Independence Struggle

All posts in the Independence Struggle category

Kesari Wada – Hidden Gems In Pune

Published October 17, 2017 by vishalvkale

I was on my way to a business meeting, when I chanced upon something that looked a lot like it as related historically to someone I hold very dear to me heart – Lokmanya Tilak; so, on a lark and with an attitude of “wont hurt to see what this is”, I walked in. It was rather late, around 7-ish, so the place was closed – but there was enough present in terms of indication and signboards to tell me that I had indeed hit on a hidden gem, a vintage place of historical significance in my hunt for the origins of the Indian Independence Struggle, documented regularly on my blog for the past several years. 


The next day, I walked in on the next leg of my pilgrimage – a visit to Kesari. As I have noted before, there was a complete absence of people there, which was immensely saddening and tragic to my eyes & heart, which was sold to the Independence Struggle and the people who achieved the impossible. To be fair, the people present there did state that there were visitors to came – but on my visit, the silence was total, and the presence of visitors a grand total of zero. This is near-par for the course, and what I have seen in my previous experiences, with limited or zero attendance at some other places.


  
To be doubly fair – these are out-of-the-way places, and are out of the public consciousness. Though I am an ardent admirer of The Mahatma, I frankly admit that there is a dire need to highlight the other leaders who gave their all in the quest for independence. This isn’t just about The Mahatma; we place emphasis on Panditji, The Sardar, Bhagat Singh, Netaji – these are all key players. Each played a major role, and each deserves our undying gratitude for their sacrifices. But there were many, many others, some vital – like The Lokmanya, and some unknown, like Vasudeo Balwant Phadke. Why we cant have organized tours of these places, well marketed & backed up – and highlighted properly in public? Why should we not have proper systematic importance in visibility given to these vital places as well?


The Lokmanya was by no means a small figure; he stands as one of the most important figures of our Independence Movement; that is why, the zero attendance in the Kesari Museum was stunning. I will of course visit again – it is too mesmerizing a place to visit but once. I noted the same lackadaisical presence in The Aga Khan Palace – another landmark in our struggle, and another places that merits multiple visits. This was the same scenario in Wardha, also documented on my blog. Each of these are exceedingly well preserved, maintained – yet were near empty to empty on my visits.


Why should we not visit these places? I know, gathering from heated, not-so-heated, calm as well as reasoned discussions on social media, our organized media articles as well as my personal interactions with people that the entities in whose honour these memorials are made and preserved have a following and a sense of gratitude among us.  It isn’t as though we have forgotten. Why should we not have it in our hearts to, at the very least, spend some time at their memorials, if for no other reason – then just to bow our heads, have a tear in our eyes, and say thank you? Is that too much to expect?


Speaking of myself, I was immensely saddened and disheartened by the emptiness of the place; the caretaking managers assurance that people do visit was small solace. Having seen the emptiness in other vital places before, I was not assured. To my readers – rest assured, if I do find people visiting – I will also document that faithfully. As for now, basis my previous experiences, I am slightly disheartened. Even at the Army Memorial the attendance wasn’t upto the mark, though visitors were present. Again – next time if I find the situation better – I will certainly document it.


I know for sure only one thing – as I wandered around in that museum, I felt I was in a temple, almost: this was the place where The Lokmanya sat, discussed in nightlong discussions with eminent leaders of that time; launched his newspapers, planned for Indian Independence, and more. You can find more details about it here. As for me – I felt blessed; I felt “dhanya” – like I was lucky, and chosen to be here in that moment, in that holy place. My heart was heavy, yet proud… it was a moment I shall carry to the funeral pyre with me; it was one of the most special moments of my life… 



Advertisements

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 – 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. 

Independence – The Origins Of The Struggle

Published April 3, 2016 by vishalvkale

The most common misconception is that The Indian Independence Struggle started with The Mahatma, or with The Lokamanya, or indeed with Gopal Krishn Gokhale; a rising stream of thought credits Netaji, with another stream adamant on crediting The Mahatma; nothing could be more simplistic; and nothing could a more incomplete picture of the true story.

