British Raj

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Book Review : The Wrong Turn

Published May 22, 2017 by vishalvkale

Disclaimer: This is a work of historical fiction – and if some of it has any basis in facts, I, the reviewer, am not aware of them {insofar as they pertain to underlined word}

MY RATING :
As a Fiction Book : 4.5 Stars…
As a work of Historical Fiction :   2-2.5 Stars…
Why this difference? Because I am an amateur historian, and a researcher on the Indian Colonial Period in particular, having studied well over 40 authentic books and manuscripts from all possible viewpoints in a research study that is into its 9th year now, and will in all likelihood continue for at least another few years to come. The increasing penchant to study the INA is welcome, as its contribution is not known to us Indians. But the rising popular belief that it was only the INA that got us independence does not have basis in the facts so far as I am aware; basis my long study. And that is why I don’t welcome fiction works on the INA, it is way too important a subject.  
THE FACTS AS PER MY RESEARCH, IN SHORT
The INA was a key factor in Independence, that much is historical fact. But it wasn’t the only factor; a complete explanation is beyond the scope of this review article. The other factors were, rising feeling of nationalism courtesy The Mahatma and the INC, the rising factor of communal tensions, and the Linlithgow-Jinnah duplicity or what I like to call the Anglo-Pakistani pact were just some of the other factors. It was the INC and its mass movements that drove the message of “India” into the people – a comparison of writings from the 1700s, 1800s and the 1900s brings that out in finality; further, by the mid-1940s, India was almost ungovernable by the British. The final nail in the Raj’s Coffin was the INA – and it is the INA which hasn’t got the credit it so richly deserves.

Sanjay Chopra & Namita Roy Ghose



 THE BOOK
The book is a heart-rending story of love, betrayal and strong characters dominated by ambition, desire and outright greed, set in the backdrop of the Second Great European War of 1939-1945. It is the story of three people : a complete bastard, a wayward and hopeless misbegotten hero/anti-hero, and a nice but tough girl with her priorities set right. It is the story, above all, of one man, and one man only : Debraj Mukherjee, a man with too many mistakes to count, a man with few redeeming qualities – and how he changes, or rather is buffeted by circumstances to change into what he becomes.  
Cirucumstances force Debraj to abandon home & family, where he stumbles onto the INA – and doesn’t betray them. From there he starts changing as he meets his future best friend, Nishonko Mitra; a complete bastard with no redeeming qualities, a swine who loves his kid sister {Pg 109 – specific reference to sister as relationship[} amorally & sexually – but a patriot all the same. This man is easily by far and away the most reprehensible and ugly character I have ever read in my life.
These, then, are the three principals : Debraj, already on the run; gets deeper and deeper into the INA – and likes what it is all about, as he slowly overcomes his faults and rises like a phoenix; Nishonko, the evil bastard, as he sinks from the high perch of a patriot into a hell-hole of incest, as he “loves” {God forgive me} his own kid sister {moonh-boli, but so what?}; and the inimitable Aditi, the frontispiece of the book, the charming and delightful, near-flawless lady who carries the story and ALL the accolades.
One of these three will fall; one of these three will betray India, the INA, and the other two… who will it be?  Will it be the incestuous Nishonko? Or will it be Debraj – the former anglophile, who once aspired for all things British, a man who joined the INA as  last resort,  whose sister is still in danger in the Raj? Or will it be the Lady Aditi – the poor, poor Aditi, chased by her Brother {though in his mind only}, separated by war from her lover? For two of these three rise to become close to The Netaji, as the war progresses and The INA reaches Kohima, set for its pivotal battle against The British… Who will fall – the one who was already a fallen man at the start of the story, or the one who was already an established beacon of patriotism, nationalism and impeccable personal character – or The Lady?  
THE ANALYSIS
As a work of fiction – this book deserves a standing ovation; I give it 4 stars, but it can easily merit 5 stars even. Let us settle for 4.5 Stars as a compromise – this is a superb, unputdownable book of astounding skill. This is a book of action, raw pumping action; at the same time, it is a book of passionate love that blossoms into a mature and stunning love story; it is a book of incest & dark one-sided passion; all at the same time, all in one book. That is a remarable achievement.
A special mention of the characetarisation : each character and supporting character has been developed with consummate skill. You can see Debraj growing into a decent man with each page; you can see and agree with the changes. You can see the fall shattering fall of Nishonko into Evil; you can see Aditi growing into a patriot and a great Lady. Even the supporting staff has been adequately developed, and along completely logical lines.
The book is not a fast read, as it is a highly involved and complex story. Yet, it is a riveting tale, skillfully told. The action seems realistic, the characters abosorbing – and they tend to stay with you even after you close the book and put it down. All in all,  great book – one you should definitely read! 

Book Review – An Era Of Darkness {An Analytical Examination}

Published March 25, 2017 by vishalvkale

BOOK REVIEW : AN ERA OF DARKNESS
THE BRITISH EMPIRE IN INDIA









AN IDEA WHOSE TIME HAS COME
Each idea has its own time; and each movement requires an inflection point, the point from which the momentum changes rapidly. This book marks one such inflection point in our nation’s history; it is a watershed moment for us. Living in an era where the past was considered to be done with & forgotten; when its lessons in danger of being unlearnt; and when colonialism was all but forgotten – one could not have hoped for anything better than this book.
Image result for dr shashi tharoor

The Author is, first and foremost, a very famous Indian, a very famous international diplomat, an Indian Parliamentarian, and a very well known figure in Indian literary circles with more than several top-notch books to his credit in the realm of fiction as well as non-fiction. And when such a famous and erudite personality puts his knowledge forward through social media and books, it both makes a tremendous impact as well as acts as a force multiplier as public interest is kindled. 


This has reversed the trend of Indians forgetting The Raj, and indeed revealed to all that the majority Indians have, in fact, not forgotten anything – as can be judged from the response to this magnificent book from all corners of India, as the entire Nation rose as one in adulation for this work. For the first time, a book has taken centrestage, and is getting accolades cutting across all divides, becoming a MAJOR national talking point. Kudos, Dr Tharoor! 
THE BOOK
This book is unique among the 40-odd I have read on The Indian Independence Struggle; I rate it as among the 3 best in this genre. The other two are the ones by Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, and the masterpiece, the best of them all – the one by Narendra Singh Sarila. There are many other top notch ones- you can find them on my blog, or I shall shortly be reviewing them; like Jaswant Singh, The Mahatma’s Autobiography, Pankaj Misra, Bipin Chandra, etc. But this one – An Era OF Darkness – is unique among all these.
The reason for that is the book isn’t a plain regurgitation of facts and the attendant analyses; it also analyses British opinion, reasons of their actions. It also looks at contemporary issues in the light of the history, like the Kohinoor {Which was, is and always will be Indian}, or the self-examination of the suggested Presidential System of Governance. It brings new facts to light, such as, in the early phase of Colonialism, there were several British voices who felt the evil they were doing.
But more than even this, this book is unique as it is the first one that attempts to collate the entire damage caused by Colonialism into one book {I am indicating a few readings in parenthesis to underscore the massive ground this book covers}; you will find everything here, and with proof. It looks at the extensive monetary damage {Mukherjee, RC Dutt, Irfan Habib, and others}. 



