Indpendence Struggle

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The Significance of 1857 in our Independence

Published November 26, 2013 by vishalvkale

1857, The First War Of Independence… what was its true significance and importance in our freedom struggle?
To understand this, we first have to understand the sequence of events leading upto and during 1857…

Until we really colonise India, and raise up a European element in the population… Edward Humphreys, Manual of British Government In India, 1857

..May be no dilatoriness on any account in continuing in the country the grand work of making India Christian – Mr Mangles, Chair, EEIC, in the house of Commons, Early 1857

The whole land has been shaken by missions to its innermost centre… the Hindu trembles for his religion, and the Muslim for his… Rev M A Sherring, The Indian Church During The Great Rebellion, 1858

Areas covered by the proclamation of Bahadur Shah Zafar: Taxation (I commit to lower taxes, to preserve the dignity…); Trade and Commerce (Open trade of every article, both by land and water, to all Indian Merchants, access to Capital, lower costs); Public Servants Industry; Personal Freedom… 1857 in India – Mutiny, Or War Of Independence, Ainslee T Embree, 1963
The documented evidence above will suffice for this write-up; it should raise a few pertinent points in the readers’ mind: firstly, there was a massive agenda of colonisation, Europeanisation, as well as conversion that was organised right from the top. This existed right from the Early 1830s onwards, and was steadily gathering steam.This was a direct attack on every Indians complete lifestyle, an attempt to change everything. 
This was playing havoc in Indian Society and its framework, assiduously built up over centuries, The point of Muslim Rule does not hold, for the perfectly simple reason that large parts of India were under continuous Hindu or Sikh Rule throughout. The central authority may have been Muslim, but over the years even there an element of Hindu support and power and grown due to adjustments, as the Mughals became Indian. Thus, an equilibrium was reached. 
The disturbance of this equilibrium had far reaching effects -right upto the caste scenario, as previously soft caste distinctions became rigid. This was a direct attack on the complete societal framework. 
This, in combination with the destruction of India’s industrial background through various means – like denial of raw material as well as market access in combination with 80% duties, as well as the destruction of Agriculture formed the backdrop for the war. Opium, Indigo replaced food crops, leading to food shortage; Farmers were not paid even for these crops (documented fact), leading to further erosion of sustenance and wealth. Agriculture was not developed, and supported – this combined with land tax of 60 – 90% and refusal to allow farmers to keep a part of their own produce for food and seeds led to famine. 
This is the backdrop – the complete backdrop to the War, which was a planned war, planned in detail. British Strategies were studied in various theatres of War, even the Russians were visited. Fact.. but that is another story, to be taken up in another post. It was not a mutiny; it was a planned and mass-supported effort…, and has been documented as such by several reputable sources
There was massive support to the War, with hundreds of villages, towns and cities rising in en-masse to expel the Brits. The reason was simple – every facet of life in India was under attack – from religion to livelihood, from beliefs to vocations. Everything was under attack. Something had to give, and it did. Big time – and it scared the Brits out of their wits, Had it not been for timely help from some Indian Princes,. it would have been over in 1857 itself… and it scared the the British to the roots of their existence, for perhaps the first time – and the only time before, or since. 
1857 told the Brits that they were not invincible, that they could be conquered – if India ever united again as one. And they were right; when India rose again – the Brits were chucked out – when the entire people and the Armed Forces rose in revolt during the INA trials. 
During quelling the war, the sequence of events hold further hints and learnings for us, which tend to support the belief that 1857 led to 1947; without 1857, 1947 would not have happened. 
First, two dastardly acts – Act No XI (30/5/1857) and Act No XIV (6/6/18557) gave local commissioners to impose the death penalty on all persons – military or not – whether amenable to the articles of war or not. Then came Act XVI which empowered executionary powers to civilian officers, military officers as well as trustworthy people not connected with the Government, In short, a licence to kill. 
A list of persons tried by the commissioner at Allahabad showed that anything from rebellion, to desertion, to possessing money for which  the accused has no explanation – was punished by death. 
Point to be noted – The so-called Cawnpore incident had not yet occurred yet! By the way, an interesting aside – The Great English Army used non-combatants as defensive shields during the seige… their own families! Documented records show officers being reprimanded for wanting to shift families to safety. In the ensuing war, these gallant English soldiers are known to have abandoned their own families to save their own skin – the families were saved by Indians, and initially escorted to safety, and treated with honour – unlike the brits, who used them! And this is despite the massacres of Indians already taking place at the hands of the Brits! THAT is the truth of the so-called Cawnpore incident and its complete picture, True Blue gallantry in classic English style, hiding behind a petticoat to win a war! What awesome bravery, it has to be said!
But more was to come – as entire villages and towns were exterminated… like Jhansi : Again, the massacres started before Kanpur – on the way to Kanpur, in fact. Village after village was raped and razed to the ground, empowered by those 3 acts enacted by the great Parliament of the UK….

