before the jehad (holy war) broke out in Calcutta.

It was never officially stated what direct action implied.
Jinnah had hinted at civil war as a threat if his demand for
Pakistan was not accepted, and his satellites publicly spoke
of the “one hundred and one ways in which direct action
would take shape”, always emphasizing that unlike the
Congress the League had never been committed to non¬
violence and that “Moslems knew well what they were to

It is now quite clear in retrospect that the Moslem League
had inspired the bands of ruffians who rushed about Cal-


cutta in lorries assaulting and attacking hundreds of inno¬
cent Hindus in order to create fear and confusion.

There is also a pattern which can be traced between the
fortunes of the Moslem League and the Indian political
scene in the year 1946 and the outbreaks of violence in the
country. Whenever the League scored a point the riots
quietened down. On the other hand, whenever Mr. Jinnah
or the League lost a political advantage the riots broke out
with renewed fury.

The Moslems who roamed the streets of Calcutta during
the Great Calcutta Killing were heard to shout that they
were killing in a holy war in the name of the Prophet. Nor
was this mere pretence. They really believed in the holiness
of the war they waged against what their leader had called
“a brute majority”.

The partition of India was, therefore, not just a division
of territory. It was a division of mind as well. The British
prophecy that Hindus and Moslems would not be able to
live together when the British had quit was soon to be ful¬
filled. It did not, however, convince anyone that British rule
should continue. Heavy as was the price of freedom,
both Hindus and Moslems were apparently prepared to
pay it.

Meanwhile, the only man who was safe in the streets of
Calcutta was the British soldier. It was rather odd that
Tommy Atkins, who had been the target of attack in many
a previous riot in our country, should now be the only
person who could walk through it with any measure of
safety. With typical Army discipline he sweated away in the
scorching heat tidying the city, dragging out corpses from
the sewers and doing all the dirtiest work that was given to

Everyone seemed to be so obsessed with the responsibility
which was to come that it was almost impossible to induce
any of the prominent Congress leaders to find time for an
interview. Those were momentous days when arrangements
were being finalized for the actual transfer of power.

Several visits to the offices of Pandit Nehru’s many secre¬
taries had resulted in the booking of half an hour with the

Pandit himself, but even that interview was cancelled at the
last minute. I was just unlucky.

I succeeded, however, in inducing Maulana Abul Kalam
Azad to see me. He chose the ungodly hour of 7.45 in the
morning for an interview. Maulana Azad’s position had be¬
come somewhat precarious in the new political setting. He
was one of the few Moslems who had fought for the freedom
of India from within the Congress. He was a former presi¬
dent of the Congress party, a staunch nationalist who be¬
lieved in a national entity and who discarded Jinnah’s two-
nation theory. He was opposed to the idea of the Moslem
League. He hated the very idea of partition.

The Congress called him “a true nationalist”. Jinnah re¬
garded him as somewhat of a quisling.

Azad’s position on the issue of partition can be found in
a speech he delivered many years ago in a presidential ad¬
dress to the Congress party. He had then said:

“I am a Moslem and I am proud of that fact. Islam’s
splendid traditions of thirteen hundred years are my inherit¬
ance. . . . But in addition to these sentiments I have others
also, which the realities and conditions of my life forced
upon me. The spirit of Islam does not come in the way of
these sentiments. It guides and helps me forward. I am part
of the indivisible unity that is Indian nationality. I am in¬
dispensable to this noble edifice and without me this splen¬
did structure is incomplete. I am an essential element which
has gone to build India. I can never surrender this claim. . ..
Eleven hundred years of common history have enriched
India with our common achievements. . . . Everything bears
the stamp of our joint endeavour. There is indeed no aspect
of our life which has escaped this stamp. Our languages
were different, but we grew to use a common language; our
manners and customs were dissimilar, but they acted and
reacted on each other and thus produced a new synthesis.
This joint wealth is the heritage of our common nation¬

That stand was difficult for him to maintain in the face of the situation as it developed in June 1947, when the Congress itself went back on one of its fundamental articles and accepted the idea of partition. By giving way to a division of the country, the Congress had virtually compromised the position of nationalist Moslems like Azad who had fought for the freedom of India as a whole. These nationalist Moslems were now neither fish nor fowl.

Azad’s feelings at that moment were very important to
me. He was, as the title of Maulana suggested, a great
scholar. I had often heard him deliver orations at Congress
sessions. His was the type of Indian culture which revived
the dignity and greatness of our land. His speeches made
one feel proud of the heritage of our people. I had met him
only once at close quarters, in 1939, at the little village of
Bardoli in Gujerat. He was an impressive figure, with grey
hair and a little Poincare beard, wearing a long coat and a
black Persiah lamb cap. Mahatma Gandhi had sent for him
on that occasion to offer him the presidency of the Congress
party. But the scene had changed from that little village
with its grass huts in the heart of India to the impressive
and once imperial city of New Delhi, where Azad was in

I drove up the little driveway of No. 22, Prithviraj Road,
with its neatly-cut trees. It was 7.45 in the morning, the
time fixed for the interview.

I was shown into a living room and asked to wait. In the
few moments before Azad appeared I cast my eyes around
that bare, impersonal room. Not a picture hung on the
walls. There was no carpet. The mantelpiece was bare. Two
austere divans faced each other and two rigid armchairs ap¬
peared to have just come from the hirers. There was a built-
in bookshelf but there was not a book on it.

This bareness was intentional, obviously to contrast the
simplicity of living of the people’s representatives with the
alleged extravagance of the British who had ruled in days
gone by.

Azad then walked in through a side door. He said nothing
to me as I rose to greet him. He coldly pointed to a chair.

I asked him a point-blank question. “What will be the position of nationalist Moslems in the Congress and in India?”

It shook him. No question in that last fortnight had been
so pointed. With perfect dignity and self-assurance, he re¬
plied: “What should be our position? It will be the same
as before.”

Had he left it at that, I would have believed that the partition had left him unruffled, but he went on to explain the process of mind which led him to that conviction. He said:
“There will be four million Moslems in Hindustan and two
and a half million Hindus in Pakistan. They will have to
live where they were born.”

Azad still adhered to the belief that sooner or later
Hindus and Moslems must come together. “They are one
people really. They have lived together so long! They must
come together again.”

Later events showed how wrong he was, for many thous¬
ands lost their lives for being on the wrong side of the
border and thousands more were killed in the exchange of
population that followed. A sense of reality was absent in
Azad that June morning. He could not see the wood for the

According to the agreement between the Congress and the
Moslem League, the fate of two Moslem-dominated areas in
India was to be left to the people to decide by a referendum.
One area was the important North-West Frontier which had
for several years been dominated by Khan Abdul Gaffar
Khan, a devout follower of Gandhi, who had founded the
Red Shirt movement of passive resistance among the Mos¬
lem tribesmen of the Frontier. The Congress, therefore, be¬
lieved that they could carry the Moslems of the North-West
Frontier with them. They counted on the years of influence
which they had exercised in that area through Gaffar Khan
and through the khaddar -clad Congress premier. Dr. Khan
Saheb. The other, much smaller, area was the district of
Sylhet in the province of Assam.

I asked Azad how he, as a Moslem, thought those
areas would vote. Of Sylhet he was very sure but of the
North-West Frontier he could not say with any measure
of certainty. “Of course I should think the Frontier
will come with us, but I prefer to wait for the people’s

Azad perhaps judged what his co-religionists in these areas
would do by his own standards. In a choice between his
political allegiance to the Congress and his allegiance to the
Islamic faith, he had elected to go with the Congress. Per¬
haps there was little alternative for a man who had been


more than once president of this Congress and had opposed
Jinnah on every demand for partition.

I asked him then what the Congress would stand for in
the new India.

The Congress will stand for the same things, always,” he

I asked him what the “same things” were, for the Congress
had hitherto stood chiefly for the freedom of our people
from the British, which had now been attained. How could
it still stand for the “same things”?

He did some deep thinking over that question. It had not
occurred to him before that with freedom won it would be
difficult to hold the various discordant elements which had
toed the Congress line behind Mahatma Gandhi. He could
not see that this same Congress could not possibly hold to¬
gether a capitalist like G. D. Birla and a socialist revolu¬
tionary like Jai Prokash Narain. He spoke of remodelling
the Congress if necessary, but all this was very vague in his
mind. The truth was that Congress leaders were so full of
themselves in June 1947 that they could not look ahead.

* * *

As partition dominated the attainment of freedom, it was but logical that I should try and see the one man whose unceasing efforts had brought it about. He was Quaid-E-Azam Mohamed Ali Jinnah.

I first met Jinnah in 1938 at his Bombay house on Little
Gibbs Road, Malabar Hill, when he was looked upon as
somewhat of a heretic even by his own co-religionists. “Pakis¬
tan” was then nothing more than a word in a Moslem
League resolution, mocked at by the political pandits in the
country. Jinnah was at that time aware of his countrymen’s
mockery and if I read him rightly he seemed anxious to
convince those few who occasionally went to him for an
insight into this new idea.

The Jinnah of those days was politically not a self-possessed man, but a little unsure of himself, almost pleading for recognition for his cause. The one and a half hours I spent with him left me unconvinced that he would ever gather around him sufficient following and strength to make Pakistan an unchallengeable demand. He referred more than once that day to the justness of the Moslem cause but I failed to see at that time why all the justice the Moslems wanted could not come to them through men of unimpeachable character like Mahatma Gandhi and Pandit Nehru. There was moreover, I now confess, some doubt in my mind about Jinnah’s sincerity. I was inclined to believe that he was playing up to the British.

A whole year had passed after that first meeting with
Jinnah during which he floundered for recognition. Then
he came into the news again. The British had taken more
notice of him and I approached him once more for my
paper, then the Bombay Chronicle. My request was prompted
by his last words at the former meeting, which were: “Come
and see me whenever you want.” But in the year that had
passed Jinnah had changed. Perhaps the impatience in him
had been responsible for the change, but he was a bitter
man, very curt in his manner. The answer to my letter was
a discourteous note from his secretary saying that Mr. Jinnah
saw no purpose in giving an interview.

In New Delhi in June 1947 I tried again. His secretary, Khurshid, with whom I spoke on the ’phone, seemed more affable on this occasion. He thought Mr. Jinnah would like to see me. He would ring me back later. He did so. I was to see Jinnah four days later at ten o’clock in the morning.

Mr. Jinnah’s New Delhi residence was at 10, Aurangzeb
Road. When I called, I was shown into an ante-room where
I found him sitting on a green leather chair. A huge pile of
unopened telegrams lay on a footstool beside him. They
had come to him from all parts of the country, for the
attainment of Pakistan was a personal triumph for him.

Immaculately dressed in a China silk suit, a gay, well-
tailored striped shirt with a stiff turned-down collar, he
looked pale and tired. The strain of the last few years had
told on him. Now that he had won his cherished goal, the
restless energy which had impelled him all those years
seemed to have died down. The aftermath of victory was an
intense mental fatigue and he showed a desire to want to
relax at that moment, to take a breath before he launched
once again on the greater task which lay ahead. He was now
committed to the building of a new state from scratch.

An exuberance of emotion would have been understandable at that psychological moment but the Jinnah who received me that morning was calm and unruffled.

“You have come a long way since we first met at Little Gibbs Road/’ I said.

One had to concede him his achievement, however much
one differed from his politics and his ideology. The Congress
had always a galaxy of talent at their beck and call, but
Jinnah had worked single-handed. When the British made
any proposals, the Congress consulted whatever expert
opinion it needed. To help the Congress was regarded by
every patriotic Indian as the first article of his faith. But
Jinnah was his own adviser, his own economist, his own
financial genius, his own expert on partition, economics,
industry and on the manifold questions of administration,
franchise and constitution which arose on every such occa¬
sion. He was an organization unto himself. Everything that
happened in the name of the Moslem League really hap¬
pened in his own house, which was also his office, with just
a handful of secretaries doing the routine work for him. The
judgement and decisions of the Moslem League were really
those of Mohamed Ali Jinnah. Right or wrong, he had the
courage to make them. He had the allegiance of his people
to implement those decisions. The team spirit of the Moslem
League under the captaincy of Jinnah was one of the most
impressive achievements of the party. But for it, it is doubt¬
ful whether Pakistan would ever have come into being.

I was a little hesitant as to how he would receive me.
More than once I had written disparagingly of his deter¬
mination to divide what I considered to be my country and
my people. But Jinnah was the essence of courtesy that
morning. He seemed gracious in the hour of his triumph.

Then he began, “I want you to know that this is not to
be an interview in the ordinary sense of the word. The
questions you would ask me I will not be in a position to
answer. You will want to know what form and shape Paki¬
stan will take, what our policy will be on various matters.
It is too soon for me to give you any answer now. We have
only just begun.”

He picked up a cigar. I did not interrupt his thoughts,
for I wanted him to set the pace of this interview.

“There is an odd reason for my sending for you to-day. I

wanted to see you and tell you something I have been mean¬
ing to tell you for quite some time.”

1 thought I had it coming to me and that he wanted to
refer to my frequent criticisms of Pakistan in the columns
of the Bombay Chronicle.

But in slow, deliberate terms Jinnah said to me: “Your
heart has always been in unity and you have held a different
point of view from ours. I have read the things you have
written and while we differed all the way it was gratifying
to find someone on the other side who was able to see that
we too had a point of view. You fought hard against us but
I respected you because you wrote out of a conviction and
not for money.”

I was somewhat taken aback. Jinnah did not often in¬
dulge in compliments to those with whom he had political
differences. He put me a little off my stride.

I changed the subject then and asked him whether with
the coming of partition he would look back to India from
Pakistan or whether he would henceforth look the other
way—towards the pan-Islamic belt formed by Afghanistan,
Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and further on towards Turkey,
to Kurdistan and other Islamic areas.

Jinnah replied: “Don’t ask me these questions now. The
future will decide these issues. Right now we part friends
and we should remain friends.”

He then told me how Mahatma Gandhi had asked him
during the talks which broke down: “Can’t we put our
heads together and save the division?”

Jinnah continued: “How could it be saved? What ex¬
pression would Moslems have in a strong Hindu state? Any¬
how all that is finished now. All talk of saving the division
is behind us. Partition has now become a fact. We have to
accept it as such.”

When he spoke of the Indian Congress and its leaders, he
was intensely bitter. How he hated them! This bitterness
he had infused into the Moslems of India. It had been his
best political weapon. It had brought him Pakistan. But it
had also been the direct cause of the civil war which took
a heavy toll of innocent lives, Hindu, Moslem and Sikh.

Some of Jinnah’s observations on the Congress that day
left an indelible mark on my mind. He said: “There is no


real tolerance in them. They have no real desire to give and
take. It has to be a clear and clean parting, Karaka. It has
to be so. To my mind there is no other way. 1 mean it.”

There was emotion in his voice. In the stillness that
followed, he added in a soft, mellow, dejected voice: ‘ They
say it is my pride that has made me light for Pakistan. I
have no self-pride of that sort. I go to the humblest and
poorest people.”

“How many of the Moslems do you think you take with
you to Pakistan?” I asked him.

“As many as want to come.”

I told him I had seen Azad earlier that morning and that
Azad was confident that Sylhet would go with the Congress
but that of the North-West Frontier he was not too sure.

Jinnah gave a gentle mocking laugh.

“Which way would you vote if you were a Moslem?” he
asked me. He shook his head and I could read his thought.
The old Maulana is well-meaning but stupid, he seemed to
say. He did not say it of course.

“The Congress’s whole upbringing is like that,” he con¬
tinued. “They only see their own point of view and insist
that their point of view is the only one. Nothing anyone
says to the contrary will convince them that they are wrong.
Let us wait and see how Sylhet and the Frontier vote.”

Jinnah was right. Both areas voted solidly for him. But
Maulana Abul Kalam Azad became the Minister for Educa¬
tion in the new Indian government. It was the Congress’s
reward for his loyalty.

  • l

* # #

I met a lot of people on that visit to New Delhi; politi¬
cians, statesmen, newspapermen and men of the Services.
Many of these I had known in Europe, America, China,
Burma and in my own country. I had the advantage, there¬
fore, of not always being treated by them as just a casual

On a visit to the Imperial Secretariat, which is the nerve-
centre of the whole government, I walked through the
familiar corridors to see if I could find any change from the
old days. The same sepoys still sprawled on benches. The
same khush-khush curtains sprayed with water hung out-
28 X

side the office entrances, cooling the interiors in a primi¬
tive Indian way. A few rooms were now air-conditioned, but
the air-conditioning plants had been very sparingly given.

Perhaps the most conspicuous change was to be noticed
in the nameplates outside the offices. Sir Somebody-Some¬
body, K.C.S.I., K.B.E., was now replaced by some name
which carried no obvious glory. A few were pandits but the
greater majority were just plain Mister.

There were a few exceptions, for the old guard of Indians
who had served under the British was still there. One such
name was that of Sir Girjashankar Bajpai, who ranked as
“Special Officer” in the External Affairs department.

The case of Bajpai was interesting. I had seen him only a
few months ago in Washington when he was our Indian
Minister there with the rank of an ambassador. While hold¬
ing his many positions under the British rule—he was a
member of the Viceroy’s Council; he was our representative
in Burma; he was virtually our ambassador in the United
States, he attended the early meetings of the United Nations
—he had faced the most bitter comments from the very
Congress Ministers for whom he was now working. But
these British-trained brains had the experience, the broad
vision, which was indispensable to this new government of
our country. Ideologies alone could not run an administra¬

Bajpai called me in at once. He was glad to see me. He
knew what was in my mind and so answered my question
before I had even voiced it. He said: “I told them that if
they wanted me I was available in whatever capacity they
thought I could best serve the country. So here I am.” •

His job right then was to build the foundation of a
Foreign Service. He was Chairman of the Board of Selection
and interviewed hundreds of young men who aspired to be¬
come diplomats, consuls, and eventually, I suppose, ambas-.

I asked him what he thought of our younger generation,
assuming that the pick of them applied for the Foreign
Service. “They are a very uneven lot,” he replied. “They are
thinking emotionally, not rationally. Perhaps they are
affected by what has happened in the country; they show
an unrest of mind.”



Then I asked him what he thought of the future. I said:
“How do you think it will all work out? Do you really
think we are ready to govern ourselves?”

Bajpai was too wise to commit himself. He could not, in
his position, afford to make an unfavourable forecast. He
merely stressed in an official sort of way the need for making
the best possible effort. But, much as I tried, I did not
succeed in getting out of him a satisfactory answer to my
question: “Will the best possible effort be enough?”

I then asked him whether there was any likelihood of the
name of India being changed. Jinnah had chosen to call his
part of India Pakistan. He had also driven home his idea
that India was merely a geographical unit, and he was,
therefore, likely to take the stand that, as divided, it was
India no more. It was, moreover, becoming a fetish among
Indians to use Indian names for the familiar landmarks of
the British.

“Do you think we are likely to call ourselves Hindustan,
or by some other Indian name?”

“It would be a great mistake for us to change our name,”
he replied. “Since the war of 1914 we have been represented
in the League and everywhere in the world as India. If a
part secedes, the rest, even with its limitations, inherits the
international rights and obligations. These stand in the
name of India. Jinnah can take any name he likes, he
cannot make us change ours. There is, moreover, the prece¬
dent of Burma. Burma was originally part of India. When
it seceded in 1937 it had to obtain its own international
recognition, but India was not affected.”

I wondered how long Sir Girjashankar Bajpai, with his
years of connexion with the British, would last out in these
khaddar-c lad Gandhi-capped, anti-British surroundings. I
think Bajpai himself could not have forecast his future on
that day. But, contrary to all expectations, he has gone on
to become the Secretary General of the External Affairs
Department, the right-hand man of Pandit Nehru in
Foreign Affairs. I wonder if he ever kept a scrap-book of
the days when he served the British.

One thing had not changed in that Lutyens-built imperial
secretariat. The new rulers had walked in and taken over
the red-tape-bound files left by the British. The atmosphere

3 °

was lethargic and heavy. The little men who worked in
these big rooms were still afraid to make a decision and to
act. To those who had always been little opportunists the
transfer of power was only another opportunity.

Later that afternoon I ran into that colourful figure, the
goatee-bearded Sardar Pannikar. He was the Dewan (Chief
Minister) of Bikaneer, an Indian State with a ruling prince.
Pannikar had been a professional prime minister and his
services had been made use of by more than one Indian
prince. He, therefore, had the India of the Indian princes
absolutely taped. He knew their weaknesses, their constitu¬
tional positions, their intrigues and complications—the
whole set-up of princely India.

There were, before the partition, 93,000,000 people in the
various states of India. Sixty-three million of these lived in
seventeen states. The other 30,000,000 were divided be¬
tween the petty monarchies which had been glorified into
sovereign states, mostly because the British relied on these
little sovereigns to keep their little areas in order. The
British idea was to dot the land with loyal outposts.

Pannikar was fascinating to listen to as he talked of
Indian princes of the eighteenth century and of how this
unique position arose between them and the British. During
the half century from the invasion of Nadirshah in 1738 to
the days of Warren Hastings, who had laid early founda¬
tions of British rule,, every state was the prey of marauding
brigands, called pindaras. The Nawab of Tonk established
himself as the head of the pindaras and brigandry became
an organized profession, run on almost respectable lines.
It was at that time that the Vizier of Oudh wrote to
Warren Hastings and asked for protection from these

Such was the crude origin from which sprang the rela¬
tionship between the Indian princes and the British. As the
British obtained more control over the country they co¬
ordinated these various indigenous states into a separate
entity called Indian India, to be distinguished from British
India over which the British ruled absolutely. In theory the
princes were sovereigns over their own plot of land but
were strengthened by and owed allegiance to what they
called “the paramount power”. That was the constitutional


position. In actual practice the Resident or the Political
Agent in every Indian state, who represented the British,
was the power behind the throne.

Pannikar had foresight. He realized sooner than many of
the princes the absolute need for these Indian princes to
accede to the Indian Union or to Pakistan, even though in
theory it was agreed that, when the British quit, the indi¬
vidual princes would become sovereign powers. Pannikar’s
realism, his quick summing up of Congress policy as he
thought it would evolve towards the states in the future,
his shrewdness in realizing that it was better to save a part
of their power than eventually to have to give up the whole,
were in refreshing contrast to the hopes and ambitions of
some of the princes. One of them, with a state the size of a
back garden, had said to me: “If Lithuania can exist as an
individual state, why cannot I?”

Sardar Pannikar and I talked often in the lounge of our
hotel. These talks were off the record. He is now our am¬
bassador to China, and his opinions will have to remain off
the record. #

Here again was a man who had worked and been trained
by association with the British and who was to be called
upon by the Indian government to represent our country
abroad. No one at that time would have believed that such
a thing could happen under the Congress, for the Congress
was all too sure of the ability of its party personnel to
govern the land from end to end with men from its own
party. But in that week in Delhi when I had put up Sardar
Pannikar’s name as a possible diplomatic representative of
ours the knowledgeable men in the Congress had laughed
out my suggestion.

With the importance that had suddenly been focused on
the Moslem League, the editor of Dawn, the organ of the
League, naturally evoked u certain news interest. Dawn was
about the only paper the Moslem League had; at that time
just four badly-printed sheets.

I found the editor, Altaf Hussain, in his apartment in a
middle-class tenement on the outskirts of the city. He was
wearing a lungi, which is wrapped around the body as one
would a bath towel. He wore a green bush shirt on top. He
was a Moslem from Bengal, intensely earnest, wearing

glasses and without a trace of humour in his expression.
Perhaps his earnestness was due to the importance his paper
had suddenly assumed. Perhaps the seriousness came natur¬
ally to him.

The editor of Dawn visualized no difficulties about the
future of Pakistan. He was also sure that the link with India
would continue. “Trains still run from Dacca to Delhi,” he
said. “There is no reason why they should not continue to
do so in the future.”

Moslem Leaguers, like the Congressmen, were all too sure
of themselves. Nothing could go wrong with India or Paki¬
stan once the British had gone and power had come into
Indian or Moslem hands. It was not as if these spokesmen
of the two dominions had any particular faith in their
people. They had not. They were too conscious of the
people’s backwardness, their illiteracy, their lack of charac¬
ter. Their confidence was in themselves, in their ability to
dominate the country and the people with the power they
inherited from the British. They were hell-bent on estab¬
lishing a democracy even if its establishment entailed a
provisional dictatorship.

It was difficult to paint the New Delhi scene in one single
colour or with an even brush. On the dance floor of the
Chelmsford Club I saw an old Sikh of over sixty years of
age dancing with a rosary in his hand. His paunch stuck
out of his long coat. Diamond s added buttons ran down
his curved front. They told me he was a wealthy contractor
who had made his money out of army contracts.

Near Pandit Nehru’s residence on York Road I saw a
beggar sprawled, too weary to beg.

Outside General Thimayya’s residence on Roberts Road
I saw a night watchman, bamboo in hand. There were
blood-stains on his scanty clothe A tuft of hair sprouted
from his headtop. It was his she? l (Hindu caste-mark). He
was a Gujjer from Gulgaon, north of Delhi, where serious
disturbances had taken place.

In the garden of the Imperial Hotel I saw Hindus and
Moslems sitting round little tables, sipping whisky and talk¬
ing glibly of the future.

In the swimming pool of a well-known club there were a
few Sikhs happily swimming, beards, long hair and all.

» S3

Their hair-oil glistened on the water as if a pipe-line had
leaked nearby.

At Air India’s main booking office in Connaught Circus a
few well-to-do Moslem families sat anxiously waiting for
their call.

I saw the poorer refugees gather around New Delhi
Central station. Anguish was writ across their hungry faces.
A question mark hung on their knitted brows. They seemed
afraid of the sunlight as children are of the dark.

They were, in their different ways, all moving towards


Bombay, August 14TH, 1947.

There was something different about that August morn¬
ing. I could feel it as I lay in bed in the small hours be¬
tween sleeping and waking. It was our last day of bondage.
I counted the hours that were to pass before we became
free people in the eyes of the world.

The day itself was a normal working day like any other
we had known. It was the thought of the morrow which
made it so exciting.

From early in the afternoon a brisk movement was notice¬
able in the streets. There were sounds of festivity in the air.
It was difficult not to be conscious of the moment towards
which we were moving, “At the stroke of midnight”, Nehru
had said, “a new India will be born.”

It was nearly 5.30 when I finished my day’s work, cleared
my table of all the grievances and grouses that pour into a
newspaper office, and said good-bye to my colleagues. More
than a day was ending; an era was soon to pass away. We
would meet again in a new land, even though geographic¬
ally it was to be the same. The impact of freedom appeared
to make that difference.

The crowds of office workers returning home were gay.
On government offices, some of the larger commercial
houses, the Secretariat, and the big hotels, a handful of
workmen were putting the finishing touches to the illumina¬
tions. Floral arches spanned the main thoroughfares.
Festoons were strung across streets and lanes. Colourful
bunting and streamers waved everywhere. The smaller roads
and by-lanes had been swept clean of the usual litter of

Huge, lumbering lorries with full loads of workmen
rolled past. Slogans flew in the air. From one of these
lorries they greeted me lustily and for a moment I won¬
dered why. Then my eyes fell on the PRESS label stuck on

the windscreen of my car, and at the same time I heard
them shout “Long live the Pressmen who kept our fight
alive.” The people were in a mood to cheer. Everyone was

The vehicular traffic moved slowly along the crowded
streets for all were returning home. That evening they
would bathe and anoint themselves as for a holy fiesta.
Caste and out-caste, capitalist and labourer, city man and
peasant all had the same idea.

As I came home I smelt the smell of rich Indian food.
My servants told me they were grouping together for a little
celebration of their own. They had pooled their rations,
bought chickens for a pillau and a large salmon which was
dressed with onion and garlic.

As I bathed and changed for the evening I took stock of
the years that had passed and recounted the days of the
struggle, the anguish of our people, the hopes and fears
which had punctuated this great, non-violent movement for

My mind went back to my schooldays, when I had first
learnt how India had passed into subjugation with the
granting of the Charter to the East India Company by
Queen Elizabeth. The Battle of Plassey accelerated the pro¬
cess whereby a commercial nation gained control of a
country which was almost a continent and were able to lord
it over a people who numbered one-fifth of the world.

My mind went back to the events and men who had
made this day possible for us. From Dadabhoy Nowroji,
one of the first crusaders for freedom, to Mohandas Karam-
chand Gandhi, some of the finest of India’s sons had dedi¬
cated their lives to the cause of freedom. They had endured
physical chastisement, spiritual bludgeoning and had
suffered humiliation and privation so that this country of
ours could be free.

It was a Scotsman or, as we called him, a “Britisher” who
helped pave the way, an ex-secretary of the Home and
Revenue Department, Mr. Allan Octavius Hume, who,
ironically enough, was responsible for starting an institu¬
tion “to promote a better understanding between natives
and whites”. The institution was to become the Indian
National Congress. This was in 1885.


At the turn of the century there came the great Maharash¬
trian, Tilak, who first raised the cry of swaraj, a word which
was to inflame young men with patriotic enthusiasm and
conjure up a vision which was their inspiration.

Then came Gokhale, Motilal Nehru and his son Jawa-
harlal. Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya, Lala Lajpat Rai,
Mohamed Ali and his brother Shaukat Ali, Vithalbhai Patel
and his brother Vallabbhai, Srinivasa Shastri and a whole
galaxy of Indian personalities who played their parts in this
non-violent revolution.

In 1942, climaxing half a century of battling for freedom,
Mahatma Gandhi, who had by then given this revolution its
distinctive shape, decided upon another movement calling
upon the British to quit. The two words “Quit India”
sounded the death-knell of British imperialism.

All that seemed past and over. The fight was done.

That night I dined at the Taj Mahal Hotel. The Mayor
of Bombay was my host. Ours was just a private party like
many others in the room. At our table was a young Moslem
Begum, a Hindu Congressman, a Parsi jeweller, a Polish
Jew and his English wife, an American couple, Nehru’s
younger sister, a couple of newspapermen, one of whom
was my host’s son, and an industrial magnate—the half-
French, half-Indian head of Tatas.

As it neared midnight, when the room would be dark¬
ened and the new flag illuminated, they called me forward
to say a few words. I moved to the dais and said: “To-day
we join the community of the free people of the world.
The flag which was once the symbol of rebellion has
become the flag of the people. Let us hope that under it
this country of ours will find peace, dignity and greatness

As the lights came on, free Indians greeted each other
with fond embraces, not knowing in the excitement what
was the correct greeting of the moment. I noticed an elderly
Hindu, wearing a red and gold turban, joining his hands in
namaskar and bowing humbly to the flag. Then he sat
down in his chair and wept.

Outside the streets were chock-a-block with people. That
wide open space between the Taj Mahal Hotel and the
Gateway of India was one solid mass. The bright lights of


the illuminations fell on them. From the harbour the ships
were throwing searchlights on the land. So freedom came—
like all the New Years rolled up in one!

What a night that was!—with the crowds refusing to go
home, with men in dinner jackets dancing with men in
dhotis, with Englishmen cheerily singing Auld Lang Syne,
with Gandhi caps being tossed into the air and British
army berets perched on Indian heads, with Indians speak¬
ing pidgin English and Englishmen replying in equally bad
Hindustani, with Indian women, not many years out of
purdah, caring little who saw their faces, with the hotel
band leaving their rostrum to play to the crowds below, and
the crowds yelling “Jai Hind ” to the tune of Tipperary. So
the night passed—one long mad hour with the shouting
dying as the morning light came.

With the dawn there came the more sober realization of
the greatness of the day. It was raining heavily till late in
the afternoon when there was a great parade of elephants
and horses, tanks and guns, followed by men, women and
little children. Thousands of people walked in a procession
from Gowalia Tank to the tune of “God Bless the Prince
of Wales”. Probably too embarrassed to play “God Save
The King” the band apparently decided to settle for the
non-existent Prince of Wales. It was the spirit that mattered,
not the technicality! In the first flush of freedom, flags were
hoisted upside down and sometimes even at half mast. No
one seemed to care for little details like these.

It was the same all over the city and what was happening
in our town was happening all over the country.

In Delhi, as the great day approached, the enthusiasm
and excitement grew. Then, for some inexplicable reason, a
religious spirit spread over the capital. Time magazine in
its report said: “As the great day approached, the Indians
thanked their various gods and rejoiced with prayers,
poems, hymns and songs.”

Even Pandit Nehru, who had never been known to fre¬
quent the temples or to indulge in much religious ceremony,
consented to have the blessings of the religious pandits.
From Tanjore there came emissaries of the head priest of


the Sanyasis, an order of Hindu ascetics. It was traditional
in ancient India to derive power and authority from the
holy men. Pandit Nehru yielded to all this religious cere¬
mony because it was said of old of the kings of India that
this was the traditional way of assuming power. The mood
of New Delhi had become almost superstitious.

In the evening the priests walked ahead of these religious
processions. They carried the sceptre, the holy water which
they had brought with them from Tanjore, and rice. They
laid their gifts at the feet of the Prime Minister. Holy ash
was marked on the Pandit’s forehead and the priests gave
him their blessings.

Later, at the house of the President of the Constituent
Assembly, Dr. Rajendra Prasad, who was also President of
the Congress, Pandit Nehru sat round a holy fire; around
it the women of the house were chanting hymns. The
oldest woman among them made an auspicious tilli mark
on the forehead of all the ministers and constitution-

All then left for the Constituent Assembly hall which was
gaily decorated in saffron, white and green, for the occasion.
Here Pandit Nehru said: “Years ago we made a tryst with
destiny and now the time comes when we shall redeem our
pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially.
At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps,
India will awaken to life and freedom.”

“At exactly the twelfth chime a conch shell, traditional
herald of the dawn, raucously sounded through the Cham¬
ber. Members of the Constituent Assembly arose, pledged
themselves to the service of the people. . . . Delhi’s thou¬
sands rejoiced. The town was gay with orange, white and
green. Bullocks’ and horses’ legs were painted in the new
national colours and silk merchants sold tri-coloured sarees.
Triumphant light blazed everywhere, even in the bhangi
(untouchable) quarter. Candles and oil lamps flickered
brightly in houses that had never before seen an artificial
light. The government did not want anyone to be unhappy
on India’s independence day.” 1

In the general celebrations that followed, all political
prisoners, including Communists, were freed. All death sen-

1 Time magazine.


tences were commuted to life imprisonment, and all
slaughter-houses were closed. Little children were given free
sweets and there were fireworks for them all over the

The grace shown by Britain in handing over the reins of
power was reciprocated with like grace by the common man
of India who, forgetting a political fight of a quarter of a
century, rose to the occasion and gave Lord Mountbatten,
the representative of the British in India, a cheer reserved
only for our own leaders. They shouted in a great roar
which echoed through the capital “Mountbatten ki jai”. It
was a singular honour for an Englishman in India.

Mountbatten had earned this for himself with his polished
diplomacy, his compelling sincerity and his courage in im¬
plementing the British pledge. Human contacts came natur¬
ally to him. In two months he had won over not only the
Congress and the Moslem League; he had also succeeded in
converting the Tory diehards of England.

Soon after the Constituent Assembly broke up, Jawaharlal
Nehru and Dr. Rajendra Prasad went over to Lord Mount¬
batten and asked him if he would consent to become India’s
first Governor General, so that thirty-two minutes after
Mountbatten had ceased to be Viceroy of India he became
free India’s first Governor General.

In spectacular fashion the Mountbattens drove through
the Delhi crowds in their open carriage, drawn by six bay
horses. Normally a Viceroy was only to be seen from a
distance, and certainly never touched by the people, but on
this occasion the people crowded around Mountbatten’s
slowly moving carriage and they shook hands with him all
the way. Two little Indian urchins seemed to live in a fairy
tale as they drove in the same carriage with the King’s

No one, however, was oblivious of the fact that the chief
architect of our country’s freedom, Mahatma Gandhi, was
not to be found in the capital. He was in troubled Calcutta
on that day, mourning because India had been divided.
That very morning he had moved into the Moslem quarter
of Calcutta to bring courage and strength to this suffering
minority. He spent the day in fasting and in prayer. Angry
Hindus stoned his house and broke up his prayer meeting

because of the harbour his presence was giving to the

Sadly he remarked: “If you still prefer to use violence,
remove me. It will not be me but my corpse that will be
taken away from here.”

“For this disillusioned father of Indian independence,”
Time magazine remarked, “there might be some consolation
in the rare cry he heard from Moslem lips, ‘Mahatma
Gandhi zindabad .’ ”

But the sombre note which Gandhi struck died amidst
the bursts of fireworks, the singing, the bells and the conch
shells. There seemed to be an atmospheric change all over
the country, like the smell of earth after the first showers of
rain. Freedom had come to four hundred million people,
three hundred million in India and one hundred million
in Pakistan. From every flagmast in the country now flew
the tricolour of the free Indian people—the flag of deep
saffron and dark green with the white central belt and the
dark blue charka (wheel) in the centre, a replica of Asoka’s
wheel of Sarnath. Asoka was a great king who lived in the
golden era of Indian history, when India was closest to
being a nation, whole and strong. The flag was, therefore,
associated with the tradition of the land. The three colours
once formed the flag of the Indian National Congress. The
one difference was that the spinning-wheel had given place
to the wheel of Asoka.

This had been a point of much controversy. The spin¬
ning-wheel was introduced by Gandhi for the economic
betterment of the villagers. It had become the symbol of
the poverty-stricken masses of the country and spinning,
which had its justification primarily in economics, became
the symbol of the nation’s fight for freedom.

Gandhi took a stubborn stand for the retention of the
spinning-wheel on the Indian national flag and threatened
that he would not salute a flag of the Indian nation that
did not bear it. It was a powerful threat in a country in
which every whim and word of his was a commandment and
his every fad an article of faith. But the main difficulty in
the way of the retention of the spinning-wheel was an
heraldic imperfection because a flag had to look the same
from either side and obviously the spinning-wheel would
b* 41

not. The situation was becoming rather ridiculous when
Gandhi climbed down and agreed to respect a national flag
with Asoka’s wheel instead of his spinning-wheel.

There were many who found it difficult to salute the flag
for other reasons. For decades, the stooges and minions of
British imperialism had treated the same Congress flag with
contempt and scorned the principles for which it stood.
The rough-shod feet of many an insignificant policeman
had trampled it underfoot and many a policeman had
wielded the lathi on the heads of those who had been so
ill-advised as to hoist it. Now they had to march past the
same flag and salute it.

In the darkest days of the struggle, any head that wore a
Gandhi cap was fair game for a hard-hitting minion of the
law. Then the Gandhi cap signified revolt against constitu¬
tional authority. With independence, that coarse white cap
of hand-spun cloth became the badge of authority.

In every government office there were people who had
served the British loyally, looking upon Congressmen as up¬
starts. They honestly believed in the benefits of British
administration and looked upon those who fought for
freedom as enemies of the peace of the country.

They had ridiculed the movement for freedom and never
dreamed that the British would surrender the country to the
malcontents. Now they who had believed that Swaraj was a
fantasy and a madman’s dream which could never be
realized found themselves confronted with the reality of
freedom. It was not easy for these loyal servants of the
British to adjust their minds to this historical phenomenon.

There were houses in the land which had become divided
against themselves in the course of the struggle. Old faiths
died hard and many of the older generation who had
never felt the stirrings of patriotism had found it difficult
to accept this young madness for self-government. Freedom
was anarchy to them, and many were the fears they had for
the future. But in that dawn of freedom, it was difficult
even for these men of little faith to fail to respond to the
general enthusiasm. The idea of freedom was beautiful and

But that day, which witnessed the consummation of a
long struggle for freedom, saw too the tragedy of a rupture
4 *

within the nation. A people who had battled together
against a common enemy, moved by the same pulsations of
patriotism and the same vision of freedom, were now to be
divided. A country that was one through long centuries of
historical development and by virtue of geographical
frontiers was to be artificially bisected into two dominions.

Partition was unnatural. Geographically the country was
indivisible and by historical association the two communi¬
ties were inseparable. Their cultures had nourished each
other so long that they were indistinguishable. Now a
frontier would have to be created, tearing through bonds of
association. Not the surgeon’s healing knife but the but¬
cher’s destructive axe would be in operation. The country
would be disrupted, the orderly threads of four hundred
million human lives, which were interwoven to form the
fabric of India, would be torn.

Like a nightmare, one could see the tragedy of division,
the chaos it would bring and the violence it was likely to
entail. All along the frontier people would have to strike
their tents, gather up their belongings and emigrate to the
side of the frontier to which they were consigned. The
frontier question woiild be a bloody one.

But the uncertainty of the future was overshadowed by
the present. We had faith that those who had led us from
slavery to freedom would now lead us to peace. We thought
over the dangers that were past and lost the fear of the
perils ahead.

There was Gandhi who had lighted the path to freedom
when all around was dark and everything seemed lost.

There were Nehru and Vallabbhai Patel and many others
who had caught the sparks of Gandhi’s teachings and in
whose hearts burned the same fire, tried, proven leaders of
the masses.

There was the Congress which these selfless men had built
tier by tier with their sacrifice, an institution of altruistic
national service. The Congress which had been the spear¬
head of our people’s struggle for freedom would now guard
the freedom we had won. The leadership that had seen us
through so many dangers would not fail us.

The faith of our three hundred million people was
centred in the Congress.




Late one evening in September, a month after freedom,
the phone rang in my house.

“I am Captain -,” a man’s voice said. “I have just

come down from the North with a special message for you.
I am to deliver it to you in person.”

“From whom is the message?” I asked.

“I’d rather not say on the phone. It is a very urgent
matter and if you can spare a little time now. I’ll come
round at once.”

I saw the Captain later that same evening. “Things are
happening in the Punjab,” the Captain said, “of which no
one, except those on the spot, can have any possible idea.
Some of the senior men in the army feel that someone like
you, who is unbiased on the communal 1 issue, should be
sent for to see things for himself and to tell it to our people.
It is something unbelievable. Thousands on both sides of
the frontier are just being wiped out every day. It is an
undeclared civil war.”

I asked him whether the invitation came officially from
the Army.

“No,” he replied. “That would involve permission from
the government and I don’t think the government would
like to ask the Press over.”

1 The word “communal” is used in India differently from its
normal dictionary usage. “Communal” in the dictionary suggests
the coming together of communities. In India it is applied to
differentiate one community from the other; it implies segrega¬
tion, separation, antipathy. It is the Indian usage of the word
which is adopted in this book. When one speaks of communal
dining rooms or messes, it means those reserved for one or the
other community only. Likewise, communal cricket means cricket
in which teams which oppose each other are drawn exclusively
from one or the other community. Communal riots are riots
caused by feelings roused by one community against the other.
The communal question is one which arises out of this “ex-
clusivist” attitude. It is used with the same sort of meaning as
“the racial question”.


“Are there no Pressmen there?”

“Officially none. But in your case arrangements will be
made to fly you in. It would be easier if you wore khaki—
your war correspondent’s uniform. It is in fact advisable for
your personal safety.”

It was a very nice compliment to be singled out for an
assignment like this.

I asked him for his identity card and his movement con¬
trol order, both of which he produced. I told him I was
ready to leave as soon as he could make the necessary

We left the following day for New Delhi. Here I was put
on a military plane bound for Amritsar, which was on our
side of the Punjab. Military planes were the only form of
transport which could reach this scene of civil war.

The young Air Force officers were no strangers to me. I
had hitch-hiked on their planes often during the Burma
campaign. These personal contacts were to be my only pass¬
port in this part of the world where all forms of organized
government had ceased to exist. Here there was only chaos
which the Army and the Air Force were trying desperately
hard to sort out.

Amritsar was the holy city of the Sikhs, nine miles from
the border. I reached it a little before noon on Monday.
From the airfield I went straight to the headquarters of the
Military Evacuation Organization (MEO) over which pre¬
sided the colourful figure of a turbaned Sikh, General
Chimini. I told the General how I had come there and
asked for his co-operation, which he readily gave.

“You had better have an escort too,” he said. “Ill arrange
that for you. It’s all right around H.Q. because that is
heavily guarded but I should not go very far without an
escort. It just isn’t safe right now. Life has no value here.”

So I got myself fitted up with an escort, with transport,
and a roof over my head. A kind Indian family offered to
put me up in their home.

As I drove into the city I passed the first of the refugee
camps I was to see. There were some 40,000 people in that
camp, a colossal figure I thought. Later I was to find that
this number was just a flea-bite, for some 3,000,000 people
were on the road.


The stench which came from this refugee camp was over¬
powering. It was the stench of decay, disease and death. I
held my nose.

The people in these camps were our own people, the
Indians of our new dominion. Herded like cattle, they had
come many long miles on foot across the border.’ They had
fled to us in search of safety.

At the edge of the road they undid their pyjamas and
relieved themselves unashamed. Forty thousand people
could hardly be expected to wait for adequate sanitary
arrangements. Nature did not stop for governments to func¬
tion. The smell of urine permeated the air. There was a
surplus of filth with which no one could cope.

I was in a jeep with a strapping Sikh Colonel. He shook
his head in despair. “The stench of freedom,” he mourn¬
fully said. “It has come to my holy city.”

I knew this stench. I had smelt it first at Belsen when the
Allied forces liberated that Nazi concentration camp. We
said then that all Germans were guilty of that crime. The
Germans wept and said they did not know. We said that
ignorance of those horrors was no excuse. We called the
Germans swine.

Much the same charge would be levelled against our
people, I thought, if the curtain was not lifted on the hap¬
penings in the two Punjabs. The Punjab had been cut
into two by the partition; East Punjab was part of India,
West Punjab belonged to Pakistan. A few seemed to know,
but no one had told our people what was really happening
there. The Indian Press was content to play its usual sub¬
missive role.

Our newspapers had played down the story of the Punjab
to a point where it became inaccurate and almost untrue.
What was virtually a war of extermination between the

Hindus and the Sikhs on one side and the Moslems on the


other—an undeclared civil war, as the Captain had called
it—our editors called “disturbances”. The places where
thousands of innocent people had been butchered had been
called “dangerously disturbed areas”. On the ground that
the spreading of the news would affect other areas, the
Indian Press volunteered to blackout the news.

The “Call to Peace” issued by the editors of Bombav was


an example of the fatuousness in which the Indian Press
indulged. Their appeal read:

“The distressing events that have been occurring in the
city during the last few days have caused pain and suffering
to thousands of innocent citizens. It is the innermost desire
of everyone that peaceful conditions should be restored im¬
mediately. . . . We, the editors representing the Press in
Bombay, earnestly appeal that every endeavour should be
made to end these outbursts of violence. . .

The appeal was pointless, for none of the papers in which
it appeared could reach any of the areas in which Hindus
and Moslems were killing each other.

As the British were no longer in power there seemed no
justification for whitewashing our own shortcomings. We
had only to answer to ourselves.

Moreover, the hands of the Nehru government were clean
with regard to this civil war. Its faults were its acts of
omission but not of commission. Perhaps it should have
foreseen the dangers involved in such an artificial partition¬
ing of what had been for years a single unit. Perhaps it
should have asked the British to guarantee that the parti¬
tion would not involve the chaos which it did. Perhaps it
was difficult for anyone to have foreseen that the exchange
of population would involve so many human beings. Why
then was our government afraid of telling the truth to the
people? I failed to see why the Indian Press did not pin¬
point the guilt on to the instigators of this crime and de¬
pravity in the Punjab, who had brought about a situation
which was bleeding the Punjab white.

While Britain honoured its pledges on August 15th, 1947,
and gave to my country its freedom, the fact remained that
many of those Englishmen who were left behind to carry
out the details of the transfer of power did not share the
enthusiasm of His Majesty’s government or of the British
people over the decision to quit India.

They rather begrudged it.

They resented that this country, which had been their
preserve for over 150 years, should be handed over lock,
stock and barrel to the “natives”. After being the over-
lords in India they resented having to fade into insignifi¬
cance in some English suburb.



One can only judge individual guilt in retrospect. But,
even now, those who viewed the Punjab closely are con¬
scious of the part played by some of the civilian officials
and military officers in allowing the situation to develop
as it did. Significant was the fact that the province of the
Punjab had been ruled, not governed, for nine months prior
to the outbreak of the civil war, under emergency powers
wielded by a governor. Democratic government, therefore,
was never given a fair chance to function in this vitally
crucial area.

The effect of these disruptive bureaucratic elements could,
however, have been neutralized had it not been for the
presence on that same scene at the same time of various
communal organizations, whose fundamental creeds were
based on mutually exclusive religious ideas.

In the West Punjab the Moslem League had its National
Guards, which were reminiscent of the Nazi SS. They wore
uniforms. They were constantly being drilled. They were
encouraged to carry arms, which were secretly supplied to
them by their sympathizers. They were the armed wing of
the Moslem League and the League counted upon them as
a state would count upon its soldiers.