The events leading upto and of 1857 were integrally connected with the Independence Struggle in the latter period of 1900-1947, and deserve equal credit. Furthermore, crediting any one single event or source is also not advisable. Such an attempt assumes history to be a standstill pond – rather than the river it is in reality. Let us look at the full picture in a relative short panoramic and simplified view, focussing on key factors that will hopefully place the entire scenario in front of everyone’s eyes
FACT NO 1 : THE INDIAN NATIONAL CONGRESS {Let us first settle this, as it is at the center of the current debate}
No Indian could have started The Congress; If an Indian had come forward… the officials would not have allowed it to come into existence – Gopal Krishna Gokhale… [ISFI / Bipin C Pal et al]
The INC was not formed by the British; it was not a sudden event, as the entire sequence traced from around mid 1860s shows. Please read the truncated article for more – ideally the referenced book for detailed evidence and proof. The reason was simple – at this stage, there was no struggle as we know it; it was all about getting greater concessions and better life for the people within the Raj. The Lokamanya and Poorna Swaraj lay all in the future at this juncture. This stage was all about fighting court cases, and more court cases.
Why this was so? Why was there no demand for more? And where did these leaders arise from? Read on further for the truth.
FACT NO 2 : INDIA
{Before we dwell on the above questions – it is imperative that we dispel the myth that India was one political entity}
“So, we are looking at a people in a state of flux, a people in whom the first stirrings on national thought had begun to awaken. For example, the family of the Authorrefers to the trip to Gwalior as a trip to “Hindustan”, “their women are full of wiles and entice an innocent man” . We are looking at our India in a proto-nationhood stage of its lifecycle, and that is the prime take-away from this book… ” [Italics from : TRSOTGU, M Pande / Vishnu Bhatt Versaikar Godse]
Despite the many claims of United India going back eaons, the fact is that there was no concept of a politically united India as late as 1885 – the date the above book was penned. There was a realisation of a strong cultural union; of the concept of Bharat; of an interdependent economic and socio-political concept [ORL – Parag Tope / EI – Romila Thapar / TLOTSR – Sanjeev Sanyal] – but politically the people were just stirring in the mid-to-late 1800s. When and how did this stirring happen? Read on…
FACT NO 3 : THE START OF THE FIGHT
It is commonly assumed that the real struggle started around 1905 – 1915; this is counter factual for the following reasons :
The anti British sentiment was building up rapidly due to socio-cultural, religious, political and economic reasons from the early 1800s almost like a tidal wave, with a series of movements and revolts, and wars being fought against the British – culminating in the grand-daddy of them all, the First War Of Independence. The origin of these feelings lay in the period from 1757- early 1800s, with a series of events that rocked the foundation of life in India. The full-on attack on Religion, Arts, Language, Culture, Society, Economy in India was stinging, brutal, forceful-  and hard. That is what kindled the War of 1857.
The evidence of this attack from 1757 till 1857 is aplenty – from the denigration of traditional education, to the virtual destruction of our handicrafts and arts; from the wrecking of  the existing industrial strength [TCOI – Will Durant; IEUBR – Irfan Habib] to full-on targeting of religion with open targeted attempts at conversion and clear targeting of Sanaatani as well as Islamic people [ORL – Parag Tope; TSOMEWTT – Mahatma Gandhi], to the destruction of the agricultural backbone, to the targeting of our beliefs and degradation of our dramatics and culture.
We can see the impact as late as the 880s – 1890s  in The Mahatma’s autobiography of open conversion pressure; other sources above make the picture crystal clear. Given the first-person account of [TSOMEWTT – Mahatma Gandhi], it is a valuable window into those tumultuous times, despite it being dated some 40 years afterwards. . Thus, by the turn of the 1840s, the situation was ripe for major upheaval, with every aspect of life in India being under a vicious attack. That lead to a solidification of forces, and perhaps a first stirring on oneness, of us versus them on a relatively national scale
The evidence is catergorically clear – The Rani of Gwalior, with the Pune rulers sent letters to a series of local rulers from mid to late 1840s, culminating in the Bahadur Shah Zafar Decleration [ORL, Parag Tope]. The contents of that Decleration, given in the references, make the matter clear, and virtually beyond debate. Thus, by the time we reach 1857, we have a set of rulers aligned against the British, smarting under the insults and the damage; we have a people whose entire life – earnings, eating, music, life, culture, religion everything was under direct external attack. The combination proved deadly, almost – as they rose as one… [ORL-Parag Tope]
This was the start of the fight against the British – a common, massive uprising – one that was brutally crushed in what is one of the most heinious genocides ever conducted in Human History [ORL – Parag Tope, TRSOTGU – Pande-Godse], when villages, towns, cities were exerminated by the British – it stands as one of the largest targeted war on civilian non-combatants conducted with the express purpose of bludgeoning a people into hopeless surrender. And that is where things stands as the year 1859 turns to 1860…
[culture – extrapolated from BI:TURCI – Pavan Verma; also in ORL – Parag Tope; full research in VST – Maria Misra, FTROE-Pankaj Mishra, rising anger in ISFI / Bipin C Pal et al, Economic Destruction in IEUBR – Irfan Habib, AEHOI – RC Dutt, and in Tope book]
FACT NO 4 : THE LINK FROM 1857
By the beginning of the 1860s, India lay in a total shambles; the old order had crumbled fully, and there was a void; the people were shocked into senseless surrender – leaving no question of an independence struggle, The combined fight against the intruder had been brutally crushed, and not by courage & war, but by brutality, fighting civilians and crushing the people, and mass genocide. In such an atmosphere, there was no question of a struggle.
It is from this void that arose the first set of leaders, people who went on to create the Indian National Congress. This was the link; without 1857, 1947 was a pipe dream. 1857 is what caused and practically assured 1947 – in almost every way you can think of. This period also made clear one thing – the fight had to be done differently, an armed war was out of the question.
That is why you have the lawyers fighting in courts for greater amenities from 1870s-1900s – which the British gleefully allowed in their short-sighted myopia. That is why you have the rising local groupings, that went onto become almost one by the 1930s.
1857 was lost due to treachery – as some Indians supported the British; this was a learning well learnt-  as the first task became eradicating treachery and building a consensus – a feeling of nationalism. The next large scale uprising was also similarly lost, as the plans were in British hands within minutes of finalisation, by two treachorous swines in our midst.
1857 also lead to the communal problem, as the British that there was a need to divide the two communities. Enter Divide and Rule. End of United India dreams. From this point onwards, United India was impossible.
1857 was thus the prime mover and causative in 1947…
[ORL – Parag Tope; ISFI – Bipin C Pal et al; BD:TUOAN – Nitish Sengupta]