Destroyed the village of Goura… CW Moore…

All the villages were burnt… an English officer in Russells’ company

Some young boys, who had flaunted rebel colours, were hanged

Certain Guilty villages marked for destruction; all men inhabiting them to be slaughtered; —– orders to the Army

Finished off in an artistic manner with Mango trees for giblets and elephants for drops… an English – aah – civilised Gentleman

The facts above tell the tale: it was a popular uprising, involving both military as well as mass civilian support. I shall go into greater detail in subsequent posts- or read the references mentioned. The massacre and genocide that cut across all of India between 1857 – 1859 was specifically due to this. The English are on record in innumerable documents, praising these massacres and their salutary impact. 
But coming to the question, 1857 established a few  things to the Brits – one, colonisation of India by the White Man was impossible. Next, it also made clear to them that conversions and religious attacks were also a recipe for certain disaster. And that is why 1857 is the first War of Independence: we protected out way of life, and our society – which is 100% brown and pure. We protected our religion, and our country. Had this not happened, who knows what the future held? Look at other esp African countries…
Next, the wave of massacre and genocide perpetrated by the Civilised British made one thing clear to Indians – armed resistance was futile. It also made clear that the way forward was uniting India; it also made clear that the way forward for the foreseeable future was negotiation… which led to the events leading to the formation of the Congress. {} The intelligentsia were also clear of the role of traitors who supported the British – and understood that it required a different approach. That is why, after 1857, riots and armed uprisings reduced to a substantial extent. In  simple terms, the entire population was bludgeoned into hopeless surrender. This was not a surprise, given that an entire population was subjected to mindless murder and genocide-  those 3 acts of parliament of the Great UK are silent proof of the inhumanity and brutality of the English. 
It also made clear to the English that if India united as one ever again – they would be chucked out. This led to divide and rule, leading to Pakistan…
The First War Of Independence was thus, central to Indian Independence; we won the right to live our own way, and gave our future leaders of 1880-1940s the road to proceed… without it, we would not have been what we are today. 

Let us all join together to thank those heroes who gave their all – everyone, including the massacred civilians. May you rest in peace; India / Bharat / Hindustan owes what it is today to your supreme sacrifice… you gave your todays for your children’s today… for that, All India is thankful to you… 
  1. Operation Red Lotus – Parag Tope
  2. India’s Independence Struggle – Bipin Chandra Pal et al
  3. Bengal Divided – Sengupta (For divide and rule policy)
  4. The Discovery of India – Jawaharlal Nehru
  5. The Real Story Of The Great Uprising – Vishnu Bhatt Godse Versaikar