On our side, in the East Punjab, the Sikhs had their
Shahidi Dal and the Hindus had their armed wing of the
Hindu Mahasabha which was called the Rashtriya Swayam-
sewak Sangh. That mouthful stood for “Saviours of the
Motherland”. They were more familiarly known by their
initials R.S.S.

The origin of the R.S.S. throws some light on its character.
Twenty-five years ago a handful of misguided young Brah¬
mins from Maharashtra in western and central India gath¬
ered in a dingy room in the old city of Nagpur around a
Dr. Hedgewar, an ex-student of the Calcutta National
Medical College. Hedgewar was once a Congressman. He
had also been a terrorist.

The immediate problem which these young men were dis¬
cussing that day was how best to defend themselves against
the Moslems during the recurring communal riots in which,
despite their numbers, they were the losers. Areas being so
congested Hindu music was bound to be played near
Moslem mosques, and riots were therefore bound to keep

recurring. To the R.S.S. way of thinking it was more im¬
portant that Hindu musicians and drummers be protected
from the infuriated Moslem worshippers who, knife in
hand, ran out of their mosque, than that their ritual music
be sacrificed for communal harmony.

Hedgewar promised all this and much more. If the
Hindus could muster their physical, cultural and spiritual
resources, the whole of India could be theirs, he told them.
He drilled a handful of these young Hindu boys, called the
“Akhadas”, taught them how to wrestle, swing lathis and
spears. The foundation of the R.S.S. was laid.

1957 saw Hindu-Moslem riots break out in Nagpur again.
On this occasion the R.S.S. went into action. With fire in
their bellies, courage in their hearts and strength in their
arms, the Hindus fought and drove the Moslems back. They
regarded it as the first feather in their caps.

The sporadic outbreaks of Hindu-Moslem riots which
occurred in India over a period of years provided the am¬
bitious Hedgewar with fertile soil in which to plant the
seeds of his fanatical Hinduism. The idea of restoring India
to her pristine glory satisfied the ego of frustrated middle-
class young Hindus and they took to the R.S.S. with fanat¬
ical fervour. Military parades and uniforms were intro¬
duced. Hedgewar became the self-appointed dictator. He
was called by the impressive title of Sar Sangh Chalak—a
sort of commander-in-chief.

The R.S.S. spread to the remotest corner of the country.
Patient and dogged, ruthless in purpose, Hedgewar made
their ranks swell to 25,000 by 1935. But the R.S.S. always
remained a secret organization. At the head of the hierarchy
was the Sar Sangh Chalak, der Fuehrer. There followed the
various other party ranks each with an orthodox Sanskrit
title: Vibhag Sangh Chalak, Prant Sangh Chalak (Pro¬
vincial Commander) and so on. The R.S.S. army was divided
into platoons of twenty-five each under a Patha Shikshak
(Platoon Commander) assisted by a Saha Shikshak. Each
order had a Boudhik who taught them the doctrine of the
Sangh. Volunteers paid from their own pockets for their

The oath of the R.S.S. to which the men pledged them¬
selves ran:


“With reverence to my ancestors and the Bhagwa Jhenda
(the flag), I hereby pledge that I have become a member of
the Rashtriya Swayamsewak (R.S.S.) for the protection of
Hindu dharma (religion), Hindu culture and Hindu society,
with all my abilities, physical, financial and spiritual ”

The finances of the Sangh were naturally a closely guarded
secret. But it lived on the support of the Hindu feudal
lords, the Hindu capitalists and some of the Hindu princes.
The men of the R.S.S. did not believe in thinking for
themselves. Theirs was not to ask how or why. Their duty
was to be ready to do or die. Loyalty to leader and death
in defence of the dharma were considered the most sacred
duties of every R.S.S. man.

In 1940 Hedgewar died, leaving his deputy, Golwalkar,
in sole charge of the Sangh. The total membership was by
then estimated as more than half a million.

These various organizations, the Hindu R.S.S., the Mos¬
lem National Guards, the Sikh Shahidi Dal, had made it
their business to equip themselves with arms, which they
had secured from various sources and by which they hoped
one day to play the same vital role in usurping power for
their community in India as the Nazi SS had done for the
herrenvolk in Germany. The important difference was that
in Germany there was only one SS, but in a single province
of India, the Punjab, three rival organizations with con¬
flicting ideologies were arming themselves illicitly for der
tag. So that when the respective dominion governments
assumed power on August 15th, they found that in one area
alone they had to fight on a four-pronged front. Inside the
administration they had to fight three fanatically communal

Already the relations between the two governments—of
India and Pakistan—had been strained over the partition
issue. Their hurried attempts to patch up their differences
were of no avail. The bitterness had gone too deep to be
handled by exchange of courtesies. The Hindu who had his
hearth and home in the Punjab hated the Moslem for what
he had done to his life, his people, his peace and happiness.
The Moslem who had lived all his life in India hated being
treated as a pariah dog in Hindu India. The partition,

5 °

therefore, created a new community. Its people were “refu¬

These were some of the factors behind the scenes which
our government glossed over, not wanting to apportion the
blame. Moreover, according to the arrangement arrived at
between the government and the Indian Press, the names of
the communities were to be left out from Press reports of
the “disturbances”, making these reports as unintelligible
as possible.

This attitude of the government and the Indian Press did
not find favour with Mahatma Gandhi who wrote in his
paper the Harijan : “There seems to me to be no reason for
this hush-hush policy save that it is a legacy from the auto¬
cracy which, let us hope, the national governments have
displaced. Those who ought not to know, know who stabs
whom. And those who should know are kept in the dark. . . .
Let darkness be exposed to light. It will be dispelled

This higher journalism was not practised by our nation¬
alist editors who had appropriated the trusteeship of en¬
lightening the people. This was the first encroachment on
the right of the people to have access to the truth. It was
the first act of surrender of the freedom of the Press.

A sample of these “disturbances”, which Indian editors
never saw, presented itself to me at Amritsar almost as soon
as I arrived. A train had arrived at Amritsar Station that
same day. It had brought Hindu refugees from the West
Punjab. This train had been attacked by Moslems three
times on its way out of Pakistan. The escorting Moslem
guards could do but little. From the scanty stragglers who
survived when the train finally steamed into Amritsar the
casualties were judged to be 2,000. The train was met by
Miss Mridula Sarabhai, daughter of a millionaire mill-mag¬
nate, who had devoted her life to social work. She was
Pandit Nehru’s personal representative at Amritsar, working
closely with the Military Evacuation Organization. The
train was also seen by Phil Talbot, a responsible and con¬
servative U.S. correspondent.

Later that same day, going in the opposite direction from
India into Pakistan was another train which also stopped at
Amritsar Station. Because of its peculiar geographical posi-

5 1

tion and its proximity to the border Amritsar had become
a sort of clearing-house for refugees from the two adjoining
dominions. In retaliation for the attack on the Hindu trains,
the Indians at Amritsar, who were largely Sikhs, had tam¬
pered with the rail tracks and de-routed the Moslem train
to a shunting near the Khalsa College where a large mob of
armed Sikhs lay in hiding in uninhabited, burnt-down
houses and attacked the Moslem train for forty solid minutes
before any military help could reach the spot.

The Sikh mob was estimated at 5,000 strong when the
attack was on. The men in hiding had given a signal upon
which every available Sikh in the neighbourhood came upon
the scene. The Moslems on the train, approximating 3,000,
had consisted of men, women and children. Their slaughter
took place late at night, and when the Army arrived a few
hours later there were only some 200 wounded and dazed
people left out of that number.

The casualties included a British commissioned officer,
and two Gurkha soldiers who formed part of the Indian
escort on the train. These men were killed by the mob.
Four other Gurkhas were captured by the Sikhs and no one
knew what had become of them. These Gurkhas were taken
for having given protection to the Moslems, even though
they were only carrying out our government’s orders. Our
Army had to escort the outgoing refugees.

The train was shunted back early next morning from
Khalsa College to the main Amritsar station. It was now
heavily guarded. When I got to the platform I was asked to
be most careful in the event of a mob rush by the surviving
Moslems. A Sten-gun and a pistol gave me cover. But there
appeared to be no danger from these people who lay
sprawled on the platform too dazed to realize what had
happened. Frightened at my presence with my escorts, these
poor people begged to be spared their lives. They thought I
had come to shoot them.

The 2,000-odd bodies of the dead were still in the train.
There were ten to fifteen in each compartment. Men, women
and children lay dead in the most ghastly positions, flung
on the floor, sprawled on their trunks, huddled in corners.
Many of them were naked, for their clothes had been ripped
off their dead bodies. Many a head and hand lay dismem-
5 *

bered from the rest of the body. The attackers wasted no
time in getting at the ornaments. Heads also lay cracked as
if with a huge nut-cracker. Stomachs were ripped open or
pierced. Mouths gaped wide in horror, fear and pain. The
platform and the railway carriages dripped with blood. The
stench of the dead was so strong that the sentries on duty
had cotton pads soaked in carbolic tied to their noses. The
score of murder on each train was about equal. More people
were killed at Amritsar on those two trains than General
Dyer had killed in Jallianwala Baug twenty-eight years ago,
over which we moaned and squealed.

Who were all these people who were dying like flies all
over Amritsar now? Whether Hindu or Moslem, they were
still our own people. They were poor, unarmed, defenceless
peasants. Their only crime was that they happened to
belong to a different religion from those who butchered
them. They were in the main homeless refugees running
away from one side of the border to the other. Most of them
were completely illiterate. They certainly had no political
consciousness, and had never been concerned with issues
like partition and boundaries, with democracy and freedom.
They were unknown to the world as individuals. They
were only counted in hundreds and thousands as one
counted heads of cattle.

# * #

Our government spokesmen often referred to “marauding
bands” as if these bands were a normal feature of our
Indian life. No one attempted to explain how these bands
were suddenly to be found in our midst and how they had
had access to arms and ammunition in such abundance.

It now transpires that long before August 15th unlicensed
arms were freely distributed by interested parties. In at
least one case so much ammunition was removed from a
certain arsenal in India that a mock fire had to be staged in
order to cover the inexplicable disappearance of arms. It is
also common knowledge that the training of armed bands
was encouraged by certain Indian princes, chiefly in the
Northern states, who believed that with the moving out of
the British there might be an opportunity to revive the
monarchies of ancient India. A regular traffic in arms was


going on, conducted at its source by both British and
Indian gun-runners. These gun-runners were moving about
in the best of our social circles, were seen at the best of our
clubs, hotels and even in the homes of the men who were
our leaders.

Our leaders discounted stories which appeared in the
Press about this gun-running. They called it yellow journal¬
ism. Meanwhile, our own soldiers, defending the refugees,
were being killed by modern automatic firearms. The only
people who were disarmed by government were the law-
abiding. In the streets of Amritsar, within sight of the police
and the military, ferocious-looking Sikhs carried threaten¬
ing kirpans (long swords) and bhalas, which were short
spears tied to nine-foot bamboo sticks. But in Bombay, the
Chief Justice of the High Court, Sir Leonard Stone, had to
get special dispensation from the Home Department to be
able to carry a walking stick. It did not make sense.

It was said that the Sikhs had to have their kirpans on
religious grounds. No tenet of the Sikh religion could ever
have justified what the same “religious” Sikhs did with these
“holy” kirpans.

Indians first began to carry these unlicensed arms and to
make ammunition soon after the “Quit India” resolution of
the Congress in 1942. An undercurrent of violent opposition
to British rule gained ground in the country. It by-passed
the old method of resistance, which was to be non-violent
and passive. Sections of the nationalist movement encour¬
aged this short cut to freedom. The frustrated docile indi¬
vidual, the humble bank clerk, began to rip up seats in
railway carriages as an expression of his demand for free¬
dom. With freedom won, it was now difficult to get these
same people out of the habit of lawlessness which they had
been encouraged to form. A people awakened do not rest
until all their hungers are appeased.

* # #

“Smashed jaws, burst eyes, fractured limbs, crippled men,
women and children are a kind of political argument that
the twentieth century does not expect,” the Statesman said
about the Calcutta killings in 1946. This was one whole
year before the civil war broke out in the Punjab.


.411 that happened in Calcutta in 1946 should have been
a warning to the first free government of the two dominions
which came into existence in 1947. Instead, many an in¬
flammatory speech made by accredited Congress and Moslem
leaders, even after the carnage began, fanned communal
antipathy on more than one occasion, and neither govern¬
ment discredited these speeches or the persons who made
them. The men who came into power in these two domin¬
ions had not got used to the idea that they were now two
responsible governments, distinct from being two rival
parties as in the days of the British.

One cannot toy with illiterate masses indefinitely and
rouse them with inflammatory speeches and then expect
them to switch off the fire kindled in them. Some of our own
leaders, therefore, must take their full share of blame for
the undeclared civil war. If a few of them subsequently
changed their tone it was merely because they felt some¬
what guilty that the blood of innocents was on their

Soon there came a stage when in parts of the Punjab all
organized forms of law, order and government came to an
end. In several places only the law of the jungle prevailed.
There were no human values left, no morality, not even the
barest human decency. A fast and furious deterioration had
set in.

In one of the local refugee camps a son was known to
have disowned his dead mother. The old woman had died
of cholera. The son sat beside her and watched her die. The
woman was covered with a blanket, her only worldly pos¬
session. When she was dead, the son picked up the blanket
from her body and walked away to another part of the
camp. To his way of thinking he now had a load less to
bear and a garment more with which to cover himself. When
the corpse disposal corps arrived on the scene to carry away
the dead mother, the boy denied that he ever knew her. He
was afraid they would take the blanket away.

Such a thing has never happened in India before. These
were the values which came with the civil war-—the “dis¬

Our Indian government promised to give the people more
than they had received from the British. The people now


cried: “Give us even a roof over our head; give us only a
bowl of rice; give us at least the safety of our lives.”

The great Indian leaders could not give it to them. The
truth was that they had not got anything to give. They had
gambled for power with the lives of innocent people. Now
these little innocent lives were paying the price of that

On the little airstrip at Adampur near Jullundur in East
Punjab, I saw three Sikhs wandering aimlessly. They came
up to us when they saw our Dakota land. They had never
seen an aeroplane in their lives and wondered at this great
bird which could even carry people.

The three Sikhs carried a small bundle at the end of the
long bamboo which rested on the shoulder. It could not
have weighed more than a pound. It represented what each
had rescued before he fled. It was their all in all.

The youngest of the three had a piece of paper in his
hand—a sheet torn from an ordinary exercise book. On that
sheet he had got someone who could write to put down the
items he had lost—two cows, a plough, a house, a wife, two
children, ornaments, etc. Against each item, he had marked
a price, obviously the cost of replacement, including that of
his wife and children. The total figure of the loss came to
the round figure of Rs. 4,500 (roughly 1,500 dollars or £300).
I asked him what he was going to do with this sheet of
paper. He said he was going to present it to his government.

“Which government?” I asked.

“My government,” he replied.

The Air Force men who had gathered round us, listening
to his talk, stood speechless. The Sikh looked at our faces
one by one, for he sensed that his words had caused a
silence. Then he muttered something to me in his dialect
which I could not follow. One of the Air Force men trans¬
lated it to me. The peasant had said: “Could you tell me
where I can find this government to present my claim?”

I told him I did not know.

Time and again Pandit Nehru, Sardar Patel and Mr.
Jinnah had pledged their governments to safeguard the
minorities. Of what use were these pledges uttered at high
level in the two dominion capitals when neither government
had the means to make them good?


I never thought a day would come when there would not
be a single Moslem in a major Indian city of the north.
That day came when I was in Amritsar. No Moslem had a
hope of being alive in that fanatically Sikh stronghold.
Similarly, across the border in the city of Lahore, no Sikh
had a dog’s chance in the midst of the Moslems. Yet not
long ago Moslems and Sikhs had moved about freely with
each other.

When the position of the minorities had deteriorated so
far, when lawlessness and murder stalked the land, when
the average civilian had no police to turn to for protection,
it was a little too much to expect our people to rely on
safeguards uttered by men who wisely lived far from the

I also never thought a day would come when I would
have to enter a part of my erstwhile homeland, now the land
of my neighbours, under the protection of a machine-gun,
a Sten gun and a rifle. Yet that is how I entered Lahore.

I was in a jeep driven by a Hindu Brigadier who was
second in command to the General. I ran into the Brigadier
at the airport that evening and he offered to take me into
Lahore (Pakistan) right away. I jumped at his offer and soon
we were speeding down the Amritsar-Lahore road. It was a
little before sundown; soon it would be dark and there was
no telling who might take a shot at us on the road.

Ten years ago I had driven along this same road without
any fear in my heart of Moslem, Hindu or Sikh. It was the
week of Christmas, I remember. A crisp cold wind blew on
my face. The world was at peace then. Now the mood had
changed. This was no festive season. The hundreds of
thousands of refugees who had walked this road in the last
few weeks had left their tears along it.

For the first time I came to a frontier inside the land of
my birth. I was feeling a sense of insecurity, even though
our heavy escort was in deadly earnest.

We came to the frontier posts. First our own, at which we
were smartly saluted. We drove on. The fifty yards ahead
were no man’s land, then came the Pakistan frontier. Mili¬
tary cars and personnel had right of way without hindrance,
so we drove on with only a formal salute from the Moslem
guard, grudgingly given. From a truck-load of Moslem


refugees entering their new homeland came feeble shouts
of “Pakistant zindabad” (Long live Pakistan). There was a
sigh in their tired voices.

It was darkening fast and when we reached the outskirts
of Lahore the city lights were on. As we were all in army
uniforms, we were a normal sight on this road. Our nation¬
ality did not obtrude. No one took much notice of us, except
when in traffic our jeep slowed down. But as I looked over
my shoulder at the three Indian soldiers who gave us cover,
I could see their fingers move nearer to the trigger.

I asked the Brigadier why we needed so much protection.
“It is better this way,” he said. “It is better to proclaim the
fact that we are fully armed. No one would try any nonsense
once they see the Bren. I like to show it to them. So peace is
easier held.”

We now reached the residential area and the moon was
rising in the sky. How beautiful this part of the country
looked! This was the granary of India now torn away from
us. We drove along the Upper Mall and turned into the
imposing entrance of a huge estate, the former Residency,
acres and acres of ground which once housed the Resident
of the Punjab states. The property was now requisitioned
by the Pakistan army for its senior personnel.

The Brigadier, being the Indian liaison officer to Paki¬
stan, had a bungalow on this estate. We went in, washed
and then went straight to a near-by mess for dinner.

We turned in early that night. We were very tired. I
could hear the footsteps of the guards pacing up and down
the verandah, giving us cover through the night. The Briga¬
dier had told me these Maharatta guards were so good not
even a rat could get through. I was not sure what he meant
by a rat.

As I lay in bed I thought to myself: “When the British
were here we were a nation in bondage. Now our nation is
free but as individuals our people know no freedom at all.
They are not free to move about their own land with any
measure of safety, much less to move about in those parts of
the country in which they are in a minority. They are not
free from hunger, from fear, from all the scourges remi¬
niscent of our bondage. What is the use of this theoretical
freedom when we cannot realize the substance?”

5 8

Individuals seemed to have little meaning on this Punjab
scene. Even groups in the lesser thousands were unim¬
portant. One spoke vaguely of a refugee problem but few
of us could visualize what it really meant. We said the
masses were involved, but how many people were “the

Roughly speaking, it is now estimated, the Punjab refugee
problem involved 10,000,000 people, the total of both sides.
The proportion of east-going refugees was slightly higher
than those going west, which was understandable in view of
the difference in population figures of the communities in¬
volved. The proportion of Hindu to Moslem was roughly
three to one.

The Brigadier told me that as on that day about 5,000,000
people were still on the wrong side of the border. These
were very rough figures, for in the chaos which existed there
was no means of estimating figures accurately. The situation
was still too fluid and in any case it seemed to make very
little difference to anyone if the figure was half a million
less or more. The only safety man knew was the protection
of his God.

There were three main ways in which refugees were
moved; by military trucks, which regrettably were very few;
by civilian transport; and on foot. M.E.O. confided to me
the disgraceful fact that the government had only been able
to mobilize 206 army trucks, during the critical first weeks,
with which to evacuate 10,000,000 people. And yet it is
estimated that during the war there were 31,000 army trucks
in this country. What became of them? Where were they

On the way to Poona, iso miles from Bombay, I had seen
a whole army depot full of trucks rotting and idle. On
Marine Drive, by the sea face in Bombay, army trucks could
be seen still lying in their original packing cases. Trucks
could be found outside the Taj Mahal hotel in Bombay
and the Imperial in New Delhi, transporting men in uni¬
forms and dinner jackets and women in pretty evening
dresses. The advertising columns of our newspapers bore
evidence to the thousands of these trucks which were sold in
disposals auctions.

Yet in the hour of crisis, when the lives of ten million


people were involved, the government of India could only
raise 206 from the whole country.

I found out later that many of these trucks were sold and
shipped by Indian firms to the Dutch in Indonesia, and that
our government had given the permission and the necessary
export licence to allow them to be so shipped. And we were
the people who sympathized with the “downtrodden Indo¬

Civilian forms of transport were likewise limited. They
were requisitioned from the area itself and therefore hardly
sufficed to meet the emergency: The bulk of refugees, there¬
fore, were compelled to move on foot and it was those foot
convoys which formed the crux of the refugee problem.
They provided the most fantastic scenes.

At one time a single convoy is said to have measured
seventy-two miles in length. It came across the Sutlej river
towards India. Some 90,000 people were seen trudging or
riding in bullock carts. Those who saw this convoy said it
was an unbelievable sight. Later, for the sake of control, it
was broken up into smaller and more compact concentra¬

One of these huge convoys was reported to have arrived
at the Balloki headworks some thirty-six miles north-west of
Lahore. The Brigadier was to meet it the next day. I was
going with him. (

Early next morning a cup of sweetened army tea was
brought in by a batman who clicked a salute. Soon we were
shaved and washed and on the road to the headworks. There
was little traffic on the road that morning. Occasionally we
saw Moslems with bundles on their back walking in the
same direction as we were driving. They had just come over
the frontier and were pushing on away from the city to¬
wards the fields in search of an abandoned house in which
they could make a new home for themselves. They never
looked up from the road. They were engrossed in their

The Balloki headworks were atop the Balloki dam. On
the other side of the drawbridge was the convoy. We could
smell it a mile away.

The bridge had been closed, for arrangements had not
been made for escorting half a million across the more

dangerous Moslem-populated tracks. Packed like sardines
this refugee column stretched fifteen miles. The great
majority were on foot, some rode in bullock carts, a few rode
on horses bareback. Many of these people had been on the
road for two weeks. Those at the top of the queue had
waited over a week for their turn to cross. Yet no cinema
queue could have been more orderly. Each day only a few
thousand were allowed over.

We drove several miles through the convoy. There was
just enough room between the bullock carts and the people
for our jeep to pass. That day I must have seen over
100,000 people. Their faces read like open books, telling me
more than they could have said in words. It was a saga of

I saw three corpses being carried away, the corpse-bearers
brushing past our jeep. They were victims of cholera, I was
told. Only these dead knew what it was to be at peace with
the world.

This convoy was mainly of Sikh peasants and their
families, a strong, sturdy type. Some of their women were
very fair with well-formed bodies and well-chiselled features.
The men were bearded and wore long hair. They looked at
us silently. The women would sometimes sneak a glance
and then shyly turn away. The kids followed our jeep. For
them it was just a big holiday.

With cholera taking a heavy toll, the need for vaccines
became very urgent. The people in the convoy were so re¬
sourceful they were willing to undertake vaccinating their
whole crowd of half a million, if only vaccines were made
available to them. “We have the syringes,” an old V.C.O.
said to the Brigadier. “Just send us the vaccines. That’s all
we ask.”

The Brigadier promised he would do as much as he could.
They believed him. “Now we have our own government,”
one of the men said. “They will send us help if you tell them
of our plight. Our people are dying here. Soon winter will
come. The old won’t stand the road any more.”

The Brigadier bade them have courage.

“Courage we have or else we’d never have been here.
Sahib, courage we have and faith in God.”

Two hours later when we turned back towards Lahore.


the Brigadier broke the silence and said: “What a price to
pay for our freedom! ”

He drove on for a while and turned to me again and said:
“You’d better go straight back to Amritsar. Nobody be¬
lieves half a million people can be on the road. These
vaccines—they must have them. Tell them to send me what
they can. To-morrow morning if possible. I’ll run them
down. Then go back soon to your paper and print all this
you have seen. Nobody knows what’s really happening here.’’

I knew then vaccines meant more to these people than my
story meant to me, so I went to Amritsar the same evening.
The Army was pleased to have news of this Balloki Head
convoy which they had seen only from the air. They made
notes of all I was able to tell them. The SOS for vaccines
was immediately taken up by the Colonel in charge. The
Army’s medical officers gathered round the Colonel’s table.
They said they had been trying all day to locate the civil
authorities to whom, according to a message from New
Delhi, the vaccines had been sent.

Do you think a Civil Officer could be found in Amritsar at
7 p.m.? It was a hopeless search. Office hours were from
9 to 5. So it had been in the days of the British. So it was
now. An administration worked according to rules and regu¬
lations no matter what the emergency.

I left the Colonel to his work, drove back to the house
where I lodged. My host was glad to see me back. He was
anxious for me as I had gone away without leaving a word.

Back at ten that night, the lights were still burning in
HQ. The Colonel was deep in his files. The younger men
around him were still locating those vaccines. The frustra¬
tion they felt was written on their tired faces. They could
do nothing without the vaccine. Here they were, working
sixteen hours a day without a break, trying to save the lives
of people and there was not an ampoule of vaccine to be
had. Red tape required that vaccines for refugees should not
be sent to the Army. The Army could only indent for vac¬
cines for Army personnel. Refugees were civilian personnel.
Vaccine for refugees, therefore, had to go through “the
proper channels”. Two urgent Service messages to New
Delhi that night produced the laconic reply: “LARGE

AMRITSAR—-AWAIT ARRIVAL/’ But no one on the
civii side could tell the Army where that vaccine was.

About eleven that night the Colonel and I went over to
the club next door for dinner. The General joined us there.
We ate curried lamb and chappatis sitting round a table on
the tennis court. All else was quiet for a while. Only the
wail of the hungry came from the refugee camps in the dis¬
tance. Their sighs dropped like dew all through the night.

The next morning they took me over in a Dakota to look
at the convoy concentrations from the air. It had rained
heavily in certain areas the whole night. We flew low, often
at only 300 feet, though this was strictly against all regula¬
tions. But reconnaissance demanded the low flight, so the
boys flew low.

From the air we saw whole convoys flooded out by the
heavy rains. We could see the people living knee deep in
water. With winter approaching many would just perish ot
cold and hunger. The plight of these millions was worsen
ing daily. The meagre ration of food they had brought with
them was fast diminishing. They had no hope of any more
food until they crossed the border. Each government was
preserving food for its own incoming refugees. There was
little to spare for those who were going away.

Meanwhile, owing to the exodus, the crops had rotted
on many a field in that erstwhile granary of ours. I was sure
that for a long while there would be no harvest here, foi
nature does not sprout on blood-soaked fields. In the prov¬
ince richest in crops there appeared to be every likelihood
of a famine.

Shortage of food, however, was the least of the refugees’
hardships. In certain places, refugee trains had even been
denied a drink of water. In the first year of our freedom
men, women and children had died of thirst because water
had been denied to them in a communal war. In one known
instance a man in a train wet his parched lips with the
blood of his murdered fellow passengers.

Such a thing had never happened in my country before.

The atrocities committed on women and children were
the most horrible. Sworn statements, corroborated evidence,
the testimony of witnesses, collected by rehabilitation officers,
will some day reveal to what depths of degradation our

6 3


people sank. Sadism never expressed itself so filthily as in
the two Punjabs where I saw with my own eyes women
walking on the roads with blood on their salvars (trousers).
Those who were raped have been many and there were
many thousands who did not live to tell their tale.

Raping was not all. The perverted mind of man expressed
itself in many ways. Dhanwantri, a reliable Indian social
worker, in a pamphlet Bleeding Punjab Warns said:

“Hundreds of Moslem women were raped and abducted
from Amritsar. There was even public raping of women.
All humanity, all chivalry and decency seems to have gone.”

That was on our side. Across the border, the same things
were happening. Dhanwantri said:

“In the streets of Sialkot, Sikh and Hindu women were
paraded naked in public and mass raping took place, the
same as in Amritsar. The same thing was repeated in Sheika-
pura, where parents killed their own daughters to save them
from dishonour.”

There were several thousands of women, of whom many
were young girls, who had no male relative or any relative
they could find. Agents and pimps were already operating
in these areas of the Punjab, buying girls as in the old
Roman slave markets.

As I looked down through the window of the Dakota I
could see on the ground below the dots and dashes which
were our people—the free people of our new self-governed
dominion—trudging along hard, sunbaked roads, hungry
and parched, with their packs on their backs, dazed by the
suddenness of it all, not knowing what the future held for
them, away from the land they had lived on and loved—the
flotsam and jetsam of a shipwreck washed on to strange
shores. They could start a fresh life but they could never
pick up the threads they had dropped. They would have to
weave the patterns of their life anew.

Over the drone of the engine I could hear the old, British
mocking laugh. Across the sky, which was dark and fore¬
boding, I could see a South African finger of scorn.

That was my last day in Amritsar, for I decided I could
do better work from the columns of the Press.

Early next morning I hopped a plane which took me to
the capital. I landed at the military aerodrome at Palam. I

hitch-hiked into town, for there was no scheduled bus-service,
no taxis or trams. I rushed to Air India’s booking office only
to be told that not a seat was available for thirteen days. I
hopped a taxi to the airport. The boys of Air India put me
on a plane. By evening I was back home, only to find that
the Bombay newspapers were still speaking of the “disturb¬

“The City police have launched a fresh campaign against
the sutta (illegal gambling) evil in Bombay,” read a front
page news-item in the evening’s paper.

That night I went for drinks to Ed and Lee Clarke’s.

For the first time in thirty-six years I got drunk.






A new class of Indian now emerged on the Indian scene.
He was the khaddar- clad, Gandhi-capped, black-marketeer-
ing patriot.

When the government of India, by a demonetization
ordinance, recalled from circulation the high-denomination
notes of Rs. 1,000 and over, a very severe blow was intended
to be struck at those who had hoarded their black-market
gains in these notes. In declaring them, the holders had to
say how they came in possession of them. The object of the
government was twofold: one, to catch the culprits of illegal
transactions; two, to get them for evading income-tax.

The black-marketeers regarded this as rather rough treat¬
ment coming from their own government, and countered
the move by finding buyers for their notes at approximately
700 rupees for every thousand. A lot of brisk trading went
on and queues of people who had never seen a 1,000-rupee
note in their lives were found declaring one or two which
they all said they had won at the races the week before. No
questions were asked of these little individuals for the
government was after the big sharks, not the shrimps and
tiddlers. In this .way a large majority of these notes was re¬
converted at a small loss to the large holders.

Then at last the notes went off the market. The time limit
had expired. The business in them was over.

One day a man called on me whom I knew but slightly.
He was a dealer in one of the more profitable black-market
lines. He had a story of bad luck to tell me and as I was “a
man with a good heart” he thought I might induce one of
“my many influential friends” to help an ‘‘unfortunate
friend of his”.

‘‘What’s it all about?” I asked.

“Well, it’s like this,” he said. “You remember that the
government recalled high denomination notes?”

“Yes, but that was six months ago.”

“Well, this friend of mine forgot to cash a few of his


notes. Unluckily he completely forgot about them. Now he
doesn’t know what to do with them. I thought that with all
the people you know you could arrange to have them
changed for him.”

I told him it was very simple. All his friend had to do
was to put his case before the Reserve Bank and explain
how it happened. I felt sure the authorities would convert
the notes for him, for it was never the intention of the
government to deprive absent-minded and forgetful or old
people of the odd notes they might have tucked away in the
years gone by.

“How much is it?” I casually asked.

“Quite a bit,” he said. “That is why it is so unfortunate
. . . eh . . . about three hundred thousand rupees in all.”

“Three lacs! ” I exclaimed in surprise. “How can a man
forget to cash three lacs of rupees?”

“Oh, he genuinely forgot. That much I can swear.”

“But how can any man forget to cash such a large sum?
It’s just ridiculous.”

“You see, a lot of people made lacs and crores of rupees
during the war. He was one of them. Now there was no
point in making all this money when the income tax would
take it all away. So you could not bank it. It had to be kept
in cash in the house. This friend of mine made over three
crores (thirty million) rupees. How was he to keep it? What
he did was this: every time he made two, three or five lacs
of rupees he would buy a little tin money box and fill it up
with high denomination notes, and he would hide the box
somewhere in his house. Some of these boxes were kept at
home, a few in his office, in cupboards, under the bed and in
all sorts of places where people least suspected money would
be kept. When the ordinance came, my friend brought out
these money boxes in order to convert the notes. In all the
excitement he forgot about one of these money boxes. This
is the one which contains these notes. He only discovered
the box a week ago.”

“That is bad luck,” I ventured, but my sarcasm was lost,
for he earnestly agreed with my remark.

We then got down to brass tacks. The proposition, as put
to me, ran somewhat as follows: that I find one of my
“influential” friends to undo the bad luck at half price. He


was not concerned with the methods I would use, he was
merely concerned with the cash. “Five hundred rupees for
a thousand is a very fair offer,” he added.

I asked him then what use these notes would be to any
man who bought them.

It was then that I learnt that almost anything could be
done if one knew the right people. It was only because he
and his friend were “poor, insignificant individuals” that
they found it difficult to get away with these transactions,
which were only technically incorrect! He knew people were
doing it all the time in certain high circles. He told me that
a certain bank manager on the morning of the demonetiza¬
tion ordinance had rung up some of his better clientele to
inform them that if he could be of any assistance to them in
changing these notes, they should not hesitate to ask. He
told me that a certain maharajah was converting notes for
his friends through the state treasury and that a certain high
priest was declaring them as religious property.

“How do you think, Mr. Karaka, all these Congress
patriots, who have had no big business for the last twenty
years, are suddenly able to live in such an expensive manner
and to become big business men overnight?”

“Are you suggesting,” I asked, “that all these men who
helped the fight for freedom are now trading in patriotism?”

“There are, of course, many exceptions, but the facts
speak for themselves. Otherwise where did all this money
come from?”

That was the first time my attention was drawn to the
presence in our midst of this new type of business man, the
one who traded in nationalism, patriotism and like com¬




The year had just turned. It was now January 1948. The
fury of the civii war was abating and the first hesitant signs
of confidence were manifest in the life of the country. The
blood-thirst of communal hatred seemed quenched. Some
sanity had come to our people. Perhaps they had had
enough of killings. The chaos had only caused more hunger,
more suffering, and the average man was rallying round the
tottering pillars of law and order, for in that way alone
there seemed to be a hope of salvation.

In Bengal, which had been the scene of the most bitter
communal hatred, Mahatma Gandhi had wrought “what
was virtually a miracle”. The words were those of Ian
Stephens, editor of The Statesman, in a personal letter tome.
To such an enlightened man as the editor of The Statesman
it seemed inexplicable in any other way, for the situation
Mahatma Gandhi had tackled was no ordinary political
crisis. It was a holy war.

From that mission in Bengal, Mahatma Gandhi had come
to New Delhi which was now humming with political
activity and intrigue. There was a “gold rush” in New Delhi
and every opportunist was on the scene for his share of the
loot. Post-dated cheques on the Bank of Sacrifice were now
being presented. Patriots were cashing in.

Gandhi stood aloof from this sordid scene. Living in the
palatial New Delhi residence of the multi-millionaire Birla,
he built a wall of seclusion around himself. He disentangled
himself from the routine of administrative detail and sat
down quietly to plan the future for the country and the
Congress. He was concerned with principles on which the
new India was to be founded, not with the appointments of
individuals. He had, moreover, dedicated himself to the
greater task of bridging the widening gulf between the brute
majority, conscious of its brute force, and the frightened
minorities. Peace was his goal, but not the artificial peace
enforced by the police and the military at the point of the


sword. To make this peace possible he became an even more
resolute champion of the underdog and the minority. He
took upon himself the delicate task of pointing a finger at
some of his own followers. He exposed their religious
hypocrisy, of w r hich he had by then become aware. While
in no way minimizing the atrocities committed by Moslems
in Pakistan on the trapped and fleeing Hindus, he brought
to light the not-so-well-known fact that the Hindus and
Sikhs in India had been equally cowardly with regard to the
Moslem minorities trapped here. Gandhi had persisted in
defending the Moslems without relenting. Likewise, at the
prayer meetings which he heid every evening—a ritual of
his later years—he continued to include recitations from the
Koran , the holy book of the Moslems, side by side with reci¬
tations from the Bhagwad Gita, the Hindu scripture. To
Gandhi God was universal and therefore prayers too,
whether Hindu or Moslem, were beyond political differences.

But the rank and file of unenlightened Hindus did not
share that higher thinking of his. To them the Mahatma’s
behaviour appeared somewhat tactless and impolitic. But
giving in to this section of Hindus would have ushered in
mob rule in the place of order and government.

As a result of these repeated challenges to Mahatma
Gandhi’s utterances and actions, he was advised to take
greater care of his person. The government of India offered
him the necessary protection, an armed personal escort. But
Gandhi would not agree to be shadowed. He had climbed
to the pinnacle of public acclaim by the sheer love of the
people and he could not, consistently with his own beliefs,
now depend for his safety on weapons and armed guards
whose very existence he despised. To accept armed protec¬
tion would have made a mockery of his whole struggle, his
ideals, his non-violence, his theory of “Love conquers all”.

The first sign of danger was the explosion of a crude
bomb at one of his prayer meetings in Birla House. The
hand behind it was that of the R.S.S. which was making a
desperate bid for power in the chaos that prevailed. Un¬
fortunately the Congress ministers in some of the provinces
and in the capital had not taken the R.S.S. sufficiently
seriously. For instance, in Amritsar in the worst days of the
civil war, when public meetings were banned and when

even the Congress volunteers working for restoration of law
and order were forbidden to gather, I saw the R.S.S, hold a
rally some 5,000 strong. This rally took place not more than
a quarter of a mile from the army HQ. I remember an army
officer pointing out the absurdity of such a rally being
allowed by the civil administration when it was at these
R.S.S. rallies that the germ of communal hatred was being
sown. Again, in Bombay, a provincial government, which
had refused permission to a harmless meeting of secondary
school teachers, gave special dispensation to the R.S.S. to
hold a rally.

The inference could thus be drawn that either the Con¬
gress was too sure of its influence over the masses and too
smug about its newly-acquired power and therefore dis¬
missed too lightly the danger underlying the existence of a
body like the R.S.S., or—which was also likely—certain sec¬
tions of the Congress, overtly pledged to suppress all forms
of communalism, were secretly encouraging the Hindu bias
which was the driving force of the R.S.S.

The real Hindu fanatics of the R.S.S., who thought no
price was too high to pay for a Hindu-dominated state, were
aware of this secret sympathy towards them. They traded on
the soft spots in the administration, and so became more
confident that they could operate unchallenged to achieve
their goal. It made the planning of a campaign of pan-
Hinduism easier. They even threatened Mahatma Gandhi
and challenged his sympathy and understanding of the Mos¬
lems at many a R.S.S. meeting. They miscalculated the de¬
termination of Mahatma Gandhi, however, for he refused to
change because of their threats. Misguidedly, also, the R.S.S.
became so confident of themselves and of the influence they
were gaining in parts of the country that they believed that
in a clash, even with the Mahatma, they would now be able
to carry the country with them and exterminate the Moslems
and their sympathizers.

The assassination of Mahatma Gandhi followed. It was
the direct result of the leniency given to the R.S.S. by the
government itself. The government of Bombay now found
it difficult to laugh off the permission it had given to the
R.S.S. when it had denied it to the secondary school teachers.
And the fact emerged that more than one member of that


government had been warned by a Bombay college professor
ot the plot to assassinate the Mahatma. This professor came
and told me a few months later how he had gone personally
to them and informed them of the conversation which he is
alleged to have had with these young R.S.S. men who were
said to have confided their political goal to him. As a reward
for his timely warning, the professor was threatened with

So it happened, as the professor had said; a Hindu fanatic,
a member of the R.S.S., travelled all the way from the
Bombay province to the capital and went to the evening
prayer meeting at Birla House. As Mahatma Gandhi walked
through the garden, leaning on the shoulders of two of his
granddaughters, the assailant stepped forward, drew out a
pistol and fired three shots at point blank range. Mahatma
Gandhi fell and in a few moments, with the name of God
on his lips, he died. The blood from his frail body dripped
on to the land he had made free. Mohandas Karamchand
Gandhi, father of the nation and chief architect of its free¬
dom, died at the hands of an ungrateful countryman of his.
The arch-apostle of non-violence had fallen a victim to

* # * *

More than a man had passed away on that cold January
evening in the capital city of India. The years of struggle,
in which he had groomed, mobilized and led a nation to
freedom, had ended. When he had fulfilled his destiny, he
was swept away from the sordid Indian political scene in
circumstances which compelled the attention of the world.

At one stroke the curtain was lifted in the minds of men,
revealing the power of this frail little man, so often por-
– trayed in a loin cloth, a halter in his hand. His struggle for
freedom had, through the years, drawn together the various
strands of our national, political and economic life.

At first it appeared as though he had only been a political
force in the country. It was in politics that he first made
his mark. He was the original agitator against the racial
discrimination which the Indian experienced in South
Africa. He was then only a lawyer with a brief. Gradually
he became a crusader, urged by a righteousness which be-

came a cause. Later he came to India to see the wider im¬
plications of that same discrimination meted out to his
people in their own land. He felt the frustration of being
ineffective, battling against the might and power of an
empire. He felt his spirit being defeated when at the early
stages the people regarded him as something of a crank be¬
cause of the odd things he said and did and preached. To
achieve his political objectives he made salt by the seashore;
he fasted; he stripped himself of his normal attire and went
round the country in a loin cloth; he evolved a cap to which
he gave special political significance and decreed that home-
spun should be the only garment worn. These seemingly
futile ideas were the raw material of his movement of
passive resistance with which he hoped to overthrow the
British raj.

All this came to pass. His people made salt by the sea¬
shore to resist the salt tax; each time he fasted he gained his
point; he revealed the growing power he wielded; his scanty
attire made him a symbol of the poverty of his people;
khaddar and the Gandhi-cap came to be regarded as the
symbol of resistance to the British.

By 1921 the national movement had gathered a momentum
the pulse of which could be felt all through the country.
To the various political demands which Indians made in a
haphazard manner, he brought a sense of cohesion. He uni¬
fied and united the various communities, sects and religions
into a people. He showed the British government the power
that was gathering behind him. He dared to hoist the tri¬
colour of the Indian National Congress in places where only
the Union Jack had flown before. With his passive resist¬
ance and his capacity to endure the brutal report of the
administration he broke through the smug complacency of
the raj. In time he created a permanent spirit of resistance
towards the British in India. It was this spirit of resistance,
which he nurtured and kept alive through the various civil
disobedience movements, which made it possible for us to
achieve independence in our lifetime.

Mistakes he made, and many. He had himself referred to
his “Himalayan blunders”. His more severe critics could
enumerate a number of occasions on which he missed his
opportunity. They could point to his inherent limitations.

r* 19

He had been out-pointed in many an encounter. More
astute statesmen had scored easily oil him. At the Round
Table Conference in London he was almost a misfit and his
performance was classed as mediocre, for he was ill-equipped
with facts and figures and his arguments were too easily
demolished by those on the other side. At the conference
table of the world Mahatma Gandhi did not carry the
weight which he did with his people at home. He lacked
not only showmanship and personality, but also the back¬
ground and material which others had who represented
their countries at such conferences. The trouble was that
Gandhi was part saint, part politician and part naked fakir .
Yet India still clung to him for, more than any other Indian
of our time, it was Mahatma Gandhi who created in the
Indians a realization of their inferior political status and
gave expression to the urge for freedom which arose within
them. That was his basic worth. His judgement on several
points of individual detail may have been wrong, but the
main direction which he gave to the people, the sincerity
with which he gave it and his unrelenting perseverance to
reach his goal were the most powerful factors which brought
about our eventual liberation. Rightly, therefore, when he
died w r as he called “Father of the Nation”.

To men of cold logic, there were many inconsistencies in
Gandhian philosophy, but Gandhism in India was not only
a process of mind. It was rather a blind faith supported by
the belief that he alone, in his inimitable way, would lead
us to our goal.

No one, for instance, could accept his reading or his con¬
clusions on World War II. It was difficult to accept his
theory that the non-violent way of resisting which was suc¬
ceeding against the British would have succeeded equally
well against the Japanese. He seemed to miss the meaning
and implication of the Nazi idea, nor did he understand the
depths of its perversion. He believed that all that was said
about Hitler’s Germany was just so much British propa¬
ganda. He thought the Japanese were only fellow Asiatics
striving to liberate themselves and find expression for their
nationalism, even as we Indians were. Perhaps it was his
naiveness; perhaps it was his limitation.

So long as the main question of our freedom remained

7 ^

unsolved, we were hesitant to pick holes in Gandhi’s reason¬
ing; so long as the fight lasted no one was willing to con¬
cede these weaknesses in his philosophy. We preferred to
gloss over them, even though they were apparent to many.
In our fight for freedom he was the standard-bearer. Like¬
wise there were several little fads and foibles of his—such
as prohibition, a celibacy of living, a drive against gambling
and meat-eating and other such typically ascetic attitudes of
his towards the normal incidents of everyday life—with
which one did not agree yet did not quibble about. No one
opposed him on those occasions when, in the Congress
party meetings, he passed resolutions on them. These per¬
sonal whims of his were appreciated as being part of the
ascetic and were obscured by the greater gnawing hunger of
the people for freedom from oppression, which was in the
forefront of his philosophy.

But the Gandhi who was essentially a politician gradually
faded into the background as the vears rolled on, and when
freedom came, an amazing transformation came over the
man, for he revealed himself in that role for which he had
been groomed by destiny. He emerged as a selfless leader
who taught his people that sacrifice should have no material
reward and that the years he had spent within the dingv
prison walls were not to be compensated by a life in gilded
palaces which was now within his grasp. Instead he pre¬
ferred to carrv on the unfinished, greater work of teaching
his countrvmen that the freedom of India came from within
India and meant something more than freedom from the
British. It also meant freedom for the people from hunger,
fear, intimidation and want; freedom from the barriers
which created the “outcasts”; freedom also from the petty
hatreds arising out of superstition, prejudice, fetishes and
fanatic communalism that had eaten into our people. So
that at the height of his triumph and his glorv, when all
India gloated over the political victory scored over the
British, Gandhi rather ashamedly retired into himself, fasted
as a mark of humiliation, and then dedicated himself to the
unfinished work of teaching his people the qualities of gener¬
osity and tolerance, of which there was little evidence in
the country.

He had seen it with his own eyes, in the villages of


Bengal which he had tramped. He had seen the frightened
look in the eyes of those Moslems who were trapped in
Hindu majority areas and who, but for his presence, would
have known certain death. He witnessed his own co-religion¬
ists flinging stones at him at his prayer meetings. He had
heard with his own ears the cries of revenge which the
Hindus uttered against the seceding Moslems. He realized
then that while the British overlord had been conquered
it was more than likely that his place would be taken by
the same variety of individual which had sprung from the
land itself. British imperialism could not, in his opinion,
be replaced by a pan-Hindu fascism, and the rule of an
oligarchic class, anxious to safeguard its vested interests,
could not now be supplanted by that of Hindu fanatics
whose sole idea was to feather their own nests. So Gandhi
stepped aside, as the curtain began to rise on free India,
and let others take the bow. In the hour of his triumph
he was more humble than ever and for the first time his
severest critics had to concede the sincerity of the man, his
utter selflessness.

The philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi, therefore, took
shape in the months after freedom became a reality when,
almost alone, at his prayer meeting each evening he
preached the gospel of liberty, truth and non-violence.
Nothing that he had uttered in his whole political career
could bear comparison with the home truths he uttered to
his own people. They often embarrassed the top-ranking
Congress leaders who were inclined to compromise on these
issues with the needs of the hour. But Gandhi would yield
no principle of his. He would not deny liberty to that
minority which had got trapped in Hindu India. That,
perhaps, was his greatest achievement, greater than the free¬
dom he won for his people. Defending that principle he

Looking back on it now, I feel he could have died no
other death.