It looks at the creation of Agricultural Distress {Irfan Habib, Tope, and many more}, Industrial Destruction {Durant, Tope, Habib, RC Dutt}, Opium {Tope – extensively covered} , Famines {Dutt, Mukherjee} , creation & hardening of caste divisions in India {Misra} , creation & hardening of the communal issues in India {Azad, Sengupta, BC Pal, Nehru, and many others} , and much, much more. This is what elevates this book to among the top Three.

It also systematically takes on the proponents of the Colonialism-wasn’t-all-bad brigade, and destroys all their arguments with clinical, relentless and brutal precision. No quarter is asked for, none given to these people and their hopeless arguments-  and all in completely parliamentary language. Be it Democracy, or be it The Railways – each Colonial “benefit” has been ruthlessly delinked from the Colonial Enterprise. As a matter of fact, that is also counter-factual. One of the first known forms of Democracy {Oligarchy}, is known to be present in India long before Christ… “The Ganasangh {Early India – Romila Thapar}”. If we can do it once- we can certainly do it again.
That said, the book doesn’t mention this; it takes a more contemporary analyses, proving that if we are democratic, it has nothing to do with The British, and everything to do with us and our decision in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. And India? Well, as others – Sanjeev Sanyal, Tope and others state – India is an Ancient Concept. And doubters would do well to note the rise of a major central power in the Marathas just before The Raj. {Sanjeev Sanyal, Tope, book on Shivaji}

It also brings to fore the continuous waxing and waning views on colonialism from a British viewpoint, as well as American viewpoints, with consistent references to criticism emanating from their own nations, as well as the mass public support Colonialism had. The total lack public condemnation of Colonial Atrocities by the citizens of The UK, and indeed the overt support for such atrocities {Gen Dyer, anyone?} makes you sick to the core of your heart. 



This brings a question to my mind – how can any civilization who held such sickening views claim to be civilized? I think it is we, The Indians, who Civilized The West. The book also suggests the same, though not in so many words. The author has to be commended for his incredible control.
THE WEAKNESSES
There aren’t many, to be perfectly honest. The only errors, or rather ommissions I could notice were slight, not worth the mention. I would just like to highlight a couple of points that were missed, to set the record straight and introduce new reading suggestions to the public. The first is Sati, and Thuggee. As Pavan K Verma proves in this book, this was a victory won squarely by Indians, with the first law against it being by A Mughal Emperor. In fact, by the time of the British, Sati was a dead practice- as Mr Verma proves with British Facts and Figures. Thuggee, well, Mr Verma also has a lot  to say on it… it was never a major threat! {Becoming Indian – Pavan K Verma}
The second miss is, sadly, a major one. That said, some reference has been made towards this, as Dr Tharoor does discuss the loss of Self-Respect and a couple of other points. And that miss the aspect of & destruction of our languages and culture, as has been eloguently put forth in the book by Mr Verma referenced above. It is a fact that Indian local languages, arts and cultures were denigrated, and lost patronage. 



The latest Marathi movie – Katyaar Kaalzaat Ghusli – gives an idea of the kind of lavish patronage local arts and artists enjoyed. The loss of this patronage was so severe, that it is only now, 70 years after independence, that they are getting closer to there they used to be; so much so, that at long last, local languages & arts are getting contemporary support of the teens and twenty somethings, that the vernacular media is rising faster than the English Media.
THE CONCLUSION
One of the finest books ever penned on The Indian Colonial Experience, especially the damage it caused. If you are looking for one resource, and don’t have the inclination, unlike me {I have been researching this for 8 years now}, to read several volumes, this is the book for you. Having researched this subject, I am aware that the content is completely factual. The book leaves no doubt that there was nothing good that ever came out of the Colonial Experience. Best part is the last one or two chapters, which look at contemporary issues arising out of The Colonial Experience, squarely blaming the former colonial powers. 



For more details, you can read From The Ruins Of Empire from a Pan-Asian Perspective. As a matter of fact, much of the Business Rules are still reminiscent of Colonialism, as I analyse in my three articles on The Modern Post-Colonial World, which remains Colonial in nature…. 

Book Review – India Wins Freedom {Maulana Azad / Humayun Kabir}

Published March 6, 2017 by vishalvkale

 INDIA WINS FREEDOM 
Maulana Azad / Humayun Kabir
Image result for india wins freedom 
This is the full version, which  was released to the publishers only in Sept 88, as per the events given in this paragraph. The issues arising out of these pages were heard by The Calcutta High Court, The Delhi High Court and The Supreme Court, before Justice B. N. Kirpal of The Delhi High Court directed on 29th Sept 1988 that a copy of each of the text deposited in the National Archives and The National Library be handed over to Orient Longman. The Court further directed that the material should be published without alteration, after comparing the copies to ensure they were identical.
This is an autobiography, though it has been penned by Humayun Kabir. The Preface to The 1959 Edition clearly gives the full sequence of events that lead to this book, readers are requested to read it. People don’t normally read Prefaces – I call on all readers to ensure they read every word. The Author sat with Maulana Azad over a period of two years, as per the preface. Maulana Azad edited some passages, comprising 30 pages, and that the complete text be deposited in the aforementioned libraries {Pg xii}
India wins freedom is a first person account by a person who should be much better known, respected and followed by us Modern Indians than he currently is – Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, whose patriotism, Indianness, and devotion to the national cause are clearly second to none. Further, this was a man whose situational reading of the events of Partition, specifically with relation to the new state of Pakistan, were stunningly accurate as history has proven, as also his passionate opposition to a divided India. He stands tall and resolute as one of the finest Freedom Fighters and Leaders to emerge out of this holy land.
This is an important contribution to the literature around Independence, and our Independence Struggle. In fact, it is my opinion that this book is one of the most significant contributions to the entire body of literature around the freedom struggle from the mid-1930s onwards. I cannot think of any other book that comes even close to this one in terms of the import it has on our understanding of the events that lead to independence, save one. That one book is the excellent treatise by Narendra Singh Sarila, titled – The Shadow Of The Great Game : The Untold Story of India’s Partition.
I will depart from my normal practice of highlighting important points of the books I review, and summarizing the learnings to be had; this is too important a book, its import far too significant to risk summarizing in a few hundred words. Suffice it to state that this book takes you head-on into the events leading to 15th August 1947, and gives you a seat at the table where everything was planned, negotiated, fought over, discussed threadbare, analysed, courses of action decided upon and acted on. This is an eye-witness account, and represents irrefutable evidence, as it is a memoir by one of the key players in the Independence struggle. I am not aware of any other eye-witness account from any of the key players involved, which gives this book a special place in our literature.
You may not like a few words, paragraphs, events – I know I didn’t; yet you have no choice but to accept them, as they are written by one of the key players, and are irrefutable evidence. You can question the opinions {where stated as such}, as opinions aren’t facts; these are easy to spot in the text. But you cannot question the facts and the events as stated – this is an eye-witness account. What is more, this represents the culture and society as it then existed, free from the bias of hindsight. All accounts of history suffer from the bias of hindsight – this book cannot be questioned on this score.
I highly recommend reading this book for everyone interested – those who blame The Mahatma and Nehruji, as well as those who don’t. The content will force you to question your many assumptions {on both sides, to be honest. I know I was forced to question some of my views}. And yet, you will have little choice but to accept, for the reasons I pointed out above. Despite having read and reviewed well over 30 books on Independence, some of the content came as a brutal punch in the gut. Sections of this book were deemed too sensitive to be initially published and an edited version was in print for the first 30-40 years; I wholeheartedly concur. In fact, these sections, available in this full version, are frankly way too uncomfortable to confront, more so for some people. I do not advise reading this book if you cant keep your biases, preconceived notions,  passions & idealism at bay.
This is not an easy book to read, regardless of which side of the debate you are on. If you blame The Mahatma / Nehruji, here you will find irrefutable evidence that places them in a very positive and high light indeed; here you will find the sequence of events as they then happened, here you will find the decisions that were taken, the reasons thereof. Here you will find the definitive proof that disproves the views of the passionate among the blamers; here you will find an account of the events as they happened, leaving no scope whatsoever for inaccuracy. This book will take you face to face with your biases, and in a most confident and clear manner, without passion and factual.
On the other hand, if, like me, you are one who close on worships The Mahatma as next to only God, who looks on Nehruji as a hero bar none – you will find evidence of his / their mistakes, the real ones- not the ones erroneously credited to him in popular imagination. It is this factual and impartial statement of events as they happened that tend to give authority and authenticity to the sequence of events as stated in the book, giving it a sheen of sheer class and reliability. It is balanced and unequivocal in its balance. No attempt has been made to take sides.
But more than anything else, it gives a real window into the inner workings of The Indian National Congress in those days, which comes across as a highly responsible, democratic and vibrant organization – as opposed to popular incorrect belief of one-sided decision making by one or two people. The events and meetings described leave no room for doubt, The INC was an excellent and very highly organized democratic body. The decisions, and the way they were taken, belie the popular belief of single decisions by either Nehruji, or anyone else. You go away with a deep respect for the INC that was.
And, above all else, this book contains a series of stunning disclosures, facts, relationship realities that are either totally unknown, or come as a shocking surprise, and a punch in the gut to you. The relationship between The Mahatma, Nehruji and Sardar comes as a distinct surprise, as are the facts in relation to them, and the sequence of events. I will not say more, this is for each one of you to read for yourself. But remember, it will not be, an easy read, regardless of which side of the debate you are on. Suffice it to state that I can fully appreciate why some pages were edited out and not deemed to be fit for publication.
Above all, this is the only book I have read that is an account of what happened by one of the key players and decision makers in the events of the 1930s and 1940s. 