The Post-Colonial Hangover: Our Colonial Heritage Part – 2

Published October 29, 2013 by vishalvkale

The dawn of the early 1950s saw the recession of colonialism as a workable model of growth across the world; by the end of this decade, Colonialism was a dead word in the world at large, with only a few sporadic colonies remaining. 50 years and more have passed since that day (67 for India); and the development and growth, while present in India, has done little to solve the crippling problems facing the Indian nation. We are undoubtedly much, much better off – with world class amenities in the cities, a tremendously improved amenity profile in the villages, a bustling economy, stupendous success in high-tech sectors – where we are one among the top 6-7 nations in the world, much better infrastructure, improved – in fact, highly improved health facilities in towns and villages with world-rated medical centers in the cities, a multitude of renowned growth successes in various sectors of the economy spanning information technology to pharmaceuticals, no famine deaths, absence of repression, personal and political freedom, a vibrant and assured democracy, freedom of speech, expression and movement, and a life of honour. These are no small achievements – take a look around you and compare with other colonies (especially those who have undergone what we did; consider we were raped for 200 straight years, and looted for 300-plus).
And yet, despite the sizeable achievements listed above, we remain a nation beset with problems. The bottom 40% of our population is in dire straits; growth is skewed, with only a trickle reaching the lowermost sections of our society, while famines are now a thing of the past – people still struggle for 2 meals, farmer suicides still do happen, marginal farmers still operate at a loss-  and there are around 80 –  90 million small holdings in India. Infrastructure is in dire need of massive upgradation, we are surrounded by enemies on the strategic front etc. The question that occurs is – how many of our current problems are of our own creation, and how many are a colonial hangover? 
This is an important quest, as there is a disturbing trend among the youth – that of blaming ourselves for everything that is wrong. Nothing could be farther from the truth; while we have undoubtedly made mistakes- the fact remains that our colonial history lies at the root of most of our problems – if not all. Poverty, for one. The per capita earning chart reveals the story: 
Graph of Purchasing Power Parity Converted GDP Per Capita, G-K method, at current prices for India
The charts above tell the story; note the flat trajectory from 1880s to  around 1950 – and note the uptick after independence.In 1947, we had nearly 80% plus citizens below the poverty line; we had an infant mortality rate of more than 140 per 1000; a life expectancy of around 31; literacy rates were around 12%, and no industrial base of note. These numbers tell the tale; this is the colonial heritage; this is the price we are still paying for our colonial past. And our achievements, seen in the light of these numbers, are a matter of considerable pride – just 2 figures will be enough to convince people. We now have a life expectancy of 67, and a literacy rate of 74.
Rather than disparage the nation for its failures, let us all celebrate its tremendous achievements, as being one of the few to have bridged this massive gap in an atmosphere of relative internal peace and democracy. It would not be too far-fetched a statement if I were to state that we are among the few countries to have done this – and begin to be counted as among the nations that can become regional, if not superpowers. By no stretch of imagination is this a small feat, considering where we started – a total lack of electricity in the interiors, nearly absent medical care facilities, food shortages, destroyed infrastructure except rail networks (and roads to an extent), no industrial base to speak of, no schools in large tracts, destroyed morale… truly, a tremendous feat by any yardstick. We have managed to overcome the Colonial Hangover in this field…
To do this, we had to build huge numbers of schools, primary and secondary health centers, open new colleges and universities, build roads in the interiors, build electricity generation facilities, build and modernise our armed forces, build agricultural research and extension networks, introduce new crop varieties and scientific agriculture, build crop storages, improve market access, improve awareness, build a functional administration, build various and sundry industries spanning every imaginable product, build high-tech capabilities, build a world-class set of industrial capabilities, skill-sets and industries. Just pause a moment and think of the scale of challenges that we overcame- think of the number of plants, schools, colleges, industries opened; how we made a famine-hit nation into a food-surplus nation.., it boggles the mind – and we did it across a land-span of 3287590 square kms encompassing more than a 100 languages and dialects, dozens of cultures and sub-cultures, and every imaginable religion.
We can be justifiably proud of what we have achieved – in an environment where we were by-and-large alone, in a post-colonial world dominated by the Cold War politics and big-business-driven economic policies of the West married not to economic or humanitarian principles, but to cold hard profit and/or primarily strategic motives; an environment where a secondary strategic motive frequently became the determinant factor over-ruling business, economic and humanitarian principles. This was the post-colonial world; where the big guns focussed on their rivalries and tensions, to the exclusion of all else. A world where the same realities continue in a hidden and seemingly softer form, as we shall see in the next post wherein I look at the remaining aspects of the Post Colonial Hangover… 