  • # # * #

Turning over the columns of the Press in the days follow¬
ing his death I can now read more dispassionately the
comments which came from all parts of the world. Two

messages stood out for their grace and chivalry because of
the sources from which they came. From the Prime Minister
of Great Britain, a country which Gandhi had fought all
these long years, came the generous tribute of Clement
Attlee: “No man has played a greater part in his country’s
history. . . . His loss will be mourned by countless thou¬
sands in all walks of life, in every country of the world.”

The other came from Field Marshal Smuts, the Prime
Minister of South Africa, where Gandhi first “experimented
with truth”. On the racial issue this country was still at
war with us, but Smuts acknowledged: “A prince among
men has passed away and we grieve with India in her irre¬
parable loss.”

In contrast to the grace shown by the British and South
African Prime Ministers on this occasion, there came the
comment of Quaid-E-Azam Jinnah, then Governor-General
of Pakistan. Prefacing his remarks by saying that there could
be no controversy in the face of death, Jinnah referred to
Mahatma Gandhi as “one of the greatest men produced by
the Hindu community”. Mr. Jinnah sympathized with the
Hindu community ! It would have been more appropriate
if the Moslem leader had sympathized also with the Mos¬
lems for befriending whom Mahatma Gandhi had paid
with his life.

The Moslem masses, however, showed no such petty bias
on this occasion. In true Islamic fashion they showed by
their conduct and behaviour that they were capable of pay¬
ing respect to a man whom they regarded as their own.
They wept for him as the Indians did. A Pathan in Paki¬
stan was seen kneeling before Gandhi’s statue in Karachi.
It was a Moslem’s unstinted tribute to Mahatma Gandhi.

There was one other discordant note which came from a
source least expected, the Soviet Union. Public attention
was first drawn to it by “The Chronicler”, in the Bombay
Chronicle. He pointed out that condolence messages had
come to the people of India from all over the world, from
Abyssinia, America, Brazil, China, Denmark, England, Fin¬
land, Greece, Holland, Ireland, Japan—alphabetically all
the way down to Zanzibar, from kings and peasants, from
heads of political organizations and cultural associations,
literary academies and universities, from savants and


scholars, from philosophers and poets, musicians and
singers. Even the flag of the United Nations had been
lowered to half mast at Lake Success, but no message had
come from the Soviet Union, from Stalin or from Molotov.
While the world mourned the loss of Mahatma Gandhi as
a loss to the world itself, Moscow radio was content to refer
to the death of “a well-known Indian”. The Kremlin was
silent. Later, the Soviet News Agency, TASS, said that con¬
dolences had been sent to the Indian government through
the proper diplomatic channels, but, even if that were so,
Gandhi’s death was hardly a commonplace diplomatic
incident. Whatever may have been the exchange of diplo¬
matic courtesies, as far as the people of India were con¬
cerned the Russians had offered no sympathy.

“The Chronicler” said: “Gandhi’s place in history is
assured even without a tribute from Stalin . . . but the
Friends of the Soviet Union in India (and I have so far
counted myself among them) will find it hard to live down
the unforgivable lack of grace and the execrable bad
manners displayed by the Soviet government on this
occasion.” 1

Nearer home, the best expression of the nation’s sorrow
came appropriately from the Indian Prime Minister, Pandit
Nehru, whom Gandhi had nominated as his political heir.
His voice choked with emotion, Nehru broadcast to the
nation: “The light that shone in this country was no
ordinary light … a thousand years from now it will still
be seen here and the world will see it. It will give solace to
innumerable masses, for that light represents something
more than the immediate present. It represents the living

While the head of our government rose fully to the
occasion, our Press, whose columns Gandhi had fed for over
a quarter of a century with the thrilling story of the national
struggle, failed lamentably to do justice to the man and the
moment. Many of our Indian newspapers were content with
a cold chronological piece, rehashed from the newspaper
“morgues”, interspersed with a little pious moralizing. As a
result, millions of Indian readers were left hungry for the
little details of that sad human story. Perhaps the Indian

1 Bombay Chronicle , February 8th, 1948.


journalists were too dazed themselves to be able to express
the feeling of the moment and the depths of the nation’s

There was, however, one exception. The girl editor of a
woman’s paper, Eve’s Weekly, produced the following
beautiful lines:

“Gandhiji was more than a leader. To all his people he
was their faith; to the hungry and naked he gave succour,
comfort to those in pain, and in all our hearts he awoke
pride in India. Above all, he gave us a name

No other editor in India had remembered to say that, yet
that was our greatest debt to him.

About this time I received a letter from a young English
girl, not more than nineteen years of age, whose father had
worked long years in India in the civil service. It was just a
personal letter to me but in it she related how she had
attended the funeral and what she had felt at the time. To
me she seemed to have captured that feeling of the moment
which I had missed in the Press messages of that time. She

“We have been living through some very dramatic events
here. This last week seems rather like a strange dream. I
had planned to go to the prayer meeting on the very day
the Mahatma was assassinated, but decided not to go at
the last minute. Thank God I didn’t. I would have so hated
to have seen the tragedy.

“I was having tea in the next road but never heard a
thing until I got the news on the B.B.C. at 6 o’clock.

“From the roof of the High Commissioner’s Office the
next morning I saw the procession coming out of Birla
House but even now it is somewhat of a blur in my mind
because of the things I saw that afternoon, when two friends
took me down to join the crowds by the banks of the river.

“There must have been a million people gathered there
—a sea of faces stretching to the horizon. It was like a night¬
mare brought to reality by the dust, the smells and the
jostling and shoving of the masses. We managed to get
through the armed guards into the cleared space in the

“It was a curious feeling walking across the sunny grass


watched by the thousands of patiently-waiting people. We
joined the few people who were squatting in the dust a
couple of yards from the pyre which consisted of a stone
platform with a pile of wood on top.

“It was very peaceful sitting there and the crowds were
strangely silent until Mountbatten, his staff, and three or
four lovely ladies, in hats, arrived. They joined us sitting
cross-legged in the dust and soon after, the crowd, which had
been stirring uneasily, suddenly burst into a roar, and
through the haze I saw that Gandhi ji’s bier, surrounded by
the thousands who had followed the procession from Birla
House, was entering the arena. .

“The frail little body was lifted on to the pyre, after that
things became rather confused; the crowd surged forward,
breaking through the cordon of air-force men, and com¬
plete pandemonium broke loose.

“I remember seeing Pandit Nehru, his face drawn with
emotion, standing on the pyre trying to stop the crowd,
Mountbatten leaping to his feet, a distraught woman being
held down by a policeman, and looking over my shoulder
I saw a mass of people pressing down on us.

“It is no pleasant feeling seeing a crowd like that advanc¬
ing on one when there is no means of escape. I have never
been so frightened in my life. My friend grabbed hold of
me, and together we scrambled over a pile of sandalwood
and cocoanut which the priests were preparing for the pyre,
to the further side where, for a brief moment, the advanc¬
ing crowd appeared to have been stopped.

“Many people wrote of the chaos as though it were a
glorious ending to the saint, but my feelings at the time
were very different. To me it seemed the most disgusting
disregard for the sacred rites and the most unpeaceful
ending for the greatest peace-lover of our time.”

The behaviour of the Indian people on the occasion of
the Mahatma’s death was far from uniform. In parts of the
country it was exemplary; in other parts it was even dis¬

In the hours immediately following the news of Gandhi’s
death, mob violence broke out in Bombay, and probably in
other cities, on the assumption that he must have been
killed by a Moslem. Wisely, the government of India
quickly announced the fact that the assassin was a Hindu.
It soon became evident that his death was being used by

certain anti-social elements as an excuse for vandalism,
which was becoming a habit with them.

These unseemly incidents, however, seemed to be re¬
stricted to the big cities. New Delhi, Bombay, and others.
The people, the agricultural masses, the farmers, the peas¬
ants and simple country folk of India, were perfect examples
of that fine Indian character which is this country’s heritage.

The Times of India’s special correspondent, who wit¬
nessed the ceremony of the consigning of the ashes to the
sacred sangam at Prayag, wrote (February 12th, 1948): “No
king or popular leader in the world’s history could have
received greater homage than the touching tribute paid by
the Indians to the mortal remains of Mahatma Gandhi on
their journey to the sacred Sangam at Prayag.

“All along the 500-mile railtrack from New Delhi to Alla¬
habad and then along the five-mile route from Allahabad
railway station to the Sangam, it was a triumphant progress.

“Whether in the day or in the wintry night, simple vil¬
lagers and peasants, men, women and children flocked
alongside in their hundreds and sought ‘darshan’ and cast
flowers and garlands on the richly bedecked urn bearing the
ashes of Mahatma Gandhi and stood with bowed heads and
joined hands as the cortege passed by.”

So he went his lonely way. The man who from a minor
disturbance had become a Mahatma had now become im¬
mortal in the minds and hearts of the Indian people.

He had given us freedom. Out of dust he had made us
into men. He had given us individuality; he had also given
us a name.




The end of 1947 had seen unexpected changes in my own
affairs. While those changes were personal to me, they had a
direct bearing on the changes that were taking place in the
country. By a strange combination of circumstances I be¬
came the focal point of that growing but till then inarticu¬
late section of Indian public opinion which believed that
the Congress in power was virtually creating a dictatorship
in the country.

It happened like this: I returned home one evening in
November to receive a letter from the management of the
Bombay Chronicle giving me a month’s notice for the ter¬
mination of my service. The letter was the result of a
management v. labour dispute which had reached a climax
and, in order to safeguard their position, the management
had given notice to the entire staffs of the group of papers
which they controlled.

Within the next few weeks this dispute was resolved and
the notices to the staff withdrawn, but in the meantime I
had applied for leave to take stock of my position and think
out my future. I had come to the conclusion that I would
not go back to the Bombay Chronicle as a columnist. My
association with that paper, which had lasted for over nine
years, I brought abruptly to an end.

My main urge had always been to have a paper of my
own which I could control and edit and which would stand
out and fight for the things I believed in.

The one important factor at the time which made me so
emphatic about my decision to leave the Chronicle and
branch out on my own was a strong spiritual influence in
which I believe, based on a personal faith which is not
translatable into words. But for this faith, I would not
have given up the Chronicle job at a time when conditions
in the country were so chaotic that there appeared to be
nothing ahead of me.


It was no ordinary coincidence that I should have gone
to the Managing Director to hand in what was virtually my
resignation from the Chronicle and come out, an hour later,
with the idea of a new paper crystallized, of which I was to
be the editor and in which my erstwhile employers were to
become my partners.

Ten weeks later, on a Wednesday—March 24th, 1948—a
new weekly paper appeared on the streets of Bombay. It
was called March.


In the early weeks I gathered a young and raw team of
untried but enthusiastic workers who stayed up with me in
the office late into the night. Twenty pages of four columns
each, tabloid size, seemed an awful lot of space to fill in
those first weeks, when a letter to the editor was quite an
event in our humble office, a cubicle ten feet by eight. As
we struggled for recognition we would report to each other
every Wednesday morning if we had seen anyone reading a
copy of the paper. It gave us a childlike thrill.

Then, in the fifth week of publication, we were over¬
whelmed by the scramble for copies which took place. Our
bannerline that week read: “THE PEOPLE SAY CON¬

No one had said such a thing in India before.

Within a few hours the news-stalls were sold out and a
few newsboys were selling their remaining copies at four
times the price.

The bannerline was based on a letter which Mahatma
Gandhi had received a few days before his death. He had
referred to it at one of his last prayer meetings and con¬
fessed that it had worried him very much. The letter had
even been printed in some newspapers in India but no one
had drawn such pointed attention to it. Nor had anyone
stressed the importance of this growing feeling of discon¬
tent among the people towards the Congress.

This letter addressed to Mahatma Gandhi was from an
aged Congressman from the province of Andhra, an old
man of eighty, a tried and tested Congress worker, who had
been with the party from the very beginning. The letter,
therefore, had a special significance. The writer’s name was
Konda Venkatappayya, a South Indian name.

Venkatappayya had written to Gandhi:


“Swaraj teas the only absorbing passion which goaded
men and women to follow your leadership. But now that
the goal has been reached all moral restrictions have lost
their power on most of the fighters in the great struggle. . . .
The situation is growing more intolerable every day. The
people have begun to say that the British government was

The Mahatma was aware of the unimpeachable source
from which it came. But he died too soon after, and no one
in the Congress high command referred to that letter again.
The appearance of this indictment on the front page of
March in the bold black type in which we presented it
caused a veritable sensation. Our comments echoed the dis¬
content of honest men.

It was not so long ago that every Indian heart beat for
the Congress. In the darkest days of our struggle it had
lighted the path to freedom. Yet within a year “the people
are cursing the Congress”. The reason was that while the
Congress-in-opposition fought oppression, the Congress-in¬
office had turned out to be worse oppressors. The British
denied us political freedom for the sake of their vested in¬
terests, but the Congress were destroying every shred of
freedom. They were even killing the freedom of the human

It was a lone light from that small office cubicle in Red
House, Elphinstone Circle, Bombay i. It brought on us the
wrath and vengeance of the men in power whom we had
the “audacity” to challenge and criticize. It brought harass¬
ment, arrests and charges, such as no democratic government
has ever been known to make against the Press. We became
marked men who had to be cautious of every step we took
and every line we wrote. The tread of policemen’s boots in
our corridors was a familiar sound. But with all this we
became the focal point of that straightforward, constitu¬
tional opposition which was not afraid to speak out the
truth about a government which, satiated with power, by
its brute majority has used and abused its emergency powers
to crush all opposition.

So, week by week, while I edited March, I told the story


of a people who had been betrayed by the very men who
led them to freedom. It has been a sad story but it had to
be told.


It was that same faith that made me resign from March,
the paper I had founded, to start my new paper The
Current, which in these few months is already widely read
throughout the country. The form in which I express myself
may change, but the faith remains.



As a result of the communal war, the chaotic conditions
in the country and the complete breakdown of the forces of
law and order, a state of emergency had to be declared in
India. The governments of both the Centre and the pro¬
vinces acquired wide powers to deal with this emergency by
means of various Public Security Measures Acts, which,
while they varied slightly in individual provinces, generally
gave the executive arbitrary powers above the normal law of
the land.

Under this emergency legislation a very minor official of
the police could arrest a man without a warrant. The
government could detain an individual without assigning a
reason if, in their opinion, he constituted a danger to the
public security. This detention could remain unquestioned
for a fortnight, after which the government had to assign a
reason but not necessarily bring him to trial. Moreover, the
right of the judiciary to intervene on behalf of the indi¬
vidual was set aside. The individual, however wrongfully
or mistakenly he may have been detained, had no redress in
law against the officials who had deprived him of his liberty.
His liberty was no longer an inherent right. It was at the
mercy of the executive and of those police officials, as small
as sub-inspectors of police, to whom those powers were

A man could be snatched away from his home by a sub-
inspector of police and be locked up for fifteen days with¬
out any known rhyme or reason. At the end of that time he
could still be kept in detention by a mere statement of the
government that his being at large was detrimental to
public security and the maintenance of law and order. Once
the executive authority had declared itself so satisfied, there
was nothing the courts of law could do to give back to that
man his lost liberty or, in some provinces, compel the
government even to bring the individual to trial.

So long as the communal war lasted and the lives of


millions of individuals were at stake, no one, except a sort
of conscientious objector on the grounds of abstract democ¬
racy, could deny the need for some such powers being
assigned to the executive.

But the civil war, sporadic in nature, did not continue
unabated. A time soon came when the government and the
civic authorities regained sufficient grip on the situation,
and normal conditions gradually returned to most parts of
the country, with only an occasional knifing or sniping to
disturb the peace. Even so, a large section of responsible
opinion agreed with the government that in view of the
past experience it was perhaps advisable that these far-
reaching powers should still remain in the hands of the
government for a while. We had a people’s government in
office, it was argued, and everyone should have faith that
these powers would not be abused.

Congress ministers, it was said from many a platform,
were servants of the people, different from the British des¬
pots of a past era. The Congiess would not betray the

Not many months had elapsed when news, which had
hitherto been censored, began to trickle into our news¬
paper offices of odd things that had happened under these
new powers. It was alleged by many a victim that he who
was clearly innocent had been victimized only for holding
views opposed to the local administration or its individual

This was a grave charge and at first difficult to believe.
But the instances multiplied and they were impossible to
ignore. The government-sponsored Press still regarded every¬
thing the Congress did as above reproach and unquestion¬
ably for the good of the land. It was left to small papers
like ours to dig into these various instances and find out
how much truth there was in the allegation that these
emergency powers were now being abused.

The main target of the government’s silent offensive ap¬
peared to be directed against Communists, some left-wing
Socialists, trade union leaders and, finally, against all those
who were outspoken critics of the Congress. Of course the
powers were still used to a certain extent against the occa¬
sional rioter, but the main current seemed diverted to



political objects instead of being used only against com¬
munal agitators.

When an unfair arrest was so glaring as to attract the
attention of a naive newspaper reporter, he trustingly
brought it to the notice of the government. It was then that
the cards began to be laid on the table. No move was made
to undo the injustice done. Instead, the government showed
a reluctance to act in the democratic manner expected of
them. The story of our betrayal then broke. The power was
in the hands of the few and those few were hanging on to
it grimly. The wider the power, the more complete the

To my office there came on the afternoon of May 57th a
tall elderly Indian, khaddar- clad, Gandhi-capped. He gave
his name as Lekhraj Sharma. He said his home town was
Ajmere in the north of India. He spoke in Hindustani to
me but he could understand English. He put before me two
letters which he carried with him. They were intended to
establish his identity and to guarantee his authenticity. The
first letter bore the official letter-head of the Bombay Pro¬
vincial Congress Committee, was dated January 20th, 1948,
and was signed by the President of that same Congress
Committee, the party boss in Bombay. It was addressed to
a doctor of a leading hospital in Bombay. It read:

“My Dear Dr. Dhayagude,

Mr. Lekhraj Sharma of Ajmere, who is a friend of
mine, telephoned me this morning that his son, Sham
Sunder, is a patient in your hospital in bed No. 3, ward 22.
I do not know what he is suffering from. Lekhraj is a
prominent Congressman and a friend of ours. Please see
that he gets all the assistance he needs.

With kindest regards,

Yours sincerely,

(sd.) S. K. Paul.”

The second letter was from another important Congress¬
man, at one time a leading city father. In that letter Lek¬
hraj Sharma was described as “a staunch Congressman”.

Lekhraj Sharma then told his story.

He said he had been a member of the Congress since 1919,
had been through every movement of Mahatma Gandhi,

and had spent the best years of his life in jail in the national
cause. As recently as in 1946/47 he had been the enrolling
officer of the Bombay Provincial Congress Committee.

More recently he had helped the president of that same
provincial committee to improve his Hindustani. He had
also tutored other leading Congressmen in their own

Now it appeared that a week after the president of the
Bombay Congress had given Sharma the above certificate,
Sharma had offended this stiff-necked Congress official by
filing his own nomination paper for the Bombay municipal
elections in opposition to the official Congress candidate
nominated by President S. K. Patil himself. This was un¬
doubtedly an affront to Mr. Patil’s authority. It was an in¬
dependence of attitude which was to be discouraged!

Sharma had gone further and published a pamphlet in
Hindustani in which he stated his reasons for standing in
opposition. That was very tactless.

On February 7th, exactly seventeen days after S. K. Patil
had certified Sharma as “a prominent Congressman and a
friend of ours”, Sharma found himself arrested by the Bom¬
bay city police during the series of arrests that followed
Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination. He was taken to the head
C.I.D. office, where he was interviewed. Sharma said that
here he was beaten up by a police inspector, who pushed
his knee into his back, pulled his moustache, knocked off
his Gandhi cap and trampled on it.

Four days later, Sharma received a notice from the police
in which he was informed that the order for his detention
had been made under the Security Measures Act. The police
volunteered the grounds that he was communal-minded and
had incited his followers to acts of violence against mem¬
bers of the rival community, that he was “distributing
sweets to celebrate the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi”.
Therefore, his being at large was prejudicial to the public
safety and the peace of greater Bombay. Sharma went on a
fast and refused food and water. His attitude brought an
assurance from the C.I.D. that his allegations against the
police official would be enquired into. On that understand¬
ing Sharma broke his fast.

On February 13th he addressed a letter to the Home


Minister of the Government of Bombay, from which ex¬
tracts, freely translated from the Hindustani original, read
as follows:

“The police of to-day are the same as those in the days of
the British and cannot be expected to change, but you, our
leaders, who have to show your face to the world must not
play into the hands of the police and destroy the country.”

“The Ramraj of Gandhi cannot be achieved through
police force, which is itself criminal by habit.”

“These happenings will never escape the eyes of the
masses. You Congress should not get into the habit of using
the pretext of Gandhi’s assassination to arrest your political

“To have a difference of opinion is the inherent right of

“I ask nothing of you, not even my release at your hands.
I only ask you to look in the direction of Mahatma Gandhi
and not to destroy this country of ours of which you too are
a citizen.”

These were the words of a man who, on the official letter-
paper of the Congress, in a note signed by the Provincial
President, had been certified as being “a prominent Con¬
gressman and a friend of ours”. Nevertheless this “prom¬
inent Congressman” and friend of the people was kept in
custody without a trial until May yth. All of the grave
charges against him fell through for he was unconditionally
released. There was no inquiry whatsoever, and there was
no trial of a man charged with having incited his followers
to violence and of having distributed sweets to celebrate the
assassination of Mahatma Gandhi. But in the meanwhile,
the municipal elections had come and gone. Sharma was
out of the way.

This was the story of Lekhraj Sharma. It was the story
of a man who was bewildered by the things that had hap¬
pened to him under a government of his own people.

Several other stories came to light here and there in some
of the newspapers of India. Sometimes they got tucked away
into odd corners of the paper, because the policy of those
papers was to support the Congress whom they had backed

throughout the long struggle against the British. It was
naturally irksome for a Congress-minded newspaper to have
to print news which reflected no credit on a government it
had brought into existence. At the same time no journalist
could ignore these stories because of their intrinsic news

One of the most important of these stories came from the
United Provinces. There, an Indian by the name of Bharad-
waj had been arrested. He was a Communist. The arrest
took place on April 4th, 1948. At the time of his arrest
Bharadwaj was semi-conscious, a bed-ridden consumptive
who had been suffering from tuberculosis for six years and
who, when arrested, was running a temperature of 104 de¬
grees. He was reported to have been spitting blood at the

On April 8th—four days after his arrest—that Indian
died within the walls of an Indian jail, under a people’s

Of this incident, the National Herald of Lucknow, which
is Pandit Nehru’s own paper, said in an editorial comment:
“Nothing the Prime Minister (of the United Provinces) has
said can justify the government sending a man, even if he
were a Communist, to his death.”

Another United Provinces newspaper, Hunkar, published
in the vernacular, was even more outspoken. It said:
“Bharadwaj did not die. He was murdered. There can be
no greater shame for a civilized government.”

Public opinion had been roused by this incident and by
the editorial comments thereon. As a result the U.P. Legis¬
lative Assembly passed a motion of adjournment on Bharad-
waj’s death, but the power to do the same thing all over
again was still allowed to remain in the hands of the same
administration which (to quote the Hunkar) had murdered
a man.

    • # * *

In Malabar, South India, another Indian “died”. His
name was Moyarath Sankaran. On the day on which he was
arrested Sankaran was known to have been taken to the jail
hospital and injuries were reported to have been found on
his body which had obviously been inflicted on him be¬
tween the time of his arrest and the time he entered


hospital. The presumption was that these were police-in¬
flicted injuries.

The next day Sankaran died. An Indian government—a
people’s government—did not hand over his body to his
near relatives, as is the normal custom. The people’s govern¬
ment hurriedly disposed of Sankaran’s body. The people
wondered why!

    • . # * *

In my own province, Bombay, another detenu died in
prison. His name was D. R. Kulkarni, and he was arrested
under the same Securities Act on April 2nd. Kulkarni was
no criminal. He was merely arrested for his political beliefs.
Soon after his arrest he was taken to the Visapur jail in
Ahmednagar district. Kulkarni had been suffering from
asthma for a long time. A month in jail under the horrible
jail conditions without a charge or a trial caused a stroke of
paralysis and he became unconscious. He was then taken to
the Ahmednagar government hospital.

The next day his wife sent a petition to the Home
Minister of the government of Bombay, requesting the re¬
lease of her husband who had been stricken by paralysis.

The Home Minister of a people’s government did not
acknowledge or reply to that petition.

Kulkarni regained consciousness after a few days but he
lost his eyesight, and in his blind state, when no one was
near him, he fell down from his cot in the jail hospital.
That fall brought about a second attack of paralysis and he
became unconscious once again, from which state he never

When he was in that condition—a paralytic, completely
unconscious and completely blind—his wife petitioned the
district court for his release. After the civil surgeon had
endorsed the petition and certified that the facts stated by
his wife were correct and that the detenu’s condition was
critical, the district magistrate agreed to release Kulkarni
for one month on parole, but he specified certain conditions
on which this temporary release would be granted.

Now the question arose how the conditions laid down by
the district magistrate could be made binding on Kulkarni,
who was then in an unconscious state. The police of a

people’s government solved the dilemma by serving the
release order on this political detenu, an unconscious man,
and by taking the thumb impression of that unconscious
man in order to make the conditions of the magistrate’s
order binding on him.

The treatment meted out to our political prisoners to-day
has been no better than it was in the days of the much-com-
plained-of British. On several occasions detenus have been
known to go on hunger strikes because of the bad treatment
they received.

At least the British had three classes of political prisoners:
A, B and C. Our patriots whom the British detained were
freely distributed in these three classes according to their
status. But, true to its principles, the Congress regime has
abolished class and almost all political prisoners now get
the same “C” class treatment. The idea of giving the worst
class of treatment to political prisoners is obviously moti¬
vated by the idea that opponents of the Congress should
imbibe the spirit of humility whilst redeeming their political

The motto of the Congress in office appeared to be near¬
ing that of the Nazis: Exterminate all those who do not
agree with you.

The Congress was never so intolerant. It is difficult to
believe that those who now sought to dominate the mind
and spirit of our free people were the same band of crusa¬
ders who rallied behind Mahatma Gandhi, pledged them¬
selves to truth and pitted their spiritual strength against
the weight of an empire. It is also difficult to believe that
the once great non-violent army, which bared its chest to
bullets and marched to its goal with the chant of freedom
on its lips, could ever have bred the Congress provincial
ministries which used their brute power to still the voice of
a newly-freed people.

In 1945 Mahatma Gandhi said in his paper, the Harijan:
“If we want to cultivate a true spirit of democracy, we
cannot afford to be intolerant. Intolerance betrays want of
faith in one’s cause.”

It was this want of faith in themselves, in their cause, and
in their power, that made the Congress ministries in the
provinces of India so intolerant of their political opponents.


Yet with all the power they wielded, with all the brute
majority they could muster in the existing legislature, the
days were gone when the Congress could represent the
people without a single dissentient voice being raised against
them. In the India of to-day. Congress is no longer looked
upon as a friend of the people. Rather it is feared. In places
it has degenerated into an almost feudal organization which
is not ashamed of practising unabashed despotism. It had
made a mockery of our freedom and, long after any semb¬
lance of emergency had passed, the home of an Indian could
not be regarded as “his castle”.

Once there was a time when a man who wore khaddar
and a Gandhi cap was looked upon as a patriot. To-day
that symbol of our liberty is being worn by plain-clothes
policemen, masquerading as friends of the people.

The Indian revolted against this encroachment on his
liberty, because Mahatma Gandhi had taught him to sur¬
render his freedom to no one. In Young India could be
found his inspiring words: “There will be no freedom for
India so long as one man, no matter how highly placed he
may be, holds in the hollow of his hand the life, property
and honour of millions of human beings.”

The Security Acts did place the life, property and honour
of our people in the hands of the few who had shown them¬
selves capable of using it for political advantage. To arrest
and detain people without trial was contrary to the very
spirit of the democracy for which we had fought, and the
feeling grew in India that, notwithstanding the debt we
owed to the Congress and its leaders, these same once-demo-
cratic leaders were now trying to make puppets out of free

The history of India in the months that followed August
1947 showed a marked similarity to the history of those
people into whose lives fascism had crept. Fascism always
seems to creep in unnoticed. It is only when it assumes
tremendous proportions that a people become aware of its
existence and then fascism becomes too big for a people to
fight from within.

Adolf Hitler began by helping his people as our Congress
had done. When the people had full faith in him and in the
cause for which he was fighting—namely the liberation of

Germany from the imposition of the Versailles Treaty—he
asked them for power to lead them to that freedom which
had been denied to them by the victors of World War I.

The German people gave him that power.

He then asked them for power to deal with those who
hindered him in the achievement of that freedom, a power
which he could use without recourse to the normal courts
of justice.

The people gave him these emergency powers.

He then asked for discretion to be left in his hands to
decide when these emergency powers should be used, and to
decide also when an emergency existed.

The German people gave him that discretion.

Gradually he so regimented his people and exercised such
absolute power over their minds and bodies that they were
committed to follow his sole judgement, no matter what he
decreed or where he led them. Soon he reduced the German
people to morons who goose-stepped at his command, and
he reduced the German Press to an echo of his own voice,
mere puppets who shouted, Ein Reich, Ein Volk, Ein

That was Nazism, and we in India condemned it. Many a
Congress resolution can still be found in the archives of the
Congress party in which fascism and dictatorship have been
condemned in no uncertain words. But imperceptibly, and
surely, the same ideas of power and government were creep¬
ing into the Congress administrations now dominating the
Indian scene.

  • # # . * *

The fight for individual liberty gradually found cham¬
pions in the high courts of India, whose judges began to
speak out often in the most scathing terms against the gross
abuse of these arbitrary powers acquired by Congress govern¬
ments in the various provinces of a country pledged to
democracy. t

Out of the numerous utterances of these judges I have
picked the most telling, which came from the West Bengal
high court, Calcutta.

Inside the sombre precincts of the West Bengal high
court, one of the younger school of barristers was arguing


very ably a habeas corpus application on behalf of a Com¬
munist member of the Bengal Legislative Assembly, Jyoti
Basu, who had been arrested and detained without trial
under the Security Acts.

There was, it appears, a slight loophole in the framing of
that Act in the province of West Bengal. The West Bengal
Public Security Act differed slightly from the Acts in some
of the other provinces. In West Bengal, detention had to be
on reasonable grounds. In Jyoti Basu’s case, which was the
first round of the big fight for the liberty of the individual,
the counsel for the detenu pleaded that the reasonable
nature of the grounds must be to the satisfaction not merely
of the government but also of the court of law. Counsel
therefore contended that the habeas corpus application
could be heard by the high court and not be excluded from
its jurisdiction.

The judges on this occasion held that the phrase “on
reasonable grounds” might, be interpreted to mean that
reasonableness should be to the satisfaction of the provincial
government and need not be to that of the court. Jyoti
Basu’s application was therefore turned down.

The matter, however, did not rest there. Though defeated
in the first round, a more imposing array of young and
progressive barristers turned up to fight the next round of
habeas corpus applications which were pending. They all
referred to cases under the Security Measures Act. The
hearing of this bunch of applications came up before the
Chief Justice and Mr. Justice Das. This time the judges
declared that they disagreed with the earlier judgement in
Jyoti Basu’s case, and therefore referred the matter to a full
bench of the high court which was to consist of five judges.
The reference to a full bench indicated the serious nature
of the issue involved.

The point referred to the full bench was the interpreta¬
tion of the words “reasonable grounds”. Was the govern¬
ment the sole judge of reasonableness or was it the courts of
law? Could there be any redress from the arbitrary action
of a government in matters relating to the liberty of the

The hearing was marked by a series of important remarks
made by the Chief Justice on this occasion.

9 6

The government had contended that the detention had
been made in view of the state of emergency in the country.
The defence counsels contended that what may be an
emergency for the government-in-power need not be an
emergency for the state.

The Chief Justice addressed the Advocate General:
“There is no emergency in Bengal to-day compared with
the emergency in Britain during the war.”

The Advocate General, for the government, contended
that a judge could not consider this question of whether
there was an emergency or not.

Sharp came the Chief Justice’s reply: “Why not? I am a
human being and know whether there is an emergency or

The Advocate General: “No, my lord—you cannot as a
judge do so.”

The Chief Justice said that should such a contingency
arise, he would elect to be a human being rather than a

The Advocate General plodded on, and maintained that
this question of reasonableness was for the government to
decide, not the court.

“Why is it so?” the Chief Justice asked. “What is reason¬
able to a nitwit may not be so to others. Every government
makes mistakes and I should say the West Bengal govern¬
ment is no exception.”

The Chief Justice then pointed out the danger of such
wide powers being left in the hands of a government. In
answer to the Advocate General’s claim that the government
alone need be satisfied that the detention was on reasonable
grounds, he said: “If that be so, then nobody could oppose
the government at elections, as the government will put all
its opponents into prison during the elections, detaining
them without their getting any redress whatsoever.”

When the government’s charge-sheet against a journalist
on the editorial board of The People’s Age was handed up
to the judges, the Chief Justice commented: “Well, if these
are reasonable grounds, then I suppose you can arrest any¬
one at any time, anywhere in India.”

Now the bulk of these cases on this particular occasion
was of Communists. The Chief Justice read the charge-
d 97

sheets against the accused and remarked: “The Communists
are quite strong in other countries. For instance, in France,
they might any day constitute the government, but no¬
where have measures been taken as in this country.”

When the Counsel for the defence complained that even
the notes he had taken whilst consulting his client in jail
had been seized by the special branch police, the Chief
Justice flared up and asked the Advocate General: “Has the
government decided to deny even the ordinary legal facili¬
ties to Communist prisoners?”

The Advocate General said that the Counsel for the de¬
fence could get back the papers by applying to the Home
Secretary. Standing on his full dignity, the young Counsel
for the defence, feeling the power of the backing of the
high court in which he was pleading, retorted: “I am not
in the habit of visiting government offices and making re¬
quests to government officials. I want redress from this
court.” The Chief Justice agreed with him, and within half
an hour a special branch official sheepishly came and re¬
turned the Counsel’s notes.

All this took place in June 1948. The full bench was due
to meet again on Monday, July 5th, to deliver judgement
on these cases.

On Saturday night, July 3rd, 1948, the West Bengal
ministry hurriedly issued a special ordinance, by which the
words “reasonable grounds” were omitted from the clause
empowering the government to detain persons without
trial. The ordinance was, moreover, promulgated with retro¬
spective effect ! Thereby the court was no longer competent
to judge the issue.

Provoked by this undemocratic encroachment on the
powers of the judiciary, one of the judges, Mr. Justice
Chatterjee, remarked: “Perhaps the eventuality of the full
bench verdict going against the government is considered
as an emergency situation! ”

The government went further. A new section was added
to the ordinance outlawing the harbouring of persons
against whom detention warrants had been issued. The word
“harbouring” was meant to include the giving of “shelter,
food, drink, money, clothes, arms, ammunition or means of
conveyance or assisting him by any means to evade appre-

hension.” The penalty for “harbouring” was two years’
rigorous imprisonment with a fine of Rs. 1,000.

The need for passing such an ordinance with such de¬
terrent penalties spoke for itself.

Even the British had not fought their political opponents
in this way.

The battle for freedom in India was not yet over. Only
the front had changed. Instead of fighting the British by
rallying behind the Congress, we found we now had to fight
the Congress who had taken the place of the British.

# # #

In the third week of June 1948 one of my young assist¬
ants came rushing into the office.

“Boss,” he said in his characteristic way, “there is a
regular major operation going on at the high court. There’s
a little fellow whom the judges have released and the
government want to arrest him again.”

“How can a released man be re-arrested?” I asked.

“Oh, that’s easy under the Security Acts,” he replied.
“They’ll arrest him and find the charge later. But they’re
determined to get him, and he’s leading them a fine dance
in the process.”

I asked what the delay was about and was told that
a man could not be arrested on the premises of the high*

He looked at me appealingly and said: “Can I cover this

I said he could and he dashed out, taking one of our Press
photographers with him.

Later that day this young reporter, whose experience in
journalism was a mere three months, produced a story
which was front-paged.

The story was about a 26-year-old aero-technician of Air
India Ltd., Sholin Dey. He had figured prominently in
fomenting a strike of Air India workers. He was vice-presi¬
dent of the Workers’ Union and in December 1947 he had
put forward a list of demands which included a higher wage
for the employees. Nothing important happened until April
1948, when the Air Line bosses clearly saw a labour crisis
ahead. The company then asked for government’s inter-


vention to adjudicate in the matter and settle the dis¬

On April 7th the Political Secretary of the government of
Bombay called a conference of the management and the
workers. Sholin Dey went to this conference as the workers’
representative. The conference lasted five hours and the two
parties came to a tentative agreement.

When Dey left the conference it was about 8.30 in the
evening. He walked towards Churchgate Station, where he
was stopped by a man who flashed his identity card: SUB¬
INSPECTOR OF POLICE. Dey was asked to go along to
the police station. There followed a detention of two
months and eighteen days, during which Dey filed his
habeas corpus application for a hearing or a discharge. The
judges of the high court who heard his petition found no
grounds for keeping him behind bars. His release was there¬
fore ordered.

This verdict must have been anticipated by the govern¬
ment, for they had made arrangements to re-arrest him as
he came out of court a free man. Sholin Dey had mean¬
while been informed by his friends of the trick which was
being played upon him and, being aware that no one could
be arrested on the high court’s premises, he was determined
to enjoy such little freedom as was possible until the high
court closed for the day.

The Bombay high court was, therefore, the scene of a
game of hide and seek on that Friday afternoon. To the
casual observer, it appeared as if some dangerous gang of
bandits had entered the precincts of that august court and
that our brave and powerful police force, defenders of the
people, were on their trail. Policemen in their royal blue
plus-fours and their yellow caps cordoned the court. Plain¬
clothes men of the Criminal Investigation Department,
totalling twenty-one in number and wearing Gandhi caps,
had been stationed at various strategic positions of ambush
in case of escape.

Dey used his two and a half hours of freedom to meet his
host of friends and co-workers and to talk to his mother. She
had come that day to take him home. Finally, Dey walked
out and allowed the police to arrest him.

“While the sight of these frolics in the high court offered

an amusing spectacle to onlookers, it was not without its
sad undertone,” the young reporter said. “For Sholin Dey’s
mother, who had come to take her son back home, had to
return without him.”

It was just a human story, but it showed what a mockery
was being made of civil liberty!






A n integral part of these Security Acts was the section
which dealt with the Press. This section was not in the
original powers acquired by the government. While the
government wanted arbitrary powers to control individuals
who were goondas, ruffians, communal fanatics and other
anti-social elements, it was at first felt that it could not
possibly want such powers against the national Press, which
had been the armoured spearhead in our fight for liberation.
But quite soon the various fanatically-communal organiza¬
tions started to put out mushroom papers of their own
which were nothing but propaganda sheets advocating the
continuance and the intensification of the bitter communal
war which was being waged in the country.

The standard, traditional Press of India agreed with the
government that some quick measure should be adopted to
curb the damage being done by these new, scurrilous news¬
papers. The government at the same time gave the assur¬
ance that the powers they were assuming, which violated
the principle of the liberty of the Press, were only to be in
existence for the period of “the emergency”, and would
only be used to check the communal war. They would not
be used for political purposes.

Under these powers, if a provincial government were satis¬
fied that such action was necessary for the purpose of pre¬
venting activity prejudicial to

N »

the public safety,

the maintenance of public order, or
the tranquillity of the province, or
any part thereof,

the government could take one of several courses open to it.

These included the suppression of a paper, temporarily
or absolutely; the demanding of a security; insistence on
pre-censorship, and other steps of a similar nature. The
powers were admittedly similar to those acquired by other

democratic governments in times of great national emer¬
gencies, but it was the recognized unwritten rule that whereas
detrimental facts could be suppressed, newspapers were
never to be forced to write as ordered, against their own

But such a clause was included in the Bombay Security
Measures Act. The government could, by an order in
writing addressed to a printer, publisher or editor, compel
that individual to print or publish, as if over his own sig¬
nature, what the government wished him to say on any
matter once it had been broached by that newspaper. In
other words, the government could insist on its own version
of an incident being printed however incorrect that version
might be. The government would dictate to an editor the
words of the contradiction. Once an editor touched upon a
subject or an incident, the government could step in and
deprive him of the right to present that subject as he
thought fit.

This was the position under the Security Measures Act.
It was no mean power. It had never been known to exist in
peace-time in any free and democratic country in the world.
The “emergency” in India had apparently necessitated it.

I was working late in my office on the evening of June
29th, 1948. I had just signed the last page-proof for the next
morning’s issue. The paper had virtually gone to bed.

There was a knock at our swing doors and through the
open gap below I could see the boots of a police officer. It
was the first time a policeman had set foot in our office. He
checked my identity and served an order on me. It was an
order of the government of Bombay under the all-powerful
Public Security Measures Act, invoked in the name of the
security of the state.

The order served on me was for no political comment in
my paper. It referred to a news-item which was as follows:

“Mr. -, Minister for -, paid a visit to a famous

pathologist last week. The Hon’ble Minister had brought
along a friend,-, for free medical examina¬

tion. The two of them went off to sleep in the doctor’s air-
conditioned room, to the amusement of everyone else.

“Below, a car waited at the entrance of the building at
Phirozeshah Mehta Road. From the radiator the pennant of


the Minister flew. The Minister’s unshaven driver smoked
a bidi (cigarette) while his toes rested on the dashboard. A
policeman coming from behind informed the driver of the
NO PARKING sign and that he was causing obstruction
to the free flow of traffic. The driver, still reclining, gave a
laconic reply between puffs of bidi smoke. He said ‘Yeh

Minister – ki motor hai ! 1 The policeman, crestfallen,

went away.

“Meanwhile, for an hour and a half the traffic continued
to be obstructed and the traffic rules broken.

“While Mr. – was sleeping in the air-conditioned

room, several visitors at the Secretariat were politely in¬
formed that the Minister was attending an important con¬
ference, and that they would have to wait. 2 ’’

For this we were ORDERED to publish a contradiction
drafted by the government and further ORDERED to
apologize to the Minister concerned, and if we refused we
faced the possibility of having our paper suspended and the
press shut down.

Comment, though tempting, seems superfluous.

The matter went to the high court on a petition from me,
but so wide were the powers under the Security Act that, at
the suggestion of the presiding judge, I accepted the sug¬
gested compromise, for my petition seemed likely to be
thrown out on technical grounds. Discretion seemed the
better part of valour. Each party had to bear its own costs.

Expense was the sole object of many of these actions into
which newspapers critical of the government were pushed
by having to defend themselves in criminal and civil actions,
sometimes of a footling nature, but very often involving
moral turpitude. The idea of the government was to harass
its critics, to make them waste hours in the courts at the end
of which the case would be postponed to another day. All
these postponements were costly. Each time counsel had to
be paid for his appearance. Sometimes, when the case came
near to hearing, the charges were dropped and government
withdrew its prosecution, for the punishment of the erring
editor had already been achieved.

Many a small paper has been squeezed out of existence in
this way. Many a paper has been called upon to furnish

1 “This is Minister-’s car.” 2 March, June 2nd, 1948.


large securities, which it could not afford. Many a paper has
had members of its staff arrested and detained without trial,
with a view to reducing its editorial strength. The Congress
in power waged a cold war on the critical Press, seeking to
silence the voice of those who were unafraid of speaking the

Some of the bigger newspaper combines had recently
changed hands and had become the organs of wealthy
capitalist individuals and groups. All these press-lords stood to
benefit and thrive under a reactionary regime in India. The
result was that the presentation of news in many of these
papers became somewhat distorted. Many papers would not
go the whole hog and actually give misleading news, but it
was very simple for them to suppress the vital facts which
showed up the “impurities” in the new administration.
Likewise, it was in the interest of these newspapers, their
proprietors and their patrons to play down the discontent
of the people, the grievances of the common man and his
betrayal at the hands of the Congress.

The bigger newspapers, therefore, became the voice of a
crude section of Indian vested interests, whose professed
nationalism was only a means to profit, rather than the
voice of the people.

These newspapers defended their policy of treating the
news so unfairly by saying that it was their duty to rally
around the first free government of India and to uphold it
at any cost. “Give them a chance” was the theme song of
many an editorial on those few occasions on which these
newspapers were compelled to admit that the administra¬
tion was floundering. They would not, however, go so far as
to admit that the administration had in many places be¬
come corrupt. Occasionally they would moralize in a general
sort of way on the need for a higher code of morals for
government servants, officials and administrators, but they
still maintained that the Congress alone, with all its faults,
knew what was best for the people.

The government in return subsidized this Press by the
heavy advertising which it handed out as a reward for
loyalty. The discontent of the people had little chance to
find expression in a Press which was now so closely associ¬
ated with big business. Journalism in India, which was
d* 105

once part of the crusade for freedom, had now become a
tool in the hands of the new oppressors.

Only a few odd newspapers remained which were willing
to sacrifice the lure of big profits and even face bludgeon¬
ing at the hands of the government in order to keep up that
once great tradition of the Indian Press.

For over a quarter of a century our national Press had
fought every attempt of the British to curb the liberty of
our people, the right to stand up and fight for free speech,
the right to freedom of expression, the right of public meet¬
ing. These fundamental principles of democracy which
burned in every Indian heart had always found champions
in the Indian Press. That was its tradition. To-day, when in
broad daylight the Congress governments of the Centre and
the Provinces are attempting to revive in this country con¬
ditions which existed only in the worst days of the British
rule, the same Indian national Press is acquiescing in the
process of steady oppression which characterizes this new
Congress rule. The old fighters for freedom, who once wrote
their editorials as if in their blood, were now smug and com¬
placent. The Press was no longer willing to fight for the
rights of the people. It condoned the encroachments of the
government on our basic rights.

In that same year, 1948, we had sent two representatives
to the Press convention of the United Nations at Geneva.
There, in sight of the world Press, our accredited representa¬
tives pledged themselves to uphold freedom of information,
and contracted with the other free peoples of the world to
secure to all our own nationals and to every contracting
state the freedom to impart or receive information and
opinions without governmental interference and without
any discrimination. They further agreed to the principle of
giving freedom to transmit and listen to information and
opinions within our territories, across our frontiers.

While these pledges seem impressive in cold print it is
common knowledge to the average man in India that they
have been nothing more than scraps of paper to the govern¬
ments at home. Slowly but steadily our Press has been regi¬
mented to become the voice and organ of the government,
letting the people hear only the official version of the


The danger is that, tired of fighting, the people will
become timid and helpless. They will in time become mere

* # * =*

At the end of a heated three-day debate of the All-India
Newspaper Editors’ Conference, the following resolution
was passed unanimously:

“This Conference is firmly of the opinion that there is no
justification for the continuance of public safety legislation
of the type in force in several provinces in so far as it affects
the Press. Such legislation militates against free expression
of public opinion and is not only open to abuse but has
actually been abused by the executive authority in some

“In expressing this opinion the Conference recognizes the
need for the executive to be armed with special powers
under conditions of national emergency and, while calling
upon the Press of India to function with a due sense of re¬
sponsibility in stabilizing India’s newly-won freedom, the
Conference DEMANDS that legislation conferring such wide
powers should be revised, particularly in the direction of
providing suitable safeguards including, ABOVE ALL,
judicial review of executive action.

“This Conference further DEMANDS that all action
hitherto taken under the emergency measures should be
reviewed in consultation with the representatives of the

This was in July 1948, and Mahatma Gandhi’s son, Dev-
das, editor of the Hindustani Times, presided over the con¬

Devdas Gandhi had the name but not the mind of his
father. He was very unhappy about the resolution and
made his discomfiture felt at the conference itself.

He was more a party-editor than a pure journalist. It was
too much to expect him to go against his party’s govern¬
ment in order to champion the rights of the Press.

The result was that the government were able to ignore
the unanimous decision of the Indian editors and our chief


spokesman was satisfied with the government’s explanation.
The President of the Congress, Dr. Sitaramayya, said in a
public speech: “The Press must become a unit of the

By January 1949, Devdas was even beginning to take
sides with the government against what he called the “yellow
Press”. To the journalists of Madras he said: “The yellow
Press should be given no quarter whatsoever if the pro¬
fession of journalism is to prosper in the country and
healthy traditions set up. I am for refusing admission to
such people to organizations like the All-India Editors’

The so-called “yellow Press” to which he referred was
only the Press which had criticized the Congress. It was far
from “yellow” in more senses than one. But whether it was
“yellow” or not, it hardly lay in the mouth of a journalist
president of the newspaper editors of India to say that he
wanted this section of the Press excluded from a body which
represented the whole Press of India. Devdas Gandhi went
further. He said: “As president of the Newspaper Editors’
Conference I will not give any protection against any
government action or proceedings against such papers or
periodicals. In my official capacity and as a member of
various Press advisory committees, I shall always press for
action against papers of this kind whenever I am consulted
about it.”