Book Review : Bengal Divided – The Unmaking Of A Nation 1905-1971

Published August 14, 2016 by vishalvkale

BENGAL DIVIDED – THE UNMAKING OF A NATION 1905-1971
By Nitish Sengupta
Image result for bengal divided the unmaking of a nationThere are some books which can honestly be classified as yearnings, or – in the reflected light of reality, as forlorn hopes & a deep yearning. This is one such book, which is from start to finish a softly melancholy yearning, and a deep sigh for what could have been. I don’t begrudge the author that yearning, that is a human trait – and given the power of cultural similarity, or should I say, perceived cultural similarity,  the author’s view can be accepted.
This is the story of United Bengal; the sad and tragic story of the division of a people that were once one in almost every way except religion; this is the story of a time when the ties of culture and people were stronger than the ties of religion for some people. And this is also the story of how precisely the one people became two for a part of their community, of how external forces brutally played havoc with cultural unity and drove a rift into the community along religious lines, tearing asunder a land into two.
However, this didn’t happen with Bengal alone – it happened with India, of which Bengal is but one part; a nation was split into two, as some Indians up and decided they didn’t consider themselves Indians, that Religion was more important than nation… but that is another story. What is relevant to us is that this is a story with deep current ramifications on our Western Border; and that we need to, as a people, understand how this happened. The current book goes a long way in filling the gaps.
The book starts from the 1905 partition and its aftermath, and the unity that was displayed across belief systems for a united Bengal. What follows, from Page 1 almost, is a pathetic, tragic and shocking series of events that rent asunder the unity that Bengal displayed in and around 1905. While the book is debatable on several counts, one or two of which I mention in this review, I would rather readers ignore the errors or presumptions / assumptions made by the author in some instances. I say this as subsequent discoveries have laid bare the reality of the British Role in no uncertain terms.
The book traces a malignant and brutal British policy of Divide and Rule, specifying how they played this ugly game which had far-reaching ramifications for us as a people long into the future {looking at it from 1905 perspective}. This ugly game, which rent friend from friend, successfully befooled many an Indian, and created a sordid tale of unmitigated disaster. The way in which existing raw spots were masterfully used by the British, of how ambitions and desires were manipulated by the Empire to attain their own ends has been exposed thoroughly in this masterpiece of a book, its several clear weaknesses notwithstanding.
The best part of the book is the succinct manner in which the facts have been presented, making for a very fast, rapid and highly engaging read. The complete absence of deep analysis in some parts, though a clear problem, is actually a great benefit for those readers like self  {who are avid readers of partition, and are aware of the full facts} ; it helps create a sequence of events in your mind, without having to read reams upon reams. This style of presentation also has the added advantage of creating a panoramic image of that time in your mind; you can quite literally see the years passing by and feel the emotions building up towards a sad and tragically thundering climax.
However, this absence of deep analysis, and in my opinion, presentation of interpretations that can be called the opinion of the author, is deeply troubling, as it seeks to inadvertently downplay some vital leaders of the freedom struggle, which is both sad and, I feel, inaccurate. This, in my opinion at least, presents an incomplete picture before the audience. I accept that the author is entitled to his opinion as much as I am to mine, but the overall approach in the first part was deeply troubling, and offensive to me in many ways and instances.
The overall portrayal of Suhrawardi, for one example; the man who was an intergral part of the Direct Action Day 1946 events; whose role has been questioned by several people; the 22 August 1946 report by the British Governor Mr Frederick Burrows {For me – not Sir – Mr. I don’t recognize colonial titles} is damning and almost incontrovertible; and yet, later parts of the present book are much softer on this person, Suhrawardy, which is stunning to say the least. Those interested can read the relevant sections on this sad day on pg 222-225 of Partition –The Untold Story
Or the yearning for a lost hope –  that meaningless cheque on a failed bank – the Cabinet Mission Plan, which has been justifiably crucified as a disastrous answer to the problem of independence. Given that the plan contained a time-bomb, that of reconsideration after ten years, this was bound to create problems later on, which could have been disastrous for Independent India, as has been revealed on Pg 211-212 of the book referred in the paragraph above; in it, Woodrow Wilson has been shown on record saying he convinced Jinnah to say yes only on that ten year point, I quote from the book : “though the statement announcing the plan ruled out Pakistan, it was the first step on the road to it
The most surprising statement, one which I cannot understand, talks of “Bengalis in India having to balance their trans-national Bengali cultural Identity with the very powerful force of Pan-Indian identity, of which they are also partners”, as stated in the epilogue. Being a Maharastrian who has no problems of any kind in any balancing whatsoever, and a person who clearly sees a Marathi-speaking non-Indian as an alien, and not a common whatever, I neither understand nor accept this statement, which I find surprising, and stunning to put it very mildly.