Facing up to our Colonial Heritage Part 1

Published October 9, 2013 by vishalvkale

Our Colonial past is seared into the mind of every educated Indian; most of us do recall with bitterness the sad period between 1757 and 1947. It is difficult to be emotionally detached on this topic – as evidenced by the responses on various online social sites. The difference is only in degree, with some people being more vociferous and emotional, and the others being a lot more practical and sanguine about the entire matter. But most of the spectrum is united in the bitterness that is felt on recalling that horrid period of our history. 
And yet, paradoxically, as a nation we seem to be in denial about our own past and what was done to us; just like the rest of Asia and Africa. The fact of the matter is that the developed world is where it is today because of looted and stolen wealth from Asia and Africa, of which a rather large part came from India. They would never have been anywhere near where they are today had it not been for our own stupidity and weaknesses that contributed to our rape – which created a pool of free slave labour and bottomless wealth to invest in their own lands, and conquer new ones. While the world has ostensibly moved on from Colonialism, repression and exploitation continues in myriad forms, usually hidden as business stratagems.  Sure, this is not done by the developed world with an objective to repress and exploit; neither is it done to loot. The feelings of “business exigencies, realpolitic, fair business” etc are all too real to them. 
Take the case of the UK and the USA. Both were bankrolled by the ill-gotten wealth of Colonialism in their early formative years of the so-called industrial revolution. The USA in addition to access to Wealth, also got abundant natural resources – to which they had no right – as well as free slave labour. Not only that, they then wiped out the native Americans. If this is not Genocide, what is, pray tell? Thus, is it any surprise that the USA is today the most developed nation? Similar is the case of UK, fund flows to whose treasury from its Colonies is a matter of documented record, as I myself put forward in one of my previous posts. That was the wealth that was invested in its factories, in its people and in its infrastructure. Everything the UK is today, it owes largely to India. 
One only has to look at the nature of the former colonies of these developed countries, and see the pitiable condition of the people who live therein. From Africa to Asia, it is a horrifying tale of unmitigated disaster and tragedy of a kind not seen before the Colonial World-  not on this scale. We are talking about poverty on a continental scale. Outside the developed world, the conditions are pitiable. And it is undeniable that one of the causative factors – should I say, one of the primary causative factors is the Colonial Rape. Every comfort in the west of the day has its origins in the blood, sweat and rape of innocents. This is not a fanciful statement, neither is it inflammatory. It is a statement of simple fact. 
I shall take a look at the post colonial policies that contribute to the continuing repression at a later date; in this post I am primarily concerned about the lack of acceptance and knowledge of this simple reality in both the Colonial and the Developed Nations. Speaking about India, I have never heard an official demand from any Government, demanding an official apology from the United Kingdom for the atrocities committed on us. These atrocities are a matter of record; and are exceedingly well documented. 
What is wrong in asking for an official apology? Apologies have been tendered before by other nations for their misdeeds – but no one is asking the colonial powers to apologise, let alone do something substantive for the upliftment of the raped people – people whose ancestors were raped by their ancestors. And it is not in the foggy past; it is a matter of a few decades. Instead of that, we have our political class mouthing subservient dialogues like “The British Connection”!  And the reward we get? The threat of withdrawing aid when an arms deal wasn’t signed! Excuse me, you threaten to stop giving me what is mine by right? 
The shattering inequalities we see all around us today are a direct result of colonialism; and if the world problems have to be solved – then the developed nations will have to chip in, if for no other reason then because their wealth has been built on the rape of the third world. I would go so far as to state that it is their duty. But that is not going to happen unless the constituent citizens of the first world understand and accept that the sins of their forefathers are one of the causes. That is why I insist on an apology; because an apology does not come about from a person who does not understand his culpability; at least, not a sincere apology. 
And for that, we are responsible – our fawning over the west, our gentle forget-it- and-move-on approach and our toeing their line without trying to explain the root cause of our problems. And in place of understanding and empathy, the east gets racial taunts, pushy policies in the name of free markets, pressure tactics etc. Unless the world comes to terms with the immediate past and the colonial heritage, problems are not going to go away. They will only be exacerbated… With the status the third world is in, it requires a caring hand and a kind hug from the richer developed world, which is not happening. The west would do well to remember the reality of their own past, and be man enough to say “I am sorry; let us sit across the table and sort it out”. 