It was as if the editors of the London Times or the New
York Times, as president of the British or the American
Editors’ Association, were to advocate the exclusion of the
Daily Mail, the Daily Express and the News of the World
from the British association, or of the Daily News and the
tabloids from its American counterpart.

An even more ludicrous suggestion was to come from the
editor of Lokamanya, Mr. P. V. Gadgil, in a speech he made
at Sangli to the Marathi journalists assembled in confer¬

“It is my firm conviction,” this Indian editor said, “that
newspaper work should be removed from the hands of

That meant state control of the Press. And here was an

Indian editor advocating that the Press should become a
ventriloquist’s dummy as in a fascist state.

It therefore became increasingly difficult to fight for the
freedom of the Press when our own men were lining up on
the other side.

Often I sat at my desk in that little cubicle of ours late in
the evening when all around was quiet and the issue of the
paper just gone to press, and wondered whether a fight
against such heavy odds was worth while. In the India of
to-day the sword is mightier than the pen. It appeared so
much easier to toe the official line, applaud the men in
power and bury the sorrows of our people. But on more
than one occasion like this an odd word of encouragement
and hope from some little reader in an obscure corner of
India had urged me on.

I remember a post-card from an elderly man. Each week
he received his copy of my paper. He read it from cover to
cover. Then in the evening the people of the village would
gather around him in his garden and he would translate to
them extracts from what I had written. “You see,” he wrote,
“your message spreads.”





Cartoonist Shankar, who plays the role of a David Low
in India, drew a little cartoon in his Weekly , showing a
typical opportunist couple in conversation with Pandit
Nehru. With a sheepish grin on his face, the man was
saying to Pandit Nehru: “Well, Panditji, if you can’t spare
an ambassadorship, maybe you can give us some extra petrol

I shall pass over the Ambassadorships; for an even brisker
trade in patriotism was being carried on in the home market,
where Congressmen were using their positions for personal
aggrandizement. It was often difficult to produce the neces¬
sary evidence to bring these erring patriots to book. In many
cases the money changed hands in notes of small denomina¬
tions of which there can be no record. The anti-corruption
branch of the police, which alone was in a position to track
down the many shady transactions, realized that it would be
more politic not to follow up clues which would lead to the
exposure of corruption among high-ranking Congressmen
and officials.

The police in India were already known to be easily ac¬
cessible to graft. It was their long-established record that
almost anything that was illegal could be done with their
connivance and, therefore, with perfect safety, so long as it
was made worth their while. If a house of ill-fame did not
wish to be raided or an illegal bookmaker did not wish to
be embarrassed on the racecourse, he paid the usual “tariff”
for these services un-rendered. The British used to overlook
these minor levies, it being to their advantage not to be too
strict with the police force which was so useful to them in
maintaining their grip over the country.

But in free India, while the government brought to task
many an insignificant individual in the police force for
having taken a small bakshish of eight annas or a rupee,
they shut their eyes to the occasions on which many a rich
man seemed to have been caught red-handed. Somehow the

larger profiteers always managed to get a verdict of Not
Guilty recorded in their favour or have the charges against
them withdrawn for want of the necessary legal quantum of
evidence. At the same time it could be seen from newspaper
reports that when our vigilant anti-corruption branch laid
hands on a baker for selling a loaf of bread without a
coupon, or on a small grain dealer who had obliged one of
his old customers with an extra bowl of rice, the unfortunate
fellow had had it.

Only in one instance in Calcutta, in April 1949, did a
humane magistrate revolt against the persecution of the
poor, and even though the accused pleaded guilty on a
charge of contravening the rationing regulation the magis¬
trate imposed only a token fine of one anna.

The case was that of a poor villager who had violated
the regulation by bringing rice into the city of Calcutta, a
rationed area. The magistrate, when convicting the accused,
said: “The more I try such cases the more I feel that I am
sentencing a class of poor people who are rendering a
distinct service to the citizens at their very door.”

This judgement could not have gone down very well with
the government concerned but it was just an isolated ex¬
ception. For the most part the petty transgressor suffered at
the hands of the law, while the big black-marketeers had so
organized themselves that they had carefully installed their
associates in some of the anti-corruption organizations, with
the result that, instead of these organizations bringing black-
marketeers to book, they made their detection even more

This further deterioration in the integrity of the police
force which took place after the Congress took over from
the British was directly traceable to the Congress-controlled
organizations which were harbouring these black-marketeers
and allowing them to move about freely in governmental
and social circles. Ministers often went to perform the open¬
ing ceremonies of business concerns belonging to gentlemen
whose records were very shady. It was, in the circumstances,
very difficult for the small fry of the police force, even if
they were honest, to attempt to combat such high-level cor¬
ruption which had the blessing and protection of the men
in power.


Moreover, the smaller magistrates were so badly paid that
in order to maintain a reasonable standard of living, they
found they had to supplement their meagre salaries with
such bakshish as came their way. If a magistrate were too
strict and too unreasonable in a case in which a rich man
was involved, he sometimes found himself shunted off to
some other court where he would be out of harm’s way.
Alternatively, if he took a broad view he stood to gain finan¬
cially and materially, and if the accused were a man of
power and influence the magistrate stood to gain quick pro¬
motion. The choice before an underpaid magistrate was,
therefore, an obvious one. If he did not take advantage of
the situation in which he found himself to better his posi¬
tion he had only himself to blame.

Facts, however, spoke for themselves, and it was inex¬
plicable to the people how many of these Congressmen in
power, whose sources of income prior to the attainment of
freedom were so small, could now be seen about living at a
far higher standard of life than could ever have been possible
under normal circumstances.

In the old days a Congress worker or a minor party
official would be seen going about in a bus or a tram or, if
he were more fortunate, in a rattling old Morris or a
Wolseley. Now these same men could be seen driving in
grand new Buicks, Packards, Cadillacs and other American
cars of the most expensive range. Patriotically they boycotted
British cars!

It may be said that these men who took the place of the
governing British had automatically a bigger and better-
paid position than they had before, but the question still
remained unanswered where the money came from which
paid for these expensive automobiles. The cars in question
were not government cars, nor could they have been paid
for out of salaries, however high. Th6y were in many cases
paid for in hard cash, in Rs. 100 notes, brought to the car
dealers in a bag. The mode of payment itself indicated that
these individuals were reluctant to bank their monies for
fear of being called upon to disclose the source of these
large amounts of cash or to explain how they came by

In many cases, certain highly placed Congressmen made

quite a tidy sum of money merely by purchasing these hard-
to-get new cars at the controlled price and reselling them
after a short interval as secondhand cars at one and a half
times or double the price, for there was no control whatso¬
ever on the price of secondhand cars. An influential Con¬
gressman could obtain a new car at the controlled price at
any time and several worthy party members have been
known, in the last year or two, to have changed cars as
many as five times in a year. No one could take any action,
because the transactions were outwardly legal even though
they were morally shady.

There were hundreds of other ways, known the world
over, in which profiteering could be done and these patriots
made use of them all. When food grains and cloth were con¬
trolled, Congressmen and Congress sympathizers were known
to have hoarded both these commodities even in their very
homes. Bales of cloth have been found stacked in private
godowns by men who were not recognized dealers in cloth.
Likewise, bags of rice were known to have been stored in
the homes of the selfsame men who were publicly moaning
about the plight of “our hungry people”.

With such an example set by those belonging to the party
which had engineered our freedom, it became very difficult
for the little man to set for himself a high standard of life
or to think in terms of sacrifice. All the moral values on
which his struggle for freedom were based were now being
upset. He had followed the Congress all through the years
and it was difficult to know where and when he should stop
following its example.

The result was that, after the British had quit, the whole
standard of morality of India steadily deteriorated. Circum¬
stances forced the little man to adapt himself to the com¬
plete absence of any moral values around him. Soon the
people themselves became corrupt, fighting, as they were, a
grim battle for survival, with prices of essential commodities
soaring higher every day. They had either to take what
profit they could in whatever manner they could and use
their illegal gains to combat the inflation or they had gradu¬
ally to go under in an effort to remain honest.

Those who were hardest hit were the men of character
who had fixed incomes and belonged to the middle class. In


two years of freedom these men who were the educated
backbone of the country were to be seen in shabby and
frayed clothes, their incomes shrinking day by day, desper¬
ately trying to cling to the decent standard of middle class
life to which they were accustomed, struggling to educate
their children and too honest to descend to the shabby
methods used by the traders in patriotism.

* ‘ # * *

Congress House is the official headquarters of the Congress
party in every province. There is one in Bombay, Calcutta,
New Delhi and in every major city in India. To the people
who had received direction in the past in their struggle for
freedom, Congress House was symbolic of the principles of
Mahatma Gandhi. It was a place revered and respected by
every nationalist. It was, above all, pledged to non-violence,
which was the basis of every movement which the Mahatma
had launched.

Imagine the surprise with which we turned over the pages
of a vernacular paper, the Maha Gujerat, edited by a Con¬
gressman who had the courage to expose the Congress from

The Maha Gujerat said: “Everyone knows that Congress
House, Vithalbhai Patel Road, Girgaum, Bombay, is the
address of the Bombay Provincial Congress Committee, but
the government file at New Delhi shows this address as
being that of the New India Arms and Ammunition Stores.
Is this the office of the Congress Committee, or is it a mer¬
cantile house?”

The editor of the paper was, at the time of his writing, a
member of that same Congress Executive Committee. He
obviously knew what he was talking about. The facts were
that some of the office-bearers of the Congress party had
formed a company to trade in arms and ammunition and
had given the address of Congress House as being that of
their company. Congress House had virtually become an
ammunition dump.

When I front-paged this news item it reached a wider
public and people all over the country were shocked to
read it. There was not a line of contradiction. Instead, a
few weeks later there was a change of address recorded in


the Defence department files. The arms and ammunition
had been hurriedly moved to a haberdashery store.

The question which still remained unanswered was:
“Why were leading Congressmen trading in arms and am¬

# # #

Up to the last days of his life the Mahatma had edited
his famous paper, the Harijan. After his death its editor¬
ship passed on to his ardent follower and faithful disciple,
Mr. K. G. Mashruwala, an elderly man steeped in Gandhian
philosophy, a man utterly above the gains and advantages
of party politics, a pure, unadulterated Gandhi-ite.

Front-paged in Harijan of October 3rd, 1948, there ap¬
peared a signed article by the new editor. In this article
Mashruwala warned Congressmen against cashing in on
their past sacrifices. He deplored the Congress party’s atti¬
tude of giving special treatment in various matters to party
men merely because they had taken part in the political
movement. Mashruwala spoke of certain special facilities
proposed to be granted to students who had taken part in
various Congress movements against the British government
in order to obtain admission for these students into educa¬
tional institutions where accommodation was limited.

In other words, political service was to be a short cut to

Mashruwala said that he had also heard from a cor¬
respondent in Madras who had drawn his attention to a
scheme published by the Madras government for rewarding
political sufferers with allotments of land. “If this report is
true, it seems to be a doubtful method of consolidating one’s
party through the power which a governing party necessarily
possesses in the State. It sets a bad example for other parties
to follow when any of them come into power. In a demo¬
cratic form of government this might happen at any time.

Mashruwala referred to the executive and criminal action
which was being taken by the present Congress government
against the followers of other political parties. It is not
impossible,” he said, “that in the course of time the very
heat of coercion might enable some of these parties to grow
strong enough to overthrow the Congress party. Such a new

party in power will follow the example of Congress party
by rewarding all those who might have suffered under the
Congress regime, and in this way the country will always
have the kind of government which thrives on nepotism in
the wide sense of that term. By rewarding those who suffered
out of patriotic sentiment we are transferring them from the
list of patriots to that of mercenaries or farsighted business¬

These words came from the editor of the Harijan,
Mahatma Gandhi’s own paper—the paper which had guided
our people through the toughest days of our struggle. For
the Harijan to warn the Congress, in the indignant language
which its editor had used, against coercion, nepotism and
political jingoism showed how glaring was the moral de¬
terioration of the foremost political party in India. The
Harijan spoke with unimpeachable authority on Congress

Another warning came from Sarat Chandra Bose, a former
leader of the Congress party in the Central Legislative
Assembly, an eminent lawyer, the undisputed political
leader of Bengal. Sarat Bose made a speech in Bombay in
July 1948, at a gathering of the Progressive Group, which
shook the smug complacency of many a local Congressman.
He said: “After ten months of existence, India has pro¬
duced a maimed and crippled baby without much sign of
life. She has been regulated and regimented to such a state
that she is unable to throw up her arms and kick her legs.
Our recent past has been one of which we cannot be

“The repressive ordinances, acts and regulations of the
British have all been made into law to-day; even an ordin¬
ance of 1818 has found a place in our draft constitution.
What is most shameful is that these repressive measures are
far more stringent than the British ever dared to take. . . .
You cannot make up for your inefficiency of administration
by enacting public security measures. . . . Free speech,
association and assemblies are things of the past. Our news¬
papermen are representatives only of a servile press; the
same men who once had the guts to criticize the British
regime in their newspapers are to-day looking to New Delhi

for orders. . . . Our home policy is calculated to deprive the
subjects of their liberty. . . . We have developed cold
feet. . .

Sarat Bose felt that the Congress had betrayed the people.
In plain words he said: “Corruption, nepotism and graft
are on the increase in every province. Pandit Nehru had
once said that all black-marketeers should be hanged from
the nearest tree and that the public services should be
manned by patriots and not by Indian Civil Servants, as
these were misfits, and until we shoved them out we could
not make any progress at all. ALL THESE UTTERANCES
an Indian look up to the Congress any longer to fulfil those

One more warning came from Pandit Radhakant Mala-
viya, a Member of the Constituent Assembly, and a son of
the late Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya, a veteran stalwart
of the Congress. In a speech he made to the same Progressive
Group in Bombay in October 1948, the younger Malaviya
delivered a vigorous and sustained attack against the policy
of the Congress governments who were, he said, tolerating
all kinds of corruption. He quoted Lord Acton’s dictum:
“All power corrupts and absolute power corrupts abso¬
lutely.” He said that we were worse off to-day in every way
than during the British rule. He pointed out that the
country’s wealth was concentrated among the few capitalists,
while 320,000,000 people lived at the bare subsistence level.
He referred to tax evasion by the rich and asked if and
when the government proposed taking some action. He
said: “To add insult to injury, those who evade taxes are
the very ones who are feted as patriots and honoured.” He
uttered the solemn warning that, unless matters were put
right in India soon, the country was likely to go the way of
Chiang Kai-Shek’s China.

“The honour of India is at stake,” Malaviya said. “The
good name of our country is involved. The interests of mil¬
lions of Indians demand that those at the top must be honest
and free from reproach.”

The average Indian then began to feel that there must be


something very wrong with the Indian National Congress
as it is to-day. The promises made by the Congress when
it was a revolutionary force in opposition were forgotten
once its leaders were safe in the saddle. Intoxicated by
power, individual Congressmen assumed arrogant airs.
History has proved on more than one occasion that such an
attitude on the part of a political party in power invariably
leads to the establishment of a fascist state, followed by
anarchy and confusion.

In January 1949 came the confession of guilt from the
Congress itself. Its president. Dr. Sitaramayya, issued a
directive for the guidance of Congressmen. The need for
such a directive was evidence enough of the rot that had
set in.

The directive said:

“No Congressman—more especially the members of the
elective bodies — should interest himself in recommending
candidates for offices, for securing permits for export or
import or for obtaining licences for shops, for themselves
and their friends and none should approach the authorities
—particularly the Executive, including judicial and police —
in respect of civil or criminal matters pending before

“It has come to the knowledge of Congress Committees
that not seldom is a place on transportation committees,
cloth licensing boards and allied bodies abused so as to
secure privileges and profits for the members or their friends.
This must be scrupulously avoided as otherwise the only
alternative would be to ask the Congressmen not to serve
on such Committees.

“There are universal complaints about bribery and black¬
marketing. Wherever possible, Congressmen should put
forth earnest efforts to bring the culprits to book. But their
endeavours in this direction would be successful only in the
measure in which their own conduct is above board. Often¬
times you come across the very persons who have complained
about the prevalence of the two vices, falling victims to
temptations themselves either in connexion with bribery or
with purchase of articles in black-market from a fountain-
pen to a motor car.


Everyone knows that these things are wrong, but under
the stress of temptation, he succumbs.

It is therefore necessary for the police to be alert, so that
a pious resolve once made may operate as a deterrent against
deviation from the straight path.

An organized attempt is necessary to check the growing
tendency to profit by the influence that the Congressmen
undoubtedly can exercise over officers and ministers. It is
earnestly pleaded that Ministers themselves and their Secre¬
tariat should set their faces against such inroads on their
own authority and jurisdiction and whenever transgression
of healthy rules of non-interference occurs, they may be
good enough to direct the attention of the Provincial Con¬
gress Committees to such lapses.

“It is widely noticed that with the formation of Ministries,
the unity of the Congress organization and its harmony
have been disturbed, and those who have been left out of
Ministerships have formed themselves into opposite groups
in the organization. This is reflected in the working of the
legislative party itself.

“Responsible government abroad is based on long-standing
traditions which have trained the party in power to respect
the opposition, and vice versa.”

This directive of the Congress President was bold and
statesmanlike; in actual effect, it could produce no results.
The situation had gone beyond control or repair.

The men who were wallowing in corruption could hardly
be expected to change their moral standards because of a
directive from their president.

It was in no case a party affair. It was for the government
to smash up the rackets and expose the men, however high,
who were corrupt.

* « #

As far back as 1936, Pandit Nehru made a speech at the
Congress session in Lucknow. Of the British administration,
he said:

“I have watched this process of moral and intellectual
decay and realized even more than I did previously how
autocratic power corrupts, degrades and vulgarizes.


“All criticism hurts the sensitive skin of the govern¬
ment and its reactions are quick and far-reaching.

“The more incompetent it grows, the less it likes being
told so.

“There is the tremendous deprivation of civil liberties
in India … a government that has ceased to have even
a shadow of justification for its existence.”

Twelve years later, the same Jawaharlal Nehru was to
hear his own words quoted back to him. But it did not
worry him or his government, for they were now in power.

In the early 1930s, in the House of Commons, Sir Samuel
Hoare, then Secretary of State for India, dismissed adverse
Indian opinion on his administration with the words: “Let
dogs bark; the caravan moves on.”

To-day, under a people’s government, we are still just
barking dogs.




“T v

Xndianization” had been the cry of the people during the
days of the British. The Indians rightly wished that the first
chance\should be given to their own people in all the ser¬
vices, civil, military and administrative.

Closely allied to this idea of indianization was the idea
of swadeshi. Swadeshi meant that which was home-made
and the people were asked to live and think in terms of
swadeshi, even though the indigenous product was often
inferior to its imported equivalent.

Swadeshi was a political and economic weapon which
Gandhi taught us to use. In the case of cloth, its political
effect was to deal a blow to Britain by crippling the Lanca¬
shire mill industry. Economically it created an income,
however small, for the people of the Indian villages who
used up the idle hours of the rainy season by spinning

There was a desire expressed by many of our national
leaders, including Gandhi himself, that with freedom we
should not only wear khaddar but live and think in terms
of swadeshi. We should in fact indianize our whole approach
to life and it followed that we should speak Indian as much
as possible.

While in theory the latter idea was most laudable, it
became ridiculous when it tried to overreach itself. The
impact of the British over so long a period had left its mark
on many aspects of our life and culture, which it was im¬
possible to eradicate overnight. English had out of necessity
become the official language in India, bridging the difference
between various linguistic areas. There were also no Sanskrit
or Indian words for such things as the telephone, railway
station, and many other inventions which had come to India
in the last hundred years. Some faddists of the Congress
breed decided that it would be a sign of defeat if one had
to continue to use these English words in our daily speech.
They felt that it would be to our everlasting shame if in

✓ 121


Free India we had no Indian word for the telephone. To
meet this difficulty a handful of more academically-minded
gentlemen sat down, dug into Sanskrit literature and pro¬
duced the word dhwani-vayaka-yantra. “Dhwani” means
“voice”; “vayaka” means “that which carries”; “yantra”
means “machine”. All that put together therefore became
the Indian word for telephone.

Dhwani-v ay aka-y antra satisfied our desire for indianization
but it made everyday life much too difficult, for each time
you wanted to take a girl out you would have to give her a
dhwani-v ay aka-y antra call!

I suppose no pants could be worn by anyone who thought
nationally, for the correct attire was either a dhoti (six
yards of cheese cloth twirled around one’s lower torso and
legs) or tight chunidars (sort of tight, reeved-up jodhpurs),
or, for more informal attire, just ordinary night pyjamas,
either plain or striped, complete with cord. For the few
Indians who had got into the habit of wearing trousers
and who did not have a single national garment to their
name, some delay had to be expected before supplies of the
national dress could be procured. In the meantime they
would be in a very peculiar position when, requiring the
replacement of a button, they found that there was no
word in the Sanskrit language to cope with such an
eventuality, for the button was a foreign article with a
foreign name, and could not be recomposed in Sanskrit,
unless of course we could call it by the Sanskrit equivalent
of trouser-holding-together-machine.

The next difficulty was to determine our national lan¬
guage. Throughout the length and breadth of India we
have a tremendous variety of vernacular languages, and for
generations have depended upon English or pidgin-English
to tide us over from one linguistic area to another. In 1925
the Congress passed its celebrated resolution in , which
Hindustani was accepted as the national language. Hin¬
dustani served as a vinculum, bracketing Hindi and Urdu.
But a resolution alone could not make a language under¬
stood all over the country. It will take many years before
the uneducated Bengal farmer can converse with his fellow
countryman of the south.

To add to all the confusion there is even a controversy,


still unended, regarding the legal paraphrase for Hindu¬
stani. Should it be called the common language, the
national language, the state language, or the federal lan¬
guage? Or should it be called the sab-ki-boli (language of
all) or the rashtrabhasha (the language of the country.)
While all these suggestions have been put forward in India
and long articles have appeared in the columns of the Press,
a button still remains a button in India.

    • # # #

In the old days, at the end of every cinema show or of any
public performance at which music was played, we heard
the strains of “God Save The King”. In August 1947 that
was definitely out. We then went into a flat spin about what
we should play instead. ‘

For quite a long time two songs had vied with each other
for pride of place as the Indian national song. One was the
Vande Mataram (“Long Live The Motherland”), composed
by Bankim Chandra Chatterjee; the other was Tagore’s
great song Jana Gana Mana.

The first named was the older of the two songs. It was
not specifically written as a hymn to Mother India, even
though the name suggests it. Chatterjee was a Bengali
novelist and not a song writer. The song occurs in one of
his novels which deals with a group of Brahmins who revolt
against alien rule in Bengal. According to the story, they
turned marauders in the true Robin Hood tradition and
followed an esoteric cult. Vande Mataram was the song they
sang in their mountain hide-outs, in praise of the goddess
they worshipped. The song can be interpreted as a tribute
to India, personified and invoked as a goddess. As idol
worship was contrary to the Moslem religion, the Moslems
objected to Vande Mataram. During the first Congress
Ministries (1937-39), there were many stormy debates and
angry walk-outs staged in the provincial assemblies over
the issue of the singing of this song. The Moslem League,
in its charges of repression and atrocities committed by the
Congress on the Moslems in India, officially enumerated
the singing of the Vande Mataram as one of them. T. he
Congress thereafter decided to adopt only a truncated form
of Vande Mataram as the national song.


It was, however, never regarded as satisfactory as an
anthem. Its words and music were too plaintive. It could
not easily be played by a military band. It had no chorus
and was unsuitable for mass singing. It struck no note of
triumph or of victory, so necessary in a song which was to
be the anthem of a rising nation.

Consequently the government of India looked for an
alternative and, although the national anthem of India is
not yet officially fixed, a provisional anthem is Tagore’s
Jana Gana Mana.

This song, addressed to “the arbiter of India’s destiny”,
has had a somewhat chequered career. The fiery nationalists
of Bengal frowned upon it soon after it was written. A whis¬
pering campaign was started, which alleged that Tagore
had written it on the occasion of the Delhi Durbar of 1911
and that the “arbiter of India’s destiny” was King George V.

There is no doubt that Tagore’s is the more rousing song,
but in true nationalist fashion the south Indian raised an
objection to it because the poet had listed in the song the
provinces of India in such a way that Madras was not in¬
cluded in it as a unit. And, said the man from Assam, how
can I stand to a national anthem in which my province is
not even mentioned? On July 1st, 1948, when a radio
station was inaugurated at Shillong in Assam, a group of
artists picketed the studio as a protest against the singing
of Jana Gana Mana. Moreover, geographical anomalies had
now arisen as a result of the partition, for half of Bengal
and half of the Punjab own allegiance to someone other
than “the arbiter of India’s destiny”.

It seems pointless to be so determined to have a national
anthem and to quibble over its selection before we have
imbibed the national spirit.

The desire to have Indianization in form rather than in
spirit became more conspicuous during the early months
of freedom, when ostensibly patriotic gentlemen drafted
numerous resolutions all over the country urging the change
of all names of roads which had anything whatever to do
with the British. No one could say anything against the
renaming of Esplanade Road as Mahatma Gandhi Road.

But very soon the situation became somewhat ridiculous
when city fathers wanted to re-name almost every road with
an Indian name.

There was a move to change the name of New Delhi to
Motinagar, after Pandit Nehru’s father, Motilal. Likewise
there were some people who did not like the main roads
of Delhi to carry the names of the great Moghul Emperors,
Akbar and Aurangzeb. Petty-minded Hindu communalists
tried to obscure the memory of the many hundred years of
Moghul domination and Moghul civilization over India,
merely because they were piqued that the partition and
the creation of the separate state of Pakistan had denied
them the opportunity of controlling, for the first time, the
geographical unit which was formerly known as India. The
attempt to de-Moghulize the old Moghul capital only
showed that the Hindu, in spite of all his recent political
achievements, had not the confidence of a free man and
was wanting to insist that his new domination should be
placarded on the streets of that portion of the India which
was now his.

This was the psychological explanation of what appeared
on the surface to be merely a childish fad.

History records that several countries do rename some of
their roads after a revolution, a war or a conquest, or to
perpetuate the names of some of its greatest sons. In Paris,
after World War I, there came into existence the Avenue
Foch; in Russia, after the revolution, St. Petersburg became

But in India after independence they wanted a whole
heap of roads renamed; a Jawaharlal Nehru Road, a Sardar
Vallabhai Patel Road, a Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya
Road, a Lala Lajpat Rai Road, a Shrimati Vijayalaxmi
Pandit Road and so many others.

Moreover, the Indians wanted the full names such as one
finds only on one’s passport. That may have been all right
at the beginning when the formal ceremony of the road
renaming was done, but in daily use the chances were that
the road came to be known by a combination of initials,
as in the case of Sir Phirozeshah Mehta Road in Bombay
for which the contraction Sir P. M. Road has now been


All this renaming of streets after Congress leaders was a
dangerous precedent to set up in India, for if the reins of
government changed hands and the socialists, the com¬
munists or the reactionary R.S.S. were to come into power
they would want to rename the streets all over again.

Our attitude in respect of commemorating our more
revered dead is also quite unique. It was graphically
illustrated by a picture which appeared in The Statesman
of Calcutta. The picture showed the condition of the statue
of the late Sir Ashutosh Chatterjee, a great Calcutta figure
of the past. On it the citizens of Calcutta had stuck every
conceivable type of handbill—advertising movies, political
meetings, pain-cures and aphrodisiacs, in addition to the
usual marks left by the crows and the pigeons. This was the
normal fate of the men whose memory we tried to honour.
But once a year, on the anniversary of Sir Ashutosh’s death,
the Indians of Calcutta washed him and removed the com-
cercial handbills and paid pious homage and lip service to
his memory. He was then garlanded profusely but within a
day or so he sank back into oblivion and became once again
a good site for commercial advertisements.

Yet all these fads were but trifling in comparison with
two major fads of the Congress government which affected
the lives and liberties of our people. They were unjustifiable
interferences with the normal life of the individual. One
was the proposed abolition of horse racing and allied forms
of gambling; the other was the introduction of prohibition,
at first partial but later aiming at being absolute.

To take racing first: The province of Bombay benefited
to the extent of Rs. 11,645,965 and a few odd annas by way
of taxes and licence fees during the year ending June 30th,
1948. This apart, the Bombay Municipality, which is the
equivalent of the Local County Council, received Rs.
1,720,326, by way of water charged, ground-rent and
property-tax, from the Royal Western India Turf Club. 1

During the year under review the club held thirty-five
race meetings and distributed in stake money the large sum
of Rs. 3,007,110 in the rough proportion of 80% for Indian-
breds and 20% for open events for imported horses. After

1 These figures are taken from an article by A. F. S. Talyar-
khan, sports editor of The National Standard.


paying all these taxes, licence fees, charges and stake monies,
the Turf Club showed a profit of Rs. 73,810. The average
attendance per race day is calculated at only 20,000 approxi¬
mately, so that the argument of the Congress government
that racing is bad for the masses does not hold good.

In a country in which black-marketeers who claim to be
nationalists and alleged industrialists were quibbling with
the state over the payment of income tax on their pilfered
millions, these 20,000 ordinary citizens, who were lovers of
the sport of horse-racing, were willingly, gladly and de¬
liberately enriching the exchequer of one single city and
province to the tune of approximately twelve million
rupees. One single race day held in aid of the hospitals
fetched Rs. 756,228. There is no other single organizational
attraction that can bring in such response for a cause which
is both needy and humanitarian.

The Congress government of Bombay had, however, made
up their minds that gambling was, for reasons best known
to themselves, injurious to the life of the people of this free
country. Their rigid attitude allowed of no argument; nor
had they any facts and figures or experience to show or
prove their case. They had just decided to experiment with
a fad of theirs which assumed that the abolition of gambling
would make better Indians of us all. If a Congress minister
were asked why gambling was bad for the individual, he
replied that the reason was obvious. And when one looked
at him with surprise at this answer, he would clarify thus:
“Whether it is good or bad, we have decided to abolish
racing. The people have put us in power, and we know
what is best for the people.” The fact remained that quite a
few of the 20,000 who attended the Bombay races were
Gandhi-capped, khaddar-c lad Congressmen, who appar¬
ently did not share their ministers’ belief. In fact they went
further and tried to find ways and means, in the typical
tradition of the Congressmen, of evading the iz\% betting
tax and often of installing themselves as unlicensed and
illegal bookmakers, khaddar clothes, Gandhi cap and all.

While the Congress government spoke of lifting the moral
tone of our people by the abolition of gambling, they
seemed to be unmindful of the damage they were doing to
thousands of owners, trainers, jockeys, riding boys, grooms


and sycees who depended on racing for their livelihood.
Several large horse-breeding establishments, dotted all over
the country, are getting ready to close down because the
breeding of horses other than for racing was not, by itself,
lucrative enough to justify their continuation. The odd
situation was likely to occur where we would have to im¬
port horses from other countries because we had crippled
and closed up our own indigenous industry.

Moreover, it seemed such a criminal sacrifice of public
revenue to throw away approximately twelve million rupees
in one province alone at a time when the same provincial
government was finding it necessary to raise the price of
education in the shape of school and college fees in order
to meet its expenditure in that direction. Other social ser¬
vices such as hospitals, housing and free medical aid were
suffering from an acute lack of funds. But the Congress
government was adamant. It could see no justification for
allowing an “immoral” sport like racing to continue.

Next came prohibition.

In Sanjeevan, the official mouthpiece of the Bombay
government’s Provincial Prohibition Board, one of the
Congress ministers aired his pet views on prohibition as
part of the crazy dream of a vegetarian and virtuous India.
With cool effrontery he claimed that the prohibition scheme
was “in answer to the voice of our millions clamouring in¬
cessantly for positive action.” He pleaded for “a firmer will
to banish the evil (drink) from our midst.”

It is true that prohibition was part of the Congress
policy, chiefly inspired by Mahatma Gandhi. But the fact
that the Congress had been elected to power did not neces¬
sarily mean that the people had given a mandate for pro¬
hibition. So long as the issue of the country’s freedom re¬
mained unsettled the average Indian preferred to rally
behind the all-powerful party rather than pick holes in the
various details of its home policy. No Indian had time to
consider whether prohibition should or should not be en¬
forced in the future; his main and immediate concern was
that the country should be free.

The Congress ministers, however, claimed that irrespec¬
tive of merit every scheme sponsored by the Congress should
automatically have the support of the people. In fact it was

difficult to make Congressmen realize that the blank cheque
given to them would henceforward have to be filled in and
endorsed by the people; for the Congress had now become
only a political party in a free country, whose duty it was
to present the country with a programme acceptable to the
people. But our new politicians did not think along those
democratic lines. They used the unlimited powers which
had been given for the attainment of independence to en¬
force on the country, after freedom was won, policies such
as prohibition which had never before come in for serious
consideration from the people. The result has been that the
more the government have tried to enforce it the stronger
has become the opposition of the people, who are finding
ever-increasing ways and means of circumventing these irk¬
some restrictions.

Prohibition failed in America not because drinking was
a habit with the Americans but because the enforcement of
morality by legislation encroached upon individual liberty
and upon the rights of the individual to decide the way in
which he should live his life. Many Americans who had no
marked weakness for alcohol became confirmed drunkards
and law-breakers, not because of any inherent streak of
viciousness in them but merely to assert themselves against
this crudely enforced social reform.

It is characteristic of the new regime in India that it seeks
to usher in virtue not by teaching the masses to have correct
values and discrimination but by trying to sweep away the
temptations of everyday life.

In the Sanjeevan article it was claimed that both Hin¬
duism and Islam enjoined upon us to keep clear of vice.
The use of religion as an argument for bolstering up pro¬
hibition is dangerous. It is a disastrous precedent to set up
in a country which was moving towards becoming a secular

Drink was not a habit introduced into India by the
British. The Brahmins of ancient India were known to have
drunk themselves into sadist passions as they performed
their gory animal sacrifices. The Moghul courts of the day
of the emperors were said to have had an inexhaustible
supply of rare wines.

When cow slaughter was sought to be banned by legis-

E 129

lation, it was Mahatma Gandhi, a devout Hindu and con¬
firmed vegetarian, who opposed this move on the ground
that India was not a theocratic state.

It is therefore unfair of the Congress to quote the Hindu
scripture and the holy book of the Moslems to justify a
policy which is nothing more than a party fad.

It is true that this fad is to be traced to the gospel of
Mahatma Gandhi, who held very definite but personal
views on prohibition. But the Mahatma’s gospel was the
gospel of an ascetic. For instance, he also practised celibacy
for the greater part of his life in his desire to renounce the
physical pleasures of the world. In any case, prohibition,
abstention from meat-eating, and celibacy were issues which
were personal to Mahatma Gandhi and were intended by
him to be an example to his followers, to be undertaken
voluntarily by those who were able to live up to that almost
monastic code.

Unfortunately the men who quote Mahatma Gandhi on
prohibition have ignored many other principles he laid
down which were really fundamental to Gandhian political
philosophy. They have ignored his views on civil liberty,
on freedom of speech and expression, on the very meaning
of democracy. These views can all be found in his many
writings in the Harijan and Young India. It was ironical,
therefore, that the Congress governments which flouted his
theory and concept of democracy and freedom should quote
him only when it suited them to do so.

The cases of breach of the prohibition laws have been
mounting. Whole areas which were temperate are to-day
packed with illicit distilleries. In Cocanada, on the out¬
skirts of Bombay province, liquor was once distilled only by
Christians and Hindus of low caste. The orthodox and the
high-caste Hindu, therefore, did not touch it because he felt
he would be polluted drinking the grog which low-caste
hands had manufactured. When prohibition came, the
known distillers of liquor were hustled out of the area by
the anti-prohibition squads. But liquor had to be produced
and clandestinely the Brahmin tried his hand at it. First he
made it for himself and then gradually for a few select
friends. As liquor was now being made by the highest caste
of Hindu, the religious taint disappeared and soon whole

areas were covered by illicit distilleries. The liquor drinkers
of Cocanada therefore increased and soon one out of every
five houses in the area became an illicit distillery.

Simon Pereira, columnist of the Sunday Standard, re¬
ported the table patter of a little dinner party held in the
house of Bombay’s Prime Minister in May 1949 on the eve
of an important by-election. Present at that party was Mr.
V. P. Menon, I.C.S. Secretary of the States Ministry, govern¬
ment of India, who was passing through Bombay on his
way to Madras in the south. In the course of conversation
Mr. Menon, who has a fine sense of humour, suddenly re¬
marked that whatever the Congress record in Bombay, it
was squarely beaten by that of the Madras ministry in two
particular respects.

“And what are these so remarkable achievements?” he
was asked.

“Well,” said Mr. Menon looking round the table, “one is
the institution of complete prohibition. . . . The other,”
after a pause, “is the extraordinary development of cottage
industry throughout the province.”

“Tell me,” said the Prime Minister of Bombay, whose
interest in the promotion of cottage industry is practically
his ruling passion, “about their cottage industry programme.
How did they do it?”

“It was simple,” said Mr. Menon. “They brought in pro¬
hibition and now there’s a private still in every cottage.”

Loud laughter, Simon Pereira said, greeted the sally.

The Times of India correspondent reported that in Bel¬
lary, in the same province of achievement, Madras, a camp
jail was nearing completion which would accommodate
5,000 prisoners convicted of offences against the prohibition
laws of Madras province. The prisoners were to be employed
on digging canals.

My mind went back to the day I walked into another
“camp jail” the day after it was liberated. It was at Belsen
in Hitler’s Germany. The inmates of this camp had also
been digging. So that when I heard of the camp jails con¬
structed in my country in order to teach new moral values
to our people I wondered what the future held in store
for us.

The Indian people appear to have sympathy rather than

l 3 l

condemnation for the unfortunate and unlucky “culprits”.
Prohibition squads have yearly to be strengthened, and
their expenditure increases. Meanwhile our ministers are
throwing away revenue amounting to millions of rupees
accruing from excise duty. When the Prime Minister of
Bombay was asked how he would be able to do without this
immense revenue when so much more than ever was being
required to cope with the expenditure of the social ser¬
vices, education and the refugees, he replied that he was
going on with his prohibition scheme notwithstanding the
“Go Slow” directive of the government of India, for he
would not require their financial help. So that the pro¬
vincial governments were now discarding even the advice of
the government of India.

It is quite obvious that this burden of expenditure will
fall on the shoulders of the common man who, in addition
to being deprived of his right to drink, will also have to
pay with increased taxation for his purity enforced on him.
The evangelism of the unhaloed saints in the Congress
ministries did not concern itself with the economic aspect
of the prohibition case.

The Prime Minister of Bombay said that his government
had the support of all sections of the public for prohibition.
The camp jail at Bellary, the heavy increase in expenditure
for additional police, the growing number of illicit distil¬
leries and the unending series of crushing defeats the Con¬
gress have suffered all over the country appeared to refute
that vain boast.




Th E common man of India had rallied behind Mahatma
Gandhi not merely to achieve the theoretical status of a
free man. That freedom was to have had some meaning
other than that we should have our own national flag, our
own national anthem and our own men sitting in the high
places which had before been occupied by Englishmen.

The British domination of India had far-reaching econ¬
omic consequences. The many millions of Indian people
believed that it was because of the domination that they
were half-starved, naked and hungry; while the wealth of
the country was being drained into the pockets of those who
had come to our shores as empire builders, used our men,
material and labour, and taken away the fruits of the land.
Our people had seen the effect of trade agreements ostensibly
made between Great Britain and ourselves, where we were
represented by Englishmen who claimed to be speaking
and feeling with the interests of our country at heart. Under
these agreements the rule of imperial preference was
evolved—a rule which would be perfectly fair between free
countries whose capacity to produce was equal. But in the
case of Great Britain and India it resulted in the dumping
of a substantial part of Britain’s exported goods on to us,
while we had hardly any finished products to export. Like¬
wise our people were told, even if they could not see, that
the monetary rate of exchange was always favourable to the

Indians realized that while the impact of the British had
brought them a few benefits of science, engineering and
education, none of these benefits had been developed with
the vigour necessary to bring out the great potential which
lay dormant throughout the years of domination.

They criticized the enormous sums spent on items like
defence and police while a meagre portion of our revenues
was allocated to social welfare, medical relief and education.

Our farmers were backward people, uneducated in the


ways of modern scientific farming, unaware of how the rest
of the world planned its production and marketed its goods.
It was only because our land was rich in itself that, when
the rains fell, the crops grew. God and nature and a few
primitive implements were all that helped the farmer with
his crop. Years of hard labour of making the land produce
without knowledge of how to replenish the richness of the
soil had left the millions in our villages on the border-line
of starvation, with a wage-earning capacity lower than any¬
where else in the world, with children littering the country¬
side with bloated but empty stomachs and an emaciated
breed of men increasing in numbers but deteriorating with
every generation, both in mind and body. Poverty, squalor,
hunger, disease were the only things they knew, the only
problems they had to solve. There was no hope for them so
long as the foreign rule lasted .That was the firm belief in

Under our own government, a people’s government, the
common man believed—as he had been taughtl to believe—
that his miserable plight would end; that his harvests would
be richer and that he would have a fair share of the wealth
of his land and of the fine things it had to offer; that in
time he would have something better to live in than the
grass and cow-dung hut in which he had been born and in
which his ancestors had lived and died; that the bullock-
cart, which was the only method of transport he knew other
than his own two feet, would disappear from the village
scene, and that modern machines would come to his village
and tractors would plough his land and make it easier for
his crops to grow; that science would bring him new aids
when God and the elements were found to be less kind; that
his children would have free schools in which to learn to
read and write, and that his woman would see more of life
than on her daily amble to the village well.

The people had confidence that during the years of the
struggle, a constructive programme was being planned.
Those they depended on to lead them in the future, who
could so easily see the faults of the British, would, of course,
have the solutions to the many problems of the country at
their finger-tips. They had heard of the various economic
planning committees who had been working out various

schemes which were to form part of what was to be virtu¬
ally a socialist programme for India, complete with nation¬
alization of certain key industries and, in general, the nation¬
alization of the means of production, distribution and ex¬
change. The people hoped there would be some sort of
equitable redistribution of wealth, an equality of oppor¬
tunity, a breaking down of the barriers. The common man
of India thought that with the installation of an Indian
national government at New Delhi a millennium would be
ushered in. He had traced all our troubles to our state of
dependence and believed that in a free India, governed by
our own leaders, these troubles would end. The monies
made by the sweat of Indian labour would henceforth stay
in the country and be circulated back to the people.

To-day this same Indian is bitterly disillusioned, for his
plight is worse than it ever was. All the idealism which was
to be found in the plans and resolutions of the Congress,
prior to 1947, somehow fizzled out when the time came to
put those plans into action.

One day Pandit Nehru unexpectedly admitted that after
a few months in harness he had become a wiser and more
cautious man. He declared that all his idealism was not
very practical at the present moment. When it came to the
question of nationalizing certain industries, which the
Indian expected to be nationalized, the Pandit discovered
that these industries were obsolete!

The nationalization of existing industries was, therefore,
indefinitely shelved. The government virtually admitted
that it had neither the funds, the spare time nor the trained
personnel to take them over. This volte-face was announced
on April 7th, 1948, in a speech the Prime Minister made in
the Dominion Parliament.

The one-time revolutionary socialist. Pandit Nehru, was
now heard to say: “There is a great deal of difference be¬
tween theory and practice.” In a speech punctuated by
“nevertheless” and “this-and-that’s” he said:

“One has to be very careful that in taking any step the
existing structure is not injured too much.

“In the state of affairs in the world and in India to-day,
any attempt to have a clean slate, that is, a sweep-away of


all that we have got, would certainly not bring progress
nearer, but might delay it tremendously.

“If we spend vast sums of money on acquiring THIS
AND THAT we would be acquiring things which were
90 per cent, obsolete to-day.

“There is a great deal of difference between theory and
practice. All manner of difficulties crop up in implementing
a theory.

“There has been destruction and injury enough and cer¬
tainly I confess I am not brave and gallant enough to go
about destroying much more.

“I think there is room for destruction in India still of
many things. They would, no doubt, have to be removed.
NEVERTHELESS, there is a way of approach.

“Perhaps there never has been a clean slate even when
people imagined that there was going to be a clean slate.
NEVERTHELESS, there could be more or less a clean slate.

“The alternative to that clean slate was to try and rub
out here and there. . . . But, NEVERTHELESS, not with
a great measure of destruction, etc., in its trail.

“Maybe I have been affected by recent events but more
and more I have felt that it is wrong to destroy something
that is producing something or doing good.

“I have no doubt in my mind that we have to change this
existing structure and as rapidly as possible.

“The lament of burdens that are put on industry, taxa¬
tion, THIS AND THAT is based on a certain view of the
world, which, I fear, cannot possibly come back.

“I am not thinking in idealistic or any terms but practical
terms when I say that you cannot have it back.”

Having fumbled all the way through that important
statement of policy and made a speech which, in its ramb¬
ling, could only be likened to some of the utterances of the
late Ramsay Macdonald, Pandit Nehru came to the point:
“One has therefore to compromise, much as I hate the
word,” he said.

“It is an odd thing,” India’s first Prime Minister now
discovered, “that most of our ardent revolutionaries who
think in terms of an idealistic world are quite extraordin¬
arily conservative in their scientific approach to the world’s

“Nevertheless . . . /”

That, coming from a man who had made many a thrilling

speech in the days of the British, painting pictures of the
India we were to build under freedom—an India which was
to be strong and unafraid—was an anticlimax. It -shattered
the faith of many thousands in the power of his dynamic
leadership. The blunt truth was better expressed by a
prominent Congress leader, who told the people: “You
have been slaves for two hundred years. Now that your own
men are in office, why can’t you have patience for a few

Our liberation, therefore, had yet to come—with patience!

Freedom, we found, remained as far away from o,ur
people as ever. The halter of domination still weighed
upon them. If it was not by the imperialism of a foreign
power, it was by the dictatorship of an indigenous political
party, which was just as bad.

Not many people in India, however, are able to see the
underlying similarity between the two regimes. They are a
bit dazzled by the outward trappings of freedom.

The twisted processes of historical development are not
always appreciated in a state which is newly born and the
warp and weft of political events in India during these early
days has not assumed too quickly a clearly discernible
pattern. Even so, under the shifting trends of Indian politics,
the common man of India is able clearly to see and feel an
overwhelming pull towards the establishment of a despotic
rule by the very men who, in their time, had fought the
despotism of a foreign power.

Perhaps the most bitter realization that came to the in¬
telligent, educated Indian was that the government of free
India had become a testament of fascism. It made all the
long years of struggle against the British now appear some¬
what futile.

No clearer evidence of that growing tendency towards a
fascist dictatorship could be found than in the fact that the
new regime was depending even more on the military and
the police than the British had done. The “rice soldiers”
may have got a change of diet under their new masters but
their routine of work appeared to be much the same. Ironic¬
ally, the army budget, which our leaders once regarded as
crippling to the country’s economy, was increased and stood
at Rs. 1,150,000,000, about three times the figure to which

V* 19*7

the Congress had vowed they would scale it down. One
high-ranking Congressman, however, explained: “The
armed forces do not function as instruments of any foreign
power but as patriotic citizens whose sole aim is to see that
law and order are maintained.”

Explanations like these were intended to soften the blow
to the average Indian and help him understand why every
promise made to him was now being broken.

    • # * #

Early in 1949 Pandit Nehru observed that he did not like
“the temper of the country”.

The Prime Minister had apparently noticed that millions
of working-class men were losing the incentive to work.
They had become sullen and rebellious. They were resort¬
ing to strikes and stoppages of work with increasing fre¬
quency without consideration of the effect their action
would have on the economy of the country.

The country was generally becoming restive and dissatis¬
fied, with violence not infrequent at the lowest income
levels. This took the form of armed peasant riots against
grain collectors, stoning of urban police during wage demon¬
strations and destruction of factory properties by strikers.
Though the organizing of these upheavals and disorders
was often Communist, they were only made possible be¬
cause of a growing antipathy towards Congress administra¬
tions which were daily becoming more and more repressive.