All in all, this is a good book; not great-  but definitely good. As all things in life, there are some things and aspects about it that will tend to rub some readers the wrong way; but the question is whether it has sufficient good points and learnings contained within it to help its classification as a must-read book on Indian Independence. And in that there can be no doubt : it is a good book, its weaknesses notwithstanding. Rated 2.5 to 3 stars overall, but a must read, 

Bengal Famine 1940s : The Famine Commission : A Cover Up?

Published February 18, 2016 by vishalvkale

Reference Material : Churchill’s Secret War by Madhushree Mukherjee
The years 1942 and 1943 will remain etched in Indian History as one of the most horrifying in recent memory, with the onset of the Bengal Famine, a famine in which nearly 5.4 estimated Indians perished. This famine has been researched by Ms Madhushree Mukherjee in her book Churchill’s Secret War, and reveals a stunning story of official apathy and brutality.

Scorched Earth policy was implemented by the “gentle” “civilized” “human” British in Bengal, Assam and much of East India. The horrifying impact of this has to be read to be understood! Fact 2: food was continuously sent to Europe to feed the newly-liberated European lands, to build a stockpile for the Invasion, and to buttress British food stocks. This was done even when there was no need for such heavy stockpiling. This was done even as Indians were dying by the millions… if anyone stock-piled food during the famine, it was the British.

Food was deliberately not sent to India, or retained in India  just so the British could be well-fed. In the same Bengal, the British were eating 5-course meals! The book proves that the British were holding stocks of food that were far in excess of what they required. Thus, they not only caused the problem, they also exacerbated it. Aid from other nations was denied by the authorities. Shipping issues, as well as offers for aid were not implemented, while exports of food took place, despite the severity of the situation

The resulting mess and mass death forced the British to constitute a Famine Commission, whose terms and whose approach remains unchallenged to this day, at least till the advent of this superb research by Ms Mukherjee spanning a wide spectrum of original documents from both India as well as the United Kingdom and elsewhere, and is a treatise of the highest order.



The Famine Commission did not do a fair analysis, of that their can be no doubt whatsoever, as a study of the records shows. As per the data, in late 1943, the then Vicerow Wavell recieved pressure from Bengal for an enquiry. The Secretary of State for India had advised against any definitive commitment {quote from book, pg 267}.



Later on, they had to succumb to an enquiry; but things got very interesting from that point on. Specific conditions were imposed on the topics which the enquiry was permitted to consider. These would include an avoidance of strategical and other circumstances as may have contributed to internal transportation difficulties or affected H.M.G’s decisions in regard to shipping of imports. Nor was th commission permitted to summon testimonies from anyone who has since left India (Such as Linlithgow) – page 267. Endnote reference given is 2, which tallies with Mansberg, the transfer of power, Vol IV, 461, 468, 725



Thus, the commission looked only at local factors, and ignored any leads that indicted London. Is that fair? I dont think so.



For Instance, although the commission deplored the policy of food and boat denial, it heard nothing about the Scorched Earth orders issed by the War Cabinet. The Commission also left the impression that that only imports of rice, not wheat, would have broken the famine, which was far from having been the case. Nor did it discuss any of the international offers of aid that were rejected” Pg 267



Note that : Scorched Earth was employed NOT by the Nazis – but by the people who claim to have saved the world – and in our India. Also note the term Strategic : I am at a total loss of words at this…



Continuing on the same page, 267 – I quote :
Hints of a cover-up abound. Amery’s diary do not contain any  mention of Scorched Earth, and his papers are missing the pertinent correspondence with India. The testimonies submitted to the famine commission were reportedly to have been destroyed [except for one copy that survived as the Nanavati Papers]. Civil Servant Leonard G Pinnell stated in his unpublished memoir that he had restrained his own set of testimonies, but its location is unknown. The unpublished memoir of civil servant Olaf Martin, written some time after the war, is missing pages that appear to have dealt with his refusal to serve as chief secretary of Bengal. ‘At time time, I had to be careful what I said’ Martin recalled of 1943, ‘just as at present, I have to be careful what I write” Endnote reference is 4, which is doubly damning : CSAC, Olaf C Martin Papers, Memoir,  247 {Pages 312-331 are missing}; Mitra, Tin Kuri Dash, 167



At least one India Office File on rice exports to Ceylon has been destroyed, and another on Canada’s offer for wheat is missing. No figures could be found for Rice exports from India in 1943-1944.



 In the Minutes of a meeting of the Chiefs of Staff, available on microfilm at th National Archives of The United Kingdom, a section dealing with shipping to India is blacked out”– pg 267. Cabinet Secretaries notes on War cabinet discussions stop abruptly in mid-1943 – Just before Cherwell, Leathers and Grigg made their August Decision to deny relief to Bengal. The papers of Laurence Burgis make no mention of India in Aug 4, 1944 when Amery compared Churchill with Hitler.



It appears that the famine commission also suppressed the results of a government sponsored survey on famine mortality, and presented its own instead.



The above facts are saying only one thing – the commission looks like a sham to cover up one of the most heinous crimes committed by any human or set of humans on this planet. The book goes on to prove that the famine toll was around 5.4 Million. And few people in even India, let alone the West, are aware of this dastardly act that I call a Holocaust was forced on our hapless people.

Germany was made to pay reparations, war crimes were punished, nations have apologized for its ill-deeds – but to this day their has been no justice for the victims of this unknown holocaust; let alone justice – there hasnt even been an apology… that is the truth. The perpetrators of this crime are no more, most of them… and there the matter ends. Now, it is only a question of a apology, let us not forget that the current generation have done nothing to harm us! A genuine apology would suffice! 

Independence : Why The Shameful Controversy?

Published October 22, 2015 by vishalvkale

Today is Dussehra : The day we commemorate the victory of good over bad, of good over evil; in keeping with the spirit of this Holy Day, let me revisit that period when we Indians won over the Evil Raj; our own modern Victory of Good over Evil. Let me try once again to deal with the rising anti-Gandhi diatribe on social media, and place before my readers a record of why The Mahatma has primacy over most others; at the same time, let me acknowledge that it is not my contention that The Mahatma is the only reason, as will be evident from my article below.
It  is sad to see such questions; this is more a reflection of the abysmal state of history education in our schools than a comment on the people at large. While But this is one question that requires a proper, informed and relatively unbiased answer, based not on internet  articles or opinion, but on solid verifiable historical evidence taken from standard and pedigreed books. This article  is basis some 28+ books on Indian History that I have studied as a hobby, some of which  have not been reviewed – like Sengupta’s Bengal Divided, as they are on my t0-review list; some will not see a review, for the reasons of content being religious in nature; and some others, like Jinnah, or India’s Struggle for Independence or The Discovery of India are frankly hard to review properly, so vast is their scope.
THE BACKDROP :
Read this post : The Massacres of 1857…
This is what I call The Genocide of Indians in 1857 – 59 : This took place in 2 waves – and was planned at the topmost levels of the British Hierarchy. Village after village were targeted in a cold-blooded manner, and emptied of its citizens through murder – planned, brutal and cold-blooded murder. This was not an impassioned outrage {albeit fanned by vested interests}, nor was it done as a result of a conquerers victory in war.
What makes it mind-numbingly shocking and stunning is the simple fact that this was planned, and perpetrated as a vicious punishment, as a war strategy to take the war to civilian non-combatants with an intention of defeating the enemy – against a people who were fighting for independence, in their own country – and it was done by a people who had no business being here in the first place
For a fuller understanding, I recommend a full reading of the entire history from 1757 right till the formation of the Indian National Congress in 1885, a saga of unremitting bloodshed on a scale that stands as one of the most brutal in World History. This bloodshed is exceedingly well documented in a series of authentic books replete with period evidence
Why is this important? Because it helps us in understanding the world as it existed in the days of The Mahatma, the days when his views were being formed, as well the views of other Indians. It is easy to comment in hindsight; the most vital thing is to ask – what decisions and steps were doable in the environment as it then existed?
What fears, forces and realities were to confronted? For this reason, one has no option but to understand the world as it then existed. One cannot and should not comment in light of the modern world; the world of the 1800s and early 1900s was a very different place

It is in this light we need to examine two divergent but unimportant and yet rising tendencies : firstly, the concept of India; and secondly, the role of the more strident freedom fighters, like The Lokmanya, or Amar Shaheed. My reference to these legends by title rather than by name is proof of the high regard I have for them; but the rising tendency to downplay The Mahatma and push up the role of the others is sad, to say the least.


