Colonialism

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Drama Review – Yugpurush {Marathi}

Published July 9, 2017 by vishalvkale

YUGPURUSH : THE PLAY

The play is directed by acclaimed director Rajesh Joshi of ‘Code Mantra‘ fame, and scripted by well-known playwright Uttam Gada of ‘Maharathi’ fame. The music direction is by popular composer duo Sachin – Jigar. Duration: 120 minutes with intermission. This play has a series of awesome reviews and testimonials, in addition to being from the stable of one of the most powerful dramas in Marathi – Code Mantra. Click the link to see the testimonials



How did The Mahatma become just that : The Mahatma? How did Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi traverse the journey to becoming a Mahatma? This is the subject the current play under review attempts to tackle, which it does remarkably well. This, however, is not a play on the Indian Freedom Struggle; neither is it a play on The Mahatma per se, in that it doesn’t have The Mahatma in the primary role; the central character is a man who should be known to us all – Raichand Mehta. {Click link to know more about this great soul}  This is the story of The Mahatma’s Guru, who played a key role in the formation of the views of The Mahatma.


THE HISTORICAL ASPECT – AN EXAMINATION
First, let us look at the claim that the play makes – as that Guru. There is some historical basis for this claim – as we can see from The Mahatma’s Autobiography, Pg 81-83, and Pg 189 of The Story Of My Experiments With The Truth, Navjivan Publishing House {To be reviewed on my Blog}. I quote : “Thus, though I could not place Raychandbhai on the throne of my heart as a Guru, we shall see how he was, on many occasions, my guide and helper”. It is clear from this that while the claim that the play makes is not fully borne out by the book I have, it is reasonably accurate. We can proceed from this assumption.


Further, reading on in the same paragraph, we read : “Three Moderns have left a deep impress on my life and captivated me: Raychandbhaiby his living contact, Tolstoy by his Book – The Kingdom Of God Is Within You, and Ruskin by his Unto The Last”. This sentence is most interesting and critical in analyzing the script of this play – Raychandbhai has been specifically mentioned by The Mahatma as the only living person who has influenced The Mahatmadeeply by his living contact. From this, we can accept the gist of the play, we have sufficient indication for this acceptance.
THE PLAY
This is not a subject that is amenable to a theatre presentation; this is more suited to motion cinema. Adapting the story to the stage presents several challenges : how does one write the script to fully show, with power and sufficient impact, the change in beliefs and thoughts, personality and attitude of a simple man with normal failings and weaknesses into one of the greatest living souls to walk our holy land? How did this incredible transformation happen? The limits of space, time, content and technology seem insurmountable – at first sight. At least, until someone of the caliber of this team steps in and decides to do the seemingly impossible!






The aspect that impressed me the most was the innovative usage of characters : normally you have one person playing a part – here, we had two different people playing the part of The Mahatma, which was a treat, as due to this single seminal decision of the Team, the message of the play became all the more clear and strong. This understanding requires a more than basic knowledge of the actual history of The Mahatma is the most siginificant downside to this. Nonetheless, even to normal viewers, the message ought to have been more than clear.

Due to this, i.e.two people playing The Mahatma, a few significant advantages were achieved. You could see a flashback almost as you would in a cinema. Second, you get to see The Mahatma in two stages of his life at the same time on the stage : making crystal clear the massive difference that had come in him by the time of his last years. History is clear – The Mahatmawas increasingly isolated during the last years of his life, which is forcefully brought home through this as you get to see the juxtaposition of the young and the old Mahatma. The palpable difference in approach as well as personality was there for all to see – the confident, at times brash, yet sensitive young man, and the painfully old isolated elder Mahatma. Third, it becomes believable, when you see two different people portray the two stages of a long life; this is the advantage of the Drama genre as opposed to movies.


The core – the personality change, belief formation of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi as he slowly transforms into what he finally became is also put forward with panache and elan; you have to keep in mind the limitations of the genre – theatre / drama – and within those limitations, what is there is actually stupendous. This is, as far as I recall from my readings as documented on my blog, alongwith a few not yet reviewed there {The Story of My Experiments with the Truth; Jinnah, Partition, Independence; India’s Struggle for Independence etc} – close to documented history. That said, such is the power of the play  – due to its remarkably amazing perfomances, useage of stage space, direction and props – that I could actually hear two ladies sitting behind me, enraptured and commenting how they didn’t know this aspect of history. Now that is true praise – as it comes from somone not an expert on the topic, and yet was sufficiently impressed by it to comment as such.
CONCLUSION
Yes, there were weaknesses – but they weren’t mission critical, and some of these were further limitations imposed by the genre adopted for the adaptation of this story. There is actually little more you can do to show this exceptionally hard change-over from one personality type to another, deeper and far more powerful personality type. Thus far, I have focused only on The Mahatma – not on the central character. That is by design. Suffice it to say that I am stunned by this majesty and the power of the personality, views and transparent genius of Shri Raichandbhai Mehta. To know more – please watch the play!
The Best part about the play is it serves to give a series of exemplary lessons to us about the deep aspects of the purpose of our life, our approach towards it, dharm, and duties etc. These are driven home to superb anecdotal evidence-based presentations, and sheer class of a performance and direction. One dialogue and anecdote has stayed with me – “mag kaay dharmaache paalan fakt sanvaari, ravivari karaave kaa?” Translation – So, one should follow dharm only on festivals and auspicious days only? This was the response of Raichandbhai on being asked how do you do business while strictly following Dharm? A simple, hard-hitting question. And observation – you should follow a dharmic life in all aspects, which is also what the Shrimad Bhagwad Geeta says… all in all, if it were feasible, I would rate it 7 stars out of 5! 