This criticism of government, constructive and destruc¬
tive, did not come only from the lower and uneducated
income groups. It frequently came from the highest
levels of business. As one prominent industrialist retorted:

“ ‘The temper of the government’ also leaves much to be

It was ironical but true that, in free India, Indian in¬
dustrialists who in the days of the struggle filled the Con¬
gress party coffers with generous donations were now losing
their incentive for enterprise; they were reluctant to invest
their capital in new projects and ventures; they were be¬
coming cautious and distrustful of their own governments.
The industrialist explained his reticence by pointing out
that he had no guarantee of any stability in the country; he

could have no pact with labour, no fair deal from the
government. The government itself had not yet made up its
mind about its policy towards industry and private enter¬
prise. Too many members of the government and of the
Congress party were expressing divergent opinions on what
this policy should be. There was nothing clear-cut for the
industrialist. He was not inclined to start new ventures
when all the profits therefrom would go into taxes and
when there was every likelihood of the new industry being
nationalized. In the present state of indecision, the indus¬
trialist preferred to leave it to the government to start its
own industries.

It was not as if there was a “strike of capital” in the
sense that capital was not forthcoming. It was more than
that. The government was waking up to the fact that as a
result of their various policies India had little or no private
resources left for large-scale industrial development. The
government itself had squeezed them out in more ways than
one. Heavy income-tax and super-tax were gradually wiping
out that capital which normally would have been attracted
by new schemes of industrial development. Men and women
who were accustomed to live on large incomes now found
their incomes so badly slashed and their liquid cash so
absorbed by expenses that there was no surplus left to invest
in any enterprise, public or private. The only people left
who could afford to make big investments were the black-
marketeering class who \yere afraid to bring their money
out into the open for fear of being asked awkward questions.

All these circumstances combined to make it necessary for
many individual projects, announced in the past two years,
to be shelved for lack of investor response. The government
itself was having a very rough time with its own borrowing.
It had optimistically charted out a borrowing campaign for
1948 /49 at roughly £112 million or Rupees 1,500 million. It
was forced to cut it back to about half the amount, ap¬
proximately £62 million or Rs. 830 million; and eventually
the government succeeded in raising only about one-third,
approximately £40 million or Rs. 530 million.

In the early stages of these loan flotations, the Reserve
Bank of India used its influence to induce the various banks
of India to take up large blocs of these initial issues, thus


hoping to bolster up the market price of the loans and step
up public confidence in the new flotations. Indian leaders
at the same time made passionate appeals to the people to
come forward and invest their money in these new govern¬
ment securities, but the blunt truth was soon brought home
to the government that the people wanted to hang on to
what little they had left rather than risk it in government

Heavier taxes, which had now run up to 98% in the top
brackets, hundreds and thousands of refugees now compelled
to live on their capital, a population increase of as much
as 4,000,000 annually and a war-created demand for more
goods and utility services, made the price of living in all
income brackets soar higher every day. Consequently
national savings sank rapidly. According to the better-
informed economists in the country, India’s pre-war savings
rate may have been 6% to 7%, but to-day it cannot touch
much above 2%.

Currency notes in circulation in India to-day have jumped
up to seven or eight times their pre-war figure—from £127
million pre-war to a height of nearly £1,000 million, and
now stand at £870 million. These notes are backed by our
sterling balance with Britain which once amounted to more
than £1,500 million. That balance, which is our only sub¬
stantial foreign exchange credit, has now dwindled to little
more than half that figure.

The temper of the country has been conditioned by this
abnormal inflation.

In domestic life, the temper was reflected in the com¬
plaints of housewives at the exorbitant prices charged for
food, groceries, oil and other articles in daily use. The
tradesmen spoke of increased difficulties in obtaining any
goods at all. Producers, in turn, spoke of the difficulties in
obtaining raw materials and of the rising cost of labour.
With our trade balances going daily against us, more and
more difficulty was being experienced in getting foreign
currencies for the purchase of goods from abroad. Import
licences were a racket, a major item of trade on the black
market. Add to all this the hoarding, the squeezing out,
the freezing of stocks, indulged in by the men who throve
on these ways of shady business, and it completed the set

of circumstances which determined the temper of the

“The temper of the country” which Pandit Nehru did
not like was reflected also in the growing number of young,
able-bodied, mentally sound men who were unemployed.
One single Situation Vacant advertisement produced many
hundreds of applicants. When the young men came up for
an interview one noticed the sallow, hungry, desperate look
on their faces. They wore no khaddar clothes, no Gandhi-
caps. These past symbols of struggle were to-day only hall¬
marks of prosperity. Then men who were unemployed had no
urge to wear khaddar and the Gandhi-cap. They wore what
they could lay their hands on. Their fraying clothes bore
witness to the economic deterioration that was setting in.

There was a very dangerous trend discernible among the
younger generation. Owing to increase in school and college
fees, in the cost of education, and in the general cost of
living, many of this younger generation were leaving their
studies and beginning to dabble in political activity, offer¬
ing themselves as volunteers and workers in the many other
political organizations of the country. In order of popu¬
larity they were joining the Communists, the R.S.S. and the

Perhaps more than in any other way the mood of a dis¬
contented India was reflected in the change in the attitude
of labour towards the Congress party. Labour, a sturdy
pillar of the Congress throughout the national movement,
had now become its weakest prop. Parts of it were even
flaking off amid scenes of disorder and bloodshed.

The Indian working man is no longer apathetic to his
age-long abnormally low level of living. Instead of finding
his condition improved, he realizes now that he is up
against an inflation in which he is worse off than he was
before the war. The rise in wages and the dearness allow¬
ance which he now draws still keep him far below the
standard of wage-earning required to meet the upward
trend of the cost of living. The value of the rupee is de¬
teriorating faster than the rate at which his wages are being
increased. Hardly a day passes in India without some small
pitched battle being fought between the workers and the
forces of authority.


Industrial courts and tribunals have tended to side with
the working man in disputes and adjudications between
capital and labour. Even so, the truth is that in view of the
rise in the cost of living the working man cannot get, even
from the tribunal, a living wage, for the payment of such a
living wage would often cause a particular industry to fold
up. As one American observer put it: “Management, pro¬
duction and labour [in India] are all based on universal in¬
efficiency which might be summed up: Ten men drawing
five men’s pay for two men’s work.”

The unrest in labour is to be noticed in the rise of
Unionism throughout the country. It is estimated that
2,500,000 industrial workers comprise the membership of
the various unions.

Organized in 1947 as an offshoot of the Congress party
is the Indian National Trade Union Congress whose mem¬
bership claim runs to 900,000. This figure is a disappoint¬
ment to the Congress because the party bosses had directed
every Congress-minded working man to join. Other, more
left, organizations, controlled by the Socialists and the
Communists, made their claims somewhat as follows:
The Hind Mazdoor Sabha (Indian Workers’ Association),
500,000; the All-India Trades Union, 400,000; the Indian
Federation of Labour, 230,000. There is a number of
smaller outfits.

The odd thing is that while the I.N.T.U.C., which is
Congress-dominated, controls the largest single number of
members and plays an important part in domestic and
international labour talks, it becomes impotent even over
its own membership when, against the Congress govern¬
ment’s directive, labour gets into the mood to strike.

This may not seem so unusual, for elsewhere in the
world, as in Great Britain, Arthur Deakin does not always
succeed in keeping his Transport and General Workers’
Union behind the British Socialist party. But the method
which the government of India employs in such an
eventuality is unusual. For when labour goes into effective
opposition the Public Security Measures Act becomes the
Indian government’s decisive answer. It is the master key.

It does not take long for a Congress government, whether
of the Centre or of the Provinces, to say that a certain

labour leader or a group are “acting or likely to act in a
manner prejudicial to the public safety”. So without any
further ado they can be arrested without a warrant, jailed
without any specific charge, denied a trial and, in some
cases, refused even the right of habeas corpus.

Pandit Nehru said that the present temper of the nation
seemed more psychological than anything else. I do not
think he realized how right he was. That mood results
from their feeling of having been betrayed.

This changed mood in the country has put the fear of
God into many a Congress leader. It is to be seen in the
way “popular” ministers move about the country with
heavy armed guards and secret police escorts. Eight months
after freedom, more precisely in April 1948, the Congress
party held its first annual session since taking over the
reins of government. The nation’s leaders came to this
historic session which was held in Bombay. An amazing
number of police constables and plain-clothes men kept
guard over our “popular” leaders. It made the common
man of India wonder why, so soon after the Congress had
come into power, its leaders considered themselves unsafe
in the midst of their own people in a city like Bombay,
perhaps the most politically conscious and patriotic city in

Why were they so afraid? From whom were they pro¬
tecting themselves, if they were so popular?

In a country where hero-worship is very strong and where
top-ranking Congress leaders have always been placed on
a pedestal and revered, these extraordinary precautions
taken were a pointer to a declining popularity and perhaps
to a declining leadership.

On the bookstalls of every town and city in India there
is a popular book of history being openly sold. On page
361 the following words appear:

“ . . . Ideas and economic conditions make revolutions.
Foolish people in authority, blind to everything that does
not fit in with their ideas, imagine that revolutions are
caused by agitators. Agitators are people who are discon¬
tented with existing conditions and desire a change and
work for it. . . . But tens and hundreds of thousands of
people do not move to action merely at the bidding of an


agitator. Most people desire security above everything, they
do not want to risk losing what they have got. But when
economic conditions are such that their day-to-day suffering
grows and life becomes almost an intolerable burden, then
even the weak are prepared to take risks. It is then that they
listen to the voice of the agitator who seems to show them
the way out of their misery. . . . On the memorable day,
14th July 1789, . .

The author of that history book was Jawaharlal Nehru.

In another book of his, his Autobiography (page 544),
the same Socialist revolutionary said:

“If there is one thing that history shows it is this: that
economic interests shape the political views of groups and
classes. Neither reason nor moral considerations override
these interests. . . . The attempt to convert a governing and
privileged class into forsaking power and giving up its un¬
just privileges has always so far failed, and there seems to
be no reason whatever to hold that it will succeed in the
future. … To think, therefore, in terms of pure conver¬
sion of a class or nation or of the removal of conflict by
rational argument and appeals to justice, is to delude one¬
self. It is an illusion to imagine that a dominant imperialist
power will give up domination over a country, OR THAT

Here was a man able to analyse accurately the causes of
revolutions in history and to gauge the temper of his own
country during the days of “a dominant imperialist power”,
yet, when he became the Prime Minister of India on the
threshold of its new, free life, all he could say to his restless
people was: “There is a great deal of difference between
theory and practice.”

It was a great pity.




VT lamour belonged to the Orient long before it was dis¬
covered in Hollywood. It was the glamour of a way of living
unknown in the west. In the seventeenth century fantastic
tales were carried to Europe by the traders who came to
India; tales of rajas and nabobs, of jewels, silks and un¬
believable wealth, of harems and women in purdah, of
retinues of servants, of bejewelled elephants and strings of
horses, of an oriental splendour which to the west appeared
more legendary than real.

In part these tales were true. There was wealth and there
were priceless jewels. They have belonged to a few hundred
out of the millions that lived on the land. These few were
the feudal lords, the qld Indian rulers, left in their spheres
of sovereignty by the British so as to be assured always of
loyal bases all over the country. They were safeguards to
the continuation of the British domination over India.

The Butler Committee and the Simon Commission had
listed 562 Indian states. The joint committee on Indian
constitutional reform mentioned a vague round figure of
600. A more recent White Paper, issued by the States
Ministry which came into being after August 1947, made a
more careful count of 584.

Each state had its ruling prince. The smallest of these
princes ruled over forty-six square miles and boasted 26,000
people as his subjects; the largest of them, His Exalted High¬
ness the Nizam of Hyderabad, claimed a domain of over
82,700 square miles and over sixteen million people
accepted him as their sovereign lord. All these rulers, in
varying degrees of importance, power, wealth and influence
and with varying number of guns in salute, formed the
noble order of the princes of India. As a rule they carried
the title of “His Highness”.

In addition to the recognized princes there was a large
number of princely satellites in the shape of maharajkumars,
tikkarajahs, which meant sons of rulers and heirs-apparent;


brothers and cousins and a whole’ crowd of offspring by
halfwives and concubines—all of whom claimed to belong
to the princely order and hung around the central figure
of the ruling prince.

While in theory, by treaties made with the British, these
Indian ruling princes had the status of sovereigns, in reality
they were mere puppets in the hands of the Political
Department of the government of India and had to keep
themselves in the good books of the British Resident or
Political Agent to whom the Political Department had en¬
trusted the power, of “guiding’’ each Indian prince.

The son of a well-known Indian ruler once told me how
in reality the Resident was the all-in-all:

“Father would one day suddenly wake up to the fact that
the people of our state were extremely backward in educa¬
tion. He would call his ministers into conference and ask
them to start some campaign for education, plan a few new
schools and generally prepare a scheme for the educational
uplift of his subjects. The ministers would go away and
after a few months some plans would be submitted to
father. Monies would be found to put the new scheme into
operation and when all was ready father would send for the
Resident and tell him all about it. The Resident would
bow, call my father ‘Your Highness’ and pay the usual
courtesies, but he would not commit himself. Instead he
would go away and consider the new scheme. That meant
he wanted to write to the Political Department about it
and get his orders. Some two weeks later the Resident would
call on father again and in the course of conversation the
educational scheme would crop up. The Resident would of
course praise the great scheme and say what a wonderful
piece of social reform it was, but he would add: ‘I wonder,
Your Highness, with all due deference to Your Highness
and your advisers, whether it would be wise to put into
effect such a bold, far-reaching reform in the immediate
future. Perhaps it would be better to synchronize it with
the government’s schemes for further education in the
country when, I am sure, it would be even more ap¬
preciated.’ ”

“That meant NO,” the young prince told me. “Father
could do damn all after that.”


“But surely/’ I asked, “as a ruler he had the right to do
what he wanted in his own state. No one could question his
internal administration, especially when it was obviously
for the benefit of his people.”

“Theoretically, yes,” my friend explained. “If he had put
those schemes into operation, the Resident could not have
stopped them, nor even the Political Department, but father
would have had a black mark put up against him. He
would have opposed the will of the powers that be. Their
trust in him would have been withdrawn. They would have
waited for some incident or the other to happen in which
father had tripped, then out he would go, for they could
always force a prince to abdicate. You know how often
they’ve done it. It doesn’t pay in the long run.”

“But surely, if you don’t give the Political Department a
chance by staying clear of trouble and singing girls, you
need have no fear?”

My friend laughed. “What Indian prince can stay clear of
singing girls or women in general? In fact that’s the most
important portfolio in the state.”

Women came easy to these Indian princes. First their
scouts would scour the neighbouring and far-off states for a
suitable bride for the ruler or the heir-apparent when he
came of marriageable age. All that was done at state level,
it being borne in mind that unions within the princely
order strengthened the bonds of friendship between state
and state and became assets in matters like voting in the
Chamber of Princes and on such other occasions. When the
young man stepped on to the gadi (throne), marriage be¬
came part of his princely obligations and he became entitled
to relaxation and pleasures to relieve the boredom of being
a ruler who had sacrificed his life for the sake of his

A different set of scouts then scoured the state for such
samples of womanhood as would please the ruler’s fancy
and meet with his approval. The ruler would then send for
the father of the girl, or maybe even her husband, and
speak of his pleasure to have the girl for himself. He would,
of course, pay compensation to the person to whom the
woman at that time belonged. If the father or the husband
realized what an honour the prince was doing him by


choosing his daughter or wife as a royal concubine, well
and good. If not, then reason had to be brought to bear on
these obstreperous individuals in some form or another. But
the girl invariably came to the royal prince who used her
at his will and pleasure.

When the prince got tired of her, she was relegated to the
harem where she spent the rest of her life in the company
of other women who had come to the palace like her, per¬
haps with an offspring or two which became part and parcel
of the prince’s personal encumbrances.

Sometimes a husband or a father would persist in trying
to get the daughter or wife back and would be so foolish as
to approach the Political Department of the government of
India. Unluckily then the girl would have an accident and
die and that was when the good offices of the Resident and
the Political Department would be most helpful to the
prince, for it was the Political Department which had to
interpret what had really happened to the deceased girl.
There was never any scope for an independent inquiry.
The matter could be easily hushed up.

And so on to the next girl . . . perhaps her people
would give less trouble.

Generally speaking, the princes of India have not been
noted for any great culture, refinement, high principles or
education. There are, of course, notable exceptions but on
the whole the average man’s opinion of the Indian prince
was that he had “too much money and too little brains”.
All of them, even the educated among them, walked about
with the air of those on whom destiny had bestowed great¬
ness. They received the deep bowing salutes of their sub¬
ordinates, subjects and menials. The concept of the equality
of man never occurred to them. Perhaps it was definitely
discouraged during their early training and upbringing.
Even those who were educated abroad acquired a sort of
dual personality, a dual manner of behaviour. One was for
the outside world—humble, courteous, enlightened; the
other was for inside the state—pompous, arrogant, patroniz¬
ing, boorish, varying in degree with the individual.

The British did not want the princes to think too much
on democratic lines. These feudal and backward states were
checks on a progressive India which was then making in-

creasing demands on the paramount power. By pointing to
the position of the princes, the British hoped they could
postpone the day of the transfer of power.

When events did not turn out according to plan and the
British decided to quit, the position of the princes became
very anomalous. Their sovereignty was guaranteed by the
presence in India of British troops and when these were
removed the princes with all their paper treaties fell on
the mercy of the new government of India. They were “ad¬
vised” by Lord Mountbatten to accede to the Indian Union
or Pakistan, according to their geographical position, but
in any case to give jup the pretence of an independent
sovereignty which they could no longer maintain.

Hurried conferences were held between the princes and
their advisers. They reviewed their position in terms of the
new Indian set-up, in the midst of which they found them¬
selves without their erstwhile protectors.

These conferences went through several stages. The first
stage was at the constitutional and legal level and much
was said about the sovereign rights of these princes and how
they could be upheld in the courts of law and of inter¬
national justice. The blunt truth, however, was that there
was now no sanction left to ensure that this so-called justice
claimed for the princes could be carried out even if the
highest tribunals were to decide in their favour. The British
were not going to fight a war with the Indian Union to
uphold the sovereign rights of any of their former puppets.
The state ruler claiming independence would as a last re¬
source have to fall back upon his own state forces to uphold
their ruler’s rights, and some of the state soldiers appeared
more suited to musical comedy!

There were a few emphatic protests and representations
made by the princes themselves which came up for hearing
before Sardar Patel, a man who was strongly against the
princely order. The appeals, protests and even threats were,
however, of little avail. The majority of the princes soon
realized that it was better to take half the cake than to have
no cake at all.

The second stage of the conferring and advising resulted
in the princes realizing that it was to their own benefit and
advantage to merge into the Indian Union, for, as many of


them discovered one enlightened morning, it was to their
advantage to move and work with the forces of progress
rather than remain backward as the British had kept them l
No one was happier to hear this than the government of
India and in particular Sardar Patel, whose handling of
these princes had been a trifle high-handed but masterly.

Within a fortnight of the partition plan being announced,
Patel, almost unnoticed in the general excitement of more
spectacular happenings, decided to set up a new department
to deal with the states. This department became known as
the States Ministry. By June 25th the Cabinet sanction to
this new ministry had been obtained. By July 5th the States
Ministry had quietly come into existence, with Sardar Patel
automatically taking charge of the department which he
had created.

Sardar Patel was the ruthless party boss of the Congress.
As long as Gandhi’s was the inspiration and the brain
\ which launched the movements of civil disobedience, Sardar
Patel was the organizer who put those ideas and plans into
actual effect. The whole peasant revolt in Gujerat which
Gandhi conceived would only have been a nebulous dream
without the driving force of Sardar Patel. It is perhaps true
to say that while Gandhi was the architect of India’s free¬
dom, Patel was the most important building contractor.

As the national movement increased in momentum, the
Sardar began to acquire an individuality and a mind of his
own. He had the sense never to oppose the Mahatma, but
after the Mahatma’s death the individuality of Sardar Patel
often came into conflict with Pandit Nehru’s ideology.

However, on the issue of the states, Patel was given a free
hand and, while Pandit Nehru took the bow on the inter¬
national stage and at home, Sardar Patel in his silently
ruthless fashion began his new movement for the mass
liquidation of the princely order.

In an article written for March, G. N. Acharya, chief re¬
porter of the Bombay Chronicle, and one of the ablest
young men in the journalistic profession, described the
changing map of India.

Acharya spoke of the old days when the princes had to
deal with British bureaucrats. The visit of a viceroy, a
governor or even a political agent, would then have necessi-

tated arrangements for a shikar, a banquet, at which cases
of matured Scotch and good wines were served. Perhaps an
occasional pearl necklace was given to the bureaucrat’s wife
as a memento of her visit to the state. Some paper oratory
was prepared for the occasion by an underpaid hack. That
ended the worries of the prince pro tem.

“But on 14th December, 1947/’ Acharya said, “the princes
of the Orissa states gathered in Cuttack for an altogether
different job. They had been summoned by a khaddar -clad
man of rustic origin who was not interested in shikar. The
princes shuffled uneasily as Sardar Patel spoke to them.
They wanted to parley but could only whimper. One or two
of them wanted to be classed as ‘Class A’ states instead of
4 B\”

“Settle these details with Menon,” said the Sardar. Menon
was the newly-elected secretary of the States Ministry,
another man of rustic origin—a self-made man who had
served as a clerk to the Secretariat for several years on a
salary of Rs. 50. Of the hundreds of Menons in India, his
initials were “V. P”.

That was the brief scene between the Honourable Minis¬
ter for the States and the princes of the Orissa states.

“A similar scene was enacted at Government House, Nag¬
pur, the next day. Fourteen rulers of Chattisghar States,
mostly hill and jungle area, inhabited by backward tribal
people, faced the soft-spoken Sardar. The conference was
over in a matter of minutes. Resistance took the form of
pathetic appeals for generous treatment.”

The next day Sardar Patel was back again in New Delhi.
He issued a statement in which he made two points; one,
that democratization of the administration of these states
had become a pressing problem; two, that where, on account
of the smallness of the state, inadequacy of resources, or lack
of a modern system of government, a state was unable to
keep pace with the times, its integration into a unit of the
Indian Union was indicated in order to make democratiza¬
tion possible.

The strange doings at Cuttack and Nagpur appeared in
bits and snatches in the Press. The statement of the Sardar
received considerable publicity. No one, however, under¬
stood what all this meant until New Year’s Day, 1948,


when the government of India announced that these states
with whom the Sardar had been “parleying” had MERGED
with the neighbouring provinces of India.

Acharya said: “By a simple Gazette notification, without
war or bloodshed, 39 different states, covering an area of
56,000 miles with a revenue of Rs. 20,000,000 and a popula¬
tion of 7,000,000, had lost their separate identities. The mass
liquidation of the princely order, the greatest campaign for
the elimination of the monarchy known to history, had

There could be no two opinions on the point. A country
like India could not possibly progress if these backward,
feudal states dotted the land from north to south, east to
west. On the question of defence, foreign policy and com¬
munications, it was obvious that every state, however large
and democratic, had to take direction from the Indian
government. One could not have, for instance, the Nizam of
Hyderabad making a treaty with Soviet Russia, if that were
possible, while the government of India had thrown in its
lot, if that were also possible, with the British Common¬
wealth or the Anglo-American axis.

When the whole country ostensibly fought for democracy
and freedom, the right to have a government of the people,
by the people, for the people, the right to have freedom of
speech and expression, liberty of the Press and other such
rights which are to be found in a true democracy, these
rights could not in theory be denied to the Indian people.
If, therefore, the Indian princes had to remain they could
do so only as titular heads, leftovers from a former set of
circumstances, which one did not want to throw out over¬
night. Their liquidation had to be smooth and gradual
because too revolutionary an attitude towards the princes
might also be a bad precedent to set up in India where the
people were already in a mood for drastic action in matters
of this kind.

In fact, as later events proved, the Congress which spear¬
headed this democratic move in the Indian states was found
to be giving silent support to many a ruler who had long
outlived his usefulness, only because the Congress felt—as
the British had once done—that the presence of these
princes in the states might prove safety valves in a country
* 5 *

which was wanting to break out and swing to the extreme
left. The government of India is said to have preferred to
have a prince on the throne whom they could later quietly
dispossess than to chance the Communists getting a grip
over the subjects of the “late ruler”.


One well-known Indian prince whose splendour was de¬
flated was His Highness the Maharaja Gaekwar of Baroda.
The Gaekwar was not much known abroad until he decided
at the end of World War II to race in England on a scale
comparable to that of the Aga Khan. The Gaekwar bought
for himself one of the most expensive stables in England.
He also appeared at the bloodstock sales where his bid for
Sayajirao broke all records. Gradually he bought for himself
the pick of English bloodstock and he raced in England on
as magnificent a scale as any of the wealthiest men of the
world. »

While all was lovely at Ascot, Epsom and Newmarket, the
Gaekwar had his problems at home. One pack of trouble
arose out of his marriage to his second wife, Sita Devi, the
daughter of the Raja of Pittapuram, a large and wealthy
landowner in the south. This marriage, as is publicly known,
created a domestic crisis. The other set of problems arose
out of his long absences from the state, and the simultane¬
ous changes in the attitude of the government of India to
the princely order in India.

H.H. the Gaekwar of Baroda made no show of any op¬
position. He agreed to the popular demand for a constitu¬
tional government to replace his nominated set of advisers.
He also was among the first to accede to the Indian Union
as soon as independence was declared.

In an article which appeared in March (December 29th,
1948), Vasudeva Rao described the durbar ceremony at
which the Gaekwar announced the formal transfer of all
ruling powers to a new council of seven ministers, represent¬
ing the people of his state.

Vasudeva Rao says:

“The ceremonial court was held in the spacious hall of
the great palace. History was immediately created and pre-


cedent broken when guests were permitted to attend without
headdress. A few noblemen came in their red and gold
turbans, but there were many, especially the new Ministers,
with the white Gandhi-cap and dhoti.

“Leading the Maharaja into the hall came the stocky new
Prime Minister, Dr. Jivaraj Narayan Mehta, once Mahatma
Gandhi’s personal physician and Director General of Medical
Services in the government of India.

“Two Maharashtrian courtiers in tight trousers heralded
the Maharaja’s arrival with a brief narration of the ruler’s
lineage and the martial traditions of Baroda State. Now Sir
Pratap Sinha Gaekwar was almost immediately giving up
all his ancient powers and many of the trappings of pomp
and position.

“Appropriately enough the Maharaja wore a simple dress
of loose satin trousers and long silk coat with gold buttons.
There was no emerald-studded crown, no gorgeous coat of
gold, no necklace of precious stones such as he wore for his
birthday durbar.

“The palace attendants were dismayed by the ruler’s un¬
orthodox public appearance, and politely reminded him of
the ceremonial nature of the meeting. ‘The occasion does
not permit a show of ostentation,’ answered the Maharaja,
‘it rather caHs for sackcloth and ashes.’

“As the ceremony proceeded I heard a gentle rustle
through the stillness in the hall as Her Highness Maharani
Shantadevi, the Maharaja’s first wife, with her eight child¬
ren, peeped through the silken-draped balcony above.

“. . . I watched the ceremony to its end. The burden of
ruling having been cast aside, the Maharaja took the oppor¬
tunity of attending the week-end horse-races at Poona.”

Vasudeva Rao in this article was not so much concerned
with His Highness the Maharaja Gaekwar of Baroda, whose
annual privy purse of £350,000 had remained untouched
by the new administrative changes and who had vast per¬
sonal riches of his own to keep him in luxury, as he was
with the thirty-year-old elephant, Bhim, who now stood
unemployed and unwanted in a garden on the edge of
Baroda city, because the age of splendour was about to pass
away from princely India. Eight months ago Bhim had
carried his master on the occasion of his birthday in a pro¬
cession which would long be remembered for its gorgeous
splendour. The “good old days” had ended for Bhim who

would never again don the rich trappings he wore on those
ceremonial occasions. The ancient symbols of pomp and
pageantry would soon become only a memory for Bhim and
his master.

If this liquidation of the princes of India was only
motivated by a democratic urge to uplift the status of the
state subjects, it would be without question a most com¬
mendable idea. The trouble w T as that many well-known
Congressmen were trying to cash in on this process of
liquidation by offering to intervene with the government
on behalf of the ruler, it being always understood that their
friendly intervention would be duly appreciated by the
grateful prince.

This could easily be proved, but the very fact that
Congressmen who were of no official standing but were well
connected suddenly appeared on the liquidating scene,
volunteering to help solve a ruling prince’s difficulties and
reach an understanding with the new government, made it
difficult to believe that these same Congressmen, who were
known to be opportunists, were exerting themselves out of
any personal regard for the poor Indian prince!

So that even in those acts of government which were
professedly for the ultimate good of the people, the methods
employed by intermediaries who invariably belonged to the
Congress party were so despicable that it made the intelli¬
gent Indian wonder whether these new men who were
coming into power would be any improvement on the
feudal, autocratic and even wasteful prince and his hand¬
picked counsellors.




ot all the states merged so easily and so quickly into
the Indian Union. A few of the better known states proved
somewhat troublesome. Among these the most notable was
Hyderabad over which ruled His Exalted Highness, the

When the independence of India was declared, the Nizam
took the attitude that, with the departure of the paramount
power, he had elected to become an independent sovereign
also and that his state would therefore be independent of
the Indian Union. With amazing rapidity he appointed his
own representatives abroad, including an Agent-General to
the United Kingdom. His Exalted Highness contended that
his state was a country in itself and that it had resources
and wealth which made it self-supporting and self-sufficient.

On the map of India Hyderabad lies in the centre sur¬
rounded by the territories of the Indian Union. It may
easily be called the “belly” of the sub-continent. It is a vast
expanse of rugged land, 82,700 square miles, an area larger
than England and Scotland. This area is made up of three
sections: Marathwada, Karnatak and Telengana—the last
named being the most important, for it was here that the
peasants, whipped into action by Communist elements,
staged a most effective revolt against the state, the landlord
and all official authority. This Telengana revolt is perhaps
the most important Communist victory in post-independence

Hyderabad has no direct access to the sea. The only port
from which it has been known to operate has been that of
Goa, which has been until now under Portuguese control.
One other fact which must be noted is that although the
Nizam is a Moslem, 90% of his 16,338,534 subjects are

The present Nizam is Mir Osman Ali Khan. He belongs
to the Asaf Jah dynasty. This dynasty dates back to the early
eighteenth century, when the Nizam’s forefathers were still

in the stranglehold of the powerful Moghul rulers of Delhi.
During the Moghul period, the ancestors of the Asaf Jah’s
were chieftains of the Emperor Aurangzeb. If any blue
blood ran in their veins, the Moghuls did not recognize it.

Prowess on the field of battle earned for one Kamrooden
the honour of being entrusted by the emperor with the ad¬
ministration of the Deccan, with the rank of Subedar and
the title of Nizam. To-day in the Indian army a Subedar
would be a Viceroy’s commissioned officer, but in those days
it meant the Viceroy himself. Moreover, Kamrooden was
given by the emperor the personal title of Asaf Jah. 1

The Emperor Aurangzeb died in 1707 and the power of
the Moghuls waned thereafter. It was then that Asaf Jah
asserted himself as Nizam of Hyderabad, taking unto him¬
self full powers of rulership over an independent state. So
that a desire to claim sovereign powers springs up from time
to time in the Asaf Jah dynasty.

As the Moghul power waned, the Maharattas, the greatest
of whom was Shivaji, appeared on the Deccan scene and in
1795 the then Nizam tasted defeat at the hands of one of
the Peshwas, 2 who marched into Hyderabad.

On this occasion the Nizam invoked foreign aid. He had
a nodding acquaintance with the French and knew a few
Englishmen of the East India Company. It was in Lord
Mornington that the Nizam found a most unexpected ally.
Mornington offered to stand by the Nizam and in return
the East India Company found a friendly fortress in the
Nizam’s territory. This was important to the British for
their empire-building trade.

From those days the Nizams of Hyderabad appear to have
been on cordial terms with the British paramount power
and after World War I the British recognized the Nizam’s
many acts of generosity by bestowing upon him the unique
title of “Faithful Ally of the Empire”. He also came to be
known as “His Exalted Highness” as distinct from other
Indian ruling princes who were only entitled to be called
“His Highness”. ,

The government of Hyderabad had for many years been
run by the Nizam’s Executive Council, headed by a Prime

1 ‘’Equal to Asaf”, the Grand Wazir of Wisdom.

2 Maharatta chieftain.

1 57

Minister nominated, like the rest of his council, by the ruler

The large majority of states’ subjects were khedoots, that
is, farmers and agricultural workers. They were mostly
tenants and sub-tenants of the big landowners. The system
of land tenure in the state has been almost feudal in form.

Even before August 1947 a certain amount of political
agitation was noticeable among the people of the state. This
agitation was focused on the State Peoples’ Congress, an
offshoot of the Indian National Congress. The latter
operated in British India against the British, ruling power;
the former tried to operate among the peoples of the Indian
states against the autocracy of their Indian rulers.

The Hyderabad State Congress was formed in 1938 and
made the routine demand for popular representation in the
government of the state. The Nizam did not yield to this
demand. He was inclined to hold fast to the old-fashioned
view that these popular movements were passing phases and
he preferred to cling on to the age-long conception of a
“benevolent monarchy”.

The man who dominated the destiny of over sixteen
million people is reputed to be one of the richest men of
the world, if not the richest. He almost belongs in a world
of fable. In his own right he is the owner of some 5,000,000
acres, which are tilled by over a million peasants who work
for him. The income from this private estate is estimated
at Rs. 50,000,000 per year, in addition to which he draws
Rs. 7,000,000 from the state budget for his private purse.
He further augments his income by a system of nazaranas
(gifts) which he does his subjects the honour of receiving on
those rare occasions when he bestows on them the favour
of an audience.

It is the same idea as that practised by the Aga Khan
when he comes to India and his followers come to pay him
homage by bestowing gifts. The Nizam does it on a far
more impressive scale, with the result that during his long
rule he has amassed wealth which is difficult to assess with
any degree of precision. His fortune is not only in gold bars,
government paper, stocks and shares, land, palaces and
property, but also in those countless bags of precious stones
the value of which is inestimable.


One of Bombay’s leading jewellers once told me the story
of a large and most expensive ruby which he took to Hydera¬
bad in the hope of selling it to the Nizam. When the
jeweller returned from the palace, he said he was dazed.
The Nizam had shown him in turn handfuls of rubies, all
of which made this stone look like a pebble.

Romesh Thapar, a young journalist with pronounced
leftist tendencies, in a well documented pamphlet. Storm
Over Hyderabad, has roughly estimated the Nizam’s wealth
at Rs. 6,000,000,000. Thapar said: “Suffice it to say that the
Nizam’s income is just under Rs. 400,000.”

This is free of income tax! No ruling prince pays income

In spite of this vast wealth, the Nizam is known to be
most simple in his habits. His food is that of a poor man.
Out of the little that is made for him each day he sends a
few spoonfuls to his two sons as a token of his affection for

There are other strange habits which he has. For instance,
when his car passes along any of the streets of Hyderabad,
everyone, except those specially privileged, has to go in¬
doors. It is forbidden that his subjects should see him on
the streets.

All these little idiosyncrasies have made him a character
difficult to understand. He is part oriental potentate, part
feudal monarch, part ascetic. As a hobby he writes couplets
of classical Indian poetry. Those who are conversant with
this now rare poetic form say that he is remarkable in his
power of expression.

The result is that in a world of harsh reality and strife,
the Nizam had until the Hyderabad incident surrounded
himself with an impenetrable wall of splendid isolation. It
was a difficult position for the Nizam to maintain when the
protecting hand of the British disappeared from the Indian

It was but natural that at some stage or another this great
wealth would come into open conflict with the extreme
poverty of his subjects. While the Nizam had often been
heard to say: “I always look upon the troubles of my be¬
loved subjects as my own”, the mere utterance in no way
alleviated this poverty. The network oi landlords which


had grown up throughout the state had completely strangled
the landless peasant with its demands for levies and rentals,
so that to leave Hyderabad as an independent sovereign
state right in the centre of India would have meant the
perpetuation of a system which the new Indian government
had vowed to uproot.

The granting of independent sovereign status to the
Nizam would have been an anachronism from many points
of view. In the first place it would have been quite absurd
if, for instance, the foreign policy of this independent state
of Hyderabad had run contrary to ours. And,, in the second,
the fundamental principles on which the economy of this
feudal state was based were completely contradictory to
the economy which our new Indian government was pledged
to put into effect in free India.

While many in India had foreseen that sooner or later this
claim of the Nizam to sovereignty would have to be nega¬
tived, the government of India were wise to avoid an im¬
mediate conflict on this issue because it would have had
unfortunate repercussions for which the country was not at
the time prepared. They therefore entered into a standstill
agreement with the Nizam, whereby Indian army units, who
had so long been stationed at Secunderabad in Hyderabad
State, were withdrawn as a concession to the Nizam’s claim
of sovereignty.

Soon after, the Indian government appointed that shrewd
politician Mr. K. M. Munshi as Agent General for India to
the Court of His Exalted Highness.

As soon as the Indian army withdrew, the Nizam, on the
advice of his counsellors, launched a move to expand his
army. To its ranks there now came Arabs and Pathans,
many of whom were undesirable characters. Arms and am¬
munition began to be manufactured in the state. The
Birmingham Small Arms Company’s wartime factory be¬
came the arsenal of the state army. The heir apparent’s
palace was said to have been converted into a munition
factory. The object presumably was to create an army
capable of defending that proclaimed independence and

By now a new factor had appeared on the Hyderabad
scene. It was the Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen, a Moslem political

organization, intensely communal in character. It was ori¬
ginally founded in 1927 f° r the spreading of Islamic culture
and it began to have an intensely political significance in
the Hindu-Moslem squabble. Like the Moslem League in
India, the Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen had a strong hold on the
middle- and lower-middle-class Moslems of Hyderabad.

The Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen was as rabidly anti-Hindu as
the R.S.S. in India was anti-Moslem. It was fascist in form,
fanatic in action and ruthless in the methods employed to
achieve its aims.

A very strange character led this marauding band. He
was the grey-bearded, Aligarh-educated, Kasim Razvi. Razvi
started raising a private army called the Razakars. Armed
with all kinds of small arms they could lay hands on, the
Razakars went freebooting into the Indian territory which
lay on the borders of Hyderabad. They terrorized the un¬
armed peasants in their own state and in the bordering
Indian villages.

In spite of the drilling and parading to which the
Razakars were subjected, they always remained an ill-
disciplined group of irregulars whose bravery was only to
be seen against the unarmed and the defenceless. Their
constant raids became a menace to the harmless peasantry
and the government of India began to be gravely con¬
cerned about the chaos, destruction and anarchy which
these irregulars created. The government of India main¬
tained that the Nizam was to be held responsible for these

There followed a series of close-shuttered conferences
and cross-table debates between the Nizam’s representatives
and the government of India. The brain behind the Nizam
at this time was his constitutional adviser. Sir Walter
Monckton, specially sent for from England. For many years
Monckton had been advising Indian princes on how to
handle the complicated constitutional problems which arose
out of their relationship with the British government in
India. Now he was advising them on their new position
which had materially altered with the quitting of the
paramount power.

But what the princes were facing at this time was some¬
thing more than constitutional crisis. The choice was be-
f 161

tween extinction and merger. In however delicate a form
this fact may have been couched by the States Ministry, it
was quite clear that the princes had eventually to fall in
line either voluntarily and with grace or forcibly and with
the possible loss of their throne.

In the case of the Nizam, because of the size of his
dominion and because of the fact that he was a Moslem
ruler, the shrewd Sardar Patel did not precipitate the action
he intended to take. He postponed it until the tension in
the country had eased and also until he could find a suitable
excuse for stepping in on the Hyderabad scene and com¬
pelling the Nizam to fall in line with the rest of the princes.

The close-shuttered talks bore no fruit, nor was it in¬
tended that they should. The two parties could not possibly
have come to any understanding, for the difference between
them was on fundamental issues. Obviously the Indian
Union could not allow an independent sovereign state to
function right in the heart of the Union.

All the Sardar was concerned with was how to liquidate
this theoretical concept of sovereignty as gracefully and
peacefully as possible.

Unfortunately for the Nizam, however well his case may
have been backed up by constitutional law, emotionally it
was sustained by a fanatical Moslem following which was at
that time naturally anti-Indian. The outbreak of this
Razakar fanaticism was crude and gave the Indian Union a
lever with which to force the issue. Moreover a stage was
soon reached when, whether the Nizam had originally
acquiesced in the Razakar movement or not, there was little
he could do to bring the situation under control.

Pandit Nehru and Sardar Patel played their cards astutely
on this occasion. They waited until Indian public opinion
had been sufficiently roused to support any action which
they might take against Hyderabad and only then did they
take it. They gave ample warning to the Nizam and to all
outward appearances it could now be justified that it was
the long suffering tolerance of the Indian Union which had
been tried beyond endurance.

One day, therefore, the Indian government flatly asked
the Nizam to disband these marauding Razakars and let
Indian troops be stationed once again in Secunderabad in

order to maintain law and order. It is difficult to say what
factors the Nizam took into consideration when reaching
his decision. Perhaps he was confident of his own power
and believed in the might of the army he had raised;
perhaps that was the counsel of his advisers; perhaps he
believed in the capabilities of his representatives abroad to
enlist, if necessary, the help of the United Nations, but he
would not budge from the stand he had taken.

It was said that the Razakars also were confident that
fighting side by side with the state forces they could hold
out for a considerable length of time against an advancing
Indian army. The more conservative among them said they
could hold out for six months; the optimists believed they
could hold out for as long as two years. This belief was
based on the experience of skirmishes which the Razakars
had had with unarmed peasants, from which they had
naturally come out victorious. The Chief of Staff of the
Hyderabad army, Col. Napier, had, however, sounded a
note of warning to the over-confident militarists before he
resigned his commission. The colonel knew that the state
forces and the Razakars could never hold out, even for a
day, against the organized and well-drilled troops of India.

It happened as this more seasoned soldier had forecast.
On September 13th, 1948, the Southern Command launched
a pincer movement and our troops, led by three hard-
boiled generals, pressured into the state with powerful air
support. Sherman, Churchill and Stuart tanks crashed
through Hyderabad state territory. They met with hardly
any resistance. They fired just a few shots. As the Indian
troops drew nearer, the G.O.C. of the Southern Command,
Lt.-General Rajendra Singhji, sent a note of warning to
Major General El Edroos of the Hyderabad state forces.
The note pointed out the futility of the Hyderabad forces
attempting to hold out.

The Nizam was quick to realize that the Indian artillery
could pound his capital and reduce it to rubble. His own
government was in a hopeless state of confusion. His Prime
Minister, Mir Laik Ali, had resigned and the Nizam him¬
self had taken over the administration.

So on the evening of the 17th, four davs after the action
began, the Nizam issued a “Cease Fire” order to his troops.


Simultaneously he banned and outlawed the Razakar or¬
ganization and permitted the free entry of Indian troops
into his state. The ban on the Hyderabad State Congress
was lifted, a concession to the Congress leaders who main¬
tained that the State Congress was the means of bringing
democracy into this feudal land.

The next morning the Indian army moved in and re¬
occupied their old barracks at Secunderabad. An Indian
military governor was installed in full charge of the govern¬
ment of Hyderabad. To all intents and purposes, Hydera¬
bad had come under stark military occupation.

The Nizam now voluntarily withdrew his protest. He
even declared that he was only too happy to have the
Indian troops back again! In so far as he made this pro¬
clamation publicly, we must accept it as a correct statement
of his feelings.

So ended the Hyderabad incident which had plagued the
Indian Union and, on his own admission, had plagued the
Nizam himself.

From the Indian point of view there could have been no
two opinions about the government of India’s decision to
take action to stop Razakar lawlessness for it was clearly
affecting our internal security. And the only effective action
in the circumstances and after due warning was the strong
military action of the type which was taken. It was un¬
savoury but essential. It was, however, the subsequent clap¬
trap which our leaders produced which stultified the whole
affair in the eyes of our own people and of the world.

It made average intelligent Indians squirm to read in
their papers the next morning that our leaders had gone
into an hysterical frenzy over what they called a “great
military victory”. Indian telegraph offices could hardly cope
with the exchange of greetings and congratulatory messages
which followed this “our first great military victory”. And
overnight the same Congressmen who had once called our
soldiers “rice soldiers” now spoke glowingly of their terrific
fighting qualities. It was, to say the least, a trifle ridiculous.

The marching of a highly trained Indian army, equipped
with all the latest materials of war, into a comparatively
backward Indian ruler’s state was no military achievement.
We would have looked silly if after the crores of rupees we

were spending on the upkeep of our armed forces we had
been stopped by an ill-equipped, undisciplined and un¬
trained band of guerrillas led by the enthusiastic amateur
who stood between our army and its objective. All the glory
our Congress leaders spun round our soldiers and our
generals was, therefore, somewhat irksome to those men
who had known real fighting on the battlefields of the

I remember seeing the men of our 4th Indian Division
returning home after World War II. Here was a division
which had made history. It had fought and beaten the finest
panzers in the Middle East and Italy. It had often spear¬
headed the whole allied advance against the Germans. Its
men had fought against equally matched men and against
equal armour. There was not a British, American, German,
French or Italian soldier who, seeing these Indians fight,
had not admired the gallant Indian Fourth.

But to our Congress leaders at that time, the 4th Indian
Division was nothing more than a bunch of “rice soldiers”.
Not one of those now singing paeans of praise about our
army in Hyderabad had had the common decency to wel¬
come these fighting men when they returned home after
the war. Congress leaders could not see acts of heroism
apart from the politics of the day. No one from the Con¬
gress had the grace to wave a hand of cheer to these men.
Now, because of an effortless victory over much inferior
resistance, the Congress had made heroes out of those same
“rice soldiers”.

While “this military victory” was being claimed by the
more naive among the Congress leaders, Pandit Nehru soft-
pedalled the Hyderabad incident and officially called it
“police action”.

It is unpleasant for an Indian to have to ask his Prime
Minister why a lieutenant-general, three major-generals and
a whole armoured division had to be called out to effect a
mere police action. A police commissioner and a handful of
sepoys armed with the familiar lathis were usually enough
for police actions in the days of the British.

The truth was—and let’s face it—that our government did
not want to give the outside world the impression that
India, a member of the United Nations, had had recourse to



military action for the settlement of the Hyderabad dispute.
Moreover there was still an articulate section of Gandhian
followers, believers in non-violence, who had to be ap¬

Had we said that we were taking Hyderabad by force of
arms because we had no other alternative, it would have
been an honest statement of fact. World sympathy would,
in the circumstances, still have been on our side. But all
this pretence of having effected a “police action” was un¬
becoming to us as a people and equally unbecoming to our
government. It drew the harsh comment of. Dr. Jose Arce,
the Argentinian delegate to the Security Council, who said:
“The march of the Indian troops towards the capital of
Hyderabad reminds me of the march of Italian troops to¬
wards the Abyssinian capital.”

We did not like the Argentine’s comment but we had
asked for it. However right our government was in the
action it had taken, the attempts made to camouflage it had
brought upon us the odium of having used methods once
employed by those fascist countries whose acts of ag¬
grandizement were constantly being explained away as being
for the eventual good of the people they were subjugating.

More shrewd observers of the behind-the-scenes happen¬
ings in India had yet another explanation for the conquest
of Hyderabad. To these knowledgeable observers it became
apparent that the government of India’s concern over the
undemocratic regime of the Nizam was really secondary to
their fear of a full-blooded Communist uprising in this
central belt.

The first clear manifestation of the Communists getting a
foothold in Hyderabad—at Telengana where they succeeded
in establishing what was practically a parallel government
(patri sarkar )—is not new to India. The idea had been
successfully tried in 194s against the British in Satara and
our people, who were then still struggling for freedom, had
applauded the effort.

Ironically, the same idea was put into effect by the Com¬
munists in Hyderabad and the Congress leaders realized
only then how dangerous was the precedent they had
allowed to be set up.

Telengana comprised the Telegu-speaking districts of

Hyderabad bordering on the Andhra districts of Madras in
the south. The government had hitherto paid little atten¬
tion to Communist activities because right up to December
1947 the Communists appeared to be one with the Congress.
They believed, even as Russia did, that in Free India Nehru
would snap the British connexion and go with Russia. Both
Mrs. Pandit and Krishna Menon gave enough indication at
the U.N. and elsewhere of the deep understanding we ap¬
peared to have found with the Soviet delegates. The Peoples
Age , the Communist party organ, was known to have dis¬
played large portraits of Pandit Nehru in several of its
post-independence issues. And Nehru was okayed by the

Soon after this, the wartime alliance between Russia and
the democracies began to wear thin. World Communist
forces had definitely aligned themselves against Britain as
being one of the arch-enemies of Communism but, contrary
to expectation, Pandit Nehru and Sardar Patel veered from
their original make-believe stand and went into a huddle
with Lord Mountbatten.