THE PATH TO TAKE
Fact of the matter is that Freedom required all players; and the aggressive methods of these players were an important and integral part of the Freedom Struggle; the fact is also plain and clear that independence was virtually impossible by their violent methods. Their role lay more is kindling the light of Freedom in the mind and hearts of an enslaved population; their sacrifice was essential so that those among us who cooperated with the Raj or who couldnt care less, and be brought into the stream. Not everyone is moved by the same message; and that is why every method adopted has it own importance.
But we need to meet this rising tide of support for violent measures, and ask ourselves was independence possible by their methods? Was it possible to mount a large enough uprising to uproot the British? Was it possible for everyone to take such a decision? The answer to all of these is an unequivocal no. The reasons are underlined hereon :
First, 1857 was a fresh memory in the late 1890s and the first half of the 1900s. 1857 was never a mutiny, as period evidence and records prove beyond a shade of doubt; it was a massive popular armed uprising. And it was crushed with complete and remorseless brutality, with a genocide that is in all probability unmatched in World History. The details are enough to make you cry, so horrifying was the brutality. These would be in public memory. 1919 was also too recent, when even a mistaken hint of an uprising on a local scale led to wanton murder in Jallianwallah Bagh, wherein a peaceful gathering was butchered. Chances are that armed uprisings were certain to be crushed.
And do not forget that Indians were also helping the Raj; and that is a fact! Study detailed history.
This was to be proven in 1942 yet again, when Quit India was crushed in hours, and even before it started. Read this : Was The Quit India Movement A Failure?. There was an all-India underground leadership – Sucheta Kripalani, Aruna Asaf Ali, Ram Manohar Lohia. Biju Patnaik, RP Goenka, JP Narayan etc. There was a vast and coordinated attack cycle by the people. The movement got support from a vast variety of people; it was a national uprising. Students, teachers, labourers, business people, villagers, government officials, policemen, ladies – all took part in it.  And it failed. Reason? First, it did not account for British Brutality; and Second – Treason. Documented fact. Indians were helping The Raj. Rather than blame The Mahatma, I choose to look in a mirror; not with pride, but with abject shame.
Thus, there was no alternative to the path adopted by The Mahatma.
As I observed earlier, Their role lay more is kindling the light of Freedom in the mind and hearts of an enslaved population; their sacrifice was essential so that those among us who cooperated with the Raj or who couldnt care less, and be brought into the stream.. And for that, all India should be grateful to these – The Lokmanya and Amar Shaheed. But my point is different; why these alone? The full list of people who were murdered by the British in their quest to quell the rising tide of freedom is massive. Why do we moan over just these two or three names, why do we moan over just The Mahatma and The Sardar? Read this post : Do We Really Care? 
“”
Well done, India.  This is how you value your freedom fighters, Keep it up. You cannot even spare a few minutes to visit such monuments {I have written another such memoir about a monument in Juhu Beach, Mumbai about a police officer}, even when you pass by it. How long does it take to stroll through such a building? These are the people who gave their lives, and their freedom so that we can have ours. And they lie forgotten.
Take a look at these photographs, at least… spare that much time for your saviours, people who gave their all for you!
{View snaps on the blog}
“”
On one side, we pine for The Lokmanya, and Amar Shaheed, and The Sardar and more- and on the other, our monuments to them lie unvisited, in a shambles, forgotten and buried. {I tried to hunt for the residence of The Lokmanya in Pune on a visit, but couldnt find it. Took me a while to do so! Me, I would much rather pay homage at such holy sites as above than go to the beach or the mall of whatever – or argue on relative importance of each sacrifice} We dont even walk in when it would take us less than 2 minutes – like in Mahal, Nagpur – I saw this with my own eyes, not just there, but in many other places.
How would the names you value, whichever side of the debate you are on -The Mahatma, or The Lokmanya / The Sardar – feel if they could see such callousness? How would they feel if they could see us like this? You can logically say that visiting a monument is no stamp of approval; and you would be right. But does that mean that such monuments be forgotten? That local heroes and names be ignored? That such monuments which give a peek into history never be visited, especially since we can devote hours on other pointless pursuits?  I for one, believe that our forefathers and freedom fighters wouldn’t care whether or not we visited their monuments and places, and would rather we be good honest citizens, but that is another story…


CONCLUSION
This was what the Indian Freedom Struggle created; a feat that remains unparalleled in World History. No one has till date crafted a political union from a cultural union encompassing so many different sub-cultures, and so many divergent viewpoints. Bringing them together is a feat not matched in the History Of Planet Earth: high time we Indians learnt to accept the enormity of what our forefathers have achieved. Every single international commenter predicted that Pakistan would stay but India, with its divisions, would collapse. We have proved all of them wrong… a matter of considerable pride! And for that, The Mahatma was the driving force { The Concept Of India} ; although Independence required everyone from Lal Bal Pal to Gokhale, From Lokmanya to The Sardar, and from the unnamed to the Amar Shaheed. Everyone is to be thanked;
And it is for us to feel the shame of treason that Indians consistently have done during the Raj. Rather than argue on the relative contributions of each Freedom Fighter, I would rather look back with shame at how Indians cooperated willingly with The Raj, I would rather thank each freedom fighter, and not get embroiled in needless controversy; I would rather visit the haloed and holy shrines made in their names than wonder just what percent contribution is made by whom. A sacrifice is a sacrifice, and I would much rather pay homage to the sacrifices of all our Freedom Fighters… they gave their today for my today. Thank you, all of you…

Movie Review : Lokmanya Ek Yugpurush

Published August 13, 2015 by vishalvkale


There are two ways to tell the story of an important individual : you can tell his lifestory chronologically, picking and focusing on important events to take the story forward smoothly; or you can do what Om Raut and Kaustubh Savarkar have pulled off in the one-of-a-kind “Lokmanya Ek Yugpurush”, treading new ground, and making a movie that belongs right up there in one of the hardest hitting, and yet deeply engrossing & entertaining movies to emerge out of India, a movie that strikes boldly out on its own into uncharted territory, giving a strong message and invoking deep thoughts in the bargain…

Lokmanya – Ek Yugpurush is not the story of Lokmanya Tilak; it is the story of his ideology, his thoughts, and his love his country. It is the story of a thought process, ek vichaardhaaraa; it is far beyond the story of just one mortal man. And, in doing so, it has left a deep impression on the viewer, and created a powerful medium for an impact on the human mind. It is the story of deep belief in ones’ culture and heritage; it is the story of pride and joy in just being Indian; it is the story of the rise & journey of one man from the ordinary Balwant Gangadhar Tilak… to the title of “Lokmanya”, by which all of Modern India remembers him till this day…

Where the narrative scores is the relative new method adopted : that of interleaving two stories, one the story of Lokmanya, and the other the modern day story of a young journalist. The journalist’s angle has been skillfully woven in & interleaved with the main theme, and focuses on what is wrong in Modern Indians, implying that we as a people have forgotten about the lessons of the independence struggle and the past. The twin themes in the modern story are the increasing penchant of Indians wanting to leave India and settle abroad, and the agrarian situation of farmer suicides.