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! 

Book Review : This Unquiet Land

Published January 2, 2016 by vishalvkale

THIS UNQUIET LAND – STORIES FROM INDIA’S FAULT LINES
BY BARKHA DUTT

THE INTRODUCTION

Image result for This Unquiet Land Barkha DuttThis Unquiet Land is a book that stands out among all the other books I have read and reviewed on my blog, numbering more than a 120 at least. This is also a book that sets a narrative of India that is at complete variance to the one which the people of India would like to read which is that of a vibrant and fast growing India, an India that is on the road to its desired goals of Economic Growth and the promise of a future pregnant with positive developments and fast rapid emancipation of problems.

This is a book that looks at the dark side, the unsavoury stories and realities of India, a side that we would much rather ignore, or a side that we would much rather leave to our fervent hope that things will get better. This is a side of India that is best represented by “out of sight, out of mind”; a side dealt with looking the other way. This book is a book that is deep and dark in its narrative and tome – yet not depressing which is quite an achievement for the author, who has successfully taken on many a dark side of India.


THE AUTHOR’s NARRATIVE, AND THE LAYOUT OF THE BOOK

The book revolves around the author’s personal experiences through her extensive touring and exposure to India during the course of her long and eventful career. She has resorted to her experiences quite extensively; which brings me to the most significant disadvantage, or negative part of the book which lessens its impact by a wide margin : the lack of a proper annotation end-notes and bibliography alongwith precise dates of events.

There is a bibliography – but when you are penning such hard-hitting content, it is better to use in-page annotations, end-of-chapter endnotes or endnotes at the end with proper numbered references littered throughout the book. I would like to point the reader to other non-fiction books reviewed on my site – examples being Parag Tope with his seminal classic Operation Red Lotus; or Narendra Singh Sarila with his explosive Partition – The Untold Story. This would have elevated this book to the level of legendary stuff.

The author writes with transparent and unreserved passion with remarkable control over her language considering her depth of passion – which makes for fast as well as  absorbing reading; she is passionate about all topics she has covered – and it shows in her writing. This is a definite plus; the problem is in the layout of the content within each chapter. She has been fair and balanced for the most part; but a proper sequencing of the narrative and the points raised would have been welcome as it would have expanded its impact. A slightly more analytical approach, without compromising on the narrative tone, and a structured approach to each point would have been welcome; that said, I like it as it is. This is just a thought that could have made it more powerful.


THE CONTENT

The content is thought-provoking, and takes on Indian Society head on and in no uncertain terms. If anyone has been spared, I cant offhand think who, or what. There is no bias that I could detect {bar one – maybe two places, where I could also be mistaken}, and certainly a thorough hammering has been dealt out to each participant in the chosen topic regardless of the side the participant is one. Be it Women, or be it Society, or be it The Middle Class, or be it Kashmir, or be it Politics – everyone has been shredded.

Before I continue – just a disagreement on Nehru & Kashmir; I thought I detected a tone of blaming Nehru; I would like to point the author as well as the reader to the books reviewed on my blog, which are all authentic evidence-based books that tell a completely different story. Links of all books mentioned at the end of this review.

·       WOMEN : This is the chapter that every man should read. A hard-hitting and brutal chapter that takes your mind into a disturbed vacuum, factual and completely true so far as I could tell. Be it our treatment of and approach to the rape issue; or be it the issue of work versus family for women – you will find it all here. My only issue relates to the question of gender roles in Indian society, as my article argues. I look forward to the author’s views on that, if possible

·       THE COST OF WAR : This is the peice de resistance of the book, a chapter on her experiences in the Kargil War. You are left with wonder as you marvel at the courage shown by her and her staff, as well as the commitment and passion. This offers a very different look at the Kargil War, from the perspective of a civilian, rather than the look given by General VP Malik in his two books reviewed earlier. {Links below}
·       TERROR IN OUR TIME : This chapter deals with a wide spectrum of terrorism – related experiences. Vast in its scope and breadth, it gives a birds eye view of the terrorism challenge faced by India, including a short precise on the maoist challenge. The one problem here is the inclusion of the sporadic incidents of Hindu extremists; while these need mentioning in a chapter on terror, I felt that they could have been reduced to a half page, or one page – rather than the 2-odd pages they got.  Am I nitpicking? Perhaps I am; but smaller focus would have been more balanced. The main problem we are facing is different