But why should this happen, when the raped party itself is silent? Not even demanding an apology!
Jaago, Sonewaalon! 


Published September 2, 2013 by vishalvkale

We shall look at the 1857 War in greater detail at a later date; in this post, I shall attempt to introduce an aspect of the 1857 that has been left untouched by recorded history, which simply does not do justice to the entire heroic and horrendous affair that was the First War Of Independence. Today, let us take a look at a man honoured by the civilized britishers with the Victoria Cross, and was also knighted by the Queen. This man’s name was Hugh Rose, about whom Captain F. W. Pinkney writes : “The example made at Jhansi will, I have no doubt, have an excellent effect in facilitating the tranquilizing of Bundelkhand”…
We in India can refer to him as the Butcher Of Jhansi…
He is the same man who choreographed a terrifying dance of death spread over 4 days – a dance of death that is so horrifying in its detail, so brutal in its scope and so evil in its scale, that it ranks as a genocide as far as I am concerned. This was the Genocide of Jhansi…
This should also give you some idea as to why Rani Lakshmibai is famed throughout The Sovereign Democratic Republic of India… but that is a story that deserves a full blog post in itself…
In the town of Jhansi, all the people that could be caught from young children to men over eighty were massacred. Women, fearing rape, jumped into wells. The English started entering houses demanding money, gold… if a person was spotted, he was killed… “The entire town had turned into a cremation ground… the town was ablaze… as some people tried to hide in the hay, the English set it on fire… as people ran and jumped into the well to escape, the English chased them to the well… and shot them as their heads bobbed above the water” – an eyewitness account
“After he was arrested, a Senior Military Officer ordered the young children of Dulaji Singh aged 5 – 25 (Dulaji was the Regimental Commandant of the Town Guards) to be brought from his house. Thery were lined up in front of him and shot in front of his eyes. Dulaji Singh was then  beheaded. “
“The 2 white soldiers went straight into the Puja Room and saw a couple of baskets… the kicked the baskets… and saw ash… suspecting treasure, they put their hands in… and burnt their hands. The English soldiers, flaming with anger, killed all the members of the Agnihotri family – including women and
I could go on in this vein for quite a bit more  – but you get the drift. The town of Jhansi paid a heavy price for its desire for freedom from oppression; and they were butchered, massacred and looted bone dry. The survivors were in no physical or psychological condition to do anything  of note; such   was the sheer ferocity of this   genocide, that it had a material impact on the entire surrounding areas. To this day, Jhansi is a small hamlet, and on one can imagine what it once was… you have to read the description of Jhansi in its resplendent glory to understand; its bazaars, its palace and its magnificent and famed library… and even then, you will probably fall short: well short.
“Most of the citizens and all of the Queen’s soldiers in Jhansi were killed; the streets were left thick with blood slush. Vultures darkened the skies of the city. Hugh Rose had given strict orders not to allow the Indians to perform the last rites of the dead. After 7 April, when the entire city was stinking, and jackals and vultures roamed greedily in search of decomposed bodies, did he grant permission for the last rites. – Mahashweta Devi
And for this, he was given the Victoria Cross! And Knighted, as well. May I remind everyone that the Victoria Cross is highest award for valor in The United Kingdom. Contrast this with our own Paramvir Chakra, and the people who have won it and their deeds. Truly, his deeds were indeed brave: butchering women and children, killing civilians… The Butcher Of Jhansi. And we Indians are blissfully unaware of the true horror of those 4 days…
In the entire historical record, the above does not find a mention. The record shows a humane and tolerant treatment to the people; the record was, after all, written by The Butcher Of Jhansi himself. According to Rose, even the heavy shelling and cannonading targeted only men!!!!! (Wow, what technology: and this was in 1857!). Remember that they were attacking an entire town… further, Rose makes the claim that it was the Indian Men who killed their women! And this found its way into the official record! –
Why is it that the English records to this day teach of the Black Hole etc where the English died: but is totally silent on these atrocities? Even in the modern day, the Westerner is blissfully unaware of the scale and scope of the horrors and genocide perpetrated in India from 1757 to 1857! The general consensus seems to be that they brought order to India, introduced Railways, laws, education etc! Unfortunately for them their own meticulous records lay bare their claims – as we shall see in my next post: The Distortions of History – And Their Modern Repercussions… you will readily find details of Europeans being massacred in India – but no mention is made of the people they massacred – even today; in the internet age… That, my dear friends, is that hard truth… as I always say, Jaago, Sonewaalon
1) Operation Red Lotus – Parag Tope
2) 1857: The Real Story Of The Great Uprising – Vishnu Versaikar