That was the danger sign for the Communists. They
realized at long last that Nehru was no social revolutionary.
He was fundamentally Harrow, Cambridge and Birla
House. The Sardar likewise had no place for revolutionaries
in his new portfolio of Home Affairs. He was clapping into
jail all forms of revolution—social, political and economic.

So at the Communist party rally at Calcutta, in December
1947, the Communists revised their policy towards the
Nehru government. At the same time fundamental changes
were made in the party personnel. Comrade P. C. Joshi, the
veteran, gave way to the younger Comrade B. T. Randive
as the party’s secretary and the all clear was given to Indian
Communism openly to attack Congress administrations

The result of this change of policy was repression at the
hands of the government of India, which decided the Com¬
munists to go underground and prepare for their revolution.
Two or three areas were selected by them as the best ex¬
perimental ground for this revolution. These areas appeared
to be: (1) West Bengal, where the proximity of the East
Bengal border gave the operators a chance of escaping to

Pakistan; (2) Malabar, south India, always a fertile spot for
revolution; and (3) Telengana.

The setting of Telengana was ideally suited for enlisting
peasant support for Communism. There the peasantry had
been so long oppressed that they were now ready to follow
anyone who would lead them to revolt. Already they had
been groomed, as peasants all over India were during the
quarter-century of the civil disobedience movements, to
revolt against authority.

There were earlier efforts sponsored ironically by the
Hyderabad State Congress, but the Nizam, with the help of
the British, had put them down.

The control of these peasants now fell into the hands of
Communist elements, which had infiltrated from the strong¬
hold of Andhra across the Hyderabad border. The Com¬
munists did a more thorough job of organizing the revolt.
They formed dalams (battalions) of a people’s army and
supplied them with stolen arms with which they were urged
to fight the police, kill the landlords and generally disrupt
all the forces of authority.

“Land To The Tiller” was their slogan, and the organiza¬
tion which the Communists set up made a point of re¬
distributing the land to the peasants. The idea was some¬
thing like that which was put into effect in Eastern Poland
in 1939-40 when the Russians occupied it at the outset of
the war.

The revolt was so successful that Communist rule pre¬
vailed over hundreds of villages in Telengana. According
to the Communist claim, they controlled 4,000 villages.

Romesh Thapar, in the same pamphlet, 1 gives his version
of Telengana, which I reproduce with the caution that
Romesh Thapar, despite his pronounced leftist tendencies,
has disclaimed—as did the Communists—that Telengana ,
was Communist inspired. This account of his, therefore,
can be read as a Communist version of Telengana. Thapar

“. . . And then, one day early in 1948, came the greatest
news of all: two thousand villages of Telengana, with a
population of over four million, had eliminated the rule of
the Nizam and had set up a parallel administration. Over
1 Storm Over Hyderabad, publ. Kutub.


an area of 13,000 square miles, where formerly mighty land¬
lords owning anything from 500 to 120,000 acres used to
rob the peasants by legal and illegal levies such as cash rent
and gram rent, the evils of yesterday had been abolished
by the People’s Independent Committees. Village official¬
dom has been liquidated. Panchayats, elected on the basis
of adult franchise, are being formed. People’s tribunals have
been established to deal with all culprits. In short, a new
economic and political programme has been fashioned and
is now being put into operation.

“This programme, sponsored by the Andhra Mahasabha,
is being carried out by the village governments and contains
the following measures: All land belonging to traitors who
have helped the Nizam to crush the people’s movement is
being taken possession of and is being distributed among
the victims of the atrocities and among poor peasants; all
land belonging to the peasants which was forcibly seized by
rich peasants and deshmukhs is now being taken back by
the peasants—half of this land is being given to the original
owners, a quarter to the present tiller, and a quarter to the
tiller who cultivated it before the present tiller; duly elected
People’s Committees are being authorized to take possession
of and to distribute land which was owned and self-
cultivated by rich landlords and deshmukhs * while fallow
and other lands are being distributed among agricultural
labourers and being brought under cultivation; all the
grain hoarded by the big landlords, while the peasants were
being starved, is being confiscated and distributed among
the poorer sections of the peasantry; all arrears of rent,
debt, etc., which amount to Rs. 80 crores for the whole of
Hyderabad, have been declared illegal, and the tiller has
been established as the sole owner of the land from which
he cannot be evicted. This is the Telengana revolt which is
being dubbed and dismissed as ‘a Communist creation’.”

Thapar then went on to ask the pertinent questions: “Is
it because of what Telengana means that the Indian govern¬
ment is so anxious to settle with the Nizam?”

And my answer is “Yes”.

Thapar asks: “Are the rulers of India afraid that their
own peasantry might emulate the example of Telengana?”

And my answer again is “Yes”.

Thapar asks at the end of this line of questions: “Are
the Communists the villains of the piece?”

f* 169

And my answer is still “Yes”.

Telengana would have no meaning if it had not been

More than by the revolt itself, the Congress party was
perturbed by the fact that the Hyderabad State Congress,
which was the Indian National Congress party’s preserve,
had become honeycombed with Congressmen who were now
Communist sympathizers. The local party chief, who was a
sanyasi (holy man), appeared to have developed strong
Communist leanings. It was frightening for the Congress to
find that orthodox holy men were turning towards Com¬

With the re-entry into Hyderabad of the Indian army, the
pace of that revolt was checked, but even to-day the Com¬
munists’ hold over Telengana is not completely liquidated.
The Indian Military Governor of Hyderabad, Maj.-General
Chowdhry, admitted quite recently that lawlessness con¬
tinues and that murders are still going on.

Had the Communists been allowed to get a firmer footing
in Hyderabad state, they would have been in a position to
control a very wide belt across the country. In terms of
Congress politics it would have meant a complete break in
the political line of communication between the north and
the south. In time the Congress influence over the south
would have waned and the large tracts in south India, in¬
habited by the Moplahs of Malabar, would in turn have
passed into Communist hands.

The “police action” in Hyderabad had, therefore, a
deeper meaning than the liquidation of the glamour of a
fabulously rich and old-fashioned Indian prince with his
antediluvian methods of government, his craze for hoarding
his wealth in coffers, his thrifty ways of saving money, his
craze for seclusion.

That deeper meaning was to create a fortress in Hydera¬
bad against the growing tide of Communism which was be¬
ginning to show signs of rising in those parts of central
India of which Hyderabad, because of its geographical
position, had become the focal point.




Early in 1948 I did the commentary of a two-reel docu¬
mentary film entitled The Kashmir Story. Produced by a
private company, the picture was made under the auspices
of the government of India. Shown in India, London and
New York, it was the exhibit “A” placed before the U.N.
Security Council in our case against Pakistan. My job as
commentator was something more than lending my voice
to an already prepared script. I was in it from the day the
cameramen returned from Kashmir bringing with them dis¬
jointed pictures which had to be pieced together into a
coherent and connected story.

The Kashmir story was a very simple one. For years the
tribes of men on the North-West Frontier of India—in that
no-man’s-land between Afghanistan and the Indian frontier
—have periodically created trouble there. During the days
of the British a regular North-West Frontier force had to
be stationed in that area in order to keep the tribal raiders
in check. It was also a fairly open secret, although exact
figures cannot be obtained, that about thirty million rupees
a year were spent in the shape of subsidies to various tribal
chiefs in return for their goodwill. All this was done very
silently and details were known only to the very high-
ranking officials of the political department of the govern¬
ment of India.

When India was partitioned, the North-West Frontier
went to Pakistan. The subsidies to the tribal chiefs were said
to have come to an end partly because the Pakistan ex¬
chequer could not afford such an expenditure, and partly
also because the Pakistan government believed that these
tribesmen, being Moslems, would not attack a Moslem state.

The marauding tribesmen, however, had no such fine
sentiments. Free of the control exercised over them, they
slipped back into the habits of lawlessness which came
naturally to them. Inspired by interested elements, these
raiders began one day to find their way into the sun-flushed


valleys of Kashmir. The vandals swooped down upon the
once peaceful towns where some 4,000,000 Kashmiris had
lived in comparative peace.

In Kashmir itself ruled the weak, pleasure-loving Maha¬
raja, Hari Singh Bahadur. While Kashmir was predomin¬
antly a Moslem state, the Maharaja was a Hindu. It was, in
fact, a situation in reverse to that of Hyderabad, where a
Moslem ruled over a Hindu population.

I know His Highness but slightly. He appears to be a
courteous, pleasant-looking Indian ruling prince, fond of
racing, fond of throwing parties, fond of good food, fond of
Indian singing. I have noticed how, for instance, after a
patch of bad luck on the turf he is in the habit of changing
his trainer, and then his racing colours, and even the names
of his horses, all of which are the characteristics of a tem¬
peramental loser. Those who know him better say that he
is intolerant, that he demands abject subservience from
those who work under or near him and that his least whims
have to be obeyed. He is also said to be superstitious, always
consulting astrologers.

All this is not unusual in an Indian prince. It is men¬
tioned here merely to throw light on the man around whom
the Kashmir affair has turned.

There was at the same time another important figure on
the Kashmir scene. His name was Sheikh Abdulla. Abdulla
was the symbol of the popular awakening in the state. He
voiced the increasing restlessness of the people—a restless¬
ness which was more economic than political. Under Sheikh
Abdulla this restlessness was transformed into a crusading

Sheikh Abdulla was once only an obscure schoolmaster at
the head of a small band of undistinguished intellectuals
who met frequently in secret conclave and discussed behind
closed doors the economic and political problems of their
state. As their convictions grew stronger they decided on
various forms of direct action. They began in the usual
way by distributing handbills, sticking wall-posters, printing
illegal news-sheets. Out of this amateur underground move¬
ment grew what was called the Moslem Conference, at first
communal in character, aiming at displacing their ruler
who was a Hindu.


In 1 93 1 Sheikh Abdulla and some of his party men were
flung into prison. Overnight he became a champion of the
cause of liberty. Popular demonstrations broke out on his
arrest and he was liberated twenty-one days later. But in
the meanwhile the obscure schoolmaster had become the
Sher-e-Kashmir—the Tiger of Kashmir. His name was a
household word; his twenty-one-day jail record had made
him a martyr and a hero.

What happened in Kashmir in the early 1930s was only
an echo of what was happening all over India, for Mahatma
Gandhi was at that time in the thick of his movements of
civil disobedience. The unrest had its echo in the Kashmir
valley, where the people wanted freedom from the Maha¬
raja’s despotic rule. Under it his people had sunk deeper
into poverty. Education was at a discount in the state. The
people were receding from civilization and were in the grip
of bigotry and superstition, while the ruler himself lived in
the luxury which only he could afford.

The movement of Sheikh Abdulla was directed against
the Maharaja and against the feudal economy which re¬
sulted from his way of ruling.

At a certain stage Sheikh Abdulla’s movement shed its
communal bias and before long it had the blessings and the
benediction of Mahatma Gandhi, Pandit Nehru and the
Congress party.

His Highness the Maharaja Hari Singh Bahadur of
Jammu and Kashmir was not perturbed so long as the
British were around to protect him and his gadi (throne).
Here and there he conceded a point or two and his govern¬
ment put into effect a veneer of political reform, but on the
whole things remained much the same. The fight continued
between the ruler and Sheikh Abdulla, with the prince
always having the upper hand.

After partition, when the British had quit, His Highness
found himself confronted with a new situation. It is de¬
scribed by K. Ahmad Abbas in his pamphlet 1 thus:

“October 22nd.—In the hour before dawn, Prithvinath
Wanchoo, a young Divisional Engineer, staying in the dak
bungalow at Domel near the Kashmir—N.W.F.P. border, is

1 Kashmir Fights for Freedom, publ. Kutub.


rudely awakened by his servant hysterically shouting:

‘Dushman aagaya .’ 1 Wanchoo runs bare-footed into the
verandah and sees the village of Nalochi, across the Kishen-
ganga bridge, in flames. The Dogra 2 garrison, caught un¬
awares by the suddenness of the invasion, loses its hill-top
positions and trenches and falls back to organize a new
defensive position.”

This savage tribe of raiders which had appeared on the
borders of his state were soon pressing inwards towards
Srinagar, the capital city.

On the night of October 24th/25th the frightened Maha¬
raja was packing his more treasured belongings into a large
fleet of trucks, and by morning his whole entourage had
left Srinagar in a convoy of eighty vehicles, reported to be
moving south. He was heading for Jammu. When he had
reached that safe spot he issued a statement in which he
said that he would never leave his people to freebooters

. . so long as I am ruler of the state and I have life to
defend my country!” At the same time he quickly released
Sheikh Abdulla, whom he had again imprisoned, and sent
an S.O.S. to the Viceroy (Lord Mountbatten) and the
government of India for help.

The government of India said that the Indian Union
could not constitutionally step in until Kashmir had ac¬
ceded to the Union. The Maharaja readily did so. At the
same time Sheikh Abdulla raised the cry of “Freedom before
Accession” and the Indian Union backed this stand. The
Maharaja accepted Abdulla’s demands. In fact he cut a
pathetic picture of an Indian prince, for he seemed willing
to give up almost everything to save his title, his gadi and
his skin.

No one was seriously concerned with the Maharaja from
this stage, for he now became a mere figurehead, unwanted
but tolerated for the sake of maintaining a constitutional
position. He became just a puppet in the hands of the
Indian State Ministry who did not want to get rid of him
too quickly for that would leave Sheikh Abdulla as un¬
disputed leader of Kashmir, a position for which the Indian
government was not prepared.

1 “The enemy has come.”

2 A tribe (part of the Indian army).


I found that out for myself during the course of working
on the commentary of The Kashmir Story, for it did not
require much intelligence to see how the Indian govern¬
ment were trying to keep the raja in the picture and yet
refrain from making any comments for or against him.

From the Indian government’s point of view, the Kash¬
mir incident revolved around the Maharaja or Sheikh
Abdulla or—this is my opinion—even around issues like
democracy and popular government or the freedom of the
people of the state. The Indian government’s attitude to
the affaire Kashmir was conditioned by Pakistan’s com¬
plicity in the activities of the raiders, it being now estab¬
lished that the raiders could not possibly have got to
Kashmir without Pakistan’s knowledge and sanction. It was
clear, after seeing pictures of the transport used by the
raiders and the ammunition which they brought with them,
that Pakistan was backing the raiding elements with the
same enthusiasm with which we were backing the artificial
axis of the Maharaja and the Sheikh.

Pakistan went further. It encouraged the setting up of a
government in opposition to Sheikh Abdulla’s administra¬
tion and declared that this Pakistan-sponsored “Azad
Kashmir government” represented the real “forces of the

There followed what was virtually a small-scale war which
cost both governments large sums of money which neither
could afford. In the Indian Parliament, on April ist, 1949,
the Finance Minister asked for supplementary grants, which
included Rs. 390,000,000 (i.e. £30,000,000 approx.) to de¬
fray the cost of the Kashmir operation and the “police
action” in Hyderabad.

The war lasted over a year, even though at the level of
the governments no war was declared between the two
dominions. The matter reached the Security Council of the
United Nations who intervened, though not too successfully.
However, as reason prevailed on both governments, a
“Cease Fire” was ordered with the object of establishing
peaceful conditions in which a referendum could be held
which would decide once and for all whether Kashmir
would go with Pakistan or come to India.

All these issues, arising out of the internal situation

x 175

within the state and out of the fighting between India and
Pakistan, were of comparatively lesser importance than the
real issue which had become obscured in the pandemonium
that prevailed. This main issue revolved, in my opinion,
around a question of the utmost international importance,
which was whether India should have a common frontier
with Russia or not.

The state of Kashmir is bounded by five countries: India,
Tibet, China, Russian Turkestan, Afghanistan and Paki¬
stan. This completes the circle from the south through east,
north and west. While all the frontiers would have some
value, a common frontier with Russia would of necessity
have a direct bearing on our future foreign policy. From
the Indian Union’s point of view, Kashmir was therefore
of international importance for, with a neighbour as big as
Russia, our policy would assume a completely new aspect.
If Kashmir were to become part of India, it would be a
compelling reason for India to be friendly with Soviet
Russia and our whole foreign policy would have to be
shaped on an entirely different footing from that of the
neutrality which it now professes to uphold.

The possession or otherwise of Kashmir is, therefore,
something more than our concern over the ruler’s alleged
extravagance or the righteousness of Sheikh Abdulla’s cause,
or even the welfare of the four million Kashmiris to whom
we wished to outstretch our protecting arm. Our very posi¬
tion in the setting of international politics depends on our
possession or otherwise of this strategic frontier, which, had
Russia not been on that scene, we could have dismissed as
a luxury playground, a holiday resort for the rich.

Moreover, it is possible that Russia may have indicated
to India that she would prefer to have a common frontier
with India rather than with Pakistan. Russia’s object would
appear to be twofold: one, she would naturally prefer to
have as a neighbour a state in which revolutionary forces
are already alive rather than a country like Pakistan, which
may tend to revert to a form of political lethargy such as
exists in most Moslem states in other parts of the world;
two, in the event of war with the western world India
would be at her doorstep, whether friendly or not, to con¬
quer or to use as became strategically necessary.


This theory is based on the strange coincidence that just
prior to our troops entering Kashmir India made a very
deliberate gesture of goodwill to Soviet Russia. The scene
of that gesture was the Security Council on which a seat
had fallen vacant and there were two countries contesting
it—the Ukraine and India. In spite of several ballots the
issue remained undecided, as the necessary majority could
not be secured by either country. At some stage of that con¬
test, India had declared that she would take her fight for
the seat to the ultimate conclusion. We would, so our
spokesman declared, in no circumstances withdraw.

Suddenly, without any reason being given, just a short
while before we stepped into Kashmir India withdrew from
the contest in favour of the Ukraine. The speculation was
that this was a concession to Russian feelings in response to
some undisclosed gesture by Russia, and it was possible that
that gesture had something to do with a possible common
frontier between the two countries.

Kashmir has also a very vital bearing on the future of the
two dominions. When the June 3rd declaration was made,
two large areas—that of the province of the North-West
Frontier and the little area of Sylhet—were not appor¬
tioned to either of the dominions. Their fate was to be
decided by a plebiscite. In both places the population was
predominantly Moslem, but the administration of those
areas and the influence over them was equally predominantly
that of the Indian Congress. Moslems may have been in the
administration, and in fact they were, but these were
Moslems of the Congress variety whom the Congress called
nationalist Moslems and whom Jinnah regarded as quis¬

Both these plebiscites went in favour of Pakistan.

Kashmir, therefore, remains the last political battle¬
ground between the old Moslem League, now synonymous
with Pakistan, and the Congress, now synonymous with
India. The population of Kashmir is predominantly Moslem
and, though it was led by a popular Moslem leader, his
sympathies are with India and the Congress rather than
with Pakistan and the Moslem League. The plebiscite will,
therefore, decide the last of the “Congress v. Moslem
League” matches. Although the Congress has already lost


two, its political prestige would be enhanced if Kashmir
would vote for accession to India.

It is natural that if the theory on which India was parti¬
tioned, namely that Moslem areas should go to Pakistan,
has any validity, Kashmir naturally belongs to Pakistan.
But if Kashmir refuses to go that way, then that whole
theory falls to the ground and the political pandits of the
Congress will have succeeded in breaking up the very basis
of the theory on which Pakistan was founded. So that while
India can survive the loss of Kashmir, Pakistan cannot.

A shrewd political observer, Sarat Chandra Bose, a
Hindu, believes that Kashmir will decide to go to Pakistan;
a Moslem journalist, K. Ahmad Abbas, 1 formerly my col¬
league on the Bombay Chronicle and now closely allied to
Sheikh Abdulla’s administration, feels equally confident
that Kashmir will come to India.

It is, therefore, somewhat difficult to predict the outcome
of the plebiscite.

Both governments have, however, consented to abide by
the verdict of the people as recorded by a fair and impartial
plebiscite, even if it means the partition of the state.

The powerfully built “Tiger of Kashmir”—the domineer¬
ing Sheikh Abdulla who is loved by his people—lost no
time in touring the country even when the snow lay thick
in the valleys. To the people of the villages, which were
once sacked and pillaged by the raiders, he has uttered the
warning: “If your voting goes wrong it will not only be
you who will suffer but your children as well, for if we
lose in the voting the armies will not be able to help any

The Sheikh’s words are like strong wine in the cold and
the snow. The verdict for India will largely depend on:

Whether Sheikh Abdulla really has that tremendous
following which has been attributed to him, whether he
is the real and undisputed leader of Kashmir or just a
pawn of the States Ministry of the government of India,
whether he can hold a Moslem-populated Kashmir with¬
out the aid of those Indian troops who are policing the

1 From whose pamphlet Kashmir Fights for Freedom I have
earlier quoted.


area, and whether his personality and eloquence can win

over for us those Moslems against the appeals of their co¬
religionists from the Islamic state of Pakistan.

Not until the result of the plebiscite is known will any
one be in a position to value the true worth of Sheikh

Equally confident of holding at least that part of Kashmir
which he now has is the Azad Kashmir leader, Sirdar Ibra¬
him Khan, who, though not so impassioned as Sheikh Ab¬
dulla, has also the power to sway the Moslems of Kashmir
to the brotherhood of Islam.

The whole issue of Kashmir is clouded by an emotional
element, namely that India’s Prime Minister, Jawaharlal
Nehru, has his ancestral roots in Kashmir. Therefore Jawa¬
harlal Nehru is unable to look upon the Kashmir issue dis¬
passionately. Whatever strategic values Kashmir may or may
not have, we are now so far committed in the incident that
the honour of India is as much affected as were, originally,
the personal feelings of Jawaharlal Nehru.

Too much of the Indian taxpayers’ money has gone into
“operation Kashmir’’; too many of our gallant young men
have paid with their lives.

India, therefore, anxiously awaits the verdict of the people
of Kashmir.

In the meantime, after the first fourteen months of pre¬
carious living in the shadow of war, the common people of
Kashmir were able to find heart again and return to their
village homes to pick up the broken threads of their war-
wrecked lives.




Walter Lippman, recognized expert on foreign policy,
once said: “The fundamental subject of foreign policy is
how a nation stands in relation to the principal military
powers. . . . Every state whether it is bent on aggression or
on pacification can achieve its purpose only if it avoids
being isolated by a combination of other great states.”

The foreign policy of India, if there be any foreign policy
at all, appears to have discarded some of these tested and
cardinal maxims on which the foreign policies of other
great nations have been based.

Three weeks after his assumption of office under Lord
Mountbatten’s Viceroyalty in 1946 as India’s Minister for
External Affairs, Pandit Nehru had already declared that
“India would follow an independent line of action at all
international conferences.” The implication was that free
India, newly disentangled from the British, owed allegiance
to no world power or combination of powers, ententes or
blocs. India thus launched out into international affairs
without any enemies. The pronouncement was applauded
as vague pronouncements on foreign policy usually are.

But three years after the enunciation of this policy India’s
foreign policy scoreboard showed quite a few enemies and
no great friends to speak of. On the international stage she
stood alone, still hugging the illusion that she could live in
splendid isolation as envisaged by Pandit Nehru.

Those who are in a position to study the shaping of our
foreign policy at close quarters indicate three important
stages through which this policy has passed and been fil¬
tered until it has finally emerged in its present nebulous
form. One of these foreign policy experts caustically de¬
scribed the three stages thus:

  1. The stage of talk.
  2. The stage of emotional conferences.

  3. The stage of dilemma.



It is now being whispered at high level, among those who
only talk in hush-hush tones, that the government of India
appears to have veered round to the idea that at some
future date, which they cannot pinpoint with precision, a
conflict between Soviet Russia and the Americans or the
Anglo-Americans is bound to arise. Such a conflict would
obviously involve the use of the atom bomb and all other
new devices of modern warfare which have been discovered
by scientists and bacteriologists since the signing of the
armistice in May 1945. Problem Number One for the
government of India has, therefore, been to find a way by
which India can stay out of such a conflict.

India is placed on the world map in such a strategic posi¬
tion that even the most optimistic pacifists have to concede
that it cannot be overlooked by the conflicting powers.

Looked at in its Asian setting, India appears too close to
those countries over which the Red Star of the Kremlin has
cast its flickering light. Beginning with the handful of
Communists who were opposing the then secure and well-
established government of Chiang Kai-Shek, the Communist
grip over Asia has spread its tentacles to other countries in
south Asia.

The war gave Soviet Russia a sort of respectability in
international politics which she did not have before. Men
like Mr. Churchill, arch-apostles of the capitalist system,
spoke highly of their Soviet allies even though they made
strange bedfellows for the ruling classes of Great Britain
and Wall-Streeters of America. Russia became one of the
big three; Stalin became Uncle Joe, a sort of near relation
to Uncle Sam; Stalingrad became an epic like Dunkirk. In
the hour of crisis the free peoples of the democracies spoke
more freely and generously than they otherwise would have

All this had a strange effect on the people of Asia, who
took in the things they heard in praise of the Russians,
whom they did not know, but discounted the glowing tales
of the exploits of the democracies, whom they knew, as being
only so much imperialist propaganda. Moreover, no en¬
thusiastic comments on the deeds of the democracies came
from Moscow.

In other words, it was the democracies who did all the


propaganda for Soviet Russia which Asia lapped up. They
did it so well that it has even outlived its wartime purpose
and outlived also the enthusiasm of Mr. Churchill and the
men who once made those comments.

Now, when the propagandists of imperialism left the
Asian scene because their presence thereon had hindered
the freedom of the Asiatic people, they left behind the
memory of those glowing accounts of the Soviets. The
Soviet agent who now appeared in south Asia therefore
came with the recommendation of the democratic powers.
He now entered without let or hindrance the territories
hitherto guarded by the imperialistic powers. At the same
time the door was being left open for the Communist idea
to enter the minds of the Asiatic people who for the first
time had been left to think for themselves.

All this, happening concurrently with the general world
unrest, made an ideal setting in which Communism could
successfully operate.

Whereas in the west the countries of Europe had their
revolutions one after the other, in the Asiatic countries all
the forces of revolt came to the surface at the same time,
synchronizing their appearance with the shaking off of
shackles of colonial servitude which these countries had
known for so long.

Nearest to India there was Burma, in which Thakin Than
Tun, the Burmese Communist leader, had unleashed his
red hordes in order to overthrow the government. Upper
Burma became an open playground for the Communists
and the Marxian philosophy seeped through its impene¬
trable teak forests from the neighbouring country of China.
To the dormant Burmese mind the Marxian philosophy of
equality, the rule of the proletariat, and, above all, the
promise of equal distribution of food and luxuries, made a
direct appeal. Red literature was easy to buy in Burma and
Communism consequently reached the Burmese, who had
longstanding grievances against the British and south
Indian Chettyar exploitation.

Moreover the former Premier of Burma, Thakin Nu, in
an utterance he made before he was scheduled to quit office,
had promised his people that he would build an economic
structure on Marxian lines with the active co-operation of

the comrades from the Kremlin. It was the sort of vague
utterance Pandit Nehru frequently makes about establishing
a Socialist economy in India, even though his party is
wedded to the capitalist system, just because this sort of
utterance gets good applause.

But as Ed Snow observed in an article in the Saturday
Evening Post (May 29th, 1948): “Whereas in India the
Nehru-Patel cabinet is weighed in favour of big business,
in Burma all the new ministers represent farmers, workers
or patriotic mass organizations or they are intellectuals
under the hegemony of the Socialist party.”

Thakin Nu’s promises, therefore, added impetus to the
Communist Thakin Than Tun’s revolutionary ventures. It
was U Tin Tut, chief of Burma’s new auxiliary force—the
last link of friendship between Burma and Britain—who
paid with his life for being on a revolutionary scene with
milder theories of political economy.

Further south, in Malaya, British and Gurkha troops had
to police the Straits, for Communist forces were skirmish¬
ing there with the forces of the government. Most of these
Communist insurgents were said to be Chinese from Yenan
and Manchuria.

Between Burma and the Malayan peninsula came Siam,
whose economy was a see-saw movement controlled by the
British and the Americans.

Hitherto dominated exclusively by the British, Siam now
became more acquainted with the U.S. commercial traveller
who, with his tropical suiting and his loud hand-painted
necktie, was to be seen in the fashionable quarter of Bang¬
kok dancing with Siamese society girls, some of them “Their
Serene or Royal Highnesses”, descendants of the old poly¬
gamous Kings of Siam.

It was on this scene, unimportant politically one would
have thought, that the Soviets put up an outsize embassy.
Bangkok was to be the springboard into Burma, the train¬
ing ground for Soviet diplomats who were tipped for service
in the south-east and presumably later in India. With rice
as her main export, with an abundance of rubber, tin, teak,
kapok, shellac and precious stones, it was understandable
that both Moscow and the Chinese Communists were keen
on sovietizing Siam.

Further south from Malaya lay the islands of Indonesia,
where the republicans appeared to be putting up a fight on
two fronts. They were fighting on the one hand against
their former imperialist masters, the Dutch, on the other
against the Indonesian Reds, headed by Muso on remote-
control from the Kremlin. The Dutch are said to have
foolishly allowed the Communist unrest to grow with a
view to justifying their return to power. The Soviets, on
the other hand, appear to have counted on a civil war in
Indonesia as part of their long-range plan to sovietize
south-east Asia.

Such is the Asian setting adjoining the Indian sub¬
continent. To date, the iron curtain has not yet dropped on
these danger spots of Asia, but if the China of Mao Tze-
Tung were to form an axis with Soviet Russia, as Japan did
with Hitler’s Germany, it would appear difficult for India
to remain neutral and unconcerned about the danger of
infiltration of Marxian philosophy into India itself.

Mr. K. C. Peter, a not-too-well-known professor of econ¬
omics in south India, explained to me how this Asian
uprising, this raising of the hammer and sickle against
established authority, took place at the same time as
the colonial empires were yielding to the demands
for social and political emancipation and for economic
freedom. ,

In January 1949 Professor Peter wrote to me: “The
peasants cried for lands for cultivation, and for cottage
industries which would give them subsidiary employment.
The workers wanted less hours of labour, more hours
of leisure, and more money with which to enjoy that

The professor was of the opinion that this was an ideal
setting for Communism. The Communists, therefore, went
all out to make capital of the social and economic grievances
of the oppressed people of Asia in order to further their
aims. “No doubt,” Professor Peter said, “Moscow is behind
every move.”

We had all been watching the happenings in the Far
East with close attention for quite some time. We had
watched and written much about the unrest in various
Asiatic countries, chiefly those on the Malayan peninsula,

Indonesia and Burma. Unfortunately the news of these
revolts and upheavals in Asia was being so slanted that to
the casual reader the important thing appeared to be that
the English, the French and the Dutch were again angling
for strategic positions and colonial markets in these regions
of Asia. Occasionally there was mention made of Com¬
munists having appeared on the scene, but as usual we paid
little attention to these incidental details which obtruded
in the news. The general impression in every newspaper in
India and in the mind of every government official was that
Russia was too busy fighting her battles at the U.N., too
busy precipitating the Berlin crisis and too busy drilling and
regimenting her newly acquired territories in the west to
have time to bother about spreading her sphere of influence
over the countries of Asia. While these isolated news items
and these occasional doubts did make some of us think, it
was, in my case, not until I read what Professor Peter had
to say that I realized how closely woven was the Communist
plan to convert the people of Asia.

Professor Peter said: “Reliable sources report the exist¬
ence of an eastern counterpart of the Cominform in the
west.” Behind the smoke-screen of youth conferences and
party conventions it became apparent to the authorities too
late that all the most important Communists of south-east
Asia had met at “cultural levels” in the February and
March of 1948. Peter believed that a Cominform of the east
had, as a result of these meetings, taken shape. He said:
“After this the Communist party’s policy in India and other
Far Eastern countries took a sudden turn. The Indian
Communists unfurled the flag of rebellion. They took up
cudgels against the Nehru government. Restlessness became
rampant both in Malaya and Siam. The Burmese Com¬
munists were on the alert. No longer is it mysterious why
the Soviet embassies in New Delhi, Bangkok and Rangoon
have requested fresh additions to their personnel. Every¬
where in the east, Communist propaganda is exploiting the
various national independence movements.”

It was about this time that news came from Nanking that
the end was nearing for that monotonous and long-drawn-
out civil war between the Chinese Reds and the authori¬
tarian government of Chiang Kai-Shek. Even President


Truman had realized that helping Chiang at this stage
would be “throwing dollars down a bottomless abyss”. Soon
the Generalissimo was in exile.

# # # *

My mind went back to April 1942 when, on a drab morn¬
ing, I had sat in the back of a ramshackle car between two
silent Chinese who were escorting me stealthily out of
Chungking to an out-of-town hideout of the Eighth Route
Red Army. The silence was forced upon us because my two
escorts spoke no English, but it accentuated the thrill I felt
at the time. Those were the days when this handful of Reds
who hung around China’s wartime capital were marked
men—marked and constantly watched by Tai Lee, the
mystery man of Chungking, who was never seen and never
heard and always spoken of in whispers, except by the
foreign correspondents who delighted in calling him Himm¬
ler Shi Shi.

So we dodged Tai Lee’s men until we reached the open
road. I was not sure at the time whether all these precau¬
tions were necessary, for I was made to sit low in the car,
my hat drawn to cover my face, the lapels of my overcoat
turned up. like a character from the underworld. But those
Chinese Reds were in dead earnest about hiding my identity
from the watchful eyes of Tai Lee’s men. I thought at first
that these Reds were only yellow, for they seemed frightened
of anyone seeing any move they made. Later I discovered
that their fright was not physical, nor were they cowards;
they were just afraid of being frustrated in carrying out what
they had set out to do. .

In this way we reached the mountain hut which was the
H.Q. of the Red Army general, Chow En-Lai, with whom I
was to spend the day. Chow was one of the triumvirate who
had led the Red revolt. Of that trio Mao Tze-Tung was the
overall chief, handling both policy and the direction of the
war; Chu Teh was operational commander-in-chief, the
actual battlefield general; and Chow En-Lai was entrusted
with the delicate assignment of being the Communist
representative at the court of Chiang Kai-Shek.

Chow explained to me the background of the Communist
revolt. Whether it was true or not, he seemed anxious to

impress upon me how the Communism of the Chinese Reds
was of a different variety, though not different in principles,
from the Communism of Soviet Russia. In other words,
Chinese Communism was an indigenous movement which
sprang from the land and the people, a revolt against the
oppression and the tyranny which was peculiar to China; it
was not, Chow emphasized more than once, a branch move¬
ment which was to bring China within the Kremlin sphere
of influence. According to him, China was not going to be
a colony of Soviet Russia.

All this was said seven years ago and even now it is pos¬
sible that Mao Tze-Tung may not allow himself and his
country to come under the heel of the men of the Kremlin;
but it is too early to tell what final shape Communist China
will take in the future.

The more important fact, however, was that even as early
as 194s it was apparent to an impartial observer that the
Communist movement in China was slowly but steadily
gaining ground in that country. I could see the difference
in the determination of these Red Army men, who had
very little to call their own, who accepted without murmur
the token pay of one worthless Chinese dollar a week and
who fought on a two-pronged front—on one front the
Japanese, on the other the armies of Chiang—with a grim
determination such as only men who are either fanatical‘or
inspired can have.

During the course of that day Chow and his party-men
talked on all manner of subjects: labour conditions, de¬
fence, leadership, conflicts, trade unions, the war in the
north, the Japanese and a dozen other subjects on which
they produced an array of facts and figures which was most
impressive. They asked me in turn the most searching
questions on India, some of which I found difficult to
answer with the same degree of authority as when they had
spoken of their country.

I noted one thing about Chow En-Lai. He made no vain¬
glorious boast; he did not talk the usual clap-trap about
“marching to eventual victory”, a phrase which so many
Kuomintang officials had used. Chow was intensely practical.
He knew his party’s limitations, his army’s vulnerability.
He knew how the dice was loaded against the Reds, for


Chiang and his generals had used U.S. Lease-Lena aid
against the Chinese Red Army instead of using it against
the Japanese, for which purpose that aid was granted. Even
so he had a cool confidence that in the end his Red Army
would get what aid it wanted from the people, for without
the people that army had no meaning and the revolt had
no purpose.

That was the theme of the whole Communist movement
in China. All the planning which was done had counted on
this unknown quantum of help from the land and the
people which made it possible for the Red Army to live
from day to day, eating when and where it could, sleeping
under the open sky or in the fields or wherever the people
would let the Red soldiers sleep.

Chow spoke to me of some of the plans they had made
arid as he spoke I felt the man had nerves of steel to face
day by day the powerful bludgeoning which came from
General Chiang Kai-Shek and his generals, some of whom
had sworn to exterminate every Red from the face of China.
Yet when I saw him that day walking across the green
mountain-side with his trousers rolled up to avoid the mud,
his felt hat curled up with age and his not-so-new valise
tucked under his arm, Chow looked to me more like a
Chinese commercial traveller than a general of the Eighth
Route Army.

When I returned to the Press hostel that evening I could
not help feeling the power that was behind this Red move¬
ment in China. Ill-equipped though they were, wearing
shabby uniforms, these squat little fellows of the Eighth
Route Army had nerve, grit and determination. They had
one thing more; they had the patience to work according
to a long-range plan and the patience to await its fulfil¬

Not many days later Madame Chiang Kai-Shek did me
the honour of asking me to tea. The two of us talked to
each other for over an hour. The talk, however, was not of
trade unions and labour conditions, or of the war and
Chinese people, for she was essentially a beautiful woman
and had only been pushed by circumstance into the sordid
vortex of world politics. So we preferred to talk that day of
the beauty that once was life, of a grace of living which was

dying, of good food, good wine, of good-looking men and
women. I spoke to her of my loves and sorrows and she in
turn told me of the tired look she had seen in the eyes of
Jawaharlal Nehru. Before I left Chungking she gave me a
beautiful piece of blue-and-white china; and in turn I
gave my much treasured bottle of Max Factor’s eau de

Given a choice again between lunch with Chow En-Lai
and tea with the beautiful Mayling Soong Chiang, I sup¬
pose the man in me would prefer to have the tea-party, but,
to a correspondent, Chow, with all the nothing he then had
to offer, would be of more lasting value.

A month later in Bombay, at the luncheon table of
J. R. D. Tata, Chairman of the billion-dollar Indian indus¬
trial combine, I sat opposite Pandit Nehru. I tried that day
to indicate to Pandit Nehru in as tactful a manner as I
could that the Red Star was likely to be in the ascendant
in China while that of Chiang Kai-Shek and the Kuomin-
tang was likely to fall from the skies.

The Pandit was most courteous and listened to every
word I said. But I don’t think he believed in my judgement
for, only a few months before, he had himself met the
Generalissimo and Madame Chiang on their visit to India
and “our valiant neighbours” had made a deep impression
on him.

As I have said, all this happened seven years ago and its
relevance now is only to give the background of how the
pattern of modern Asia came to change beyond recognition,
all within the space of a few years. This Red China which
I saw in crude and embryo form was to become the well-
dressed window of Communism in the east.

* * # *

In this Asian setting, in which “our valiant neighbour”
has gone Red, it will be somewhat difficult to maintain that
splendid isolation which seems to be the corner-stone of our
foreign policy.

To preserve neutrality in times of peace is probably
possible, countries generally respect international law and
convention in the comparatively calm atmosphere of an
international conference table. In the debates of the U.N.


all that our representative needs is a directive from the
government at home chalking out the position he should
maintain in the division lobby. He could be told in an
ordinary cable message what resolutions he is to support,
what to oppose and when to remain neutral. In normal
practice representatives and delegates are generally briefed
by their governments and it would appear to be easy for us
to toe the line of neutrality on the many occasions on which,
at the U.N., Russia and her satellites come into open con¬
flict with the Anglo-American bloc.

But when war is declared, a new element appears which
is often not within the calculation of individual govern¬
ments. In a battle for survival, a nation often feels itself
justified, rightly or wrongly, in discarding the canons of
law and in discarding those conventions of war which may
have been agreed upon in the calmer atmosphere of

It then falls upon a government or a country to en¬
deavour to maintain whatever position it wishes to main¬
tain, whether it is a position of defence or of aggression or
of neutrality, by the strength of its own forces, moral and
material. In other words, as Sarat Chandra Bose put it: “If
India wants neutrality she should be ready for neutrality.”
To be ready for neutrality, Bose suggested extensive military
preparations -and an alliance between India, Pakistan,
Nepal and Burma. He called this alliance “U.N.-South”,
the United Nations of south Asia. He envisaged an exten¬
sion of this alliance into an ultimate pan-Asian federa¬

But Bose’s idea of federation presupposed a capacity for
defence which none of the five countries he mentioned ap¬
pears to have. So that, side by side with such a federation,
it seems imperative that the countries which comprise such
an alliance should each and all together be a great indus¬
trial power. Moreover, the sort of industrial development
contemplated must be something more than having a hand
ful of cloth mills and a steel plant at Jamshetpur—all of
which is euphemistically referred to in India as industrial
development. The industrial power required in times of
war is of a very different kind. The east is backward in this
form of industry; it is in fact almost entirely dependent on
19 °

the west and on America for such things as heavy machinery
and heavy industries.

Of the five countries which Bose enumerated in the
“U.N.-South” alliance, India is perhaps the most progressive,
the most industrialized and the most resourceful. Yet no
intelligent Indian can deceive himself that his country is
to-day a great industrial power. India cannot as yet manu¬
facture a complete motor car or an aeroplane, let alone a
modern tank or a battleship or an atom bomb. Such means
of heavy defence of which our navy, army and air force can
boast are entirely imported from Europe or America. In
view of this, it would still be foolish to suppose that in the
event of war we could defend our vast coastline with
HMIS Delhi, the only battleship we have, and a varied
assortment of Royal Indian Navy destroyers and sloops.
Therefore before framing a foreign policy we had to realize
our limitations.

  • # # * *

In August 1947 General Viscount Montgomery laid down
five essential requisites for the security of a nation. They


(1) a strong national character;

(2) a great development of scientific and industrial


(3) a powerful and well-disciplined industrial power;

(4) a regular army;

(5) preparedness.

Montgomery was obviously speaking in terms of Great
Britain, who already had the added requisite of an alliance
with other powers including the all-powerful U.S. More¬
over, Britain was a founder member of the Anglo-American
bloc whose members were tacitly pledged to rush to each
other’s aid in the event of Russian aggression.

Out of the five essentials he mentioned, India has got
only one—a regular army—with this difference, that our
army is not self-sufficient and has largely to depend for its
armaments and materials on countries abroad. If India in
the next war is to depend upon its army for the defence of


its neutrality, it would seem highly improbable that either
of the two opposing blocs of world war III would part with
even a fraction of its armament manufacture just to help
India remain neutral. Nor has India any assets of particular
value in wartime with which to bargain for these necessary
armaments. The only assets we have are our wide open
spaces, which might make strategic bases for one bloc or the
other, but in that case the illusion of neutrality would have
to end.

To many Congressmen in India such things as bases and
battleships are apparently not important. With truth and
non-violence they had got rid of the British, and Mahatma
Gandhi had told them that with this swadeshi brand of
moral rearmament they could have defended themselves
even against Japanese. So with truth and non-violence
painted on one sail, neutrality on the other, and the Indian
national flag fluttering from the mast, they were now ready
to sail the perilous seas of world war III, steering clear of
the big battleships and submarines of other powers.

# # # &


The two years of our independence, dedicated to pursu¬
ing this policy of neutrality, have resulted in a marked
deterioration in our foreign affairs. The warmth with which
the U.S. first welcomed the newly-liberated India into the
community of the free peoples of the world cooled down
when our representatives to the U.N. made it abundantly
clear by their behaviour in public that they preferred the
company of the Russians to that of the British and American
statesmen. The U.S. diplomats were always courteous but
they made their mental notes.

There were a number of other incidents, small in them¬
selves, which did not help our Anglo-American relations.
For instance, when Mr. Rajgopalachari became Governor-
General in the place of Lord Louis Mountbatten, the first
diplomatic representative he invited to tea, against all
accepted rules of seniority and precedent, ‘ was the Soviet
Ambassador. The Americans could not possibly have liked
this out-of-turn attention being paid to the Soviets at such
a high state level. Likewise, 1 have reason to believe from
my own sources of information that the U.S. State Depart-


ment took a very dim view of our embassy at Washington
being left, so early in its life as after Mr. Asaf Ali’s return,
in the charge of an absurdly junior officer, Mr. R. K. Nehru,
while the U.S. had accorded us the courtesy of sending to
New Delhi a man of the standing of Dr. Henry F. Grady.
It may have been only a coincidence but Dr. Grady’s trans¬
fer to Greece soon followed, and only after Sir Benegal
Rama Rao arrived in Washington did the U.S. State De¬
partment nominate Mr. Loy Henderson as their next am¬
bassador to India.

This brusque retort at diplomatic level quickly brought
home to the Indian leaders that, while they may be un¬
conventional and unorthodox in their manners at home, in
the pattern of world diplomacy it would be as well to con¬
form to the accepted form of diplomatic etiquette.

With the British it was difficult, for obvious reasons, to
have too cordial a relationship, because there was still a
large section of public opinion in India which remained
antagonistic to Britain and the British. On the surface,
however, and at the government level, the relationship
has always been cordial. Indian personnel continue to be
trained in Britain, Indian stores and ships are pur¬
chased from Britain, and in many ways the two countries
still seem to have much in common and have much to sort

In our relationship with Russia the Soviets could not be
accused of taking the initiative in cooling off. The first signs
came from us, who, after having thrown ourselves into the
arms of their leaders, representatives and delegates during
the initial stages of our experiments in diplomacy, now
fought shy of being too tightly entangled in the Com¬
munist embrace.

In return for our obvious partisanship of the U.S.S.R.,
the Soviets had supported us on the South African issue at
the U.N. Again they supported us when we launched our
complaint against the Dutch over Indonesia. Even at the
ECAFE it was the U.S.S.R. which alone among the great
powers wholeheartedly advocated and supported the indus¬
trialization of Asia.

In the first flush of independence we had rather enjoyed
the prospect of being free to flirt with the Soviets, a thrill
G i _ 193

which had been denied to us while the British controlled
our foreign policy. But we soon found that a too friendly
attitude to Communist Russia had its disadvantages. While
in theory our “revolutionary” Congress leaders should have
had a sympathetic fellow-feeling for the revolutionary
Russians, in practice it was found that our leaders were,
after all, capitalists at heart who lived in mortal fear of
Communism which would deprive them of all they had.
A growing tendency became discernible in India of
avoiding everything Communist and therefore everything

The home policy of India at this stage, far from being
conciliatory to Soviet Russia, suddenly turned violently
anti-Communist. Emergency legislation intended for use on
the communal issue was soon brought into play against the
Communists. Soviet Russia could now have no illusions left
about any material results developing from those early
advances made by our jejune diplomats at the early U.N.
conferences and at Moscow.

But even as Russia had held her enthusiasm in check
when we had foisted our attentions on her, so she gave no
indication of being affected by our drawing back.

In addition to the big three whom we had alienated we
had also, either because of our foreign policy or by force of
circumstances, rubbed a number of other countries up the
wrong way.

Halfway to Europe lay the Middle East, where a bitter
conflict raged over Palestine. Even before we found our
feet at the U.N. our delegates had begun to take sides on
the issue. Much could be said on both sides of this problem,
which was by no means clear cut, but the temptation to
perform on the U.N. platform was too strong for our dele¬
gates, who straightaway entered the controversy and vir¬
tually committed India to the Arabs.

But, in spite of this strong anti-Jewish line which we
adopted, while we alienated the Jews we did not succeed
in cementing any deep friendship with the Arab races. The
Arabs naturally found a common cause in a common reli¬
gion which bound them closer to Pakistan than to India
and we had no Arab support on an issue like Kashmir, on
which we had strong differences with Pakistan. In the end,

therefore, we had neither Jew nor Arab friendship upon
which to count.

Circumstances had forced our government to take an
attitude towards South Africa which entangled us in yet
another controversy. Our policy towards South Africa was
a vindication of the rights of man and there could be no
two opinions in this country that our government’s policy
towards South Africa was right. Even so, through no fault
of our government, we had crossed swords with yet another
country without having the compensation of having im¬
proved the status of our nationals abroad.

India had soon to look elsewhere for international
friends. Disappointed with the leading powers of the West
and the Middle East, and unable to afford to toe the Com¬
munist line, India decided to play a new role in inter¬
national affairs. She was to become the champion of the
smaller units of colonial people in Asia.