The hardest hit is when the scenes of Lokmanya and his patriotism, his ideology come just after the modern scenes, leaving open the question : have we forgotten their sacrifices, and are we taking things for granted, are we creating the India they dreamt of? On one side, you have the freedom fighters who gave their all, as shown in the sacrifices of Lokmanya; and on the other, you have the modern educated Indian wanting to leave India or not focusing on real development of the rural majority among other things;  the same India they shed blood, sweat and tears for. On the one side, you have Lokmanya using education as a means of uplifting society and people,  leading to overall improvement in the people; and on the other, you have the modern Indian, chucking India for the West, or busy in his own self.
Subodh Bhave has delivered a stunner, an awesome performance, dominating the entire scene and movie with his stellar portrayal of Lokmanya. It had to be good to do justice to the individual : he was portraying a man who virtually every Indian can identify with, a man who is known just by one title : Lokmanya – throughout the length and breadth of India; a man known as the founder freedom fighter, the man called as the leader of the Independence struggle that eventually led to freedom. And Subodh has lived upto the role, the individual; so powerful is his portrayal, so brilliant, that it will be a long time before you forget this one.

Image result for subodh bhave
Image result for lokmanya ek yugpurush

Most important events of his life have been covered; that said – the focus is on the telling of his ideology, and juxtaposing Modern India and its manifest flaws vis-à-vis what Lokmanya represented. The film has many powerful secondary messages, like the one told through the child marriage issue. Lokmanya was opposed to any law on raising marriage age; and was insisting that true reform can only happen from within a society & religion through contact, discourse, discussion and education. You cannot legislate on these matters – especially if you do not understand the underlying social factors and precepts and the repercussions of intervention on the people.

Sadly, the movie also exposes brutally and bluntly the reality, the sad spectacle of Indian betraying Indian; a sorry story of how Indians cooperated willingly, fully and completely with the Raj; this is also evident in another Marathi Classic : Vasudev Balwant Phadke {the story of a revolutionary who attacked the British Raj, and was sold to them by treachery of Indians, with Ajinkya Deo also giving a blinder of a performance in the title role}. This exposes the social fractures and problem areas, as well as the penchant of treachery and placing oneself over the nation



The songs are classic,  both in the music and the lyrics, including one song based on the verses from Geeta : Karmanye Vaadhikaaraste Maaphaleshu Kadaachana, unique blend of a musical rendition of the verse interspersed with the commentary or interpretation, a deeply moving, educational and engrossing experience, an effort which is the stuff of legend. Add to that the class He Jeevan Aaple Saarth Karaa Re, and you have an ensemble of songs that are a collectors’ edition, moving, and powerful. Fully in keeping with the theme of the movie as well as doing justice to the memory of Lokmanya, as per me.  





All in all, this is a movie that is a hard-hitting, brutally blunt and yet entertaining movie that belongs right up there among the best movies ever made in any language in India; an effort of sheer class that is simultaneously educational as well as thought-provoking. Some comparisons the movie makes in the Modern settings may be an exaggeration, or even objectionable as it seems to equate the British with the corrupt modern people; but the inference and the implied message – that we might just be drifting far away from the ideals of our freedom fighters is an assumption well-founded in the current reality.

This is best summed up in the inference drawn by the Modern hero-heroine of the movie, that the stories of our freedom fighters as well as their ideology, their dreams and their passion needs to be translated and communicated in  the modern Indian; that there is a strong and felt need for telling, educating and convincing the people of Modern India and provoking their thoughts, kindling the same ideas within them and letting them understand what people like Lokmanya stood for, and how their ideas hold contemporary lessons for us. This is best told through the movement of one person from admiring the people moving to the USA – and moving her to an active contributor in making Modern India a better place, and striving to create a better India, rather than leave. Rated 5 stars; in closing, let me just place the stunning lyrics of the song He Jeevan Aaple Saarth Karaa Re : {S: Geetmanjusha.com – http://geetmanjusha.com/lyrics/12350-ya-jeevan-aaple-sarth-kara-re-या-जीवन-आपले-सार्थ-करा-रे} feel them! 


या जीवन आपले सार्थ करा रे 
राष्ट्रभक्ती निःस्वार्थ करा रे 
एकजुटीने कार्य करा या देशाचे 
या साथी बना अन सार्थ करा रे, मातृभूमी ही आज पुकारे 
जागृत होऊन कंकण बांधू दिवसरात्र जगण्याचे
मातेच्या पायाशी हे अर्पण प्राणांचे 
फेडूया ऋण आम्हा हा जन्म लाभला त्याचे 
घेऊ हे ब्रीद हाती आसेतुसिंधू नव हिंदुस्तानाचे 


भीती न आम्हा ह्या वज्र मुठींनी कातळ भेदू 
सीमा न कुठली हुंकार असा गगनाला छेदू 
ठाम निश्चय हा दुर्दम्य आमुची इच्छाशक्ती
हृदय पोलादी ना सोडी कधी राष्ट्रभक्ती
मातेच्या पायाशी हे अर्पण प्राणांचे 
फेडूया ऋण आम्हा हा जन्म लाभला त्याचे 
घेऊ हे ब्रीद हाती आसेतुसिंधू नव हिंदुस्तानाचे 


जन्म हा माझा होई सार्थ साचा, मुक्त माता होता 
हे एकची माझे ध्येय आता राष्ट्र असे घडवावे
हे भारतभू तुजसाठी आता जीवन अर्पावे


ज्योत ज्ञानाची स्फुल्लिंग मनाचे पेटून उठले 
स्वाभिमानाचे हे कुंड मनाचे मग धगधगले 
शृंखला तोडी हे दास्य आता ना साही कोणा
देश हा अमुचा स्वातंत्र्याचा अमुचा बाणा
मातेच्या पायाशी हे अर्पण प्राणांचे 
फेडूया ऋण आम्हा हा जन्म लाभला त्याचे 
घेऊ हे ब्रीद हाती आसेतुसिंधू नव हिंदुस्तानाचे

Being Indian – 5 : National Narrative Versus National Ethos

Published August 1, 2015 by vishalvkale

Concluding part of the series “Being Indian” – previous part found here : Being Indian – 4 : The Ultimate Triumph Of The West



India is a land that, as all of like to repeat ad-nauseum, is known for its diversity as well as its unity both; in fact, Unity in Diversity is the justified by-line for our Nation, our national ethos,  that is what, essentially, India stands for, and our ethos, our culture is what we are exceedingly proud of. This unity rests on the unique Socio-Cultural fabric of our nation, which has been crafted out of several Millennia of inter-mingling, living together, interacting and even fighting together. While India the nation, the political unit, may be a relatively new construct – Hindustan, or Bharat or Hind is a concept as old as this land itself, as is borne out by the scores of period documents as well as in the writings of the visitors to this holy and blessed land.