·       IN THE NAME OF GOD : I don’t write on Religion – period. This is the red line I will not cross. That said, I highly recommend this chapter – without giving my views on it, I may have liked it, I may have hated it. My views on this remain sacrosanct, and in my mind. I have a determined policy to not write anything on Religion, after my last 2 articles on this. {Links at the end}.
o   My only comment – the identification of the colonial factor as being one of the causes of the conflict we are facing {page 129} is somewhat accurate; though not completely so. The origin of this sectarianism cannot be understood unless you understand the changes that took place right from 1700AD, as I argue in my secularism series {Links below}. This is something that I still haven’t fully understood despite reading a full 28 books on this – all pedigreed, maybe more. {PS : Not all are reviewed on my blog – some will not reach my blog, as the content is either explosive or the book is too hard to review, like Jinnah or Experiments}
o   There were always 3 players – The Muslims, The Sanaatan Dharmis {Hinduism is not the name of our religion; the only name we can give it is Sanaatan Dharm} and The British. What we see today has its origins in the three societies and their delicate interplay, and is not so simplistic. For more, click links at the end.

·       KASHMIR : Read the book for this chapter alone, and with an open mind. You will be the richer for the experience. This seminal chapter is an excellent kaleidoscope of personal experiences at the tragedy that is Kashmir wedded with a short look at the history of the state during Independent India, making for enthralling reading. What is specially noteworthy is that our mistakes have been thoroughly analysed, making for a highly disturbing but thought provoking read
o   That said, this is the one chapter where I have two disagreements: Nehru – whose role has been revealed in the classic book by NS Sarila {ADC to Mountbatten} which reveals the true story basis original documents – with proof and extensive references –  from the archival records of three nations. {Link below; suffice it to state that I thank God for sending Panditji to us as an Indian}.
o   The other disagreement I have is in the detailing of the tragic stories of excesses by security forces. I don’t object to them being aired; we are a democracy – and these excesses should be aired. The problem is that in analysing the mistakes we committed, I felt that a greater sense of balance was  needed in clarifying the foreign role and the Pakistani hand, as well as the loss of life due to it, which numbers in thousands. That said, she has looked at all sides of the picture to be honest

·       OF POLITICAL DYNASTS, JUGGERNAUTS & MAVERICKS : Loved this chapter – thought provoking, disturbing, blunt and to the point, with a hard hitting look at all political options, with no one being spared –whether Congress or BJP. This is a truly great read, as we get an inside look at the entire political brouhaha of modern India, as well as some pretty direct questions and searching examinations. AAP is the only party that gets away easy…

·       A SOCIETY IN FLUX : This is the chapter I loved the best, given that I have analysed almost the same in my article {The Great Indian Middle Class – Neither Middle Nor Class}. While I look at the aspect of corruption and selfishness of the Indian, the author has taken the middle classes and upper classes apart, torn them to shred in my opinion in this chapter – which is also the darkest and most disturbing chapter in the book with the graphic descriptions and horrors. A riveting yet darkly fascinating mirror to Indian Society….
o   The stark statement of the inequities in our society, the level of deprivation and the level of deplorable ignorance shown by us, the terrifying sceptre of poverty, or the shocking and ugly pusillanimous behaviour of us Indians has been ruthlessly exposed through real life incidents that will haunt you. Read the book to feel the same level of shock and disgust I felt…

CONCLUSION
In conclusion, I rate this book 4.5 stars –  am docking 0.5 stars for the reasons mentioned. It is a tour de force penned by a person with a vast experience cutting across a veritable kaleidoscope of situations – which bring a murmur of admiration to your lips at the sheer chutzpah, courage as well as her strength, given what life has exposed her to. At the end, you are left with a picture of India’s fault lines which need attending to, as well as an appreciation of the author. Could this book have been more balanced with a look at the positives? Yes – but then, it wouldn’t be a book on Indian Fault Lines-  and high time we Indians faced up to our challenges. Overall, an excellent book!

Are there disturbing elements in this book? Yes, there are. This is not your coffee table book; this is a hard look at the nation’s problems; could it be more balanced – yes; as I point out. But that does not mean we ignore it. A must read as per me…




REFERENCES AND SUGGESTED READINGS : 


Secularsim – Modern India and Pseudo Secularism {follow links for historical detailed persecpective}
In addition, there are over 26 books on Indian History reviewed on my blog; feel free to browse if interested