I have attempted to trace the Independence struggle as one continuous flow right from the 1700s till 1857, as well as lay bare the reality that Independence was only feasible the way we had it; and that one cannot lay the laurels on any one person alone. As we stand on the cusp of the 1900s, we see a fledgling INC debating in the courts and fighting for greater rights, and a rising tide on two fronts – the bolder leaders who started to desire more than just rights… and the second front being… the rise of communalism as the British policy of Divide and Rule began to pay rich dividends, culminating in what I and [TSOTGG – Narendra Singh Sarila ] call the Anglo Muslim League Alliance… this is what we look at in the second and concluding article on The Independence Struggle
REFERENCES {consulted and read during the past 7 years of study; the article  above is a collective result of the following. Where stated above, the relevant sections were basis some facts stated in the referenced book enabling me to understand or to extrapolate} :
1.                  [IFSI Bipin C Pal] : India’ Struggle for Independence, Bipin C Pal et al
2.                 [TRSOTGU, M Pande / Vishnu Bhatt Versaikar Godse]: The Real Story Of The Great Uprising, written by Vishnu Bhatt Versaikar Godse, translation by Mrinal Pande
3.                 [ORL, Parag Tope] : Operation Red Lotus, Parag Tope
4.                [TLOTSR, Sanjeev Sanyal] : The Land Of The Seven Rivers, Sanjeev Sanyal
5.                 [IE, Romila Thapar] – Early India by Romila Thapar
6.                [BI:TURCI – Pavan Verma] : Becoming Indian – The Unfinshed Revolution Of Culture And Identity, Pavan Verma
7.                 [VST – Maria Misra] : Vishnu’s Crowded Temple, Maria Misra
8.                [FTROE-Pankaj Mishra] : From The Ruins Of Empire – The Revolt Against The West and The Rise of Asia – Pankaj Mishra
9.                [IEUBR – Irfan Habib] – Indian Economy Under Early British Rule, Irfan Habib
10.             [AEHOI – RC Dutt] : An Economic History Of India, RC Dutt
11.               [BD:TUOAN – Nitish Sengupta] – Bengal Divided – The Unmaking Of A Nation, Nitish Sengupta
12.              [F : Arun Shourie] – Fatwa by Arun Shourie
13.              [Jinnah : Jaswant Singh] : Jinnah : India, Partition, Independence by Jaswant Singh
14.             [TSOTGG – Narendra Singh Sarila] – Partition : The Shadow Of The Great Game by Narendra Singh Sarila
15.              [TCOI – Will Durant] – The Case For India by Will Durant
16.             [TSOMEWTT – Mahatma Gandhi] – The Story Of My Experiments With The Truth by Mahatma Gandhi

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! 

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