Book Review: Tinderbox – The Past and Future of Pakistan by MJ Akbar

Published July 14, 2013 by vishalvkale

MJ Akbar is an Indian Journalist with a wide-ranging experience of more than 40 years cutting across Media, ranging from The Times of India to Headlines Today. He is a prolific Author, with several books to his credit…
 “The actions by the Pakistani Government to support them – actively and passively – represent a growing problem that is undermining US interest and may violate international norms, potentially warranting sanction. In supporting these groups, the Government of Pakistan, particularly the Pakistani Army, continue to jeopardize Pakistan’s opportunity to be a prosperous nation with genuine regional and international influence – Admiral Mike Mullen, 17th Chairman of The Joint Chiefs of Staff”
The above excerpt from the conclusion makes the overall approach abundantly clear – blunt, straightforward, factual, and racy. This is a book that is a must read for Indians, as it is among the most authoritative books that I have read on the subject of Pakistan. It is full of insights and facts that will surprise the Indian citizen, The book takes you deep into the quagmire of what is modern Pakistan, and how it got to this sorry state of affairs. It starts from the very beginning – AD 712, and traces the Pakistani claims of connections to Ghori and Somnath; it picks up from there, takes it all the way to 2011 – and enables a deeper understanding of one of the most enduring tragedies of modern times- Partition, as well as the India-Pakistan discord.
The book can be viewed in 2 parts – the period leading upto Partition, and the modern state of Pakistan. The period leading upto Partition looks at the entire scenario in a very different light – tracing the roots of the discord to the Muslim psche that was punctured when they lost their hegomony in India. Subsequent events, which lead to them losing their rule just about everywhere, has also been looked at, and identified as a key aspect that lead to Muslim demands in the 1920s – 1940s period. This is a logical approach – one that has been explored to some extent by Pankaj Mishra in his book; but that work was Pan-Asian in outlook. The book under discussion is exclusively about India, and this makes for a deep and wholesome appraisal of this entire issue. The rise various thinkers and philosophers, and their impact on the Muslim psyche right from the 16th century to the 20th century is a superb section, as it enables a deep look into the happenings in Muslim society in those days. The slow radicalisation of the society, and the role of the British has been brought out into the open – which paints a picture that enables you to understand the how and why of the rapid deterioration from the 1920s
The only negative aspect I could detect in this section was the aspect dealing with the Nehru Report of 1928, and the Cabinet Mission plan. I cannot understand why some people regard them as good; both were recipes for certain disaster. The Nehru Report ceded residuary powers to the states, and gave the Muslims reservation in both minority as well as majority areas; why should anyone have reserved seats even when they are in a minority? If the logic of protecting minority rights applies to Muslims, it applies to Hindus as well! And why cede residuary powers to the states? That would weaken the center! Similarly, the cabinet mission plan – with its 10-year joker, giving the option for leaving the  Union after 10 years – for a sure-fire recipe for Balkanisation! I know that this desire of the Author has no connect with religion; I have read a similar opinion from a Non-Muslim as well; it is more of a romantic hoping, a what-could-have-been feeling. However, in my humble opinion, given the circumstances unveiled in various works spanning Pankaj Mishra, Akbar, Jaswant Singh, IIC (India and Pakistan- The Great Divide : My next review) – it seems more and more certain that the partition of India was not avoidable…
Even so, this section is an awesome piece of research; it virtually gives you a look into the situation within Muslim society as it existed in those days, which enables you to understand the subsequent years much more easily. This is what makes this book a cut apart from most other books I have read. The part after independence is a searing indictment of the 2-nation theory, and makes the telling point: the hunt for an identity by Pakistan, and its citizens – drove it inexorably towards increasing Islamization of its society and institutions. This hunt for a common identity – and its internal differences right from Muhajir to Shia-Sunni-Ahmediya etc- drive a nation struggling to stand on its own feet to its nadir. You can literally feel the destruction as page after remorseless page piles on the story: a frankly tragic story of a people hunting for their identity in the past and in religion – instead of moving on from what has happened, and setting up reliable institutions.
The book traces how the idea of Pakistan went sour right at the very beginning; it quotes a telling and prophetic statement by Maulana Azad, who had clearly spelled out the coming destruction in 1946. You are left shaking your head in despair as you are taken into the middle of the quagmire, such is the power of the narrative. The deeply disturbing sequence of events that lead to the plunge of Pakistan into disrepair is a sad sequence: as, over time, India has had to pay the price for the same. It takes a deep and long look at how player after player played the wrong cards; how the radicalised society came into being, with the first challenge right after independence, when clerics demanded a fundamentalist Islamic state; how they succeeded…  a story of unmitigated disaster, told in a fluid and telling narrative.
It rips into the USA, and takes it apart in 2 chapters; how the US studiously looked the other way when Pakistan was going Nuclear, quoting facts as evidence of the US knowledge of Pakistani activities; in fact, there is a section which clearly states that the USA would have found in Pakistan all that it was looking for in Iraq. The book rips apart the US-Pakistan duo on terrorism, tracing the rise of terrorism, and how even Osama Bin Laden was a US-Pakistani creation. Most telling is the fact that Pakistan was on the lookout for the Nuclear option even before India’s test… which puts a rather different light on our own Nulcear Tests in 1974…, as well as the attendant isolation – but that is another story. All in all,  a superb book – this belongs in your library, and is a collectors’ item!
Sorry to digress, but in closing, please do tell me why (as per the opening quote of the Admiral) did terrorism and Pakistan become flashpoints now? Why was the world silent when India was bleeding? Why was the world looking the other way? But that is another story. Problem is that this “another story” is tied up inexorably with India. While the book doesnt quite question the west, it draws much the same conclusion, forcefully making the point that, for the USA, there is only 1 real partner against terror in Asia – India. Will USA wake up to Pakistani duplicity? Doesnt seem like it, while we in the subcontinent, to quote the book, “we are staring, transfixed, at havoc beyond repair…

Are we our own greatest enemies?

Published June 16, 2013 by vishalvkale

Ancient History
From its Ancient History, India can learn Confidence. This is the land that gave the world innumerable scientists, inventions and discoveries; if we can do it once – we can do it again. This is the land that was known as the sone ki chidiya; the land that was quite literally an international trading powerhouse. As I said – if we can do it once, we can do it again. This is the land Charak, of Sushrut, Baudhayan, Kanad, Aryabhat, Varahamihir, Brahmagupt, Patanjali, Bhaskaracharya. This is also the land of ChandraGupt Maurya, Ashok, Rajaraj Chola, Vikramaditya, Harshavardhan. This is the land that has given birth to great kingdoms and great thinkers alike; if we can do it once- we can do it again. 

India can learn openness in Trade; this is what defined Ancient India, and indeed Medieval India as well. There is documented evidence of trading outposts outside India in locations as far away as in Central Asia – and this is before 3000BC at least. Trade is what made India famous across the Earth; Trade is what defined us – not military might. This is a theme that is repeated across our 9500 year documented history; more of it later

India can learn the virtues of education and the benefits of promoting research and science. It is a documented fact that scientific achievements dropped off after 1100 – 1200 AD as the sciences and literature both lost official partonage; a cursory look at both the fields in the period 1200 – 1500 AD is mute testimony. The temporary revival of literature due to official patronage during Mughal rule is another proof of this, 

Medieval India
The recurring theme of military might raises its head here again; India can learn the virtues of having a powerful military presence from its medieval experiences. Our open nature laid us wide open to invasion – and invade they did. In large numbers; some stayed back, and built upon existing strengths – while some came to loot – like the British swines, Abdali or Ghazni. 