Early in his career, Pandit Nehru rallied around the
Indian capital the representatives of various Asian coun¬
tries with a view to solidifying these newly-awakened regions
of Asia. At first the accent was on the cultural bonds and
the common heritage, of our civilizations, and the con¬
ferences ended up in an orgy of mutually congratulatory
speeches followed by tea-parties and receptions. But clearly
discernible behind all these early cultural reunions, held
in the wake of the departed imperialists, was a wish to form
a united Asian bloc, strong enough to hold a position of \

neutrality between the Soviets and the Anglo-Americans in
the event of another world conflagration.

Pandit Nehru had, however, omitted to take into his
calculations two important factors; one was that the
Asiatic elements, which so readily rallied around him, were
but a minor portion of the whole continent. They did not
include Japan, which was almost totally under U.S. con¬
trol, Red China, which was soon to overlap China itself, or
that part of Russia which was in Asia.

The second factor was that if India did succeed in creating
this south Asian bloc, or, as Sarat Chandra Bose had called
it, “U.N.-South”, its importance could only be felt at con¬
ferences. It was completely useless as a defensive military
factor in the event of war and its professed neutrality would




always be at the mercy of the military powers who needed

  • # *> * *

In October 1948, when Pandit Nehru appeared in London
for the Dominion Premiers’ Conference and in Paris for the
meetings of the U.N., he received a tremendous ovation
from the people of the countries of Europe which he visited
and from all the world’s statesmen. These ovations were
strictly personal to him; he had been a fighter for his coun¬
try’s freedom; he was an exponent of the democratic idea;
he was a writer whose books had enriched the mind and
thought of freedom-loving people all over the world; he
was a handsome aristocrat, born of rich parents, who could
have had all the luxuries of the world but preferred to
suffer privations in jail in the cause of freedom.

Unfortunately, the tendency too often was to interpret the
applause he received for what he had done as applause for
what he was now doing. Weighed down by an inferiority
complex which the British domination had left in its trail,
little Indian hearts were glad at such recognition as was
given by the outside world to those of their leaders who but
a few years ago were pushed around by the British. While
this was quite understandable in view of the old circum¬
stances in which, within a quarter of a century, our people
had succeeded in becoming free men, it warped our per¬
spective and our ability to judge the correctness of the lead
that was now being given to us. The years of servitude had
made the Indian afraid to think for himself and he instinc¬
tively looked up to his erstwhile rulers and others who
dominated the world scene to decide whether the foreign
policy of his government and the utterances of his repre¬
sentatives were making the right sort of impression abroad.
So that we ignored the direct results of our MAKE-NO-
FRIENDS policy and concentrated only on the enthusiasm
with which Nehru as an individual was being greeted in
the capitals of the west. We had yet to learn the lessons
which the British learnt at Munich when the thundering
applause that greeted Mr. Chamberlain, both in Germany
and in Britain, obscured the hard fact that the man who
went on a mission of peace had in reality only shelved his
problems. In a different sense Pandit Nehru was doing the

same thing, for all these Asian Relations Conferences, these
attempts to establish a neutral Asian bloc, these appearances
in London and Paris, had still not solved the country’s
problem, which was to have a foreign policy which would
ensure the defence of our country in the event of a world

Full of enthusiasm, Pandit Nehru alighted from Air
India International at the London Airport. There he saw
familiar faces in the large crowd which had gathered to
receive him. The Indian Press reported all the little details
of that trip: how he chatted with his fellow passengers;
how he asked the crew many questions about flying; how he
studied maps, books, and documents; and how, to the satis¬
faction of the air hostess, he enjoyed his chicken lunch. We
also read how India’s Prime Minister and his sister Vijaya-
lakshmi, who was with him in England, went to the country
home of the Mountbattens in Hampshire, and how brother
and sister rode through Romsey’s crowded streets in
Mountbatten’s jeep.

At Kingsway Hall, in London, some 2,000 British and
Indian admirers came to hear Pandit Nehru speak. To them
Pandit Nehru declared: “I should like the closest co¬
operation between the people of India and the people of
Britain/’ /

This was the note he struck in Britain, the note which
brought many eloquent tributes to his great qualities from
men like Harold Laski and Lord Pethick-Lawrence. H.M.
the King was said to have been greatly impressed by the
Pandit. All that made good Sunday morning reading, but
on Pandit Nehru’s return from the trip some of his country¬
men for the first time became rather dubious about the lead
he was giving to the country. On the day he passed through
Bombay on his way back from Europe, November 6th, 1948,
the Free Press Journal, an ardent nationalist paper through¬
out the years of the struggle, produced an editorial which
registered the first intelligent question mark against his

It read:

“The Prime Minister has returned to India. He has re¬
turned bearing on his brow a laurel crown. India is happy


to note that London, Paris and the world Assembly share
our love and affection for him.

The fanfare of acclaiming trumpets has been sounded.
As its last echoes die down, the Prime Minister returns to
the Indian capital to face the greatest test of his scintillating

The test arises out of the following contradictory facts:
Pandit Nehru stands at the head of a government which is
Socialist in theory and Conservative in practice.

He is one of the architects of the draft constitution which
proclaims liberty, equality and fraternity in almost the
same breath that it qualifies these attributes with safeguards
and provisos.

He stands at the head of the nation he has helped to
create, to which he has promised sovereign liberty without
reservations and ties. He has also promised, according to
recent utterances to other than the nation, certain ties which
may or may not imply reservations. . . .

. . . According to him, India in Asia will no longer
tolerate colonialism and imperialism.

According to him, India will be a sovereign independent
republic but this status need not affect the ties with the

India in the commonwealth is a partner in an organiza¬
tion one of whose members owns colonial possessions in
Asia. That member is also an ally of two powerful im¬
perialisms which hold millions of Asians in thrall.

India, therefore, despite the Prime Minister’s utterances,
supports colonialism in Asia and gives support to im¬
perialism in Asia.

If, for external affairs, the Indian President represents the
British King, India outside India is not a republic but a
monarchical dominion.

Can India be a republic at home and a monarchy abroad?

This then is the test—what is the Prime Minister of

Is he India’s greatest Socialist, or is he a symbol of com¬

Is he the idol of the Indian people, cast in one solid
mould of gold, or is he a figurehead moulded out of many

. . . Pandit Nehru will have to give a conclusive answer
to these questions in the immediate future.

He must tell us, point by point, argument by argument,
the need for these painful contortions and gymnastics.


What will accrue to us if we do not press for the imple¬
mentation of the pledges he has made and which are in¬
herent in our draft constitution?

What will we gain if we throw overboard our principles,
our honour and our word by remaining within the folds of
an imperialist and colonial system?

Will we get dollars? If so, how many? Will we get capital ‘
goods from Britain to aid our economic and industrial
regeneration? If so, how soon?

Can we not secure what we need through treaties,
alliances and trade pacts? Will the Western Powers deliber¬
ately starve us if we do not remain within the Common¬
wealth, after Britain has clearly stated that we are free to
decide the question for ourselves?

What is the actual purpose and policy behind the desire
to barter our honour? . . .

. . . The Prime Minister is now a great world figure.

He has climbed the dizzy pinnacles of international fame
on the profound belief in men’s hearts that he is a man of
the people, by the people, for the people, a true, active and
successful Socialist, which in these days is an extraordinary

We want to know if the belief in men’s hearts is justifi¬
able, to-day. . .

It is, therefore, difficult for any intelligent observer to be
able to say with any degree of precision what the foreign
policy of India was or, if it had not already been formed,
what it was aiming at.

If the idea of India remaining in the Commonwealth is
to materialize, what is to happen to those Asian countries
to whom we were playing godfather? Would they also be
allied to the interests of the Commonwealth? It seems a
difficult feat for our external affairs department, even with
Pandit Nehru at its head and a galaxy of highly paid am¬
bassadors at its disposal, to bring out a foreign policy by
which we could become a republic, a member of the
Commonwealth and a captain of the Asian bloc all together.

In India, in 1949, it appears difficult to convince Con¬
gressmen that in the first place there must be some funda¬
mental principles on which to found a foreign policy, that
these principles must be based on reality and our limitations
and not on an abstract ideology, that they must take into


account the fact that we are not yet either a military or an
industrial power, that we have not, and have no means of
getting, the weapons of World War III.

The Congress-dominated government of India, however,
ignores all these questions, these doubts, these fears. In true
Congress fashion it says: “You have nothing to fear.”







S ince the death of Mahatma Gandhi there have been two
men at the top of Indian politics. They are Pandit Jawa-
harlal Nehru and Sardar Vallabbhai Patel. Both men belong
to the same party, the Congress; both are now in the ad¬
ministration with Pandit Nehru as the Prime Minister and
Minister for External Affairs, and Sardar Patel as Deputy
Prime Minister, Home Minister and Minister for the
States. No two men could be more different in upbringing
and education, outlook, ideology or action.

Jawaharlal was born and grew up in Allahabad in the
United Provinces. His father was a wealthy lawyer, the
silver-tongued Motilal Nehru. Fortune was kind to that
Nehru home. The young Jawaharlal had the advantage of
an English education. He was schooled at Harrow and
polished at Trinity. By the time he returned to India his
father had joined Mahatma Gandhi and the position which
Motilal held, both in the country and in the Congress,
gave Jawaharlal an entry into those high circles without
any effort.

In my book, I’ve Shed My Tears , 1 written before free¬
dom came, I described him thus:

. . Jawaharlal Nehru [was] the idol of the younger
man. With his well-chiselled features, he looked more like
a Greek god than a Kashmiri Brahmin. . . .

His early contact with the West and its political philoso¬
phies left a permanent mark on him and he was more often
at home reading large volumes of Sidney and Beatrice Webb
than concerned with a spinning-wheel or goat’s milk.
Jawaharlal was not born of the masses. He was well-read,
cultured and facile, a Fabian at heart, an aristocrat by birth.
Circumstances had compelled him to mix with the large
crowds of dumb, driven people because the struggle for
freedom was mixed up with the masses.

Assumption of mass leadership often made him feel un-

1 Appleton-Century, New York.



comfortable in his surroundings. He was impatient with
the mediocrity he found around him. His belief in non¬
violence only came to him because of his implicit faith in
Gandhi, but by instinct he would have preferred to have
picked up a gun to fight his battle for freedom. Often,
because of his obedience to Gandhi’s wishes, he found him¬
self confused by conflicting loyalties.

Jawaharlal boasted of no intuition; no inner voice urged
him on. . . . He was a realist aware of the great changes
which were taking place in the outside world and of the
importance of thinking in broader terms than those of
Indian nationalism. But first things had to come first and,
as a result, the cause of India took precedence over other

Jawaharlal had a sense of humour which was quick and
subtle. The years of struggle, however, had burned the smile
off his face. Jawaharlal was often sad and serious. He
seemed to want to get somewhere in a great hurry, though
no one, perhaps not even he, knew where exactly he wanted
to go. Freedom was not the limit of his ambitions.

He had spent more time in prison than out of it. His
character was moulded within its bleak and solitary walls.
He once said that his was a family of convictions. With all
that, he was a dreamer. He should never have been in the
Congress, for its orthodox element cramped his style. But,
born an Indian in the hour of his country’s greatest
struggle, and sensitive to the humiliation of being unfree,
there seemed no other role for him.”

That was the Nehru who, with Mahatma Gandhi, led our
fight for freedom. He had his little weaknesses even then.
For one thing he was ruled by his emotions rather than by
his head. He was easily carried away by the righteousness
of a cause, by a crusading spirit and the sad, sad tales of
woe which often came to him. He has always been very im¬
pressionable, hot-tempered and easily excited. Patience was
not one of his qualities. He was too conscious of his
superiority over other men; a domineering individual who
often refused to see any point of view other than his own.
He could be very peevish; he could be impetuous. He knew
he could count upon the personal affection which the
people had for him to carry him through any opposition.

Progressive movements all over the world fascinated
Jawaharlal. He always came back from his trips abroad full

of admiration for the other people of the world who were
also fighting their battles of freedom. Likewise, he kept him¬
self in touch with that modern literature which spoke the
language of freedom.

Jawaharlal shone in the India of the British not only
because of his positive qualities but even more because the
people had woven a legend around him. In terms of the
Hindu folklore he was likened to a prince fighting for the
poor, ready with his sword to defend the unarmed, to slay
the oppressor, to guard the rights of man, to fight for
human justice.

That was the man who became the first Prime Minister
of India.

Sardar Vallabbhai Patel did not have Jawaharlal’s back¬
ground. Vallabbhai’s origin was rustic; he was born of
peasant parents in the heart of Gujarat. His father is said
to have participated in the mutiny of 1857 as a common
sepoy. Vallabbhai rose to prominence entirely through his
own efforts. He had a college education in India and later
went to London, where he was called to the Bar from the
Middle Temple. Jinnah once said of him: “He knows law
well; he knows no equity.”

On his return to India the young Patel practised in the
courts of Ahmedabad. The story is told of how he had
rushed up to Bombay to put his wife into a hospital and
rushed back to Ahmedabad to argue a murder case. As he
was in the midst of his defence, he received a telegram which
said his wife was dead. He read it and put it into his pocket,
and went on with his case. Unlike Nehru, he showed no
trace of emotion.

From law, Vallabbhai turned to politics. Fie got drawn
under the spell of the Mahatma.

In 1928 he shot out into the forefront when he became
the focal point of a peasant revolt in Bardoli. He stood out
as a brilliant field worker, indispensable in a political
struggle. After Bardoli, he became known as the Sardar,
the Chief. “Every home shall be a Congress office, every
soul a Congress organization,” the Sardar said.

Soon he became the party boss of the Congress. John
Gunther likened him to Jim Farley. He was rough, hard as
a rock, a matter-of-fact politician who had not time for polish apd refinement. The American magazine Time called him leathertough.

I remember hearing Sardar Patel speak many years ago.
It was on the occasion of the opening ceremony of Scindia
House, the home of Indian shipbuilding. I have never
heard so much concentrated bitterness spouting out from
the lips of any one man in a single hour. He seemed to say
all the things he wanted to say against the British in that
one speech. His bitterness was contagious for it grew in me
for days and I founds it difficult to shake it off. The only
appropriate gesture he could have made at the end of that
hour of invective and abuse would have been to spit on the
floor. But the Sardar merely wiped his lips.

That was the man who was to become Pandit Nehru’s second-in-command.

It was but natural that when two men as different in
every way as Pandit Nehru and Sardar Patel were destined
to inherit between them the political leadership of the
Congress and the country, the future of that leadership
would appear somewhat uncertain.

Mahatma Gandhi, with his keen sense of perception, was
not unaware that his two ablest lieutenants were drifting
apart. With his uncanny sense of timing he unexpectedly
sent for the Sardar one afternoon. For an hour he spoke to
him and it is known only to a very few that the talk re¬
volved around that widening gulf. The Mahatma took a
promise from Patel that he would never forsake Nehru,
whatever their differences. The talk ended and the Mahatma
looked at his watch and told the Sardar it was time for his
evening prayer. The people were waiting for Gandhiji in
the garden of Birla House. So the Sardar left him, and when
he reached his bungalow he heard the news that Mahatma
Gandhi had been shot.

It is perhaps because of this promise that the political
leadership of India to-day is a compromise between per¬
sonalities and forces which are opposed to each other.
Some of these forces are emotional and spring from loyal¬
ties, some are political and can be traced to ambitions,
some are economic safeguards against elements which
preach such heresies as equality of opportunity and re¬
distribution of wealth.

The element of compromise is noticeable in more ways
than’one, for out of this leadership has come an administration which is democratic in theory but not in practice. Out of it also we have had a political economy which was
planned as a Socialist economy in the world-accepted sense
of that term, but which in actual practice is attempting to
kill the very germ of trade unionism and put an armed
guard around the already strong capitalist system, with
orders to shoot at sight every ugly Socialist, trade union or
Communist head that pops up.

Under this leadership there has come into power a
people’s government in which the people have had little or
no voice whatever. It falls short of a dictatorship because it
has not been proclaimed as such. That is the compromise—
a compromise between theory and practice.

Under this leadership, princes and feudal lords are being
democratized while democrats and social revolutionaries are
being remoulded by emergency legislation into despots with
arbitrary powers. That too is a compromise.

Under Nehru and Patel India is, therefore, a cultured
democracy, not as men are cultured, but as in the language
of pearls. There is this little difference. Usually it is the
expert eye which can detect that subtle difference between
the cultured and the real pearl, a difference which the
average man cannot see; but in the case of a cultured democracy it is the ordinary men who can tell the difference but not the expert constitutionalist.

The Pandit Nehru who is the Prime Minister of India is not the same Nehru who once fought in the war for the liberation of our people.

The revolutionary Socialist is no more. The fire in him
has died down. His vision is blurred. His courage is gone.
Once he thrilled the vast crowds like a dare-devil driver at
the wheel of a high-powered racing car, taking dangerous
corners and hairpin bends, with the crowds roaring as he
straightened out into the straight road. To-day the crowds
still applaud, but with warmth of affection rather than out
of excitement, as they see him in the back seat of a highly
polished limousine driven by a liveried chauffeur down the
safe avenues of the capital city. In the old days he had a
destination; now he has a status!

Jawaharlal Nehru is still honest. There is no question
about his sincerity. But he has abandoned the quest for that
greater honesty which once spurred him on. Freedom from
the British was to have been only a half-way house to free¬
dom for the Indian. This was the promise he once held out
to his people. But at that half-way house he has halted and
now seems reluctant to move on. Nevertheless so great is
the people’s love for him that wherever he goes in his
country they come in their hundred thousands to see him.
I saw for myself in September 1948, when he spoke on the
sands at Chowpatty in Bombay, how the people had
gathered to hear him till the shore ran out. His grip over
the heart of India is still as firm as ever for he is still the
strongest emotional force in the country.

Now and again, when the common people gather round
him as in the old days, he is momentarily inspired and says
things like: “The Socialist idea is accepted by our nation.”
(Bombay, September 1948). He calls the capitalists and
industrialists cowards; he speaks of his determination to
hang every black-marketeer from the nearest tree.

All this is fine oratory and it renews the people’s faith in
him, but soon the spark which had been rekindled that day is
found to be only a flicker of the dying flame. Pandit Nehru
expresses his belief in Socialism, and in a planned economy,
democracy and freedom; the governments of the Centre
and the provinces continue to smother the opposition
offered by every progressive and to silence every critic of
the Congress regime.

The purge is still on. There is no real change of policy.
The so-called emergency continues and so long as the
present interpretation of what constitutes an emergency is
accepted there seems no likelihood of conditions in India
ever becoming normal. Whatever new hope Nehru’s speeches
may create, the country daily moves further away from the
promised land. Instead of the British, the people now face
the prospect of having a political ruling class permanently
governing the country. The country is moving towards the
establishment of a Congress dictatorship. The people never
gave the Congress a mandate to do this.

The change that has come over Jawaharlal is perhaps the
most disappointing thing that has happened in modernIndia. With power, he has become increasingly intolerant of anyone who opposes him in the government, the party or
the country at large. Occasionally, when the criticism con¬
tinues unabated or the opposition hardens—as at a recent
Congress party rally—he holds out the unfair threat that he
will resign. Then, like a group of hysterical women, his
political critics go into a huddle and everyone tries to pacify
everyone else and the opposition is withdrawn amidst cries
of “jai Hind” and “Jawaharlal ki jai”. It is, therefore,
difficult for anyone to have any independent thought or
opinion and be regarded as his friend.

Because of this change which has come over him, Jawa¬
harlal has shattered the faith of many a young man whose
mind he himself had moulded with the concept of demo¬
cracy and freedom which he once held. Judged by his own
standards it is difficult for any intelligent Indian to overlook
the stifling of democratic ideas which is taking place under
his government. On to the strong new roots of freedom he
has been apologetically grafting the dead but familiar
branches of police raj, which it had taken our people over
twenty-five years to destroy.

What about Sardar Patel?

The Sardar gave no cause for disillusionment, for the
part he had played in the national movement had been
essentially that of an organizer rather than that of an ideal¬
ist. His job had always been to get things done and it never
worried him how he did it. He was a man of strong likes
and dislikes, a man with a will of his own. He never found
it necessary to seek advice for he had ample faith in his own
judgement and in his ability to decide what was best to do.
On matters with which he was not familiar he listened
patiently to what others had to say; then he made up his
own mind and went ahead. He never cared what others
thought of the methods he used to achieve his objective,
so long as he believed that the objective had to be reached.
If he was proved wrong, he was willing to admit an error
of judgement. He even altered his course, but only with a
view to reaching that same objective.

The Sardar was no stickler for high morality. His principles were not those of an idealist. He was hard, matter-of-fact and ruthless. In his India the meek would never inherit the earth: they would only have what he thought was best for them.

Pandit Nehru promised much and gave little; Sardar
Patel promised nothing and gave nothing.

One of the best known men in Indian industry, on his
return from high level conferences in New Delhi, summed
up the difference between Nehru and Patel thus: “As an
industrialist and a capitalist, I know where I stand with
Sardar Patel. He is no friend of mine. With Pandit Nehru,
in whose honesty I have infinite trust, I never know from
day to day where I am.”

These are the two men at the top of the leadership of our
country. Time and again they have proclaimed that the
best possible co-operation has existed between them and
that any suggestion of their drifting apart was purely

It became difficult, however, to accept this oft-repeated
assurance of teamwork in the face of so much evidence to
the contrary. Political observers could not understand why,
with the co-operation and the understanding which was said
to exist between them, there was no corresponding uni¬
formity of policy in their public utterances.

For instance, when Pandit Nehru was in London trying
to find a peaceful solution with Pakistan’s Prime Minister,
Liaquat Ali Khan, around the dinner table of Mr. Attlee,
the Sardar was in India dishing out a handful of aggressive
utterances on Pakistan which could hardly be construed as
conciliatory or conducive to peace between the two do¬
minions. They were, in fact, in the nature of a warning. A
sample of his ill-chosen words on that occasion read as
follows: “We warned them not to intervene in our domes¬
tic matters like thieves and dacoits, but they did not heed
us. . . . Pakistan is indulging in talks of friendship, neigh¬

bourliness and affection. But all this talk is meaning¬
less. … Of course, if they wish to dig their own grave,
they are fully at liberty to do so.”

These were strong words. However provoked he may
have been to speak out, such words from the Deputy Prime
Minister of India could not possibly be said to have helped
Pandit Nehru, who was labouring to bring about peace
with our important neighbour.

Notwithstanding all the assurances to the contrary, there
has been in India a marked tendency within the Congress
party itself to compare and contrast the work of one against
the other. It was to be seen when Sardar Patel paid a visit
to Bombay some seven weeks after Pandit Nehru received
his tremendous ovation on the Chowpatty sands.

Patel had come at the invitation of the Bombay Provin¬
cial Congress Committee, who wanted to have the oppor¬
tunity of felicitating him on his seventy-fourth birthday.
On the same Chowpatty sands the Sardar was presented
with an iron mace on which there were seventy-four golden
rings, “a ring for each golden year of sacrifice”! But the
real idea was to show to the country that the Sardar was the
iron man of India. The iron mace was meant to symbolize
his strength, and the Sardar accepted it as such.

Now if the Sardar were the iron man of India, he was
obviously stronger than the men around him. It implied,
therefore, that he was also stronger than Pandit Nehru.
Those who presented the Sardar with the mace intended
that comparison, which was unfortunate, especially at a
time when the strength of all should have gone into a
common pool.


I was rung up one day in September 1948 by one of the
most important men in the country who was also one of
Pandit Nehru’s most trusted friends. He was on his way
out of India that night and said he had just rung me to
ask how I was getting on and to ‘say goodbye. I thought it
odd that he should find time to pay such special attention
to me. He had often left for abroad but he had never done
this before. So after a little friendly patter I asked: “Now
tell me what is really on your mind.” He laughed. He said
the Press had an uncanny sense of smell. Then he told me
that there was a definite campaign to discredit Nehru, and
that the criticism which was appearing in my paper about
the Prime Minister was unwittingly doing him a great deal
of damage. It was helping the subversive campaign against

I knew of this campaign. I was also aware that our criticism of the Prime Minister might do a certain amount of

harm to him. In spite of his many weaknesses, Jawaharlal
was still a great man, to be respected and followed. He was
also the only person who could lead the country to-day.
Even so, I explained to my friend, his actions as the Prime
Minister of India had to be criticized in the national interest.
I could not stand by and see these relatives of his trading
on their relationship to him without speaking openly
against it.

At the same time I gave the assurance that while I would
continue to criticize Pandit Nehru’s actions and his politics
and, above all, his bunch of clinging relatives, I would see
to it that no third party would be able to make capital out
of these criticisms for their personal and political ends.-

I kept that promise. I made it quite clear that neither my
paper nor I held any brief for Sardar Patel and those who
hung round him. The very fact that within a few weeks I
began to be regularly attacked by a group of newspapers
over which the Sardar’s son had control proved that I had
kept my word.

The status quo in the political leadership of India will
remain as it is. Pandit Nehru is still the outstanding man
in India, even though he is playing the odd role of a pro¬
gressive surrounded by reactionaries, and no other single
individual can command the confidence of the whole

If only he were to break away from this setting and be¬
come a progressive surrounded by progressives, he would
have the courage and the conviction to fulfil the promise
he once held out. That would be the Nehru we could follow
with heart and mind.




Ten years ago —more precisely in January 1939—I was in
that same little village of Bardoli where Sardar Patel first
made his name. I was taken there by Mangaldas Pakvasa,
an ardent Congressman and a devout follower of Gandhi.
Pakvasa was then President of the Bombay Legislative
Council, which is equivalent to being the Speaker of the
provincial upper house.

I was feeling my way in the country, for I had only just
returned from England and was Ending my feet as a journ¬

The Congress then seemed the only hope for the country.
It had for the first time come into office in the provinces.
Everyone in a Gandhi cap appeared a nationalist and a

Mangaldas Pakvasa was a college friend of my father’s, a
solicitor by profession, who had taken a particularly keen
interest in me, for I was his friend’s son and “quite a bright
lad” by repute. Soon after I met him he said he would take
me with him to see Mahatma Gandhi, whom I had so much
wanted to meet.

That was how we went together, for the Mahatma was in
Bardoli at the time. There could have been no better set¬
ting in which to have seen Gandhi than in this little village
which formed the background of his early struggle.

Geographically unimportant, strategically insignificant,
Bardoli had carved out a name for itself which would go
down in the annals of our history. It will register for
posterity the sacrifices and the sorrows of our people. It will
recall also the victories that followed, and their significance.
Bardoli crystallized the whole doctrine of that non-violent
passive resistance offered by the masses which has made it
possible for us to be free from the British to-day.

I remember that village so well, even though ten whole
years have passed. Things moved slowly in that part of the
world, for time had no great significance for those people.

To them, an hour here or there made no difference, for all
hours of the day, the month and the year seemed so much
alike. On occasions of importance they would collect in the
village square and sit on the ground waiting patiently for
that moment to come.

I saw them collect there that afternoon, for some of the
Congress leaders were to speak to them. I remember those
faces even now. They bore the scars of the wars they had
fought. Their eyes reflected the agonies of their world—the
poverty, the squalor, death and disease which had destroyed
their people—which they hoped they would . one day be
able to conquer under a people’s government. That was
their hope through the years of defeat and of frustration: a
people’s government.

To them life was so intensely real that there was no time
nor opportunity, nor even inclination, to dabble in the un¬
real things of life. Art, music and literature seemed out of
place in that Indian village. It was the land first, the land
second, and the land last, until death parted them from the
land. The land was food, it was life, it was hope, it was the
future. These people thought in terms of cattle and harvests
and of a square meal, instead of colours or sounds or words.
How else could they think when life was a perpetual border¬
line existence?

There were only two brick houses in Bardoli; the rest
were made of mud and cow-dung. One was the ginning fac¬
tory, the outhouse of which was our resting place for the
night; the other was the ashram (rest house) across the
road, in which the Mahatma stayed. A little after sunset it
was time for the evening meal. Like all others, I sat cross-
legged on the flood. My back was aching for I had been
jolted about in a bullock cart all day. My throat was
parched with the dust I had swallowed.

A few oil lamps lit the bare room and the food was
served on a metal platter. Everyone ate with their fingers,
of course.

Mangaldas P^.kvasa turned to me and asked if I felt com¬
fortable eating that way. “It’s not like Oxford and England,
you know,’’ he said, “but it’s the way we Indians eat. It is
the way of our people; it is the national way.”

That was an unnecessary remark, for I had never allowed myself to forget I was an Indian. My being an Indian did not depend upon the way in which I ate my food. I could,
like all Indians, always eat with my fingers without the
slightest discomfort or embarrassment.

What impressed me, however, was not the way in which
we sat or the way in which we ate, so much as the plain,
simple food which was served to those who were dining
with me that night. Squatted on the floor near and around
me that evening were Sardar Patel, Mridula Sarabhai, a
millionaire’s daughter, a few other people of that standard
of power and wealth, and Pakvasa himself. And on that
platter before me there was some rice and dal (thick lentil
soup), some curds, a few assorted vegetables cooked in ghee
and two raw tomatoes. That was all.

In 1948 I happened to be dining with Mangaldas Pakvasa
again. It was at Government House, Nagpur. He was now
His Excellency the Governor of the Central Provinces, and
I was his guest for lunch. We were just the two of us and
he was as kind and hospitable to me as ever, even though I
had veered away from my ardent admiration for the Con¬

But this time we did not sit on the floor. A couple of
turbaned waiters shepherded me into my seat and the table
at which I dined was a highly polished affair. All that, of
course, could be overlooked, for the furniture had been in
Government House from the days of the British. But when
my eye fell on my menu card I read the neatly typed words
“Cauliflower au Gratin .”

I turned to my host and said: “It’s been a long time since
we ate together at Bardoli.”

“Yes,” he replied, “it has. So many changes have occurred.

Then we were fighting for swaraj. Now freedom has come.” /

He paused, then added: “Yes, we have come a long way
from that day in Bardoli.”

We had. But our thoughts were not running in the same

I knew that the peasants of Bardoli were never likely to
have “Cauliflower au Gratin .”




u ntil the middle of 1942, food presented no problem to
anybody in India except the poorest classes. Our normal
imports were about a million and a half tons of Burma
rice and this quantity was easily available. Production in
Burma was plentiful and supplies were moved in easily.

The fall of Burma first made our people conscious of the
difficulties involved in a shortage of food. Supplies grew
scarce, prices rose and the government, then British-
controlled, found itself faced with a problem so serious that
the consequences of failure to tackle it promptly would
have resulted in overwhelming disaster in every field of

Our food problem at that stage was merged into the
problem of winning the war. In fact efficient management
of food became a pre-requisite to survival.

The government of India was, as usual, caught unpre¬
pared. Whereas in western countries plans had been laid
many years before the war for dealing with the food diffi¬
culties that might arise consequent upon the war, very little
had been done in India. There was not even a Department
of Food in the central government nor was there any con¬
certed policy which could be handed down to the provinces.
Each province was left to find its own way out of the prob¬
lems of shortage of supply and uneven distribution.

It was the good fortune of the government of Bombay in
particular and the country in general that at this time the
administration in Bombay was both efficient and vigorous.
The Congress ministries having resigned office at the begin¬
ning of the war, the small government of the provinces had
devolved on the permanent services, the Governor and three
nominated advisers forming the Cabinet. In Bombay the
new and serious problems that food brought fell within the
portfolio of Finance, which was administered by Sir Henry
F. Knight.


A short, spare, thoughtful man with an impish glint often
lighting his serious countenance, Knight was one of those
exceptions to the orthodox type which the British in India
and elsewhere have thrown up from time to time. To effi¬
cient management and a grasp of principles as well as de¬
tails he added an originality of thought rare amongst those
confined to the minutiae of administration for many years.
He had vision and he saw the real gravity of the problem
long before it became apparent, while other people were
still regarding it as a mere temporary difficulty.

Knight was fortunate too in the administrators he
selected for the development and execution of the policy
which he knew would have to be evolved to tide over the
crisis. The chief of these was his Supply Commissioner, a
brilliant young civil\ servant, Mr. A. D. Gorwala, a tough,
stern, unapproachable and yet cheerful public servant, with
an incredible store of drive and energy and a sense of right
and wrong which assessed all action in relation to its effect
on the public interest.

These two men created the department from almost
nothing. With the principal political party in opposition
they gathered together sufficient public support to carry
through measures which they thought necessary. With the
assistance of some of the ablest men in the province they
evolved a policy which has stood the test of time and which
was recommended as a model by the government of India
to the provinces, and which the Congress Prime Minister of
Bombay mentioned with pride seven years later.

The first measure adopted by Knight was to ration
Bombay. Until then, the general view had been, even in in¬
formed quarters, that it was utterly impossible to ration a
large urban population in this country. Ignorance, illiteracy,
lack of public spirit and orderly behaviour were regarded
as handicaps which could never be overcome. Bombay went
ahead with the arrangements for rationing undeterred by
these fears. To the amazement of everyone, when the ap¬
pointed day arrived, rationing functioned without the least
difficulty The ignorant mill-labourer and the illiterate fish¬
wife knew almost by instinct what they had to do with their
ration cards and how to get their rations.

As the food position became more difficult and the incidents of the shortage spread from the cities to the smaller towns and the rural areas, further measures became necessary and a comprehensive policy was evolved.

The main principles on which this new policy was founded were:

  1. On the distribution side: the rationing of all towns

of a population of 5,000 and over, and rural
distribution in other areas.

  1. On the supply side: monopoly procurement and a

compulsory levy.

Monopoly procurement meant that no one could sell
grain, save in very limited quantities within a village,
except to the government. Compulsory levy laid down that
every cultivator who produced more than a certain limited
quantity should sell a proportion of his produce to the

By these measures all available resources were mobilized
for equitable distribution.

It was made quite clear that no one could play about with
the food of the people. Whether a man was a millionaire or
a sweeper, he received the same rations. The millionaire
could not buy up and hoard grain in order to force the
prices and make a profit.

On the other side of the peninsula, in the province of
Bengal, a weak and inefficient administration permitted one
of the greatest tragedies this country has ever suffered, the
Bengal famine. The greater public spirit shown by the
majority of the citizens of Bombay and the courage and
ability of its administration saved this province from a
similar fate. Measures more or less on these same lines were
soon adopted throughout the country.

As the war years succeeded one another the food position
became more and more difficult. Shipping was a great prob¬
lem. It was not possible to bring in sufficient imports. The
reserves were being eaten up and the necessity for full use
of available resources was never more evident. The ration,
which had been fixed at 1 lb. per head to begin with, was
reduced to 12 oz. and delegations left the country for the
U.K. and the U.S.A. to try and persuade the International

Emergency Council to make large supplies available to
India, especially as the crops had failed disastrously over
large areas in the south and west of the Indian peninsula.
This was due to the failure of the monsoon.

This was the position in 1946, when the interim ministry
of which the Congress party formed the majority took office.
Apart from food, the cost of living generally was high.
During the earlier war years, industrial goods had rushed
up in price. The rampant inflation had to some extent been
checked by the bringing in of controls, and when power
passed into popular hands there was in existence through¬
out the country a system which, however jerkily it worked
and whatever its defects, held prices.

The first decisions of the popular government in this
domain were not altogether fortunate. Jute was freed from
control and its prices allowed to shoot up. Sugar-cane prices
were raised and it seemed to some of the more experienced
members of the government that, unless measures were
taken to stop the rot, inflation would resume its upward

Accordingly it was decided to appoint an independent
expert body to fix prices of controlled commodities and
build up a proper price structure during the transitional
period. The ex-Supply Commissioner of Bombay, Gorwala,
was appointed president and Professor D. R. Gadgil, of the
Gokhale School of Economics and Politics in Poona, was
appointed member of this body.

It would be difficult to find a truer picture of all that is
best in the ancient Indian tradition than Gadgil. A slim,
gaunt man, argumentative and aggressive on the right occa¬
sions, full of courage and with a wisdom grounded in deep
knowledge of both theory and facts, Gadgil had devoted
himself for many years to the building up of a true school
of politics and economics, eschewing all profitable pursuit.
On occasion after occasion he had turned down offers of
employment by the government. He joined the Board
primarily because he felt the situation in the country was
so critical that a right lead was essential and without the
right lead it might become disastrous.

This Board, consisting of Gorwala and Gadgil, presented
a series of reports to the government. In one of these—on


controls and their continuance 1 —it asked for an enunciation
of policy. It said:

“It is extremely urgent that the government should formu¬
late a definite policy towards control and announce it with
the greatest possible speed. The present situation is un¬
fortunate from all points of view. A regime of controls
exists, yet persons in authority and responsible leaders of
public opinion talk as if it was nothing but an evil which
should be abolished immediately. In such a climate of
opinion, no control regime can survive, for everybody thinks
it is proper to violate it. Every trader contemplates hoard¬
ing and getting the most out of the process of abolition,
and very few non-officials have their heart in working or in
forcing controls. There is very little doubt that if the
government really thinks that controls are undesirable, it
would be best to abolish them as completely and speedily
as possible. On the other hand, if the government decides
that it cannot afford to abolish controls and that the condi¬
tions following decontrol would be akin tq chaos, the
government must not only keep up controls but integrate
them, explain them and enforce them.”

The brilliant reports of this expert body received scant
attention from the Congress government. The reason was
perhaps that, if the Congress had accepted the Board’s view,
an influential section of those vested interests which sup¬
ported the Congress would have stood to lose those huge
profits which were possible only in a free market in food

The two men on the Commodity Prices Board were in¬
corruptible and their reports, therefore, stood in the way of
decontrol. For a long time these reports were not even made
available to the public, for the government of Jawaharlal
Nehru had refused to publish them or release them to the
Press. They only came to light when, at the request of mem¬
bers of the Dominion Parliament, they were put on the
table of the House and therefore became public property.
Then the Gokhale Institute published them in volume

The trend towards decontrol could not be resisted by the
politicians. The government appointed a Food-grains Policy
1 Report of the Commodity Prices Board.

Committee, consisting of its own handpicked men, to re¬
examine the food policy. At the same time Mahatma
Gandhi himself took the field in favour of decontrol. By this
time Gorwala and Gadgil, having found their advice neg¬
lected and not being willing to be party to decisions which
they felt would be disastrous to the country, had resigned.

To the Mahatma, with his philosophical approach to the
problems of good and evil, his somewhat anarchical view of
the necessity of government and his Tolstoyan desire to
minimize the interference of the government in human
affairs, it was inevitable that control should appear a most
undesirable manifestation of the power of the state. His
whole attitude to life was the doing of good by persuasion.
This mental outlook accorded well with the desire of vested
interests to compel the government to adopt a course of
action which would be profitable to their class.

The Mahatma at that time was living in the house of the
most powerful representative of that class. There he daily
came into contact with people who ascribed all the diffi¬
culties of the country to controls. It was no wonder, there¬
fore, that in a specially written message on one of his days
of silence at a prayer meeting in New Delhi he demanded
the immediate abolition of food controls.

. The fact that Mahatma Gandhi had elected to put his
views down in writing, and chosen a day of silence to an¬
nounce a new policy on so vital a matter, indicated that that
pronouncement had been seriously thought out and put
down in words which were carefully chosen. He did not
want to speak on it in his usual informal way.

The theme of that message was summed up in one word:
DECONTROL. Gandhi said: “Nothing that I have heard
during these days has moved me from the stand taken up
from the very beginning that food control must be entirely
removed as early as possible, certainly not later than six
months hence/’

On a delicate subject like food, it was more politic that
the first pronouncement of a change in policy should come
from a person like Mahatma Gandhi in whom the people
had infinite trust.

“Control gives rise to fraud, suppression of truth, intensi¬
fication of black market and artificial scarcity,” the message


continued. “Above all, it unmans the people and deprives
them of initiative; it undoes the teaching of self-help they
have been learning for a generation. It makes them spoon¬

According to the Mahatma, inasmuch as monsoons had
not failed that year, there was no real scarcity of food.
“There are,” he said, “enough cereals, pulses and oil $eeds
in the villages of India. The growers do not and cannot
understand the artificially controlled prices. They, there¬
fore, refuse to part willingly with their stock at a price much
lower than they could command in the open market. This
naked fact needs no demonstration.”

Then he added: “It does not require statistics or desk-
work civilians buried in their red-taped files to produce
elaborate reports and essays to prove that there is scarcity.

. . . Our ministers are of the people, from the people. Let
them not arrogate to themselves greater knowledge THAN

The Mahatma then put out a little of his unique philo¬
sophy. He said: “If the people die because they will not
labour or because they will defraud one another, it will be
a welcome deliverance.”

“Trust The Dealer” was his decontrol slogan.

Mahatma Gandhi was, as I said, staying at the time in
Birla House. The presumption, therefore, was very strong
that those “experienced men” he spoke of came from the
house itself. So that an important change in the economic
policy of the country occurred at the instance of influential
interests outside the government.

Moreover the Foodgrains Policy Committee, by a majority
decision, supported Mahatma Gandhi’s view and foodgrains
were forthwith decontrolled.

The government was not, however, unadvised on the con¬
sequences that would follow. Immediately after the Ma¬
hatma’s statement, the former President of the Commodities
Prices Board, who having handed in his resignation from
the service was on leave preparatory to retirement, wrote a
series of articles in the Statesman pointing out how com-

pletely disastrous decontrol would be and how no civilized
government could give up their responsibility towards their
people merely because that would absolve them temporarily
from their difficulties.

In the first of these articles 1 Gorwala said: “However
distasteful it is to differ from Mahatma Gandhi, the public
interest demands comment on his latest pronouncement on
the subject of food control and rationing.”

Of the Mahatma philosophy that “if people died because
they would not labour or because they would defraud one
another it would be a welcome deliverance”, Gorwala said:
“Surely no civilized government can contemplate methods
which they know must result in death and distress to any
section of their people in the hope that this will have a
salutary effect on other sections.”

“It was absurd to say,” Gorwala went on, “that those who
were going to suffer and die would be the lazy and the
fraudulent. The distress would be greatest among the poor,
hard-working industrial workers and agricultural labourers
who have no way of getting their food except by buying it,
and who would find it very difficult to pay the high prices
which would result from decontrol.

“Is their death in large numbers, through no fault of
their own, to be regarded as a welcome deliverance? Will
this have a chastening effect on the profiteers? Let Bengal
with its millions of dead in 1943 bear witness.”

The Mahatma had spoken of leaving it to the good sense
of the grain dealers. Gorwala asked: “Is there any reason
for holding the view that the dealer in grain is of a moral
calibre higher than that of other dealers?”

That this view was correct has been borne out by sub¬
sequent events, for within eight months of decontrol the
government of India was forced to bring controls back
again, having in the meanwhile done irreparable damage
to the entire economy by raising costs in all spheres by

3 °%-

The ill-inspired handling of the situation did not cease,
however, with recontrol. Both energy and ability seemed to
be lacking in the government. The Finance Minister de¬
clared that prices would go down in April 1949. He later
1 The Statesman, November 16th, 1947.


changed the date to May, but even that did not happen.
And by June they started moving up again.

Let me give you in very rough figures the comparative
costs of some items from a middle-class housewife’s market
book, to illustrate the rise in food prices from 1939 to 1949:

Chicken .

Fish (one plaice or pomfret)

Mutton (per lb.) .

Beef (per lb.) .

Eggs (per dozen) .

Potatoes (per lb.).

Sugar (per lb.) .

Milk (per seer measure) …
Butter (per lb.) .

To-day, therefore, meat and fish are prohibitive in price
for the working class and for domestic servants, while ten
years ago these people were able to include this protein
diet occasionally in their food. A whole class of Indians has
been emaciated as a result, being compelled to eat an in¬
ferior diet, which has less nutrition value, and fill their
stomachs with starch and lentils which can only temporarily
appease their gnawing hungers.

In the face of this slow deterioration which has set in,
Pandit Nehru made a staggering pronouncement to the.
Federation of the Indian Chambers of Commerce in March
1949. To the amazement of everyone, he said that “no
matter what happened, EVEN IF PEOPLE DIED”, India
did not propose to import food after two years, that is from
1952 onwards. The Prime Minister based this decision on
the equally astonishing premise that “the food shortage of
India was about 10% of the total quantity consumed in the
country”. He said: “We must make up this deficit by
making adjustments in our diet and by growing more
food. . . . Let us make up our minds to live on the food
we produce, or die in the attempt.”


An American correspondent writing from India for a
responsible U.S. business journal revealed: “Despite all her
efforts so far, India’s food imports are sky-rocketing. Last

year she had to import 2*8 million metric tons of foodgrains
at a cost of roughly $390 million. This year it is officially
estimated that she will need up to 4 million metric tons
which will set her back $450 million, of which nearly half
will be in hard currencies.”

Statistics and figures available from official sources indi¬
cate that, even as a result of the drive to “Grow More Food”,
the increase in tilled acreage is only from 170 million pre¬
war to 186 million to-day. Moreover the Indian Prime
Minister’s statement, if taken seriously, would involve a
breach of the International Wheat Agreement under which
we are committed to import wheat at least up to 1954.

The truth is that our government has now come to a
stage when it has neither the food to sustain the country nor
the funds to buy it from elsewhere. The Prime Minister’s
gesture of solving his food problem with the lives of Indians,
who will die of starvation after 1952, is therefore the only
official way out.

The story of how this pompous and quite absurd pro¬
nouncement came to be made about self-sufficiency, com¬
pletely unsubstantiable by facts, revealed how vital policies
are shaped in the government of India. Few people in India
know even to-day that this vital decision was made by ONE
MAN and apparently on the spur of the moment. The de¬
partments concerned were not even aware that such a de¬
cision was contemplated. They had certainly not provided
the material from which a decision could be made or any
such conclusion drawn. In fact the departments were as
thunderstruck as was the rest of India when it appeared in
the papers the next morning.

It happened like this: when Pandit Nehru got up to
address the Federation of the Indian Chambers of Com¬
merce, he found the emphasis of the criticism levelled
against his government was on the large sums spent on the
import of food from abroad. The Prime Minister obviously
could not let this pass. Therefore, without any further
thought, he decreed there and then that within two years
self-sufficiency would prevail and all food imports be
stopped, even if people had to die to make the remainder

Long before Jawaharlal, King Canute, his ego bolstered


up by his flattering followers, tried some such idea with the
waters of the sea.

Once our Prime Minister had made his momentous pro¬
nouncement, all the departments of the government of
India sprang to action. Soon the “Imperial” Secretariat was
bustling with energy. A torrent of plans, blueprints, dia¬
grams and outlines poured forth from the departments of
Agriculture and Food. There followed meetings of Central
and provincial government representatives. Lord Boyd Orr
was invited out from England. Special Food Commissioners
were appointed. Yet with all this, the achievement of self-
sufficiency by the prescribed deadline remained a vision
impossible to fulfil.

The most competent experts on food, Mr. Dodds, Chair¬
man of the F.A.O., and Sir Ramamurthy, who was for
many years Food Adviser in Madras, maintained that there
was very little likelihood of our being able to do without
at least a billion tons of imports for many years to come.
There was good ground for such a belief, for even in the
days when we had the rich, irrigated, surplus lands of the
Punjab and Sind within India and our population was pro¬
portionately lower, our net imports were a million and a
half tons. Now, with conditions worsened in every part both
by partition and increase of poulation, it would be living in
a fool’s paradise to imagine that we could live on the food
we produce two years from now.

Naked facts, however, did not deter our leaders from
making pompous pronouncements. When foodgrain prices
were rising all over the country, there was a debate in the
Indian Parliament in which the gravity of the situation was
pointed out by some members. The Food Minister, Jairam-
das Daulatram, who had made himself exceptionally con¬
spicuous by the fatuity of his utterances, summed up the
official point of view by saying: “Let us not say we die until
we are dead.”

Remarks like these prompted another article in the States¬
man. This time it was not from Mr. Gorwala but purported
to come from the Statesman’s special correspondent, who

“It must now be clear even to the most mediocre intelli¬
gence that the inflation from which we are suffering is the

creation of the present government of India. … Its under¬
standing of economic matters is slight, its appreciation of
advice insignificant, its belief in its own knowledge and
ability unbounded. Its trusted advisers in economic matters
were men who had helped it with fmids in its political fight
and who had everything to gain by the destruction of the
existing system [of control] which limited their opportuni¬
ties for profits .”

