By K.N. Pandita
Occasionally, Markandey Katju comes under limelight in national media. To many people, his statements on political and social issues spring surprise because these seem outlandish or at least bizarre to them.
Known for stirring hornet’s nest, Katju has recently made his observations about some of the leading national figures. Our parliamentarians considered his observations derogatory. In a show of respect for outstanding figures of national politics, the parliamentarians passed a resolution condemning the comments of Katju as something tantamount to national insult.
Katju has filed a case before the Supreme Court of India, desiring it to quash the resolution of the parliament. He has given reasons in support of his contention. Quashing parliament’s resolution is not an ordinary matter.
National media has given it wide publicity. This is because Katju has been a brilliant judge of the Supreme Court and also the Chairman of Press Council of India. Indeed he is an outstanding personality.
In his petition to the Supreme Court, Katju has made a cogent point. It is something that should interest all right thinking and patriotic citizens of this country. He invokes the right of expression in his defence.
Three decades and half have gone by when our country became free. A long struggle for freedom extending to nearly half a century was carried out by the people of India under the guidance of great patriotic leaders like Gandhiji, Subhash Chandra Bose, Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Patel, Maulana Abul Kalam and others.
The real cause of delay of grant of freedom to India after WW II was not the reluctance of the British government. The real obstruction was the demand of the Muslims League for a separate homeland for the Indian Muslims. Congress opposed it because it believed Indians are one nation irrespective of cast, creed, colour or language.
Muslim League’s demand for separate homeland for the Muslims of India was overtly and covertly supported by the colonial power. Gandhiji and his colleagues in the Congress knew it. During the days of earlier Viceroys, partition of Bengal was seriously proposed. Britain wanted to leave India a fragmented, weakened and truncated country. Apart from supporting the division of the country on communal lines, they left 562 princely states free to decide their future. That shows what a disintegrated India they wanted to leave behind. Had not the Sardar been at the wheel, India would not be what it is today.
Gandhiji had said that India would be “partitioned only on his dead body”. It was a noble sentiment. Alas, he succumbed to country’s partition to the great surprise of most of the senior members of Congress like Maulana Azad. Where was his half a century old pledge of unity gone? Not one but two Pakistans were created. He conceded what the British wanted. He cannot escape the blame which Indian intellectuals and thinkers like Katju and others bring to him today. This was political intransigence. Today we are facing the consequences.
I wonder why Katju has hit Netaji Subhash and not Nehru. It is Nehru whom Stalin, in his meeting with Dr. Radhakrishnan, the first Indian Ambassador to Moscow (later on President of India) called “the running dog of British imperialism.” Stalin was no novice to the history of British colonialism.
Lord Mountbatten, the last viceroy, had sent messages to M.A. Jinnah to accept him as the first Governor General of Pakistan as Nehru had done in India. Jinnah declined. Who of the two clung to colonial bandwagon?
Against the wishes of his cabinet colleagues as well as senior army commanders, and on the prompting of Lord Mountbatten, Nehru approached the Security Council with Kashmir case. What was the result? The US and the British Ambassadors to the Security Council, Warren Austin and Alexander Cadogan, both countered India’s plea and made Pakistan party to the dispute. We are paying through the nose.
Very few people know that long before independence, Nehru and Krishna Menon had committed to Mountbatten that they would support his candidature as the first Governor General of India after the British withdrew. The commitment was made in a Fabian club in London where Mountbatten was an occasional visitor and had come to know Nehru there.
Imperialists and colonialists wanted Indian army not to go beyond Uri and engineered the cease fire on the midnight of 31 December 1947 practically responding to the then British Prime Minister Clement Attlee’s pontificating “thus far and no further” formula to his friend Nehru. When Orestov, the correspondent of Tass was told in Srinagar that Nehru will not order his commanders to stop at Uri but go straight to Muzaffarabad, he made the historic remark: “then history of Asia will have to be re-written”. Link this incident with the remark of Stalin to Dr. Radhakrishnan and you will get the point.
Majority of members in the Constitutional Assembly opposed Article 370 and special status for J&K. Even Dr. Ambedkar, the architect of the Constitution, rejected it outright telling Sheikh Abdullah bluntly that he was not going to make another Pakistan. However, Nehru’s brand of democracy rejected the views of the representatives of 34 crore people of India. He succumbed to the haranguing of two dubious leaders of J&K who he could neither fathom nor understand.
Nehru gloated over his pro Soviet fondness. But his begging bowl was filled by American PL-480 that warded off impending food crisis bordering on famine in India in 1950s.
His Generals proposed upgrading and expanding Indian defence structure. But Nehru repudiated them asking against whom did they want to arm India. And when in 1962 war China beat India hollow, Nehru made frantic requests to Washington for supply of arms. He was even prepared to compromise on Kashmir and sent the Sheikh to Pakistan for talks.
Historians in future will try to find out whether there was connection between Kashmir’s special status and cease fire on the midnight of 31 December 1947.
Historians will also conduct deep and dispassionate research in the role of Nehru in persuading Gandhiji to accept partition suvo moto.
We in this country are victims of hero worship. We raise heroes but refuse to evaluate them and their contribution. Gandhiji and Nehru have rendered invaluable service to the nation. Who does not acknowledge and respect that. But we cannot make them infallible. It is so because they were human beings.
We see today many of the principles, slogans and cliché which they invented are not standing the test of time. Hindsight induces us to ask whether their understanding of Indian situation was circumspect.
Examining their role in the current situation will call for more critical and dispassionate estimation, just as it will call for more appreciation of the positive aspects of their contribution.
Katju has initiated a very lively and important debate. Parliament’s condemnation resolution on his views is politically motivated, not academically debated. Indian academia cannot go by the claptrap of vote seekers. Great nations do not go by claptrap but by cool and considered logic. Let us not make angels of human beings while do not intend to denigrate the angels as well. Angels have their heavens to enjoy while human beings have their earth to build.