India can learn to stick together as Indians rather than side with outsiders – I am deliberately using this more offensive term than the soft-sounding word “unity”. We lost during medieval times due in large part to the fact that some idiot from India sided with rank outsiders, and stabbed their own people in the back. Again, this is a recurring theme, as we shall see later. 

From Medieval India, Modern India can learn tolerance; for it is here that the greatest threat to our established secular values, and the true power of Sanatan Dharm manifest themselves. Earlier, when Jewish settlements were coming up, when early Christians were settling up, when the first Muslim areas came up in the North-West – the rulers were either Buddhists or fellow Sanatan dharmis. Our secular and wonderfully resilient character and internal strength came to the fore during 1200 – 1500 AD, and more strongly during Aurangzeb”s time – and The Goa Inquisition during the colonial era. This is a valuable lesson for Modern India – the virtues of moderation and tolerance. 

Colonial India
As I noted above; in this period we find the recurring themes or Military Might and Unity raise their head. A weakened and divided – but economically powerful and culturally rich land was no match for the military might of an impoverished and backward nation like Britain. The arguments of Industrial revolution does not hold water; it is the benefits of loot from India that ignited the industrial revolution in the west. That is established history.

 The combination of scientific degeneration and internal strife created havoc in a period when coincidentally the exact reverse was happening in a backward and torn Europe. It is one of the most enduring tragedies that a backward and amoral people could overcome so easily one of the most advanced civilizations on Earth – we, who have had 9500 years of uninterrupted development behind us, could lose so easily – leading to our next lesson : A world view and awareness of developments. We were blind to the world, complacent in our status as the most advanced people and the richest… the world stepped on the gas pedal… and we were asleep. Avoid Complacency is the lesson for us!

It is colonial India that teaches us the power of collective action – which holds powerful lessons for us. It is colonial India that teaches us the that India’s greatest enemy is not the outsider – but the bloody insider who cooperates with the rapists and enemies. This recurring theme appears at its ugliest in this period, with massive repercussions for Modern India… but that is another story, to be taken up on my blog in another article…

Modern India
Only one lesson here: that Modern India can and should learn from its history. Tolerance is the way of life here; the reverse lead to one Pakistan, and another Bangladesh. In the Indian Subcontinent the only way forward is religious tolerance, cultural tolerance – and this is a lesson that should be heeded by all three of us children of The Land Of Aryavarta – India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Unity, and economic trade mean nothing without military might; India needs all three. 

Modern India is living proof of how division can lead to destruction. Throughout time, our greatest enemy has always been the covert insider who sides with the outsider; in Modern India – we have an insider that is openly siding with the outsider. Pakistan and India can do wonders if we bury the hatchet; we, the children of Aryavarta could learn that. Our greatest enemy continues to be the insider… nothing has changed even after 9500 years. Now more so than ever, we need to be tolerant, united, open to trade, focussed on education and health. And above all of this, given that a section of Aryavarta is now openly an enemy – namely, Pakistan – now more than ever, we need to be militarily strong. Our history teaches us this. But is anyone listening? From the deepening contours of intolerance is rising the fear of history repeating itself; now more than ever, India – the eldest daughter and heir-apparent to the Golden land of Aryavarta – needs to be tolerant, magnanimous and humane; as Aryavarta and its children always were. That is our defining characteristic  that is our USP; that is our real power. That is what made India the most sought-after jewel in History. If we can do it once – we can do it again. 

Are we our own greatest enemies? Food for thought.

The Partition Of India: Was It Avoidable?

Published May 26, 2013 by vishalvkale

It is my continuing quest to understand this very topic: why were we partitioned, and was it avoidable? I am currently on my – oh, 18th book –  Bengal Divided: The Unmaking Of A Nation: 1905 – 1971; so I can honestly state that this is a work in progress. I have thought quite a bit about this, and am yet to come to any definitive conclusion. I do not intend to attempt what I cannot do: answer this question. My intention here is to stoke enough questions in the readers’ minds, and stoke their own readings on this…

Q1) What were the events that led to the inevitability of the partition?

In 1905, all of Bengal – and India – rose against the parititon of Bengal; contrast this to 1947, when a communally divided nation split. What changed in 42 short years? For this, we have to peel away the layers of misinformation and preconceived notions that still pervade our minds. It was not such a simple matter; and this is too long a topic to be fully justified in a sub-heading. To encapsulate:

The key event – in fact, the only event of fatal importance (fatal to unity) was the 2nd world war. The refusal of the congress to assist and resign the ministries has been identified as a himalayan blunder. It wasnt; this just goes to prove how shoddy our education of history has been. The british had promised in 1914 to free India after the first world war; this was later reneged on. Further, there was actually no point fighting to free european nations when India was herself a slave. Thus, the congress stand comes across as bold and accurate: the joker in the pack was Jinnah, who colluded with the british from September 1939. This is documented history, and is not open to discussion. 