But, if you dig deeper, one can easily spot a narrative that is at complete variance with this stated ethos, and many contradictory themes emanating from within this unified cultural milieu, many inconsistencies that critics use to label us as being not quite so unified – namely, the fervent desire of a small section of our society to become a Hindu Rashtra, or the entire language debate {to be taken up in an independent article}, or the imaginary oppression during the Muslim rule from around 1150AD, or the politically charged debate around Casteism.


It isn’t my objective to defend “Unity In Diversity”; I see no reason to be defensive about my lovely nation to anyone. If the non-Indian thinks otherwise, he or she is welcome to his or her several impressions. I think all of us know what India is, at the core – so why be defensive? It is far better to ensure that we make this holy land where we have been blessed with a human birth an even better and even more strong place than it was before. And doing that requires tackling the present inconsistencies, challenging them, setting the narrative right – and taking corrective action.


That we are defensive on the topic of India and Being Indian is easily seen and can be readily observed everywhere: from our unhealthy penchant of following NRI-PIOs abroad, highlighting their achievements. This can be seen in our pandering to Western standards, rather than setting our own cultural standards based on our culture; this can be seen in our sheepishness on seeing songs in Movies,  or even in our going gaga over Indian cultural fests abroad or in the ardent following of Temples and their events abroad.


At the core of this defensiveness lies a deep-seated inferiority complex, the roots of which lie deep in our past, and are now firmly entrenched in most people, which is a real tragedy. Why should we go gaga over the achievements of people living abroad, as a small example? These are people who chose another nation over India for their life; what is the message we are giving people? Why should we care overmuch if some Tom, Dick Or Harry makes it big in The UK or The USA? Don’t we have enough success stories in India? Cant a nation find success stories locally? Why is it that NRI-PIOs routinely make front page, whereas the local successes almost never feature in any news? If you cover both with equal vigour – that is fair; but if only is found newsworthy, then this is a manifest inferiority complex.


Similarly, why should we, as Indian Citizens, care about Temples and Hindus in The USA or The UK? Of what concern is it to us? Why should a Barack Obama Diwali party hold relevance for us? Why should we follow the growth of Sanaatan Dharm worldwide? Is our religion a proselytizing faith? If it isn’t – then why can’t we leave well enough alone? And why focus exclusively on The USA, The UK and developed countries? Why not trace the growth in outlying countries, Eastern countries, or African countries? Come to think of it, why don’t the success stories of the Indian Diaspora in other parts of the World become headline news, like the cases in the USA or the UK? Is this what Sanaatan Dharm teaches us? Or does it teach us something different? Is it the contention that only PIOs in the Developed World are successful? What are we displaying by this frankly idiotic behaviour?


On an equal note is the most disturbing trend of the slowly rising – but thankfully currently minor – scenario of the Hindu Rashtra; or the habit of some among us to regard Muslim rule as being worse than British Rule. I have dealt with this extensively earlier here : Being Indian – 3 : The 1000 Year Slavery ; so shall not elaborate. The sad disregard for and ignorance of the evil that happened during British Rule, and the complete inability of even our Media to tell the full story is the most enduring tragedy of Modern India. What is needed is a balance, a complete and truthful exposition of all that happened during both the periods – Muslims and British; such an examination is certain to knock the sails out of the 1000-year slavery myth.


This is what this Being Indian mini-series has been about, focusing on the present inconsistencies, trying to make the reader ask himself or herself some hard questions about what it means to Be Indian. Does Being Indian mean that you have to settle abroad? Does Being Indian mean you have to study and live here just to go away? Does Being Indian mean that you are a Sanaatan Dharmi? Then what about Dr Kalam, or Paramveer Abdul Hamid, or any number of other Muslims, Christians and Sikhs? Does Being Indian mean that you have to follow Western norms? Does Being Indian mean that, by contrast, perforce have to follow Indian norms? What does it mean to “Be Indian”? What is our national story, our national narrative, above and beyond the clichéd term “Unity in Diversity”? And do we, all of us, understand, display and believe in this narrative?


How many of us can identify a snap of Kalpana Chawla – and how many of us can recognize a snap of Paramveer Nirmaljeet Singh Sikhon?  I cant recognize the latter – and that is, perhaps, the worst possible comment on us as a people, and what we value. One person, {if some records and wikiis correct} quit Indian Citizenship for the US, and the other gave his life fighting to protect us. The US citizen’s face is plastered all over our Media, which doesn’t even care to look at Kailash Satyarthi {let alone someone from the past like The Great Nirmaljeet} till The Great West awards a prize, when we suddenly discover him! {God Bless Her, her achievements were tremendous indeed – but she wasn’t Indian, and I therefore take no pride or otherwise in her achievements. And not just for her : the same applies to any PIO. They aren’t Indians}


How many among us quote the ills of The Muslim Rule and the raids of Chengez Khan and Mahmud of Ghazni? And how many of among those know and quote of the 1857 Genocide, or the Bengal Holocaust, or the Famine of the 1760s which killed an estimated 30% of the population of Bengal? How many of us quote the Industrialised India of the 1600s and the 1700s? And how many among us quote and send messages on social media and whatsapp on the ills of that period? And how many of us quote the stories of the weavers, the potters and other products of India, and of the Merchant trade – and how many just reproduce verbatim the sporadic killings of that period?


What is the actual national narrative that we are displaying by such behaviour? Is it in keeping with what we perceive as our national ethos? Why do we ignore the real heroes of our nation – those who stay in India work in India, give their lives for India? And why do we ignore the full story of the past, and concentrate instead on one part story, which is by definition a biased approach? Why do we idolize ex-Indians or even NRIs who quit India, and ignore our heroes at home? Why do we chase after stories of Temples abroad – how is it important to us as Indians? Why do we place Western Culture on a pedestal – when our oft-quoted assimilative culture specifically equates all cultures as one? Why then cant we be accepting of our own identity, and be confident of our own selves? Why this manifest effort to be someone and something that is at complete variance with what we profess to be?


Therein lies the key – our professing to be one identity, and then belying it by displaying behavior that is the complete opposite. Unless we develop a national narrative that is in keeping with our national ethos, this dichotomous behavior will remain. Ethos means “the characteristic spirit of a culture, era, or community as manifested in its attitudes and aspirations”; while narrative means “A representation of a particular situation or process in such a way as to reflect or conform to an overarching set of aims or values”, or in short – A spoken or written account of connected events; a story.