The special correspondent went further. He openly asked
the question whether there was any real dfesire on the part
of the government to combat inflation or whether the sub¬
conscious hatred of control and the desire to make profits
still animated the expressed desire to control prices and
check inflation. “Anti-inflation cannot be successful,” he
said, “unless those who hold power and authority are en¬
thusiastic about it and are determined to make it work,
whatever the odds against it. If you have no conviction, you
cannot carry conviction to others. . . . There are over a
hundred ministers and parliamentary secretaries in the
whole of India. The usual practice in democratic countries
is for office-holders to go down to places where they have
local influence and speak during week-ends on matters of
national importance, combining the local aspects with the
national problem, so that the measures necessary for the
achievement of national objects are brought home to com¬
mon men’s hearts and homes. . . . But this can only be
possible if the ministers themselves are first convinced of
the necessity of these measures and support them both in
principle and practice without reservation. . . . Inflation
has been brought about by the failure of the government.
Its continuance is rightly regarded as a continuance of that
failure.” 1

This Statesman article did a lot of damage to the prestige
of the government and to the leadership of the Congress. In
an attempt to counteract this, there appeared in the same
paper a letter to the editor 2 from the Secretary of the Eco¬
nomic and Political Research Department of the All-India
Congress Committee, an impressive designation for an ob¬
scure individual, by name Mr. K. Mitra. His job was to try

1 Statesman , January ist, 1949.

2 Statesman , January 7th, 1949.

H © 225


and bolster up the tottering prestige of the Congress which
was being shattered all over the country by men who were
speaking out against all they thought was dishonest.

The defender of the Congress said: “It is a sheer travesty
of truth to say that the present government decided in
favour of decontrol because they had been ‘advised by men
who had helped in the political fight and who had every¬
thing to gain by disturbing the existing system which
limited their profits’. The voice which wanted controls lifted
was that of Mahatma Gandhi, and who in this country will
challenge his bona fidesT*

The idea of sheltering behind Gandhi’s bona fides was
not an original one. But the Mahatma had admitted he was
relying upon the judgement of “experienced men who do
not happen to occupy ministerial chairs’’ to bring about

“Fourteen out of the fifteen provinces and states consulted
at the decontrol conference in 1947 were opposed to de¬
control,” the special correspondent said in reply to the
pious Congressman. “The time has certainly come when we
should realize that even the best are on occasion liable to
err. Idol worship accords ill with the spirit of a free nation.
Clearly on this question of decontrol the Mahatma was
grievously wrong and to admit this freely in no way detracts
from his unique greatness. . . . Mr. Mitra accuses me of
sapping the people’s confidence in the government. This is
a common excuse of autocrats who, in the name of patriot¬
ism, seek to throttle legitimate life-giving criticism. . . . The
best friend of any government is not he who continually
prostrates himself in admiration, but he who brings to light
that which needs to be set right.”

The government of India’s Food Minister, the same Mr.
Jairamdas Daulatram, awoke on another morning to the
realization that “death” was coming nearer, and so decided
to put things right. He therefore made another fatuous
statement on the food problem. This time he said that from
now on the food problem was going to be tackled at high
level and was therefore likely to be solved.

One of the March boys who wrote a weekly column as
“The Dope” made the following comment on the Food
Minister’s statement:



“Do you know why we have failed so far to solve our
desperate food problem? The reason is childishly simple, so
simple that even a goof like me can twig it. All the food
conferences that have been held at New Delhi and else¬
where in government quarters have been at low-level or
mid-level apparently—and for all the good they’ve done
they might not have been held at all. Now Mr. Jairamdas
Daulatram promises action at a high level; you may be
sure, therefore, that the problem will be solved in a trice.

“We’ve been over all that before. We’ve been setting up
‘ machinery ’ to deal with food scarcity for ever so long—but
it just won’t get working. Maybe it’s the wrong kind of
machinery the government has been setting up. If the famine
situation worsens then the best machinery to set up would
be burning ghats and graves.

“The famine in Gujerat has been developing for the last
six months. But it is only now that the Food Minister has
woken up to the fact that there’s no co-ordination of the

“While Jairamdas Daulatram reviews the food problem
at the highest level, people, and what’s more important—
the ‘dumb, dear cattle’ so much loved by the cow-protectors,
are dying by slow degrees. This is in spite of the spirited
declaration made by our own Home Minister in a recent
tour of the famine-stricken areas, that not one soul would
be permitted to starve to death. . . .

“This Dope thinks that Mr. Jairamdas Daulatram and
other worthy statesmen of this country who are perpetually
reviewing questions of national importance at all sorts of
levels, ought to realize that food cannot grow in depart¬
mental files and hot-air chambers, but right down at the
lowest level—in the earth. Less oral, more manual exertion,
should be the motto of the servants of the people.”

“The Dope” reflected the frustrated mood of the country.




X was returning from the stables one evening when, out¬
side the Royal Western India Turf Club, I saw a group of
some hundred sweepers and workmen. The average intelli¬
gence quotient of this group could not have been very high.
It included a number of women who were totally illiterate.

A young man wearing a shirt and a pair of pants, obvi¬
ously a desk worker and of a higher economic wage-earning
level, was addressing them that evening.

The workers were on strike over their dearness allowance
and the young man was telling them in clear, determined
tones, and in simple language, how the negotiations with the
management were progressing.

I pulled up my car along that otherwise deserted road and
listened to him speak. It was one of the most matter-of-fact
speeches I have heard from a small-time agitator. He spoke
of no abstract ideals and made no great promise of what he
could do for them. He used no words of abuse against those
he was fighting. He was merely concerned with obtaining for
that inarticulate, almost dumb, group those few extra rupees
which, in view of the rising cost of living, were essential to

The men and women listened to him in pin-fall silence.
When he finished what he had to say, he told them to go
peacefully and quietly home, promising that he would come
again the next day at the same place and the same time to
report on the next day’s negotiations.

Then his v6ice changed, and in loud ringing tones he
said: “Before we disperse let us once again reaffirm our
faith in the red flag behind which we workers stand united,
for in unity alone is our salvation.”

And as with one voice that group chorused: “Jai!”

They gave three rousing cheers to the red flag which I
then noticed was tied to the trunk of a nearby tree. It was
the same red flag which they used to indicate danger when
a manhole had been taken up but on this occasion it stood,

almost impertinently, for a demand the like of which they
had never dared to make in the past.

On the broad canvas of Indian politics this would appear
to be just a silly little meeting of a handful of disgruntled
workmen who had no mind of their own and who were not
even properly organized, but it showed a new trend in our
national life. Hitherto the meetings in India had chiefly
been on political issues. They had demanded freedom and
civil liberty from the British. To-day the spotlight was not
on freedom; it had veered to the economic inequality. These
little impromptu wayside meetings, silly as they seemed,
were even more important than those which were larger
and more organized. The rise in the cost of living, though
world-wide, had hit India even more severely than most
countries, because here the millions had for so long been on
the borderline of starvation that a single rupee less meant
all the difference between life and death. Any change in the
balance between wage-earnings and prices, even though both
may increase, could wipe out whole sections of people who
had no resistance to fall back upon.

There was a time when the Congress in India was synony¬
mous with the broad masses of the people. The struggle for
freedom had always been a mass struggle, and the Congress
had succeeded in ousting the British raj only because the
masses were solidly behind it. It was then laid down by the
Congress that, when power should finally come into Indian
hands and there would be responsible governments func¬
tioning in place of the British-controlled bureaucracy, these
governments would put into effect a Socialist programme
which was then being studied by the National Planning
Committee of which Jawaharlal Nehru was the chairman.

In the two years in which Congress governments have
functioned at the Centre and in the provinces, there has
been little indication of promoting Socialism in India or of
encouraging any genuine trade union movement. On the
contrary, the tendency has been to break up whatever
strength the workers may have gathered in the years.
Governmental machinery now at the disposal of the Con¬
gress has been used to liquidate the trade unions here. The
government of Pandit Nehru had even gone so far as to
make plans to put on the statute book an anti-strike bill,

/ 2*9


but this idea was abandoned when world opinion began to
express itself too emphatically on the way things were
moving in India under the administration of a man who
had professed to all the world that he was a revolutionary

In the British House of Commons, Mr. Leslie Hutchin¬
son, the Labour M.P. who was one of the accused in the
famous Meerut trial in India, commented on this proposed
anti-strike bill: “To one who in the past played a small
part in fighting for Indian independence, the present policy
of the Nehru government is most disappointing. The arrest
of trade union leaders, the mass imprisonment of left-wing
critics of the Indian government’s policy, the introduction
of a new strike-breaking law, equal and in some cases ex¬
ceed the repressive policy of the British administration in
the early 1930s. In my opinion, leaders like Pandit Nehru
must make up their minds which way they are going.”

In that same week the British Prime Minister had re¬
jected in the House a suggestion that he should introduce
anti-Communist legislation in Britain on the lines of India
and France. Mr. Attlee did not think such legislation was
“necessary or desirable”. In reply to Sir Waldron Smithers,
a Conservative, Mr. Attlee said: “I don’t know whether Sir
Waldron has studied the somewhat drastic measures that are
being taken by provincial governments in India, and
whether he and his party generally support the power to
detain without trial on suspicion of subversive activity. . .
The majority of the House of Commons cheered Mr. Attlee’s
reply, for democracy still had some meaning to the elected
representatives of the British people.

Therefore, when Pandit Nehru declared that his govern¬
ment had changed its mind regarding the anti-strike bill,
the feeling in India was that world opinion rather than
opinion at home had succeeded in making its influence felt
on our government.

The strikes that have taken place in India in various in¬
dustries, in public and utility services, among workers in
various parts of the country, have exploded the idea that
the people are behind the Congress as they were in the days
before independence.

The Congress is still making desperate attempts to hold on to the influence it once had over the working class, but they are steadily losing ground. They no longer hold the
mind and heart of the Indian worker. The Congress influence over the peasant, however, still remains strong, because changes take time to reach the Indian peasants who
are scattered all over the face of the country and who take
time to respond to the very idea of a change. The history
of the world, however, shows that revolutions of the mind
take place in the cities first, among the industrial workers
and among the lower middle class, and that the agrarian
petit bourgeoisie and the peasant arrive much later on the
changing scene.

In addition to the Congress, there are two main political
parties in India racing to grasp the leadership of this discontented industrial working class which is rapidly turning away from the Congress. These two parties are the Socialists and the Communists.

The Socialists were originally a handful of left-wingers in
the Congress party itself. They really grew up within the
Congress fold. In the days of Mahatma Gandhi they were
regarded as a trifle more politically sophisticated than the
general run of Congressmen. While they accepted the over¬
all leadership of Mahatma Gandhi and Pandit Nehru, they
comprised the more westernized, intellectual nucleus of left¬
wingers as distinct from the average Congressman whose
reading did not go further than Gandhi’s editorials in the
Harijan. Compared with their country cousins, the Socialists
were the young intellectuals. Some of them had read well of
Beatrice and Sidney Webb, Engels and Marx, and the usual
primers for intellectual left-winging. Some grew long hair
and looked somewhat like Indian versions of Chelsea artists,
but these were few.

The man who led these Socialists was one of the toughest
in the country. His name was Jai Prakash Narayan.

Jai Prakash was a peasant’s son. He was born in a little
village in the province of Bihar and grew up on the land.
Only at the age of nineteen did he come out of his village.
That was when he saw a tram-car for the first time in his
life. In search of learning he went to America, where he
lived for eight years and studied at different universities.
In order to help pay for his education, he worked on a farm in California, gathering fruit. He had also worked as a
mechanic in a shop and as a waiter in a small-town res¬
taurant. After his day’s work he did his reading of litera¬
ture, mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, psychology,
economics and sociology.

Jai Prakash Narayan, who is more familiarly known by
his initials, J. P., came to the popular forefront in India in
1940, when he showed a tendency to digress from the non¬
violent way of resisting laid down by Mahatma Gandhi.
The speeches which Jai Prakash Narayan made against the
British indicated that he was prepared to use violence as a
short cut to freedom. All this happened during the early
days of the war and he was naturally clapped into jail.
Dramatically he escaped from prison and equally dramatic¬
ally he disappeared underground.

On the eve of the famous Quit India resolution of
August 8th, 1942, when Indian political feeling was at fever-
‘pitch, J.P. headed the group of young men who presented
Gandhi with a complete plan of action, based on violence.
That plan was never discussed by the Congress leaders, nor
would it ever have been acceptable to the apostle of non¬
violence. It showed, however, that a section of the Congress
was willing to take such a step. \

J.P. made no bones about his belief in violence. When
he was arrested on a train outside Amritsar, in which he
was travelling first-class in the disguise of a member of a
ruling family of an Indian state, he said to the authorities
that if he felt violence were necessary to achieve freedom
he would use it again. Such was the background of the man
around whom Socialism in India pivots.

I called on Jai Prakash in November 1948, a few months
after his party had broken away from the apron-strings of
the Congress. The party headquarters was in Dadar, a
suburb of Bombay, in the heart of the industrial north of
the big city. The Socialists occupied a floor of an unimpres¬
sive building, somewhat like a tenement.

The Jai Prakash who received me in his little office was
no longer thinking in terms of revolutions. He had changed
to thinking in terms of constitutional and democratic op¬

I reminded him of what he had said in 1942 about using

violence if he thought it were necessary. “Would you use it
now if you felt you were justified?” I asked.

J.P. said: “I once told Mahatma Gandhi that I used
violence only to fight a foreign power and that I would not
use it to fight an Indian government.”

“Why not?” I asked him.

‘For one thing,” he replied, “it would not succeed.”

Jai Prakash had no exaggerated opinion of the power of
the party he led. He was a realist. He said: “The Congress
is still very strong in the country to-day. If there were an¬
other election now they would win. The people are still
very sympathetic towards the Congress. After all it is the
Congress which led the fight to freedom and got freedom
for us. People tell me: ‘Give them a chance.’ Therefore, we
have to consider very carefully what tactics we adopt when
dealing with the Congress.

“The public feeling to-day is for co-operation, not op¬
position,” he explained. “Sardar Patel has been stressing
this point of late, urging us, who have broken away from
the Congress, to work within its sphere of influence. But
that is our fundamental difference with the Congress. We
feel there must be an opposition in order to build a real

While he spoke of the need for an opposition, there
seemed to me no clear-cut issue on which that Socialist
party could offer that opposition, and, so long as the Con¬
gress governments continued to use emergency powers to
stifle all effective opposition, there seemed to be no clear
way in which they could make that opposition effective.

I turned to him and said: “As an impartial observer—a
newspaperman who belongs to no political party—I find
that your attitude is not sufficiently convincing to induce an
intelligent man to follow your lead. You appear to have
left the Congress with a wrenched heart. You are still so
eager to stress that although you have left the Congress you
have much in common with it. You also say that much of
the Congress’s policy is in keeping with Socialist ideology.
What, then, are your points of difference?”

“On paper the Congress says much the same as we do,”
he replied. “For instance the economic programme evolved
by the National Planning Committee, on which I served
h * 533

with Pandit Nehru, Dr. Mathai and others, was essentially
a Socialist programme. But what the Congress puts down
on paper it does not translate into action. Our differences
with the Congress are, therefore, mainly economic. These
differences have always existed, even when we were part
of the Congress organization. For a long while we have
wanted to break clear of the re^t of the Congress organiza¬
tion, but this could not happen until freedom was won.”

He then went on to explain how when partition came,
the Socialists felt that here was an issue on which they
should strike out for themselves. “But had we left the Con¬
gress on that issue the break would not have brought out
the economic character of the Socialist party,” J.P. said.
“Moreover, Mahatma Gandhi had said to me ‘Don’t divide
the house. Make a statement so that no one can misunder¬
stand you.’ We had so much regard for the Mahatma that
we decided to abide by what he said. We made a statement
on partition and remained in the Congress. After that there
was no clear-cut issue on which to break away. Even to-day,
we can only point out what the Congress has failed to do.
We cannot object to the Congress in theory, for its ideals
are much the same as ours.”

This was an odd stand for the Socialists to take. It does not
appear to be sufficiently decisive an attitude to attract those
who were dissatisfied with the Congress. The Socialists’ only
complaint against the Congress was that the principles on
which the Congress was founded were not being put into
effect, and that with the coming of freedom the control of
the Congress party had passed into the hands of capitalist
interests rather than those which represented the people.

Membership of the Congress was strictly on an individual
basis, Jai Prakash explained. There was no organizational
membership as in the case of trade unions which formed an
intrinsic part of the British Labour party. When a party
man in the Congress did not live up to its principles there
was no organization behind him which would take him to
task. The Socialists were, therefore, planning to have or¬
ganizational membership for their party.

But all these ideas appeared too fine for the understand¬
ing of the broad masses of the Indian people who still go to
the electoral polls and put a cross against a picture of a bull or an elephant, being too illiterate to read even the name of the candidate for whom they are voting.

The people seemed to understand the language of symbols
and flags as being the only language of politics. In the old
days there was the Congress flag of saffron, white and green
with the spinning-wheel in the centre. It stood for swaraj as
opposed to the Union Jack in red, white and blue, which
stood for the British raj and its oppression. Now there was
no longer a Congress party flag, for that old flag, with the
slight alteration in the wheel, had become the flag of the
nation, the flag of the government, the flag which fluttered
over the same police offices which still mowed the people

So if the people did not want to vote for the Congress,
they coilld not vote for that flag.

Therefore, a new flag was needed for which they could
vote—a flag which stood out in clear colours, symbolizing
an opposition to the rule of those who were fast following
in the footsteps of former administrations. The opposition
had to be clear and decisive and not dependent on the nega¬
tive qualities of the Congress. The masses could not be ex¬
pected to understand the difference between the programme
laid down by the National Planning Committee and the
economic policies of the government. They could only
understand that in spite of freedom their stomachs were
now emptier than before; that they had to queue up for
long hours for a miserable ration of inferior rice; that pota¬
toes, sugar and vegetables could not be regular items in
their diet; that they had even less to wear than before. They
also saw that even worse than their own plight was that of
thousands of the refugees who had nothing in the world to
call their own and who were beginning to feel unwanted in
their own land and deserted by their own people.

More than anything else, the people were beginning to
feel that their energy to fight for survival and existence had
been sapped. They no longer knew who was on the opposite
side, for the government and the police of to-day were, they
were told, of the land and of the people.

The Socialist party certainly threw no clear light on the
day-to-day problems which confronted the people: how to
get a handful more rice; how to buy a few more vegetables;


how to find milk which was unadulterated with water and
how to make their few rupees go as far as they used to go.
Their flag, though red, had a wheel and a plough on it. No
one spoke of it as the Red flag because that was the flag of
the Communists and known the world over.

While the Socialist party was fighting for a seat in the
dress circle of Indian politics, discussing high level economic
planning and constitutional opposition and the finer points
of parliamentary debate, the Communists came in waving
the real Red flag—the one with its hammer and sickle—to
attract the people.

Theirs was no fight for principles and methods of pro¬
cedure. They were launching the beginnings of a class war.
They promised the people a redistribution of wealth and
however little the people could actually hope to get it
would still be more than they had. The Communists did not
talk of constitutional opposition or of getting power demo¬
cratically. They believed and preached that the end justified
the means and that, in view of the Congress entrenching
itself behind vested interests, the only way to get power for
the people was to take it, violently or non-violently, which
ever way it came easiest.

This clear-cut enunciation of their objective, however
wrong it was democratically or morally, was more under¬
standable by the masses and made a more direct appeal to
the people. The Red flag was anti the Congress-sheltered
black-marketeer, anti the employer who grabbed the profits
of their labour as in the old days. It was also anti the
government which seemed to be making their lives harder
instead of easier; and it was anti all those men who, still
wearing Gandhi caps and khaddar clothes, rode past them
in large limousines, in the so-called service of the people. ,

This was the gospel which the Communists preached. It
naturally appealed to those who felt they had been betrayed
by the Congress.

Communism in India traces its origin to a handful of
well-educated Indians whose basic foundation in politics
was also laid in the Congress itself. Impatient with the pace
at which the non-violent movement of Mahatma Gandhi
was moving, they craved for the introduction into the Indian
political struggle of the full-blooded methods of the October

revolution which had so quickly swept away the long and
oppressive tyranny of the Tzars. Smarting as they did under
the harsh British regime, in a land where their people had
been made to feel the bitter humiliation of being a subject
race, these Communists believed that the non-violent process
of passive resistance would not bring freedom within their
lifetime. They were, therefore, willing to gamble for quicker
results by using methods to which Mahatma Gandhi would
not agree.

As far back as 1924 some young men had formed a nebu¬
lous leftist group out of which later grew the Communist
party of India. Prominent among these founder members
were Mirajkar, Dange, Nimkar and Adhikari. The last-
named was a German-educated doctor who had specialized
in physics and chemistry. In Europe he had got swept away
by this fascinating Soviet theory of the dictatorship of the
proletariat, of a co-operative way of living, of an equality of
opportunity, and by the five year plans which could promise
so much and achieve so much for the have-nots of the land.

About the year 1929 this group had begun to attract a lot of young men to its ranks, chiefly students to whom this new gospel of Lenin and Marx made a quick appeal. The British-controlled government of India, realizing that this growing trend of thought should be nipped in the bud, effected an all-India round up of these extreme leftists, the majority of whom were Communists. They were charged
with sedition. There followed the famous Meerut trial, where crystallization took place for the first time and the vague term “leftist” gave place to the more definite designation of “Communist”.

The original fight of Communism in India was, there¬
fore, against Britain, the imperial power. Although the
early schooling of these “foundation members” of the Indian
Communist party was in the Congress, they formed very
soon a completely distinct group with an ideology of its
own—an ideology based on a difference of method as far as
the political fight went at that moment. Inasmuch as the
Congress and the Communists both wanted to overthrow
the same paramount power they ran side by side in their

objective if not in their methods.

The Communists next came to the forefront at the time


of the Cawnpore 1 conspiracy case, in which two of the more
prominent leaders were Dange and Ajay Kumar Ghose.
About the same time there was a terrorist group operating
from Bengal which had no real affiliation with the Com¬
munists but which, in its own way, was closely allied to the
Communists in methods and ideology. This group of terror¬
ists was rounded up after the Chittagong armoury raid, and
most of its members were sentenced to long terms of im¬
prisonment in the Andaman Islands, to which “lifers” were
usually sent. There, during their long imprisonment, they
studied the doctrine of Marx and when they came opt be¬
tween 1940 and 1943, instead of being mere terrorists, be¬
came full-fledged Communists, ready to join the now-better-
organized Communist party.

The small group of early Communists which formed the
brains trust of Communism in India has proved itself
capable of careful long-range planning and an infinite
capacity for endurance and sacrifice, and now, at the age of
forty-five approximately, its members are the leaders of
Communism in India. Three new names soon came to the
forefront in the party. They were P. C. Joshi, now suspended
because he proved to be a reformist rather than a revolu¬
tionary, Sunderaiya, who came from the province of Andhra,
and Randive, a first-class honours student of the University
of Bombay, who has to his credit a brilliant thesis on the
population problem of India. Likewise, Joshi had got a first
in his Master of Arts exam and was for several years the
main prop of the party, its most efficient organizer, who had
successfully consolidated the different groups within the
party which did not see eye to eye in the early stages.

Sunderaiya’s work was noticeable in Andhra, a large area
between Madras and Hyderabad, where the Communists
successfully spread their influence over the very militant
agricultural class peculiar to this part of India. Sunderaiya
and Gopalan were originally staunch Congress workers in
that district. As the rank and file of the Congress in Andhra
grew dissatisfied, they turned left and joined the Socialist
group in the Congress. The Socialists boasted of their hold
over this province, only to find that the organization was
Socialist in name alone and that, to all intents and purposes,

1 Now written “Kanpur”.

it was a Communist organization. Jai Prakash Narayan,
therefore, after his visit to that area, was compelled to dis¬
own the “Andhra Socialists”, who, somewhere around
1 939 officially joined the Communist party.

The headquarters of the Communist party is in Bombay,
perhaps because of the larger concentration of industrial
workers in that city than in any other. It was in Bombay
that they first opened their own press and printed their
party paper, the People’s Age. Bombay handled propaganda
and policy, for it was here that they found the quickest
response from industrial labour, from the millhands of the
large textile area, north of the city.

The well-known methods of Communist infiltration were
most easily put into effect in these areas, for it was not diffi¬
cult to foment industrial unrest, promote strikes and effect
sabotage when the workers were so thoroughly dissatisfied.
The key party men could operate to greater advantage in
this thickly populated district of malcontents.

But gradually Communism spread, not only to the larger
cities of India, but to some agricultural areas as well, where
indigenous peasant movements were in the making. The
peasant party was called the Kisan Sabha, Kisan meaning
peasants and Sabha meaning conference. The Kisan Sabha
was put on its feet by men who were not Communists but
who had been disillusioned by the methods of the Congress.
But while the men at the top, the chief organizers, were not
Communists, the men who rallied around them, the base
workers, were active Communists, with the result that the
Kisan Sabha virtually became an organization influenced, if
not dominated, by the Communist party of India.

The high spots of the Kisan movement were the uprisings
of the Warlis in the province of Bombay, at Telengana in
Hyderabad State, and at Debhaga in Bengal. Refusal to pay
taxes, resistance to authority and attempts to oust the land¬
lord were the main features of these uprisings, which, al¬
though they have been curbed, have had great emotional
and political value.

The Communist hold over the workers and the peasants
is, however, a bit loosely woven. For instance, while the
Warlis are firmly in their grasp, the Communists have had
no effect whatsoever on the peasantry of the adjoining pro-


vince of Gujerat, which still swears by the Congress, in spite
of their famines, and where Sardar Vallabbhai Patel is still
the uncrowned king.

The Communist influence is most noticeable among the
low-grade workers in textiles, the railways, among students
and in general industries as, for instance, in the rubber
companies of Bombay and the transport services of Calcutta.
Much has depended upon the enthusiasm of base workers
and the area from which they have come.

The Socialists have a better hold on the middle classes, the clerical staff, the better-off workers in mills and factories.

While the Communists are small as an organization com¬
pared to the vast nation-wide resources of the Congress,
their leaders form a closely-knit, well-regimented group,
ready to take orders and carry out to the letter detailed
instructions from their nominated superiors. They are known
to live together, work together and share their material re¬
sources, and generally to subjugate the interests of the indi¬
vidual to those of the party. Above all, they have been
proved capable of maintaining absolute secrecy about them¬
selves and their work. They do not even wish to probe for
information which is denied to them by the party, for they
know that their existence and their strength depend en¬
tirely on the secrecy they maintain.

Up till 1943 the party workers received no pay, but there¬
after full-time workers received about Rs. 40 a month. I
know of two young Cambridge-educated men whose brains
and whole energies are at the disposal of their party and
who work long hours each day, in return for which they
draw, without complaint, the paltry sum which the party
has sanctioned for them. In order to solve their immediate
economic problem the Communists have run communes
where food is available to them very cheaply, but in general
they try to depend on friends and sympathizers for a meal
and often for clothes. When a Communist worker marries,
he gets a slight increase in his allowance, and so also when
he has a child.

Organizationally, the Communist party has grown between the years 1942 and 1946. Then, because of the support they offered to the Allied war effort, the British tried to use the Communist to offset the non-co-operation of the Congress who resisted the idea that India should participate
in the war. The Communist support of the war can be
traced to two reasons; one, Soviet Russia was fighting on
the Allied side, and two, it was an ideal opportunity for
field work in India when the large majority of the Congress
workers were interned.

Sometimes natural causes have helped the Communists.
For instance, Bengal is always ripe for violence, for the
Bengalis have already had the experience of launching
terrorist movements in the past. Bengali blood can be easily
stirred when given the opportunity and the promise to
right their wrongs. It comes more naturally to a Bengali to
throw a bomb and explode a factory than for a sleepy
Maharatta on the Western Ghats. Moreover, underground
activity had always been known to thrive in the hotbeds of
Bengal, even from the earliest days of political agitation.
Likewise at Telengana, where the Communists launched a
major offensive using the peasant for the uprising instead of
the industrial worker, there was already the unquestionable
feudalism of the old Nizam, which was accepted as an
anachronism in democratic India. It was easy, therefore, to
show up black against white.

In some districts it is, on the other hand, more difficult for
the Communists to get a foothold. For instance, in the
south, the cold, calculating Madrasi, always too preoccupied
with his personal interests, his emoluments, increment and
betterment, does not too easily fall for this dangerous philo¬
sophy of living in which personal sacrifices are involved,
even though the promise is given that under a Communist
regime there will be a more equitable redistribution of
wealth. But on the south coast, in Malabar, there are the
Moplahs, who are uneducated fanatics. These would be
easy converts to an uprising, largely because they naturally
respond to agitation.

The Indian Communists flatly deny the influence of Mos¬
cow and the Kremlin over them. But the denial should not
be taken too seriously. No Communist would be so foolish
as to admit any complicity with the master organization,
the Politburo. The British had made it very difficult for
Soviet agents to operate in India. Only since freedom, with
a number of new Soviet or Soviet-controlled embassies



springing up in the country, has it been possible for Moscow
to have some real contact with her Indian comrades. The
route of operations has been through south-east Asia and
Burma, using the oversize embassy at Bangkok as the base
for operations. The method is a new one; outwardly they
are only fostering cultural relations. Our Indian leaders
too often and too easily fall for this culture-promoting idea
and find out only too late the real motif behind the con¬
ferences attended by key men in the Communist network.

The only known instance of the Soviets trying to help the
Indian Communist party with funds was first mentioned in
March. On that occasion a certain gentleman was trying to
sell newsprint from the South Sakhalin Islands. The Indian
police, who have a Special branch which is said to be
“vigilant”, were completely unaware of this and only after
the news item had appeared in our paper did a Secret
Service official call on me, pathetically asking me, a news¬
paperman, for particulars. The Communist idea on this
occasion was that the monies raised from the innocent sale
of newsprint would remain in India to help Communist
propaganda here.

Since independence, there has been no great change
noticeable in the organizational strength of the Indian Com¬
munist party. Its active workers are estimated at 70,000, but
nobody really knows how large the Communist Party of
India is. Its cardholders may not be many but its power to
foment and capitalize on labour unrest is terrific. In this
general influence exercised by the Communist party there is
a marked increase noticeable.

The reason is obvious. The Congress, which was once the
spearhead of the opposition to the government, has now be¬
come the government itself. Its policy since freedom has
borne no resemblance whatsoever to that revolutionary or
democratic Socialism to which it was pledged. It has, in fact,
in the first two years of its assumption of power proved
itself more reactionary, more intolerant, more corrupt,
more capitalist and at times even more oppressive than the
administration of the British.

The people as a whole now feel they have been betrayed
by the Congress and therefore in search of champions for
their fight for survival and for economic freedom—from

want and fear—they have to choose between the somewhat
highbrow Socialist party of India, which is constantly stress¬
ing its points of similarity with the Congress, and the more
crude, ruthless, but shrewd and calculating Communists,
who are more openly and more dramatically opposing the
Congress. In a choice between the pinks and the reds, the
people whose stomachs have been too long empty, and who
walk the streets and see the so-called “servants of the people”
riding in highly polished limousines, are likely to choose
the more vicious opposition to their new oppressors.

After all, the Communists did redistribute the land among
the peasants, the people say, and that sort of subtle Com¬
munist propaganda goes a long way in a country where too
many of the people have too long been landless.

The days seem over when the representatives of our
government were to be seen naively trying to flirt with the
strong silent men of the Kremlin, if only to pique our erst¬
while British administrators. We no longer see in the Indian
Press pictures of our U.N. representatives fraternizing with
those of the Soviets. Even Mrs. Pandit, browned-off with the
coolth of the Kremlin, is preferring to bask in the warmth
of the White House.

The reason for this change in the attitude of the Nehru
government is because of the situation which has developed
at home, wherein, instead of our just being friendly with
the Communists of another country, we are now having to
face a growing Communist movement in our own land with
its accompanying threat to the democratic republic at which,
at least in theory, we are still aiming.

Strong right-wing supporters of the Congress, chief among
whom is Mr. G. D. Birla, have been quick to see that their
interest and security depend upon a closer alliance with
capitalist and democratic countries like Great Britain and
America, rather than with those behind the iron curtain.
Mr. Birla and his kind still think of safety in the shape of
gold bars and a police force, rather than in a well-planned
Socialist economy, with the result that these right-wing sup¬
porters of the Congress, who undoubtedly have a great
effect on our government’s policy, have driven that govern¬
ment to combat the Communist menace by using methods
which are undemocratic. Emergency powers and Public Security Measures Acts have been used to round up Communists everywhere, to muzzle their Press and generally to
put them out of circulation. In a country like India, trained
for a quarter of a century to resent the use of undemocratic
ways, this is the surest way of creating sympathy for the
Communist cause. For, as the economic situation deterior¬
ates more and more, the trend of working class opinion will
be driven to support the Communist agitators, 70,000 of
whom cannot be locked up indefinitely.

Quite recently the West Bengal Congress Prime Minister,Dr. B. C. Roy, revealed in the West Bengal Legislative Assembly that he “had been directed by the Centre to increase the police force because it would not be possible to call out the army in aid of the civil power”. Dr. Roy admitted that the Communist menace “showed no signs of abating”. This was strange, for none of these Congress ministers explained how a Communist menace came into existence, when, as Congressmen claimed, the people were
solidly behind the Congress. Surely a handful of Communists could do very little without some measurable support from the people.

It also seems somewhat ironical that the very people who
during the days of the British so strongly resented that
Indian monies should be spent on defence expenditure and
on the upkeep of an oppressive police force should now be
increasing the expenditure on these same counts, especially
when the people were so solidly behind the Congress. The
Congress used to say that the very fact that the British de¬
pended on their police force to keep them in power proved
that they did not govern India with the will of the people.
It is difficult now, in view of these huge increases in ex¬
penditure, to maintain the contention that the people are
still solidly behind the Congress. The truth is that in the
name of defending the state and the government, one more
attempt is being made to prop up the tottering influence
of the Congress party with the aid of an armed police

In July 1948, over six months before the Communist
menace became apparent to the great and knowledgeable
leaders of the Congress, an open letter to Pandit Nehru
over my signature appeared on the front page of my paper.

The theme of that letter was contained in its second headline: “IF THE CONGRESS DOES NOT CHANGE ITS

Looking at that back number, I find a few passages which it seems appropriate to quote now.

To Pandit Nehru I said:

“I belong to the generation of Indians who believe in
you. With Mahatma Gandhi, you have been in the van¬
guard of our struggle from the earliest days. The faith you
gave us younger men has brought us to where we are.
To-day Mahatma Gandhi is no more and you alone remain
to lead us out of the chaos in which we find ourselves. . . .

“Many of us have been dubbed as anti-Congress merely
because, day in and day out, we are trying to urge the
Congress back to the path of progress and democracy to
which that party is pledged. But not one of the men in
power to-day seems to pay any attention to what a large
and articulate section of the people are saying. Some of our
ministers in the provinces have at times tried to suppress
this criticism in a most ruthless fashion.

“My fear is that if you, as the one outstanding living
Indian of our generation, do not bring your influence to
bear on the Congress to change this new and almost fascist
policy which is being put into effect in the country, India
will regrettably turn Communist.

“I utter this warning because, as a journalist, I am often
able better to judge the mood and temper of our people
than those who are tied up with the red tape of the

“Many of us still believe that there is sufficient power in
the Congress if you were to give it a clear and unequivocal
lead to face the problems and responsibilities which have
fallen on us since August last. But this lead must be clear
and unfaltering; it must not pause to compromise with
reactionary forces.

“These warnings which many of us have uttered through
the last few months have unfortunately fallen on deaf ears.
Provincial ministers, now bloated with power, do not appear
to be in a mood to listen to the voice of the people. But as
sure as the day follows the night, if this new policy of ruling
our people, of installing on the ashes of the British raj a
new Indian despotism, is persisted in, our people with their long experience of fighting repression will surely turn over to whatever party is most opposed to the Congress.

“Socialism and the Socialist party in India appear to me
to be making too intellectual an appeal to our masses. They
also lack organization, and the constitutional opposition
which they are attempting to offer the Congress is both
feeble and ineffective. They are, moreover, being pushed
off the sidewalks of politics by political goondas 1 who have
now appeared in the Congress.

“While our people cannot understand the subtleties of
Socialism and its principles, they easily understand the
meaning of the red flag with the hammer and the sickle. To
them these symbols mean power for the people, even though
it is not so. But much as we may try to convince them that
Communism as it exists to-day is only another form of dic¬
tatorship in which there is little place for the individual,
at the standard of literacy at which our people are, they will
swing back from the Congress into the arms of the Com¬
munist party. Do you wish that this should happen in

That was in July 1948, and by March 1949 Congress
Premiers and Home Ministers were bleating in the Assemb¬
lies for increased funds to build up their police force to
counteract the “growing Communist menace”.

I cannot help seeing to-day, as I saw in Chungking in
1942, the very much superior political effort that is being put
out in India by some of the younger men of the Communist
party with whom as a journalist I have sometimes come in
touch. Their paper the People’s Age may not be brilliant
journalism, but, before it was banned, it was first-class
propaganda. It was packed with stories of discontent among
the workers and the peasants, stories of how, in the areas
in which the Communists operated, they had brought about
a strange unity among the people which transcended the
barriers of caste, creed and economic inequality. The general
lay-out and get-up of the paper, even though it was pro¬
duced in difficult circumstances, was far superior to many of
the papers which claimed to belong to the so-called nation¬
alist Press. The reason was that the men who owned this
nationalist Press were, since freedom, chiefly working it for

1 Anti-social elements.


The People’s Age was a refreshing contrast to the group
of papers recently started by Sardar Patel’s son, Dayabhai,
which were nothing but shoddy examples of journalistic
degradation. Yet these latter papers had the support of some
of the leading Congressmen of India and were, therefore,
looked upon as semi-official organs of the Congress party.
The difference between the Cambridge-educated young men
on the staff of the now banned People’s Age and the new
Congress Press-lord, Dayabhai Vallabbhai Patel, was more
glaring even than the difference I noticed between the
young Communists of China and the effete class of Kuomingtang officials.

The writing on the wall is as clear in India to-day as it
was in Chungking in 1942.

One of the main reasons why the Congress has not yet
been replaced is because there is no political organization
ready and large enough to take its place. Twenty-five years
of service to India, during which Mahatma Gandhi groomed
the India National Congress, cannot be too easily brushed
aside by the millions of Indians who hope that the Con¬
gress can still mend its ways.

But its future is precarious. No political party can remain
in office indefinitely merely by relying on its past record.
While no one can predict with any certainty which way
political thought and opinion will turn, when it turns away
from the Congress, the danger is that this present totali¬
tarian trend of the administration, following so closely on
a hated British rule, will swing the people to the other
extreme where Communists are ready and waiting to receive

A near-fascist state, proclaiming itself neutral, can hardly be expected to survive when all around our sub-continent the colour is changing to red.

“we, the people . .

The words of the preamble to our draft constitution read:

We, the people of India, solemnly resolve to constitute India into a SOVEREIGN DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC,
and to secure to all its citizens:

JUSTICE, social, economic and political;

LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship;

EQUALITY of status and opportunity; and to promote among them all

FRATERNITY, assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity of the nation.

The record of the governments in India, both at the Centre and the provinces, in the two years that have followed the declaration of independence, has been a betrayal of these solemn resolutions.

Far from being a democratic republic, we have become a near-fascist state.

Economic arid political justice can hardly be said to exist in a country:

when political opponents of the Congress are being detained for long periods without trial, when emergency powers are being freely used for political purposes, when the acts of the executive cannot be reviewed by the courts of law, and when political detenus were, until recently, allowed access to their legal advisers only within hearing of a police official.

There can be no liberty of thought or expression in a country:

in which in peace time a newspaper editor can be compelled to print what the government wishes to have printed, in which newspapers can be suppressed and suspended at the will of the executive, and in which according to the unanimous resolution of the editors of all India, passed by them in open conference, emergency powers applicable to the Press have been abused by the government.

What freedom of the Press can exist in the country
where the President of the Congress—the party which
controls the government and professes to uphold the
tradition of democracy—saysj. “The Press is now a uuit of
the government. Naturally it is less free than it was under
the old bureaucratic government ”? 1

There can hardly be any equality of status or opportunity here in India:

where the friends and relations of the men in power
have grabbed the plums of office,

where a large section of leading Congressmen are
carrying on a brisk black-market trade in patriotism,
and when even the men in power are known to have
used their public office for personal and political gain.

What dignity of the individual can there be when a
man can be arrested without a warrant and without any
reason being given for his arrest?

The facts speak for themselves.

This position is, however, not unalterable. In a demo¬
cracy a people can change it by accepting the responsibilities
of freedom, the foremost of which is not to submit passively
to methods which are undemocratic but to strive actively,
constitutionally and continually for change^ As Mahatma
Gandhi once said: “Be men, not mannikins.

Yet somehow our people, unaccustomed to behaving like
free men, have long remained bewitched by the Congress.
They have been inclined to follow a blind leadership, be¬
lieving that sometime somewhere the Congress will find for
them the freedom that was promised.

1 Dr. Pittabhai Sitaramayya in March 1949*

Two years of Congress rule had not yet passed when there
came to the people the realization that they had neither
food nor freedom. Gradually their eyes were opened to the
great betrayal which was taking place. They realized now
that at the end of a quarter of a century of bitter sruggle
against British imperialism they were being made to live in
a near-fascist state which the Congress had built around

Then their drifting came abruptly to an end. This
changed mood which overcame the country was reflected at
two important by-elections, held in the middle of 1949, at
which the people recorded in no uncertain terms their
verdict against the Congress. They did not vote for any
other party in particular; they just voted against the

The first of these by-elections was in May of 1949, held in
Byculla, a district of Bombay. It was a three-cornered fight
between a Socialist, an “Untouchable” and a Congress
nominee. They finished in that order, shattering Congress
prestige beyond repair.

Sub editors of Congress dailies were hard put to find heading types small enough to play down this crushing defeat.
Defeat at the hands of the able Socialist lawyer, Purshottam
Tricumdas, who topped the poll, was not surprising. The
verdict was justified on his personal merit. The surprise
was rather in the margin of his victory and in the fact that
an electioneering campaign, conducted personally by the
top party bosses of the local Congress, assisted by two pro¬
vincial ministers, had failed. The Congress nominee was de¬
feated even by an obscure representative of the Scheduled
Class, formerly known as an Untouchable. The Congress¬
man last, a poor last.

Aspects of that high-powered electioneering campaign
indicate that the Congress party, still relying on its pristine
glory, had made an issue of this election. One of the minis¬
ters embroiled in the election had said: “The Congress
fought for freedom. … It has always lived and lives up to
the ideals of democracy. None can deny that it has been
holding the reins of the administration of this country with
credit. It is the habit of various parties to level baseless criti¬
cisms at the policies of the Congress governments. But let me tell you that [Congress] governments are following such policies as would be beneficial to the masses—the common men of this nation. I would, therefore, appeal to you to support the Congress and help consolidate the freedom of this country.”

The “common men” apparently did not believe this Congress minister.

Another minister stepped into the electioneering arena
and said: “There is no party or group of people more
anxious than the [Congress] government to strengthen the
freedom of this land, and in order that our country may
come to the forefront it is the duty of every citizen to sup¬
port the Congress. . . .”

The voters did not believe him either.

On the day of the election. Congress House issued an
appeal to the voters which was front-paged in the Congress¬
supporting Press. It said: DO YOUR DUTY AND HELP

The Congress, therefore, had made this by-election an
issue of a vote of confidence. As the Times of India said:
“It is in that context that they must now accept the adverse
verdict of the electors.” 1

The challenge of the Congress had, therefore, been taken
up by the people and answered.

It must not be inferred from the result of this election
that the electorate had overnight turned Socialist. They
had merely turned away from the Congress. The Free Press
Journal, known for its pro-Congress sympathies, explained
the election result by saying: “The answer is that the Con¬
gress has failed to live up to its promises. That brands the
Congress as a breaker of faith.”

In South Calcutta, west Bengal, the Congress suffered an
even more shattering defeat a month later. This was a four-
cornered fight, but the only two candidates who mattered
were Sarat Chandra Bose (mentioned earlier in this book)
who stood as an Independent, and Suresh Chandra Das, the
official Congress nominee.

To this electioneering campaign was brought not only the full weight of the party organization but the weight of
the national leaders as well, including Pandit Nehru and Sardar Patel. The Congress believed that Byculla had been
lost because of defective provincial leadership, but that with the top men in the country asking for a vote of confidence the people would return a very different verdict.

The miscalculation of the Congress with regard to its
power and hold over the people was proved when Sarat
Bose, the anti-Congress, Independent candidate, romped
home an easy winner. His majority over the Congressman
who stood against him was 4 to 1. The Congress defeat was
further aggravated by the fact that Bose did no electioneer¬
ing at all. He was not even present in Calcutta at the time
and was in Switzerland for reasons of health. The people
did the campaigning for him; they elected him in his

This second defeat shook the Congress to its roots. The
Nation, which was Sarat Bose’s paper, prophesied: THIS

The South Calcutta by-election had a deeper and more
frightening significance. While Bose was no Communist, it
was a combination of anti-Congress and Communist ele¬
ments that had elected him. The Communists had shrewdly
taken advantage of the situation to distribute truck-loads of
their party literature, some of which incited people to vio¬
lence and murder. According to a newspaper report, 1 “One
of the pamphlets asked the people to wipe out the Congress
leaders and chop to pieces the present ministers.”

Communist-backed workers in several well-known indus¬
trial concerns made a bold bid to take over control of the
factories in which they worked by force of arms. Workers
of the Bengal Pottery Company Ltd. were foiled in such an
attempt but not before the police had fought a four-hour
battle with them. Inside the motor workshop of Messrs.
Allen and Berry, a Dalmia-Jain concern, the workers entered
the premises as usual early in the morning and, once inside,
barricaded themselves in, holding the officers as hostages.
For nine days they held the place, made bombs, shells and
hand-grenades and threatened to blow up the place should
the police resort to force. Then, when the factory’s ration
shop appeared to be running out of food, they slipped out
in ones and twos early on the tenth morning, evading the slackened watch and making the police appear completely

Several other factories had a similar experience. During
those hectic days, arms and ammunition were found by the
police in the most unexpected places and, when challenged,
the culprits did not hesitate to use them.

West Bengal was, as I said earlier, selected as an experimental ground for a possible Communist revolution. It is
therefore reasonable to assume that the incidents following
the South Calcutta by-election were the early manifestations
of that experiment.

I do not want Communism to come to my country, be¬
cause I believe that it will enslave my people once again
and make them the serfs of yet another foreign power, Soviet
Russia. But I am equally convinced that the present policy/
of the Congress of harbouring khaddar-c lad, Gandhi-capped
crooks and black-marketeers, of ruling this country regard¬
less of all principles of democracy, and of attempting to per¬
petuate a one-party rule smothering all legitimate, constitu¬
tional and democratic opposition will make this country
ripe for a Communist uprising.

There is still plenty of reserve in the Congress to combat
this red rash which breaks out spasmodically over India.
There are plenty of honest men still to be found in the
country, but, unless they come forward now, we shall, surely
head for bankruptcy and chaos.

Such is my picture of India two years after liberation—a picture about which our Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru,said we should not be “unduly pessimistic”!

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      About the year 1929 this group had begun to attract a lot of young men to its ranks, chiefly students to whom this new gospel of Lenin and Marx made a quick appeal. The British-controlled government of India, realizing that this growing trend of thought should be nipped in the bud, effected an all-India round up of these extreme leftists, the majority of whom were Communists. They were charged
      with sedition. There followed the famous Meerut trial, where crystallization took place for the first time and the vague term “leftist” gave place to the more definite designation of “Communist

      [See the full post at: Betrayal In India-D F KARAKA (1950)]

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PM’s address at the celebration of dedication of New Parliament Building to the Nation (28/05/2023)

Sun May 28 , 2023
एक समय था, जब भारत दुनिया के सबसे समृद्ध और वैभवशाली राष्ट्रों में गिना जाता था। भारत के नगरों से लेकर महलों तक, भारत के मंदिरों से लेकर मूर्तियों तक, भारत का वास्तु, भारत की विशेषज्ञता का उद्घोष करता था। सिंधु सभ्यता के नगर नियोजन से लेकर मौर्यकालीन स्तंभों और स्तूपों तक, चोल शासकों के बनाए भव्य मंदिरों से लेकर जलाशयों और बड़े बांधों तक, भारत का कौशल, विश्व भर से आने वाले यात्रियों को हैरान कर देता था। लेकिन सैकड़ों साल की गुलामी ने हमसे हमारा ये गौरव छीन लिया। एक ऐसा भी समय आ गया जब हम दूसरे देशों में हुए निर्माण को देखकर मुग्ध होने लग गए। 21वीं सदी का नया भारत, बुलंद हौसले से भरा हुआ भारत, अब गुलामी की उस सोच को पीछे छोड़ रहा है। आज भारत, प्राचीन काल की उस गौरवशाली धारा को एक बार फिर अपनी तरफ मोड़ रहा है।

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