As early as 1933, the British was visualised a partition; the original plan was to hive off Baluchistan from India. Thus, it was always the brits who were playing both sides of the coin. These 2 events led to the inevitability of partition – despite the desperate efforts of the INC

Q2) How could these events have been averted

The fallacious impression of unity till 1920 or thereabouts glibly overlooks the existing internal tensions and pull-pressures in Indian Society post-1857 – and the sequence of events let loose by the fall of Muslim rule over Asia; the rise of Syed Ahmed Khan with his strident anti-INC stance and the counterbalancing rise of Jamal-Al-Din Al-Afghani among others. The only thing is that these were in a tiny minority – the Muslim classes were, by and large – against disunity till even the early 1940s. But the presence of causes of rifts was a fact, Under normal circumstances, these would have subsided with time. But the times were not normal

It was not possible to maintain equanimity; the British were hell-bent on partition. The historical record of conversations and minutes of meetings pretty much prove that point. There is nothing that anyone could have done to avert partition. If Jinnah had not approached, the Brits would have. There is suspicion that this was done once during the round table conference. 

It is of paramount importance that India should not secede from the Empire. If, however, the colony could not be held, the alternative was to keep a strategic peice of it under british control – possbily Baluchistan” – Winston Churchill, May 5th, 1945

Everyone would do well to remember that Hindus and Muslims lived peacefully from around 700 AD to 1910 AD – a matter of 1210 years. Something happened in these last 40 – 50 years to vitiate the atmosphere… and it is that something that I am hunting for… trying to understand in my ongoing quest…

This process of alienation did not start in the 1900s; it did not start by itself – and paradoxically, it was not initiated by the Brits. The existing circumstances after 1857 were utilised by the Brits; wounds were rubbed raw, and used to maintain control over the masses. Simultaneous developments – innocuous developments by and large – in both communities created further opportunities for alienation – which were tapped by the Brits.  All three were players in this drama -and at this point I am not prepared to state more, as for me this is a work in progress. 

While it is clear that position on both sides were increasingly intractable. we should not forget that around 1900 they were not so bad. The british policy of divide and rule has never been fully explained to us… “If amity among the various communities were somehow achieved, its immediate result would be that the united communities would join us in showing the door… Winston Churchill

Jawaharlal Nehru: Essentially these were : the creation and protection of vested interests bound up with british rule; a policy of counterpoise and balancing of different elements, and the encouragement of fissiparous tendencies and division among them – The Discovery of India

I am not a historian; but I am deeply interested in understanding our colonial history. So far as I am aware  and my readings of several books on this topic goes, the partition was not a simple affair. There is a lot that remains to be understood. Perhaps the one book that comes close to giving me an understanding is the book by Jaswant Singh; especially if I read Mukherjee’s book also. I would advise all to studiously avoid non-indian works on this topic – I have read both – and Indian works are far, far more unbiased IMO

It seems to be that Partition was inevitable. Indian movement could not have gone forward without the mass struggle advocated by Gandhiji; this was against Jinnah’s ego – who was increasingly sidelined. He went to London, and returned a changed man. His meeting with Linlithgow on 3rd Sept 1939 clearly indicates his unwillingness to accept anything less than partition; it also clearly documents the British attitude and strategy of Partition. Thereafter, it was relatively easy to whip up communal tensions in minority regions; majority regions were pro-India till 1947! The 8th book superbly chronicles the way the divide and rule policy worked in favour of partition and further whipping up communal tensions… 

This cannot be explained in an blog post – or even in a book – as the list below will reveal. Furthermore, there are some details that cannot be put in an internet forum…  This is a journey of discovery to be undertaken by everyone… if interested, please read the following material given below (preferably in the order stated). Even now, I am not entirely sure I understand why is it that a people living together peacefully till 1900 could suddenly, in 40 short years, become enemies… which is the second greatest tragedy of partition – with the greatest tragedy being the loss of life…


1) From the ruins of empire- Pankaj Mishra

2) Partition – The Untold Story – Narendra Sarila

3) Jinnah, Partition, Independence – Jaswant Singh

4) The Case For India – Will Durant

5) India’s Struggle For Independence – Bipin Chandra Pal

6) Churchill’s Secret War – Madhushree Mukherjee

7) The Discovery Of India – Jawaharlal Nehru

8) Bengal Divided: The Unmaking Of A Nation: 1905 – 1971 – Nitish Sengupta

Among Others…