In this series – Being Indian – I have attempted to look at some disturbing aspects of our national narrative that are not in consonance with our National Ethos – In simple terms, our behavior vis-à-vis our words at what we profess to value.  I have attempted to lay bare the inconsistencies; areas where we need to bring our narrative and our ethos into one… That is the subject of the next mini-series ; Developing a National Narrative

 

Retribution – Reparation… And Colonialism

Published July 25, 2015 by vishalvkale

Call it reparation, or call it payback – or call it retribution; call it what you will. The latest speech by Dr Shashi Tharoor has, once again, brought the colonial memory to the fore of the public consciousness; sad part is that it failed to ignite a debate on the issue of the colonial damage, and the payback and apologies by Britain, or their absence. It lead to a series of plaudits – well deserved, no doubts – on Dr Tharoor; but, by and large, completely failed to tackle the larger issue of an apology and return of the loot by The United Kingdom.

Why should the UK do either when the raped party is itself silent and acquiescing in the matter? There is no pressure on them to do so; that they will never apologise and compensate by themselves is a given. We aren’t in the Satyug; and the Great West is far from being the model of fairness and justice that it claims to be. That leaves us to wallow in our own self-pity, and / or our own ambitions and desires…

THE PERSONAL ASPECT

You have a “want” and then you have a “should”

First, the “Want”



Do I want the money? You bet I do! Every Single Penny the British took from us :  Each.and.every.single.penny. We know the amount; we have the proof; we have the period evidence; we can calculate NPV. I want it back, make no mistake. It is ours, and we can prove it beyond a shade of doubt with solid, irrefutable period evidence – yearwise, datewise and monthwise.

The contention that how far back do we go is not tenable, because the pillage was based on the destruction of the industrial base of India {Yes, we did have industries- large numbers of them}, the agricultural base of India. Add to that the planned destruction of our arts, culture, self-respect etc. The current problems of India are directly traceable to the Raj. Prior to the Raj, the economic status is also well-documented and pretty much beyond debate, establishing the cause of our penury beyond a shade of doubt.

Interested people can refer my previous articles  for details of books and references containing documented proofs}

Apologies : now what good is that? It means a lot to us : but how can we be sure that they mean it? That it isnt insincere? That is why, I dont hold much store by an apology. Dont want it. If you are truly apologetic – show it. Give us back what is ours : you can start with the Kohinoor. The rest is open to negotiation! That is also why in the strategic analysis below, I have not even touched on an apology. They can keep their crocodile tears. 



THE STRATEGIC ASPECT


Now, The “Should”


Should we ask for it? Make it an issue? Answer : No. The international situation effectively means that any such move would be counter-productive, and self-inflicted damage. That is manifestly unfair, given the damages given to other countries as others have stated, and the apologies; but the world isnt a fair place. Further, for us, survival comes first; economic and diplomatic realities preclude such a possibility as of now. It would be stupid; and we arent stupid, that I am sure all readers would agree to quite wholeheartedly.

Further, using under-handed tactics a-la USA, Pakistan etc also is out; such practices come back to hit the perpetrator. We do anything like that – and our loss is pretty much  a guarantee. Third, and most important. do the majority of Indians want a repayment or some kind of a reparation? There, we are in the land of conjecture. We have no way of knowing; and this {majority opinion} is a vital matter – we are a democracy.

But. if the majority wants it – some kind of a payback {maybe not the entire amount, of course} – then, the situation changes dramatically. It would empower the Government to act, and put some serious pressure on them. The pressure would not be needed, of course; if the majority want it, it will reflect automatically in the policy stance; it then becomes only a question of time.

And, in an even slightly altered international context- it is conceivable that we can put the screws on the West real h.a.r.d, and make them cough up. As of now, that is far fetched… but in 1857, who would have thought that we would kick the Britishers out from our holy land in a short span of 90 years? Just because the present does not warrant such an action on our part does not mean we forget. The reason is that we as a nation are still paying the price of the colonial rape – in everything from security issues to the problems of poverty that are plaguing us.

The question then arises, how can we do it? In a world economy with a powerhouse India and its economy, with a comparable military might, it would be mighty hard for The Great West to fend us off. That is beyond argument. That is why – if we want our money back – just about the only way is to develop our economy, make it far more relevant to world trade – and then…. hit back. HARD. Tell ’em ; cough up, or F-Off. End Game; Game-Set-Match India. The pay-off can be in various terms and forms: better trade terms, preferential trade terms, hard cash, market access, strategic benefits, technology free of charge, etc etc. That is open to negotiation; as I look at in the second and concluding part of this mini-series

Sounds Far Fetched? Yup, as on date it probably is. But History is stranger than fiction, and stranger things have happened.

That is why it is vital that Indians be reminded of our past, and the price we have paid. Repeatedly reminded. Not just for this reason : it tells a lesson that we cannot trust The West. Note what happened since independence for proof, and look to the continuing blind support to Pakistan for more proof, or a cursory glance at the trade and economic realities of the modern post-colonial world.

The West may believe the story of colonialism is over; I suspect it hasnt even started yet. Quite apart from the fact that colonialism never really died – it just changed form into a shape that fools us into believing all is right again; the reality is that the Ghosts Of The Past haven’t been laid to rest yet. What happened was just the prologue; picture abhi baaki hai. Till inequality exists, the threat given above will remain. And for inequality to be lessened requires The West to start sacrificing in the here and the now. And you can rest assured, that wont happen; not for a very long time – if at all.

And with increasing inequality in an atmosphere where every colonised nation dreams of the same level of development of The Great West, the pre-existing fissures will be ruthlessly opened and renewed, past wrongs brought to the fore. That is what scares me. These deepening fissures in an atmosphere of desire and naked ambition for growth are already visible; you cannot deny the downtrodden nations their desire for growth. But that will come at a cost; what that cost is to be is for us to determine as a people, and as a human race…



Why should we ask for compensation? How should we go about it? What form should this compensation take? What are the strategic repercussions or alternatives, and what are our internal pressures and realities? How is colonialism not yet dead? These are all  questions I take up in the concluding part of this 2-part mini-series. Let me close this article with a thought-provoking piece by Pankaj Mishra :


The sense of humiliation that burdened… Asians has greatly diminished; The rise of Asia and the assertiveness of the Asian Peoples consummates their revolt against the West that began more than a century ago; it is in many ways the revenge of the East. Yet this success contains an immense intellectual failure, one that has profound ramifications for the world today and the near future. It is simply this: no convincingly universalist response exists today to Western ideas of politics and economy…

The war on terror has already blighted the first decade. In retrospect, however, it may seem a prelude to greater and bloodier conflicts over precious resources and commodities that modernising as well as already modern economies need. The hope that fuels the endless economic growth – that billions of consumers in India and China will one day enjoy the lifestyles of Europeans and Americans – is as absurd and dangerous a fantasy as anything dreamt up by Al-Qaeda. It condemns the global environment to early destruction and looks set to create reservoirs of nihilistic rage and disappointment among hundreds of millions of have-nots – the bitter outcome of the universal triumph of Western modernity, which turns the revenge of the East into something darkly ambiguous, and all its victories truly pyrrhic… : Pankaj Mishra, From The Ruins Of Empire – The Revolt Against The West And The Rise Of Asia


In closing. I can only say with infinite sadness that The Great West should pay heed to their own literature, and study their own history. Sad part is, they will never do so. And that terrifies me. Picture abhi baaki hai, mere dost; abhi toh interval bhi nahi hua hai! The story is just unfolding; it isnt even half-way over yet – of that, I am certain. 


Though the mills of God grind slowly; 
Yet they grind exceeding small; 
Though with patience He stands waiting, 
With exactness grinds He all.

“Retribution” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow